To date, nearly 35.6 million people world wide live with dementia, and the situation is going to get worse by 2050 with 115.4 million cases.1 In the western world, the prevalence for dementia in people over the age of 60 is greater than 5% and two thirds are due to Alzheimer disease,2-5 the most common form of dementias.
Alzheimer disease (AD), first described as “presenile dementia” by the German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906,6 is a devastating disease characterized by progressive cognitive deterioration, as well as impairments in behavior, language, and visuospatial skills.7 Furthermore, Alzheimer discovered the presence of intraneuronal tangles and extracellular amyloid plaques in the diseased-damaged brain, the hallmarks of Alzheimer disease.
Pericentrin in health and disease: Exploring the patchwork of Pericentrin splice variants
Researchers around the world perform large-scale screens to identify disease-related gene defects in humans. One of the genes of interest is Pericentrin (PCNT), a gene which codes for a large coiled-coil protein with multiple functions in the cell. Recently, we showed that different Pericentrin (Pcnt) splice variants are differentially distributed among sensory tissues of the mouse, emphasizing the importance of a protein‘s spliceome for the function of a cell.
New Ca2+-dependent regulators of autophagosome maturation
Autophagy is a membrane trafficking pathway responsible for the breakdown of unwanted intracellular materials and crucial for the cell healthiness and survival. In the autophagic flux, various dynamic membrane rearrangements occurs starting with the elongation of the phagophore and its closure to build an autophagosome and ending with its fusion with late endosomes and lysosomes to form an autolysosome. Although Ca2+ is a well established regulator of membrane fusion events, little is known about its role in these processes during autophagy. Recent studies, based on proteomic analyses of lysosomal membranes, have provided new insights into this field of study. Thus, the levels on lysosomal membranes of annexin A1, annexin A5 and copine 1, three proteins that bind to phospholipid membranes in a Ca2+-dependent manner, increased under nutrient deprivation, a condition that promotes autophagic degradation. In addition, two different studies showed that annexin A5 and annexin A1 are involved in autophagosome maturation. Here, we discuss the molecular mechanisms by which the fusion of autophagosomes with endosomes and lysosomes could be regulated by these three proteins and Ca2+.
In vitro morphological bud formation in organ-like three-dimensional structure from mouse ES cells induced by FGF10 signaling
Embryonic stem (ES) cells have a pluripotent ability to differentiate into a variety of cell lineages in vitro. Using an embryoid body (EB) culture system, we developed a gut-like three-dimensional structure from mouse ES cells (the ES 3-D structure). Genetic studies implicate fibroblast growth factor 10 (FGF10)-FGF receptor 2b (FGFR2b) signaling as a critical regulator of lung bud morphogenesis in the embryonic foregut. The aim of the present study was to form a putative respiratory tract in the ES 3-D structure. By local application of FGF10 protein, we successfully demonstrated in vitro morphological formation of putative primitive respiratory tract-like processes, or buds, in the ES 3-D structure. Such organs that are differentiated from ES cells may provide new insights into tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
TLR9-mediated ARF6 activation is involved in advancing CpG ODN cellular uptake
Nucleic acid cellular uptake into endosomes is critical in eliciting nucleotide-sensing toll-like receptors (TLRs) innate immune responses. ADP-ribosylation factor 6 (ARF6) is a member of the Ras superfamily, which is critical to a wide variety of cellular events including endocytosis. Our previous report indicated that ARF6 plays a critical role in CpG ODN/TLR9-mediated responses. Here, we further explored that the basal level of active ARF6 is nonspecifically responsible for initiation of ODNs uptake, which is relatively CpG motif independent. While the initiation of CpG ODN uptake but not GpC ODN uptake can promote TLR9 responses thereby enhancing ARF6 activation which may lead to further nonspecifically increase of cellular uptake of stimulatory CpG ODN as well as nonstimulatory GpC ODN. Because nucleotide-sensing TLR9 plays a role in contributing to immune diseases, selective activation or inhibition of ARF6 might be useful in certain immunological or therapeutic applications.
Assessing developmental roles of MKK4 and MKK7 in vitro
In vivo gene knockout studies in mice have revealed essential roles of the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in embryogenesis, but due to early lethality of the knockout embryos, the underlying mechanisms and specific developmental programs regulated by the MAPK pathways have remained largely unknown. In vitro differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have opened new possibilities for understanding lineage segregation and gene function in the developmental stages that are not normally accessible in vivo. Building on this technology, in combination with gene knockout cells, we investigated the roles of MKK4 and MKK7, two upstream kinases of the MAPKs, in early lineage specification. Our results show that MKK4 and MKK7 differentially regulate the JNK and p38 MAPKs and make distinct contributions to differentiation programs. In vitro ESC differentiation is a valuable system to investigate the molecular and signaling mechanisms of early embryogenesis.
The planar cell polarity protein VANGL2 coordinates remodeling of the extracellular matrix
Understanding how planar cell polarity (PCP) is established, maintained, and coordinated in migrating cell populations is an important area of research with implications for both embryonic morphogenesis and tumor cell invasion. We recently reported that the PCP protein Vang-like 2 (VANGL2) regulates the endocytosis and cell surface level of membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MMP14 or MT1-MMP). Here, we further discuss these findings in terms of extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling, cell migration, and zebrafish gastrulation. We also demonstrate that VANGL2 function impacts the focal degradation of ECM by human cancer cells including the formation or stability of invadopodia. Together, our findings implicate MMP14 as a downstream effector of VANGL2 signaling and suggest a model whereby the regulation of pericellular proteolysis is a fundamental aspect of PCP in migrating cells.
On the cellular and developmental lethality of a Xenopus nucleocytoplasmic hybrid
Nucleocytoplasmic hybrid (cybrid) embryos result from the combination of the nucleus of one species, and the egg cytoplasm of another species. Cybrid embryos can be obtained either in the haploid state by the cross-fertilization or intra-cytoplasmic injection of an enucleated egg with sperm from another species, or in the diploid state by the technique of interspecies somatic cell nuclear transfer (iSCNT). Cybrids that originate from the combination of the nucleus and the cytoplasm of distantly related species commonly expire during early embryonic development, and the cause of this arrest is currently under investigation. Here we show that cells isolated from a Xenopus cybrid (Xenopus (Silurana) tropicalis haploid nucleus combined with Xenopus laevis egg cytoplasm) embryo are unable to proliferate and expand normally in vitro. We also provide evidence that the lack of nuclear donor species maternal poly(A)+ RNA-dependent factors in the recipient species egg may contribute to the developmental dead-end of distantly-related cybrid embryos. Overall, the data are consistent with the view that the development promoted by one species’ nucleus is dependent on the presence of maternally-derived, mRNA encoded, species-specific factors. These results also show that cybrid development can be improved without nuclear species mitochondria supplementation or replacement.
Neuron-specific regulation on F-actin cytoskeletons: The role of CTTNBP2 in dendritic spinogenesis and maintenance
Dendritic spines are neuron-specific actin-rich subcellular structures and are the location of excitatory synapses. Neurotransmitters released from presynaptic terminals activate the signals modifying the F-actin dynamics and stability and thus control dendritic spine morphology. Many ubiquitously expressed actin-associated proteins, including cortactin, have been shown to regulate dendritic spine morphology and density. Since dendritic spines are neuron-specific structures, neuron-specific proteins are expected to control F-actin cytoskeletons and dendritic spinogenesis. Recently, we demonstrated that cortactin-binding protein 2 (CTTNBP2), a neuron-specific protein, regulates the mobility and distribution of cortactin and controls the density of dendritic spines. This is the first example of a neuron-specific protein that controls the mobility of an F-actin associated protein and influences the dendritic spines. It provides a platform to explore the specific pathway triggering dendritic spinogenesis.
Sex affects the infection frequencies of symbionts in Bemisia tabaci
While biotype, host plant and geographical location are known to affect the infection dynamics of the six secondary symbionts (S-symbionts) including Hamiltonella, Arsenophonus, Cardinium, Wolbachia, Rickettsia and Fritschea in Bemisia tabaci, it remains unclear whether sex of B. tabaci has an impact on the infection frequencies of the six S-symbionts. To address this issue, gene-specific PCR were conducted to screen for the presence of the six S-symbionts in five host plant-adapted laboratory sub-populations with the same genetic background. Significant variations were exhibited in the infection rates of Rickettsia, Cardinium, Rickettsia + Hamiltonella (RH), Rickettsia + Cardinium (RC), Hamiltonella + Cardinium (HC) and Rickettsia + Hamiltonella + Cardinium (RHC) among the five host plant-adapted sub-populations. Moreover, Rickettsia, Hamiltonella, Cardinium, RH, RC, HC and RHC were present at a significantly higher frequency in the females than in the males of the five host plant-adapted sub-populations. This indicates that sex is another important factor affecting the population dynamics of S-symbionts in B. tabaci.
mDia proteins are members of the formin family of actin nucleating proteins that polymerize linear actin filaments. Such filaments form the core of thin, tubular, membrane-bound cell surface protrusions known as filopodia, which are a major feature of mammalian cell morphology. Filopodia are dynamic structures that help cells sense environmental cues, and play a role in cell migration, axon guidance, angiogenesis and other processes. RhoGTPases bind to and control the activity of mDia proteins, and several other binding partners of the three mDia1 isoforms—mDia1, mDia2 and mDia3—have been documented. Two independent pathways controlling mammalian filopodium formation have emerged, with one driven by the RhoGTPase Cdc42, and the other by Rif. While mDia2 has been the main formin implicated in forming filopodia, mDia1 has recently surfaced as the key formin utilized by both the Cdc42 and Rif pathways to drive filopodial protrusion.
Fluorescence localization microscopy: The transition from concept to biological research tool
Localization microscopy techniques are super-resolution fluorescence imaging methods based on the detection of individual molecules. Despite the relative simplicity of the microscope setups and the availability of commercial instruments, localization microscopy faces unique challenges. While achieving super-resolution is now routine, issues concerning data analysis and interpretation mean that revealing novel biological insights is not. Here, we outline why data analysis and the design of robust test samples may hold the key to harness the full potential of localization microscopy.
The urgent requirement of next generation antimalarials has been of recent interest due to the emergence of drug-resistant parasite. The genome-wide analysis of Plasmodium falciparum helicases revealed three RuvB proteins. Due to the presence of helicase motif I and II in PfRuvBs, there is a high probability that they contain ATPase and possibly helicase activity. The Plasmodium database has homologs of several key proteins that interact with RuvBs and are most likely involved in the cell cycle progression, chromatin remodeling, and other cellular activities. Phylogenetically PfRuvBs are closely related to Saccharomyces cerevisiae RuvB, which is essential for cell cycle progression and survival of yeast. Thus PfRuvBs can serve as potential drug target if they show an essential role in the survival of parasite.
Identification of interaction partners of the dynamin-like protein DynA from Bacillus subtilis
Membrane dynamics are involved in crucial processes in eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. Membrane fusion and fission events are often catalyzed by proteins that belong to the dynamin family of large GTPases. It has recently been shown that members of the dynamin superfamily are also present in many bacterial species. Although structural information about full length bacterial dynamin-like proteins is available, their molecular role remains unclear. We have shown previously that DynA, a dynamin-like protein found in the firmicute Bacillus subtilis is able to fuse membranes in vitro. In contrast to other members of the dynamin family this membrane remodeling activity was not dependent on guanosine nucleotides, but required magnesium. DynA assemblies localize in foci that are often enriched at sites of septation and hence a potential role during bacterial cytokinesis was discussed. In order to identify potential interaction partners we constructed a bacterial-two hybrid (B2H) library and screened for DynA interacting proteins. Three potential interaction partner have been identified, YneK, RNaseY (YmdA), and YwpG. Localization of these proteins phenocopies that of DynA, supporting the potential interaction in vivo.
Cdc42 regulation of polarized traffic in fission yeast
Cdc42 is a key factor in the control of cell polarity and morphogenesis. Fission yeast Cdc42 regulates formin activation and actin cable assembly. Cdc42 is also required for exocyst function, contributing to polarized secretion. Additionally, Cdc42 participates in membrane trafficking, endosome recycling, and vacuole formation. We show here how Cdc42 is required for the correct transport/recycling to the plasma membrane of the glucan synthases Bgs1 and Bgs4, responsible of cell wall biosynthesis and polarized growth at the cell tips.
Regulation of ligand-independent Notch signal through intracellular trafficking
Notch signaling is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism that defines a key cell fate control mechanism in metazoans. Notch signaling relies on the surface interaction between the Notch receptor and membrane bound ligands in an apposing cell. In our recent study,22 we uncover a non-canonical receptor activation path that relies on a ligand-independent, intracellular activation of the receptor as it travels through the endosomal compartments. We found that Notch receptor, targeted for degradation lysosomal degradation through multivesicular bodies (MVBs) is “diverted” toward activation upon mono-ubiquitination through a synergy between the ubiquitin ligase Deltex, the non-visual β-arrestin Kurtz and the ESCRT-III component Shrub. This activation path is not universal but appears to depend on the cellular context.
How do T-type calcium channels control low-threshold exocytosis?
Low-voltage-activated T-type calcium channels act as a major pathway for calcium entry near the resting membrane potential in a wide range of neuronal cell types. Several reports have uncovered an unrecognized feature of T-type channels in the control of vesicular neurotransmitter and hormone release, a process so far thought to be mediated exclusively by high-voltage-activated calcium channels. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms linking T-type calcium channels to vesicular exocytosis have remained enigmatic. In a recent study, we have reported that Cav3.2 T-type channel forms a signaling complex with the neuronal Q-SNARE syntaxin-1A and SNAP-25. This interaction that relies on specific Cav3.2 molecular determinants, not only modulates T-type channel activity, but was also found essential to support low-threshold exocytosis upon Cav3.2 channel expression in MPC 9/3L-AH chromaffin cells. Overall, we have indentified an unrecognized regulation pathway of T-type calcium channels by SNARE proteins, and proposed the first molecular mechanism by which T-type channels could mediate low-threshold exocytosis.
Involvement of LIM kinase 1 in actin polarization in human CD4 T cells
Chemokine binding to cognate receptors induces actin dynamics that are a major driving force for T cell migration and chemotactic motility. HIV-1 binding to the chemokine coreceptor CXCR4 initiates chemotactic signaling, mimicking chemokine-induced actin dynamics to facilitate infection processes such as entry, early DNA synthesis, and nuclear migration. Recently, we identified that HIV-triggered early actin polymerization is mediated through the Rac1-PAK1/2-LIMK1-cofilin pathway. Inhibition of LIMK1 (LIM domain kinase 1), a kinase phosphorylating cofilin, through shRNA knockdown decreases actin polymerization and T cell chemotaxis toward SDF-1. The LIMK1 knockdown T cells also supported lower viral entry, DNA synthesis and nuclear migration, suggesting a critical role of LIMK1-mediated actin dynamics in the initiation of HIV-1 infection. Surprisingly, LIMK1 knockdown in CEM-SS T cells did not lead to an overall change in the ratio of phospho-cofilin to total cofilin although there was a measurable decrease in the amount of actin filaments in cells. The decrease in filamentous actin in LIMK1 knockdown cells was found to mainly occur in polarized cap region rich in F-actin. These results suggest that LIMK1 may be involved in spontaneous actin polarization in transformed T cells. The inhibition of T cell chemotaxis by LIMK1 knockdown likely result from inhibition of localized LIMK1 activation and cofilin phosphorylation that are required for polarized actin polymerization for directional cell migration. The inhibition of HIV-1 infection by LIMK1 knockdown may also result from the decrease of actin-rich membrane protrusions that may be preferred viral entry sites in T cells.
Trafficking cascades mediated by Rab35 and its membrane hub effector, MICAL-L1
Various receptors navigate through the endocytic recycling compartment (ERC) on route to the plasma membrane. They are transported through recycling endosomes that emanate from the ERC that display distinct tubular morphology. A key question in the field is how the trafficking via these endosomes is regulated and how regulatory proteins such as Rab35, Rab8, Arf6 and EHD1 control this trafficking. Recent studies point to the protein MICAL-L1 as a major scaffold for these regulators. MICAL-L1 not only localizes to these tubular recycling endosomes and regulates trafficking, but it also controls the localization of EHD1 and Rab8 to these structures. It also connects its associated membranes to the motor proteins dynein and kinesin through its binding partner, CRMP2. Our recent study promotes MICAL-L1 as a Rab35 effector, where Rab35, both directly and indirectly through Arf6, controls the localization of MICAL-L1 and Rab8 to tubular membranes. We find that MICAL-L1 is a multi-tasking scaffold connecting various proteins to recycling endosomes for efficient trafficking.
Synaptic activity regulated mRNA-silencing foci for the fine tuning of local protein synthesis at the synapse
The regulated synthesis of specific proteins at the synapse is important for neuron plasticity, and several localized mRNAs are translated upon specific stimulus. Repression of mRNA translation is linked to the formation of mRNA-silencing foci, including Processing Bodies (PBs) and Stress Granules (SGs), which are macromolecular aggregates that harbor silenced messengers and associated proteins. In a recent work, we identified a kind of mRNA-silencing foci unique to neurons, termed S-foci, that contain the post-transcriptional regulator Smaug1/SAMD4. Upon specific synaptic stimulation, the S-foci dissolve and release mRNAs to allow their translation, paralleling the cycling of mRNAs between PBs and polysomes in other cellular contexts. Smaug 1 and other proteins involved in mRNA regulation in neurons contain aggregation domains distinct from their RNA binding motifs, and we speculate that self-aggregation helps silencing and transport. In addition to S-foci and PBs, other foci formed by distinct RNA binding proteins, such as TDP-43 and FMRP among others, respond dynamically to specific synaptic stimuli. We propose the collective name of synaptic activity-regulated mRNA silencing (SyAS) foci for these RNP aggregates that selectively respond to distinct stimulation patterns and contribute to the fine-tuning of local protein synthesis at the synapse.
Tunability of the ratio of cell states after the synthetic diversification by the diversity generator
The autonomous generation of phenotypic diversity in embryonic cell populations can be explained by Waddington’s landscape. The landscape proposes that intra- and inter-cellular interactions mediate the generation of cellular diversity. Recently, we implemented, in a population of Escherichia coli, a synthetic diversification, which is governed by inter-cellular signaling mediated by acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL). The cells with the diversity generator diversified into two distinct cell states, “high” and “low,” if all of the cells started from the low state. The ratio of the states after the diversification was affected by the velocity of autonomous signal accumulation, which depends on the cell density and the AHL production rate of individual cells. The dependency of the ratio on the initial cell density is reminiscent of the community effect, which is observed in animal development and is important for ES-cell differentiation. Therefore, it is worthwhile reviewing the roles of natural animal gene networks with similar topologies to the diversity generator design. The diversity generator design will also be the basis for a tool to direct cell fates on the population level in tissue engineering. Here, we discuss the tunability of the ratio of cell states by our synthetic circuit design.
Basking at the sea surface is a well known, but peculiar behavior of ocean sunfish (Mola mola). One of hypotheses for this behavior is parasite elimination. However, in oceanic regions, very little direct evidence exists for this form of interspecific communication. In pelagic waters of the North Pacific Ocean, we observed a school of 57 ocean sunfish, that were heavily infested around the base of their dorsal fins with the ecto-parasite Pennella sp. We photographed a Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) nearby that picked a Pennella sp. from one of ocean sunfish and ate it. We hypothesize that ocean sunfish did “bask” to look for skin cleaning and that this symbiotic cleaning behavior by the albatrosses may be a common feature of the biology of the ocean sunfish. Here we provide more photographs to show heavy parasite infections and scars after parasite removal by “cleaners,” and discuss how important a symbiotic cleaning relationship could be in the open ocean ecosystem.
Tunneling Nanotubes: A new paradigm for studying intercellular communication and therapeutics in cancer
Tunneling nanotubes are actin-based cytoplasmic extensions that function as intercellular channels in a wide variety of cell types.There is a renewed and keen interest in the examination of modes of intercellular communication in cells of all types, especially in the field of cancer biology. Tunneling nanotubes –which in the literature have also been referred to as “membrane nanotubes,” “’intercellular’ or ‘epithelial’ bridges,” or “cytoplasmic extensions” – are under active investigation for their role in facilitating direct intercellular communication. These structures have not, until recently, been scrutinized as a unique and previously unrecognized form of direct cell-to-cell transmission of cellular cargo in the context of human cancer. Our recent study of tunneling nanotubes in human malignant pleural mesothelioma and lung adenocarcinomas demonstrated efficient transfer of cellular contents, including proteins, Golgi vesicles, and mitochondria, between cells derived from several well-established cancer cell lines. Further, we provided effective demonstration that such nanotubes can form between primary malignant cells from human patients. For the first time, we also demonstrated the in vivo relevance of these structures in humans, having effectively imaged nanotubes in intact solid tumors from patients. Here we provide further analysis and discussion on our findings, and offer a prospective ‘road map’ for studying tunneling nanotubes in the context of human cancer. We hope that further understanding of the mechanisms, methods of transfer, and particularly the role of nanotubes in tumor-stromal cross-talk will lead to identification of new selective targets for cancer therapeutics.