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1.  Nanoscale Effects of Ethanol and Naltrexone on Protein Organization in the Plasma Membrane Studied by Photoactivated Localization Microscopy (PALM) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87225.
Ethanol affects the signaling of several important neurotransmitter and neuromodulator systems in the CNS. It has been recently proposed that ethanol alters the dynamic lateral organization of proteins and lipids in the plasma membrane, thereby affecting surface receptor-mediated cellular signaling. Our aims are to establish whether pharmacologically relevant levels of ethanol can affect the lateral organization of plasma membrane and cytoskeletal proteins at the nanoscopic level, and investigate the relevance of such perturbations for mu-opioid receptor (MOP) function.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used Photoactivated Localization Microscopy with pair-correlation analysis (pcPALM), a quantitative fluorescence imaging technique with high spatial resolution (15–25 nm) and single-molecule sensitivity, to study ethanol effects on protein organization in the plasma membrane. We observed that short (20 min) exposure to 20 and 40 mM ethanol alters protein organization in the plasma membrane of cells that harbor endogenous MOPs, causing a rearrangement of the lipid raft marker glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI). These effects could be largely occluded by pretreating the cells with the MOP antagonist naltrexone (200 nM for 3 hours). In addition, ethanol induced pronounced actin polymerization, leading to its partial co-localization with GPI.
Pharmacologically relevant levels of ethanol alter the lateral organization of GPI-linked proteins and induce actin cytoskeleton reorganization. Pretreatment with the MOP antagonist naltrexone is protective against ethanol action and significantly reduces the extent to which ethanol remodels the lateral organization of lipid-rafts-associated proteins in the plasma membrane. Super-resolution pcPALM reveals details of ethanol action at the nanoscale level, giving new mechanistic insight on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of its action.
PMCID: PMC3913589  PMID: 24503624
2.  Preparation of Artificial Plasma Membrane Mimicking Vesicles with Lipid Asymmetry 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87903.
Lipid asymmetry, the difference in lipid distribution across the lipid bilayer, is one of the most important features of eukaryotic cellular membranes. However, commonly used model membrane vesicles cannot provide control of lipid distribution between inner and outer leaflets. We recently developed methods to prepare asymmetric model membrane vesicles, but facile incorporation of a highly controlled level of cholesterol was not possible. In this study, using hydroxypropyl-α-cyclodextrin based lipid exchange, a simple method was devised to prepare large unilamellar model membrane vesicles that closely resemble mammalian plasma membranes in terms of their lipid composition and asymmetry (sphingomyelin (SM) and/or phosphatidylcholine (PC) outside/phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and phosphatidylserine (PS) inside), and in which cholesterol content can be readily varied between 0 and 50 mol%. We call these model membranes “artificial plasma membrane mimicking” (“PMm”) vesicles. Asymmetry was confirmed by both chemical labeling and measurement of the amount of externally-exposed anionic lipid. These vesicles should be superior and more realistic model membranes for studies of lipid-lipid and lipid-protein interaction in a lipid environment that resembles that of mammalian plasma membranes.
PMCID: PMC3905041  PMID: 24489974
3.  In vitro modeling of rat mucosal mast cell function in Trichinella spiralis infection 
Parasite immunology  2013;35(1):21-31.
Intestinal infection with the parasitic nematode, Trichinella spiralis, provides a robust context for the study of mucosal mast cell function. In rats, mucosal mast cells are exposed to parasites during the earliest stage of infection, affording an opportunity for mast cells to contribute to an innate response to infection. During secondary infection, degranulation of rat mucosal mast cells coincides with expulsion of challenge larvae from the intestine. The goal of this study was to evaluate rat bone marrow-derived mast cells (BMMC) and the rat basophilic leukemia cell line (RBL-2H3) as models for mucosal mast cells, using parasite glycoproteins and antibody reagents that have been tested extensively in rats in vivo. We found that BMMC displayed a more robust mucosal phenotype. Although T. spiralis glycoproteins bound to mast cell surfaces in the absence of antibodies, they did not stimulate degranulation, nor did they inhibit degranulation triggered by immune complexes. Parasite glycoproteins complexed with specific monoclonal IgGs provoked release of RMCPII and β-hexosaminidase from both cell types in a manner that replicated results observed previously in passively immunized rats. Our results document that RBL-2H3 cells and BMMC model rat mucosal mast cells in the contexts of innate and adaptive responses to T. spiralis.
PMCID: PMC3524358  PMID: 23094823
nematode; mast cell; antibody; rat
4.  Inhibition of Store-Operated Calcium Entry Attenuates MPP+-Induced Oxidative Stress via Preservation of Mitochondrial Function in PC12 Cells: Involvement of Homer1a 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83638.
The process of store-operated calcium entry (SOCE), whereby the release of intracellular Ca2+ from endoplasmic reticulum (ER) activates Ca2+ influx channels in the plasma membrane, has been demonstrated to impact a diverse range of cell functions. In the present study, we investigated the potential protective effect of SOCE inhibition against 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+) injury by using pharmacological antagonists or specific small interfering RNA (siRNA) in PC12 cells. The results showed that both antagonists (15 μM MRS-1845 and 50 μM ML-9) and stromal interacting molecule-1 (STIM1) targeted siRNA (Si-STIM1) significantly increased cell viability, decreased apoptotic cell death and reduced intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and lipid peroxidation in MPP+ injured PC12 cells. SOCE inhibition also prevented MPP+ induced mitochondrial dysfunction and activation of mitochondrial related apoptotic factors, while had no effect on mitochondrial biogenesis. Moreover, inhibition of SOCE by antagonists and siRNA increased the expression levels of Homer1a mRNA and protein, and knockdown of Homer1a expression by specific siRNA partly reversed the protective effects induced by SOCE inhibition in PC12 cells. All these results indicated that SOCE inhibition protected PC12 cells against MPP+ insult through upregulation of Homer1a expression, and SOCE might be an ideal target for investigating therapeutic strategy against neuronal injury in PD patients.
PMCID: PMC3866123  PMID: 24358303
5.  α-Synuclein Oligomers Induced by Docosahexaenoic Acid Affect Membrane Integrity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e82732.
A key feature of Parkinson disease is the aggregation of α-synuclein and its intracellular deposition in fibrillar form. Increasing evidence suggests that the pathogenicity of α-synuclein is correlated with the activity of oligomers formed in the early stages of its aggregation process. Oligomers toxicity seems to be associated with both their ability to bind and affect the integrity of lipid membranes. Previously, we demonstrated that α-synuclein forms oligomeric species in the presence of docosahexaenoic acid and that these species are toxic to cells. Here we studied how interaction of these oligomers with membranes results in cell toxicity, using cellular membrane-mimetic and cell model systems. We found that α-synuclein oligomers are able to interact with large and small unilamellar negatively charged vesicles acquiring an increased amount of α-helical structure, which induces small molecules release. We explored the possibility that oligomers effects on membranes could be due to pore formation, to a detergent-like effect or to fibril growth on the membrane. Our biophysical and cellular findings are consistent with a model where α-synuclein oligomers are embedded into the lipid bilayer causing transient alteration of membrane permeability.
PMCID: PMC3843715  PMID: 24312431
6.  The Caveolin-1 Scaffolding Domain Peptide Decreases Phosphatidylglycerol Levels and Inhibits Calcium-Induced Differentiation in Mouse Keratinocytes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80946.
Phospholipase D2 (PLD2) has been found localized in low-density caveolin-rich membrane microdomains. Our previous study suggested that PLD2 and aquaporin 3 (AQP3) interact in these domains to inhibit keratinocyte proliferation and promote differentiation by cooperating to produce phosphatidylglycerol. To examine the effect of membrane microdomain localization on the PLD2/AQP3 signaling module and keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation, we treated mouse keratinocytes with 3 µM cell-permeable caveolin-1 scaffolding domain peptide or a negative control peptide and stimulated cell differentiation using a moderately elevated extracellular calcium concentration (125 uM) to maximally promote differentiation and phosphatidylglycerol production. Cell proliferation, differentiation, total PLD activity, phosphatidylglycerol levels, and AQP3 activity were monitored. The caveolin-1 scaffolding domain peptide itself had no effect on phosphatidylglycerol levels or keratinocyte proliferation or differentiation but prevented the changes induced by a moderately elevated calcium concentration, whereas a negative control did not. The caveolin-1 scaffolding domain peptide had little effect on total PLD activity or glycerol uptake (AQP3 activity). We conclude that the caveolin-1 scaffolding domain peptide disrupts the functional association between AQP3 and PLD2 and prevents both the inhibited proliferation and the stimulated differentiation in response to elevated extracellular calcium levels. The interaction of caveolin-1 and PLD2 is indirect (i.e., lipid mediated); together with the proliferation-promoting effects of caveolin-1 knockout on epidermal keratinocytes, we propose that the caveolin-1 scaffolding domain pepetide exerts a dominant-negative effect on caveolin-1 to alter lipid rafts in these cells.
PMCID: PMC3827482  PMID: 24236206
7.  Regulation of Basal Lateral Membrane Mobility and Permeability to Divalent Cations by Membrane Associated-Protein Kinase C 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80291.
Biological membrane stabilization is essential for maintenance of cellular homeostasis, functionality and appropriate response to various stimuli. Previous studies have showed that accumulation of PKCs in the cell membrane significantly downregulates the membrane fluidity and Ca2+ influxes through the membranes in activated cells. In addition, membrane-inserted form of PKCs has been found in a variety of resting mammalian cells and tissues. This study is aimed to investigate possible role of the endogenous membrane-associated PKCs in the modulation of basal membrane fluidity. Here, we showed that interfering PKC expression by chronic activation of PKC with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) or shRNA targeting at PKCα lowered the levels of PKCα in cytosol, peripheral membrane and integral membrane pools, while short-term activation of PKC with PMA induced accumulation of PKCα in the membrane pool accompanied by a dramatic decrease in the cytosol fraction. The lateral membrane mobility increased or decreased in accordance with the abundance alterations in the membrane-associated PKCα by these treatments. In addition, membrane permeability to divalent cations including Ca2+, Mn2+ and Ba2+ were also potentiated or abrogated along with the changes in PKC expression on the plasma membrane. Membrane stabilizer ursodeoxycholate abolished both of the enhanced lateral membrane mobility and permeability to divalent cations due to PKCα deficiency, whereas Gö6983, a PKC antagonist, or Gd3+ and 2-aminoethyoxydipheyl borne, two Ca2+ channels blockers, showed no effect, suggesting that this PKC-related regulation is independent of PKC activation or a modulation of specific divalent cation channel. Thus, these data demonstrate that the native membrane-associated PKCα is involved in the maintenance of basal membrane stabilization in resting cells.
PMCID: PMC3832666  PMID: 24260363
8.  The Contribution of Orai(CRACM)1 and Orai(CRACM)2 Channels in Store-Operated Ca2+ Entry and Mediator Release in Human Lung Mast Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74895.
The influx of extracellular Ca2+ into mast cells is critical for the FcεR1-dependent release of preformed granule-derived mediators and newly synthesised autacoids and cytokines. The Orai(CRACM) ion channel family provide the major pathway through which this Ca2+ influx occurs. However the individual role of each of the three members of the Orai channel family in Ca2+ influx and mediator release has not been defined in human mast cells.
To assess whether there might be value in targeting individual Orai family members for the inhibition of FcεRI-dependent human lung mast cells (HLMC) mediator release.
We used an adenoviral delivery system to transduce HLMCs with shRNAs targeted against Orai1 and Orai2 or with cDNAs directing the expression of dominant-negative mutations of the three known Orai channels.
shRNA-mediated knockdown of Orai1 resulted in a significant reduction of approximately 50% in Ca2+ influx and in the release of β-hexosaminidase (a marker of degranulation) and newly synthesized LTC4 in activated HLMCs. In contrast shRNA knockdown of Orai2 resulted in only marginal reductions of Ca2+ influx, degranulation and LTC4 release. Transduced dominant-negative mutants of Orai1, -2 and -3 markedly reduced Orai currents and completely inhibited HLMC degranulation suggesting that Orai channels form heteromultimers in HLMCs, and that Orai channels comprise the dominant Ca2+ influx pathway following FceRI-dependent HLMC activation. Inhibition of Orai currents did not alter HLMC survival. In addition we observed a significant down-regulation of the level of CRACM3 mRNA transcripts together with a small increase in the level of CRACM1 and CRACM2 transcripts following a period of sustained HLMC activation.
Conclusion and Clinical Relevance
Orai1 plays an important role in Ca2+ influx and mediator release from HLMCs. Strategies which target Orai1 will effectively inhibit FcεRI-dependent HLMC activation, but spare off-target inhibition of Orai2 in other cells and body systems.
PMCID: PMC3769304  PMID: 24040356
9.  The β-blocker Nebivolol Is a GRK/β-arrestin Biased Agonist 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71980.
Nebivolol, a third generation β-adrenoceptor (β-AR) antagonist (β-blocker), causes vasodilation by inducing nitric oxide (NO) production. The mechanism via which nebivolol induces NO production remains unknown, resulting in the genesis of much of the controversy regarding the pharmacological action of nebivolol. Carvedilol is another β-blocker that induces NO production. A prominent pharmacological mechanism of carvedilol is biased agonism that is independent of Gαs and involves G protein-coupled receptor kinase (GRK)/β-arrestin signaling with downstream activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Due to the pharmacological similarities between nebivolol and carvedilol, we hypothesized that nebivolol is also a GRK/β-arrestin biased agonist. We tested this hypothesis utilizing mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) that solely express β2-ARs, and HL-1 cardiac myocytes that express β1- and β2-ARs and no detectable β3-ARs. We confirmed previous reports that nebivolol does not significantly alter cAMP levels and thus is not a classical agonist. Moreover, in both cell types, nebivolol induced rapid internalization of β-ARs indicating that nebivolol is also not a classical β-blocker. Furthermore, nebivolol treatment resulted in a time-dependent phosphorylation of ERK that was indistinguishable from carvedilol and similar in duration, but not amplitude, to isoproterenol. Nebivolol-mediated phosphorylation of ERK was sensitive to propranolol (non-selective β-AR-blocker), AG1478 (EGFR inhibitor), indicating that the signaling emanates from β-ARs and involves the EGFR. Furthermore, in MEFs, nebivolol-mediated phosphorylation of ERK was sensitive to pharmacological inhibition of GRK2 as well as siRNA knockdown of β-arrestin 1/2. Additionally, nebivolol induced redistribution of β-arrestin 2 from a diffuse staining pattern into more intense punctate spots. We conclude that nebivolol is a β2-AR, and likely β1-AR, GRK/β-arrestin biased agonist, which suggests that some of the unique clinically beneficial effects of nebivolol may be due to biased agonism at β1- and/or β2-ARs.
PMCID: PMC3748024  PMID: 23977191
10.  Toxoplasma gondii inhibits mast cell degranulation by suppressing phospholipase Cγ-mediated Ca2+ mobilization 
Toxoplasma gondii is well-known to subvert normal immune responses, however, mechanisms are incompletely understood. In particular, its capacity to alter receptor-activated Ca2+-mediated signaling processes has not been well-characterized. In initial experiments, we found evidence that T. gondii infection inhibits Ca2+ responses to fMetLeuPhe in murine macrophages. To further characterize the mechanism of inhibition of Ca2+ mobilization by T. gondii, we used the well-studied RBL mast cell model to probe the capacity of T. gondii to modulate IgE receptor-activated signaling within the first hour of infection. Ca2+ mobilization that occurs via IgE/FcεRI signaling leads to granule exocytosis in mast cells. We found that T. gondii inhibits antigen-stimulated degranulation in infected cells in a strain-independent manner. Under these conditions, we found that cytoplasmic Ca2+ mobilization, particularly antigen-mediated Ca2+ release from intracellular stores, is significantly reduced. Furthermore, stimulation-dependent activation of Syk kinase leading to tyrosine phosphorylation and activation of phospholipase Cγ is inhibited by infection. Therefore, we conclude that inhibitory effects of infection are likely due to parasite-mediated inhibition of the tyrosine kinase signaling cascade that results in reduced hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate. Interestingly, inhibition of IgE/FcεRI signaling persists when tachyzoite invasion is arrested via cytochalasin D treatment, suggesting inhibition is mediated by a parasite-derived factor secreted into the cells during the invasion process. Our study provides direct evidence that immune subversion by T. gondii is initiated concurrently with invasion.
PMCID: PMC3701878  PMID: 23847603
IgE; FcεRI; Syk kinase
11.  Quantitative Nano-Scale Analysis of IgE-FcεRI Clustering and Coupling to Early Signaling Proteins 
The Journal of Physical Chemistry. B  2012;116(23):6923-6935.
Antigen-mediated crosslinking of IgE bound to its receptor, FcεRI, initiates a transmembrane signaling cascade that results in mast cell activation in the allergic response. Using immunogold labeling of intact RBL mast cells and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), we visualize molecular reorganization of IgE-FcεRI and early signaling proteins on both leaflets of the plasma membrane, without the need for ripped off membrane sheets. As quantified by pair correlation analysis, we observe dramatic changes in the nano-scale distribution of IgE-FcεRI after binding of multivalent antigen to stimulate transmembrane signaling, and this is accompanied by similar clustering of Lyn and Syk tyrosine kinases, and adaptor protein LAT. We find that Lyn co-redistributes with IgE-FcεRI into clusters that cross-correlate throughout 20 min of stimulation. Inhibition of tyrosine kinase activity reduces the numbers of both IgE-FcεRI and Lyn in stimulated clusters. Coupling of these proteins is also decreased when membrane cholesterol is reduced either before or after antigen addition. These results provide evidence for involvement of FcεRI phosphorylation and cholesterol dependent membrane structure in the interactions that accompany IgE-mediated activation of RBL mast cells. More generally, this SEM view of intact cell surfaces provides new insights into the nano-scale organization of receptor-mediated signaling complexes in the plasma membrane.
PMCID: PMC3376227  PMID: 22397623
electron microscopy; membrane domains; IgE-receptors; antigen crosslinking; lipid rafts; transmembrane signaling
12.  Multi-Color Quantum Dot Tracking Using a High-Speed Hyperspectral Line-Scanning Microscope 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64320.
Many cellular signaling processes are initiated by dimerization or oligomerization of membrane proteins. However, since the spatial scale of these interactions is below the diffraction limit of the light microscope, the dynamics of these interactions have been difficult to study on living cells. We have developed a novel high-speed hyperspectral microscope (HSM) to perform single particle tracking of up to 8 spectrally distinct species of quantum dots (QDs) at 27 frames per second. The distinct emission spectra of the QDs allows localization with ∼10 nm precision even when the probes are clustered at spatial scales below the diffraction limit. The capabilities of the HSM are demonstrated here by application of multi-color single particle tracking to observe membrane protein behavior, including: 1) dynamic formation and dissociation of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor dimers; 2) resolving antigen induced aggregation of the high affinity IgE receptor, FcεR1; 3) four color QD tracking while simultaneously visualizing GFP-actin; and 4) high-density tracking for fast diffusion mapping.
PMCID: PMC3661486  PMID: 23717596
13.  mTOR-Controlled Autophagy Requires Intracellular Ca2+ Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61020.
Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation pathway important for cellular homeostasis and survival. Inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is the best known trigger for autophagy stimulation. In addition, intracellular Ca2+ regulates autophagy, but its exact role remains ambiguous. Here, we report that the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin, while enhancing autophagy, also remodeled the intracellular Ca2+-signaling machinery. These alterations include a) an increase in the endoplasmic-reticulum (ER) Ca2+-store content, b) a decrease in the ER Ca2+-leak rate, and c) an increased Ca2+ release through the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptors (IP3Rs), the main ER-resident Ca2+-release channels. Importantly, buffering cytosolic Ca2+ with BAPTA impeded rapamycin-induced autophagy. These results reveal intracellular Ca2+ signaling as a crucial component in the canonical mTOR-dependent autophagy pathway.
PMCID: PMC3614970  PMID: 23565295
14.  Endoplasmic Reticulum Membrane Reorganization Is Regulated by Ionic Homeostasis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56603.
Recently we described a new, evolutionarily conserved cellular stress response characterized by a reversible reorganization of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes that is distinct from canonical ER stress and the unfolded protein response (UPR). Apogossypol, a putative broad spectrum BCL-2 family antagonist, was the prototype compound used to induce this ER membrane reorganization. Following microarray analysis of cells treated with apogossypol, we used connectivity mapping to identify a wide range of structurally diverse chemicals from different pharmacological classes and established their ability to induce ER membrane reorganization. Such structural diversity suggests that the mechanisms initiating ER membrane reorganization are also diverse and a major objective of the present study was to identify potentially common features of these mechanisms. In order to explore this, we used hierarchical clustering of transcription profiles for a number of chemicals that induce membrane reorganization and discovered two distinct clusters. One cluster contained chemicals with known effects on Ca2+ homeostasis. Support for this was provided by the findings that ER membrane reorganization was induced by agents that either deplete ER Ca2+ (thapsigargin) or cause an alteration in cellular Ca2+ handling (calmodulin antagonists). Furthermore, overexpression of the ER luminal Ca2+ sensor, STIM1, also evoked ER membrane reorganization. Although perturbation of Ca2+ homeostasis was clearly one mechanism by which some agents induced ER membrane reorganization, influx of extracellular Na+ but not Ca2+ was required for ER membrane reorganization induced by apogossypol and the related BCL-2 family antagonist, TW37, in both human and yeast cells. Not only is this novel, non-canonical ER stress response evolutionary conserved but so also are aspects of the mechanism of formation of ER membrane aggregates. Thus perturbation of ionic homeostasis is important in the regulation of ER membrane reorganization.
PMCID: PMC3574070  PMID: 23457590
15.  Micropatterned ligand arrays to study spatial regulation in Fc receptor signaling 
Fc receptor signaling plays a fundamental role in the adaptive immune response. A plethora of Fc receptors (e.g. Fc gamma, Fc-alpha and Fc-epsilon) are expressed on different immune cells, including natural killer cells, macrophages, mast cells and neutrophils. Receptor clustering and activation by multivalent ligands or opsonized particles induces a signaling cascade that leads to targeted secretion of chemical mediators (i.e. histamine, cytokines and chemokines) and phagocytosis, among other responses. Spatial targeting and compartmentalization are common mechanisms of regulation in Fc receptor signaling. However, the tools for studying these dynamic interactions have been limited. To overcome these limitations in our model system, microfabricated surfaces containing spatially defined ligands are used to cluster and activate IgE receptors (FcεRI), involved in allergic responses by mast cells. Micron-scale control of cell activation allows investigation of spatially regulated mechanisms for intracellular signaling with fluorescence microscopy. This approach in conjunction with biochemical techniques has proven to be valuable for investigating immune receptor signaling.
PMCID: PMC3566244  PMID: 21701976
16.  Transbilayer Dynamics of Phospholipids in the Plasma Membrane of the Leishmania Genus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e55604.
Protozoans of the Leishmania genus are the etiological agents of a wide spectrum of diseases commonly known as leishmaniases. Lipid organization of the plasma membrane of the parasite may mimic the lipid organization of mammalian apoptotic cells and play a role in phagocytosis and parasite survival in the mammal host. Here, we analyzed the phospholipid dynamics in the plasma membrane of both the L. (Leishmania) and the L. (Viannia) subgenera. We found that the activity and substrate specificity of the inward translocation machinery varied between Leishmania species. The differences in activity of inward phospholipid transport correlated with the different sensitivities of the various species towards the alkyl-phospholipid analogue miltefosine. Furthermore, all species exhibited a phospholipid scramblase activity in their plasma membranes upon stimulation with calcium ionophores. However, binding of annexin V to the parasite surface was only detected for a subpopulation of parasites during the stationary growth phase and only marginally enhanced by scramblase activation.
PMCID: PMC3559443  PMID: 23383240
17.  An Improved Ras Sensor for Highly Sensitive and Quantitative FRET-FLIM Imaging 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52874.
Ras is a signaling protein involved in a variety of cellular processes. Hence, studying Ras signaling with high spatiotemporal resolution is crucial to understanding the roles of Ras in many important cellular functions. Previously, fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) of fluorescent resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based Ras activity sensors, FRas and FRas-F, have been demonstrated to be useful for measuring the spatiotemporal dynamics of Ras signaling in subcellular micro-compartments. However the predominantly nuclear localization of the sensors' acceptor has limited its sensitivity. Here, we have overcome this limitation and developed two variants of the existing FRas sensor with different affinities: FRas2-F (Kd∼1.7 µM) and FRas2-M (Kd∼0.5 µM). We demonstrate that, under 2-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy, FRas2 sensors provide higher sensitivity compared to previous sensors in 293T cells and neurons.
PMCID: PMC3544822  PMID: 23349692
18.  A Mechanistic Model of Early FcεRI Signaling: Lipid Rafts and the Question of Protection from Dephosphorylation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51669.
We present a model of the early events in mast cell signaling mediated by FcεRI where the plasma membrane is composed of many small ordered lipid domains (rafts), surrounded by a non-order region of lipids consisting of the remaining plasma membrane. The model treats the rafts as transient structures that constantly form and breakup, but that maintain a fixed average number per cell. The rafts have a high propensity for harboring Lyn kinase, aggregated, but not unaggregated receptors, and the linker for the activation of T cells (LAT). Phosphatase activity in the rafts is substantially reduced compared to the nonraft region. We use the model to analyze published experiments on the rat basophilic leukemia (RBL)-2H3 cell line that seem to contradict the notion that rafts offer protection. In these experiments IgE was cross-linked with a multivalent antigen and then excess monovalent hapten was added to break-up cross-links. The dephosphorylation of the unaggregated receptor (nonraft associated) and of LAT (raft associated) were then monitored in time and found to decay at similar rates, leading to the conclusion that rafts offer no protection from dephosphorylation. In the model, because the rafts are transient, a protein that is protected while in a raft will be subject to dephosphorylation when the raft breaks up and the protein finds itself in the nonraft region of the membrane. We show that the model is consistent with the receptor and LAT dephosphorylation experiments while still allowing rafts to enhance signaling by providing substantial protection from phosphatases.
PMCID: PMC3524258  PMID: 23284735
19.  Distinct Contributions of Orai1 and TRPC1 to Agonist-Induced [Ca2+]i Signals Determine Specificity of Ca2+-Dependent Gene Expression 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47146.
Regulation of critical cellular functions, including Ca2+-dependent gene expression, is determined by the temporal and spatial aspects of agonist-induced Ca2+ signals. Stimulation of cells with physiological concentrations of agonists trigger increases [Ca2+]i due to intracellular Ca2+ release and Ca2+ influx. While Orai1-STIM1 channels account for agonist-stimulated [Ca2+]i increase as well as activation of NFAT in cells such as lymphocytes, RBL and mast cells, both Orai1-STIM1 and TRPC1-STIM1 channels contribute to [Ca2+]i increases in human submandibular gland (HSG) cells. However, only Orai1-mediated Ca2+ entry regulates the activation of NFAT in HSG cells. Since both TRPC1 and Orai1 are activated following internal Ca2+ store depletion in these cells, it is not clear how the cells decode individual Ca2+ signals generated by the two channels for the regulation of specific cellular functions. Here we have examined the contributions of Orai1 and TRPC1 to carbachol (CCh)-induced [Ca2+]i signals and activation of NFAT in single cells. We report that Orai1-mediated Ca2+ entry generates [Ca2+]i oscillations at different [CCh], ranging from very low to high. In contrast, TRPC1-mediated Ca2+ entry generates sustained [Ca2+]i elevation at high [CCh] and contributes to frequency of [Ca2+]i oscillations at lower [agonist]. More importantly, the two channels are coupled to activation of distinct Ca2+ dependent gene expression pathways, consistent with the different patterns of [Ca2+]i signals mediated by them. Nuclear translocation of NFAT and NFAT-dependent gene expression display “all-or-none” activation that is exclusively driven by local [Ca2+]i generated by Orai1, independent of global [Ca2+]i changes or TRPC1-mediated Ca2+ entry. In contrast, Ca2+ entry via TRPC1 primarily regulates NFκB-mediated gene expression. Together, these findings reveal that Orai1 and TRPC1 mediate distinct local and global Ca2+ signals following agonist stimulation of cells, which determine the functional specificity of the channels in activating different Ca2+-dependent gene expression pathways.
PMCID: PMC3480383  PMID: 23115638
20.  Spatio-Temporal Patterns of Pancreatic Cancer Cells Expressing CD44 Isoforms on Supported Membranes Displaying Hyaluronic Acid Oligomers Arrays 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42991.
In this paper, we designed a quantitative model of biological membranes by the deposition of planar lipid membranes on solid substrates (called supported membranes), and immobilized biotinylated oligomers of hyaluronic acid (oligo-HA, 6–8 disaccharide units in length) to the membrane surface via neutravidin cross-linkers. By controlling the self-assembly of biotinylated lipid anchors, the mean distance between the oligo-HA molecules on the membrane could be controlled to nm accuracy. The adhesion and motility of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells expressing different splice variants of the HA-binding cell surface receptor CD44 on these surfaces were investigated quantitatively. The combination of label-free, time-lapse imaging of living cells and statistical analysis suggests that the static morphology (global shape and cytoskeleton remodeling) of cells, their stochastic morphological dynamics, and the probability of directed motion reflect the metastatic behaviour of the cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3419250  PMID: 22916191
21.  Alteration of EGFR Spatiotemporal Dynamics Suppresses Signal Transduction 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39682.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which regulates cell growth and survival, is integral to colon tumorigenesis. Lipid rafts play a role in regulating EGFR signaling, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is known to perturb membrane domain organization through changes in lipid rafts. Therefore, we investigated the mechanistic link between EGFR function and DHA. Membrane incorporation of DHA into immortalized colonocytes altered the lateral organization of EGFR. DHA additionally increased EGFR phosphorylation but paradoxically suppressed downstream signaling. Assessment of the EGFR-Ras-ERK1/2 signaling cascade identified Ras GTP binding as the locus of the DHA-induced disruption of signal transduction. DHA also antagonized EGFR signaling capacity by increasing receptor internalization and degradation. DHA suppressed cell proliferation in an EGFR-dependent manner, but cell proliferation could be partially rescued by expression of constitutively active Ras. Feeding chronically-inflamed, carcinogen-injected C57BL/6 mice a fish oil containing diet enriched in DHA recapitulated the effects on the EGFR signaling axis observed in cell culture and additionally suppressed tumor formation. We conclude that DHA-induced alteration in both the lateral and subcellular localization of EGFR culminates in the suppression of EGFR downstream signal transduction, which has implications for the molecular basis of colon cancer prevention by DHA.
PMCID: PMC3384615  PMID: 22761867
22.  A Novel Role of the L-Type Calcium Channel α1D Subunit as a Gatekeeper for Intracellular Zinc Signaling: Zinc Wave 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39654.
Recent studies have shown that zinc ion (Zn) can behave as an intracellular signaling molecule. We previously demonstrated that mast cells stimulated through the high-affinity IgE receptor (FcεRI) rapidly release intracellular Zn from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), and we named this phenomenon the “Zn wave”. However, the molecules responsible for releasing Zn and the roles of the Zn wave were elusive. Here we identified the pore-forming α1 subunit of the Cav1.3 (α1D) L-type calcium channel (LTCC) as the gatekeeper for the Zn wave. LTCC antagonists inhibited the Zn wave, and an agonist was sufficient to induce it. Notably, α1D was mainly localized to the ER rather than the plasma membrane in mast cells, and the Zn wave was impaired by α1D knockdown. We further found that the LTCC-mediated Zn wave positively controlled cytokine gene induction by enhancing the DNA-binding activity of NF- κB. Consistent with this finding, LTCC antagonists inhibited the cytokine-mediated delayed-type allergic reaction in mice without affecting the immediate-type allergic reaction. These findings indicated that the LTCC α1D subunit located on the ER membrane has a novel function as a gatekeeper for the Zn wave, which is involved in regulating NF-κB signaling and the delayed-type allergic reaction.
PMCID: PMC3382136  PMID: 22745805
23.  Mouse SPNS2 Functions as a Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Transporter in Vascular Endothelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38941.
Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), a sphingolipid metabolite that is produced inside the cells, regulates a variety of physiological and pathological responses via S1P receptors (S1P1–5). Signal transduction between cells consists of three steps; the synthesis of signaling molecules, their export to the extracellular space and their recognition by receptors. An S1P concentration gradient is essential for the migration of various cell types that express S1P receptors, such as lymphocytes, pre-osteoclasts, cancer cells and endothelial cells. To maintain this concentration gradient, plasma S1P concentration must be at a higher level. However, little is known about the molecular mechanism by which S1P is supplied to extracellular environments such as blood plasma. Here, we show that SPNS2 functions as an S1P transporter in vascular endothelial cells but not in erythrocytes and platelets. Moreover, the plasma S1P concentration of SPNS2-deficient mice was reduced to approximately 60% of wild-type, and SPNS2-deficient mice were lymphopenic. Our results demonstrate that SPNS2 is the first physiological S1P transporter in mammals and is a key determinant of lymphocyte egress from the thymus.
PMCID: PMC3379171  PMID: 22723910
24.  Sequestration of phosphoinositides by mutated MARCKS effector domain inhibits stimulated Ca2+ mobilization and degranulation in mast cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(24):4908-4917.
A new strategy for interfering with phosphoinositide-dependent processes at the plasma membrane uses high-avidity association of the polybasic MARCKS effector domain with negatively charged phospholipids to provide new insights into roles for phosphoinositides in IgE receptor signaling leading to exocytosis.
Protein kinase C β (PKCβ) participates in antigen-stimulated mast cell degranulation mediated by the high-affinity receptor for immunoglobulin E, FcεRI, but the molecular basis is unclear. We investigated the hypothesis that the polybasic effector domain (ED) of the abundant intracellular substrate for protein kinase C known as myristoylated alanine-rich protein kinase C substrate (MARCKS) sequesters phosphoinositides at the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane until MARCKS dissociates after phosphorylation by activated PKC. Real-time fluorescence imaging confirms synchronization between stimulated oscillations of intracellular Ca2+ concentrations and oscillatory association of PKCβ–enhanced green fluorescent protein with the plasma membrane. Similarly, MARCKS-ED tagged with monomeric red fluorescent protein undergoes antigen-stimulated oscillatory dissociation and rebinding to the plasma membrane with a time course that is synchronized with reversible plasma membrane association of PKCβ. We find that MARCKS-ED dissociation is prevented by mutation of four serine residues that are potential sites of phosphorylation by PKC. Cells expressing this mutated MARCKS-ED SA4 show delayed onset of antigen-stimulated Ca2+ mobilization and substantial inhibition of granule exocytosis. Stimulation of degranulation by thapsigargin, which bypasses inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate production, is also substantially reduced in the presence of MARCKS-ED SA4, but store-operated Ca2+ entry is not inhibited. These results show the capacity of MARCKS-ED to regulate granule exocytosis in a PKC-dependent manner, consistent with regulated sequestration of phosphoinositides that mediate granule fusion at the plasma membrane.
PMCID: PMC3237632  PMID: 22013076
25.  Correlation Functions Quantify Super-Resolution Images and Estimate Apparent Clustering Due to Over-Counting 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31457.
We present an analytical method using correlation functions to quantify clustering in super-resolution fluorescence localization images and electron microscopy images of static surfaces in two dimensions. We use this method to quantify how over-counting of labeled molecules contributes to apparent self-clustering and to calculate the effective lateral resolution of an image. This treatment applies to distributions of proteins and lipids in cell membranes, where there is significant interest in using electron microscopy and super-resolution fluorescence localization techniques to probe membrane heterogeneity. When images are quantified using pair auto-correlation functions, the magnitude of apparent clustering arising from over-counting varies inversely with the surface density of labeled molecules and does not depend on the number of times an average molecule is counted. In contrast, we demonstrate that over-counting does not give rise to apparent co-clustering in double label experiments when pair cross-correlation functions are measured. We apply our analytical method to quantify the distribution of the IgE receptor (FcεRI) on the plasma membranes of chemically fixed RBL-2H3 mast cells from images acquired using stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM/dSTORM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). We find that apparent clustering of FcεRI-bound IgE is dominated by over-counting labels on individual complexes when IgE is directly conjugated to organic fluorophores. We verify this observation by measuring pair cross-correlation functions between two distinguishably labeled pools of IgE-FcεRI on the cell surface using both imaging methods. After correcting for over-counting, we observe weak but significant self-clustering of IgE-FcεRI in fluorescence localization measurements, and no residual self-clustering as detected with SEM. We also apply this method to quantify IgE-FcεRI redistribution after deliberate clustering by crosslinking with two distinct trivalent ligands of defined architectures, and we evaluate contributions from both over-counting of labels and redistribution of proteins.
PMCID: PMC3288038  PMID: 22384026

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