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1.  Side-binding proteins modulate actin filament dynamics 
eLife  null;4:e04599.
Actin filament dynamics govern many key physiological processes from cell motility to tissue morphogenesis. A central feature of actin dynamics is the capacity of filaments to polymerize and depolymerize at their ends in response to cellular conditions. It is currently thought that filament kinetics can be described by a single rate constant for each end. In this study, using direct visualization of single actin filament elongation, we show that actin polymerization kinetics at both filament ends are strongly influenced by the binding of proteins to the lateral filament surface. We also show that the pointed-end has a non-elongating state that dominates the observed filament kinetic asymmetry. Estimates of flexibility as well as effects on fragmentation and growth suggest that the observed kinetic diversity arises from structural alteration. Tuning elongation kinetics by exploiting the malleability of the filament structure may be a ubiquitous mechanism to generate a rich variety of cellular actin dynamics.
eLife digest
Actin is one of the most abundant proteins in cells. It forms networks of filaments that provide structural support and generate the forces needed for cell movement, division, and many other processes in cells.
Filaments of actin continuously change in length as actin molecules are added or removed at the ends. One end of an actin filament—called the barbed-end—grows much faster than the other, known as the pointed-end. Many other proteins also help the actin filaments to form. Some of these proteins bind to the ends of the filaments, where they directly control the growth of the filaments. Other proteins bind along the length of the filaments, but how these ‘side-binding’ proteins influence the growth of filaments is not clear.
In this study, Crevenna et al. used a technique called ‘total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy’ to study how several side-binding proteins affect the growth of actin filaments in an artificial system. The growth of the barbed-ends was strongly influenced by which side-binding protein was interacting with the filament. For example, the barbed-end grew rapidly when a protein called VASP was present but grew more slowly in the presence of the protein α-actinin. Although the growth at the pointed-end was generally slow and sporadic, the side-binding proteins also had noticeable effects.
Crevenna et al. found that when the side-binding proteins were present at low levels, filament growth was similar for all proteins studied. It was only when the proteins were present at higher levels that the growth of the actin filaments was altered depending on the specific side-binding protein present. One side-binding protein called α-actinin also altered the shape of the actin filament so that when it was present at high levels, the filaments curved in a particular direction. Together, these results suggest that the growth, structure, and flexibility of actin filaments can be strongly influenced by the various proteins that bind along the length of the filaments.
The next challenges are to understand the precise details of how these side-binding proteins are able to alter the growth and shape of actin and investigate how they influence other processes that control the structure of actin networks in cells.
PMCID: PMC4375888  PMID: 25706231
actin; treadmilling; actin-binding proteins; TIRF; other
2.  Differential pH-dependent cellular uptake pathways among foamy viruses elucidated using dual-colored fluorescent particles 
Retrovirology  2012;9:71.
It is thought that foamy viruses (FVs) enter host cells via endocytosis because all FV glycoproteins examined display pH-dependent fusion activities. Only the prototype FV (PFV) glycoprotein has also significant fusion activity at neutral pH, suggesting that its uptake mechanism may deviate from other FVs. To gain new insights into the uptake processes of FV in individual live host cells, we developed fluorescently labeled infectious FVs.
N-terminal tagging of the FV envelope leader peptide domain with a fluorescent protein resulted in efficient incorporation of the fluorescently labeled glycoprotein into secreted virions without interfering with their infectivity. Double-tagged viruses consisting of an eGFP-tagged PFV capsid (Gag-eGFP) and mCherry-tagged Env (Ch-Env) from either PFV or macaque simian FV (SFVmac) were observed during early stages of the infection pathway. PFV Env, but not SFVmac Env, containing particles induced strong syncytia formation on target cells. Both virus types showed trafficking of double-tagged virions towards the cell center. Upon fusion and subsequent capsid release into the cytosol, accumulation of naked capsid proteins was observed within four hours in the perinuclear region, presumably representing the centrosomes. Interestingly, virions harboring fusion-defective glycoproteins still promoted virus attachment and uptake, but failed to show syncytia formation and perinuclear capsid accumulation. Biochemical and initial imaging analysis indicated that productive fusion events occur predominantly within 4–6 h after virus attachment. Non-fused or non-fusogenic viruses are rapidly cleared from the cells by putative lysosomal degradation. Quantitative monitoring of the fraction of individual viruses containing both Env and capsid signals as a function of time demonstrated that PFV virions fused within the first few minutes, whereas fusion of SFVmac virions was less pronounced and observed over the entire 90 minutes measured.
The characterized double-labeled FVs described here provide new mechanistic insights into FV early entry steps, demonstrating that productive viral fusion occurs early after target cell attachment and uptake. The analysis highlights apparent differences in the uptake pathways of individual FV species. Furthermore, the infectious double-labeled FVs promise to provide important tools for future detailed analyses on individual FV fusion events in real time using advanced imaging techniques.
PMCID: PMC3495412  PMID: 22935135
Retrovirus; Foamy virus; Entry; Disassembly; Intracellular targeting; Time-lapse microscopy; Live-cell imaging
3.  Comparative toxicity of 24 manufactured nanoparticles in human alveolar epithelial and macrophage cell lines 
A critical issue with nanomaterials is the clear understanding of their potential toxicity. We evaluated the toxic effect of 24 nanoparticles of similar equivalent spherical diameter and various elemental compositions on 2 human pulmonary cell lines: A549 and THP-1. A secondary aim was to elaborate a generic experimental set-up that would allow the rapid screening of cytotoxic effect of nanoparticles. We therefore compared 2 cytotoxicity assays (MTT and Neutral Red) and analyzed 2 time points (3 and 24 hours) for each cell type and nanoparticle. When possible, TC50 (Toxic Concentration 50 i.e. nanoparticle concentration inducing 50% cell mortality) was calculated.
The use of MTT assay on THP-1 cells exposed for 24 hours appears to be the most sensitive experimental design to assess the cytotoxic effect of one nanoparticle. With this experimental set-up, Copper- and Zinc-based nanoparticles appear to be the most toxic. Titania, Alumina, Ceria and Zirconia-based nanoparticles show moderate toxicity, and no toxicity was observed for Tungsten Carbide. No correlation between cytotoxicity and equivalent spherical diameter or specific surface area was found.
Our study clearly highlights the difference of sensitivity between cell types and cytotoxicity assays that has to be carefully taken into account when assessing nanoparticles toxicity.
PMCID: PMC2685765  PMID: 19405955
4.  Mercury immune toxicity in harbour seals: links to in vitro toxicity 
Environmental Health  2008;7:52.
Mercury is known to bioaccumulate and to magnify in marine mammals, which is a cause of great concern in terms of their general health. In particular, the immune system is known to be susceptible to long-term mercury exposure. The aims of the present study were (1) to determine the mercury level in the blood of free-ranging harbour seals from the North Sea and (2) to examine the link between methylmercury in vitro exposure and immune functions using seal and human mitogen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (T-lymphocytes).
Total mercury was analysed in the blood of 22 harbour seals. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated from seals (n = 11) and from humans (n = 9). Stimulated lymphocytes of both species were exposed to functional tests (proliferation, metabolic activity, radioactive precursor incorporation) under increasing doses of methylmercury (0.1 to 10 μM). The expression of cytokines (IL-2, IL-4 and TGF-β) was investigated in seal lymphocytes by RT-PCR and by real time quantitative PCR (n = 5) at methylmercury concentrations of 0.2 and 1 μM. Finally, proteomics analysis was attempted on human lymphocytes (cytoplasmic fraction) in order to identify biochemical pathways of toxicity at concentration of 1 μM (n = 3).
The results showed that the number of seal lymphocytes, viability, metabolic activity, DNA and RNA synthesis were reduced in vitro, suggesting deleterious effects of methylmercury concentrations naturally encountered in free-ranging seals. Similar results were found for human lymphocytes. Functional tests showed that a 1 μM concentration was the critical concentration above which lymphocyte activity, proliferation and survival were compromised. The expression of IL-2 and TGF-β mRNA was weaker in exposed seal lymphocytes compared to control cells (0.2 and 1 μM). Proteomics showed some variation in the protein expression profile (e.g. vimentin).
Our results suggest that seal and human PBMCs react in a comparable way to MeHg in vitro exposure with, however, larger inter-individual variations. MeHg could be an additional cofactor in the immunosuppressive pollutant cocktail generally described in the blood of seals and this therefore raises the possibility of additional additive effects in the marine mammal immune system.
PMCID: PMC2600635  PMID: 18959786

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