During brain development, billions of neurons organize into highly specific circuits. To form specific circuits, neurons must build the appropriate types of synapses with appropriate types of synaptic partners while avoiding incorrect partners in a dense cellular environment. Defining the cellular and molecular rules that govern specific circuit formation has significant scientific and clinical relevance because fine scale connectivity defects are thought to underlie many cognitive and psychiatric disorders. Organizing specific neural circuits is an enormously complicated developmental process that requires the concerted action of many molecules, neural activity, and temporal events. This review focuses on one class of molecules postulated to play an important role in target selection and specific synapse formation: the classic cadherins. Cadherins have a well-established role in epithelial cell adhesion, and although it has long been appreciated that most cadherins are expressed in the brain, their role in synaptic specificity is just beginning to be unraveled. Here, we review past and present studies implicating cadherins as active participants in the formation, function, and dysfunction of specific neural circuits and pose some of the major remaining questions.
classic cadherins; cognitive disorders; molecular identity; synaptic specificity
Tenascin-C (TNC) is highly expressed in cancer tissues. Its cellular sources are cancer and stromal cells, including fibroblasts/myofibroblasts, and also vascular cells. TNC expressed in cancer tissues dominantly contains large splice variants. Deposition of the stroma promotes the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, proliferation, and migration of cancer cells. It also facilitates the formation of cancer stroma including desmoplasia and angiogenesis. Integrin receptors that mediate the signals of TNC have also been discussed.
cancer cell; integrins; splice variant; Stromal cell; tenascin-C
Tenascin-X is the largest member of the tenascin (TN) family of evolutionary conserved extracellular matrix glycoproteins, which also comprises TN-C, TN-R and TN-W. Among this family, TN-X is the only member described so far to exert a crucial architectural function as evidenced by a connective tissue disorder (a recessive form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) resulting from a loss-of-function of this glycoprotein in humans and mice. However, TN-X is more than an architectural protein, as it displays features of a matricellular protein by modulating cell adhesion. However, the cellular functions associated with the anti-adhesive properties of TN-X have not yet been revealed. Recent findings indicate that TN-X is also an extracellular regulator of signaling pathways. Indeed, TN-X has been shown to regulate the bioavailability of the Transforming Growth Factor (TGF)-β and to modulate epithelial cell plasticity. The next challenges will be to unravel whether the signaling functions of TN-X are functionally linked to its matricellular properties.
cell signaling; Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS); epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT); integrin α11β1; matricellular protein; tenascin-X; TGF-β activation
Extracellular matrix proteins of the tenascin family resemble each other in their domain structure, and also share functions in modulating cell adhesion and cellular responses to growth factors. Despite these common features, the 4 vertebrate tenascins exhibit vastly different expression patterns. Tenascin-R is specific to the central nervous system. Tenascin-C is an “oncofetal” protein controlled by many stimuli (growth factors, cytokines, mechanical stress), but with restricted occurrence in space and time. In contrast, tenascin-X is a constituitive component of connective tissues, and its level is barely affected by external factors. Finally, the expression of tenascin-W is similar to that of tenascin-C but even more limited. In accordance with their highly regulated expression, the promoters of the tenascin-C and -W genes contain TATA boxes, whereas those of the other 2 tenascins do not. This article summarizes what is currently known about the complex transcriptional regulation of the 4 tenascin genes in development and disease.
cytokine; cancer; development; extracellular matrix; glucocorticoid; growth factor; gene regulation; gene promoter; homeobox gene; matricellular; mechanical stress; tenascin; transcription factor
The extracellular matrix protein tenascin C (TNC) is a large glycoprotein expressed in connective tissues and stem cell niches. TNC over-expression is repeatedly observed in cancer, often at the invasive tumor front, and is associated with poor clinical outcome in several malignancies. The link between TNC expression and poor survival in cancer patients suggests a role for TNC in metastatic progression, which is responsible for the majority of cancer related deaths. Indeed, functional studies using mouse models are revealing new roles of TNC in cancer progression and underscore its important contribution to the development of metastasis. TNC has a pleiotropic role in advancing metastasis by promoting migratory and invasive cell behavior, angiogenesis and cancer cell viability under stress. TNC is an essential component of the metastatic niche and modulates stem cell signaling within the niche. This may be crucial for the fitness of disseminated cancer cells confronted with a foreign environment in secondary organs, that can exert a strong selective pressure on invading cells. TNC is a compelling example of how an extracellular matrix protein can provide a molecular context that is imperative to cancer cell fitness in metastasis.
tenascin C; invasion; metastasis; niche; stem cell; extracellular matrix
Tenascins are a family of extracellular matrix molecules that are mainly expressed in embryonic development and down-regulated in adulthood. A re-expression in the adult occurs under pathological conditions such as inflammation, regeneration or neoplasia. As the most prominent member of the tenascin family, TN-C, is highly expressed in glioma tissue and rising evidence suggests that TN-C plays a crucial role in cell migration or invasion – the most fatal characteristics of glioma – also the other members of this protein family have been investigated with regard to their impact on glioma biology. For all tenascins correlations between the expression levels of the different family members and the degree of malignancy and invasiveness of glial tumors could be detected. Overall, the former and recent results in the research on glioma and tenascins point at distinct roles of each of the molecules in glioma biology and the devastating properties of these tumors.
extracellular matrix; extracellular matrix receptors; glial stem and progenitors cells; tumor stem cells; angiogenesis; cell migration; central nervous system
Elongation of the efferent fibers of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons toward their peripheral targets occurs during development. Attractive or permissive systems may be involved in this elongation. However, the molecular mechanisms that control it are largely unknown. Here we show that class 5 semaphorin Sema5A had attractive/permissive effects on DRG axons. In mouse embryos, Sema5A was expressed in and around the path of DRG efferent fibers, and cell aggregates secreting Sema5A attracted DRG axons in vitro. We also found that ectopic Sema5A expression in the spinal cord attracted DRG axons. Together, these findings suggest that Sema5A functions as an attractant to elongate DRG fibers and contributes to the formation of the early sensory network.
axonal guidance; attractant; chick embryo; dorsal root ganglion; mouse embryo; semaphorin
Tenascins are extracellular matrix glycoproteins that act both as integrin ligands and as
modifiers of fibronectin-integrin interactions to regulate cell adhesion, migration,
proliferation and differentiation. In tetrapods, both tenascins and fibronectin bind to
integrins via RGD and LDV-type tripeptide motifs found in exposed loops in their
fibronectin-type III domains. We previously showed that tenascins appeared early in the
chordate lineage and are represented by single genes in extant cephalochordates and
tunicates. Here we have examined the genomes of the coelacanth Latimeria
chalumnae, the elephant shark Callorhinchus milii as well as
the lampreys Petromyzon marinus and Lethenteron
japonicum to learn more about the evolution of the tenascin gene family as well
as the timing of the appearance of fibronectin during chordate evolution. The coelacanth
has 4 tenascins that are more similar to tetrapod tenascins than are tenascins from
ray-finned fishes. In contrast, only 2 tenascins were identified in the elephant shark and
the Japanese lamprey L. japonicum. An RGD motif exposed to integrin
binding is observed in tenascins from many, but not all, classes of chordates. Tetrapods
that lack this RGD motif in tenascin-C have a similar motif in the paralog tenascin-W,
suggesting the potential for some overlapping function. A predicted fibronectin with the
same domain organization as the fibronectin from tetrapods is found in the sea lamprey
P. marinus but not in tunicates, leading us to infer that fibronectin
first appeared in vertebrates. The motifs that recognize LDV-type integrin receptors are
conserved in fibronectins from a broad spectrum of vertebrates, but the RGD
integrin-binding motif may have evolved in gnathostomes.
coelacanth; elephant shark; extracellular matrix; integrin; lamprey; phylogenomics
The extracellular matrix (ECM) molecule tenascin-C (TNC) promotes tumor progression. This has recently been demonstrated in the stochastic murine RIP1-Tag2 insulinoma model, engineered to either express TNC abundantly or to be devoid of TNC. However, our knowledge about organization of the TNC microenvironment is scant. Here we determined the spatial distribution of TNC together with other ECM molecules in murine RIP1-Tag2 insulinoma and human cancer tissue (insulinoma and colorectal carcinoma). We found that TNC is organized in matrix tracks together with other ECM molecules of the AngioMatrix signature, a previously described gene expression profile that characterizes the angiogenic switch. Moreover, stromal cells including endothelial cells, fibroblasts and leukocytes were enriched in the TNC tracks. Thus, TNC tracks may provide niches for stromal cells and regulate their behavior. Given similarities of TNC rich niches for stromal cells in human insulinoma and colon cancer, we propose that the RIP1-Tag2 model may be useful for providing insights into the contribution of the tumor stroma specific ECM as promoter of cancer progression.
cancer; collagen; colorectal carcinoma; extracellular matrix; insulinoma; laminin; neuroendocrine tumor model; stromal cells; tenascin-C; tumor microenvironment
Despite an increasing knowledge about the causes of cancer, this disease is difficult to cure and still causes far too high a death rate. Based on advances in our understanding of disease pathogenesis, novel treatment concepts, including targeting the tumor microenvironment, have been developed and are being combined with established treatment regimens such as surgical removal and radiotherapy. Yet it is obvious that we need additional strategies to prevent tumor relapse and metastasis. Given its exceptional high expression in most cancers with low abundance in normal tissues, tenascin-C appears an ideal candidate for tumor treatment. Here, we will summarize the current applications of targeting tenascin-C as a treatment for different tumors, and highlight the potential of this therapeutic approach.
cancer; extracellular matrix; tenascin-C; tumor microenvironment
Fetal variants of tenascin-C are not expressed in healthy adult myocardium. But, there is a relevant re-occurrence during pathologic cardiac tissue and vascular remodeling. Thus, these molecules, in particular B and C domain containing tenascin-C, might qualify as promising novel biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis estimation. Since a stable extracellular deposition of fetal tenascin-C variants is present in diseased cardiac tissue, the molecules are excellent target structures for antibody-based delivery of diagnostic (e.g., radionuclides) or therapeutic (bioactive payloads) agents directly to the site of disease. Against the background that fetal tenascin-C variants are functionally involved in cardiovascular tissue remodeling, therapeutic functional blocking strategies could be experimentally tested in the future.
cardiovascular diseases; diagnosis; prognosis; tenascin-C; therapy
A phase Ib/II trial was performed to evaluate safety, tolerability, recommended dose (RD) and efficacy of F16-IL2, a recombinant antibody-cytokine fusion protein, in combination with doxorubicin in patients with solid tumors (phase Ib) and metastatic breast cancer (phase II). Six patient cohorts with progressive solid tumors (n = 19) received escalating doses of F16-IL2 [5–25 Million International Units (MIU) of IL2 equivalent dose] in combination with escalating doses of doxorubicin (0–25 mg/m2) on day 1, 8 and 15 every 4 weeks. Subsequently, patients with metastatic breast cancer (n = 10) received the drug combination at the RD. Clinical data and laboratory findings were analyzed for safety, tolerability, and activity. F16-IL2 could be administered up to 25 MIU, in combination with the RD of doxorubicin (25 mg/m2). No human anti-fusion protein antibodies (HAFA) response was detected. Pharmacokinetics of F16-IL2 was dose-dependent over the tested range, with half-lives of ca. 13 and ca. 8 hours for cohorts dosed at lower and higher levels, respectively. Toxicities were controllable and reversible, with no combination treatment-related death. After 8 weeks, 57% and 67% disease control rates were observed for Phase I and II, respectively (decreasing to 43% and 33% after 12 weeks), considering 14 and 9 patients evaluable for efficacy. One patient experienced a long lasting partial response (45 weeks), still on-going at exit of study. F16-IL2 can be safely and repeatedly administered at the RD of 25 MIU in combination with 25 mg/m2 doxorubicin; its safety and activity are currently being investigated in combination with other chemotherapeutics, in order to establish optimal therapy settings.
antibody; breast neoplasms; clinical trial phase I; immunocytokines; interleukin-2
The Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ephrin ligands direct axon pathfinding and neuronal cell migration, and mediate many other cell-cell communication events. The Ephs and ephrins both localize to the plasma membrane and, upon cell-cell contact, form extensive signaling assemblies at the contact sites. Recent structural, biochemical and cell-biological studies revealed that these assemblies are generated not only via Eph-ephrin interactions, but also via homotypic interactions between neighboring receptor molecules. In addition, Eph-Eph interactions mediate receptor pre-clustering, which ensures fast and efficient activation once ligands come into contact range. Here we summarize the current knowledge about the homotypic Eph-Eph interactions and discuss how they could modulate the initiation of Eph/ephrin signaling.
cell-cell signaling; Eph receptors; ephrins; receptor tyrosine kinases
Cell migration is fundamental to a variety of physiological processes, including tissue development, homeostasis, and regeneration. Migration has been extensively studied with cells on 2-dimensional (2D) substrates, but much less is known about cell migration in 3D environments. Tissues and organs are 3D, which is the native environment of cells in vivo, pointing to a need to understand migration and the mechanisms that regulate it in 3D environments. To investigate cell migration in 3D environments, we developed microfluidic devices that afford a controlled, reproducible platform for generating 3D matrices. Using these devices, we show that the Rho family guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) Asef2 inhibits cell migration in 3D type I collagen (collagen I) matrices. Treatment of cells with the myosin II (MyoII) inhibitor blebbistatin abolished the decrease in migration by Asef2. Moreover, Asef2 enhanced MyoII activity as shown by increased phosphorylation of serine 19 (S19). Furthermore, Asef2 increased activation of Rac, which is a Rho family small GTPase, in 3D collagen I matrices. Inhibition of Rac activity by treatment with the Rac-specific inhibitor NSC23766 abrogated the Asef2-promoted increase in S19 MyoII phosphorylation. Thus, our results indicate that Asef2 regulates cell migration in 3D collagen I matrices through a Rac-MyoII-dependent mechanism.
guanine nucleotide exchange factor; myosin II; microfluidics; Rac; Rho family GTPases; type I collagen
Neuron migration defects are an important aspect of human neuropathies. The underlying molecular mechanisms of such migration defects are largely unknown. Actin dynamics has been recognized as an important determinant of neuronal migration, and we recently found that the actin-binding protein profilin1 is relevant for radial migration of cerebellar granule neurons (CGN). As the exploited brain-specific mutants lacked profilin1 in both neurons and glial cells, it remained unknown whether profilin1 activity in CGN is relevant for CGN migration in vivo. To test this, we capitalized on a transgenic mouse line that expresses a tamoxifen-inducible Cre variant in CGN, but no other cerebellar cell type. In these profilin1 mutants, the cell density was elevated in the molecular layer, and ectopic CGN occurred. Moreover, 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine tracing experiments revealed impaired CGN radial migration. Hence, our data demonstrate the cell autonomous role of profilin1 activity in CGN for radial migration.
actin-binding protein; actin dynamics; actin treadmilling; cerebellar granule neurons; cerebellar development; cerebellum; cerebellar cortex; neuronal migration; profilin; radial migration
Tenascin-C is a large, multimodular, extracellular matrix glycoprotein that exhibits a very restricted pattern of expression but an enormously diverse range of functions. Here, we discuss the importance of deciphering the expression pattern of, and effects mediated by, different forms of this molecule in order to fully understand tenascin-C biology. We focus on both post transcriptional and post translational events such as splicing, glycosylation, assembly into a 3D matrix and proteolytic cleavage, highlighting how these modifications are key to defining tenascin-C function.
biosynthesis; cancer; development; glycosylation; matrix assembly; proteolytic cleavage; splicing; tenascin-C; therapeutics; transcription
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) refers to plastic changes in epithelial tissue architecture. Breast cancer stromal cells provide secreted molecules, such as transforming growth factor β (TGFβ), that promote EMT on tumor cells to facilitate breast cancer cell invasion, stemness and metastasis. TGFβ signaling is considered to be abnormal in the context of cancer development; however, TGFβ acting on breast cancer EMT resembles physiological signaling during embryonic development, when EMT generates or patterns new tissues. Interestingly, while EMT promotes metastatic fate, successful metastatic colonization seems to require the inverse process of mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET). EMT and MET are interconnected in a time-dependent and tissue context-dependent manner and are coordinated by TGFβ, other extracellular proteins, intracellular signaling cascades, non-coding RNAs and chromatin-based molecular alterations. Research on breast cancer EMT/MET aims at delivering biomolecules that can be used diagnostically in cancer pathology and possibly provide ideas for how to improve breast cancer therapy.
epithelial-mesenchymal transition; signal transduction; transforming growth factor β; tumor invasiveness
A compelling amount of data is accumulating about the polyphonic role of neuronal cadherins during brain development throughout all developmental stages, starting from the involvement of cadherins in the organization of neurulation up to synapse development and plasticity. Recent work has confirmed that specifically N-cadherins play an important role in asymmetrical cellular processes in developing neurons that are at the basis of polarity. In this review we will summarize recent data, which demonstrate how N-cadherin orchestrates distinct processes of polarity establishment in neurons.
adhesion; axon; N-cadherin; neuronal polarity; migration
Systems biology has recently achieved significant success in the understanding of complex interconnected phenomena such as cell polarity and migration. In this context, the definition of systems biology has come to encompass the integration of quantitative measurements with sophisticated modeling approaches. This article will review recent progress in live cell imaging technologies that have expanded the possibilities of quantitative in vivo measurements, particularly in regards to molecule counting and quantitative measurements of protein concentration and dynamics. These methods have gained and continue to gain popularity with the biological community. In general, we will discuss three broad categories: protein interactions, protein quantitation, and protein dynamics.
cell polarization; cell migration; fluorescence correlation spectroscopy; calibrated imaging; FRAP; stoichiometry
The Rho-family of p21 small GTPases are directly linked to the regulation of actin-based motile machinery and play a key role in the control of cell migration. Aside from the original and most well-characterized canonical Rho GTPases RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42, numerous isoforms of these key proteins have been identified and shown to have specific roles in regulating various cellular motility processes. The major difficulty in addressing these isoform-specific effects is that isoforms typically contain highly similar primary amino acid sequences and thus are able to interact with the same upstream regulators and the downstream effector targets. Here, we will introduce the major members of each GTPase subfamily and discuss recent advances in the design and application of fluorescent resonance energy transfer-based probes, which are at the forefront of the technologies available to directly probe the differential, spatiotemporal activation dynamics of these proteins in live single cells. Currently, it is possible to specifically detect the activation status of RhoA vs. RhoC isoforms, as well as Cdc42 vs. TC-10 isoforms in living cells. Clearly, additional efforts are still required to produce biosensor systems capable of detecting other isoforms of Rho GTPases including RhoB, Rac2/3, RhoG, etc. Through such efforts, we will uncover the isoform-specific roles of these near-identical proteins in living cells, clearly an important area of the Rho GTPase biology that is not yet fully appreciated.
Cell migration is a highly integrated, multistep process that plays an important role in physiological and pathological processes. The migrating cell is highly polarized, with complex regulatory pathways that integrate its component processes spatially and temporally.1 The Drosophila tumor suppressor, Lethal (2) giant larvae (Lgl), regulates apical-basal polarity in epithelia and asymmetric cell division.2 But little is known about the role of Lgl in establishing cell polarity in migrating cells. Recently, we showed that the mammalian Lgl1 interacts directly with non-muscle myosin IIA (NMIIA), inhibiting its ability to assemble into filaments in vitro.3 Lgl1 also regulates the cellular localization of NMIIA, the maturation of focal adhesions, and cell migration.3 We further showed that phosphorylation of Lgl1 by aPKCζ prevents its interaction with NMIIA and is important for Lgl1 and acto-NMII cytoskeleton cellular organization.4 Lgl is a critical downstream target of the Par6-aPKC cell polarity complex; we showed that Lgl1 forms two distinct complexes in vivo, Lgl1-NMIIA and Lgl1-Par6-aPKCζ in different cellular compartments.4 We further showed that aPKCζ and NMIIA compete to bind directly to Lgl1 through the same domain. These data provide new insights into the role of Lgl1, NMIIA, and Par6-aPKCζ in establishing front-rear polarity in migrating cells. In this commentary, I discuss the role of Lgl1 in the regulation of the acto-NMII cytoskeleton and its regulation by the Par6-aPKCζ polarity complex, and how Lgl1 activity may contribute to the establishment of front-rear polarity in migrating cells.
Lethal giant larvae (Lgl); non-muscle myosin II; Par6-aPKC; cell polarity; cell migration