Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) play a key role in many important areas of epigenetics, stem cell biology, cancer, signaling and brain function. This emerging class of RNAs constitutes a large fraction of the transcriptome, with thousands of new lncRNAs reported each year. The molecular mechanisms of these RNAs are not well understood. Currently, very little structural data exist. We review the available lncRNA sequence and secondary structure data. Since almost no tertiary information is available for lncRNAs, we review crystallographic structures for other RNA systems and discuss the possibilities for lncRNAs in the context of existing constraints.
RNA; non-coding; long noncoding RNA; lncRNA; lincRNA; epigenetics; cancer; hormone receptor; secondary structure; structural biology; RNA structure; HOTAIR; MALAT
BioArchitecture is a term used to describe the organization and regulation of biological space. It applies to the principles which govern the structure of molecules, polymers and mutiprotein complexes, organelles, membranes and their organization in the cytoplasm and the nucleus. It also covers the integration of cells into their three dimensional environment at the level of cell-matrix, cell-cell interactions, integration into tissue/organ structure and function and finally into the structure of the organism. This review will highlight studies at all these levels which are providing a new way to think about the relationship between the organization of biological space and the function of biological systems.
actin; cytoskeleton; microtubules; intermediate filaments; nuclear structure; protein folding; isoform sorting
The cofilin-actin rod stress response is an actin cytoskeletal dynamic arrest that occurs in cells under a variety of stress conditions. Upon stress, the rapidly activated cofilin saturates actin filaments causing them to bundle into rod structures in either the nucleus or cytoplasm, halting actin polymerization and thus freeing ATP. Importantly, these rods dissociate quickly following relief of the transient stress. The rods form inappropriately in neurons involved in the progression of Alzheimer disease (AD) and we have linked dysfunctional dynamics of the nuclear rod response to Huntington disease (HD). Cofilin levels are also perturbed in Parkinson disease (PD), and profilin, an actin binding protein with opposite action to cofilin, is mutated in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The persistence of the rods post-stress suggests that critical molecular switches to turn this response both on and off are being affected in neurodegeneration. We have recently shown that the cofilin protein is regulated by highly conserved nuclear import and export signals and that these signals are required to be functional for an appropriate rod formation during stress. The ability of cofilin to form rods is required in a cell culture model for cells to be resistant to apoptosis under stress conditions, indicating that a normal cofilin-actin rod response is likely integral to proper cell health in higher order organisms. Here we hypothesize on the potential physiological function of nuclear cofilin-actin rods and why the dysregulation of this response could lead to the selective vulnerability of the most susceptible populations of cells in HD. We further suggest that learning more about this cytoskeletal cell stress response will open up new avenues for drug target discovery in neurodegenerative disorders.
Huntington disease; actin; cofilin; cofilin rods; cytoskeleton; nuclear transport signals; profilin
Embryonic patterning relies upon an exquisitely timed program of gene regulation. While the regulation of this process via the action of transcription factor networks is well understood, new lines of study have highlighted the importance of a concurrently regulated program of chromatin remodeling during development. Chromatin remodeling refers to the manipulation of the chromatin architecture through rearrangement, repositioning, or restructuring of nucleosomes to either favor or hinder the expression of associated genes. While the role of chromatin remodeling pathways during tumor development and cancer progression are beginning to be clarified, the roles of these pathways in the course of tissue specification, morphogenesis and patterning remains relatively unknown. Further, relatively little is understood as to the mechanism whereby developmentally critical transcription factors coordinate with chromatin remodeling factors to optimize target gene loci for gene expression. Such a mechanism might involve direct transcription factor/chromatin remodeling factor interactions, or could likely be mediated via an unknown intermediary. Our group has identified the relatively unknown protein Akirin as a putative member of this latter group: a secondary cofactor that serves as an interface between a developmentally critical transcription factor and the chromatin remodeling machinery. This role for the Akirin protein suggests a novel regulatory mode for regulating gene expression during development.
Akirin; Twist; SWI/SNF; chromatin; transcription; muscle; Drosophila
Fibroblast Growth Factor (Fgf) signaling is involved in the exquisite cellular patterning of the developing cochlea, and is necessary for proper hearing function. Our previous data indicate that Fgf signaling disrupts actin, which impacts the surface stiffness of sensory outer hair cells (OHCs) and non-sensory supporting pillar cells (PCs) in the organ of Corti. Here, we used Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to measure the impact of loss of function of Fgf-receptor 3, on cytoskeletal formation and cell surface mechanical properties. We find a 50% decrease in both OHC and PC surface stiffness, and a substantial disruption in microtubule formation in PCs. Moreover, we find no change in OHC electromotility of Fgfr3-deficient mice. To further understand the regulation by Fgf-signaling on microtubule formation, we treated wild-type cochlear explants with Fgf-receptor agonist Fgf2, or antagonist SU5402, and find that both treatments lead to a significant reduction in β-Tubulin isotypes I&II. To identify downstream transcriptional targets of Fgf-signaling, we used QPCR arrays to probe 84 cytoskeletal regulators. Of the 5 genes significantly upregulated following treatment, Clasp2, Mapre2 and Mark2 impact microtubule formation. We conclude that microtubule formation is a major downstream effector of Fgf-receptor 3, and suggest this pathway impacts the formation of fluid spaces in the organ of Corti.
Fibroblast growth factor; Young’s modulus; hair cell; pillar cell
Because little is known how microtubules contribute to cell migration in a physiological three-dimensional environment, we analyzed microtubule function and dynamics during in vitro angiogenesis in which endothelial cells form networks on a reconstituted basement membrane. Endothelial network formation resulted from distinct cell behaviors: matrix reorganization by myosin-mediated contractile forces, and active cell migration along reorganized, bundled matrix fibers. Inhibition of microtubule dynamics inhibited persistent cell migration, but not matrix reorganization. In addition, microtubule polymerization dynamics and CLASP2-binding to microtubules were spatially regulated to promote microtubule growth into endothelial cell protrusions along matrix tension tracks. We propose that microtubules counter-act contractile forces of the cortical actin cytoskeleton and are required to stabilize endothelial cell protrusions in a soft three-dimensional environment.
CLASP2; blebbistatin; cell migration; cytoskeleton; endothelial cells; in vitro angiogenesis; microtubule dynamics; nocodazole
Intravital microscopy is an extremely powerful tool that enables imaging several biological processes in live animals. Recently, the ability to image subcellular structures in several organs combined with the development of sophisticated genetic tools has made possible extending this approach to investigate several aspects of cell biology. Here we provide a general overview of intravital microscopy with the goal of highlighting its potential and challenges. Specifically, this review is geared toward researchers that are new to intravital microscopy and focuses on practical aspects of carrying out imaging in live animals. Here we share the know-how that comes from first-hand experience, including topics such as choosing the right imaging platform and modality, surgery and stabilization techniques, anesthesia and temperature control. Moreover, we highlight some of the approaches that facilitate subcellular imaging in live animals by providing numerous examples of imaging selected organelles and the actin cytoskeleton in multiple organs.
The development of cell-cell junctions was a fundamental step in metazoan evolution, and human health depends on the formation and function of cell junctions. Although it has long been known that actin and conventional myosin have important roles in cell junctions, research has begun to reveal the specific functions of the different forms of conventional myosin. Exciting new data also reveals that a growing number of unconventional myosins have important roles in cell junctions. Experiments showing that cell junctions act as mechanosensors have also provided new impetus to understand the functions of myosins and the forces they exert. In this review we will summarize recent developments on the roles of myosins in cell junctions.
Myo10; Myo15a; Myo1e; Myo6; Myo7a; Myo9a; Myo9b; adherens junction; dachs; myosin; nonmuscle myosin; tight junction
Stereocilia are actin protrusions with remarkably well-defined lengths and organization. A flurry of recent papers has reported multiple myosin motor proteins involved in regulating stereocilia structures by transporting actin-regulatory cargo to the tips of stereocilia.1-13 In our recent paper, we show that two paralogous class 3 myosins — Myo3a and Myo3b — both transport the actin-regulatory protein Espin 1 (Esp1) to stereocilia and filopodia tips in a remarkably similar, albeit non-identical fashion.1 Here we present experimental and computational data that suggests that subtle differences between these two proteins’ biophysical and biochemical properties can help us understand how these myosin species target and regulate the lengths of actin protrusions.
myosin; actin; filopodia; cytoskeleton; motor proteins; stereocilia; deafness
The membrane tethering factor p115 has been shown to have important functions in ER to Golgi traffic and Golgi biogenesis. The multidomain structure of p115 allows for interactions with a diverse array of proteins that govern cargo movement at the ER-Golgi interface. Within its C-terminal region p115 contains four coiled-coil domains (CC1-CC4). Of the four coiled-coils, only CC1 has been shown to be required for p115 function, presumably by its ability to bind numerous SNARE proteins as well as the small GTPase Rab1. Recently, we showed that CC4 also interacts with SNARE proteins and that CC4 is required for p115 function in Golgi homeostasis and the trafficking of transmembrane but not soluble cargo. Here, we propose a novel model wherein p115 facilitates membrane tethering and fusion by simultaneously engaging its CC1 and CC4 domains with distinct SNARE proteins to promote formation of SNARE complexes.
p115; SNARE; tethering; Golgi; coiled-coil domain
Growth factors and their receptors are important for cellular migration as well as axonal guidance and myelination in the brain. They also play a key role in programmed cell death, and are implicated in a number of mental illnesses. Recently, we reported that healthy young adults who carry the T allele variant in the growth factor gene, NTRK1 (at location rs6336), had lower white matter integrity than non-carriers on diffusion images of the brain. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) revealed how this single nucleotide polymorphism affects white matter microstructure in human populations; DTI is also used to identify characteristic features of brain connectivity in typically developing children and in patients. Newly discovered links between neuroimaging measures and growth factors whose molecular neuroscience is well known offer an important step in understanding mechanisms that contribute to brain connectivity. Altered fiber connectivity may mediate the relationship between some genetic risk factors and a variety of mental illnesses.
neurotrophin; growth factor; tropomyosin-related kinase receptor A; neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor 1; myelin; development; fractional anisotropy; radial diffusivity; diffusion tensor imaging; schizophrenia
We recently identified the atypical myosin, Myosin VI, as a component of epithelial cell-cell junctions that interacts with E-cadherin. Recombinant proteins bearing the cargo-binding domain of Myosin VI (Myo VI-CBD) or the cytoplasmic tail of E-cadherin can interact directly with one another. In this report we further investigate the molecular requirements of the interaction between Myo VI-CBD and E-cadherin combining truncation mutation analysis with in vitro binding assays. We report that a short (28 amino acid) juxtamembrane region of the cadherin cytoplasmic tail is sufficient to bind Myo VI-CBD. However, central regions of the cadherin tail adjacent to the juxtamembrane sequence also display binding activity for Myo VI-CBD. It is therefore possible that the cadherin tail bears two binding sites for Myosin VI, or an extended binding site that includes the juxtamembrane region. Nevertheless, our biochemical data highlight the capacity for the juxtamembrane region to interact with functionally-significant cytoplasmic proteins.
E-cadherin; myosin VI; cytoskeleton; protein-protein interaction; Epithelia
Cilia are protrusions on the surface of cells. They are frequently motile and function to propel cells in an aqueous environment or to generate fluid flow. Equally important is the role of immotile cilia in detecting environmental changes or in sensing extracellular signals. The structure of cilia is supported by microtubules, and their formation requires microtubule-dependent motors, kinesins, which are thought to transport both structural and signaling ciliary proteins from the cell body into the distal portion of the ciliary shaft. In multicellular organisms, multiple kinesins are known to drive ciliary transport, and frequently cilia of a single cell type require more than one kinesin for their formation and function. In addition to kinesin-2 family motors, which function in cilia of all species investigated so far, kinesins from other families contribute to the transport of signaling proteins in a tissue-specific manner. It is becoming increasingly obvious that functional relationships between ciliary kinesins are complex, and a good understanding of these relationships is essential to comprehend the basis of biological processes as diverse as olfaction, vision, and embryonic development.
C. elegans; cilia; flagella; intraflagellar; kinesin; motor; mouse; photoreceptor; zebrafish
The PCI fold is based on a stack of α-helices topped with a winged-helix domain and is found in a range of proteins that form central parts of large complexes such as the proteasome lid, the COP9 signalosome, elongation factor eIF3, and the TREX-2 complex. Recent structural determinations have given intriguing insight into how these folds function both to facilitate the generation of larger proteinaceous assembles and also to interact functionally with nucleic acids.
COP9 complex; PCI fold; PCI protein; TREX-2 complex; eIF3; proteasome
The unique innovation of the layered neocortex in mammalian evolution is believed to facilitate adaptive radiation of mammalian species to various ecological environments by furnishing high information processing ability. There are no transitional states from the non-mammalian simple brain to the mammalian multilayered neocortex, and thus it is totally a mystery so far how this brain structure has been acquired during evolution. In our recent study, we found the evidence showing that the evolutionary origin of the neocortical neuron subtypes predates the actual emergence of layer structure. Our comparative developmental analysis of the chick pallium, homologous to the mammalian neocortex, revealed that mammals and avians fundamentally share the neocortical neuron subtypes and their production mechanisms, suggesting that their common ancestor already possessed a similar neuronal repertory. We further demonstrated that the neocortical layer-specific neuron subtypes are arranged as mediolaterally separated domains in the chick, but not as layers in the mammalian neocortex. These animal group-specific neuronal arrangements are accomplished by spatial modulation of the neurogenetic program, suggesting an evolutionary hypothesis that the regulatory changes in the neurogenetic program innovated the mammalian specific layered neocortex.
bird; brain patterning; evolution; layer; mammal; neocortex; neural progenitor; neuron subtype; pallium; stem cell
During mitosis, microtubules (MTs) are massively rearranged into three sets of highly dynamic MTs that are nucleated from the centrosomes to form the mitotic spindle. Tight regulation of spindle positioning in the dividing cell and chromosome alignment at the center of the metaphase spindle are required to ensure perfect chromosome segregation and to position the cytokinetic furrow that will specify the two daughter cells. Spindle positioning requires regulation of MT dynamics, involving depolymerase activities together with cortical and kinetochore-mediated pushing and pulling forces acting on astral MTs and kinetochore fibres. These forces rely on MT motor activities. Cortical pulling forces exerted on astral MTs depend upon dynein/dynactin complexes and are essential in both symmetric and asymmetric cell division. A well-established spindle positioning pathway regulating the cortical targeting of dynein/dynactin involves the conserved LGN (Leu-Gly-Asn repeat-enriched-protein) and NuMA (microtubule binding nuclear mitotic apparatus protein) complex.1 Spindle orientation is also regulated by integrin-mediated cell adhesion2 and actin retraction fibres that respond to mechanical stress and are influenced by the microenvironment of the dividing cell.3 Altering the capture of astral MTs or modulating pulling forces affects spindle position, which can impair cell division, differentiation and embryogenesis.
In this general scheme, the activity of mitotic kinases such as Auroras and Plk1 (Polo-like kinase 1) is crucial.4 Recently, the p21-activated kinases (PAKs) emerged as novel important players in mitotic progression. In our recent article, we demonstrated that PAK4 regulates spindle positioning in symmetric cell division.5 In this commentary, and in light of recent published studies, we discuss how PAK4 could participate in the regulation of mechanisms involved in spindle positioning and orientation.
astral microtubules; dynein; p21-activated kinase; spindle orientation and positioning
The THO complex is a nuclear structure whose architecture is conserved among all kingdoms and plays an important role in mRNP biogenesis connecting transcription elongation with mRNA maturation and export. Recent data indicates that the THO complex is necessary for the proper expression of some genes, assurance of genetic stability by preventing transcription-associated recombination. Yeast THO has been described as a heterotetramer (Tho2, Hpr1, Mft1 and Thp2) that performs several functions through the interaction with other proteins like Tex1 or the mRNA export factors Sub2 and Yra1, with which it forms the TRanscription and EXport complex (TREX). In this article we review the cellular role of THO, which we show to be composed of five subunits with Tex1 being also an integral part of the complex. We also show a low-resolution structure of THO and localize some of its components. We discuss the consequences of THO interaction with nucleic acids through the unfolded C-terminal region of Tho2, highlighting the importance of unfolded regions in eukaryotic proteins. Finally, we comment on THO recruitment to active chromatin, a role that is linked to mRNA biogenesis.
THO complex; TREX complex; electron microscopy; mRNA export; mRNP quality control
IQGAP1 is an important cytoskeletal regulator, known to act at the plasma membrane to bundle and cap actin filaments, and to tether the cortical actin meshwork to microtubules via plus-end binding proteins. Here we describe the novel subcellular localization of IQGAP1 at the cytoplasmic face of the nuclear envelope, where it co-located with F-actin. The IQGAP1 and F-actin staining overlapped that of microtubules at the nuclear envelope, revealing a pattern strikingly similar to that observed at the plasma membrane. In detergent-extracted cells IQGAP1 was retained at cytoskeletal structures at the nuclear envelope. This finding has new implications for involvement of IQGAP1 in cell polarization and migration events and potentially in cell cycle-associated nuclear envelope assembly/disassembly.
Cdc42; IQGAP1; Rac1; actin; cell polarization; nuclear envelope
Chromatin remodeling by the SWI/SNF complex is required to activate the transcription of myogenic-specific genes. Our work addressed the details of how SWI/SNF is recruited to myogenic regulatory regions in response to differentiation signals. Surprisingly, the muscle determination factor MyoD and the SWI/SNF subunit BAF60c form a complex on the regulatory elements of MyoD-targeted genes in myogenic precursor cells. This Brg1-devoid MyoD-BAF60c complex flags the chromatin of myogenic-differentiation genes before transcription is activated. On differentiation, BAF60c phosphorylation on a conserved threonine by p38 α kinase promotes the incorporation of MyoD-BAF60c into a Brg1-based SWI/SNF complex, which remodels the chromatin and activates transcription of MyoD-target genes. Downregulation of BAF60c expression prevents MyoD access to the chromatin and the proper loading of an active myogenic transcriptosome preventing the expression of hundreds of myogenic genes. Our data support an unprecedented two-step model by which (1) pre-assembled BAF60c-MyoD complex poises the chromatin of myogenic genes for rapid transcription; (2) chromatin-bound BAF60c “senses” the myogenic differentiation cues and recruits an active SWI/SNF complex to remodel the chromatin allowing transcriptional activation.
MyoD; BAF60c; SWI/SNF; chromatin; remodeling; transcription; myogenesis; differentiation
Apoptosis is an important biological process required for the removal of unwanted or damaged cells. Mounting evidence implicates the actin cytoskeleton as both a sensor and mediator of apoptosis. Studies also suggest that actin binding proteins (ABPs) significantly contribute to apoptosis and that actin dynamics play a key role in regulating apoptosis signaling. Changes in the organization of the actin cytoskeleton has been attributed to the process of malignant transformation and it is hypothesized that remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton may enable tumor cells to evade normal apoptotic signaling. This review aims to illuminate the role of the actin cytoskeleton in apoptosis by systematically analyzing how actin and ABPs regulate different apoptosis pathways and to also highlight the potential for developing novel compounds that target tumor-specific actin filaments.
actin; apoptosis; actin binding proteins; mitochondria; Bcl-2; cancer; multi-drug resistance
Adult skeletal muscles adapt their fiber size to workload. We show that serum response factor (Srf) is required for satellite cell-mediated hypertrophic muscle growth. Deletion of Srf from myofibers, and not satellite cells, blunts overload-induced hypertrophy, and impairs satellite cell proliferation and recruitment to pre-existing fibers. We reveal a gene network in which Srf within myofibers modulates interleukin-6 and cyclooxygenase-2/interleukin-4 expressions and therefore exerts a paracrine control of satellite cell functions. In Srf-deleted muscles, in vivo overexpression of interleukin-6 is sufficient to restore satellite cell proliferation, but not satellite cell fusion and overall growth. In contrast, cyclooxygenase-2/interleukin-4 overexpression rescues satellite cell recruitment and muscle growth without affecting satellite cell proliferation, identifying altered fusion as the limiting cellular event. These findings unravel a role for Srf in the translation of mechanical cues applied to myofibers into paracrine signals, which in turn will modulate satellite cell functions and support muscle growth.
skeletal muscle; hypertrophy; satellite cells; paracrine; transcription factor
Integrin-linked kinase (ILK), PINCH and Parvin proteins form the IPP-complex that has been established as a core component of the integrin-actin link. Our recent genetic studies on Drosophila parvin, reveal that loss of function mutant defects phenocopy those observed upon loss of ILK or PINCH in the muscle and the wing, strengthening the notion that these proteins function together in the organism. Our work identified that ILK is necessary and sufficient for parvin subcellular localization, corroborating previous data indicating a direct association between these two proteins. Further genetic epistasis analysis of the IPP-complex assembly at integrin adhesion sites reveals that depending on the cell context each component is required differently. At the muscle attachment sites of the embryo, ILK is placed upstream in the hierarchy of genetic interactions required for the IPP-complex assembly. By contrast, in the wing epithelium the three proteins are mutually interdependent. Finally, we uncovered a novel property for the CH1-domain of parvin: its recruitment at the integrin-containing junctions in an ILK-dependent manner. Apparently, this ability of the CH1-domain is controlled by the inter-CH linker region. Thus, an intramolecular interaction within parvin could serve as a putative regulatory mechanism controlling the ILK-Parvin interaction.
integrin; cell adhesion; PINCH; actin; Drosophila
Tetraspanins regulate the signaling, trafficking and biosynthetic processing of associated proteins, and may link the extracellular domain of α-chain integrins with intracellular signaling molecules, including PI4K and PKC, both of which regulate cytoskeletal architecture. We showed that TSPAN7, a member of tetraspannin-family, promotes filopodia and dendritic spine formation in cultured hippocampal neurons, and is required for spine stability and normal synaptic transmission. TSPAN7 directly interacts with the PDZ domain of protein interacting with C kinase 1 (PICK1), and associates with AMPAR subunit GluA2 and β1-integrin. TSPAN7 regulates PICK1 and GluA2/3 association, and AMPA receptor trafficking. These findings identify TSPAN7 as a key player in the morphological and functional maturation of glutamatergic synapses.
intellectual disability; AMPAR trafficking; synapse function/plasticity; tetrasapanins; TSPAN7; integrins; PICK1
Our recent paper examined how pelvic fins and their musculature form developmentally and how these mechanisms have evolved within the vertebrate lineage, a process fundamental to the tetrapod transition. The transition from the water onto the land is among one of the most well studied steps in the evolutionary history of vertebrates, yet the genetic basis of this evolutionary transition is little studied and ill-defined. The advent of these terrestrial species resulted in a shift in locomotor strategies from the rhythmic undulating muscles of the fish body to a reliance upon powerful weight bearing muscles of the limbs to generate movement. We demonstrated that the pelvic fin muscles of bony fish are generated by a mechanism that has features of both of limb/fin muscle formation in tetrapods and primitive cartilaginous fish. We hypothesize that the adoption of the fully derived mode of hindlimb muscle formation, was a further modification of the mode of development deployed to generate pelvic fin muscles, a shift in overall muscle bioarchitecture we believe was critical to the success of the tetrapod transition.
muscle; evolution; fin; limb; zebrafish; tetrapod
Scaffolding proteins that are associated with glutamate receptors in dendritic spines govern the location and function of receptors to control synaptic transmission. Unraveling the spatio-temporal dynamics of protein-protein interactions within components of the scaffolding complex will bring to light the function of these interactions. Combining bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) imaging to electrophysiological recordings, we have recently shown that GKAP, a core protein of the scaffolding complex, interacts with DLC2, a protein associated with molecular motors. Synaptic activity-induced GKAP-DLC2 interaction in spines stabilizes the scaffolding complex and enhances the NMDA currents. Interestingly, this work placed emphasis on the bioarchitectural dependence of protein-protein interaction dynamics. Depending on physiological conditions, the modulation in space and time of protein-protein interaction is acutely regulated, engendering a subtle control of synaptic transmission in the state of the individual synapse.
bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET); dendritic spine; dynein light chain 2 (DLC2); glutamate receptors; guanylate kinase-associated protein (GKAP); protein-protein interaction; scaffolding proteins; synaptic transmission