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The IFITMs Inhibit Zika Virus Replication

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:51pm

Zika virus has emerged as a severe health threat with a rapidly expanding range. The IFITM family of restriction factors inhibits the replication of a broad range of viruses, including the closely related flaviruses West Nile virus and dengue virus. Here, we show that IFITM1 and IFITM3 inhibit Zika virus infection early in the viral life cycle. Moreover, IFITM3 can prevent Zika-virus-induced cell death. These results suggest that strategies to boost the actions and/or levels of the IFITMs might be useful for inhibiting a broad range of emerging viruses.

An invertebrate smooth muscle with striated muscle myosin filaments

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:33pm

Muscle tissues are classically divided into two major types, depending on the presence or absence of striations. In striated muscles, the actin filaments are anchored at Z-lines and the myosin and actin filaments are in register, whereas in smooth muscles, the actin filaments are attached to dense bodies and the myosin and actin filaments are out of register. The structure of the filaments in smooth muscles is also different from that in striated muscles. Here we have studied the structure of myosin filaments from the smooth muscles of the human parasite Schistosoma mansoni. We find, surprisingly, that they are indistinguishable from those in an arthropod striated muscle. This structural similarity is supported by sequence comparison between the schistosome myosin II heavy chain and known striated muscle myosins. In contrast, the actin filaments of schistosomes are similar to those of smooth muscles, lacking troponin-dependent regulation. We conclude that schistosome muscles are hybrids, containing striated muscle-like myosin filaments and smooth muscle-like actin filaments in a smooth muscle architecture. This surprising finding has broad significance for understanding how muscles are built and how they evolved, and challenges the paradigm that smooth and striated muscles always have distinctly different components.

Intraflagellar transport is essential for mammalian spermiogenesis but is absent in mature sperm

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:33pm

Drosophila sperm are unusual in that they do not require the intraflagellar transport (IFT) system for assembly of their flagella. In the mouse, the IFT proteins are very abundant in testis, but we here show that mature sperm are completely devoid of them, making the importance of IFT to mammalian sperm development unclear. To address this question, we characterized spermiogenesis and fertility in the Ift88(Tg737Rpw) mouse. This mouse has a hypomorphic mutation in the gene encoding the IFT88 subunit of the IFT particle. This mutation is highly disruptive to ciliary assembly in other organs. Ift88(-/-) mice are completely sterile. They produce approximately 350-fold fewer sperm than wild-type mice, and the remaining sperm completely lack or have very short flagella. The short flagella rarely have axonemes but assemble ectopic microtubules and outer dense fibers and accumulate improperly assembled fibrous sheath proteins. Thus IFT is essential for the formation but not the maintenance of mammalian sperm flagella.

Pacemaker-induced transient asynchrony suppresses heart failure progression

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:33pm

Uncoordinated contraction from electromechanical delay worsens heart failure pathophysiology and prognosis, but restoring coordination with biventricular pacing, known as cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), improves both. However, not every patient qualifies for CRT. We show that heart failure with synchronous contraction is improved by inducing dyssynchrony for 6 hours daily by right ventricular pacing using an intracardiac pacing device, in a process we call pacemaker-induced transient asynchrony (PITA). In dogs with heart failure induced by 6 weeks of atrial tachypacing, PITA (starting on week 3) suppressed progressive cardiac dilation as well as chamber and myocyte dysfunction. PITA enhanced beta-adrenergic responsiveness in vivo and normalized it in myocytes. Myofilament calcium response declined in dogs with synchronous heart failure, which was accompanied by sarcomere disarray and generation of myofibers with severely reduced function, and these changes were absent in PITA-treated hearts. The benefits of PITA were not replicated when the same number of right ventricular paced beats was randomly distributed throughout the day, indicating that continuity of dyssynchrony exposure is necessary to trigger the beneficial biological response upon resynchronization. These results suggest that PITA could bring the benefits of CRT to the many heart failure patients with synchronous contraction who are not CRT candidates.

An approach to improve the resolution of helical filaments with a large axial rise and flexible subunits

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:33pm

Single particle analysis is widely used for three-dimensional reconstruction of helical filaments. Near-atomic resolution has been obtained for several well-ordered filaments. However, it is still a challenge to achieve high resolution for filaments with flexible subunits and a large axial rise per subunit relative to pixel size. Here, we describe an approach that improves the resolution in such cases. In filaments with a large axial rise, many segments must be shifted a long distance along the filament axis to match with a reference projection, potentially causing loss of alignment accuracy and hence resolution. In our study of myosin filaments, we overcame this problem by pre-determining the axial positions of myosin head crowns within segments to decrease the alignment error. In addition, homogeneous, well-ordered segments were selected from the raw data set by checking the assigned azimuthal rotation angle of segments in each filament against those expected for perfect helical symmetry. These procedures improved the resolution of the filament reconstruction from 30 A to 13 A. This approach could be useful in other helical filaments with a large axial rise and/or flexible subunits.

The cMyBP-C HCM variant L348P enhances thin filament activation through an increased shift in tropomyosin position

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:33pm

Mutations in cardiac myosin binding protein C (cMyBP-C), a thick filament protein that modulates contraction of the heart, are a leading cause of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Electron microscopy and 3D reconstruction of thin filaments decorated with cMyBP-C N-terminal fragments suggest that one mechanism of this modulation involves the interaction of cMyBP-C's N-terminal domains with thin filaments to enhance their Ca(2+)-sensitivity by displacement of tropomyosin from its blocked (low Ca(2+)) to its closed (high Ca(2+)) position. The extent of this tropomyosin shift is reduced when cMyBP-C N-terminal domains are phosphorylated. In the current study, we have examined L348P, a sequence variant of cMyBP-C first identified in a screen of patients with HCM. In L348P, leucine 348 is replaced by proline in cMyBP-C's regulatory M-domain, resulting in an increase in cMyBP-C's ability to enhance thin filament Ca(2+)-sensitization. Our goal here was to determine the structural basis for this enhancement by carrying out 3D reconstruction of thin filaments decorated with L348P-mutant cMyBP-C. When thin filaments were decorated with wild type N-terminal domains at low Ca(2+), tropomyosin moved from the blocked to the closed position, as found previously. In contrast, the L348P mutant caused a significantly larger tropomyosin shift, to approximately the open position, consistent with its enhancement of Ca(2+)-sensitization. Phosphorylated wild type fragments showed a smaller shift than unphosphorylated fragments, whereas the shift induced by the L348P mutant was not affected by phosphorylation. We conclude that the L348P mutation causes a gain of function by enhancing tropomyosin displacement on the thin filament in a phosphorylation-independent way.

Use of HCA in subproteome-immunization and screening of hybridoma supernatants to define distinct antibody binding patterns

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:33pm

Understanding the properties and functions of complex biological systems depends upon knowing the proteins present and the interactions between them. Recent advances in mass spectrometry have given us greater insights into the participating proteomes, however, monoclonal antibodies remain key to understanding the structures, functions, locations and macromolecular interactions of the involved proteins. The traditional single immunogen method to produce monoclonal antibodies using hybridoma technology are time, resource and cost intensive, limiting the number of reagents that are available. Using a high content analysis screening approach, we have developed a method in which a complex mixture of proteins (e.g., subproteome) is used to generate a panel of monoclonal antibodies specific to a subproteome located in a defined subcellular compartment such as the nucleus. The immunofluorescent images in the primary hybridoma screen are analyzed using an automated processing approach and classified using a recursive partitioning forest classification model derived from images obtained from the Human Protein Atlas. Using an ammonium sulfate purified nuclear matrix fraction as an example of reverse proteomics, we identified 866 hybridoma supernatants with a positive immunofluorescent signal. Of those, 402 produced a nuclear signal from which patterns similar to known nuclear matrix associated proteins were identified. Detailed here is our method, the analysis techniques, and a discussion of the application to further in vivo antibody production.

Finding Shangri-La: Limiting the Impact of Senescence on Aging

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:32pm

Senescence plays an important role in the age-associated decline of tissue functions. Recent studies now show that targeting senescent cells can enhance the functions of stem/progenitor cells in aged mice and extend lifespan.

Phosphorylation and calcium antagonistically tune myosin-binding protein C's structure and function

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:32pm

During each heartbeat, cardiac contractility results from calcium-activated sliding of actin thin filaments toward the centers of myosin thick filaments to shorten cellular length. Cardiac myosin-binding protein C (cMyBP-C) is a component of the thick filament that appears to tune these mechanochemical interactions by its N-terminal domains transiently interacting with actin and/or the myosin S2 domain, sensitizing thin filaments to calcium and governing maximal sliding velocity. Both functional mechanisms are potentially further tunable by phosphorylation of an intrinsically disordered, extensible region of cMyBP-C's N terminus, the M-domain. Using atomic force spectroscopy, electron microscopy, and mutant protein expression, we demonstrate that phosphorylation reduced the M-domain's extensibility and shifted the conformation of the N-terminal domain from an extended structure to a compact configuration. In combination with motility assay data, these structural effects of M-domain phosphorylation suggest a mechanism for diminishing the functional potency of individual cMyBP-C molecules. Interestingly, we found that calcium levels necessary to maximally activate the thin filament mitigated the structural effects of phosphorylation by increasing M-domain extensibility and shifting the phosphorylated N-terminal fragments back to the extended state, as if unphosphorylated. Functionally, the addition of calcium to the motility assays ablated the impact of phosphorylation on maximal sliding velocities, fully restoring cMyBP-C's inhibitory capacity. We conclude that M-domain phosphorylation may have its greatest effect on tuning cMyBP-C's calcium-sensitization of thin filaments at the low calcium levels between contractions. Importantly, calcium levels at the peak of contraction would allow cMyBP-C to remain a potent contractile modulator, regardless of cMyBP-C's phosphorylation state.

Targeting the chromatin remodeling enzyme BRG1 increases the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs in breast cancer cells

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:32pm

Brahma related gene product 1 (BRG1) is an ATPase that drives the catalytic activity of a subset of the mammalian SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling enzymes. BRG1 is overexpressed in most human breast cancer tumors without evidence of mutation and is required for breast cancer cell proliferation. We demonstrate that knockdown of BRG1 sensitized triple negative breast cancer cells to chemotherapeutic drugs used to treat breast cancer. An inhibitor of the BRG1 bromodomain had no effect on breast cancer cell viability, but an inhibitory molecule that targets the BRG1 ATPase activity recapitulated the increased drug efficacy observed in the presence of BRG1 knockdown. We further demonstrate that inhibition of BRG1 ATPase activity blocks the induction of ABC transporter genes by these chemotherapeutic drugs and that BRG1 binds to ABC transporter gene promoters. This inhibition increased intracellular concentrations of the drugs, providing a likely mechanism for the increased chemosensitivity. Since ABC transporters and their induction by chemotherapy drugs are a major cause of chemoresistance and treatment failure, these results support the idea that targeting the enzymatic activity of BRG1 would be an effective adjuvant therapy for breast cancer.

Global gene expression profiling of JMJD6- and JMJD4-depleted mouse NIH3T3 fibroblasts

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:32pm

Emerging evidence suggests Jumonji domain-containing proteins are epigenetic regulators in diverse biological processes including cellular differentiation and proliferation. RNA interference-based analyses combined with gene expression profiling can effectively characterize the cellular functions of these enzymes. We found that the depletion of Jumonji domain-containing protein 6 (JMJD6) and its paralog protein Jumonji domain-containing protein 4 (JMJD4) individually by small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) slowed cell proliferation of mouse NIH3T3 fibroblasts. We subsequently performed gene expression profiling on both JMJD6- and JMJD4-depleted mouse NIH3T3 fibroblasts using the Affymetrix GeneChip Mouse Exon 1.0 ST Array. Here we report the gene profiling datasets along with the experimental procedures. The information can be used to further investigate how JMJD6 and JMJD4 affect gene expression and cellular physiology.

The cast of clasts: catabolism and vascular invasion during bone growth, repair, and disease by osteoclasts, chondroclasts, and septoclasts

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:32pm

Three named cell types degrade and remove skeletal tissues during growth, repair, or disease: osteoclasts, chondroclasts, and septoclasts. A fourth type, unnamed and less understood, removes nonmineralized cartilage during development of secondary ossification centers. "Osteoclasts," best known and studied, are polykaryons formed by fusion of monocyte precursors under the influence of colony stimulating factor 1 (CSF)-1 (M-CSF) and RANKL. They resorb bone during growth, remodeling, repair, and disease. "Chondroclasts," originally described as highly similar in cytological detail to osteoclasts, reside on and degrade mineralized cartilage. They may be identical to osteoclasts since to date there are no distinguishing markers for them. Because osteoclasts also consume cartilage cores along with bone during growth, the term "chondroclast" might best be reserved for cells attached only to cartilage. "Septoclasts" are less studied and appreciated. They are mononuclear perivascular cells rich in cathepsin B. They extend a cytoplasmic projection with a ruffled membrane and degrade the last transverse septum of hypertrophic cartilage in the growth plate, permitting capillaries to bud into it. To do this, antiangiogenic signals in cartilage must give way to vascular trophic factors, mainly vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The final cell type excavates cartilage canals for vascular invasion of articular cartilage during development of secondary ossification centers. The "clasts" are considered in the context of fracture repair and diseases such as arthritis and tumor metastasis. Many observations support an essential role for hypertrophic chondrocytes in recruiting septoclasts and osteoclasts/chondroclasts by supplying VEGF and RANKL. The intimate relationship between blood vessels and skeletal turnover and repair is also examined.

Identification of a Chemical Probe for Family VIII Bromodomains through Optimization of a Fragment Hit

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:32pm

The acetyl post-translational modification of chromatin at selected histone lysine residues is interpreted by an acetyl-lysine specific interaction with bromodomain reader modules. Here we report the discovery of the potent, acetyl-lysine-competitive, and cell active inhibitor PFI-3 that binds to certain family VIII bromodomains while displaying significant, broader bromodomain family selectivity. The high specificity of PFI-3 for family VIII was achieved through a novel bromodomain binding mode of a phenolic headgroup that led to the unusual displacement of water molecules that are generally retained by most other bromodomain inhibitors reported to date. The medicinal chemistry program that led to PFI-3 from an initial fragment screening hit is described in detail, and additional analogues with differing family VIII bromodomain selectivity profiles are also reported. We also describe the full pharmacological characterization of PFI-3 as a chemical probe, along with phenotypic data on adipocyte and myoblast cell differentiation assays.

Together, the IFT81 and IFT74 N-termini form the main module for intraflagellar transport of tubulin

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:32pm

The assembly and maintenance of most cilia and flagella rely on intraflagellar transport (IFT). Recent in vitro studies have suggested that, together, the calponin-homology domain within the IFT81 N-terminus and the highly basic N-terminus of IFT74 form a module for IFT of tubulin. By using Chlamydomonas mutants for IFT81 and IFT74, we tested this hypothesis in vivo Modification of the predicted tubulin-binding residues in IFT81 did not significantly affect basic anterograde IFT and length of steady-state flagella but slowed down flagellar regeneration, a phenotype similar to that seen in a strain that lacks the IFT74 N-terminus. In both mutants, the frequency of tubulin transport by IFT was greatly reduced. A double mutant that combined the modifications to IFT81 and IFT74 was able to form only very short flagella. These results indicate that, together, the IFT81 and IFT74 N-termini are crucial for flagellar assembly, and are likely to function as the main module for IFT of tubulin.

Coordinated Dynamics of RNA Splicing Speckles in the Nucleus

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:32pm

Despite being densely packed with chromatin, nuclear bodies and a nucleoskeletal network, the nucleus is a remarkably dynamic organelle. Chromatin loops form and relax, RNA transcripts and transcription factors move diffusively, and nuclear bodies move. We show here that RNA splicing speckled domains (splicing speckles) fluctuate in constrained nuclear volumes and remodel their shapes. Small speckles move in a directed way toward larger speckles with which they fuse. This directed movement is reduced upon decreasing cellular ATP levels or inhibiting RNA polymerase II activity. The random movement of speckles is reduced upon decreasing cellular ATP levels, moderately reduced after inhibition of SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling and modestly increased upon inhibiting RNA polymerase II activity. To define the paths through which speckles can translocate in the nucleus, we generated a pressure gradient to create flows in the nucleus. In response to the pressure gradient, speckles moved along curvilinear paths in the nucleus. Collectively, our results demonstrate a new type of ATP-dependent motion in the nucleus. We present a model where recycling splicing factors return as part of small sub-speckles from distal sites of RNA processing to larger splicing speckles by a directed ATP-driven mechanism through interchromatin spaces.

Identification of Zika Virus and Dengue Virus Dependency Factors using Functional Genomics

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 1:11pm

The flaviviruses dengue virus (DENV) and Zika virus (ZIKV) are severe health threats with rapidly expanding ranges. To identify the host cell dependencies of DENV and ZIKV, we completed orthologous functional genomic screens using RNAi and CRISPR/Cas9 approaches. The screens recovered the ZIKV entry factor AXL as well as multiple host factors involved in endocytosis (RAB5C and RABGEF), heparin sulfation (NDST1 and EXT1), and transmembrane protein processing and maturation, including the endoplasmic reticulum membrane complex (EMC). We find that both flaviviruses require the EMC for their early stages of infection. Together, these studies generate a high-confidence, systems-wide view of human-flavivirus interactions and provide insights into the role of the EMC in flavivirus replication.

Signs of Safety: A Deaf-Accessible Toolkit for Trauma and Addiction

Fri, 06/24/2016 - 3:25pm

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center (SPARC) assembled a team of Deaf and hearing researchers, clinicians, filmmakers, actors, artists, and Deaf people in recovery to develop Signs of Safety – a population-specific client toolkit and therapist companion guide that supplements Seeking Safety.

Mutations in the profilin 1 gene cause familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 11:51am

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a late-onset neurodegenerative disorder resulting from motor neuron death. Approximately 10% of cases are familial (FALS), typically with a dominant inheritance mode. Despite numerous advances in recent years, nearly 50% of FALS cases have unknown genetic aetiology. Here we show that mutations within the profilin 1 (PFN1) gene can cause FALS. PFN1 is crucial for the conversion of monomeric (G)-actin to filamentous (F)-actin. Exome sequencing of two large ALS families showed different mutations within the PFN1 gene. Further sequence analysis identified 4 mutations in 7 out of 274 FALS cases. Cells expressing PFN1 mutants contain ubiquitinated, insoluble aggregates that in many cases contain the ALS-associated protein TDP-43. PFN1 mutants also display decreased bound actin levels and can inhibit axon outgrowth. Furthermore, primary motor neurons expressing mutant PFN1 display smaller growth cones with a reduced F/G-actin ratio. These observations further document that cytoskeletal pathway alterations contribute to ALS pathogenesis.

Staufen1 senses overall transcript secondary structure to regulate translation

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 11:50am

Human Staufen1 (Stau1) is a double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-binding protein implicated in multiple post-transcriptional gene-regulatory processes. Here we combined RNA immunoprecipitation in tandem (RIPiT) with RNase footprinting, formaldehyde cross-linking, sonication-mediated RNA fragmentation and deep sequencing to map Staufen1-binding sites transcriptome wide. We find that Stau1 binds complex secondary structures containing multiple short helices, many of which are formed by inverted Alu elements in annotated 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) or in 'strongly distal' 3' UTRs. Stau1 also interacts with actively translating ribosomes and with mRNA coding sequences (CDSs) and 3' UTRs in proportion to their GC content and propensity to form internal secondary structure. On mRNAs with high CDS GC content, higher Stau1 levels lead to greater ribosome densities, thus suggesting a general role for Stau1 in modulating translation elongation through structured CDS regions. Our results also indicate that Stau1 regulates translation of transcription-regulatory proteins.

Dicer expression is essential for adult midbrain dopaminergic neuron maintenance and survival

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 11:50am

The type III RNAse, Dicer, is responsible for the processing of microRNA (miRNA) precursors into functional miRNA molecules, non-coding RNAs that bind to and target messenger RNAs for repression. Dicer expression is essential for mouse midbrain development and dopaminergic (DAergic) neuron maintenance and survival during the early post-natal period. However, the role of Dicer in adult mouse DAergic neuron maintenance and survival is unknown. To bridge this gap in knowledge, we selectively knocked-down Dicer expression in individual DAergic midbrain areas, including the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) via viral-mediated expression of Cre in adult floxed Dicer knock-in mice (Dicer(flox/flox)). Bilateral Dicer loss in the VTA resulted in progressive hyperactivity that was significantly reduced by the dopamine agonist, amphetamine. In contrast, decreased Dicer expression in the SNpc did not affect locomotor activity but did induce motor-learning impairment on an accelerating rotarod. Knock-down of Dicer in both midbrain regions of adult Dicer(flox/flox) mice resulted in preferential, progressive loss of DAergic neurons likely explaining motor behavior phenotypes. In addition, knock-down of Dicer in midbrain areas triggered neuronal death via apoptosis. Together, these data indicate that Dicer expression and, as a consequence, miRNA function, are essential for DAergic neuronal maintenance and survival in adult midbrain DAergic neuron brain areas.