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A new way of moving – Michael Sheetz, James Spudich, Ronald Vale

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

Leaders in Pharmaceutical Intelligence

Series E. 2; 5.5

 

J Clin Invest. 2012 Oct 1; 122(10): 3374–3377.

http://dx.doi.org:/10.1172/JCI66361

The MBI community congratulates Michael Sheetz upon winning the prestigious Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. Michael Sheetz, Director of the Mechanobiology Institute, Singapore, Distinguished Professor of the Department of Biological Sciences, NUS and William R Kenan, Junior Professor at Columbia University, shares this award with two of his collaborators, James Spudich (Stanford University) and Ronald Vale (University of California, San Francisco). The Award was presented at a ceremony on Friday, September 21, 2012, in New York City.

 

The Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award was given to Prof Sheetz, Prof Spudich and Prof Vale in honor of seminal contributions made in establishing methods to study cytoskeletal motor proteins. These developments paved the way to study molecular motors and enabled the discovery of the motor protein, kinesin. The landmark achievements in deciphering new components of cellular motors, which helped explain how these motors worked, were pivotal in understanding the basic fundamental process of energy conversion within the cell. These have led to explorations of these physiologically relevant molecules, as potential drug targets in a variety of disease conditions.

 

Many basic cellular functions depend on the directed movement of cytoplasmic organelles, macromolecules, membranes or chromosomes from one place to another within the cell. The transport of this intracellular cargo is achieved by molecular motor proteins, such as myosin and kinesin, which provide force and movement through the conversion of chemical energy (ATP) into mechanical energy. Molecular motor proteins move along scaffolds made of specific protein polymers, with kinesins moving along microtubules and myosins along actin filaments, in order to carry their cargo to the appropriate destination within the cell.
Subsequently, Sheetz and Spudich worked out an in-vitro method for visualizing actin filaments creeping along myosin coated surfaces, and this system still remains the gold-standard assay for studying myosin movement. With a read-out in hand, many details of the mechanism of action of the motor molecules within the cell were worked out. Michael Sheetz and colleagues, Ronald Vale and Thomas Reese, carried out pivotal experiments that ultimately led to the discovery of kinesins, a novel and hitherto unknown family of motor proteins. These experiments involved the development of an in vitromotility assay, whereby proteins from the cytoplasm of neuronal cells were shown to power the movement of microtubules across the surface of glass coverslips. This technique was found to be a sensitive and rapid assay for testing the activity of kinesin and was adopted by numerous labs following these crucial initial experiments.

For more details of the award winning contribution towards understanding the basics of cellular machinery, please go to http://www.laskerfoundation.org/media/index.htm and also http://www.laskerfoundation.org/media/pdf/2012citation_basic.pdf

 

Michael Sheetz, along with James Spudich and Ronald Vale strongly believe in an open culture of scientific exchange. ‘The most interesting scientific insights result from collaborative, interdisciplinary adventures’, has been the one common theme of Michael Sheetz career. A firm believer of an open laboratory concept where students from different labs and backgrounds, share bench space and often ideas, he emulated the Open Lab model (learn more about MBI’s open labs) at the Mechanobiology Institute, Singapore. This new model of open laboratory environment in interdisciplinary institutes provides an excellent way to encourage fast paced discovery process.

My greatest excitement comes from considering the puzzle provided by an unexpected result when new technology is applied to an old problem, says Professor Sheetz.

In his acceptance essay, which can be read here (PDF), Michael Sheetz refers to the importance of collaborations, where the parties are learning from each other and also ‘encourages young scientists to perform speculative experiments whenever they have such an idea, even if most of them fail; since an experiment, even a flawed on, can reveal the solution to an important problem’.

 

The Mechanobiology Institute is delighted to announce that Michael Sheetz has been selected as a Massry Prize Laureate for 2013.

michaelSheetz_WB_9079Shared with James Spudich (Stanford University) and Ronald Vale (University of California, San Francisco), the award to the trio is a recognition of their work defining molecular mechanisms of ‘intracellular motility.’

This process involves the deployment of molecular machines to move cargo on molecular tracks which are a part of the cellular skeleton.

The discovery of a novel family of motor proteins, the kinesins, by Michael Sheetz, Ronald Vale and Thomas Reese and the methodology developed for the same, proved to be pivotal and the technique developed led to many further discoveries by different laboratories.

Subsequently, Sheetz and Spudich worked out an in-vitro method for visualizing actin filaments creeping along myosin coated surfaces, and this system still remains the gold-standard assay for studying myosin movement. With a read-out in hand, many details of the mechanism of action of the motor molecules within the cell were worked out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lasker Awards: motors take centre stage

Nature Cell Biology | Editorial
Nature Cell Biology 14,1113(2012)  http://dx.doi.org:/10.1038/ncb2618

Michael Sheetz, James Spudich and Ronald Vale have now joined the list of Lasker laureates, having jointly received the 2012 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their “discoveries concerning cytoskeletal motor proteins, machines that move cargoes within cells, contract muscles, and enable cell movements”1.

Although the mechanism of action and the cellular functions performed by force-generating cytoskeletal motors, including their roles in intracellular trafficking, cell migration, cell division and muscle contraction, are now a fundamental part of cell biology, in the 1970s and 1980s they were still mostly a mystery. Following a postdoctoral fellowship under the guidance of Hugh Huxley, a pioneer of muscle contraction studies, James Spudich established his independent work at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and later at Stanford University on what was, at the time, the largely unchartered territory of myosin activity and function. A fortuitous crossing of paths occurred in 1982, when Michael Sheetz joined the Spudich laboratory on sabbatical from his own independent research at the University of Connecticut Health Center. Working together, Spudich and Sheetz demonstrated myosin movement on actin filaments using the Nitella axillaris alga as a model, and later established an in vitro reconstitution system that demonstrated the ability of purified myosin to move on purified actin filaments in the presence of adenosine triphosphate at rates consistent with those of muscle contraction. This seminal work was published in Nature in 19832 and 19853.

Spurred by the exciting work on myosin-based movement, Ronald Vale, then a graduate student at Stanford University, decided with Michael Sheetz to define the particle movement observed in squid axons. Their experiments at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole led to a series of groundbreaking Cell publications in 19854, 5, 6, 7, 8, which determined that axonal movement was not driven by myosin on actin filaments as they had anticipated, but was instead occurring on microtubules and was powered by a then-uncharacterized factor that they purified and named kinesin.

These initial efforts investigating myosin- and kinesin-powered motility, and the in vitro assays developed to characterize cytoskeletal motor activities, opened up new and fascinating avenues of research and have become a corner-stone of cell biology today. Following these key discoveries, Spudich went on to define many other aspects of myosin activity and function. Vale continued his work on molecular motors and their cellular roles in his independent research at UCSF, and Sheetz followed a varied research career ranging from motility studies to work on cell adhesion and mechanosensing at Columbia University and the Mechanobiology Institute in Singapore.

In honouring the early work of Sheetz, Spudich and Vale, the Lasker Foundation recognizes the significance of the cytoskeletal motor field in biology, and also the importance of understanding the principles underlying cellular motor function in human diseases in which such activities are deregulated. Indeed, the characterization of normal myosin and kinesin activity and function has served as the spring-board for studies on their impaired or aberrant action in disease, with the goal of developing therapies for heart conditions in the case of myosins, and neurological disorders and malignancy in the case of kinesins.

It should also be noted that the discoveries acknowledged by the Lasker Award and the subsequent scientific careers of the three awardees were the outcome of an inspired mix of cell and molecular biology, biochemistry and physics, among other disciplines, and are thus a testament to the importance of fostering multidisciplinary science. Moreover, as the three award recipients eloquently noted in their Lasker Award acceptance remarks, the motivating force during the exciting times of their initial research on motors was not only a thirst for discovery and a passion for science, but also a strong collaborative spirit. As a fundamentally creative and adventurous endeavour, science is often seen by outsiders as a solitary pursuit of inquiry and testing one’s own ideas. However, the reality of a bustling laboratory reveals that teamwork, discussion and brainstorming, and a successful combination of different personalities, are just as important as individual intellect and drive. In that respect, the dedication, creativity and collaborative efforts of Sheetz, Spudich and Vale should be an inspiration to scientists everywhere.

References

  1. www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/2012_b_description.htm
  2. Sheetz, M. P. & Spudich, J. A. Nature 303, 3135 (1983).
  3. Spudish, J. A., Kron, S. J. & Sheetz, M. P. Nature 315, 584586 (1985).
  4. Vale, R. D., Schnapp, B. J., Reese, T. S. & Sheetz, M. P. Cell 40, 449454 (1985).

One path to understanding energy transduction in biological systems

James A Spudich

http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/pdf/2012_b_spudich.pdf

Who is not fascinated by the myriad biological movements that define life? From cell migration, cell division and a network of translocation activities within cells to highly specialized muscle contraction, molecular motors operate by burning ATP as fuel. Three types of molecular motors—myosin, kinesin and dynein— and nearly 100 different subtypes transduce that chemical energy into mechanical movements to carry out a wide variety of cellular tasks. Understanding the molecular basis of energy transduction by these motors has taken decades. Our understanding of molecular motors could be viewed as beginning with the two 1954 papers in Nature by Hugh Huxley and Jean Hanson and Andrew Huxley and Rolf Niedergerke, respectively, where the authors proposed the sliding-filament theory of muscle contraction. But a good place to start my story is 1969, when Hugh Huxley, on the basis of his remarkable X-ray diffraction experiments on live muscle coupled with electron microscopy, postulated the swinging crossbridge hypothesis of muscle contraction1. Thus, more than 40 years ago, he proposed the basic concepts of how the myosin molecule produces the sliding of actin filaments to produce contraction. Hugh Huxley laid the foundation for the molecular motor field, and we are all indebted to him. My beginnings in myosin research began as a postdoctoral fellow in Hugh’s laboratory at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, coincidentally in 1969. But my fascination with science began much earlier.

Neither of my parents was college educated, but they both had keen intellects, positive and enthusiastic outlooks and profound work ethics. My father was intrigued by how things work and shared that interest with my brother John and me. After the coal mines closed, my father taught himself electrical engineering, founded the Spudich Electric Company and patented one of his inventions. He often told John and me, “do whatever excites you, but do it well and be respectful of people you interact with.”

I was captivated with chemistry from a young age. Beginning at the age of six, I mastered every chemistry set I could get. The myriad chemical reactions that could be created using everyday materials, sometimes with marvelously explosive results, fed my excitement for chemistry. It was a world unfamiliar to my parents, but they respected my preoccupations and cleared the pantry of our modest home for me to set up a lab with discarded equipment given to me by my high school chemistry teacher Robert Brandsmark. My brother John has also followed the allure of science into an exciting and distinguished career in basic research. His work has established the molecular basis of signaling in an important class of rhodopsins that he discovered in 1982 (ref. 2). John was my first collaborator.

A chance encounter with Woody Hastings at the University of Illinois launched my experimental-science career. Throughout my undergraduate years, I worked with Woody on bioluminescence in Vibrio fischeri3. I was inspired by his high-spirited fascination with biology and was fortunate to be invited to help him teach in the physiology course at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole (Fig. 1). At the MBL, I was introduced to the breadth and potential of many biological systems, including muscle contraction.

In 1963 I joined the PhD program in the new Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University, founded by Arthur Kornberg. One of the many remarkable aspects of the biochemistry department was that, although Arthur was my thesis advisor, all the faculty members were my mentors. This unique environment shaped the way I do research and taught me how to be a responsible colleague and a mentor to others (Fig. 2). I learned how important it is to reduce complex biological systems to their essential components and create quantitative in vitro assays for the function of interest. Those years also made it clear to me that interdisciplinary approaches would be key to understanding complex biological processes. So I decided to do postdoctoral work in both genetics and structural biology. I spent one year at Stanford with another influential role model, Charley Yanofsky, working on the genetics of the Escherichia coli tryptophan operon. I then joined Hugh Huxley’s laboratory in Cambridge.

I chose to study the  unanswered questions in cell biology at the time when I established my own laboratory – how the chemical energy of ATP hydrolysis brings about mechanical movement and what roles a myosin-like motor might have in nonmuscle cells.

The essential first steps were to develop a quantitative in vitro motility assay for myosin movement on actin, which is crucial for understanding the molecular mechanism of energy transduction by this system, and to develop a model organism to unravel the molecular basis of the myriad nonmuscle-cell movements that are apparent by light microscopy. We explored Neurospora crassa, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Physarum polycephalum, Dictyostelium discoideum, Nitella axillaris and other organisms, all unfamiliar to me at the time. The giant cells of the alga Nitella were particularly intriguing because of their striking intracellular cytoplasmic streaming that was visible under a simple light microscope. Although not suitable for biochemistry or genetics, Nitella would assume an important role in my lab a decade later, after Yolande Kersey in Norm Wessells’s laboratory in the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford showed oriented actin cables lying along chloroplast rows in these cells 5. The slime mold Dictyostelium proved best for our initial biochemical approach 6. Margaret Clarke, my postdoctoral fellow, identified a myosin in Dictyostelium. We also showed that actin is associated with the cell membrane in this organism, and we isolated membranecoated polystyrene beads with actin filaments emanating from them. We were tremendously excited about the possibilities these results presented as a small step along the way to an in vitro motility assay where these actin-coated particles could move along a myosin-coated surface (Fig. 3).

Figure 3 Dictyostelium has a muscle-like myosin and membrane-associated actin. (a) A possible scheme for pulling two membranes together (redrawn from ref. 6). (b) Margaret Clarke discovered myosin II in Dictyostelium and showed that it forms bipolar thick filaments, similar to muscle myosin. (c) Phagocytized polystyrene beads offered an opportunity to explore one version of an in vitro motility assay where the beads may be pulled along by myosin. Taken from my laboratory notebook, 21 January 1973.

Figure 4 One approach to an in vitro motility assay from a totally defined system. (a) The concept was to observe myosin-coated beads moving along fixed actin filaments oriented by buffer flow. The actin filaments had biotinylated severin bound to their barbed ends; the barbed ends were attached to an avidin-coated surface by way of the tight avidin-biotin link. The filaments were oriented by buffer flow. B, biotin; S, severin. (b) Myosin-coated beads were observed by light microscopy to move upstream toward the barbed end of the surface-attached actin filaments. The position of each of the three bead aggregates is shown as a function of time. This was the first demonstration of quantitative, directed movement of myosin along actin with a totally defined system (taken from ref. 11). ATP binding releases the myosin Myosin binds to actin ATP ADP Pi ADP .

In 1977 I joined the Department of Structural Biology at Stanford. In the next years we extensively characterized the actin-myosin system in Dictyostelium. My student Arturo De Lozanne made the chance discovery that genes in Dictyostelium can be knocked out by homologous recombination and provided the first genetic proof that myosin II is essential for time that myosin II drove the forward movement of cells. Dietmar Manstein, Meg Titus and Arturo then extended these experiments to create a myosin-null cell8, which was crucial to our later work using mutational analysis to define the structure-function relationships of the myosin molecule and for important experiments in support of the swinging cross-bridge hypothesis9. Interestingly, reports from a number of laboratories between 1969 and 1980 did not support the swinging cross-bridge model, and it was more imperative than ever to develop a quantitative in vitro motility system to test the various models under consideration. In 1981 we identified and purified Dictyostelium severin, a protein that tightly binds the ‘barbed ends’ of actin filaments. This provided an opportunity to try another version of an in vitro motility assay. Using biotinylated severin, we attached the actin filament barbed ends to an avidin-coated slide and flowed aqueous solution over them. Long filaments attached to the surface at one end would be expected to orient in the direction of the flowing solution (Fig. 4a). We placed myosin-coated beads on these actin-coated slides and added ATP but saw only sporadic movements. In retrospect, we probably did not have sufficient alignment of filaments; we were not monitoring filament alignment at that time by electron microscopy, as we did later.

A key breakthrough occurred in 1982 when Mike Sheetz came to my laboratory on sabbatical. Not certain what component of our system might be limiting our approach, we took advantage of the known orientation of actin filaments in Nitella5 to overcome the actin filament alignment problem. Peter Sargent, a neurobiologist in the Structural Biology Department at that time, helped us cut open a Nitella cell, and we attached it to a surface to expose the actin fibers. We added myosin-coated beads and eureka! We saw robust ATP-dependent unidirectional movement along chloroplast rows, which mark the actin fibers 10.

Armed with the Nitella results, Mike left my lab and went to the MBL to explore whether myosin-coated vesicles may account for the particle movements observed in squid axons. Ron Vale, then a graduate student at Stanford with Eric Shooter, was fascinated by the movement of organelles in nerve axons and joined Mike at the MBL. To their great surprise, they found that movement in axons is not myosin driven. Instead, they discovered the new molecular motor kinesin, a discovery that completely energized the field and opened up years of exciting work from their laboratories and many others. ..

 

The combination of the in vitro motility assay and the Dictyostelium myosin-null cell provided powerful tools for Kathy Ruppel, Taro Uyeda, Dietmar Manstein, William Shih, Coleen Murphy, Meg Titus, Tom Egelhoff and others in my lab to use mutations along myosin to define the biochemical, biophysical and assembly properties of the molecule. Our results were consistent with the proposed actin-activated myosin chemomechanical cycle derived largely from the elegant biochemical kinetic studies from Edward Taylor’s laboratory in the early 1970’s (ref. 15) (Fig. 5). Then, in 1993, Ivan Rayment and his colleagues16 obtained a high-resolution crystal structure of myosin S1. Ivan’s pivotal work allowed us to place our mutational analyses in a myosin structure-function context.

Figure 5 The actin-activated myosin chemomechanical cycle. This cycle, extensively studied by many researchers over several decades, was derived from kinetic studies of Lymn and Taylor 15. A mechanical stroke only occurs when the myosin is strongly bound to actin. Our mutational analyses of Dictyostelium myosin II probed each of the steps shown and provided structure-function analyses that helped define how the myosin motor works. ADP-Pi , ADP and inorganic phosphate, the products of ATP hydrolysis, remain bound to the active site until actin binds to the myosin.

Figure 6 In vitro motility taken to the single-molecule level using the physics of laser trapping. (a) The Kron in vitro motility assay observing fluorescent actin filaments (yellow) moving on a myosin-coated (red) surface. (b) Two polystyrene beads attached to the ends of a single actin filament are trapped in space by laser beams. The filament is lowered onto a single myosin molecule on a bump on the surface (gray sphere). (c) Jeff Finer building the dual-beam laser trap in around 1990.

Fundamental issues still remained— primarily to establish the step size that the myosin takes for each ATP hydrolysis, which was under considerable debate.

more…

One of my great satisfactions is that the more detailed understanding of energy transduction by myosin has led to potential clinical therapies. A small molecule that binds and activates b-cardiac myosin is now in clinical trials for the treatment of heart failure, and another small molecule currently in clinical trials activates skeletal muscle contraction and may aid patients with amyotropic lateral sclerosis and other diseases.

 

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