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IsomicroRNA

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

LPBI

 

 

GEN Feb 15, 2016 (Vol. 36, No. 4)

MicroRNAs Rise from Trash to Treasure  

MicroRNAs Are More Plentiful and More Subtle In Action Than Was Once Suspected

Richard A. Stein, M.D., Ph.D.

 

One of the unexpected findings of the Human Genome Project was that over 98% of the human genome does not encode for proteins. Once dismissed as “junk” genomic material, non-protein-coding DNA is now appraised more highly.

Or to be more precise, at least some portions of non-protein-coding DNA are thought to serve important biological functions.

For example, some stretches of DNA give rise to a noncoding but still functional kind of RNA called microRNA. MicroRNAs have increasingly emerged in recent years as key regulators of biological processes and pathways.

During the years since their discovery, a key question in the biology of microRNAs has focused on the number of microRNAs encoded in the genome. Between 1993 and 2015, approximately 1,900 human genome loci were discovered to produce microRNAs and were added to miRBbase, the public database that catalogues and annotates microRNA molecules.

The cataloguing of microRNAs work has been pursued with extra urgency since 2004, the year the connection between microRNAs and human disease was first demonstrated. “When this connection was made, it launched a whole new field,” says Isidore Rigoutsos, Ph.D., professor of pathology, anatomy, and cell biology and director of the Computational Medicine Center at Thomas Jefferson University.

 

 

 

Another Set of MicroRNAs Emerge

“We wanted to know how many microRNA-producing loci really exist in humans,” recalls Dr. Rigoutsos. In a study published in 2015, Dr. Rigoutsos and colleagues analyzed datasets from 1,323 individuals that represented 13 different tissues and identified an additional 3,356 such genomic loci that produce (at least) 3,707 novel microRNs

“We basically tripled the number of locations in the human genome that are now known to encode microRNAs,” asserts Dr. Rigoutsos. Considering that each microRNA regulates up to hundreds of different mRNAs, and that each mRNA is regulated by tens of microRNAs, this finding adds a new layer of complexity to the regulatory dynamics of the human transcriptome.

The newly unveiled microRNAs and previously characterized microRNAs have distinct expression patterns. While 50–60% of the microRNAs previously deposited into the miRBase are expressed in multiple tissues, only about 10% of the newly discovered microRNAs are shared across multiple tissue types. Also, most of the newly found microRNAs show tissue-specific expression.

Using Argonaute CLIP-seq data, Dr. Rigoutsos and colleagues showed that similar percentages of the two sets of microRNAs were in complex with Argonaute proteins. “This shows that these novel microRNAs participate in RNA interference just as frequently as the miRBase microRNAs,” contends Dr. Rigoutsos.

In a comparative analysis between the human microRNA datasets and the chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, macaque, mouse, fruit fly, and mouse genomes, Dr. Rigoutsos and colleagues discovered that almost 95% of the newly unveiled microRNAs were primate-specific, and over 56% of them were found only in humans.

“We are seeing many human microRNAs that do not exist in the mouse,” states Dr. Rigoutsos. “This means that the mouse models engineered to capture human disease cannot recapitulate the interactions mediated by these microRNAs.

 

  • Interest in IsomiRs Grows

  • In the years since the biology of microRNAs started receiving increasing attention, the conventional view has been that one microRNA locus generates one microRNA. However, once deep sequencing became widely available, microRNA variants that showed differences at their 5′- or 3′-termini have been described.

    “It was initially presumed that these variants were likely the result of the enzyme Dicer not being sufficiently accurate when processing microRNA precursors,” notes Dr. Rigoutsos. Subsequent research revealed that microRNAs are more dynamic than previously thought, with each precursor being able to generate multiple mature microRNA species known as isomiRs.

    To gain insight into the biology of isomiRs, Dr. Rigoutsos and colleagues analyzed genomic datasets from 452 individuals participating in the 1000 Genomes Project. The datasets comprised five different populations and two races. In addition, each population was represented by an even number of men and women.

    This collection allowed the abundance of microRNA isoforms to be examined with respect to population, gender, and race. “We found that isomiRs have expression profiles that are population-, race-, and gender-dependent,” informs Dr. Rigoutsos.

    All the transcriptome data that this analysis was based on came from immortalized B cells. “These are cells that normally are not associated with gender differences, but molecularly we found, in these cells, differences between men and women of the same population and race,” explains Dr. Rigoutsos.

  • Expanding these observations to disease states, Dr. Rigoutsos and colleagues collected isomiR profiles from tissue affected by breast cancer, and compared them with isomiR profiles from control breast tissue. The investigators found that the isomiR profiles also depend on tissue state (healthy vs. diseased), on disease subtype, and on the patient’s race.

    For example, their analysis identified several miR-183-5p isoforms that were upregulated in white triple-negative breast cancer patients compared to control breast samples, but not in black/African-American triple-negative breast cancer patients. In an in vitro phase of this study, three isoforms of this microRNA species were overexpressed in human breast cancer cell lines.

    “We found very little overlap in the gene sets that were affected by each of these isoforms,” emphasizes Dr. Rigoutsos. Despite being generated simultaneously by the same locus, each of the three isoforms affected distinct groups of genes, thus exerting different effects on the transcriptome.

    “As the relative abundance of these isoforms changes ever so slightly from patient to patient, it will affect the corresponding gene groups slightly differently,” concludes Dr. Rigoutsos. “In the process, it creates a new molecular background in each patient.”

    MicroRNAs Point to Therapeutic Strategies against Colorectal Cancer

  • “We are using microRNAs as modulators to overcome chemotherapy resistance in colorectal cancer,” says Jingfang Ju, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and co-director of translational research at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Resistance to chemotherapy is one of the major challenges in the clinical management of malignancies, including colorectal cancer. Chemotherapy is usually unable to eliminate cancer stem cells, which may become even more resistant over time, and several microRNAs have been implicated in this process.  “We reasoned that we could provide new modulatory approaches to target this small cell population and allow chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or immunotherapy to eliminate resistant populations or at least prolong long-term survival,”  Dr. Ju said.
  • http://www.genengnews.com/Media/images/Article/StonyBrookUniv_JingfangJu5310853233.jpg

    This image shows how miR-129 may function as a tumor suppressor in colorectal cancer. In this model, which has been proposed by researchers at Stony Brook University’s Translational Research Laboratory, miR-129 suppresses the protein expression of three critical targets—BCL2, TS, and E2F3. Downregulation of BCL2 activates the intrinsic apoptosis pathway by cleaving caspase-9 and caspase-3. Downregulation of TS and E2F3 inhibits cell proliferation by impacting the cell cycle. Consequently, miR-129 exerts a strong antitumor phenotype by induction of apoptosis and impairment of proliferation in tumor cells. [Mihriban Karaayvaz, Haiyan Zhai, Jingfang Ju]

     

    In a retrospective study in which colorectal patient samples were used, Dr. Ju and colleagues revealed that hsa-miR-140-5p expression progressively decreases from normal tissues to primary colorectal cancer tissue, and that it shows a further decrease in liver and lymph node metastases. The experimental overexpression of hsa-miR-140-5p inhibited colorectal cancer stem cell growth by disrupting autophagy, and in a mouse model of disease it abolished tumor formation and metastasis.

    In addition to hsa-miR-140-5p, Dr. Ju and colleagues recently identified hsa-miR-129 and found that it, too, has therapeutic potential. Specifically, they showed that hsa-miR-129 enhanced the sensitivity of colorectal cancer cells to 5-fluorouracil, pointing toward its ability to function as a tumor suppressor.

    One of the mechanisms implicated in this process was the ability of miR-192 to inhibit protein translation of several important targets. These include Bcl-2 (B-cell lymphoma 2), a key anti-apoptotic protein; E2F3, a major cell cycle regulator; and thymidylate synthase, an enzyme that is inhibited by 5-fluorouracil.

    The NIH recently awarded a $3 million grant to establish the Long Island Bioscience Hub (LIBH), which is part of the NIH’s Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) program and represents a partnership between the Center for Biotechnology, Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Brookhaven National Laboratory. One of the technology development grants, as part of the first funding cycle of this initiative, will support a feasibility investigation of hsa-miR-129-based therapeutics in colon cancer, an effort led by Dr. Ju. “We are further exploring this novel mechanism,” states Dr. Ju. “We anticipate conducting pharmacokinetic studies and moving to a clinical trial in the future.”

    MicroRNA Insights Gleaned from Host-Virus Interactions

    http://www.genengnews.com/Media/images/Article/MtSinaiHosp_Benjamin_tenOever1664523413.jpg

    At Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine, researchers used a codon-optimized version of VP55 produced from an adenovirus-based vector to study the impact of microRNA deletion on the response to virus infection. This image shows RNA in situ hybridization of fibroblasts expressing VP55 (top left), and that of mock-treated fibroblasts (bottom right). Ribosomal RNA, DNA, and microRNAs (miR-26) are depicted by red, blue (DAPI), and green fluorophores, respectively.

    “We observed that when a poxvirus is artificially engineered to encode a microRNA, the microRNA is destroyed along with all the microRNAs from the host cell,” says Benjamin R. tenOever, Ph.D., professor of microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital. Previously, Dr. tenOever’s group reported that a single vaccinia virus-encoded gene product, VP55, is sufficient to achieve this effect. The group also found that the protein adds nontemplate adenosines to the 3′-end of microRNAs associated with the RNA-induced silencing complex.

    biology,” asserts Dr. tenOever.

    In a recent study, Dr. tenOever and colleagues used a codon-optimized version of VP55 produced from an adenovirus-based vector to study the impact microRNA deletion would have on our normal response to virus infection. “We found that after administration of the vector and rapid ablation of microRNA expression, there is very little that happens over the first one to two days,” informs Dr. tenOever. During the first 24–48 hours after VP55 delivery, the elimination of cellular microRNAs impacted less than 0.35% of the over 11,000 genes expressed in the cell. After 9 days, however, almost 20% of the genes showed significant changes in expression.

    “MicroRNAs are very powerful and influential in controlling the biology of the cell but they do so over the long term,” declares Dr. tenOever. These findings are in agreement with knowledge that has accumulated over the years about microRNA biology, which established that microRNAs play a central role in determining how cells differentiate during development.

    “While microRNAs can act on hundreds of mRNAs, their action requires several days of fine-tuning to have long-term consequences,” adds Dr. tenOever. This finding suggests miRNAs are unable to significantly contribute to the acute response to virus infection.

    The one exception to this observation was that, even though very few genes were affected in the first 48 hours after VP55 delivery, several genes encoding chemokines were impacted. These included chemokines responsible for recruiting antigen-presenting cells, neutrophils, and other immune cells.

    An in vivo analysis of mouse lung tissue 48 hours after vector administration confirmed that several cytokines were specifically upregulated, resulting in immune cell infiltration following the degradation of all microRNAs. These results indicate that the acute viral infection is largely independent of microRNAs, and that microRNAs are primarily involved in the adaptive response to infection and other longer term processes.

    • MicroRNA Biomarkers Reveal Molecular Pathways of Kidney Damage

      “Our approach involves looking at microRNAs from the perspective of biomarkers as a readout for kidney damage,” says Vishal S. Vaidya, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and environmental health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “At the same time, we are exploring their utility as therapeutics.”

      A large number of medications and occupational toxins cause kidney damage, but many tests to assess kidney function and damage are not sufficiently sensitive or specific, opening the need for novel diagnostic strategies. MicroRNAs, which are differentially expressed between healthy and diseased states, are promising as early biomarkers for impaired renal function.

      “MicroRNAs can also provide information about which pathways are active and which targets can be druggable,” points out Dr. Vaidya.

      In a study that used microRNAs and proteins to provide a combined biomarker signature, Dr. Vaidya and colleagues examined two patient cohorts, one presenting with acetaminophen-induced kidney injury and the other one with cisplatin-induced kidney damage. “Protein biomarkers provide sensitivity, and microRNAs offer mechanistic insight,” explains Dr. Vaidya.

      This approach helped visualize metabolic pathways that are altered in the kidney during toxic injury. “The biggest challenge, from a therapeutic perspective, is that microRNAs regulate many mRNAs and, therefore, impact many proteins,” concludes Dr. Vaidya.

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RNAi, CRISPR and Gene Expression

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

LPBI

 

Down and Out with RNAi and CRISPR

Gene-Silencing and Gene-Disabling Techniques Are Moving To the Heart of Drug Discovery

  • Click Image To Enlarge +
    RNA interference (RNAi) silences, or knocks down, the translation of a gene by inducing degradation of a gene target’s transcript. To advance RNAi applications, Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed two types of small RNA molecules: short interfering RNAs and microRNAs. The company also offers products for RNAi analysis in vitro and in vivo, including libraries for high-throughput applications.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Genes can be knocked down with RNA interference (RNAi) or knocked out with CRISPR-Cas9. RNAi, the screening workhorse, knocks down the translation of genes by inducing rapid degradation of a gene target’s transcript.

    CRISPR-Cas9, the new but already celebrated genome-editing technology, cleaves specific DNA sequences to render genes inoperative. Although mechanistically different, the two techniques complement one another, and when used together facilitate discovery and validation of scientific findings.

    RNAi technologies along with other developments in functional genomics screening were discussed by industry leaders at the recent Discovery on Target conference. The conference, which emphasized the identification and validation of novel drug targets and the exploration of unknown cellular pathways, included a symposium on the development of CRISPR-based therapies.

    RNAi screening can be performed in either pooled or arrayed formats. Pooled screening provides an affordable benchtop option, but requires back-end deconvolution and deep sequencing to identify the shRNA causing the specific phenotype. Targets are much easier to identify using the arrayed format since each shRNA clone is in an individual well.

    “CRISPR complements RNAi screens,” commented Ryan Raver, Ph.D., global product manager of functional genomics at Sigma-Aldrich. “You can do a whole genome screen with either small interfering RNA (siRNA) or small hairpin RNA (shRNA), then validate with individual CRISPRs to ensure it is a true result.”

    A powerful and useful validation method for knockdown or knockout studies is to use lentiviral open reading frames (ORFs) for gene re-expression, for rescue experiments, or to detect whether the wild-type phenotype is restored. However, the ORF randomly integrates into the genome. Also, with this validation technique, gene expression is not acting under the endogenous promoter. Accordingly, physiologically relevant levels of the gene may not be expressed unless controlled for via an inducible system.

    In the future, CRISPR activators may provide more efficient ways to express not only wild-type but also mutant forms of genes under the endogenous promoter.

    Choice of screening technique depends on the researcher and the research question. Whole gene knockout may be necessary to observe a phenotype, while partial knockdown might be required to investigate functions of essential or lethal genes. Use of both techniques is recommended to identify all potential targets.

    For example, recently, a whole genome siRNA screen on a human glioblastoma cell line identified a gene, known as FAT1, as a negative regulator of apoptosis. A CRISPR-mediated knockout of the gene also conferred sensitivity to death receptor–induced apoptosis with an even stronger phenotype, thereby validating FAT1’s new role and link to extrinsic apoptosis, a new model system.

    Dr. Raver indicated that next-generation RNAi libraries that are microRNA-adapted might have a more robust knockdown of gene expression, up to 90–95% in some cases. Ultracomplex shRNA libraries help to minimize both false-negative and false-positive rates by targeting each gene with ~25 independent shRNAs and by including thousands of negative-control shRNAs.

    Recently, a relevant paper emerged from the laboratory of Jonathan Weissman, Ph.D., a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco. The paper described how a new ultracomplex pooled shRNA library was optimized by means of a microRNA-adapted system. This system, which was able to achieve high specificity in the detection of hit genes, produced robust results. In fact, they were comparable to results obtained with a CRISPR pooled screen. Members of the Weissman group systematically optimized the promoter and microRNA contexts for shRNA expression along with a selection of guide strands.

    Using a sublibrary of proteostasis genes (targeting 2,933 genes), the investigators compared CRISPR and RNAi pooled screens. Data showed 48 hits unique to RNAi, 40 unique to CRISPR, and an overlap of 21 hits (with a 5% false discovery rate cut-off). Together, the technologies provided a more complete research story.

    Arrayed CRISPR Screens

  • Click Image To Enlarge +
    Synthetic crRNA:tracrRNA reagents can be used in a similar manner to siRNA reagents for assessment of phenotypes in a cell population. Top row: A reporter cell line stably expressing Cas9 nuclease was transfected with GE Dharmacon’s Edit-R synthetic crRNA:tracrRNA system, which was used to target three positive control genes (PSMD7, PSMD14, and VCP) and a negative control gene (PPIB). Green cells indicate EGFP signaling occuring as a result of proteasome pathway disruption. Bottom row: A siGENOME siRNA pool targeting the same genes was used in the same reporter cell line.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “RNA screens are well accepted and will continue to be used, but it is important biologically that researchers step away from the RNA mechanism to further study and validate their hits to eliminate potential bias,” explained Louise Baskin, senior product manager, Dharmacon, part of GE Healthcare. “The natural progression is to adopt CRISPR in the later stages.”

    RNAi uses the cell’s endogenous mechanism. All of the components required for gene knockdown are already within the cell, and the delivery of the siRNA starts the process. With the CRISPR gene-editing system, which is derived from a bacterial immune defense system, delivery of both the guide RNA and the Cas9 nuclease, often the rate limiter in terms of knockout efficiency, are required.

    In pooled approaches, the cell has to either drop out or overexpress so that it is sortable, limiting the types of addressable biological questions. A CRISPR-arrayed approach opens up the door for use of other analytical tools, such as high-content imaging, to identify hits of interest.

    To facilitate use of CRISPR, GE recently introduced Dharmacon Edit-R synthetic CRISPR RNA (crRNA) libraries that can be used to carry out high-throughput arrayed analysis of multiple genes. Rather than a vector- or plasmid-based gRNA to guide the targeting of the Cas9 cleavage, a synthetic crRNA and tracrRNA are used. These algorithm-designed crRNA reagents can be delivered into the cells very much like siRNA, opening up the capability to screen multiple target regions for many different genes simultaneously.

    GE showed a very strong overlap between CRISPR and RNAi using this arrayed approach to validate RNAi screen hits with synthetic crRNA. The data concluded that CRISPR can be used for medium- or high-throughput validation of knockdown studies.

    “We will continue to see a lot of cooperation between RNAi and gene editing,” declared Baskin. “Using the CRISPR mechanism to knockin could introduce mutations to help understand gene function at a much deeper level, including a more thorough functional analysis of noncoding genes.

    “These regulatory RNAs often act in the nucleus to control translation and transcription, so to knockdown these genes with RNAi would require export to the cytoplasm. Precision gene editing, which takes place in the nucleus, will help us understand the noncoding transcriptome and dive deeper into how those genes regulate disease progression, cellular development and other aspects of human health and biology.”

    Tool Selection

    Click Image To Enlarge +
    Schematic of a pooled shRNA screening workflow developed by Transomic Technologies. Cells are transduced, and positive or negative selection screens are performed. PCR amplification and sequencing of the shRNA integrated into the target cell genome allows the determination of shRNA representation in the population.

    The functional genomics tool should fit the specific biology; the biology should not be forced to fit the tool. Points to consider include the regulation of expression, the cell line or model system, as well as assay scale and design. For example, there may be a need for regulatable expression. There may be limitations around the cell line or model system. And assay scale and design may include delivery conditions and timing to optimally complete perturbation and reporting.

    “Both RNAi- and CRISPR-based gene modulation strategies have pros and cons that should be considered based on the biology of the genes being studied,” commented Gwen Fewell, Ph.D., chief commercial officer, Transomic Technologies.

    RNAi reagents, which can produce hypomorphic or transient gene-suppression states, are well known for their use in probing drug targets. In addition, these reagents are enriching studies of gene function. CRISPR-Cas9 reagents, which produce clean heterozygous and null mutations, are important for studying tumor suppressors and other genes where complete loss of function is desired.

    Timing to readout the effects of gene perturbation must be considered to ensure that the biological assay is feasible. RNAi gene knockdown effects can be seen in as little as 24–72 hours, and inducible and reversible gene knockdown can be realized. CRISPR-based gene knockout effects may become complete and permanent only after 10 days.

    Both RNAi and CRISPR reagents work well for pooled positive selection screens; however, for negative selection screens, RNAi is the more mature tool. Current versions of CRISPR pooled reagents can produce mixed populations containing a fraction of non-null mutations, which can reduce the overall accuracy of the readout.

    To meet the needs of varied and complex biological questions, Transomic Technologies has developed both RNAi and CRISPR tools with options for optimal expression, selection, and assay scale. For example, the company’s shERWOOD-UltramiR shRNA reagents incorporate advances in design and small RNA processing to produce increased potency and specificity of knockdown, particularly important for pooled screens.

    Sequence-verified pooled shRNA screening libraries provide flexibility in promoter choice, in vitro formats, in vivo formats, and a choice of viral vectors for optimal delivery and expression in biologically relevant cell lines, primary cells or in vivo.

    The company’s line of lentiviral-based CRISPR-Cas9 reagents has variable selectable markers such that guide RNA- and Cas9-expressing vectors, including inducible Cas9, can be co-delivered and selected for in the same cell to increase editing efficiency. Promoter options are available to ensure expression across a range of cell types.

    “Researchers are using RNAi and CRISPR reagents individually and in combination as cross-validation tools, or to engineer CRISPR-based models to perform RNAi-based assays,” informs Dr. Fewell. “Most exciting are parallel CRISPR and RNAi screens that have tremendous potential to uncover novel biology.”

    Converging Technologies

    The convergence of RNAi technology with genome-editing tools, such as CRISPR-Cas9 and transcription activator-like effector nucleases, combined with next-generation sequencing will allow researchers to dissect biological systems in a way not previously possible.

    “From a purely technical standpoint, the challenges for traditional RNAi screens come down to efficient delivery of the RNAi reagents and having those reagents provide significant, consistent, and lasting knockdown of the target mRNAs,” states Ross Whittaker, Ph.D., a product manager for genome editing products at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “We have approached these challenges with a series of reagents and siRNA libraries designed to increase the success of RNAi screens.”

    Thermo Fisher’ provides lipid-transfection RNAiMax reagents, which effectively deliver siRNA. In addition, the company’s Silencer and Silencer Select siRNA libraries provide consistent and significant knockdown of the target mRNAs. These siRNA libraries utilize highly stringent bioinformatic designs that ensure accurate and potent targeting for gene-silencing studies. The Silencer Select technology adds a higher level of efficacy and specificity due to chemical modifications with locked nucleic acid (LNA) chemistry.

    The libraries alleviate concerns for false-positive or false-negative data. The high potency allows less reagent use; thus, more screens or validations can be conducted per library.

    Dr. Whittaker believes that researchers will migrate regularly between RNAi and CRISPR-Cas9 technology in the future. CRISPR-Cas9 will be used to create engineered cell lines not only to validate RNAi hits but also to follow up on the underlying mechanisms. Cell lines engineered with CRISPR-Cas9 will be utilized in RNAi screens. In the long term, CRISPR-Cas9 screening will likely replace RNAi screening in many cases, especially with the introduction of arrayed CRISPR libraries.

     

    Validating Antibodies with RNAi

    Unreliable antibody specificity is a widespread problem for researchers, but RNAi is assuaging scientists’ concerns as a validation method.

    The procedure introduces short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) to reduce expression levels of a targeted protein. The associated antibody follows. With its protein knocked down, a truly specific antibody shows dramatically reduced or no signal on a Western blot. Short of knockout animal models, RNAi is arguably the most effective method of validating research antibodies.

    The method is not common among antibody suppliers—time and cost being the chief barriers to its adoption, although some companies are beginning to embrace RNAi validation.

    “In the interest of fostering better science, Proteintech felt it was necessary to implement this practice,” said Jason Li, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Proteintech Group, which made RNAi standard protocol in February 2015. “When researchers can depend on reproducibility, they execute more thorough experiments and advance the treatment of human diseases and conditions.”

     

Junk DNA Kept in Good Repair by Nuclear Membrane  

Heterochromatin has the dubious distinction of being called the “dark matter” of DNA, and it has even suffered the indignity of being dismissed as “junk DNA.” But it seems to get more respectful treatment inside the nucleus, where it has the benefit of a special repair mechanism. This mechanism, discovered by scientists based at the University of Southern California (USC), transports broken heterochromatin sequences from the hurly-burly of the heterochromatin domain so that they can be repaired in the relative peace and quiet of the nuclear periphery.

This finding suggests that the nuclear membrane is more versatile than is generally appreciated. Yes, it serves as a protective container for nuclear material, and it uses its pores to manage the transport of molecules in and out of the nucleus. But it may also play a special role in maintaining the integrity of heterochromatin, which tends to be overlooked because it consists largely of noncoding DNA, including repetitive stretches of no apparent function.

“Scientists are now starting to pay a lot of attention to this mysterious component of the genome,” said Irene E. Chiolo, Ph.D., an assistant professor at USC. “Heterochromatin is not only essential for chromosome maintenance during cell division; it also poses specific threats to genome stability. Heterochromatin is potentially one of the most powerful driving forces for cancer formation, but it is the ‘dark matter’ of the genome. We are just beginning to unravel how repair works here.”

Dr. Chilo led an effort to understand how heterochromatin stays in good repair, even though it is particularly vulnerable to a kind of repair error called ectopic recombination. This kind of error is apt to occur when flaws in repeated sequences undergo homologous recombination (HR) by means of double-strand break (DSB) repair. Specifically, repeated sequences tend to recombine with each other during DNA repair.

Working with the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, Dr. Chilo’s team observed that breaks in heterochromatin are repaired after damaged sequences move away from the rest of the chromosome to the inner wall of the nuclear membrane. There, a trio of proteins mends the break in a safe environment, where it cannot accidentally get tangled up with incorrect chromosomes.

The details appeared October 26 in Nature Cell Biology, in an article entitled, “Heterochromatic breaks move to the nuclear periphery to continue recombinational repair.”

“[Heterochromatic] DSBs move to the nuclear periphery to continue HR repair,” the authors wrote. “Relocalization depends on nuclear pores and inner nuclear membrane proteins (INMPs) that anchor repair sites to the nuclear periphery through the Smc5/6-interacting proteins STUbL/RENi. Both the initial block to HR progression inside the heterochromatin domain, and the targeting of repair sites to the nuclear periphery, rely on SUMO and SUMO E3 ligases.”

“We knew that nuclear membrane dysfunctions are common in cancer cells,” Dr. Chiolo said. “Our studies now suggest how these dysfunctions can affect heterochromatin repair and have a causative role in cancer progression.”

This study may help reveal how and why organisms become more predisposed to cancer as they age—the nuclear membrane progressively deteriorates as an organism ages, removing this bulwark against genome instability.

Next, Dr. Chiolo and her team will explore how the movement of broken sequences is accomplished and regulated, and what happens in cells and organisms when this membrane-based repair mechanism fails. Their ultimate goal is to understand how this mechanism functions in human cells and identify new strategies to prevent their catastrophic failure and cancer formation.

 

 

Gene Found that Regulates Stem Cell Number Production

Gene Found that Regulates Stem Cell Number Production

The gene Prkci promotes the generation of differentiated cells (red). However if Prkci activity is reduced or absent, neural stem cells (green) are promoted. [In Kyoung Mah]

A scientific team from the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California, San Diego have described an important gene that maintains a critical balance between producing too many
and too few stem cells. Called Prkci, the gene influences whether stem cells self-renew to produce more stem cells, or differentiate into more specialized cell types, such as blood or nerves.

When it comes to stem cells, too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily a benefit: producing too many new stem cells may lead to cancer; making too few inhibits the repair and maintenance of the body.

In their experiments, the researchers grew mouse embryonic stem cells, which lacked Prkci, into embryo-like structures in the laboratory. Without Prkci, the stem cells favored self-renewal, generating large numbers of stem cells and, subsequently, an abundance of secondary structures.

Upon closer inspection, the stem cells lacking Prkci had many activated genes typical of stem cells, and some activated genes typical of neural, cardiac, and blood-forming cells. Therefore, the loss of Prkci can also encourage stem cells to differentiate into the progenitor cells that form neurons, heart muscle, and blood.

Prkci achieves these effects by activating or deactivating a well-known group of interacting genes that are part of the Notch signaling pathway. In the absence of Prkci, the Notch pathway produces a protein that signals to stem cells to make more stem cells. In the presence of Prkci, the Notch pathway remains silent, and stem cells differentiate into specific cell types.

These findings have implications for developing patient therapies. Even though Prkci can be active in certain skin cancers, inhibiting it might lead to unintended consequences, such as tumor overgrowth. However, for patients with certain injuries or diseases, it could be therapeutic to use small molecule inhibitors to block the activity of Prkci, thus boosting stem cell production.

“We expect that our findings will be applicable in diverse contexts and make it possible to easily generate stem cells that have typically been difficult to generate,” said Francesca Mariani, Ph.D., principal investigator at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

Their study (“Atypical PKC-iota Controls Stem Cell Expansion via Regulation of the Notch Pathway”) was published in a Stem Cell Reports.

Atypical PKC-iota Controls Stem Cell Expansion via Regulation of the Notch Pathway

In Kyoung Mah,1 Rachel Soloff,2,3 Stephen M. Hedrick,2 and Francesca V. Mariani1, *

Stem Cell Reports (2015),     http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stemcr.2015.09.021

The number of stem/progenitor cells available can profoundly impact tissue homeostasis and the response to injury or disease. Here, we propose that an atypical PKC, Prkci, is a key player in regulating the switch from an expansion to a differentiation/maintenance phase via regulation of Notch, thus linking the polarity pathway with the control of stem cell self-renewal. Prkci is known to influence symmetric cell division in invertebrates; however a definitive role in mammals has not yet emerged. Using a genetic approach, we find that loss of Prkci results in a marked increase in the number of various stem/progenitor cells. The mechanism used likely involves inactivation and symmetric localization of NUMB, leading to the activation of NOTCH1 and its downstream effectors. Inhibition of atypical PKCs may be useful for boosting the production of pluripotent stem cells, multipotent stem cells, or possibly even primordial germ cells by promoting the stem cell/progenitor fate.

 

The control of asymmetric versus symmetric cell division in stem and progenitor cells balances self-renewal and differentiation to mediate tissue homeostasis and repair and involves key proteins that control cell polarity. In the case of excess symmetric division, too many stem-cell-like daughter cells are generated that can lead to tumor initiation and growth. Conversely, excess asymmetric cell division can severely limit the number of cells available for homeostasis and repair (Go´mez-Lo´pez et al., 2014; Inaba and Yamashita, 2012). The Notch pathway has been implicated in controlling stem cell self-renewal in a number of different contexts (Hori et al., 2013). However, how cell polarity, asymmetric cell division, and the activation of determinants ultimately impinges upon the control of stem cell expansion and maintenance is not fully understood. In this study, we examine the role of an atypical protein kinase C (aPKC), PRKCi, in stem cell self-renewal and, in particular, determine whether PRKCi acts via the Notch pathway. PKCs are serine-threonine kinases that control many basic cellular processes and are typically classified into three subgroups—conventional, novel, and the aPKCs iota and zeta, which, in contrast to the others, are not activated by diacylglyceride or calcium. The aPKC proteins are best known for being central components of an evolutionarily conserved Par3-Par6-aPKC trimeric complex that controls cell polarity in C. elegans, Drosophila, Xenopus, zebrafish, and mammalian cells (Suzuki and Ohno, 2006).

Before Notch influences stem cell self-renewal, the regulation of cell polarity, asymmetric versus symmetric cell division, and the segregation of cell fate determinants such as NUMB may first be required (Knoblich, 2008). For example, mutational analysis in Drosophila has demonstrated that the aPKC-containing trimeric complex is required for maintaining polarity and for mediating asymmetric cell division during neurogenesis via activation and segregation of NUMB (Wirtz-Peitz et al., 2008). NUMB then functions as a cell fate determinant by inhibiting Notch signaling and preventing self-renewal (Wang et al., 2006). In mammals, the PAR3-PAR6-aPKC complex also can bind and phosphorylate NUMB in epithelial cells and can regulate the unequal distribution of Numb during asymmetric cell division (Smith et al., 2007). During mammalian neurogenesis, asymmetric division is also thought to involve the PAR3-PAR6-aPKC complex, NUMB segregation, and NOTCH activation (Bultje et al., 2009).

Mice deficient in Prkcz are grossly normal, with mild defects in secondary lymphoid organs (Leitges et al., 2001). In contrast, deficiency of the Prkci isozyme results in early embryonic lethality at embryonic day (E)9.5 (Seidl et al., 2013; Soloff et al., 2004). A few studies have investigated the conditional inactivation of Prkci; however, no dramatic changes in progenitor generation were detected in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) or the brain (Imai et al., 2006; Sengupta et al., 2011), although one study found evidence of a role for Prkci in controlling asymmetric cell division in the skin (Niessen et al., 2013). Analysis may be complicated by functional redundancy between the iota and zeta isoforms and/or because further studies perturbing aPKCs in specific cell lineages and/or at specific developmental stages are needed.

Here, we investigate the requirement of Prkci in mouse cells using an in vitro system that bypasses early embryonic lethality. Embryonic stem (ES) cells are used to make embryoid bodies (EBs) that develop like the early post-implantation embryo in terms of lineage specification and morphology and can also be maintained in culture long enough to observe advanced stages of cellular differentiation (Desbaillets et al., 2000). Using this approach, we provide genetic evidence that inactivation of Prkci signaling leads to enhanced generation of pluripotent cells and some types of multipotent stem cells, including cells with primordial germ cell (PGC) characteristics. In addition, we provide evidence that aPKCs ultimately regulate stem cell fate via the Notch pathway.

Figure 1. Prkci/ EBs Contain Cells with Pluripotency Characteristics (A and A0 ) Day (d) 12 heterozygous EBs have few OCT4/E-CAD+ cells, while null EBs contain many in clusters at the EB periphery. Inset: OCT4 (nucleus)/E-CAD (cytoplasm) double-positive cells. (B and B0 ) Adjacent sections in a null EB show that OCT4+ cells are likely also SSEA1+. (C) Dissociated day-12 Prkci/ EBs contain five to six times more OCT4+ and approximately three times more SSEA1+ cells than heterozygous EBs (three independent experiments). (D and D0 ) After 2 days in ES cell culture, no colonies are visible in null SSEA1 cultures while present in null SSEA1+ cultures (red arrows). (E–E00) SSEA1+ sorted cells can be maintained for many passages, 27+. (E) Prkci+/ sorted cells make colonies with differentiated cells at the outer edges (n = 27/35). (E0 ) Null cells form colonies with distinct edges (n = 39/45). (E00) The percentage of undifferentiated colonies is shown. ***p < 0.001. (F) Sorted null cells express stem cell and differentiation markers at similar levels to normal ES cells (versus heterozygous EBs) (three independent experiments). (G) EBs made from null SSEA1+ sorted cells express germ layer marker genes at the indicated days. Error bars indicate mean ± SEM, three independent experiments. Scale bars, 100 mm in (A, D, and E); 25 mm in (B). See also Figure S1.

RESULTS

Prkci/ Cultures Have More Pluripotent Cells Even under Differentiation Conditions First, we compared Prkci null EB development to that of Prkci/ embryos. Consistent with another null allele (Seidl et al., 2013), both null embryos and EBs fail to properly cavitate (Figures S1A and S1B). The failure to cavitate is unlikely to be due to the inability to form one of the three germ layers, as null EBs express germ-layer-specific genes (Figure S1E). A failure of cavitation could alternatively be caused by an accumulation of pluripotent cells. For example, EBs generated from Timeless knockdown cells do not cavitate and contain large numbers of OCT4-expressing cells (O’Reilly et al., 2011). In addition, EBs generated with Prkcz isoform knockdown cells contain OCT4+ cells under differentiation conditions (Dutta et al., 2011; Rajendran et al., 2013). Thus, we first evaluated ES colony differentiation by alkaline phosphatase (AP) staining. After 4 days without leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), Prkci/ ES cell colonies retained crisp boundaries and strong AP staining. In contrast, Prkci+/ colonies had uneven colony boundaries with diffuse AP staining (Figures S1F–S1F00). To definitively detect pluripotent cells, day-12 EBs were assayed for OCT4 and E-CADHERIN (E-CAD) protein expression. Prkci+/ EBs had very few OCT4/E-CAD double-positive cells (Figure 1A); however, null EBs contained large clusters of OCT4/E-CAD double-positive cells, concentrated in a peripheral zone (Figure 1A0 ). By examining adjacent sections, we found that OCT4+ cells could also be positive for stage-specific embryonic antigen 1 (SSEA1) (Figures 1B and 1B0 ). Quantification by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis showed that day-12 Prkci/ EBs had more OCT4+ and SSEA1+ cells than Prkci+/ EBs (Figure 1C). We did not find any difference between heterozygous and wild-type cells with respect to the number of OCT4+ or SSEA1+ cells or in their levels of expression for Oct4, Nanog, and Sox2 (Figures S1I, S1I0 and S1J). However, we did find that Oct4, Nanog, and Sox2 were highly upregulated in OCT4+ null cells (Figure S1G). Thus, together, these data indicate that Prkci/ EBs contain large numbers of pluripotent stem cells, despite being cultured under differentiation conditions.

Functional Pluripotency Tests If primary EBs have a pluripotent population with the capacity to undergo self-renewal, they can easily form secondary EBs (O’Reilly et al., 2011). Using this assay, we found that more secondary EBs could be generated from Prkci/ versus Prkci+/ EBs, especially at days 6, 10, and 16; even when plated at a low density to control for aggregation (Figure S1H). To test whether SSEA1+ cells could maintain pluripotency long term, FACS-sorted Prkci/ SSEA1+ and SSEA1 cells were plated at a low density and maintained under ES cell culture conditions. SSEA1 cells were never able to form identifiable colonies and could not be maintained in culture (Figure 1D). SSEA1+ cells, however, formed many distinct colonies after 2 days of culture, and these cells could be maintained for over 27 passages (Figures 1D0 , 1E0 , and 1E00). Prkci+/ SSEA1+ cells formed colonies that easily differentiated at the outer edge, even in the presence of LIF (Figure 1E). In contrast Prkci/ SSEA1+ cells maintained distinct round colonies (Figure 1E0 ). Next, we determined whether null SSEA1+ cells expressed pluripotency and differentiation markers similarly to normal ES cells. Indeed, we found that Oct4, Nanog, and Sox2 were upregulated in both null SSEA1+ EB cells and heterozygous ES cells. In addition, differentiated markers (Fgf5, T, Wnt3, and Afp) and tissue stem/progenitor cell markers (neural: Nestin, Sox1, and NeuroD; cardiac: Nkx2-5 and Isl1; and hematopoietic: Gata1 and Hba-x) were downregulated in both SSEA1+ cells and heterozygous ES cells (Figure 1F). SSEA1+ cells likely have a wide range of potential, since EBs generated from these cells expressed markers for all three germ layers (Figure 1G).

Figure 2. Prkci and Pluripotency Pathways (A) ERK1/2 phosphorylation (Y202/Y204) is reduced in null ES cells and early day (d)-6 null EBs compared to heterozygous EBs and strongly increased at later stages. The first lane shows ES cells activated (A) by serum treatment 1 day after serum depletion. (B) Quantification of pERK1/2 normalized to non-phosphorylated ERK1/2 (three independent experiments; mean ± SEM; **p < 0.01). (C) pERK1/2 Y202/Y204 is strongly expressed in the columnar epithelium of heterozygous EBs that have just cavitated. Null EBs have lower expression. OCT4 and pERK1/2 expression do not co-localize. Scale bar, 100 mm. (D) pERK1/2Y202/Y204 levels are lower in null SSEA1+ sorted cells than in heterozygous or in null day-12 EBs that have undergone further differentiation. pSTAT3 and STAT levels are unchanged. See also Figure S2.

ERK1/2 Signaling during EB Development Stem cell self-renewal has been shown to require the activation of the JAK/STAT3 and PI3K/AKT pathways and the inhibition of ERK1/2 and GSK3 pathways (Kunath et al., 2007; Niwa et al., 1998; Sato et al., 2004; Watanabe et al., 2006). We found that both STAT3 and phosphorylated STAT3 levels were not grossly altered and that the p-STAT3/STAT3 ratio was similar between heterozygous and null ES cells and EBs (Figures S2A and S2B). In addition we did not see any difference in AKT, pAKT, or b-CATENIN levels when comparing heterozygous to null ES cells or EBs (Figures S2A and S2C). Thus, the effects observed by the loss of Prkci are unlikely to be due to a significant alteration in the JAK/STAT3, PI3K/AKT, or GSK3 pathways.

Next, we investigated ERK1/2 expression and activation. Consistent with other studies showing ERK1/2 activation to be downstream of Prkci in some mammalian cell types (Boeckeler et al., 2010; Litherland et al., 2010), pERK1/2 was markedly inactivated in Prkci null versus heterozygous ES cells. In addition, during differentiation, null EBs displayed strong pERK1/2 inhibition early (until day 6). Later, pERK1/2 was activated strongly, as the EB began differentiating (Figures 2A and 2B). By immunofluorescence, pERK1/2 was strongly enriched in the columnar epithelium of control EBs, while overall levels were much lower in Prkci/ EBs (Figure 2C). In addition, high OCT4 expression correlated with a marked inactivation of pERK1/2 (Figure 2C). Next, we examined Prkci/ SSEA1+ cells by western blot. We found that SSEA1+ cells isolated from day-12 null EBs had pSTAT3 expression levels similar to whole EBs, while pERK1/2 levels were low (Figure 2D). Thus, these experiments indicate that the higher numbers of pluripotent cells in null EBs correlate with a strong inactivation of ERK1/2.

Neural Stem Cell Fate Is Favored in Prkci/ EBs It is well known that ERK/MEK inhibition is not sufficient for pluripotent stem cell maintenance (Ying et al., 2008); thus, other pathways are likely involved. Therefore, we used a TaqMan Mouse Stem Cell Pluripotency Panel (#4385363) on an OpenArray platform to investigate the mechanism of Prkci action. Day 13 and day 20 Prkci/ EBs expressed high levels of pluripotency and stemness markers versus heterozygous EBs, including Oct4, Utf1, Nodal, Xist, Fgf4, Gal, Lefty1, and Lefty2. However, interestingly, EBs also expressed markers for differentiated cell types and tissue stem cells, including Sst, Syp, and Sycp3 (neural-related genes), Isl1 (cardiac progenitor marker), Hba-x, and Cd34 (hematopoietic markers). Based on this first-pass test, we sought to determine whether loss of Prkci might favor the generation of neural, cardiac, and hematopoietic cell types and/or their progenitors.

Figure 3. Neural Stem Cell Populations Are Increased in Null EBs (A–C0 ) Prkci/ EBs (B) have more NESTINpositive cells than Prkci+/ EBs (A). (C and C0 ) MAP2 and TUJ1 are expressed in null EBs, similarly to heterozygous EBs (data not shown). (D) EBs were assessed for PAX6 expression, and the images were used for quantification (Figures S3A and S3B). The pixel count ratio of PAX6+ cells in null EBs (green) is substantially higher than that found in heterozygous EBs (black) (three independent experiments; mean ± SEM; *p < 0.05). (E–F000) Day 4 after RA treatment, Prkci/ EBs have more NESTIN- than TUJ1-positive neurons (E and F). However, null cells can still terminally differentiate into NEUROD-, NEUN-, and MAP2-positive cells (F0 –F000). Scale bars, 25 mm in (A and C) and 50 mm in (E). See also Figure S3. Ste

The Generation of Cardiomyocyte and Erythrocyte Progenitors Is Also Favored Next, we examined ISL1 expression (a cardiac stem cell marker) by immunofluorescence and found that Prkci/ EBs contained larger ISL1 clusters compared with Prkci+/ EBs; this was confirmed using an image quantification assay (Figures 4A, 4A0 , and 4C). Differentiated cardiac cells and ventral spinal neurons can also express ISL1 (Ericson et al., 1992); therefore, we also examined Nkx2-5 expression, a better stem cell marker and regulator of cardiac progenitor determination (Brown et al., 2004), by RT-PCR and immunofluorescence. In null EBs, Nkx2-5 was upregulated (Figure 4D). In addition, in response to RA, which can promote cardiac fates in vitro (Niebruegge et al., 2008), cells expressing NKX2-5 were more prevalent in null versus heterozygous EBs (Figures 4B and 4B0 ).The abundant cardiac progenitors found in null EBs were still capable of undergoing differentiation (Figures 4E–4F0 ).

 

Figure 4. Cardiomyocyte and Erythrocyte Progenitors Are Increased in Prkci/ EBs (A–F0 ) In (A, A0 , E, and E0 ), Prkci/ EBs cultured without LIF have more ISL1 (cardiac progenitor marker) and a-ACTININ-positive cells compared to heterozygous EBs. (C) At day (d) 9, the pixel count ratio for ISL1 expression indicates that null EBs (green) have larger ISL1 populations than heterozygous EBs (black) (three independent experiments, n = 20 heterozygous EBs, 21 null EBs total; mean ± SEM; *p < 0.05). In (B, B0 , D, F, and F0 ), RA treatment induces more NKX2-5 (both nuclear and cytoplasmic) and a-ACTININ expression in null EBs. Arrows point to fibers in (F0 ). (G) Null EBs (green) generate more beating EBs with RA treatment compared to heterozygous EBs (black) (four independent experiments; mean ± SEM; *p < 0.05, ***p < 0.001). (H) Dissociated null EBs of different stages (green) generate more erythrocytes in a colony-forming assay (CFU-E) (four independent experiments; mean ± SEM; **p < 0.01). (I) Examples of red colonies. (J) Gene expression for primitive HSC markers is upregulated in null EBs (relative to heterozygous EBs) (three independent experiments; mean ± SEM). Scale bars, 50 mm in (A, B, and E); 100 mm in (F), and 25 mm in (I). See also Figure S4. 6

Hba-x expression is restricted to yolk sac blood islands and primitive erythrocyte populations (Lux et al., 2008; Trimborn et al., 1999). Cd34 is also a primitive HSC marker (Sutherland et al., 1992). Next, we determined whether the elevated expression of these markers observed with OpenArray might represent higher numbers of primitive hematopoietic progenitors. Using a colony-forming assay (Baum et al., 1992), we found that red colonies (indicative of erythrocyte differentiation; examples in Figure 4I) were produced significantly earlier and more readily from cells isolated from null versus heterozygous EBs (Figure 4H). By quantitative real-time PCR, upregulation of Hba-x and Cd34 genes confirmed the OpenArray results (Figure 4J). In addition, we found Gata1, an erythropoiesis-specific factor, and Epor, an erythropoietin receptor that mediates erythroid cell proliferation and differentiation (Chiba et al., 1991), to be highly upregulated in null versus heterozygous EBs (Figure 4J). These data suggest that the loss of Prkci promotes the generation of primitive erythroid progenitors that can differentiate into erythrocytes.

To determine whether the aforementioned tissue stem cells identified were represented in the OCT4+ population that we described earlier, we examined the expression of PAX6, ISL1, and OCT4 in adjacent EB sections. We found that cells expressing OCT4 appeared to represent a distinct population from those expressing PAX6 and ISL1 (although some cells were PAX6 and ISL1 double-positive) (Figures S4A–S4C).

Prkci/ Cells Are More Likely to Inherit NUMB/aNOTCH1 Symmetrically The enhanced production of both pluripotent and tissue stem cells suggests that the mechanism underlying the action of Prkci in these different contexts is fundamentally similar. Because the Notch pathway controls stem cell self-renewal in many contexts (Hori et al., 2013), and because previous studies implicated a connection between PRKCi function and the Notch pathway (Bultje et al., 2009; Smith et al., 2007), we examined the localization and activation of a key player in the Notch pathway, NUMB, (Inaba and Yamashita, 2012). Differences in NUMB expression were first evident in whole EBs, where polarized expression was evident in the ectodermal and endodermal epithelia of heterozygous EBs, while Prkci/ EBs exhibited a more even distribution (Figures 5A–5B0 ). To more definitively determine the inheritance of NUMB during cell division, doublets undergoing telophase or cytokinesis were scored for symmetric (evenly distributed in both cells) or asymmetric (unequally distributed) NUMB localization (examples: Figures 5C and 5C0 ).

Because NUMB can be directly phosphorylated by aPKCs (both PRKCi and PRKCz) (Smith et al., 2007; Zhou et al., 2011), loss of Prkci might be expected to lead to decreased NUMB phosphorylation. Three NUMB phosphorylation sites—Ser7, Ser276, and Ser295—could be aPKC mediated (Smith et al., 2007). By immunofluorescence, we found that one of the most well-characterized sites (Ser276), was strongly inactivated in null versus heterozygous EBs, especially in the core (Figures 5F and 5G). Western analysis also confirmed that the levels of pNUMB (Ser276) were decreased in null versus heterozygous EBs (Figure S5F). Thus, genetic inactivation of Prkci leads to a marked decrease in the phosphorylation status of NUMB.

Notch pathway inhibition by NUMB has been observed in flies and mammals (Berdnik et al., 2002; French et al., 2002). Therefore, we investigated whether reduced Numb activity in Prkci/ EBs might lead to enhanced NOTCH1 activity and the upregulation of the downstream transcriptional readouts (Meier-Stiegen et al., 2010). An overall increase in NOTCH1 activation was supported by western blot analysis showing that the level of activated NOTCH1 (aNOTCH1) was strongly increased in day 6 and day 10 null versus heterozygous EBs (Figure S5G). This was supported by immunofluorescence in EBs, where widespread strong expression of aNOTCH1 was seen in most null cells (Figures 5I and 5I0 ), while in heterozygous EBs, this pattern was observed only in the OCT4+ cells (Figures 5H and 5H0 ).

Figure 5. Prkci/ Cells Preferentially Inherit Symmetric Localization of NUMB and aNOTCH1 and Notch Signaling Is Required for Stem Cell Self-Renewal in Null Cells (A–B0 ) In (A and B), day (d)-7 heterozygous EBs have polarized NUMB localization within epithelia and strong expression in the endoderm, while null EBs have a more even distribution. (A0 and B0 ) Enlarged views. (C and C0 ) Asymmetric and symmetric NUMB expression examples. (D) Doublets from day-10 null EBs have more symmetric inheritance when compared to day-10 heterozygous doublets (three independent experiments; mean ± SEM; **p < 0.01). A red line indicates a ratio of 1 (equal percent symmetric and asymmetric). (E) CD24high null doublets exhibited more symmetric NUMB inheritance than CD24high heterozygous doublets (three independent experiments; mean ± SEM; *p < 0.05). A red line indicates where the ratio is 1. (F and G) Decreased pNUMB (Ser276) is evident in the core of null versus heterozygous EBs (n = 10 of each genotype). (H–I0 ) In (H and I), aNOTCH1 is strongly expressed in heterozygous EBs, including both OCT4+ and OCT4 cells, while strong aNOTCH1 expression is predominant in OCT4+ cells of null EBs (n = 10 of each genotype)). (H0 and I0 ) Enlarged views of boxed regions. OCT4+ cells are demarcated with dotted lines. (J and J0 ) OCT4+ cells express HES5 strongly in the nucleus (three independent experiments). (K) Null doublets from dissociated EBs have more symmetric aNOTCH1 inheritance compared to heterozygous doublets (three independent experiments; mean ± SEM; **p < 0.01). A red line indicates where the ratio is 1. (L) CD24high Prkci/ doublets exhibit more symmetric aNOTCH1 than CD24high heterozygous doublets (three independent experiments; mean ± SEM; *p < 0.05). A red line indicates where the ratio is 1. (M and M0 ) Examples of asymmetric and symmetric aNOTCH1 localization. (N and O) Day-3 DMSO-treated null ES colonies show strong AP staining all the way to the colony edge in (N). Treatment with 3 mM DAPT led to more differentiation in (O). (P–R) OCT4 is strongly expressed in day-4 DMSO-treated null ES cultures (P). With DAPT (Q,R), OCT4 expression is decreased. (S) Working model: In daughter cells that undergo differentiation, PRKCi can associate with PAR3 and PAR6. NUMB is recruited and directly phosphorylated. The activation of NUMB then leads to an inhibition in NOTCH1 activation and stimulation of a differentiation/maintenance program. In the absence of Prkci, the PAR3/PAR6 complex cannot assemble (although it may do so minimally with Prkcz). NUMB asymmetric localization and phosphorylation is reduced. Low levels of pNUMB are not sufficient to block NOTCH1 activation, and activated NOTCH1 preserves the stem cell self-renewal program. We suggest that PRKCi functions to drive differentiation by pushing the switch from an expansion phase that is symmetric to a differentiation and/or maintenance phase that is predominantly asymmetric. In situations of low or absent PRKCi, we propose that the expansion phase is prolonged. Scale bars, 50 mm in (A, B, F, G, H, I, J, J0 , P–R); 200 mm in (A0 and B0 ); 25 mm in (C, C0 , M, and M0 ); and 100 mm in (H0 , I0 , N, and O). See also Figure S5.

 

Figure 6. Additional Inhibition of PRKCz Results in an Even Higher Percentage of OCT4-, SSEA1-, and STELLA-Positive Cells (A and A0 ) After day 4 without LIF, heterozygous ES cells undergo differentiation in the presence of Go¨6983, while null ES cells stay as distinct colonies in (A0 ). (B and B0 ) Go¨6983 stimulates an increase in OCT4+ populations in heterozygous EBs and an even larger OCT4+ population in null EBs in (B0 , insets: green and red channels separately). (C–D0 ) An even higher percentage of cells are OCT4+ (C and C0 ) and SSEA1+ (D and D0 ) with Go¨6983 treatment (day 12, three independent experiments). (E and F) More STELLA+ clusters containing a larger number of cells are present in drugtreated heterozygous EBs. (G and H) Null EBs also have more STELLA+ clusters and cells. Drug-treated null EBs exhibit a dramatic increase in the number of STELLA+ cells. (I–K) Some cells are double positive for STELLA and VASA in drug-treated null EBs (yellow arrows). There are also VASAonly (green arrows) and STELLA-only cells (red arrows) (three independent experiments). (L–P) Treatment with ZIP results in an increase in OCT4+ and STELLA+ cells. ZIP treatment also results in more cells that are VASA+ (three independent experiments); n = 11 for Prkci+/, and n = 13 for Prkci+/ + ZIP; n = 14 for Prkci/, and n = 20 for Prkci/ + ZIP; eight EBs assayed for both STELLA and VASA expression). Scale bars, 100 mm in (A and A0 ); 50 mm in (B and B0 ); and 25 mm in (E, I, and L).

 

DISCUSSION In this report, we suggest that Prkci controls the balance between stem cell expansion and differentiation/maintenance by regulating the activation of NUMB, NOTCH1, and Hes /Hey downstream effector genes. In the absence of Prkci, the pluripotent cell fate is favored, even without LIF, yet cells still retain a broad capacity to differentiate. In addition, loss of Prkci results in enhanced generation of tissue progenitors such as neural stem cells and cardiomyocyte and erythrocyte progenitors. In contrast to recent findings on Prkcz (Dutta et al., 2011), loss of Prkci does not appear to influence STAT3, AKT, or GSK3 signaling but results in decreased ERK1/2 activation. We hypothesize that, in the absence of Prkci, although ERK1/2 inhibition may be involved, it is the decreased NUMB phosphorylation and increased NOTCH1 activation that promotes stem and progenitor cell fate. Thus, we conclude that PRKCi, a protein known to be required for cell polarity, also plays an essential role in controlling stem cell fate and generation via regulating NOTCH1 activation.

Notch Activation Drives the Decision to Self-Renew versus Differentiate Notch plays an important role in balancing stem cell selfrenewal and differentiation in a variety of stem cell types and may be one of the key downstream effectors of Prkci signaling. Sustained Notch1 activity in embryonic neural progenitors has been shown to maintain their undifferentiated state (Jadhav et al., 2006). Similarly, sustained constitutive activation of NOTCH1 stimulates the proliferation of immature cardiomyocytes in the rat myocardium (Collesi et al., 2008). In HSCs, overexpression of constitutively active NOTCH1 in hematopoietic progenitors and stem cells supports both primitive and definitive HSC selfrenewal (Stier et al., 2002). Together, these studies suggest that activation and/or sustained Notch signaling can lead to an increase in certain tissue stem cell populations. Thus, a working model for how tissue stem cell populations are favored in the absence of Prkci involves a sequence of events that ultimately leads to Notch activation. Recent studies have shown that aPKCs can be found in a complex with NUMB in both Drosophila and mammalian cells (Smith et al., 2007; Zhou et al., 2011); hence, in our working model (Figure 5S), we propose that the localization and phosphorylation of NUMB is highly dependent on the activity of PRKCi. When Prkci is downregulated or absent (as shown here), cell polarity is not promoted, leading to diffuse distribution and decreased phosphorylation of NUMB. Without active NUMB, NOTCH1 activation is enhanced, Hes/Hey genes are upregulated, and stem/progenitor fate generation is favored. To initiate differentiation, polarization could be stochastically determined but could also be dependent on external cues such as the presentation of certain ligands or extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins (Habib et al., 2013). When PRKCi is active and the cell becomes polarized, a trimeric complex is formed with PRKCi, PAR3, and PAR6. Numb is then recruited and phosphorylated, leading to Notch inactivation, the repression of downstream Hes/Hey genes, and differentiation is favored (see Figure 5S). Support for this working model comes from studies in Drosophila showing that the aPKC complex is essential for Numb activation and asymmetric localization (Knoblich, 2008; Smith et al., 2007; Wang et al., 2006). Additional studies on mouse neural progenitors show that regulating Numb localization and Notch activation is critical for maintaining the proper number of stem/progenitor cells in balance with differentiation (Bultje et al., 2009). Thus, an important function for PRKCi may be to regulate the switch between symmetric expansion of stem/progenitor cells to an asymmetric differentiation/maintenance phase. In situations of low or absent PRKCi, we propose that the expansion phase is favored. Thus, temporarily blocking either, or both, of the aPKC isozymes may be a powerful approach for expanding specific stem/progenitor populations for use in basic research or for therapeutic applications.

Although we do not see changes in the activation status of the STAT3, AKT, or GSK3 pathway, loss of Prkci results in an inhibition of ERK1/2 (Figures 2A and 2B). This result is consistent with the findings that ERK1/2 inhibition is both correlated with and directly increases ES cell selfrenewal (Burdon et al., 1999). Modulation of ERK1/2 activity by Prkci has been observed in cancer cells and chondrocytes (Litherland et al., 2010; Murray et al., 2011). Although it is not clear whether a direct interaction exists between Prkci and ERK1/2, Prkcz directly interacts with ERK1/2 in the mouse liver and in hypoxia-exposed cells (Das et al., 2008; Peng et al., 2008). The Prkcz isozyme is still expressed in Prkci null cells but evidently cannot suf- ficiently compensate and activate the pathway normally. Furthermore, knocking down Prkcz function in ES cells does not result in ERK1/2 inhibition, suggesting that this isozyme does not impact ERK1/2 signaling in ES cells (Dutta et al., 2011). Therefore, although PRKCi may interact with ERK1/2 and be directly required for its activation, ERK1/2 inhibition could also be a readout for cells that are more stem-like. Further studies will be needed to address this question.

Utility of Inhibiting aPKC Function Loss of Prkci resulted in EBs that contained slightly more STELLA+ cells than EBs made from +/ cells. Furthermore, inhibition of both aPKC isozymes by treating Prkci null cells with the PKC inhibitor Go¨6983 or the more specific inhibitor, ZIP, strongly promoted the generation of large clusters of STELLA+ and VASA+ cells, suggesting that inhibition of both isozymes is important for PGC progenitor expansion (Figure 6). It is unclear what the mechanism for this might be; however, one possibility is that blocking both aPKCs is necessary to promote NOTCH1 activation in PGCs or in PGC progenitor cells that may ordinarily have strong inhibitions to expansion (Feng et al., 2014). Regardless of mechanism, the ability to generate PGC-like cells in culture is notoriously challenging, and our results provide a method for future studies on PGC specification and differentiation. Expansion of stem/progenitor pools may not be desirable in the context of cancer. Prkci has been characterized as a human oncogene, a useful prognostic cancer marker, and a therapeutic target for cancer treatment. Overexpression of Prkci is found in epithelial cancers (Fields and Regala, 2007), and Prkci inhibitors are being evaluated as candidate cancer therapies (Atwood et al., 2013; Mansfield et al., 2013). However, because our results show that Prkci inhibition leads to enhanced stem cell production in vitro, Prkci inhibitor treatment as a cancer therapy might lead to unintended consequences (tumor overgrowth), depending on the context and treatment regimen. Thus, extending our findings to human stem and cancer stem cells is needed.

In summary, here, we demonstrate that loss of Prkci leads to the generation of abundant pluripotent cells, even under differentiation conditions. In addition, we show that tissue stem cells such as neural stem cells, primitive erythrocytes, and cardiomyocyte progenitors can also be abundantly produced in the absence of Prkci. These increases in stem cell production correlate with decreased NUMB activation and symmetric NUMB localization and require Notch signaling. Further inhibition of Prkcz may have an additive effect and can enhance the production of PGC-like cells. Thus, Prkci (along with Prkcz) may play key roles in stem cell self-renewal and differentiation by regulating the Notch pathway. Furthermore, inhibition of Prkci and or Prkcz activity with specific small-molecule inhibitors might be a powerful method to boost stem cell production in the context of injury or disease.

 

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Complex Models of Signaling: Therapeutic Implications


Complex Models of Signaling: Therapeutic Implications

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Updated 6/24/2019

Fishy Business: Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Zinc Transporters and Free Zinc Availability in Human Neuronal Cells

Damitha De Mel and Cenk Suphioglu *

NeuroAllergy Research Laboratory (NARL), School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment, Waurn Ponds, Victoria, Australia.

Nutrients 2014, 6, 3245-3258; http://dx.doi.org:/10.3390/nu6083245

Omega-3 (ω-3) fatty acids are one of the two main families of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). The main omega-3 fatty acids in the mammalian body are

  • α-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Central nervous tissues of vertebrates are characterized by a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Moreover, in the human brain,

  • DHA is considered as the main structural omega-3 fatty acid, which comprises about 40% of the PUFAs in total.

DHA deficiency may be the cause of many disorders such as depression, inability to concentrate, excessive mood swings, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dry skin and so on.

On the other hand,

  • zinc is the most abundant trace metal in the human brain.

There are many scientific studies linking zinc, especially

  • excess amounts of free zinc, to cellular death.

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are characterized by altered zinc metabolism. Both animal model studies and human cell culture studies have shown a possible link between

  • omega-3 fatty acids, zinc transporter levels and
  • free zinc availability at cellular levels.

Many other studies have also suggested a possible

  • omega-3 and zinc effect on neurodegeneration and cellular death.

Therefore, in this review, we will examine

  • the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on zinc transporters and
  • the importance of free zinc for human neuronal cells.

Moreover, we will evaluate the collective understanding of

  • mechanism(s) for the interaction of these elements in neuronal research and their
  • significance for the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegeneration.

Epidemiological studies have linked high intake of fish and shellfish as part of the daily diet to

  • reduction of the incidence and/or severity of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and senile mental decline in

Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the two main families of a broader group of fatty acids referred to as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The other main family of PUFAs encompasses the omega-6 fatty acids. In general, PUFAs are essential in many biochemical events, especially in early post-natal development processes such as

  • cellular differentiation,
  • photoreceptor membrane biogenesis and
  • active synaptogenesis.

Despite the significance of these

two families, mammals cannot synthesize PUFA de novo, so they must be ingested from dietary sources. Though belonging to the same family, both

  • omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are metabolically and functionally distinct and have
  • opposing physiological effects. In the human body,
  • high concentrations of omega-6 fatty acids are known to increase the formation of prostaglandins and
  • thereby increase inflammatory processes [10].

the reverse process can be seen with increased omega-3 fatty acids in the body.

Many other factors, such as

  1. thromboxane A2 (TXA2),
  2. leukotriene
  3. B4 (LTB4),
  4. IL-1,
  5. IL-6,
  6. tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and
  7. C-reactive protein,

which are implicated in various health conditions, have been shown to be increased with high omega-6 fatty acids but decreased with omega-3 fatty acids in the human body.

Dietary fatty acids have been identified as protective factors in coronary heart disease, and PUFA levels are known to play a critical role in

  • immune responses,
  • gene expression and
  • intercellular communications.

omega-3 fatty acids are known to be vital in

  • the prevention of fatal ventricular arrhythmias, and
  • are also known to reduce thrombus formation propensity by decreasing platelet aggregation, blood viscosity and fibrinogen levels

.Since omega-3 fatty acids are prevalent in the nervous system, it seems logical that a deficiency may result in neuronal problems, and this is indeed what has been identified and reported.

The main omega-3 fatty acids in the mammalian body are

  1. α-linolenic acid (ALA),
  2. docosahexenoic acid (DHA) and
  3. eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

In general, seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, more specifically DHA and EPA (Table 1). Thus far, there are nine separate epidemiological studies that suggest a possible link between

  • increased fish consumption and reduced risk of AD
  • and eight out of ten studies have reported a link between higher blood omega-3 levels

Table 1. Total percentage of omega-3 fatty acids in common foods and supplements.

Food/Supplement EPA DHA ALA Total %
Fish
SalmonSardine

Anchovy

Halibut

Herring

Mackerel

Tuna

Fresh Bluefin

XX

X

X

X

X

X

X

XX

X

X

X

X

X

X

>50%>50%

>50%

>50%

>50%

>50%

>50%

>50%

Oils/Supplements
Fish oil capsulesCod liver oils

Salmon oil

Sardine oil

XX

X

X

XX

X

X

>50%>50%

>50%

>50%

Black currant oilCanola oil Mustard seed oils

Soybean oil

Walnut oil

Wheat germ oil

XX

X

X

X

X

10%–50%10%–50%

10%–50%

10%–50%

10%–50%

10%–50%

Seeds and other foods
Flaxseeds/LinseedsSpinach

Wheat germ Human milk

Peanut butter

Soybeans

Olive oil

Walnuts

XX

X

X

X

X

X

X

>50%>50%

10%–50%

10%–50%

<10%

<10%

<10%

<10%

 

Table adopted from Maclean C.H. et al. [18].

In another study conducted with individuals of 65 years of age or older (n = 6158), it was found that

  • only high fish consumption, but
  • not dietary omega-3 acid intake,
  • had a protective effect on cognitive decline

In 2005, based on a meta-analysis of the available epidemiology and preclinical studies, clinical trials were conducted to assess the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive protection. Four of the trials completed have shown

a protective effect of omega-3 fatty acids only among those with mild cognitive impairment conditions.

A  trial of subjects with mild memory complaints demonstrated

  • an improvement with 900 mg of DHA.

We review key findings on

  • the effect of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA on zinc transporters and the
  • importance of free zinc to human neuronal cells.

DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in neural membranes, imparting appropriate

  • fluidity and other properties,

and is thus considered as the most important fatty acid in neuronal studies. DHA is well conserved throughout the mammalian species despite their dietary differences. It is mainly concentrated

  • in membrane phospholipids at synapses and
  • in retinal photoreceptors and
  • also in the testis and sperm.

In adult rats’ brain, DHA comprises approximately

  • 17% of the total fatty acid weight, and
  • in the retina it is as high as 33%.

DHA is believed to have played a major role in the evolution of the modern human –

  • in particular the well-developed brain.

Premature babies fed on DHA-rich formula show improvements in vocabulary and motor performance.

Analysis of human cadaver brains have shown that

  • people with AD have less DHA in their frontal lobe
  • and hippocampus compared with unaffected individuals

Furthermore, studies in mice have increased support for the

  • protective role of omega-3 fatty acids.

Mice administrated with a dietary intake of DHA showed

  • an increase in DHA levels in the hippocampus.

Errors in memory were decreased in these mice and they demonstrated

  • reduced peroxide and free radical levels,
  • suggesting a role in antioxidant defense.

Another study conducted with a Tg2576 mouse model of AD demonstrated that dietary

  • DHA supplementation had a protective effect against reduction in
  • drebrin (actin associated protein), elevated oxidation, and to some extent, apoptosis via
  • decreased caspase activity.

 

Zinc

Zinc is a trace element, which is indispensable for life, and it is the second most abundant trace element in the body. It is known to be related to

  • growth,
  • development,
  • differentiation,
  • immune response,
  • receptor activity,
  • DNA synthesis,
  • gene expression,
  • neuro-transmission,
  • enzymatic catalysis,
  • hormonal storage and release,
  • tissue repair,
  • memory,
  • the visual process

and many other cellular functions. Moreover, the indispensability of zinc to the body can be discussed in many other aspects,  as

  • a component of over 300 different enzymes
  • an integral component of a metallothioneins
  • a gene regulatory protein.

Approximately 3% of all proteins contain

  • zinc binding motifs .

The broad biological functionality of zinc is thought to be due to its stable chemical and physical properties. Zinc is considered to have three different functions in enzymes;

  1. catalytic,
  2. coactive and

Indeed, it is the only metal found in all six different subclasses

of enzymes. The essential nature of zinc to the human body can be clearly displayed by studying the wide range of pathological effects of zinc deficiency. Anorexia, embryonic and post-natal growth retardation, alopecia, skin lesions, difficulties in wound healing, increased hemorrhage tendency and severe reproductive abnormalities, emotional instability, irritability and depression are just some of the detrimental effects of zinc deficiency.

Proper development and function of the central nervous system (CNS) is highly dependent on zinc levels. In the mammalian organs, zinc is mainly concentrated in the brain at around 150 μm. However, free zinc in the mammalian brain is calculated to be around 10 to 20 nm and the rest exists in either protein-, enzyme- or nucleotide bound form. The brain and zinc relationship is thought to be mediated

  • through glutamate receptors, and
  • it inhibits excitatory and inhibitory receptors.

Vesicular localization of zinc in pre-synaptic terminals is a characteristic feature of brain-localized zinc, and

  • its release is dependent on neural activity.

Retardation of the growth and development of CNS tissues have been linked to low zinc levels. Peripheral neuropathy, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, anencephalus, epilepsy and Pick’s disease have been linked to zinc deficiency. However, the body cannot tolerate excessive amounts of zinc.

The relationship between zinc and neurodegeneration, specifically AD, has been interpreted in several ways. One study has proposed that β-amyloid has a greater propensity to

  • form insoluble amyloid in the presence of
  • high physiological levels of zinc.

Insoluble amyloid is thought to

  • aggregate to form plaques,

which is a main pathological feature of AD. Further studies have shown that

  • chelation of zinc ions can deform and disaggregate plaques.

In AD, the most prominent injuries are found in

  • hippocampal pyramidal neurons, acetylcholine-containing neurons in the basal forebrain, and in
  • somatostatin-containing neurons in the forebrain.

All of these neurons are known to favor

  • rapid and direct entry of zinc in high concentration
  • leaving neurons frequently exposed to high dosages of zinc.

This is thought to promote neuronal cell damage through oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. Excessive levels of zinc are also capable of

  • inhibiting Ca2+ and Na+ voltage gated channels
  • and up-regulating the cellular levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS).

High levels of zinc are found in Alzheimer’s brains indicating a possible zinc related neurodegeneration. A study conducted with mouse neuronal cells has shown that even a 24-h exposure to high levels of zinc (40 μm) is sufficient to degenerate cells.

If the human diet is deficient in zinc, the body

  • efficiently conserves zinc at the tissue level by compensating other cellular mechanisms

to delay the dietary deficiency effects of zinc. These include reduction of cellular growth rate and zinc excretion levels, and

  • redistribution of available zinc to more zinc dependent cells or organs.

A novel method of measuring metallothionein (MT) levels was introduced as a biomarker for the

  • assessment of the zinc status of individuals and populations.

In humans, erythrocyte metallothionein (E-MT) levels may be considered as an indicator of zinc depletion and repletion, as E-MT levels are sensitive to dietary zinc intake. It should be noted here that MT plays an important role in zinc homeostasis by acting

  • as a target for zinc ion binding and thus
  • assisting in the trafficking of zinc ions through the cell,
  • which may be similar to that of zinc transporters

Zinc Transporters

Deficient or excess amounts of zinc in the body can be catastrophic to the integrity of cellular biochemical and biological systems. The gastrointestinal system controls the absorption, excretion and the distribution of zinc, although the hydrophilic and high-charge molecular characteristics of zinc are not favorable for passive diffusion across the cell membranes. Zinc movement is known to occur

  • via intermembrane proteins and zinc transporter (ZnT) proteins

These transporters are mainly categorized under two metal transporter families; Zip (ZRT, IRT like proteins) and CDF/ZnT (Cation Diffusion Facilitator), also known as SLC (Solute Linked Carrier) gene families: Zip (SLC-39) and ZnT (SLC-30). More than 20 zinc transporters have been identified and characterized over the last two decades (14 Zips and 8 ZnTs).

Members of the SLC39 family have been identified as the putative facilitators of zinc influx into the cytosol, either from the extracellular environment or from intracellular compartments (Figure 1).

The identification of this transporter family was a result of gene sequencing of known Zip1 protein transporters in plants, yeast and human cells. In contrast to the SLC39 family, the SLC30 family facilitates the opposite process, namely zinc efflux from the cytosol to the extracellular environment or into luminal compartments such as secretory granules, endosomes and synaptic vesicles; thus decreasing intracellular zinc availability (Figure 1). ZnT3 is the most important in the brain where

  • it is responsible for the transport of zinc into the synaptic vesicles of
  • glutamatergic neurons in the hippocampus and neocortex,

 

Figure 1. Putative cellular localization of some of the different human zinc transporters (i.e., Zip1- Zip4 and ZnT1- ZnT7). Arrows indicate the direction of zinc passage by the appropriate putative zinc transporters in a generalized human cell. Although there are fourteen Zips and eight ZnTs known so far, only the main zinc transporters are illustrated in this figure for clarity and brevity.

Figure 1: Subcellular localization and direction of transport of the zinc transporter families, ZnT and ZIP. Arrows show the direction of zinc mobilization for the ZnT (green) and ZIP (red) proteins. A net gain in cytosolic zinc is achieved by the transportation of zinc from the extracellular region and organelles such as the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi apparatus by the ZIP transporters. Cytosolic zinc is mobilized into early secretory compartments such as the ER and Golgi apparatus by the ZnT transporters. Figures were produced using Servier Medical Art, http://www.servier.com/.   http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnme/2012/173712.fig.001.jpg

zinc transporters

zinc transporters

 

 

Early zinc signaling (EZS) and late zinc signaling (LZS)

Early zinc signaling (EZS) and late zinc signaling (LZS)

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnme/2012/floats/173712/thumbnails/173712.fig.002_th.jpg

 

Figure 2: Early zinc signaling (EZS) and late zinc signaling (LZS). EZS involves transcription-independent mechanisms where an extracellular stimulus directly induces an increase in zinc levels within several minutes by releasing zinc from intracellular stores (e.g., endoplasmic reticulum). LSZ is induced several hours after an external stimulus and is dependent on transcriptional changes in zinc transporter expression. Components of this figure were produced using Servier Medical Art, http://www.servier.com/ and adapted from Fukada et al. [30].

 

DHA and Zinc Homeostasis

Many studies have identified possible associations between DHA levels, zinc homeostasis, neuroprotection and neurodegeneration. Dietary DHA deficiency resulted in

  • increased zinc levels in the hippocampus and
  • elevated expression of the putative zinc transporter, ZnT3, in the rat brain.

Altered zinc metabolism in neuronal cells has been linked to neurodegenerative conditions such as AD. A study conducted with transgenic mice has shown a significant link between ZnT3 transporter levels and cerebral amyloid plaque pathology. When the ZnT3 transporter was silenced in transgenic mice expressing cerebral amyloid plaque pathology,

  • a significant reduction in plaque load
  • and the presence of insoluble amyloid were observed.

In addition to the decrease in plaque load, ZnT3 silenced mice also exhibited a significant

  • reduction in free zinc availability in the hippocampus
  • and cerebral cortex.

Collectively, the findings from this study are very interesting and indicate a clear connection between

  • zinc availability and amyloid plaque formation,

thus indicating a possible link to AD.

DHA supplementation has also been reported to limit the following:

  1. amyloid presence,
  2. synaptic marker loss,
  3. hyper-phosphorylation of Tau,
  4. oxidative damage and
  5. cognitive deficits in transgenic mouse model of AD.

In addition, studies by Stoltenberg, Flinn and colleagues report on the modulation of zinc and the effect in transgenic mouse models of AD. Given that all of these are classic pathological features of AD, and considering the limiting nature of DHA in these processes, it can be argued that DHA is a key candidate in preventing or even curing this debilitating disease.

In order to better understand the possible links and pathways of zinc and DHA with neurodegeneration, we designed a study that incorporates all three of these aspects, to study their effects at the cellular level. In this study, we were able to demonstrate a possible link between omega-3 fatty acid (DHA) concentration, zinc availability and zinc transporter expression levels in cultured human neuronal cells.

When treated with DHA over 48 h, ZnT3 levels were markedly reduced in the human neuroblastoma M17 cell line. Moreover, in the same study, we were able to propose a possible

  • neuroprotective mechanism of DHA,

which we believe is exerted through

  • a reduction in cellular zinc levels (through altering zinc transporter expression levels)
  • that in turn inhibits apoptosis.

DHA supplemented M17 cells also showed a marked depletion of zinc uptake (up to 30%), and

  • free zinc levels in the cytosol were significantly low compared to the control

This reduction in free zinc availability was specific to DHA; cells treated with EPA had no significant change in free zinc levels (unpublished data). Moreover, DHA-repleted cells had

  • low levels of active caspase-3 and
  • high Bcl-2 levels compared to the control treatment.

These findings are consistent with previous published data and further strengthen the possible

  • correlation between zinc, DHA and neurodegeneration.

On the other hand, recent studies using ZnT3 knockout (ZnT3KO) mice have shown the importance of

  • ZnT3 in memory and AD pathology.

For example, Sindreu and colleagues have used ZnT3KO mice to establish the important role of

  • ZnT3 in zinc homeostasis that modulates presynaptic MAPK signaling
  • required for hippocampus-dependent memory

Results from these studies indicate a possible zinc-transporter-expression-level-dependent mechanism for DHA neuroprotection.

Collectively from these studies, the following possible mechanism can be proposed (Figure 2).

possible benefits of DHA in neuroprotection through reduction of ZnT3 transporter

possible benefits of DHA in neuroprotection through reduction of ZnT3 transporter

 

Figure 2. Proposed neuroprotection mechanism of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in reference to synaptic zinc. Schematic diagram showing possible benefits of DHA in neuroprotection through reduction of ZnT3 transporter expression levels in human neuronal cells, which results in a reduction of zinc flux and thus lowering zinc concentrations in neuronal synaptic vesicles, and therefore contributing to a lower incidence of neurodegenerative diseases (ND), such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

More recent data from our research group have also shown a link between the expression levels of histone H3 and H4 proteins in human neuronal cells in relation to DHA and zinc. Following DHA treatment, both H3 and H4 levels were up-regulated. In contrast, zinc treatment resulted in a down-regulation of histone levels. Both zinc and DHA have shown opposing effects on histone post-translational modifications, indicating a possible distinctive epigenetic pattern. Upon treatment with zinc, M17 cells displayed an increase in histone deacetylase (HDACs) and a reduction in histone acetylation. Conversely, with DHA treatment, HDAC levels were significantly reduced and the acetylation of histones was up-regulated. These findings also support a possible interaction between DHA and zinc availability.

Conclusions

It is possible to safely claim that there is more than one potential pathway by which DHA and zinc interact at a cellular level, at least in cultured human neuronal cells. Significance and importance of both DHA and zinc in neuronal survival is attested by the presence of these multiple mechanisms.
Most of these reported studies were conducted using human neuroblastoma cells, or similar cell types, due to the lack of live mature human neuronal cells. Thus, the results may differ from results achieved under actual human physiological conditions due to the structural and functional differences between these cells and mature human neurons. Therefore, an alternative approach that can mimic the human neuronal cells more effectively would be advantageous.

Sphingosine-1-phosphate signaling as a therapeutic target          

E Giannoudaki, DJ Swan, JA Kirby, S Ali

Applied Immunobiology and Transplantation Research Group, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Cell Health and Cytoskeleton 2012; 4: 63–72

S1P is a 379Da member of the lysophospholipid family. It is the direct metabolite of sphingosine through the action of two sphingosine kinases, SphK1 and SphK2. The main metabolic pathway starts with the hydrolysis of sphingomyelin, a membrane sphingolipid, into ceramide by the enzyme sphingomyelinase and the subsequent production of sphingosine by ceramidase (Figure 1). Ceramide can also be produced de novo in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) from serine and palmitoyl coenzyme A through multiple intermediates. S1P production is regulated by various S1P-specific and general lipid phosphatases, as well as S1P lyase, which irreversibly degrades S1P into phosphoethanolamine and hexadecanal. The balance between intracellular S1P and its metabolite ceramide can determine cellular fate. Ceramide promotes apoptosis, while S1P suppresses cell death and promotes cell survival. This creates an S1P ceramide “rheostat” inside the cells. S1P lyase expression in tissue is higher than it is in erythrocytes and platelets, the main “suppliers” of S1P in blood. This causes a tissue–blood gradient of S1P, which is important in many S1P-mediated responses, like the lymphocyte egress from lymphoid organs.

S1P signaling overview

S1P is produced inside cells; however, it can also be found extracellularly, in a variety of different tissues. It is abundant in the blood, at concentrations of 0.4–1.5 μM, where it is mainly secreted by erythrocytes and platelets. Blood S1P can be found separately, but mainly it exists in complexes with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (∼60%).  Many of the cardioprotective effects of HDL are hypothesized to involve S1P. Before 1996, S1P was thought to act mainly intracellularly as a second messenger. However, the identification of several GPCRs that bind S1P led to the initiation of many studies on

  • extracellular S1P signaling through those receptors.

There are five receptors that have been identified currently. These can be coupled with different G-proteins. Assuming that each receptor coupling with a G protein has a slightly different function, one can recognize the complexity of S1P receptor signaling.

S1P as a second messenger

S1P is involved in many cellular processes through its GPCR signaling; studies demonstrate that S1P also acts at an intracellular level. Intracellular S1P plays a role in maintaining the balance of cell survival signal toward apoptotic signals, creating a

  • cell “rheostat” between S1P and its precursor ceramide.

Important evidence that S1P can act intracellularly as a second messenger came from yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) cells. Yeast cells do not express any S1P receptors, although they can be affected by S1P during heat-shock responses. Similarly, Arabidopsis has only one GPCR-like protein, termed “GCR1,” which does not bind S1P, although S1P regulates stomata closure during drought.

Sphingosine-1-phosphate

Sphingosine-1-phosphate

In mammals, the sphingosine kinases have been found to localize in different cell compartments, being responsible for the accumulation of S1P in those compartments to give intracellular signals. In mitochondria, for instance,

  • S1P was recently found to interact with prohibitin 2,

a conserved protein that maintains mitochondria assembly and function. According to the same study,

SphK2 is the major producer of S1P in mitochondria and the knockout of its gene can cause

  • disruption of mitochondrial respiration and cytochrome c oxidase function.

SphK2 is also present in the nucleus of many cells and has been implicated to cause cell cycle arrest, and it causes S1P accumulation in the nucleus. It seems that nuclear S1P is affiliated with the histone deacetylases HDAC1 and HDAC2,

  • inhibiting their activity, thus having an indirect effect in epigenetic regulation of gene expression.

In the ER, SphK2 has been identified to translocate during stress, and promote apoptosis. It seems that S1P has specific targets in the ER that cause apoptosis, probably through calcium mobilization signals.

Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) is a small bioactive lipid molecule that is involved in several processes both intracellularly and extracellularly. It acts intracellularly

  • to promote the survival and growth of the cell,

through its interaction with molecules in different compartments of the cell.

It can also exist at high concentrations extracellularly, in the blood plasma and lymph. This causes an S1P gradient important for cell migration. S1P signals through five G protein-coupled receptors, S1PR1–S1PR5, whose expression varies in different types of cells and tissue. S1P signaling can be involved in physiological and pathophysiological conditions of the cardiovascular, nervous, and immune systems and diseases such as ischemia/reperfusion injury, autoimmunity, and cancer. In this review, we discuss how it can be used to discover novel therapeutic targets.

The involvement of S1P signaling in disease

In a mouse model of myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI), S1P and its carrier, HDL, can help protect myocardial tissue and decrease the infarct size. It seems they reduce cardiomyocyte apoptosis and neutrophil recruitment to the ischemic tissue and may decrease leukocyte adhesion to the endothelium. This effect appears to be S1PR3 mediated, since in S1PR3 knockout mice it is alleviated.

Ischemia activates SphK1, which is then translocated to the plasma membrane. This leads to an increase of intracellular S1P, helping to promote cardiomyocyte survival against apoptosis, induced by ceramide. SphK1 knockout mice cannot be preconditioned against IRI, whereas SphK1 gene induction in the heart protects it from IRI. Interestingly, a recent study shows SphK2 may also play a role, since its knockout reduces the cardioprotective effects of preconditioning. Further, administration of S1P or sphingosine during reperfusion results in better recovery and attenuation of damage to cardiomyocytes. As with preconditioning, SphK1 deficiency also affects post-conditioning of mouse hearts after ischemia reperfusion (IR).

S1P does not only protect the heart from IRI. During intestinal IR, multiple organs can be damaged, including the lungs. S1P treatment of mice during intestinal IR seems to have a protective effect on lung injury, probably due to suppression of iNOS-induced nitric oxide generation. In renal IRI, SphK1 seems to be important, since its deficiency increased the damage in kidney tissue, whereas the lentiviral overexpression of the SphK1 gene protected from injury. Another study suggests that, after IRI, apoptotic renal cells release S1P, which recruits macrophages through S1PR3 activation and might contribute to kidney regeneration and restoration of renal epithelium. However, SphK2 is negatively implicated in hepatic IRI, its inhibition helping protect hepatocytes and restoring mitochondrial function.

Further studies are implicating S1P signaling or sphingosine kinases in several kinds of cancer as well as autoimmune diseases.

Figure 2 FTY720-P causes retention of T cells in the lymph nodes.

Notes: C57BL/6 mice were injected with BALB/c splenocytes in the footpad to create an allogenic response then treated with FTY720-P or vehicle every day on days 2 to 5. On day 6, the popliteal lymph nodes were removed. Popliteal node-derived cells were mixed with BALB/c splenocytes in interferon gamma (IFN-γ) cultured enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot reactions. Bars represent the mean number of IFN-γ spot-forming cells per 1000 popliteal node-derived cells, from six mice treated with vehicle and seven with FTY720-P. **P , 0.01.  (not shown)

Fingolimod (INN, trade name Gilenya, Novartis) is an immunomodulating drug, approved for treating multiple sclerosis. It has reduced the rate of relapses in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis by over half. Fingolimod is a sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor modulator, which sequesters lymphocytes in lymph nodes, preventing them from contributing to an autoimmune reaction.

Fingolimod3Dan

Fingolimod3Dan

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/48/Fingolimod3Dan.gif/200px-Fingolimod3Dan.gif

The S1P antagonist FTY720 has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to be used as a drug against multiple sclerosis (MS). FTY720 is in fact a prodrug, since it is phosphorylated in vivo by SphK2 into FTY720-P, an S1P structural analog, which can activate S1PR1, 3, 4, and 5. FTY720-P binding to S1PR1 causes internalization of the receptor, as does S1P – but instead of recycling it back to the cell surface, it promotes its ubiquitination and degradation at the proteasome. This has a direct effect on lymphocyte trafficking through the lymph nodes, since it relies on S1PR1 signaling and S1P gradient (Figure 2). In MS, it stops migrating lymphocytes into the brain, but it may also have direct effects on the CNS through neuroprotection. FTY720 can pass the blood–brain barrier and it could be phosphorylated by local sphingosine kinases to act through S1PR1 and S1PR3 receptors that are mainly expressed in the CNS. In MS lesions, astrocytes upregulate those two receptors and it has been shown that FTY720-P treatment in vitro inhibits astrocyte production of inflammatory cytokines. A recent study confirms the importance of S1PR3 signaling on activated astrocytes, as well as SphK1, that are upregulated and promote the secretion of the potentially neuroprotective cytokine CXCL-1.

There are several studies implicating the intracellular S1P ceramide rheostat to cancer cell survival or apoptosis and resistance to chemotherapy or irradiation in vitro. Studies with SphK1 inhibition in pancreatic, prostate cancers, and leukemia, show increased ceramide/S1P ratio and induction of apoptosis. However, S1P receptor signaling plays conflicting roles in cancer cell migration and metastasis.

Modulation of S1P signaling: therapeutic potential

S1P signaling can be involved in many pathophysiological conditions. This means that we could look for therapeutic targets in all the molecules taking part in S1P signaling and production, most importantly the S1P receptors and the sphingosine kinases. S1P agonists and antagonists could also be used to modulate S1P signaling during pathological conditions.

S1P can have direct effects on the cardiovascular system. During IRI, intracellular S1P can protect the cardiomyocytes and promote their survival. Pre- or post-conditioning of the heart with S1P could be used as a treatment, but upregulation of sphingosine kinases could also increase intracellular S1P bioavailability. S1P could also have effects on endothelial cells and neutrophil trafficking. Vascular endothelial cells mainly express S1PR1 and S1PR3; only a few types express S1PR2. S1PR1 and S1PR3 activation on these cells has been shown to enhance their chemotactic migration, probably through direct phosphorylation of S1PR1 by Akt, in a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and Rac1-dependent signaling pathway. Moreover, it stimulates endothelial cell proliferation through an ERK pathway. S1PR2 activation, however, inhibits endothelial cell migration, morphogenesis, and angiogenesis, most likely through Rho-dependent inhibition of Rac signaling pathway, as Inoki et al showed in mouse cells with the use of S1PR1 and S1PR3 specific antagonists.

Regarding permeability of the vascular endothelium and endothelial barrier integrity, S1P receptors can have different effects. S1PR1 activation enhances endothelial barrier integrity by stimulation of cellular adhesion and upregulation of adhesion molecules. However, S1PR2 and S1PR3 have been shown to have barrier-disrupting effects in vitro, and vascular permeability increasing effects in vivo. All the effects S1P can have on vascular endothelium and smooth muscle cells suggest that activation of S1PR2, not S1PR1 and S1PR3, signaling, perhaps with the use of S1PR2 specific agonists, could be used therapeutically to inhibit angiogenesis and disrupt vasculature, suppressing tumor growth and progression.

An important aspect of S1P signaling that is being already therapeutically targeted, but could be further investigated, is immune cell trafficking. Attempts have already been made to regulate lymphocyte cell migration with the use of the drug FTY720, whose phosphorylated form can inhibit the cells S1PR1-dependent egress from the lymph nodes, causing lymphopenia. FTY720 is used as an immunosuppressant for MS but is also being investigated for other autoimmune conditions and for transplantation. Unfortunately, Phase II and III clinical trials for the prevention of kidney graft rejection have not shown an advantage over standard therapies. Moreover, FTY720 can have some adverse cardiac effects, such as bradycardia. However, there are other S1PR1 antagonists that could be considered instead, including KRP-203, AUY954, and SEW2871. KRP-203 in particular has been shown to prolong rat skin and heart allograft survival and attenuate chronic rejection without causing bradycardia, especially when combined with other immunomodulators.

There are studies that argue S1P pretreatment has a negative effect on neutrophil chemotaxis toward the chemokine CXCL-8 (interleukin-8) or the potent chemoattractant formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine. S1P pretreatment might also inhibit trans-endothelial migration of neutrophils, without affecting their adhesion to the endothelium. S1P effects on neutrophil migration toward CXCL-8 might be the result of S1PRs cross-linking with the CXCL-8 receptors in neutrophils, CXCR-1 and CXCR-2. Indeed, there is evidence suggesting S1PR4 and S1PR3 form heterodimers with CXCR-1 in neutrophils. Another indication that S1P plays a role in neutrophil trafficking is a recent paper on S1P lyase deficiency, a deficiency that impairs neutrophil migration from blood to tissue in knockout mice.

S1P lyase and S1PRs in neutrophils may be new therapeutic targets against IRI and inflammatory conditions in general. Consistent with these results, another study has shown that inhibition of S1P lyase can have a protective effect on the heart after IRI and this effect is alleviated when pretreated with an S1PR1 and S1PR3 antagonist. Inhibition was achieved with a US Food and Drug Administration-approved food additive, 2-acetyl-4-tetrahydroxybutylimidazole, providing a possible new drug perspective. Another S1P lyase inhibitor, LX2931, a synthetic analog of 2-acetyl-4-tetrahydroxybutylimidazole, has been shown to cause peripheral lymphopenia when administered in mice, providing a potential treatment for autoimmune diseases and prevention of graft rejection in transplantation. This molecule is currently under Phase II clinical trials in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

S1P signaling research has the potential to discover novel therapeutic targets. S1P signaling is involved in many physiological and pathological processes. However, the complexity of S1P signaling makes it necessary to consider every possible pathway, either through its GPCRs, or intracellularly, with S1P as a second messenger. Where the activation of one S1P receptor may lead to the desired outcome, the simultaneous activation of another S1P receptor may lead to the opposite outcome. Thus, if we are to target a specific signaling pathway, we might need specific agonists for S1P receptors to activate one S1P receptor pathway, while, at the same time, we might need to inhibit another through S1P receptor antagonists.

Evidence of sphingolipid signaling in cancer

Biologically active lipids are important cellular signaling molecules and play a role in cell communication and cancer cell proliferation, and cancer stem cell biology.  A recent study in ovarian cancer cell lines shows that exogenous sphingosine 1 phosphate (SIP1) or overexpression of the sphingosine kinase (SPHK1) increases ovarian cancer cell proliferation, invasion and contributes to cancer stem cell like phenotype.  The diabetes drug metformin was shown to be an inhibitor of SPHK1 and reduce ovarian cancer tumor growth.

 2019 Apr;17(4):870-881. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-18-0409. Epub 2019 Jan 17.

SPHK1 Is a Novel Target of Metformin in Ovarian Cancer.

Abstract

The role of phospholipid signaling in ovarian cancer is poorly understood. Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is a bioactive metabolite of sphingosine that has been associated with tumor progression through enhanced cell proliferation and motility. Similarly, sphingosine kinases (SPHK), which catalyze the formation of S1P and thus regulate the sphingolipid rheostat, have been reported to promote tumor growth in a variety of cancers. The findings reported here show that exogenous S1P or overexpression of SPHK1 increased proliferation, migration, invasion, and stem-like phenotypes in ovarian cancer cell lines. Likewise, overexpression of SPHK1 markedly enhanced tumor growth in a xenograft model of ovarian cancer, which was associated with elevation of key markers of proliferation and stemness. The diabetes drug, metformin, has been shown to have anticancer effects. Here, we found that ovarian cancer patients taking metformin had significantly reduced serum S1P levels, a finding that was recapitulated when ovarian cancer cells were treated with metformin and analyzed by lipidomics. These findings suggested that in cancer the sphingolipid rheostat may be a novel metabolic target of metformin. In support of this, metformin blocked hypoxia-induced SPHK1, which was associated with inhibited nuclear translocation and transcriptional activity of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF1α and HIF2α). Further, ovarian cancer cells with high SPHK1 were found to be highly sensitive to the cytotoxic effects of metformin, whereas ovarian cancer cells with low SPHK1 were resistant. Together, the findings reported here show that hypoxia-induced SPHK1 expression and downstream S1P signaling promote ovarian cancer progression and that tumors with high expression of SPHK1 or S1P levels might have increased sensitivity to the cytotoxic effects of metformin. IMPLICATIONS: Metformin targets sphingolipid metabolism through inhibiting SPHK1, thereby impeding ovarian cancer cell migration, proliferation, and self-renewal.

Nrf2:INrf2(Keap1) Signaling in Oxidative Stress

James W. Kaspar, Suresh K. Niture, and Anil K. Jaiswal*

Department of Pharmacology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Free Radic Biol Med. 2009 Nov 1; 47(9): 1304–1309. http://dx.doi.org:/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2009.07.035

Nrf2:INrf2(Keap1) are cellular sensors of chemical and radiation induced oxidative and electrophilic stress. Nrf2 is a nuclear transcription factor that

  • controls the expression and coordinated induction of a battery of defensive genes encoding detoxifying enzymes and antioxidant proteins.

This is a mechanism of critical importance for cellular protection and cell survival. Nrf2 is retained in the cytoplasm by an inhibitor INrf2. INrf2 functions as an adapter for

  • Cul3/Rbx1 mediated degradation of Nrf2.
  • In response to oxidative/electrophilic stress,
  • Nrf2 is switched on and then off by distinct

early and delayed mechanisms.

Oxidative/electrophilic modification of INrf2cysteine151 and/or PKC phosphorylation of Nrf2serine40 results in the escape or release of Nrf2 from INrf2. Nrf2 is stabilized and translocates to the nucleus, forms heterodimers with unknown proteins, and binds antioxidant response element (ARE) that leads to coordinated activation of gene expression. It takes less than fifteen minutes from the time of exposure

  • to switch on nuclear import of Nrf2.

This is followed by activation of a delayed mechanism that controls

  • switching off of Nrf2 activation of gene expression.

GSK3β phosphorylates Fyn at unknown threonine residue(s) leading to

  • nuclear localization of Fyn.

Fyn phosphorylates Nrf2tyrosine568 resulting in

  • nuclear export of Nrf2,
  • binding with INrf2 and
  • degradation of Nrf2.

The switching on and off of Nrf2 protects cells against free radical damage, prevents apoptosis and promotes cell survival.

NPRA-mediated suppression of AngII-induced ROS production contributes to the antiproliferative effects of B-type natriuretic peptide in VSMC

Pan Gao, De-Hui Qian, Wei Li,  Lan Huang
Mol Cell Biochem (2009) 324:165–172

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11010-008-9995-y

Excessive proliferation of vascular smooth cells (VSMCs) plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of diverse vascular disorders, and inhibition of VSMCs proliferation has been proved to be beneficial to these diseases.

In this study, we investigated the antiproliferative effect of

  • B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP), a natriuretic peptide with potent antioxidant capacity,

on rat aortic VSMCs, and the possible mechanisms involved. The results indicate that

  • BNP potently inhibited Angiotensin II (AngII)-induced VSMCs proliferation,

as evaluated by [3H]-thymidine incorporation assay. Consistently, BNP significantly decreased

  • AngII-induced intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS)
  • and NAD(P)H oxidase activity.

8-Br-cGMP, a cGMP analog,

  • mimicked these effects.

To confirm its mechanism, siRNA of natriuretic peptide receptor-A(NRPA) strategy technology was used

  • to block cGMP production in VSMCs, and
  • siNPRA attenuated the inhibitory effects of BNP in VSMCs.

Taken together, these results indicate that

  • BNP was capable of inhibiting VSMCs proliferation by
  • NPRA/cGMP pathway,

which might be associated with

  • the suppression of ROS production.

These results might be related, at least partly, to the anti-oxidant property of BNP.

Cellular prion protein is required for neuritogenesis: fine-tuning of multiple signaling pathways involved in focal adhesions and actin cytoskeleton dynamics

A Alleaume-Butaux, C Dakowski, M Pietri, S Mouillet-Richard, Jean-Marie Launay, O Kellermann, B Schneider

1INSERM, UMR-S 747, 2Paris Descartes University, Sorbonne Paris, 3Public Hospital of Paris, Department of Biochemistry, Paris, France; 4Pharma Research Department, Hoffmann La Roche Ltd, Basel, Switzerland

Cell Health and Cytoskeleton 2013; 5: 1–12

Neuritogenesis is a complex morphological phenomena accompanying neuronal differentiation. Neuritogenesis relies on the initial breakage of the rather spherical symmetry of neuroblasts and the formation of buds emerging from the postmitotic neuronal soma. Buds then evolve into neurites, which later convert into an axon or dendrites. At the distal tip of neurites, the growth cone integrates extracellular signals and guides the neurite to its target. The acquisition of neuronal polarity depends on deep modifications of the neuroblast cytoskeleton characterized by the remodeling and activation of focal adhesions (FAs) and localized destabilization of the actin network in the neuronal sphere.Actin instability in unpolarized neurons allows neurite sprouting, ie, the protrusion of microtubules, and subsequent neurite outgrowth. Once the neurite is formed, actin microfilaments recover their stability and exert a sheathed action on neurites, a dynamic process necessary for the maintenance and integrity of neurites.

A combination of extrinsic and intrinsic cues pilots the architectural and functional changes in FAs and the actin network along neuritogenesis. This process includes neurotrophic factors (nerve growth factor, brain derived neurotrophic factor, neurotrophin, ciliary neurotrophic factor, glial derived neurotrophic factor) and their receptors, protein components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) (laminin, vitronectin, fibronectin), plasma membrane integrins and neural cell adhesion molecules (NCAM), and intracellular molecular protagonists such as small G proteins (RhoA, Rac, Cdc42) and their downstream targets.

Neuritogenesis is a dynamic phenomenon associated with neuronal differentiation that allows a rather spherical neuronal stem cell to develop dendrites and axon, a prerequisite for the integration and transmission of signals. The acquisition of neuronal polarity occurs in three steps:

(1) neurite sprouting, which consists of the formation of buds emerging from the postmitotic neuronal soma;

(2) neurite outgrowth, which represents the conversion of buds into neurites, their elongation and evolution into axon or dendrites; and

(3) the stability and plasticity of neuronal polarity.

In neuronal stem cells, remodeling and activation of focal adhesions (FAs) associated with deep modifications of the actin cytoskeleton is a prerequisite for neurite sprouting and subsequent neurite outgrowth. A multiple set of growth factors and interactors located in the extracellular matrix and the plasma membrane orchestrate neuritogenesis

  • by acting on intracellular signaling effectors,
  • notably small G proteins such as RhoA, Rac, and Cdc42,
  • which are involved in actin turnover and the dynamics of FAs.

The cellular prion protein (PrPC), a glycosylphosphatidylinositol

  • (GPI)-anchored membrane protein

mainly known for its role in a group of fatal

  • neurodegenerative diseases,

has emerged as a central player in neuritogenesis.

Here, we review the contribution of PrPC to neuronal polarization and detail the current knowledge on the

  • signaling pathways fine-tuned by PrPC
  • to promote neurite sprouting, outgrowth, and maintenance.

We emphasize that PrPC-dependent neurite sprouting is a process in which PrPC

  • governs the dynamics of FAs and the actin cytoskeleton
  • via β1 integrin signaling.

The presence of PrPC is necessary to render neuronal stem cells

  • competent to respond to neuronal inducers and
  • to develop neurites.

In differentiating neurons, PrPC exerts

  • a facilitator role towards neurite elongation.

This function relies on the interaction of PrPC with a set of diverse partners such as

  1. elements of the extracellular matrix,
  2. plasma membrane receptors,
  3. adhesion molecules, and
  4. soluble factors that control actin cytoskeleton turnover through Rho-GTPase signaling.

Once neurons have reached their terminal stage of differentiation and acquired their polarized morphology, PrPC also

  • takes part in the maintenance of neurites.

By acting on tissue nonspecific alkaline phosphatase, or

  • matrix metalloproteinase type 9,

PrPC stabilizes interactions between

  • neurites and the extracellular matrix.

Keywords: prion, neuronal differentiation

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