Posts Tagged ‘protein signals’

Summary of Signaling and Signaling Pathways

Summary of Signaling and Signaling Pathways

Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

In the imtroduction to this series of discussions I pointed out JEDS Rosalino’s observation about the construction of a complex molecule of acetyl coenzyme A, and the amount of genetic coding that had to go into it.  Furthermore, he observes –  Millions of years later, or as soon as, the information of interaction leading to activity and regulation could be found in RNA, proteins like reverse transcriptase move this information to a more stable form (DNA). In this way it is easier to understand the use of CoA to make two carbon molecules more reactive.



In the tutorial that follows we find support for the view that mechanisms and examples from the current literature, which give insight into the developments in cell metabolism, are achieving a separation from inconsistent views introduced by the classical model of molecular biology and genomics, toward a more functional cellular dynamics that is not dependent on the classic view.  The classical view fits a rigid framework that is to genomics and metabolomics as Mendelian genetics if to multidimentional, multifactorial genetics.  The inherent difficulty lies in two places:

  1. Interactions between differently weighted determinants
  2. A large part of the genome is concerned with regulatory function, not expression of the code

The goal of the tutorial was to achieve an understanding of how cell signaling occurs in a cell.  Completion of the tutorial would provide

  1. a basic understanding signal transduction and
  2. the role of phosphorylation in signal transduction.
Regulation of the integrity of endothelial cell–cell contacts by phosphorylation of VE-cadherin

Regulation of the integrity of endothelial cell–cell contacts by phosphorylation of VE-cadherin

In addition – detailed knowledge of –

  1. the role of Tyrosine kinases and
  2. G protein-coupled receptors in cell signaling.




protein kinase

protein kinase

We are constantly receiving and interpreting signals from our environment, which can come

  • in the form of light, heat, odors, touch or sound.

The cells of our bodies are also

  • constantly receiving signals from other cells.

These signals are important to

  • keep cells alive and functioning as well as
  • to stimulate important events such as
  • cell division and differentiation.

Signals are most often chemicals that can be found

  • in the extracellular fluid around cells.

These chemicals can come

  • from distant locations in the body (endocrine signaling by hormones), from
  • nearby cells (paracrine signaling) or can even
  • be secreted by the same cell (autocrine signaling).

Notch-mediated juxtacrine signal between adjacent cells. 220px-Notchccr

Signaling molecules may trigger any number of cellular responses, including

  • changing the metabolism of the cell receiving the signal or
  • result in a change in gene expression (transcription) within the nucleus of the cell or both.
controlling the output of ribosomes.

controlling the output of ribosomes.

To which I would now add..

  • result in either an inhibitory or a stimulatory effect

The three stages of cell signaling are:

Cell signaling can be divided into 3 stages:

Reception: A cell detects a signaling molecule from the outside of the cell.

Transduction: When the signaling molecule binds the receptor it changes the receptor protein in some way. This change initiates the process of transduction. Signal transduction is usually a pathway of several steps. Each relay molecule in the signal transduction pathway changes the next molecule in the pathway.

Response: Finally, the signal triggers a specific cellular response.

signal transduction

signal transduction

The initiation is depicted as follows:

Signal Transduction – ligand binds to surface receptor

Membrane receptors function by binding the signal molecule (ligand) and causing the production of a second signal (also known as a second messenger) that then causes a cellular response. These types of receptors transmit information from the extracellular environment to the inside of the cell.

  • by changing shape or
  • by joining with another protein
  • once a specific ligand binds to it.

Examples of membrane receptors include

  • G Protein-Coupled Receptors and
Understanding these receptors and identifying their ligands and the resulting signal transduction pathways represent a major conceptual advance.

Understanding these receptors and identifying their ligands and the resulting signal transduction pathways represent a major conceptual advance.

  • Receptor Tyrosine Kinases.
intracellular signaling

intracellular signaling

Intracellular receptors are found inside the cell, either in the cytopolasm or in the nucleus of the target cell (the cell receiving the signal).

Note that though change in gene expression is stated, the change in gene expression does not here imply a change in the genetic information – such as – mutation.  That does not have to be the case in the normal homeostatic case.

This point is the differentiating case between what JEDS Roselino has referred as

  1. a fast, adaptive reaction, that is the feature of protein molecules, and distinguishes this interaction from
  2. a one-to-one transcription of the genetic code.

The rate of transcription can be controlled, or it can be blocked.  This is in large part in response to the metabolites in the immediate interstitium.

This might only be

  • a change in the rate of a transcription or a suppression of expression through RNA.
  • Or through a conformational change in an enzyme
 Swinging domains in HECT E3 enzymes

Swinging domains in HECT E3 enzymes

Since signaling systems need to be

  • responsive to small concentrations of chemical signals and act quickly,
  • cells often use a multi-step pathway that transmits the signal quickly,
  • while amplifying the signal to numerous molecules at each step.

Signal transduction pathways are shown (simplified):

Signal Transduction

Signal Transduction

Signal transduction occurs when an

  1. extracellular signaling molecule activates a specific receptor located on the cell surface or inside the cell.
  2. In turn, this receptor triggers a biochemical chain of events inside the cell, creating a response.
  3. Depending on the cell, the response alters the cell’s metabolism, shape, gene expression, or ability to divide.
  4. The signal can be amplified at any step. Thus, one signaling molecule can cause many responses.

In 1970, Martin Rodbell examined the effects of glucagon on a rat’s liver cell membrane receptor. He noted that guanosine triphosphate disassociated glucagon from this receptor and stimulated the G-protein, which strongly influenced the cell’s metabolism. Thus, he deduced that the G-protein is a transducer that accepts glucagon molecules and affects the cell. For this, he shared the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Alfred G. Gilman.

Guanosine monophosphate structure

Guanosine monophosphate structure

In 2007, a total of 48,377 scientific papers—including 11,211 e-review papers—were published on the subject. The term first appeared in a paper’s title in 1979. Widespread use of the term has been traced to a 1980 review article by Rodbell: Research papers focusing on signal transduction first appeared in large numbers in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Signal transduction involves the binding of extracellular signaling molecules and ligands to cell-surface receptors that trigger events inside the cell. The combination of messenger with receptor causes a change in the conformation of the receptor, known as receptor activation.

This activation is always the initial step (the cause) leading to the cell’s ultimate responses (effect) to the messenger. Despite the myriad of these ultimate responses, they are all directly due to changes in particular cell proteins. Intracellular signaling cascades can be started through cell-substratum interactions; examples are the integrin that binds ligands in the extracellular matrix and steroids.



Most steroid hormones have receptors within the cytoplasm and act by stimulating the binding of their receptors to the promoter region of steroid-responsive genes.

steroid hormone receptor

steroid hormone receptor

Various environmental stimuli exist that initiate signal transmission processes in multicellular organisms; examples include photons hitting cells in the retina of the eye, and odorants binding to odorant receptors in the nasal epithelium. Certain microbial molecules, such as viral nucleotides and protein antigens, can elicit an immune system response against invading pathogens mediated by signal transduction processes. This may occur independent of signal transduction stimulation by other molecules, as is the case for the toll-like receptor. It may occur with help from stimulatory molecules located at the cell surface of other cells, as with T-cell receptor signaling. Receptors can be roughly divided into two major classes: intracellular receptors and extracellular receptors.

Signal transduction cascades amplify the signal output

Signal transduction cascades amplify the signal output

Signal transduction cascades amplify the signal output

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are a family of integral transmembrane proteins that possess seven transmembrane domains and are linked to a heterotrimeric G protein. Many receptors are in this family, including adrenergic receptors and chemokine receptors.

Arrestin binding to active GPCR kinase (GRK)-phosphorylated GPCRs blocks G protein coupling

signal transduction pathways

signal transduction pathways

Arrestin binding to active GPCR kinase (GRK)-phosphorylated GPCRs blocks G protein coupling

Arrestin binding to active GPCR kinase (GRK)-phosphorylated GPCRs blocks G protein coupling

Signal transduction by a GPCR begins with an inactive G protein coupled to the receptor; it exists as a heterotrimer consisting of Gα, Gβ, and Gγ. Once the GPCR recognizes a ligand, the conformation of the receptor changes to activate the G protein, causing Gα to bind a molecule of GTP and dissociate from the other two G-protein subunits.

The dissociation exposes sites on the subunits that can interact with other molecules. The activated G protein subunits detach from the receptor and initiate signaling from many downstream effector proteins such as phospholipases and ion channels, the latter permitting the release of second messenger molecules.

Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are transmembrane proteins with an intracellular kinase domain and an extracellular domain that binds ligands; examples include growth factor receptors such as the insulin receptor.

 insulin receptor and and insulin receptor signaling pathway (IRS)

insulin receptor and and insulin receptor signaling pathway (IRS)

To perform signal transduction, RTKs need to form dimers in the plasma membrane; the dimer is stabilized by ligands binding to the receptor.



The interaction between the cytoplasmic domains stimulates the autophosphorylation of tyrosines within the domains of the RTKs, causing conformational changes.


Subsequent to this, the receptors’ kinase domains are activated, initiating phosphorylation signaling cascades of downstream cytoplasmic molecules that facilitate various cellular processes such as cell differentiation and metabolism.



As is the case with GPCRs, proteins that bind GTP play a major role in signal transduction from the activated RTK into the cell. In this case, the G proteins are

  • members of the Ras, Rho, and Raf families, referred to collectively as small G proteins.

They act as molecular switches usually

  • tethered to membranes by isoprenyl groups linked to their carboxyl ends.

Upon activation, they assign proteins to specific membrane subdomains where they participate in signaling. Activated RTKs in turn activate

  • small G proteins that activate guanine nucleotide exchange factors such as SOS1.

Once activated, these exchange factors can activate more small G proteins, thus

  • amplifying the receptor’s initial signal.

The mutation of certain RTK genes, as with that of GPCRs, can result in the expression of receptors that exist in a constitutively activate state; such mutated genes may act as oncogenes.





Integrin-mediated signal transduction

An overview of integrin-mediated signal transduction, adapted from Hehlgens et al. (2007).

Integrins are produced by a wide variety of cells; they play a role in

  • cell attachment to other cells and the extracellular matrix and
  • in the transduction of signals from extracellular matrix components such as fibronectin and collagen.

Ligand binding to the extracellular domain of integrins

  • changes the protein’s conformation,
  • clustering it at the cell membrane to
  • initiate signal transduction.

Integrins lack kinase activity; hence, integrin-mediated signal transduction is achieved through a variety of intracellular protein kinases and adaptor molecules, the main coordinator being integrin-linked kinase.

As shown in the picture, cooperative integrin-RTK signaling determines the

  1. timing of cellular survival,
  2. apoptosis,
  3. proliferation, and
  4. differentiation.
integrin-mediated signal transduction

integrin-mediated signal transduction

Integrin signaling

Integrin signaling

ion channel

A ligand-gated ion channel, upon binding with a ligand, changes conformation

  • to open a channel in the cell membrane
  • through which ions relaying signals can pass.

An example of this mechanism is found in the receiving cell of a neural synapse. The influx of ions that occurs in response to the opening of these channels

  1. induces action potentials, such as those that travel along nerves,
  2. by depolarizing the membrane of post-synaptic cells,
  3. resulting in the opening of voltage-gated ion channels.
RyR and Ca+ release from SR

RyR and Ca+ release from SR

An example of an ion allowed into the cell during a ligand-gated ion channel opening is Ca2+;

  • it acts as a second messenger
  • initiating signal transduction cascades and
  • altering the physiology of the responding cell.

This results in amplification of the synapse response between synaptic cells

  • by remodelling the dendritic spines involved in the synapse.

In eukaryotic cells, most intracellular proteins activated by a ligand/receptor interaction possess an enzymatic activity; examples include tyrosine kinase and phosphatases. Some of them create second messengers such as cyclic AMP and IP3,





  • the latter controlling the release of intracellular calcium stores into the cytoplasm.

Many adaptor proteins and enzymes activated as part of signal transduction possess specialized protein domains that bind to specific secondary messenger molecules. For example,

  • calcium ions bind to the EF hand domains of calmodulin,
  • allowing it to bind and activate calmodulin-dependent kinase.
calcium movement and RyR2 receptor

calcium movement and RyR2 receptor

PIP3 and other phosphoinositides do the same thing to the Pleckstrin homology domains of proteins such as the kinase protein AKT.

Signals can be generated within organelles, such as chloroplasts and mitochondria, modulating the nuclear
gene expression in a process called retrograde signaling.

Recently, integrative genomics approaches, in which correlation analysis has been applied on transcript and metabolite profiling data of Arabidopsis thaliana, revealed the identification of metabolites which are putatively acting as mediators of nuclear gene expression.

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Nutrients 2014, 6, 3245-3258;

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

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 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: 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,

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, and adapted from Fukada et al. [30].

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

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.


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Cytoskeleton and Cell Membrane Physiology


Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP




early evolution of lipid membranes and the three domains of life

early evolution of lipid membranes and the three domains of life

Definition and Function

The cytoskeleton is a series of intercellular proteins that help a cell with

  1. shape,
  2. support, and
  3. movement.

Cytoskeleton has three main structural components:

  1. microfilaments,
  2. intermediate filaments, and
  3. movement

The cytoskeleton mediates movement by

  • helping the cell move in its environment and
  • mediating the movement of the cell’s components.

Thereby it provides an important structural framework for the cell –

  • the framework for the movement of organelles, contiguous with the cell membrane, around the cytoplasm. By the activity of
  • the network of protein microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules.

The structural framework supports cell function as follows:

Cell shape. For cells without cell walls, the cytoskeleton determines the shape of the cell. This is one of the functions of the intermediate filaments.

Cell movement. The dynamic collection of microfilaments and microtubles can be continually in the process of assembly and disassembly, resulting in forces that move the cell. There can also be sliding motions of these structures. Audesirk and Audesirk give examples of white blood cells “crawling” and the migration and shape changes of cells during the development of multicellular organisms.

Organelle movement. Microtubules and microfilaments can help move organelles from place to place in the cell. In endocytosis a vesicle formed engulfs a particle abutting the cell. Microfilaments then attach to the vesicle and pull it into the cell. Much of the complex synthesis and distribution function of the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi complex makes use of transport vescicles,  associated with the cytoskeleton.

Cell division. During cell division, microtubules accomplish the movement of the chromosones to the daughter nucleus. Also, a ring of microfilaments helps divide two developing cells by constricting the central region between the cells (fission).

Hickman, et al. Ch 4 Hickman, Cleveland P., Roberts, Larry S., and Larson, Allan, Integrated Principles of Zoology, 9th. Ed., Wm C. Brown, 1995.
Audesirk & Audesirk Ch 6 Audesirk, Teresa and Audesirk, Gerald, Biology, Life on Earth, 5th Ed., Prentice-Hall, 1999.

Intermediate filaments are 8-12 nanometers in diameter and are twisted together in a cord shape. They are composed of keratin and keratin-like proteins.  These filaments are tough and resist tension.

Microtubules are composed of alpha and beta tubulin that form long, hollow cylinders.  These are fairly strong proteins and are the largest component of cytoskeleton at 25 nanometers. Tubular monomers can be lengthened or shortened from the positive end.

Microtubules have three different functions.

They make up the cell’s

  1. centriole
  2. the flagella and cilia of a cell, and
  3. they serve as “tracks” for transport vesicles to move along.

Key Points 


  1. help the cell resist compression,
  2. provide a track along which vesicles can move throughout the cell, and
  3. are the components of cilia and flagella.

Cilia and flagella are hair-like structures that

  1. assist with locomotion in some cells, as well as
  2. line various structures to trap particles.

The structures of cilia and flagella are a “9+2 array,” meaning that

  • a ring of nine microtubules is surrounded by two more microtubules.

Microtubules attach to replicated chromosomes

  • during cell division and
  • pull them apart to opposite ends of the pole,
  • allowing the cell to divide with a complete set of chromosomes in each daughter cell.

Microtubules are the largest element of the cytoskeleton.

The walls of the microtubule are made of

  • polymerized dimers of α-tubulin and β-tubulin, two globular proteins.

With a diameter of about 25 nm, microtubules are the widest components of the cytoskeleton.

They help the cell

  • resist compression,
  • provide a track along which vesicles move through the cell, and
  • pull replicated chromosomes to opposite ends of a dividing cell.

Like microfilaments, microtubules can dissolve and reform quickly.

Microtubules are also the structural elements of flagella, cilia, and centrioles (the latter are the two perpendicular bodies of the centrosome). In animal cells, the centrosome is the microtubule-organizing center. In eukaryotic cells, flagella and cilia are quite different structurally from their counterparts in prokaryotes.

Intermediate Filaments

Intermediate filaments (IFs) are cytoskeletal components found in animal cells. They are composed of a family of related proteins sharing common structural and sequence features.

epithelial cells

epithelial cells

flagella and cilia share a common structural arrangement of microtubules called a “9 + 2 array.” This is an appropriate name because a single flagellum or cilium is made of a ring of nine microtubule doublets surrounding a single microtubule doublet in the center.

9+2 array

9+2 array

The `Spectraplakins’: cytoskeletal giants with characteristics of both spectrin and plakin families

Katja Röper, Stephen L. Gregory and Nicholas H. Brown
J Cell Sci Nov 15, 2002; 115: 4215-4225​jcs.00157





The sequential endosymbiotic origins of eukaryotes: Compared to bacteria and archaea, the typical eukaryotic cell is much more structurally complex.

While the prokaryotes have a rigid cell wall, the ancestral eukaryote appears to have been wall-less (the walls of plant cells appear to represent a adaptation, and are not homologous to prokaryotic cell walls).

In addition to a nucleus (wherein the cell’s DNA is located, and which we will return to in the next section), there are cytoskeletal structures, including distinctive flagella (quite different from those found in prokaryotes), an active (motile) plasma membrane, capable of engulfing other cells, and multiple internal membrane systems. (A more complete description of cell structure is beyond this version of Biofundamentals).

In aerobic bacteria and cyanobacteria, the electron transport chains associated with ATP synthesis (through either photosynthesis or aerobic respiration) located within the plasma membrane (and in the case of cyanobacteria, internal membrane systems as well).

The same processes (aerobic respiration and photosynthesis) occur within eukaryotic cells. Animals have aerobic respiration, while plants have both).

However, these processes do not occur on the plasma membrane, but rather within distinct cytoplasmic organelles: mitochondria for aerobic respiration and chloroplasts for photosynthesis. All eukaryotic cells have mitochondria, plants (which are eukaryotic) have both mitochondria and chloroplasts.

An intriguing evolutionary question was, are these processes related, that is, are the processes of aerobic respiration and photosynthesis found in eukaryotes homologous to the processes found in bacteria and cyanobacteria, or did they originate independently.

The path to understanding that homologous nature of these processes began with studies of cell structure.

spectrin protein superfamily.large

spectrin protein superfamily.large

The role of secreted factors and extracellular matrix

The role of secreted factors and extracellular matrix

Focal Adhesions: Transmembrane Junctions Between the Extracellular Matrix and the Cytoskeleton

K Burridge, K Fath, T Kelly, G Nuckolls, and C Turner
Ann Rev Cell Biol Nov 1988; 4: 487-525

the extracellular matrix (ECM) is a collection of extracellular molecules secreted by cells that

  • provides structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells.[1]

Because multicellularity evolved independently in different multicellular lineages, the composition of ECM varies between multicellular structures; however,

  • cell adhesion,
  • cell-to-cell communication and
  • differentiation

are common functions of the ECM.[2]

The animal extracellular matrix includes

  • the interstitial matrix and
  • the basement membrane.[3]

Interstitial matrix is present between various animal cells (i.e., in the intercellular spaces).

Gels of polysaccharides and fibrous proteins

  • fill the interstitial space and act as
  • a compression buffer against the stress placed on the ECM.[4]

Basement membranes are sheet-like depositions of ECM on which various epithelial cells rest.

The Extracellular Matrix (ECM)

Mechanical support to tissues

Organization of cells into tissues

  1. Activation of signaling pathways (cell growth, proliferation; development); examples:
  2. TGF-β, integrins
  3. specialized roles (tendon, bone; cartilage; cell movement during development; basal lamina in epithelia)


  1. proteoglycans
  2. collagen fibers (mechanical strength)
  3. multiadhesive matrix proteins (linking cell surface receptors to the (ECM)

Integrin connects the extracellular matrix with the actin cytoskeleton inside the cell

Fibronectin Integrin

Fibronectin Integrin

Continuous membrane-cytoskeleton adhesion requires continuous accommodation to lipid and cytoskeleton dynamics.

Sheetz MP, Sable JE, Döbereiner HG.
Annu Rev Biophys Struct Biomol. 2006;35:417-34.

The plasma membrane of most animal cells conforms to the cytoskeleton and only occasionally separates to form blebs. Previous studies indicated that

  • many weak interactions between cytoskeleton and the lipid bilayer
  • kept the surfaces together to counteract the normal outward pressure of cytoplasm.

Either the loss of adhesion strength or the formation of gaps in the cytoskeleton enables the pressure to form blebs. Membrane-associated cytoskeleton proteins, such as spectrin and filamin, can

  • control the movement and aggregation of membrane proteins and lipids,
    e.g., phosphoinositol phospholipids (PIPs), as well as blebbing.

At the same time, lipids (particularly PIPs) and membrane proteins affect

  • cytoskeleton and signaling dynamics.

We consider here the roles of the major phosphatidylinositol-4,5-diphosphate (PIP2) binding protein, MARCKS, and PIP2 levels in controlling cytoskeleton dynamics. Further understanding of dynamics will provide important clues about how membrane-cytoskeleton adhesion rapidly adjusts to cytoskeleton and membrane dynamics.

Interaction of membrane/lipid rafts with the cytoskeleton: impact on signaling and function: membrane/lipid rafts, mediators of cytoskeletal arrangement and cell signaling.

Head BP, Patel HH, Insel PA   Epub 2013 Jul 27.
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Feb;1838(2):532-45.

The plasma membrane in eukaryotic cells contains microdomains that are

  • enriched in certain glycosphingolipids, gangliosides, and sterols (such as cholesterol) to form membrane/lipid rafts (MLR).

These regions exist as caveolae, morphologically observable flask-like invaginations, or as a less easily detectable planar form. MLR are scaffolds for many molecular entities, including

  • signaling receptors and ion channels that
  • communicate extracellular stimuli to the intracellular milieu.

Much evidence indicates that this organization and/or the clustering of MLR into more active signaling platforms

  • depends upon interactions with and dynamic rearrangement of the cytoskeleton.

Several cytoskeletal components and binding partners, as well as enzymes that regulate the cytoskeleton, localize to MLR and help

  • regulate lateral diffusion of membrane proteins and lipids in response to extracellular events
    (e.g., receptor activation, shear stress, electrical conductance, and nutrient demand).

MLR regulate

  • cellular polarity,
  • adherence to the extracellular matrix,
  • signaling events (including ones that affect growth and migration), and
  • are sites of cellular entry of certain pathogens, toxins and nanoparticles.

The dynamic interaction between MLR and the underlying cytoskeleton thus regulates many facets of the function of eukaryotic cells and their adaptation to changing environments. Here, we review general features of MLR and caveolae and their role in several aspects of cellular function, including

  • polarity of endothelial and epithelial cells,
  • cell migration,
  • mechanotransduction,
  • lymphocyte activation,
  • neuronal growth and signaling, and
  • a variety of disease settings.

This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Reciprocal influences between cell cytoskeleton and membrane channels, receptors and transporters. Guest Editor: Jean Claude Hervé.

Cell control by membrane–cytoskeleton adhesion

Michael P. Sheetz
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 2, 392-396 (May 2001) | http://dx.doi.doi:/10.1038/35073095

The rates of mechanochemical processes, such as endocytosis, membrane extension and membrane resealing after cell wounding, are known to be controlled biochemically, through interaction with regulatory proteins. Here, I propose that these rates are also controlled physically, through an apparently continuous adhesion between plasma membrane lipids and cytoskeletal proteins.

Lipid Rafts, Signalling and the Cytoskeleton

Lipid rafts are specialised membrane domains enriched in certain lipids cholesterol and proteins. The existence of lipid rafts was first hypothesised in 1988 (Simons & van Meer, 1988; Simon & Ikonen, 1997), but what we know as “caveolae” were first observed  much earlier (Palade, 1953; Yamada, 1955).  Caveolae are flask shaped invaginations on the cell surface that are a type of membrane raft, these were named “caveolae intracellulare” (Yamada, 1955).  After a long argument (Jacobson & Dietrich, 1999), most now consider that these rafts actually exist, however, there is some confusion surrounding the classification of these rafts. It presently seems that there could be three types; caveolae, glycosphingolipid enriched membranes (GEM), and polyphospho inositol rich rafts. It may also be that there are inside rafts (PIP2 rich and caveolae) and outside rafts (GEM).

The fatty-acid chains of lipids within the rafts tend to be extended and so more tightly packed, creating domains with higher order. It is therefore thought that  rafts exist in a separate ordered phase that floats in a sea of poorly ordered lipids.  Glycosphingolipids, and other lipids with long, straight acyl chains are preferentially incorporated into the rafts.

Caveolae are similar in composition to GEMs that lack caveolae and in fact cells that lack caveolin-1 do not have morphologically identifiable caveolae but instead have extra GEM.  These cells can then be transfected with caveolin-1 cDNA and the caveolae then appear.  This suggests that GEM are merely caveolae without caveolin-1.  Caveolin-1 is a 21kDa integral membrane protein that binds cholesterol (Maruta et al, 1995). In cells lacking caveolin-1, caveolin-2 is synthesised but remains in the Golgi.  Caveolin 1 and 2 colocalise when expressed in the same cells and they may form hetero-dimers (Scherer et al, 1997). Caveolin-3 is expressed in muscle where it forms muscle-type caveolae.  Caveolin-3 is involved in certain types of muscular dystrophy (Galbiati et al, ). A slightly confusing finding is that caveolae are the reported site of integrin signalling ().  It is difficult to imagine integrins being available in the depths of membrane invaginations for binding extra-cellular ligands.

The function of rafts

Many functions have been attributed to rafts, from cholesterol transport, endocytosis and signal transduction.  The later is almost certainly the case. It has been suggested that the primary function of caveolae was in constitutive endocytic trafficking but recent data show that this is not the case, instead caveolae are very stable regions of membranes that are not involved in  endocytosis (Thompsen et al, 2002).

lipid raft

lipid raft

Rafts and the Cytoskeleton

Many actin binding proteins are known to bind to polyphosphoinositides and to be regulated by them (see PI and ABPs), by a series of protein domains such as PH, PX and ENTH (see Domains).  It is consequently scarcely surprising that some ABPs are suggested to link the actin cytoskeleton and PIP2-enriched rafts. One of these is gelsolin, a Ca2+, pH and polyphosphoinositide regulated actin capping and severing protein (see Gelsolin Family), that partitions into rafts isolated biochemically from brain (Fanatsu et al, 2000).

GEMs too are suggested to link to the actin cytoskeleton through ABPs particularly ERM proteins through EBP50, a protein that binds members of the ERM proteins through the ERM C-terminus (Brdickova et al, 2001).


Brdickova, N., Brdicka, T., Andrea, L., Spicka, J., Angelisova, P., Milgram, S. L. & Horejsi, V. (2001) Interaction between two adaptor proteins, PAG and EBP50: a possible link between membrane rafts and actin cytoskeleton.  FEBS letters. 507, 133-136.

Cary, L. A. & Cooper, J. A. (2000) Molecular switches in lipid rafts.  Nature. 404, 945-947.

Czarny, M., Fiucci, G., Lavie, Y., Banno, Y., Nozawa, Y. & Liscovitch, M. (2000) Phospholipase D2: functional interaction with caveolin in low-density membrane microdomains.,  FEBS letters.

Foger, N., Funatsu, N., Kumanogoh, H., Sokawa, Y. & Maekawa, S. (2000) Identification of gelsolin as an actin regulatory component in a Triton insoluble low density fraction (raft) of newborn bovine brain.  Neuroscience Research. 36, 311-317.

Galbiati, F., Engelman, J. A., Volonte, D., Zhang, X. L., Minetti, C., Li, M., Hou jr, H., Kneitz, B., Edelman, W. & Lisanti, M. P. (2001) Caveolin-3 null mice show a loss of caveolae, changes in the microdomain distribution of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex, and T-tubule abnormalities.  J. Biol.Chem. 276, 21425-21433.

…  (more)

centralpore-small  Gating and Ion Conductivity

centralpore-small Gating and Ion Conductivity

Interaction of epithelial ion channels with the actin-based cytoskeleton.

Mazzochi C, Benos DJ, Smith PR.
Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2006 Dec;291(6):F1113-22. Epub 2006 Aug 22

The interaction of ion channels with the actin-based cytoskeleton in epithelial cells

  • not only maintains the polarized expression of ion channels within specific membrane domains,
  • it also functions in the intracellular trafficking and regulation of channel activity.

Initial evidence supporting an interaction between

  • epithelial ion channels and the
  • actin-based cytoskeleton

came from patch-clamp studies of the effects of cytochalasins on channel activity. Cytochalasins were shown to

  • either activate or inactivate epithelial ion channels.

An interaction between

  • the actin-based cytoskeleton and epithelial ion channels

was further supported by the fact that the addition of monomeric or filamentous actin to excised patches had an effect on channel activity comparable to that of cytochalasins. Through the recent application of molecular and proteomic approaches, we now know that

  • the interactions between epithelial ion channels and actin can either be direct or indirect,
  • the latter being mediated through scaffolding or actin-binding proteins
  • that serve as links between the channels and the actin-based cytoskeleton.

This review discusses recent advances in our understanding of the interactions between epithelial ion channels and the actin-based cytoskeleton, and the roles these interactions play in regulating the cell surface expression, activity, and intracellular trafficking of epithelial ion channels.

epithelial ion channels

epithelial ion channels

Actin cytoskeleton regulates ion channel activity in retinal neurons.

Maguire G, Connaughton V, Prat AG, Jackson GR Jr, Cantiello HF.
Neuroreport. 1998 Mar 9;9(4):665-70

The actin cytoskeleton is an important contributor to the integrity of cellular shape and responses in neurons. However, the molecular mechanisms associated with functional interactions between the actin cytoskeleton and neuronal ion channels are largely unknown. Whole-cell and single channel recording techniques were thus applied to identified retinal bipolar neurons of the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) to assess the role of acute changes in actin-based cytoskeleton dynamics in the regulation of voltage-gated ion channels. Disruption of endogenous actin filaments after brief treatment (20-30 min) with cytochalasin D (CD) activated voltage-gated K+ currents in bipolar cells, which were largely prevented by intracellular perfusion with the actin filament-stabilizer agent, phalloidin. Either CD treatment under cell-attached conditions or direct addition of actin to excised, inside-out patches of bipolar cells activated and/or increased single K+ channels. Thus, acute changes in actin-based cytoskeleton dynamics regulate voltage-gated ion channel activity in bipolar cells.

Cytoskeletal Basis of Ion Channel Function in Cardiac Muscle

Matteo Vatta, Ph.D1,2 and Georgine Faulkner, Ph.D3

The publisher’s final edited version of this article is available at Future Cardiol

The heart is a force-generating organ that responds to self-generated electrical stimuli from specialized cardiomyocytes. This function is modulated by sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.

In order to contract and accommodate the repetitive morphological changes induced by the cardiac cycle,

  • cardiomyocytes depend on their highly evolved and specialized cytoskeletal apparatus.

Defects in components of the cytoskeleton, in the long term, affect

  • the ability of the cell to compensate at
  • both functional and structural levels.

In addition to the structural remodeling, the myocardium becomes

  • increasingly susceptible to altered electrical activity leading to arrhythmogenesis.

The development of arrhythmias secondary to structural remodeling defects has been noted, although the detailed molecular mechanisms are still elusive. Here I will review the current knowledge of the molecular and functional relationships between the cytoskeleton and ion channels and, I will discuss the future impact of new data on molecular cardiology research and clinical practice. 

Stretch-activated ion channel

Stretch-activated or stretch-gated ion channels are

  • ion channels which open their pores in response to
  • mechanical deformation of a neuron’s plasma membrane.

[Also see mechanosensitive ion channels and mechanosensitive channels, with which they may be synonymous]. Opening of the ion channels

  • depolarizes the afferent neuron producing an action potential with sufficient depolarization.[1]

Channels open in response to two different mechanisms: the prokaryotic model and the mammalian hair cell model.[2][3] Stretch-activated ion channels have been shown to detect vibration, pressure, stretch, touch, sounds, tastes, smell, heat, volume, and vision.[4][5][6] Stretch-activated ion channels have been categorized into

three distinct “superfamilies”:

  1. the ENaC/DEG family,
  2. the TRP family, and
  3. the K1 selective family.

These channels are involved with bodily functions such as blood pressure regulation.[7] They are shown to be associated with many cardiovascular diseases.[3] Stretch-activated channels were first observed in chick skeletal muscles by Falguni Guharay and Frederick Sachs in 1983 and the results were published in 1984.[8] Since then stretch-activated channels have been found in cells from bacteria to humans as well as plants.

Mechanosensitivity of cell membranes. Ion channels, lipid matrix and cytoskeleton.

Petrov AG, Usherwood PN.
Eur Biophys J. 1994;23(1):1-19

Physical and biophysical mechanisms of mechano-sensitivity of cell membranes are reviewed. The possible roles of

  • the lipid matrix and of
  • the cytoskeleton in membrane mechanoreception

are discussed. Techniques for generation of static strains and dynamic curvatures of membrane patches are considered. A unified model for

  • stress-activated and stress-inactivated ion channels

under static strains is described. A review of work on

  • stress-sensitive pores in lipid-peptide model membranes

is presented. The possible role of flexoelectricity in mechano-electric transduction, e.g. in auditory receptors is discussed. Studies of

  • flexoelectricity in model lipid membranes, lipid-peptide membranes and natural membranes containing ion channels

are reviewed. Finally, possible applications in molecular electronics of mechanosensors employing some of the recognized principles of mechano-electric transduction in natural membranes are discussed.Marhaba, R. & Zoller, M. (2001) Involvement of CD44 in cytoskeleton rearrangement and raft reorganization in T cells.  J.Cell Sci. 114, 1169-1178.

FIGURE 2 | The transient pore model.

peroxisomal matrix protein

peroxisomal matrix protein

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Ralf Erdmann & Wolfgang Schliebs
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 738-742 (September 2005)

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model
The transient pore model

The peroxisomal import receptor peroxin-5 (Pex5) recognizes peroxisomal targeting signal-1 (PTS1)-containing cargo proteins in the cytosol. It then moves to the peroxisome where it inserts into the peroxisomal membrane to become an integral part of the protein-import apparatus. Pex14 and/or Pex13, which are associated with Pex17, are proposed to be involved in tethering the receptor to the membrane and in the assembly, stabilization and rearrangement of the translocon. Cargo release into the peroxisomal matrix is thought to be initiated by intraperoxisomal factors — for example, the competitive binding of the intraperoxisomal Pex8, which also has a PTS1. The disassembly and recycling of Pex5 is triggered by a cascade of protein–protein interactions at the peroxisomal membrane that results in the Pex1-, Pex6-driven, ATP-dependent dislocation of Pex5 from the peroxisomal membrane to the cytosol. Pex1 and Pex6 are AAA+ (ATPases associated with a variety of cellular activities) peroxins that are associated with the peroxisome membrane through Pex15 in yeast or its orthologue PEX26 in mammals. Pex4, which is membrane-anchored through Pex22, is a member of the E2 family of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, and Pex2, Pex10 and Pex12 contain the RING-finger motif that is a characteristic element of E3 ubiquitin ligases. Mono- or di-ubiquitylation are reversible steps that seem to be required for the efficient recycling of import receptors, whereas polyubiquitylation might signal the proteasome-dependent degradation of receptors when the physiological dislocation of receptors is blocked. Ub, ubiquitin.

Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 738-742 (September 2005) |


peroxisomal protein pore model

peroxisomal protein pore model

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Ralf Erdmann & Wolfgang Schliebs
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 738-742 (September 2005)

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Peroxin-13 (Pex13), Pex14 and Pex17 are constituents of the docking complex for cycling peroxisomal import receptors. Another protein assembly in the peroxisomal membrane comprises the RING-finger-motif-containing peroxins Pex2, Pex10 and Pex12. This motif is a characteristic element of E3 ubiquitin ligases, and this subcomplex is linked to the docking complex by Pex8, which is peripherally attached to the lumenal side of the peroxisomal membrane. Pex4 is a member of the E2 family of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes and is anchored to the peroxisomal membrane through the cytosolic domain of Pex22. Pex1 and Pex6 are interacting AAA+ proteins (ATPases associated with a variety of cellular activities), which are attached to the membrane through binding to Pex15 in yeast or to its mammalian counterpart PEX26.

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Ralf Erdmann & Wolfgang Schliebs

Peroxisomes import folded, even oligomeric, proteins, which distinguishes the peroxisomal translocation machinery from the well-characterized translocons of other organelles. How proteins are transported across the peroxisomal membrane is unclear. Here, we propose a mechanistic model that conceptually divides the import process into three consecutive steps: the formation of a

  • translocation pore by the import receptor,
  • the ubiquitylation of the import receptors, and
  • pore disassembly/receptor recycling.


Masoud Naderi Maralani

Identification of the phytosphingosine metabolic pathway leading to odd-numbered fatty acids

The long-chain base ​phytosphingosine is a component of sphingolipids and exists in yeast, plants and some mammalian tissues. ​Phytosphingosine is unique in that it possesses an additional hydroxyl group compared with other long-chain bases. However, its metabolism is unknown. Here we show that ​phytosphingosine is metabolized to odd-numbered fatty acids and is incorporated into glycerophospholipids both in yeast and mammalian cells. Disruption of the yeast gene encoding long-chain base 1-phosphate lyase, which catalyzes the committed step in the metabolism of ​phytosphingosine to glycerophospholipids, causes an ~40% reduction in the level of phosphatidylcholines that contain a C15 fatty acid. We also find that ​2-hydroxypalmitic acid is an intermediate of the phytosphingosine metabolic pathway. Furthermore, we show that the yeast ​MPO1 gene, whose product belongs to a large, conserved protein family of unknown function, is involved in ​phytosphingosine metabolism. Our findings provide insights into fatty acid diversity and identify a pathway by which hydroxyl group-containing lipids are metabolized.

About GPCRs

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are a class of membrane proteins that allow the transmission of a wide variety of signals over the cell membrane, between different cells and over long distances inside the body. The molecular mechanisms of action of GPCRs were worked in great detail by Brian Kobilka and Robert Lefkowitz for which they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2012. Read More

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