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Concept: Cell biology


Despite significant advances in the fabrication of bioengineered scaffolds for tissue engineering, delivery of nutrients in complex engineered human tissues remains a challenge. By taking advantage of the similarities in the vascular structure of plant and animal tissues, we developed decellularized plant tissue as a prevascularized scaffold for tissue engineering applications. Perfusion-based decellularization was modified for different plant species, providing different geometries of scaffolding. After decellularization, plant scaffolds remained patent and able to transport microparticles. Plant scaffolds were recellularized with human endothelial cells that colonized the inner surfaces of plant vasculature. Human mesenchymal stem cells and human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes adhered to the outer surfaces of plant scaffolds. Cardiomyocytes demonstrated contractile function and calcium handling capabilities over the course of 21 days. These data demonstrate the potential of decellularized plants as scaffolds for tissue engineering, which could ultimately provide a cost-efficient, “green” technology for regenerating large volume vascularized tissue mass.

Concepts: Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency, Bone marrow, Plant, Cell biology, Mesenchymal stem cell, Stem cells, Stem cell


We recently discovered a novel population of stem cells from the injured murine skeletal muscle. These injury induced muscle-derived stem cell-like cells (iMuSCs) are partially reprogrammed from differentiated myogenic cells and display a pluripotent-like state. The iMuSCs exhibit stem cell properties including the ability to differentiate into multiple lineages, such as neurogenic and myogenic differentiations; they also display a superior migration capacity that demonstrating a strong ability of muscle engraftment in vivo. IMuSCs express several pluripotent and myogenic stem cell markers; have the capability to form embryoid bodies and teratomas, and can differentiate into all three germ layers. Moreover, blastocyst microinjection showed that the iMuSCs contributed to chimeric embryos but could not complete germline transmission. Our results indicate that the iMuSCs are in a partially reprogrammed state of pluripotency, which are generated by the microenvironment of injured skeletal muscle.

Concepts: Multipotency, Cell division, Stem cell marker, Pluripotency, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Stem cell, Developmental biology


Hair differentiates from follicle stem cells through progenitor cells in the matrix. In contrast to stem cells in the bulge, the identities of the progenitors and the mechanisms by which they regulate hair shaft components are poorly understood. Hair is also pigmented by melanocytes in the follicle. However, the niche that regulates follicular melanocytes is not well characterized. Here, we report the identification of hair shaft progenitors in the matrix that are differentiated from follicular epithelial cells expressing transcription factor KROX20. Depletion of Krox20 lineage cells results in arrest of hair growth, confirming the critical role of KROX20(+) cells as antecedents of structural cells found in hair. Expression of stem cell factor (SCF) by these cells is necessary for the maintenance of differentiated melanocytes and for hair pigmentation. Our findings reveal the identities of hair matrix progenitors that regulate hair growth and pigmentation, partly by creating an SCF-dependent niche for follicular melanocytes.

Concepts: Cell division, Stem cell, Cell biology, DNA, Protein, Gene expression, Cellular differentiation, Developmental biology


Harmine is the β-carboline alkaloid with the highest concentration in the psychotropic plant decoction Ayahuasca. In rodents, classical antidepressants reverse the symptoms of depression by stimulating neuronal proliferation. It has been shown that Ayahuasca presents antidepressant effects in patients with depressive disorder. In the present study, we investigated the effects of harmine in cell cultures containing human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs, 97% nestin-positive) derived from pluripotent stem cells. After 4 days of treatment, the pool of proliferating hNPCs increased by 71.5%. Harmine has been reported as a potent inhibitor of the dual specificity tyrosine-phosphorylation-regulated kinase (DYRK1A), which regulates cell proliferation and brain development. We tested the effect of analogs of harmine, an inhibitor of DYRK1A (INDY), and an irreversible selective inhibitor of monoamine oxidase (MAO) but not DYRK1A (pargyline). INDY but not pargyline induced proliferation of hNPCs similarly to harmine, suggesting that inhibition of DYRK1A is a possible mechanism to explain harmine effects upon the proliferation of hNPCs. Our findings show that harmine enhances proliferation of hNPCs and suggest that inhibition of DYRK1A may explain its effects upon proliferation in vitro and antidepressant effects in vivo.

Concepts: Neuron, Monoamine oxidase, Serotonin, Stem cell, Monoamine oxidase inhibitor, Progenitor cell, Developmental biology, Cell biology


This paper describes a method of generating three-dimensional (3D) cell-laden microstructures by applying the principle of origami folding technique and cell traction force (CTF). We harness the CTF as a biological driving force to fold the microstructures. Cells stretch and adhere across multiple microplates. Upon detaching the microplates from a substrate, CTF causes the plates to lift and fold according to a prescribed pattern. This self-folding technique using cells is highly biocompatible and does not involve special material requirements for the microplates and hinges to induce folding. We successfully produced various 3D cell-laden microstructures by just changing the geometry of the patterned 2D plates. We also achieved mass-production of the 3D cell-laden microstructures without causing damage to the cells. We believe that our methods will be useful for biotechnology applications that require analysis of cells in 3D configurations and for self-assembly of cell-based micro-medical devices.

Concepts: Causality, Biotechnology, Enzyme, Gene, Organism, DNA, Cell wall, Cell biology


Here we report a unique cellular reprogramming phenomenon, called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP), which requires neither nuclear transfer nor the introduction of transcription factors. In STAP, strong external stimuli such as a transient low-pH stressor reprogrammed mammalian somatic cells, resulting in the generation of pluripotent cells. Through real-time imaging of STAP cells derived from purified lymphocytes, as well as gene rearrangement analysis, we found that committed somatic cells give rise to STAP cells by reprogramming rather than selection. STAP cells showed a substantial decrease in DNA methylation in the regulatory regions of pluripotency marker genes. Blastocyst injection showed that STAP cells efficiently contribute to chimaeric embryos and to offspring via germline transmission. We also demonstrate the derivation of robustly expandable pluripotent cell lines from STAP cells. Thus, our findings indicate that epigenetic fate determination of mammalian cells can be markedly converted in a context-dependent manner by strong environmental cues.

Concepts: Epigenetics, Cell biology, DNA methylation, Gene, Developmental biology, Genetics, Gene expression, DNA


Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common hematological cancer in children. Although risk-adaptive therapy, CNS-directed chemotherapy, and supportive care have improved the survival of ALL patients, disease relapse is still the leading cause of cancer-related death in children. Therefore, new drugs are needed as frontline treatments in high-risk disease and as salvage agents in relapsed ALL. In this study, we report that purified sulforaphane, a natural isothiocyanate found in cruciferous vegetables, has anti-leukemic properties in a broad range of ALL cell lines and primary lymphoblasts from pediatric T-ALL and pre-B ALL patients. The treatment of ALL leukemic cells with sulforaphane resulted in dose-dependent apoptosis and G2/M cell cycle arrest, which was associated with the activation of caspases (3, 8, and 9), inactivation of PARP, p53-independent upregulation of p21(CIP1/WAF1), and inhibition of the Cdc2/Cyclin B1 complex. Interestingly, sulforaphane also inhibited the AKT and mTOR survival pathways in most of the tested cell lines by lowering the levels of both total and phosphorylated proteins. Finally, the administration of sulforaphane to the ALL xenograft models resulted in a reduction of tumor burden, particularly following oral administration, suggesting a potential role as an adjunctive agent to improve the therapeutic response in high-risk ALL patients with activated AKT signaling.

Concepts: Chemotherapy, Protein, Cell nucleus, Cell biology, Cell cycle, Cancer, Leukemia, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia


Plants are able to sense the magnitude and direction of gravity. This capacity is thought to reside in selected cell types within the plant body that are equipped with specialized organelles called statoliths. However, most plant cells do not possess statoliths, yet they respond to changes in gravitational acceleration. To understand the effect of gravity on the metabolism and cellular functioning of non-specialized plant cells, we investigated a rapidly growing plant cell devoid of known statoliths and without gravitropic behavior, the pollen tube. The effects of hyper-gravity and omnidirectional exposure to gravity on intracellular trafficking and on cell wall assembly were assessed in Camellia pollen tubes, a model system with highly reproducible growth behavior in vitro. Using an epi-fluorescence microscope mounted on the Large Diameter Centrifuge at the European Space Agency, we were able to demonstrate that vesicular trafficking is reduced under hyper-gravity conditions. Immuno-cytochemistry confirmed that both in hyper and omnidirectional gravity conditions, the characteristic spatial profiles of cellulose and callose distribution in the pollen tube wall were altered, in accordance with a dose-dependent effect on pollen tube diameter. Our findings suggest that in response to gravity induced stress, the pollen tube responds by modifying cell wall assembly to compensate for the altered mechanical load. The effect was reversible within few minutes demonstrating that the pollen tube is able to quickly adapt to changing stress conditions.

Concepts: Vacuole, Cell biology, Photosynthesis, Plant cell, Eukaryote, Plastid, Cell, Cell wall


Nonviral conversion of skin or blood cells into clinically useful human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) occurs in only rare fractions (∼0.001%-0.5%) of donor cells transfected with non-integrating reprogramming factors. Pluripotency induction of developmentally immature stem-progenitors is generally more efficient than differentiated somatic cell targets. However, the nature of augmented progenitor reprogramming remains obscure, and its potential has not been fully explored for improving the extremely slow pace of non-integrated reprogramming. Here, we report highly optimized four-factor reprogramming of lineage-committed cord blood (CB) myeloid progenitors with bulk efficiencies of ∼50% in purified episome-expressing cells. Lineage-committed CD33(+)CD45(+)CD34(-) myeloid cells and not primitive hematopoietic stem-progenitors were the main targets of a rapid and nearly complete non-integrated reprogramming. The efficient conversion of mature myeloid populations into NANOG(+)TRA-1-81(+) hiPSC was mediated by synergies between hematopoietic growth factor (GF), stromal activation signals, and episomal Yamanaka factor expression. Using a modular bioinformatics approach, we demonstrated that efficient myeloid reprogramming correlated not to increased proliferation or endogenous Core factor expressions, but to poised expression of GF-activated transcriptional circuits that commonly regulate plasticity in both hematopoietic progenitors and embryonic stem cells (ESC). Factor-driven conversion of myeloid progenitors to a high-fidelity pluripotent state was further accelerated by soluble and contact-dependent stromal signals that included an implied and unexpected role for Toll receptor-NFκB signaling. These data provide a paradigm for understanding the augmented reprogramming capacity of somatic progenitors, and reveal that efficient induced pluripotency in other cell types may also require extrinsic activation of a molecular framework that commonly regulates self-renewal and differentiation in both hematopoietic progenitors and ESC.

Concepts: Cell biology, Pluripotency, Developmental biology, Cellular differentiation, Stem cells, Embryonic stem cell, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Stem cell


Chlamydia trachomatis is obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen that remains a significant public health burden worldwide. A critical early event during infection is chlamydial entry into non-phagocytic host epithelial cells. Like other Gram-negative bacteria, C.trachomatis uses a type III secretion system (T3SS) to deliver virulence effector proteins into host cells. These effectors trigger bacterial uptake and promote bacterial survival and replication within the host cell. In this review, we highlight recent cryo-electron tomography that has provided striking insights into the initial interactions between Chlamydia and its host. We describe the polarised structure of extracellular C.trachomatis elementary bodies (EBs), and the supramolecular organisation of T3SS complexes on the EB surface, in addition to the changes in host and pathogen architecture that accompany bacterial internalisation and EB encapsulation into early intracellular vacuoles. Finally, we consider the implications for further understanding the mechanism of C.trachomatis entry and how this might relate to those of other bacteria and viruses.

Concepts: Cell biology, Secretion, Cell, Cell membrane, Chlamydiae, Chlamydia, Bacteria, Microbiology