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


Diabetes is a chronic debilitating disease that results from insufficient production of insulin from pancreatic β-cells. Islet cell replacement can effectively treat diabetes but is currently severely limited by the reliance upon cadaveric donor tissue. We have developed a protocol to efficiently differentiate commercially available human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in vitro into a highly enriched PDX1+ pancreatic progenitor cell population that further develops in vivo to mature pancreatic endocrine cells. Immature pancreatic precursor cells were transplanted into immunodeficient mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes, and glycemia was initially controlled with exogenous insulin. As graft-derived insulin levels increased over time, diabetic mice were weaned from exogenous insulin and human C-peptide secretion was eventually regulated by meal and glucose challenges. Similar differentiation of pancreatic precursor cells was observed after transplant in immunodeficient rats. Throughout the in vivo maturation period hESC-derived endocrine cells exhibited gene and protein expression profiles that were remarkably similar to the developing human fetal pancreas. Our findings support the feasibility of using differentiated hESCs as an alternative to cadaveric islets for treating patients with diabetes.

Concepts: Cell, Insulin, Glucose, Stem cell, Islets of Langerhans, Pancreas, Cellular differentiation, Embryonic stem cell


Some tissue types give rise to human cancers millions of times more often than other tissue types. Although this has been recognized for more than a century, it has never been explained. Here, we show that the lifetime risk of cancers of many different types is strongly correlated (0.81) with the total number of divisions of the normal self-renewing cells maintaining that tissue’s homeostasis. These results suggest that only a third of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is attributable to environmental factors or inherited predispositions. The majority is due to “bad luck,” that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells. This is important not only for understanding the disease but also for designing strategies to limit the mortality it causes.

Concepts: DNA, Cell, Cancer, Mutation, Ultraviolet, Cell division, Chromosome, DNA replication


Tardigrades are able to tolerate almost complete dehydration by reversibly switching to an ametabolic state. This ability is called anhydrobiosis. In the anhydrobiotic state, tardigrades can withstand various extreme environments including space, but their molecular basis remains largely unknown. Late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins are heat-soluble proteins and can prevent protein-aggregation in dehydrated conditions in other anhydrobiotic organisms, but their relevance to tardigrade anhydrobiosis is not clarified. In this study, we focused on the heat-soluble property characteristic of LEA proteins and conducted heat-soluble proteomics using an anhydrobiotic tardigrade. Our heat-soluble proteomics identified five abundant heat-soluble proteins. All of them showed no sequence similarity with LEA proteins and formed two novel protein families with distinct subcellular localizations. We named them Cytoplasmic Abundant Heat Soluble (CAHS) and Secretory Abundant Heat Soluble (SAHS) protein families, according to their localization. Both protein families were conserved among tardigrades, but not found in other phyla. Although CAHS protein was intrinsically unstructured and SAHS protein was rich in β-structure in the hydrated condition, proteins in both families changed their conformation to an α-helical structure in water-deficient conditions as LEA proteins do. Two conserved repeats of 19-mer motifs in CAHS proteins were capable to form amphiphilic stripes in α-helices, suggesting their roles as molecular shield in water-deficient condition, though charge distribution pattern in α-helices were different between CAHS and LEA proteins. Tardigrades might have evolved novel protein families with a heat-soluble property and this study revealed a novel repertoire of major heat-soluble proteins in these anhydrobiotic animals.

Concepts: DNA, Proteins, Protein, Cell, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Tardigrade, Cryptobiosis


Proteins endogenously secreted by human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and those present in hESC culture medium are critical regulators of hESC self-renewal and differentiation. Current MS-based approaches for identifying secreted proteins rely predominantly on MS analysis of cell culture supernatants. Here we show that targeted proteomics of secretory pathway organelles is a powerful alternate approach for interrogating the cellular secretome. We have developed procedures to obtain subcellular fractions from mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and hESCs that are enriched in secretory pathway organelles while ensuring retention of the secretory cargo. MS analysis of these fractions from hESCs cultured in MEF conditioned medium (MEF-CM) or MEFs exposed to hESC medium revealed 99 and 129 proteins putatively secreted by hESCs and MEFs, respectively. Of these, 53 and 62 proteins have been previously identified in cell culture supernatants of MEFs and hESCs, respectively, thus establishing the validity of our approach. Furthermore, 76 and 37 putatively secreted proteins identified in this study in MEFs and hESCs, respectively, have not been reported in previous MS analyses. The identification of low abundance secreted proteins via MS analysis of cell culture supernatants typically necessitates the use of altered culture conditions such as serum-free medium. However, an altered medium formulation might directly influence the cellular secretome. Indeed, we observed significant differences between the abundances of several secreted proteins in subcellular fractions isolated from hESCs cultured in MEF-CM and those exposed to unconditioned hESC medium for 24 h. In contrast, targeted proteomics of secretory pathway organelles does not require the use of customized media. We expect that our approach will be particularly valuable in two contexts highly relevant to hESC biology: obtaining a temporal snapshot of proteins secreted in response to a differentiation trigger, and identifying proteins secreted by cells that are isolated from a heterogeneous population.

Concepts: Cell, Golgi apparatus, Stem cell, Endoplasmic reticulum, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Cell culture, Embryonic stem cell


Residence within a customized vacuole is a highly successful strategy used by diverse intracellular microorganisms. The parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) is the critical interface between Plasmodium parasites and their possibly hostile, yet ultimately sustaining, host cell environment. We show that torins, developed as ATP-competitive mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase inhibitors, are fast-acting antiplasmodial compounds that unexpectedly target the parasite directly, blocking the dynamic trafficking of the Plasmodium proteins exported protein 1 (EXP1) and upregulated in sporozoites 4 (UIS4) to the liver stage PVM and leading to efficient parasite elimination by the hepatocyte. Torin2 has single-digit, or lower, nanomolar potency in both liver and blood stages of infection in vitro and is likewise effective against both stages in vivo, with a single oral dose sufficient to clear liver stage infection. Parasite elimination and perturbed trafficking of liver stage PVM-resident proteins are both specific aspects of torin-mediated Plasmodium liver stage inhibition, indicating that torins have a distinct mode of action compared with currently used antimalarials.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Bacteria, Cell membrane, Liver, In vivo, In vitro, Membrane protein


How small heat shock proteins (sHsps) might empower proteostasis networks to control beneficial prions or disassemble pathological amyloid is unknown. Here, we establish that yeast sHsps, Hsp26 and Hsp42, inhibit prionogenesis by the [PSI+] prion protein, Sup35, via distinct and synergistic mechanisms. Hsp42 prevents conformational rearrangements within molten oligomers that enable de novo prionogenesis and collaborates with Hsp70 to attenuate self-templating. By contrast, Hsp26 inhibits self-templating upon binding assembled prions. sHsp binding destabilizes Sup35 prions and promotes their disaggregation by Hsp104, Hsp70, and Hsp40. In yeast, Hsp26 or Hsp42 overexpression prevents [PSI+] induction, cures [PSI+], and potentiates [PSI+]-curing by Hsp104 overexpression. In vitro, sHsps enhance Hsp104-catalyzed disaggregation of pathological amyloid forms of α-synuclein and polyglutamine. Unexpectedly, in the absence of Hsp104, sHsps promote an unprecedented, gradual depolymerization of Sup35 prions by Hsp110, Hsp70, and Hsp40. This unanticipated amyloid-depolymerase activity is conserved from yeast to humans, which lack Hsp104 orthologues. A human sHsp, HspB5, stimulates depolymerization of α-synuclein amyloid by human Hsp110, Hsp70, and Hsp40. Thus, we elucidate a heretofore-unrecognized human amyloid-depolymerase system that could have applications in various neurodegenerative disorders.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Cell, Protein folding, Prion, Amyloid, Heat shock protein, Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy


Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is the most common hereditary ataxia, affecting ∼3 in 100 000 individuals in Caucasian populations. It is caused by intronic GAA repeat expansions that hinder the expression of the FXN gene, resulting in defective levels of the mitochondrial protein frataxin. Sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) are particularly damaged by frataxin deficiency. There is no specific therapy for FRDA. Here, we show that frataxin levels can be upregulated by interferon gamma (IFNγ) in a variety of cell types, including primary cells derived from FRDA patients. IFNγ appears to act largely through a transcriptional mechanism on the FXN gene. Importantly, in vivo treatment with IFNγ increases frataxin expression in DRG neurons, prevents their pathological changes and ameliorates the sensorimotor performance in FRDA mice. These results disclose new roles for IFNγ in cellular metabolism and have direct implications for the treatment of FRDA.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Cell, Bacteria, RNA, Friedreich's ataxia


The hallmarks of many haematological malignancies and solid tumours are chromosomal translocations, which may lead to gene fusions. Recently, next-generation sequencing techniques at the transcriptome level (RNA-Seq) have been used to verify known and discover novel transcribed gene fusions. We present FusionFinder, a Perl-based software designed to automate the discovery of candidate gene fusion partners from single-end (SE) or paired-end (PE) RNA-Seq read data. FusionFinder was applied to data from a previously published analysis of the K562 chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) cell line. Using FusionFinder we successfully replicated the findings of this study and detected additional previously unreported fusion genes in their dataset, which were confirmed experimentally. These included two isoforms of a fusion involving the genes BRK1 and VHL, whose co-deletion has previously been associated with the prevalence and severity of renal-cell carcinoma. FusionFinder is made freely available for non-commercial use and can be downloaded from the project website (

Concepts: Genetics, Gene expression, Cell, Cancer, Leukemia, Chromosomal translocation, Philadelphia chromosome, Fusion gene


Over the past two decades, it has become increasingly apparent that Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology is characterized by activated microglia (brain resident macrophages) as well as the classic features of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The intricacy of microglial biology has also become apparent, leading to a heightened research interest in this particular cell type. Over the years a number of different microglial cell culturing techniques have been developed to study either primary mammalian microglia, or immortalized cell lines. Each microglial system has advantages and disadvantages and should be selected for its appropriateness in a particular research context. This review summarizes several of the most common microglial cell culture systems currently being employed in Alzheimer’s research including primary microglia; BV2 and N9 retroviral immortalized microglia; human immortalized microglia (HMO6); and spontaneously immortalized rodent microglial lines (EOC lines and HAPI cells). Particularities of cell culture requirements and characteristics of microglial behavior, especially in response to applied inflammogen stimuli, are compared and discussed across these cell types.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Cell, Cell biology, Cell culture, Neurology, Beta amyloid, Microglia, Neurofibrillary tangle