Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Cytoskeleton


Aberrant signaling through the class I phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt axis is frequent in human cancer. Here, we show that Beclin 1, an essential autophagy and tumor suppressor protein, is a target of the protein kinase Akt. Expression of a Beclin 1 mutant resistant to Akt-mediated phosphorylation increased autophagy, reduced anchorage-independent growth, and inhibited Akt-driven tumorigenesis. Akt-mediated phosphorylation of Beclin 1 enhanced its interactions with 14-3-3 and vimentin intermediate filament proteins, and vimentin depletion increased autophagy and inhibited Akt-driven transformation. Thus, Akt-mediated phosphorylation of Beclin 1 functions in autophagy inhibition, oncogenesis, and the formation of an autophagy-inhibitory Beclin 1/14-3-3/vimentin intermediate filament complex. These findings have broad implications for understanding the role of Akt signaling and intermediate filament proteins in autophagy and cancer.

Concepts: Proteins, Cancer, Oncology, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Cytoskeleton, Tumor suppressor gene, AKT


Withaferin A (WFA) is a steroidal lactone present in Withania somnifera which has been shown in vitro to bind to the intermediate filament protein, vimentin. Based upon its affinity for vimentin, it has been proposed that WFA can be used as an anti-tumor agent to target metastatic cells which up-regulate vimentin expression. We show that WFA treatment of human fibroblasts rapidly reorganizes vimentin intermediate filaments (VIF) into a perinuclear aggregate. This reorganization is dose dependent and is accompanied by a change in cell shape, decreased motility and an increase in vimentin phosphorylation at serine-38. Furthermore, vimentin lacking cysteine-328, the proposed WFA binding site, remains sensitive to WFA demonstrating that this site is not required for its cellular effects. Using analytical ultracentrifugation, viscometry, electron microscopy and sedimentation assays we show that WFA has no effect on VIF assembly in vitro. Furthermore, WFA is not specific for vimentin as it disrupts the cellular organization and induces perinuclear aggregates of several other IF networks comprised of peripherin, neurofilament-triplet protein, and keratin. In cells co-expressing keratin IF and VIF, the former are significantly less sensitive to WFA with respect to inducing perinuclear aggregates. The organization of microtubules and actin/microfilaments is also affected by WFA. Microtubules become wavier and sparser and the number of stress fibers appears to increase. Following 24 hrs of exposure to doses of WFA that alter VIF organization and motility, cells undergo apoptosis. Lower doses of the drug do not kill cells but cause them to senesce. In light of our findings that WFA affects multiple IF systems, which are expressed in many tissues of the body, caution is warranted in its use as an anti-cancer agent, since it may have debilitating organism-wide effects.

Concepts: Protein, Affect, Cytoskeleton, Intermediate filament, Vimentin, Desmosome, Plectin, Peripherin


BACKGROUND: Cells sense the extracellular environment using adhesion receptors (integrins) linked to the intracellular actin cytoskeleton through a complex network of regulatory proteins that, all together, form focal adhesions (FAs). The molecular basis of how these sensing units are regulated, how they are implicated in transducing mechanical stimuli, and how this leads to a spatiotemporal coordination of FAs is unclear. RESULTS: Here we show that vinculin, through its links to the talin-integrin complex and F-actin, regulates the transmission of mechanical signals from the extracellular matrix to the actomyosin machinery. We demonstrate that the vinculin interaction with the talin-integrin complex drives the recruitment and release of core FA components. The activation state of vinculin is itself regulated by force, as underscored by our observation that vinculin localization to FAs is dependent on actomyosin contraction. Using a variety of vinculin mutants, we establish which components of the cell-matrix adhesion network are coordinated through direct and indirect associations with vinculin. Moreover, using cyclic stretching, we demonstrate that vinculin plays a key role in the transmission of extracellular mechanical stimuli leading to the reorganization of cell polarity. Of particular importance is the actin-binding tail region of vinculin, without which the cell’s ability to repolarize in response to cyclic stretching is perturbed. CONCLUSIONS: Overall our data promote a model whereby vinculin controls the transmission of intracellular and extracellular mechanical cues that are important for the spatiotemporal assembly, disassembly, and reorganization of FAs to coordinate polarized cell motility.

Concepts: Protein, Cell membrane, Cell biology, Actin, Cell signaling, Cytoskeleton, Focal adhesion, Vinculin


Since the discovery that proteins mutated in different forms of polycystic kidney disease (PKD) are tightly associated with primary cilia, strong efforts have been made to define the role of this organelle in the pathogenesis of cyst formation. Cilia are filiform microtubular structures, anchored in the basal body and extending from the apical membrane into the tubular lumen. Early work established that cilia act as flow sensors, eliciting calcium transients in response to bending, which involve the two proteins mutated in autosomal dominant PKD (ADPKD), polycystin-1 and -2. Loss of cilia alone is insufficient to cause cyst formation. Nevertheless, a large body of evidence links flow sensing by cilia to aspects relevant for cyst formation such as cell polarity, Stat6- and mammalian target of rapamycin signalling. This review summarizes the current literature on cilia and flow sensing with respect to PKD and discusses how these findings intercalate with different aspects of cyst formation.

Concepts: Immune system, Kidney, Cell, Genetic disorder, Golgi apparatus, Cytoskeleton, Polycystic kidney disease, Cilium


Variants in ETV6, which encodes a transcription repressor of the E26 transformation-specific family, have recently been reported to be responsible for inherited thrombocytopenia and hematologic malignancy. We sequenced the DNA from cases with unexplained dominant thrombocytopenia and identified six likely pathogenic variants in ETV6, of which five are novel. We observed low repressive activity of all tested ETV6 variants and variants located in the E26 transformation-specific binding domain (encoding p.A377T, p.Y401N) led to reduced binding to co-repressors. We also observed large expansion of CFU-MKs derived from variant carriers and reduced proplatelet formation with abnormal cytoskeletal organization. The defect in proplatelet formation was also observed in control CD34+ cell-derived megakaryocytes transduced with lentiviral particles encoding mutant ETV6. Reduced expression levels of key regulators of the actin cytoskeleton Cdc42 and RhoA were measured. Moreover, changes in the actin structures are typically accompanied by a rounder platelet shape with a highly heterogeneous size, decreased platelet arachidonic response, spreading and retarded clot retraction in ETV6 deficient platelets. Elevated numbers of circulating CD34+ cells were found in p.P214L and p.Y401N carriers, and two patients from different families suffered from refractory anemia with excess blasts while one patient from a third family was successfully treated for acute myeloid leukemia. Overall, our study provides novel insights into the role of ETV6 as a driver of cytoskeletal regulatory gene expression during platelet production and the impact of variants resulting in platelets with altered size, shape and function and potentially also in changes in circulating progenitor levels.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Platelet, Leukemia, Cytoskeleton, Acute myeloid leukemia, Blood disorders, Thrombocytopenia


Shifts in myosin heavy chain (MHC) expression within skeletal muscle can be induced by a host of stimuli including, but not limited to, physical activity, alterations in neural activity, aging, and diet or obesity. Here, we hypothesized that both age and a long-term (2 year) high fat/high sugar diet (HFS) would induce a slow to fast MHC shift within the plantaris, soleus, and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles from rhesus monkeys. Furthermore, we tested whether supplementation with resveratrol, a naturally occurring compound that has been attributed with augmenting aerobic potential through mitochondrial proliferation, would counteract any diet-induced MHC changes by promoting a fast to slow isoform switch. In general, we found that MHC isoforms were not altered by aging during mid-life. The HFS diet had the largest impact within the soleus muscle where the greatest slow to fast isoform shifts were observed in both mRNA and protein indicators. As expected, long-term resveratrol treatment counteracted, or blunted, these diet-induced shifts within the soleus muscle. The plantaris muscle also demonstrated a fast-to-slow phenotypic response to resveratrol treatment. In conclusion, diet or resveratrol treatment impacts skeletal muscle phenotype in a muscle-specific manner and resveratrol supplementation may be one approach for promoting the fatigue-resistant MHC (type I) isoform especially if its expression is blunted as a result of a long-term high fat/sugar diet.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Muscle, Actin, Myosin, Primate, Cytoskeleton, Tibialis anterior muscle


The effects of Corexit 9500A (CE) on respiratory epithelial surfaces of terrestrial mammals and marine animals are largely unknown. This study investigated the role of CE-induced heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), a cytoprotective enzyme with anti-apoptotic and antioxidant activity, in human bronchial airway epithelium and the gills of exposed aquatic animals. We evaluated CE-mediated alterations in human airway epithelial cells, mice lungs and gills from zebrafish and blue crabs. Our results demonstrated that CE induced an increase in gill epithelial edema and human epithelial monolayer permeability, suggesting an acute injury caused by CE exposure. CE induced the expression of HO-1 as well as C-reactive protein (CRP) and NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4), which are associated with ROS production. Importantly, CE induced caspase-3 activation and subsequent apoptosis of epithelial cells. The expression of the intercellular junctional proteins, such as tight junction proteins occludin, zonula occludens (ZO-1), ZO-2 and adherens junctional proteins E-cadherin and Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK), were remarkably inhibited by CE, suggesting that these proteins are involved in CE-induced increased permeability and subsequent apoptosis. The cytoskeletal protein F-actin was also disrupted by CE. Treatment with carbon monoxide releasing molecule-2 (CORM-2) significantly inhibited CE-induced ROS production, while the addition of HO-1 inhibitor, significantly increased CE-induced ROS production and apoptosis, suggesting a protective role of HO-1 or its reaction product, CO, in CE-induced apoptosis. Using HO-1 knockout mice, we further demonstrated that HO-1 protected against CE-induced inflammation and cellular apoptosis and corrected CE-mediated inhibition of E-cadherin and FAK. These observations suggest that CE activates CRP and NOX4-mediated ROS production, alters permeability by inhibition of junctional proteins, and leads to caspase-3 dependent apoptosis of epithelial cells, while HO-1 and its reaction products protect against oxidative stress and apoptosis.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Enzyme, Lung, Cell membrane, Actin, Cytoskeleton, C-reactive protein


Understanding how mechanics complement bio-signaling in defining patterns during morphogenesis is an outstanding challenge. Here, we utilize the multicellular polyp Hydra to investigate the role of the actomyosin cytoskeleton in morphogenesis. We find that the supra-cellular actin fiber organization is inherited from the parent Hydra and determines the body axis in regenerating tissue segments. This form of structural inheritance is non-trivial because of the tissue folding and dynamic actin reorganization involved. We further show that the emergence of multiple body axes can be traced to discrepancies in actin fiber alignment at early stages of the regeneration process. Mechanical constraints induced by anchoring regenerating Hydra on stiff wires suppressed the emergence of multiple body axes, highlighting the importance of mechanical feedbacks in defining and stabilizing the body axis. Together, these results constitute an important step toward the development of an integrated view of morphogenesis that incorporates mechanics.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Cellular differentiation, Regeneration, Actin, Myosin, Cytoskeleton


The endothelial cytoskeleton is a barrier for leukocyte transendothelial migration (TEM). Mononuclear and polymorphonuclear leukocytes generate gaps of similar micron-scale size when squeezing through inflamed endothelial barriers in vitro and in vivo. To elucidate how leukocytes squeeze through these barriers, we co-tracked the endothelial actin filaments and leukocyte nuclei in real time. Nuclear squeezing involved either preexistent or de novo-generated lobes inserted into the leukocyte lamellipodia. Leukocyte nuclei reversibly bent the endothelial actin stress fibers. Surprisingly, formation of both paracellular gaps and transcellular pores by squeezing leukocytes did not require Rho kinase or myosin II-mediated endothelial contractility. Electron-microscopic analysis suggested that nuclear squeezing displaced without condensing the endothelial actin filaments. Blocking endothelial actin turnover abolished leukocyte nuclear squeezing, whereas increasing actin filament density did not. We propose that leukocyte nuclei must disassemble the thin endothelial actin filaments interlaced between endothelial stress fibers in order to complete TEM.

Concepts: Inflammation, White blood cell, Monocyte, Protein, Actin, Myosin, Cytoskeleton, Granulocyte


Mammalian cardiomyocytes become post-mitotic shortly after birth. Understanding how this occurs is highly relevant to cardiac regenerative therapy. Yet, how cardiomyocytes achieve and maintain a post-mitotic state is unknown. Here, we show that cardiomyocyte centrosome integrity is lost shortly after birth. This is coupled with relocalization of various centrosome proteins to the nuclear envelope. Consequently, postnatal cardiomyocytes are unable to undergo ciliogenesis and the nuclear envelope adopts the function as cellular microtubule organizing center. Loss of centrosome integrity is associated with, and can promote, cardiomyocyte G0/G1 cell cycle arrest suggesting that centrosome disassembly is developmentally utilized to achieve the post-mitotic state in mammalian cardiomyocytes. Adult cardiomyocytes of zebrafish and newt, which are able to proliferate, maintain centrosome integrity. Collectively, our data provide a novel mechanism underlying the post-mitotic state of mammalian cardiomyocytes as well as a potential explanation for why zebrafish and newts, but not mammals, can regenerate their heart.

Concepts: Cell, Heart, Cardiac muscle, Circulatory system, Mammal, Cytoskeleton, Mitosis, Microtubule organizing center