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Concept: Endoplasmic reticulum


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


Gaucher disease (GD) is characterized by accumulation of glucosylceramide in lysosomes due to mutations in the GBA1 gene encoding the lysosomal hydrolase β-glucocerebrosidase (GCase). The disease has a broad spectrum of phenotypes, which were divided into three different Types; Type 1 GD is not associated with primary neurological disease while Types 2 and 3 are associated with central nervous system disease. GCase molecules are synthesized on endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-bound polyribosomes, translocated into the ER and following modifications and correct folding, shuttle to the lysosomes. Mutant GCase molecules, which fail to fold correctly, undergo ER associated degradation (ERAD) in the proteasomes, the degree of which is one of the factors that determine GD severity. Several pharmacological chaperones have already been shown to assist correct folding of mutant GCase molecules in the ER, thus facilitating their trafficking to the lysosomes. Ambroxol, a known expectorant, is one such chaperone. Here we show that ambroxol increases both the lysosomal fraction and the enzymatic activity of several mutant GCase variants in skin fibroblasts derived from Type 1 and Type 2 GD patients.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Cell, Brain, Endoplasmic reticulum, Neurology, Gaucher's disease, Glucocerebrosidase


The study of host-parasite interactions has increased considerably in the last decades, with many studies focusing on the identification of parasite molecules (i.e. surface or excretory/secretory proteins (ESP)) as potential targets for new specific treatments and/or diagnostic tools. In parallel, in the last few years there have been significant advances in the field of extracellular vesicles research. Among these vesicles, exosomes of endocytic origin, with a characteristic size ranging from 30-100 nm, carry several atypical secreted proteins in different organisms, including parasitic protozoa. Here, we present experimental evidence for the existence of exosome-like vesicles in parasitic helminths, specifically the trematodes Echinostoma caproni and Fasciola hepatica. These microvesicles are actively released by the parasites and are taken up by host cells. Trematode extracellular vesicles contain most of the proteins previously identified as components of ESP, as confirmed by proteomic, immunogold labeling and electron microscopy studies. In addition to parasitic proteins, we also identify host proteins in these structures. The existence of extracellular vesicles explains the secretion of atypical proteins in trematodes, and the demonstration of their uptake by host cells suggests an important role for these structures in host-parasite communication, as described for other infectious agents.

Concepts: Cell, Bacteria, Cytosol, Cell membrane, Endoplasmic reticulum, Intestinal parasite, Digenea, Fasciola hepatica


BACKGROUND: Although the aggregation of PrPSc is thought to be crucial for the neuropathology of prion diseases, there is evidence in cultured cells and transgenic mice that neuronal death can be triggered by the accumulation of cytosolic PrPs, leading to the hypothesis that the accumulation of PrPs in the cytosol of neurons may be a primary neurotoxic culprit. Hsp70, a molecular chaperone involved in protein folding/refolding and degradation in the cytoplasm, has a protective effect in some models of neurodegenerative diseases, e.g., Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, but its role in prion diseases remains unclear. RESULTS: To study the role of Hsp70 in prion diseases, we used immunoprecipitation to first identify a molecular interaction between Hsp70 and PrPs. Using immunofluorescence, we found that Hsp70 colocalized with cytosolic PrPs in HEK293 cells transiently transfected with plasmids for Cyto-PrP and PG14-PrP but not with wild-type PG5-PrP or endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-retained PrPs (3AV-PrP and ER-PrP). Using western blot analysis and apoptosis assays of cultured cells, we found that the overexpression of Hsp70 by transfection or the activation of Hsp70 by geldanamycin selectively mediated the degradation of cytosolic PrPs and restored cytosolic PrP-induced cytotoxicity. Moreover, we found that Hsp70 levels were up-regulated in cells expressing Cyto-PrP and in hamster brains infected with the scrapie agent 263K. CONCLUSION: These data imply that Hsp70 has central role in the metabolism of cytosolic PrPs.

Concepts: Protein, Gene expression, Cell, Molecular biology, Endoplasmic reticulum, Prion, Chaperone, Heat shock protein


COPI mediates retrograde trafficking from the Golgi to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and within the Golgi stack, sorting transmembrane proteins bearing C-terminal KKxx or KxKxx motifs. The structure of KxKxx motifs bound to the N-terminal WD-repeat domain of β'-COP identifies electrostatic contacts between the motif and complementary patches at the center of the β'-COP propeller. An absolute requirement of a two-residue spacing between the terminal carboxylate group and first lysine residue results from interactions of carbonyl groups in the motif backbone with basic side chains of β'-COP. Similar interactions are proposed to mediate binding of KKxx motifs by the homologous α-COP domain. Mutation of key interacting residues in either domain or in their cognate motifs abolishes in vitro binding and results in mistrafficking of dilysine-containing cargo in yeast without compromising cell viability. Flexibility between β'-COP WD-repeat domains and the location of cargo binding have implications for COPI coat assembly.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Glycosylation, Lysosome


The Hedgehog (Hh) proteins comprise a group of secreted proteins that regulate cell growth, differentiation and survival. Inappropriate activation of the Hh signaling pathway has been implicated in the development of a variety of cancers. Hh pathway inhibitors are a relatively new class of therapeutic agents that act by targeting the proteins involved in the regulation of Hh pathway (PTCH, SMO and Gli). Together, they serve as exciting new prospects, with a bright future, both alone or as an adjuvant to the more traditional anti-cancer drugs.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Protein, Gene expression, Developmental biology, Endoplasmic reticulum, Chemotherapy, Hedgehog signaling pathway


BACKGROUND: Stress of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) leading to activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and alveolar epithelial cell (AEC) apoptosis may play a role in the pathogenesis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Our objectives were to determine whether circulating caspase-cleaved cytokeratin-18 (cCK-18) is a marker of AEC apoptosis in IPF, define the relationship of cCK-18 with activation of the UPR, and assess its utility as a diagnostic biomarker. METHODS: IPF and normal lung tissues were stained with the antibody (M30) that specifically binds cCK-18. The relationship between markers of the UPR and cCK-18 was determined in AECs exposed in vitro to thapsigargin to induce ER stress. cCK-18 was measured in serum from subjects with IPF, hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), nonspecific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP), and control subjects. RESULTS: cCK-18 immunoreactivity was present in AECs of IPF lung, but not in control subjects. Markers of the UPR (phosphorylated IRE-1alpha and spliced XBP-1) were more highly expressed in IPF type II AECs than in normal type II AECs. Phosphorylated IRE-1alpha and cCK-18 increased following thapsigargin-induced ER stress. Serum cCK-18 level distinguished IPF from diseased and control subjects. Serum cCK-18 was not associated with disease severity or outcome. CONCLUSIONS: cCK-18 may be a marker of AEC apoptosis and UPR activation in patients with IPF. Circulating levels of cCK-18 are increased in patients with IPF and cCK-18 may be a useful diagnostic biomarker.

Concepts: Immune system, Pulmonology, Lung, Endoplasmic reticulum, Epithelium, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Pulmonary fibrosis, Unfolded protein response


The Golgi apparatus has attracted intense attentions due to its fascinating morphology and vital role as the pivot of cellular secretory pathway since its discovery. However, its complex structure at the molecular level remains elusive due to limited approaches. In this study, the structure of Golgi apparatus, including the Golgi stack, cisternal structure, relevant tubules and vesicles, were directly visualized by high-resolution atomic force microscope. We imaged both sides of Golgi apparatus membranes and revealed that the outer leaflet of Golgi membranes is relatively smooth while the inner membrane leaflet is rough and covered by dense proteins. With the treatment of methyl-β-cyclodextrin and Triton X-100, we confirmed the existence of lipid rafts in Golgi apparatus membrane, which are mostly in the size of 20 nm -200 nm and appear irregular in shape. Our results may be of significance to reveal the structure-function relationship of the Golgi complex and pave the way for visualizing the endomembrane system in mammalian cells at the molecular level.

Concepts: Cell, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Organelle, Endoplasmic reticulum, Protein targeting, Endomembrane system, Secretory pathway


We previously identified MGL_1304 secreted by Malassezia globosa as a sweat antigen for patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) and cholinergic urticaria (ChU). However, purifying native MGL_1304 from human sweat or culture supernatant of M. globosa (sup-MGL_1304) is costly and time-consuming. Moreover, recombinant MGL_1304 expressed by using Escherichia coli (TF-rMGL_1304) needs a large chaperon protein and lacks the original glycosylation of yeasts. Thus, we generated a recombinant MGL_1304 by Pichia pastoris (P-rMGL_1304) and investigated its characteristic features.

Concepts: Protein, Gut flora, Endoplasmic reticulum, Fungus, Escherichia coli, Atopy, Yeasts, Cholinergic urticaria


Suppressed adaptive immune function is one of the major concerns responsible for the development of opportunistic infections and subsequent sepsis with high mortality in severe burns. Endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS) is the endogenous self-protective mechanism, and it plays an important role in almost every process of living by regulating the balance between homeostasis and apoptosis. The current study investigated the involvement of ERS in the pathogenesis of dysfunction of dendritic cells (DCs) in burn mice. Our results show a significant ERS response in splenic DC after burn injury. Treatment with salubrinal (Sal, reported to protect cells against ERS-induced apoptosis.) decrease the apoptotic rate of DC induced by burns, and promote maturation and activation of DC, as well as the ability to promote T cell proliferation and polarization towards Th1 immunity (all P<0.05). Gene silence of XBP-1 (key molecular in ERS response) results in the increased apoptosis and suppressed phenotypical maturation of splenic DC in burn mice. These results show that the excessive ERS is essential for immunosuppression during severe thermal injury. XBP-1 plays a pivotal role in DC functional immunomodulation in burn mice. Inhibition of apoptotic ERS response benefits mice from major burns.

Concepts: AIDS, Immune system, Gene, Bacteria, Endoplasmic reticulum, Apoptosis, Immunology, Dendritic cell