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Concept: In vivo


Progress in regenerative medicine requires reverse-engineering cellular control networks to infer perturbations with desired systems-level outcomes. Such dynamic models allow phenotypic predictions for novel perturbations to be rapidly assessed in silico. Here, we analyzed a Xenopus model of conversion of melanocytes to a metastatic-like phenotype only previously observed in an all-or-none manner. Prior in vivo genetic and pharmacological experiments showed that individual animals either fully convert or remain normal, at some characteristic frequency after a given perturbation. We developed a Machine Learning method which inferred a model explaining this complex, stochastic all-or-none dataset. We then used this model to ask how a new phenotype could be generated: animals in which only some of the melanocytes converted. Systematically performing in silico perturbations, the model predicted that a combination of altanserin (5HTR2 inhibitor), reserpine (VMAT inhibitor), and VP16-XlCreb1 (constitutively active CREB) would break the all-or-none concordance. Remarkably, applying the predicted combination of three reagents in vivo revealed precisely the expected novel outcome, resulting in partial conversion of melanocytes within individuals. This work demonstrates the capability of automated analysis of dynamic models of signaling networks to discover novel phenotypes and predictively identify specific manipulations that can reach them.

Concepts: Scientific method, Gene, Genotype, Evolution, In vivo, Phenotype, Logic, Heredity


We report the discovery of light organs (photophores) adjacent to the dorsal defensive spines of a small deep-sea lanternshark (Etmopterus spinax). Using a visual modeling based on in vivo luminescence recordings we show that this unusual light display would be detectable by the shark’s potential predators from several meters away. We also demonstrate that the luminescence from the spine-associated photophores (SAPs) can be seen through the mineralized spines, which are partially translucent. These results suggest that the SAPs function, either by mimicking the spines' shape or by shining through them, as a unique visual deterrent for predators. This conspicuous dorsal warning display is a surprising complement to the ventral luminous camouflage (counterillumination) of the shark.

Concepts: In vivo, Bioluminescence, Deep sea fish, Fish anatomy, Etmopterus, Velvet belly lantern shark, Etmopteridae, Display


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


The neuropeptide Pigment Dispersing Factor (PDF) is essential for normal circadian function in Drosophila. It synchronizes the phases of M pacemakers, while in E pacemakers it decelerates their cycling and supports their amplitude. The PDF receptor (PDF-R) is present in both M and subsets of E cells. Activation of PDF-R stimulates cAMP increases in vitro and in M cells in vivo. The present study asks: What is the identity of downstream signaling components that are associated with PDF receptor in specific circadian pacemaker neurons? Using live imaging of intact fly brains and transgenic RNAi, we show that adenylate cyclase AC3 underlies PDF signaling in M cells. Genetic disruptions of AC3 specifically disrupt PDF responses: they do not affect other Gs-coupled GPCR signaling in M cells, they can be rescued, and they do not represent developmental alterations. Knockdown of the Drosophila AKAP-like scaffolding protein Nervy also reduces PDF responses. Flies with AC3 alterations show behavioral syndromes consistent with known roles of M pacemakers as mediated by PDF. Surprisingly, disruption of AC3 does not alter PDF responses in E cells–the PDF-R(+) LNd. Within M pacemakers, PDF-R couples preferentially to a single AC, but PDF-R association with a different AC(s) is needed to explain PDF signaling in the E pacemakers. Thus critical pathways of circadian synchronization are mediated by highly specific second messenger components. These findings support a hypothesis that PDF signaling components within target cells are sequestered into “circadian signalosomes,” whose compositions differ between E and M pacemaker cell types.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, In vivo, In vitro, Artificial pacemaker, Adenylate cyclase


Matrix stiffening and myofibroblast resistance to apoptosis are cardinal features of chronic fibrotic diseases involving diverse organ systems. The interactions between altered tissue biomechanics and cellular signaling that sustain progressive fibrosis are not well defined. In this study, we used ex vivo and in vivo approaches to define a mechanotransduction pathway involving Rho/Rho kinase (Rho/ROCK), actin cytoskeletal remodeling, and a mechanosensitive transcription factor, megakaryoblastic leukemia 1 (MKL1), that coordinately regulate myofibroblast differentiation and survival. Both in an experimental mouse model of lung fibrosis and in human subjects with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), we observed activation of the Rho/ROCK pathway, enhanced actin cytoskeletal polymerization, and MKL1 cytoplasmic-nuclear shuttling. Pharmacologic disruption of this mechanotransduction pathway with the ROCK inhibitor fasudil induced myofibroblast apoptosis through a mechanism involving downregulation of BCL-2 and activation of the intrinsic mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. Treatment with fasudil during the postinflammatory fibrotic phase of lung injury or genetic ablation of Mkl1 protected mice from experimental lung fibrosis. These studies indicate that targeting mechanosensitive signaling in myofibroblasts to trigger the intrinsic apoptosis pathway may be an effective approach for treatment of fibrotic disorders.

Concepts: Cancer, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Fibrosis, Apoptosis, In vivo, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Pulmonary fibrosis


Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs), etiological agents of the life threatening neuroparalytic disease botulism, are the most toxic substances currently known. The potential for the use as bioweapon makes the development of small-molecule inhibitor against these deadly toxins is a top priority. Currently, there are no approved pharmacological treatments for BoNT intoxication. Although an effective vaccine/immunotherapy is available for immuno-prophylaxis but this cannot reverse the effects of toxin inside neurons. A small-molecule pharmacological intervention, especially one that would be effective against the light chain protease, would be highly desirable. Similarity search was carried out from ChemBridge and NSC libraries to the hit (7-(phenyl(8-quinolinylamino)methyl)-8-quinolinol; NSC 84096) to mine its analogs. Several hits obtained were screened for in silico inhibition using AutoDock 4.1 and 19 new molecules selected based on binding energy and Ki. Among these, eleven quinolinol derivatives potently inhibited in vitro endopeptidase activity of botulinum neurotoxin type A light chain (rBoNT/A-LC) on synaptosomes isolated from rat brain which simulate the in vivo system. Five of these inhibitor molecules exhibited IC(50) values ranging from 3.0 nM to 10.0 µM. NSC 84087 is the most potent inhibitor reported so far, found to be a promising lead for therapeutic development, as it exhibits no toxicity, and is able to protect animals from pre and post challenge of botulinum neurotoxin type A (BoNT/A).

Concepts: In vivo, Action potential, Enzyme inhibitor, In vitro, Toxin, Botulinum toxin, Microbial toxins, Clostridium botulinum


A hydrophobic cuticle consisting of waxes and the polyester cutin covers the aerial epidermis of all land plants, providing essential protection from desiccation and other stresses. We have determined the enzymatic basis of cutin polymerization through characterization of a tomato extracellular acyltransferase, CD1, and its substrate, 2-mono(10,16-dihydroxyhexadecanoyl)glycerol. CD1 has in vitro polyester synthesis activity and is required for cutin accumulation in vivo, indicating that it is a cutin synthase.

Concepts: Plant, In vivo, In vitro, Annual plant, Epidermis, Bryophyte, Moss, Plant cuticle


Lentiviral vectors (LVs) are powerful tools for transgene expression in vivo and in vitro. However, the construction of LVs is of low efficiency, due to the large sizes and lack of proper clone sites. Therefore, it is critical to develop efficient strategies for cloning LVs. Here, we reported a combinatorial strategy to efficiently construct LVs using EGFP, hPlk2 wild type (WT) and mutant genes as inserts. Firstly, site-directed mutagenesis (SDM) was performed to create BamH I site for the inserts; secondly, pWPI LV was dephosphorylated after BamH I digestion; finally, the amounts and ratios of the insert and vector DNA were optimized to increase monomeric ligation. Our results showed that the total percentage of positive clones was approximately 48%±7.6%. Using this method, almost all the vectors could be constructed through two or three minipreps. Therefore, our study provided an efficient method for constructing large-size vectors.

Concepts: Gene, Mutation, Viral vector, In vivo, In vitro, Cloning, Construction, Clone


During the development, tight regulation of the expansion of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and their differentiation into neurons is crucial for normal cortical formation and function. In this study, we demonstrate that microRNA (miR)-128 regulates the proliferation and differentiation of NPCs by repressing pericentriolar material 1 (PCM1). Specifically, overexpression of miR-128 reduced NPC proliferation but promoted NPC differentiation into neurons both in vivo and in vitro. In contrast, the reduction of endogenous miR-128 elicited the opposite effects. Overexpression of miR-128 suppressed the translation of PCM1, and knockdown of endogenous PCM1 phenocopied the observed effects of miR-128 overexpression. Furthermore, concomitant overexpression of PCM1 and miR-128 in NPCs rescued the phenotype associated with miR-128 overexpression, enhancing neurogenesis but inhibiting proliferation, both in vitro and in utero. Taken together, these results demonstrate a novel mechanism by which miR-128 regulates the proliferation and differentiation of NPCs in the developing neocortex.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Progenitor cell, In vivo, Cerebral cortex, In vitro


Tardigrades are microscopic aquatic animals with remarkable abilities to withstand harsh physical conditions such as dehydration or exposure to harmful highly energetic radiation. The mechanisms responsible for such robustness are presently little known, but protection against oxidative stresses is thought to play a role. Despite the fact that many tardigrade species are variously pigmented, scarce information is available about this characteristic. By applying Raman micro-spectroscopy on living specimens, pigments in the tardigrade Echiniscus blumi are identified as carotenoids, and their distribution within the animal body is visualized. The dietary origin of these pigments is demonstrated, as well as their presence in the eggs and in eye-spots of these animals, together with their absence in the outer layer of the animal (i.e., cuticle and epidermis). Using in-vivo semi-quantitative Raman micro-spectroscopy, a decrease in carotenoid content is detected after inducing oxidative stress, demonstrating that this approach can be used for studying the role of carotenoids in oxidative stress-related processes in tardigrades. This approach could be thus used in further investigations to test several hypotheses concerning the function of these carotenoids in tardigrades as photo-protective pigments against ionizing radiations or as antioxidants defending these organisms against the oxidative stress occurring during desiccation processes.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Antioxidant, Arthropod, Oxidative stress, In vivo, Carotenoid, Lutein, Tardigrade