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

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


The self-assembly of α-synuclein is closely associated with Parkinson’s disease and related syndromes. We show that squalamine, a natural product with known anticancer and antiviral activity, dramatically affects α-synuclein aggregation in vitro and in vivo. We elucidate the mechanism of action of squalamine by investigating its interaction with lipid vesicles, which are known to stimulate nucleation, and find that this compound displaces α-synuclein from the surfaces of such vesicles, thereby blocking the first steps in its aggregation process. We also show that squalamine almost completely suppresses the toxicity of α-synuclein oligomers in human neuroblastoma cells by inhibiting their interactions with lipid membranes. We further examine the effects of squalamine in a Caenorhabditis elegans strain overexpressing α-synuclein, observing a dramatic reduction of α-synuclein aggregation and an almost complete elimination of muscle paralysis. These findings suggest that squalamine could be a means of therapeutic intervention in Parkinson’s disease and related conditions.

Concepts: Cancer, Caenorhabditis elegans, Caenorhabditis, Rhabditidae, In vivo, In vitro, Paralysis, Caenorhabditis briggsae


Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles (NPs) are manufactured worldwide in large quantities for use in a wide range of applications. TiO2 NPs possess different physicochemical properties compared to their fine particle (FP) analogs, which might alter their bioactivity. Most of the literature cited here has focused on the respiratory system, showing the importance of inhalation as the primary route for TiO2 NP exposure in the workplace. TiO2 NPs may translocate to systemic organs from the lung and gastrointestinal tract (GIT) although the rate of translocation appears low. There have also been studies focusing on other potential routes of human exposure. Oral exposure mainly occurs through food products containing TiO2 NP-additives. Most dermal exposure studies, whether in vivo or in vitro, report that TiO2 NPs do not penetrate the stratum corneum (SC). In the field of nanomedicine, intravenous injection can deliver TiO2 nanoparticulate carriers directly into the human body. Upon intravenous exposure, TiO2 NPs can induce pathological lesions of the liver, spleen, kidneys, and brain. We have also shown here that most of these effects may be due to the use of very high doses of TiO2 NPs. There is also an enormous lack of epidemiological data regarding TiO2 NPs in spite of its increased production and use. However, long-term inhalation studies in rats have reported lung tumors. This review summarizes the current knowledge on the toxicology of TiO2 NPs and points out areas where further information is needed.

Concepts: Cancer, Ultraviolet, Liver, In vivo, Respiratory system, In vitro, Titanium dioxide, Inhalation


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


Because lubricants may decrease trauma during coitus, it is hypothesized that they could aid in the prevention of HIV acquisition. Therefore, safety and anti-HIV-1 activity of over-the-counter (OTC) aqueous- (n = 10), lipid- (n = 2), and silicone-based (n = 2) products were tested. The rheological properties of the lipid-based lubricants precluded testing with the exception of explant safety testing. Six aqueous-based gels were hyperosmolar, two were nearly iso-osmolar, and two were hypo-osmolar. Evaluation of the panel of products showed Gynol II (a spermicidal gel containing 2% nonoxynol-9), KY Jelly, and Replens were toxic to Lactobacillus. Two nearly iso-osmolar aqueous- and both silicone-based gels were not toxic toward epithelial cell lines or ectocervical or colorectal explant tissues. Hyperosmolar lubricants demonstrated reduction of tissue viability and epithelial fracture/sloughing while the nearly iso-osmolar and silicon-based lubricants showed no significant changes in tissue viability or epithelial modifications. While most of the lubricants had no measurable anti-HIV-1 activity, three lubricants which retained cell viability did demonstrate modest anti-HIV-1 activity in vitro. To determine if this would result in protection of mucosal tissue or conversely determine if the epithelial damage associated with the hyperosmolar lubricants increased HIV-1 infection ex vivo, ectocervical tissue was exposed to selected lubricants and then challenged with HIV-1. None of the lubricants that had a moderate to high therapeutic index protected the mucosal tissue. These results show hyperosmolar lubricant gels were associated with cellular toxicity and epithelial damage while showing no anti-viral activity. The two iso-osmolar lubricants, Good Clean Love and PRÉ, and both silicone-based lubricants, Female Condom 2 lubricant and Wet Platinum, were the safest in our testing algorithm.

Concepts: HIV, In vivo, Tissues, In vitro, Condom, Lubricant, Personal lubricant, Spermicide


In a previous in vitro study, the SupT1 cell line was explored as a decoy target for HIV-1, proposing SupT1 cell infusion as a possible cell-based therapy for HIV. In the present work, the previous in vitro model was translated into an in vivo setting. Specifically, Hu-PBMC BRGS mice were infected with a high input of HIV-1 LAI (100,000 TCID50), and 40 million 30 Gy-irradiated SupT1 cells were infused weekly for 4 weeks as a therapy. Blood samples were taken to monitor CD4+ T cell count and viral load, and mice were monitored daily for signs of illness. At the earliest time point analyzed (Week 1), there was a significantly lower plasma viral load (~10-fold) in all animals treated with SupT1 cell infusion, associated with a higher CD4+ T cell count. At later time points, infection proceeded with robust viral replication and evident CD4+ T cell depletion, except in one mouse that showed complete suppression of viral replication and preservation of CD4+ T cell count. No morbidity or mortality was associated with SupT1 cell infusion. The interesting tendencies observed in the generated data suggest that this approach should be further investigated as a possible cell-based HIV therapy.

Concepts: Antiretroviral drug, HIV, Gene, Cell, Cell biology, In vivo, In vitro, Virology


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


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


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