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

Concept: Microtubule


Developing abilities to assemble nanoscale structures is a major scientific and engineering challenge. We report a technique which allows precise positioning and manipulation of individual rigid filaments, enabling construction of custom-designed 3D filament networks. This approach uses holographic optical trapping (HOT) for nano-positioning and microtubules (MTs) as network building blocks. MTs are desirable engineering components due to their high aspect ratio, rigidity, and their ability to serve as substrate for directed nano-transport, reflecting their roles in the eukaryotic cytoskeleton. The 3D architecture of MT cytoskeleton is a significant component of its function, however experimental tools to study the roles of this geometric complexity in a controlled environment have been lacking. We demonstrate the broad capabilities of our system by building a self-supporting 3D MT-based nanostructure and by conducting a MT-based transport experiment on a dynamically adjustable 3D MT intersection. Our methodology not only will advance studies of cytoskeletal networks (and associated processes such as MT-based transport) but will also likely find use in engineering nanostructures and devices.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Flagellum, Cytoskeleton, Mitosis, Kinesin, Tubulin, Microtubule, Construction


Dimethyltryptamines are entheogenic serotonin-like molecules present in traditional Amerindian medicine recently associated with cognitive gains, antidepressant effects, and changes in brain areas related to attention. Legal restrictions and the lack of adequate experimental models have limited the understanding of how such substances impact human brain metabolism. Here we used shotgun mass spectrometry to explore proteomic differences induced by 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) on human cerebral organoids. Out of the 6,728 identified proteins, 934 were found differentially expressed in 5-MeO-DMT-treated cerebral organoids. In silico analysis reinforced previously reported anti-inflammatory actions of 5-MeO-DMT and revealed modulatory effects on proteins associated with long-term potentiation, the formation of dendritic spines, including those involved in cellular protrusion formation, microtubule dynamics, and cytoskeletal reorganization. Our data offer the first insight about molecular alterations caused by 5-MeO-DMT in human cerebral organoids.

Concepts: Time, Protein, Psychology, Hippocampus, Dendrite, Term, Long-term potentiation, Microtubule


Eukaryotic flagella are complex cellular extensions involved in many human diseases gathered under the term ciliopathies. Currently, detailed insights on flagellar structure come mostly from studies on protists. Here, cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) was performed on intact human spermatozoon tails and showed a variable number of microtubules in the singlet region (inside the end-piece). Inside the microtubule plus end, a novel left-handed interrupted helix which extends several micrometers was discovered. This structure was named Tail Axoneme Intra-Lumenal Spiral (TAILS) and binds directly to 11 protofilaments on the internal microtubule wall, in a coaxial fashion with the surrounding microtubule lattice. It leaves a gap over the microtubule seam, which was directly visualized in both singlet and doublet microtubules. We speculate that TAILS may stabilize microtubules, enable rapid swimming or play a role in controlling the swimming direction of spermatozoa.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Sperm, Spermatozoon, Semen, Flagellum, Cytoskeleton, Dynein, Microtubule


Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a common, irreversible blinding condition that leads to the loss of central vision. AMD has a complex aetiology with both genetic as well as environmental risks factors, and share many similarities with Alzheimer’s disease. Recent findings have contributed significantly to unravelling its genetic architecture that is yet to be matched by molecular insights. Studies are made more challenging by observations that aged and AMD retinas accumulate the highly pathogenic Alzheimer’s-related Amyloid beta (Aβ) group of peptides, for which there appears to be no clear genetic basis. Analyses of human donor and animal eyes have identified retinal Aβ aggregates in retinal ganglion cells (RGC), the inner nuclear layer, photoreceptors as well as the retinal pigment epithelium. Aβ is also a major drusen constituent; found correlated with elevated drusen-load and age, with a propensity to aggregate in retinas of advanced AMD. Despite this evidence, how such a potent driver of neurodegeneration might impair the neuroretina remains incompletely understood, and studies into this important aspect of retinopathy remains limited. In order to address this we exploited R28 rat retinal cells which due to its heterogeneous nature, offers diverse neuroretinal cell-types in which to study the molecular pathology of Aβ. R28 cells are also unaffected by problems associated with the commonly used RGC-5 immortalised cell-line, thus providing a well-established model in which to study dynamic Aβ effects at single-cell resolution. Our findings show that R28 cells express key neuronal markers calbindin, protein kinase C and the microtubule associated protein-2 (MAP-2) by confocal immunofluorescence which has not been shown before, but also calretinin which has not been reported previously. For the first time, we reveal that retinal neurons rapidly internalised Aβ1-42, the most cytotoxic and aggregate-prone amongst the Aβ family. Furthermore, exposure to physiological amounts of Aβ1-42 for 24 h correlated with impairment to neuronal MAP-2, a cytoskeletal protein which regulates microtubule dynamics in axons and dendrites. Disruption to MAP-2 was transient, and had recovered by 48 h, although internalised Aβ persisted as discrete puncta for as long as 72 h. To assess whether Aβ could realistically localise to living retinas to mediate such effects, we subretinally injected nanomolar levels of oligomeric Aβ1-42 into wildtype mice. Confocal microscopy revealed the presence of focal Aβ deposits in RGC, the inner nuclear and the outer plexiform layers 8 days later, recapitulating naturally-occurring patterns of Aβ aggregation in aged retinas. Our novel findings describe how retinal neurons internalise Aβ to transiently impair MAP-2 in a hitherto unreported manner. MAP-2 dysfunction is reported in AMD retinas, and is thought to be involved in remodelling and plasticity of post-mitotic neurons. Our insights suggest a molecular pathway by which this could occur in the senescent eye leading to complex diseases such as AMD.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Protein, Neuron, Signal transduction, Retina, Eye, Drusen, Microtubule


Microtubule-stabilizing agents (MSAs) are efficacious chemotherapeutic drugs widely used for the treatment of cancer. Despite the importance of MSAs for medical applications and basic research, their molecular mechanisms of action on tubulin and microtubules remain elusive. Here, we determined high-resolution crystal structures of αβ-tubulin in complex with two unrelated MSAs, zampanolide and epothilone A. Both compounds were bound to the taxane-pocket of β-tubulin and used their respective side chain to induce structuring of the M-loop into a short helix. Because the M-loop establishes lateral tubulin contacts in microtubules, these findings explain how taxane-site MSAs promote microtubule assembly and stability. They further offer fundamental structural insights into the control mechanisms of microtubule dynamics.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Chemotherapy, Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, Vincristine, Taxane, Microtubule, Paclitaxel


A novel class of experimental fungicides has been discovered, which consists of special tetrasubstituted imidazoles. They are highly active against important phytopathogens, such as Botrytis cinerea (grey mould), Uncinula necator (grape powdery mildew), Mycosphaerella graminicola (wheat leaf blotch) and Alternaria solani (potato and tomato early blight). Their fungicidal efficacy is due to their ability to promote fungal tubulin polymerization, which leads to a disruption of microtubule dynamics. These imidazoles are five-membered ring analogs of similar substituted triazolopyrimidines and pyridazines with the same mode of action. A concise four-step synthesis route has been used to prepare them from commercially available starting materials.

Concepts: Microtubule, Plant pathogens and diseases, Viticulture, Botrytis cinerea, Alternaria, Alternaria solani, Uncinula necator


Citronellal is a major component of Corymbia citriodora and Cymbopogon nardus essential oils. Herein it is shown that whereas (+)-citronellal (1) is an effective microtubule (MT)-disrupting compound, (-)-citronellal (2) is not. Quantitative image analysis of fibroblast cells treated with 1 showed total fluorescence associated with fibers resembling that in cells treated with the MT-disrupting agents colchicine and vinblastine; in the presence of 2, the fluorescence more closely resembled that in control cells. The distribution of tubulin in soluble and insoluble fractions in the presence of 1 also resembled that in the presence of colchicine, whereas similar tubulin distribution was obtained in the presence of 2 and in control cells. In vitro polymerization of MTs was inhibited by 1 but not 2. Measurements of MT dynamics in plant cells showed similar MT elongation and shortening rates in control and 2-treated cells, whereas in the presence of 1, much fewer and shorter MTs were observed and no elongation or shrinkage was detected. Taken together, the MT system is suggested to be able to discriminate between different enantiomers of the same compound. In addition, the activity of essential oils rich in citronellal is affected by the relative content of the two enantiomers of this monoterpenoid.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Cytoskeleton, Mitosis, Colchicine, Tubulin, Microtubule, Citronella oil, Cymbopogon nardus


Anaphase central spindle formation is controlled by the microtubule-stabilizing factor PRC1 and the kinesin KIF4A. We show that an MKlp2-dependent pool of Aurora B at the central spindle, rather than global Aurora B activity, regulates KIF4A accumulation at the central spindle. KIF4A phosphorylation by Aurora B stimulates the maximal microtubule-dependent ATPase activity of KIF4A and promotes its interaction with PRC1. In the presence of phosphorylated KIF4A, microtubules grew more slowly and showed long pauses in growth, resulting in the generation of shorter PRC1-stabilized microtubule overlaps in vitro. Cells expressing only mutant forms of KIF4A lacking the Aurora B phosphorylation site overextended the anaphase central spindle, demonstrating that this regulation is crucial for microtubule length control in vivo. Aurora B therefore ensures that suppression of microtubule dynamic instability by KIF4A is restricted to a specific subset of microtubules and thereby contributes to central spindle size control in anaphase.

Concepts: In vivo, Phosphorylation, In vitro, Cytoskeleton, Mitosis, Dynein, Kinesin, Microtubule


Growing microtubule end regions recruit a variety of proteins collectively termed +TIPs, which confer local functions to the microtubule cytoskeleton. +TIPs form dynamic interaction networks whose behaviour depends on a number of potentially competitive and hierarchical interaction modes. The rules that determine which of the various +TIPs are recruited to the limited number of available binding sites at microtubule ends remain poorly understood. Here we examined how the human dynein complex, the main minus-end-directed motor and an important +TIP (refs , , ), is targeted to growing microtubule ends in the presence of different +TIP competitors. Using a total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy-based reconstitution assay, we found that a hierarchical recruitment mode targets the large dynactin subunit p150Glued to growing microtubule ends via EB1 and CLIP-170 in the presence of competing SxIP-motif-containing peptides. We further show that the human dynein complex is targeted to growing microtubule ends through an interaction of the tail domain of dynein with p150Glued. Our results highlight how the connectivity and hierarchy within dynamic +TIP networks are orchestrated.

Concepts: Protein, Human, Eukaryote, Total internal reflection fluorescence microscope, Dynein, Kinesin, Reflection, Microtubule


To exert forces, motor proteins bind with one end to cytoskeletal filaments, such as microtubules and actin, and with the other end to the cell cortex, a vesicle or another motor. A general question is how motors search for sites in the cell where both motor ends can bind to their respective binding partners. In the present review, we focus on cytoplasmic dynein, which is required for a myriad of cellular functions in interphase, mitosis and meiosis, ranging from transport of organelles and functioning of the mitotic spindle to chromosome movements in meiotic prophase. We discuss how dynein targets sites where it can exert a pulling force on the microtubule to transport cargo inside the cell.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Eukaryote, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Cytoskeleton, Mitosis, Motor protein, Microtubule