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Concept: Signal transduction


Background Osimertinib is an epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor (EGFR-TKI) that is selective for both EGFR-TKI sensitizing and T790M resistance mutations in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. The efficacy of osimertinib as compared with platinum-based therapy plus pemetrexed in such patients is unknown. Methods In this randomized, international, open-label, phase 3 trial, we assigned 419 patients with T790M-positive advanced non-small-cell lung cancer, who had disease progression after first-line EGFR-TKI therapy, in a 2:1 ratio to receive either oral osimertinib (at a dose of 80 mg once daily) or intravenous pemetrexed (500 mg per square meter of body-surface area) plus either carboplatin (target area under the curve, 5 [AUC5]) or cisplatin (75 mg per square meter) every 3 weeks for up to six cycles; maintenance pemetrexed was allowed. In all the patients, disease had progressed during receipt of first-line EGFR-TKI therapy. The primary end point was investigator-assessed progression-free survival. Results The median duration of progression-free survival was significantly longer with osimertinib than with platinum therapy plus pemetrexed (10.1 months vs. 4.4 months; hazard ratio; 0.30; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.23 to 0.41; P<0.001). The objective response rate was significantly better with osimertinib (71%; 95% CI, 65 to 76) than with platinum therapy plus pemetrexed (31%; 95% CI, 24 to 40) (odds ratio for objective response, 5.39; 95% CI, 3.47 to 8.48; P<0.001). Among 144 patients with metastases to the central nervous system (CNS), the median duration of progression-free survival was longer among patients receiving osimertinib than among those receiving platinum therapy plus pemetrexed (8.5 months vs. 4.2 months; hazard ratio, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.21 to 0.49). The proportion of patients with adverse events of grade 3 or higher was lower with osimertinib (23%) than with platinum therapy plus pemetrexed (47%). Conclusions Osimertinib had significantly greater efficacy than platinum therapy plus pemetrexed in patients with T790M-positive advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (including those with CNS metastases) in whom disease had progressed during first-line EGFR-TKI therapy. (Funded by AstraZeneca; AURA3 number, NCT02151981 .).

Concepts: Central nervous system, Epidemiology, Cancer, Signal transduction, Lung cancer, Epidermal growth factor receptor, Epidermal growth factor, Cisplatin


Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. Tocopherols are the predominant form of vitamin E found in the diet and in supplements and have garnered interest for their potential cancer therapeutic and preventive effects, such as the dephosphorylation of Akt, a serine/threonine kinase with a pivotal role in cell growth, survival, and metabolism. Dephosphorylation of Akt at Ser(473) substantially reduces its catalytic activity and inhibits downstream signaling. We found that the mechanism by which α-tocopherol and γ-tocopherol facilitate this site-specific dephosphorylation of Akt was mediated through the pleckstrin homology (PH) domain-dependent recruitment of Akt and PHLPP1 (PH domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase, isoform 1) to the plasma membrane. We structurally optimized these tocopherols to obtain derivatives with greater in vitro potency and in vivo tumor-suppressive activity in two prostate xenograft tumor models. Binding affinities for the PH domains of Akt and PHLPP1 were greater than for other PH domain-containing proteins, which may underlie the preferential recruitment of these proteins to membranes containing tocopherols. Molecular modeling revealed the structural determinants of the interaction with the PH domain of Akt that may inform strategies for continued structural optimization. By describing a mechanism by which tocopherols facilitate the dephosphorylation of Akt at Ser(473), we provide insights into the mode of antitumor action of tocopherols and a rationale for the translational development of tocopherols into novel PH domain-targeted Akt inhibitors.

Concepts: Protein, Protein structure, Signal transduction, Metabolism, Enzyme, Cell membrane, Antioxidant, PHLPP


Thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue (BAT) is fundamental to energy balance and is also relevant for humans. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) regulate adipogenesis, and, here, we describe a role for BMP8B in the direct regulation of thermogenesis. BMP8B is induced by nutritional and thermogenic factors in mature BAT, increasing the response to noradrenaline through enhanced p38MAPK/CREB signaling and increased lipase activity. Bmp8b(-/-) mice exhibit impaired thermogenesis and reduced metabolic rate, causing weight gain despite hypophagia. BMP8B is also expressed in the hypothalamus, and Bmp8b(-/-) mice display altered neuropeptide levels and reduced phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), indicating an anorexigenic state. Central BMP8B treatment increased sympathetic activation of BAT, dependent on the status of AMPK in key hypothalamic nuclei. Our results indicate that BMP8B is a thermogenic protein that regulates energy balance in partnership with hypothalamic AMPK. BMP8B may offer a mechanism to specifically increase energy dissipation by BAT.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Leptin, Brown adipose tissue, Bone morphogenetic protein, Adiponectin


G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) play essential roles in various physiological processes, and are widely targeted by pharmaceutical drugs. Despite their importance, studying GPCRs has been problematic due to difficulties in isolating large quantities of these membrane proteins in forms that retain their ligand binding capabilities. Creating water-soluble variants of GPCRs by mutating the exterior, transmembrane residues provides a potential method to overcome these difficulties. Here we present the first study involving the computational design, expression and characterization of water-soluble variant of a human GPCR, the human mu opioid receptor (MUR), which is involved in pain and addiction. An atomistic structure of the transmembrane domain was built using comparative (homology) modeling and known GPCR structures. This structure was highly similar to the subsequently determined structure of the murine receptor and was used to computationally design 53 mutations of exterior residues in the transmembrane region, yielding a variant intended to be soluble in aqueous media. The designed variant expressed in high yield in Escherichia coli and was water soluble. The variant shared structural and functionally related features with the native human MUR, including helical secondary structure and comparable affinity for the antagonist naltrexone (K d  = 65 nM). The roles of cholesterol and disulfide bonds on the stability of the receptor variant were also investigated. This study exemplifies the potential of the computational approach to produce water-soluble variants of GPCRs amenable for structural and functionally related characterization in aqueous solution.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Receptor, Opioid receptor, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Solutions


A functionalized nanohydrogel siRNA delivery system and a mouse model of serous ovarian cancer were used to test predictions from previous cell line studies that knockdown of EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) may be of clinical significance in the treatment of epithelial tumors especially with respect to the enhancement of platinum based therapies. Our results support these predictions and suggest that targeted delivery of EGFR siRNA may be an effective strategy for the treatment of ovarian and other epithelial tumors associated with elevated levels of EGFR and especially those demonstrating resistance to platinum-based therapies.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Signal transduction, Epidermal growth factor receptor, Epidermal growth factor, Growth factor, Tumor, Growth factor receptor


A highly crystallizable T4 lysozyme (T4L) was fused to the N-terminus of the β(2) adrenergic receptor (β(2)AR), a G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) for catecholamines. We demonstrate that the N-terminal fused T4L is sufficiently rigid relative to the receptor to facilitate crystallogenesis without thermostabilizing mutations or the use of a stabilizing antibody, G protein, or protein fused to the 3rd intracellular loop. This approach adds to the protein engineering strategies that enable crystallographic studies of GPCRs alone or in complex with a signaling partner.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Guanine nucleotide exchange factor, G protein, Beta-2 adrenergic receptor


Plants have evolved intracellular immune receptors to detect pathogen proteins known as effectors. How these immune receptors detect effectors remains poorly understood. Here we describe the structural basis for direct recognition of AVR-Pik, an effector from the rice blast pathogen, by the rice intracellular NLR immune receptor Pik. AVR-PikD binds a dimer of the Pikp-1 HMA integrated domain with nanomolar affinity. The crystal structure of the Pikp-HMA/AVR-PikD complex enabled design of mutations to alter protein interaction in yeast and in vitro, and perturb effector-mediated response both in a rice cultivar containing Pikp and upon expression of AVR-PikD and Pikp in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana. These data reveal the molecular details of a recognition event, mediated by a novel integrated domain in an NLR, which initiates a plant immune response and resistance to rice blast disease. Such studies underpin novel opportunities for engineering disease resistance to plant pathogens in staple food crops.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Signal transduction, Fungus, Rice, Plant pathogens and diseases


Integrin clustering plays a pivotal role in a host of cell functions. Hetero-dimeric integrin adhesion receptors regulate cell migration, survival, and differentiation by communicating signals bidirectionally across the plasma membrane. Thus far, crystallographic structures of integrin components are solved only separately, and for some integrin types. Also, the sequence of interactions that leads to signal transduction remains ambiguous. Particularly, it remains controversial whether the homo-dimerization of integrin transmembrane domains occurs following the integrin activation (i.e. when integrin ectodomain is stretched out) or if it regulates integrin clustering. This study employs molecular dynamics modeling approaches to address these questions in molecular details and sheds light on the crucial effect of the plasma membrane. Conducting a normal mode analysis of the intact αllbβ3 integrin, it is demonstrated that the ectodomain and transmembrane-cytoplasmic domains are connected via a membrane-proximal hinge region, thus merely transmembrane-cytoplasmic domains are modeled. By measuring the free energy change and force required to form integrin homo-oligomers, this study suggests that the β-subunit homo-oligomerization potentially regulates integrin clustering, as opposed to α-subunit, which appears to be a poor regulator for the clustering process. If α-subunits are to regulate the clustering they should overcome a high-energy barrier formed by a stable lipid pack around them. Finally, an outside-in activation-clustering scenario is speculated, explaining how further loading the already-active integrin affects its homo-oligomerization so that focal adhesions grow in size.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Cell biology, Cell signaling, G protein-coupled receptor, Gibbs free energy, Normal mode


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


Identification of a systemically acting and universal small molecule therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy would be an enormous advance for this condition. Based on evidence gained from studies on mouse genetic models we have identified tyrosine phosphorylation and degradation of β-dystroglycan as a key event in the aetiology of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Thus preventing tyrosine phosphorylation and degradation of β-dystroglycan presents itself as a potential therapeutic strategy. Using the dystrophic sapje zebrafish we have investigated the use of tyrosine kinase and other inhibitors to treat the dystrophic symptoms in this model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Dasatinib, a potent and specific Src tyrosine kinase inhibitor was found to decrease the levels of β-dystroglycan phosphorylation on tyrosine and increase the relative levels of non-phosphorylated β-dystroglycan in sapje zebrafish. Furthermore, dasatinib treatment resulted in the improved physical appearance of the sapje zebrafish musculature and increased swimming ability as measured by both duration and distance of swimming dasatinib treated fish compared to control animals. These data suggest great promise for pharmacological agents that prevent the phosphorylation of β-dystroglycan on tyrosine and subsequent steps in the degradation pathway as therapeutic targets for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Protein kinase, Phosphorylation, Enzyme inhibitor, Electromyography, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Morpholino