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Journal: BMC cell biology


Gap junctions facilitate exchange of small molecules between adjacent cells, serving a crucial function for the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. Mutations in connexins, the basic unit of gap junctions, are associated with several human hereditary disorders. For example, mutations in connexin26 (Cx26) cause both non-syndromic deafness and syndromic deafness associated with skin abnormalities such as keratitis-ichthyosis-deafness (KID) syndrome. These mutations can alter the formation and function of gap junction channels through different mechanisms, and in turn interfere with various cellular processes leading to distinct disorders. The KID associated Cx26 mutations were mostly shown to result in elevated hemichannel activities. However, the effects of these aberrant hemichannels on cellular processes are recently being deciphered. Here, we assessed the effect of two Cx26 mutations associated with KID syndrome, Cx26I30N and D50Y, on protein biosynthesis and channel function in N2A and HeLa cells.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Metabolism, Cell culture, Cell signaling, Gap junction, Connexin, Pannexin


In Drosophila early post-meiotic spermatids, mitochondria undergo dramatic shaping into the Nebenkern, a spherical body with complex internal structure that contains two interwrapped giant mitochondrial derivatives. The purpose of this study was to elucidate genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying the shaping of this structure.

Concepts: DNA, Cell, Bacteria, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, Oxidative phosphorylation, Cellular respiration, ATP synthase


DNA hypermethylation is a key epigenetic mechanism for the silencing of many genes in cancer. Hinokitiol, a tropolone-related natural compound, is known to induce apoptosis and cell cycle arrest and has anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor activities. However, the relationship between hinokitiol and DNA methylation is not clear. The aim of our study was to explore whether hinokitiol has an inhibitory ability on the DNA methylation in colon cancer cells.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Cancer, Histone, Chromosome, Colorectal cancer, DNA replication, Methylation


Animals are exposed to a wide range of environmental stresses that can cause potentially fatal cellular damage. The ability to survive the period of stress as well as to repair any damage incurred is essential for fitness. Exposure to 2 °C for 24 h or longer is rapidly fatal to the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, but the process of recovery from a shorter, initially non-lethal, cold shock is poorly understood.

Concepts: Caenorhabditis elegans, Animal, Caenorhabditis, Nematode, Model organism, Rhabditidae, Sydney Brenner, Caenorhabditis briggsae


Environmental factors are important for stem cell lineage specification, and increasing evidence indicates that the nanoscale geometry/topography of the extracellular matrix (ECM) directs stem cell fate. Recently, many three-dimensional (3D) biomimetic nanofibrous scaffolds resembling many characteristics of the native ECM have been used in stem cell-based myocardial tissue engineering. However, the biophysical role and underlying mechanism of 3D nanofibrous scaffolds in cardiomyocyte differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) remain unclear.

Concepts: Extracellular matrix, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Embryonic stem cell, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


BACKGROUND: The present review summarizes current knowledge about microparticles (MPs) and provides a systematic overview of last 20 years of research on circulating MPs, with particular focus on their clinical relevance. RESULTS: MPs are a heterogeneous population of cell-derived vesicles, with sizes ranging between 50 and 1000 nm. MPs are capable of transferring peptides, proteins, lipid components, microRNA, mRNA, and DNA from one cell to another without direct cell-to-cell contact. Growing evidence suggests that MPs present in peripheral blood and body fluids contribute to the development and progression of cancer, and are of pathophysiological relevance for autoimmune, inflammatory, infectious, cardiovascular, hematological, and other diseases. MPs have large diagnostic potential as biomarkers; however, due to current technological limitations in purification of MPs and an absence of standardized methods of MP detection, challenges remain in validating the potential of MPs as a non-invasive and early diagnostic platform. CONCLUSIONS: Improvements in the effective deciphering of MP molecular signatures will be critical not only for diagnostics but also for the evaluation of treatment regimens and predicting disease outcomes.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Infectious disease, Blood, RNA, Messenger RNA, Future, Circle


Obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to the development of heart disease and arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation. Since altered conduction through gap junction channels can contribute to the pathogenesis of such arrhythmias, we examined the abundance and distributions of the major cardiac gap junction proteins, connexin40 (Cx40) and connexin43 (Cx43) in mice treated with sleep fragmentation or intermittent hypoxia (IH) as animal models of the components of obstructive sleep apnea.

Concepts: Blood, Heart, Atrial fibrillation, Heart disease, Circulatory system, Sleep apnea, Obstructive sleep apnea, Gap junction


Genomes of eukaryotes exist as chromatin, and it is known that different chromatin states can influence gene regulation. Chromatin is not a static structure, but is known to be dynamic and vary between cells. In order to monitor the organisation of chromatin in live cells we have engineered fluorescent fusion proteins which recognize specific operator sequences to tag pairs of syntenic gene loci. The separation of these loci was then tracked in three dimensions over time using fluorescence microscopy.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Cell, Organism, Chromosome


Research antibodies are used by thousands of scientists working in diverse disciplines, but it is common to hear concerns about antibody quality. This means that researchers need to carefully choose the antibodies they use to avoid wasting time and money. A well accepted way of selecting a research antibody is to identify one which has been used previously, where the associated data has been peer-reviewed and the results published.

Concepts: Scientific method, Academic publishing, Science


BACKGROUND: The scarcity of certain nucleic acid species and the small size of target sequences such as miRNA, impose a significant barrier to subcellular visualization and present a major challenge to cell biologists. Here, we offer a generic and highly sensitive visualization approach (oligo fluorescent in situ hybridization, O-FISH) that can be used to detect such nucleic acids using a single-oligonucleotide probe of 19–26 nucleotides in length. RESULTS: We used O-FISH to visualize miR146a in human and avian cells. Furthermore, we reveal the sensitivity of O-FISH detection by using a HIV-1 model system to show that as little as 1–2 copies of nucleic acids can be detected in a single cell. We were able to discern newly synthesized viral cDNA and, moreover, observed that certain HIV RNA sequences are only transiently available for O-FISH detection. CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, these results suggest that the O-FISH method can potentially be used for in situ probing of, as few as, 1–2 copies of nucleic acid and, additionally, to visualize small RNA such as miRNA. We further propose that the O-FISH method could be extended to understand viral function by probing newly transcribed viral intermediates; and discern the localisation of nucleic acids of interest. Additionally, interrogating the conformation and structure of a particular nucleic acid in situ might also be possible, based on the accessibility of a target sequence.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell nucleus, Adenosine triphosphate, RNA, Nucleic acid, Nucleotide