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

Journal: Developmental cell


The factors mediating fatal SARS-CoV-2 infections are poorly understood. Here, we show that cigarette smoke causes a dose-dependent upregulation of Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2), the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, in rodent and human lungs. Using single-cell sequencing data, we demonstrate that ACE2 is expressed in a subset of secretory cells in the respiratory tract. Chronic smoke exposure triggers the expansion of this cell population and a concomitant increase in ACE2 expression. In contrast, quitting smoking decreases the abundance of these secretory cells and reduces ACE2 levels. Finally, we demonstrate that ACE2 expression is responsive to inflammatory signaling and can be upregulated by viral infections or interferon treatment. Taken together, these results may partially explain why smokers are particularly susceptible to severe SARS-CoV-2 infections. Furthermore, our work identifies ACE2 as an interferon-stimulated gene in lung cells, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 infections could create positive-feedback loops that increase ACE2 levels and facilitate viral dissemination.


COPI mediates retrograde trafficking from the Golgi to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and within the Golgi stack, sorting transmembrane proteins bearing C-terminal KKxx or KxKxx motifs. The structure of KxKxx motifs bound to the N-terminal WD-repeat domain of β'-COP identifies electrostatic contacts between the motif and complementary patches at the center of the β'-COP propeller. An absolute requirement of a two-residue spacing between the terminal carboxylate group and first lysine residue results from interactions of carbonyl groups in the motif backbone with basic side chains of β'-COP. Similar interactions are proposed to mediate binding of KKxx motifs by the homologous α-COP domain. Mutation of key interacting residues in either domain or in their cognate motifs abolishes in vitro binding and results in mistrafficking of dilysine-containing cargo in yeast without compromising cell viability. Flexibility between β'-COP WD-repeat domains and the location of cargo binding have implications for COPI coat assembly.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Glycosylation, Lysosome


Early retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) in vertebrates produce lineages that vary greatly both in terms of cell number and fate composition, yet how this variability is achieved remains unknown. One possibility is that these RPCs are individually distinct and that each gives rise to a unique lineage. Another is that stochastic mechanisms play upon the determinative machinery of equipotent early RPCs to drive clonal variability. Here we show that a simple model, based on the independent firing of key fate-influencing transcription factors, can quantitatively account for the intrinsic clonal variance in the zebrafish retina and predict the distributions of neuronal cell types in clones where one or more of these fates are made unavailable.

Concepts: DNA, Neuron, Genetics, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Developmental biology, Retina, Zebrafish


Adipocytes have many functions in various tissues beyond energy storage, including regulating metabolism, growth, and immunity. However, little is known about their role in wound healing. Here we use live imaging of fat body cells, the equivalent of vertebrate adipocytes in Drosophila, to investigate their potential behaviors and functions following skin wounding. We find that pupal fat body cells are not immotile, as previously presumed, but actively migrate to wounds using an unusual adhesion-independent, actomyosin-driven, peristaltic mode of motility. Once at the wound, fat body cells collaborate with hemocytes, Drosophila macrophages, to clear the wound of cell debris; they also tightly seal the epithelial wound gap and locally release antimicrobial peptides to fight wound infection. Thus, fat body cells are motile cells, enabling them to migrate to wounds to undertake several local functions needed to drive wound repair and prevent infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Wound healing, Motility, Physiology, Infection, Wound, Traumatology, Chronic wound


An important feature of the mammary gland is its ability to undergo repeated morphological changes during each reproductive cycle with profound tissue expansion in pregnancy and regression in involution. However, the mechanisms that determine the tissue’s cyclic regenerative capacity remain elusive. We have now discovered that Cre-Lox ablation of Rac1 in mammary epithelia causes gross enlargement of the epithelial tree and defective alveolar regeneration in a second pregnancy. Architectural defects arise because loss of Rac1 disrupts clearance in involution following the first lactation. We show that Rac1 is crucial for mammary alveolar epithelia to switch from secretion to a phagocytic mode and rapidly remove dying neighbors. Moreover, Rac1 restricts the extrusion of dying cells into the lumen, thus promoting their eradication by live phagocytic neighbors while within the epithelium. Without Rac1, residual milk and cell corpses flood the ductal network, causing gross dilation, chronic inflammation, and defective future regeneration.

Concepts: Prolactin, Secretion, Epithelium, Milk, Skin, Progesterone, Gland, Mammary gland


Dietary lipids impact development, homeostasis, and disease, but links between specific dietary fats and cell fates are poorly understood. Ferroptosis is an iron-dependent form of nonapoptotic cell death associated with oxidized polyunsaturated phospholipids. Here, we show that dietary ingestion of the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) dihomogamma-linolenic acid (DGLA; 20:3n-6) can trigger germ-cell ferroptosis and sterility in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Exogenous DGLA is also sufficient to induce ferroptosis in human cells, pinpointing this omega-6 PUFA as a conserved metabolic instigator of this lethal process. In both C. elegans and human cancer cells, ether-lipid synthesis protects against ferroptosis. These results establish C. elegans as a powerful animal model to study the induction and modulation of ferroptosis by dietary fats and indicate that endogenous ether lipids act to prevent this nonapoptotic cell fate.


Naive pluripotency is manifest in the preimplantation mammalian embryo. Here we determine transcriptome dynamics of mouse development from the eight-cell stage to postimplantation using lineage-specific RNA sequencing. This method combines high sensitivity and reporter-based fate assignment to acquire the full spectrum of gene expression from discrete embryonic cell types. We define expression modules indicative of developmental state and temporal regulatory patterns marking the establishment and dissolution of naive pluripotency in vivo. Analysis of embryonic stem cells and diapaused embryos reveals near-complete conservation of the core transcriptional circuitry operative in the preimplantation epiblast. Comparison to inner cell masses of marmoset primate blastocysts identifies a similar complement of pluripotency factors but use of alternative signaling pathways. Embryo culture experiments further indicate that marmoset embryos utilize WNT signaling during early lineage segregation, unlike rodents. These findings support a conserved transcription factor foundation for naive pluripotency while revealing species-specific regulatory features of lineage segregation.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Cell, Transcription, Molecular biology, Embryo, Developmental biology


Human gut development requires the orchestrated interaction of differentiating cell types. Here, we generate an in-depth single-cell map of the developing human intestine at 6-10 weeks post-conception. Our analysis reveals the transcriptional profile of cycling epithelial precursor cells; distinct from LGR5-expressing cells. We propose that these cells may contribute to differentiated cell subsets via the generation of LGR5-expressing stem cells and receive signals from surrounding mesenchymal cells. Furthermore, we draw parallels between the transcriptomes of ex vivo tissues and in vitro fetal organoids, revealing the maturation of organoid cultures in a dish. Lastly, we compare scRNA-seq profiles from pediatric Crohn’s disease epithelium alongside matched healthy controls to reveal disease-associated changes in the epithelial composition. Contrasting these with the fetal profiles reveals the re-activation of fetal transcription factors in Crohn’s disease. Our study provides a resource available at, and underscores the importance of unraveling fetal development in understanding disease.


Single-cell gene expression analyses of mammalian tissues have uncovered profound stage-specific molecular regulatory phenomena that have changed the understanding of unique cell types and signaling pathways critical for lineage determination, morphogenesis, and growth. We discuss here the case for a Pediatric Cell Atlas as part of the Human Cell Atlas consortium to provide single-cell profiles and spatial characterization of gene expression across human tissues and organs. Such data will complement adult and developmentally focused HCA projects to provide a rich cytogenomic framework for understanding not only pediatric health and disease but also environmental and genetic impacts across the human lifespan.


Many organs are formed through folding of an epithelium. This change in shape is usually attributed to tissue heterogeneities, for example, local apical contraction. In contrast, compressive stresses have been proposed to fold a homogeneous epithelium by buckling. While buckling is an appealing mechanism, demonstrating that it underlies folding requires measurement of the stress field and the material properties of the tissue, which are currently inaccessible in vivo. Here, we show that monolayers of identical cells proliferating on the inner surface of elastic spherical shells can spontaneously fold. By measuring the elastic deformation of the shell, we infer the forces acting within the monolayer and its elastic modulus. Using analytical and numerical theories linking forces to shape, we find that buckling quantitatively accounts for the shape changes of our monolayers. Our study shows that forces arising from epithelial growth in three-dimensional confinement are sufficient to drive folding by buckling.