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

Journal: Protein & cell


Genome editing tools such as the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-associated system (Cas) have been widely used to modify genes in model systems including animal zygotes and human cells, and hold tremendous promise for both basic research and clinical applications. To date, a serious knowledge gap remains in our understanding of DNA repair mechanisms in human early embryos, and in the efficiency and potential off-target effects of using technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 in human pre-implantation embryos. In this report, we used tripronuclear (3PN) zygotes to further investigate CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing in human cells. We found that CRISPR/Cas9 could effectively cleave the endogenous β-globin gene (HBB). However, the efficiency of homologous recombination directed repair (HDR) of HBB was low and the edited embryos were mosaic. Off-target cleavage was also apparent in these 3PN zygotes as revealed by the T7E1 assay and whole-exome sequencing. Furthermore, the endogenous delta-globin gene (HBD), which is homologous to HBB, competed with exogenous donor oligos to act as the repair template, leading to untoward mutations. Our data also indicated that repair of the HBB locus in these embryos occurred preferentially through the non-crossover HDR pathway. Taken together, our work highlights the pressing need to further improve the fidelity and specificity of the CRISPR/Cas9 platform, a prerequisite for any clinical applications of CRSIPR/Cas9-mediated editing.

Concepts: Protein, Chromosome, Bacteria, Evolution, Genetics, Gene, DNA repair, DNA


Detection of protein-protein interaction can provide valuable information for investigating the biological function of proteins. The current methods that applied in protein-protein interaction, such as co-immunoprecipitation and pull down etc., often cause plenty of working time due to the burdensome cloning and purification procedures. Here we established a system that characterization of protein-protein interaction was accomplished by co-expression and simply purification of target proteins from one expression cassette within E. coli system. We modified pET vector into co-expression vector pInvivo which encoded PPV NIa protease, two cleavage site F and two multiple cloning sites that flanking cleavage sites. The target proteins (for example: protein A and protein B) were inserted at multiple cloning sites and translated into polyprotein in the order of MBP tag-protein A-site F-PPV NIa protease-site F-protein B-His(6) tag. PPV NIa protease carried out intracellular cleavage along expression, then led to the separation of polyprotein components, therefore, the interaction between protein A-protein B can be detected through one-step purification and analysis. Negative control for protein B was brought into this system for monitoring interaction specificity. We successfully employed this system to prove two cases of reported protien-protein interaction: RHA2a/ANAC and FTA/FTB. In conclusion, a convenient and efficient system has been successfully developed for detecting protein-protein interaction.

Concepts: Cell biology, Enzyme, Proteins, Amino acid, Gene, Escherichia coli, Molecular biology, Protein


Inflammasomes are multiprotein complexes that serve as a platform for caspase-1 activation and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) maturation as well as pyroptosis. Though a number of inflammasomes have been described, the NLRP3 inflammasome is the most extensively studied. NLRP3 inflammasome is triggered by a variety of stimuli, including infection, tissue damage and metabolic dysregulation, and then activated through an integrated cellular signal. Many regulatory mechanisms have been identified to attenuate NLRP3 inflammasome signaling at multiple steps. Here, we review the developments in the negative regulation of NLRP3 inflammasome that protect host from inflammatory damage.

Concepts: Inflammation, Inflammasome, Caspase 1, Regulation, Signal


The BCCIP (BRCA2- and CDKN1A-interacting protein) is an important cofactor for BRCA2 in tumor suppression. Although the low expression of BCCIP is observed in multiple clinically diagnosed primary tumor tissues such as ovarian cancer, renal cell carcinoma and colorectal carcinoma, the mechanism of how BCCIP is regulated in cells is still unclear. The human INO80/YY1 chromatin remodeling complex composed of 15 subunits catalyzes ATP-dependent sliding of nucleosomes along DNA. Here, we first report that BCCIP is a novel target gene of the INO80/YY1 complex by presenting a series of experimental evidence. Gene expression studies combined with siRNA knockdown data locked candidate genes including BCCIP of the INO80/YY1 complex. Silencing or over-expressing the subunits of the INO80/YY1 complex regulates the expression level of BCCIP both in mRNA and proteins in cells. Also, the functions of INO80/YY1 complex in regulating the transactivation of BCCIP were confirmed by luciferase reporter assays. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) experiments clarify the enrichment of INO80 and YY1 at +0.17 kb downstream of the BCCIP transcriptional start site. However, this enrichment is significantly inhibited by either knocking down INO80 or YY1, suggesting the existence of both INO80 and YY1 is required for recruiting the INO80/YY1 complex to BCCIP promoter region. Our findings strongly indicate that BCCIP is a potential target gene of the INO80/YY1 complex.

Concepts: RNA polymerase, Protein, Cell nucleus, Transcription, Cancer, Gene, Gene expression, DNA


Ebola virus (EBOV) is a key member of Filoviridae family and causes severe human infectious diseases with high morbidity and mortality. As a typical negative-sense single-stranded RNA (-ssRNA) viruses, EBOV possess a nucleocapsid protein (NP) to facilitate genomic RNA encapsidation to form viral ribonucleoprotein complex (RNP) together with genome RNA and polymerase, which plays the most essential role in virus proliferation cycle. However, the mechanism of EBOV RNP formation remains unclear. In this work, we solved the high resolution structure of core domain of EBOV NP. The polypeptide of EBOV NP core domain (NPcore) possesses an N-lobe and C-lobe to clamp a RNA binding groove, presenting similarities with the structures of the other reported viral NPs encoded by the members from Mononegavirales order. Most strikingly, a hydrophobic pocket at the surface of the C-lobe is occupied by an α-helix of EBOV NPcore itself, which is highly conserved among filoviridae family. Combined with other biochemical and biophysical evidences, our results provides great potential for understanding the mechanism underlying EBOV RNP formation via the mobility of EBOV NP element and enables the development of antiviral therapies targeting EBOV RNP formation.

Concepts: Gene, RNA virus, Protein, RNA, Genetics, DNA, Virus, Genome


The recent explosive outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection has been reported in South and Central America and the Caribbean. Neonatal microcephaly associated with ZIKV infection has already caused a public health emergency of international concern. No specific vaccines or drugs are currently available to treat ZIKV infection. The ZIKV helicase, which plays a pivotal role in viral RNA replication, is an attractive target for therapy. We determined the crystal structures of ZIKV helicase-ATP-Mn(2+) and ZIKV helicase-RNA. This is the first structure of any flavivirus helicase bound to ATP. Comparisons with related flavivirus helicases have shown that although the critical P-loop in the active site has variable conformations among different species, it adopts an identical mode to recognize ATP/Mn(2+). The structure of ZIKV helicase-RNA has revealed that upon RNA binding, rotations of the motor domains can cause significant conformational changes. Strikingly, although ZIKV and dengue virus (DENV) apo-helicases share conserved residues for RNA binding, their different manners of motor domain rotations result in distinct individual modes for RNA recognition. It suggests that flavivirus helicases could have evolved a conserved engine to convert chemical energy from nucleoside triphosphate to mechanical energy for RNA unwinding, but different motor domain rotations result in variable RNA recognition modes to adapt to individual viral replication.

Concepts: Enzyme, Gene, Transcription, Helicase, Adenosine triphosphate, Virus, RNA, DNA


The mechanisms that specify and maintain the characteristics of germ cells during animal development are poorly understood. In this study, we demonstrated that loss of function of the zinc-finger gene lsy-2 results in various somatic cells adopting germ cells characteristics, including expression of germline-specific P granules, enhanced RNAi activity and transgene silencing. The soma to germ transformation in lsy-2 mutants requires the activities of multiple chromatin remodeling complexes, including the MES-4 complex and the ISW-1 complex. The distinct germline-specific features in somatic cells and the gene expression profile indicate that LSY-2 acts in the Mec complex in this process. Our study demonstrated that lsy-2 functions in the maintenance of the soma-germ distinction.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Cellular differentiation, Bacteria, DNA, Gene, Genetics, Developmental biology, Gene expression


The sirtuin proteins constitute class III histone deacetylases (HDACs). These evolutionarily conserved NAD(+)-dependent enzymes form an important component in a variety of cellular and biological processes with highly divergent as well as convergent roles in maintaining metabolic homeostasis, safeguarding genomic integrity, regulating cancer metabolism and also inflammatory responses. Amongst the seven known mammalian sirtuin proteins, SIRT1 has gained much attention due to its widely acknowledged roles in promoting longevity and ameliorating age-associated pathologies. The contributions of other sirtuins in the field of aging are also gradually emerging. Here, we summarize some of the recent discoveries in sirtuins biology which clearly implicate the functions of sirtuin proteins in the regulation of premature cellular senescence and accelerated aging. The roles of sirtuins in various cellular processes have been extrapolated to draw inter-linkage with anti-aging mechanisms. Also, the latest findings on sirtuins which might have potential effects in the process of aging have been reviewed.

Concepts: Biology, Homeostasis, Sir2, Senescence, Organism, Metabolism, DNA repair, Histone deacetylase


Axonal transport of mitochondria is critical for neuronal survival and function. Automatically quantifying and analyzing mitochondrial movement in a large quantity remain challenging. Here, we report an efficient method for imaging and quantifying axonal mitochondrial transport using microfluidic-chamber-cultured neurons together with a newly developed analysis package named “MitoQuant”. This tool-kit consists of an automated program for tracking mitochondrial movement inside live neuronal axons and a transient-velocity analysis program for analyzing dynamic movement patterns of mitochondria. Using this method, we examined axonal mitochondrial movement both in cultured mammalian neurons and in motor neuron axons of Drosophila in vivo. In 3 different paradigms (temperature changes, drug treatment and genetic manipulation) that affect mitochondria, we have shown that this new method is highly efficient and sensitive for detecting changes in mitochondrial movement. The method significantly enhanced our ability to quantitatively analyze axonal mitochondrial movement and allowed us to detect dynamic changes in axonal mitochondrial transport that were not detected by traditional kymographic analyses.

Concepts: Axon, Neuron


Progranulin (PGRN) is a growth factor implicated in various pathophysiological processes, including wound healing, inflammation, tumorigenesis, and neurodegeneration. It was previously reported that PGRN binds to tumor necrosis factor receptors (TNFR) and has therapeutic effects in inflammatory arthritis (Tang et. al, in Science 332:478-484, 2011); however, Chen et al. reported their inability to demonstrate the PGRN-TNFR interactions under their own conditions (Chen et. al, in J Neurosci 33:9202-9213, 2013). A letter-to-editor was then published by the original group in response to the Chen et al. paper that discussed the reasons for the latter’s inability to recapitulate the interactions. In addition, the group published follow-up studies that further reinforced and dissected the interactions of PGRN-TNFR. Recently, the dispute about the legitimacy of PGRN-TNFR interactions appears to be finally settled with independent confirmations of these interactions in various conditions by numerous laboratories. This review presents a chronological update on the story of PGRN-TNFR interactions, highlighting the independent confirmations of these interactions in various diseases and conditions.

Concepts: Arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis, The Independent, Rheumatoid arthritis, Growth factor receptor, Wound healing, Tumor necrosis factor-alpha, Inflammation