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

Journal: Seminars in cell & developmental biology


Spectraplakins are evolutionarily well conserved cytoskeletal linker molecules that are true members of three protein families: plakins, spectrins and Gas2-like proteins. Spectraplakin genes encode at least 7 characteristic functional domains which are combined in a modular fashion into multiple isoforms, and which are responsible for an enormous breadth of cellular functions. These functions are related to the regulation of actin, microtubules, intermediate filaments, intracellular organelles, cell adhesions and signalling processes during the development and maintenance of a wide variety of tissues. To gain a deeper understanding of this enormous functional diversity, invertebrate genetic model organisms, such as the fruit fly Drosophila, can be used to develop concepts and mechanistic paradigms that can inform the investigation in higher animals or humans. Here we provide a comprehensive overview of our current knowledge of the Drosophila spectraplakin Short stop (Shot). We describe its functional domains and isoforms and compare them with those of the mammalian spectraplakins dystonin and MACF1. We then summarise its roles during the development and maintenance of the nervous system, epithelia, oocytes and muscles, taking care to compare and contrast mechanistic insights across these functions in the fly, but especially also with related functions of dystonin and MACF1 in mostly mammalian contexts. We hope that this review will improve the wider appreciation of how work on Drosophila Shot can be used as an efficient strategy to promote the fundamental concepts and mechanisms that underpin spectraplakin functions, with important implications for biomedical research into human disease.

Concepts: Nervous system, DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell, Insect, Cytoskeleton, Drosophila


Long interspersed nuclear element 1 (LINE-1 or L1) is the dominant retrotransposon in mammalian genomes. L1 encodes two proteins ORF1p and ORF2p that are required for retrotransposition. ORF2p functions as the replicase. ORF1p is a coiled coil-mediated trimeric, high affinity RNA binding protein that packages its full- length coding transcript into an ORF2p-containing ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex, the retrotransposition intermediate. ORF1p also is a nucleic acid chaperone that presumably facilitates the proposed nucleic acid remodeling steps involved in retrotransposition. Although detailed mechanistic understanding of ORF1p function in this process is lacking, recent studies showed that the rate at which ORF1p can form stable nucleic acid-bound oligomers in vitro is positively correlated with formation of an active L1 RNP as assayed in vivo a using cell culture-based retrotransposition assay. This rate was sensitive to minor amino acid changes in the coiled coil domain, which had no effect on nucleic acid chaperone activity. Additional studies linking the complex nucleic acid binding properties to the conformational changes of the protein are needed to understand how ORF1p facilitates retrotransposition.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Amino acid, Molecular biology, Virus, RNA, Ribosome


Glycosylation is an important protein modification in all eukaryotes. Whereas the early asparagine-linked glycosylation (N-glycosylation) and N-glycan processing steps in the endoplasmic reticulum are conserved between mammals and plants, the maturation of complex N-glycans in the Golgi apparatus differs considerably. Due to a restricted number of Golgi-resident N-glycan processing enzymes and the absence of nucleotide sugars such as CMP-N-acetylneuraminic acid, plants produce only a limited repertoire of different N-glycan structures. Moreover, mammalian mucin-type O-glycosylation of serine or threonine residues has not been described in plants and the required machinery is not encoded in their genome which enables de novo build-up of the pathway. As a consequence, plants are very well-suited for the production of homogenous N- and O-glycans and are increasingly used for the production of recombinant glycoproteins with custom-made glycans that may result in the generation of biopharmaceuticals with improved therapeutic potential.

Concepts: DNA, Cell, Glucose, Golgi apparatus, Endoplasmic reticulum, Posttranslational modification, Glycosylation, Carbohydrates


Differences between sexes of the same species in lifespan and aging rate are widespread. While the proximal and evolutionary causes of aging are well researched, the factors that contribute to sex differences in these traits have been less studied. The striking diversity of nematodes provides ample opportunity to study variation in sex-specific lifespan patterns associated with shifts in life history and mating strategy. Although the plasticity of these sex differences will make it challenging to generalize from invertebrate to vertebrate systems, studies in nematodes have enabled empirical evaluation of predictions regarding the evolution of lifespan. These studies have highlighted how natural and sexual selection can generate divergent patterns of lifespan if the sexes are subject to different rates or sources of mortality, or if trade-offs between complex traits and longevity are resolved differently in each sex. Here, we integrate evidence derived mainly from nematodes that addresses the molecular and evolutionary basis of sex-specific aging and lifespan. Ultimately, we hope to generate a clearer picture of current knowledge in this area, and also highlight the limitations of our understanding.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Natural selection, Male, Evolution, Biology, Species, Sexual dimorphism, Sex


The Sox transcription factor family consists of 20 members in the human genome. Many of them are key determinants of cellular identities and possess the capacity to reprogram cell fates by pioneering the epigenetic remodeling of the genome. This activity is intimately tied to their ability to specifically bind and bend DNA alone or with other proteins. Here we discuss our current knowledge on how Sox transcription factors such as Sox2, Sox17, Sox18 and Sox9 ‘read’ the genome to find and regulate their target genes and highlight the roles of partner factors including Pax6, Nanog, Oct4 and Brn2. We integrate insights from structural and biochemical studies as well as high-throughput assays to probe DNA specificity in vitro as well as in cells and tissues.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Human genome, Transcription factors


Macrophages are present in all tissues, either as resident cells or monocyte-derived cells that infiltrate into tissues. The tissue site largely determines the phenotype of tissue-resident cells, which help to maintain tissue homeostasis and act as sentinels of injury. Both tissue resident and recruited macrophages make a substantial contribution to wound healing following injury. In this review, we evaluate how macrophages in two fundamentally distinct tissues, i.e. the lung and the skin, differentially contribute to the process of wound healing. We highlight the commonalities of macrophage functions during repair and contrast them with distinct, tissue-specific functions that macrophages fulfill during the different stages of wound healing.

Concepts: Wound healing, Extracellular matrix, Macrophage, Apoptosis, Skin, Wound, Tissue, Spleen


Dietary restriction (DR, in the form of reduced calorie intake or alternate fasting with overall normal energy supply) elicits cell protective responses in nearly all tissues and organs including brain, and extends lifespan in a fashion that is conserved from the simplest model organisms to mammals and non-human primates. Importantly, studies on DR promise to reveal novel strategies to prolong healthspan and prevent age-related disorders in human beings. The present review focuses on the neuroprotective actions of DR as demonstrated by accumulating experimental and encouraging albeit still limited clinical and epidemiological data. Following an overview of the most relevant evidence for the benefit of DR on neurodegenerative disorders and brain ageing and damage in animals and human beings, the article will address the major mechanisms currently believed to participate in these effects, at a tissue (antiinflammation, enhanced adult neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity) and cellular (autophagy and mitochondrial biogenesis) level. Then it will “zoom-in” on the molecular circuitries (AMPK/mTOR, Sirtuins, CREB/Sirt-1) whereby neuronal cells perceive the reduced availability of nutrients and translate this information into protective adaptive responses. As a further development of this aspect, the emerging connection between cell metabolism and chromatin remodeling will be analysed, together with its relevance for our understanding of how food intake affects neuronal gene expression and brain health.

Concepts: DNA, Neuron, Cell, Human, Nutrition, Organism, Neurology, Primate


Exercise is the greatest physiological stress that our bodies experience. For example, during maximal endurance exercise in elite athlete’s cardiac output can increase up to 8-fold and the working muscles receive 21-times more blood each minute than at rest. Given the physiological stress associated with exercise and the adaptations that occur to handle this stress, it is not surprising that exercise training is known to prevent or effectively treat a multitude of degenerative conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. Many of the health benefits of exercise are mediated by the mammalian/mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), either in complex 1 or 2, not only within the working muscle, but also in distant tissues such as fat, liver, and brain. This review will discuss how exercise activates mTOR in diverse tissues and the ways that mTOR is important in the adaptive response that makes us bigger, stronger, and healthier as a result of exercise.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Medicine, Health insurance, Heart, Muscle, Degenerative disease, Parkinson's disease, Dementia


Cell migration is essential for a wide range of biological processes such as embryo morphogenesis, wound healing, regeneration, and also in pathological conditions, such as cancer. In such contexts, cells are required to migrate as individual entities or as highly coordinated collectives, both of which requiring cells to respond to molecular and mechanical cues from their environment. However, whilst the function of chemical cues in cell migration is comparatively well understood, the role of tissue mechanics on cell migration is just starting to be studied. Recent studies suggest that the dynamic tuning of the viscoelasticity within a migratory cluster of cells, and the adequate elastic properties of its surrounding tissues, are essential to allow efficient collective cell migration in vivo. In this review we focus on the role of viscoelasticity in the control of collective cell migration in various cellular systems, mentioning briefly some aspects of single cell migration. We aim to provide details on how viscoelasticity of collectively migrating groups of cells and their surroundings is adjusted to ensure correct morphogenesis, wound healing, and metastasis. Finally, we attempt to show that environmental viscoelasticity triggers molecular changes within migrating clusters and that these new molecular setups modify clusters' viscoelasticity, ultimately allowing them to migrate across the challenging geometries of their microenvironment.


Eukaryotic cells have a highly evolved system of protein secretion, and dysfunction in this pathway is associated with many diseases including cancer, infection, metabolic disease and neurological disorders. Most proteins are secreted using the conventional endoplasmic reticulum (ER)/Golgi network and as such, this pathway is well-characterised. However, several cytosolic proteins have now been documented as secreted by unconventional transport pathways. This review focuses on two of these proteins families: annexins and galectins. The extracellular functions of these proteins are well documented, as are associations of their perturbed secretion with several diseases. However, the mechanisms and regulation of their secretion remain poorly characterised, and are discussed in this review.

Concepts: DNA, Cell, Bacteria, Metabolism, Cytosol, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Cell biology