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Journal: The Journal of cell biology


Isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase (ICMT) methylesterifies C-terminal prenylcysteine residues of CaaX proteins and some RAB GTPases. Deficiency of either ICMT or NOTCH1 accelerates pancreatic neoplasia in Pdx1-Cre;LSL-Kras(G12D) mice, suggesting that ICMT is required for NOTCH signaling. We used Drosophila melanogaster wing vein and scutellar bristle development to screen Rab proteins predicted to be substrates for ICMT (ste14 in flies). We identified Rab7 and Rab8 as ICMT substrates that when silenced phenocopy ste14 deficiency. ICMT, RAB7, and RAB8 were all required for efficient NOTCH1 signaling in mammalian cells. Overexpression of RAB8 rescued NOTCH activation after ICMT knockdown both in U2OS cells expressing NOTCH1 and in fly wing vein development. ICMT deficiency induced mislocalization of GFP-RAB7 and GFP-RAB8 from endomembrane to cytosol, enhanced binding to RABGDI, and decreased GTP loading of RAB7 and RAB8. Deficiency of ICMT, RAB7, or RAB8 led to mislocalization and diminished processing of NOTCH1-GFP. Thus, NOTCH signaling requires ICMT in part because it requires methylated RAB7 and RAB8.

Concepts: DNA


Throughout life, stem cells in the ventricular-subventricular zone generate neuroblasts that migrate via the rostral migratory stream (RMS) to the olfactory bulb, where they differentiate into local interneurons. Although progress has been made toward identifying extracellular factors that guide the migration of these cells, little is known about the intracellular mechanisms that govern the dynamic reshaping of the neuroblasts' morphology required for their migration along the RMS. In this study, we identify DOCK7, a member of the DOCK180-family, as a molecule essential for tangential neuroblast migration in the postnatal mouse forebrain. DOCK7 regulates the migration of these cells by controlling both leading process (LP) extension and somal translocation via distinct pathways. It controls LP stability/growth via a Rac-dependent pathway, likely by modulating microtubule networks while also regulating F-actin remodeling at the cell rear to promote somal translocation via a previously unrecognized myosin phosphatase-RhoA-interacting protein-dependent pathway. The coordinated action of both pathways is required to ensure efficient neuroblast migration along the RMS.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Eukaryote, Cell membrane, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Cytoskeleton


Insulin receptor (IR) signaling plays a critical role in the regulation of metabolism and growth in multicellular organisms. IRs are unique among receptor tyrosine kinases in that they exist exclusively as covalent (αβ)2homodimers at the cell surface. Transmembrane signaling by the IR can therefore not be based on ligand-induced dimerization as such but must involve structural changes within the existing receptor dimer. In this study, using glycosylated full-length human IR reconstituted into lipid nanodiscs, we show by single-particle electron microscopy that insulin binding to the dimeric receptor converts its ectodomain from an inverted U-shaped conformation to a T-shaped conformation. This structural rearrangement of the ectodomain propagates to the transmembrane domains, which are well separated in the inactive conformation but come close together upon insulin binding, facilitating autophosphorylation of the cytoplasmic kinase domains.

Concepts: Protein, Electron, Cell, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Insulin, Protein kinase


Polyclonal anti-immunoglobulin G (anti-IgG) secondary antibodies are essential tools for many molecular biology techniques and diagnostic tests. Their animal-based production is, however, a major ethical problem. Here, we introduce a sustainable alternative, namely nanobodies against all mouse IgG subclasses and rabbit IgG. They can be produced at large scale in Escherichia coli and could thus make secondary antibody production in animals obsolete. Their recombinant nature allows fusion with affinity tags or reporter enzymes as well as efficient maleimide chemistry for fluorophore coupling. We demonstrate their superior performance in Western blotting, in both peroxidase- and fluorophore-linked form. Their site-specific labeling with multiple fluorophores creates bright imaging reagents for confocal and superresolution microscopy with much smaller label displacement than traditional secondary antibodies. They also enable simpler and faster immunostaining protocols, and allow multitarget localization with primary IgGs from the same species and of the same class.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Molecular biology, Western blot, Escherichia coli, Immunohistochemistry, Immunostaining


Estrogen receptor α (ERα) is expressed in tissues as diverse as brains and mammary glands. In breast cancer, ERα is a key regulator of tumor progression. Therefore, understanding what activates ERα is critical for cancer treatment in particular and cell biology in general. Using biochemical approaches and superresolution microscopy, we show that estrogen drives membrane ERα into endosomes in breast cancer cells and that its fate is determined by the presence of fibronectin (FN) in the extracellular matrix; it is trafficked to lysosomes in the absence of FN and avoids the lysosomal compartment in its presence. In this context, FN prolongs ERα half-life and strengthens its transcriptional activity. We show that ERα is associated with β1-integrin at the membrane, and this integrin follows the same endocytosis and subcellular trafficking pathway triggered by estrogen. Moreover, ERα+ vesicles are present within human breast tissues, and colocalization with β1-integrin is detected primarily in tumors. Our work unravels a key, clinically relevant mechanism of microenvironmental regulation of ERα signaling.


Cells navigating through complex tissues face a fundamental challenge: while multiple protrusions explore different paths, the cell needs to avoid entanglement. How a cell surveys and then corrects its own shape is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that spatially distinct microtubule dynamics regulate amoeboid cell migration by locally promoting the retraction of protrusions. In migrating dendritic cells, local microtubule depolymerization within protrusions remote from the microtubule organizing center triggers actomyosin contractility controlled by RhoA and its exchange factor Lfc. Depletion of Lfc leads to aberrant myosin localization, thereby causing two effects that rate-limit locomotion: (1) impaired cell edge coordination during path finding and (2) defective adhesion resolution. Compromised shape control is particularly hindering in geometrically complex microenvironments, where it leads to entanglement and ultimately fragmentation of the cell body. We thus demonstrate that microtubules can act as a proprioceptive device: they sense cell shape and control actomyosin retraction to sustain cellular coherence.


The mammary epithelium depends on specific lineages and their stem and progenitor function to accommodate hormone-triggered physiological demands in the adult female. Perturbations of these lineages underpin breast cancer risk, yet our understanding of normal mammary cell composition is incomplete. Here, we build a multimodal resource for the adult gland through comprehensive profiling of primary cell epigenomes, transcriptomes, and proteomes. We define systems-level relationships between chromatin-DNA-RNA-protein states, identify lineage-specific DNA methylation of transcription factor binding sites, and pinpoint proteins underlying progesterone responsiveness. Comparative proteomics of estrogen and progesterone receptor-positive and -negative cell populations, extensive target validation, and drug testing lead to discovery of stem and progenitor cell vulnerabilities. Top epigenetic drugs exert cytostatic effects; prevent adult mammary cell expansion, clonogenicity, and mammopoiesis; and deplete stem cell frequency. Select drugs also abrogate human breast progenitor cell activity in normal and high-risk patient samples. This integrative computational and functional study provides fundamental insight into mammary lineage and stem cell biology.


Clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME) is the major route of receptor internalization at the plasma membrane. Analysis of constitutive CME is difficult because the initiation of endocytic events is unpredictable. When and where a clathrin-coated pit will form and what cargo it will contain are difficult to foresee. Here we describe a series of genetically encoded reporters that allow the initiation of CME on demand. A clathrin-binding protein fragment (“hook”) is inducibly attached to an “anchor” protein at the plasma membrane, which triggers the formation of new clathrin-coated vesicles. Our design incorporates temporal and spatial control by the use of chemical and optogenetic methods for inducing hook-anchor attachment. Moreover, the cargo is defined. Because several steps in vesicle creation are bypassed, we term it “hot-wiring.” We use hot-wired endocytosis to describe the functional interactions between clathrin and AP2. Two distinct sites on the β2 subunit, one on the hinge and the other on the appendage, are necessary and sufficient for functional clathrin engagement.

Concepts: Cell, Cytosol, Cell membrane, Cell biology, Membrane biology, Endocytosis, Necessary and sufficient condition, Clathrin


Microtubules play a major role in intracellular trafficking of vesicles in endocrine cells. Detailed knowledge of microtubule organization and their relation to other cell constituents is crucial for understanding cell function. However, their role in insulin transport and secretion is under debate. Here, we use FIB-SEM to image islet β cells in their entirety with unprecedented resolution. We reconstruct mitochondria, Golgi apparati, centrioles, insulin secretory granules, and microtubules of seven β cells, and generate a comprehensive spatial map of microtubule-organelle interactions. We find that microtubules form nonradial networks that are predominantly not connected to either centrioles or endomembranes. Microtubule number and length, but not microtubule polymer density, vary with glucose stimulation. Furthermore, insulin secretory granules are enriched near the plasma membrane, where they associate with microtubules. In summary, we provide the first 3D reconstructions of complete microtubule networks in primary mammalian cells together with evidence regarding their importance for insulin secretory granule positioning and thus their supportive role in insulin secretion.


Understanding the mechanisms of cellular differentiation is challenging because differentiation is initiated by signaling pathways that drive temporally dynamic processes, which are difficult to analyze in vivo. We establish a new tool, Timer of cell kinetics and activity (Tocky; or toki [time in Japanese]). Tocky uses the fluorescent Timer protein, which spontaneously shifts its emission spectrum from blue to red, in combination with computer algorithms to reveal the dynamics of differentiation in vivo. Using a transcriptional target of T cell receptor (TCR) signaling, we establish Nr4a3-Tocky to follow downstream effects of TCR signaling. Nr4a3-Tocky reveals the temporal sequence of events during regulatory T cell (Treg) differentiation and shows that persistent TCR signals occur during Treg generation. Remarkably, antigen-specific T cells at the site of autoimmune inflammation also show persistent TCR signaling. In addition, by generating Foxp3-Tocky, we reveal the in vivo dynamics of demethylation of the Foxp3 gene. Thus, Tocky is a tool for cell biologists to address previously inaccessible questions by directly revealing dynamic processes in vivo.