|Nature - Issue - nature.com science feeds|
The final act in a long-running Italian saga should bring tighter controls on unproven stem-cell therapies, both at home and abroad.
Details of a climate-change sceptic’s links to the energy industry make worrying reading.
The use of technologies that objectively measure pain must be carefully monitored.
For science to realize its potential in the Muslim world, attitudes need to change at a societal level, not just an individual one, says Dyna Rochmyaningsih.
Female western bluebirds that have to compete for nesting sites produce more early-hatching male chicks than do females with fewer competitors. The chicks are also likely to be more aggressive. This has long-term effects on the range and behaviour of subsequent generations.Renée Duckworth and
Researchers have developed a microscopic lens with a focal length that can be controlled in less than a millisecond.Controlling the focus of an optical lens is useful for microscopy and photography, but existing reconfigurable lenses are often bulky or slow to adjust. Romain Quidant
A gel that can be infused with live cells and nutrients makes a promising material for printing three-dimensional tissues such as artificial organs.Dongsheng Liu at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Wenmiao Shu at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, and their team made two water-based inks
Sulfur and metals can hitch a ride on bubbles rising in molten magma. This could explain why some volcanoes spew out more sulfur than expected, and how metal ores can form in the crust nearby.Sulfur-rich magma normally sinks to the bottom of magma chambers.
The bacterium that causes the plague, which killed millions of Europeans over four centuries from the 1350s, was repeatedly reintroduced from Asia and did not establish itself in European rodents as was thought.Yersinia pestis bacteria live in wild rodents and can infect humans
Sunlight can cause cancer-related DNA damage hours after light exposure, owing to a skin pigment that was largely thought to be protective.Douglas Brash at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and his team studied how the pigment melanin in mouse skin
Bacteria hiding out in tumours can shield them from attack by the immune system.The oral bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum has been linked to premature birth, rheumatoid arthritis and colon cancer. Gilad Bachrach and Ofer Mandelboim at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and their colleagues
Floral nectar helps to control parasites in bumblebees.Plants produce molecules called secondary metabolites that are harmful to herbivores but in some cases can also protect animals from parasites. To see whether such metabolites in nectar similarly affect pollinators, Leif Richardson at Dartmouth College in
Coral reefs in the eastern Pacific Ocean stopped growing for 2,500 years, probably because of a change in climate four millennia ago.Lauren Toth at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne and her colleagues extracted a 2.68-metre core from a reef in the Gulf
Researchers online react to a survey showing mixed feelings about news and social media.
The week in science: Head of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change resigns; Europe’s graphene project is on track; new killer virus discovered in United States.
UK launches effort to track children from birth, months after US counterpart closes.
London biomedical powerhouse fears that proposed route will disrupt delicate science experiments.
DeepMind computer provides new way to investigate how the brain works.
Guidelines should assist in diagnosis of brain disease seen in retired American footballers.
The print News story‘Language origin debate rekindled’ (Nature 518, 284–285; 2015) misspelt the name of Paul Heggarty.
Graphical guide to the NASA missions that will provide the first close looks at Ceres and Pluto.
Leslie and Eliot Young have spent their lives studying Pluto. Now they are gearing up for the biggest event of their careers.
Brain-scanning techniques promise to give an objective measure of whether someone is in pain, but researchers question whether they are reliable enough for the courtroom.
Establish principles for rapid and responsible data sharing in epidemics, urge Nathan L. Yozwiak, Stephen F. Schaffner and Pardis C. Sabeti.
Charles Seife digs into three studies of the wild new world of big data.
Barbara Kiser reviews five of the week's best science picks.
Andrew Robinson finds that a study of arid places and their peoples reveals untold riches.
Combining big data with personalized medicine is an unprecedented opportunity. It will probably be cheaper than current practices in the long term, particularly given the questionable effectiveness of many medications (see Nature517, 540;10.1038/nature.2015.167742015).Success in this endeavour will depend
I disagree with Andrew Bradbury and colleagues' suggestion that making the sequences of commercial antibodies publicly available could minimize irreproducibility in biomedical research (Nature518, 27–29;10.1038/518027a2015). The real solution is proper initial validation of antibodies.In my
Recombinant antibodies are pure proteins with minimal batch-to-batch variability, so could provide an important element of antibody standardization (A.Bradburyet al. Nature518, 27–29;10.1038/518027a2015). However, they must still be functionally validated if they are to
Bo Zhang and Cong Cao argue that China's citizens should have a legal right to safeguard the quality of their environment (Nature517, 433–434;10.1038/517433a2015). The wealthy would stand to benefit most from such a public litigation system,
Biochars are carbon-rich soil additives derived from agricultural and other plant waste that could enhance crop productivity (see Nature517, 258–260;10.1038/517258a2015). We suggest that biochars could also be produced from human sewage — an underutilized resource that is
To optimize the agricultural and environmental benefits of biochar, a charcoal-rich soil additive, we need to overcome its potentially undesirable effects (see Nature517, 258–260;10.1038/517258a2015).For example, it is uncertain whether biochar — effectively an underground carbon store
Geochemist who quantified the carbon cycle.
The scientific design of low-energy sustainable buildings is moving into the mainstream.
An artificial-intelligence system uses machine learning from massive training sets to teach itself to play 49 classic computer games, demonstrating that it can adapt to a variety of tasks. See Letter p.529
A study of two Balkan ethnic groups living in close proximity finds that traditional knowledge about local plant resources helps communities to cope with periods of famine, and can promote the conservation of biodiversity.
Many experiments have probed the mechanisms by which transplanted stem cells give rise to all the cell types of the blood, but it emerges that the process is different in unperturbed conditions. See Letter p.542
50 Years AgoOn August 20, 1964, one of us ... while trapping for small mammals near Listowel, County Kerry, caught an unusual 'mouse'. On subsequent examination it proved to be a member of the family Cricetidae, the bank vole, Clethrionomys glareolus Schreber—
Astronomers have discovered an extremely massive black hole from a time when the Universe was less than 900 million years old. The result provides insight into the growth of black holes and galaxies in the young Universe. See Letter p.512
The 'no-cloning' theorem of quantum mechanics forbids the perfect copying of properties of photons or electrons. But quantum teleportation allows their flawless transfer— now even for two properties simultaneously. See Letter p.516
The m6A structural modification of RNA regulates gene expression. It has now been found to mediate an unusual control mechanism: by altering the structure of RNA, m6A allows a regulatory protein to bind to that RNA. See Letter p.560
Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most lethal of malignancies and a major health burden. We performed whole-genome sequencing and copy number variation (CNV) analysis of 100 pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs). Chromosomal rearrangements leading to gene disruption were prevalent, affecting genes known to be important
The origin of mutations is central to understanding evolution and of key relevance to health. Variation occurs non-randomly across the genome, and mechanisms for this remain to be defined. Here we report that the 5′ ends of Okazaki fragments have significantly increased levels of nucleotide
V(D)J recombination in the vertebrate immune system generates a highly diverse population of immunoglobulins and T-cell receptors by combinatorial joining of segments of coding DNA. The RAG1–RAG2 protein complex initiates this site-specific recombination by cutting DNA at specific sites flanking the coding segments. Here we
So far, roughly 40 quasars with redshifts greater than z = 6 have been discovered. Each quasar contains a black hole with a mass of about one billion solar masses (109). The existence of such black holes when the Universe was less than one billion years old presents substantial challenges to theories of the formation and growth of black holes and the coevolution of black holes and galaxies. Here we report the discovery of an ultraluminous quasar, SDSS J010013.02+280225.8, at redshift z = 6.30. It has an optical and near-infrared luminosity a few times greater than those of previously known z ggt; 6 quasars. On the basis of the deep absorption trough on the blue side of the Lyman-α emission line in the spectrum, we estimate the proper size of the ionized proximity zone associated with the quasar to be about 26 million light years, larger than found with other z ggt; 6.1 quasars with lower luminosities. We estimate (on the basis of a near-infrared spectrum) that the black hole has a mass of ∼1.2 × 1010, which is consistent with the 1.3 × 1010 derived by assuming an Eddington-limited accretion rate.
Quantum teleportation provides a‘disembodied’ way to transfer quantum states from one object to another at a distant location, assisted by previously shared entangled states and a classical communication channel. As well as being of fundamental interest, teleportation has been recognized as an important element in long-distance quantum communication, distributed quantum networks and measurement-based quantum computation. There have been numerous demonstrations of teleportation in different physical systems such as photons, atoms, ions, electrons and superconducting circuits. All the previous experiments were limited to the teleportation of one degree of freedom only. However, a single quantum particle can naturally possess various degrees of freedom—internal and external—and with coherent coupling among them. A fundamental open challenge is to teleport multiple degrees of freedom simultaneously, which is necessary to describe a quantum particle fully and, therefore, to teleport it intact. Here we demonstrate quantum teleportation of the composite quantum states of a single photon encoded in both spin and orbital angular momentum. We use photon pairs entangled in both degrees of freedom (that is, hyper-entangled) as the quantum channel for teleportation, and develop a method to project and discriminate hyper-entangled Bell states by exploiting probabilistic quantum non-demolition measurement, which can be extended to more degrees of freedom. We verify the teleportation for both spin–orbit product states and hybrid entangled states, and achieve a teleportation fidelity ranging from 0.57 to 0.68, above the classical limit. Our work is a step towards the teleportation of more complex quantum systems, and demonstrates an increase in our technical control of scalable quantum technologies.
Emulsification is a powerful, well-known technique for mixing and dispersing immiscible components within a continuous liquid phase. Consequently, emulsions are central components of medicine, food and performance materials. Complex emulsions, including Janus droplets (that is, droplets with faces of differing chemistries) and multiple emulsions, are of increasing importance in pharmaceuticals and medical diagnostics, in the fabrication of microparticles and capsules for food, in chemical separations, in cosmetics, and in dynamic optics. Because complex emulsion properties and functions are related to the droplet geometry and composition, the development of rapid, simple fabrication approaches allowing precise control over the droplets’ physical and chemical characteristics is critical. Significant advances in the fabrication of complex emulsions have been made using a number of procedures, ranging from large-scale, less precise techniques that give compositional heterogeneity using high-shear mixers and membranes, to small-volume but more precise microfluidic methods. However, such approaches have yet to create droplet morphologies that can be controllably altered after emulsification. Reconfigurable complex liquids potentially have great utility as dynamically tunable materials. Here we describe an approach to the one-step fabrication of three- and four-phase complex emulsions with highly controllable and reconfigurable morphologies. The fabrication makes use of the temperature-sensitive miscibility of hydrocarbon, silicone and fluorocarbon liquids, and is applied to both the microfluidic and the scalable batch production of complex droplets. We demonstrate that droplet geometries can be alternated between encapsulated and Janus configurations by varying the interfacial tensions using hydrocarbon and fluorinated surfactants including stimuli-responsive and cleavable surfactants. This yields a generalizable strategy for the fabrication of multiphase emulsions with controllably reconfigurable morphologies and the potential to create a wide range of responsive materials.
The Martian limb (that is, the observed‘edge’ of the planet) represents a unique window into the complex atmospheric phenomena occurring there. Clouds of ice crystals (CO2 ice or H2O ice) have been observed numerous times by spacecraft and ground-based telescopes, showing that clouds are typically layered and always confined below an altitude of 100 kilometres; suspended dust has also been detected at altitudes up to 60 kilometres during major dust storms. Highly concentrated and localized patches of auroral emission controlled by magnetic field anomalies in the crust have been observed at an altitude of 130 kilometres. Here we report the occurrence in March and April 2012 of two bright, extremely high-altitude plumes at the Martian terminator (the day–night boundary) at 200 to 250 kilometres or more above the surface, and thus well into the ionosphere and the exosphere. They were spotted at a longitude of about 195° west, a latitude of about −45° (at Terra Cimmeria), extended about 500 to 1,000 kilometres in both the north–south and east–west directions, and lasted for about 10 days. The features exhibited day-to-day variability, and were seen at the morning terminator but not at the evening limb, which indicates rapid evolution in less than 10 hours and a cyclic behaviour. We used photometric measurements to explore two possible scenarios and investigate their nature. For particles reflecting solar radiation, clouds of CO2-ice or H2O-ice particles with an effective radius of 0.1 micrometres are favoured over dust. Alternatively, the plume could arise from auroral emission, of a brightness more than 1,000 times that of the Earth’s aurora, over a region with a strong magnetic anomaly where aurorae have previously been detected. Importantly, both explanations defy our current understanding of Mars’ upper atmosphere.
The theory of reinforcement learning provides a normative account, deeply rooted in psychological and neuroscientific perspectives on animal behaviour, of how agents may optimize their control of an environment. To use reinforcement learning successfully in situations approaching real-world complexity, however, agents are confronted with a difficult task: they must derive efficient representations of the environment from high-dimensional sensory inputs, and use these to generalize past experience to new situations. Remarkably, humans and other animals seem to solve this problem through a harmonious combination of reinforcement learning and hierarchical sensory processing systems, the former evidenced by a wealth of neural data revealing notable parallels between the phasic signals emitted by dopaminergic neurons and temporal difference reinforcement learning algorithms. While reinforcement learning agents have achieved some successes in a variety of domains, their applicability has previously been limited to domains in which useful features can be handcrafted, or to domains with fully observed, low-dimensional state spaces. Here we use recent advances in training deep neural networks to develop a novel artificial agent, termed a deep Q-network, that can learn successful policies directly from high-dimensional sensory inputs using end-to-end reinforcement learning. We tested this agent on the challenging domain of classic Atari 2600 games. We demonstrate that the deep Q-network agent, receiving only the pixels and the game score as inputs, was able to surpass the performance of all previous algorithms and achieve a level comparable to that of a professional human games tester across a set of 49 games, using the same algorithm, network architecture and hyperparameters. This work bridges the divide between high-dimensional sensory inputs and actions, resulting in the first artificial agent that is capable of learning to excel at a diverse array of challenging tasks.
A defining feature of vertebrates (craniates) is a pronounced head that is supported and protected by a robust cellular endoskeleton. In the first vertebrates, this skeleton probably consisted of collagenous cellular cartilage, which forms the embryonic skeleton of all vertebrates and the adult skeleton of modern jawless and cartilaginous fish. In the head, most cellular cartilage is derived from a migratory cell population called the neural crest, which arises from the edges of the central nervous system. Because collagenous cellular cartilage and neural crest cells have not been described in invertebrates, the appearance of cellular cartilage derived from neural crest cells is considered a turning point in vertebrate evolution. Here we show that a tissue with many of the defining features of vertebrate cellular cartilage transiently forms in the larvae of the invertebrate chordate Branchiostoma floridae (Florida amphioxus). We also present evidence that during evolution, a key regulator of vertebrate cartilage development, SoxE, gained new cis-regulatory sequences that subsequently directed its novel expression in neural crest cells. Together, these results suggest that the origin of the vertebrate head skeleton did not depend on the evolution of a new skeletal tissue, as is commonly thought, but on the spread of this tissue throughout the head. We further propose that the evolution of cis-regulatory elements near an ancient regulator of cartilage differentiation was a major factor in the evolution of the vertebrate head skeleton.
In human societies, cultural norms arise when behaviours are transmitted through social networks via high-fidelity social learning. However, a paucity of experimental studies has meant that there is no comparable understanding of the process by which socially transmitted behaviours might spread and persist in animal populations. Here we show experimental evidence of the establishment of foraging traditions in a wild bird population. We introduced alternative novel foraging techniques into replicated wild sub-populations of great tits (Parus major) and used automated tracking to map the diffusion, establishment and long-term persistence of the seeded innovations. Furthermore, we used social network analysis to examine the social factors that influenced diffusion dynamics. From only two trained birds in each sub-population, the information spread rapidly through social network ties, to reach an average of 75% of individuals, with a total of 414 knowledgeable individuals performing 57,909 solutions over all replicates. The sub-populations were heavily biased towards using the technique that was originally introduced, resulting in established local traditions that were stable over two generations, despite a high population turnover. Finally, we demonstrate a strong effect of social conformity, with individuals disproportionately adopting the most frequent local variant when first acquiring an innovation, and continuing to favour social information over personal information. Cultural conformity is thought to be a key factor in the evolution of complex culture in humans. In providing the first experimental demonstration of conformity in a wild non-primate, and of cultural norms in foraging techniques in any wild animal, our results suggest a much broader taxonomic occurrence of such an apparently complex cultural behaviour.
Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are widely studied by HSC transplantation into immune- and blood-cell-depleted recipients. Single HSCs can rebuild the system after transplantation. Chromosomal marking, viral integration and barcoding of transplanted HSCs suggest that very low numbers of HSCs perpetuate a continuous stream of differentiating cells. However, the numbers of productive HSCs during normal haematopoiesis, and the flux of differentiating progeny remain unknown. Here we devise a mouse model allowing inducible genetic labelling of the most primitive Tie2+ HSCs in bone marrow, and quantify label progression along haematopoietic development by limiting dilution analysis and data-driven modelling. During maintenance of the haematopoietic system, at least 30% or∼5,000 HSCs are productive in the adult mouse after label induction. However, the time to approach equilibrium between labelled HSCs and their progeny is surprisingly long, a time scale that would exceed the mouse’s life. Indeed, we find that adult haematopoiesis is largely sustained by previously designated ‘short-term’ stem cells downstream of HSCs that nearly fully self-renew, and receive rare but polyclonal HSC input. By contrast, in fetal and early postnatal life, HSCs are rapidly used to establish the immune and blood system. In the adult mouse, 5-fluoruracil-induced leukopenia enhances the output of HSCs and of downstream compartments, thus accelerating haematopoietic flux. Label tracing also identifies a strong lineage bias in adult mice, with several-hundred-fold larger myeloid than lymphoid output, which is only marginally accentuated with age. Finally, we show that transplantation imposes severe constraints on HSC engraftment, consistent with the previously observed oligoclonal HSC activity under these conditions. Thus, we uncover fundamental differences between the normal maintenance of the haematopoietic system, its regulation by challenge, and its re-establishment after transplantation. HSC fate mapping and its linked modelling provide a quantitative framework for studying in situ the regulation of haematopoiesis in health and disease.
Most haematopoietic cells renew from adult haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), however, macrophages in adult tissues can self-maintain independently of HSCs. Progenitors with macrophage potential in vitro have been described in the yolk sac before emergence of HSCs, and fetal macrophages can develop independently of Myb, a transcription factor required for HSC, and can persist in adult tissues. Nevertheless, the origin of adult macrophages and the qualitative and quantitative contributions of HSC and putative non-HSC-derived progenitors are still unclear. Here we show in mice that the vast majority of adult tissue-resident macrophages in liver (Kupffer cells), brain (microglia), epidermis (Langerhans cells) and lung (alveolar macrophages) originate from a Tie2+ (also known as Tek) cellular pathway generating Csf1r+ erythro-myeloid progenitors (EMPs) distinct from HSCs. EMPs develop in the yolk sac at embryonic day (E) 8.5, migrate and colonize the nascent fetal liver before E10.5, and give rise to fetal erythrocytes, macrophages, granulocytes and monocytes until at least E16.5. Subsequently, HSC-derived cells replace erythrocytes, granulocytes and monocytes. Kupffer cells, microglia and Langerhans cells are only marginally replaced in one-year-old mice, whereas alveolar macrophages may be progressively replaced in ageing mice. Our fate-mapping experiments identify, in the fetal liver, a sequence of yolk sac EMP-derived and HSC-derived haematopoiesis, and identify yolk sac EMPs as a common origin for tissue macrophages.
Therapy-related acute myeloid leukaemia (t-AML) and therapy-related myelodysplastic syndrome (t-MDS) are well-recognized complications of cytotoxic chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. There are several features that distinguish t-AML from de novo AML, including a higher incidence of TP53 mutations, abnormalities of chromosomes 5 or 7, complex cytogenetics and a reduced response to chemotherapy. However, it is not clear how prior exposure to cytotoxic therapy influences leukaemogenesis. In particular, the mechanism by which TP53 mutations are selectively enriched in t-AML/t-MDS is unknown. Here, by sequencing the genomes of 22 patients with t-AML, we show that the total number of somatic single-nucleotide variants and the percentage of chemotherapy-related transversions are similar in t-AML and de novo AML, indicating that previous chemotherapy does not induce genome-wide DNA damage. We identified four cases of t-AML/t-MDS in which the exact TP53 mutation found at diagnosis was also present at low frequencies (0.003–0.7%) in mobilized blood leukocytes or bone marrow 3–6 years before the development of t-AML/t-MDS, including two cases in which the relevant TP53 mutation was detected before any chemotherapy. Moreover, functional TP53 mutations were identified in small populations of peripheral blood cells of healthy chemotherapy-naive elderly individuals. Finally, in mouse bone marrow chimaeras containing both wild-type and Tp53+/− haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs), the Tp53+/− HSPCs preferentially expanded after exposure to chemotherapy. These data suggest that cytotoxic therapy does not directly induce TP53 mutations. Rather, they support a model in which rare HSPCs carrying age-related TP53 mutations are resistant to chemotherapy and expand preferentially after treatment. The early acquisition of TP53 mutations in the founding HSPC clone probably contributes to the frequent cytogenetic abnormalities and poor responses to chemotherapy that are typical of patients with t-AML/t-MDS.
Gene transcription in animals involves the assembly of RNA polymerase II at core promoters and its cell-type-specific activation by enhancers that can be located more distally. However, how ubiquitous expression of housekeeping genes is achieved has been less clear. In particular, it is unknown whether ubiquitously active enhancers exist and how developmental and housekeeping gene regulation is separated. An attractive hypothesis is that different core promoters might exhibit an intrinsic specificity to certain enhancers. This is conceivable, as various core promoter sequence elements are differentially distributed between genes of different functions, including elements that are predominantly found at either developmentally regulated or at housekeeping genes. Here we show that thousands of enhancers in Drosophila melanogaster S2 and ovarian somatic cells (OSCs) exhibit a marked specificity to one of two core promoters—one derived from a ubiquitously expressed ribosomal protein gene and another from a developmentally regulated transcription factor—and confirm the existence of these two classes for five additional core promoters from genes with diverse functions. Housekeeping enhancers are active across the two cell types, while developmental enhancers exhibit strong cell-type specificity. Both enhancer classes differ in their genomic distribution, the functions of neighbouring genes, and the core promoter elements of these neighbouring genes. In addition, we identify two transcription factors—Dref and Trl—that bind and activate housekeeping versus developmental enhancers, respectively. Our results provide evidence for a sequence-encoded enhancer–core-promoter specificity that separates developmental and housekeeping gene regulatory programs for thousands of enhancers and their target genes across the entire genome.
RNA-binding proteins control many aspects of cellular biology through binding single-stranded RNA binding motifs (RBMs). However, RBMs can be buried within their local RNA structures, thus inhibiting RNA–protein interactions. N6-methyladenosine (m6A), the most abundant and dynamic internal modification in eukaryotic messenger RNA, can be selectively recognized by the YTHDF2 protein to affect the stability of cytoplasmic mRNAs, but how m6A achieves its wide-ranging physiological role needs further exploration. Here we show in human cells that m6A controls the RNA-structure-dependent accessibility of RBMs to affect RNA–protein interactions for biological regulation; we term this mechanism ‘the m6A-switch’. We found that m6A alters the local structure in mRNA and long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) to facilitate binding of heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein C (HNRNPC), an abundant nuclear RNA-binding protein responsible for pre-mRNA processing. Combining photoactivatable-ribonucleoside-enhanced crosslinking and immunoprecipitation (PAR-CLIP) and anti-m6A immunoprecipitation (MeRIP) approaches enabled us to identify 39,060 m6A-switches among HNRNPC-binding sites; and global m6A reduction decreased HNRNPC binding at 2,798 high-confidence m6A-switches. We determined that these m6A-switch-regulated HNRNPC-binding activities affect the abundance as well as alternative splicing of target mRNAs, demonstrating the regulatory role of m6A-switches on gene expression and RNA maturation. Our results illustrate how RNA-binding proteins gain regulated access to their RBMs through m6A-dependent RNA structural remodelling, and provide a new direction for investigating RNA-modification-coded cellular biology.
|Nature - AOP - nature.com science feeds|
A method for tracking the descendants of hundreds of thousands of yeast cells in an evolving population reveals that thousands of individuals contribute to early increases in population-wide fitness.
The secreted enzyme Notum has been found to inhibit the Wnt signalling pathway through removal of a lipid that is linked to the Wnt protein and that is required for activation of Wnt receptor proteins.
The biochemical activity of Notum as a carboxylesterase that removes an essential lipid moiety from Wnt proteins is uncovered; the interaction of Notum with glypicans is required to ensure localization at the cell surface, and Notum may provide a new target for therapeutic development in diseases with defective Wnt signalling.
Random DNA barcodes were used to simultaneously track hundreds of thousands of lineages in large cell populations, revealing deterministic dynamics early in their evolution.
During movement preparation, motor cortical neuronal subpopulations that project to downstream motor areas are more selective for the direction of upcoming movement than those that project to other cortical targets, especially immediately before movement, emphasizing the need to interpret complex neuronal responses measured during behaviour in the context of hierarchically organized cortical circuits.
This study demonstrates the activation of a STAT3-independent healing pathway in response to mucosal injury which involves the co-receptor for IL-6 cytokines gp130 and downstream effectors Src, Yes, YAP and Notch.
The intestinal tract is inhabited by a large and diverse community of microbes collectively referred to as the gut microbiota. While the gut microbiota provides important benefits to its host, especially in metabolism and immune development, disturbance of the microbiota–host relationship is associated with numerous chronic inflammatory diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease and the group of obesity-associated diseases collectively referred to as metabolic syndrome. A primary means by which the intestine is protected from its microbiota is via multi-layered mucus structures that cover the intestinal surface, thereby allowing the vast majority of gut bacteria to be kept at a safe distance from epithelial cells that line the intestine. Thus, agents that disrupt mucus–bacterial interactions might have the potential to promote diseases associated with gut inflammation. Consequently, it has been hypothesized that emulsifiers, detergent-like molecules that are a ubiquitous component of processed foods and that can increase bacterial translocation across epithelia in vitro, might be promoting the increase in inflammatory bowel disease observed since the mid-twentieth century. Here we report that, in mice, relatively low concentrations of two commonly used emulsifiers, namely carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, induced low-grade inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome in wild-type hosts and promoted robust colitis in mice predisposed to this disorder. Emulsifier-induced metabolic syndrome was associated with microbiota encroachment, altered species composition and increased pro-inflammatory potential. Use of germ-free mice and faecal transplants indicated that such changes in microbiota were necessary and sufficient for both low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome. These results support the emerging concept that perturbed host–microbiota interactions resulting in low-grade inflammation can promote adiposity and its associated metabolic effects. Moreover, they suggest that the broad use of emulsifying agents might be contributing to an increased societal incidence of obesity/metabolic syndrome and other chronic inflammatory diseases.
The climatic impact of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is usually quantified in terms of radiative forcing, calculated as the difference between estimates of the Earth’s radiation field from pre-industrial and present-day concentrations of these gases. Radiative transfer models calculate that the increase in CO2 since 1750 corresponds to a global annual-mean radiative forcing at the tropopause of 1.82 ± 0.19 W m−2 (ref. 2). However, despite widespread scientific discussion and modelling of the climate impacts of well-mixed greenhouse gases, there is little direct observational evidence of the radiative impact of increasing atmospheric CO2. Here we present observationally based evidence of clear-sky CO2 surface radiative forcing that is directly attributable to the increase, between 2000 and 2010, of 22 parts per million atmospheric CO2. The time series of this forcing at the two locations—the Southern Great Plains and the North Slope of Alaska—are derived from Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer spectra together with ancillary measurements and thoroughly corroborated radiative transfer calculations. The time series both show statistically significant trends of 0.2 W m−2 per decade (with respective uncertainties of ±0.06 W m−2 per decade and ±0.07 W m−2 per decade) and have seasonal ranges of 0.1–0.2 W m−2. This is approximately ten per cent of the trend in downwelling longwave radiation. These results confirm theoretical predictions of the atmospheric greenhouse effect due to anthropogenic emissions, and provide empirical evidence of how rising CO2 levels, mediated by temporal variations due to photosynthesis and respiration, are affecting the surface energy balance.
Boreal lakes are biogeochemical hotspots that alter carbon fluxes by sequestering particulate organic carbon in sediments and by oxidizing terrestrial dissolved organic matter to carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane through microbial processes. At present, such dilute lakes release∼1.4 petagrams of carbon annually to the atmosphere, and this carbon efflux may increase in the future in response to elevated temperatures and increased hydrological delivery of mineralizable dissolved organic matter to lakes. Much less is known about the potential effects of climate changes oncarbon fluxes from carbonate-rich hardwater and saline lakes that account for about 20 per cent of inland water surface area. Here we show that atmospheric warming may reduce CO2 emissions from hardwater lakes. We analyse decadal records of meteorological variability, CO2 fluxes and water chemistryto investigate the processes affecting variations in pH and carbon exchange in hydrologically diverse lakes of central North America. We find that the lakes have shifted progressively from being substantial CO2 sources in the mid-1990s to sequestering CO2 by 2010, with a steady increase in annual mean pH. We attribute the observed changes in pH and CO2 uptake to an atmospheric-warming-induced decline in ice cover in spring that decreases CO2 accumulation under ice, increases spring and summer pH, and enhances the chemical uptake of CO2 in hardwater lakes. Our study suggests that rising temperatures do not invariably increase CO2 emissions from aquatic ecosystems.
ATP, the universal energy currency of cells, is produced by F-type ATP synthases, which are ancient, membrane-bound nanomachines. F-type ATP synthases use the energy of a transmembrane electrochemical gradient to generate ATP by rotary catalysis. Protons moving across the membrane drive a rotor ring composed of 8–15 c-subunits. A central stalk transmits the rotation of the c-ring to the catalytic F1 head, where a series of conformational changes results in ATP synthesis. A key unresolved question in this fundamental process is how protons pass through the membrane to drive ATP production. Mitochondrial ATP synthases form V-shaped homodimers in cristae membranes. Here we report the structure of a native and active mitochondrial ATP synthase dimer, determined by single-particle electron cryomicroscopy at 6.2 Å resolution. Our structure shows four long, horizontal membrane-intrinsic α-helices in the a-subunit, arranged in two hairpins at an angle of approximately 70° relative to the c-ring helices. It has been proposed that a strictly conserved membrane-embedded arginine in the a-subunit couples proton translocation to c-ring rotation. A fit of the conserved carboxy-terminal a-subunit sequence places the conserved arginine next to a proton-binding c-subunit glutamate. The map shows a slanting solvent-accessible channel that extends from the mitochondrial matrix to the conserved arginine. Another hydrophilic cavity on the lumenal membrane surface defines a direct route for the protons to an essential histidine–glutamate pair. Our results provide unique new insights into the structure and function of rotary ATP synthases and explain how ATP production is coupled to proton translocation.
Single particle electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) has recently made significant progress in high-resolution structure determination of macromolecular complexes due to improvements in electron microscopic instrumentation and computational image analysis. However, cryo-EM structures can be highly non-uniform in local resolution and all structures available to date have been limited to resolutions above 3 Å. Here we present the cryo-EM structure of the 70S ribosome from Escherichia coli in complex with elongation factor Tu, aminoacyl-tRNA and the antibiotic kirromycin at 2.65–2.9 Å resolution using spherical aberration (Cs)-corrected cryo-EM. Overall, the cryo-EM reconstruction at 2.9 Å resolution is comparable to the best-resolved X-ray structure of the E. coli 70S ribosome (2.8 Å), but provides more detailed information (2.65 Å) at the functionally important ribosomal core. The cryo-EM map elucidates for the first time the structure of all 35 rRNA modifications in the bacterial ribosome, explaining their roles in fine-tuning ribosome structure and function and modulating the action of antibiotics. We also obtained atomic models for flexible parts of the ribosome such as ribosomal proteins L9 and L31. The refined cryo-EM-based model presents the currently most complete high-resolution structure of the E. coli ribosome, which demonstrates the power of cryo-EM in structure determination of large and dynamic macromolecular complexes.
Ultracold atoms in optical lattices have great potential to contribute to a better understanding of some of the most important issues in many-body physics, such as high-temperature superconductivity. The Hubbard model—a simplified representation of fermions moving on a periodic lattice—is thought to describe the essential details of copper oxide superconductivity. This model describes many of the features shared by the copper oxides, including an interaction-driven Mott insulating state and an antiferromagnetic (AFM) state. Optical lattices filled with a two-spin-component Fermi gas of ultracold atoms can faithfully realize the Hubbard model with readily tunable parameters, and thus provide a platform for the systematic exploration of its phase diagram. Realization of strongly correlated phases, however, has been hindered by the need to cool the atoms to temperatures as low as the magnetic exchange energy, and also by the lack of reliable thermometry. Here we demonstrate spin-sensitive Bragg scattering of light to measure AFM spin correlations in a realization of the three-dimensional Hubbard model at temperatures down to 1.4 times that of the AFM phase transition. This temperature regime is beyond the range of validity of a simple high-temperature series expansion, which brings our experiment close to the limit of the capabilities of current numerical techniques, particularly at metallic densities. We reach these low temperatures using a compensated optical lattice technique, in which the confinement of each lattice beam is compensated by a blue-detuned laser beam. The temperature of the atoms in the lattice is deduced by comparing the light scattering to determinant quantum Monte Carlo simulations and numerical linked-cluster expansion calculations. Further refinement of the compensated lattice may produce even lower temperatures which, along with light scattering thermometry, would open avenues for producing and characterizing other novel quantum states of matter, such as the pseudogap regime and correlated metallic states of the two-dimensional Hubbard model.
Cancer genome sequencing has revealed considerable variation in somatic mutation rates across the human genome, with mutation rates elevated in heterochromatic late replicating regions and reduced in early replicating euchromatin. Multiple mechanisms have been suggested to underlie this, but the actual cause is unknown. Here we identify variable DNA mismatch repair (MMR) as the basis of this variation. Analysing∼17 million single-nucleotide variants from the genomes of 652 tumours, we show that regional autosomal mutation rates at megabase resolution are largely stable across cancer types, with differences related to changes in replication timing and gene expression. However, mutations arising after theinactivation of MMR are no longer enriched in early replicating euchromatin relative to late replicating heterochromatin. Thus, differential DNA repair and not differential mutation supply is the primary cause of the large-scale regional mutation rate variation across the human genome.
Plants and plant pathogens are subject to continuous co-evolutionary pressure for dominance, and the outcomes of these interactions can substantially impact agriculture and food security. In virus–plant interactions, one of the major mechanisms for plant antiviral immunity relies on RNA silencing, which is often suppressed by co-evolving virus suppressors, thus enhancing viral pathogenicity in susceptible hosts. In addition, plants use the nucleotide-binding and leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR) domain-containing resistance proteins, which recognize viral effectors to activate effector-triggered immunity in a defence mechanism similar to that employed in non-viral infections. Unlike most eukaryotic organisms, plants are not known to activate mechanisms of host global translation suppression to fight viruses. Here we demonstrate in Arabidopsis that the constitutive activation of NIK1, a leucine-rich repeat receptor-like kinase (LRR-RLK) identified as a virulence target of the begomovirus nuclear shuttle protein (NSP), leads to global translation suppression and translocation of the downstream component RPL10 to the nucleus, where it interacts with a newly identified MYB-like protein, L10-INTERACTING MYB DOMAIN-CONTAINING PROTEIN (LIMYB), to downregulate translational machinery genes fully. LIMYB overexpression represses ribosomal protein genes at the transcriptional level, resulting in protein synthesis inhibition, decreased viral messenger RNA association with polysome fractions and enhanced tolerance to begomovirus. By contrast, the loss of LIMYB function releases the repression of translation-related genes and increases susceptibility to virus infection. Therefore, LIMYB links immune receptor LRR-RLK activation to global translation suppression as an antiviral immunity strategy in plants.
An engineered protein that binds to the envelope of HIV viruses protects monkeys against infection with a simian–human virus that causes AIDS. This gene-therapy approach might provide an alternative to elusive HIV vaccines.
How does marijuana cause the irresistible hunger pangs known as the munchies? Paradoxically, the answer seems to involve an unusual mode of activation of a brain circuit best known for suppressing appetite.
Bacteria use CRISPR–Cas systems to develop immunity to viruses. Details of how these systems select viral DNA fragments and integrate them into bacterial DNA to create a memory of invaders have now been reported.
Bacterial CRISPR–Cas loci acquire short phage sequences called spacers that integrate between DNA repeats and how these viral sequences are chosen was unknown; in these studies of the type II CRISPR–Cas system of Streptococcus pyogenes, the Cas9 nuclease known to inactivate invading viral DNA was found to be required for the selection of functional spacers during CRISPR immunity.
Cannabinoid-induced feeding signals are shown to enhance pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neuronal activity in mice, causing an enhancement ofβ-endorphin release, which is crucial in causing this cannabinoid-induced response; these results uncover an overlooked role of hypothalamic POMC neurons in the promotion of feeding by cannabinoids.
The bacterial CRISPR/Cas system acquires short phage sequences known as spacers that integrate between CRISPR repeats and constitute a record of phage infection; this study shows that the Cas1–Cas2 complex is the minimal machinery required for spacer acquisition and the complex integrates oligonucleotide DNA substrates into acceptor DNA in a manner similar to retroviral integrases and DNA transposases with Cas 1 as the catalytic subunit and Cas2 acting to increase integration activity.
Long-term in vivo expression of a broad and potent entry inhibitor could circumvent the need for a conventional vaccine for HIV-1. Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors can stably express HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs). However, even the best bNAbs neutralize 10–50% of HIV-1 isolates inefficiently (80% inhibitory concentration (IC80) ggt; 5 μg ml−1), suggesting that high concentrations of these antibodies would be necessary to achieve general protection. Here we show that eCD4-Ig, a fusion of CD4-Ig with a small CCR5-mimetic sulfopeptide, binds avidly and cooperatively to the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) and is more potent than the best bNAbs (geometric mean half-maximum inhibitory concentration (IC50) llt; 0.05 μg ml−1). Because eCD4-Ig binds only conserved regions of Env, it is also much broader than any bNAb. For example, eCD4-Ig efficiently neutralized 100% of a diverse panel of neutralization-resistant HIV-1, HIV-2 and simian immunodeficiency virus isolates, including a comprehensive set of isolates resistant to the CD4-binding site bNAbs VRC01, NIH45-46 and 3BNC117. Rhesus macaques inoculated with an AAV vector stably expressed 17–77 μg ml−1 of fully functional rhesus eCD4-Ig for more than 40 weeks, and these macaques were protected from several infectious challenges with SHIV-AD8. Rhesus eCD4-Ig was also markedly less immunogenic than rhesus forms of four well-characterized bNAbs. Our data suggest thatAAV-delivered eCD4-Ig can function like an effective HIV-1 vaccine.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is a central mediator of allergic (atopic) inflammation. Therapies directed against IgE can alleviate hay fever and allergic asthma. Genetic association studies have not yet identified novel therapeutic targets or pathways underlying IgE regulation. We therefore surveyed epigenetic associations between serum IgE concentrations and methylation at loci concentrated in CpG islands genome wide in 95 nuclear pedigrees, using DNA from peripheral blood leukocytes. We validated positive results in additional families and in subjects from the general population. Here we show replicated associations—with a meta-analysis false discovery rate less than 10−4—between IgE and low methylation at 36 loci. Genes annotated to these loci encode known eosinophil products, and also implicate phospholipid inflammatory mediators, specific transcription factors and mitochondrial proteins. We confirmedthat methylation at these loci differed significantly in isolated eosinophils from subjects with and without asthma and high IgE levels. The top three loci accounted for 13% of IgE variation in the primary subject panel, explaining the tenfold higher variance found compared with that derived from large single-nucleotide polymorphism genome-wide association studies. This study identifies novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers for patient stratification for allergic diseases.
Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are responsible for the lifelong production of blood cells. The accumulation of DNA damage in HSCs is a hallmark of ageing and is probably a major contributing factor in age-related tissue degeneration and malignant transformation. A number of accelerated ageing syndromes are associated with defective DNA repair and genomic instability, including the most common inherited bone marrow failure syndrome, Fanconi anaemia. However, the physiological source of DNA damage in HSCs from both normal and diseased individuals remains unclear. Here we show in mice that DNA damage is a direct consequence of inducing HSCs to exit their homeostatic quiescent state in response to conditions that model physiological stress, such as infection or chronic blood loss. Repeated activation of HSCs out of their dormant state provoked the attrition of normal HSCs and, in the case of mice with a non-functional Fanconi anaemia DNA repair pathway, led to a complete collapse of the haematopoietic system, which phenocopied the highly penetrant bone marrow failure seen in Fanconi anaemia patients. Our findings establish a novel link between physiological stress and DNA damage in normal HSCs and provide a mechanistic explanation for the universal accumulation of DNA damage in HSCs during ageing and the accelerated failure of the haematopoietic system in Fanconi anaemia patients.
The proliferation of genetically modified mouse models has exposed phenotypic variation between investigators and institutions that has been challenging to control. In many cases, the microbiota is the presumed cause of the variation. Current solutions to account for phenotypic variability include littermate and maternal controls or defined microbial consortia in gnotobiotic mice. In conventionally raised mice, the microbiome is transmitted from the dam. Here we show that microbially driven dichotomous faecal immunoglobulin-A (IgA) levels in wild-type mice within the same facility mimic the effects of chromosomal mutations. We observe in multiple facilities that vertically transmissible bacteria in IgA-low mice dominantly lower faecal IgA levels in IgA-high mice after co-housing or faecal transplantation. In response to injury, IgA-low mice show increased damage that is transferable by faecal transplantation and driven by faecal IgA differences. We find that bacteria from IgA-low mice degrade the secretory component of secretory IgA as well as IgA itself. These data indicate that phenotypic comparisons between mice must take into account the non-chromosomal hereditary variation between different breeders. We propose faecal IgA as one marker of microbial variability and conclude that co-housing and/or faecal transplantation enables analysis of progeny from different dams.
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for all organisms that must have been available since the origin of life. Abiotic processes including hydrothermal reduction, photochemical reactions, or lightning discharge could have converted atmospheric N2 into assimilable NH4+, HCN, or NOx species, collectively termed fixed nitrogen. But these sources may have been small on the early Earth, severely limiting the size of the primordial biosphere. The evolution of the nitrogen-fixing enzyme nitrogenase, which reduces atmospheric N2 to organic NH4+, thus represented a major breakthrough in the radiation of life, but its timing is uncertain. Here we present nitrogen isotope ratios with a mean of 0.0 ± 1.2‰ from marine and fluvial sedimentary rocks of prehnite–pumpellyite to greenschist metamorphic grade between 3.2 and 2.75 billion years ago. These data cannot readily be explained by abiotic processes and therefore suggest biological nitrogen fixation, most probably using molybdenum-based nitrogenase as opposed to other variants that impart significant negative fractionations. Our data place a minimum age constraint of 3.2 billion years on the origin of biological nitrogen fixation and suggest that molybdenum was bioavailable in the mid-Archaean ocean long before the Great Oxidation Event.
Enhancers regulate spatiotemporal gene expression and impart cell-specific transcriptional outputs that drive cell identity. Super-enhancers (SEs), also known as stretch-enhancers, are a subset of enhancers especially important for genes associated with cell identity and genetic risk of disease. CD4+ T cells are critical for host defence and autoimmunity. Here we analysed maps of mouse T-cell SEs as a non-biased means of identifying key regulatory nodes involved in cell specification. We found that cytokines and cytokine receptors were the dominant class of genes exhibiting SE architecture in T cells. Nonetheless, the locus encoding Bach2, a key negative regulator of effector differentiation, emerged as the most prominent T-cell SE, revealing a network in which SE-associated genes critical for T-cell biology are repressed by BACH2. Disease-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms for immune-mediated disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, were highly enriched for T-cell SEs versus typical enhancers or SEs in other cell lineages. Intriguingly, treatment of T cells with the Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor tofacitinib disproportionately altered the expression of rheumatoid arthritis risk genes with SE structures. Together, these results indicate that genes with SE architecture in T cells encompass a variety of cytokines and cytokine receptors but are controlled by a‘guardian’ transcription factor, itself endowed with an SE. Thus, enumeration of SEs allows the unbiased determination of key regulatory nodes in T cells, which are preferentially modulated by pharmacological intervention.
Autophagy, an important catabolic pathway implicated in a broad spectrum of human diseases, begins by forming double membrane autophagosomes that engulf cytosolic cargo and ends by fusing autophagosomes with lysosomes for degradation. Membrane fusion activity is required for early biogenesis of autophagosomes and late degradation in lysosomes. However, the key regulatory mechanisms of autophagic membrane tethering and fusion remain largely unknown. Here we report that ATG14 (also known as beclin-1-associated autophagy-related key regulator (Barkor) or ATG14L), an essential autophagy-specific regulator of the class III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complex, promotes membrane tethering of protein-free liposomes, and enhances hemifusion and full fusion of proteoliposomes reconstituted with the target (t)-SNAREs (soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptors) syntaxin 17 (STX17) and SNAP29, and the vesicle (v)-SNARE VAMP8 (vesicle-associated membrane protein 8). ATG14 binds to the SNARE core domain of STX17 through its coiled-coil domain, and stabilizes the STX17–SNAP29 binary t-SNARE complex on autophagosomes. The STX17 binding, membrane tethering and fusion-enhancing activities of ATG14 require its homo-oligomerization by cysteine repeats. In ATG14 homo-oligomerization-defective cells, autophagosomes still efficiently form but their fusion with endolysosomes is blocked. Recombinant ATG14 homo-oligomerization mutants also completely lose their ability to promote membrane tethering and to enhance SNARE-mediated fusion in vitro. Taken together, our data suggest an autophagy-specific membrane fusion mechanism in which oligomeric ATG14 directly binds to STX17–SNAP29 binary t-SNARE complex on autophagosomes and primes it for VAMP8 interaction to promote autophagosome–endolysosome fusion.
Non-ribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) mega-enzyme complexes are modular assembly lines that are involved in the biosynthesis of numerous peptide metabolites independently of the ribosome. The multiple interactions between catalytic domains within the NRPS machinery are further complemented by additional interactions with external enzymes, particularly focused on the final peptide maturation process. An important class of NRPS metabolites that require extensive external modification of the NRPS-bound peptide are the glycopeptide antibiotics (GPAs), which include vancomycin and teicoplanin. These clinically relevant peptide antibiotics undergo cytochrome P450-catalysed oxidative crosslinking of aromatic side chains to achieve their final, active conformation. However, the mechanism underlying the recruitment of the cytochrome P450 oxygenases to the NRPS-bound peptide was previously unknown. Here we show, through in vitro studies, that the X-domain, a conserved domain of unknown function present in the final module of all GPA NRPS machineries, is responsible for the recruitment of oxygenases to the NRPS-bound peptide to perform the essential side-chain crosslinking. X-ray crystallography shows that the X-domain is structurally related to condensation domains, but that its amino acid substitutions render it catalytically inactive. We found that the X-domain recruits cytochrome P450 oxygenases to the NRPS and determined the interface by solving the structure of a P450–X-domain complex. Additionally, we demonstrated that the modification of peptide precursors by oxygenases in vitro—in particular the installation of the second crosslink in GPA biosynthesis—occurs only in the presence of the X-domain. Our results indicate that the presentation of peptidyl carrier protein (PCP)-bound substrates for oxidation in GPA biosynthesis requires the presence of the NRPS X-domain to ensure conversion of the precursor peptide into a mature aglycone, and that the carrier protein domain alone is not always sufficient to generate a competent substrate for external cytochrome P450 oxygenases.
Innate immunity serves as the first line of defence against invading pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are examples of innate immune receptors, which sense specific molecular patterns from pathogens and activate immune responses. TLR9 recognizes bacterial and viral DNA containing the cytosine–phosphate–guanine (CpG) dideoxynucleotide motif. The molecular basis by which CpG-containing DNA (CpG-DNA) elicits immunostimulatory activity via TLR9 remains to be elucidated. Here we show the crystal structures of three forms of TLR9: unliganded, bound to agonistic CpG-DNA, and bound to inhibitory DNA (iDNA). Agonistic-CpG-DNA-bound TLR9 formed a symmetric TLR9–CpG-DNA complex with 2:2 stoichiometry, whereas iDNA-bound TLR9 was a monomer. CpG-DNA was recognized by both protomers in the dimer, in particular by the amino-terminal fragment (LRRNT–LRR10) from one protomer and the carboxy-terminal fragment (LRR20–LRR22) from the other. The iDNA, which formed a stem-loop structure suitable for binding by intramolecular base pairing, bound to the concave surface from LRR2–LRR10. This structure serves as an important basis for improving our understanding of the functional mechanisms of TLR9.
The BCR-ABL1 fusion gene is a driver oncogene in chronic myeloid leukaemia and 30–50% of cases of adult acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Introduction of ABL1 kinase inhibitors (for example, imatinib) has markedly improved patient survival, but acquired drug resistance remains a challenge. Point mutations in the ABL1 kinase domain weaken inhibitor binding and represent the most common clinical resistance mechanism. The BCR–ABL1 kinase domain gatekeeper mutation Thr315Ile (T315I) confers resistance to all approved ABL1 inhibitors except ponatinib, which has toxicity limitations. Here we combine comprehensive drug sensitivity and resistance profiling of patient cells ex vivo with structural analysis to establish the VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor axitinib as a selective and effective inhibitor for T315I-mutant BCR–ABL1-driven leukaemia. Axitinib potently inhibited BCR–ABL1(T315I), at both biochemical and cellular levels, by binding to the active form of ABL1(T315I) in a mutation-selective binding mode. These findings suggest that the T315I mutation shifts the conformational equilibrium of the kinase in favour of an active (DFG-in) A-loop conformation, which has more optimal binding interactions with axitinib. Treatment of a T315I chronic myeloid leukaemia patient with axitinib resulted in a rapid reduction of T315I-positive cells from bone marrow. Taken together, our findings demonstrate an unexpected opportunity to repurpose axitinib, an anti-angiogenic drug approved for renal cancer, as an inhibitor for ABL1 gatekeeper mutant drug-resistant leukaemia patients. This study shows that wild-type proteins do not always sample the conformations available to disease-relevant mutant proteins and that comprehensive drug testing of patient-derived cells can identify unpredictable, clinically significant drug-repositioning opportunities.
The planetary nebula stage is the ultimate fate of stars with masses one to eight times that of the Sun (). The origin of their complex morphologies is poorly understood, although several mechanisms involving binary interaction have been proposed. In close binary systems, the orbital separation is short enough for the primary star to overfill its Roche lobe as the star expands during the asymptotic giant branch phase. The excess gas eventually forms a common envelope surrounding both stars. Drag forces then result in the envelope being ejected into a bipolar planetary nebula whose equator is coincident with the orbital plane of the system. Systems in which both stars have ejected their envelopes and are evolving towards the white dwarf stage are said to be double degenerate. Here we report that Henize 2-428 has a double-degenerate core with a combined mass of∼1.76, which is above the Chandrasekhar limit (the maximum mass of a stable white dwarf) of 1.4. This, together with its short orbital period (4.2 hours), suggests that the system should merge in 700 million years, triggering a type Ia supernova event. This supports the hypothesis of the double-degenerate, super-Chandrasekhar evolutionary pathway for the formation of type Ia supernovae.
Signal sequences on messenger RNA that initiate protein synthesis are not thought to be interchangeable between life's domains. The finding that a signal from an arthropod virus can function in bacteria questions this idea.
The platyrrhine primates, or New World monkeys, are immigrant mammals whose fossil record comes from Tertiary and Quaternary sediments of South America and the Caribbean Greater Antilles. The time and place of platyrrhine origins are some of the most controversial issues in primate palaeontology, although an African Palaeogene ancestry has been presumed by most primatologists. Until now, the oldest fossil records of New World monkeys have come from Salla, Bolivia, and date to approximately 26 million years ago, or the Late Oligocene epoch. Here we report the discovery of new primates from the ?Late Eocene epoch of Amazonian Peru, which extends the fossil record of primates in South America back approximately 10 million years. The new specimens are important for understanding the origin and early evolution of modern platyrrhine primates because they bear little resemblance to any extinct or living South American primate, but they do bear striking resemblances to Eocene African anthropoids, and our phylogenetic analysis suggests a relationship with African taxa. The discovery of these new primates brings the first appearance datum of caviomorph rodents and primates in South America back into close correspondence, but raises new questions about the timing and means of arrival of these two mammalian groups.
The central dogma of gene expression (DNA to RNA to protein) is universal, but in different domains of life there are fundamental mechanistic differences within this pathway. For example, the canonical molecular signals used to initiate protein synthesis in bacteria and eukaryotes are mutually exclusive. However, the core structures and conformational dynamics of ribosomes that are responsible for the translation steps that take place after initiation are ancient and conserved across the domains of life. We wanted to explore whether an undiscovered RNA-based signal might be able to use these conserved features, bypassing mechanisms specific to each domain of life, and initiate protein synthesis in both bacteria and eukaryotes. Although structured internal ribosome entry site (IRES) RNAs can manipulate ribosomes to initiate translation in eukaryotic cells, an analogous RNA structure-based mechanism has not been observed in bacteria. Here we report our discovery that a eukaryotic viral IRES can initiate translation in live bacteria. We solved the crystal structure of this IRES bound to a bacterial ribosome to 3.8 Å resolution, revealing that despite differences between bacterial and eukaryotic ribosomes this IRES binds directly to both and occupies the space normally used by transfer RNAs. Initiation in both bacteria and eukaryotes depends on the structure of the IRES RNA, but in bacteria this RNA uses adifferent mechanism that includes a form of ribosome repositioning after initial recruitment. This IRES RNA bridges billions of years of evolutionary divergence and provides an example of an RNA structure-based translation initiation signal capable of operating in two domains of life.
Rising temperatures and lessening fresh water supplies are threatening agricultural productivity and have motivated efforts to improve plant water use and drought tolerance. During water deficit, plants produce elevated levels of abscisic acid (ABA), which improves water consumption and stress tolerance by controlling guard cell aperture and other protective responses. One attractive strategy for controlling water use is to develop compounds that activate ABA receptors, but agonists approved for use have yet to be developed. In principle, an engineered ABA receptor that can be activated by an existing agrochemical could achieve this goal. Here we describe a variant of the ABA receptor PYRABACTIN RESISTANCE 1 (PYR1) that possesses nanomolar sensitivity to the agrochemical mandipropamid and demonstrate its efficacy for controlling ABA responses and drought tolerance in transgenic plants. Furthermore, crystallographic studies provide a mechanistic basis for its activity and demonstrate the relative ease with which the PYR1 ligand-binding pocket can be altered to accommodate new ligands. Thus, we have successfully repurposed an agrochemical for a new application using receptor engineering. We anticipate that this strategy will be applied to other plant receptors and represents a new avenue for crop improvement.
The six-electron reduction of sulfite to sulfide is the pivot point of the biogeochemical cycle of the element sulfur. The octahaem cytochrome c MccA (also known as SirA) catalyses this reaction for dissimilatory sulfite utilization by various bacteria. It is distinct from known sulfite reductases because it has a substantially higher catalytic activity and a relatively low reactivity towards nitrite. The mechanistic reasons for the increased efficiency of MccA remain to be elucidated. Here we show that anoxically purified MccA exhibited a 2- to 5.5-fold higher specific sulfite reductase activity than the enzyme isolated under oxic conditions. We determined the three-dimensional structure of MccA to 2.2 Å resolution by single-wavelength anomalous dispersion. We find a homotrimer with an unprecedented fold and haem arrangement, as well as a haem bound to a CX15CH motif. The heterobimetallic active-site haem 2 has a Cu(I) ion juxtaposed to a haem c at a Fe–Cu distance of 4.4 Å. While the combination of metals is reminiscent of respiratory haem–copper oxidases, the oxidation-labile Cu(I) centre of MccA did not seem to undergo a redox transition during catalysis. Intact MccA tightly bound SO2 at haem 2, a dehydration product of the substrate sulfite that was partially turned over due tophotoreduction by X-ray irradiation, yielding the reaction intermediate SO. Our data show the biometal copper in a new context and function and provide a chemical rationale for the comparatively high catalytic activity of MccA.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is normally present at thousands of copies per cell and is packaged into several hundred higher-order structures termed nucleoids. The abundant mtDNA-binding protein TFAM (transcription factor A, mitochondrial) regulates nucleoid architecture, abundance and segregation. Complete mtDNA depletion profoundly impairs oxidative phosphorylation, triggering calcium-dependent stress signalling and adaptive metabolic responses. However, the cellular responses to mtDNA instability, a physiologically relevant stress observed in many human diseases and ageing, remain poorly defined. Here we show that moderate mtDNA stress elicited by TFAM deficiency engages cytosolic antiviral signalling to enhance the expression of a subset of interferon-stimulated genes. Mechanistically, we find that aberrant mtDNA packaging promotes escape of mtDNA into the cytosol, where it engages the DNA sensor cGAS (also known as MB21D1) and promotes STING (also known as TMEM173)–IRF3-dependent signalling to elevate interferon-stimulated gene expression, potentiate type I interferon responses and confer broad viral resistance. Furthermore, we demonstrate that herpesviruses induce mtDNA stress, which enhances antiviral signalling and type I interferon responses during infection. Our results further demonstrate that mitochondria are central participants in innate immunity, identify mtDNA stress as a cell-intrinsic trigger of antiviral signalling and suggest that cellular monitoring of mtDNA homeostasis cooperates with canonical virus sensing mechanisms to fully engage antiviral innate immunity.
Non-small-cell lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Chemotherapies such as the topoisomerase II (TopoII) inhibitor etoposide effectively reduce disease in a minority of patients with this cancer; therefore, alternative drug targets, including epigenetic enzymes, are under consideration for therapeutic intervention. A promising potential epigenetic target is the methyltransferase EZH2, which in the context of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) is well known to tri-methylate histone H3 at lysine 27 (H3K27me3) and elicit gene silencing. Here we demonstrate that EZH2 inhibition has differential effects on the TopoII inhibitor response of non-small-cell lung cancers in vitro and in vivo. EGFR and BRG1 mutations are genetic biomarkers that predict enhanced sensitivity to TopoII inhibitor in response to EZH2 inhibition. BRG1 loss-of-function mutant tumours respond to EZH2 inhibition with increased S phase, anaphase bridging, apoptosis and TopoII inhibitor sensitivity. Conversely, EGFR and BRG1 wild-type tumours upregulate BRG1 in response to EZH2 inhibition and ultimately become more resistant to TopoII inhibitor. EGFR gain-of-function mutant tumours are also sensitive to dual EZH2 inhibition and TopoII inhibitor, because of genetic antagonism between EGFR and BRG1. These findings suggest an opportunity for precision medicine in the genetically complex disease of non-small-cell lung cancer.
A key event in human evolution is the expansion of modern humans of African origin across Eurasia between 60 and 40 thousand years (kyr) before present (bp), replacing all other forms of hominins. Owing to the scarcity of human fossils from this period, these ancestors of all present-day non-African modern populations remain largely enigmatic. Here we describe a partial calvaria, recently discovered at Manot Cave (Western Galilee, Israel) and dated to 54.7 ± 5.5 kyr bp (arithmetic mean ± 2 standard deviations) by uranium–thorium dating, that sheds light on this crucial event. The overall shape and discrete morphological features of the Manot 1 calvaria demonstrate that this partial skull is unequivocally modern. It is similar in shape to recent African skulls as well as to European skulls from the Upper Palaeolithic period, but different from most other early anatomically modern humans in the Levant. This suggests that the Manot people could be closely related to the first modern humans who later successfully colonized Europe. Thus, the anatomical features used to support the ‘assimilation model’ in Europe might not have been inherited from European Neanderthals, but rather from earlier Levantine populations. Moreover, at present, Manot 1 is the only modern human specimen to provide evidence that during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic interface, both modern humans and Neanderthals contemporaneously inhabited the southern Levant, close in time to the likely interbreeding event with Neanderthals.
Non-ribosomal peptide synthetases are giant enzymes composed of modules that house repeated sets of functional domains, which select, activate and couple amino acids drawn from a pool of nearly 500 potential building blocks. The structurally and stereochemically diverse peptides generated in this manner underlie the biosynthesis of a large sector of natural products. Many of their derived metabolites are bioactive such as the antibiotics vancomycin, bacitracin, daptomycin and theβ-lactam-containing penicillins, cephalosporins and nocardicins. Penicillins and cephalosporins are synthesized from a classically derived non-ribosomal peptide synthetase tripeptide (from δ-(l-α-aminoadipyl)–l-cysteinyl–d-valine synthetase). Here we report an unprecedented non-ribosomal peptide synthetase activity that both assembles a serine-containing peptide and mediates its cyclization to the critical β-lactam ring of the nocardicin family of antibiotics. A histidine-rich condensation domain, which typically performs peptide bond formation during product assembly, also synthesizes the embedded four-membered ring. We propose a mechanism, and describe supporting experiments, that is distinct from the pathways that have evolved to the three other β-lactam antibiotic families: penicillin/cephalosporins, clavams and carbapenems. These findings raise the possibility that β-lactam rings can be regio- and stereospecifically integrated into engineered peptides for application as, for example, targeted protease inactivators.
Infectious agents develop intricate mechanisms to interact with host cell pathways and hijack their genetic and epigenetic machinery to change host cell phenotypic states. Among the Apicomplexa phylum of obligate intracellular parasites, which cause veterinary and human diseases, Theileria is the only genus that transforms its mammalian host cells. Theileria infection of bovine leukocytes induces proliferative and invasive phenotypes associated with activated signalling pathways, notably JNK and AP-1 (ref. 2). The transformed phenotypes are reversed by treatment with the theilericidal drug buparvaquone. We used comparative genomics to identify a homologue of the peptidyl-prolyl isomerase PIN1 in T. annulata (TaPIN1) that is secreted into the host cell and modulates oncogenic signalling pathways. Here we show that TaPIN1 is a bona fide prolyl isomerase and that it interacts with the host ubiquitin ligase FBW7, leading to its degradation and subsequent stabilization of c-JUN, which promotes transformation. We performed in vitro and in silico analysis and in vivo zebrafish xenograft experiments to demonstrate that TaPIN1 is directly inhibited by the anti-parasite drug buparvaquone (and other known PIN1 inhibitors) and is mutated in a drug-resistant strain. Prolyl isomerization is thus a conserved mechanism that is important in cancer and is used by Theileria parasites to manipulate host oncogenic signalling.
The enzyme hydrogenase reversibly converts dihydrogen to protons and electrons at a metal catalyst. The location of the abundant hydrogens is of key importance for understanding structure and function of the protein. However, in protein X-ray crystallography the detection of hydrogen atoms is one of the major problems, since they display only weak contributions to diffraction and the quality of the single crystals is often insufficient to obtain sub-ångström resolution. Here we report the crystal structure of a standard [NiFe] hydrogenase (∼91.3 kDa molecular mass) at 0.89 Å resolution. The strictly anoxically isolated hydrogenase has been obtained in a specific spectroscopic state, the active reduced Ni-R (subform Ni-R1) state. The high resolution, proper refinement strategy and careful modelling allow the positioning of a large part of the hydrogen atoms in the structure. This has led to the direct detection of the products of the heterolytic splitting of dihydrogen into a hydride (H−) bridging the Ni and Fe and a proton (H+) attached to the sulphur of a cysteine ligand. The Ni–H− and Fe–H− bond lengths are 1.58 Å and 1.78Å, respectively. Furthermore, we can assign the Fe–CO and Fe–CN− ligands at the active site, and can obtain the hydrogen-bond networks and the preferred proton transfer pathway in the hydrogenase. Our results demonstrate the precise comprehensive information available from ultra-high-resolution structures of proteins as an alternative to neutron diffraction and other methods such as NMR structural analysis.
Thirst is the basic instinct to drink water. Previously, it was shown that neurons in several circumventricular organs of the hypothalamus are activated by thirst-inducing conditions. Here we identify two distinct, genetically separable neural populations in the subfornical organ that trigger or suppress thirst. We show that optogenetic activation of subfornical organ excitatory neurons, marked by the expression of the transcription factor ETV-1, evokes intense drinking behaviour, and does so even in fully water-satiated animals. The light-induced response is highly specific for water, immediate and strictly locked to the laser stimulus. In contrast, activation of a second population of subfornical organ neurons, marked by expression of the vesicular GABA transporter VGAT, drastically suppresses drinking, even in water-craving thirsty animals. These results reveal an innate brain circuit that can turn an animal’s water-drinking behaviour on and off, and probably functions as a centre for thirst control in the mammalian brain.
DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification associated with transcriptional repression of promoters and is essential for mammalian development. Establishment of DNA methylation is mediated by the de novo DNA methyltransferases DNMT3A and DNMT3B, whereas DNMT1 ensures maintenance of methylation through replication. Absence of these enzymes is lethal, and somatic mutations in these genes have been associated with several human diseases. How genomic DNA methylation patterns are regulated remains poorly understood, as the mechanisms that guide recruitment and activity of DNMTs in vivo are largely unknown. To gain insights into this matter we determined genomic binding and site-specific activity of the mammalian de novo DNA methyltransferases DNMT3A and DNMT3B. We show that both enzymes localize to methylated, CpG-dense regions in mouse stem cells, yet are excluded from active promoters and enhancers. By specifically measuring sites of de novo methylation, we observe that enzymatic activity reflects binding. De novo methylation increases with CpG density, yet is excluded from nucleosomes. Notably, we observed selective binding of DNMT3B to the bodies of transcribed genes, which leads to their preferential methylation. This targeting to transcribed sequences requires SETD2-mediated methylation of lysine 36 on histone H3 and a functional PWWP domain of DNMT3B. Together these findings reveal how sequence and chromatin cues guide de novo methyltransferase activity to ensure methylome integrity.
Neurobiological models of long-term memory propose a mechanism by which initially weak memories are strengthened through subsequent activation that engages common neural pathways minutes to hours later. This synaptic tag-and-capture model has been hypothesized to explain how inconsequential information is selectively consolidated following salient experiences. Behavioural evidence for tag-and-capture is provided by rodent studies in which weak early memories are strengthened by future behavioural training. Whether a process of behavioural tagging occurs in humans to transform weak episodic memories into stable long-term memories is unknown. Here we show, in humans, that information is selectively consolidated if conceptually related information, putatively represented in a common neural substrate, is made salient through an emotional learning experience. Memory for neutral objects was selectively enhanced if other objects from the same category were paired with shock. Retroactive enhancements as a result of emotional learning were observed following a period of consolidation, but were not observed in an immediate memory test or for items strongly encoded before fear conditioning. These findings provide new evidence for a generalized retroactive memory enhancement, whereby inconsequential information can be retroactively credited as relevant, and therefore selectively remembered, if conceptually related information acquires salience in the future.
The highly complex structure of the human brain is strongly shaped by genetic influences. Subcortical brain regions form circuits with cortical areas to coordinate movement, learning, memory and motivation, and altered circuits can lead to abnormal behaviour and disease. To investigate how common genetic variants affect the structure of these brain regions, here we conduct genome-wide association studies of the volumes of seven subcortical regions and the intracranial volume derived from magnetic resonance images of 30,717 individuals from 50 cohorts. We identify five novel genetic variants influencing the volumes of the putamen and caudate nucleus. We also find stronger evidence for three loci with previously established influences on hippocampal volume and intracranial volume. These variants show specific volumetric effects on brain structures rather than global effects across structures. The strongest effects were found for the putamen, where a novel intergenic locus with replicable influence on volume (rs945270; P = 1.08 × 10−33; 0.52% variance explained) showed evidence of altering the expression of the KTN1 gene in both brain and blood tissue. Variants influencing putamen volume clustered near developmental genes that regulate apoptosis, axon guidance and vesicle transport. Identification of these geneticvariants provides insight into the causes of variability in human brain development, and may help to determine mechanisms of neuropsychiatric dysfunction.
Fear memories allow animals to avoid danger, thereby increasing their chances of survival. Fear memories can be retrieved long after learning, but little is known about how retrieval circuits change with time. Here we show that the dorsal midline thalamus of rats is required for the retrieval of auditory conditioned fear at late (24 hours, 7 days, 28 days), but not early (0.5 hours, 6 hours) time points after learning. Consistent with this, the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT), a subregion of the dorsal midline thalamus, showed increased c-Fos expression only at late time points, indicating that the PVT is gradually recruited for fear retrieval. Accordingly, the conditioned tone responses of PVT neurons increased with time after training. The prelimbic (PL) prefrontal cortex, which is necessary for fear retrieval, sends dense projections to the PVT. Retrieval at late time points activated PL neurons projecting to the PVT, and optogenetic silencing of these projections impaired retrieval at late, but not early, time points. In contrast, silencing of PL inputs to the basolateral amygdala impaired retrieval at early, but not late, time points, indicating a time-dependent shift in retrieval circuits.Retrieval at late time points also activated PVT neurons projecting to the central nucleus of the amygdala, and silencing these projections at late, but not early, time points induced a persistent attenuation of fear. Thus, the PVT may act as a crucial thalamic node recruited into cortico-amygdalarnetworks for retrieval and maintenance of long-term fear memories.
The regulated release of anorexigenicα-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) and orexigenic Agouti-related protein (AgRP) from discrete hypothalamic arcuate neurons onto common target sites in the central nervous system has a fundamental role in the regulation of energy homeostasis. Both peptides bind with high affinity to the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R); existing data show that α-MSH is an agonist that couples the receptor to the Gαs signalling pathway, while AgRP binds competitively to block α-MSH binding and blocks the constitutive activity mediated by the ligand-mimetic amino-terminal domain of the receptor. Here weshow that, in mice, regulation of firing activity of neurons from the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) by α-MSH and AgRP can be mediated independently of Gαs signalling by ligand-induced coupling of MC4R to closure of inwardly rectifying potassium channel, Kir7.1. Furthermore, AgRP is a biased agonist that hyperpolarizes neurons by binding to MC4R and opening Kir7.1, independently of its inhibition of α-MSH binding. Consequently, Kir7.1 signalling appears to be central to melanocortin-mediated regulation of energy homeostasis within the PVN. Coupling of MC4R to Kir7.1 may explain unusual aspects of the control of energy homeostasis by melanocortin signalling, including the gene dosage effect of MC4R and the sustained effects of AgRP on food intake.
Gradual accumulation of evidence is thought to be fundamental for decision-making, and its neural correlates have been found in several brain regions. Here we develop a generalizable method to measure tuning curves that specify the relationship between neural responses and mentally accumulated evidence, and apply it to distinguish the encoding of decision variables in posterior parietal cortex and prefrontal cortex (frontal orienting fields, FOF). We recorded the firing rates of neurons in posterior parietal cortex and FOF from rats performing a perceptual decision-making task. Classical analyses uncovered correlates of accumulating evidence, similar to previous observations in primates and also similar across the two regions. However, tuning curve assays revealed that while the posterior parietal cortex encodes a graded value of the accumulating evidence, the FOF has a more categorical encoding that indicates, throughout the trial, the decision provisionally favoured by the evidence accumulated so far. Contrary to current views, this suggests that premotor activity in the frontal cortex does not have a role in the accumulation process, but instead has a more categorical function, such as transforming accumulated evidence into a discrete choice. To probe causally the role of FOF activity, we optogenetically silenced it during different time points of the trial. Consistent with a role in committing to a categorical choice at the end of the evidence accumulation process, but not consistent with a role during the accumulation itself, a behavioural effect was observed only when FOF silencing occurred at the end of the perceptual stimulus. Our results place important constraints on the circuit logic of brain regions involved in decision-making.
Appropriate responses to an imminent threat brace us for adversities. The ability to sense and predict threatening or stressful events is essential for such adaptive behaviour. In the mammalian brain, one putative stress sensor is the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT), an area that is readily activated by both physical and psychological stressors. However, the role of the PVT in the establishment of adaptive behavioural responses remains unclear. Here we show in mice that the PVT regulates fear processing in the lateral division of the central amygdala (CeL), a structure that orchestrates fear learning and expression. Selective inactivation of CeL-projecting PVT neurons prevented fear conditioning, an effect that can be accounted for by an impairment in fear-conditioning-induced synaptic potentiation onto somatostatin-expressing (SOM+) CeL neurons, which has previously been shown to store fear memory. Consistently, we found that PVT neurons preferentially innervate SOM+ neurons in the CeL, and stimulation of PVT afferents facilitated SOM+ neuron activity and promoted intra-CeL inhibition, two processes that are critical for fear learning and expression. Notably, PVT modulation of SOM+ CeL neurons was mediated by activation of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) receptor tropomysin-related kinase B (TrkB). As a result, selective deletion of either Bdnf in the PVT or Trkb in SOM+ CeL neurons impaired fear conditioning, while infusion of BDNF into the CeL enhanced fear learning and elicited unconditioned fear responses. Our results demonstrate that the PVT–CeL pathway constitutes a novel circuit essential for both the establishment of fear memory and the expression of fear responses, and uncover mechanisms linking stress detection in PVT with the emergence of adaptive behaviour.
The gut microbiota plays a crucial role in the maturation of the intestinal mucosal immune system of its host. Within the thousand bacterial species present in the intestine, the symbiont segmented filamentous bacterium (SFB) is unique in its ability to potently stimulate the post-natal maturation of the B- and T-cell compartments and induce a striking increase in the small-intestinal Th17 responses. Unlike other commensals, SFB intimately attaches to absorptive epithelial cells in the ileum and cells overlying Peyer’s patches. This colonization does not result in pathology; rather, it protects the host from pathogens. Yet, little is known about the SFB–host interaction that underlies the important immunostimulatory properties of SFB, because SFB have resisted in vitro culturing for more than 50 years. Here we grow mouse SFB outside their host in an SFB–host cell co-culturing system. Single-celled SFB isolated from monocolonized mice undergo filamentation, segmentation, and differentiation to release viable infectious particles, the intracellular offspring, which can colonize mice to induce signature immune responses. In vitro, intracellular offspring can attach to mouse and human host cells and recruit actin. In addition, SFB can potently stimulate the upregulation of host innate defence genes, inflammatory cytokines, and chemokines. In vitro culturing thereby mimics the in vivo niche, provides new insights into SFB growth requirements and their immunostimulatory potential, and makes possible the investigation of the complex developmental stages of SFB and the detailed dissection of the unique SFB–host interaction at the cellular and molecular levels.
The phylogeny of Silurian and Devonian (443–358 million years (Myr) ago) fishes remains the foremost problem in the study of the origin of modern gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates). A central question concerns the morphology of the last common ancestor of living jawed vertebrates, with competing hypotheses advancing either a chondrichthyan-or osteichthyan-like model. Here we present Janusiscus schultzei gen. et sp. nov., an Early Devonian (approximately 415 Myr ago) gnathostome from Siberia previously interpreted as a ray-finned fish, which provides important new information about cranial anatomy near the last common ancestor of chondrichthyans and osteichthyans. The skull roof of Janusiscus resembles that of early osteichthyans, with large plates bearing vermiform ridges and partially enclosed sensory canals. High-resolution computed tomography (CT) reveals a braincase bearing characters typically associated with either chondrichthyans (large hypophyseal opening accommodating the internal carotid arteries) or osteichthyans (facial nerve exiting through jugular canal, endolymphatic ducts exiting posterior to the skull roof) but lacking a ventral cranial fissure, the presence of which is considered a derived feature of crown gnathostomes. A conjunction of well-developed cranial processes in Janusiscus helps unify the comparative anatomy of early jawed vertebrate neurocrania, clarifying primary homologies in ‘placoderms’, osteichthyans and chondrichthyans. Phylogenetic analysis further supports the chondrichthyanaffinities of ‘acanthodians’, and places Janusiscus and the enigmatic Ramirosuarezia in a polytomy with crown gnathostomes. The close correspondence between the skull roof of Janusiscus and that of osteichthyans suggests that an extensive dermal skeleton was present in the last common ancestor of jawed vertebrates, but ambiguities arise from uncertainties in the anatomy of Ramirosuarezia. The unexpected contrast between endoskeletal structure in Janusiscus and its superficially osteichthyan-like dermal skeleton highlights the potential importance of other incompletely known Siluro-Devonian ‘bony fishes’ for reconstructing patterns of trait evolution near the origin of modern gnathostomes.
Dengue disease is caused by four different flavivirus serotypes, which infect 390 million people yearly with 25% symptomatic cases and for which no licensed vaccine is available. Recent phase III vaccine trials showed partial protection, and in particular no protection for dengue virus serotype 2 (refs 3, 4). Structural studies so far have characterized only epitopes recognized by serotype-specific human antibodies. We recently isolated human antibodies potently neutralizing all four dengue virus serotypes. Here we describe the X-ray structures of four of these broadly neutralizing antibodies in complex with the envelope glycoprotein E from dengue virus serotype 2, revealing that the recognition determinants are at a serotype-invariant site at the E-dimer interface, including the exposed main chain of the E fusion loop and the two conserved glycan chains. This ‘E-dimer-dependent epitope’ is also the binding site for the viral glycoprotein prM during virus maturation in the secretory pathway of the infected cell, explaining its conservation across serotypes and highlighting an Achilles’ heel of the virus with respect to antibody neutralization. These findings will be instrumental for devising novel immunogens to protect simultaneously against all four serotypes of dengue virus.
Cell growth and proliferation are tightly linked to nutrient availability. The mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) integrates the presence of growth factors, energy levels, glucose and amino acids to modulate metabolic status and cellular responses. mTORC1 is activated at the surface of lysosomes by the RAG GTPases and the Ragulator complex through a not fully understood mechanism monitoring amino acid availability in the lysosomal lumen and involving the vacuolar H+-ATPase. Here we describe the uncharacterized human member 9 of the solute carrier family 38 (SLC38A9) as a lysosomal membrane-resident protein competent in amino acid transport. Extensive functional proteomic analysis established SLC38A9 as an integral part of the Ragulator–RAG GTPases machinery. Gain of SLC38A9 function rendered cells resistant to amino acid withdrawal, whereas loss of SLC38A9 expression impaired amino-acid-induced mTORC1 activation. Thus SLC38A9 is a physical and functional component of the amino acid sensing machinery that controls the activation of mTOR.
Meiotic recombination is a critical step in gametogenesis for many organisms, enabling the creation of genetically diverse haploid gametes. In each meiotic cell, recombination is initiated by numerous DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) created by Spo11, the evolutionarily conserved topoisomerase-like protein, but how these DSBs are distributed relatively uniformly across the four chromatids that make up each chromosome pair is poorly understood. Here we employ Saccharomyces cerevisiae to demonstrate distance-dependent DSB interference in cis (in which the occurrence of a DSB suppresses adjacent DSB formation)—a process that is mediated by the conserved DNA damage response kinase, Tel1ATM. The inhibitory function of Tel1 acts on a relatively local scale, while over large distances DSBs have a tendency to form independently of one another even in the presence of Tel1. Notably, over very short distances, loss of Tel1 activity causes DSBs to cluster within discrete zones of concerted DSB activity. Our observations support a hierarchical view of recombination initiation where Tel1ATM prevents clusters of DSBs, and further suppresses DSBs within the surrounding chromosomal region. Such collective negative regulation will help to ensure that recombination events are dispersed evenly and arranged optimally for genetic exchange and efficient chromosome segregation.
Hox genes regulate regionalization of the axial skeleton in vertebrates, and changes in their expression have been proposed to be a fundamental mechanism driving the evolution of new body forms. The origin of the snake-like body form, with its deregionalized pre-cloacal axial skeleton, has been explained as either homogenization of Hox gene expression domains, or retention of standard vertebrate Hox domains with alteration of downstream expression that suppresses development of distinct regions. Both models assume a highly regionalized ancestor, but the extent of deregionalization of the primaxial domain (vertebrae, dorsal ribs) of the skeleton in snake-like body forms has never been analysed. Here we combine geometric morphometrics and maximum-likelihood analysis to show that the pre-cloacal primaxial domain of elongate, limb-reduced lizards and snakes is not deregionalized compared with limbed taxa, and that the phylogenetic structure of primaxial morphology in reptiles does not support a loss of regionalization in the evolution of snakes. We demonstrate that morphometric regional boundaries correspond to mapped gene expression domains in snakes, suggesting that their primaxial domain is patterned by a normally functional Hox code. Comparison of primaxial osteology in fossil and modern amniotes with Hox gene distributions within Amniota indicates that a functional, sequentially expressed Hox code patterned a subtle morphological gradient along the anterior–posterior axis in stem members of amniote clades and extant lizards, including snakes. The highly regionalized skeletons of extant archosaurs and mammals result from independent evolution in the Hox code and do not represent ancestral conditions for clades with snake-like body forms. The developmental origin of snakes is best explained by decoupling of the primaxial and abaxial domains and by increases in somite number, not by changes in the function of primaxial Hox genes.
The skin represents the primary interface between the host and the environment. This organ is also home to trillions of microorganisms that play an important role in tissue homeostasis and local immunity. Skin microbial communities are highly diverse and can be remodelled over time or in response to environmental challenges. How, in the context of this complexity, individual commensal microorganisms may differentially modulate skin immunity and the consequences of these responses for tissue physiology remains unclear. Here we show that defined commensals dominantly affect skin immunity and identify the cellular mediators involved in this specification. In particular, colonization with Staphylococcus epidermidis induces IL-17A+ CD8+ T cells that home to the epidermis, enhance innate barrier immunity and limit pathogen invasion. Commensal-specific T-cell responses result from the coordinated action of skin-resident dendritic cell subsets and are not associated with inflammation, revealing that tissue-resident cells are poised to sense and respond to alterations in microbial communities. This interaction may represent an evolutionary means by which the skin immune system uses fluctuating commensal signals to calibrate barrier immunity and provide heterologous protection against invasive pathogens. These findings reveal that the skin immune landscape is a highly dynamic environment that can be rapidly and specifically remodelled by encounters with defined commensals, findings that have profound implications for our understanding of tissue-specific immunity and pathologies.
Despite three decades of successful, predominantly phenotype-driven discovery of the genetic causes of monogenic disorders, up to half of children with severe developmental disorders of probable genetic origin remain without a genetic diagnosis. Particularly challenging are those disorders rare enough to have eluded recognition as a discrete clinical entity, those with highly variable clinical manifestations, and those that are difficult to distinguish from other, very similar, disorders. Here we demonstrate the power of using an unbiased genotype-driven approach to identify subsets of patients with similar disorders. By studying 1,133 children with severe, undiagnosed developmental disorders, and their parents, using a combination of exome sequencing and array-based detection of chromosomal rearrangements, we discovered 12 novel genes associated with developmental disorders. These newly implicated genes increase by 10% (from 28% to 31%) the proportion of children that could be diagnosed. Clustering of missense mutations in six of these newly implicated genes suggests that normal development is being perturbed by an activating or dominant-negative mechanism. Our findings demonstrate the value of adopting a comprehensive strategy, both genome-wide and nationwide, to elucidate the underlying causes of rare genetic disorders.
Collective behaviour enhances environmental sensing and decision-making in groups of animals. Experimental and theoretical investigations of schooling fish, flocking birds and human crowds have demonstrated that simple interactions between individuals can explain emergent group dynamics. These findings indicate the existence of neural circuits that support distributed behaviours, but the molecular and cellular identities of relevant sensory pathways are unknown. Here we show that Drosophila melanogaster exhibits collective responses to an aversive odour: individual flies weakly avoid the stimulus, but groups show enhanced escape reactions. Using high-resolution behavioural tracking, computational simulations, genetic perturbations, neural silencing and optogenetic activation we demonstrate that this collective odour avoidance arises from cascades of appendage touch interactions between pairs of flies. Inter-fly touch sensing and collective behaviour require the activity of distal leg mechanosensory sensilla neurons and the mechanosensory channel NOMPC. Remarkably, through these inter-fly encounters, wild-type flies can elicit avoidance behaviour in mutant animals that cannot sense the odour—a basic form of communication. Our data highlight the unexpected importance of social context in the sensory responses of a solitary species and open the door to a neural-circuit-level understanding of collective behaviour in animal groups.
Intrinsically disordered proteins play important roles in cell signalling, transcription, translation and cell cycle regulation. Although they lack stable tertiary structure, many intrinsically disordered proteins undergo disorder-to-order transitions upon binding to partners. Similarly, several folded proteins use regulated order-to-disorder transitions to mediate biological function. In principle, the function of intrinsically disordered proteins may be controlled by post-translational modifications that lead to structural changes such as folding, although this has not been observed. Here we show that multisite phosphorylation induces folding of the intrinsically disordered 4E-BP2, the major neural isoform of the family of three mammalian proteins that bind eIF4E and suppress cap-dependent translation initiation. In its non-phosphorylated state, 4E-BP2 interacts tightly with eIF4E using both a canonical YXXXXLΦ motif (starting at Y54) that undergoes a disorder-to-helix transition upon binding and a dynamic secondary binding site. We demonstrate that phosphorylation at T37 and T46 induces folding of residues P18–R62 of 4E-BP2 into a four-stranded β-domain that sequesters the helical YXXXXLΦ motif into a partly buried β-strand, blocking its accessibility to eIF4E. The folded state of pT37pT46 4E-BP2 is weakly stable, decreasing affinity by 100-fold and leading to an order-to-disorder transition upon binding to eIF4E, whereas fully phosphorylated 4E-BP2 is more stable, decreasing affinity by a factor of approximately 4,000. These results highlight stabilization of a phosphorylation-induced fold as the essential mechanism for phospho-regulation of the 4E-BP:eIF4E interaction and exemplify a new mode of biological regulation mediated by intrinsically disordered proteins.
Obesity is an increasingly prevalent disease regulated by genetic and environmental factors. Emerging studies indicate that immune cells, including monocytes, granulocytes and lymphocytes, regulate metabolic homeostasis and are dysregulated in obesity. Group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s) can regulate adaptive immunity and eosinophil and alternatively activated macrophage responses, and were recently identified in murine white adipose tissue (WAT) where they may act to limit the development of obesity. However, ILC2s have not been identified in human adipose tissue, and the mechanisms by which ILC2s regulate metabolic homeostasis remain unknown. Here we identify ILC2s in human WAT and demonstrate that decreased ILC2 responses in WAT are a conserved characteristic of obesity in humans and mice. Interleukin (IL)-33 was found to be critical for the maintenance of ILC2s in WAT and in limiting adiposity in mice by increasing caloric expenditure. This was associated with recruitment of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1)+ beige adipocytes in WAT, a process known as beiging or browning that regulates caloric expenditure. IL-33-induced beiging was dependent on ILC2s, and IL-33 treatment or transfer of IL-33-elicited ILC2s was sufficient to drive beiging independently of the adaptive immune system, eosinophils or IL-4 receptor signalling. We found that ILC2s produce methionine-enkephalin peptides that can act directly on adipocytes to upregulate Ucp1 expression in vitro and that promote beiging in vivo. Collectively, these studies indicate that, in addition to responding to infection or tissue damage, ILC2s can regulate adipose function and metabolic homeostasis in part via production of enkephalin peptides that elicit beiging.
A distinctive feature of prokaryotic gene expression is the absence of 5′-capped RNA. In eukaryotes, 5′,5′-triphosphate-linked 7-methylguanosine protects messenger RNA from degradation and modulates maturation, localization and translation. Recently, the cofactor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) was reported as a covalent modification of bacterial RNA. Given the central role of NAD in redox biochemistry, posttranslational protein modification and signalling, its attachment to RNA indicates that there are unknown functions of RNA in these processes and undiscovered pathways in RNA metabolism and regulation. The unknown identity of NAD-modified RNAs has so far precluded functional analyses. Here we identify NAD-linked RNAs from bacteria by chemo-enzymatic capture and next-generation sequencing (NAD captureSeq). Among those identified, specific regulatory small RNAs (sRNAs) and sRNA-like 5′-terminal fragments of certain mRNAs are particularly abundant. Analogous to a eukaryotic cap, 5′-NAD modification is shown in vitro to stabilize RNA against 5′-processing by the RNA-pyrophosphohydrolase RppH and against endonucleolytic cleavage by ribonuclease (RNase) E. The nudix phosphohydrolase NudC decaps NAD-RNA and thereby triggers RNase-E-mediated RNA decay, while being inactive against triphosphate-RNA. In vivo, ∼13% of the abundant sRNA RNAI is NAD-capped in the presence, and ∼26% in the absence, of functional NudC. To our knowledge, this is the first description of a cap-like structure and a decapping machinery in bacteria.
Tubulin is a major component of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton, controlling cell shape, structure and dynamics, whereas its bacterial homologue FtsZ establishes the cytokinetic ring that constricts during cell division. How such different roles of tubulin and FtsZ evolved is unknown. Studying Archaea may provide clues as these organisms share characteristics with Eukarya and Bacteria. Here we report the structure and function of proteins from a distinct family related to tubulin and FtsZ, named CetZ, which co-exists with FtsZ in many archaea. CetZ X-ray crystal structures showed the FtsZ/tubulin superfamily fold, and one crystal form contained sheets of protofilaments, suggesting a structural role. However, inactivation of CetZ proteins in Haloferax volcanii did not affect cell division. Instead, CetZ1 was required for differentiation of the irregular plate-shaped cells into a rod-shaped cell type that was essential for normal swimming motility. CetZ1 formed dynamic cytoskeletal structures in vivo, relating to its capacity to remodel the cell envelope and direct rod formation. CetZ2 was also implicated in H. volcanii cell shape control. Our findings expand the known roles of the FtsZ/tubulin superfamily to include archaeal cell shape dynamics, suggesting that a cytoskeletal role might predate eukaryotic cell evolution, and they support the premise that a major function of the microbial rod shape is to facilitate swimming.
Resveratrol is reported to extend lifespan and provide cardio-neuro-protective, anti-diabetic, and anti-cancer effects by initiating a stress response that induces survival genes. Because human tyrosyl transfer-RNA (tRNA) synthetase (TyrRS) translocates to the nucleus under stress conditions, we considered the possibility that the tyrosine-like phenolic ring of resveratrol might fit into the active site pocket to effect a nuclear role. Here we present a 2.1 Å co-crystal structure of resveratrol bound to the active site of TyrRS. Resveratrol nullifies the catalytic activity and redirects TyrRS to a nuclear function, stimulating NAD+-dependent auto-poly-ADP-ribosylation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1). Downstream activation of key stress signalling pathways are causally connected to TyrRS–PARP1–NAD+ collaboration. This collaboration is also demonstrated in the mouse, and is specifically blocked in vivo by a resveratrol-displacing tyrosyl adenylate analogue. In contrast to functionally diverse tRNA synthetase catalytic nulls createdby alternative splicing events that ablate active sites, here a non-spliced TyrRS catalytic null reveals a new PARP1- and NAD+-dependent dimension to the physiological mechanism of resveratrol.
The orexin (also known as hypocretin) G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) respond to orexin neuropeptides in the central nervous system to regulate sleep and other behavioural functions in humans. Defects in orexin signalling are responsible for the human diseases of narcolepsy and cataplexy; inhibition of orexin receptors is an effective therapy for insomnia. The human OX2 receptor (OX2R) belongs to theβ branch of the rhodopsin family of GPCRs, and can bind to diverse compounds including the native agonist peptides orexin-A and orexin-B and the potent therapeutic inhibitor suvorexant. Here, using lipid-mediated crystallization and protein engineering with a novel fusion chimaera, we solved the structure of the human OX2R bound to suvorexant at 2.5 Å resolution. The structure reveals how suvorexant adopts a π-stacked horseshoe-like conformation and binds to the receptor deep in the orthosteric pocket, stabilizing a network of extracellular salt bridges and blocking transmembrane helix motions necessary for activation. Computational docking suggests how other classes of synthetic antagonists may interact with the receptor at a similar position in an analogous π-stacked fashion. Elucidation of the molecular architecture of the human OX2R expands our understanding of peptidergic GPCRligand recognition and will aid further efforts to modulate orexin signalling for therapeutic ends.
More than twenty types of retinal ganglion cells conduct visual information from the eye to the rest of the brain. Each retinal ganglion cell type tessellates the retina in a regular mosaic, so that every point in visual space is processed for visual primitives such as contrast and motion. This information flows to two principal brain centres: the visual cortex and the superior colliculus. The superior colliculus plays an evolutionarily conserved role in visual behaviours, but its functional architecture is poorly understood. Here we report on population recordings of visual responses from neurons in the mouse superior colliculus. Many neurons respond preferentially to lines of a certain orientation or movement axis. We show that cells with similar orientation preferences form large patches that span the vertical thickness of the retinorecipient layers. This organization is strikingly different from the randomly interspersed orientation preferences in the mouse’s visual cortex; instead, it resembles the orientation columns observed in the visual cortices of large mammals. Notably, adjacent superior colliculus orientation columns have only limited receptive field overlap. This is in contrast to the organization of visual cortex, where each point in the visual field activates neurons with all preferred orientations. Instead, the superior colliculus favours specific contour orientations within ∼30° regions of the visual field, a finding with implications for behavioural responses mediated by this brain centre.
Mast cells are primary effectors in allergic reactions, and may have important roles in disease by secreting histamine and various inflammatory and immunomodulatory substances. Although they are classically activated by immunoglobulin (Ig)E antibodies, a unique property of mast cells is their antibody-independent responsiveness to a range of cationic substances, collectively called basic secretagogues, including inflammatory peptides and drugs associated with allergic-type reactions. The pathogenic roles of these substances have prompted a decades-long search for their receptor(s). Here we report that basic secretagogues activate mouse mast cells in vitro and in vivo through a single receptor, Mrgprb2, the orthologue of the human G-protein-coupled receptor MRGPRX2. Secretagogue-induced histamine release, inflammation and airway contraction are abolished in Mrgprb2-null mutant mice. Furthermore, we show that most classes of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved peptidergic drugs associated with allergic-type injection-site reactions also activate Mrgprb2 and MRGPRX2, and that injection-site inflammation is absent in mutant mice. Finally, we determine that Mrgprb2 and MRGPRX2 are targets of many small-molecule drugs associated with systemic pseudo-allergic, or anaphylactoid, reactions; we show that drug-induced symptoms of anaphylactoid responses are significantly reduced in knockout mice; and we identify a common chemical motif in several of these molecules that may help predict side effects of other compounds. These discoveries introduce a mouse model to study mast cell activation by basic secretagogues and identify MRGPRX2 as a potential therapeutic target to reduce a subset of drug-induced adverse effects.
Interventions that delay ageing mobilize mechanisms that protect and repair cellular components, but it is unknown how these interventions might slow the functional decline of extracellular matrices, which are also damaged during ageing. Reduced insulin/IGF-1 signalling (rIIS) extends lifespan across the evolutionary spectrum, and in juvenile Caenorhabditis elegans also allows the transcription factor DAF-16/FOXO to induce development into dauer, a diapause that withstands harsh conditions. It has been suggested that rIIS delays C. elegans ageing through activation of dauer-related processes during adulthood, but some rIIS conditions confer robust lifespan extension unaccompanied by any dauer-like traits. Here we show that rIIS can promote C. elegans longevity through a program that is genetically distinct from the dauer pathway, and requires the Nrf (NF-E2-related factor) orthologue SKN-1 acting in parallel to DAF-16. SKN-1 is inhibited by IIS and has been broadly implicated in longevity, but is rendered dispensable for rIIS lifespan extension by even mild activity of dauer-related processes. When IIS is decreased under conditions that do not induce dauer traits, SKN-1 most prominently increases expression of collagens and other extracellular matrix genes. Diverse genetic, nutritional, and pharmacological pro-longevity interventions delay an age-related decline in collagen expression. These collagens mediate adulthood extracellular matrix remodelling, and are needed for ageing to be delayed by interventions that do not involve dauer traits. By genetically delineating a dauer-independent rIIS ageing pathway, our results show that IIS controls a broad set of protective mechanisms during C. elegans adulthood, and may facilitate elucidation of processes of general importance for longevity. The importance of collagen production in diverse anti-ageing interventions implies that extracellular matrix remodelling is a generally essential signature of longevity assurance, and that agents promoting extracellular matrix youthfulness may have systemic benefit.
The concept of germ layers has been one of the foremost organizing principles in developmental biology, classification, systematics and evolution for 150 years (refs 1, 2, 3). Of the three germ layers, the mesoderm is found in bilaterian animals but is absent in species in the phyla Cnidaria and Ctenophora, which has been taken as evidence that the mesoderm was the final germ layer to evolve. The origin of the ectoderm and endoderm germ layers, however, remains unclear, with models supporting the antecedence of each as well as a simultaneous origin. Here we determine the temporal and spatial components of gene expression spanning embryonic development for all Caenorhabditis elegans genes and use it to determine the evolutionary ages of the germ layers. The gene expression program of the mesoderm is induced after those of the ectoderm and endoderm, thus making it the last germ layer both to evolve and to develop. Strikingly, the C. elegans endoderm and ectoderm expression programs do not co-induce; rather the endoderm activates earlier, and this is also observed in the expression of endoderm orthologues during the embryology of the frog Xenopus tropicalis, the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis and the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica. Querying the phylogenetic ages of specifically expressed genes reveals that the endoderm comprises older genes. Taken together, we propose that the endoderm program dates back to the origin of multicellularity, whereas the ectoderm originated as a secondary germ layer freed from ancestral feeding functions.
Filamentous actin (F-actin) is the major protein of muscle thin filaments, and actin microfilaments are the main component of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton. Mutations in different actin isoforms lead to early-onset autosomal dominant non-syndromic hearing loss, familial thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections, and multiple variations of myopathies. In striated muscle fibres, the binding of myosin motors to actin filaments is mainly regulated by tropomyosin and troponin. Tropomyosin also binds to F-actin in smooth muscle and in non-muscle cells and stabilizes and regulates the filaments there in the absence of troponin. Although crystal structures for monomeric actin (G-actin) are available, a high-resolution structure of F-actin is still missing, hampering our understanding of how disease-causing mutations affect the function of thin muscle filaments and microfilaments. Here we report the three-dimensional structure of F-actin at a resolution of 3.7 Å in complex with tropomyosin at a resolution of 6.5 Å, determined by electron cryomicroscopy. The structure reveals that the D-loop is ordered and acts as a central region for hydrophobic and electrostatic interactions that stabilize the F-actin filament. We clearly identify map density corresponding to ADP and Mg2+ and explain the possible effect of prominent disease-causing mutants. A comparison of F-actin with G-actin reveals the conformational changes during filament formation and identifies the D-loop as their key mediator. We also confirm that negatively charged tropomyosin interacts with a positively charged groove on F-actin. Comparison of the position of tropomyosin in F-actin–tropomyosin with its position in our previously determined F-actin–tropomyosin–myosin structure reveals a myosin-induced transition of tropomyosin. Our results allow us to understand the role of individual mutations in the genesis of actin- and tropomyosin-related diseases and will serve as a strong foundation for the targeted development of drugs.
Safe and powerful energy storage devices are becoming increasingly important. Charging times of seconds to minutes, with power densities exceeding those of batteries, can in principle be provided by electrochemical capacitors—in particular, pseudocapacitors. Recent research has focused mainly on improving the gravimetric performance of the electrodes of such systems, but for portable electronics and vehicles volume is at a premium. The best volumetric capacitances of carbon-based electrodes are around 300 farads per cubic centimetre; hydrated ruthenium oxide can reach capacitances of 1,000 to 1,500 farads per cubic centimetre with great cyclability, but only in thin films. Recently, electrodes made of two-dimensional titanium carbide (Ti3C2, a member of the ‘MXene’ family), produced by etching aluminium from titanium aluminium carbide (Ti3AlC2, a ‘MAX’ phase) in concentrated hydrofluoric acid, have been shown to have volumetric capacitances of over 300 farads per cubic centimetre. Here we report a method of producing this material using a solution of lithium fluoride and hydrochloric acid. The resulting hydrophilic material swells in volume when hydrated, and can be shaped like clay and dried into a highly conductive solid or rolled into films tens of micrometres thick. Additive-free films of this titanium carbide ‘clay’ have volumetric capacitances of up to 900 farads per cubic centimetre, with excellent cyclability and rate performances. This capacitance is almost twice that of our previous report, and our synthetic method also offers a much faster route to film production as well as the avoidance of handling hazardous concentrated hydrofluoric acid.
The TRIM37 (also known as MUL) gene is located in the 17q23 chromosomal region, which is amplified in up to∼40% of breast cancers. TRIM37 contains a RING finger domain, a hallmark of E3 ubiquitin ligases, but its protein substrate(s) is unknown. Here we report that TRIM37 mono-ubiquitinates histone H2A, a chromatin modification associated with transcriptional repression. We find that in human breast cancer cell lines containing amplified 17q23, TRIM37 is upregulated and, reciprocally, the major H2A ubiquitin ligase RNF2 (also known as RING1B) is downregulated. Genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-chip experiments in 17q23-amplified breast cancer cells identified many genes, includingmultiple tumour suppressors, whose promoters were bound by TRIM37 and enriched for ubiquitinated H2A. However, unlike RNF2, which is a subunit of polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1), we find that TRIM37 associates with polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2). TRIM37, PRC2 and PRC1 are co-bound to specific target genes, resulting in their transcriptional silencing. RNA-interference-mediated knockdown of TRIM37 results in loss of ubiquitinated H2A, dissociation of PRC1 and PRC2 from target promoters, and transcriptional reactivation of silenced genes. Knockdown of TRIM37 in human breast cancer cells containing amplified 17q23 substantially decreases tumour growth in mouse xenografts. Conversely, ectopic expression of TRIM37 renders non-transformed cells tumorigenic. Collectively, our results reveal TRIM37 as an oncogenic H2A ubiquitin ligase that is overexpressed in a subset of breast cancers and promotes transformation by facilitating silencing of tumour suppressors and other genes.
A new class of fatty acid— found in food and synthesized by mammalian tissues — enhances glucose uptake from the blood and reduces inflammation, suggesting that these fats might be used to treat diabetes.
An experiment shows that although bank employees behave honestly on average, their dishonesty increases when they make decisions after having been primed to think about their professional identity.
The finding that intestinal viruses can substitute for intestinal bacteria to promote the health of their mammalian hosts raises the possibility that viruses in the gut may be beneficial in some circumstances.
Trust in others’ honesty is a key component of the long-term performance of firms, industries, and even whole countries. However, in recent years, numerous scandals involving fraud have undermined confidence in the financial industry. Contemporary commentators have attributed these scandals to the financial sector’s business culture, but no scientific evidence supports this claim. Here we show that employees of a large, international bank behave, on average, honestly in a control condition. However, when their professional identity as bank employees is rendered salient, a significant proportion of them become dishonest. This effect is specific to bank employees because control experiments with employees from other industries and with students show that they do not become more dishonest when their professional identity or bank-related items are rendered salient. Our results thus suggest that the prevailing business culture in the banking industry weakens and undermines the honesty norm, implying that measures to re-establish an honest culture are very important.
Intestinal microbial communities have profound effects on host physiology. Whereas the symbiotic contribution of commensal bacteria is well established, the role of eukaryotic viruses that are present in the gastrointestinal tract under homeostatic conditions is undefined. Here we demonstrate that a common enteric RNA virus can replace the beneficial function of commensal bacteria in the intestine. Murine norovirus (MNV) infection of germ-free or antibiotic-treated mice restored intestinal morphology and lymphocyte function without inducing overt inflammation and disease. The presence of MNV also suppressed an expansion of group 2 innate lymphoid cells observed in the absence of bacteria, and induced transcriptional changes in the intestine associated with immune development and type I interferon (IFN) signalling. Consistent with this observation, the IFN-α receptor was essential for the ability of MNV to compensate for bacterial depletion. Importantly, MNV infection offset the deleterious effect of treatment with antibiotics in models of intestinal injury and pathogenic bacterial infection. These data indicate that eukaryotic viruses have the capacity to support intestinal homeostasis and shape mucosal immunity, similarly to commensal bacteria.
The prominent and evolutionarily ancient role of the plant hormone auxin is the regulation of cell expansion. Cell expansion requires ordered arrangement of the cytoskeleton but molecular mechanisms underlying its regulation by signalling molecules including auxin are unknown. Here we show in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana that in elongating cells exogenous application of auxin or redistribution of endogenous auxin induces very rapid microtubule re-orientation from transverse to longitudinal, coherent with the inhibition of cell expansion. This fast auxin effect requires auxin binding protein 1 (ABP1) and involves a contribution of downstream signalling components such as ROP6 GTPase, ROP-interactive protein RIC1 and the microtubule-severing protein katanin. These components are required for rapid auxin- and ABP1-mediated re-orientation of microtubules to regulate cell elongation in roots and dark-grown hypocotyls as well as asymmetric growth during gravitropic responses.
Chronic stress can cause depression in some individuals, but leaves others untouched. Engagement of a molecular pathway controlling the production of tiny RNA snippets might help to explain the difference.
Two studies find that an intracellular quality-control mechanism called autophagy is regulated by nuclear receptor proteins that govern the expression of autophagy genes.
Hereβ-catenin, which has been implicated in neurological and psychiatric diseases, including depression, is shown to mediate resilience to chronic stress in mice through induction of Dicer and microRNAs in nucleus accumbens, a key brain reward region.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved catabolic process that recycles nutrients upon starvation and maintains cellular energy homeostasis. Its acute regulation by nutrient-sensing signalling pathways is well described, but its longer-term transcriptional regulation is not. The nuclear receptors peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α (PPARα) and farnesoid X receptor (FXR) are activated in the fasted and fed liver, respectively. Here we show that both PPARα and FXR regulate hepatic autophagy in mice. Pharmacological activation of PPARα reverses the normal suppression of autophagy in the fed state, inducing autophagic lipiddegradation, or lipophagy. This response is lost in PPARα knockout (Ppara−/−, also known as Nr1c1−/−) mice, which are partially defective in the induction of autophagy by fasting. Pharmacological activation of the bile acid receptor FXR strongly suppresses the induction of autophagy in thefasting state, and this response is absent in FXR knockout (Fxr−/−, also known as Nr1h4−/−) mice, which show a partial defect in suppression of hepatic autophagy in the fed state. PPARα and FXR compete for binding to shared sites in autophagic gene promoters, with opposite transcriptional outputs. These results reveal complementary, interlocking mechanisms for regulation of autophagy by nutrient status.
Lysosomal degradation of cytoplasmic components by autophagy is essential for cellular survival and homeostasis under nutrient-deprived conditions. Acute regulation of autophagy by nutrient-sensing kinases is well defined, but longer-term transcriptional regulation is relatively unknown. Here we show that the fed-state sensing nuclear receptor farnesoid X receptor (FXR) and the fasting transcriptional activator cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) coordinately regulate the hepatic autophagy gene network. Pharmacological activation of FXR repressed many autophagy genes and inhibited autophagy even in fasted mice, and feeding-mediated inhibition of macroautophagy was attenuated in FXR-knockout mice. From mouse liver chromatin immunoprecipitation and high-throughput sequencing data, FXR and CREB binding peaks were detected at 178 and 112 genes, respectively, out of 230 autophagy-related genes, and 78 genes showed shared binding, mostly in their promoter regions. CREB promoted autophagic degradation of lipids, or lipophagy, under nutrient-deprived conditions, and FXR inhibited this response. Mechanistically, CREB upregulated autophagy genes, including Atg7, Ulk1 and Tfeb, by recruiting the coactivator CRTC2. After feeding or pharmacological activation, FXR trans-repressed these genes by disrupting the functional CREB–CRTC2 complex. This study identifies the new FXR–CREB axis as a key physiological switch regulating autophagy, resulting in sustained nutrient regulation of autophagy during feeding/fasting cycles.
The semi-conservative centrosome duplication in cycling cells gives rise to a centrosome composed of a mother and a newly formed daughter centriole. Both centrioles are regarded as equivalent in their ability to form new centrioles and their symmetric duplication is crucial for cell division homeostasis. Multiciliated cells do not use the archetypal duplication program and instead form more than a hundred centrioles that are required for the growth of motile cilia and the efficient propelling of physiological fluids. The majority of these new centrioles are thought to appear de novo, that is, independently from the centrosome, around electron-dense structures called deuterosomes. Their origin remains unknown. Using live imaging combined with correlative super-resolution light and electron microscopy, we show that all new centrioles derive from the pre-existing progenitor cell centrosome through multiple rounds of procentriole seeding. Moreover, we establish that only the daughter centrosomal centriole contributes to deuterosome formation, and thus to over ninety per cent of the final centriole population. This unexpected centriolar asymmetry grants new perspectives when studying cilia-related diseases and pathological centriole amplification observed in cycling cells and associated with microcephaly and cancer.
The adoption of a new form of tool use has been observed to spread along social-network pathways in a chimpanzee community. The finding offers the first direct evidence of cultural diffusion in these animals in the wild.
The spliceosome enzyme complex removes intron sequences from RNA transcripts to form messenger RNA. The crystal structure of a lasso-shaped RNA suggests a mechanism for this splicing process.
This study determines the structure of a branched lariat RNA, providing insights into rearrangement of the intron between the two steps of RNA splicing.
The response of the terrestrial carbon cycle to climate change is among the largest uncertainties affecting future climate change projections. The feedback between the terrestrial carbon cycle and climate is partly determined by changes in the turnover time of carbon in land ecosystems, which in turn is an ecosystem property that emerges from the interplay between climate, soil and vegetation type. Here we present a global, spatially explicit and observation-based assessment of whole-ecosystem carbon turnover times that combines new estimates of vegetation and soil organic carbon stocks and fluxes. We find that the overall mean global carbon turnover time is years (95 per cent confidence interval). On average, carbon resides in the vegetation and soil near the Equator for a shorter time than at latitudes north of 75° north (mean turnover times of 15 and 255 years, respectively). We identify a clear dependence of the turnover time on temperature, asexpected from our present understanding of temperature controls on ecosystem dynamics. Surprisingly, our analysis also reveals a similarly strong association between turnover time and precipitation. Moreover, we find that the ecosystem carbon turnover times simulated by state-of-the-art coupled climate/carbon-cycle models vary widely and that numerical simulations, on average, tend to underestimate the global carbon turnover time by 36 per cent. The models show stronger spatial relationships with temperature than do observation-based estimates, but generally do not reproduce the strong relationships with precipitation and predict faster carbon turnover in many semi-arid regions. Our findings suggest that future climate/carbon-cycle feedbacks may depend more strongly on changes in the hydrological cycle than is expected at present and is considered in Earth system models.
Analyses in mice and humans indicate that non-caloric artificial sweeteners may promote obesity-associated metabolic changes by changing the function of the bacteria that colonize the gut.
Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS), widely used food additives considered to be safe and beneficial alternatives to sugars, are shown here to lead to the development of glucose intolerance through compositional and functional changes in the gut microbiota of mice, and the deleterious metabolic effects are transferred to germ-free mice by faecal transplant; NAS-induced dysbiosis and glucose intolerance are also demonstrated in healthy human subjects.
Rapid industrialization and urbanization in developing countries has led to an increase in air pollution, along a similar trajectory to that previously experienced by the developed nations. In China, particulate pollution is a serious environmental problem that is influencing air quality, regional and global climates, and human health. In response to the extremely severe and persistent haze pollution experienced by about 800 million people during the first quarter of 2013 (refs 4, 5), the Chinese State Council announced its aim to reduce concentrations of PM2.5 (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) by up to 25 per cent relative to 2012 levels by 2017 (ref. 6). Such efforts however require elucidation of the factors governing the abundance and composition of PM2.5, which remain poorly constrained in China. Here we combine a comprehensive set of novel and state-of-the-art offlineanalytical approaches and statistical techniques to investigate the chemical nature and sources of particulate matter at urban locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi’an during January 2013. We find that the severe haze pollution event was driven to a large extent by secondary aerosol formation, which contributed 30–77 per cent and 44–71 per cent (average for all four cities) of PM2.5 and of organic aerosol, respectively. On average, the contribution of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) and secondary inorganic aerosol (SIA) are found to be of similar importance (SOA/SIA ratios range from 0.6 to 1.4). Our results suggest that, in addition to mitigating primary particulate emissions, reducing the emissions of secondary aerosol precursors from, for example, fossil fuel combustion and biomass burning is likely to be important for controlling China’s PM2.5 levels and for reducing the environmental, economic and health impacts resulting from particulate pollution.
Magnetoresistance is the change in a material’s electrical resistance in response to an applied magnetic field. Materials with large magnetoresistance have found use as magnetic sensors, in magnetic memory, and in hard drives at room temperature, and their rarity has motivated many fundamental studies in materials physics at low temperatures. Here we report the observation of an extremely large positive magnetoresistance at low temperatures in the non-magnetic layered transition-metal dichalcogenide WTe2: 452,700 per cent at 4.5 kelvins in a magnetic field of 14.7 teslas, and 13 million per cent at 0.53 kelvins in a magnetic field of 60 teslas. In contrast with other materials, there is no saturation of the magnetoresistance value even at very high applied fields. Determination of the origin and consequences of this effect, and the fabrication of thin films, nanostructures and devices based on the extremely large positive magnetoresistance of WTe2, will represent a significant new direction in the study of magnetoresistivity.
β-Thalassaemia major (β-TM) is an inherited haemoglobinopathy caused by a quantitative defect in the synthesis of β-globin chains of haemoglobin, leading to the accumulation of free α-globin chains that form toxic aggregates. Despite extensive knowledge of the molecular defects causing β-TM, little is known of the mechanisms responsible for the ineffective erythropoiesis observed in the condition, which is characterized by accelerated erythroid differentiation, maturation arrest and apoptosis at the polychromatophilic stage. We have previously demonstrated that normal human erythroid maturation requires a transient activation of caspase-3 at the later stages of maturation. Although erythroid transcription factor GATA-1, the master transcriptional factor of erythropoiesis, is a caspase-3 target, it is not cleaved during erythroid differentiation. We have shown that, in human erythroblasts, the chaperone heat shock protein70 (HSP70) is constitutively expressed and, at later stages of maturation, translocates into the nucleus and protects GATA-1 from caspase-3 cleavage. The primary role of this ubiquitous chaperone is to participate in the refolding of proteins denatured by cytoplasmic stress, thus preventing their aggregation. Here we show in vitro that during the maturation of human β-TM erythroblasts, HSP70 interacts directly with free α-globin chains. As a consequence, HSP70 is sequestrated in the cytoplasm and GATA-1 is no longer protected, resulting in end-stage maturation arrest and apoptosis. Transduction of a nuclear-targeted HSP70 mutant or a caspase-3-uncleavable GATA-1 mutant restores terminal maturation of β-TM erythroblasts, which may provide a rationale for new targeted therapies of β-TM.
The polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) exerts oncogenic effects in many tumour types. However, loss-of-function mutations in PRC2 components occur in a subset of haematopoietic malignancies, suggesting that this complex plays a dichotomous and poorly understood role in cancer. Here we provide genomic, cellular, and mouse modelling data demonstrating that the polycomb group gene SUZ12 functions as tumour suppressor in PNS tumours, high-grade gliomas and melanomas by cooperating with mutations in NF1. NF1 encodes a Ras GTPase-activating protein (RasGAP) and its loss drives cancer by activating Ras. We show that SUZ12 loss potentiates the effects of NF1 mutations by amplifying Ras-driven transcription through effects on chromatin. Importantly, however, SUZ12 inactivation also triggers an epigenetic switch that sensitizes these cancers to bromodomain inhibitors. Collectively, these studies not only reveal an unexpected connection between the PRC2 complex, NF1 and Ras, but also identify a promising epigenetic-based therapeutic strategy that may be exploited for a variety of cancers.
Caspase-4 and caspase-11 are shown to be the direct sensors for cytoplasmic lipopolysaccharide in humans and mice, respectively, mediating inflammatory cell death in intracellular bacterial infection.
The balance between stem cell self-renewal and differentiation is controlled by intrinsic factors and niche signals. In the Drosophila melanogaster ovary, some intrinsic factors promote germline stem cell (GSC) self-renewal, whereas others stimulate differentiation. However, it remains poorly understood how the balance between self-renewal and differentiation is controlled. Here we use D. melanogaster ovarian GSCs to demonstrate that the differentiation factor Bam controls the functional switch of the COP9 complex from self-renewal to differentiation via protein competition. The COP9 complex is composed of eight Csn subunits, Csn1–8, and removes Nedd8 modifications from target proteins. Genetic results indicated that the COP9 complex is required intrinsically for GSC self-renewal, whereas other Csn proteins, with the exception of Csn4, were also required for GSC progeny differentiation. Bam-mediated Csn4 sequestration from the COP9 complex via protein competition inactivated the self-renewing function of COP9 and allowed other Csn proteins to promote GSC differentiation. Therefore, this study reveals a protein-competition-based mechanism for controlling the balance between stem cell self-renewal and differentiation.Because numerous self-renewal factors are ubiquitously expressed throughout the stem cell lineage in various systems, protein competition may function as an important mechanism for controlling the self-renewal-to-differentiation switch.
The connection between an altered gut microbiota and metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is well established. Defects in preserving the integrity of the mucosal barriers can result in systemic endotoxaemia that contributes to chronic low-grade inflammation, which further promotes the development of metabolic syndrome. Interleukin (IL)-22 exerts essential roles in eliciting antimicrobial immunity and maintaining mucosal barrier integrity within the intestine. Here we investigate the connection between IL-22 and metabolic disorders. We find that the induction of IL-22 from innate lymphoid cells and CD4+ T cells is impaired in obese mice under various immune challenges, especially in the colon during infection with Citrobacter rodentium. While innate lymphoid cell populations are largely intact in obese mice, the upregulation of IL-23, a cytokine upstream of IL-22, is compromised during the infection. Consequently, these mice are susceptible to C. rodentium infection, and both exogenous IL-22 and IL-23 are able to restore the mucosal host defence. Importantly, we further unveil unexpected functions of IL-22 in regulating metabolism. Mice deficient in IL-22 receptor and fed with high-fat diet are prone to developing metabolic disorders. Strikingly, administration of exogenous IL-22 in genetically obese leptin-receptor-deficient (db/db) mice and mice fed with high-fat diet reverses many of the metabolic symptoms, including hyperglycaemia and insulin resistance. IL-22 shows diverse metabolic benefits, as it improves insulin sensitivity, preserves gut mucosal barrier and endocrine functions, decreases endotoxaemia and chronic inflammation, and regulates lipid metabolism in liver and adipose tissues. In summary, we identify the IL-22 pathway as a novel target for therapeutic intervention in metabolic diseases.
The pluripotency factor Lin28 inhibits the biogenesis of the let-7 family of mammalian microRNAs. Lin28 is highly expressed in embryonic stem cells and has a fundamental role in regulation of development, glucose metabolism and tissue regeneration. Overexpression of Lin28 is correlated with the onset of numerous cancers, whereas let-7, a tumour suppressor, silences several human oncogenes. Lin28 binds to precursor let-7 (pre-let-7) hairpins, triggering the 3′ oligo-uridylation activity of TUT4 and TUT7 (refs 10, 11, 12). The oligoU tail added to pre-let-7 serves as a decay signal, as it is rapidly degraded by Dis3l2 (refs 13, 14), a homologue of the catalytic subunit of the RNA exosome. The molecular basis of Lin28-mediated recruitment of TUT4 and TUT7 to pre-let-7 and its subsequent degradation by Dis3l2 is largely unknown. To examine the mechanism of Dis3l2 substrate recognition we determined the structure of mouse Dis3l2 in complex with an oligoU RNA to mimic the uridylated tail of pre-let-7. Three RNA-binding domains form an open funnel onone face of the catalytic domain that allows RNA to navigate a path to the active site different from that of its exosome counterpart. The resulting path reveals an extensive network of uracil-specific interactions spanning the first 12 nucleotides of an oligoU-tailed RNA. We identify three U-specificity zones that explain how Dis3l2 recognizes, binds and processes uridylated pre-let-7 in the final step of the Lin28–let-7 pathway.
Homeodomain proteins, described 30 years ago, exert essential roles in development as regulators of target gene expression; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying transcriptional activity of homeodomain factors remain poorly understood. Here investigation of a developmentally required POU-homeodomain transcription factor, Pit1 (also known as Pou1f1), has revealed that, unexpectedly, binding of Pit1-occupied enhancers to a nuclear matrin-3-rich network/architecture is a key event in effective activation of the Pit1-regulated enhancer/coding gene transcriptional program. Pit1 association with Satb1 (ref. 8) andβ-catenin is required for this tethering event. A naturally occurring, dominant negative, point mutation in human PIT1(R271W), causing combined pituitary hormone deficiency, results in loss of Pit1 association with β-catenin and Satb1 and therefore the matrin-3-rich network, blocking Pit1-dependent enhancer/coding target gene activation. This defective activation can be rescued by artificial tethering of the mutant R271W Pit1 protein to the matrin-3 network, bypassing the pre-requisite association with β-catenin and Satb1 otherwise required. The matrin-3 network-tethered R271W Pit1 mutant,but not the untethered protein, restores Pit1-dependent activation of the enhancers and recruitment of co-activators, exemplified by p300, causing both enhancer RNA transcription and target gene activation. These studies have thus revealed an unanticipated homeodomain factor/β-catenin/Satb1-dependent localization of target gene regulatory enhancer regions to a subnuclear architectural structure that serves as an underlying mechanism by which an enhancer-bound homeodomain factor effectively activates developmental gene transcriptional programs.
CHARGE syndrome is a multiple anomaly disorder in which patients present with a variety of phenotypes, including ocular coloboma, heart defects, choanal atresia, retarded growth and development, genitourinary hypoplasia and ear abnormalities. Despite 70–90% of CHARGE syndrome cases resulting from mutations in the gene CHD7, which encodes an ATP-dependent chromatin remodeller, the pathways underlying the diverse phenotypes remain poorly understood. Surprisingly, our studies of a knock-in mutant mouse strain that expresses a stabilized and transcriptionally dead variant of the tumour-suppressor protein p53 (p5325,26,53,54), along with a wild-type allele of p53 (also known as Trp53), revealed late-gestational embryonic lethality associated with a host of phenotypes that are characteristic of CHARGE syndrome, including coloboma, inner and outer ear malformations, heart outflow tract defects and craniofacial defects. We found that the p5325,26,53,54 mutant protein stabilized and hyperactivated wild-type p53, which then inappropriately induced its target genes and triggered cell-cycle arrest or apoptosis during development. Importantly, these phenotypes were only observed with a wild-type p53 allele, as p5325,26,53,54/− embryos were fully viable. Furthermore, we found that CHD7 can bind to the p53 promoter, thereby negatively regulating p53 expression, and that CHD7 loss in mouse neural crest cells or samples from patients with CHARGE syndrome results in p53 activation. Strikingly, we found that p53 heterozygosity partially rescued the phenotypes in Chd7-null mouse embryos, demonstrating that p53 contributes to the phenotypes that result from CHD7 loss. Thus, inappropriate p53 activation during development can promote CHARGEphenotypes, supporting the idea that p53 has a critical role in developmental syndromes and providing important insight into the mechanisms underlying CHARGE syndrome.
Mice deficient in the EDA protein lack normal tooth features. Restoring EDA in embryonic teeth at increasing doses has now been found to recover these dental features in a stepwise pattern that mimics evolution.
Gradual changes that occur to mammalian tooth morphology across evolutionary time were modelled in vitro and in vivo by modulation of signalling pathways in the mouse, and computer modelling was used to provide further analysis of the parameters influencing tooth morphology.
A comparison of colorectal cancer and normal cells from 103 patients identifies dozens of genes that are differently expressed in tumour cells as a result of altered regulation of transcription.
The cis-regulatory effects responsible for cancer development have not been as extensively studied as the perturbations of the protein coding genome in tumorigenesis. To better characterize colorectal cancer (CRC) development we conducted an RNA-sequencing experiment of 103 matched tumour and normal colon mucosa samples from Danish CRC patients, 90 of which were germline-genotyped. By investigating allele-specific expression (ASE) we show that the germline genotypes remain important determinants of allelic gene expression in tumours. Using the changes in ASE in matched pairs of samples we discover 71 genes with excess of somatic cis-regulatory effects in CRC, suggesting a cancer driver role. We correlate genotypes and gene expression to identify expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) and find 1,693 and 948 eQTLs in normal samples and tumours, respectively. We estimate that 36% of the tumour eQTLs are exclusive to CRC and show that this specificity is partially driven by increased expression of specific transcription factors and changes in methylation patterns. We show that tumour-specific eQTLs are more enriched for low CRC genome-wide association study (GWAS) P values than shared eQTLs, which suggests that some of the GWAS variants are tumour specific regulatory variants. Importantly, tumour-specific eQTL genes also accumulate more somatic mutations when compared to the shared eQTL genes, raising the possibility that they constitute germline-derived cancer regulatory drivers. Collectively the integration of genome and the transcriptome reveals a substantial number of putative somatic and germline cis-regulatory cancer changes that may have a role in tumorigenesis.
Giving monkeys antiretroviral therapy from just three days after exposure to simian immunodeficiency virus does not prevent a subsequent rebound of viral replication, suggesting that viral reservoirs are established early.
Net primary production is affected by temperature and precipitation, but whether this is a direct kinetic effect on plant metabolism or an indirect ecological effect mediated by changes in plant age, plant biomass or growing season length is unclear— this study develops metabolic scaling theory to be able to answer this question and applies it to a global data set of plant productivity, concluding that it is indirect effects that explain the influence of climate on productivity, which is characterized by a common scaling relationship acrossclimate gradients.
The viral reservoir represents a critical challenge for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) eradication strategies. However, it remains unclear when and where the viral reservoir is seeded during acute infection and the extent to which it is susceptible to early antiretroviral therapy (ART). Here we show that the viral reservoir is seeded rapidly after mucosal simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of rhesus monkeys and before systemic viraemia. We initiated suppressive ART in groups of monkeys on days 3, 7, 10 and 14 after intrarectal SIVMAC251 infection. Treatment with ART on day 3 blocked the emergence of viral RNA and proviral DNA in peripheral blood and also substantially reduced levels of proviral DNA in lymph nodes and gastrointestinal mucosa as compared with treatment at later time points. In addition, treatment on day 3 abrogated the induction of SIV-specific humoral and cellular immune responses. Nevertheless, after discontinuation of ART following 24 weeks of fully suppressive therapy, virus rebounded in all animals, although the monkeys that were treated on day 3 exhibited a delayed viral rebound as compared with those treated on days 7, 10 and 14. The time to viral rebound correlated with total viraemia during acute infection and with proviral DNA at the time of ART discontinuation. These data demonstrate that the viral reservoir is seeded rapidly after intrarectal SIV infection of rhesus monkeys, during the‘eclipse’ phase, and before detectable viraemia. This strikingly early seeding of the refractory viral reservoir raises important new challenges for HIV-1 eradication strategies.
The crystal structures of thalidomide and its derivatives bound to the E3 ligase subcomplex DDB1–CRBN are shown; these drugs are found to have dual functions, interfering with the binding of certain cellular substrates to the E3 ligase but promoting the binding of others, thereby modulating the degradation of cellular proteins.
Developmental enhancers initiate transcription and are fundamental to our understanding of developmental networks, evolution and disease. Despite their importance, the properties governing enhancer–promoter interactions and their dynamics during embryogenesis remain unclear. At the β-globin locus, enhancer–promoter interactions appear dynamic and cell-type specific, whereas at the HoxD locus they are stable and ubiquitous, being present in tissues where the target genes are not expressed. The extent to which preformed enhancer–promoter conformations exist at other, more typical, loci and how transcription is eventually triggered is unclear. Here we generated a high-resolution map of enhancer three-dimensional contacts during Drosophila embryogenesis, covering two developmental stages and tissue contexts, at unprecedented resolution. Although local regulatory interactions are common, long-range interactions are highly prevalent within the compact Drosophila genome. Each enhancer contacts multiple enhancers, and promoters with similar expression, suggesting a role in their co-regulation. Notably, most interactions appear unchanged between tissue context and across development, arising before gene activation, and are frequently associated with paused RNA polymerase. Our results indicate that the general topology governing enhancer contacts is conserved from flies to humans and suggest that transcription initiates from preformed enhancer–promoter loops through release of paused polymerase.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoinflammatory disease that affects 1–2% of the world’s population and is characterized by widespread joint inflammation. Interleukin-1 is an important mediator of cartilage destruction in rheumatic diseases, but our understanding of the upstream mechanisms leading to production of interleukin-1β in rheumatoid arthritis is limited by the absence of suitable mouse models of the disease in which inflammasomes contribute to pathology. Myeloid-cell-specific deletion of the rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility gene A20/Tnfaip3 in mice (A20myel-KO mice) triggers a spontaneous erosive polyarthritis that resembles rheumatoid arthritis in patients. Rheumatoid arthritis in A20myel-KO mice is not rescued by deletion of tumour necrosis factor receptor 1 (ref. 2). Here we show, however, that it crucially relies on the Nlrp3 inflammasome and interleukin-1 receptor signalling. Macrophages lacking A20 have increased basal and lipopolysaccharide-induced expression levels of the inflammasome adaptor Nlrp3 and proIL-1β. As a result, A20-deficiency in macrophages significantly enhances Nlrp3 inflammasome-mediated caspase-1 activation, pyroptosis and interleukin-1β secretion by soluble and crystalline Nlrp3 stimuli. In contrast, activation of the Nlrc4 and AIM2 inflammasomes is not altered. Importantly, increased Nlrp3 inflammasome activation contributes to the pathology of rheumatoid arthritis in vivo, because deletion of Nlrp3, caspase-1 and the interleukin-1 receptor markedly protects against rheumatoid-arthritis-associated inflammation and cartilage destruction in A20myel-KO mice. These results reveal A20 as a novel negative regulator of Nlrp3 inflammasome activation, and describe A20myel-KO mice as the first experimental model to study the role of inflammasomes in the pathology of rheumatoid arthritis.
Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) are diseases caused by mutations in the haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) compartment. Most MPN patients have a common acquired mutation of Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) gene in HSCs that renders this kinase constitutively active, leading to uncontrolled cell expansion. The bone marrow microenvironment might contribute to the clinical outcomes of this common event. We previously showed that bone marrow nestin+ mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) innervated by sympathetic nerve fibres regulate normal HSCs. Here we demonstrate that abrogation of this regulatory circuit is essential for MPN pathogenesis. Sympathetic nerve fibres, supporting Schwann cells and nestin+ MSCs are consistently reduced in the bone marrow of MPN patients and mice expressing the human JAK2(V617F) mutation in HSCs. Unexpectedly, MSC reduction is not due to differentiation but is caused by bone marrow neural damage and Schwann cell death triggered by interleukin-1β produced by mutant HSCs. In turn, in vivo depletion of nestin+ cells or their production of CXCL12 expanded mutant HSC number and accelerated MPN progression. In contrast, administration of neuroprotective or sympathomimetic drugs prevented mutant HSC expansion. Treatment with β3-adrenergic agonists that restored the sympathetic regulation of nestin+ MSCs prevented the loss of these cells and blocked MPN progression by indirectly reducing the number of leukaemic stem cells. Our results demonstrate that mutant-HSC-driven niche damage critically contributes to disease manifestation in MPN and identify niche-forming MSCs and their neural regulation as promising therapeutic targets.
The proton gradient is a principal energy source for respiration-dependent active transport, but the structural mechanisms of proton-coupled transport processes are poorly understood. YiiP is a proton-coupled zinc transporter found in the cytoplasmic membrane of Escherichia coli. Its transport site receives protons from water molecules that gain access to its hydrophobic environment and transduces the energy of an inward proton gradient to drive Zn(ii) efflux. This membrane protein is a well-characterized member of the family of cation diffusion facilitators that occurs at all phylogenetic levels. Here we show, using X-ray-mediated hydroxyl radical labelling of YiiP and mass spectrometry, that Zn(ii) binding triggers a highly localized, all-or-nothing change of water accessibility to the transport site and an adjacent hydrophobic gate. Millisecond time-resolved dynamics reveal a concerted and reciprocal pattern of accessibility changes along a transmembrane helix, suggesting a rigid-body helical re-orientation linked to Zn(ii) binding that triggers the closing of the hydrophobic gate. The gated water access to the transport site enables a stationary proton gradient to facilitate the conversion of zinc-binding energy to the kinetic power stroke of a vectorial zinc transport. The kinetic details provide energetic insights into a proton-coupled active-transport reaction.
‘Gain’ of supernumerary copies of the 8q24.21 chromosomal region has been shown to be common in many human cancers and is associated with poor prognosis. The well-characterized myelocytomatosis (MYC) oncogene resides in the 8q24.21 region and is consistently co-gained with an adjacent ‘gene desert’ of approximately 2 megabases that contains the long non-coding RNA gene PVT1, the CCDC26 gene candidate and the GSDMC gene. Whether low copy-number gain of one or more of these genes drives neoplasia is not known. Here we use chromosome engineering in mice to show that a single extra copyof either the Myc gene or the region encompassing Pvt1, Ccdc26 and Gsdmc fails to advance cancer measurably, whereas a single supernumerary segment encompassing all four genes successfully promotes cancer. Gain of PVT1 long non-coding RNA expression was required for high MYC protein levels in 8q24-amplified human cancer cells. PVT1 RNA and MYC protein expression correlated in primary human tumours, and copy number of PVT1 was co-increased in more than 98% of MYC-copy-increase cancers. Ablation of PVT1 from MYC-driven colon cancer line HCT116 diminished its tumorigenic potency. As MYC protein has been refractory to small-molecule inhibition, the dependence of high MYC protein levels on PVT1 long non-coding RNA provides a much needed therapeutic target.
What gives quantum computers that extra oomph over their classical digital counterparts? An intrinsic, measurable aspect of quantum mechanics called contextuality, it now emerges.
The finding that phosphoinositide-3-OH kinaseδ restrains the antitumour immune response by promoting the action of suppressive immune cells may broaden the applicability of drugs targeting this enzyme to multiple cancers.
Quantum computing promises advantages over classical computing for certain problems; now‘quantum contextuality’ — a generalization of the concept of quantum non-locality — is shown to be a critical resource that gives the most promising class of quantum computers their power.
The Eucalyptus grandis genome has been sequenced, revealing the greatest number of tandem duplications of any plant genome sequenced so far, and the highest diversity of genes for specialized metabolites that act as chemical defence and provide unique pharmaceutical oils; genome sequencing of the sister species E. globulus and a set of inbred E. grandis tree genomes reveals dynamic genome evolution and hotspots of inbreeding depression.
Large-scale single-cell RNA-seq of stimulated primary mouse bone-marrow-derived dendritic cells highlights positive and negative intercellular signalling pathways that promote and restrain cellular variation.
Inhibitors against the p110δ isoform of phosphoinositide-3-OH kinase (PI(3)K) have shown remarkable therapeutic efficacy in some human leukaemias. As p110δ is primarily expressed in leukocytes, drugs against p110δ have not been considered for the treatment of solid tumours. Here we report that p110δ inactivation in mice protects against a broad range of cancers, including non-haematological solid tumours. We demonstrate that p110δ inactivation in regulatory T cells unleashes CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and induces tumour regression. Thus, p110δ inhibitors can break tumour-induced immune tolerance and should be considered for wider use in oncology.
Undernourished children fall behind not only on growth, but also on maturation of their intestinal bacterial communities, according to a study comparing acutely malnourished and healthy Bangladeshi children.
The enzyme parkin is known to promote disposal of organelles called mitochondria that have suffered damage. The identification of an enzyme that opposes parkin demonstrates how a delicate balance is maintained in the cell.
Damaged mitochondria are removed by mitophagy, and defects in mitophagy are linked to Parkinson’s disease; here it is shown that USP30, a deubiquitinase localized to mitochondria, antagonizes mitophagy by removing the ubiquitin tags put in place by Parkin, USP30 inhibition is therefore potentially beneficial for Parkinson’s disease by promoting mitochondrial clearance and quality control.
Therapeutic food interventions have reduced mortality in children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but incomplete restoration of healthy growth remains a major problem. The relationships between the type of nutritional intervention, the gut microbiota, and therapeutic responses are unclear. In the current study, bacterial species whose proportional representation define a healthy gut microbiota as it assembles during the first two postnatal years were identified by applying a machine-learning-based approach to 16S ribosomal RNA data sets generated from monthly faecal samples obtained from birth onwards in a cohort of children living in an urban slum of Dhaka, Bangladesh, who exhibited consistently healthy growth. These age-discriminatory bacterial species were incorporated into a model that computes a‘relative microbiota maturity index’ and ‘microbiota-for-age Z-score’ that compare postnatal assembly (defined here as maturation) of a child’s faecal microbiota relative to healthy children of similar chronologic age. The model was applied to twins and triplets (to test for associations of these indices with genetic and environmental factors, including diarrhoea), children with SAM enrolled in a randomized trial of two food interventions, and children with moderate acute malnutrition. Our results indicate that SAM is associated with significant relative microbiota immaturity that is only partially ameliorated following two widely used nutritional interventions. Immaturity is also evident in less severe forms of malnutrition and correlates with anthropometric measurements. Microbiota maturity indices provide a microbial measure of human postnatal development, a way of classifying malnourished states, and a parameter for judging therapeutic efficacy. More prolonged interventions with existing or new therapeutic foods and/or addition of gut microbes may be needed to achieve enduring repair of gut microbiota immaturity in childhood malnutrition and improve clinical outcomes.
Transcriptional enhancers are crucial regulators of gene expression and animal development and the characterization of their genomic organization, spatiotemporal activities and sequence properties is a key goal in modern biology. Here we characterize the in vivo activity of 7,705 Drosophila melanogaster enhancer candidates covering 13.5% of the non-coding non-repetitive genome throughout embryogenesis. 3,557 (46%) candidates are active, suggesting a high density with 50,000 to 100,000 developmental enhancers genome-wide. The vast majority of enhancers display specific spatial patterns that are highly dynamic during development. Most appear to regulate their neighbouring genes, suggesting that the cis-regulatory genome is organized locally into domains, which are supported by chromosomal domains, insulator binding and genome evolution. However, 12 to 21 per cent of enhancers appear to skip non-expressed neighbours and regulate a more distal gene. Finally, we computationally identify cis-regulatory motifs that are predictive and required for enhancer activity, as we validate experimentally. This work provides global insights into the organization of an animal regulatory genome and the make-up of enhancer sequences and confirms and generalizes principles from previous studies. All enhancer patterns are annotated manually with a controlled vocabulary and all results are available through a web interface (http://enhancers.starklab.org), including the raw images of all microscopy slides for manual inspection at arbitrary zoom levels.
A unique property of many adult stem cells is their ability to exist in a non-cycling, quiescent state. Although quiescence serves an essential role in preserving stem cell function until the stem cell is needed in tissue homeostasis or repair, defects in quiescence can lead to an impairment in tissue function. The extent to which stem cells can regulate quiescence is unknown. Here we show that the stem cell quiescent state is composed of two distinct functional phases, G0 and an‘alert’ phase we term GAlert. Stem cells actively and reversibly transition between these phases in response to injury-induced systemic signals. Using genetic mouse models specific to muscle stem cells (or satellite cells), we show that mTORC1 activity is necessary and sufficient for the transition of satellite cells from G0 into GAlert and that signalling through the HGF receptor cMet is also necessary. We also identify G0-to-GAlert transitions in several populations of quiescent stem cells. Quiescent stem cells that transition into GAlert possess enhanced tissue regenerative function. We propose that the transition of quiescent stem cells into GAlert functions as an ‘alerting’ mechanism, an adaptive response that positions stem cells to respond rapidly under conditions of injury and stress, priming them for cell cycle entry.
Metabolism and ageing are intimately linked. Compared with ad libitum feeding, dietary restriction consistently extends lifespan and delays age-related diseases in evolutionarily diverse organisms. Similar conditions of nutrient limitation and genetic or pharmacological perturbations of nutrient or energy metabolism also have longevity benefits. Recently, several metabolites have been identified that modulate ageing; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying this are largely undefined. Here we show thatα-ketoglutarate (α-KG), a tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediate, extends the lifespan of adult Caenorhabditis elegans. ATP synthase subunit β is identified as a novel binding protein of α-KG using a small-molecule target identification strategy termed drug affinity responsive target stability (DARTS). The ATP synthase, also known as complex V of the mitochondrial electron transport chain, is the main cellular energy-generating machinery and is highly conserved throughout evolution. Although complete loss of mitochondrial function is detrimental, partial suppression of the electron transport chain has been shown to extend C. elegans lifespan. We show that α-KG inhibits ATP synthase and, similar to ATP synthase knockdown, inhibition by α-KG leads to reduced ATP content, decreased oxygen consumption, and increased autophagy in both C. elegans and mammalian cells. We provide evidence that the lifespan increase by α-KG requires ATP synthase subunit β and is dependent on target of rapamycin (TOR) downstream. Endogenous α-KG levels are increased on starvation and α-KG does not extend the lifespan of dietary-restricted animals, indicating that α-KG is a key metabolite that mediates longevity by dietary restriction. Our analyses uncover new molecular links between a common metabolite, a universal cellular energy generator and dietary restriction in the regulation of organismal lifespan, thus suggesting new strategies for the prevention and treatment of ageing and age-related diseases.
2-Oxoglutarate (2OG)-dependent oxygenases have important roles in the regulation of gene expression via demethylation of N-methylated chromatin components and in the hydroxylation of transcription factors and splicing factor proteins. Recently, 2OG-dependent oxygenases that catalyse hydroxylation of transfer RNA and ribosomal proteins have been shown to be important in translation relating to cellular growth, TH17-cell differentiation and translational accuracy. The finding that ribosomal oxygenases (ROXs) occur in organisms ranging from prokaryotes to humans raises questions as to their structural and evolutionary relationships. In Escherichia coli, YcfD catalyses arginine hydroxylation in the ribosomal protein L16; in humans, MYC-induced nuclear antigen (MINA53; also known as MINA) and nucleolar protein 66 (NO66) catalyse histidine hydroxylation in the ribosomal proteins RPL27A and RPL8, respectively. The functional assignments of ROXs open therapeutic possibilities via either ROX inhibition or targeting of differentially modified ribosomes. Despite differences in the residue and protein selectivities of prokaryotic and eukaryotic ROXs, comparison of the crystal structures of E. coli YcfD and Rhodothermus marinus YcfD with those of human MINA53 and NO66 reveals highly conserved folds and novel dimerization modes defining a new structural subfamily of 2OG-dependent oxygenases. ROX structures with and without their substrates support their functional assignments as hydroxylases but not demethylases, and reveal how the subfamily has evolved to catalyse the hydroxylation of different residue side chains of ribosomal proteins. Comparison of ROX crystal structures with those of other JmjC-domain-containing hydroxylases, including the hypoxia-inducible factor asparaginyl hydroxylase FIH and histone Nε-methyl lysine demethylases, identifies branch points in 2OG-dependent oxygenase evolution and distinguishes between JmjC-containing hydroxylases and demethylases catalysing modifications of translational and transcriptional machinery. The structures reveal that new protein hydroxylation activities can evolve by changing the coordination position from which the iron-bound substrate-oxidizing species reacts. This coordination flexibility has probably contributed to the evolution of the wide range of reactions catalysed by oxygenases.
The global shortening of messenger RNAs through alternative polyadenylation (APA) that occurs during enhanced cellular proliferation represents an important, yet poorly understood mechanism of regulated gene expression. The 3′ untranslated region (UTR) truncation of growth-promoting mRNA transcripts that relieves intrinsic microRNA- and AU-rich-element-mediated repression has been observed to correlate with cellular transformation; however, the importance to tumorigenicity of RNA 3′-end-processing factors that potentially govern APA is unknown. Here we identify CFIm25 as a broad repressor of proximal poly(A) site usage that, when depleted, increases cell proliferation. Applying a regression model on standard RNA-sequencing data for novel APA events, we identified at least 1,450 genes with shortened 3′ UTRs after CFIm25 knockdown, representing 11% of significantly expressed mRNAs in human cells. Marked increases in the expression of several known oncogenes, including cyclin D1, are observed as a consequence of CFIm25 depletion. Importantly, we identified a subset of CFIm25-regulated APA genes with shortened 3′ UTRs in glioblastoma tumours that have reduced CFIm25 expression. Downregulation of CFIm25 expression in glioblastoma cells enhances their tumorigenic properties and increases tumour size, whereas CFIm25 overexpression reduces these properties and inhibits tumour growth. These findings identify a pivotal role of CFIm25 in governing APA and reveal a previously unknown connection between CFIm25 and glioblastoma tumorigenicity.
Sulphur is an essential element for life and is ubiquitous in living systems. Yet how the sulphur atom is incorporated into many sulphur-containing secondary metabolites is poorly understood. For bond formation between carbon and sulphur in primary metabolites, the major ionic sulphur sources are the persulphide and thiocarboxylate groups on sulphur-carrier (donor) proteins. Each group is post-translationally generated through the action of a specific activating enzyme. In all reported bacterial cases, the gene encoding the enzyme that catalyses the carbon–sulphur bond formation reaction and that encoding the cognate sulphur-carrier protein exist in the same gene cluster. To study the production of the 2-thiosugar moiety in BE-7585A, an antibiotic from Amycolatopsis orientalis, we identified a putative 2-thioglucose synthase, BexX, whose protein sequence and mode of action seem similar to those of ThiG, the enzyme that catalyses thiazole formation in thiamine biosynthesis. However, no gene encoding a sulphur-carrier protein could be located in the BE-7585A cluster. Subsequent genome sequencing uncovered a few genes encoding sulphur-carrier proteins that are probably involved in the biosynthesis of primary metabolites but only one activating enzyme gene in the A. orientalis genome. Further experiments showed that this activating enzyme can adenylate each of these sulphur-carrier proteins and probably also catalyses the subsequent thiolation, through its rhodanese domain. A proper combination of these sulphur-delivery systems is effective for BexX-catalysed 2-thioglucose production. The ability of BexX to selectively distinguish sulphur-carrier proteins is given a structural basis using X-ray crystallography. This study is, to our knowledge, the first complete characterization of thiosugar formation in nature and also demonstrates the receptor promiscuity of the A. orientalis sulphur-delivery system. Our results also show that co-opting the sulphur-delivery machinery of primary metabolism for the biosynthesis of sulphur-containing natural products is probably a general strategy found in nature.
PTEN encodes a lipid phosphatase that is underexpressed in many cancers owing to deletions, mutations or gene silencing. PTEN dephosphorylates phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-triphosphate, thereby opposing the activity of class I phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases that mediate growth- and survival-factor signalling through phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase effectors such as AKT and mTOR. To determine whether continued PTEN inactivation is required to maintain malignancy, here we generate an RNA interference-based transgenic mouse model that allows tetracycline-dependent regulation of PTEN in a time- and tissue-specific manner. Postnatal Pten knockdown in the haematopoietic compartment produced highly disseminated T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Notably, reactivation of PTEN mainly reduced T-cell leukaemia dissemination but had little effect on tumour load in haematopoietic organs. Leukaemia infiltration into the intestine was dependent on CCR9 G-protein-coupled receptor signalling, which was amplified by PTEN loss. Our results suggest that in the absence of PTEN, G-protein-coupled receptors may have an unanticipated role in driving tumour growth and invasion in an unsupportive environment. They further reveal that the role of PTEN loss in tumour maintenance is not invariant and can be influenced by the tissue microenvironment, thereby producing a form of intratumoral heterogeneity that is independent of cancer genotype.