The notion that all protein functions are determined through macromolecular interactions is the driving force behind current efforts that aim to solve the structures of all cellular complexes. Recent findings, however, demonstrate a significant amount of structural disorder or polymorphism in protein complexes, a phenomenon that has been largely overlooked thus far. It is our view that such disorder can be classified into four mechanistic categories, covering a continuous spectrum of structural states from static to dynamic disorder and from segmental to full disorder. To emphasize its generality and importance, we suggest a generic term, ‘fuzziness’, for this phenomenon. Given the crucial role of protein disorder in protein–protein interactions and in regulatory processes, we envision that fuzziness will become integral to understanding the interactome.
Single molecule and NMR measurements of protein dynamics increasingly uncover the complexity of binding scenarios. Here, we describe an extended conformational selection model that embraces a repertoire of selection and adjustment processes. Induced fit can be viewed as a subset of this repertoire, whose contribution is affected by the bond types stabilizing the interaction and the differences between the interacting partners. We argue that protein segments whose dynamics are distinct from the rest of the protein (‘discrete breathers’) can govern conformational transitions and allosteric propagation that accompany binding processes and, as such, might be more sensitive to mutational events. Additionally, we highlight the dynamic complexity of binding scenarios as they relate to events such as aggregation and signalling, and the crowded cellular environment.
Mature miRNAs are 19–24 nucleotide noncoding RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression in living cells by mediating targeted hydrolysis and translation inhibition of mRNAs. In recent years, miRNAs have been detected in a variety of biological fluids as extracellular nuclease-resistant entities. Importantly, extracellular circulating miRNAs are aberrantly expressed in blood plasma or serum during the course of many diseases, including cancer, and are promising noninvasive biomarkers. However, the biological function of extracellular miRNAs remains questionable. In this article, we summarise the current theories regarding extracellular miRNA origin and function, and suggest that these miRNAs are mostly byproducts of cellular activity. Nevertheless, some extracellular miRNA species might also carry cell–cell signaling function.
Despite their functional and structural diversity, G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) share a common mechanism of signal transduction via conformational changes in the seven-transmembrane (7TM) helical domain. New major insights into this mechanism come from the recent crystallographic discoveries of a partially hydrated sodium ion that is specifically bound in the middle of the 7TM bundle of multiple class A GPCRs. This review discusses the remarkable structural conservation and distinct features of the Na pocket in this most populous GPCR class, as well as the conformational collapse of the pocket upon receptor activation. New insights help to explain allosteric effects of sodium on GPCR agonist binding and activation, and sodium's role as a potential co-factor in class A GPCR function.
Many pathogens persist in multihost systems, making the identification of infection reservoirs crucial for devising effective interventions. Here, we present a conceptual framework for classifying patterns of incidence and prevalence, and review recent scientific advances that allow us to study and manage reservoirs simultaneously. We argue that interventions can have a crucial role in enriching our mechanistic understanding of how reservoirs function and should be embedded as quasi-experimental studies in adaptive management frameworks. Single approaches to the study of reservoirs are unlikely to generate conclusive insights whereas the formal integration of data and methodologies, involving interventions, pathogen genetics, and contemporary surveillance techniques, promises to open up new opportunities to advance understanding of complex multihost systems.
Highlights • During the normal waking state, the brain is in a constant state of internal exploration through the formation and dissolution of resting-state functional networks. • Based on large-scale computer models of the brain, the best fit to observed data comes when the networks are at the ‘edge of instability’. • Such a position is a distinct advantage for the efficiency and speed of network mobilization for perception and action. • We provide theoretical and empirical questions to better link resting-state networks to cognitive architectures.
Highlights • How proteinopathies damage brain networks is a key issue in neurodegenerative disease. • Here, we outline a solution based on the concept of ‘molecular nexopathies’. • The concept is founded on specific interactions of network and protein properties. • This new paradigm has far-reaching biological and clinical implications.
The global loss of biodiversity continues at an alarming rate. Genomic approaches have been suggested as a promising tool for conservation practice as scaling up to genome-wide data can improve traditional conservation genetic inferences and provide qualitatively novel insights. However, the generation of genomic data and subsequent analyses and interpretations remain challenging and largely confined to academic research in ecology and evolution. This generates a gap between basic research and applicable solutions for conservation managers faced with multifaceted problems. Before the real-world conservation potential of genomic research can be realized, we suggest that current infrastructures need to be modified, methods must mature, analytical pipelines need to be developed, and successful case studies must be disseminated to practitioners.
A basic feature of intelligent systems such as the cerebral cortex is the ability to freely associate aspects of perceived experience with an internal representation of the world and make predictions about the future. Here, a hypothesis is presented that the extraordinary performance of the cortex derives from an associative mechanism built in at the cellular level to the basic cortical neuronal unit: the pyramidal cell. The mechanism is robustly triggered by coincident input to opposite poles of the neuron, is exquisitely matched to the large- and fine-scale architecture of the cortex, and is tightly controlled by local microcircuits of inhibitory neurons targeting subcellular compartments. This article explores the experimental evidence and the implications for how the cortex operates.
Synchronised neuronal oscillations at beta frequencies are prevalent in the human motor system, but their function is unclear. In this Opinion article, we propose that the levels of beta oscillations provide a measure of the likelihood that a new voluntary action will need to be actuated. Oscillatory beta activity is in turn modulated by net dopamine levels at sites of cortical input to the basal ganglia. We hypothesise that net dopamine levels are modulated in response to salient internal and external cues. Crucially, the resulting modulation of beta activity is predictive, enabling the appropriate prospective resourcing and preparation of potential actions. Loss of dopamine, as in Parkinson's disease, annuls this function, unless net dopaminergic activity can be elevated through medication.