ADAM metalloproteinase disintegrins have emerged as the major proteinase family that mediates ectodomain shedding, the proteolytic release of extracellular domains from their membrane-bound precursors. Recent gene-manipulation studies have established the role of ADAM-mediated shedding in mammalian physiology and, in addition, raised the issue of functional redundancy among ADAM sheddases. ADAM sheddases activate, for example, growth factors and cytokines, thus regulating signalling pathways that are important in development and pathological processes such as cancer. The recent studies have also begun to elucidate the substrate specificity and the mechanisms that control ADAM-mediated shedding events that regulate, for example, growth-factor and Notch signalling, and the processing of the amyloid precursor protein.
Mediator was discovered because of its activity in a yeast RNA polymerase II (pol II) transcription system - it is needed for the system to respond to a transcriptional activator. Mediator is the central link in the enhancer -> activator -> Mediator -> pol II -> promoter pathway. The transduction of regulatory signals through this pathway is crucial for transcription of almost all pol II promoters in all eukaryote organisms.
Phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) generate lipids that control a wide variety of intracellular signalling pathways. Part of this diversity in PI3K actions stems from the broad range of protein effectors of the PI3K lipids. A further layer of complexity is added by the existence of multiple isoforms of PI3K. Gene-targeting studies in the mouse have recently uncovered key roles for specific PI3K isoforms in immunity, metabolism and cardiac function. Remarkably, some of these actions do not require PI3K catalytic activity. In addition, loss-of-expression of certain PI3K genes leads to increased PI3K signalling following insulin stimulation. PI3K gene targeting has, in many cases, led to altered expression of the non-targeted PI3K subunits, making it difficult to exclude that some of the reported phenotypes result from ' knock-on ' effects of PI3K gene deletion. Targeting strategies that take into account the complex interplay between members of the PI3K family will be crucial to gain a full understanding of the physiological roles of the isoforms of PI3K.
Formin proteins are potent regulators of actin dynamics. Most eukaryotes have multiple formin isoforms, suggesting diverse cellular roles. Formins are modular proteins, containing a series of domains and functional motifs. The Formin homology 2 (FH2) domain binds actin filament barbed ends and moves processively as these barbed ends elongate or depolymerize. The FH1 domain influences FH2 domain function through binding to the actin monomer-binding protein, profilin. Outside of FH1 and FH2, amino acid similarity between formins decreases, suggesting diverse mechanisms for regulation and cellular localization. Some formins are regulated by auto-inhibition through interaction between the diaphanous inhibitory domain (DID) and diaphanous auto-regulatory domain (DAD), and activated by Rho GTPase binding to GTPase-binding domains (GBD). Other formins lack DAD, DID and GBD, and their regulatory mechanisms await elucidation.
Mammalian Mediator is a key coactivator that enables transcriptional activators to regulate transcription by RNA polymerase II (pol II). Like the yeast complex to which it is phylogenetically related, it contains up to 30 subunits. These subunits are organized as a tightly associated core sub-complex, which associates with several groups of subunits that might constitute distinct modules. Although the complex seems to be universally required at all genes, specific subunits are dedicated to regulation of distinct expression programs via interactions with relevant gene-specific transcriptional activators. These interactions, in conjunction with dynamic effects of the core complex on poll II and the general transcription factors, lead to activation of transcription at the target gene. In addition, the compositional complexity of the Mediator allows for assimilation of other diverse signals such as those emanating from repressors and other coactivators.
Nucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase (NPP)type ectophosphodiesterases are found at the cell surface as type-I or type-II transmembrane proteins, but are also found extracellularly as secreted or shedded enzymes. They hydrolyze pyrophosphate or phosphodiester bonds in a variety of extracellular compounds including nucleotides, (lyso)phospholipids and choline phosphate esters. Despite their structurally related catalytic domain, each enzyme has well-defined substrate specificity. Catalysis by NPPs affects processes as diverse as cell proliferation and motility, angiogenesis, bone mineralization and digestion. In addition, there is emerging evidence for non-catalytic functions of NPPs in cell signaling. NPP-type ectophosphodiesterases are also implicated in the pathophysiology of cancer, insulin resistance and calcification diseases, and they hold great promise as easily accessible therapeutic targets.
Most mitochondrial mRNAs in kinetoplastids require editing, that is, the posttranscriptional insertion and deletion of uridine nucleotides that are specified by guide RNAs and catalyzed by multiprotein complexes. Recent studies have identified many of the proteins in these complexes, in addition to some of their functions and interactions. Although much remains unknown, a picture of highly organized complexes is emerging that shows that the complex that catalyzes the central steps of editing is partitioned into distinct insertion and deletion editing subcomplexes. These subcomplexes coordinate hundreds of ordered catalytic steps that function to produce a single mature mRNA. The dynamic processes, which might entail interactions among multiprotein complexes and changes in their composition and conformation, remain to be elucidated.
The structural properties that enable DNA to serve so effectively as genetic material can also be used for other purposes. The complementarity that leads to the pairing of the strands of the DNA double helix can be exploited to assemble more complex motifs, based on branched structures. These structures have been used as the basis of larger 2D and 3D constructions. In addition, they have been used to make nanomechanical devices. These devices range from DNA-based shape-shifting structures to gears and walkers, a DNA-stress gauge and even a translation device. The devices are activated by mechanisms as diverse as small molecules, proteins and, most intriguingly, other molecules of DNA.
Since the discovery of the first member ten years ago, the receptor-interacting protein (RIP) family kinases have emerged as essential sensors of cellular stress. The different members integrate both extracellular stress signals transmitted by various cell-surface receptors and signals emanating from intracellular stress. The cascades of events initiated by activated RIPs are complex. Not only are pro-survival, inflammatory and immune responses triggered by RIP kinases via the activation of transcription factors such as NF-kappa B and AP-1, but opposing, death-inducing programs can also be initiated by the RIP kinases. Hence, RIP kinases are crucial regulators of cell survival and cell death.
Two classes of short RNA molecule, small interfering RNA (siRNA) and microRNA (miRNA), have been identified as sequence-specific posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression. siRNA and miRNA are incorporated into related RNA-induced silencing complexes (RISCs), termed siRISC and miRISC, respectively. The current model argues that siRISC and miRISC are functionally interchangeable and target specific mRNAs for cleavage or translational repression, depending on the extent of sequence complementarity between the small RNA and its target. Emerging evidence indicates, however, that siRISC and miRISC are distinct complexes that regulate mRNA stability and translation. The assembly of RISCs can be traced from the biogenesis of the small RNA molecules and the recruitment of these RNAs by the RISC loading complex (RLC) to the transition of the RLC into the active RISC. Target recognition by the RISC can then take place through different interacting modes.
The lipid kinase phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) is activated in response to various extracellular signals including peptide growth factors such as insulin and insulin-like growth factors (IGFs). Phosphatidlylinositol (3,4,5) -trisphosphate [Ptdlns(3,4,5)P-3] generated by PI3K is central to the diverse responses elicited by insulin, including glucose homeostasis, proliferation, survival and cell growth. The actions of lipid phosphatases have been considered to be the main means of attenuating PI3K signalling, whereby the principal 3-phosphatase phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) - dephosphorylates Ptdlns(3,4,5)P3, reversing the action of PI3K. Recently, however, another pathway of regulation of PI3K has been identified in which activation of PI3K itself is prevented. This finding, together with earlier work, strongly suggests that a major form of negative feedback inhibition of PI3K results from activated growth signalling via mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and the p70 S6 kinase (S6K) - a pathway that could have consequences for the development of type 2 diabetes and tuberous sclerosis complex.
Iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters (ISCs) are versatile, ancient co-factors of proteins that are involved in electron transport, enzyme catalysis and regulation of gene expression. The synthesis of ISCs and their insertion into apoproteins involves the function of complex cellular machineries. In eukaryotes, the mitochondrial ISC-assembly machinery is involved in the maturation of all cellular iron-sulfur proteins. A mitochondrial export machinery and a recently discovered cytosolic assembly system specifically participate in the maturation of cytosolic and nuclear iron-sulfur proteins. Of the similar to 20 assembly components, more than ten are encoded by essential genes, which indicates that the process is indispensable for life. Mutations in two of the assembly components lead to neurological diseases. The essential character of Fe-S-protein biogenesis in eukaryotes and its importance for human disease identifies this evolutionary ancient process as one of the most important biosynthetic pathways of life.
Glycine has important neurotransmitter functions at inhibitory and excitatory synapses in the vertebrate central nervous system. The effective synaptic concentrations of glycine are regulated by glycine transporters (GlyTs), which mediate its reuptake into nerve terminals and adjacent glial cells. GlyTs are members of the Na+/Cldependent transporter family, whose activities and subcellular distributions are regulated by phosphorylation and interactions with other proteins. The analysis of GlyT knockout mice has revealed distinct functions of individual GlyT subtypes in synaptic transmission and provided animal models for two hereditary human diseases, glycine encephalopathy and hyperekplexia. Selective GlyT inhibitors could be of therapeutic value in cognitive disorders, schizophrenia and pain.
Bacterial genomes frequently contain operons that encode a toxin and its antidote. These 'toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules' have an important role in bacterial stress physiology and might form the basis of. multidrug resistance. The toxins in TA modules act as gyrase poisons or stall the ribosome by mediating the cleavage of mRNA. The antidotes contain an N-terminal DNA-binding region of variable fold and a C-terminal toxininhibiting domain. When bound to toxin, the C-terminal domain adopts an extended conformation. In the absence of toxin, by contrast, this domain (and sometimes the whole antidote protein) remains unstructured, allowing its fast degradation by proteolysis. Under silent conditions the antidote inhibits the toxin and the toxinantidote complex acts as a repressor for the TA operon, whereas under conditions of activation proteolytic degradation of the antidote outpaces its synthesis.
Mediator is an essential component of the RNA polymerase II general transcriptional machinery and plays a crucial part in the activation and repression of eukaryotic mRNA synthesis. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae Mediator was the first to be defined and is a high molecular mass complex composed of > 20 distinct subunits that performs multiple activities in transcription. Recent studies have defined the subunit composition and associated activities of mammalian Mediator, and revealed a striking evolutionary conservation of Mediator structure and function from yeast to man.
Gene expression is regulated at multiple levels, and cells need to integrate and coordinate different layers of control to implement the information in the genome. Post-transcriptional levels of regulation such a's transcript turnover and translational control are an,integral part of gene expression and might rival the sophistication and importance of transcriptional control. Microarray-based methods are increasingly used to study not only transcription but also global patterns of transcript decay and translation rates in addition to comprehensively identify targets of RNA-binding proteins. Such large-scale analyses have recently provided supplementary and unique insights into gene expression programs. Integration of several different datasets will ultimately lead to a system-wide understanding of the varied and complex mechanisms for gene expression control.
Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (ARSs) are essential enzymes that join amino acids to tRNAs, thereby linking the genetic code to specific amino acids. Once considered a class of 'housekeeping' enzymes, ARSs are now known to participate in a wide variety of functions, including transcription, translation, splicing, inflammation, angiogenesis and apoptosis. Three nonenzymatic proteins ARS-interacting multi-functional proteins (AIMPs) associate with ARSs in a multi-synthetase complex of higher eukaryotes. Similarly to ARSs, AIMPs have novel functions unrelated to their support role in protein synthesis, acting as a cytokine to control angiogenesis, immune response and wound repair, and as a crucial regulator for cell proliferation and DNA repair. Evaluation of the functional roles of individual ARSs and AIMPs might help to elucidate why these proteins as a whole contribute such varied functions and interactions in complex systems.
Living cells maintain a delicate balance between oxidizing and reducing species, and many disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer's disease have been associated with a disturbed intracellular 'redox equilibrium'. The past few years have witnessed accelerated research into how natural redox responses and anti-oxidant defence systems are activated and how they restore a healthy redox balance. To function properly, many of these processes rely on a powerful sulfur redox chemistry, which is best exemplified by the complex, newly emerging cysteine-based redox regulation of the glutathione and thioredoxin pathways. Other redox systems based on oxidatively activated amino acid side chains in proteins are also becoming increasingly important, but are still barely understood or explored.
Oligosaccharide chains of glycoproteins, glycolipids and glycosaminoglycans are synthesized by glycosyltransferases by the transfer of specific glycosyl moieties from activated sugar-nucleotide donors to specific acceptors. Structural studies on several of these enzymes have shown that one or two flexible loops at the substrate-binding site of the enzymes undergo a marked conformational change from an open to a closed conformation on binding the donor substrate. This conformational change, in which the loop acts as a lid covering the bound donor substrate, creates an acceptor-binding site. After the glycosyl unit is transferred from the donor to the acceptor, the saccharide product is ejected and the loop reverts to its native conformation, thereby releasing the remaining nucleotide moiety. The specificity of the sugar donor is determined by a few residues in the sugar-nucleotide-binding pocket of the enzyme that are conserved among the family members from different species.