The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) has drawn much attention recently because of its essential role in cell growth control and its involvement in human tumorigenesis. Great endeavors have been made to elucidate the functions and regulation of mTOR in the past decade. The current prevailing view is that mTOR regulates many fundamental biological processes, such as cell growth and survival, by integrating both intracellular and extracellular signals, including growth factors, nutrients, energy levels, and cellular stress. The significance of mTOR has been highlighted most recently by the identification of mTOR-associated proteins. Amazingly, when bound to different proteins, mTOR forms distinctive complexes with very different physiological functions. These findings not only expand the roles that mTOR plays in cells but also further complicate the regulation network. Thus, it is now even more critical that we precisely understand the underlying molecular mechanisms in order to directly guide the development and usage of anti-cancer drugs targeting the mTOR signaling pathway. In this review, we will discuss different mTOR-associated proteins, the regulation of mTOR complexes, and the consequences of mTOR dysregulation under pathophysiological conditions.
The most striking morphological feature of eukaryotic cells is the presence of various membrane-enclosed compartments. These compartments, including organelles and transient transport intermediates, are not static. Rather, dynamic exchange of proteins and membrane is needed to maintain cellular homeostasis. One of the most dramatic examples of membrane mobilization is seen during the process of macroautophagy. Macroautophagy is the primary cellular pathway for degradation of long-lived proteins and organelles. In response to environmental cues, such as starvation or other types of stress, the cell produces a unique membrane structure, the phagophore. The phagophore sequesters cytoplasm as it forms a double-membrane cytosolic vesicle, an autophagosome. Upon completion, the autophagosome fuses with a lysosome or a vacuole in yeast, which delivers hydrolases that break down the inner autophagosome membrane along with its cargo, and the resulting macromolecules are released back into the cytosol for reuse. Autophagy is therefore a recycling process, allowing cells to survive periods of nutrient limitation; however, it has a wider physiological role, participating in development and aging, and also in protection against pathogen invasion, cancer and certain neurodegenerative diseases. In many cases, the role of autophagy is identified through studies of an autophagy-related protein, Atg6/Beclin 1. This protein is part of a lipid kinase complex, and recent studies suggest that it plays a central role in coordinating the cytoprotective function of autophagy and in opposing the cellular death process of apoptosis. Here, we summarize our current knowledge of Atg6/Beclin 1 in different model organisms and its unique function in the cell.
The importance of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in tumor-initiation has been firmly established in leukemia and recently reported for a variety of solid tumors. However, the role of CSCs in multistage cancer progression, particularly with respect to metastasis, has not been well-defined. Cancer metastasis requires the seeding and successful colonization of specialized CSCs at distant organs. The biology of normal stem cells and CSCs share remarkable similarities and may have important implications when applied to the study of cancer metastasis. Furthermore, overlapping sets of molecules and pathways have recently been identified to regulate both stem cell migration and cancer metastasis. These molecules constitute a complex network of cellular interactions that facilitate both the initiation of the pre-metastasis niche by the primary tumor and the formation of a nurturing organ microenvironment for migrating CSCs. In this review, we surveyed the recent advances in this dynamic field and propose a unified model of cancer progression in which CSCs assume a central role in both tumorigenesis and metastasis. Better understanding of CSCs as a fundamental component of the metastatic cascade will lead to novel therapeutic strategies against metastatic cancer.
Several extrinsic signals such as LIF, BMP and Wnt can support the self-renewal and pluripotency of embryonic stem (ES) cells through regulating the "pluripotent genes." A unique homeobox transcription factor, Nanog, is one of the key downstream effectors of these signals. Elevated level of Nanog can maintain the mouse ES cell self-renewal independent of LIF and enable human ES cell growth without feeder cells. In addition to the external signal pathways, intrinsic transcription factors such as FoxD3, P53 and Oct4 are also involved in regulating the expression of Nanog. Functionally, Nanog works together with other key pluripotent factors such as Oct4 and Sox2 to control a set of target genes that have important functions in ES cell pluripotency. These key factors form a regulatory network to support or limit each other's expression level, which maintains the properties of ES cells.
Histone deacetylases (HDACs) and historic acetyl transferases (HATs) are two counteracting enzyme families whose enzymatic activity controls the acetylation state of protein lysine residues, notably those contained in the N-terminal extensions of the core histories. Acetylation of histories affects gene expression through its influence on chromatin conformation. In addition, several non-histone proteins are regulated in their stability or biological function by the acetylation state of specific lysine residues. HDACs intervene in a multitude of biological processes and are part of a multiprotein family in which each member has its specialized functions. In addition, HDAC activity is tightly controlled through targeted recruitment, protein-protein interactions and post-translational modifications. Control of cell cycle progression, cell survival and differentiation are among the most important roles of these enzymes. Since these processes are affected by malignant transformation, HDAC inhibitors were developed as antineoplastic drugs and are showing encouraging efficacy in cancer patients.
The capacity for self-renewal and differentiation of human embryonic stem (ES) cells makes them a potential source for generation of pancreatic beta cells for treating type I diabetes mellitus. Here, we report a newly developed and effective method, carried out in a serum-free system, which induced human ES cells to differentiate into insulin-producing cells. Activin A was used in the initial stage to induce definitive endoderm differentiation from human ES cells, as detected by the expression of the definitive endoderm markers Sox17 and Brachyury. Further, all-trans retinoic acid (RA) was used to promote pancreatic differentiation, as indicated by the expression of the early pancreatic transcription factors pdx1 and hlxb9. After maturation in DMEM/F12 serum-free medium with bFGF and nicotinamide, the differentiated cells expressed islet specific markers such as C-peptide, insulin, glucagon and glut2. The percentage of C-peptide-positive cells exceeded 15%. The secretion of insulin and C-peptide by these cells corresponded to the variations in glucose levels. When transplanted into renal capsules of Streptozotocin (STZ)-treated nude mice, these differentiated human ES cells survived and maintained the expression of beta cell marker genes, including C-peptide, pdx1, glucokinase, nkx6.1, IAPP, pax6 and 7cf1. Thirty percent of the transplanted nude mice exhibited apparent restoration of stable euglycemia.; and the corrected phenotype was sustained for more than six weeks. Our new method provides a promising in vitro differentiation model for studying the mechanisms of human pancreas development and illustrates the potential of using human ES cells for the treatment of type I diabetes mellitus.
CD4+ helper T (TH) cells play crucial roles in immune responses. Recently a novel subset of TH cells, termed THIL-17, TH17 or inflammatory TH (THi), has been identified as critical mediators of tissue inflammation. These cells produce IL-17 (also called IL-17A) and IL-17F, two most homologous cytokines sharing similar regulations. Here we report that when overexpressed in 293T cells, IL-17 and IL-17F form not only homodimers but also heterodimers, which we name as IL-17A/F. Fully differentiated mouse THi cells also naturally secrete IL-17A/F as well as IL-17 and IL-17F homodimeric cytokines. Recombinant IL-17A/F protein exhibits intermediate levels of potency in inducing IL-6 and KC (CXCL1) as compared to homodimeric cytokines. IL-17A/F regulation of IL-6 and KC expression is dependent on IL-17RA and TRAF6. Thus, IL-17A/F cytokine represents another mechanism whereby T cells regulate inflammatory responses and may serve as a novel target for treating various immune-mediated diseases.
Histone methylation is an important epigenetic phenomenon that participates in a diverse array of cellular processes and has been found to be associated with cancer. Recent identification of several histone demethylases has proved that histone methylation is a reversible process. Through a candidate approach, we have biochemically identified JMJD3 as an H3K27 demethylase. Transfection of JMJD3 into HeLa cells caused a specific reduction of trimethyl H3K27, but had no effect on di- and monomethyl H3K27, or histone lysine methylations on H3K4 and H3K9. The enzymatic activity requires the JmjC domain and the conserved histidine that has been suggested to be important for a cofactor binding. In vitro biochemical experiments demonstrated that JMJD3 directly catalyzes the demethylation. In addition, we found that JMJD3 is upregulated in prostate cancer, and its expression is higher in metastatic prostate cancer. Thus, we identified JMJD3 as a demethylase capable of removing the trimethyl group from histone H3 lysine 27 and upregulated in prostate cancer.
Parthenogenesis is one of the main, and most useful, methods to derive embryonic stem cells (ESCs), which may be an important source of histocompatible cells and tissues for cell therapy. Here we describe the derivation and characterization of two ESC lines (hPES-1 and hPES-2) from in vitro developed blastocysts following parthenogenetic activation of human oocytes. Typical ESC morphology was seen, and the expression of ESC markers was as expected for alkaline phosphatase, octamer-binding transcription factor 4, stage-specific embryonic antigen 3, stage-specific embryonic antigen 4, TRA-1-60, and TRA-1-81, and there was absence of expression of negative markers such as stage-specific embryonic antigen 1. Expression of genes specific for different embryonic germ layers was detected from the embryoid bodies (EBs) of both hESC lines, suggesting their differentiation potential in vitro. However, in vivo, only hPES-1 formed teratoma consisting of all three embryonic germ layers (hPES-2 did not). Interestingly, after continuous proliferation for more than 100 passages, hPES-1 cells still maintained a normal 46 XX karyotype; hPES-2 displayed abnormalities such as chromosome translocation after long term passages. Short Tandem Repeat (STR) results demonstrated that the hPES lines were genetic matches with the egg donors, and gene imprinting data confirmed the parthenogenetic origin of these ES cells. Genome-wide SNP analysis showed a pattern typical of parthenogenesis. All of these results demonstrated the feasibility to isolate and establish human parthenogenetic ESC lines, which provides an important tool for studying epigenetic effects in ESCs as well as for future therapeutic interventions in a clinical setting.
Among all adult somatic stem cells, those of the corneal epithelium are unique in their exclusive location in a defined limbal structure termed Palisades of Vogt. As a result, surgical engraftment of limbal epithelial stem cells with or without ex vivo expansion has long been practiced to restore sights in patients inflicted with limbal stem cell deficiency. Nevertheless, compared to other stem cell examples, relatively little is known about the limbal niche, which is believed to play a pivotal role in regulating self-renewal and fate decision of limbal epithelial stem cells. This review summarizes relevant literature and formulates several key questions to guide future research into better understanding of the pathogenesis of limbal stem cell deficiency and further improvement of the tissue engineering of the corneal epithelium by focusing on the limbal niche.
Carotenoids play an important role in many physiological processes in plants and the phytoene desaturase gene (PDS3) encodes one of the important enzymes in the carotenoid biosynthesis pathway. Here we report the identification and analysis of a T-DNA insertion mutant of PDS3 gene. Functional complementation confirmed that both the albino and dwarf phenotypes of the pds3 mutant resulted from functional disruption of the PDS3 gene. Chloroplast development was arrested at the proplastid stage in the pds3 mutant. Further analysis showed that high level of phytoene was accumulated in the pds3 mutant. Addition of exogenous GA(3) could partially rescue the dwarf phenotype, suggesting that the dwarf phenotype of the pds3 mutant might be due to GA deficiency. Microarray and RT-PCR analysis showed that disrupting PDS3 gene resulted in gene expression changes involved in at least 20 metabolic pathways, including the inhibition of many genes in carotenoid, chlorophyll, and GA biosynthesis pathways. Our data suggest that the accumulated phytoene in the pds3 mutant might play an important role in certain negative feedbacks to affect gene expression of diverse cellular pathways.
Sphingolipids have been suggested to act as second messengers for an array of cellular signaling activities in plant cells, including stress responses and programmed cell death (PCD). However, the mechanisms underpinning these processes are not well understood. Here, we report that an Arabidopsis mutant, fumonisin B resistant11-1 (fbr11-1), which fails to generate reactive oxygen inter-mediates (ROIs), is incapable of initiating PCD when the mutant is challenged by famonisin B-1(FB1), a specific inhibitor of ceramide synthase. Molecular analysis indicated that FBR11 encodes a long-chain base 1 (LCB1) subunit of serine palmitoyltransferase (SPT), which catalyzes the first rate-limiting step of de novo sphingolipid synthesis. Mass spectrometric analysis of the sphingolipid concentrations revealed that whereas the fbr11-1 mutation did not affect basal levels of sphingoid bases, the mutant showed attenuated formation of sphingoid bases in response to FB1. By a direct feeding experiment, we show that the free sphingoid bases dilrydrosphingosine, phytosphingosine and sphingosine efficiently induce ROI generation followed by cell death. Conversely, ROI generation and cell death induced by dilrydrosphingosine were specifically blocked by its phosphorylated form dihydrosphingosine-1-phosphate in a dose-dependent manner, suggesting that the maintenance of homeostasis between a free sphingoid base and its phosphorylated derivative is critical to determining the cell fate. Because alterations of the sphingolipid level occur prior to the ROI production, we propose that the free sphingoid bases are involved in the control of PCD in Arabidopsis, presumably through the regulation of the ROI level upon receiving different developmental or environmental cues.
Tiller angle of rice (Oryza sativa L.) is an important agronomic trait that contributes to grain production, and has long attracted attentions of breeders for achieving ideal plant architecture to improve grain yield. Although enormous efforts have been made over the past decades to study mutants with extremely spreading or compact tillers, the molecular mechanism underlying the control of tiller angle of cereal crops remains unknown. Here we report the cloning of the LAZY1 (LA1) gene that regulates shoot gravitropism by which the rice tiller angle is controlled. We show that LA1, a novel grass-specific gene, is temporally and spatially expressed, and plays a negative role in polar auxin transport (PAT). Loss-of-function of LA1 enhances PAT greatly and thus alters the endogenous IAA distribution in shoots, leading to the reduced gravitropism, and therefore the tiller-spreading phenotype of rice plants.
Only a small number of cells in adult tissues (the stem cells) possess the ability to self-renew at every cell division, while producing differentiating daughter cells to maintain tissue homeostasis for an organism's lifetime. The Drosophila ovary harbors three different types of stem cell populations (germline stem cell (GSC), somatic stem cell (SSC) and escort stem cell (ESC)) located in a simple anatomical structure known as germarium, rendering it one of the best model systems for studying stem cell biology due to reliable stem cell identification and available sophisticated genetic tools for manipulating gene functions. Particularly, the niche for the GSC is among the first and best studied ones, and studies on the GSC and its niche have made many unique contributions to a better understanding of relationships between stem cells and their niche. So far, both the GSC and the SSC have been shown to be regulated by extrinsic factors originating from their niche and intrinsic factors functioning within. Multiple signaling pathways are required for controlling GSC and SSC self-renewal and differentiation, which provide unique opportunities to investigate how multiple signals from the niche are interpreted in the stem cell. Since the Drosophila ovary contains three types of stem cells, it also provides outstanding opportunities to study how multiple stem cells in a given tissue work collaboratively to contribute to tissue function and maintenance. This review highlights recent major advances in studying Drosophila ovarian stem cells and also discusses future directions and challenges.
Homozygous human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are thought to be better cell sources for hESC banking because their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) haplotype would strongly increase the degree of matching for certain populations with relatively smaller cohorts of cell lines. Homozygous hESCs can be generated from parthenogenetic embryos, but only heterozygous hESCs have been established using the current strategy to artificially activate the oocyte without second polar body extrusion. Here we report the first successful derivation of a human homozygous ESC line (chHES-32) from a one-pronuclear oocyte following routine in vitro fertilization treatment. chHES-32 cells express common markers and genes with normal hESCs. They have been propagated in an undifferentiated state for more than a year (>P50) and have maintained a stable karyotype of 46, XX. When differentiated in vivo and in vitro, chHES-32 cells can form derivatives from all three embryonic germ layers. The almost undetectable expression of five paternally expressed imprinted genes and their HLA genotype identical to the oocyte donor indicated their parthenogenetic origin. Using genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism analysis and DNA fingerprinting, the homozygosity of chHES-32 cells was further confirmed. The results indicated that 'unwanted' one-pronuclear oocytes might be a potential source for human homozygous and parthenogenetic ESCs, and suggested an alternative strategy for obtaining homozygous hESC lines from parthenogenetic haploid oocytes.
It has been almost three decades since the term "apoptosis" was first coined to describe a unique form of cell death that involves orderly, gene-dependent cell disintegration. It is now well accepted that apoptosis is an essential life process for metazoan animals and is critical for the formation and function of tissues and organs. In the adult mammalian body, apoptosis is especially important for proper functioning of the immune system. In recent years, along with the rapid advancement of molecular and cellular biology, great progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms leading to apoptosis. It is generally accepted that there are two major pathways of apoptotic cell death induction: extrinsic signaling through death receptors that leads to the formation of the death-inducing signaling complex (DISC), and intrinsic signaling mainly through mitochondria which leads to the formation of the apoptosome. Formation of the DISC or apoptosome, respectively, activates initiator and common effector caspases that execute the apoptosis process. In the immune system, both pathways operate; however, it is not known whether they are sufficient to maintain lymphocyte homeostasis. Recently, new apoptotic mechanisms including caspase-independent pathways and granzyme-initiated pathways have been shown to exist in lymphocytes. This review will summarize our understanding of the mechanisms that control the homeostasis of various lymphocyte populations.
Cotton fibers elongate rapidly after initiation of elongation, eventually leading to the deposit of a large amount of cellulose. To reveal features of cotton fiber cells at the fast elongation and the secondary cell wall synthesis stages, we compared the respective transcriptomes and metabolite profiles. Comparative analysis of transcriptomes by cDNA array identified 633 genes that were differentially regulated during fiber development. Principal component analysis (PCA) using expressed genes as variables divided fiber samples into four groups, which are diagnostic of developmental stages. Similar grouping results are also found if we use non-polar or polar metabolites as variables for PCA of developing fibers. Auxin signaling, wall-loosening and lipid metabolism are highly active during fiber elongation, whereas cellulose biosynthesis is predominant and many other metabolic pathways are downregulated at the secondary cell wall synthesis stage. Transcript and metabolite profiles and enzyme activities are consistent in demonstrating a specialization process of cotton fiber development toward cellulose synthesis. These data demonstrate that cotton fiber cell at a certain stage has its own unique feature, and developmental stages of cotton fiber cells can be distinguished by their transcript and metabolite profiles. During the secondary cell wall synthesis stage, metabolic pathways are streamed into cellulose synthesis.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important post-transcriptional regulators of their target genes in plants and animals. miRNAs are usually 20-24 nucleotides long. Despite their unusually small sizes, the evolutionary history of miRNA gene families seems to be similar to their protein-coding counterparts. In contrast to the small but abundant miRNA families in the animal genomes, plants have fewer but larger miRNA gene families. Members of plant miRNA gene families are often highly similar, suggesting recent expansion via tandem gene duplication and segmental duplication events. Although many miRNA genes are conserved across plant species, the same gene family varies significantly in size and genomic organization in different species, which may cause dosage effects and spatial and temporal differences in target gene regulations. In this review, we summarize the current progress in understanding the evolution of plant miRNA gene families.