Autophagy is a primarily degradative pathway that takes place in all eukaryotic cells. It is used for recycling cytoplasm to generate macromolecular building blocks and energy under stress conditions, to remove superfluous and damaged organelles to adapt to changing nutrient conditions and to maintain cellular homeostasis. In addition, autophagy plays a critical role in cytoprotection by preventing the accumulation of toxic proteins and through its action in various aspects of immunity including the elimination of invasive microbes and its participation in antigen presentation. The most prevalent form of autophagy is macroautophagy, and during this process, the cell forms a double-membrane sequestering compartment termed the phagophore, which matures into an autophagosome. Following delivery to the vacuole or lysosome, the cargo is degraded and the resulting macromolecules are released back into the cytosol for reuse. The past two decades have resulted in a tremendous increase with regard to the molecular studies of autophagy being carried out in yeast and other eukaryotes. Part of the surge in interest in this topic is due to the connection of autophagy with a wide range of human pathophysiologies including cancer, myopathies, diabetes and neurodegenerative disease. However, there are still many aspects of autophagy that remain unclear, including the process of phagophore formation, the regulatory mechanisms that control its induction and the function of most of the autophagy-related proteins. In this review, we focus on macroautophagy, briefly describing the discovery of this process in mammalian cells, discussing the current views concerning the donor membrane that forms the phagophore, and characterizing the autophagy machinery including the available structural information.
Exosomes, small membrane vesicles （30-100 nm） of endocytic origin secreted by most cell types, contain functional biomolecules, which can be horizontally transferred to recipient cells . Exosomes bear a specific protein and lipid composition, and carry a select set of functional mRNAs and microRNAs . Recently, our group has shown that c-Met shed in exosomes can promote a proangiogenic and prometastatic phenotype in bone marrow-derived progenitor cells during melanoma progression . In previous research, retrotransposon RNA transcripts, single-stranded DNA （ssDNA）,
The methyltransferase like 3 （METTL3）-containing methyltransferase complex catalyzes the N6-methyladenosine （m6A） formation, a novel epitranscriptomic marker; however, the nature of this complex remains largely unknown. Here we report two new components of the human m6A methyltransferase complex, Wilms＇ tumor 1-associating protein （WTAP） and methyltransferase like 14 （METTL14）. WTAP interacts with METTL3 and METTL14, and is required for their localization into nuclear speckles enriched with pre-mRNA processing factors and for catalytic ac- tivity of the m6A methyltransferase in vivo. The majority of RNAs bound by WTAP and METTL3 in vivo represent mRNAs containing the consensus m6A motif. In the absence of WTAP, the RNA-binding capability of METTL3 is strongly reduced, suggesting that WTAP may function to regulate recruitment of the m6A methyltransferase complex to mRNA targets. Furthermore, transcriptomic analyses in combination with photoactivatable-ribonucleoside-en- hanced crosslinking and immunoprecipitation （PAR-CLIP） illustrate that WTAP and METTL3 regulate expression and alternative splicing of genes involved in transcription and RNA processing. Morpholino-mediated knockdown targeting WTAP and/or METTL3 in zebrafish embryos caused tissue differentiation defects and increased apoptosis. These findings provide strong evidence that WTAP may function as a regulatory subunit in the m6A methyltransferase complex and play a critical role in epitranscriptomic regulation of RNA metabolism.
Autophagy is a major intracellular degradative process that delivers cytoplasmic materials to the lysosome for degradation. Since the discovery of autophagy-related （Atg） genes in the 1990s, there has been a proliferation of studies on the physiological and pathological roles of autophagy in a variety of autophagy knockout models. However, direct evidence of the connections between ATG gene dysfunction and human diseases has emerged only recently. There are an increasing number of reports showing that mutations in the ATG genes were identified in various human diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases, infectious diseases, and cancers. Here, we review the major advances in identification of mutations or polymorphisms of the ATG genes in human diseases. Current autophagy-modulating compounds in clinical trials are also summarized.
This review focuses on chaperone-mediated autophagy （CMA）, one of the proteolytic systems that contributes to degradation of intracellular proteins in lysosomes. CMA substrate proteins are selectively targeted to lysosomes and translocated into the lysosomal lumen through the coordinated action of chaperones located at both sides of the membrane and a dedicated protein translocation complex. The selectivity of CMA permits timed degradation of spe- cific proteins with regulatory purposes supporting a modulatory role for CMA in enzymatic metabolic processes and subsets of the cellular transcriptional program. In addition, CMA contributes to cellular quality control through the removal of damaged or malfunctioning proteins. Here, we describe recent advances in the understanding of the molecular dynamics, regulation and physiology of CMA, and discuss the evidence in support of the contribution of CMA dysfunction to severe human disorders such as neurodegeneration and cancer.
The year of 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of C de Duve＇s coining of the term ＂autophagy＂ for the degradation process of cytoplasmic constituents in the lysosome/vacuole. This year we regretfully lost this great scientist, who contributed much during the early years of research to the field of autophagy. Soon after the discovery of lysosomes by de Duve, electron microscopy revealed autophagy as a means of delivering intracellular components to the lysosome. For a long time after the discovery of autophagy, studies failed to yield any significant advances at a molecular level in our understanding of this fundamental pathway of degradation. The first breakthrough was made in the early 1990s, as autophagy was discovered in yeast subjected to starvation by microscopic observation. Next, a genetic effort to address the poorly understood problem of autophagy led to the discovery of many autophagy-defective mutants. Subsequent identification of autophagy-related genes in yeast revealed unique sets of molecules involved in membrane dynamics during autophagy. ATG homologs were subsequently found in various organisms, indicating that the fundamental mechanism of autophagy is well conserved among eukaryotes. These findings brought revolutionary changes to research in this field. For instance, the last 10 years have seen remarkable progress in our understanding of autophagy, not only in terms of the molecular mechanisms of autophagy, but also with regard to its broad physiological roles and relevance to health and disease. Now our knowledge of autophagy is dramatically expanding day by day. Here, the historical landmarks underpinning the explosion of autophagy research are described with a particular focus on the contribution of yeast as a model organism.
The ability of cells to respond to changes in nutrient availability is essential for the maintenance of metabolic ho- meostasis and viability. One of the key cellular responses to nutrient withdrawal is the upregulation of autophagy. Recently, there has been a rapid expansion in our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms involved in the regula- tion of mammalian autophagy induction in response to depletion of key nutrients. Intracellular amino acids, ATP, and oxygen levels are intimately tied to the cellular balance of anabolic and catabolic processes. Signaling from key nutrient-sensitive kinases mTORC1 and AMP-activated protein kinase （AMPK） is essential for the nutrient sensing of the autophagy pathway. Recent advances have shown that the nutrient status of the cell is largely passed on to the autophagic machinery through the coordinated regulation of the ULK and VPS34 kinase complexes. Identification of extensive crosstalk and feedback loops converging on the regulation of ULK and VPS34 can be attributed to the im- portance of these kinases in autophagy induction and maintaining cellular homeostasis.
The role of Fat Mass and Obesity-associated protein （FTO） and its substrate N6-methyladenosine （m6A） in mRNA processing and adipogenesis remains largely unknown. We show that FTO expression and m6A levels are inversely correlated during adipogenesis. FTO depletion blocks differentiation and only catalytically active FTO restores adi- pogenesis. Transcriptome analyses in combination with m6A-seq revealed that gene expression and mRNA splicing of grouped genes are regulated by FTO. M6A is enriched in exonic regions flanking 5＇- and 3＇-splice sites, spatially over- lapping with mRNA splicing regulatory serine/arginine-rich （SR） protein exonic splicing enhancer binding regions. Enhanced levels of m6A in response to FTO depletion promotes the RNA binding ability of SRSF2 protein, leading to increased inclusion of target exons. FTO controls exonic splicing of adipogenie regulatory factor RUNX1T1 by regulating m6A levels around splice sites and thereby modulates differentiation. These findings provide compelling evidence that FTO-dependent m6A demethylation functions as a novel regulatory mechanism of RNA processing and plays a critical role in the regulation of adipogenesis.
The human 8q24 gene desert contains multiple enhancers that form tissue-specific long-range chromatin loops with the MYC oncogene, but how chromatin looping at the MYC locus is regulated remains poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that a long noncoding RNA (lncRNA), CCAT1-L, is transcribed specifically in human colorectal cancers from a locus 515 kb upstream of MYC. This lncRNA plays a role in MYC transcriptional regulation and promotes long-range chromatin looping. Importantly, the CCAT1-L locus is located within a strong super-enhancer and is spatially close to MYC. Knockdown of CCAT1-L reduced long-range interactions between the MYC promoter and its enhancers. In addition, CCAT1-L interacts with CTCF and modulates chromatin conformation at these loop regions. These results reveal an important role of a previously unannotated lncRNA in gene regulation at the MYC locus.
Mixed lineage kinase domain-like protein （MLKL） was identified to function downstream of receptor interacting protein 3 （RIP3） in tumor necrosis factor-α （TNF）-induced necrosis （also called necroptosis）. However, how MLKL functions to mediate necroptosis is unknown. By reconstitution of MLKL function in MLKL-knockout cells, we showed that the N-terminus of MLKL is required for its function in necroptosis. The oligomerization of MLKL in TNF-treated cells is essential for necroptosis, as artificially forcing MLKL together by using the hormone-binding domain （HBD＊） triggers necroptosis. Notably, forcing together the N-terminal domain （ND） but not the C-terminal kinase domain of MLKL causes necroptosis. Further deletion analysis showed that the four-α-helix bundle of MLKL （1-130 amino acids） is sufficient to trigger necroptosis. Both the HBD＊-mediated and TNF-induced complexes of MLKL（ND） or MLKL are tetramers, and translocation of these complexes to lipid rafts of the plasma membrane precedes cell death. The homo-oligomerization is required for MLKL translocation and the signal sequence for plas- ma membrane location is located in the junction of the first and second a-helices of MLKL. The plasma membrane translocation of MLKL or MLKL（ND） leads to sodium influx, and depletion of sodium from the cell culture medium inhibits necroptosis. All of the above phenomena were not seen in apoptosis. Thus, the MLKL oligomerization leads to translocation of MLKL to lipid rafts of plasma membrane, and the plasma membrane MLKL complex acts either by itself or via other proteins to increase the sodium influx, which increases osmotic pressure, eventually leading to membrane rupture.
The pig is an important livestock for food supply and an ideal model for various human diseases. Efficient and precise genetic engineering in pigs holds great promise in agriculture and biomedicine . Using currently available approach, generating specific gene modifications in pigs requires two steps. First, site-specific nucleases such as zinc finger nucleases （ZFNs） and transcription activator-like effector nucleases （TALENs） are used to generate targeted mutations in pig somatic cells.
Spermatogenesis in mammals is characterized by two waves of piRNA expression： one corresponds to classic piR- NAs responsible for silencing retrotransponsons and the second wave is predominantly derived from nontransposon intergenic regions in pachytene spermatocytes, but the function of these pachytene piRNAs is largely unknown. Here, we report the involvement of pachytene piRNAs in instructing massive mRNA elimination in mouse elongating spermatids （ES）. We demonstrate that a piRNA-induced silencing complex （pi-RISC） containing murine PIWI （MIWI） and deadenylase CAF1 is selectively assembled in ES, which is responsible for inducing mRNA deadenylation and decay via a mechanism that resembles the action of miRNAs in somatic cells. Such a highly orchestrated program appears to take full advantage of the enormous repertoire of diversified targeting capacity of pachytene piRNAs de rived from nontransposon intergenic regions. These findings suggest that pachytene piRNAs are responsible for inactivating vast cellular programs in preparation for sperm production from ES.
Autophagy is a bulk degradation system induced by cellular stresses such as nutrient starvation. Its function relies on the formation of double-membrane vesicles called autophagosomes. Unlike other organelles that appear to stably exist in the cell, autophagosomes are formed on demand, and once their formation is initiated, it proceeds surprisingly rapidly. How and where this dynamic autophagosome formation takes place has been a long-standing question, but the discovery of Atg proteins in the 1990＇s significantly accelerated our understanding of autophagosome biogenesis. In this review, we will briefly introduce each Atg functional unit in relation to autophagosome biogenesis, and then discuss the origin of the autophagosomal membrane with an introduction to selected recent studies addressing this problem.
Neural progenitor cells （NPCs） can be induced from somatic cells by defined factors. Here we report that NPCs can be generated from mouse embryonic fibroblasts by a chemical cocktail, namely VCR （V, VPA, an inhibitor of HDACs; C, CHIR99021, an inhibitor of GSK3 kinases and R, Repsox, an inhibitor of TGF-Ⅱ pathways）, under a physiological hypoxic condition. These chemicalinduced NPCs （ciNPCs） resemble mouse brainderived NPCs re garding their proliferative and selfrenewing abilities, gene expression profiles, and multipotency for different neu roectodermal lineages in vitro and in vivo. Further experiments reveal that alternative cocktails with inhibitors of histone deacetylation, glycogen synthase kinase, and TGF-β pathways show similar efficacies for ciNPC induction. Moreover, ciNPCs can also be induced from mouse tailtip fibroblasts and human urinary cells with the same chemi cal cocktail VCR. Thus our study demonstrates that lineagespecific conversion of somatic cells to NPCs could be achieved bv chemical cocktails without introducina exoaenous factors.
Influenza A viruses (IAVs), particularly H1N1, H5N1 and H7N9, pose a substantial threat to public health worldwide. Here, we report that MIR2911, a honeysuckle (HS)-encoded atypical microRNA, directly targets IAVs with a broad spectrum. MIR2911 is highly stable in HS decoction, and continuous drinking or gavage feeding of HS decoction leads to a significant elevation of the MIR2911 level in mouse peripheral blood and lung. Bioinformatics prediction and a luciferase reporter assay showed that MIR2911 could target various IAVs, including H1N1, H5N1 and H7N9. Synthetic MIR2911 significantly inhibited H1N1-encoded PB2 and NS1 protein expression, but did not affect mutants in which the MIR2911-binding nucleotide sequences were altered. Synthetic MIR2911, extracted RNA from HS decoction and HS decoction all significantly inhibited H1N1 viral replication and rescued viral infection-induced mouse weight loss, but did not affect infection with a mutant virus in which the MIR2911-binding nucleotide sequences of PB2 and NS1 were altered. Importantly, the inhibitory effect of HS decoction on viral replication was abolished by an anti-MIR2911 antagomir, indicating that the physiological concentration of MIR2911 in HS decoction could directly and sufficiently suppress H1N1 viral replication. MIR2911 also inhibited H5N1 and H7N9 viral replication in vitro and in vivo. Strikingly, administration of MIR2911 or HS decoction dramatically reduced mouse mortality caused by H5N1 infection. Our results demonstrate that MIR2911 is the first active component identified in Traditional Chinese Medicine to directly target various IAVs and may represent a novel type of natural product that effectively suppresses viral infection.
Lung cancer is one of the most devastating diseases worldwide with high incidence and mortality. Hippo （Hpo） pathway is a conserved regulator of organ size in both Drosophila and mammals. Emerging evidence has suggested the significance of Hpo pathway in cancer development. In this study, we identify VGLL4 as a novel tumor suppressor in lung carcinogenesis through negatively regulating the formation of YAP-TEAD complex, the core component of Hpo pathway. Our data show that VGLL4 is frequently observed to be lowly expressed in both mouse and human lung cancer specimens. Ectopic expression of VGLL4 significantly suppresses the growth of lung cancer cells in vitro. More importantly, VGLL4 significantly inhibits lung cancer progression in de novo mouse model. We further find that VGLL4 inhibits the activity of the YAP-TEAD transcriptional complex. Our data show that VGLL4 directly competes with YAP in binding to TEADs and executes its growth-inhibitory function through two TDU domains. Collectively, our study demonstrates that VGLL4 is a novel tumor suppressor for lung cancer through negatively regulating the YAP-TEAD complex formation and thus the Hpo pathway.
Spermatogonial stem cells （SSCs） can produce numerous male gametes after transplantation into recipient testes, presenting a valuable approach for gene therapy and continuous production of gene-modified animals. However, successful genetic manipulation of SSCs has been limited, partially due to complexity and low efficiency of currently available genetic editing techniques. Here, we show that efficient genetic modifications can be introduced into SSCs using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. We used the CRISPR-Cas9 system to mutate an EGFP transgene or the endogenous Crygc gene in SCCs. The mutated SSCs underwent spermatogenesis after transplantation into the seminiferous tubules of infertile mouse testes. Round spermatids were generated and, after injection into mature oocytes, supported the production of heterozygous offspring displaying the corresponding mutant phenotypes. Furthermore, a disease-causing mutation in Crygc （Crygc-/-） that pre-existed in SSCs could be readily repaired by CRISPR-Cas9-induced nonhomologous end joining （NHEJ） or homology-directed repair （HDR）, resulting in SSC lines carrying the corrected gene with no evidence of off-target modifications as shown by whole-genome sequencing. Fertilization using round spermatids generated from these lines gave rise to offspring with the corrected phenotype at an efficiency of 100%. Our results demonstrate efficient gene editing in mouse SSCs by the CRISPR-Cas9 system, and provide the proof of principle of curing a genetic disease via gene correction in SSCs.
The Replication Protein A （RPA） complex is an essential regulator of eukaryotic DNA metabolism. RPA avidly binds to single-stranded DNA （ssDNA） through multiple oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide-binding folds and coordinates the recruitment and exchange of genome maintenance factors to regulate DNA replication, recombination and repair. The RPA-ssDNA platform also constitutes a key physiological signal which activates the master ATR kinase to protect and repair stalled or collapsed replication forks during replication stress. In recent years, the RPA com- plex has emerged as a key target and an important regulator of post-translational modifications in response to DNA damage, which is critical for its genome guardian functions. Phosphorylation and SUMOylation of the RPA complex, and more recently RPA-regulated ubiquitination, have all been shown to control specific aspects of DNA damage signaling and repair by modulating the interactions between RPA and its partners. Here, we review our current un- derstanding of the critical functions of the RPA-ssDNA platform in the maintenance of genome stability and its regulation through an elaborate network of covalent modifications.
Mitophagy, or mitochondria autophagy, plays a critical role in selective removal of damaged or unwanted mitochondria. Several protein receptors, including Atg32 in yeast, NIX/BNIP3L, BNIP3 and FUNDCI in mammalian systems, directly act in mitophagy. Atg32 interacts with Atg8 and Atgll on the surface of mitochondria, promoting core Atg protein assembly for mitophagy. NIX/BNIP3L, BNIP3 and FUNDC1 also have a classic motif to directly bind LC3 （Atg8 homolog in mammals） for activation of mitophagy. Recent studies have shown that receptor-mediated mitophagy is regulated by reversible protein phosphorylation. Casein kinase 2 （CK2） phosphorylates Atg32 and activates mitophagy in yeast. In contrast, in mammalian cells Src kinase and CK2 phosphorylate FUNDC1 to prevent mitophagy. Notably, in response to hypoxia and FCCP treatment, the mitochondrial phosphatase PGAM5 dephosphorylates FUNDC1 to activate mitophagy. Here, we mainly focus on recent advances in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the activation of receptor-mediated mitophagy and the implications of this catabolic process in health and disease.
Dear Editor, The rat is an important laboratory model and has many advantages over mouse models especially in toxicol- ogy and pharmacology studies. Several genome-editing technologies, such as zinc-finger nucleases （ZFNs） [1-2], transcription activator-like effector nucleases （TALENs）  and the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palin- dromic Repeats （CRISPR）/CRISPR-associated 9 （Cas9） system [4-5],