Much of our understanding of the biological mechanisms that underlie cellular functions, such as migration, differentiation and force-sensing has been garnered from studying cells cultured on two-dimensional (2D) glass or plastic surfaces. However, more recently the cell biology field has come to appreciate the dissimilarity between these flat surfaces and the topographically complex, three-dimensional (3D) extracellular environments in which cells routinely operate in vivo. This has spurred substantial efforts towards the development of in vitro 3D biomimetic environments and has encouraged much cross-disciplinary work among biologists, material scientists and tissue engineers. As we move towards more-physiological culture systems for studying fundamental cellular processes, it is crucial to define exactly which factors are operative in 3D microenvironments. Thus, the focus of this Commentary will be on identifying and describing the fundamental features of 3D cell culture systems that influence cell structure, adhesion, mechanotransduction and signaling in response to soluble factors, which - in turn - regulate overall cellular function in ways that depart dramatically from traditional 2D culture formats. Additionally, we will describe experimental scenarios in which 3D culture is particularly relevant, highlight recent advances in materials engineering for studying cell biology, and discuss examples where studying cells in a 3D context provided insights that would not have been observed in traditional 2D systems.
Exosomes are extracellular vesicles (EVs) secreted upon fusion of endosomal multivesicular bodies (MVBs) with the plasma membrane. The mechanisms involved in their biogenesis have not yet been fully identified although they could be used to modulate exosome formation and therefore are a promising tool in understanding exosome functions. We have performed an RNA interference screen targeting 23 components of the endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) machinery and associated proteins in MHC class II (MHC II)-expressing HeLa-CIITA cells. Silencing of HRS, STAM1 or TSG101 reduced the secretion of EV-associated CD63 and MHC II but each gene altered differently the size and/or protein composition of secreted EVs, as quantified by immuno-electron microscopy. By contrast, depletion of VPS4B augmented this secretion while not altering the features of EVs. For several other ESCRT subunits, it was not possible to draw any conclusions about their involvement in exosome biogenesis from the screen. Interestingly, silencing of ALIX increased MHC II exosomal secretion, as a result of an overall increase in intracellular MHC II protein and mRNA levels. In human dendritic cells (DCs), ALIX depletion also increased MHC II in the cells, but not in the released CD63-positive EVs. Such differences could be attributed to a greater heterogeneity in size, and higher MHC II and lower CD63 levels in vesicles recovered from DCs as compared with HeLa-CIITA. The results reveal a role for selected ESCRT components and accessory proteins in exosome secretion and composition by HeLa-CIITA. They also highlight biogenetic differences in vesicles secreted by a tumour cell line and primary DCs.
(Macro) autophagy is a fundamental degradation process for macromolecules and organelles of vital importance for cell and tissue homeostasis. Autophagy research has gained a strong momentum in recent years because of its relevance to cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, muscular dystrophy, lipid storage disorders, development, ageing and innate immunity. Autophagy has traditionally been thought of as a bulk degradation process that is mobilized upon nutritional starvation to replenish the cell with building blocks and keep up with the energy demand. This view has recently changed dramatically following an array of papers describing various forms of selective autophagy. A main driving force has been the discovery of specific autophagy receptors that sequester cargo into forming autophagosomes (phagophores). At the heart of this selectivity lies the LC3-interacting region (LIR) motif, which ensures the targeting of autophagy receptors to LC3 (or other ATG8 family proteins) anchored in the phagophore membrane. LIR-containing proteins include cargo receptors, members of the basal autophagy apparatus, proteins associated with vesicles and of their transport, Rab GTPase-activating proteins (GAPs) and specific signaling proteins that are degraded by selective autophagy. Here, we comment on these new insights and focus on the interactions of LIR-containing proteins with members of the ATG8 protein family.
The mechanistic (or mammalian) target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a kinase that regulates key cellular functions linked to the promotion of cell growth and metabolism. This kinase, which is part of two protein complexes termed mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and 2 (mTORC2), has a fundamental role in coordinating anabolic and catabolic processes in response to growth factors and nutrients. Of the two mTOR complexes, mTORC1 is by far the best characterized. When active, mTORC1 triggers cell growth and proliferation by promoting protein synthesis, lipid biogenesis, and metabolism, and by reducing autophagy. The fact that mTORC1 deregulation is associated with several human diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity and neurodegeneration, highlights its importance in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. Over the last years, several groups observed that mTORC1 inhibition, in addition to reducing protein synthesis, deeply affects gene transcription. Here, we review the connections between mTORC1 and gene transcription by focusing on its impact in regulating the activation of specific transcription factors including including STAT3, SREBPs, PPAR gamma, PPAR alpha, HIF1 alpha, YY1-PGC1 alpha and TFEB. We also discuss the importance of these transcription factors in mediating the effects of mTORC1 on various cellular processes in physiological and pathological contexts.
E-cadherin is a single-pass transmembrane protein that mediates homophilic cell-cell interactions. Tumour progression is often associated with the loss of E-cadherin function and the transition to a more motile and invasive phenotype. This requires the coordinated regulation of both E-cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesions and integrin-mediated adhesions that contact the surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM). Regulation of both types of adhesion is dynamic as cells respond to external cues from the tumour microenvironment that regulate polarity, directional migration and invasion. Here, we review the mechanisms by which tumour cells control the cross-regulation between dynamic E-cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesions and integrin-mediated cell-matrix contacts, which govern the invasive and metastatic potential of tumours. In particular, we will discuss the role of the adhesion-linked kinases Src, focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and integrin-linked kinase (ILK), and the Rho family of GTPases. This article is part of a Minifocus on Adhesion. For further reading, please see related articles: 'Cadherin adhesome at a glance' by Ronen Zaidel-Bar (J. Cell Sci. 126, 373378). 'Cycling around cell-cell adhesion with Rho GTPase regulators' by Jessica McCormack et al. (J. Cell Sci. 126, 379-391). 'Mechanosensitive systems at the cadherin-F-actin interface' by Stephan Huveneers and Johan de Rooij (J. Cell Sci. 126, 403-413).
Actin filaments assemble into diverse protrusive and contractile structures to provide force for a number of vital cellular processes. Stress fibers are contractile actomyosin bundles found in many cultured non-muscle cells, where they have a central role in cell adhesion and morphogenesis. Focal-adhesion-anchored stress fibers also have an important role in mechanotransduction. In animal tissues, stress fibers are especially abundant in endothelial cells, myofibroblasts and epithelial cells. Importantly, recent live-cell imaging studies have provided new information regarding the mechanisms of stress fiber assembly and how their contractility is regulated in cells. In addition, these studies might elucidate the general mechanisms by which contractile actomyosin arrays, including muscle cell myofibrils and cytokinetic contractile ring, can be generated in cells. In this Commentary, we discuss recent findings concerning the physiological roles of stress fibers and the mechanism by which these structures are generated in cells.
Stress granules (SGs) and P-bodies (PBs) are related cytoplasmic structures harboring silenced mRNAs. SGs assemble transiently upon cellular stress, whereas PBs are constitutive and are further induced by stress. Both foci are highly dynamic, with messenger ribonucleoproteins (mRNPs) and proteins rapidly shuttling in and out. Here, we show that impairment of retrograde transport by knockdown of mammalian dynein heavy chain 1 (DHC1) or bicaudal D1 (BicD1) inhibits SG formation and PB growth upon stress, without affecting protein-synthesis blockage. Conversely, impairment of anterograde transport by knockdown of kinesin-1 heavy chain (KIF5B) or kinesin light chain 1 (KLC1) delayed SG dissolution. Strikingly, SG dissolution is not required to restore translation. Simultaneous knockdown of dynein and kinesin reverted the effect of single knockdowns on both SGs and PBs, suggesting that a balance between opposing movements driven by these molecular motors governs foci formation and dissolution. Finally, we found that regulation of SG dynamics by dynein and kinesin is conserved in Drosophila.
Cell-cell interactions define a quintessential aspect of multicellular development. Metazoan morphogenesis depends on a handful of fundamental, conserved cellular interaction mechanisms, one of which is defined by the Notch signaling pathway. Signals transmitted through the Notch surface receptor have a unique developmental role: Notch signaling links the fate of one cell with that of a cellular neighbor through physical interactions between the Notch receptor and the membrane-bound ligands that are expressed in an apposing cell. The developmental outcome of Notch signals is strictly dependent on the cellular context and can influence differentiation, proliferation and apoptotic cell fates. The Notch pathway is conserved across species (Artavanis-Tsakonas et al., 1999; Bray, 2006; Kopan and Ilagan, 2009). In humans, Notch malfunction has been associated with a diverse range of diseases linked to changes in cell fate and cell proliferation including cancer (Louvi and Artavanis-Tsakonas, 2012). In this Cell Science at a Glance article and the accompanying poster we summarize the molecular biology of Notch signaling, its role in development and its relevance to disease.
Membrane curvature is an important parameter in defining the morphology of cells, organelles and local membrane subdomains. Transport intermediates have simpler shapes, being either spheres or tubules. The generation and maintenance of curvature is of central importance for maintaining trafficking and cellular functions. It is possible that local shapes in complex membranes could help to define local subregions. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and accompanying poster, we summarize how generating, sensing and maintaining high local membrane curvature is an active process that is mediated and controlled by specialized proteins using general mechanisms: (i) changes in lipid composition and asymmetry, (ii) partitioning of shaped transmembrane domains of integral membrane proteins or protein or domain crowding, (iii) reversible insertion of hydrophobic protein motifs, (iv) nanoscopic scaffolding by oligomerized hydrophilic protein domains and, finally, (v) macroscopic scaffolding by the cytoskeleton with forces generated by polymerization and by molecular motors. We also summarize some of the discoveries about the functions of membrane curvature, where in addition to providing cell or organelle shape, local curvature can affect processes like membrane scission and fusion as well as protein concentration and enzyme activation on membranes.
Microvesicles are generated by the outward budding and fission of membrane vesicles from the cell surface. Recent studies suggest that microvesicle shedding is a highly regulated process that occurs in a spectrum of cell types and, more frequently, in tumor cells. Microvesicles have been widely detected in various biological fluids including peripheral blood, urine and ascitic fluids, and their function and composition depend on the cells from which they originate. By facilitating the horizontal transfer of bioactive molecules such as proteins, RNAs and microRNAs, they are now thought to have vital roles in tumor invasion and metastases, inflammation, coagulation, and stem-cell renewal and expansion. This Commentary summarizes recent literature on the properties and biogenesis of microvesicles and their potential role in cancer progression.
Autophagy is an intracellular lysosomal (vacuolar) degradation process that is characterized by the formation of double-membrane vesicles, known as autophagosomes, which sequester cytoplasm. As autophagy is involved in cell growth, survival, development and death, the levels of autophagy must be properly regulated, as indicated by the fact that dysregulated autophagy has been linked to many human pathophysiologies, such as cancer, myopathies, neurodegeneration, heart and liver diseases, and gastrointestinal disorders. Substantial progress has recently been made in understanding the molecular mechanisms of the autophagy machinery, and in the regulation of autophagy. However, many unanswered questions remain, such as how the Atg1 complex is activated and the function of PtdIns3K is regulated, how the ubiquitin-like conjugation systems participate in autophagy and the mechanisms of phagophore expansion and autophagosome formation, how the network of TOR signaling pathways regulating autophagy are controlled, and what the underlying mechanisms are for the pro-cell survival and the pro-cell death effects of autophagy. As several recent reviews have comprehensively summarized the recent progress in the regulation of autophagy, we focus in this Commentary on the main unresolved questions in this field.
Vigorous transport of cytoplasmic components along axons over substantial distances is crucial for the maintenance of neuron structure and function. The transport of mitochondria, which serves to distribute mitochondrial functions in a dynamic and non-uniform fashion, has attracted special interest in recent years following the discovery of functional connections among microtubules, motor proteins and mitochondria, and their influences on neurodegenerative diseases. Although the motor proteins that drive mitochondrial movement are now well characterized, the mechanisms by which anterograde and retrograde movement are coordinated with one another and with stationary axonal mitochondria are not yet understood. In this Commentary, we review why mitochondria move and how they move, focusing particularly on recent studies of transport regulation, which implicate control of motor activity by specific cell-signaling pathways, regulation of motor access to transport tracks and static microtubule-mitochondrion linkers. A detailed mechanism for modulating anterograde mitochondrial transport has been identified that involves Miro, a mitochondrial Ca2+-binding GTPase, which with associated proteins, can bind and control kinesin-1. Elements of the Miro complex also have important roles in mitochondrial fission-fusion dynamics, highlighting questions about the interdependence of biogenesis, transport, dynamics, maintenance and degradation.
PGC1 alpha is a transcriptional coactivator that is a central inducer of mitochondrial biogenesis in cells. Recent work highlighted that PGC1 alpha can also modulate the composition and functions of individual mitochondria. Therefore, it is emerging that PGC1 alpha is controlling global oxidative metabolism by performing two types of remodelling: (1) cellular remodelling through mitochondrial biogenesis, and (2) organelle remodelling through alteration in the intrinsic properties of mitochondria. The elevated oxidative metabolism associated with increased PGC1 alpha activity could be accompanied by an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are primarily generated by mitochondria. However, increasing evidence suggests that this is not the case, as PGC1 alpha is also a powerful regulator of ROS removal by increasing the expression of numerous ROS-detoxifying enzymes. Therefore, PGC1 alpha, by controlling both the induction of mitochondrial metabolism and the removal of its ROS by-products, would elevate oxidative metabolism and minimize the impact of ROS on cell physiology. In this Commentary, we discuss how the biogenesis and remodelling of mitochondria that are elicited by PGC1 alpha contribute to an increase in oxidative metabolism and the preservation of ROS homeostasis. Finally, we examine the importance of these findings in ageing and neurodegenerative disorders, conditions that are associated with impaired mitochondrial functions and ROS balance.
Lysosomes serve as the cellular recycling centre and are filled with numerous hydrolases that can degrade most cellular macromolecules. Lysosomal membrane permeabilization and the consequent leakage of the lysosomal content into the cytosol leads to so-called "lysosomal cell death". This form of cell death is mainly carried out by the lysosomal cathepsin proteases and can have necrotic, apoptotic or apoptosis-like features depending on the extent of the leakage and the cellular context. This article summarizes our current knowledge on lysosomal cell death with an emphasis on the upstream mechanisms that lead to lysosomal membrane permeabilization.
This article is part of a Minifocus on Ubiquitin. For further reading, please see related articles: 'Ubiquitin and SUMO in DNA repair at a glance' by Helle D. Ulrich (J. Cell Sci. 125, 249-254), 'Emerging regulatory mechanisms in ubiquitin-dependent cell cycle control' by Annamaria Mocciaro and Michael Rape (J. Cell Sci. 125, 255-263), 'The role of ubiquitylation in receptor endocytosis and endosomal sorting' by Kaisa Haglund and Ivan Dikic (J. Cell Sci. 125, 265-275), 'Cellular functions of the DUBs' by Michael J. Clague et al. (J. Cell Sci. 125, 277-286), 'Non-canonical ubiquitin-based signals for proteasomal degradation' by Yelena Kravtsova-Ivantsiv and Aaron Ciechanover (J. Cell Sci. 125, 539-548) and 'No one can whistle a symphony alone how different ubiquitin linkages cooperate to orchestrate NF-kappa B activity' by Anna C. Schmukle and Henning Walczak (J. Cell Sci. 125, 549-559).
The retromer complex is a vital element of the endosomal protein sorting machinery that is conserved across all eukaryotes. Retromer is most closely associated with the endosome-to-Golgi retrieval pathway and is necessary to maintain an active pool of hydrolase receptors in the trans-Golgi network. Recent progress in studies of retromer have identified new retromer-interacting proteins, including the WASH complex and cargo such as the Wntless/MIG-14 protein, which now extends the role of retromer beyond the endosome-to-Golgi pathway and has revealed that retromer is required for aspects of endosome-to-plasma membrane sorting and regulation of signalling events. The interactions between the retromer complex and other macromolecular protein complexes now show how endosomal protein sorting is coordinated with actin assembly and movement along microtubules, and place retromer squarely at the centre of a complex set of protein machinery that governs endosomal protein sorting. Dysregulation of retromer-mediated endosomal protein sorting leads to various pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer disease and spastic paraplegia and the mechanisms underlying these pathologies are starting to be understood. In this Commentary, I will highlight recent advances in the understanding of retromer-mediated endosomal protein sorting and discuss how retromer contributes to a diverse set of physiological processes.
In situ, cells are highly sensitive to geometrical and mechanical constraints from their microenvironment. These parameters are, however, uncontrolled under classic culture conditions, which are thus highly artefactual. Micro-engineering techniques provide tools to modify the chemical properties of cell culture substrates at sub-cellular scales. These can be used to restrict the location and shape of the substrate regions, in which cells can attach, so-called micropatterns. Recent progress in micropatterning techniques has enabled the control of most of the crucial parameters of the cell microenvironment. Engineered micropatterns can provide a micrometer-scale, soft, 3-dimensional, complex and dynamic microenvironment for individual cells or for multi-cellular arrangements. Although artificial, micropatterned substrates allow the reconstitution of physiological in situ conditions for controlled in vitro cell culture and have been used to reveal fundamental cell morphogenetic processes as highlighted in this review. By manipulating micropattern shapes, cells were shown to precisely adapt their cytoskeleton architecture to the geometry of their microenvironment. Remodelling of actin and microtubule networks participates in the adaptation of the entire cell polarity with respect to external constraints. These modifications further impact cell migration, growth and differentiation.