The widespread availability of programmable site-specific nucleases now enables targeted gene disruption in the zebrafish. In this study, we applied site-specific nucleases to generate zebrafish lines bearing individual mutations in more than 20 genes. We found that mutations in only a small proportion of genes caused defects in embryogenesis. Moreover, mutants for ten different genes failed to recapitulate published Morpholino-induced phenotypes (morphants). The absence of phenotypes in mutant embryos was not likely due to maternal effects or failure to eliminate gene function. Consistently, a comparison of published morphant defects with theSanger Zebrafish Mutation Project revealed thatapproximately 80% of morphant phenotypes were not observed in mutant embryos, similar to our mutant collection. Based on these results, we suggest that mutant phenotypes become the standard metric to define gene function in zebrafish, afterwhich Morpholinos that recapitulate respective phenotypes could be reliably applied for ancillary analyses.
textabstractCellular senescence suppresses cancer by halting the growth of premalignant cells, yet the accumulation of senescent cells is thought to drive age-related pathology through a senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), the function of which is unclear. To understand the physiological role(s) of the complex senescent phenotype, we generated amouse model in which senescent cells can be visualized and eliminated in living animals. We show thatsenescent fibroblasts and endothelial cells appear very early in response to a cutaneous wound, where they accelerate wound closure by inducing myofibroblast differentiation through the secretion of platelet-derived growth factor AA (PDGF-AA). Intwo mouse models, topical treatment of senescence-free wounds with recombinant PDGF-AA rescued the delayed wound closure and lack of myofibroblast differentiation. These findings define a beneficial role for the SASP in tissue repair and help to explain why the SASP evolved.
Pericytes, the mural cells of blood microvessels, have recently come into focus as regulators of vascular morphogenesis and function during development, cardiovascular homeostasis, and disease. Pericytes are implicated in the development of diabetic retinopathy and tissue fibrosis, and they are potential stromal targets for cancer therapy. Some pericytes are probably mesenchymal stem or progenitor cells, which give rise to adipocytes, cartilage, bone, and muscle. However, there is still confusion about the identity, ontogeny, and progeny of pericytes. Here, we review the history of these investigations, indicate emerging concepts, and point out problems and promise in the field of pericyte biology.
The histone-modifying complexes PRC2 and TrxG/MLL play pivotal roles in determining the activation state of genes controlling pluripotency, lineage commitment, and cell differentiation. Long noncoding RNAs (IncRNAs) can bind to either complex, and some have been shown to act as modulators of PRC2 or TrxG/MLL activity. Here we show that the lateral mesoderm-specific IncRNA Fendrr is essential for proper heart and body wall development in the mouse. Embryos lacking Fendrr displayed upregulation of several transcription factors controlling lateral plate or cardiac mesoderm differentiation, accompanied by a drastic reduction in PRC2 occupancy along with decreased H3K27 trimethylation and/or an increase in H3K4 trimethylation at their promoters. Fendrr binds to both the PRC2 and TrxG/MLL complexes, suggesting that it acts as modulator of chromatin signatures that define gene activity. Thus, we identified an IncRNA that plays an essential role in the regulatory networks controlling the fate of lateral mesoderm derivatives.
Mitochondria participate in apoptosis through a range of mechanisms that vary between vertebrates and invertebrates. In vertebrates, they release intermembrane space proteins, such as cytochrome c, to promote caspase activation in the cytosol. This process is the result of the loss of integrity of the outer mitochondrial membrane caused by proapoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family. This event is always accompanied by a fissioning of the organelle. Fission of mitochondria has also been reported to participate in apoptosis in Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans. However, in these organisms, mitochondrial membrane permeabilization does not occur and the mechanism by which mitochondrial dynamics participates in cell death remains elusive.
The histone-modifying complexes PRC2 and TrxG/MLL play pivotal roles in determining the activation state of genes controlling pluripotency, lineage commitment, and cell differentiation. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) can bind to either complex, and some have been shown to act as modulators of PRC2 or TrxG/MLL activity. Here we show that the lateral mesoderm-specific lncRNA Fendrr is essential for proper heart and body wall development in the mouse. Embryos lacking Fendrr displayed upregulation of several transcription factors controlling lateral plate or cardiac mesoderm differentiation, accompanied by a drastic reduction in PRC2 occupancy along with decreased H3K27 trimethylation and/or an increase in H3K4 trimethylation at their promoters. Fendrr binds to both the PRC2 and TrxG/MLL complexes, suggesting that it acts as modulator of chromatin signatures that define gene activity. Thus, we identified an lncRNA that plays an essential role in the regulatory networks controlling the fate of lateral mesoderm derivatives.
The embryonic stem cell (ESC) transcriptional and epigenetic networks are controlled by a multilayer regulatory circuitry, including core transcription factors (TFs), posttranscriptional modifier microRNAs (miRNAs), and some other regulators. However, the role of large intergenic noncoding RNAs (lincRNAs) in this regulatory circuitry and their underlying mechanism remains undefined. Here, we demonstrate that a lincRNA, linc-RoR, may function as a key competing endogenous RNA to link the network of nniRNAs and core TFs, e.g., Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog. We show that linc-RoR shares miRNA-response elements with these core TFs and that linc-RoR prevents these core TFs from miRNA-mediated suppression in self-renewing human ESC. We suggest that linc-RoR forms a feedback loop with core TFs and miRNAs to regulate ESC maintenance and differentiation. These results may provide insights into the functional interactions of the components of genetic networks during development and may lead to new therapies for many diseases.
First discovered in Drosophila, the Hippo signaling pathway is a conserved regulator of organ size. Central to this pathway is a kinase cascade leading from the tumor suppressor Hippo (Mst1 and Mst2 in mammals) to the oncoprotein Yki (YAP and TAZ in mammals), a transcriptional coactivator of target genes involved in cell proliferation and survival. Here, I review recent progress in elucidating the molecular mechanism and physiological function of Hippo signaling in Drosophila and mammals. These studies suggest that the core Hippo kinase cascade integrates multiple upstream inputs, enabling dynamic regulation of tissue homeostasis in animal development and physiology.
Multivesicular bodies (MVBs) deliver cargo destined for degradation to the vacuole or lysosome. The ESCRT (endosomal sorting complex required for transport) pathway is a key mediator of MVB biogenesis, but it also plays critical roles in retroviral budding and cytokinetic abscission. Despite these diverse roles, the ESCRT pathway can be simply seen as a cargo-recognition and membrane-sculpting machine viewable from three distinct perspectives: (1) the ESCRT proteins themselves, (2) the cargo they sort, and (3) the membrane they deform. Here, we review ESCRT function from these perspectives and discuss how ESCRTs may drive vesicle budding.
Fatty acids (FAs) provide cellular energy under starvation, yet how they mobilize and move into mitochondria in starved cells, driving oxidative respiration, is unclear. Here, we clarify this process by visualizing FA trafficking with a fluorescent FA probe. The labeled FA accumulated in lipid droplets (LDs) in well-fed cells but moved from LDs into mitochondria when cells were starved. Autophagy in starved cells replenished LDs with FAs, increasing LD number over time. Cytoplasmic lipases removed FAs from LDs, enabling their transfer into mitochondria. This required mitochondria to be highly fused and localized near LDs. When mitochondrial fusion was prevented in starved cells, FAs neither homogeneously distributed within mitochondria nor became efficiently metabolized. Instead, FAs reassociated with LDs and fluxed into neighboring cells. Thus, FAs engage in complex trafficking itineraries regulated by cytoplasmic lipases, autophagy, and mitochondrial fusion dynamics, ensuring maximum oxidative metabolism and avoidance of FA toxicity in starved cells.
Lipid droplets (LDs) store metabolic energy and membrane lipid precursors. With excess metabolic energy, cells synthesize triacylglycerol (TG) and form LDs that grow dramatically. It is unclear how TG synthesis relates to LD formation and growth. Here, we identify two LD subpopulations: smaller LDs of relatively constant size, and LDs that grow larger. The latter population contains isoenzymes for each step of TG synthesis. Glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase 4 (GPAT4), which catalyzes the first and rate-limiting step, relocalizes from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to a subset of forming LDs, where it becomes stably associated. ER-to-LD targeting of GPAT4 and other LD-localized TG synthesis isozymes is required for LD growth. Key features of GPAT4 ER-to-LD targeting and function in LD growth are conserved between Drosophila and mammalian cells. Our results explain how TG synthesis is coupled with LD growth and identify two distinct LD subpopulations based on their capacity for localized TG synthesis.
VE-cadherin is a component of endothelial cell-to-cell adherens junctions, and it has a key role in the maintenance of vascular integrity. During embryo development, VE-cadherin is required for the organization of a stable vascular system, and in the adult it controls vascular permeability and inhibits unrestrained vascular growth. The mechanisms of action of VE-cadherin are complex and include reshaping and organization of the endothelial cell cytoskeleton and modulation of gene transcription. Here we review some of the most important pathways through which VE-cadherin modulates vascular homeostasis and discuss the emerging concepts in the overall biological role of this protein.
Solid tumors are not simply clones of cancer cells. Instead, they are abnormal organs composed of multiple cell types and extracellular matrix. Some aspects of tumor development resemble processes seen in developing organs, whereas others are more akin to tissue remodeling. Some microenvironments, particularly those associated with tissue injury, are favorable for progression of mutant cells, whereas others restrict it. Cancer cells can also instruct surrounding tissues to undergo changes that promote malignancy. Understanding the complex ways in which cancer cells interact with their surroundings, both locally in the tumor organ and systemically in the body as a whole, has implications for effective cancer prevention and therapy.
Microvascular endothelial cells (ECs) within different tissues are endowed with distinct but as yet unrecognized structural, phenotypic, and functional attributes. We devised EC purification, cultivation, profiling, and transplantation models that establish tissue-specific molecular libraries of ECs devoid of lymphatic ECs or parenchymal cells. These libraries identify attributes that confer ECs with their organotypic features. We show that clusters of transcription factors, angiocrine growth factors, adhesion molecules, and chemokines are expressed in unique combinations by ECs of each organ. Furthermore, ECs respond distinctly in tissue regeneration models, hepatectomy, and myeloablation. To test the data set, we developed a transplantation model that employs generic ECs differentiated from embryonic stem cells. Transplanted generic ECs engraft into regenerating tissues and acquire features of organotypic ECs. Collectively, we demonstrate the utility of informational databases of ECs toward uncovering the extravascular and intrinsic signals that define EC heterogeneity. These factors could be exploited therapeutically to engineer tissue-specific ECs for regeneration.
CRISPR/Cas9 technology of genome editing has greatly facilitated the targeted inactivation of genes in vitro and in vivo in a wide range of organisms. In zebrafish, it allows the rapid generation of knockout lines by simply injecting a guide RNA (gRNA) and Cas9 mRNA into one-cell stage embryos. Here, we report a simple and scalable CRISPR-based vector system for tissue-specific gene inactivation in zebrafish. As proof of principle, we used our vector with the gata1 promoter driving Cas9 expression to silence the urod gene, implicated in heme biosynthesis, specifically in the erythrocytic lineage. Urod targeting yielded red fluorescent erythrocytes in zebrafish embryos, recapitulating the phenotype observed in the yquem mutant. While F0 embryos displayed mosaic gene disruption, the phenotype appeared very penetrant in stable F1 fish. This vector system constitutes a unique tool to spatially control gene knockout and greatly broadens the scope of loss-of-function studies in zebrafish.
Endoplasmic reticulum-plasma membrane (ER-PM) junctions are conserved structures defined as regions of the ER that tightly associate with the plasma membrane. However, little is known about the mechanisms that tether these organelles together and why such connections are maintained. Using a quantitative proteomic approach, we identified three families of ER-PM tethering proteins in yeast: Ist2 (related to mammalian TMEM16 ion channels), the tricalbins (Tcb1/2/3, orthologs of the extended synaptotagmins), and Scs2 and Scs22 (vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated proteins). Loss of all six tethering proteins results in the separation of the ER from the PM and the accumulation of cytoplasmic ER. Importantly, we find that phosphoinositide signaling is misregulated at the PM, and the unfolded protein response is constitutively activated in the ER in cells lacking ER-PM tether proteins. These results reveal critical roles for ER-PM contacts in cell signaling, organelle morphology, and ER function.
Endothelial cells play essential roles in maintenance of vascular integrity, angiogenesis, and wound repair. We show that an endothelial cell-restricted microRNA (miR-126) mediates developmental angiogenesis in vivo. Targeted deletion of miR-126 in mice causes leaky vessels, hemorrhaging, and partial embryonic lethality, due to a loss of vascular integrity and defects in endothelial cell proliferation, migration, and angiogenesis. The subset of mutant animals that survives displays defective cardiac neovascularization following myocardial infarction. The vascular abnormalities of miR-126 mutant mice resemble the consequences of diminished signaling by angiogenic growth factors, such as VEGF and FGF. Accordingly, miR-126 enhances the proangiogenic actions of VEGF and FGF and promotes blood vessel formation by repressing the expression of Spred-1, an intracellular inhibitor of angiogenic signaling. These findings have important therapeutic implications for a variety of disorders involving abnormal angiogenesis and vascular leakage.
Cellular life depends on continuous transport of lipids and small molecules between mitochondria and the endomembrane system. Recently, endoplasmic reticulum-mitochondrial encounter structure (ERMES) was identified as an important yet nonessential contact for such transport. Using a high-content screen in yeast, we found a contact site, marked by Vam6/Vps39, between vacuoles (the yeast lysosomal compartment) and mitochondria, named vCLAMP (vacuole and mitochondria patch). vCLAMP is enriched with ion and amino-acid transporters and has a role in lipid relay between the endomembrane system and mitochondria. Critically, we show that mitochondria are dependent on having one of two contact sites, ERMES or vCLAMP. The absence of one causes expansion of the other, and elimination of both is lethal. Identification of vCLAMP adds to our ability to understand the complexity of interorganellar crosstalk.
We discuss the upstream regulators of myogenesis that lead to the activation of myogenic determination genes and subsequent differentiation, focusing on the mouse model. Key upstream genes, such as Pax3 and Pax7, Six1 and Six4, or Pitx2, participate in gene regulatory networks at different sites of skeletal muscle formation. MicroRNAs also intervene, with emerging evidence for the role of other noncoding RNAs. Myogenic determination and subsequent differentiation depend on members of the MyoD family. We discuss new insights into mechanisms underlying the transcriptional activity of these factors.
Tet enzymes (Tet1/2/3) convert 5-methylcytosine (5mC) to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) in various embryonic and adult tissues. Mice mutant for either Tet1 or Tet2 are viable, raising the question of whether these enzymes have overlapping roles in development. Here we have generated Tet1 and Tet2 double-knockout (DKO) embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and mice. DKO ESCs remained pluripotent but were depleted of 5hmC and caused developmental defects in chimeric embryos. While a fraction of double-mutant embryos exhibited midgestation abnormalities with perinatal lethality, viable and overtly normal Tet1/Tet2-deficient mice were also obtained. DKO mice had reduced 5hmC and increased 5mC levels and abnormal methylation at various imprinted loci. Nevertheless, animals of both sexes were fertile, with females having smaller ovaries and reduced fertility. Our data show that loss of both enzymes is compatible with development but promotes hypermethylation and compromises imprinting. The data also suggest a significant contribution of Tet3 to hydroxylation of 5mC during development.