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Collagen is a structural protein whose internal cross-linking critically determines the properties and functions of connective tissue. Knowing how the cross-linking of collagen changes with age is key to understanding why the mechanical properties of tissues change over a lifetime. The current scientific consensus is that collagen cross-linking increases with age and that this increase leads to tendon stiffening. Here, we show that this view should be reconsidered. Using MS-based analyses, we demonstrate that during aging of healthy C57BL/6 mice, the overall levels of collagen cross-linking in tail tendon decrease with age. However, the levels of lysine glycation in collagen, which is not considered a cross-link, increased dramatically with age. We found that in 16-week-old diabetic db/db mice, glycation reaches levels similar to those observed in 98-week-old C57BL/6 mice, while the other cross-links typical of tendon collagen either decreased or remained the same as those observed in 20 week old WT mice. These results, combined with findings from mechanical testing of tendons from these mice, indicate that overall collagen cross-linking in mouse tendon decreases with age. Our findings also reveal that lysine glycation appears to be an important factor that contributes to tendon stiffening with age and in diabetes.
Obesity is associated with infertility, decreased ovarian performance and lipotoxicity. However, little is known about the aetiology of these reproductive impairments. Here, we hypothesise that the majority of changes in ovarian physiology in diet-induced obesity (DIO) are a consequence of transcriptional changes downstream of altered leptin signalling. Therefore, we investigated the extent to which leptin signalling is altered in the ovary upon obesity with particular emphasis on effects on cumulus cells (CCs), the intimate functional companions of the oocyte. Furthermore, we used the pharmacological hyperleptinemic (LEPT) mouse model to compare transcriptional profiles to DIO.
The microbiome is increasingly recognized for its ability to modulate human health. Colonization with gut symbionts induces Foxp3‐expressing regulatory T cells (Tregs) and expands their local numbers, a critical step in the suppression of intestinal inflammation and maintaining gut homeostasis. The molecular mechanism by which the microbiome interacts with peripherally induced Treg (pTreg) is likely complex and multifactorial; however, part of the effect is mediated via the release of microbial fermentation products, such as butyrate and other short‐chain fatty acids.
The germinal centre (GC) is a specialized cellular structure that forms in response to antigenic stimulation. It generates long-term humoral immunity through the production of memory B cells and long-lived antibody-secreting plasma cells. Conventional GCs form within secondary lymphoid organs, where networks of specialised stromal cells that form during embryogenesis act as the stage upon which the various GC immune cell players are brought together, nurtured and co-ordinated to generate a productive response. In non-lymphoid organs, ectopic GCs can form in response to persistent antigenic and inflammatory stimuli. Unlike secondary lymphoid tissues, non-lymphoid organs do not have a developmentally programmed stromal cell network capable of supporting the germinal centre reaction; therefore, the local tissue stroma must be remodelled by inflammatory stimuli in order to host a GC reaction. These ectopic GCs produce memory B cells and plasma cells that form a critical component of the humoral immune response.
The molecular cause of severe congenital neutropenia (SCN) is unknown in 30-50% of patients. SEC61A1 encodes the α subunit of the SEC61 complex, which governs endoplasmic reticulum protein transport and passive calcium leakage. Recently, mutations in SEC61A1 were reported to be pathogenic in common variable immunodeficiency and glomerulocystic kidney disease.
As the maternal-foetal interface, the placenta is essential for the establishment and progression of healthy pregnancy, regulating both foetal growth and maternal adaptation to pregnancy. The evolution and functional importance of genomic imprinting are inextricably linked to mammalian placentation. Recent technological advances in mapping and manipulating the epigenome in embryogenesis in mouse models have revealed novel mechanisms regulating genomic imprinting in placental trophoblast, the physiological implications of which are only just beginning to be explored. This review will highlight important recent discoveries and exciting new directions in the study of placental imprinting.
During macroautophagy/autophagy, the ULK complex nucleates autophagic precursors, which give rise to autophagosomes. We analyzed, by live imaging and mathematical modeling, the translocation of ATG13 (part of the ULK complex) to the autophagic puncta in starvation-induced autophagy and ivermectin-induced mitophagy. In nonselective autophagy, the intensity and duration of ATG13 translocation approximated a normal distribution, whereas wortmannin reduced this effect and shifted to a log-normal distribution. During mitophagy, multiple translocations of ATG13 with increasing time between peaks were observed. We hypothesized that these multiple translocations arise because the engulfment of mitochondrial fragments required successive nucleation of phagophores on the same target, and a mathematical model based on this idea reproduced the oscillatory behavior. Significantly, model and experimental data were also in agreement that the number of ATG13 translocations is directly proportional to the diameter of the targeted mitochondrial fragments. Thus, our data provide novel insights into the early dynamics of selective and nonselective autophagy. ATG: autophagy related 13; CFP: cyan fluorescent protein; dsRED: red fluorescent protein; GABARAP: GABA type A receptor-associated protein; GFP: green fluorescent protein; IVM: ivermectin; MAP1LC3/LC3: microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3; MTORC1: mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase complex 1; PIK3C3/VPS34: phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase catalytic subunit type 3; PtdIns3P: PtdIns-3-phosphate; ULK: unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase.
Naive and primed human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC) provide valuable models to study cellular and molecular developmental processes. The lack of detailed information about cell-surface protein expression in these two pluripotent cell types prevents an understanding of how the cells communicate and interact with their microenvironments. Here, we used plasma membrane profiling to directly measure cell-surface protein expression in naive and primed hPSC. This unbiased approach quantified over 1,700 plasma membrane proteins, including those involved in cell adhesion, signaling, and cell interactions. Notably, multiple cytokine receptors upstream of JAK-STAT signaling were more abundant in naive hPSC. In addition, functional experiments showed that FOLR1 and SUSD2 proteins are highly expressed at the cell surface in naive hPSC but are not required to establish human naive pluripotency. This study provides a comprehensive stem cell proteomic resource that uncovers differences in signaling pathway activity and has identified new markers to define human pluripotent states.
Carefully maintained and precisely inherited chromosomal DNA provides long-term genetic stability, but eukaryotic cells facing environmental challenges can benefit from the accumulation of less stable DNA species. Circular DNA molecules lacking centromeres segregate randomly or asymmetrically during cell division, following non-Mendelian inheritance patterns that result in high copy number instability and massive heterogeneity across populations. Such circular DNA species, variously known as extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA), microDNA, double minutes or extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA), are becoming recognised as a major source of the genetic variation exploited by cancer cells and pathogenic eukaryotes to acquire drug resistance. In budding yeast, circular DNA molecules derived from the ribosomal DNA (ERCs) have been long known to accumulate with age, but it is now clear that aged yeast also accumulate other high-copy protein-coding circular DNAs acquired through both random and environmentally-stimulated recombination processes. Here, we argue that accumulation of circular DNA provides a reservoir of heterogeneous genetic material that can allow rapid adaptation of aged cells to environmental insults, but avoids the negative fitness impacts on normal growth of unsolicited gene amplification in the young population.
Although human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) represent a substantial proportion of the human genome and some HERVs, such as HERV-K(HML-2), are reported to be involved in neurological disorders, little is known about their biological function. We report that RNA from an HERV-K(HML-2) envelope gene region binds to and activates human Toll-like receptor (TLR) 8, as well as murine Tlr7, expressed in neurons and microglia, thereby causing neurodegeneration. HERV-K(HML-2) RNA introduced into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of either C57BL/6 wild-type mice or APPPS1 mice, a mouse model for Alzheimer's disease (AD), resulted in neurodegeneration and microglia accumulation. Tlr7-deficient mice were protected against neurodegenerative effects but were resensitized toward HERV-K(HML-2) RNA when neurons ectopically expressed murine Tlr7 or human TLR8. Transcriptome data sets of human AD brain samples revealed a distinct correlation of upregulated HERV-K(HML-2) and TLR8 RNA expression. HERV-K(HML-2) RNA was detectable more frequently in CSF from individuals with AD compared with controls. Our data establish HERV-K(HML-2) RNA as an endogenous ligand for species-specific TLRs 7/8 and imply a functional contribution of human endogenous retroviral transcripts to neurodegenerative processes, such as AD.
Mitophagy, a conserved intracellular process by which mitochondria are eliminated via the autophagic machinery, is a quality control mechanism which facilitates maintenance of a functional mitochondrial network and cell homeostasis, making it a key process in development and longevity. Mitophagy has been linked to multiple human disorders, especially neurodegenerative diseases where the long-lived neurons are relying on clearance of old/damaged mitochondria to survive. During the past decade, the availability of novel tools to study mitophagy both and has significantly advanced our understanding of the molecular mechanisms governing this fundamental process in normal physiology and in various disease models. We here give an overview of the known mitophagy pathways and how they are induced, with a particular emphasis on the early events governing mitophagosome formation.
The occurrence of repetitive genomic changes that provide a selective growth advantage in pluripotent stem cells is of concern for their clinical application. However, the effect of different culture conditions on the underlying mutation rate is unknown. Here we show that the mutation rate in two human embryonic stem cell lines derived and banked for clinical application is low and not substantially affected by culture with Rho Kinase inhibitor, commonly used in their routine maintenance. However, the mutation rate is reduced by >50% in cells cultured under 5% oxygen, when we also found alterations in imprint methylation and reversible DNA hypomethylation. Mutations are evenly distributed across the chromosomes, except for a slight increase on the X-chromosome, and an elevation in intergenic regions suggesting that chromatin structure may affect mutation rate. Overall the results suggest that pluripotent stem cells are not subject to unusually high rates of genetic or epigenetic alterations.
Noroviruses are recognized as the major cause of non-bacterial gastroenteritis in humans. Molecular mechanisms driving norovirus evolution are the accumulation of point mutations and recombination. Recombination can create considerable changes in a viral genome, potentially eliciting a fitness cost, which must be compensated via the adaptive capacity of a recombinant virus. We previously described replicative fitness reduction of the first generated WU20-CW1 recombinant murine norovirus, RecMNV. In this follow-up study, RecMNV's capability of replicative fitness recuperation and genetic characteristics of RecMNV progenies at early and late stages of an adaptation experiment were evaluated. Replicative fitness regain of the recombinant was demonstrated via growth kinetics and plaque size differences between viral progenies prior to and post serial passaging. Point mutations at consensus and sub-consensus population levels of early and late viral progenies were characterized via next-generation sequencing and putatively associated to fitness changes. To investigate the effect of genomic changes separately and in combination in the context of a lab-generated inter-MNV infectious virus, mutations were introduced into a recombinant WU20-CW1 cDNA for subsequent DNA-based reverse genetics recovery. We thus associated fitness loss of RecMNV to a C7245T mutation and functional VP2 (ORF3) truncation and demonstrated individual and cumulative compensatory effects of one synonymous OFR2 and two non-synonymous ORF1 consensus-level mutations acquired during successive rounds of replication. Our data provide evidence of viral adaptation in a controlled environment via genetic drift after genetic shift induced a fitness cost of an infectious recombinant norovirus.
Paternal and maternal epigenomes undergo marked changes after fertilization. Recent epigenomic studies have revealed the unusual chromatin landscapes that are present in oocytes, sperm and early preimplantation embryos, including atypical patterns of histone modifications and differences in chromosome organization and accessibility, both in gametes and after fertilization. However, these studies have led to very different conclusions: the global absence of local topological-associated domains (TADs) in gametes and their appearance in the embryo versus the pre-existence of TADs and loops in the zygote. The questions of whether parental structures can be inherited in the newly formed embryo and how these structures might relate to allele-specific gene regulation remain open. Here we map genomic interactions for each parental genome (including the X chromosome), using an optimized single-cell high-throughput chromosome conformation capture (HiC) protocol, during preimplantation in the mouse. We integrate chromosome organization with allelic expression states and chromatin marks, and reveal that higher-order chromatin structure after fertilization coincides with an allele-specific enrichment of methylation of histone H3 at lysine 27. These early parental-specific domains correlate with gene repression and participate in parentally biased gene expression-including in recently described, transiently imprinted loci. We also find TADs that arise in a non-parental-specific manner during a second wave of genome assembly. These de novo domains are associated with active chromatin. Finally, we obtain insights into the relationship between TADs and gene expression by investigating structural changes to the paternal X chromosome before and during X chromosome inactivation in preimplantation female embryos. We find that TADs are lost as genes become silenced on the paternal X chromosome but linger in regions that escape X chromosome inactivation. These findings demonstrate the complex dynamics of three-dimensional genome organization and gene expression during early development.
Consumption of fructose has risen markedly in recent decades owing to the use of sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup in beverages and processed foods, and this has contributed to increasing rates of obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Fructose intake triggers de novo lipogenesis in the liver, in which carbon precursors of acetyl-CoA are converted into fatty acids. The ATP citrate lyase (ACLY) enzyme cleaves cytosolic citrate to generate acetyl-CoA, and is upregulated after consumption of carbohydrates. Clinical trials are currently pursuing the inhibition of ACLY as a treatment for metabolic diseases. However, the route from dietary fructose to hepatic acetyl-CoA and lipids remains unknown. Here, using in vivo isotope tracing, we show that liver-specific deletion of Acly in mice is unable to suppress fructose-induced lipogenesis. Dietary fructose is converted to acetate by the gut microbiota, and this supplies lipogenic acetyl-CoA independently of ACLY. Depletion of the microbiota or silencing of hepatic ACSS2, which generates acetyl-CoA from acetate, potently suppresses the conversion of bolus fructose into hepatic acetyl-CoA and fatty acids. When fructose is consumed more gradually to facilitate its absorption in the small intestine, both citrate cleavage in hepatocytes and microorganism-derived acetate contribute to lipogenesis. By contrast, the lipogenic transcriptional program is activated in response to fructose in a manner that is independent of acetyl-CoA metabolism. These data reveal a two-pronged mechanism that regulates hepatic lipogenesis, in which fructolysis within hepatocytes provides a signal to promote the expression of lipogenic genes, and the generation of microbial acetate feeds lipogenic pools of acetyl-CoA.
Germinal centres (GCs) are T follicular helper cell (Tfh)-dependent structures that form in response to vaccination, producing long-lived antibody secreting plasma cells and memory B cells that protect against subsequent infection. With advancing age the GC and Tfh cell response declines, resulting in impaired humoral immunity. We sought to discover what underpins the poor Tfh cell response in ageing and whether it is possible to correct it. Here, we demonstrate that older people and aged mice have impaired Tfh cell differentiation upon vaccination. This deficit is preceded by poor activation of conventional dendritic cells type 2 (cDC2) due to reduced type 1 interferon signalling. Importantly, the Tfh and cDC2 cell response can be boosted in aged mice by treatment with a TLR7 agonist. This demonstrates that age-associated defects in the cDC2 and Tfh cell response are not irreversible and can be enhanced to improve vaccine responses in older individuals.
Many metabolites serve as important signalling molecules to adjust cellular activities and functions based on nutrient availability. Links between acetyl-CoA metabolism, histone lysine acetylation, and gene expression have been documented and studied over the past decade. In recent years, several additional acyl modifications to histone lysine residues have been identified, which depend on acyl-coenzyme A thioesters (acyl-CoAs) as acyl donors. Acyl-CoAs are intermediates of multiple distinct metabolic pathways, and substantial evidence has emerged that histone acylation is metabolically sensitive. Nevertheless, the metabolic sources of acyl-CoAs used for chromatin modification in most cases remain poorly understood. Elucidating how these diverse chemical modifications are coupled to and regulated by cellular metabolism is important in deciphering their functional significance.
Compromising mitochondrial fusion or fission disrupts cellular homeostasis; however, the underlying mechanism(s) are not fully understood. The loss of C. elegans fzo-1MFN results in mitochondrial fragmentation, decreased mitochondrial membrane potential and the induction of the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt). We performed a genome-wide RNAi screen for genes that when knocked-down suppress fzo-1MFN(lf)-induced UPRmt. Of the 299 genes identified, 143 encode negative regulators of autophagy, many of which have previously not been implicated in this cellular quality control mechanism. We present evidence that increased autophagic flux suppresses fzo-1MFN(lf)-induced UPRmt by increasing mitochondrial membrane potential rather than restoring mitochondrial morphology. Furthermore, we demonstrate that increased autophagic flux also suppresses UPRmt induction in response to a block in mitochondrial fission, but not in response to the loss of spg-7, which encodes a mitochondrial metalloprotease. Finally, we found that blocking mitochondrial fusion or fission leads to increased levels of certain types of triacylglycerols and that this is at least partially reverted by the induction of autophagy. We propose that the breakdown of these triacylglycerols through autophagy leads to elevated metabolic activity, thereby increasing mitochondrial membrane potential and restoring mitochondrial and cellular homeostasis.
Ever since it was first discussed in evolutionary terms by Haldane (1941), Medawar (1952), and Williams (1957), [reviewed in Partridge and Gems (2006)] aging has become a focus of much current research interest, especially following discoveries pointing to molecular, genetic, and biochemical hallmarks that control its progression and severity (López-Otín et al., 2013). Amongst the many cellular processes that provide physiological connections to the aging process, autophagy is perhaps one of the most compelling (Rubinsztein et al., 2011; Nakamura and Yoshimori, 2018).
Reproductive decline in older female mice can be attributed to a failure of the uterus to decidualise in response to steroid hormones. Here, we show that normal decidualisation is associated with significant epigenetic changes. Notably, we identify a cohort of differentially methylated regions (DMRs), most of which gain DNA methylation between the early and late stages of decidualisation. These DMRs are enriched at progesterone-responsive gene loci that are essential for reproductive function. In female mice nearing the end of their reproductive lifespan, DNA methylation fidelity is lost at a number of CpG islands (CGIs) resulting in CGI hypermethylation at key decidualisation genes. Importantly, this hypermethylated state correlates with the failure of the corresponding genes to become transcriptionally upregulated during the implantation window. Thus, age-associated DNA methylation changes may underlie the decidualisation defects that are a common occurrence in older females. Alterations to the epigenome of uterine cells may therefore contribute significantly to the reproductive decline associated with advanced maternal age.
The dual protein kinase-transcription factor, ERK5, is an emerging drug target in cancer and inflammation, and small-molecule ERK5 kinase inhibitors have been developed. However, selective ERK5 kinase inhibitors fail to recapitulate ERK5 genetic ablation phenotypes, suggesting kinase-independent functions for ERK5. Here we show that ERK5 kinase inhibitors cause paradoxical activation of ERK5 transcriptional activity mediated through its unique C-terminal transcriptional activation domain (TAD). Using the ERK5 kinase inhibitor, Compound 26 (ERK5-IN-1), as a paradigm, we have developed kinase-active, drug-resistant mutants of ERK5. With these mutants, we show that induction of ERK5 transcriptional activity requires direct binding of the inhibitor to the kinase domain. This in turn promotes conformational changes in the kinase domain that result in nuclear translocation of ERK5 and stimulation of gene transcription. This shows that both the ERK5 kinase and TAD must be considered when assessing the role of ERK5 and the effectiveness of anti-ERK5 therapeutics.
How intestinal epithelial cells interact with the microbiota and how this is regulated at the gene expression level are critical questions. Smarcad1 is a conserved chromatin remodeling factor with a poorly understood tissue function. As this factor is highly expressed in the stem and proliferative zones of the intestinal epithelium, we explore its role in this tissue.
Wallerian degeneration is a widespread mechanism of programmed axon degeneration. In the three decades since the discovery of the Wallerian degeneration slow (Wld) mouse, research has generated extensive knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying Wallerian degeneration, demonstrated its involvement in non-injury disorders and found multiple ways to block it. Recent developments have included: the detection of NMNAT2 mutations that implicate Wallerian degeneration in rare human diseases; the capacity for lifelong rescue of a lethal condition related to Wallerian degeneration in mice; the discovery of 'druggable' enzymes, including SARM1 and MYCBP2 (also known as PHR1), in Wallerian pathways; and the elucidation of protein structures to drive further understanding of the underlying mechanisms and drug development. Additionally, new data have indicated the potential of these advances to alleviate a number of common disorders, including chemotherapy-induced and diabetic peripheral neuropathies, traumatic brain injury, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.