Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hot off the presses! Sep 27 PLoS Biol

The Sep 27 issue of the PLoS Biol is now up on Pubget (About PLoS Biol): if you're at a subscribing institution, just click the link in the latest link at the home page. (Note you'll only be able to get all the PDFs in the issue if your institution subscribes to Pubget.)

Latest Articles Include:

  • Bats Broaden Sonar Field of View to Maneuver around Obstacles
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001147 (2011)
  • Cave-Dwelling Fish Provide Clues to the Circadian Cycle
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001141 (2011)
  • Signals That Trigger Dendrite Growth Are Identified
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001154 (2011)
  • Beyond the Transcripts: What Controls Protein Variation?
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001146 (2011)
  • How Actin Filaments Doff Their Pi Cap
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001163 (2011)
  • Tracing Personalized Health Curves during Infections
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001158 (2011)
    It is difficult to describe host–microbe interactions in a manner that deals well with both pathogens and mutualists. Perhaps a way can be found using an ecological definition of tolerance, where tolerance is defined as the dose response curve of health versus parasite load. To plot tolerance, individual infections are summarized by reporting the maximum parasite load and the minimum health for a population of infected individuals and the slope of the resulting curve defines the tolerance of the population. We can borrow this method of plotting health versus microbe load in a population and make it apply to individuals; instead of plotting just one point that summarizes an infection in an individual, we can plot the values at many time points over the course of an infection for one individual. This produces curves that trace the course of an infection through phase space rather than over a more typical timeline. These curves highlight relationships like recovery and ! point out bifurcations that are difficult to visualize with standard plotting techniques. Only nine archetypical curves are needed to describe most pathogenic and mutualistic host–microbe interactions. The technique holds promise as both a qualitative and quantitative approach to dissect host–microbe interactions of all kinds.
  • Converging Currents in Climate-Relevant Conservation: Water, Infrastructure, and Institutions
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001159 (2011)
  • The Little Book of Viruses
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001139 (2011)
  • Lennart Philipson (1929–2011): A Warrior Has Passed
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001153 (2011)
  • Clarifying the Mechanism of Superantigen Toxicity
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001145 (2011)
  • Active Control of Acoustic Field-of-View in a Biosonar System
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001150 (2011)
    Active-sensing systems abound in nature, but little is known about systematic strategies that are used by these systems to scan the environment. Here, we addressed this question by studying echolocating bats, animals that have the ability to point their biosonar beam to a confined region of space. We trained Egyptian fruit bats to land on a target, under conditions of varying levels of environmental complexity, and measured their echolocation and flight behavior. The bats modulated the intensity of their biosonar emissions, and the spatial region they sampled, in a task-dependant manner. We report here that Egyptian fruit bats selectively change the emission intensity and the angle between the beam axes of sequentially emitted clicks, according to the distance to the target, and depending on the level of environmental complexity. In so doing, they effectively adjusted the spatial sector sampled by a pair of clicks—the "field-of-view." We suggest that the exact po! int within the beam that is directed towards an object (e.g., the beam's peak, maximal slope, etc.) is influenced by three competing task demands: detection, localization, and angular scanning—where the third factor is modulated by field-of-view. Our results suggest that lingual echolocation (based on tongue clicks) is in fact much more sophisticated than previously believed. They also reveal a new parameter under active control in animal sonar—the angle between consecutive beams. Our findings suggest that acoustic scanning of space by mammals is highly flexible and modulated much more selectively than previously recognized.
  • A Blind Circadian Clock in Cavefish Reveals that Opsins Mediate Peripheral Clock Photoreception
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001142 (2011)
    The circadian clock is synchronized with the day-night cycle primarily by light. Fish represent fascinating models for deciphering the light input pathway to the vertebrate clock since fish cell clocks are regulated by direct light exposure. Here we have performed a comparative, functional analysis of the circadian clock involving the zebrafish that is normally exposed to the day-night cycle and a cavefish species that has evolved in perpetual darkness. Our results reveal that the cavefish retains a food-entrainable clock that oscillates with an infradian period. Importantly, however, this clock is not regulated by light. This comparative study pinpoints the two extra-retinal photoreceptors Melanopsin (Opn4m2) and TMT-opsin as essential upstream elements of the peripheral clock light input pathway.
  • Nuclear Receptor DHR4 Controls the Timing of Steroid Hormone Pulses During Drosophila Development
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001160 (2011)
    In insects, precisely timed periodic pulses of the molting hormone ecdysone control major developmental transitions such as molts and metamorphosis. The synthesis and release of ecdysone, a steroid hormone, is itself controlled by PTTH (prothoracicotopic hormone). PTTH transcript levels oscillate with an 8 h rhythm, but its significance regarding the timing of ecdysone pulses is unclear. PTTH acts on its target tissue, the prothoracic gland (PG), by activating the Ras/Raf/ERK pathway through its receptor Torso, however direct targets of this pathway have yet to be identified. Here, we demonstrate that Drosophila Hormone Receptor 4 (DHR4), a nuclear receptor, is a key target of the PTTH pathway and establishes temporal boundaries by terminating ecdysone pulses. Specifically, we show that DHR4 oscillates between the nucleus and cytoplasm of PG cells, and that the protein is absent from PG nuclei at developmental times when low titer ecdysone pulses occur. This oscillator! y behavior is blocked when PTTH or torso function is abolished, resulting in nuclear accumulation of DHR4, while hyperactivating the PTTH pathway results in cytoplasmic retention of the protein. Increasing DHR4 levels in the PG can delay or arrest development. In contrast, reducing DHR4 function in the PG triggers accelerated development, which is caused by precocious ecdysone signaling due to a failure to repress ecdysone pulses. Finally, we show that DHR4 negatively regulates the expression of a hitherto uncharacterized cytochrome P450 gene, Cyp6t3. Disruption of Cyp6t3 function causes low ecdysteroid titers and results in heterochronic phenotypes and molting defects, indicating a novel role in the ecdysone biosynthesis pathway. We propose a model whereby nuclear DHR4 controls the duration of ecdysone pulses by negatively regulating ecdysone biosynthesis through repression of Cyp6t3, and that this repressive function is temporarily overturned via the PTTH pathway by remov! ing DHR4 from the nuclear compartment.
  • Pancreatic Mesenchyme Regulates Epithelial Organogenesis throughout Development
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001143 (2011)
    The developing pancreatic epithelium gives rise to all endocrine and exocrine cells of the mature organ. During organogenesis, the epithelial cells receive essential signals from the overlying mesenchyme. Previous studies, focusing on ex vivo tissue explants or complete knockout mice, have identified an important role for the mesenchyme in regulating the expansion of progenitor cells in the early pancreas epithelium. However, due to the lack of genetic tools directing expression specifically to the mesenchyme, the potential roles of this supporting tissue in vivo, especially in guiding later stages of pancreas organogenesis, have not been elucidated. We employed transgenic tools and fetal surgical techniques to ablate mesenchyme via Cre-mediated mesenchymal expression of Diphtheria Toxin (DT) at the onset of pancreas formation, and at later developmental stages via in utero injection of DT into transgenic mice expressing the Diphtheria Toxin receptor (DTR) in this tiss! ue. Our results demonstrate that mesenchymal cells regulate pancreatic growth and branching at both early and late developmental stages by supporting proliferation of precursors and differentiated cells, respectively. Interestingly, while cell differentiation was not affected, the expansion of both the endocrine and exocrine compartments was equally impaired. To further elucidate signals required for mesenchymal cell function, we eliminated β-catenin signaling and determined that it is a critical pathway in regulating mesenchyme survival and growth. Our study presents the first in vivo evidence that the embryonic mesenchyme provides critical signals to the epithelium throughout pancreas organogenesis. The findings are novel and relevant as they indicate a critical role for the mesenchyme during late expansion of endocrine and exocrine compartments. In addition, our results provide a molecular mechanism for mesenchymal expansion and survival by identifying β-catenin signal! ing as an essential mediator of this process. These results ha! ve implications for developing strategies to expand pancreas progenitors and β-cells for clinical transplantation.
  • CD81 Is Essential for the Re-entry of Hematopoietic Stem Cells to Quiescence following Stress-Induced Proliferation Via Deactivation of the Akt Pathway
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001148 (2011)
    The regulatory mechanisms governing the cell cycle progression of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are well characterized, but those responsible for the return of proliferating HSCs to a quiescent state remain largely unknown. Here, we present evidence that CD81, a tetraspanin molecule acutely responsive to proliferative stress, is essential for the maintenance of long-term repopulating HSCs. Cd81−/− HSCs showed a marked engraftment defect when transplanted into secondary recipient mice and a significantly delayed return to quiescence when stimulated to proliferate with 5-fluorouracil (5FU). In addition, we found that CD81 proteins form a polarized patch when HSCs are returning to quiescence. Thus, we propose that the spatial distribution of CD81 during the HSC recovery phase drives proliferative HSC to quiescence, and is important to preserve the self-renewal properties. Here, we show that lack of CD81 leads to loss of HSC self-renewal, and the clustering of CD81 o! n HSC membrane results in deactivation of Akt, which subsequently leads to nuclear translocation of FoxO1a. Thus, CD81 functions as part of a previously undefined mechanism that prohibits excessive proliferation of HSCs exposed to environmental stress.
  • Mesenchymal Transition and Dissemination of Cancer Cells Is Driven by Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells Infiltrating the Primary Tumor
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001162 (2011)
    In order to metastasize, cancer cells need to acquire a motile phenotype. Previously, development of this phenotype was thought to rely on the acquisition of selected, random mutations and thus would occur late in cancer progression. However, recent studies show that cancer cells disseminate early, implying the existence of a different, faster route to the metastatic motile phenotype. Using a spontaneous murine model of melanoma, we show that a subset of bone marrow-derived immune cells (myeloid-derived suppressor cells or MDSC) preferentially infiltrates the primary tumor and actively promotes cancer cell dissemination by inducing epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). CXCL5 is the main chemokine attracting MDSC to the primary tumor. In vitro assay using purified MDSC showed that TGF-β, EGF, and HGF signaling pathways are all used by MDSC to induce EMT in cancer cells. These findings explain how cancer cells acquire a motile phenotype so early and provide a mechani! stic explanation for the long recognized link between inflammation and cancer progression.
  • LIN-44/Wnt Directs Dendrite Outgrowth through LIN-17/Frizzled in C. elegans Neurons
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001157 (2011)
    Nervous system function requires proper development of two functional and morphological domains of neurons, axons and dendrites. Although both these domains are equally important for signal transmission, our understanding of dendrite development remains relatively poor. Here, we show that in C. elegans the Wnt ligand, LIN-44, and its Frizzled receptor, LIN-17, regulate dendrite development of the PQR oxygen sensory neuron. In lin-44 and lin-17 mutants, PQR dendrites fail to form, display stunted growth, or are misrouted. Manipulation of temporal and spatial expression of LIN-44, combined with cell-ablation experiments, indicates that this molecule is patterned during embryogenesis and acts as an attractive cue to define the site from which the dendrite emerges. Genetic interaction between lin-44 and lin-17 suggests that the LIN-44 signal is transmitted through the LIN-17 receptor, which acts cell autonomously in PQR. Furthermore, we provide evidence that LIN-17 interac! ts with another Wnt molecule, EGL-20, and functions in parallel to MIG-1/Frizzled in this process. Taken together, our results reveal a crucial role for Wnt and Frizzled molecules in regulating dendrite development in vivo.
  • Natural Killer Cell Lytic Granule Secretion Occurs through a Pervasive Actin Network at the Immune Synapse
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001151 (2011)
    Accumulation of filamentous actin (F-actin) at the immunological synapse (IS) is a prerequisite for the cytotoxic function of natural killer (NK) cells. Subsequent to reorganization of the actin network, lytic granules polarize to the IS where their contents are secreted directly toward a target cell, providing critical access to host defense. There has been limited investigation into the relationship between the actin network and degranulation. Thus, we have evaluated the actin network and secretion using microscopy techniques that provide unprecedented resolution and/or functional insight. We show that the actin network extends throughout the IS and that degranulation occurs in areas where there is actin, albeit in sub-micron relatively hypodense regions. Therefore we propose that granules reach the plasma membrane in clearances in the network that are appropriately sized to minimally accommodate a granule and allow it to interact with the filaments. Our data support! a model whereby lytic granules and the actin network are intimately associated during the secretion process and broadly suggest a mechanism for the secretion of large organelles in the context of a cortical actin barrier.
  • Remodelling of Cortical Actin Where Lytic Granules Dock at Natural Killer Cell Immune Synapses Revealed by Super-Resolution Microscopy
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001152 (2011)
    Natural Killer (NK) cells are innate immune cells that secrete lytic granules to directly kill virus-infected or transformed cells across an immune synapse. However, a major gap in understanding this process is in establishing how lytic granules pass through the mesh of cortical actin known to underlie the NK cell membrane. Research has been hampered by the resolution of conventional light microscopy, which is too low to resolve cortical actin during lytic granule secretion. Here we use two high-resolution imaging techniques to probe the synaptic organisation of NK cell receptors and filamentous (F)-actin. A combination of optical tweezers and live cell confocal microscopy reveals that microclusters of NKG2D assemble into a ring-shaped structure at the centre of intercellular synapses, where Vav1 and Grb2 also accumulate. Within this ring-shaped organisation of NK cell proteins, lytic granules accumulate for secretion. Using 3D-structured illumination microscopy (3D-SI! M) to gain super-resolution of ∼100 nm, cortical actin was detected in a central region of the NK cell synapse irrespective of whether activating or inhibitory signals dominate. Strikingly, the periodicity of the cortical actin mesh increased in specific domains at the synapse when the NK cell was activated. Two-colour super-resolution imaging revealed that lytic granules docked precisely in these domains which were also proximal to where the microtubule-organising centre (MTOC) polarised. Together, these data demonstrate that remodelling of the cortical actin mesh occurs at the central region of the cytolytic NK cell immune synapse. This is likely to occur for other types of cell secretion and also emphasises the importance of emerging super-resolution imaging technology for revealing new biology.
  • ESRRA-C11orf20 Is a Recurrent Gene Fusion in Serous Ovarian Carcinoma
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001156 (2011)
    Every year, ovarian cancer kills approximately 14,000 women in the United States and more than 140,000 women worldwide. Most of these deaths are caused by tumors of the serous histological type, which is rarely diagnosed before it has disseminated. By deep paired-end sequencing of mRNA from serous ovarian cancers, followed by deep sequencing of the corresponding genomic region, we identified a recurrent fusion transcript. The fusion transcript joins the 5′ exons of ESRRA, encoding a ligand-independent member of the nuclear-hormone receptor superfamily, to the 3′ exons of C11orf20, a conserved but uncharacterized gene located immediately upstream of ESRRA in the reference genome. To estimate the prevalence of the fusion, we tested 67 cases of serous ovarian cancer by RT-PCR and sequencing and confirmed its presence in 10 of these. Targeted resequencing of the corresponding genomic region from two fusion-positive tumor samples identified a nearly clonal chromosomal r! earrangement positioning ESRRA upstream of C11orf20 in one tumor, and evidence of local copy number variation in the ESRRA locus in the second tumor. We hypothesize that the recurrent novel fusion transcript may play a role in pathogenesis of a substantial fraction of serous ovarian cancers and could provide a molecular marker for detection of the cancer. Gene fusions involving adjacent or nearby genes can readily escape detection but may play important roles in the development and progression of cancer.
  • Genetic Variation Shapes Protein Networks Mainly through Non-transcriptional Mechanisms
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001144 (2011)
    Networks of co-regulated transcripts in genetically diverse populations have been studied extensively, but little is known about the degree to which these networks cause similar co-variation at the protein level. We quantified 354 proteins in a genetically diverse population of yeast segregants, which allowed for the first time construction of a coherent protein co-variation matrix. We identified tightly co-regulated groups of 36 and 93 proteins that were made up predominantly of genes involved in ribosome biogenesis and amino acid metabolism, respectively. Even though the ribosomal genes were tightly co-regulated at both the protein and transcript levels, genetic regulation of proteins was entirely distinct from that of transcripts, and almost no genes in this network showed a significant correlation between protein and transcript levels. This result calls into question the widely held belief that in yeast, as opposed to higher eukaryotes, ribosomal protein levels are! regulated primarily by regulating transcript levels. Furthermore, although genetic regulation of the amino acid network was more similar for proteins and transcripts, regression analysis demonstrated that even here, proteins vary predominantly as a result of non-transcriptional variation. We also found that cis regulation, which is common in the transcriptome, is rare at the level of the proteome. We conclude that most inter-individual variation in levels of these particular high abundance proteins in this genetically diverse population is not caused by variation of their underlying transcripts.
  • Transcriptome Analysis of the Arabidopsis Megaspore Mother Cell Uncovers the Importance of RNA Helicases for Plant Germline Development
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001155 (2011)
    Germ line specification is a crucial step in the life cycle of all organisms. For sexual plant reproduction, the megaspore mother cell (MMC) is of crucial importance: it marks the first cell of the plant "germline" lineage that gets committed to undergo meiosis. One of the meiotic products, the functional megaspore, subsequently gives rise to the haploid, multicellular female gametophyte that harbours the female gametes. The MMC is formed by selection and differentiation of a single somatic, sub-epidermal cell in the ovule. The transcriptional network underlying MMC specification and differentiation is largely unknown. We provide the first transcriptome analysis of an MMC using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana with a combination of laser-assisted microdissection and microarray hybridizations. Statistical analyses identified an over-representation of translational regulation control pathways and a significant enrichment of DEAD/DEAH-box helicases in the MMC tran! scriptome, paralleling important features of the animal germline. Analysis of two independent T-DNA insertion lines suggests an important role of an enriched helicase, MNEME (MEM), in MMC differentiation and the restriction of the germline fate to only one cell per ovule primordium. In heterozygous mem mutants, additional enlarged MMC-like cells, which sometimes initiate female gametophyte development, were observed at higher frequencies than in the wild type. This closely resembles the phenotype of mutants affected in the small RNA and DNA-methylation pathways important for epigenetic regulation. Importantly, the mem phenotype shows features of apospory, as female gametophytes initiate from two non-sister cells in these mutants. Moreover, in mem gametophytic nuclei, both higher order chromatin structure and the distribution of LIKE HETEROCHROMATIN PROTEIN1 were affected, indicating epigenetic perturbations. In summary, the MMC transcriptome sets the stage for future functi! onal characterization as illustrated by the identification of ! MEM, a novel gene involved in the restriction of germline fate.
  • Individual Actin Filaments in a Microfluidic Flow Reveal the Mechanism of ATP Hydrolysis and Give Insight Into the Properties of Profilin
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001161 (2011)
    The hydrolysis of ATP associated with actin and profilin-actin polymerization is pivotal in cell motility. It is at the origin of treadmilling of actin filaments and controls their dynamics and mechanical properties, as well as their interactions with regulatory proteins. The slow release of inorganic phosphate (Pi) that follows rapid cleavage of ATP gamma phosphate is linked to an increase in the rate of filament disassembly. The mechanism of Pi release in actin filaments has remained elusive for over 20 years. Here, we developed a microfluidic setup to accurately monitor the depolymerization of individual filaments and determine their local ADP-Pi content. We demonstrate that Pi release in the filament is not a vectorial but a random process with a half-time of 102 seconds, irrespective of whether the filament is assembled from actin or profilin-actin. Pi release from the depolymerizing barbed end is faster (half-time of 0.39 seconds) and further accelerated by profi! lin. Profilin accelerates the depolymerization of both ADP- and ADP-Pi-F-actin. Altogether, our data show that during elongation from profilin-actin, the dissociation of profilin from the growing barbed end is not coupled to Pi release or to ATP cleavage on the terminal subunit. These results emphasize the potential of microfluidics in elucidating actin regulation at the scale of individual filaments.
  • Binding of Superantigen Toxins into the CD28 Homodimer Interface Is Essential for Induction of Cytokine Genes That Mediate Lethal Shock
    - PLoS Biol 9(9):e1001149 (2011)
    Bacterial superantigens, a diverse family of toxins, induce an inflammatory cytokine storm that can lead to lethal shock. CD28 is a homodimer expressed on T cells that functions as the principal costimulatory ligand in the immune response through an interaction with its B7 coligands, yet we show here that to elicit inflammatory cytokine gene expression and toxicity, superantigens must bind directly into the dimer interface of CD28. Preventing access of the superantigen to CD28 suffices to block its lethality. Mice were protected from lethal superantigen challenge by short peptide mimetics of the CD28 dimer interface and by peptides selected to compete with the superantigen for its binding site in CD28. Superantigens use a conserved β-strand/hinge/α-helix domain of hitherto unknown function to engage CD28. Mutation of this superantigen domain abolished inflammatory cytokine gene induction and lethality. Structural analysis showed that when a superantigen binds to the ! T cell receptor on the T cell and major histocompatibility class II molecule on the antigen-presenting cell, CD28 can be accommodated readily as third superantigen receptor in the quaternary complex, with the CD28 dimer interface oriented towards the β-strand/hinge/α-helix domain in the superantigen. Our findings identify the CD28 homodimer interface as a critical receptor target for superantigens. The novel role of CD28 as receptor for a class of microbial pathogens, the superantigen toxins, broadens the scope of pathogen recognition mechanisms.

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