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Nature AOP



Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising concl



 



Electron cryo-microscopy structure of the mechanotransduction channel NOMPC

2017-06-26

Mechanosensory transduction for senses such as proprioception, touch, balance, acceleration, hearing and pain relies on mechanotransduction channels, which convert mechanical stimuli into electrical signals in specialized sensory cells. How force gates mechanotransduction channels is a central question in the field, for which there are two major models. One is the membrane-tension model: force applied to the membrane generates a change in membrane tension that is sufficient to gate the channel, as in the bacterial MscL channel and certain eukaryotic potassium channels. The other is the tether model: force is transmitted via a tether to gate the channel. The transient receptor potential (TRP) channel NOMPC is important for mechanosensation-related behaviours such as locomotion, touch and sound sensation across different species including Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila and zebrafish. NOMPC is the founding member of the TRPN subfamily, and is thought to be gated by tethering of its ankyrin repeat domain to microtubules of the cytoskeleton. Thus, a goal of studying NOMPC is to reveal the underlying mechanism of force-induced gating, which could serve as a paradigm of the tether model. NOMPC fulfils all the criteria that apply to mechanotransduction channels and has 29 ankyrin repeats, the largest number among TRP channels. A key question is how the long ankyrin repeat domain is organized as a tether that can trigger channel gating. Here we present a de novo atomic structure of Drosophila NOMPC determined by single-particle electron cryo-microscopy. Structural analysis suggests that the ankyrin repeat domain of NOMPC resembles a helical spring, suggesting its role of linking mechanical displacement of the cytoskeleton to the opening of the channel. The NOMPC architecture underscores the basis of translating mechanical force into an electrical signal within a cell.






Astrophysics: Stellar siblings grow closer with age

2017-06-21

High-mass stars often pair up to form binary systems. Observations reveal that the stars in such systems are born farther apart than was formerly thought, casting fresh light on an enduring debate about star formation.



Molecular biology: A liquid reservoir for silent chromatin

2017-06-21

The protein HP1 mediates compaction of DNA into a repressive structure called heterochromatin. Analysis reveals that HP1 has liquid-like properties, offering a fresh perspective on genome organization.



Infectious diseases: Predictions of virus spillover across species

2017-06-21

Most human infectious diseases are initially transmitted from animals. An analysis of all known mammalian viruses improves our understanding of such cross-species spillover, with potential benefits for public health.



Immunology: The patterns of T-cell target recognition

2017-06-21

The binding of T-cell receptors to peptide molecules not normally present in the body can trigger an immune response. Predicting which peptide a T-cell receptor will bind to — a difficult feat — has now been achieved.



Immunology: Gut sensor halts viral attack

2017-06-21

Intestinal infection with rotavirus is a major cause of diarrhoea in infants, and can be fatal. The identification of immune sensor proteins that detect and restrict this viral infection now illuminates the body's defence system.



Catalytic allylic oxidation of internal alkenes to a multifunctional chiral building block

2017-06-21

The stereoselective oxidation of hydrocarbons is one of the most notable advances in synthetic chemistry over the past fifty years. Inspired by nature, enantioselective dihydroxylations, epoxidations and other oxidations of unsaturated hydrocarbons have been developed. More recently, the catalytic enantioselective allylic carbon–hydrogen oxidation of alkenes has streamlined the production of pharmaceuticals, natural products, fine chemicals and other functional materials. Allylic functionalization provides a direct path to chiral building blocks with a newly formed stereocentre from petrochemical feedstocks while preserving the olefin functionality as a handle for further chemical elaboration. Various metal-based catalysts have been discovered for the enantioselective allylic carbon–hydrogen oxidation of simple alkenes with cyclic or terminal double bonds. However, a general and selective allylic oxidation using the more common internal alkenes remains elusive. Here we report the enantioselective, regioselective and E/Z-selective allylic oxidation of unactivated internal alkenes via a catalytic hetero-ene reaction with a chalcogen-based oxidant. Our method enables non-symmetric internal alkenes to be selectively converted into allylic functionalized products with high stereoselectivity and regioselectivity. Stereospecific transformations of the resulting multifunctional chiral building blocks highlight the potential for rapidly converting internal alkenes into a broad range of enantioenriched structures that can be used in the synthesis of complex target molecules.



Quantifiable predictive features define epitope-specific T cell receptor repertoires

2017-06-21

T cells are defined by a heterodimeric surface receptor, the T cell receptor (TCR), that mediates recognition of pathogen-associated epitopes through interactions with peptide and major histocompatibility complexes (pMHCs). TCRs are generated by genomic rearrangement of the germline TCR locus, a process termed V(D)J recombination, that has the potential to generate marked diversity of TCRs (estimated to range from 1015 (ref. 1) to as high as 1061 (ref. 2) possible receptors). Despite this potential diversity, TCRs from T cells that recognize the same pMHC epitope often share conserved sequence features, suggesting that it may be possible to predictively model epitope specificity. Here we report the in-depth characterization of ten epitope-specific TCR repertoires of CD8+ T cells from mice and humans, representing over 4,600 in-frame single-cell-derived TCRαβ sequence pairs from 110 subjects. We developed analytical tools to characterize these epitope-specific repertoires: a distance measure on the space of TCRs that permits clustering and visualization, a robust repertoire diversity metric that accommodates the low number of paired public receptors observed when compared to single-chain analyses, and a distance-based classifier that can assign previously unobserved TCRs to characterized repertoires with robust sensitivity and specificity. Our analyses demonstrate that each epitope-specific repertoire contains a clustered group of receptors that share core sequence similarities, together with a dispersed set of diverse ‘outlier’ sequences. By identifying shared motifs in core sequences, we were able to highlight key conserved residues driving essential elements of TCR recognition. These analyses provide insights into the generalizable, underlying features of epitope-specific repertoires and adaptive immune recognition.



Identifying specificity groups in the T cell receptor repertoire

2017-06-21

T cell receptor (TCR) sequences are very diverse, with many more possible sequence combinations than T cells in any one individual. Here we define the minimal requirements for TCR antigen specificity, through an analysis of TCR sequences using a panel of peptide and major histocompatibility complex (pMHC)-tetramer-sorted cells and structural data. From this analysis we developed an algorithm that we term GLIPH (grouping of lymphocyte interactions by paratope hotspots) to cluster TCRs with a high probability of sharing specificity owing to both conserved motifs and global similarity of complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3) sequences. We show that GLIPH can reliably group TCRs of common specificity from different donors, and that conserved CDR3 motifs help to define the TCR clusters that are often contact points with the antigenic peptides. As an independent validation, we analysed 5,711 TCRβ chain sequences from reactive CD4 T cells from 22 individuals with latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. We found 141 TCR specificity groups, including 16 distinct groups containing TCRs from multiple individuals. These TCR groups typically shared HLA alleles, allowing prediction of the likely HLA restriction, and a large number of M. tuberculosis T cell epitopes enabled us to identify pMHC ligands for all five of the groups tested. Mutagenesis and de novo TCR design confirmed that the GLIPH-identified motifs were critical and sufficient for shared-antigen recognition. Thus the GLIPH algorithm can analyse large numbers of TCR sequences and define TCR specificity groups shared by TCRs and individuals, which should greatly accelerate the analysis of T cell responses and expedite the identification of specific ligands.



Crystal structure of the potassium-importing KdpFABC membrane complex

2017-06-21

Cellular potassium import systems play a fundamental role in osmoregulation, pH homeostasis and membrane potential in all domains of life. In bacteria, the kdp operon encodes a four-subunit potassium pump that maintains intracellular homeostasis, cell shape and turgor under conditions in which potassium is limiting. This membrane complex, called KdpFABC, has one channel-like subunit (KdpA) belonging to the superfamily of potassium transporters and another pump-like subunit (KdpB) belonging to the superfamily of P-type ATPases. Although there is considerable structural and functional information about members of both superfamilies, the mechanism by which uphill potassium transport through KdpA is coupled with ATP hydrolysis by KdpB remains poorly understood. Here we report the 2.9 Å X-ray structure of the complete Escherichia coli KdpFABC complex with a potassium ion within the selectivity filter of KdpA and a water molecule at a canonical cation site in the transmembrane domain of KdpB. The structure also reveals two structural elements that appear to mediate the coupling between these two subunits. Specifically, a protein-embedded tunnel runs between these potassium and water sites and a helix controlling the cytoplasmic gate of KdpA is linked to the phosphorylation domain of KdpB. On the basis of these observations, we propose a mechanism that repurposes protein channel architecture for active transport across biomembranes.



Trans-kingdom mimicry underlies ribosome customization by a poxvirus kinase

2017-06-21

Ribosomes have the capacity to selectively control translation through changes in their composition that enable recognition of specific RNA elements. However, beyond differential subunit expression during development, evidence for regulated ribosome specification within individual cells has remained elusive. Here we report that a poxvirus kinase phosphorylates serine/threonine residues in the human small ribosomal subunit protein, receptor for activated C kinase (RACK1), that are not phosphorylated in uninfected cells or cells infected by other viruses. These modified residues cluster in an extended loop in RACK1, phosphorylation of which selects for translation of viral or reporter mRNAs with 5′ untranslated regions that contain adenosine repeats, so-called polyA-leaders. Structural and phylogenetic analyses revealed that although RACK1 is highly conserved, this loop is variable and contains negatively charged amino acids in plants, in which these leaders act as translational enhancers. Phosphomimetics and inter-species chimaeras have shown that negative charge in the RACK1 loop dictates ribosome selectivity towards viral RNAs. By converting human RACK1 to a charged, plant-like state, poxviruses remodel host ribosomes so that adenosine repeats erroneously generated by slippage of the viral RNA polymerase confer a translational advantage. Our findings provide insight into ribosome customization through trans-kingdom mimicry and the mechanics of species-specific leader activity that underlie poxvirus polyA-leaders.



Liquid droplet formation by HP1α suggests a role for phase separation in heterochromatin

2017-06-21

Gene silencing by heterochromatin is proposed to occur in part as a result of the ability of heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) proteins to spread across large regions of the genome, compact the underlying chromatin and recruit diverse ligands. Here we identify a new property of the human HP1α protein: the ability to form phase-separated droplets. While unmodified HP1α is soluble, either phosphorylation of its N-terminal extension or DNA binding promotes the formation of phase-separated droplets. Phosphorylation-driven phase separation can be promoted or reversed by specific HP1α ligands. Known components of heterochromatin such as nucleosomes and DNA preferentially partition into the HP1α droplets, but molecules such as the transcription factor TFIIB show no preference. Using a single-molecule DNA curtain assay, we find that both unmodified and phosphorylated HP1α induce rapid compaction of DNA strands into puncta, although with different characteristics. We show by direct protein delivery into mammalian cells that an HP1α mutant incapable of phase separation in vitro forms smaller and fewer nuclear puncta than phosphorylated HP1α. These findings suggest that heterochromatin-mediated gene silencing may occur in part through sequestration of compacted chromatin in phase-separated HP1 droplets, which are dissolved or formed by specific ligands on the basis of nuclear context.



Selective sp3 C–H alkylation via polarity-match-based cross-coupling

2017-06-21

The functionalization of carbon–hydrogen (C–H) bonds is one of the most attractive strategies for molecular construction in organic chemistry. The hydrogen atom is considered to be an ideal coupling handle, owing to its relative abundance in organic molecules and its availability for functionalization at almost any stage in a synthetic sequence. Although many C–H functionalization reactions involve C(sp3)–C(sp2) coupling, there is a growing demand for C–H alkylation reactions, wherein sp3 C–H bonds are replaced with sp3 C–alkyl groups. Here we describe a polarity-match-based selective sp3 C–H alkylation via the combination of photoredox, nickel and hydrogen-atom transfer catalysis. This methodology simultaneously uses three catalytic cycles to achieve hydridic C–H bond abstraction (enabled by polarity matching), alkyl halide oxidative addition, and reductive elimination to enable alkyl–alkyl fragment coupling. The sp3 C–H alkylation is highly selective for the α-C–H of amines, ethers and sulphides, which are commonly found in pharmaceutically relevant architectures. This cross-coupling protocol should enable broad synthetic applications in de novo synthesis and late-stage functionalization chemistry.



Host and viral traits predict zoonotic spillover from mammals

2017-06-21

The majority of human emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, with viruses that originate in wild mammals of particular concern (for example, HIV, Ebola and SARS). Understanding patterns of viral diversity in wildlife and determinants of successful cross-species transmission, or spillover, are therefore key goals for pandemic surveillance programs. However, few analytical tools exist to identify which host species are likely to harbour the next human virus, or which viruses can cross species boundaries. Here we conduct a comprehensive analysis of mammalian host–virus relationships and show that both the total number of viruses that infect a given species and the proportion likely to be zoonotic are predictable. After controlling for research effort, the proportion of zoonotic viruses per species is predicted by phylogenetic relatedness to humans, host taxonomy and human population within a species range—which may reflect human–wildlife contact. We demonstrate that bats harbour a significantly higher proportion of zoonotic viruses than all other mammalian orders. We also identify the taxa and geographic regions with the largest estimated number of ‘missing viruses’ and ‘missing zoonoses’ and therefore of highest value for future surveillance. We then show that phylogenetic host breadth and other viral traits are significant predictors of zoonotic potential, providing a novel framework to assess if a newly discovered mammalian virus could infect people.



Surface tension prevails over solute effect in organic-influenced cloud droplet activation

2017-06-21

The spontaneous growth of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) into cloud droplets under supersaturated water vapour conditions is described by classic Köhler theory. This spontaneous activation of CCN depends on the interplay between the Raoult effect, whereby activation potential increases with decreasing water activity or increasing solute concentration, and the Kelvin effect, whereby activation potential decreases with decreasing droplet size or increases with decreasing surface tension, which is sensitive to surfactants. Surface tension lowering caused by organic surfactants, which diminishes the Kelvin effect, is expected to be negated by a concomitant reduction in the Raoult effect, driven by the displacement of surfactant molecules from the droplet bulk to the droplet–vapour interface. Here we present observational and theoretical evidence illustrating that, in ambient air, surface tension lowering can prevail over the reduction in the Raoult effect, leading to substantial increases in cloud droplet concentrations. We suggest that consideration of liquid–liquid phase separation, leading to complete or partial engulfing of a hygroscopic particle core by a hydrophobic organic-rich phase, can explain the lack of concomitant reduction of the Raoult effect, while maintaining substantial lowering of surface tension, even for partial surface coverage. Apart from the importance of particle size and composition in droplet activation, we show by observation and modelling that incorporation of phase-separation effects into activation thermodynamics can lead to a CCN number concentration that is up to ten times what is predicted by climate models, changing the properties of clouds. An adequate representation of the CCN activation process is essential to the prediction of clouds in climate models, and given the effect of clouds on the Earth’s energy balance, improved prediction of aerosol–cloud–climate interactions is likely to result in improved assessments of future climate change.



Hidden morphological diversity among early tetrapods

2017-06-21

Phylogenetic analysis of early tetrapod evolution has resulted in a consensus across diverse data sets in which the tetrapod stem group is a relatively homogenous collection of medium- to large-sized animals showing a progressive loss of ‘fish’ characters as they become increasingly terrestrial, whereas the crown group demonstrates marked morphological diversity and disparity. The oldest fossil attributed to the tetrapod crown group is the highly specialized aïstopod Lethiscus stocki, which shows a small size, extreme axial elongation, loss of limbs, spool-shaped vertebral centra, and a skull with reduced centres of ossification, in common with an otherwise disparate group of small animals known as lepospondyls. Here we use micro-computed tomography of the only known specimen of Lethiscus to provide new information that strongly challenges this consensus. Digital dissection reveals extremely primitive cranial morphology, including a spiracular notch, a large remnant of the notochord within the braincase, an open ventral cranial fissure, an anteriorly restricted parasphenoid element, and Meckelian ossifications. The braincase is elongate and lies atop a dorsally projecting septum of the parasphenoid bone, similar to stem tetrapods such as embolomeres. This morphology is consistent in a second aïstopod, Coloraderpeton, although the details differ. Phylogenetic analysis, including critical new braincase data, places aïstopods deep on the tetrapod stem, whereas another major lepospondyl lineage is displaced into the amniotes. These results show that stem group tetrapods were much more diverse in their body plans than previously thought. Our study requires a change in commonly used calibration dates for molecular analyses, and emphasizes the importance of character sampling for early tetrapod evolutionary relationships.



Phase separation drives heterochromatin domain formation

2017-06-21

Constitutive heterochromatin is an important component of eukaryotic genomes that has essential roles in nuclear architecture, DNA repair and genome stability, and silencing of transposon and gene expression. Heterochromatin is highly enriched for repetitive sequences, and is defined epigenetically by methylation of histone H3 at lysine 9 and recruitment of its binding partner heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1). A prevalent view of heterochromatic silencing is that these and associated factors lead to chromatin compaction, resulting in steric exclusion of regulatory proteins such as RNA polymerase from the underlying DNA. However, compaction alone does not account for the formation of distinct, multi-chromosomal, membrane-less heterochromatin domains within the nucleus, fast diffusion of proteins inside the domain, and other dynamic features of heterochromatin. Here we present data that support an alternative hypothesis: that the formation of heterochromatin domains is mediated by phase separation, a phenomenon that gives rise to diverse non-membrane-bound nuclear, cytoplasmic and extracellular compartments. We show that Drosophila HP1a protein undergoes liquid–liquid demixing in vitro, and nucleates into foci that display liquid properties during the first stages of heterochromatin domain formation in early Drosophila embryos. Furthermore, in both Drosophila and mammalian cells, heterochromatin domains exhibit dynamics that are characteristic of liquid phase-separation, including sensitivity to the disruption of weak hydrophobic interactions, and reduced diffusion, increased coordinated movement and inert probe exclusion at the domain boundary. We conclude that heterochromatic domains form via phase separation, and mature into a structure that includes liquid and stable compartments. We propose that emergent biophysical properties associated with phase-separated systems are critical to understanding the unusual behaviours of heterochromatin, and how chromatin domains in general regulate essential nuclear functions.



T cells from patients with Parkinson’s disease recognize α-synuclein peptides

2017-06-21

Genetic studies have shown the association of Parkinson’s disease with alleles of the major histocompatibility complex. Here we show that a defined set of peptides that are derived from α-synuclein, a protein aggregated in Parkinson’s disease, act as antigenic epitopes displayed by these alleles and drive helper and cytotoxic T cell responses in patients with Parkinson’s disease. These responses may explain the association of Parkinson’s disease with specific major histocompatibility complex alleles.



Nlrp9b inflammasome restricts rotavirus infection in intestinal epithelial cells

2017-06-21

Rotavirus, a leading cause of severe gastroenteritis and diarrhoea in young children, accounts for around 215,000 deaths annually worldwide. Rotavirus specifically infects the intestinal epithelial cells in the host small intestine and has evolved strategies to antagonize interferon and NF-κB signalling, raising the question as to whether other host factors participate in antiviral responses in intestinal mucosa. The mechanism by which enteric viruses are sensed and restricted in vivo, especially by NOD-like receptor (NLR) inflammasomes, is largely unknown. Here we uncover and mechanistically characterize the NLR Nlrp9b that is specifically expressed in intestinal epithelial cells and restricts rotavirus infection. Our data show that, via RNA helicase Dhx9, Nlrp9b recognizes short double-stranded RNA stretches and forms inflammasome complexes with the adaptor proteins Asc and caspase-1 to promote the maturation of interleukin (Il)-18 and gasdermin D (Gsdmd)-induced pyroptosis. Conditional depletion of Nlrp9b or other inflammasome components in the intestine in vivo resulted in enhanced susceptibility of mice to rotavirus replication. Our study highlights an important innate immune signalling pathway that functions in intestinal epithelial cells and may present useful targets in the modulation of host defences against viral pathogens.



Observation of three-component fermions in the topological semimetal molybdenum phosphide

2017-06-19

In quantum field theory, Lorentz invariance leads to three types of fermion—Dirac, Weyl and Majorana. Although the existence of Weyl and Majorana fermions as elementary particles in high-energy physics is debated, all three types of fermion have been proposed to exist as low-energy, long-wavelength quasiparticle excitations in condensed-matter systems. The existence of Dirac and Weyl fermions in condensed-matter systems has been confirmed experimentally, and that of Majorana fermions is supported by various experiments. However, in condensed-matter systems, fermions in crystals are constrained by the symmetries of the 230 crystal space groups rather than by Lorentz invariance, giving rise to the possibility of finding other types of fermionic excitation that have no counterparts in high-energy physics. Here we use angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to demonstrate the existence of a triply degenerate point in the electronic structure of crystalline molybdenum phosphide. Quasiparticle excitations near a triply degenerate point are three-component fermions, beyond the conventional Dirac–Weyl–Majorana classification, which attributes Dirac and Weyl fermions to four- and two-fold degenerate points, respectively. We also observe pairs of Weyl points in the bulk electronic structure of the crystal that coexist with the three-component fermions. This material thus represents a platform for studying the interplay between different types of fermions. Our experimental discovery opens up a way of exploring the new physics of unconventional fermions in condensed-matter systems.



Particle physics: No sign of asymmetry in the strong force

2017-06-14

The strong force binds the constituents of nuclei together. Differences between the force's fundamental interactions and their mirror images were thought to have been observed in heavy-ion collisions, but new data challenge this picture.



Bacterial pathogens: A spoonful of sugar could be the medicine

2017-06-14

Pili are filamentous bacterial structures that promote adhesion to host cells. It emerges that a small molecule that inhibits this adhesion can prevent colonization of the mouse gut by a pathogenic bacterium.



Neuroinflammation: Synapses pruned in lupus

2017-06-14

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause brain dysfunction. Studies in mouse models of lupus find that interferon proteins can cause the brain's immune cells to trim the synaptic connections between neurons.



Homeostatic circuits selectively gate food cue responses in insular cortex

2017-06-14

A combination of microprism-based cellular imaging to monitor insular cortex visual cue responses in behaving mice across hunger states with circuit mapping and manipulations reveals a neural basis for state-specific biased processing of motivationally relevant cues.



Microglia-dependent synapse loss in type I interferon-mediated lupus

2017-06-14

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an incurable autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody deposition in tissues such as kidney, skin and lungs. Notably, up to 75% of patients with SLE experience neuropsychiatric symptoms that range from anxiety, depression and cognitive impairment to seizures and, in rare cases, psychosis—collectively this is referred to as central nervous system (CNS) lupus. In some cases, certain autoantibodies, such as anti-NMDAR or anti-phospholipid antibodies, promote CNS lupus. However, in most patients, the mechanisms that underlie these symptoms are unknown. CNS lupus typically presents at lupus diagnosis or within the first year, suggesting that early factors contributing to peripheral autoimmunity may promote CNS lupus symptoms. Here we report behavioural phenotypes and synapse loss in lupus-prone mice that are prevented by blocking type I interferon (IFN) signalling. Furthermore, we show that type I IFN stimulates microglia to become reactive and engulf neuronal and synaptic material in lupus-prone mice. These findings and our observation of increased type I IFN signalling in post-mortem hippocampal brain sections from patients with SLE may instruct the evaluation of ongoing clinical trials of anifrolumab, a type I IFN-receptor antagonist. Moreover, identification of IFN-driven microglia-dependent synapse loss, along with microglia transcriptome data, connects CNS lupus with other CNS diseases and provides an explanation for the neurological symptoms observed in some patients with SLE.



BAP1 regulates IP3R3-mediated Ca2+ flux to mitochondria suppressing cell transformation

2017-06-14

BRCA1-associated protein 1 (BAP1) is a potent tumour suppressor gene that modulates environmental carcinogenesis. All carriers of inherited heterozygous germline BAP1-inactivating mutations (BAP1+/−) developed one and often several BAP1−/− malignancies in their lifetime, mostly malignant mesothelioma, uveal melanoma, and so on. Moreover, BAP1-acquired biallelic mutations are frequent in human cancers. BAP1 tumour suppressor activity has been attributed to its nuclear localization, where it helps to maintain genome integrity. The possible activity of BAP1 in the cytoplasm is unknown. Cells with reduced levels of BAP1 exhibit chromosomal abnormalities and decreased DNA repair by homologous recombination, indicating that BAP1 dosage is critical. Cells with extensive DNA damage should die and not grow into malignancies. Here we discover that BAP1 localizes at the endoplasmic reticulum. Here, it binds, deubiquitylates, and stabilizes type 3 inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP3R3), modulating calcium (Ca2+) release from the endoplasmic reticulum into the cytosol and mitochondria, promoting apoptosis. Reduced levels of BAP1 in BAP1+/− carriers cause reduction both of IP3R3 levels and of Ca2+ flux, preventing BAP1+/− cells that accumulate DNA damage from executing apoptosis. A higher fraction of cells exposed to either ionizing or ultraviolet radiation, or to asbestos, survive genotoxic stress, resulting in a higher rate of cellular transformation. We propose that the high incidence of cancers in BAP1+/− carriers results from the combined reduced nuclear and cytoplasmic activities of BAP1. Our data provide a mechanistic rationale for the powerful ability of BAP1 to regulate gene–environment interaction in human carcinogenesis.



ERF mutations reveal a balance of ETS factors controlling prostate oncogenesis

2017-06-14

Half of all prostate cancers are caused by the TMPRSS2–ERG gene-fusion, which enables androgens to drive expression of the normally silent E26 transformation-specific (ETS) transcription factor ERG in prostate cells. Recent genomic landscape studies of such cancers have reported recurrent point mutations and focal deletions of another ETS member, the ETS2 repressor factor ERF. Here we show these ERF mutations cause decreased protein stability and mostly occur in tumours without ERG upregulation. ERF loss recapitulates the morphological and phenotypic features of ERG gain in normal mouse prostate cells, including expansion of the androgen receptor transcriptional repertoire, and ERF has tumour suppressor activity in the same genetic background of Pten loss that yields oncogenic activity by ERG. In the more common scenario of ERG upregulation, chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing indicates that ERG inhibits the ability of ERF to bind DNA at consensus ETS sites both in normal and in cancerous prostate cells. Consistent with a competition model, ERF overexpression blocks ERG-dependent tumour growth, and ERF loss rescues TMPRSS2–ERG-positive prostate cancer cells from ERG dependency. Collectively, these data provide evidence that the oncogenicity of ERG is mediated, in part, by competition with ERF and they raise the larger question of whether other gain-of-function oncogenic transcription factors might also inactivate endogenous tumour suppressors.



Multilineage communication regulates human liver bud development from pluripotency

2017-06-14

Conventional two-dimensional differentiation from pluripotency fails to recapitulate cell interactions occurring during organogenesis. Three-dimensional organoids generate complex organ-like tissues; however, it is unclear how heterotypic interactions affect lineage identity. Here we use single-cell RNA sequencing to reconstruct hepatocyte-like lineage progression from pluripotency in two-dimensional culture. We then derive three-dimensional liver bud organoids by reconstituting hepatic, stromal, and endothelial interactions, and deconstruct heterogeneity during liver bud development. We find that liver bud hepatoblasts diverge from the two-dimensional lineage, and express epithelial migration signatures characteristic of organ budding. We benchmark three-dimensional liver buds against fetal and adult human liver single-cell RNA sequencing data, and find a striking correspondence between the three-dimensional liver bud and fetal liver cells. We use a receptor–ligand pairing analysis and a high-throughput inhibitor assay to interrogate signalling in liver buds, and show that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) crosstalk potentiates endothelial network formation and hepatoblast differentiation. Our molecular dissection reveals interlineage communication regulating organoid development, and illuminates previously inaccessible aspects of human liver development.



Histone deacetylase 3 prepares brown adipose tissue for acute thermogenic challenge

2017-06-14

Brown adipose tissue is a thermogenic organ that dissipates chemical energy as heat to protect animals against hypothermia and to counteract metabolic disease. However, the transcriptional mechanisms that determine the thermogenic capacity of brown adipose tissue before environmental cold are unknown. Here we show that histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3) is required to activate brown adipose tissue enhancers to ensure thermogenic aptitude. Mice with brown adipose tissue-specific genetic ablation of HDAC3 become severely hypothermic and succumb to acute cold exposure. Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) is nearly absent in brown adipose tissue lacking HDAC3, and there is also marked downregulation of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation genes resulting in diminished mitochondrial respiration. Remarkably, although HDAC3 acts canonically as a transcriptional corepressor, it functions as a coactivator of oestrogen-related receptor α (ERRα) in brown adipose tissue. HDAC3 coactivation of ERRα is mediated by deacetylation of PGC-1α and is required for the transcription of Ucp1, Ppargc1a (encoding PGC-1α), and oxidative phosphorylation genes. Importantly, HDAC3 promotes the basal transcription of these genes independently of adrenergic stimulation. Thus, HDAC3 uniquely primes Ucp1 and the thermogenic transcriptional program to maintain a critical capacity for thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue that can be rapidly engaged upon exposure to dangerously cold temperature.



PTEN counteracts FBXL2 to promote IP3R3- and Ca2+-mediated apoptosis limiting tumour growth

2017-06-14

In response to environmental cues that promote IP3 (inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate) generation, IP3 receptors (IP3Rs) located on the endoplasmic reticulum allow the ‘quasisynaptical’ feeding of calcium to the mitochondria to promote oxidative phosphorylation. However, persistent Ca2+ release results in mitochondrial Ca2+ overload and consequent apoptosis. Among the three mammalian IP3Rs, IP3R3 appears to be the major player in Ca2+-dependent apoptosis. Here we show that the F-box protein FBXL2 (the receptor subunit of one of 69 human SCF (SKP1, CUL1, F-box protein) ubiquitin ligase complexes) binds IP3R3 and targets it for ubiquitin-, p97- and proteasome-mediated degradation to limit Ca2+ influx into mitochondria. FBXL2-knockdown cells and FBXL2-insensitive IP3R3 mutant knock-in clones display increased cytosolic Ca2+ release from the endoplasmic reticulum and sensitization to Ca2+-dependent apoptotic stimuli. The phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN) gene is frequently mutated or lost in human tumours and syndromes that predispose individuals to cancer. We found that PTEN competes with FBXL2 for IP3R3 binding, and the FBXL2-dependent degradation of IP3R3 is accelerated in Pten−/− mouse embryonic fibroblasts and PTEN-null cancer cells. Reconstitution of PTEN-null cells with either wild-type PTEN or a catalytically dead mutant stabilizes IP3R3 and induces persistent Ca2+ mobilization and apoptosis. IP3R3 and PTEN protein levels directly correlate in human prostate cancer. Both in cell culture and xenograft models, a non-degradable IP3R3 mutant sensitizes tumour cells with low or no PTEN expression to photodynamic therapy, which is based on the ability of photosensitizer drugs to cause Ca2+-dependent cytotoxicity after irradiation with visible light. Similarly, disruption of FBXL2 localization with GGTi-2418, a geranylgeranyl transferase inhibitor, sensitizes xenotransplanted tumours to photodynamic therapy. In summary, we identify a novel molecular mechanism that limits mitochondrial Ca2+ overload to prevent cell death. Notably, we provide proof-of-principle that inhibiting IP3R3 degradation in PTEN-deregulated cancers represents a valid therapeutic strategy.



Human fetal dendritic cells promote prenatal T-cell immune suppression through arginase-2

2017-06-14

During gestation the developing human fetus is exposed to a diverse range of potentially immune-stimulatory molecules including semi-allogeneic antigens from maternal cells, substances from ingested amniotic fluid, food antigens, and microbes. Yet the capacity of the fetal immune system, including antigen-presenting cells, to detect and respond to such stimuli remains unclear. In particular, dendritic cells, which are crucial for effective immunity and tolerance, remain poorly characterized in the developing fetus. Here we show that subsets of antigen-presenting cells can be identified in fetal tissues and are related to adult populations of antigen-presenting cells. Similar to adult dendritic cells, fetal dendritic cells migrate to lymph nodes and respond to toll-like receptor ligation; however, they differ markedly in their response to allogeneic antigens, strongly promoting regulatory T-cell induction and inhibiting T-cell tumour-necrosis factor-α production through arginase-2 activity. Our results reveal a previously unappreciated role of dendritic cells within the developing fetus and indicate that they mediate homeostatic immune-suppressive responses during gestation.



Selective depletion of uropathogenic E. coli from the gut by a FimH antagonist

2017-06-14

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) affect 150 million people annually. Despite effective antibiotic therapy, 30–50% of patients experience recurrent UTIs. In addition, the growing prevalence of UPEC that are resistant to last-line antibiotic treatments, and more recently to carbapenems and colistin, make UTI a prime example of the antibiotic-resistance crisis and emphasize the need for new approaches to treat and prevent bacterial infections. UPEC strains establish reservoirs in the gut from which they are shed in the faeces, and can colonize the periurethral area or vagina and subsequently ascend through the urethra to the urinary tract, where they cause UTIs. UPEC isolates encode up to 16 distinct chaperone-usher pathway pili, and each pilus type may enable colonization of a habitat in the host or environment. For example, the type 1 pilus adhesin FimH binds mannose on the bladder surface, and mediates colonization of the bladder. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying UPEC persistence in the gut. Here, using a mouse model, we show that F17-like and type 1 pili promote intestinal colonization and show distinct binding to epithelial cells distributed along colonic crypts. Phylogenomic and structural analyses reveal that F17-like pili are closely related to pilus types carried by intestinal pathogens, but are restricted to extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli. Moreover, we show that targeting FimH with M4284, a high-affinity inhibitory mannoside, reduces intestinal colonization of genetically diverse UPEC isolates, while simultaneously treating UTI, without notably disrupting the structural configuration of the gut microbiota. By selectively depleting intestinal UPEC reservoirs, mannosides could markedly reduce the rate of UTIs and recurrent UTIs.






Improved maize reference genome with single-molecule technologies

2017-06-12

Complete and accurate reference genomes and annotations provide fundamental tools for characterization of genetic and functional variation. These resources facilitate the determination of biological processes and support translation of research findings into improved and sustainable agricultural technologies. Many reference genomes for crop plants have been generated over the past decade, but these genomes are often fragmented and missing complex repeat regions. Here we report the assembly and annotation of a reference genome of maize, a genetic and agricultural model species, using single-molecule real-time sequencing and high-resolution optical mapping. Relative to the previous reference genome, our assembly features a 52-fold increase in contig length and notable improvements in the assembly of intergenic spaces and centromeres. Characterization of the repetitive portion of the genome revealed more than 130,000 intact transposable elements, allowing us to identify transposable element lineage expansions that are unique to maize. Gene annotations were updated using 111,000 full-length transcripts obtained by single-molecule real-time sequencing. In addition, comparative optical mapping of two other inbred maize lines revealed a prevalence of deletions in regions of low gene density and maize lineage-specific genes.



Vision: These retinas are made for walkin'

2017-06-07

Measurements of the activity of neurons called direction-selective ganglion cells in the mouse retina explain how visual motion encoded by the eye maps onto body movements such as walking.



Single-molecule analysis of ligand efficacy in β2AR–G-protein activation

2017-06-07

Single-molecule FRET imaging provides insights into the allosteric link between the ligand-binding and G-protein nucleotide-binding pockets of the β2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR) and improved understanding of the G-protein activation mechanism.



Exosomes facilitate therapeutic targeting of oncogenic KRAS in pancreatic cancer

2017-06-07

Exosomes improve the delivery of siRNA to mutant KRAS in the pancreatic tumours and bypass immune clearance better than artificial liposomes, probably owing to enhanced macropinocytocis and presence of CD47 on exosomes, respectively.



A retinal code for motion along the gravitational and body axes

2017-06-07

Global mapping shows that mouse retinal neurons prefer visual motion produced when the animal moves along two behaviourally relevant axes, allowing the encoding of the animal’s every translation and rotation.



A giant planet undergoing extreme-ultraviolet irradiation by its hot massive-star host

2017-06-05

The amount of ultraviolet irradiation and ablation experienced by a planet depends strongly on the temperature of its host star. Of the thousands of extrasolar planets now known, only six have been found that transit hot, A-type stars (with temperatures of 7,300–10,000 kelvin), and no planets are known to transit the even hotter B-type stars. For example, WASP-33 is an A-type star with a temperature of about 7,430 kelvin, which hosts the hottest known transiting planet, WASP-33b (ref. 1); the planet is itself as hot as a red dwarf star of type M (ref. 2). WASP-33b displays a large heat differential between its dayside and nightside, and is highly inflated–traits that have been linked to high insolation. However, even at the temperature of its dayside, its atmosphere probably resembles the molecule-dominated atmospheres of other planets and, given the level of ultraviolet irradiation it experiences, its atmosphere is unlikely to be substantially ablated over the lifetime of its star. Here we report observations of the bright star HD 195689 (also known as KELT-9), which reveal a close-in (orbital period of about 1.48 days) transiting giant planet, KELT-9b. At approximately 10,170 kelvin, the host star is at the dividing line between stars of type A and B, and we measure the dayside temperature of KELT-9b to be about 4,600 kelvin. This is as hot as stars of stellar type K4 (ref. 5). The molecules in K stars are entirely dissociated, and so the primary sources of opacity in the dayside atmosphere of KELT-9b are probably atomic metals. Furthermore, KELT-9b receives 700 times more extreme-ultraviolet radiation (that is, with wavelengths shorter than 91.2 nanometres) than WASP-33b, leading to a predicted range of mass-loss rates that could leave the planet largely stripped of its envelope during the main-sequence lifetime of the host star.



Structure of the Cpf1 endonuclease R-loop complex after target DNA cleavage

2017-05-31

Cpf1 is an RNA-guided endonuclease that is emerging as a powerful genome-editing tool. Here we provide insight into its DNA-targeting mechanism by determining the structure of Francisella novicida Cpf1 with the triple-stranded R-loop generated after DNA cleavage. The structure reveals the machinery involved in DNA unwinding to form a CRISPR RNA (crRNA)–DNA hybrid and a displaced DNA strand. The protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) is recognized by the PAM-interacting domain. The loop-lysine helix–loop motif in this domain contains three conserved lysine residues that are inserted in a dentate manner into the double-stranded DNA. Unzipping of the double-stranded DNA occurs in a cleft arranged by acidic and hydrophobic residues facilitating the crRNA–DNA hybrid formation. The PAM single-stranded DNA is funnelled towards the nuclease site through a mixed hydrophobic and basic cavity. In this catalytic conformation, the PAM-interacting domain and the helix–loop–helix motif in the REC1 domain adopt a ‘rail’ shape and ‘flap-on’ conformations, respectively, channelling the PAM strand into the cavity. A steric barrier between the RuvC-II and REC1 domains forms the ‘septum’, separating the displaced PAM strand and the crRNA–DNA hybrid, avoiding DNA re-annealing. Mutations in key residues reveal a mechanism linking the PAM and DNA nuclease sites. Analysis of the Cpf1 structures proposes a singular working model of RNA-guided DNA cleavage, suggesting new avenues for redesign of Cpf1.



Structure of the human multidrug transporter ABCG2

2017-05-29

The structure of human ABCG2 bound to an inhibitory antibody using cryo-electron microscopy, representing the first high-resolution structural data of a human multidrug transporter.



The crown-of-thorns starfish genome as a guide for biocontrol of this coral reef pest

2017-04-05

The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS, the Acanthaster planci species group) is a highly fecund predator of reef-building corals throughout the Indo-Pacific region. COTS population outbreaks cause substantial loss of coral cover, diminishing the integrity and resilience of reef ecosystems. Here we sequenced genomes of COTS from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia and Okinawa, Japan to identify gene products that underlie species-specific communication and could potentially be used in biocontrol strategies. We focused on water-borne chemical plumes released from aggregating COTS, which make the normally sedentary starfish become highly active. Peptide sequences detected in these plumes by mass spectrometry are encoded in the COTS genome and expressed in external tissues. The exoproteome released by aggregating COTS consists largely of signalling factors and hydrolytic enzymes, and includes an expanded and rapidly evolving set of starfish-specific ependymin-related proteins. These secreted proteins may be detected by members of a large family of olfactory-receptor-like G-protein-coupled receptors that are expressed externally, sometimes in a sex-specific manner. This study provides insights into COTS-specific communication that may guide the generation of peptide mimetics for use on reefs with COTS outbreaks.



Particle physics: Search for neutrinoless double-β decay

2016-09-21

Neutrinos are much lighter than the other constituents of matter. One explanation for this could be that neutrinos are their own antiparticles and belong to a new class of 'Majorana' particle. An experiment sets strong constraints on this scenario.



Human migration: Climate and the peopling of the world

2016-09-21

The human dispersal out of Africa that populated the world was probably paced by climate changes. This is the inference drawn from computer modelling of climate variability during the time of early human migration.



Cancer: Acidic shield puts a chink in p53's armour

2016-09-14

Underactivity of the transcription factor p53 can lead to tumour development. The discovery that the SET protein binds to and inhibits p53 points to a way to unleash the tumour suppressor's activity.



Evolutionary biology: To mimicry and back again

2016-05-25

Deadly coral snakes warn predators through striking red-black banding. New data confirm that many harmless snakes have evolved to resemble coral snakes, and suggest that the evolution of this Batesian mimicry is not always a one-way street.



Addendum

2015-06-17