Apoptosis activation by cytochrome c release from mitochondria to cytosol is a normal cellular response to mitochondrial damage. Using cellular apoptosis assay, we have found small-molecule apoptosis inhibitors that protect cells from mitochondrial damage. Previously, we reported the discovery of a small molecule, Compound A, which blocks dopaminergic neuron death in a rat model of Parkinson's disease through targeting succinate dehydrogenase subunit B (SDHB) of complex II to protect the integrity of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Here, we report a small molecule, Compound R6, which saves cells from apoptosis via mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)-mediated induction of autophagy. Additionally, we show that Compound R6 protects mitochondrial integrity and respiration after induction of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. Encouragingly, and supporting the potential further application of Compound R6 as a tool for basic and medicinal research, a pharmacokinetics (PK) profiling study showed that Compound R6 is metabolically stable and can pass the blood-brain barrier. Moreover, Compound R6 accumulates in the brain of test animals via intravenous and intraperitoneal administration. Finally, we found that Compound R6 confers significant neuroprotective effects on a rat cerebral ischemia/reperfusion model, demonstrating its potential as a promising drug candidate for neurodegenerative diseases.
The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a lethal yet energetically costly weapon in gram-negative bacteria. Through contraction of a long sheath, the T6SS ejects a few copies of effectors accompanied by hundreds of structural carrier proteins per delivery. The few ejected effectors, however, dictate T6SS functions. It remains elusive how the T6SS ensures effector loading and avoids futile ejection. Here, by systemically mutating the active sites of 3 Vibrio cholerae effectors, TseL, VasX, and VgrG3, we show that the physical presence but not their activities is crucial for T6SS assembly. We constructed catalytic mutants of TseL and VgrG3 and truncated VasX mutants. These mutations abolished the killing of the effector-cognate immunity mutants. We determined that the VasX-mediated antimicrobial activity is solely dependent on the C-terminal colicin domain. Removal of the colicin domain abolished VasX secretion and reduced T6SS assembly, while deletion of the colicin internal loop abolished its toxicity but had little effect on secretion and assembly. The triple effector-inactive mutant maintains an active T6SS that is capable of delivering chimeric VgrG, PAAR, and TseL proteins fused with a cargo nuclease, indicating effector activities are not required for T6SS assembly or penetration into the cytosol of recipient cells. Therefore, by recruiting effectors as critical components for T6SS assembly, it represents an effective onboard checking mechanism that ensures effectors are loaded in place to prevent futile secretion. Our study also demonstrates a detoxified secretion platform by inactivating native effector activities that could translocate engineered cargo proteins via multiple routes.
Glycolytic enzyme phosphoglycerate mutase 1 (PGAM1) plays a critical role in cancer metabolism by coordinating glycolysis and biosynthesis. A well-validated PGAM1 inhibitor, however, has not been reported for treating pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which is one of the deadliest malignancies worldwide. By uncovering the elevated PGAM1 expressions were statistically related to worse prognosis of PDAC in a cohort of 50 patients, we developed a series of allosteric PGAM1 inhibitors by structure-guided optimization. The compound KH3 significantly suppressed proliferation of various PDAC cells by down-regulating the levels of glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration in correlation with PGAM1 expression. Similar to PGAM1 depletion, KH3 dramatically hampered the canonic pathways highly involved in cancer metabolism and development. Additionally, we observed the shared expression profiles of several signature pathways at 12 h after treatment in multiple PDAC primary cells of which the matched patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models responded similarly to KH3 in the 2 wk treatment. The better responses to KH3 in PDXs were associated with higher expression of PGAM1 and longer/stronger suppressions of cancer metabolic pathways. Taken together, our findings demonstrate a strategy of targeting cancer metabolism by PGAM1 inhibition in PDAC. Also, this work provided "proof of concept" for the potential application of metabolic treatment in clinical practice.
Macrophage polarization is critical to inflammation and resolution of inflammation. We previously showed that high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) can engage receptor for advanced glycation end product (RAGE) to directmonocytes to a proinflammatory phenotype characterized by production of type 1 IFN and proinflammatory cytokines. In contrast, HMGB1 plus C1q form a tetramolecular complex cross-linking RAGE and LAIR-1 and directing monocytes to an antiinflammatory phenotype. Lipid mediators, as well as cytokines, help establish a milieu favoring either inflammation or resolution of inflammation. This study focuses on the induction of lipid mediators by HMGB1 and HMGB1 plus C1q and their regulation of IRF5, a transcription factor critical for the induction and maintenance of proinflammatory macrophages. Here, we show that HMGB1 induces leukotriene production through a RAGE-dependent pathway, while HMGB1 plus C1q induces specialized proresolving lipid mediators lipoxin A4, resolvin D1, and resolvin D2 through a RAGE- and LAIR-1-dependent pathway. Leukotriene exposure contributes to induction of IRF5 in a positive-feedback loop. In contrast, resolvins (at 20 nM) block IRF5 induction and prevent the differentiation of inflammatory macrophages. Finally, we have generated a molecular mimic of HMGB1 plus C1q, which crosslinks RAGE and LAIR-1 and polarizes monocytes to an antiinflammatory phenotype. These findings may provide a mechanism to control nonresolving inflammation in many pathologic conditions.
PM20D1 is a candidate thermogenic enzyme in mouse fat, with its expression cold-induced and enriched in brown versus white adipocytes. Thiazolidinedione (TZD) antidiabetic drugs, which activate the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPAR gamma) nuclear receptor, are potent stimuli for adipocyte browning yet fail to induce Pm20d1 expression in mouse adipocytes. In contrast, PM20D1 is one of the most strongly TZD-induced transcripts in human adipocytes, although not in cells from all individuals. Two putative PPAR gamma binding sites exist near the gene's transcription start site (TSS) in human but not mouse adipocytes. The -4 kb upstream site falls in a segmental duplication of a nearly identical intronic region +2.5 kb downstream of the TSS, and this duplication occurred in the primate lineage and not in other mammals, like mice. PPAR gamma binding and gene activation occur via this upstream duplicated site, thus explaining the species difference. Furthermore, this functional upstream PPAR gamma site exhibits genetic variation among people, with 1 SNP allele disrupting a PPAR response element and giving less activation by PPAR gamma and TZDs. In addition to this upstream variant that determines PPAR gamma regulation of PM20D1 in adipocytes, distinct variants downstream of the TSS have strong effects on PM20D1 expression in human fat as well as other tissues. A haplotype of 7 tightly linked downstream SNP alleles is associated with very low PMD201 expression and correspondingly high DNA methylation at the TSS. These PM20D1 low-expression variants may account for human genetic associations in this region with obesity as well as neurodegenerative diseases.
Species assemble into communities through ecological and evolutionary processes. Phylogenetic niche conservatism-the tendency of species to retain ancestral ecological distributions-is thought to influence which species from a regional species pool can persist in a particular environment. We analyzed data for seed plants in China to test hypotheses about the distribution of species within regional floras. Of 16 environmental variables, actual evapotranspiration, minimum temperature of the coldest month, and annual precipitation most strongly influenced regional species richness, phylogenetic dispersion, and phylogenetic diversity for both gymnosperms (cone-bearing plants) and angiosperms (flowering plants). For most evolutionary clades at, and above, the family level, the relationships between metrics of phylogenetic dispersion (i.e., average phylogenetic distance among species), or phylogenetic diversity, and the 3 environmental variables were consistent with the tropical niche conservatism hypothesis, which predicts closer phylogenetic relatedness and reduced phylogenetic diversity with increasing environmental stress. The slopes of the relationships between phylogenetic relatedness and the 3 environmental drivers identified in this analysis were steeper for primarily tropical clades, implying greater niche conservatism, than for primarily temperate clades. These observations suggest that the distributions of seed plants across large-scale environmental gradients in China are constrained by conserved adaptations to the physical environment, i.e., phylogenetic niche conservatism.
The plant circadian clock evolved to increase fitness by synchronizing physiological processes with environmental oscillations. Crop fitness was artificially selected through domestication and breeding, and the circadian clock was identified by both natural and artificial selections as a key to improved fitness. Despite progress in Arabidopsis, our understanding of the crop circadian clock is still limited, impeding its rational improvement for enhanced fitness. To unveil the interactions between the crop circadian clock and various environmental cues, we comprehensively mapped abiotic stress inputs to the soybean circadian clock using a 2-module discovery pipeline. Using the "molecular timetable" method, we computationally surveyed publicly available abiotic stress-related soybean transcriptomes to identify stresses that have strong impacts on the global rhythm. These findings were then experimentally confirmed using a multiplexed RNA sequencing technology. Specific clock components modulated by each stress were further identified. This comprehensive mapping uncovered inputs to the plant circadian clock such as alkaline stress. Moreover, short-term iron deficiency targeted different clock components in soybean and Arabidopsis and thus had opposite effects on the clocks of these 2 species. Comparing soybean varieties with different iron uptake efficiencies suggests that phase modulation might be a mechanism to alleviate iron deficiency symptoms in soybean. These unique responses in soybean demonstrate the need to directly study crop circadian clocks. Our discovery pipeline may serve as a broadly applicable tool to facilitate these explorations.
Epidemiological studies show that maternal diabetes is associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), although the detailed mechanisms remain unclear. The present study aims to investigate the potential effect of maternal diabetes on autism-like behavior in offspring. The results of in vitro study showed that transient hyperglycemia induces persistent reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation with suppressed superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) expression. Additionally, we found that SOD2 suppression is due to oxidative stress-mediated histone methylation and the subsequent dissociation of early growth response 1 (Egr1) on the SOD2 promoter. Furthermore, in vivo rat experiments showed that maternal diabetes induces SOD2 suppression in the amygdala, resulting in autism-like behavior in offspring. SOD2 overexpression restores, while SOD2 knockdown mimics, this effect, indicating that oxidative stress and SOD2 expression play important roles in maternal diabetes-induced autism-like behavior in offspring, while prenatal and postnatal treatment using antioxidants permeable to the blood-brain barrier partly ameliorated this effect. We conclude that maternal diabetes induces autism-like behavior through hyperglycemia-mediated persistent oxidative stress and SOD2 suppression. Here we report a potential mechanism for maternal diabetes-induced ASD.
Primary cilia carry out numerous signaling and sensory functions, and defects in them, "ciliopathies," cause a range of symptoms, including blindness. Understanding of their nanometer-scale ciliary substructures and their disruptions in ciliopathies has been hindered by limitations of conventional microscopic techniques. We have combined cryoelectron tomography, enhanced by subtomogram averaging, with superresolution stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) to define subdomains within the light-sensing rod sensory cilium of mouse retinas and reveal previously unknown substructures formed by resident proteins. Domains are demarcated by structural features such as the axoneme and its connections to the ciliary membrane, and are correlated with molecular markers of subcompartments, including the lumen and walls of the axoneme, the membrane glycocalyx, and the intervening cytoplasm. Within this framework, we report spatial distributions of key proteins in wild-type (WT) mice and the effects on them of genetic deficiencies in 3 models of Bardet-Biedl syndrome.
Many cellular processes are governed by stochastic reaction events. These events do not necessarily occur in single steps of individual molecules, and, conversely, each birth or death of a macromolecule (e.g., protein) could involve several small reaction steps, creating a memory between individual events and thus leading to nonmarkovian reaction kinetics. Characterizing this kinetics is challenging. Here, we develop a systematic approach for a general reaction network with arbitrary intrinsic waiting-time distributions, which includes the stationary generalized chemical-master equation (sgCME), the stationary generalized Fokker-Planck equation, and the generalized linear-noise approximation. The first formulation converts a nonmarkovian issue into a markovian one by introducing effective transition rates (that explicitly decode the effect of molecular memory) for the reactions in an equivalent reaction network with the same substrates but without molecular memory. Nonmarkovian features of the reaction kinetics can be revealed by solving the sgCME. The latter 2 formulations can be used in the fast evaluation of fluctuations. These formulations can have broad applications, and, in particular, they may help us discover new biological knowledge underlying memory effects. When they are applied to generalized stochastic models of gene-expression regulation, we find that molecular memory is in effect equivalent to a feedback and can induce bimodality, fine-tune the expression noise, and induce switch.
We present a theory on the coalescence of 2 spherical liquid droplets that are initially stationary. The evolution of the radius of a liquid neck formed upon coalescence was formulated as an initial value problem and then solved to yield an exact solution without free parameters, with its 2 asymptotic approximations reproducing the well-known scaling relations in the inertially limited viscous and inertial regimes. The viscous-to-inertial crossover observed in previous research is also recovered by the theory, rendering the collapse of data of different viscosities onto a single curve.
Information concerning the dynamics of river meandering is embedded in their planforms. Here, we focus on how bend skewing varies with increasing sinuosity, and how flow direction is embedded in bend skewing. It has often been thought that upstream-skewed bends are dominant within a sufficiently long reach. These bends may allow a reasonable inference as to the direction of flow. Here we consider this issue using 20 reaches of freely meandering alluvial rivers that are in remote locations, generally far from human influence. We find that low-amplitude bends tend to be downstream-, rather than upstream-skewed. Bends with sinuosity greater than 2.6, however, are predominantly upstream-skewed. Of particular interest are the neck cutoffs, all chosen to be relatively recent according to their position related to the main channel: 84% of these are upstream-skewed. Neck cutoffs, which have likely evolved directly from bends of the highest sinuosity, represent the planform feature most likely to have flow direction embedded in them. The field data suggest that meander bends without external forcing such as engineering works tend to evolve from downstream-skewed low-sinuosity bends to upstream-skewed high-sinuosity bends before cutoff. This process can be reproduced, to some extent, using models coupling sedimentary dynamics with flow dynamics.
Antibiotic resistance has become one of the major threats to global health. Photodynamic inactivation (PDI) develops little antibiotic resistance; thus, it becomes a promising strategy in the control of bacterial infection. During a PDI process, light-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage the membrane components, leading to the membrane rupture and bacteria death. Due to the short half-life and reaction radius of ROS, achieving the cell-membrane intercalation of photosensitizers is a key challenge for PDI of bacteria. In this work, a tetraphenylethylenebased discrete organoplatinum(II) metallacycle (1) acts as a photosensitizer with aggregation-induced emission. It self-assembles with a transacting activator of transduction (TAT) peptide-decorated virus coat protein (2) through electrostatic interactions. This assembly (3) exhibits both ROS generation and strong membrane-intercalating ability, resulting in significantly enhanced PDI efficiency against bacteria. By intercalating in the bacterial cell membrane or entering the bacteria, assembly 3 decreases the survival rate of gram-negative Escherichia coli to nearly zero and that of gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus to similar to 30% upon light irradiation. This study has wide implications from the generation of multifunctional nano-materials to the control of bacterial infection, especially for gramnegative bacteria.
Among natural energy resources, methane clathrate has attracted tremendous attention because of its strong relevance to current energy and environment issues. Yet little is known about how the clathrate starts to nucleate and disintegrate at the molecular level, because such microscopic processes are difficult to probe experimentally. Using surface-specific sum-frequency vibrational spectroscopy, we have studied in situ the nucleation and disintegration of methane clathrate embryos at the methane-gas-water interface under high pressure and different temperatures. Before appearance of macroscopic methane clathrate, the interfacial structure undergoes 3 stages as temperature varies, namely, dissolution of methane molecules into water interface, formation of cage-like methane-water complexes, and appearance of microscopic methane clathrate, while the bulk water structure remains unchanged. We find spectral features associated with methane-water complexes emerging in the induction time. The complexes are present over a wide temperature window and act as nuclei for clathrate growth. Their existence in the melt of clathrates explains why melted clathrates can be more readily recrystallized at higher temperature, the so-called "memory effect." Our findings here on the nucleation mechanism of clathrates could provide guidance for rational control of formation and disintegration of clathrates.
Phase transitions in halide perovskites triggered by external stimuli generate significantly different material properties, providing a great opportunity for broad applications. Here, we demonstrate an In-based, charge-ordered (In+/In3+) inorganic halide perovskite with the composition of Cs2In(I)In(III)Cl-6 in which a pressure-driven semiconductor-to-metal phase transition exists. The single crystals, synthesized via a solid-state reaction method, crystallize in a distorted perovskite structure with space group I4/m with a = 17.2604(12) angstrom, c = 11.0113(16) angstrom if both the strong reflections and superstructures are considered. The supercell was further confirmed by rotation electron diffraction measurement. The pressure-induced semiconductor-to-metal phase transition was demonstrated by high-pressure Raman and absorbance spectroscopies and was consistent with theoretical modeling. This type of charge-ordered inorganic halide perovskite with a pressure-induced semiconductor-to-metal phase transition may inspire a range of potential applications.