Natural signaling circuits could be rewired to reprogram cells with pre-determined procedures. However, it is difficult to link cellular signals at will. Here, we describe signal-connectorsa series of RNA devicesthat connect one signal to another signal at the translational level. We use them to either repress or enhance the translation of target genes in response to signals. Application of these devices allows us to construct various logic gates and to incorporate feedback loops into gene networks. They have also been used to rewire a native signaling pathway and even to create novel pathways. Furthermore, logical AND gates based on these devices and integration of multiple signals have been used successfully for identification and redirection of the state of cancer cells. Eventually, the malignant phenotypes of cancers have been reversed by rewiring the oncogenic signaling from promoting to suppressing tumorigenesis. We provide a novel platform for redirecting cellular information.
Cell- or network-driven oscillators underlie motor rhythmicity. The identity of C. elegans oscillators remains unknown. Through cell ablation, electrophysiology, and calcium imaging, we show: (1) forward and backward locomotion is driven by different oscillators; (2) the cholinergic and excitatory A-class motor neurons exhibit intrinsic and oscillatory activity that is sufficient to drive backward locomotion in the absence of premotor interneurons; (3) the UNC-2 P/Q/N high-voltage-activated calcium current underlies A motor neurons oscillation; (4) descending premotor interneurons AVA, via an evolutionarily conserved, mixed gap junction and chemical synapse configuration, exert state-dependent inhibition and potentiation of A motor neurons intrinsic activity to regulate backward locomotion. Thus, motor neurons themselves derive rhythms, which are dually regulated by the descending interneurons to control the reversal motor state. These and previous findings exemplify compression: essential circuit properties are conserved but executed by fewer numbers and layers of neurons in a small locomotor network.
Derivation of human naive cells in the ground state of pluripotency provides promising avenues for developmental biology studies and therapeutic manipulations. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in the establishment and maintenance of human naive pluripotency remain poorly understood. Using the human inducible reprogramming system together with the 5iLAF naive induction strategy, integrative analysis of transcriptional and epigenetic dynamics across the transition from human fibroblasts to naive iPSCs revealed ordered waves of gene network activation sharing signatures with those found during embryonic development from late embryogenesis to pre-implantation stages. More importantly, Transcriptional analysis showed a significant transient reactivation of transcripts with 8-cell-stage-like characteristics in the late stage of reprogramming, suggesting transient activation of gene network with human zygotic genome activation (ZGA)-like signatures during the establishment of naive pluripotency. Together, Dissecting the naIve reprogramming dynamics by integrative analysis improves the understanding of the molecular features involved in the generation of naive pluripotency directly from somatic cells.
RIOK1 has recently been shown to play important roles in cancers, but its posttranslational regulation is largely unknown. Here we report that RIOK1 is methylated at K411 by SETD7 methyltransferase and that lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1) reverses its methylation. The mutated RIOK1 (K411R) that cannot be methylated exhibits a longer half-life than does the methylated RIOK1. FBXO6 specifically interacts with K411-methylated RIOK1 through its FBA domain to induce RIOK1 ubiquitination. Casein kinase 2 (CK2) phosphorylates RIOK1 at T410, which stabilizes RIOK1 by antagonizing K411 methylation and impeding the recruitment of FBXO6 to RIOK1. Functional experiments demonstrate the RIOK1 methylation reduces the tumor growth and metastasis in mice model. Importantly, the protein levels of CK2 and LSD1 show an inverse correlation with FBXO6 and SETD7 expression in human colorectal cancer tissues. Together, this study highlights the importance of a RIOK1 methylation-phosphorylation switch in determining colorectal and gastric cancer development.
During value-based decision making, we often evaluate the value of each option sequentially by shifting our attention, even when the options are presented simultaneously. The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) has been suggested to encode value during value-based decision making. Yet it is not known how its activity is modulated by attention shifts. We investigated this question by employing a passive viewing task that allowed us to disentangle effects of attention, value, choice and eye movement. We found that the attention modulated OFC activity through a winner-take-all mechanism. When we attracted the monkeys' attention covertly, the OFC neuronal activity reflected the reward value of the newly attended cue. The shift of attention could be explained by a normalization model. Our results strongly argue for the hypothesis that the OFC neuronal activity represents the value of the attended item. They provide important insights toward understanding the OFC's role in value-based decision making.
Neuroligins are postsynaptic adhesion molecules that are essential for postsynaptic specialization and synaptic function. But the underlying molecular mechanisms of neuroligin functions remain unclear. We found that Drosophila Neuroligin 1 (DNIg1) regulates synaptic structure and function through WAVE regulatory complex (WRC)-mediated postsynaptic actin reorganization. The disruption of DNIg1, DNIg2, or their presynaptic partner neurexin (DNrx) led to a dramatic decrease in the amount of F-actin. Further study showed that DNIg1, but not DNIg2 or DNIg3, directly interacts with the WRC via its C-terminal interacting receptor sequence. That interaction is required to recruit WRC to the postsynaptic membrane to promote F-actin assembly. Furthermore, the interaction between DNIg1 and the WRC is essential for DNIg1 to rescue the morphological and electrophysiological defects in dnlgl mutants. Our results reveal a novel mechanism by which the DNrx-DNIg1 trans-synaptic interaction coordinates structural and functional properties at the neuromuscular junction.
Codon usage biases are found in all genomes and influence protein expression levels. The codon usage effect on protein expression was thought to be mainly due to its impact on translation. Here, we show that transcription termination is an important driving force for codon usage bias in eukaryotes. Using Neurospora crassa as a model organism, we demonstrated that introduction of rare codons results in premature transcription termination (PTT) within open reading frames and abolishment of full-length mRNA. PTT is a wide-spread phenomenon in Neurospora, and there is a strong negative correlation between codon usage bias and PTT events. Rare codons lead to the formation of putative poly(A) signals and PTT. A similar role for codon usage bias was also observed in mouse cells. Together, these results suggest that codon usage biases co-evolve with the transcription termination machinery to suppress premature termination of transcription and thus allow for optimal gene expression.
Leukemia stem cells (LSCs) are regarded as the origins and key therapeutic targets of leukemia, but limited knowledge is available on the key determinants of LSC 'stemness'. Using single-cell RNA-seq analysis, we identify a master regulator, SPI1, the LSC-specific expression of which determines the molecular signature and activity of LSCs in the murine Pten-null T-ALL model. Although initiated by PTEN-controlled beta-catenin activation, Spi1 expression and LSC 'stemness' are maintained by a beta-catenin-SPI1-HAVCR2 regulatory circuit independent of the leukemogenic driver mutation. Perturbing any component of this circuit either genetically or pharmacologically can prevent LSC formation or eliminate existing LSCs. LSCs lose their 'stemness' when Spi1 expression is silenced by DNA methylation, but Spi1 expression can be reactivated by 5-AZ treatment. Importantly, similar regulatory mechanisms may be also present in human T-ALL.
The ubiquitin-like protein Atg8, in its lipidated form, plays central roles in autophagy. Yet, remarkably, Atg8 also carries out lipidation-independent functions in non-autophagic processes. How Atg8 performs its moonlighting roles is unclear. Here we report that in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe and the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the lipidation-independent roles of Atg8 in maintaining normal morphology and functions of the vacuole require its interaction with a vacuole membrane protein Hfl1 (homolog of human TMEM184 proteins). Crystal structures revealed that the Atg8-Hfl1 interaction is not mediated by the typical Atg8-family-interacting motif (AIM) that forms an intermolecular beta-sheet with Atg8. Instead, the Atg8-binding regions in Hfl1 proteins adopt a helical conformation, thus representing a new type of AIMs (termed helical AIMs here). These results deepen our understanding of both the functional versatility of Atg8 and the mechanistic diversity of Atg8 binding.
Sleep is known to benefit consolidation of memories, especially those of motivational relevance. Yet, it remains largely unknown the extent to which sleep influences reward-associated behavior, in particular, whether and how sleep modulates reward evaluation that critically underlies value-based decisions. Here, we show that neural processing during sleep can selectively bias preferences in simple economic choices when the sleeper is stimulated by covert, reward-associated cues. Specifically, presenting the spoken name of a familiar, valued snack item during midday nap significantly improves the preference for that item relative to items not externally cued. The cueing-specific preference enhancement is sleep-dependent and can be predicted by cue-induced neurophysiological signals at the subject and item level. Computational modeling further suggests that sleep cueing accelerates evidence accumulation for cued options during the post-sleep choice process in a manner consistent with the preference shift. These findings suggest that neurocognitive processing during sleep contributes to the fine-tuning of subjective preferences in a flexible, selective manner.
INAD assembles key enzymes of the Drosophila compound eye photo-transduction pathway into a supramolecular complex, supporting efficient and fast light signaling. However, the molecular mechanism that governs the interaction between INAD and NORPA (phospholipase C beta, PLC beta), a key step for the fast kinetics of the light signaling, is not known. Here, we show that the NORPA C-terminal coiled-coil domain and PDZ-binding motif (CC-PBM) synergistically bind to INAD PDZ45 tandem with an unexpected mode and unprecedented high affinity. Guided by the structure of the INAD-NORPA complex, we discover that INADL is probably a mammalian counterpart of INAD. The INADL PDZ89 tandem specifically binds to PLC beta 4 with a mode that is strikingly similar to that of the INAD-NORPA complex, as revealed by the structure of the INADL PDZ89-PLC beta 4 CC-PBM complex. Therefore, our study suggests that the highly specific PDZ tandem - PLC beta interactions are an evolutionarily conserved mechanism in PLC beta signaling in the animal kingdom.
Inflammation often induces regeneration to repair the tissue damage. However, chronic inflammation can transform temporary hyperplasia into a fertile ground for tumorigenesis. Here, we demonstrate that the microRNA miR-34a acts as a central safeguard to protect the inflammatory stem cell niche and reparative regeneration. Although playing little role in regular homeostasis, miR-34a deficiency leads to colon tumorigenesis after Citrobacter rodentium infection. miR-34a targets both immune and epithelial cells to restrain inflammation-induced stem cell proliferation. miR-34a targets Interleukin six receptor (IL-6R) and Interleukin 23 receptor (IL-23R) to suppress T helper 17 (Th17) cell differentiation and expansion, targets chemokine CCL22 to hinder Th17 cell recruitment to the colon epithelium, and targets an orphan receptor Interleukin 17 receptor D (IL-17RD) to inhibit IL-17-induced stem cell proliferation. Our study highlights the importance of microRNAs in protecting the stem cell niche during inflammation despite their lack of function in regular tissue homeostasis.
One general principle of sensory information processing is that the brain must optimize efficiency by reducing the number of neurons that process the same information. The sparseness of the sensory representations in a population of neurons reflects the efficiency of the neural code. Here, we employ large-scale two-photon calcium imaging to examine the responses of a large population of neurons within the superficial layers of area V1 with single-cell resolution, while simultaneously presenting a large set of natural visual stimuli, to provide the first direct measure of the population sparseness in awake primates. The results show that only 0.5% of neurons respond strongly to any given natural image indicating a ten-fold increase in the inferred sparseness over previous measurements. These population activities are nevertheless necessary and sufficient to discriminate visual stimuli with high accuracy, suggesting that the neural code in the primary visual cortex is both super-sparse and highly efficient.
Understanding how cellular identity naturally interconverts with high efficiency and temporospatial precision is crucial for regenerative medicine. Here, we revealed a natural midgut-to-renal lineage conversion event during Drosophila metamorphosis and identified the evolutionarily-conserved homeodomain protein Cut as a master switch in this process. A steep Wnt/Wingless morphogen gradient intersects with a pulse of steroid hormone ecdysone to induce cut expression in a subset of midgut progenitors and reprogram them into renal progenitors. Molecularly, ecdysone-induced temporal factor Broad physically interacts with cut enhancer-bound Wnt pathway effector TCF/beta-catenin and likely bridges the distant enhancer and promoter region of cut through its self-association. Such long-range enhancer-promoter looping could subsequently trigger timely cut transcription. Our results therefore led us to propose an unexpected poising-and-bridging mechanism whereby spatial and temporal cues intersect, likely via chromatin looping, to turn on a master transcription factor and dictate efficient and precise lineage reprogramming.
The Eph receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) family is the largest subfamily of RTKs playing critical roles in many developmental processes such as tissue patterning, neurogenesis and neuronal circuit formation, angiogenesis, etc. How the 14 Eph proteins, via their highly similar cytoplasmic domains, can transmit diverse and sometimes opposite cellular signals upon engaging ephrins is a major unresolved question. Here, we systematically investigated the bindings of each SAM domain of Eph receptors to the SAM domains from SHIP2 and Odin, and uncover a highly specific SAM SAM interaction-mediated cytoplasmic Eph-effector binding pattern. Comparative X-ray crystallographic studies of several SAM SAM heterodimer complexes, together with biochemical and cell biology experiments, not only revealed the exquisite specificity code governing Eph/effector interactions but also allowed us to identify SAMD5 as a new Eph binding partner. Finally, these Eph/effector SAM heterodimer structures can explain many Eph SAM mutations identified in patients suffering from cancers and other diseases.