Publications

2016
Wang Y, Begley M, Li Q, Huang H-T, Lako A, Eck MJ, Gray NS, Mitchison TJ, Cantley LC, Zhao JJ. Mitotic MELK-eIF4B signaling controls protein synthesis and tumor cell survival. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016;113 (35) :9810-5.Abstract
The protein kinase maternal and embryonic leucine zipper kinase (MELK) is critical for mitotic progression of cancer cells; however, its mechanisms of action remain largely unknown. By combined approaches of immunoprecipitation/mass spectrometry and peptide library profiling, we identified the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4B (eIF4B) as a MELK-interacting protein during mitosis and a bona fide substrate of MELK. MELK phosphorylates eIF4B at Ser406, a modification found to be most robust in the mitotic phase of the cell cycle. We further show that the MELK-eIF4B signaling axis regulates protein synthesis during mitosis. Specifically, synthesis of myeloid cell leukemia 1 (MCL1), an antiapoptotic protein known to play a role in cancer cell survival during cell division, depends on the function of MELK-elF4B. Inactivation of MELK or eIF4B results in reduced protein synthesis of MCL1, which, in turn, induces apoptotic cell death of cancer cells. Our study thus defines a MELK-eIF4B signaling axis that regulates protein synthesis during mitosis, and consequently influences cancer cell survival.
Ishihara K, Korolev KS, Mitchison TJ. Physical basis of large microtubule aster growth. Elife. 2016;5.Abstract
Microtubule asters - radial arrays of microtubules organized by centrosomes - play a fundamental role in the spatial coordination of animal cells. The standard model of aster growth assumes a fixed number of microtubules originating from the centrosomes. However, aster morphology in this model does not scale with cell size, and we recently found evidence for non-centrosomal microtubule nucleation. Here, we combine autocatalytic nucleation and polymerization dynamics to develop a biophysical model of aster growth. Our model predicts that asters expand as traveling waves and recapitulates all major aspects of aster growth. With increasing nucleation rate, the model predicts an explosive transition from stationary to growing asters with a discontinuous jump of the aster velocity to a nonzero value. Experiments in frog egg extract confirm the main theoretical predictions. Our results suggest that asters observed in large fish and amphibian eggs are a meshwork of short, unstable microtubules maintained by autocatalytic nucleation and provide a paradigm for the assembly of robust and evolvable polymer networks.
Groen AC, Mitchison TJ. Purification and Fluorescent Labeling of Tubulin from Xenopus laevis Egg Extracts. Methods Mol Biol. 2016;1413 :35-45.Abstract
For many years, microtubule research has depended on tubulin purified from cow and pig brains, which may not be ideal for experiments using proteins or extracts from non-brain tissues and cold-blooded organisms. Here, we describe a method to purify functional tubulin from the eggs of the frog, Xenopus laevis. This tubulin has many benefits for the study of microtubules and microtubule based structures assembled in vitro at room temperature. Frog tubulin lacks many of the highly stabilizing posttranslational modifications present in pig brain-derived tubulin, and polymerizes efficiently at room temperature. In addition, fluorescently labeled frog egg tubulin incorporates into meiotic spindles assembled in egg extract more efficiently than brain tubulin, and is thus superior as a probe for Xenopus egg extract experiments. Frog egg tubulin will provide excellent opportunities to identify active nucleation complexes and revisit microtubule polymerization dynamics in vitro.
2015
Krukenberg KA, Kim S, Tan ES, Maliga Z, Mitchison TJ. Extracellular poly(ADP-ribose) is a pro-inflammatory signal for macrophages. Chem Biol. 2015;22 (4) :446-52.Abstract
Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) synthesizes poly(ADP-ribose) (PAR), an essential post-translational modification whose function is important in many cellular processes including DNA damage signaling, cell death, and inflammation. All known PAR biology is intracellular, but we suspected it might also play a role in cell-to-cell communication during inflammation. We found that PAR activated cytokine release in human and mouse macrophages, a hallmark of innate immune activation, and determined structure-activity relationships. PAR was rapidly internalized by murine macrophages, while the monomer, ADP-ribose, was not. Inhibitors of Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) and TLR4 signaling blocked macrophage responses to PAR, and PAR induced TLR2 and TLR4 signaling in reporter cell lines suggesting it was recognized by these TLRs, much like bacterial pathogens. We propose that PAR acts as an extracellular damage associated molecular pattern that drives inflammatory signaling.
Chittajallu DR, Florian S, Kohler RH, Iwamoto Y, Orth JD, Weissleder R, Danuser G, Mitchison TJ. In vivo cell-cycle profiling in xenograft tumors by quantitative intravital microscopy. Nat Methods. 2015;12 (6) :577-85.Abstract
Quantification of cell-cycle state at a single-cell level is essential to understand fundamental three-dimensional (3D) biological processes such as tissue development and cancer. Analysis of 3D in vivo images, however, is very challenging. Today's best practice, manual annotation of select image events, generates arbitrarily sampled data distributions, which are unsuitable for reliable mechanistic inferences. Here, we present an integrated workflow for quantitative in vivo cell-cycle profiling. It combines image analysis and machine learning methods for automated 3D segmentation and cell-cycle state identification of individual cell-nuclei with widely varying morphologies embedded in complex tumor environments. We applied our workflow to quantify cell-cycle effects of three antimitotic cancer drugs over 8 d in HT-1080 fibrosarcoma xenografts in living mice using a data set of 38,000 cells and compared the induced phenotypes. In contrast to results with 2D culture, observed mitotic arrest was relatively low, suggesting involvement of additional mechanisms in their antitumor effect in vivo.
Wühr M, Güttler T, Peshkin L, McAlister GC, Sonnett M, Ishihara K, Groen AC, Presler M, Erickson BK, Mitchison TJ, et al. The Nuclear Proteome of a Vertebrate. Curr Biol. 2015;25 (20) :2663-71.Abstract
The composition of the nucleoplasm determines the behavior of key processes such as transcription, yet there is still no reliable and quantitative resource of nuclear proteins. Furthermore, it is still unclear how the distinct nuclear and cytoplasmic compositions are maintained. To describe the nuclear proteome quantitatively, we isolated the large nuclei of frog oocytes via microdissection and measured the nucleocytoplasmic partitioning of ∼9,000 proteins by mass spectrometry. Most proteins localize entirely to either nucleus or cytoplasm; only ∼17% partition equally. A protein's native size in a complex, but not polypeptide molecular weight, is predictive of localization: partitioned proteins exhibit native sizes larger than ∼100 kDa, whereas natively smaller proteins are equidistributed. To evaluate the role of nuclear export in maintaining localization, we inhibited Exportin 1. This resulted in the expected re-localization of proteins toward the nucleus, but only 3% of the proteome was affected. Thus, complex assembly and passive retention, rather than continuous active transport, is the dominant mechanism for the maintenance of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteomes.
Özlü N, Qureshi MH, Toyoda Y, Renard BY, Mollaoglu G, Özkan NE, Bulbul S, Poser I, Timm W, a Hyman A, et al. Quantitative comparison of a human cancer cell surface proteome between interphase and mitosis. EMBO J. 2015;34 (2) :251-65.Abstract
The cell surface is the cellular compartment responsible for communication with the environment. The interior of mammalian cells undergoes dramatic reorganization when cells enter mitosis. These changes are triggered by activation of the CDK1 kinase and have been studied extensively. In contrast, very little is known of the cell surface changes during cell division. We undertook a quantitative proteomic comparison of cell surface-exposed proteins in human cancer cells that were tightly synchronized in mitosis or interphase. Six hundred and twenty-eight surface and surface-associated proteins in HeLa cells were identified; of these, 27 were significantly enriched at the cell surface in mitosis and 37 in interphase. Using imaging techniques, we confirmed the mitosis-selective cell surface localization of protocadherin PCDH7, a member of a family with anti-adhesive roles in embryos. We show that PCDH7 is required for development of full mitotic rounding pressure at the onset of mitosis. Our analysis provided basic information on how cell cycle progression affects the cell surface. It also provides potential pharmacodynamic biomarkers for anti-mitotic cancer chemotherapy.
Mitchison TJ, Ishihara K, Nguyen P, Wühr M. Size Scaling of Microtubule Assemblies in Early Xenopus Embryos. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2015;7 (10).Abstract
The first 12 cleavage divisions in Xenopus embryos provide a natural experiment in size scaling, as cell radius decreases ∼16-fold with little change in biochemistry. Analyzing both natural cleavage and egg extract partitioned into droplets revealed that mitotic spindle size scales with cell size, with an upper limit in very large cells. We discuss spindle-size scaling in the small- and large-cell regimes with a focus on the "limiting-component" hypotheses. Zygotes and early blastomeres show a scaling mismatch between spindle and cell size. This problem is solved, we argue, by interphase asters that act to position the spindle and transport chromosomes to the center of daughter cells. These tasks are executed by the spindle in smaller cells. We end by discussing possible mechanisms that limit mitotic aster size and promote interphase aster growth to cell-spanning dimensions.
Field CM, Groen AC, Nguyen PA, Mitchison TJ. Spindle-to-cortex communication in cleaving, polyspermic Xenopus eggs. Mol Biol Cell. 2015;26 (20) :3628-40.Abstract
Mitotic spindles specify cleavage planes in early embryos by communicating their position and orientation to the cell cortex using microtubule asters that grow out from the spindle poles during anaphase. Chromatin also plays a poorly understood role. Polyspermic fertilization provides a natural experiment in which aster pairs from the same spindle (sister asters) have chromatin between them, whereas asters pairs from different spindles (nonsisters) do not. In frogs, only sister aster pairs induce furrows. We found that only sister asters recruited two conserved furrow-inducing signaling complexes, chromosome passenger complex (CPC) and Centralspindlin, to a plane between them. This explains why only sister pairs induce furrows. We then investigated factors that influenced CPC recruitment to microtubule bundles in intact eggs and a cytokinesis extract system. We found that microtubule stabilization, optimal starting distance between asters, and proximity to chromatin all favored CPC recruitment. We propose a model in which proximity to chromatin biases initial CPC recruitment to microtubule bundles between asters from the same spindle. Next a positive feedback between CPC recruitment and microtubule stabilization promotes lateral growth of a plane of CPC-positive microtubule bundles out to the cortex to position the furrow.
Nguyen PA, Field CM, Groen AC, Mitchison TJ, Loose M. Using supported bilayers to study the spatiotemporal organization of membrane-bound proteins. Methods Cell Biol. 2015;128 :223-41.Abstract
Cell division in prokaryotes and eukaryotes is commonly initiated by the well-controlled binding of proteins to the cytoplasmic side of the cell membrane. However, a precise characterization of the spatiotemporal dynamics of membrane-bound proteins is often difficult to achieve in vivo. Here, we present protocols for the use of supported lipid bilayers to rebuild the cytokinetic machineries of cells with greatly different dimensions: the bacterium Escherichia coli and eggs of the vertebrate Xenopus laevis. Combined with total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, these experimental setups allow for precise quantitative analyses of membrane-bound proteins. The protocols described to obtain glass-supported membranes from bacterial and vertebrate lipids can be used as starting points for other reconstitution experiments. We believe that similar biochemical assays will be instrumental to study the biochemistry and biophysics underlying a variety of complex cellular tasks, such as signaling, vesicle trafficking, and cell motility.
2014
Loose M, Mitchison TJ. The bacterial cell division proteins FtsA and FtsZ self-organize into dynamic cytoskeletal patterns. Nat Cell Biol. 2014;16 (1) :38-46.Abstract
Bacterial cytokinesis is commonly initiated by the Z-ring, a cytoskeletal structure that assembles at the site of division. Its primary component is FtsZ, a tubulin superfamily GTPase, which is recruited to the membrane by the actin-related protein FtsA. Both proteins are required for the formation of the Z-ring, but if and how they influence each other's assembly dynamics is not known. Here, we reconstituted FtsA-dependent recruitment of FtsZ polymers to supported membranes, where both proteins self-organize into complex patterns, such as fast-moving filament bundles and chirally rotating rings. Using fluorescence microscopy and biochemical perturbations, we found that these large-scale rearrangements of FtsZ emerge from its polymerization dynamics and a dual, antagonistic role of FtsA: recruitment of FtsZ filaments to the membrane and negative regulation of FtsZ organization. Our findings provide a model for the initial steps of bacterial cell division and illustrate how dynamic polymers can self-organize into large-scale structures.
Coughlin M, Groen AC, Mitchison TJ. Electron microscopy of microtubule cytoskeleton assembly in vitro. Methods Mol Biol. 2014;1117 :259-71.Abstract
Cell-free cytoplasm isolated from meiotic Xenopus egg extracts reconstitutes microtubule phenomena in vitro. These crude extracts assemble bipolar meiotic spindles and are readily fractionated for biochemical assays, providing a good tool to dissect molecular mechanism. We developed techniques for immunoelectron microscopy of microtubule structures assembled in perfusion chambers and in solution.
Krukenberg KA, Jiang R, Steen JA, Mitchison TJ. Basal activity of a PARP1-NuA4 complex varies dramatically across cancer cell lines. Cell Rep. 2014;8 (6) :1808-18.Abstract
Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs) catalyze poly(ADP-ribose) addition onto proteins, an important posttranslational modification involved in transcription, DNA damage repair, and stem cell identity. Previous studies established the activation of PARP1 in response to DNA damage, but little is known about PARP1 regulation outside of DNA repair. We developed an assay for measuring PARP activity in cell lysates and found that the basal activity of PARP1 was highly variable across breast cancer cell lines, independent of DNA damage. Sucrose gradient fractionation demonstrated that PARP1 existed in at least three biochemically distinct states in both high- and low-activity lines. A discovered complex containing the NuA4 chromatin-remodeling complex and PARP1 was responsible for high basal PARP1 activity, and NuA4 subunits were required for this activity. These findings present a pathway for PARP1 activation and a direct link between PARP1 and chromatin remodeling outside of the DNA damage response.
Mitchison TJ. The engine of microtubule dynamics comes into focus. Cell. 2014;157 (5) :1008-10.Abstract
In this issue, Alushin et al. report high-resolution structures of three states of the microtubule lattice: GTP-bound, which is stable to depolymerization; unstable GDP-bound; and stable Taxol and GDP-bound. By comparing these structures at near-atomic resolution, they are able to propose a detailed model for how GTP hydrolysis destabilizes the microtubule and thus powers dynamic instability and chromosome movement. Destabilization of cytoskeleton filaments by nucleotide hydrolysis is an important general principle in cell dynamics, and this work represents a major step forward on a problem with a long history.
Groen AC, Ngyuen PA, Field CM, Ishihara K, Mitchison TJ. Glycogen-supplemented mitotic cytosol for analyzing Xenopus egg microtubule organization. Methods Enzymol. 2014;540 :417-33.Abstract
Undiluted cytoplasmic extract prepared from unfertilized Xenopus laevis eggs by low-speed centrifugation (CSF extracts) is useful for reconstitution of egg microtubule dynamics and meiosis-II spindle organization, but it suffers limitations for biochemical analysis due to abundant particulates. Here, we describe preparation and the use of fully clarified, undiluted mitotic cytosol derived from CSF extract. Addition of glycogen improves the ability of this cytosol to reconstitute microtubule organization, in part through improved energy metabolism. Using fully clarified, glycogen-supplemented mitotic cytosol, we reconstituted (i) stimulation of microtubule polymerization by Ran.GTP (Groen, Coughlin, & Mitchison, 2011; Ohba, Nakamura, Nishitani, & Nishimoto, 1999) and (ii) self-organization of highly regular bipolar arrays of taxol-stabilized microtubules that we termed "pineapples" (Mitchison, Nguyen, Coughlin, & Groen, 2013). Both systems will be useful for biochemical dissection of spindle assembly mechanisms. We also describe reliable small-scale methods for preparing fluorescent antibody probes that can be used for live imaging in egg extract systems as well as standard immunofluorescence.
Li L, Yin Q, Kuss P, Maliga Z, Millán JL, Wu H, Mitchison TJ. Hydrolysis of 2'3'-cGAMP by ENPP1 and design of nonhydrolyzable analogs. Nat Chem Biol. 2014;10 (12) :1043-8.Abstract
Agonists of mouse STING (TMEM173) shrink and even cure solid tumors by activating innate immunity; human STING (hSTING) agonists are needed to test this therapeutic hypothesis in humans. The endogenous STING agonist is 2'3'-cGAMP, a second messenger that signals the presence of cytosolic double-stranded DNA. We report activity-guided partial purification and identification of ecto-nucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase (ENPP1) to be the dominant 2'3'-cGAMP hydrolyzing activity in cultured cells. The hydrolysis activity of ENPP1 was confirmed using recombinant protein and was depleted in tissue extracts and plasma from Enpp1(-/-) mice. We synthesized a hydrolysis-resistant bisphosphothioate analog of 2'3'-cGAMP (2'3'-cG(s)A(s)MP) that has similar affinity for hSTING in vitro and is ten times more potent at inducing IFN-β secretion from human THP1 monocytes. Studies in mouse Enpp1(-/-) lung fibroblasts indicate that resistance to hydrolysis contributes substantially to its higher potency. 2'3'-cG(s)A(s)MP is therefore improved over natural 2'3'-cGAMP as a model agonist and has potential as a vaccine adjuvant and cancer therapeutic.
Wang Y, Lee Y-M, Baitsch L, Huang A, Xiang Y, Tong H, Lako A, Von T, Choi C, Lim E, et al. MELK is an oncogenic kinase essential for mitotic progression in basal-like breast cancer cells. Elife. 2014;3 :e01763.Abstract
Despite marked advances in breast cancer therapy, basal-like breast cancer (BBC), an aggressive subtype of breast cancer usually lacking estrogen and progesterone receptors, remains difficult to treat. In this study, we report the identification of MELK as a novel oncogenic kinase from an in vivo tumorigenesis screen using a kinome-wide open reading frames (ORFs) library. Analysis of clinical data reveals a high level of MELK overexpression in BBC, a feature that is largely dependent on FoxM1, a master mitotic transcription factor that is also found to be highly overexpressed in BBC. Ablation of MELK selectively impairs proliferation of basal-like, but not luminal breast cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, depletion of MELK in BBC cells induces caspase-dependent cell death, preceded by defective mitosis. Finally, we find that Melk is not required for mouse development and physiology. Together, these data indicate that MELK is a normally non-essential kinase, but is critical for BBC and thus represents a promising selective therapeutic target for the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01763.001.
Ishihara K, Nguyen PA, Wühr M, Groen AC, Field CM, Mitchison TJ. Organization of early frog embryos by chemical waves emanating from centrosomes. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014;369 (1650).Abstract
The large cells in early vertebrate development face an extreme physical challenge in organizing their cytoplasm. For example, amphibian embryos have to divide cytoplasm that spans hundreds of micrometres every 30 min according to a precise geometry, a remarkable accomplishment given the extreme difference between molecular and cellular scales in this system. How do the biochemical reactions occurring at the molecular scale lead to this emergent behaviour of the cell as a whole? Based on recent findings, we propose that the centrosome plays a crucial role by initiating two autocatalytic reactions that travel across the large cytoplasm as chemical waves. Waves of mitotic entry and exit propagate out from centrosomes using the Cdk1 oscillator to coordinate the timing of cell division. Waves of microtubule-stimulated microtubule nucleation propagate out to assemble large asters that position spindles for the following mitosis and establish cleavage plane geometry. By initiating these chemical waves, the centrosome rapidly organizes the large cytoplasm during the short embryonic cell cycle, which would be impossible using more conventional mechanisms such as diffusion or nucleation by structural templating. Large embryo cells provide valuable insights to how cells control chemical waves, which may be a general principle for cytoplasmic organization.
Choi PJ, Mitchison TJ. Quantitative analysis of resistance to natural killer attacks reveals stepwise killing kinetics. Integr Biol (Camb). 2014;6 (12) :1153-61.Abstract
Molecular mechanisms can protect cancer cells from immune attacks. At the level of bulk tissue, these survival mechanisms are often indistinguishable and simply appear as reduced cell death. However, by tracking individual cell survival and death times, we found broad variation in the kinetics of immune evasion. In response to attacks by natural killer cells, we observed that some cancer lines exhibited exponential survival time distributions. Slowly killed cancer lines had reduced exponential rate constants. In contrast, a line engineered to express the serpin protein PI-9, which is known to promote resistance to immune killing, exhibited a markedly nonexponential survival time distribution. By following the histories of individual cancer cells with multiplexed reporters, we obtained evidence that two or more immune attacks are likely required to kill serpin-expressing cells. Thus, resistance is a finite and measurable quantity, with a distinct kinetic signature. A quantitative model based on independently measured parameters is consistent with our conclusions.
Laughney AM, Kim E, Sprachman MM, Miller MA, Kohler RH, Yang KS, Orth JD, Mitchison TJ, Weissleder R. Single-cell pharmacokinetic imaging reveals a therapeutic strategy to overcome drug resistance to the microtubule inhibitor eribulin. Sci Transl Med. 2014;6 (261) :261ra152.Abstract
Eribulin mesylate was developed as a potent microtubule-targeting cytotoxic agent to treat taxane-resistant cancers, but recent clinical trials have shown that it eventually fails in many patient subpopulations for unclear reasons. To investigate its resistance mechanisms, we developed a fluorescent analog of eribulin with pharmacokinetic (PK) properties and cytotoxic activity across a human cell line panel that are sufficiently similar to the parent drug to study its cellular PK and tissue distribution. Using intravital imaging and automated tracking of cellular dynamics, we found that resistance to eribulin and the fluorescent analog depended directly on the multidrug resistance protein 1 (MDR1). Intravital imaging allowed for real-time analysis of in vivo PK in tumors that were engineered to be spatially heterogeneous for taxane resistance, whereby an MDR1-mApple fusion protein distinguished resistant cells fluorescently. In vivo, MDR1-mediated drug efflux and the three-dimensional tumor vascular architecture were discovered to be critical determinants of drug accumulation in tumor cells. We furthermore show that standard intravenous administration of a third-generation MDR1 inhibitor, HM30181, failed to rescue drug accumulation; however, the same MDR1 inhibitor encapsulated within a nanoparticle delivery system reversed the multidrug-resistant phenotype and potentiated the eribulin effect in vitro and in vivo in mice. Our work demonstrates that in vivo assessment of cellular PK of an anticancer drug is a powerful strategy for elucidating mechanisms of drug resistance in heterogeneous tumors and evaluating strategies to overcome this resistance.

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