The mechanism of apoptosis has been extensively characterized over the past decade, but little is known about alternative forms of regulated cell death. Although stimulation of the Fas/TNFR receptor family triggers a canonical 'extrinsic' apoptosis pathway, we demonstrated that in the absence of intracellular apoptotic signaling it is capable of activating a common nonapoptotic death pathway, which we term necroptosis. We showed that necroptosis is characterized by necrotic cell death morphology and activation of autophagy. We identified a specific and potent small-molecule inhibitor of necroptosis, necrostatin-1, which blocks a critical step in necroptosis. We demonstrated that necroptosis contributes to delayed mouse ischemic brain injury in vivo through a mechanism distinct from that of apoptosis and offers a new therapeutic target for stroke with an extended window for neuroprotection. Our study identifies a previously undescribed basic cell-death pathway with potentially broad relevance to human pathologies.
The spindle checkpoint prevents chromosome loss by preventing chromosome segregation in cells with improperly attached chromosomes [1, 2 and 3]. The checkpoint senses defects in the attachment of chromosomes to the mitotic spindle  and the tension exerted on chromosomes by spindle forces in mitosis [5, 6 and 7]. Because many cancers have defects in chromosome segregation, this checkpoint may be required for survival of tumor cells and may be a target for chemotherapy. We performed a phenotype-based chemical-genetic screen in budding yeast and identified an inhibitor of the spindle checkpoint, called cincreasin. We used a genome-wide collection of yeast gene-deletion strains and traditional genetic and biochemical analysis to show that the target of cincreasin is Mps1, a protein kinase required for checkpoint function . Despite the requirement for Mps1 for sensing both the lack of microtubule attachment and tension at kinetochores, we find concentrations of cincreasin that selectively inhibit the tension-sensitive branch of the spindle checkpoint. At these concentrations, cincreasin causes lethal chromosome missegregation in mutants that display chromosomal instability. Our results demonstrate that Mps1 can be exploited as a target and that inhibiting the tension-sensitive branch of the spindle checkpoint may be a way of selectively killing cancer cells that display chromosomal instability.
Poly(ADP-ribose) (PAR) is a large, negatively charged post-translational modification that is produced by polymerization of NAD+ by PAR polymerases (PARPs). There are at least 18 PARPs in the human genome, several of which have functions that are unknown. PAR modifications are dynamic; PAR structure depends on the balance between synthesis and hydrolysis by PAR glycohydrolase2. We previously found that PAR is enriched in vertebrate somatic-cell mitotic spindles and demonstrated a requirement for PAR in the assembly of Xenopus egg extract spindles. Here, we knockdown all characterized PARPs using RNA interference (RNAi), and identify tankyrase-1 as the PARP that is required for mitosis. Tankyrase-1 localizes to mitotic spindle poles, to telomeres and to the Golgi apparatus. Tankyrase-1 RNAi was recently shown to result in mitotic arrest, with abnormal chromosome distributions and spindle morphology observed--data that is interpreted as evidence of post-anaphase arrest induced by failure of telomere separation6. We show that tankyrase-1 RNAi results in pre-anaphase arrest, with intact sister-chromatid cohesion. We also demonstrate a requirement for tankyrase-1 in the assembly of bipolar spindles, and identify the spindle-pole protein NuMA as a substrate for covalent modification by tankyrase-1.
Characterization of the properties of complex biomaterials using microrheological techniques has the promise of providing fundamental insights into their biomechanical functions; however, precise interpretations of such measurements are hindered by inadequate characterization of the interactions between tracers and the networks they probe. We here show that colloid surface chemistry can profoundly affect multiple particle tracking measurements of networks of fibrin, entangled F-actin solutions, and networks of cross-linked F-actin. We present a simple protocol to render the surface of colloidal probe particles protein-resistant by grafting short amine-terminated methoxy-poly(ethylene glycol) to the surface of carboxylated microspheres. We demonstrate that these poly(ethylene glycol)-coated tracers adsorb significantly less protein than particles coated with bovine serum albumin or unmodified probe particles. We establish that varying particle surface chemistry selectively tunes the sensitivity of the particles to different physical properties of their microenvironments. Specifically, particles that are weakly bound to a heterogeneous network are sensitive to changes in network stiffness, whereas protein-resistant tracers measure changes in the viscosity of the fluid and in the network microstructure. We demonstrate experimentally that two-particle microrheology analysis significantly reduces differences arising from tracer surface chemistry, indicating that modifications of network properties near the particle do not introduce large-scale heterogeneities. Our results establish that controlling colloid-protein interactions is crucial to the successful application of multiple particle tracking techniques to reconstituted protein networks, cytoplasm, and cells.
The KinI kinesin MCAK is a microtubule depolymerase important for governing spindle microtubule dynamics during chromosome segregation. The dynamic nature of spindle assembly and chromosome-microtubule interactions suggest that mechanisms must exist that modulate the activity of MCAK, both spatially and temporally. In Xenopus extracts, MCAK associates with and is stimulated by the inner centromere protein ICIS. The inner centromere kinase Aurora B also interacts with ICIS and MCAK raising the possibility that Aurora B may regulate MCAK activity as well. Herein, we demonstrate that recombinant Aurora B-INCENP inhibits Xenopus MCAK activity in vitro in a phosphorylation-dependent manner. Substituting endogenous MCAK in Xenopus extracts with the alanine mutant XMCAK-4A, which is resistant to inhibition by Aurora B-INCENP, led to assembly of mono-astral and monopolar structures instead of bipolar spindles. The size of these structures and extent of tubulin polymerization in XMCAK-4A extracts indicate that XM-CAK-4A is not defective for microtubule dynamics regulation throughout the cytoplasm. We further demonstrate that the ability of XMCAK-4A to localize to inner centromeres is abolished. Our results show that MCAK regulation of cytoplasmic and spindle-associated microtubules can be differentiated by Aurora B-dependent phosphorylation, and they further demonstrate that this regulation is required for bipolar meiotic spindle assembly.
Actin-dependent propulsion of Listeria monocytogenes is thought to require frequent nucleation of actin polymerization by the Arp2/3 complex. We demonstrate that L. monocytogenes motility can be separated into an Arp2/3-dependent nucleation phase and an Arp2/3-independent elongation phase. Elongation-based propulsion requires a unique set of biochemical factors in addition to those required for Arp2/3-dependent motility. We isolated fascin from brain extracts as the only soluble factor required in addition to actin during the elongation phase for this type of movement. The nucleation reaction assembles a comet tail of branched actin filaments directly behind the bacterium. The elongation-based reaction generates a hollow cylinder of parallel bundles that attach along the sides of the bacterium. Bacteria move faster in the elongation reaction than in the presence of Arp2/3, and the rate is limited by the concentration of G-actin. The biochemical and structural differences between the two motility reactions imply that each operates through distinct biochemical and biophysical mechanisms.
We show here that affinity-purified Saccharomyces cerevisiae septin complexes contain stoichiometric amounts of guanine nucleotides, specifically GTP and GDP. Using a (15)N-dilution assay read-out by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, we determined that the majority of the bound guanine nucleotides do not turn over in vivo during one cell cycle period. In vitro, the isolated S. cerevisiae septin complexes have similar GTP binding and hydrolytic properties to the Drosophila septin complexes (Field, C. M., al-Awar, O., Rosenblatt, J., Wong, M. L., Alberts, B., and Mitchison, T. J. (1996) J. Cell Biol. 133, 605-616). In particular, the GTP turnover of septins is very slow when compared with the GTP turnover for Ras-like GTPases. We conclude that bound GTP and GDP play a structural, rather then regulatory, role for the majority of septins in proliferating cells as GTP does for alpha-tubulin.
Microtubule dynamics underlie spindle assembly, yet we do not know how the spindle environment affects these dynamics. We developed methods for measuring two key parameters of microtubule plus-end dynamic instability in Xenopus egg extract spindles. To measure plus-end polymerization rates and localize growing plus ends, we used fluorescence confocal imaging of EB1. This revealed plus-end polymerization throughout the spindle at approximately 11 microm/min, similar to astral microtubules, suggesting polymerization velocity is not regionally regulated by the spindle. The ratio of EB1 to microtubule fluorescence revealed an enrichment of polymerizing ends near the spindle middle, indicating enhanced nucleation or rescue there. We measured depolymerization rates by creating a front of synchronized depolymerization in spindles severed with microneedles. This front could be tracked by polarization and fluorescence microscopy as it advanced from each cut edge toward the associated pole. Both imaging modalities revealed rapid depolymerization ( approximately 30 microm/min) superimposed on a subset of microtubules stable to depolymerization. Larger spindle fragments contained a higher percentage of stable microtubules, which we believe were oriented with their minus ends facing the cut. Depolymerization was blocked by the potent microtubule stabilizing agent hexylene glycol, but was unaffected by alpha-MCAK antibody and AMPPNP, which block catastrophe and kinesin motility, respectively. These measurements move us closer to understanding the complete life history of a spindle microtubule.
Protein inclusions are associated with a number of neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Whether protein aggregates are toxic or beneficial to cells is not known. In ALS animal models, mutant SOD1 forms aggresome-like structures in motor neurons and astrocytes. To better understand the role of protein aggregation in the progression of disease etiology, we performed a screen for small molecules that disrupt aggresome formation in cultured cells. After screening 20,000 compounds, we obtained two groups of compounds that specifically prevented aggresome formation. One group consists mainly of cardiac glycosides and will be the subject of another study. The second group contains two compounds: one is a known histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, Scriptaid, and the other is a Flavin analog, DPD. Cells treated with these molecules still contained microaggregates, but these microaggregates were not transported to microtubule organizing centers (MTOCs). The defect in transport was linked to modulation of the dynein/dynactin machinery as treatment with Scriptaid or DPD reversed mSOD-induced insolubilization of the dynactin subunits P50 dynamitin and P150(glued). Our findings suggest a connection between HDAC activity and aggresome formation and also lay the groundwork for a direct test of the role of aggresome formation in ALS etiology.
FtsZ is a prokaryotic tubulin homologue that polymerizes into a dynamic ring during cell division. GTP binding and hydrolysis provide the energy for FtsZ dynamics. However, the precise role of hydrolysis in polymer assembly and turnover is not understood, limiting our understanding of how FtsZ functions in the cell. Here we investigate GTP hydrolysis during the FtsZ polymerization cycle using several complementary approaches that avoid technical caveats of previous studies. We find that at steady state approximately 80% of FtsZ polymer subunits are bound to GTP. In addition, we use pre-steady-state, single turnover assays to directly measure the rate of hydrolysis. Hydrolysis was found to occur at approximately 8/min and to be a rate-limiting step in GTP turnover; phosphate release rapidly followed. These results clarify previously conflicting results in the literature and suggest that pure FtsZ polymers, unlike microtubules, may not be able to undergo dynamic instability or to store energy in the polymer for force production.
Toxoplasma gondii is the most common protozoan parasite of humans. Infection with T. gondii can lead to life-threatening disease as a result of repeated cycles of host cell invasion, parasite replication, and host cell lysis. Relatively little is known about the invasive mechanisms of T. gondii and related parasites within the Phylum Apicomplexa (including Plasmodium spp., the causative agents of malaria), due to difficulties associated with studying genes essential to invasion in haploid obligate intracellular organisms. To circumvent this problem, we have developed a high-throughput microscope-based assay, which we have used to screen a collection of 12,160 structurally diverse small molecules for inhibitors of T. gondii invasion. A total of 24 noncytotoxic invasion inhibitors were identified. Secondary assays demonstrated that different inhibitors perturb different aspects of invasion, including gliding motility, secretion of host cell adhesins from apical organelles (the micronemes), and extension of a unique tubulin-based structure at the anterior of the parasite (the conoid). Unexpectedly, the screen also identified six small molecules that dramatically enhance invasion, gliding motility, and microneme secretion. The small molecules identified here reveal a previously unrecognized complexity in the control of parasite motility and microneme secretion, and they constitute a set of useful probes for dissecting the invasive mechanisms of T. gondii and related parasites. Small-molecule-based approaches provide a powerful means to address experimentally challenging problems in host-pathogen interaction, while simultaneously identifying new potential targets for drug development.
We investigated the mechanism by which meiotic spindles become bipolar and the correlation between bipolarity and poleward flux, using Xenopus egg extracts. By speckle microscopy and computational alignment, we find that monopolar sperm asters do not show evidence for flux, partially contradicting previous work. We account for the discrepancy by describing spontaneous bipolarization of sperm asters that was missed previously. During spontaneous bipolarization, onset of flux correlated with onset of bipolarity, implying that antiparallel microtubule organization may be required for flux. Using a probe for TPX2 in addition to tubulin, we describe two pathways that lead to spontaneous bipolarization, new pole assembly near chromatin, and pole splitting. By inhibiting the Ran pathway with excess importin-alpha, we establish a role for chromatin-derived, antiparallel overlap bundles in generating the sliding force for flux, and we examine these bundles by electron microscopy. Our results highlight the importance of two processes, chromatin-initiated microtubule nucleation, and sliding forces generated between antiparallel microtubules, in self-organization of spindle bipolarity and poleward flux.
In higher eukaryotes, microtubules (MT) in both halves of the mitotic spindle translocate continuously away from the midzone in a phenomenon called poleward microtubule flux. Because the spindle maintains constant length and microtubule density, this microtubule translocation must somehow be coupled to net MT depolymerization at spindle poles. The molecular mechanisms underlying both flux-associated translocation and flux-associated depolymerization are not well understood, but it can be predicted that blocking pole-based destabilization will increase spindle length, an idea that has not been tested in meiotic spindles. Here, we show that simultaneous addition of two pole-disrupting reagents p50/dynamitin and a truncated version of Xklp2 results in continuous spindle elongation in Xenopus egg extracts, and we quantitatively correlate this elongation rate with the poleward translocation of stabilized microtubules. We further use this system to demonstrate that this poleward translocation requires the activity of the kinesin-related protein Eg5. These results suggest that Eg5 is responsible for flux-associated MT translocation and that dynein and Xklp2 regulate flux-associated microtubule depolymerization at spindle poles.
BACKGROUND: Cell migration is a complex phenomenon that requires the coordination of numerous cellular processes. Investigation of cell migration and its underlying biology is of interest to basic scientists and those in search of therapeutics. Current migration assays for screening small molecules, siRNAs, or other perturbations are difficult to perform in parallel at the scale required to screen large libraries.
RESULTS: We have adapted the commonly used scratch wound healing assay of tissue-culture cell monolayers to a 384 well plate format. By mechanically scratching the cell substrate with a pin array, we are able to create characteristically sized wounds in all wells of a 384 well plate. Imaging of the healing wounds with an automated fluorescence microscope allows us to distinguish perturbations that affect cell migration, morphology, and division. Readout requires ~1 hr per plate but is high in information content i.e. high content. We compare readouts using different imaging technologies, automated microscopy, scanners and a fluorescence macroscope, and evaluate the trade-off between information content and data acquisition rate.
CONCLUSIONS: The adaptation of a wound healing assay to a 384 well format facilitates the study of aspects of cell migration, tissue reorganization, cell division, and other processes that underlie wound healing. This assay allows greater than 10,000 perturbations to be screened per day with a quantitative, high-content readout, and can also be used to characterize small numbers of perturbations in detail.
We present a method for high-throughput cytological profiling by microscopy. Our system provides quantitative multidimensional measures of individual cell states over wide ranges of perturbations. We profile dose-dependent phenotypic effects of drugs in human cell culture with a titration-invariant similarity score (TISS). This method successfully categorized blinded drugs and suggested targets for drugs of uncertain mechanism. Multivariate single-cell analysis is a starting point for identifying relationships among drug effects at a systems level and a step toward phenotypic profiling at the single-cell level. Our methods will be useful for discovering the mechanism and predicting the toxicity of new drugs.
In recent years the kinesin superfamily has become so large that several different naming schemes have emerged, leading to confusion and miscommunication. Here, we set forth a standardized kinesin nomenclature based on 14 family designations. The scheme unifies all previous phylogenies and nomenclature proposals, while allowing individual sequence names to remain the same, and for expansion to occur as new sequences are discovered.
FtsZ, the ancestral homolog of eukaryotic tubulins, is a GTPase that assembles into a cytokinetic ring structure essential for cell division in prokaryotic cells. Similar to tubulin, purified FtsZ polymerizes into dynamic protofilaments in the presence of GTP; polymer assembly is accompanied by GTP hydrolysis. We used a high-throughput protein-based chemical screen to identify small molecules that target assembly-dependent GTPase activity of FtsZ. Here, we report the identification of five structurally diverse compounds, named Zantrins, which inhibit FtsZ GTPase either by destabilizing the FtsZ protofilaments or by inducing filament hyperstability through increased lateral association. These two classes of FtsZ inhibitors are reminiscent of the antitubulin drugs colchicine and Taxol, respectively. We also show that Zantrins perturb FtsZ ring assembly in Escherichia coli cells and cause lethality to a variety of bacteria in broth cultures, indicating that FtsZ antagonists may serve as chemical leads for the development of new broad-spectrum antibacterial agents. Our results illustrate the utility of small-molecule chemical probes to study FtsZ polymerization dynamics and the feasibility of FtsZ as a novel therapeutic target.
Drosophila MEI-S332 and fungal Sgo1 genes are essential for sister centromere cohesion in meiosis I. We demonstrate that the related vertebrate Sgo localizes to kinetochores and is required to prevent premature sister centromere separation in mitosis, thus providing an explanation for the differential cohesion observed between the arms and the centromeres of mitotic sister chromatids. Sgo is degraded by the anaphase-promoting complex, allowing the separation of sister centromeres in anaphase. Intriguingly, we show that Sgo interacts strongly with microtubules in vitro and that it regulates kinetochore microtubule stability in vivo, consistent with a direct microtubule interaction. Sgo is thus critical for mitotic progression and chromosome segregation and provides an unexpected link between sister centromere cohesion and microtubule interactions at kinetochores.
BACKGROUND: The regulated assembly of microtubules is essential for bipolar spindle formation. Depending on cell type, microtubules nucleate through two different pathways: centrosome-driven or chromatin-driven. The chromatin-driven pathway dominates in cells lacking centrosomes.
RESULTS: Human RHAMM (receptor for hyaluronic-acid-mediated motility) was originally implicated in hyaluronic-acid-induced motility but has since been shown to associate with centrosomes and play a role in astral spindle pole integrity in mitotic systems. We have identified the Xenopus ortholog of human RHAMM as a microtubule-associated protein that plays a role in focusing spindle poles and is essential for efficient microtubule nucleation during spindle assembly without centrosomes. XRHAMM associates both with gamma-TuRC, a complex required for microtubule nucleation and with TPX2, a protein required for microtubule nucleation and spindle pole organization.
CONCLUSIONS: XRHAMM facilitates Ran-dependent, chromatin-driven nucleation in a process that may require coordinate activation of TPX2 and gamma-TuRC.