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BACKGROUND - Heterotrimeric G proteins are fundamental signaling proteins composed of three subunits, Gα and a Gβγ dimer. The role of Gα as a molecular switch is critical for transmitting and amplifying intracellular signaling cascades initiated by an activated G protein Coupled Receptor (GPCR). Despite their biochemical and therapeutic importance, the study of G protein evolution has been limited to the scope of a few model organisms. Furthermore, of the five primary Gα subfamilies, the underlying gene structure of only two families has been thoroughly investigated outside of Mammalia evolution. Therefore our understanding of Gα emergence and evolution across phylogeny remains incomplete.
RESULTS - We have computationally identified the presence and absence of every Gα gene (GNA-) across all major branches of Deuterostomia and evaluated the conservation of the underlying exon-intron structures across these phylogenetic groups. We provide evidence of mutually exclusive exon inclusion through alternative splicing in specific lineages. Variations of splice site conservation and isoforms were found for several paralogs which coincide with conserved, putative motifs of DNA-/RNA-binding proteins. In addition to our curated gene annotations, within Primates, we identified 15 retrotranspositions, many of which have undergone pseudogenization. Most importantly, we find numerous deviations from previous findings regarding the presence and absence of individual GNA- genes, nuanced differences in phyla-specific gene copy numbers, novel paralog duplications and subsequent intron gain and loss events.
CONCLUSIONS - Our curated annotations allow us to draw more accurate inferences regarding the emergence of all Gα family members across Metazoa and to present a new, updated theory of Gα evolution. Leveraging this, our results are critical for gaining new insights into the co-evolution of the Gα subunit and its many protein binding partners, especially therapeutically relevant G protein - GPCR signaling pathways which radiated in Vertebrata evolution.
The COPII coat complex, which mediates secretory cargo trafficking from the endoplasmic reticulum, is a key control point for subcellular protein targeting. Because misdirected proteins cannot function, protein sorting by COPII is critical for establishing and maintaining normal cell and tissue homeostasis. Indeed, mutations in COPII genes cause a range of human pathologies, including cranio-lenticulo-sutural dysplasia (CLSD), which is characterized by collagen trafficking defects, craniofacial abnormalities, and skeletal dysmorphology. Detailed knowledge of the COPII pathway is required to understand its role in normal cell physiology and to devise new treatments for disorders in which it is disrupted. However, little is known about how vertebrates dynamically regulate COPII activity in response to developmental, metabolic, or pathological cues. Several COPII proteins are modified by O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc), a dynamic form of intracellular protein glycosylation, but the biochemical and functional effects of these modifications remain unclear. Here, we use a combination of chemical, biochemical, cellular, and genetic approaches to demonstrate that site-specific O-GlcNAcylation of COPII proteins mediates their protein-protein interactions and modulates cargo secretion. In particular, we show that individual O-GlcNAcylation sites of SEC23A, an essential COPII component, are required for its function in human cells and vertebrate development, because mutation of these sites impairs SEC23A-dependent in vivo collagen trafficking and skeletogenesis in a zebrafish model of CLSD. Our results indicate that O-GlcNAc is a conserved and critical regulatory modification in the vertebrate COPII-dependent trafficking pathway.
The origin of animals, one of the major transitions in evolution, remains mysterious. Many key aspects of animal evolution can be reconstructed by comparing living species within a robust phylogenetic framework. However, uncertainty remains regarding the evolutionary relationships between two ancient animal lineages - sponges and ctenophores - and the remaining animal phyla. Comparative morphology and some phylogenomic analyses support the view that sponges represent the sister lineage to the rest of the animals, while other phylogenomic analyses support ctenophores, a phylum of carnivorous, gelatinous marine organisms, as the sister lineage. Here, we explore why different studies yield different answers and discuss the implications of the two alternative hypotheses for understanding the origin of animals. Reconstruction of ancient evolutionary radiations is devilishly difficult and will likely require broader sampling of sponge and ctenophore genomes, improved analytical strategies and critical analyses of the phylogenetic distribution and molecular mechanisms underlying apparently conserved traits. Rather than staking out positions in favor of the ctenophores-sister or the sponges-sister hypothesis, we submit that research programs aimed at understanding the biology of the first animals should instead embrace the uncertainty surrounding early animal evolution in their experimental designs.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
BACKGROUND - RPB1, the largest subunit of RNA polymerase II, contains a highly modifiable C-terminal domain (CTD) that consists of variations of a consensus heptad repeat sequence (Y1S2P3T4S5P6S7). The consensus CTD repeat motif and tandem organization represent the ancestral state of eukaryotic RPB1, but across eukaryotes CTDs show considerable diversity in repeat organization and sequence content. These differences may reflect lineage-specific CTD functions mediated by protein interactions. Mammalian CTDs contain eight non-consensus repeats with a lysine in the seventh position (K7). Posttranslational acetylation of these sites was recently shown to be required for proper polymerase pausing and regulation of two growth factor-regulated genes.
RESULTS - To investigate the origins and function of RPB1 CTD acetylation (acRPB1), we computationally reconstructed the evolution of the CTD repeat sequence across eukaryotes and analyzed the evolution and function of genes dysregulated when acRPB1 is disrupted. Modeling the evolutionary dynamics of CTD repeat count and sequence content across diverse eukaryotes revealed an expansion of the CTD in the ancestors of Metazoa. The new CTD repeats introduced the potential for acRPB1 due to the appearance of distal repeats with lysine at position seven. This was followed by a further increase in the number of lysine-containing repeats in developmentally complex clades like Deuterostomia. Mouse genes enriched for acRPB1 occupancy at their promoters and genes with significant expression changes when acRPB1 is disrupted are enriched for several functions, such as growth factor response, gene regulation, cellular adhesion, and vascular development. Genes occupied and regulated by acRPB1 show significant enrichment for evolutionary origins in the early history of eukaryotes through early vertebrates.
CONCLUSIONS - Our combined functional and evolutionary analyses show that RPB1 CTD acetylation was possible in the early history of animals, and that the K7 content of the CTD expanded in specific developmentally complex metazoan lineages. The functional analysis of genes regulated by acRPB1 highlight functions involved in the origin of and diversification of complex Metazoa. This suggests that acRPB1 may have played a role in the success of animals.
Asymmetric development of the vertebrate embryo has fascinated embryologists for over a century. Much has been learned since the asymmetric Nodal signaling cascade in the left lateral plate mesoderm was detected, and began to be unraveled over the past decade or two. When and how symmetry is initially broken, however, has remained a matter of debate. Two essentially mutually exclusive models prevail. Cilia-driven leftward flow of extracellular fluids occurs in mammalian, fish and amphibian embryos. A great deal of experimental evidence indicates that this flow is indeed required for symmetry breaking. An alternative model has argued, however, that flow simply acts as an amplification step for early asymmetric cues generated by ion flux during the first cleavage divisions. In this review we critically evaluate the experimental basis of both models. Although a number of open questions persist, the available evidence is best compatible with flow-based symmetry breakage as the archetypical mode of symmetry breakage.
Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Over the past decades, studies using zebrafish have significantly advanced our understanding of the cellular basis for development and human diseases. Zebrafish have rapidly developing transparent embryos that allow comprehensive imaging of embryogenesis combined with powerful genetic approaches. However, forward genetic screens in zebrafish have generated unanticipated findings that are mirrored by human genetic studies: disruption of genes implicated in basic cellular processes, such as protein secretion or cytoskeletal dynamics, causes discrete developmental or disease phenotypes. This is surprising because many processes that were assumed to be fundamental to the function and survival of all cell types appear instead to be regulated by cell-specific mechanisms. Such discoveries are facilitated by experiments in whole animals, where zebrafish provides an ideal model for visualization and manipulation of organelles and cellular processes in a live vertebrate. Here, we review well-characterized mutants and newly developed tools that underscore this notion. We focus on the secretory pathway and microtubule-based trafficking as illustrative examples of how studying cell biology in vivo using zebrafish has broadened our understanding of the role fundamental cellular processes play in embryogenesis and disease.
Acinetobacter baumannii is a significant contributor to intensive care unit (ICU) mortality causing numerous types of infection in this susceptible ICU population, most notably ventilator-associated pneumonia. The substantial disease burden attributed to A. baumannii and the rapid acquisition of antibiotic resistance make this bacterium a serious health care threat. A. baumannii is equipped to tolerate the hostile host environment through modification of its metabolism and nutritional needs. Among these adaptations is the evolution of mechanisms to acquire nutrient metals that are sequestered by the host as a defense against infection. Although all bacteria require nutrient metals, there is diversity in the particular metal needs among species and within varying tissue types and bacterial lifecycles. A. baumannii is well-equipped with the metal homeostatic systems required for the colonization of a diverse array of tissues. Specifically, iron and zinc homeostasis is important for A. baumannii interactions with biotic surfaces and for growth within vertebrates. This review discusses what is currently known regarding the interaction of A. baumannii with vertebrate cells with a particular emphasis on the contributions of metal homeostasis systems. Overall, published research supports the utility of exploiting these systems as targets for the development of much-needed antimicrobials against this emerging infectious threat.
Signaling by the Hedgehog (Hh) family of secreted proteins is essential for proper embryonic patterning and development. Dysregulation of Hh signaling is associated with a variety of human diseases ranging from developmental disorders such as holoprosencephaly to certain forms of cancer, including medulloblastoma and basal cell carcinoma. Genetic studies in flies and mice have shaped our understanding of Hh signaling and revealed that nearly all core components of the pathway are highly conserved. Although many aspects of the Drosophila Hh pathway are conserved in vertebrates, mechanistic differences between the two species have begun to emerge. Perhaps the most striking divergence in vertebrate Hh signaling is its dependence on the primary cilium, a vestigial organelle that is largely absent in flies. This minireview will provide an overview of Hh signaling and present recent insights into vertebrate Hh secretion, receptor binding, and signal transduction.
The vertebrate planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway consists of conserved PCP and ciliary genes. During development, the PCP pathway regulates convergent extension (CE) and uniform orientation of sensory hair cells in the cochlea. It is not clear how these diverse morphogenetic processes are regulated by a common set of PCP genes. Here, we show that cellular contacts and geometry change drastically and that the dynamic expression of N-cadherin and E-cadherin demarcates sharp boundaries during cochlear extension. The conditional knockout of a component of the adherens junctions, p120-catenin, leads to the reduction of E-cadherin and N-cadherin and to characteristic cochlear CE defects but not misorientation of hair cells. The specific CE defects in p120-catenin mutants are in contrast to associated CE and hair cell misorientation defects observed in common PCP gene mutants. Moreover, the loss-of-function of a conserved PCP gene, Vangl2, alters the dynamic distribution of N-cadherin and E-cadherin in the cochlea and causes similar abnormalities in cellular morphology to those found in p120-catenin mutants. Conversely, we found that Pcdh15 interacts genetically with PCP genes to regulate the formation of polar hair bundles, but not CE defects in the cochlea. Together, these results indicate that the vertebrate PCP pathway regulates CE and hair cell polarity independently and that a p120-catenin-dependent mechanism regulates CE of the cochlea.
The EF hand, a helix-loop-helix structure, is one of the most common motifs found in animal genomes, and EF-hand Ca(2+)-binding proteins (EFCaBPs) are widely distributed throughout the cell. However, researchers remain confounded by a lack of understanding of how peptide sequences code for specific functions and by uncertainty about the molecular mechanisms that enable EFCaBPs to distinguish among many diverse cellular targets. Such knowledge could define the roles of EFCaBPs in health and disease and ultimately enable control or even design of Ca(2+)-dependent functions in medicine and biotechnology. In this Account, we describe our structural and biochemical research designed to understand the sequence-to-function relationship in EFCaBPs. The first structural goal was to define conformational changes induced by binding Ca(2+), and our group and others established that solution NMR spectroscopy is well suited for this task. We pinpointed residues critical to the differences in Ca(2+) response of calbindin D(9k) and calmodulin (CaM), homologous EFCaBPs from different functional classes, by using direct structure determination with site-directed mutagenesis and protein engineering. Structure combined with biochemistry provided the foundation for identifying the fundamental mechanism of cooperativity in the binding of Ca(2+) ions: this cooperativity provides EFCaBPs with the ability to detect the relatively small changes in concentration that constitute Ca(2+) signals. Using calbindin D(9k) as a model system, studies of the structure and fast time scale dynamics of each of the four ion binding states in a typical EF-hand domain provided direct evidence that site-site communication lowers the free energy cost of reorganization for binding the second ion. Our work has also extended models of how EFCaBPs interact with their cellular targets. We determined the unique dimeric architecture of S100 proteins, a specialized subfamily of EFCaBPs found exclusively in vertebrates. We described the implications for how these proteins transduce signals and went on to characterize interactions with peptide fragments of important cellular targets. Studies of the CaM homolog centrin revealed novel characteristics of its binding of Ca(2+) and its interaction with its cellular target Kar1. These results provided clear examples of how subtle differences in sequence fine-tune EFCaBPs to interact with their specific targets. The structural approach stands at a critical crossroad, shifting in emphasis from descriptive structural biochemistry to integrated biology and medicine. We present our dual-molecular-switch model for Ca(2+) regulation of gating functions of voltage-gated sodium channels in which both CaM and an intrinsic EF-hand domain serve as coupled Ca(2+) sensors. A second example involves novel EFCaBP extracellular function, that is, the role of S100A8/S100A9 heterodimer in the innate immune response to bacterial pathogens. A mechanism for the antimicrobial activity of S100A8/S100A9 was discovered. We describe interactions of S100A8/S100A9 and S100B with the cell surface receptor for advanced glycation end products. Biochemical and structural studies are now uncovering the mechanisms by which EFCaBPs work and are helping to define their biological activities, while simultaneously expanding knowledge of the roles of these proteins in normal cellular physiology and the pathology of disease.
© 2011 American Chemical Society