Insight
is our reward

Publications in eLife by NOMIS researchers

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

September 4, 2023

During apoptosis, caspases degrade 8 out of ~30 nucleoporins to irreversibly demolish the nuclear pore complex. However, for poorly understood reasons, caspases are also activated during cell differentiation. Here, we show that sublethal activation of caspases during myogenesis results in the transient proteolysis of four peripheral Nups and one transmembrane Nup. ‘Trimmed’ NPCs become nuclear export-defective, and we identified in an unbiased manner several classes of cytoplasmic, plasma membrane, and mitochondrial proteins that rapidly accumulate in the nucleus. NPC trimming by non-apoptotic caspases was also observed in neurogenesis and endoplasmic reticulum stress. Our results suggest that caspases can reversibly modulate nuclear transport activity, which allows them to function as agents of cell differentiation and adaptation at sublethal levels. © 2023, eLife Sciences Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

July 20, 2023

Non-membrane-bound biomolecular condensates have been proposed to represent an important mode of subcellular organization in diverse biological settings. However, the fundamental principles governing the spatial organization and dynamics of condensates at the atomistic level remain unclear. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae Lge1 protein is required for histone H2B ubiquitination and its N-terminal intrinsically disordered fragment (Lge11-80) undergoes robust phase separation. This study connects single-and multi-chain all-atom molecular dynamics simulations of Lge11-80 with the in vitro behavior of Lge11-80 condensates. Analysis of modeled protein-protein interactions elucidates the key determinants of Lge11-80 condensate formation and links configurational entropy, valency, and compactness of proteins inside the condensates. A newly derived analytical formalism, related to colloid fractal cluster formation, describes condensate architecture across length scales as a function of protein valency and compactness. In particular, the formalism provides an atomisti-cally resolved model of Lge11-80 condensates on the scale of hundreds of nanometers starting from individual protein conformers captured in simulations. The simulation-derived fractal dimensions of condensates of Lge11-80 and its mutants agree with their in vitro morphologies. The presented framework enables a multiscale description of biomolecular condensates and embeds their study in a wider context of colloid self-organization. © Polyansky, Gallego et al.

Research field(s)
Natural Sciences

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

June 2, 2023

The β-hemoglobinopathies, such as sickle cell disease and β-thalassemia, are one of the most common genetic diseases worldwide and are caused by mutations affecting the structure or production of β-globin subunits in adult hemoglobin. Many gene editing efforts to treat the β-he-moglobinopathies attempt to correct β-globin mutations or increase γ-globin for fetal hemoglobin production. δ-globin, the subunit of adult hemoglobin A2, has high homology to β-globin and is already pan-cellularly expressed at low levels in adult red blood cells. However, upregulation of δ-globin is a relatively unexplored avenue to increase the amount of functional hemoglobin. Here, we use CRISPR-Cas9 to repair non-functional transcriptional elements in the endogenous promoter region of δ-globin to increase overall expression of adult hemoglobin 2 (HbA2). We find that insertion of a KLF1 site alone is insufficient to upregulate δ-globin. Instead, multiple transcription factor elements are necessary for robust upregulation of δ-globin from the endogenous locus. Promoter edited HUDEP-2 immortalized erythroid progenitor cells exhibit striking increases of HBD transcript, from less than 5% to over 20% of total β-like globins in clonal populations. Edited CD34 +hemato-poietic stem and progenitors (HSPCs) differentiated to primary human erythroblasts express up to 46% HBD in clonal populations. These findings add mechanistic insight to globin gene regulation and offer a new therapeutic avenue to treat β-hemoglobinopathies. © 2023, eLife Sciences Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

May 9, 2023

The amoeba-resistant bacterium Legionella pneumophila causes Legionnaires’ disease and employs a type IV secretion system (T4SS) to replicate in the unique, ER-associated Legionella-containing vacuole (LCV). The large fusion GTPase Sey1/atlastin is implicated in ER dynamics, ER-de-rived lipid droplet (LD) formation, and LCV maturation. Here, we employ cryo-electron tomography, confocal microscopy, proteomics, and isotopologue profiling to analyze LCV-LD interactions in the genetically tractable amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. Dually fluorescence-labeled D. discoideum producing LCV and LD markers revealed that Sey1 as well as the L. pneumophila T4SS and the Ran GTPase activator LegG1 promote LCV-LD interactions. In vitro reconstitution using purified LCVs and LDs from parental or Δsey1 mutant D. discoideum indicated that Sey1 and GTP promote this process. Sey1 and the L. pneumophila fatty acid transporter FadL were implicated in palmi-tate catabolism and palmitate-dependent intracellular growth. Taken together, our results reveal that Sey1 and LegG1 mediate LD-and FadL-dependent fatty acid metabolism of intracellular L. pneumophila. © Hüsler et al.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

July 1, 2022

Proteins associated with the spindle apparatus, a cytoskeletal structure that ensures the proper segregation of chromosomes during cell division, experienced an unusual number of amino acid substitutions in modern humans after the split from the ancestors of Neandertals and Denisovans. Here, we analyze the history of these substitutions and show that some of the genes in which they occur may have been targets of positive selection. We also find that the two changes in the kinetochore scaffold 1 (KNL1) protein, previously believed to be specific to modern humans, were present in some Neandertals. We show that the KNL1 gene of these Neandertals shared a common ancestor with present-day Africans about 200,000 years ago due to gene flow from the ancestors (or relatives) of modern humans into Neandertals. Subsequently, some non-Africans inherited this modern human-like gene variant from Neandertals, but none inherited the ancestral gene variants. These results add to the growing evidence of early contacts between modern humans and archaic groups in Eurasia and illustrate the intricate relationships among these groups.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

January 1, 2022

Quantitative measurements of physical parameters become increasingly important for understanding biological processes. Brillouin microscopy (BM) has recently emerged as one technique providing the 3D distribution of viscoelastic properties inside biological samples — so far relying on the implicit assumption that refractive index (RI) and density can be neglected. Here, we present a novel method (FOB microscopy) combining BM with optical diffraction tomography and epi-fluorescence imaging for explicitly measuring the Brillouin shift, RI and absolute density with specificity to fluorescently labeled structures. We show that neglecting the RI and density might lead to erroneous conclusions. Investigating the nucleoplasm of wild-type HeLa cells, we find that it has lower density but higher longitudinal modulus than the cytoplasm. Thus, the longitudinal modulus is not merely sensitive to the water content of the sample — a postulate vividly discussed in the field. We demonstrate the further utility of FOB on various biological systems including adipocytes and intracellular membraneless compartments. FOB microscopy can provide unexpected scientific discoveries and shed quantitative light on processes such as phase separation and transition inside living cells.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2021

Forager focus on wild cereal plants has been documented in the core zone of domestication in southwestern Asia, while evidence for forager use of wild grass grains remains sporadic elsewhere. In this paper, we present starch grain and phytolith analyses of dental calculus from 60 Mesolithic and Early Neolithic individuals from five sites in the Danube Gorges of the central Balkans. This zone was inhabited by likely complex Holocene foragers for several millennia before the appearance of the first farmers ~6200 cal BC. We also analyzed forager ground stone tools for evidence of plant processing. Our results based on the study of dental calculus show that certain species of Poaceae (species of the genus Aegilops) were used since the Early Mesolithic, while ground stone tools exhibit traces of a developed grass grain processing technology. The adoption of domesticated plants in this region after ~6500 cal BC might have been eased by the existing familiarity with wild cereals.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

May 1, 2021

We analyze the metabolomes of humans, chimpanzees, and macaques in muscle, kidney and three different regions of the brain. Although several compounds in amino acid metabolism occur at either higher or lower concentrations in humans than in the other primates, metabolites downstream of adenylosuccinate lyase, which catalyzes two reactions in purine synthesis, occur at lower concentrations in humans. This enzyme carries an amino acid substitution that is present in all humans today but absent in Neandertals. By introducing the modern human substitution into the genomes of mice, as well as the ancestral, Neandertal-like substitution into the genomes of human cells, we show that this amino acid substitution contributes to much or all of the reduction of de novo synthesis of purines in humans.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

March 1, 2021

In mammals, HP1-mediated heterochromatin forms positionally and mechanically stable genomic domains even though the component HP1 paralogs, HP1a, HP1b, and HP1g, display rapid on-off dynamics. Here, we investigate whether phase-separation by HP1 proteins can explain these biological observations. Using bulk and single-molecule methods, we show that, within phase-separated HP1a-DNA condensates, HP1a acts as a dynamic liquid, while compacted DNA molecules are constrained in local territories. These condensates are resistant to large forces yet can be readily dissolved by HP1b. Finally, we find that differences in each HP1 paralog’s DNA compaction and phase-separation properties arise from their respective disordered regions. Our findings suggest a generalizable model for genome organization in which a pool of weakly bound proteins collectively capitalize on the polymer properties of DNA to produce self-organizing domains that are simultaneously resistant to large forces at the mesoscale and susceptible to competition at the molecular scale.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

September 1, 2020

Prion diseases are caused by PrPSc, a self-replicating pathologically misfolded protein that exerts toxicity predominantly in the brain. The administration of PrPSc causes a robust, reproducible and specific disease manifestation. Here, we have applied a combination of translating ribosome affinity purification and ribosome profiling to identify biologically relevant prion-induced changes during disease progression in a cell-type-specific and genome-wide manner. Terminally diseased mice with severe neurological symptoms showed extensive alterations in astrocytes and microglia. Surprisingly, we detected only minor changes in the translational profiles of neurons. Prion-induced alterations in glia overlapped with those identified in other neurodegenerative diseases, suggesting that similar events occur in a broad spectrum of pathologies. Our results suggest that aberrant translation within glia may suffice to cause severe neurological symptoms and may even be the primary driver of prion disease.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

September 1, 2020

Vascular dysfunctions are a common feature of multiple age-related diseases. However, modeling healthy and pathological aging of the human vasculature represents an unresolved experimental challenge. Here, we generated induced vascular endothelial cells (iVECs) and smooth muscle cells (iSMCs) by direct reprogramming of healthy human fibroblasts from donors of different ages and Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS) patients. iVECs induced from old donors revealed upregulation of GSTM1 and PALD1, genes linked to oxidative stress, inflammation and endothelial junction stability, as vascular aging markers. A functional assay performed on PALD1 KD VECs demonstrated a recovery in vascular permeability. We found that iSMCs from HGPS donors overexpressed bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) 4, which plays a key role in both vascular calcification and endothelial barrier damage observed in HGPS. Strikingly, BMP4 concentrations are higher in serum from HGPS vs. age-matched mice. Furthermore, targeting BMP4 with blocking antibody recovered the functionality of the vascular barrier in vitro, hence representing a potential future therapeutic strategy to limit cardiovascular dysfunction in HGPS. These results show that iVECs and iSMCs retain disease-related signatures, allowing modeling of vascular aging and HGPS in vitro.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

August 1, 2020

The glycoprotein uromodulin (UMOD) is the most abundant protein in human urine and forms filamentous homopolymers that encapsulate and aggregate uropathogens, promoting pathogen clearance by urine excretion. Despite its critical role in the innate immune response against urinary tract infections, the structural basis and mechanism of UMOD polymerization remained unknown. Here, we present the cryo-EM structure of the UMOD filament core at 3.5 Å resolution, comprised of the bipartite zona pellucida (ZP) module in a helical arrangement with a rise of ~65 Å and a twist of ~180°. The immunoglobulin-like ZPN and ZPC subdomains of each monomer are separated by a long linker that interacts with the preceding ZPC and following ZPN subdomains by β-sheet complementation. The unique filament architecture suggests an assembly mechanism in which subunit incorporation could be synchronized with proteolytic cleavage of the C-terminal pro-peptide that anchors assembly-incompetent UMOD precursors to the membrane.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

March 1, 2020

Cryo-electron tomography (cryoET) has become a powerful technique at the interface of structural biology and cell biology, due to its unique ability for imaging cells in their native state and determining structures of macromolecular complexes in their cellular context. A limitation of cryoET is its restriction to relatively thin samples. Sample thinning by cryo-focused ion beam (cryoFIB) milling has significantly expanded the range of samples that can be analyzed by cryoET. Unfortunately, cryoFIB milling is low-throughput, time-consuming and manual. Here, we report a method for fully automated sequential cryoFIB preparation of high-quality lamellae, including rough milling and polishing. We reproducibly applied this method to eukaryotic and bacterial model organisms, and show that the resulting lamellae are suitable for cryoET imaging and subtomogram averaging. Since our method reduces the time required for lamella preparation and minimizes the need for user input, we envision the technique will render previously inaccessible projects feasible.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology