Representative publications

Yves Dehouck and UgoBastolla

Low-frequency normal modes generated by elastic network models tend to correlate strongly with large conformational changes of proteins, despite their reliance on the harmonic approximation, which is only valid in close proximity of the native structure. We consider 12 variants of the torsional network model (TNM), an elastic network model in torsion angle space, that adopt different sets of torsion angles as degrees of freedom and reproduce with similar quality the thermal fluctuations of proteins but present drastic differences in their agreement with conformational changes. We show that these differences are related to the extent of the deviations from the harmonic approximation, assessed through an anharmonic energy function whose harmonic approximation coincides with the TNM. Our results indicate that mode anharmonicity is more strongly related to its collectivity, i.e., the number of atoms displaced by the mode, than to its amplitude; low-frequency modes can remain harmonic even at large amplitudes, provided they are sufficiently collective. Finally, we assess the potential benefits of different strategies to minimize the impact of anharmonicity. The reduction of the number of degrees of freedom or their regularization by a torsional harmonic potential significantly improves the collectivity and harmonicity of normal modes and the agreement with conformational changes. In contrast, the correction of normal mode frequencies to partially account for anharmonicity does not yield substantial benefits. The TNM program is freely available at https://github.com/ugobas/tnm.

Andre ́ Franz, Pablo Valledor, Patricia Ubieto-Capella, ..., Thorsten Hoppe, Oscar Fernandez-Capetillo, Emilio Lecona

The AAA+ ATPase VCP regulates the extraction of SUMO and ubiquitin-modified DNA replication factors from chromatin. We have previously described that active DNA synthesis is associated with a SUMO-high/ubiquitin-low environment governed by the deubiquitylase USP7. Here, we unveil a functional cooperation between USP7 and VCP in DNA replication, which is conserved from Caenorhabditis elegans to mammals. The role of VCP in chromatin is defined by its cofactor FAF1, which facilitates the extraction of SUMOylated and ubiquitylated proteins that accumulate after the block of DNA replication in the absence of USP7. The inactivation of USP7 and FAF1 is synthetically lethal both in C. elegans and mammalian cells. In addition, USP7 and VCP inhibitors display synergistic toxicity supporting a functional link between deubiquitylation and extraction of chromatin-bound proteins. Our results suggest that USP7 and VCPFAF1 facilitate DNA replication by controlling the balance of SUMO/Ubiquitin-modified DNA replication factors on chromatin.

Robert Sablowski, Crisanto Gutierrez

The reiterative organogenesis that drives plant growth relies on the constant production of new cells, which remain encased by interconnected cell walls. For these reasons, plant morphogenesis strictly depends on the rate and orientation of both cell division and cell growth. Important progress has been made in recent years in understanding how cell cycle progression and the orientation of cell divisions are coordinated with cell and organ growth and with the acquisition of specialized cell fates. We review basic concepts and players in plant cell cycle and division, then focus on their links to growth-related cues, such as metabolic state, cell size, cell geometry and cell mechanics, and on how cell cycle progression and cell division are linked to specific cell fates. The retinoblastoma pathway has emerged as a major player in the coordination of the cell cycle with both growth and cell identity, while microtubule dynamics are central in the coordination of oriented cell divisions. Future challenges include clarifying feedbacks between growth and cell cycle progression, revealing the molecular basis of cell division orientation in response to mechanical and chemical signals, and probing the links between cell fate changes and chromatin dynamics during the cell cycle.

Javier Rueda-Carrasco, María Jesús Martin-Bermejo, Guadalupe Pereyra, María Inés Mateo, Aldo Borroto, Frederic Brosseron, Markus P Kummer, Stephanie Schwartz, José P López-Atalaya, Balbino Alarcon, Pilar Esteve, Michael T Heneka, Paola Bovolenta

Neuroinflammation is a common feature of many neurodegenerative diseases. It fosters a dysfunctional neuron-microglia-astrocyte crosstalk that, in turn, maintains microglial cells in a perniciously reactive state that often enhances neuronal damage. The molecular components that mediate this critical communication are not fully explored. Here, we show that secreted frizzled-related protein 1 (SFRP1), a multifunctional regulator of cell-to-cell communication, is part of the cellular crosstalk underlying neuroinflammation. In mouse models of acute and chronic neuroinflammation, SFRP1, largely astrocyte-derived, promotes and sustains microglial activation, and thus a chronic inflammatory state. SFRP1 promotes the upregulation of components of the hypoxia-induced factor-dependent inflammatory pathway and, to a lower extent, of those downstream of the nuclear factor-kappa B. We thus propose that SFRP1 acts as an astrocyte-to-microglia amplifier of neuroinflammation, representing a potential valuable therapeutic target for counteracting the harmful effect of chronic inflammation in several neurodegenerative diseases.

Alexandra Atienza-Manuel, Vicente Castillo-Mancho, Stefano De Renzis, Joaquim Culi, Mar Ruiz-Gómez

The vertebrate endocytic receptor CUBAM, consisting of three cubilin monomers complexed with a single amnionless molecule, plays a major role in protein reabsorption in the renal proximal tubule. Here, we show that Drosophila CUBAM is a tripartite complex composed of Amnionless and two cubilin paralogues, Cubilin and Cubilin2, and that it is required for nephrocyte slit diaphragm (SD) dynamics. Loss of CUBAM-mediated endocytosis induces dramatic morphological changes in nephrocytes and promotes enlarged ingressions of the external membrane and SD mislocalisation. These phenotypes result in part from an imbalance between endocytosis, which is strongly impaired in CUBAM mutants, and exocytosis in these highly active cells. Of note, rescuing receptor-mediated endocytosis by Megalin/LRP2 or Rab5 expression only partially restores SD positioning in CUBAM mutants, suggesting a specific requirement of CUBAM in SD degradation and/or recycling. This finding and the reported expression of CUBAM in podocytes suggest a possible unexpected conserved role for this endocytic receptor in vertebrate SD remodelling.

Izarne Medina, Manuel Calleja, Ginés Morata

Cell competition is a homeostatic process that eliminates by apoptosis unfit or undesirable cells from animal tissues, including tumor cells that appear during the life of the organism. In Drosophila there is evidence that many types of oncogenic cells are eliminated by cell competition. One exception is cells mutant for polyhomeotic (ph), a member of the Polycomb family of genes; most of the isolated mutant ph clones survive and develop tumorous overgrowths in imaginal discs. To characterize the tumorigenic effect of the lack of ph, we first studied the growth of different regions of the wing disc deficient in ph activity and found that the effect is restricted to the proximal appendage. Moreover, we found that ph-deficient tissue is partially refractory to apoptosis. Second, we analyzed the behavior of clones lacking ph function and found that many suffer cell competition but are not completely eliminated. Unexpectedly, we found that nonmutant cells also undergo cell competition when surrounded by ph-deficient cells, indicating that within the same tissue cell competition may operate in opposite directions. We suggest two reasons for the incompleteness of cell competition in ph mutant cells: 1) These cells are partially refractory to apoptosis, and 2) the loss of ph function alters the identity of imaginal cells and subsequently their cell affinities. It compromises the winner/loser interaction, a prerequisite for cell competition.

Dolores Piniella, Elena Martínez-Blanco, David Bartolomé-Martín, Ana B Sanz-Martos, Francisco Zafra

Dopamine (DA) transporters (DATs) are regulated by trafficking and modulatory processes that probably rely on stable and transient interactions with neighboring proteins and lipids. Using proximity-dependent biotin identification (BioID), we found novel potential partners for DAT, including several membrane proteins, such as the transmembrane chaperone 4F2hc, the proteolipid M6a and a potential membrane receptor for progesterone (PGRMC2). We also detected two cytoplasmic proteins: a component of the Cullin1-dependent ubiquitination machinery termed F-box/LRR-repeat protein 2 (FBXL2), and the enzyme inositol 5-phosphatase 2 (SHIP2). Immunoprecipitation (IP) and immunofluorescence studies confirmed either a physical association or a close spatial proximity between these proteins and DAT. M6a, SHIP2 and the Cullin1 system were shown to increase DAT activity in coexpression experiments, suggesting a functional role for their association. Deeper analysis revealed that M6a, which is enriched in neuronal protrusions (filopodia or dendritic spines), colocalized with DAT in these structures. In addition, the product of SHIP2 enzymatic activity (phosphatidylinositol 3,4-bisphosphate [PI(3,4)P2]) was tightly associated with DAT, as shown by co-IP and by colocalization of mCherry-DAT with a specific biosensor for this phospholipid. PI(3,4)P2 strongly stimulated transport activity in electrophysiological recordings, and conversely, inhibition of SHIP2 reduced DA uptake in several experimental systems including striatal synaptosomes and the dopaminergic cell line SH-SY5Y. In summary, here we report several potential new partners for DAT and a novel regulatory lipid, which may represent new pharmacological targets for DAT, a pivotal protein in dopaminergic function of the brain.

Alvaro Briso-Montiano, Francisco Del Caño-Ochoa, Alicia Vilas, Adrián Velázquez-Campoy, Vicente Rubio, Belén Pérez, Santiago Ramón-Maiques

Phosphomannomutase 2 (PMM2) deficiency, the most frequent congenital disorder of glycosylation (PMM2-CDG), is a severe condition, which has no cure. Due to the identification of destabilizing mutations, our group aims at increasing residual activity in PMM2-CDG patients, searching for pharmacochaperones. Detailed structural knowledge of hPMM2 might help identify variants amenable to pharmacochaperoning. hPMM2 structural information is limited to one incomplete structure deposited in the Protein Databank without associated publication, which lacked ligands and residues from a crucial loop. Here we report five complete crystal structures of hPMM2, three for wild-type and two for the p.Thr237Met variant frequently found among Spanish PMM2-CDG patients, free and bound to the essential activator glucose-1,6-bisphosphate (Glc-1,6-P2 ). In the hPMM2 homodimer, each subunit has a different conformation, reflecting movement of the distal core domain relative to the dimerization cap domain, supporting an opening/closing process during catalysis. Two Mg2+ ions bind to the core domain, one catalytic and one structural. In the cap domain, the site for Glc-1,6-P2 is well delineated, while a Cl- ion binding at the intersubunit interface is predicted to strengthen dimerization. Patient-found amino acid substitutions are nonhomogeneously distributed throughout hPMM2, reflecting differential functional or structural importance for various parts of the protein. We classify 93 of 101 patient-reported single amino acid variants according to five potential pathogenetic mechanism affecting folding of the core and cap domains, linker 2 flexibility, dimerization, activator binding, and catalysis. We propose that ~80% and ~50% of the respective core and cap domains substitutions are potential candidates for pharmacochaperoning treatment.

J Terreros-Roncal, E P Moreno-Jiménez, M Flor-García, C B Rodríguez-Moreno, M F Trinchero, F Cafini, A Rábano, M Llorens-Martín

Disrupted hippocampal performance underlies psychiatric comorbidities and cognitive impairments in
patients with neurodegenerative disorders. To understand the contribution of adult hippocampal
neurogenesis (AHN) to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia
with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia, we studied postmortem human samples. We found
that adult-born dentate granule cells showed abnormal morphological development and changes in the
expression of differentiation markers. The ratio of quiescent to proliferating hippocampal neural stem cells
shifted, and the homeostasis of the neurogenic niche was altered. Aging and neurodegenerative
diseases reduced the phagocytic capacity of microglia, triggered astrogliosis, and altered the
microvasculature of the dentate gyrus. Thus, enhanced vulnerability of AHN to neurodegeneration
might underlie hippocampal dysfunction during physiological and pathological aging in humans.

Jorge Val-Calvo, Andrés Miguel-Arribas, Fernando Freire, David Abia, Ling Juan Wu, Wilfried J J Meijer

During conjugation, a conjugative DNA element is transferred from a donor to a recipient cell via a connecting channel. Conjugation has clinical relevance because it is the major route for spreading antibiotic resistance and virulence genes. The conjugation process can be divided into different steps. The initial steps carried out in the donor cell culminate in the transfer of a single DNA strand (ssDNA) of the conjugative element into the recipient cell. However, stable settlement of the conjugative element in the new host requires at least two additional events: conversion of the transferred ssDNA into double-stranded DNA and inhibition of the hosts' defence mechanisms to prevent degradation of the transferred DNA. The genes involved in this late step are historically referred to as establishment genes. The defence mechanisms of the host must be inactivated rapidly and-importantly-transiently, because prolonged inactivation would make the cell vulnerable to the attack of other foreign DNA, such as those of phages. Therefore, expression of the establishment genes in the recipient cell has to be rapid but transient. Here, we studied regulation of the establishment genes present on the four clades of the pLS20 family of conjugative plasmids harboured by different Bacillus species. Evidence is presented that two fundamentally different mechanisms regulate the establishment genes present on these plasmids. Identification of the regulatory sequences were critical in revealing the establishment regulons. Remarkably, whereas the conjugation genes involved in the early steps of the conjugation process are conserved and are located in a single large operon, the establishment genes are highly variable and organised in multiple operons. We propose that the mosaical distribution of establishment genes in multiple operons is directly related to the variability of defence genes encoded by the host bacterial chromosomes.

Soledad Delgado, Celia Perales, Carlos García-Crespo, María Eugenia Soria, Isabel Gallego, Ana Isabel de Ávila, Brenda Martínez-González, Lucía Vázquez-Sirvent, Cecilio López-Galíndez, Federico Morán, Esteban Domingo

RNA viruses replicate as complex mutant spectra termed viral quasispecies. The frequency of each individual genome in a mutant spectrum depends on its rate of generation and its relative fitness in the replicating population ensemble. The advent of deep sequencing methodologies allows for the first-time quantification of haplotype abundances within mutant spectra. There is no information on the haplotype profile of the resident genomes and how the landscape evolves when a virus replicates in a controlled cell culture environment. Here, we report the construction of intramutant spectrum haplotype landscapes of three amplicons of the NS5A-NS5B coding region of hepatitis C virus (HCV). Two-dimensional (2D) neural networks were constructed for 44 related HCV populations derived from a common clonal ancestor that was passaged up to 210 times in human hepatoma Huh-7.5 cells in the absence of external selective pressures. The haplotype profiles consisted of an extended dense basal platform, from which a lower number of protruding higher peaks emerged. As HCV increased its adaptation to the cells, the number of haplotype peaks within each mutant spectrum expanded, and their distribution shifted in the 2D network. The results show that extensive HCV replication in a monotonous cell culture environment does not limit HCV exploration of sequence space through haplotype peak movements. The landscapes reflect dynamic variation in the intramutant spectrum haplotype profile and may serve as a reference to interpret the modifications produced by external selective pressures or to compare with the landscapes of mutant spectra in complex in vivo environments. IMPORTANCE The study provides for the first time the haplotype profile and its variation in the course of virus adaptation to a cell culture environment in the absence of external selective constraints. The deep sequencing-based self-organized maps document a two-layer haplotype distribution with an ample basal platform and a lower number of protruding peaks. The results suggest an inferred intramutant spectrum fitness landscape structure that offers potential benefits for virus resilience to mutational inputs.

Javier Galán-Martínez, Konstantinos Stamatakis, Inés Sánchez-Gómez, Silvia Vázquez-Cuesta, Núria Gironés, Manuel Fresno

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a very common life-threatening malignancy. Transcription factor-like 5 (TCFL5) has been suggested to be involved in CRC. Here, we describe the expression of four alternative transcripts of TCFL5 and their relevance in CRC. Complete deletion of all isoforms drastically decreased pro-tumoural properties such as spheroids formation and in vivo tumour growth, although increased migration in CRC cell lines. Overexpression of the two main isoforms, TCFL5_E8 and CHA, had opposite effects: TCFL5_E8 reduced proliferation and spheroids formation, while CHA increased them. TCFL5_E8 reduced in vivo tumour formation, while CHA had no effect. In addition, TCFL5_E8 and CHA have different roles in the regulation of the pluripotency-related genes SOX2 and KLF4. Both isoforms bind directly to their promoters; however, TCFL5_E8 induced SOX2 and reduced KLF4 mRNA levels, whereas CHA did the opposite. Together, our results show that TCFL5 plays an important role in the development of CRC, being however isoform-specific. This work also points to the need to analyse separately TCFL5 isoforms in cancer, due to their different and opposite functions.

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