Browsing by Subject "solubiologia"

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  • Saarikangas, Juha (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Plasma membrane adopts myriad of different shapes to carry out essential cellular processes such as nutrient uptake, immunological defence mechanisms and cell migration. Therefore, the details how different plasma membrane structures are made and remodelled are of the upmost importance. Bending of plasma membrane into different shapes requires substantial amount of force, which can be provided by the actin cytoskeleton, however, the molecules that regulate the interplay between the actin cytoskeleton and plasma membrane have remained elusive. Recent findings have placed new types of effectors at sites of plasma membrane remodelling, including BAR proteins, which can directly bind and deform plasma membrane into different shapes. In addition to their membrane-bending abilities, BAR proteins also harbor protein domains that intimately link them to the actin cytoskeleton. The ancient BAR domain fold has evolved into at least three structurally and functionally different sub-groups: the BAR, F-BAR and I-BAR domains. This thesis work describes the discovery and functional characterization of the Inverse-BAR domains (I-BARs). Using synthetic model membranes, we have shown that I-BAR domains bind and deform membranes into tubular structures through a binding-surface composed of positively charged amino acids. Importantly, the membrane-binding surface of I-BAR domains displays an inverse geometry to that of the BAR and F-BAR domains, and these structural differences explain why I-BAR domains induce cell protrusions whereas BAR and most F-BAR domains induce cell invaginations. In addition, our results indicate that the binding of I-BAR domains to membranes can alter the spatial organization of phosphoinositides within membranes. Intriguingly, we also found that some I-BAR domains can insert helical motifs into the membrane bilayer, which has important consequences for their membrane binding/bending functions. In mammals there are five I-BAR domain containing proteins. Cell biological studies on ABBA revealed that it is highly expressed in radial glial cells during the development of the central nervous system and plays an important role in the extension process of radial glia-like C6R cells by regulating lamellipodial dynamics through its I-BAR domain. To reveal the role of these proteins in the context of animals, we analyzed MIM knockout mice and found that MIM is required for proper renal functions in adult mice. MIM deficient mice displayed a severe urine concentration defect due to defective intercellular junctions of the kidney epithelia. Consistently, MIM localized to adherens junctions in cultured kidney epithelial cells, where it promoted actin assembly through its I-BAR andWH2 domains. In summary, this thesis describes the mechanism how I-BAR proteins deform membranes and provides information about the biological role of these proteins, which to our knowledge are the first proteins that have been shown to directly deform plasma membrane to make cell protrusions.
  • Vuorio, Kristiina; Mäki, Anita; Salmi, Pauliina; Aalto, Sanni L.; Tiirola, Marja (Frontiers Media S.A., 2020)
    Frontiers in Microbiology 11 (2020) 96
    The composition of phytoplankton community is the basis for environmental monitoring and assessment of the ecological status of aquatic ecosystems. Community composition studies of phytoplankton have been based on time-consuming and expertise-demanding light microscopy analyses. Molecular methods have the potential to replace microscopy, but the high copy number variation of ribosomal genes and the lack of universal primers for simultaneous amplification of prokaryotic and eukaryotic genes complicate data interpretation. In this study, we used our previously developed directional primer-independent high-throughput sequencing (HTS) approach to analyze 16S and 18S rRNA community structures. Comparison of 83 boreal lake samples showed that the relative abundances of eukaryotic phytoplankton at class level and prokaryotic cyanobacteria at order level were consistent between HTS and microscopy results. At the genus level, the results had low correspondence, mainly due to lack of sequences in the reference library. HTS was superior to identify genera that are extensively represented in the reference databases but lack specific morphological characteristics. Targeted metatranscriptomics proved to be a feasible method to complement the microscopy analysis. The metatranscriptomics can also be applied without linking the sequences to taxonomy. However, direct indexing of the sequences to their environmental indicator values needs collections of more comprehensive sample sets, as long as the coverage of molecular barcodes of eukaryotic species remains insufficient.
  • Kaartinen, Tanja (Helsingin yliopisto, 2017)
    T cells are a promising therapeutic target and remedy in modern medicine. Various ways of modifying T-cell response are under development with a view to treating cancer, autoimmune diseases, and transplantation-related complications. T-cell function can be steered by altering target recognition or cosignaling receptors as well as by inducing immunological memory or regulatory T cells (Tregs). Unwanted immune responses can be curtailed by administering Tregs and, perhaps, long-lasting immunological tolerance can be induced. Cytotoxic T cells can be directed against cancer cells. Considerable T-cell numbers are required for clinical efficacy. Therefore, in vitro cell expansion is often necessary and cultures are commonly supplemented with interleukin (IL)-2. As T-cell activation, proliferation, effector differentiation, and the development of memory are inherently coupled to each other, excessive stimulation during expansion may lead to exhaustion. Hence, cells with weaker therapeutic potency may be produced. In this thesis, various methods of T-cell activation and in vitro cell expansion were evaluated particularly in the context of personalized medicine and cell therapy. Good therapeutic response to T-cell therapy in cancer depends in part on the survival of T cells and T-cell memory. The present study demonstrated that the proportion of memory T cells could be increased by limiting the length of in vitro T-cell expansion and by reducing the amount of IL-2. This study further showed that as a result of in vitro expansion Tregs expressed higher levels of the Cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA4) cosignaling receptor. CTLA4 is a central molecule for the Treg-mediated inhibition. The level of CTLA4 expression in Tregs correlated with higher inhibitory function of the cells. Apparently, high CTLA4 receptor expression after cell expansion was in part a result of changes in the alternative splicing of CTLA4 messenger RNA (mRNA). It was also found that the splicing preferences and the expression levels of CTLA4 mRNAs were associated with genetic variation in the T-cell cosignaling receptor gene region. This thesis provides new knowledge that can be applied in the evaluation of individual variation in T-cell immunity and the production of therapeutic T cells. The T-cell expansion method that was developed here is directly applicable in T-cell manufacturing, and the findings may have substantial clinical relevance.
  • Vehviläinen, Piia (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Latent transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) binding proteins (LTBPs) -1, -3 and -4 are ECM components whose major function is to augment the secretion and matrix targeting of TGF-beta, a multipotent cytokine. LTBP-2 does not bind small latent TGF-beta but has suggested functions as a structural protein in ECM microfibrils. In the current work we focused on analyzing possible adhesive functions of LTBP-2 as well as on characterizing the kinetics and regulation of LTBP-2 secretion and ECM deposition. We also explored the role of TGF-beta binding LTBPs in endothelial cells activated to mimic angiogenesis as well as in malignant mesothelioma. We found that, unlike most adherent cells, several melanoma cell lines efficiently adhered to purified recombinant LTBP-2. Further characterization revealed that the adhesion was mediated by alpha3beta1 and alpha6beta1 integrins. Heparin also inhibited the melanoma cell adhesion suggesting a role for heparan sulphate proteoglycans. LTBP-2 was also identified as a haptotactic substrate for melanoma cell migration. We used cultured human embryonic lung fibroblasts to analyze the temporal and spatial association of LTBP-2 into ECM. By We found that LTBP-2 was efficiently assembled to the ECM only in confluent cultures following the deposition of fibronectin (FN) and fibrillin-1. In early, subconfluent cultures it remained primarily in soluble form after secretion. LTBP-2 colocalized transiently with FN and fibrillin-1. Silencing of fibrillin-1 expression by lentiviral shRNAs profoundly disrupted the deposition of LTBP-2 indicating that the ECM association of LTBP-2 depends on a pre-formed fibrillin-1 network. Considering the established role of TGF-beta as a regulator of angiogenesis we induced morphological activation of endothelial cells by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) and followed the fate of LTBP-1 in the endothelial ECM. This resulted in profound proteolytic processing of LTBP-1 and release of latent TGF-beta complexes from the ECM. The processing was coupled with increased activation of MT-MMPs and specific upregulation of MT1-MMP. The major role of MT1-MMP in the proteolysis of LTBP-1 was confirmed by suppressing the expression with lentivirally induced short-hairpin RNAs as well as by various metalloproteinases inhibitors. TGF-beta can promote tumorigenesis of malignant mesothelioma (MM), which is an aggressive tumor of the pleura with poor prognosis. TGF-beta activity was analyzed in a panel of MM tumors by immunohistochemical staining of phosphorylated Smad-2 (P-Smad2). The tumor cells were strongly positive for P-Smad2 whereas LTBP-1 immunoreactivity was abundant in the stroma, and there was a negative correlation between LTBP-1 and P-Smad2 staining. In addition, the high P-Smad2 immunoreactivity correlated with shorter survival of patients. mRNA analysis revealed that TGF-beta1 was the most highly expressed isoform in both normal human pleura and MM tissue. LTBP-1 and LTBP-3 were both abundantly expressed. LTBP-1 was the predominant isoform in established MM cell lines whereas the expression of LTBP-3 was high in control cells. Suppression of LTBP-3 expression by siRNAs resulted in increased TGF-beta activity in MM cell lines accompanied by decreased proliferation. Our results suggest that decreased expression of LTBP-3 in MM could alter the targeting of TGF-beta to the ECM and lead to its increased activation. The current work emphasizes the coordinated process of the assembly and appropriate targeting of LTBPs with distinct adhesive or cytokine harboring properties into the ECM. The hierarchical assembly may have implications in the modulation of signaling events during morphogenesis and tissue remodeling.
  • Kantola, Anna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Extracellular matrix (ECM) is a complex network of various proteins and proteoglycans which provides tissues with structural strength and resilience. By harvesting signaling molecules like growth factors ECM has the capacity to control cellular functions including proliferation, differentiation and cell survival. Latent transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) binding proteins (LTBPs) associate fibrillar structures of the ECM and mediate the efficient secretion and ECM deposition of latent TGF-β. The current work was conducted to determine the regulatory regions of LTBP-3 and -4 genes to gain insight into their tissue-specific expression which also has impact on TGF-β biology. Furthermore, the current research aimed at defining the ECM targeting of the N-terminal variants of LTBP-4 (LTBP-4S and -4L), which is required to understand their functions in tissues and to gain insight into conditions in which TGF-β is activated. To characterize the regulatory regions of LTBP-3 and -4 genes in silico and functional promoter analysis techniques were employed. It was found that the expression of LTBP-4S and -4L are under control of two independent promoters. This finding was in accordance with the observed expression patterns of LTBP-4S and -4L in human tissues. All promoter regions characterized in this study were TATAless, GC-rich and highly conserved between human and mouse species. Putative binding sites for Sp1 and GATA family of transcription factors were recognized in all of these regulatory regions. It is possible that these transcription factors control the basal expression of LTBP-3 and -4 genes. Smad binding element was found within the LTBP-3 and -4S promoter regions, but it was not present in LTBP-4L promoter. Although this element important for TGF-β signaling was present in LTBP-4S promoter, TGF-β did not induce its transcriptional activity. LTBP-3 promoter activity and mRNA expression instead were stimulated by TGF-β1 in osteosarcoma cells. It was found that the stimulatory effect of TGF-β was mediated by Smad and Erk MAPK signaling pathways. The current work explored the ECM targeting of LTBP-4S and identified binding partners of this protein. It was found that the N-terminal end of LTBP-4S possesses fibronectin (FN) binding sites which are critical for its ECM targeting. FN deficient fibroblasts incorporated LTBP-4S into their ECM only after addition of exogenous FN. Furthermore, LTBP-4S was found to have heparin binding regions, of which the C-terminal binding site mediated fibroblast adhesion. Soluble heparin prevented the ECM association of LTBP-4S in fibroblast cultures. In the current work it was observed that there are significant differences in the secretion, processing and ECM targeting of LTBP-4S and -4L. Interestingly, it was observed that most of the secreted LTBP-4L was associated with latent TGF-β1, whereas LTBP-4S was mainly secreted as a free form from CHO cells. This thesis provides information on transcriptional regulation of LTBP-3 and -4 genes, which is required for the deeper understanding of their tissue-specific functions. Further, the current work elucidates the structural variability of LTBPs, which appears to have impact on secretion and ECM targeting of TGF-β. These findings may advance understanding the abnormal activation of TGF-β which is associated with connective tissue disorders and cancer.
  • Mattila, Pieta (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    The cells of multicellular organisms have differentiated to carry out specific functions that are often accompanied by distinct cell morphology. The actin cytoskeleton is one of the key regulators of cell shape subsequently controlling multiple cellular events including cell migration, cell division, endo- and exocytosis. A large set of actin regulating proteins has evolved to achieve and tightly coordinate this wide range of functions. Some actin regulator proteins have so-called house keeping roles and are essential for all eukaryotic cells, but some have evolved to meet the requirements of more specialized cell-types found in higher organisms enabling complex functions of differentiated organs, such as liver, kidney and brain. Often processes mediated by the actin cytoskeleton, like formation of cellular protrusions during cell migration, are intimately linked to plasma membrane remodeling. Thus, a close cooperation between these two cellular compartments is necessary, yet not much is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms. This study focused on a vertebrate-specific protein called missing-in-metastasis (MIM), which was originally characterized as a metastasis suppressor of bladder cancer. We demonstrated that MIM regulates the dynamics of actin cytoskeleton via its WH2 domain, and is expressed in a cell-type specific manner. Interestingly, further examination showed that the IM-domain of MIM displays a novel membrane tubulation activity, which induces formation of filopodia in cells. Following studies demonstrated that this membrane deformation activity is crucial for cell protrusions driven by MIM. In mammals, there are five members of IM-domain protein family. Functions and expression patterns of these family members have remained poorly characterized. To understand the physiological functions of MIM, we generated MIM knockout mice. MIM-deficient mice display no apparent developmental defects, but instead suffer from progressive renal disease and increased susceptibility to tumors. This indicates that MIM plays a role in the maintenance of specific physiological functions associated with distinct cell morphologies. Taken together, these studies implicate MIM both in the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton and the plasma membrane. Our results thus suggest that members of MIM/IRSp53 protein family coordinate the actin cytoskeleton:plasma membrane interface to control cell and tissue morphogenesis in multicellular organisms.
  • Heikkilä, Eija (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    The kidney filtration barrier consists of fenestrated endothelial cell layer, glomerular basement membrane and slit diaphragm (SD), the specialized junction between glomerular viscelar epithelial cells (podocytes). Podocyte injury is associated with the development of proteinuria, and if not reversed the injury will lead to permanent deterioration of the glomerular filter. The early events are characterized by disruption of the integrity of the SD, but the molecular pathways involved are not fully understood. Congenital nephrotic syndrome of the Finnish type (CNF) is caused by mutations in NPHS1, the gene encoding the SD protein nephrin. Lack of nephrin results in loss of the SD and massive proteinuria beginning before birth. Furthermore, nephrin expression is decreased in acquired human kidney diseases including diabetic nephropathy. This highlights the importance of nephrin and consequently SD in regulating the kidney filtration function. However, the precise molecular mechanism of how nephrin is involved in the formation of the SD is unknown. This thesis work aimed at clarifying the role of nephrin and its interaction partners in the formation of the SD. The purpose was to identify novel proteins that associate with nephrin in order to define the essential molecular complex required for the establishment of the SD. The aim was also to decipher the role of novel nephrin interacting proteins in podocytes. Nephrin binds to nephrin-like proteins Neph1 and Neph2, and to adherens junction protein P-cadherin. These interactions have been suggested to play a role in the formation of the SD. In this thesis work, we identified densin as a novel interaction partner for nephrin. Densin was localized to the SD and it was shown to bind to adherens junction protein beta-catenin. Furthermore, densin was shown to behave in a similar fashion as adherens junction proteins in cell-cell contacts. These results indicate that densin may play a role in cell adhesion and, therefore, may contribute to the formation of the SD together with nephrin and adherens junction proteins. Nephrin was also shown to bind to Neph3, which has been previously localized to the SD. Neph3 and Neph1 were shown to induce cell adhesion alone, whereas nephrin needed to trans-interact with Neph1 or Neph3 from the opposite cell surface in order to make cell-cell contacts. This was associated with the decreased tyrosine phosphorylation of nephrin. These data extend the current knowledge of the molecular composition of the nephrin protein complex at the SD and also provide novel insights of how the SD may be formed. This thesis work also showed that densin was up-regulated in the podocytes of CNF patients. Neph3 was up-regulated in nephrin deficient mouse kidneys, which share similar podocyte alterations and lack of the SD as observed in CNF patients podocytes. These data suggest that densin and Neph3 may have a role in the formation of morphological alterations in podocytes detected in CNF patients. Furthermore, this thesis work showed that deletion of beta-catenin specifically from adult mouse podocytes protected the mice from the development of adriamycin-induced podocyte injury and proteinuria compared to wild-type mice. These results show that beta-catenin play a role in the adriamycin induced podocyte injury. Podocyte injury is a hallmark in many kidney diseases and the changes observed in the podocytes of CNF patient share characteristics with injured podocytes observed in chronic kidney diseases. Therefore, the results obtained in this thesis work suggest that densin, Neph3 and beta-catenin participate in the molecular pathways which result in morphological alterations commonly detected in injured podocytes in kidney diseases.
  • Hattula, Katarina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Rab8 and its interacting proteins as regulators of cell polarization During the development of a multi-cellular organism, progenitor cells have to divide and migrate appropriately as well as organize their differentiation with one another, in order to produce a viable embryo. To divide, differentiate and migrate cells have to undergo polarization, a process where internal and external components such as actin, microtubules and adhesion receptors are reorganized to produce a cell that is asymmetric, with functionally different surfaces. Also in the adult organism there is a continuous need for these processes, as cells need to migrate in response to tissue damage and to fight infection. Improper regulation of cell proliferation and migration can conversely lead to disease such as cancer. GTP-binding proteins function as molecular switches by cycling between a GTP-bound (active) conformation and a GDP-bound (inactive) conformation. The Ras super-family of small GTPases are found in all eukaryotic cells. They can be functionally divided into five subfamilies. The Ras family members mainly regulate gene expression, controlling cell proliferation and differentiation. Ras was in fact the first human oncogene to be characterized, and as much as 30% of all human tumors may be directly or indirectly caused by mutations of Ras molecules The Rho family members mainly regulate cytoskeletal reorganization. Arf proteins are known to regulate vesicle budding and Rab proteins regulate vesicular transport. Ran regulates nuclear transport as well as microtubule organization during mitosis. The focus of the thesis of Katarina Hattula, is on Rab8, a small GTPase of the Rab family. Activated Rab8 has previously been shown to induce the formation of new surface extensions, reorganizing both actin and microtubules, and to have a role in directed membrane transport to cell surfaces. However, the exact membrane route it regulates has remained elusive. In the thesis three novel interactors of Rab8 are presented. Rabin8 is a Rab8-specific GEF that localizes to vesicles where it presumably recruits and activates its target Rab8. Its expression in cells leads to remodelling of actin and the formation of polarized cell surface domains. Optineurin, known to be associated with a leading cause of blindness in humans (open-angle glaucoma), is shown to interact specifically with GTP-bound Rab8. Rab8 binds to an amino-terminal region and interestingly, the Huntingtin protein binds a carboxy-terminal region of optineurin. (Aberrant Huntingtin protein is known to be the cause Huntington s disease in humans.) Co-expression of Huntingtin and optineurin enhanced the recruitment of Huntingtin to Rab8-positive vesicular structures. Furthermore, optineurin promoted cell polarization in a similar way to Rab8. A third novel interactor of Rab8 presented in this thesis is JFC1, a member of the synaptogamin-like protein (Slp) family. JFC1 interacts with Rab8 specifically in its GTP-bound form, co-localizes with endogenous Rab8 on tubular and vesicular structures, and is probably involved in controlling Rab8 membrane dynamics. Rab8 is in this thesis work clearly shown to have a strong effect on cell shape. Blocking Rab8 activity by expression of Rab8 RNAi, or by expressing the dominant negative Rab8 (T22N) mutant leads to loss of cell polarity. Conversely, cells expressing the constitutively active Rab8 (Q67L) mutant exhibit a strongly polarized phenotype. Experiments in live cells show that Rab8 is associated with macropinosomes generated at ruffling areas of the membrane. These macropinosomes fuse with or transform into tubules that move toward the cell centre, from where they are recycled back to the leading edge to participate in protrusion formation. The biogenesis of these tubules is shown to be dependent on both actin and microtubule dynamics. The Rab8-specific membrane route studied contained several markers known to be internalized and recycled (1 integrin, transferrin, transferrin receptor, cholera toxin B subunit (CTxB), and major histocompatibility complex class I protein (MHCI)). Co-expression studies revealed that Rab8 localization overlaps with that of Rab11 and Arf6. Rab8 is furthermore clearly functionally linked to Arf6. The data presented in this thesis strongly suggests a role for Rab8 as a regulator for a recycling compartment, which is involved in providing structural and regulatory components to the leading edge to participate in protrusion formation.
  • Uronen, Riikka-Liisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    Despite its bad reputation in the mass media, cholesterol is an indispensable constituent of cellular membranes and vertebrate life. It is, however, also potentially lethal as it may accumulate in the arterial intima causing atherosclerosis or elsewhere in the body due to inherited conditions. Studying cholesterol in cells, and research on how the cell biology of cholesterol affects on system level is essential for a better understanding of the disease states associated with cholesterol and for the development of new therapies for these conditions. On its way to the cell, exogenous cholesterol traverses through endosomes, transport vesicles involved in internalizing material to cells, and needs to be transported out of this compartment. This endosomal pool of cholesterol is important for understanding both the common disorders of metabolism and the more rare hereditary disorders of cholesterol metabolism. The study of cholesterol in cells has been hampered by the lack of bright fluorescent sterol analogs that would resemble cholesterol enough to be used in cellular studies. In the first study of my thesis, we present a new sterol analog, Boron-Dipyrromethene (BODIPY)-cholesterol for visualizing sterols in living cells and organism. This fluorescent cholesterol derivative is shown to behave similarly to cholesterol both by atomic scale computer simulations and biochemical experiments. We characterize its localization inside different types of living cells and show that it can be used to study sterol trafficking in living organisms. Two sterol binding proteins associated with the endosomal membrane; the Niemann-Pick type C disease protein 1 (NPC1) and the Oxysterol Binding Protein Related Protein 1 (ORP1) are the subjects of the rest of this study. Sensing cholesterol on endosomes, transporting lipids away from this compartment and the effects these lipids play on cellular metabolism are considered. In the second study we characterize how the NPC1 protein affects lipid metabolism. We show that this cholesterol binding protein affects synthesis of triglycerides and that genetic polymorphisms or a genetic defect in the NPC1 gene affect triglyceride on the whole body level. These effects take place via regulation of carbon fluxes to different lipid classes in cells. In the third part we characterize the effects of another endosomal sterol binding protein, ORP1L on the function and motility of endosomes. Specifically we elucidate how a mutation in the ability of ORP1L to bind sterols affects its behavior in cells, and how a change in ORP1L levels in cells affects the localization, degradative capacity and motility of endosomes. In addition we show that ORP1L manipulations affect cholesterol balance also in macrophages, a cell type important for the development of atherosclerosis.
  • Laitinen, Anita (Helsingin yliopisto, 2016)
    Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) are multipotent cells that can be found in various tissues. These cells have the capacity to differentiate into bone, adipose, and cartilage. They also have the capacity to suppress immune reactions and the capacity to support angiogenesis. The utilization of these cells in cell based therapies has therefore been intensively studied. There are several clinical studies on going to demonstrate the therapeutic potential of these cells. The utilization of MSCs has been studied in for example graft-versus-host-disease (a severe complication after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation), stroke, myocardial infarction, and cartilage lesions. The frequency of MSCs is variable in different tissues. The number of these cells in tissues is so low that these cells need to be cultured outside of the body, in vitro, to obtain adequate numbers of MSCs for cell therapy purposes. It has been demonstrated that different in vitro culture conditions have effects on the properties of MSCs. Traditionally cells are cultured in growth medium containing fetal bovine serum (FBS). There is a great interest to find alternative supplements to replace FBS for clinical grade production of MSCs to avoid the patients to become predisposed to xenogenic infectious agents or antigens. Platelet-derived supplements might be one potential alternative for FBS. An efficient method to culture MSCs from cord blood was established in this thesis. Additionally a method to produce clinical-grade bone marrow MSCs in platelet-derived supplement containing culture medium was established. Different culture conditions were demonstrated to have an effect on proliferative and immunosuppressive capacity of MSCs as well as on their capacity to support angiogenesis. In this thesis it is also indicated that MSCs can suppress immunoreactions producing an immunosuppressive molecule, adenosine, via a cell surface enzyme, CD73. The knowledge of the impact of culture conditions on the properties of cells as well as understanding the functional mechanisms of the cells is a prerequisite to produce safe and efficacious cell therapy products.
  • Rajakylä, Kaisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    An essential transcription factor Serum response factor (SRF) and its co-activators, Myocardin related transcription factors (MRTFs) regulate the expression of many target genes required for normal growth and actin cytoskeleton regulation. MKL1 (also known as MRTF-A and MAL) is one family member of MRTFs and mediates the signals from the cytoplasm to the nuclear SRF in response to changes in actin dynamics. Although it is well established that actin regulates nucleo-cytoplasmic shuttling of MKL1, the molecular mechanism of this regulation has not been characterized. Therefore the aim of this thesis was to reveal the mechanisms of MKL1 nuclear import. RNA interference (RNAi) screen identified two proteins as putative proteins mediating MKL1 nuclear localization: Importin-β (Ipoβ), which is the main import receptor in cells, and mRNA export factor Ddx19. The main purpose of this study was to confirm the hits from the RNAi screen and assess their specificity in regulating MKL1 localization. This work revealed that both Ipoβ and Ddx19 are specific and necessary factors for MKL1 nuclear import and thus required for SRF activation. We show that Ipoβ together with its adaptor protein Importin-α (Ipoα), binds to a bipartite nuclear localization signal (NLS) of MKL1, which is located in the actin-binding RPEL repeat and composed of two basic elements. Furthermore, the biochemical assays demonstrate that actin competes with Ipoα/Ipoβ heterodimer for access to the MKL1 NLS, thus explaining the inhibitory effect that actin binding has on MKL1 nuclear localization. By using advanced microscopy techniques, we show that Ddx19 adds an additional regulatory step for MKL1 nuclear import by modulating the conformation of MKL1, which affects its interaction with Ipoβ for efficient nuclear import. The ATPase cycle of Ddx19, which is crucial for its role in mRNA export, is not required in MKL1 nuclear import. In contrast, the RNA-binding activity of Ddx19 seems to be required. My work thus proposes a novel role for Ddx19, a well-known mRNA export factor and regulator of translation, in nuclear import of MKL1. In addition to MKL1, the conserved actin-binding RPEL repeat is also present in the Phosphatase and actin-regulating proteins (Phactrs). Our work demonstrates that the RPEL repeat of Phactr4 does not determine its localization in cells, but instead facilitates the competitive binding of monomeric actin and Protein phosphatase 1 (PPI) to Phactr4. This mechanism is required to control the phosphorylation status of cofilin, one of the downstream targets of PPI. Upon decrease in the cellular G-actin levels, Phactr4 activates cofilin through its binding to PPI, which leads to increase in the cellular levels of monomeric actin. Therefore our data pointed to an important role for Phactr4 in a feedback system, where actin monomers can locally regulate their own abundance. Thus this work highlights the role of RPEL repeat as a universal actin-binding site, which regulates actin homeostasis in cells.
  • Bertling, Enni (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    The highly dynamic remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton is responsible for most motile and morphogenetic processes in all eukaryotic cells. In order to generate appropriate spatial and temporal movements, the actin dynamics must be under tight control of an array of actin binding proteins (ABPs). Many proteins have been shown to play a specific role in actin filament growth or disassembly of older filaments. Very little is known about the proteins affecting recycling i.e. the step where newly depolymerized actin monomers are funneled into new rounds of filament assembly. A central protein family involved in the regulation of actin turnover is cyclase-associated proteins (CAP, called Srv2 in budding yeast). This 50-60 kDa protein was first identified from yeast as a suppressor of an activated RAS-allele and a factor associated with adenylyl cyclase. The CAP proteins harbor N-terminal coiled-coil (cc) domain, originally identified as a site for adenylyl cyclase binding. In the N-terminal half is also a 14-3-3 like domain, which is followed by central proline-rich domains and the WH2 domain. In the C-terminal end locates the highly conserved ADP-G-actin binding domain. In this study, we identified two previously suggested but poorly characterized interaction partners for Srv2/CAP: profilin and ADF/cofilin. Profilins are small proteins (12-16 kDa) that bind ATP-actin monomers and promote the nucleotide exchange of actin. The profilin-ATP-actin complex can be directly targeted to the growth of the filament barbed ends capped by Ena/VASP or formins. ADF/cofilins are also small (13-19 kDa) and highly conserved actin binding proteins. They depolymerize ADP-actin monomers from filament pointed ends and remain bound to ADP-actin strongly inhibiting nucleotide exchange. We revealed that the ADP-actin-cofilin complex is able to directly interact with the 14-3-3 like domain at the N-terminal region of Srv2/CAP. The C-terminal high affinity ADP-actin binding site of Srv2/CAP competes with cofilin for an actin monomer. Cofilin can thus be released from Srv2/CAP for the subsequent round of depolymerization. We also revealed that profilin interacts with the first proline-rich region of Srv2/CAP and that the binding occurs simultaneously with ADP-actin binding to C-terminal domain of Srv2/CAP. Both profilin and Srv2/CAP can promote nucleotide exchange of actin monomer. Because profilin has much higher affinity to ATP-actin than Srv2/CAP, the ATP-actin-profilin complex is released for filament polymerization. While a disruption of cofilin binding in yeast Srv2/CAP produces a severe phenotype comparable to Srv2/CAP deletion, an impairment of profilin binding from Srv2/CAP results in much milder phenotype. This suggests that the interaction with cofilin is essential for the function of Srv2/CAP, whereas profilin can also promote its function without direct interaction with Srv2/CAP. We also show that two CAP isoforms with specific expression patterns are present in mice. CAP1 is the major isoform in most tissues, while CAP2 is predominantly expressed in muscles. Deletion of CAP1 from non-muscle cells results in severe actin phenotype accompanied with mislocalization of cofilin to cytoplasmic aggregates. Together these studies suggest that Srv2/CAP recycles actin monomers from cofilin to profilin and thus it plays a central role in actin dynamics in both yeast and mammalian cells.
  • Jansen, Maurice A.J. (2011)
    Cholesterol is an essential component in the membranes of most eukaryotic cells, in which it mediates many functions including membrane fluidity, permeability and the formation of ordered membrane domains. In this work a fluorescent and a non-fluorescent cholesterol analog were characterized as tools to study cholesterol. Next, these analogs were used to study two specific cell biological processes that involve cholesterol, i.e. the structure and function of ordered membrane domains/rafts and intracellular cholesterol transport. The most common method for studying ordered membrane domains is by disrupting them by cholesterol depletion. Because cholesterol depletion affects many cellular functions besides those mediated by membrane domains, this procedure is highly unspecific. The cellular exchange of cholesterol by desmosterol as a tool to study ordered membrane domains was characterized. It turned out that the ability of desmosterol to form and stabilize membrane domains in vitro was weaker compared to cholesterol. This result was reinforced by atomistic scale simulations that indicated that desmosterol has a lower ordering effect on phospholipid acyl chains. Three procedures were established for exchanging cellular cholesterol by desmosterol. In cells in which desmosterol was the main sterol, insulin signaling was attenuated. The results suggest that this was caused by desmosterol destabilizing membrane rafts. Contrary to its effect on ordered membrane domains it was found that replacing cholesterol by desmosterol does not change cell growth/viability, subcellular sterol distribution, Golgi integrity, secretory pathway, phospholipid composition and membrane fluidity. Together these results suggest that exchanging cellular cholesterol by desmosterol provides a selective tool for perturbing rafts. Next, the importance of cholesterol for the structure and function of caveolae was analyzed by exchanging the cellular cholesterol by desmosterol. The sterol exchange reduced the stability of caveolae as determined by detergent resistance of caveolin-1 and heat resistance of caveolin-1 oligomers. Also the sterol exchange led to aberrations in the caveolar structure; the morphology of caveolae was altered and there was a larger variation in the amount of caveolin-1 molecules per caveola. These results demonstrate that cholesterol is important for caveolar stability and structural homogeneity. In the second part of this work a fluorescent cholesterol analog was characterized as a tool to study cholesterol transport. Tight control of the intracellular cholesterol distribution is essential for many cellular processes. An important mechanism by which cells regulate their membrane cholesterol content is by cholesterol traffic, mostly from the plasma membrane to lipid droplets. The fluorescent sterol probe BODIPY-cholesterol was characterized as a tool to analyze cholesterol transport between the plasma membrane, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and lipid droplets. The behavior of BODIPY-cholesterol was compared to that of natural sterols, using both biochemical and live-cell microcopy assays. The results show that the transport kinetics of BODIPY-cholesterol between the plasma membrane, the ER and lipid droplets is similar to that of unesterified cholesterol. Next, BODIPY-cholesterol was utilized to analyze the importance of oxysterol binding protein related proteins (ORPs) for cholesterol transport between the plasma membrane, the ER, and lipid droplets in mammalian cells. By overexpressing all human ORPs it turned out that especially ORP1S and ORP2 enhanced sterol transport from the plasma membrane to lipid droplets. Our results suggest that the increased sterol transport takes place between the plasma membrane and ER and not between the ER and lipid droplets. Simultaneous knockdown of ORP1S and ORP2 resulted in a moderate but significant inhibition of sterol traffic from the plasma membrane to ER and lipid droplets, suggesting a physiological role for these ORPs in this process. The two phenylalanines in an acidic tract (FFAT) motif in ORPs, which mediates interaction with vesicle associated membrane protein associated proteins (VAPs) in the ER, was not necessary for mediating sterol transport. However, VAP silencing slowed down sterol transport, most likely by destabilizing ORPs containing a FFAT motif.