Molecular Bases of Disease
The transcription factor BACH1 at the crossroads of cancer biology: From epithelial–mesenchymal transition to ferroptosisThe progression of cancer involves not only the gradual evolution of cells by mutations in DNA but also alterations in the gene expression induced by those mutations and input from the surrounding microenvironment. Such alterations contribute to cancer cells' abilities to reprogram metabolic pathways and undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which facilitate the survival of cancer cells and their metastasis to other organs. Recently, BTB and CNC homology 1 (BACH1), a heme-regulated transcription factor that represses genes involved in iron and heme metabolism in normal cells, was shown to shape the metabolism and metastatic potential of cancer cells.
Emerging roles of DYRK2 in cancerOver the last decade, the CMGC kinase DYRK2 has been reported as a tumor suppressor across various cancers triggering major antitumor and proapoptotic signals in breast, colon, liver, ovary, brain, and lung cancers, with lower DYRK2 expression correlated with poorer prognosis in patients. Contrary to this, various medicinal chemistry studies reported robust antiproliferative properties of DYRK2 inhibitors, whereas unbiased ‘omics’ and genome-wide association study-based studies identified DYRK2 as a highly overexpressed kinase in various patient tumor samples.
Targeting mitophagy in Parkinson's diseaseThe genetics and pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease (PD) strongly implicate mitochondria in disease aetiology. Elegant studies over the last two decades have elucidated complex molecular signaling governing the identification and removal of dysfunctional mitochondria from the cell, a process of mitochondrial quality control known as mitophagy. Mitochondrial deficits and specifically reduced mitophagy are evident in both sporadic and familial PD. Mendelian genetics attributes loss-of-function mutations in key mitophagy regulators PINK1 and Parkin to early-onset PD.
Genetic diseases of the Kennedy pathways for membrane synthesisThe two branches of the Kennedy pathways (CDP-choline and CDP-ethanolamine) are the predominant pathways responsible for the synthesis of the most abundant phospholipids, phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine, respectively, in mammalian membranes. Recently, hereditary diseases associated with single gene mutations in the Kennedy pathways have been identified. Interestingly, genetic diseases within the same pathway vary greatly, ranging from muscular dystrophy to spastic paraplegia to a childhood blinding disorder to bone deformations.
Priming of SARS-CoV-2 S protein by several membrane-bound serine proteinases could explain enhanced viral infectivity and systemic COVID-19 infectionThe ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has already caused over a million deaths worldwide, and this death toll will be much higher before effective treatments and vaccines are available. The causative agent of the disease, the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, shows important similarities with the previously emerged SARS-CoV-1, but also striking differences. First, SARS-CoV-2 possesses a significantly higher transmission rate and infectivity than SARS-CoV-1 and has infected in a few months over 60 million people. Moreover, COVID-19 has a systemic character, as in addition to the lungs, it also affects the heart, liver, and kidneys among other organs of the patients and causes frequent thrombotic and neurological complications.
The essential elements of Alzheimer’s diseaseTreatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) directed against the prominent amyloid plaque neuropathology are yet to be proved effective despite many phase 3 clinical trials. There are several other neurochemical abnormalities that occur in the AD brain that warrant renewed emphasis as potential therapeutic targets for this disease. Among those are the elementomic signatures of iron, copper, zinc, and selenium. Here, we review these essential elements of AD for their broad potential to contribute to Alzheimer’s pathophysiology, and we also highlight more recent attempts to translate these findings into therapeutics.
Pathways and disease-causing alterations in visual chromophore production for vertebrate visionAll that we view of the world begins with an ultrafast cis to trans photoisomerization of the retinylidene chromophore associated with the visual pigments of rod and cone photoreceptors. The continual responsiveness of these photoreceptors is then sustained by regeneration processes that convert the trans-retinoid back to an 11-cis configuration. Recent biochemical and electrophysiological analyses of the retinal G-protein-coupled receptor (RGR) suggest that it could sustain the responsiveness of photoreceptor cells, particularly cones, even under bright light conditions.
Adaptation of influenza viruses to human airway receptorsThrough annual epidemics and global pandemics, influenza A viruses (IAVs) remain a significant threat to human health as the leading cause of severe respiratory disease. Within the last century, four global pandemics have resulted from the introduction of novel IAVs into humans, with components of each originating from avian viruses. IAVs infect many avian species wherein they maintain a diverse natural reservoir, posing a risk to humans through the occasional emergence of novel strains with enhanced zoonotic potential.
Molecular mechanisms of telomere biology disordersGenetic mutations that affect telomerase function or telomere maintenance result in a variety of diseases collectively called telomeropathies. This wide spectrum of disorders, which include dyskeratosis congenita, pulmonary fibrosis, and aplastic anemia, is characterized by severely short telomeres, often resulting in hematopoietic stem cell failure in the most severe cases. Recent work has focused on understanding the molecular basis of these diseases. Mutations in the catalytic TERT and TR subunits of telomerase compromise activity, while others, such as those found in the telomeric protein TPP1, reduce the recruitment of telomerase to the telomere.
Sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitors: Understanding the mechanisms for therapeutic promise and persisting risksIn a healthy person, the kidney filters nearly 200 g of glucose per day, almost all of which is reabsorbed. The primary transporter responsible for renal glucose reabsorption is sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2). Based on the impact of SGLT2 to prevent renal glucose wasting, SGLT2 inhibitors have been developed to treat diabetes and are the newest class of glucose-lowering agents approved in the United States. By inhibiting glucose reabsorption in the proximal tubule, these agents promote glycosuria, thereby reducing blood glucose concentrations and often resulting in modest weight loss.
The molecular virology of coronavirusesFew human pathogens have been the focus of as much concentrated worldwide attention as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the cause of COVID-19. Its emergence into the human population and ensuing pandemic came on the heels of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), two other highly pathogenic coronavirus spillovers, which collectively have reshaped our view of a virus family previously associated primarily with the common cold.
From overnutrition to liver injury: AMP-activated protein kinase in nonalcoholic fatty liver diseasesNonalcoholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLDs), especially nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), have become a major cause of liver transplant and liver-associated death. However, the pathogenesis of NASH is still unclear. Currently, there is no FDA-approved medication to treat this devastating disease. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) senses energy status and regulates metabolic processes to maintain homeostasis. The activity of AMPK is regulated by the availability of nutrients, such as carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids.
Oxygen battle in the gut: Hypoxia and hypoxia-inducible factors in metabolic and inflammatory responses in the intestineThe gastrointestinal tract is a highly proliferative and regenerative tissue. The intestine also harbors a large and diverse microbial population collectively called the gut microbiome (microbiota). The microbiome–intestine cross-talk includes a dynamic exchange of gaseous signaling mediators generated by bacterial and intestinal metabolisms. Moreover, the microbiome initiates and maintains the hypoxic environment of the intestine that is critical for nutrient absorption, intestinal barrier function, and innate and adaptive immune responses in the mucosal cells of the intestine.
The emerging role of α-synuclein truncation in aggregation and diseaseα-Synuclein (αsyn) is an abundant brain neuronal protein that can misfold and polymerize to form toxic fibrils coalescing into pathologic inclusions in neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, and multiple system atrophy. These fibrils may induce further αsyn misfolding and propagation of pathologic fibrils in a prion-like process. It is unclear why αsyn initially misfolds, but a growing body of literature suggests a critical role of partial proteolytic processing resulting in various truncations of the highly charged and flexible carboxyl-terminal region.
Brain manganese and the balance between essential roles and neurotoxicityManganese (Mn) is an essential micronutrient required for the normal development of many organs, including the brain. Although its roles as a cofactor in several enzymes and in maintaining optimal physiology are well-known, the overall biological functions of Mn are rather poorly understood. Alterations in body Mn status are associated with altered neuronal physiology and cognition in humans, and either overexposure or (more rarely) insufficiency can cause neurological dysfunction. The resultant balancing act can be viewed as a hormetic U-shaped relationship for biological Mn status and optimal brain health, with changes in the brain leading to physiological effects throughout the body and vice versa.
Heterotrimeric Gq proteins as therapeutic targets?Heterotrimeric G proteins are the core upstream elements that transduce and amplify the cellular signals from G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs) to intracellular effectors. GPCRs are the largest family of membrane proteins encoded in the human genome and are the targets of about one-third of prescription medicines. However, to date, no single therapeutic agent exerts its effects via perturbing heterotrimeric G protein function, despite a plethora of evidence linking G protein malfunction to human disease.
On the wrong DNA track: Molecular mechanisms of repeat-mediated genome instabilityExpansions of simple tandem repeats are responsible for almost 50 human diseases, the majority of which are severe, degenerative, and not currently treatable or preventable. In this review, we first describe the molecular mechanisms of repeat-induced toxicity, which is the connecting link between repeat expansions and pathology. We then survey alternative DNA structures that are formed by expandable repeats and review the evidence that formation of these structures is at the core of repeat instability.
Receptor-mediated cell entry of paramyxoviruses: Mechanisms, and consequences for tropism and pathogenesisResearch in the last decade has uncovered many new paramyxoviruses, airborne agents that cause epidemic diseases in animals including humans. Most paramyxoviruses enter epithelial cells of the airway using sialic acid as a receptor and cause only mild disease. However, others cross the epithelial barrier and cause more severe disease. For some of these viruses, the host receptors have been identified, and the mechanisms of cell entry have been elucidated. The tetrameric attachment proteins of paramyxoviruses have vastly different binding affinities for their cognate receptors, which they contact through different binding surfaces.
Intestinal breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP) requires Janus kinase 3 activity for drug efflux and barrier functions in obesityBreast cancer resistance protein (BCRP) is a member of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter proteins whose primary function is to efflux substrates bound to the plasma membrane. Impaired intestinal barrier functions play a major role in chronic low-grade inflammation (CLGI)–associated obesity, but the regulation of BCRP during obesity and its role in maintaining the intestinal barrier function during CLGI-associated obesity are unknown. In the present study, using several approaches, including efflux assays, immunoprecipitation, immunoblotting, immunohistochemistry, paracellular permeability assay, FACS, cytokine assay, and immunofluorescence microscopy, we report that obese individuals have compromised intestinal BCRP functions and that diet-induced obese mice recapitulate these outcomes.
Tumor susceptibility gene 101 ameliorates endotoxin-induced cardiac dysfunction by enhancing Parkin-mediated mitophagyCardiac mitochondrial damage and subsequent inflammation are hallmarks of endotoxin-induced myocardial depression. Activation of the Parkin/PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) pathway has been shown to promote autophagy of damaged mitochondria (mitophagy) and to protect from endotoxin-induced cardiac dysfunction. Tumor susceptibility gene 101 (TSG101) is a key member of the endosomal recycling complexes required for transport, which may affect autophagic flux. In this study, we investigated whether TSG101 regulates mitophagy and influences the outcomes of endotoxin-induced myocardial dysfunction.
Rare-variant pathogenicity triage and inclusion of synonymous variants improves analysis of disease associations of orphan G protein–coupled receptorsThe pace of deorphanization of G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs) has slowed, and new approaches are required. Small molecule targeting of orphan GPCRs can potentially be of clinical benefit even if the endogenous receptor ligand has not been identified. Many GPCRs lack common variants that lead to reproducible genome-wide disease associations, and rare-variant approaches have emerged as a viable alternative to identify disease associations for such genes. Therefore, our goal was to prioritize orphan GPCRs by determining their associations with human diseases in a large clinical population.
DNA methyltransferase 1–mediated CpG methylation of the miR-150-5p promoter contributes to fibroblast growth factor receptor 1–driven leukemogenesisMicroRNA-150-5p (miR-150-5p) plays a complex role in normal early hematopoietic development and is also implicated in the development of various different leukemias. We have reported previously that, in myeloid and lymphoid malignancies associated with dysregulated fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1) activities, miR-150-5p is down-regulated compared with healthy cells. Here, using murine cells, we found that this down-regulation is accompanied by CpG methylation of the miR-150-5p promoter region.
Impaired tau–microtubule interactions are prevalent among pathogenic tau variants arising from missense mutationstau is a microtubule (MT)-associated protein that promotes tubulin assembly and stabilizes MTs by binding longitudinally along the MT surface. tau can aberrantly aggregate into pathological inclusions that define Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementias, and other tauopathies. A spectrum of missense mutations in the tau-encoding gene microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) can cause frontotemporal dementias. tau aggregation is postulated to spread by a prion-like mechanism. Using a cell-based inclusion seeding assay, we recently reported that only a few tau variants are intrinsically prone to this type of aggregation.
The anion transporter SLC26A9 localizes to tight junctions and is degraded by the proteasome when co-expressed with F508del–CFTRMutations in the gene encoding the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) disrupt epithelial secretion and cause cystic fibrosis (CF). Available CFTR modulators provide only modest clinical benefits, so alternative therapeutic targets are being explored. The anion-conducting transporter solute carrier family 26 member 9 (SLC26A9) is a promising candidate, but its functional expression is drastically reduced in cells that express the most common CF-associated CFTR variant, F508del–CFTR, through mechanisms that remain incompletely understood.
Protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor type R (PTPRR) antagonizes the Wnt signaling pathway in ovarian cancer by dephosphorylating and inactivating β-cateninDespite a lack of mutations, accumulating evidence supports an important role for the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in ovarian tumorigenesis. However, the molecular mechanism that contributes to the aberrant activation of the Wnt signaling cascade in ovarian cancer has not been fully elucidated. Here, we found that protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor type R (PTPRR) suppressed the activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in ovarian cancer. We performed an shRNA-based biochemical screen, which identified PTPRR as being responsible for tyrosine dephosphorylation of β-catenin on Tyr-142, a key site controlling the transcriptional activity of β-catenin.