We have investigated the mobility of two EGFP-tagged DNA repair proteins, WRN and BLM. In particular, we focused on the dynamics in two locations, the nucleoli and the nucleoplasm. We found that both WRN and BLM use a "DNA-scanning" mechanism, with rapid binding-unbinding to DNA resulting in effective diffusion. In the nucleoplasm WRN and BLM have effective diffusion coefficients of 1.62 and 1.34 ?m(2)/s, respectively. Likewise, the dynamics in the nucleoli are also best described by effective diffusion, but with diffusion coefficients a factor of ten lower than in the nucleoplasm. From this large reduction in diffusion coefficient we were able to classify WRN and BLM as DNA damage scanners. In addition to WRN and BLM we also classified other DNA damage proteins and found they all fall into one of two categories. Either they are scanners, similar to WRN and BLM, with very low diffusion coefficients, suggesting a scanning mechanism, or they are almost freely diffusing, suggesting that they interact with DNA only after initiation of a DNA damage response.
Mutations accumulate as a result of DNA damage and imperfect DNA repair machinery. In higher eukaryotes the accumulation and spread of mutations is limited in two primary ways: through p53-mediated programmed cell death and cellular senescence mediated by telomeres. Telomeres shorten at every cell division and cell stops dividing once the shortest telomere reaches a critical length. It has been shown that the rate of telomere attrition is accelerated when cells are exposed to DNA damaging agents. However the implications of this mechanism are not fully understood.
Mating-type switching in fission yeast results from gene conversions of the active mat1 locus by heterochromatic donors. mat1 is preferentially converted by mat2-P in M cells and by mat3-M in P cells. Here, we report that donor choice is governed by two portable recombination enhancers capable of promoting use of their adjacent cassette even when they are transposed to an ectopic location within the mat2-mat3 heterochromatic domain. Cells whose silent cassettes are swapped to mat2-M mat3-P switch mating-type poorly due to a defect in directionality but cells whose recombination enhancers were transposed together with the cassette contents switched like wild type. Trans-acting mutations that impair directionality affected the wild-type and swapped cassettes in identical ways when the recombination enhancers were transposed together with their cognate cassette, showing essential regulatory steps occur through the recombination enhancers. Our observations lead to a model where heterochromatin biases competitions between the two recombination enhancers to achieve directionality.
NF-?B is a major transcription factor mediating inflammatory response. In response to a pro-inflammatory stimulus, it exhibits a characteristic response-a pulse followed by noisy oscillations in concentrations of considerably smaller amplitude. NF-?B is an important mediator of cellular communication, as it is both activated by and upregulates production of cytokines, signals used by white blood cells to find the source of inflammation. While the oscillatory dynamics of NF-?B has been extensively investigated both experimentally and theoretically, the role of the noise and the lower secondary amplitude has not been addressed. We use a cellular automaton model to address these issues in the context of spatially distributed communicating cells. We find that noisy secondary oscillations stabilize concentric wave patterns, thus improving signal quality. Furthermore, both lower secondary amplitude as well as noise in the oscillation period might be working against chronic inflammation, the state of self-sustained and stimulus-independent excitations. Our findings suggest that the characteristic irregular secondary oscillations of lower amplitude are not accidental. On the contrary, they might have evolved to increase robustness of the inflammatory response and the systems ability to return to a pre-stimulated state.
The regulatory system of the transcription factor NF-?B plays a great role in many cell functions, including inflammatory response. Interestingly, the NF-?B system is known to up-regulate production of its own triggering signal-namely, inflammatory cytokines such as TNF, IL-1, and IL-6. In this paper we investigate a previously presented model of the NF-?B, which includes both spatial effects and the positive feedback from cytokines. The model exhibits the properties of an excitable medium and has the ability to propagate waves of high cytokine concentration. These waves represent an optimal way of sending an inflammatory signal through the tissue as they create a chemotactic signal able to recruit neutrophils to the site of infection. The simple model displays three qualitatively different states; low stimuli leads to no or very little response. Intermediate stimuli leads to reoccurring waves of high cytokine concentration. Finally, high stimuli leads to a sustained high cytokine concentration, a scenario which is toxic for the tissue cells and corresponds to chronic inflammation. Due to the few variables of the simple model, we are able to perform a phase-space analysis leading to a detailed understanding of the functional form of the model and its limitations. The spatial effects of the model contribute to the robustness of the cytokine wave formation and propagation.
Bacteria have evolved diverse defense mechanisms that allow them to fight viral attacks. One such mechanism, the clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) system, is an adaptive immune system consisting of genetic loci that can take up genetic material from invasive elements (viruses and plasmids) and later use them to reject the returning invaders. It remains an open question how, despite the ongoing evolution of attack and defense mechanisms, bacteria and viral phages manage to coexist. Using a simple mathematical model and a two-dimensional numerical simulation, we found that CRISPR adaptive immunity allows for robust phage-bacterium coexistence even when the number of virus species far exceeds the capacity of CRISPR-encoded genetic memory. Coexistence is predicted to be a consequence of the presence of many interdependent species that stress but do not overrun the bacterial defense system.
Ecological systems comprise an astonishing diversity of species that cooperate or compete with each other forming complex mutual dependencies. The minimum requirements to maintain a large species diversity on long time scales are in general unknown. Using lichen communities as an example, we propose a model for the evolution of mutually excluding organisms that compete for space. We suggest that chainlike or cyclic invasions open for creation of spatially separated subpopulations that subsequently can lead to increased diversity. In contrast to its nonspatial counterpart, our model predicts robust coexistence of a large number of species. It is demonstrated that large species diversity can be obtained on evolutionary time scales, provided that interactions between species have spatial constraints. In particular, a phase transition to a sustainable state of high diversity is identified.
Waves propagating in "excitable media" is a reliable way to transmit signals in space. A fascinating example where living cells comprise such a medium is Dictyostelium D. which propagates waves of chemoattractant to attract distant cells. While neutrophils chemotax in a similar fashion as Dictyostelium D., it is unclear if chemoattractant waves exist in mammalian tissues and what mechanisms could propagate them.
Oscillations are commonly observed in cellular behavior and span a wide range of timescales, from seconds in calcium signaling to 24 hours in circadian rhythms. In between lie oscillations with time periods of 1-5 hours seen in NF-?B, p53 and Wnt signaling, which play key roles in the immune system, cell growth/death and embryo development, respectively. In the first part of this article, we provide a brief overview of simple deterministic models of oscillations. In particular, we explain the mechanism of saturated degradation that has been used to model oscillations in the NF-?B, p53 and Wnt systems. The second part deals with the potential physiological role of oscillations. We use the simple models described earlier to explore whether oscillatory signals can encode more information than steady-state signals. We then discuss a few simple genetic circuits that could decode information stored in the average, amplitude or frequency of oscillations. The presence of frequency-detector circuit downstream of NF-?B or p53 would be a strong clue that oscillations are important for the physiological response of these signaling systems.
Pathogens and parasites are ubiquitous in the living world, being limited only by availability of suitable hosts. The ability to transmit a particular disease depends on competing infections as well as on the status of host immunity. Multiple diseases compete for the same resource and their fate is coupled to each other. Such couplings have many facets, for example cross-immunization between related influenza strains, mutual inhibition by killing the host, or possible even a mutual catalytic effect if host immunity is impaired. We here introduce a minimal model for an unlimited number of unrelated pathogens whose interaction is simplified to simple mutual exclusion. The model incorporates an ongoing development of host immunity to past diseases, while leaving the system open for emergence of new diseases. The model exhibits a rich dynamical behavior with interacting infection waves, leaving broad trails of immunization in the host population. This obtained immunization pattern depends only on the system size and on the mutation rate that initiates new diseases.
Many signaling systems show adaptation-the ability to reset themselves after responding to a stimulus. We computationally searched all possible three-node enzyme network topologies to identify those that could perform adaptation. Only two major core topologies emerge as robust solutions: a negative feedback loop with a buffering node and an incoherent feedforward loop with a proportioner node. Minimal circuits containing these topologies are, within proper regions of parameter space, sufficient to achieve adaptation. More complex circuits that robustly perform adaptation all contain at least one of these topologies at their core. This analysis yields a design table highlighting a finite set of adaptive circuits. Despite the diversity of possible biochemical networks, it may be common to find that only a finite set of core topologies can execute a particular function. These design rules provide a framework for functionally classifying complex natural networks and a manual for engineering networks. For a video summary of this article, see the PaperFlick file with the Supplemental Data available online.
Heat shock response is a stress response to temperature changes and a consecutive increase in amounts of unfolded proteins. To restore homeostasis, cells upregulate chaperones facilitating protein folding by means of transcription factors (TFs). We here investigate two heat shock systems: one characteristic to gram negative bacteria, mediated by transcriptional activator ?(32) in E. coli, and another characteristic to gram positive bacteria, mediated by transcriptional repressor HrcA in L. lactis. We construct simple mathematical models of the two systems focusing on the negative feedbacks, where free chaperones suppress ?(32) activation in the former, while they activate HrcA repression in the latter. We demonstrate that both systems, in spite of the difference at the TF regulation level, are capable of showing very similar heat shock dynamics. We find that differences in regulation impose distinct constraints on chaperone-TF binding affinities: the binding constant of free ?(32) to chaperone DnaK, known to be in 100 nM range, set the lower limit of amount of free chaperone that the system can sense the change at the heat shock, while the binding affinity of HrcA to chaperone GroE set the upper limit and have to be rather large extending into the micromolar range.
When unfolded proteins accumulate to irremediably high levels within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), intracellular signaling pathways called the unfolded protein response (UPR) become hyperactivated to cause programmed cell death. We discovered that thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) is a critical node in this "terminal UPR." TXNIP becomes rapidly induced by IRE1?, an ER bifunctional kinase/endoribonuclease (RNase). Hyperactivated IRE1? increases TXNIP mRNA stability by reducing levels of a TXNIP destabilizing microRNA, miR-17. In turn, elevated TXNIP protein activates the NLRP3 inflammasome, causing procaspase-1 cleavage and interleukin 1? (IL-1?) secretion. Txnip gene deletion reduces pancreatic ? cell death during ER stress and suppresses diabetes caused by proinsulin misfolding in the Akita mouse. Finally, small molecule IRE1? RNase inhibitors suppress TXNIP production to block IL-1? secretion. In summary, the IRE1?-TXNIP pathway is used in the terminal UPR to promote sterile inflammation and programmed cell death and may be targeted to develop effective treatments for cell degenerative diseases.
DNA damages, as well as mutations, increase with age. It is believed that these result from increased genotoxic stress and decreased capacity for DNA repair. The two causes are not independent, DNA damage can, for example, through mutations, compromise the capacity for DNA repair, which in turn increases the amount of unrepaired DNA damage. Despite this vicious circle, we ask, can cells maintain a high DNA repair capacity for some time or is repair capacity bound to continuously decline with age? We here present a simple mathematical model for ageing in multicellular systems where cells subjected to DNA damage can undergo full repair, go apoptotic, or accumulate mutations thus reducing DNA repair capacity. Our model predicts that at the tissue level repair rate does not continuously decline with age, but instead has a characteristic extended period of high and non-declining DNA repair capacity, followed by a rapid decline. Furthermore, the time of high functionality increases, and consequently slows down the ageing process, if the DNA repair mechanism itself is vulnerable to DNA damages. Although counterintuitive at first glance, a fragile repair mechanism allows for a faster removal of compromised cells, thus freeing the space for healthy peers. This finding might be a first step toward understanding why a mutation in single DNA repair protein (e.g. Wrn or Blm) is not buffered by other repair proteins and therefore, leads to severe ageing disorders.
Many toxin-antitoxin (TA) loci are known to strongly repress their own transcription. This auto-inhibition is often called conditional cooperativity as it relies on cooperative binding of TA complexes to operator DNA that occurs only when toxins are in a proper stoichiometric relationship with antitoxins. There has recently been an explosion of interest in TA systems due to their role in bacterial persistence, however the role of conditional cooperativity is still unclear. We reveal the biological function of conditional cooperativity by constructing a mathematical model of the well studied TA system, relBE of Escherichia coli. We show that the model with the in vivo and in vitro established parameters reproduces experimentally observed response to nutritional stress. We further demonstrate that conditional cooperativity stabilizes the level of antitoxin in rapidly growing cells such that random induction of relBE is minimized. At the same time it enables quick removal of free toxin when the starvation is terminated.
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