Membrane-tethered mucin glycoproteins are abundantly expressed at the apical surfaces of simple epithelia, where they play important roles in lubricating and protecting tissues from pathogens and enzymatic attack. Notable examples of these mucins are MUC1, MUC4 and MUC16 (also known as cancer antigen 125). In adenocarcinomas, apical mucin restriction is lost and overall expression is often highly increased. High-level mucin expression protects tumors from killing by the host immune system, as well as by chemotherapeutic agents, and affords protection from apoptosis. Mucin expression can increase as the result of gene duplication and/or in response to hormones, cytokines and growth factors prevalent in the tumor milieu. Rises in the normally low levels of mucin fragments in serum have been used as markers of disease, such as tumor burden, for many years. Currently, several approaches are being examined that target mucins for immunization or nanomedicine using mucin-specific antibodies.
Human diseases caused by mutations in extracellular matrix genes are often associated with an increased risk of cataract and lens capsular rupture. However, the underlying mechanisms of cataract pathogenesis in these conditions are still unknown. Using two different mouse models, we show that the accumulation of collagen chains in the secretory pathway activates the stress signaling pathway termed unfolded protein response (UPR). Transgenic mice expressing ectopic Col4a3 and Col4a4 genes in the lens exhibited activation of IRE1, ATF6, and PERK associated with expansion of the endoplasmic reticulum and attenuation of general protein translation. The expression of the transgenes had adverse effects on lens fiber cell differentiation and eventually induced cell death in a group of transgenic fiber cells. In Col4a1(+/Deltaex40) mutant mice, the accumulation of mutant chains also caused low levels of UPR activation. However, cell death was not induced in mutant lenses, suggesting that low levels of UPR activation are not proapoptotic. Collectively, the results provide in vivo evidence for a role of UPR in cataract formation in response to accumulation of terminally unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum.
The lens capsule compartmentalizes the cells of the avascular lens from other ocular tissues. Small molecules required for lens cell metabolism, such as glucose, salts, and waste products, freely pass through the capsule. However, the lens capsule is selectively permeable to proteins such as growth hormones and substrate carriers which are required for proper lens growth and development. We used fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) to characterize the diffusional behavior of various sized dextrans (3, 10, 40, 150, and 250 kDa) and proteins endogenous to the lens environment (EGF, gammaD-crystallin, BSA, transferrin, ceruloplasmin, and IgG) within the capsules of whole living lenses. We found that proteins had dramatically different diffusion and partition coefficients as well as capsule matrix binding affinities than similar sized dextrans, but they had comparable permeabilities. We also found ionic interactions between proteins and the capsule matrix significantly influence permeability and binding affinity, while hydrophobic interactions had less of an effect. The removal of a single anionic residue from the surface of a protein, gammaD-crystallin [E107A], significantly altered its permeability and matrix binding affinity in the capsule. Our data indicated that permeabilities and binding affinities in the lens capsule varied between individual proteins and cannot be predicted by isoelectric points or molecular size alone.
The lens capsule is a modified basement membrane that completely surrounds the ocular lens. It is known that this extracellular matrix is important for both the structure and biomechanics of the lens in addition to providing informational cues to maintain lens cell phenotype. This review covers the development and structure of the lens capsule, lens diseases associated with mutations in extracellular matrix genes and the role of the capsule in lens function including those proposed for visual accommodation, selective permeability to infectious agents, and cell signaling.
The limited specificity of nanoparticle (NP) uptake by target cells associated with a disease is one of the principal challenges of nanomedicine. Using the threshold mechanism of plasmonic nanobubble (PNB) generation and enhanced accumulation and clustering of gold nanoparticles in target cells, we increased the specificity of PNB generation and detection in target versus non-target cells by more than one order of magnitude compared to the specificity of NP uptake by the same cells. This improved cellular specificity of PNBs was demonstrated in six different cell models representing diverse molecular targets such as epidermal growth factor receptor, CD3 receptor, prostate specific membrane antigen and mucin molecule MUC1. Thus PNBs may be a universal method and nano-agent that overcome the problem of non-specific uptake of NPs by non-target cells and improve the specificity of NP-based diagnostics, therapeutics and theranostics at the cell level.
MUC1 is a large, heavily glycosylated transmembrane glycoprotein that is proposed to create a protective microenvironment in many adenocarcinomas. Here we compare MUC1 and the well studied cell surface receptor target, EGFR, as gold nanoparticle (AuNP) targets and their subsequent vapor nanobubble generation efficacy in the human epithelial cell line, HES. Although EGFR and MUC1 were both highly expressed in these cells, TEM and confocal images revealed MUC1 as a superior target for nanoparticle intracellular accumulation and clustering. The MUC1-targeted AuNP intracellular clusters also generated significantly larger vapor nanobubbles. Our results demonstrate the promising opportunities MUC1 offers to improve the efficacy of targeted nanoparticle based approaches.
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