The Hippo transducers YAP/TAZ have been shown to play positive, as well as negative, roles in Wnt signaling, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we provide biochemical, functional, and genetic evidence that YAP and TAZ are integral components of the ?-catenin destruction complex that serves as cytoplasmic sink for YAP/TAZ. In Wnt-ON cells, YAP/TAZ are physically dislodged from the destruction complex, allowing their nuclear accumulation and activation of Wnt/YAP/TAZ-dependent biological effects. YAP/TAZ are required for intestinal crypt overgrowth induced by APC deficiency and for crypt regeneration ex vivo. In Wnt-OFF cells, YAP/TAZ are essential for ?-TrCP recruitment to the complex and ?-catenin inactivation. In Wnt-ON cells, release of YAP/TAZ from the complex is instrumental for Wnt/?-catenin signaling. In line, the ?-catenin-dependent maintenance of ES cells in an undifferentiated state is sustained by loss of YAP/TAZ. This work reveals an unprecedented signaling framework relevant for organ size control, regeneration, and tumor suppression.
We report a long-term follow-up (6.5 years) of a phase I/II clinical trial envisaging the use of autologous genetically modified cultured epidermal stem cells for gene therapy of junctional epidermolysis bullosa, a devastating genetic skin disease. The critical goals of the trial were to evaluate the safety and long-term persistence of genetically modified epidermis. A normal epidermal-dermal junction was restored and the regenerated transgenic epidermis was found to be fully functional and virtually indistinguishable from a normal control. The epidermis was sustained by a discrete number of long-lasting, self-renewing transgenic epidermal stem cells that maintained the memory of the donor site, whereas the vast majority of transduced transit-amplifying progenitors were lost within the first few months after grafting. These data pave the way for the safe use of epidermal stem cells in combined cell and gene therapy for genetic skin diseases.
Metastasis is the most significant cause of cancer-associated morbidity and mortality but remains poorly understood. Recent work revealed that metastasis of aggressive triple-negative breast cancers is suppressed by Sharp1, a factor that promotes degradation of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF) and blunts HIF-induced malignant cell behavior.
Cell size is determined by the balance between protein synthesis and degradation. This equilibrium is affected by hormones, nutrients, energy levels, mechanical stress and cytokines. Mutations that inactivate myostatin lead to excessive muscle growth in animals and humans, but the signals and pathways responsible for this hypertrophy remain largely unknown. Here we show that bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling, acting through Smad1, Smad5 and Smad8 (Smad1/5/8), is the fundamental hypertrophic signal in mice. Inhibition of BMP signaling causes muscle atrophy, abolishes the hypertrophic phenotype of myostatin-deficient mice and strongly exacerbates the effects of denervation and fasting. BMP-Smad1/5/8 signaling negatively regulates a gene (Fbxo30) that encodes a ubiquitin ligase required for muscle loss, which we named muscle ubiquitin ligase of the SCF complex in atrophy-1 (MUSA1). Collectively, these data identify a critical role for the BMP pathway in adult muscle maintenance, growth and atrophy.
The TGF? pathway is critical for embryonic development and adult tissue homeostasis. On ligand stimulation, TGF? and BMP receptors phosphorylate receptor-activated SMADs (R-SMADs), which then associate with SMAD4 to form a transcriptional complex that regulates gene expression through specific DNA recognition. Several ubiquitin ligases serve as inhibitors of R-SMADs, yet no deubiquitylating enzyme (DUB) for these molecules has so far been identified. This has left unexplored the possibility that ubiquitylation of R-SMADs is reversible and engaged in regulating SMAD function, in addition to degradation. Here we identify USP15 as a DUB for R-SMADs. USP15 is required for TGF? and BMP responses in mammalian cells and Xenopus embryos. At the biochemical level, USP15 primarily opposes R-SMAD monoubiquitylation, which targets the DNA-binding domains of R-SMADs and prevents promoter recognition. As such, USP15 is critical for the occupancy of endogenous target promoters by the SMAD complex. These data identify an additional layer of control by which the ubiquitin system regulates TGF? biology.
Cells perceive their microenvironment not only through soluble signals but also through physical and mechanical cues, such as extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness or confined adhesiveness. By mechanotransduction systems, cells translate these stimuli into biochemical signals controlling multiple aspects of cell behaviour, including growth, differentiation and cancer malignant progression, but how rigidity mechanosensing is ultimately linked to activity of nuclear transcription factors remains poorly understood. Here we report the identification of the Yorkie-homologues YAP (Yes-associated protein) and TAZ (transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif, also known as WWTR1) as nuclear relays of mechanical signals exerted by ECM rigidity and cell shape. This regulation requires Rho GTPase activity and tension of the actomyosin cytoskeleton, but is independent of the Hippo/LATS cascade. Crucially, YAP/TAZ are functionally required for differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells induced by ECM stiffness and for survival of endothelial cells regulated by cell geometry; conversely, expression of activated YAP overrules physical constraints in dictating cell behaviour. These findings identify YAP/TAZ as sensors and mediators of mechanical cues instructed by the cellular microenvironment.
The definition of embryonic potency and induction of specific cell fates are intimately linked to the tight control over TGFbeta signaling. Although extracellular regulation of ligand availability has received considerable attention in recent years, surprisingly little is known about the intracellular factors that negatively control Smad activity in mammalian tissues. By means of genetic ablation, we show that the Smad4 inhibitor ectodermin (Ecto, also known as Trim33 or Tif1gamma) is required to limit Nodal responsiveness in vivo. New phenotypes, which are linked to excessive Nodal activity, emerge from such a modified landscape of Smad responsiveness in both embryonic and extra-embryonic territories. In extra-embryonic endoderm, Ecto is required to confine expression of Nodal antagonists to the anterior visceral endoderm. In trophoblast cells, Ecto precisely doses Nodal activity, balancing stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. Epiblast-specific Ecto deficiency shifts mesoderm fates towards node/organizer fates, revealing the requirement of Smad inhibition for the precise allocation of cells along the primitive streak. This study unveils that intracellular negative control of Smad function by ectodermin/Tif1gamma is a crucial element in the cellular response to TGFbeta signals in mammalian tissues.
Although specific microRNAs (miRNAs) can be upregulated in cancer, global miRNA downregulation is a common trait of human malignancies. The mechanisms of this phenomenon and the advantages it affords remain poorly understood. Here we identify a microRNA family, miR-103/107, that attenuates miRNA biosynthesis by targeting Dicer, a key component of the miRNA processing machinery. In human breast cancer, high levels of miR-103/107 are associated with metastasis and poor outcome. Functionally, miR-103/107 confer migratory capacities in vitro and empower metastatic dissemination of otherwise nonaggressive cells in vivo. Inhibition of miR-103/107 opposes migration and metastasis of malignant cells. At the cellular level, a key event fostered by miR-103/107 is induction of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), attained by downregulating miR-200 levels. These findings suggest a new pathway by which Dicer inhibition drifts epithelial cancer toward a less-differentiated, mesenchymal fate to foster metastasis.
The Spemann organizer stands out from other signaling centers of the embryo because of its broad patterning effects. It defines development along the anteroposterior and dorsoventral axes of the vertebrate body, mainly by secreting antagonists of growth factors. Qualitative models proposed more than a decade ago explain the organizers region-specific inductions (i.e., head and trunk) as the result of different combinations of antagonists. For example, head induction is mediated by extracellular inhibition of Wnt, BMP, and Nodal ligands. However, little is known about how the levels of these antagonists become harmonized with those of their targets and with the factors initially responsible for germ layers and organizer formation, including Nodal itself. Here we show that key ingredients of the head-organizer development, namely Nodal ligands, Nodal antagonists, and ADMP ligands reciprocally adjust each others strength and range of activity by a self-regulating network of interlocked feedback and feedforward loops. A key element in this cross-talk is the limited availability of ACVR2a, for which Nodal and ADMP must compete. By trapping Nodal extracellularly, the Nodal antagonists Cerberus and Lefty are permissive for ADMP activity. The system self-regulates because ADMP/ACVR2a/Smad1 signaling in turn represses the expression of the Nodal antagonists, reestablishing the equilibrium. In sum, this work reveals an unprecedented set of interactions operating within the organizer that is critical for embryonic patterning.
The molecular determinants of malignant cell behaviours in breast cancer remain only partially understood. Here we show that SHARP1 (also known as BHLHE41 or DEC2) is a crucial regulator of the invasive and metastatic phenotype in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), one of the most aggressive types of breast cancer. SHARP1 is regulated by the p63 metastasis suppressor and inhibits TNBC aggressiveness through inhibition of hypoxia-inducible factor 1? (HIF-1?) and HIF-2? (HIFs). SHARP1 opposes HIF-dependent TNBC cell migration in vitro, and invasive or metastatic behaviours in vivo. SHARP1 is required, and sufficient, to limit expression of HIF-target genes. In primary TNBC, endogenous SHARP1 levels are inversely correlated with those of HIF targets. Mechanistically, SHARP1 binds to HIFs and promotes HIF proteasomal degradation by serving as the HIF-presenting factor to the proteasome. This process is independent of pVHL (von Hippel-Lindau tumour suppressor), hypoxia and the ubiquitination machinery. SHARP1 therefore determines the intrinsic instability of HIF proteins to act in parallel to, and cooperate with, oxygen levels. This work sheds light on the mechanisms and pathways by which TNBC acquires invasiveness and metastatic propensity.
The ability of secreted Transforming Growth Factor ? (TGF?) proteins to act as morphogens dictates that their influence be strictly regulated. Here, we report that maternally contributed fat facets (faf; a homolog of USP9X/FAM) is essential for proper interpretation of the zygotic Decapentaplegic (Dpp) morphogen gradient that patterns the embryonic dorsal-ventral axis. The data suggest that the loss of faf reduces the activity of Medea (a homolog of Smad4) below the minimum necessary for adequate Dpp signaling and that this is likely due to excessive ubiquitylation on a specific lysine. This study supports the hypothesis that the control of cellular responsiveness to TGF? signals at the level of Smad4 ubiquitylation is a conserved mechanism required for proper implementation of a morphogen gradient.
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