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.
The asymmetric distribution of damaged cellular components has been observed in species ranging from fission yeast to humans. To study the potential advantages of damage segregation, we have developed a mathematical model describing ageing mammalian tissue, that is, a multicellular system of somatic cells that do not rejuvenate at cell division. To illustrate the applicability of the model, we specifically consider damage incurred by mutations to mitochondrial DNA, which are thought to be implicated in the mammalian ageing process. We show analytically that the asymmetric distribution of damaged cellular components reduces the overall damage level and increases the longevity of the cell population. Motivated by the experimental reports of damage segregation in human embryonic stem cells, dividing symmetrically with respect to cell-fate, we extend the model to consider spatially structured systems of cells. Imposing spatial structure reduces, but does not eliminate, the advantage of asymmetric division over symmetric division. The results suggest that damage partitioning could be a common strategy for reducing the accumulation of damage in a wider range of cell types than previously thought.
Mammalian cells are restricted from proliferating indefinitely. Telomeres at the end of each chromosome are shortened at cell division and when they reach a critical length, the cell will enter permanent cell cycle arrest-a state known as senescence. This mechanism is thought to be tumor suppressing, as it helps prevent precancerous cells from dividing uncontrollably. Stem cells express the enzyme telomerase, which elongates the telomeres, thereby postponing senescence. However, unlike germ cells and most types of cancer cells, stem cells only express telomerase at levels insufficient to fully maintain the length of their telomeres, leading to a slow decline in proliferation potential. It is not yet fully understood how this decline influences the risk of cancer and the longevity of the organism. We here develop a stochastic model to explore the role of telomere dynamics in relation to both senescence and cancer. The model describes the accumulation of cancerous mutations in a multicellular organism and creates a coherent theoretical framework for interpreting the results of several recent experiments on telomerase regulation. We demonstrate that the longest average cancer-free lifespan before cancer onset is obtained when stem cells start with relatively long telomeres that are shortened at a steady rate at cell division. Furthermore, the risk of cancer early in life can be reduced by having a short initial telomere length. Finally, our model suggests that evolution will favor a shorter than optimal average cancer-free lifespan in order to postpone cancer onset until late in life.
Optimal response to environmental stimuli often requires activation of certain genes and repression of others. Dual function regulatory proteins play a key role in the differential regulation of gene expression. While repression can be achieved by any DNA binding protein through steric occlusion of RNA polymerase in the promoter region, activation often requires a surface on the regulatory protein to contact RNAP and thus facilitate transcription initiation. RNAP itself is also a DNA binding protein, therefore it can function as a transcriptional repressor. Searching the Escherichia coli promoter database we found that ?14% of the identified forward promoters overlap with a promoter oriented in the opposite direction. In this article we combine a mathematical model with experimental analysis of synthetic regulatory regions to investigate interference of overlapping promoters. We find that promoter interference depends on the characteristics of overlapping promoters. The model predicts that promoter strength and interference can be regulated separately, which provides unique opportunities for regulation. Our experimental data suggest that in principle any DNA binding protein can be used for both activation and repression of promoter transcription, depending on the context. These findings can be exploited in the construction of synthetic networks.
Dendrimers are polymers with unique properties that make them promising in a variety of applications such as potential drug and gene delivery systems. PAMAM dendrimers, in particular, have been widely investigated and are efficiently translocated into the cell. The mechanism of translocation, however, is still unknown. Recently it was proposed that PAMAM dendrimers are able to open holes in lipid bilayers by stealing lipid from the bilayer and forming "dendrisomes". The present work intends to contribute in the clarification of this question: why are dendrimers able to translocate into the cell? We create simple models for cell membranes by using small lipid vesicles that present a single lipid phase at physiologically relevant conditions. We then follow the effect that dendrimers have on the structure of the vesicles by using a combination of various techniques: dynamic light scattering, cryo-TEM and small angle X-ray scattering. We discuss our results with respect to the previous findings and reflect on their possible implications for real translocation in living cells.
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.
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