Sublethal doses of surfactants as exemplified by NP-40 clearly induce premature senescence in normal human cells. To understand molecular basis for this phenomenon, we tried to suppress it with use of various inhibitors. An inhibitor of p38 of the MAPK family almost completely suppressed growth arrest and morphological changes induced by surfactants; however, other inhibitors tested had no effect. Oleic acid, a weak inducer of premature senescence, was found to suppress the effect of NP-40. Fluorescein-labeled oleic acid rapidly bound to the cell surface, and this binding was clearly blocked by pre-treatment with surfactants, suggesting that surfactants and oleic acid compete for binding to the cell surface. Moderate concentrations of cycloheximide, an inhibitor of protein synthesis, also suppressed the senescent features induced by NP-40. These results suggest that surfactants activate p38 signaling pathway by binding to the cell surface, and induce cellular senescence.
rad-8 is an interesting mutant that shows increased sensitivities to UV radiation and reactive oxygen species in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In this study, we have characterized rad-8 and have found that rad-8 showed several phenotypes of mitochondrial dysfunction such as a decreased activity of the respiratory chain, increased generation of superoxide anions, increased oxidative damage, increased apoptosis, and abnormal mitochondrial structure. Our genetic analysis has also indicated that rad-8 has a causative mutation in the F56H1.6 gene, which encodes a mitochondrial dehydrogenase/reductase. The functional role of RAD-8 may be evolutionarily conserved because expression of the putative human homologue RTN4IP/NIMP in rad-8 rescued the increased sensitivity to oxygen in rad-8. These results suggest that RAD-8 plays an important role in oxygen metabolism in mitochondria in higher eukaryotes.
We evaluated the cytotoxicity of surfactants in human cells. Synthetic surfactants showed different cytotoxicity levels depending on their structures. The cytotoxicity of commercial washing products was determined mainly by the contents of surfactants. All of them induced premature senescence in normal cells, but not in tumor-derived or immortalized cells, under sublethal conditions. Residual surfactants might be a risk factor for skin aging.
Small molecules that exhibit biological activity have contributed to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of various biological phenomena. 5-Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) is a thymidine analogue that modulates various biological phenomena such as cellular differentiation and cellular senescence in cultured mammalian cells. Although BrdU is thought to function through changing chromatin structure and gene expression, its precise molecular mechanisms are not understood. To study the molecular mechanism for the action of BrdU, we have employed the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model system, and screened multi-copy suppressor genes that confer resistance to BrdU. Our genetic screen has revealed that expression of the N-terminal short fragment of TUP1, and also disruption of HDA1 or HOS1, histone deacetylases that interact with TUP1, conferred resistance to BrdU. These results suggest the implication of the chromatin proteins in the function of BrdU, and would provide novel clues to answer the old question of how BrdU modulates various biological phenomena.
Oxygen is essential for animals, but high concentrations of oxygen are toxic to them probably because of an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS). Many genes are involved in the reactions from which ROS are generated, but not much attention has been focused on them. To identify these genes, we screened for mutants with an altered sensitivity to oxidative stress in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and isolated a mutant, oxy-5(qa5002). oxy-5 showed an increased sensitivity to oxygen and decreased longevity. The decreased life span in oxy-5 was probably due to increased oxidative stress because it was recovered to a normal level when oxy-5 was cultured under hypoxic conditions. Our genetic analysis has revealed that the responsible gene for oxy-5 encodes a protein similar to mitochondrial ribosomal protein S36. The OXY-5 protein was highly expressed in the neurons, pharynx, and intestine, and expression of oxy-5 from the pan-neuronal H20 promoter efficiently suppressed the increased sensitivity to oxygen in oxy-5. These findings suggested that oxy-5 played an important role in the regulation of the sensitivity to oxygen in neuronal cells in C. elegans.
5-Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) modulates the expression of particular genes associated with cellular differentiation and senescence when incorporated into DNA instead of thymidine (dThd). To date, a molecular mechanism for this phenomenon remains a mystery in spite of a large number of studies. Recently, we have demonstrated that BrdU disrupts nucleosome positioning on model plasmids mediated by specific AT-tracts in yeast cells. Here we constructed a cognate plasmid that can form an ordered array of nucleosomes determined by an ?2 operator and contains the BAR1 gene as an expression marker gene to examine BAR1 expression in dThd-auxotrophic MAT? cells under various conditions. In medium containing dThd, BAR1 expression was completely repressed, associated with the formation of the stable array of nucleosomes. Insertion of AT-tracts into a site of the promoter region slightly increased BAR1 expression and slightly destabilized nucleosome positioning dependent on their sequence specificity. In medium containing BrdU, BAR1 expression was further enhanced, associated with more marked disruption of nucleosome positioning on the promoter region. Disruption of nucleosome positioning seems to be sufficient for full expression of the marker gene if necessary transcription factors are supplied. Incorporation of 5-bromouracil into the plasmid did not weaken the binding of the ?2/Mcm1 repressor complex to its legitimate binding site, as revealed by an in vivo UV photofootprinting assay. These results suggest that BrdU increases transcription of repressed genes by disruption of nucleosome positioning around their promoters.
Small molecules that exhibit biological effects have been successfully used to study various biological phenomena. 5-Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) is a thymidine analog that affects various biological processes, such as cellular differentiation and cellular senescence in cultured mammalian cells. Although BrdU is thought to modulate these phenomena by changing chromatin structure and gene expression, the molecular mechanisms for the action of BrdU are not understood well. To analyze the molecular mechanisms of BrdU with genetic methods, we used the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model. Our genetic screening has revealed that a defect in MPT5/HTR1/UTH4/PUF5 led to an increased sensitivity to BrdU, and that overexpression of VHT1 or SDT1 led to resistance to BrdU. The increased sensitivity to BrdU caused by a defect in MPT5 was suppressed by a mutation in SIR2, SIR3, or SIR4, which is involved in chromatin silencing and transcriptional repression. These findings suggest that chromatin silencing proteins are involved in the modulation of the cellular phenomena by BrdU, and would provide clues to answer the old question of how BrdU affects various biological phenomena.
Pregnancy-specific glycoproteins (PSGs) comprise a family of highly similar polypeptides encoded by 11 transcriptionally active genes that compactly cluster on band 19q13.2. All members of the PSG family were found to be markedly up-regulated by addition of 5-bromodeoxyuridine in HeLa cells. Similarly, all of the members were markedly up-regulated during replicative senescence in normal human fibroblasts. Promoter analysis of the PSG1, 4, and 11 genes in HeLa cells did not reveal a cis-regulatory element responsive to 5-bromodeoxyuridine in their 5-flanking sequences. These results suggest that the PSG genes are regulated at a level of higher order chromatin structure besides by a signal of pregnancy.
DNA topoisomerase I (Top1) is a ubiquitous nuclear enzyme that plays essential roles in various cellular processes, such as transcription or replication. Agents that target Top1, involving camptothecin and its derivatives, are among the most effective anticancer drugs used in the clinic. Previous work has suggested that the level of Top1 expression correlates with the cytotoxicity of camptothecin, but no direct evidence has been provided thus far in the context of human cells with a strictly isogenic genetic background. In this study, we perform heterozygous disruption of the Top1 gene (TOP1) by gene targeting in a human pre-B cell line, Nalm-6, which is karyotypically stable and normal for p53 status. We show that the heterozygous loss of the TOP1 gene does confer cellular resistance to camptothecin, to an extent comparable to that observed in the absence of functional p53 protein. Such a tolerance was not observed with other agents that target DNA topoisomerase II. Our results provide direct evidence that human cells with decreased Top1 levels are significantly more resistant to killing by camptothecin than are otherwise isogenic cells.
Oxygen is essential for the life of aerobic organisms, but reactive oxygen species (ROS) derived from oxygen can be a threat for it. Many genes are involved in generation of ROS, but not much attention has been focused on the reactions from which ROS are generated. We therefore screened for mutants that showed an increased sensitivity to oxidative stress in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and isolated a novel mutant, oxy-4(qa5001). This mutant showed an increased sensitivity to a high concentration of oxygen, and decreased longevity at 20 degrees C but not at 26 degrees C. The genetic analysis has revealed that oxy-4 had a causative mutation in an [FeFe]-hydrogenase-like gene (Y54H5A.4). In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a deletion of NAR1, a possible homologue of oxy-4, also caused a similar increased sensitivity to oxygen. [FeFe]-hydrogenases are enzymes that catalyze both the formation and the splitting of molecular hydrogen, and function in anaerobic respiration in anaerobes. In contrast, [FeFe]-hydrogenase-like genes identified in aerobic eukaryotes do not generate hydrogen, and its functional roles are less understood. Our results suggested that [FeFe]-hydrogenase-like genes were involved in the regulation of sensitivity to oxygen in S. cerevisiae and C. elegans.
Excess thymidine induces unbalanced growth by delaying DNA replication and subsequently induces senescence in every human cell type. Our previous studies with use of inhibitors suggested that ERK1/2 has a major role in these processes. Here we directly assessed the roles of ERK1 and ERK2 in unbalanced growth induced by excess thymidine. Knockdown of ERK2 and ERK1 by vector-based RNA interference prevented loss of colony forming ability and appearance of senescence markers induced by excess thymidine in HeLa and TIG-7 cells, respectively. Such cells continued growing in the presence of excess thymidine. Double knockdown of ERK1 and ERK2 did not improve the effects of single knockdowns of ERK1 and ERK2 in either cell types. These results demonstrate that ERK1 or ERK2 has a major role in manifestation of unbalanced growth in human cells.
Oxygen is essential for animals, but high concentrations of oxygen are toxic to them probably because of an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS). Many genes are involved in the regulation of ROS, but they largely remain to be identified. To identify these genes, we employed the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism, and systematically screened for genes that, when down-regulated by RNAi, lead to an increased sensitivity to ROS. We examined approximately 2400 genes on linkage group I and found that knock-down of 9 genes which participate in various cellular functions led to an increased sensitivity to ROS. This finding suggests an implication of a variety of cellular processes in the regulation of oxidative stress.
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