Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

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The H3K9 dimethyltransferases EHMT1/2 protect against pathological cardiac hypertrophy.
Thienpont B, Aronsen JM, Robinson EL, Okkenhaug H, Loche E, Ferrini A, Brien P, Alkass K, Tomasso A, Agrawal A, Bergmann O, Sjaastad I, Reik W, Roderick HL

Cardiac hypertrophic growth in response to pathological cues is associated with reexpression of fetal genes and decreased cardiac function and is often a precursor to heart failure. In contrast, physiologically induced hypertrophy is adaptive, resulting in improved cardiac function. The processes that selectively induce these hypertrophic states are poorly understood. Here, we have profiled 2 repressive epigenetic marks, H3K9me2 and H3K27me3, which are involved in stable cellular differentiation, specifically in cardiomyocytes from physiologically and pathologically hypertrophied rat hearts, and correlated these marks with their associated transcriptomes. This analysis revealed the pervasive loss of euchromatic H3K9me2 as a conserved feature of pathological hypertrophy that was associated with reexpression of fetal genes. In hypertrophy, H3K9me2 was reduced following a miR-217-mediated decrease in expression of the H3K9 dimethyltransferases EHMT1 and EHMT2 (EHMT1/2). miR-217-mediated, genetic, or pharmacological inactivation of EHMT1/2 was sufficient to promote pathological hypertrophy and fetal gene reexpression, while suppression of this pathway protected against pathological hypertrophy both in vitro and in mice. Thus, we have established a conserved mechanism involving a departure of the cardiomyocyte epigenome from its adult cellular identity to a reprogrammed state that is accompanied by reexpression of fetal genes and pathological hypertrophy. These results suggest that targeting miR-217 and EHMT1/2 to prevent H3K9 methylation loss is a viable therapeutic approach for the treatment of heart disease.

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The Journal of clinical investigation, , 1558-8238, , 2016

PMID: 27893464

Assembly of early machinery for autophagy induction: novel insights from high resolution microscopy.
Ktistakis NT, Walker SA, Karanasios E

Oncotarget, , 1949-2553, , 2016

PMID: 27829241

Open Access

Dynamics of mTORC1 activation in response to amino acids.
Manifava M, Smith M, Rotondo S, Walker S, Niewczas I, Zoncu R, Clark J, Ktistakis NT

Amino acids are essential activators of mTORC1 via a complex containing RAG GTPases, RAGULATOR and the vacuolar ATPase. Sensing of amino acids causes translocation of mTORC1 to lysosomes, an obligate step for activation. To examine the spatial and temporal dynamics of this translocation, we used live imaging of the mTORC1 component RAPTOR and a cell permeant fluorescent analogue of di-leucine methyl ester. Translocation to lysosomes is a transient event, occurring within 2 min of aa addition and peaking within 5 min. It is temporally coupled with fluorescent leucine appearance in lysosomes and is sustained in comparison to aa stimulation. Sestrin2 and the vacuolar ATPase are negative and positive regulators of mTORC1 activity in our experimental system. Of note, phosphorylation of canonical mTORC1 targets is delayed compared to lysosomal translocation suggesting a dynamic and transient passage of mTORC1 from the lysosomal surface before targetting its substrates elsewhere.

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eLife, 5, 2050-084X, , 2016

PMID: 27725083

Open Access

Autophagy initiation by ULK complex assembly on ER tubulovesicular regions marked by ATG9 vesicles.
Karanasios E, Walker SA, Okkenhaug H, Manifava M, Hummel E, Zimmermann H, Ahmed Q, Domart MC, Collinson L, Ktistakis NT

Autophagosome formation requires sequential translocation of autophagy-specific proteins to membranes enriched in PI3P and connected to the ER. Preceding this, the earliest autophagy-specific structure forming de novo is a small punctum of the ULK1 complex. The provenance of this structure and its mode of formation are unknown. We show that the ULK1 structure emerges from regions, where ATG9 vesicles align with the ER and its formation requires ER exit and coatomer function. Super-resolution microscopy reveals that the ULK1 compartment consists of regularly assembled punctate elements that cluster in progressively larger spherical structures and associates uniquely with the early autophagy machinery. Correlative electron microscopy after live imaging shows tubulovesicular membranes present at the locus of this structure. We propose that the nucleation of autophagosomes occurs in regions, where the ULK1 complex coalesces with ER and the ATG9 compartment.

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Nature communications, 7, 2041-1723, 12420, 2016

PMID: 27510922

Open Access

A novel phosphate-starvation response in fission yeast requires the endocytic function of Myosin I.
Petrini E, Baillet V, Cridge J, Hogan CJ, Guillaume C, Ke H, Brandetti E, Walker S, Koohy H, Spivakov M, Varga-Weisz P

Endocytosis is essential for uptake of many substances into the cell, but how it links to nutritional signalling is poorly understood. Here we show a novel role for endocytosis in regulating the response to low phosphate in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Loss of function of Myo1, Sla2/End4 or Arp2, proteins involved in the early steps of endocytosis, led to increased proliferation in low phosphate media compared to controls. We show that once cells are deprived of phosphate they undergo a quiescence response that is dependent on the endocytic function of Myo1. Transcriptomic analysis revealed a wide perturbation of gene expression with induction of stress-regulated genes upon phosphate starvation in wildtype but not Δmyo1 cells. Thus, endocytosis plays a pivotal role in mediating the cellular response to nutrients, bridging the external environment and internal molecular functions of the cell.

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Journal of cell science, , 1477-9137, , 2015

PMID: 26345368

Open Access

The immune system GTPase GIMAP6 interacts with the Atg8 homologue GABARAPL2 and is recruited to autophagosomes.
Pascall JC, Rotondo S, Mukadam AS, Oxley D, Webster J, Walker SA, Piron J, Carter C, Ktistakis NT, Butcher GW

The GIMAPs (GTPases of the immunity-associated proteins) are a family of small GTPases expressed prominently in the immune systems of mammals and other vertebrates. In mammals, studies of mutant or genetically-modified rodents have indicated important roles for the GIMAP GTPases in the development and survival of lymphocytes. No clear picture has yet emerged, however, of the molecular mechanisms by which they perform their function(s). Using biotin tag-affinity purification we identified a major, and highly specific, interaction between the human cytosolic family member GIMAP6 and GABARAPL2, one of the mammalian homologues of the yeast autophagy protein Atg8. Chemical cross-linking studies performed on Jurkat T cells, which express both GIMAP6 and GABARAPL2 endogenously, indicated that the two proteins in these cells readily associate with one another in the cytosol under normal conditions. The GIMAP6-GABARAPL2 interaction was disrupted by deletion of the last 10 amino acids of GIMAP6. The N-terminal region of GIMAP6, however, which includes a putative Atg8-family interacting motif, was not required. Over-expression of GIMAP6 resulted in increased levels of endogenous GABARAPL2 in cells. After culture of cells in starvation medium, GIMAP6 was found to localise in punctate structures with both GABARAPL2 and the autophagosomal marker MAP1LC3B, indicating that GIMAP6 re-locates to autophagosomes on starvation. Consistent with this finding, we have demonstrated that starvation of Jurkat T cells results in the degradation of GIMAP6. Whilst these findings raise the possibility that the GIMAPs play roles in the regulation of autophagy, we have been unable to demonstrate an effect of GIMAP6 over-expression on autophagic flux.

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PloS one, 8, 1932-6203, e77782, 2013

PMID: 24204963

Open Access

Dynamic association of the ULK1 complex with omegasomes during autophagy induction.
Karanasios E, Stapleton E, Manifava M, Kaizuka T, Mizushima N, Walker SA, Ktistakis NT

Induction of autophagy requires the ULK1 protein kinase complex and the Vps34 lipid kinase complex. PtdIns3P synthesised by Vps34 accumulates in omegasomes, membrane extensions of the ER within which some autophagosomes form. The ULK1 complex is thought to target autophagosomes independently of PtdIns3P, and its functional relationship to omegasomes is unclear. Here we show that the ULK1 complex colocalises with omegasomes in a PtdIns3P-dependent way. Live-cell imaging of Atg13 (a ULK1 complex component), omegasomes and LC3 establishes and annotates for the first time a complete sequence of steps leading to autophagosome formation, as follows. Upon starvation, the ULK1 complex forms puncta associated with the ER and sporadically with mitochondria. If PtdIns3P is available, these puncta become omegasomes. Subsequently, the ULK1 complex exits omegasomes and autophagosomes bud off. If PtdIns3P is unavailable, ULK1 puncta are greatly reduced in number and duration. Atg13 contains a region with affinity for acidic phospholipids, required for translocation to punctate structures and autophagy progression.

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Journal of cell science, 126, 1477-9137, 5224-38, 2013

PMID: 24013547

Open Access

Characteristics and requirements of basal autophagy in HEK 293 cells.
Musiwaro P, Smith M, Manifava M, Walker SA, Ktistakis NT

Basal autophagy-here defined as macroautophagic activity during cellular growth in normal medium containing amino acids and serum-appears to be highly active in many cell types and in animal tissues. Here we characterized this pathway in mammalian HEK 293 cells. First, we examined, side by side, three compounds that are widely used to reveal basal autophagy by blocking maturation of autophagosomes: bafilomycin A 1 (BafA1), chloroquine and vinblastine. Only BafA1 appeared to be without complicating side effects. Chloroquine partially inhibited mechanistic target of rapamycin (MTOR) activity, which would induce autophagy induction as well as block autophagosome maturation. Vinblastine caused the distribution of early omegasome components into punctate phagophore assembly sites, and therefore it would also induce autophagy, complicating interpretation. Basal autophagy was significantly sensitive to inhibition by wortmannin, and therefore required formation of phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PtdIns3P), but it was twice as resistant to wortmannin as starvation-induced autophagy. We also determined that basal autophagy was significantly suppressed by MTOR activation brought about by overexpression of RHEB or activated RAGs. Finally we investigated the spatial relationship of nascent autophagosomes to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) or to mitochondria by live imaging experiments under conditions that reveal basal autophagy (with BafA1 treatment), or upon MTOR inactivation (which would result in autophagy induction). Side-by-side comparison showed that under both basal and induced autophagy, 100% of autophagosomes first appeared in close proximity to ER strands. In parallel measurements, 40% were in close proximity to mitochondria under both conditions. We concluded that in HEK 293 cells, basal autophagy is mechanistically similar to that induced by MTOR inactivation in all aspects examined.

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Autophagy, 9, 1554-8635, 1407-17, 2013

PMID: 23800949

Intra-axonal calcium changes after axotomy in wild-type and slow Wallerian degeneration axons.
R Adalbert, G Morreale, M Paizs, L Conforti, SA Walker, HL Roderick, MD Bootman, L Siklós, MP Coleman

Calcium accumulation induces the breakdown of cytoskeleton and axonal fragmentation in the late stages of Wallerian degeneration. In the early stages there is no evidence for any long-lasting, extensive increase in intra-axonal calcium but there does appear to be some redistribution. We hypothesized that changes in calcium distribution could have an early regulatory role in axonal degeneration in addition to the late executionary role of calcium. Schmidt-Lanterman clefts (SLCs), which allow exchange of metabolites and ions between the periaxonal and extracellular space, are likely to have an increased role when axon segments are separated from the cell body, so we used the oxalate-pyroantimonate method to study calcium at SLCs in distal stumps of transected wild-type and slow Wallerian degeneration (Wld(S)) mutant sciatic nerves, in which Wallerian degeneration is greatly delayed. In wild-type nerves most SLCs show a step gradient of calcium distribution, which is lost at around 20% of SLCs within 3mm of the lesion site by 4-24h after nerve transection. To investigate further the association with Wallerian degeneration, we studied nerves from Wld(S) rats. The step gradient of calcium distribution in Wld(S) is absent in around 20% of the intact nerves beneath SLCs but 4-24h following injury, calcium distribution in transected axons remained similar to that in uninjured nerves. We then used calcium indicators to study influx and buffering of calcium in injured neurites in primary culture. Calcium penetration and the early calcium increase in this system were indistinguishable between Wld(S) and wild-type axons. However, a significant difference was observed during the following hours, when calcium increased in wild-type neurites but not in Wld(S) neurites. We conclude that there is little relationship between calcium distribution and the early stages of Wallerian degeneration at the time points studied in vivo or in vitro but that Wld(S) neurites fail to show a later calcium rise that could be a cause or consequence of the later stages of Wallerian degeneration.

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Neuroscience, 225, , 44-54, 2012

PMID: 22960623
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.08.056

Open Access

Dynamic imaging of calcium and STIM1 in the same cell using wide-field and TIRF microscopy.
S Walker, N Cunniffe, M Bootman, HL Roderick

BioTechniques, 45, 3, 347-8, 2008

PMID: 18778263
DOI: 10.2144/000112957

PI(3)Kgamma has an important context-dependent role in neutrophil chemokinesis.
GJ Ferguson, L Milne, S Kulkarni, T Sasaki, S Walker, S Andrews, T Crabbe, P Finan, G Jones, S Jackson, M Camps, C Rommel, M Wymann, E Hirsch, P Hawkins, L Stephens

The directional movement of cells in a gradient of external stimulus is termed chemotaxis and is important in many aspects of development and differentiated cell function. Phophoinositide 3-kinases (PI(3)Ks) are thought to have critical roles within the gradient-sensing machinery of a variety of highly motile cells, such as mammalian phagocytes, allowing these cells to respond quickly and efficiently to shallow gradients of soluble stimuli. Our analysis of mammalian neutrophil migration towards ligands such as fMLP shows that, although PtdIns(3,4)P(2) and PtdIns(3,4,5)P(3) accumulate in a PI(3)Kgamma-dependent fashion at the up-gradient leading-edge, this signal is not required for efficient gradient-sensing and gradient-biased movement. PI(3)Kgamma activity is however, a critical determinant of the proportion of cells that can move, that is, respond chemokinetically, in reaction to fMLP. Furthermore, this dependence of chemokinesis on PI(3)Kgamma activity is context dependent, both with respect to the state of priming of the neutrophils and the type of surface on which they are migrating. We propose this effect of PI(3)Kgamma is through roles in the regulation of some aspects of neutrophil polarization that are relevant to movement, such as integrin-based adhesion and the accumulation of polymerized (F)-actin at the leading-edge.

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Nature cell biology, 9, 1, 86-91, 2007

PMID: 17173040
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1517