September 17, 2014

All good things must end—even the focal adhesions that are so key to cell migration. Today’s notable image is the first live cell visualization of ECM degradation at focal adhesions, in a recent paper that reports the link between CLASPs, exocytosis, and focal adhesion turnover. 

Cell migration depends on the precisely-timed formation of focal adhesions (FAs) that link the crawling cell to the extracellular matrix (ECM). FAs serve as anchor points for the crawling cell, yet must later disassemble in order to allow continued movement of the cell. A recent paper describes how CLASP proteins link FA-associated microtubules, exocytosis, and FA turnover. CLASP proteins are +TIP proteins, which means that they are found on the growing ends of microtubules. Stehbens and colleagues found that the clustering of CLASPs around FAs correlates with the timing of FA disassembly, and that CLASPs are required for ECM degradation. Stehbens and colleagues also found that the tethering of microtubules to FAs, via CLASPs, serve as a transport pathway for exocytic vesicles at FAs. The images above are the first live cell images of ECM degradation (visualized as dark regions, top panel) at FAs (magenta).

BONUS! For more information on the scanning angle interference microscopy used in this paper, check out Matthew Paszek’s Nature Methods paper here.

Stehbens, S., Paszek, M., Pemble, H., Ettinger, A., Gierke, S., & Wittmann, T. (2014). CLASPs link focal-adhesion-associated microtubule capture to localized exocytosis and adhesion site turnover Nature Cell Biology, 16 (6), 561-573 DOI: 10.1038/ncb2975
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright ©2014

September 11, 2014

As your therapist likely tells you, understanding where you came from is key to accepting where you are now. Take that therapist’s task and multiply it by several million—you now understand the tough job ahead of developmental biologists trying to track cell lineages in complex organisms. Today’s colorful image is from a paper describing a new computational framework for reconstructing cell lineages. 

The successful tracking of cell position, division, and movement in a developing organism has been a goal for countless developmental biologists. Reconstructing cell lineages in organisms like fruit flies and mice, however, is difficult due to the complexity of cell organization and behavior, poor image quality of thick embryos, the enormous size of the data sets, and an uncompromising need for accuracy. A recent paper by Amat and colleagues describes the development and use of a new open-source framework that reconstructs cell lineages with high accuracy and speed. Their system uses four dimensional and terabyte-sized image data sets of nuclei-tracked embryos, imaged using three different types of fluorescence microscopy. The images above show the first reconstruction of early fruit fly nervous system development (S1 neuroblasts), with precursor cell tracks color-coded for time (purple to yellow).

Amat, F., Lemon, W., Mossing, D., McDole, K., Wan, Y., Branson, K., Myers, E., & Keller, P. (2014). Fast, accurate reconstruction of cell lineages from large-scale fluorescence microscopy data Nature Methods, 11 (9), 951-958 DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.3036
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright ©2014

September 5, 2014

It is so nice to have a friend who truly complements you…someone similar to you, but different enough to pick up the slack of your own shortcomings. Today’s image is from a paper about the Laverne and Shirley partnership of Ena/VASP and mDia2. 

Crawling cells extend finger-like filopodia to probe the environment for cues and to establish adhesion of the cell to the substrate. Filopodia are composed of parallel bundles of actin that are quickly dynamic. Countless actin regulators affect filopodia formation, some of which have seemingly similar functions. The Enabled (Ena)/VASP and Diaphanous 2 (mDia2) proteins are both actin polymerases, but as a recent paper by Barzik and colleagues describes, they support filopodia formation in distinct, non-redundant ways. By using mouse embryonic fibroblasts lacking both Ena/VASP and mDia2, Barzik and colleagues found that filopodia formed using either Ena/VASP or mDia2 alone differed in number, actin filament organization, lifetime, and other parameters. Filopodia generated using mDia2 alone were not able to initiate integrin-dependent adhesion and lamellipodial protrusions. The image above shows a cell with both mDia2 (red) and Ena/VASP (green), with the two proteins colocalizing on a subset of filopodia (arrows).

Barzik, M., McClain, L., Gupton, S., & Gertler, F. (2014). Ena/VASP regulates mDia2-initiated filopodial length, dynamics, and function Molecular Biology of the Cell, 25 (17), 2604-2619 DOI: 10.1091/mbc.E14-02-0712

August 29, 2014

Stem cells in adults are responsible for tissue renewal and many cancers. So, the hunt for stem cells is important and has already been successful, with stem cell populations identified in countless types of tissues. Stem cells in the ovary, however, were shy to show themselves until a recent study using a marker for the Wnt protein Lgr5.

In adults, stem cells are responsible for maintaining homeostasis during normal wear and tear of a tissue. The ovary and its ovary surface epithelium (OSE) experience remodeling during adulthood, yet stem cells of the ovary have been hard to find. A recent paper by Ng and colleagues describes the identification of stem cells in the ovary using markers for the Wnt target protein Lgr5. Lgr5 marks stem cells in several epithelial tissues. Ng and colleagues identified Lgr5+ cells in the mouse ovary starting from ovary organogenesis and lasting into adulthood. Using lineage tracing, Ng and colleagues confirmed that Lgr5+ cells are, in fact, stem cells that contribute to development, homeostasis, and repair of the OSE and associated structures. In the images above, Lgr5+ cells (green) are visible in embryonic (left) and postnatal (middle, right) ovarian tissue.

Ng, A., Tan, S., Singh, G., Rizk, P., Swathi, Y., Tan, T., Huang, R., Leushacke, M., & Barker, N. (2014). Lgr5 marks stem/progenitor cells in ovary and tubal epithelia Nature Cell Biology, 16 (8), 745-757 DOI: 10.1038/ncb3000
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright ©2014

August 26, 2014

If you have little ones in your house, you might assume that the phrase “randomly fluctuating forces” is referring to your home. This phrase actually refers to the background force in a cell coming from active and motor-driven cell processes. Today’s image is from a study that developed a way to measure these forces. 

Actin- and microtubule-based motors move many types of material around a cell to drive critical cellular events. These motor-driven movements and other active processes in the cell contribute to a background of fluctuating forces in a cell. These stochastic forces collectively drive random motion of organelles and proteins within a cell, in turn affecting the dynamics and metabolic state of a cell. To measure these forces, Guo and colleagues developed force spectrum microscopy (FSM) to directly quantify the fluctuating forces in a cell’s cytoplasm, specifically by measuring the movements of individual injected particles. Guo and colleagues found that these forces are strong enough to move both large and small components, and that malignant cells have a higher level of fluctuating forces compared to benign cells. Image above shows a cell with injected particles (green), with the 2-minute trajectories (black) superimposed.

Guo, M., Ehrlicher, A., Jensen, M., Renz, M., Moore, J., Goldman, R., Lippincott-Schwartz, J., Mackintosh, F., & Weitz, D. (2014). Probing the Stochastic, Motor-Driven Properties of the Cytoplasm Using Force Spectrum Microscopy Cell, 158 (4), 822-832 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.06.051
Copyright ©2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

August 21, 2014

Microtubules are known for their fascinating dynamics, but some cellular processes require a more stable microtubule cytoskeleton. Thankfully, these stable, acetylated microtubules are just as photogenic as their non-modified microtubule pals. Today’s image is from a paper describing the role of the protein paxillin in microtubule acetylation. 

Crawling cells require coordination of adhesive forces, cytoskeletal rearrangements, and cell polarization. Cell polarization helps to direct newly synthesized proteins to the leading edge of the crawling cell, relying on both a stable microtubule cytoskeleton and positioning of the Golgi apparatus in front of the nucleus. The stability of these long-lived microtubules is due to acetylation—a post-translational modification of α-tubulin. A recent study by Deakin and Turner uncovered a role for the focal adhesion scaffolding protein paxillin in regulating microtubule acetylation, which in turn regulates Golgi integrity and cell polarization. Paxillin modulates microtubule stability through its inhibition of HDAC6, an α-tubulin deacetylase, and does so in both normal and transformed cells. In the images above, depletion of paxillin (bottom) in malignant (left column) and normal (right column) cell types resulted in a drop of microtubule acetylation (yellow), compared to control cells (top).

Deakin, N., & Turner, C. (2014). Paxillin inhibits HDAC6 to regulate microtubule acetylation, Golgi structure, and polarized migration originally published in the Journal of Cell Biology, 206 (3), 395-413 DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201403039

August 19, 2014

Think of life without tubes for a moment. Not only would our huge bodies cease to exist, but our homes’ plumbing would be a mess and my 5-year old’s marble run would be pretty boring. The formation of tubes during development is a fascinating topic. Today’s image is from a paper describing the role of endocytosis in seamless tube formation.

The trachea of the fruit fly is a simple tubular system that functions as the respiratory system of the fly. The star-shaped tracheal terminal cells form seamless tubes that extend the length of long cellular extensions. Schottenfeld-Roames and colleagues recently published a study investigating the mutations in the braided gene. Tracheal terminal cells in braided mutants have tubular cysts and fewer branches, as seen in the images above (top is wild-type; bottom is mutant). braided encodes Syntaxin7, a endocytosis protein that promotes fusion of vesicles to early endosomes. Schottenfeld-Roames and colleagues found that mutations in other early endosome proteins cause similar terminal cell tube defects. Additional data showing increased levels of the apical protein Crumbs in braided terminal cells suggests that early endocytosis regulates levels of Crumbs, which in turn affects tube formation through actin cytoskeleton modulation. The images above show the luminal membrane (green) and an apical protein (magenta) in tracheal tubes. The tubes in braided mutants are cystic and abnormal, and the tube tips are disorganized (higher magnified views of the boxed regions are on the left).

Schottenfeld-Roames, J., Rosa, J., & Ghabrial, A. (2014). Seamless Tube Shape Is Constrained by Endocytosis-Dependent Regulation of Active Moesin Current Biology, 24 (15), 1756-1764 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.06.029
Copyright ©2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

All the images were acquired by Dr. Jodi Schottenfeld-Roames.