Cryo-EM structure of the insect olfactory receptor Orco

Content introduction:

  • Cryo-EM structure of the insect olfactory receptor Orco
  • Modulating plant growth–metabolism coordination for sustainable agriculture
  • Autism-like phenotype and risk gene mRNA deadenylation by CPEB4 mis-splicing
  • Genetic and transcriptional evolution alters cancer cell line drug response
  • 5-HT release in nucleus accumbens rescues social deficits in mouse autism model

1. Cryo-EM structure of the insect olfactory receptor Orco
The olfactory system must recognize and discriminate amongst an enormous variety of chemicals in the environment. To contend with such diversity, insects have evolved a family of odorant-gated ion channels comprised of a highly conserved co-receptor (Orco) and a divergent odorant receptor (OR) that confers chemical specificity. Here, Joel A. Butterwick at The Rockefeller University in New York, USA and his colleagues present the single-particle cryo-electron microscopy structure of an Orco homomer from the parasitic fig wasp Apocrypta bakeri at 3.5 Å resolution, providing structural insight into this receptor family. Orco possesses a novel channel architecture, with four subunits symmetrically arranged around a central pore that diverges into four lateral conduits that open to the cytosol. The Orco tetramer has few inter-subunit interactions within the membrane and is bound together by a small cytoplasmic anchor domain. The minimal sequence conservation among ORs maps largely to the pore and anchor domain, shedding light on how the architecture of this receptor family accommodates its remarkable sequence diversity and facilitates the evolution of odour tuning.

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2. Modulating plant growth–metabolism coordination for sustainable agriculture
Enhancing global food security by increasing the productivity of green revolution varieties of cereals risks increasing the collateral environmental damage produced by inorganic nitrogen fertilizers. Improvements in the efficiency of nitrogen use of crops are therefore essential; however, they require an in-depth understanding of the co-regulatory mechanisms that integrate growth, nitrogen assimilation and carbon fixation. Here Shan Li at Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China and her colleagues show that the balanced opposing activities and physical interactions of the rice GROWTH-REGULATING FACTOR 4 (GRF4) transcription factor and the growth inhibitor DELLA confer homeostatic co-regulation of growth and the metabolism of carbon and nitrogen. GRF4 promotes and integrates nitrogen assimilation, carbon fixation and growth, whereas DELLA inhibits these processes. As a consequence, the accumulation of DELLA that is characteristic of green revolution varieties confers not only yield-enhancing dwarfism, but also reduces the efficiency of nitrogen use. However, the nitrogen-use efficiency of green revolution varieties and grain yield are increased by tipping the GRF4–DELLA balance towards increased GRF4 abundance. Modulation of plant growth and metabolic co-regulation thus enables novel breeding strategies for future sustainable food security and a new green revolution.

Read more, please click https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0415-5

3. Autism-like phenotype and risk gene mRNA deadenylation by CPEB4 mis-splicing
Common genetic contributions to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) reside in risk gene variants that individually have minimal effect sizes. As environmental factors that perturb neurodevelopment also underlie idiopathic ASD, it is crucial to identify altered regulators that can orchestrate multiple ASD risk genes during neurodevelopment. Cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding proteins 1–4 (CPEB1–4) regulate the translation of specific mRNAs by modulating their poly(A)-tails and thereby participate in embryonic development and synaptic plasticity. Here Alberto Parras at Instituto de Salud Carlos III in Madrid, Spain and his colleagues find that CPEB4 binds transcripts of most high-confidence ASD risk genes. The brains of individuals with idiopathic ASD show imbalances in CPEB4 transcript isoforms that result from decreased inclusion of a neuron-specific microexon. In addition, 9% of the transcriptome shows reduced poly(A)-tail length. Notably, this percentage is much higher for high-confidence ASD risk genes, correlating with reduced expression of the protein products of ASD risk genes. An equivalent imbalance in CPEB4 transcript isoforms in mice mimics the changes in mRNA polyadenylation and protein expression of ASD risk genes and induces ASD-like neuroanatomical, electrophysiological and behavioural phenotypes. Together, these data identify CPEB4 as a regulator of ASD risk genes.

Read more, please click https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0423-5

4. Genetic and transcriptional evolution alters cancer cell line drug response
Human cancer cell lines are the workhorse of cancer research. Although cell lines are known to evolve in culture, the extent of the resultant genetic and transcriptional heterogeneity and its functional consequences remain understudied. Here Uri Ben-David at Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Cambridge, USA and his colleagues use genomic analyses of 106 human cell lines grown in two laboratories to show extensive clonal diversity. Further comprehensive genomic characterization of 27 strains of the common breast cancer cell line MCF7 uncovered rapid genetic diversification. Similar results were obtained with multiple strains of 13 additional cell lines. Notably, genetic changes were associated with differential activation of gene expression programs and marked differences in cell morphology and proliferation. Barcoding experiments showed that cell line evolution occurs as a result of positive clonal selection that is highly sensitive to culture conditions. Analyses of single-cell-derived clones demonstrated that continuous instability quickly translates into heterogeneity of the cell line. When the 27 MCF7 strains were tested against 321 anti-cancer compounds, they uncovered considerably different drug responses: at least 75% of compounds that strongly inhibited some strains were completely inactive in others. This study documents the extent, origins and consequences of genetic variation within cell lines, and provides a framework for researchers to measure such variation in efforts to support maximally reproducible cancer research.

Read more, please click https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0409-3

5. 5-HT release in nucleus accumbens rescues social deficits in mouse autism model
Dysfunction in prosocial interactions is a core symptom of autism spectrum disorder. However, the neural mechanisms that underlie sociability are poorly understood, limiting the rational development of therapies to treat social deficits. Here Jessica J. Walsh at Stanford University in Stanford, USA and his colleagues show in mice that bidirectional modulation of the release of serotonin (5-HT) from dorsal raphe neurons in the nucleus accumbens bidirectionally modifies sociability. In a mouse model of a common genetic cause of autism spectrum disorder—a copy number variation on chromosome 16p11.2—genetic deletion of the syntenic region from 5-HT neurons induces deficits in social behaviour and decreases dorsal raphe 5-HT neuronal activity. These sociability deficits can be rescued by optogenetic activation of dorsal raphe 5-HT neurons, an effect requiring and mimicked by activation of 5-HT1b receptors in the nucleus accumbens. These results demonstrate an unexpected role for 5-HT action in the nucleus accumbens in social behaviours, and suggest that targeting this mechanism may prove therapeutically beneficial.

Read more, please click https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0416-4

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