James Ferrell, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
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Animal cells within a tissue typically display a striking regularity in their size. To date, the molecular mechanisms that control this uniformity are still unknown. We have previously shown that size uniformity in animal cells is promoted, in part, by size-dependent regulation of G1 length. To identify the molecular mechanisms underlying this process, we performed a large-scale small molecule screen and found that the p38 MAPK pathway is involved in coordinating cell size and cell cycle progression. Small cells display higher p38 activity and spend more time in G1 than larger cells. Inhibition of p38 MAPK leads to loss of the compensatory G1 length extension in small cells, resulting in faster proliferation, smaller cell size and increased size heterogeneity. We propose a model wherein the p38 pathway responds to changes in cell size and regulates G1 exit accordingly, to increase cell size uniformity.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.26947
View details for Web of Science ID 000428615800001
View details for PubMedID 29595474
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5876018
While molecules that promote the growth of animal cells have been identified, it remains unclear how such signals are orchestrated to determine a characteristic target size for different cell types. It is increasingly clear that cell size is determined by size checkpoints-mechanisms that restrict the cell cycle progression of cells that are smaller than their target size. Previously, we described a p38 MAPK-dependent cell size checkpoint mechanism whereby p38 is selectively activated and prevents cell cycle progression in cells that are smaller than a given target size. In this study, we show that the specific target size required for inactivation of p38 and transition through the cell cycle is determined by CDK4 activity. Our data suggest a model whereby p38 and CDK4 cooperate analogously to the function of a thermostat: while p38 senses irregularities in size, CDK4 corresponds to the thermostat dial that sets the target size.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2021.04.030
View details for PubMedID 34022133
Ion channels represent a large class of drug targets, but their role in brain cancer is underexplored. Here, we identify that chloride intracellular channel 1 (CLIC1) is overexpressed in human central nervous system malignancies, including medulloblastoma, a common pediatric brain cancer. While global knockout does not overtly affect mouse development, genetic deletion of CLIC1 suppresses medulloblastoma growth in xenograft and genetically engineered mouse models. Mechanistically, CLIC1 enriches to the plasma membrane during mitosis and cooperates with potassium channel EAG2 at lipid rafts to regulate cell volume homeostasis. CLIC1 deficiency is associated with elevation of cell/nuclear volume ratio, uncoupling between RNA biosynthesis and cell size increase, and activation of the p38 MAPK pathway that suppresses proliferation. Concurrent knockdown of CLIC1/EAG2 and their evolutionarily conserved channels synergistically suppressed the growth of human medulloblastoma cells and Drosophila melanogaster brain tumors, respectively. These findings establish CLIC1 as a molecular dependency in rapidly dividing medulloblastoma cells, provide insights into the mechanism by which CLIC1 regulates tumorigenesis, and reveal that targeting CLIC1 and its functionally cooperative potassium channel is a disease-intervention strategy.
View details for DOI 10.1084/jem.20190971
View details for Web of Science ID 000531028800007
View details for PubMedID 32097463
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7201926
mTORC1 regulates cellular growth and is activated by growth factors and by essential amino acids such as Leu. Leu enters cells via the Leu transporter LAT1-4F2hc (LAT1). Here we show that the Na+/K+/2Cl- cotransporter NKCC1 (SLC12A2), a known regulator of cell volume, is present in complex with LAT1. We further show that NKCC1 depletion or deletion enhances LAT1 activity, as well as activation of Akt and Erk, leading to activation of mTORC1 in cells, colonic organoids, and mouse colon. Moreover, NKCC1 depletion reduces intracellular Na+ concentration and cell volume (size) and mass and stimulates cell proliferation. NKCC1, therefore, suppresses mTORC1 by inhibiting its key activating signaling pathways. Importantly, by linking ion transport and cell volume regulation to mTORC1 function, NKCC1 provides a long-sought link connecting cell volume (size) to cell mass regulation.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.04.034
View details for Web of Science ID 000467058500021
View details for PubMedID 31067471
Robust biological oscillators retain the critical ability to function in the presence of environmental perturbations. Although central architectures that support robust oscillations have been extensively studied, networks containing the same core vary drastically in their potential to oscillate, and it remains elusive what peripheral modifications to the core contribute to this functional variation. Here, we have generated a complete atlas of two- and three-node oscillators computationally, then systematically analyzed the association between network structure and robustness. We found that, while certain core topologies are essential for producing a robust oscillator, local structures can substantially modulate the robustness of oscillations. Notably, local nodes receiving incoherent or coherent inputs respectively promote or attenuate the overall network robustness in an additive manner. We validated these relationships in larger-scale networks reflective of real biological oscillators. Our findings provide an explanation for why auxiliary structures not required for oscillation are evolutionarily conserved and suggest simple ways to evolve or design robust oscillators.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cels.2017.06.013
View details for Web of Science ID 000406295900008
View details for PubMedID 28750200
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5564455