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Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Sinclair Annex SNA.G.02
Louise runs the BioImaging Unit in the Department. She is an expert in scanning and transmission electron microscopy, specialising in electron tomography, array tomography and serial block face scanning electron microscopy.
Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women worldwide and the second most common cancer overall. The development of new therapies to treat this devastating malignancy is needed urgently. Nanoparticles are one class of nanomaterial with multiple applications in medicine, ranging from their use as drug delivery systems and the promotion of changes in cell morphology to the control of gene transcription. Nanoparticles made of the natural polymer chitosan are easy to produce, have a very low immunogenic profile, and diffuse easily into cells. One hallmark feature of cancer, including breast tumours, is the genome instability caused by defects in the spindle-assembly checkpoint (SAC), the molecular signalling mechanism that ensures the timely and high-fidelity transmission of the genetic material to an offspring. In recent years, the use of nanoparticles to treat cancer cells has gained momentum. This is in part because nanoparticles made of different materials can sensitise cancer cells to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These advances prompted us to study the potential sensitising effect of chitosan-based nanoparticles on breast cancer cells treated with reversine, which is a small molecule inhibitor of Mps1 and Aurora B that induces premature exit from mitosis, aneuploidy, and cell death, before and after exposure of the cancer cells to X-ray irradiation. Our measurements of metabolic activity as an indicator of cell viability, DNA damage by alkaline comet assay, and immunofluorescence using anti-P-H3 as a mitotic biomarker indicate that chitosan nanoparticles elicit cellular responses that affect mitosis and cell viability and can sensitise breast cancer cells to X-ray radiation (2Gy). We also show that such a sensitisation effect is not caused by direct damage to the DNA by the nanoparticles. Taken together, our data indicates that chitosan nanoparticles have potential application for the treatment of breast cancer as adjunct to radiotherapy.
The cytoskeleton is an early attribute of cellular life and its main components are composed of conserved proteins (Fletcher and Mullins, 2010). The actin cytoskeleton has a direct impact on cell size control in animal cells (Fletcher and Mullins, 2010; Faix et al., 1996), but its mechanistic contribution to cellular growth in plants remains largely elusive. Here, we reveal a role of actin in cell size regulation in plants. The actin cytoskeleton shows proximity to vacuoles, and the phytohormone auxin not only controls the organisation of actin filaments, but also impacts on vacuolar morphogenesis in an actin-dependent manner.
Pharmacological and genetic interference with the actin-myosin system abolishes the auxin effect on vacuoles and thus disrupts its negative influence on cellular growth. SEM-based 3D nanometre resolution imaging of the vacuoles revealed that auxin controls the constriction and luminal size of the vacuole. We show that this actin-dependent mechanism controls the relative cellular occupancy of the vacuole, thus proposing an unanticipated mechanism for cytosol homeostasis during cellular growth.
One of the major drawbacks in transmission electron microscopy has been the production of three-dimensional views of cells and tissues. Currently, there is no one suitable 3D microscopy technique that answers all questions and serial block face scanning electron microscopy (SEM) fills the gap between 3D imaging using high-end fluorescence microscopy and the high resolution offered by electron tomography. In this review, we discuss the potential of the serial block face SEM technique for studying the three-dimensional organisation of animal, plant and microbial cells.
Flagella are highly conserved organelles present in a wide variety of species. In Trypanosoma brucei the single flagellum is necessary for morphogenesis, cell motility and pathogenesis, and is attached along the cell body. A new flagellum is formed alongside the old during the cell division cycle. In the (insect) procyclic form, the flagella connector (FC) attaches the tip of the new flagellum to the side of the old flagellum, ensuring faithful replication of cell architecture. The FC is not present in the bloodstream form of the parasite. We show here, using new imaging techniques including serial block-face scanning electron microscopy (SBF-SEM), that the distal tip of the new flagellum in the bloodstream form is embedded within an invagination in the cell body plasma membrane, named the groove. We suggest that the groove has a similar function to the flagella connector. The groove is a mobile junction located alongside the microtubule quartet (MtQ) and occurred within a gap in the subpellicular microtubule corset, causing significant modification of microtubules during elongation of the new flagellum. It appears likely that this novel form of morphogenetic structure has evolved to withstand the hostile immune response in the mammalian blood.