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BSc, MRes, DPhil, FRMS
Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Phone number: 01865488405
Location: Sinclair Annex, SNA.G.01
The linker of nucleoskeleton and cytoskeleton (LINC) complex is an essential multi-protein structure spanning the eukaryotic nuclear envelope. The LINC complex functions to maintain nuclear architecture, positioning, and mobility, along with specialized functions in meiotic prophase and chromosome segregation. Members of the LINC complex were recently identified in maize, an important scientific and agricultural grass species. Here we characterized Maize LINC KASH AtSINE-like2, MLKS2, which encodes a highly conserved SINE-group plant KASH protein with characteristic N-terminal armadillo repeats (ARM). Using a heterologous expression system, we showed that actively expressed GFP-MLKS2 is targeted to the nuclear periphery and colocalizes with F-actin and the endoplasmic reticulum, but not microtubules in the cell cortex. Expression of GFP-MLKS2, but not GFP-MLKS2ΔARM, resulted in nuclear anchoring. Genetic analysis of transposon-insertion mutations, mlks2-1 and mlks2-2, showed that the mutant phenotypes were pleiotropic, affecting root hair nuclear morphology, stomatal complex development, multiple aspects of meiosis, and pollen viability. In male meiosis, the mutants showed defects for bouquet-stage telomere clustering, nuclear repositioning, perinuclear actin accumulation, dispersal of late prophase bivalents, and meiotic chromosome segregation. These findings support a model in which the nucleus is connected to cytoskeletal F-actin through the ARM-domain, predicted alpha solenoid structure of MLKS2. Functional conservation of MLKS2 was demonstrated through genetic rescue of the misshapen nuclear phenotype of an Arabidopsis (triple-WIP) KASH mutant. This study establishes a role for the SINE-type KASH proteins in affecting the dynamic nuclear phenomena required for normal plant growth and fertility.
Plant plasma-membrane (PM) proteins are involved in several vital processes, such as detection of pathogens, solute transport and cellular signalling. For these proteins to function effectively there needs to be structure within the PM allowing, for example, proteins in the same signalling cascade to be spatially organized. Here we demonstrate that several proteins with divergent functions are located in clusters of differing size in the membrane using sub-diffraction-limited Airyscan confocal microscopy. Single particle tracking reveals that these proteins move at different rates within the membrane. Actin and microtubule cytoskeletons appear to significantly regulate the mobility of one of these proteins (the pathogen receptor FLS2) and we further demonstrate that the cell wall is critical for the regulation of cluster size by quantifying single particle dynamics of proteins with key roles in morphogenesis (PIN3) and pathogen perception (FLS2). We propose a model in which the cell wall and cytoskeleton are pivotal for regulation of protein cluster size and dynamics thereby contributing to the formation and functionality of membrane nanodomains.
Protein targeting to the inner nuclear membrane (INM) is one of the least understood protein targeting pathways. INM proteins are important for chromatin organization, nuclear morphology and movement, meiosis, and have been implicated in human diseases. In opisthokonts, one mechanism is transport-factor mediated trafficking, in which nuclear localization signals (NLSs) function in nuclear import of transmembrane proteins. To explore if this pathway exists in plants, we fused the SV40 NLS to a plant ER tail-anchored protein and showed that the GFP-tagged fusion protein was significantly enriched at the NE of leaf epidermal cells. Airyscan sub-diffraction limited confocal microscopy showed that it displays localization consistent with an INM protein. Nine different monopartite and bipartite NLSs from plants and opisthokonts, fused to a chimeric tail-anchored membrane protein, were all sufficient for NE enrichment and both monopartite or bipartite NLSs were sufficient for trafficking to the INM. Tolerance for different linker lengths and protein conformations suggests that INM trafficking rules might differ from those in opisthokonts. The INM proteins developed here can be used to target new functionalities to the plant nuclear periphery.
The LINC (Linker of Nucleoskeleton to Cytoskeleton) complex is an essential multi protein structure spanning the nuclear envelope. It connects the cytoplasm to the nucleoplasm, functions to maintain nuclear shape and architecture, and regulates chromosome dynamics during cell division. Knowledge of LINC complex composition and function in the plant kingdom is primarily limited to Arabidopsis, but critically missing from the evolutionarily distant monocots which include grasses, the most important agronomic crops worldwide. To fill this knowledge gap, we identified and characterized 22 maize genes, including a new grass-specific KASH gene family. Using bioinformatic, biochemical, and cell biological approaches, we provide evidence that representative KASH candidates localize to the nuclear periphery and interact with ZmSUN2 in vivo. FRAP experiments using domain-deletion constructs verified that this SUN-KASH interaction was dependent on the SUN but not the coiled-coil domain of ZmSUN2. A summary working model is proposed for the entire maize LINC complex encoded by conserved and divergent gene families. These findings expand our knowledge of the plant nuclear envelope in a model grass species, with implications for both basic and applied cellular research.
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.