Role of gap junctions in embryonic and somatic stem cells.
ABSTRACT Stem cells provide an invaluable tool to develop cell replacement therapies for a range of serious disorders caused by cell damage or degeneration. Much research in the field is focused on the identification of signals that either maintain stem cell pluripotency or direct their differentiation. Understanding how stem cells communicate within their microenvironment is essential to achieve their therapeutic potentials. Gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) has been described in embryonic stem cells (ES cells) and various somatic stem cells. GJIC has been implicated in regulating different biological events in many stem cells, including cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. This review summarizes the current understanding of gap junctions in both embryonic and somatic stem cells, as well as their potential role in growth control and cellular differentiation.
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ABSTRACT: In addition to the immediate microenvironment, long-range signaling may be an important component of cancer. Molecular-genetic analyses have implicated gap junctions—key mediators of cell-cell communication—in carcinogenesis. We recently showed that the resting voltage potential of distant cell groups is a key determinant of metastatic transformation and tumor induction. Here, we show in the Xenopus laevis model that gap junctional communication (GJC) is a modulator of the long-range bioelectric signaling that regulates tumor formation. Genetic disruption of GJC taking place within tumors, within remote host tissues, or between the host and tumors significantly lowers the incidence of tumors induced by KRAS mutations. The most pronounced suppression of tumor incidence was observed upon GJC disruption taking place farther away from oncogene-expressing cells, revealing a role for GJC in distant cells in the control of tumor growth. In contrast, enhanced GJC communication through the overexpression of wild-type connexin Cx26 increased tumor incidence. Our data confirm a role for GJC in tumorigenesis, and reveal that this effect is non-local. Based on these results and on published data on movement of ions through GJs, we present a quantitative model linking the GJC coupling and bioelectrical state of cells to the ability of oncogenes to initiate tumorigenesis. When integrated with data on endogenous bioelectric signaling during left-right patterning, the model predicts differential tumor incidence outcomes depending on the spatial configurations of gap junction paths relative to tumor location and major anatomical body axes. Testing these predictions, we found that the strongest influence of GJ modulation on tumor suppression by hyperpolarization occurred along the embryonic left-right axis. Together, these data reveal new, long-range aspects of cancer control by the host's physiological parameters.Frontiers in Physiology 02/2015; 5:519. DOI:10.3389/fphys.2014.00519
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ABSTRACT: Neural stem cells in the adult brain exist primarily in a quiescent state but are reactivated in response to changing physiological conditions. How do stem cells sense and respond to metabolic changes? In the Drosophila CNS, quiescent neural stem cells are reactivated synchronously in response to a nutritional stimulus. Feeding triggers insulin production by blood-brain barrier glial cells, activating the insulin/insulin-like growth factor pathway in underlying neural stem cells and stimulating their growth and proliferation. Here we show that gap junctions in the blood-brain barrier glia mediate the influence of metabolic changes on stem cell behavior, enabling glia to respond to nutritional signals and reactivate quiescent stem cells. We propose that gap junctions in the blood-brain barrier are required to translate metabolic signals into synchronized calcium pulses and insulin secretion.Developmental Cell 07/2014; 30(3). DOI:10.1016/j.devcel.2014.05.021 · 10.37 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Human pluripotent stem (hPS) cells are a potential source of cells for medical therapy and an ideal system to study fate decisions in early development. However, hPS cells cultured in vitro exhibit a high degree of heterogeneity, presenting an obstacle to clinical translation. hPS cells grow in spatially patterned colony structures, necessitating quantitative single-cell image analysis. We offer a tool for analyzing the spatial population context of hPS cells that integrates automated fluorescent microscopy with an analysis pipeline. It enables high-throughput detection of colonies at low resolution, with single-cellular and sub-cellular analysis at high resolutions, generating seamless in situ maps of single-cellular data organized by colony. We demonstrate the tool's utility by analyzing inter- and intra-colony heterogeneity of hPS cell cycle regulation and pluripotency marker expression. We measured the heterogeneity within individual colonies by analyzing cell cycle as a function of distance. Cells loosely associated with the outside of the colony are more likely to be in G1, reflecting a less pluripotent state, while cells within the first pluripotent layer are more likely to be in G2, possibly reflecting a G2/M block. Our multi-scale analysis tool groups colony regions into density classes, and cells belonging to those classes have distinct distributions of pluripotency markers and respond differently to DNA damage induction. Lastly, we demonstrate that our pipeline can robustly handle high-content, high-resolution single molecular mRNA FISH data by using novel image processing techniques. Overall, the imaging informatics pipeline presented offers a novel approach to the analysis of hPS cells that includes not only single cell features but also colony wide, and more generally, multi-scale spatial configuration.PLoS ONE 12/2014; 9(12):e116037. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0116037 · 3.53 Impact Factor