Breaking Tradition to Bridge Bench and Bedside: Accelerating the MD-PhD-Residency Pathway
PROBLEM/OBJECTIVE:Physician-scientists are individuals trained in both clinical practice and scientific research. Often, the goal of physician-scientist training is to address pressing questions in biomedical research. The established pathways to formally train such individuals are, mainly, MD-PhD programs and physician-scientist track residencies. Although graduates of these pathways are well equipped to be physician-scientists, numerous factors, including funding and length of training, discourage application to such programs and impede success rates. APPROACH/METHODS:To address some of the pressing challenges in training and retaining burgeoning physician-scientists, New York University Grossman School of Medicine formed the Accelerated MD-PhD-Residency Pathway in 2016. This pathway builds on the previously established accelerated three-year MD pathway to residency at the same institution. The Accelerated MD-PhD-Residency Pathway conditionally accepts MD-PhD trainees to a residency position at the same institution through the National Resident Matching Program. OUTCOMES/RESULTS:Since its inception, 2 students have joined the Accelerated MD-PhD-Residency Pathway, which provides protected research time in their chosen residency. The pathway reduces the time to earn an MD and PhD by one year and reduces the MD training phase to three years, reducing the cost and lowering socioeconomic barriers. Remaining at the same institution for residency allows for the growth of strong research collaborations and mentoring opportunities, which foster success. NEXT STEPS/UNASSIGNED:The authors and institutional leaders plan to increase the number of trainees that are accepted into the Accelerated MD-PhD-Residency Pathway and track the success of these students through residency and into practice to determine if the pathway is meeting its goal of increasing the number of practicing physician-scientists. The authors hope this model can serve as an example to leaders at other institutions who may wish to adopt this pathway for the training of their MD-PhD students.
Proteomic analysis of Huntingtin-associated proteins provides clues to altered cell homeostasis in Huntington's disease
Huntingtin Is Required for Neural But Not Cardiac/Pancreatic Progenitor Differentiation of Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells In vitro
Mutation in the huntingtin (HTT) gene causes Huntington's disease (HD). It is an autosomal dominant trinucleotide-repeat expansion disease in which CAG repeat sequence expands to >35. This results in the production of mutant HTT protein with an increased stretch of glutamines near the N-terminus. The wild type HTT gene encodes a 350 kD protein whose function remains elusive. Mutant HTT protein has been implicated in transcription, axonal transport, cytoskeletal structure/function, signal transduction, and autophagy. HD is characterized by the appearance of nuclear inclusions and degeneration of the striatum. Although HTT protein is expressed early in embryos, most patients develop symptoms in mid-life. It is also unclear why the ubiquitously expressed mutant HTT specifically causes striatal atrophy. Wild type Htt is essential for development as Htt knockout mice die at day E7.5. Increasing evidence suggests mutant Htt may alter neurogenesis and development of striatal neurons resulting in neuronal loss. Using a mouse embryonic stem cell model, we examined the role of Htt in neural differentiation. We found cells lacking Htt inefficient in generating neural stem cells. In contrast differentiation into progenitors of mesoderm and endoderm lineages was not affected. The data suggests Htt is essential for neural but not cardiac/pancreatic progenitor differentiation of embryonic stem cells in vitro.
Huntington's Disease Protein Huntingtin Associates with its own mRNA
BACKGROUND: The Huntington's disease (HD) protein huntingtin (Htt) plays a role in multiple cellular pathways. Deregulation of one or more of these pathways by the mutant Htt protein have been suggested to contribute to the disease pathogenesis. Our recent discovery-based proteomics studies have uncovered RNA binding proteins and translation factors associated with the endogenous Htt protein purified from mouse brains, suggesting a potential new role for Htt in RNA transport and translation. OBJECTIVE: To investigate how Htt might affect RNA metabolism we set out to purify and analyze RNA associated with Htt. METHODS: RNA was extracted from immunopurified Htt-containing protein complexes and analyzed by microarrays and RNA-Seq. RESULTS: Surprisingly the most enriched mRNA that co-purified with Htt was Htt mRNA itself. The association of Htt protein and Htt mRNA was detected independent of intact ribosomes suggesting that it is not an RNA undergoing translation. Furthermore, we identified the recently reported mis-spliced Htt mRNA encoding a truncated protein comprised of exon 1 and a portion of the downstream intron in the immunoprecipitates containing mutant Htt protein. We show that Htt protein co-localizes with Htt mRNA and that wild-type Htt reduces expression of a reporter construct harboring the Htt 3' UTR. CONCLUSIONS: HD protein is found in a complex with its own mRNA and RNA binding proteins and translation factors. Htt may be involved in modulating its expression through post-transcriptional pathways. It is possible that Htt shares mechanistic properties similar to RNA binding proteins such as TDP-43 and FUS implicated in other neurodegenerative diseases.
Combined FISH and immunofluorescent staining methods to co-localize proteins and mRNA in neurons and brain tissue
Combining multicolor fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) and immunofluorescent staining (IFS) presents a powerful method for visualizing the spatial relationship between mRNA and proteins in different neural compartments. Although seemingly straightforward, the combination of IFS/FISH and quantitative co-localization analysis of mRNA and proteins can be difficult to perform successfully, often generating variable results. Here we describe a combined method of multicolor IFS and FISH in concert with two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) co-localization analysis for determining the expression of individual molecules in rat neurons and brain sections. Using this approach, we have analyzed interactions of the Huntington's disease protein huntingtin with select proteins and mRNA.
Quantitative analysis of BDNF/TrkB protein and mRNA in cortical and striatal neurons using alpha-tubulin as a normalization factor
The neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor tyrosine kinase TrkB serve important regulatory roles for multiple aspects of the biology of neurons including cell death, survival, growth, differentiation, and plasticity. Regulation of the local availability of BDNF/TrkB at distinct subcellular domains such as soma, dendrites, axons, growth cones, nerve terminals, and spines appears to contribute to their specific functions. In view of the variance in size and shape of neurons and their compartments, previous quantitative studies of the BDNF/TrkB protein and mRNA lacked a robust normalization procedure. To overcome this problem, we have established methods that use immunofluorescence detection of alpha-tubulin as a normalization factor for the quantitative analysis of protein and mRNA in primary rat cortical and striatal neurons in culture. The efficacy of this approach is demonstrated by studying the dynamic distribution of proteins and mRNA at different growth stages or conditions. Treatment of cultured neurons with KCl resulted in increased levels of TrkB protein, reduced levels of BDNF mRNA (composite of multiple transcripts) and a slight reduction in BDNF protein levels in the dendrites from the cortex. The KCl treatment also lowered the percentage of BDNF and TrkB proteins in the soma indicative of protein transport. Finally, analysis of the rat cortical and striatal neurons demonstrated comparable or even higher levels of BDNF/TrkB protein and BDNF mRNA in the neurons from the striatum. Thus, in contrast to previous observations made in vivo, striatal neurons are capable of synthesizing BDNF mRNA when cultured in growth media in vitro. The analytical approach presented here provides a detailed understanding of BDNF/TrkB levels in response to a variety of neuronal activities. Our methods could be used broadly, including applications in cell and tissue cytometry, to yield accurate quantitative data of gene expression in cellular and subcellular contexts. (c) 2012 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.
Proteomic Analysis of Wild-type and Mutant Huntingtin-associated Proteins in Mouse Brains Identifies Unique Interactions and Involvement in Protein Synthesis
Huntington disease is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG repeat amplification in the gene huntingtin (HTT) that is reflected by a polyglutamine expansion in the Htt protein. Nearly 20 years of research have uncovered roles for Htt in a wide range of cellular processes, and many of these discoveries stemmed from the identification of Htt-interacting proteins. However, no study has employed an impartial and comprehensive strategy to identify proteins that differentially associate with full-length wild-type and mutant Htt in brain tissue, the most relevant sample source to the disease condition. We analyzed Htt affinity-purified complexes from wild-type and HTT mutant juvenile mouse brain from two different biochemical fractions by tandem mass spectrometry. We compared variations in protein spectral counts relative to Htt to identify those proteins that are the most significantly contrasted between wild-type and mutant Htt purifications. Previously unreported Htt interactions with Myo5a, Prkra (PACT), Gnb2l1 (RACK1), Rps6, and Syt2 were confirmed by Western blot analysis. Gene Ontology analysis of these and other Htt-associated proteins revealed a statistically significant enrichment for proteins involved in translation among other categories. Furthermore, Htt co-sedimentation with polysomes in cytoplasmic mouse brain extracts is dependent upon the presence of intact ribosomes. Finally, wild-type or mutant Htt overexpression inhibits cap-dependent translation of a reporter mRNA in an in vitro system. Cumulatively, these data support a new role for Htt in translation and provide impetus for further study into the link between protein synthesis and Huntington disease pathogenesis.
Regulation of Androgen Receptor-Mediated Transcription by RPB5 Binding Protein URI/RMP
Androgen receptor (AR)-mediated transcription is modulated by interaction with coregulatory proteins. We demonstrate that the unconventional prefoldin RPB5 interactor (URI) is a new regulator of AR transcription and is critical for antagonist (bicalutamide) action. URI is phosphorylated upon androgen treatment, suggesting communication between the URI and AR signaling pathways. Whereas depletion of URI enhances AR-mediated gene transcription, overexpression of URI suppresses AR transcriptional activation and anchorage-independent prostate cancer cell growth. Repression of AR-mediated transcription is achieved, in part, by URI binding and regulation of androgen receptor trapped clone 27 (Art-27), a previously characterized AR corepressor. Consistent with this idea, genome-wide expression profiling in prostate cancer cells upon depletion of URI or Art-27 reveals substantially overlapping patterns of gene expression. Further, depletion of URI increases the expression of the AR target gene NKX-3.1, decreases the recruitment of Art-27, and increases AR occupancy at the NKX-3.1 promoter. While Art-27 can bind AR directly, URI is bound to chromatin prior to hormone-dependent recruitment of AR, suggesting a role for URI in modulating AR recruitment to target genes
Target genes of the largest human SWI/SNF complex subunit control cell growth
The largest subunit of the mammalian SWI/SNF-A or BAF (BRG1-associated factor) chromatin-remodelling complex is encoded by two related cDNAs hOsa1/BAF250a and hOsa2/BAF250b that are unique to the BAF complex and absent in the related PBAF (Polybromo BAF). hOsa/BAF250 has been shown to interact with transcriptional activators and bind to DNA suggesting that it acts to target the remodelling complex to chromatin. To better understand the functions of hOsa2, we established inducible stable HeLa cell lines over-expressing FLAG-hOsa2 or a derivative lacking the ARID (AT-rich interactive domain) DNA-binding domain. Immunopurification of complexes containing hOsa2 that was followed by mass spectrometry and immunoblotting demonstrated the presence of BRG1 and known BAFs, but not hOsa1 or hBRM. Deletion of the ARID did not compromise the integrity of the complex. Induction of hOsa2 expression caused impaired cell growth and accumulation of cells in the G0/G1 cell cycle phase. Elevated levels of the p53 and p21 proteins were detected in these cells while c-Myc mRNA and protein levels were found to decrease. Chromatin immunoprecipitation and reporter assays suggested that hOsa2 had a direct effect on c-myc and p21 promoter activity. Thus hOsa2 plays an important role in controlling genes regulating the cell cycle
Huntingtin mediates dendritic transport of beta-actin mRNA in rat neurons
Transport of mRNAs to diverse neuronal locations via RNA granules serves an important function in regulating protein synthesis within restricted sub-cellular domains. We recently detected the Huntington's disease protein huntingtin (Htt) in dendritic RNA granules; however, the functional significance of this localization is not known. Here we report that Htt and the huntingtin-associated protein 1 (HAP1) are co-localized with the microtubule motor proteins, the KIF5A kinesin and dynein, during dendritic transport of beta-actin mRNA. Live cell imaging demonstrated that beta-actin mRNA is associated with Htt, HAP1, and dynein intermediate chain in cultured neurons. Reduction in the levels of Htt, HAP1, KIF5A, and dynein heavy chain by lentiviral-based shRNAs resulted in a reduction in the transport of beta-actin mRNA. These findings support a role for Htt in participating in the mRNA transport machinery that also contains HAP1, KIF5A, and dynein.