• MinireviewJanuary 31, 2022

    4 1468 461

    Abstract : Phase separation is a thermodynamic process leading to the formation of compositionally distinct phases. For the past few years, numerous works have shown that biomolecular phase separation serves as biogenesis mechanisms of diverse intracellular condensates, and aberrant phase transitions are associated with disease states such as neurodegenerative diseases and cancers. Condensates exhibit rich phase behaviors including multiphase internal structuring, noise buffering, and compositional tunability. Recent studies have begun to uncover how a network of intermolecular interactions can give rise to various biophysical features of condensates. Here, we review phase behaviors of biomolecules, particularly with regard to regular solution models of binary and ternary mixtures. We discuss how these theoretical frameworks explain many aspects of the assembly, composition, and miscibility of diverse biomolecular phases, and highlight how a model-based approach can help elucidate the detailed thermodynamic principle for multicomponent intracellular phase separation.

  • MinireviewJanuary 31, 2022

    1 1121 330

    Nano-Precision Tweezers for Mechanosensitive Proteins and Beyond

    Taehyun Yang , Celine Park , Sang-Hyun Rah , and Min Ju Shon

    Mol. Cells 2022; 45(1): 16-25

    Abstract : Mechanical forces play pivotal roles in regulating cell shape, function, and fate. Key players that govern the mechanobiological interplay are the mechanosensitive proteins found on cell membranes and in cytoskeleton. Their unique nanomechanics can be interrogated using single-molecule tweezers, which can apply controlled forces to the proteins and simultaneously measure the ensuing structural changes. Breakthroughs in high-resolution tweezers have enabled the routine monitoring of nanometer-scale, millisecond dynamics as a function of force. Undoubtedly, the advancement of structural biology will be further fueled by integrating static atomic-resolution structures and their dynamic changes and interactions observed with the force application techniques. In this minireview, we will introduce the general principles of single-molecule tweezers and their recent applications to the studies of force-bearing proteins, including the synaptic proteins that need to be categorized as mechanosensitive in a broad sense. We anticipate that the impact of nano-precision approaches in mechanobiology research will continue to grow in the future.

  • MinireviewJanuary 31, 2022

    1 827 286

    Molecular Tension Probes to Quantify Cell-Generated Mechanical Forces

    Kyung Yup Baek , Seohyun Kim , and Hye Ran Koh

    Mol. Cells 2022; 45(1): 26-32

    Abstract : Living cells generate, sense, and respond to mechanical forces through their interaction with neighboring cells or extracellular matrix, thereby regulating diverse cellular processes such as growth, motility, differentiation, and immune responses. Dysregulation of mechanosensitive signaling pathways is found associated with the development and progression of various diseases such as cancer. Yet, little is known about the mechanisms behind mechano-regulation, largely due to the limited availability of tools to study it at the molecular level. The recent development of molecular tension probes allows measurement of cellular forces exerted by single ligandreceptor interaction, which has helped in revealing the hitherto unknown mechanistic details of various mechanosensitive processes in living cells. Here, we provide an introductory overview of two methods based on molecular tension probes, tension gauge tether (TGT), and molecular tension fluorescence microscopy (MTFM). TGT utilizes the irreversible rupture of double-stranded DNA tether upon application of force in the piconewton (pN) range, whereas MTFM utilizes the reversible extension of molecular springs such as polymer or single-stranded DNA hairpin under applied pN forces. Specifically, the underlying principle of how molecular tension probes measure cell-generated mechanical forces and their applications to mechanosensitive biological processes are described.

  • MinireviewJanuary 31, 2022

    8 1200 376

    Abstract : The recently developed correlative super-resolution fluorescence microscopy (SRM) and electron microscopy (EM) is a hybrid technique that simultaneously obtains the spatial locations of specific molecules with SRM and the context of the cellular ultrastructure by EM. Although the combination of SRM and EM remains challenging owing to the incompatibility of samples prepared for these techniques, the increasing research attention on these methods has led to drastic improvements in their performances and resulted in wide applications. Here, we review the development of correlative SRM and EM (sCLEM) with a focus on the correlation of EM with different SRM techniques. We discuss the limitations of the integration of these two microscopy techniques and how these challenges can be addressed to improve the quality of correlative images. Finally, we address possible future improvements and advances in the continued development and wide application of sCLEM approaches.

  • MinireviewDecember 31, 2021

    11 2176 654

    Abstract : The human genome contains many retroviral elements called human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs), resulting from the integration of retroviruses throughout evolution. HERVs once were considered inactive junk because they are not replication-competent, primarily localized in the heterochromatin, and silenced by methylation. But HERVs are now clearly shown to actively regulate gene expression in various physiological and pathological conditions such as developmental processes, immune regulation, cancers, autoimmune diseases, and neurological disorders. Recent studies report that HERVs are activated in patients suffering from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the current pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) infection. In this review, we describe internal and external factors that influence HERV activities. We also present evidence showing the gene regulatory activity of HERV LTRs (long terminal repeats) in model organisms such as mice, rats, zebrafish, and invertebrate models of worms and flies. Finally, we discuss several molecular and cellular pathways involving various transcription factors and receptors, through which HERVs affect downstream cellular and physiological events such as epigenetic modifications, calcium influx, protein phosphorylation, and cytokine release. Understanding how HERVs participate in various physiological and pathological processes will help develop a strategy to generate effective therapeutic approaches targeting HERVs.

  • MinireviewOctober 31, 2021

    0 1452 300

    Generation and Fates of Supernumerary Centrioles in Dividing Cells

    Byungho Shin , Myung Se Kim , Yejoo Lee , Gee In Jung , and Kunsoo Rhee

    Mol. Cells 2021; 44(10): 699-705

    Abstract : The centrosome is a subcellular organelle from which a cilium assembles. Since centrosomes function as spindle poles during mitosis, they have to be present as a pair in a cell. How the correct number of centrosomes is maintained in a cell has been a major issue in the fields of cell cycle and cancer biology. Centrioles, the core of centrosomes, assemble and segregate in close connection to the cell cycle. Abnormalities in centriole numbers are attributed to decoupling from cell cycle regulation. Interestingly, supernumerary centrioles are commonly observed in cancer cells. In this review, we discuss how supernumerary centrioles are generated in diverse cellular conditions. We also discuss how the cells cope with supernumerary centrioles during the cell cycle.

  • MinireviewSeptember 30, 2021

    2 1779 602

    Visualizing Live Chromatin Dynamics through CRISPR-Based Imaging Techniques

    Narendra Chaudhary , Jae-Kyeong Im , Si-Hyeong Nho , and Hajin Kim

    Mol. Cells 2021; 44(9): 627-636

    Abstract : The three-dimensional organization of chromatin and its time-dependent changes greatly affect virtually every cellular function, especially DNA replication, genome maintenance, transcription regulation, and cell differentiation. Sequencing-based techniques such as ChIP-seq, ATAC-seq, and Hi-C provide abundant information on how genomic elements are coupled with regulatory proteins and functionally organized into hierarchical domains through their interactions. However, visualizing the time-dependent changes of such organization in individual cells remains challenging. Recent developments of CRISPR systems for site-specific fluorescent labeling of genomic loci have provided promising strategies for visualizing chromatin dynamics in live cells. However, there are several limiting factors, including background signals, off-target binding of CRISPR, and rapid photobleaching of the fluorophores, requiring a large number of target-bound CRISPR complexes to reliably distinguish the target-specific foci from the background. Various modifications have been engineered into the CRISPR system to enhance the signal-to-background ratio and signal longevity to detect target foci more reliably and efficiently, and to reduce the required target size. In this review, we comprehensively compare the performances of recently developed CRISPR designs for improved visualization of genomic loci in terms of the reliability of target detection, the ability to detect small repeat loci, and the allowed time of live tracking. Longer observation of genomic loci allows the detailed identification of the dynamic characteristics of chromatin. The diffusion properties of chromatin found in recent studies are reviewed, which provide suggestions for the underlying biological processes.

  • MinireviewAugust 31, 2021

    22 3901 2075

    iPSC-Derived Natural Killer Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy

    Peter Karagiannis and Shin-Il Kim

    Mol. Cells 2021; 44(8): 541-548

    Abstract : The discovery of human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) at the turn of the century opened the door to a new generation of regenerative medicine research. Among PSCs, the donors available for induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are greatest, providing a potentially universal cell source for all types of cell therapies including cancer immunotherapies using natural killer (NK cells). Unlike primary NK cells, those prepared from iPSCs can be prepared with a homogeneous quality and are easily modified to exert a desired response to tumor cells. There already exist several protocols to genetically modify and differentiate iPSCs into NK cells, and each has its own advantages with regards to immunotherapies. In this short review, we detail the benefits of using iPSCs in NK cell immunotherapies and discuss the challenges that must be overcome before this approach becomes mainstream in the clinic.

  • MinireviewAugust 31, 2021

    3 1189 437

    Abstract : Decoding the molecular mechanisms underlying axon guidance is key to precise understanding of how complex neural circuits form during neural development. Although substantial progress has been made over the last three decades in identifying numerous axon guidance molecules and their functional roles, little is known about how these guidance molecules collaborate to steer growth cones to their correct targets. Recent studies in Drosophila point to the importance of the combinatorial action of guidance molecules, and further show that selective fasciculation and defasciculation at specific choice points serve as a fundamental strategy for motor axon guidance. Here, I discuss how attractive and repulsive guidance cues cooperate to ensure the recognition of specific choice points that are inextricably linked to selective fasciculation and defasciculation, and correct pathfinding decision-making.

  • MinireviewJuly 31, 2021

    15 2404 1180

    Integrative Multi-Omics Approaches in Cancer Research: From Biological Networks to Clinical Subtypes

    Yong Jin Heo , Chanwoong Hwa , Gang-Hee Lee , Jae-Min Park , and Joon-Yong An

    Mol. Cells 2021; 44(7): 433-443

    Abstract : Multi-omics approaches are novel frameworks that integrate multiple omics datasets generated from the same patients to better understand the molecular and clinical features of cancers. A wide range of emerging omics and multi-view clustering algorithms now provide unprecedented opportunities to further classify cancers into subtypes, improve the survival prediction and therapeutic outcome of these subtypes, and understand key pathophysiological processes through different molecular layers. In this review, we overview the concept and rationale of multi-omics approaches in cancer research. We also introduce recent advances in the development of multi-omics algorithms and integration methods for multiple-layered datasets from cancer patients. Finally, we summarize the latest findings from large-scale multi-omics studies of various cancers and their implications for patient subtyping and drug development.

  • MinireviewJuly 31, 2021

    4 1380 836

    Abstract : Aging is associated with functional and structural declines in organisms over time. Organisms as diverse as the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and mammals share signaling pathways that regulate aging and lifespan. In this review, we discuss recent combinatorial approach to aging research employing C. elegans and mammalian systems that have contributed to our understanding of evolutionarily conserved aging-regulating pathways. The topics covered here include insulin/IGF-1, mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), and sirtuin signaling pathways; dietary restriction; autophagy; mitochondria; and the nervous system. A combinatorial approach employing high-throughput, rapid C. elegans systems, and human model mammalian systems is likely to continue providing mechanistic insights into aging biology and will help develop therapeutics against age-associated disorders.

  • MinireviewJune 30, 2021

    13 1902 1773

    Abstract : The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has not only affected human health but also diverted the focus of research and derailed the world economy over the past year. Recently, vaccination against COVID-19 has begun, but further studies on effective therapeutic agents are still needed. The severity of COVID-19 is attributable to several factors such as the dysfunctional host immune response manifested by uncontrolled viral replication, type I interferon suppression, and release of impaired cytokines by the infected resident and recruited cells. Due to the evolving pathophysiology and direct involvement of the host immune system in COVID-19, the use of immune-modulating drugs is still challenging. For the use of immune-modulating drugs in severe COVID-19, it is important to balance the fight between the aggravated immune system and suppression of immune defense against the virus that causes secondary infection. In addition, the interplaying events that occur during virus-host interactions, such as activation of the host immune system, immune evasion mechanism of the virus, and manifestation of different stages of COVID-19, are disjunctive and require thorough streamlining. This review provides an update on the immunotherapeutic interventions implemented to combat COVID-19 along with the understanding of molecular aspects of the immune evasion of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which may provide opportunities to develop more effective and promising therapeutics.

Mol. Cells
Feb 28, 2023 Vol.46 No.2, pp. 69~129
The bulk tissue is a heterogeneous mixture of various cell types, which is depicted as a skein of intertwined threads with diverse colors each of which represents a unique cell type. Single-cell omics analysis untangles efficiently the skein according to the color by providing information of molecules at individual cells and interpretation of such information based on different cell types. The molecules that can be profiled at the individual cell by single-cell omics analysis includes DNA (bottom middle), RNA (bottom right), and protein (bottom left). This special issue reviews single-cell technologies and computational methods that have been developed for the single-cell omics analysis and how they have been applied to improve our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of biological and pathological phenomena at the single-cell level.

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