Publications by authors named "Sonja Aits"

13 Publications

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Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy (4th edition).

Autophagy 2021 Jan 8;17(1):1-382. Epub 2021 Feb 8.

University of Crete, School of Medicine, Laboratory of Clinical Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, Voutes, Heraklion, Crete, Greece; Foundation for Research and Technology, Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB), Heraklion, Crete, Greece.

In 2008, we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, this topic has received increasing attention, and many scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Thus, it is important to formulate on a regular basis updated guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Despite numerous reviews, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to evaluate autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. Here, we present a set of guidelines for investigators to select and interpret methods to examine autophagy and related processes, and for reviewers to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of reports that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a dogmatic set of rules, because the appropriateness of any assay largely depends on the question being asked and the system being used. Moreover, no individual assay is perfect for every situation, calling for the use of multiple techniques to properly monitor autophagy in each experimental setting. Finally, several core components of the autophagy machinery have been implicated in distinct autophagic processes (canonical and noncanonical autophagy), implying that genetic approaches to block autophagy should rely on targeting two or more autophagy-related genes that ideally participate in distinct steps of the pathway. Along similar lines, because multiple proteins involved in autophagy also regulate other cellular pathways including apoptosis, not all of them can be used as a specific marker for autophagic responses. Here, we critically discuss current methods of assessing autophagy and the information they can, or cannot, provide. Our ultimate goal is to encourage intellectual and technical innovation in the field.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15548627.2020.1797280DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7996087PMC
January 2021

Methods to Detect Loss of Lysosomal Membrane Integrity.

Authors:
Sonja Aits

Methods Mol Biol 2019 ;1880:315-329

Cell Death and Lysosomes Group, Experimental Neuroinflammation Laboratory, Department of Experimental Medical Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.

Loss of lysosomal membrane integrity, often referred to as lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP), occurs in many instances of cell death either as an initiating or as an amplifying event. Currently, the best method for detecting LMP is the galectin puncta formation assay which can be used for a broad range of sample types, both fixed and live, is easy to perform, and highly sensitive. This method, which is similar to the widely used LC3 puncta formation assay for autophagy, is based on the translocation of galectins to damaged lysosomes resulting in a change from uniform to punctate staining pattern. Here, we provide protocols for the galectin puncta formation assay in fixed and live cells and for an alternative assay based on fluorescent dextran release from damaged lysosomes, which can be performed in parallel.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-8873-0_21DOI Listing
June 2019

Discovery of Small Molecules That Induce Lysosomal Cell Death in Cancer Cell Lines Using an Image-Based Screening Platform.

Assay Drug Dev Technol 2016 10 22;14(8):489-510. Epub 2016 Sep 22.

1 Department of Cell Biology, University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU) , Utrecht, the Netherlands .

The lysosomal cell death (LCD) pathway is a caspase 3-independent cell death pathway that has been suggested as a possible target for cancer therapy, making the development of sensitive and specific high-throughput (HT) assays to identify LCD inducers highly desirable. In this study, we report a two-step HT screening platform to reliably identify such molecules. First, using a robust HT primary screen based on propidium iodide uptake, we identified compounds that kill through nonapoptotic pathways. A phenotypic image-based assay using a galectin-3 (Gal-3) reporter was then used to further classify hits based on lysosomal permeabilization, a hallmark of LCD. The identification of permeabilized lysosomes in our image-based assay is not affected by changes in the lysosomal pH, thus resolving an important limitation in currently used methods. We have validated our platform in a screen by identifying 24 LCD inducers, some previously known to induce LCD. Although most LCD inducers were cationic amphiphilic drugs (CADs), we have also identified a non-CAD LCD inducer, which is of great interest in the field. Our data also gave new insights into the biology of LCD, suggesting that lysosomal accumulation and acid sphingomyelinase inhibition are not sufficient or necessary for the induction of LCD. Overall, our results demonstrate a robust HT platform to identify novel LCD inducers that will also be very useful for gaining deeper insights into the molecular mechanism of LCD induction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/adt.2016.727DOI Listing
October 2016

Sensitive detection of lysosomal membrane permeabilization by lysosomal galectin puncta assay.

Autophagy 2015 ;11(8):1408-24

a Cell Death and Metabolism Unit; Center for Autophagy, Recycling and Disease; Danish Cancer Society Research Center ; Copenhagen , Denmark.

Lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) contributes to tissue involution, degenerative diseases, and cancer therapy. Its investigation has, however, been hindered by the lack of sensitive methods. Here, we characterize and validate the detection of galectin puncta at leaky lysosomes as a highly sensitive and easily manageable assay for LMP. LGALS1/galectin-1 and LGALS3/galectin-3 are best suited for this purpose due to their widespread expression, rapid translocation to leaky lysosomes and availability of high-affinity antibodies. Galectin staining marks individual leaky lysosomes early during lysosomal cell death and is useful when defining whether LMP is a primary or secondary cause of cell death. This sensitive method also reveals that cells can survive limited LMP and confirms a rapid formation of autophagic structures at the site of galectin puncta. Importantly, galectin staining detects individual leaky lysosomes also in paraffin-embedded tissues allowing us to demonstrate LMP in tumor xenografts in mice treated with cationic amphiphilic drugs and to identify a subpopulation of lysosomes that initiates LMP in involuting mouse mammary gland. The use of ectopic fluorescent galectins renders the galectin puncta assay suitable for automated screening and visualization of LMP in live cells and animals. Thus, the lysosomal galectin puncta assay opens up new possibilities to study LMP in cell death and its role in other cellular processes such as autophagy, senescence, aging, and inflammation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15548627.2015.1063871DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590643PMC
June 2016

Methods for the quantification of lysosomal membrane permeabilization: a hallmark of lysosomal cell death.

Methods Cell Biol 2015 14;126:261-85. Epub 2015 Jan 14.

Unit for Cell Death and Metabolism, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Lysosomal cell death is triggered by lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) and subsequent release of lysosomal hydrolases from the lysosomal lumen into the cytosol. Once released into the cytosol, the lysosomal cathepsin proteases act as executioner proteases for the subsequent cell death-either autonomously without caspase activation or in concert with the classical apoptotic machinery. Lysosomal cell death usually remains functional in apoptosis-resistant cancer cells and thus holds great potential as a therapeutic strategy for circumventing apoptosis deficiency in cancers. Notably, lysosomal cell death also plays an important role in normal physiology, e.g., during the regression of the mammary gland. Here we present four complementary methods for the quantification and visualization of LMP during the onset of death: (1) enzymatic activity measurements of released lysosomal hydrolases in the cytosol after digitonin extraction, (2) direct visualization of LMP by monitoring the release of fluorescent dextran from lysosomes into the cytosol, (3) immunocytochemistry to detect cathepsins released into the cytosol, and (4) detection of the translocation of galectins to damaged lysosomes. The methods presented here can ideally be combined as needed to provide solid evidence for LMP after a given cytotoxic stimuli.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/bs.mcb.2014.10.032DOI Listing
October 2015

Lysosomal cell death at a glance.

J Cell Sci 2013 May;126(Pt 9):1905-12

Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Cell Death and Metabolism, Strandboulevarden 49, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.

Lysosomes serve as the cellular recycling centre and are filled with numerous hydrolases that can degrade most cellular macromolecules. Lysosomal membrane permeabilization and the consequent leakage of the lysosomal content into the cytosol leads to so-called "lysosomal cell death". This form of cell death is mainly carried out by the lysosomal cathepsin proteases and can have necrotic, apoptotic or apoptosis-like features depending on the extent of the leakage and the cellular context. This article summarizes our current knowledge on lysosomal cell death with an emphasis on the upstream mechanisms that lead to lysosomal membrane permeabilization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jcs.091181DOI Listing
May 2013

Identification of cytoskeleton-associated proteins essential for lysosomal stability and survival of human cancer cells.

PLoS One 2012 11;7(10):e45381. Epub 2012 Oct 11.

Cell Death and Metabolism, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Microtubule-disturbing drugs inhibit lysosomal trafficking and induce lysosomal membrane permeabilization followed by cathepsin-dependent cell death. To identify specific trafficking-related proteins that control cell survival and lysosomal stability, we screened a molecular motor siRNA library in human MCF7 breast cancer cells. SiRNAs targeting four kinesins (KIF11/Eg5, KIF20A, KIF21A, KIF25), myosin 1G (MYO1G), myosin heavy chain 1 (MYH1) and tropomyosin 2 (TPM2) were identified as effective inducers of non-apoptotic cell death. The cell death induced by KIF11, KIF21A, KIF25, MYH1 or TPM2 siRNAs was preceded by lysosomal membrane permeabilization, and all identified siRNAs induced several changes in the endo-lysosomal compartment, i.e. increased lysosomal volume (KIF11, KIF20A, KIF25, MYO1G, MYH1), increased cysteine cathepsin activity (KIF20A, KIF25), altered lysosomal localization (KIF25, MYH1, TPM2), increased dextran accumulation (KIF20A), or reduced autophagic flux (MYO1G, MYH1). Importantly, all seven siRNAs also killed human cervix cancer (HeLa) and osteosarcoma (U-2-OS) cells and sensitized cancer cells to other lysosome-destabilizing treatments, i.e. photo-oxidation, siramesine, etoposide or cisplatin. Similarly to KIF11 siRNA, the KIF11 inhibitor monastrol induced lysosomal membrane permeabilization and sensitized several cancer cell lines to siramesine. While KIF11 inhibitors are under clinical development as mitotic blockers, our data reveal a new function for KIF11 in controlling lysosomal stability and introduce six other molecular motors as putative cancer drug targets.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0045381PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3469574PMC
April 2013

HAMLET binding to α-actinin facilitates tumor cell detachment.

PLoS One 2011 Mar 8;6(3):e17179. Epub 2011 Mar 8.

Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Glycobiology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.

Cell adhesion is tightly regulated by specific molecular interactions and detachment from the extracellular matrix modifies proliferation and survival. HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumor cells) is a protein-lipid complex with tumoricidal activity that also triggers tumor cell detachment in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that molecular interactions defining detachment are perturbed in cancer cells. To identify such interactions, cell membrane extracts were used in Far-western blots and HAMLET was shown to bind α-actinins; major F-actin cross-linking proteins and focal adhesion constituents. Synthetic peptide mapping revealed that HAMLET binds to the N-terminal actin-binding domain as well as the integrin-binding domain of α-actinin-4. By co-immunoprecipitation of extracts from HAMLET-treated cancer cells, an interaction with α-actinin-1 and -4 was observed. Inhibition of α-actinin-1 and α-actinin-4 expression by siRNA transfection increased detachment, while α-actinin-4-GFP over-expression significantly delayed rounding up and detachment of tumor cells in response to HAMLET. In response to HAMLET, adherent tumor cells rounded up and detached, suggesting a loss of the actin cytoskeletal organization. These changes were accompanied by a reduction in β1 integrin staining and a decrease in FAK and ERK1/2 phosphorylation, consistent with a disruption of integrin-dependent cell adhesion signaling. Detachment per se did not increase cell death during the 22 hour experimental period, regardless of α-actinin-4 and α-actinin-1 expression levels but adherent cells with low α-actinin levels showed increased death in response to HAMLET. The results suggest that the interaction between HAMLET and α-actinins promotes tumor cell detachment. As α-actinins also associate with signaling molecules, cytoplasmic domains of transmembrane receptors and ion channels, additional α-actinin-dependent mechanisms are discussed.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0017179PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050841PMC
March 2011

Changes in proteasome structure and function caused by HAMLET in tumor cells.

PLoS One 2009 14;4(4):e5229. Epub 2009 Apr 14.

Department of Microbiology, Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.

Background: Proteasomes control the level of endogenous unfolded proteins by degrading them in the proteolytic core. Insufficient degradation due to altered protein structure or proteasome inhibition may trigger cell death. This study examined the proteasome response to HAMLET, a partially unfolded protein-lipid complex, which is internalized by tumor cells and triggers cell death.

Methodology/principal Findings: HAMLET bound directly to isolated 20S proteasomes in vitro and in tumor cells significant co-localization of HAMLET and 20S proteasomes was detected by confocal microscopy. This interaction was confirmed by co-immunoprecipitation from extracts of HAMLET-treated tumor cells. HAMLET resisted in vitro degradation by proteasomal enzymes and degradation by intact 20S proteasomes was slow compared to fatty acid-free, partially unfolded alpha-lactalbumin. After a brief activation, HAMLET inhibited proteasome activity in vitro and in parallel a change in proteasome structure occurred, with modifications of catalytic (beta1 and beta5) and structural subunits (alpha2, alpha3, alpha6 and beta3). Proteasome inhibition was confirmed in extracts from HAMLET-treated cells and there were indications of proteasome fragmentation in HAMLET-treated cells.

Conclusions/significance: The results suggest that internalized HAMLET is targeted to 20S proteasomes, that the complex resists degradation, inhibits proteasome activity and perturbs proteasome structure. We speculate that perturbations of proteasome structure might contribute to the cytotoxic effects of unfolded protein complexes that invade host cells.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0005229PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664966PMC
October 2009

HAMLET (human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells) triggers autophagic tumor cell death.

Int J Cancer 2009 Mar;124(5):1008-19

Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Section of Microbiology, Immunology and Glycobiology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.

HAMLET, a complex of partially unfolded alpha-lactalbumin and oleic acid, kills a wide range of tumor cells. Here we propose that HAMLET causes macroautophagy in tumor cells and that this contributes to their death. Cell death was accompanied by mitochondrial damage and a reduction in the level of active mTOR and HAMLET triggered extensive cytoplasmic vacuolization and the formation of double-membrane-enclosed vesicles typical of macroautophagy. In addition, HAMLET caused a change from uniform (LC3-I) to granular (LC3-II) staining in LC3-GFP-transfected cells reflecting LC3 translocation during macroautophagy, and this was blocked by the macroautophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine. HAMLET also caused accumulation of LC3-II detected by Western blot when lysosomal degradation was inhibited suggesting that HAMLET caused an increase in autophagic flux. To determine if macroautophagy contributed to cell death, we used RNA interference against Beclin-1 and Atg5. Suppression of Beclin-1 and Atg5 improved the survival of HAMLET-treated tumor cells and inhibited the increase in granular LC3-GFP staining. The results show that HAMLET triggers macroautophagy in tumor cells and suggest that macroautophagy contributes to HAMLET-induced tumor cell death.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijc.24076DOI Listing
March 2009

Can misfolded proteins be beneficial? The HAMLET case.

Ann Med 2009 ;41(3):162-76

Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Glycobiology (MIG), Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Lund University, Sölvegatan 23, Lund, Sweden.

By changing the three-dimensional structure, a protein can attain new functions, distinct from those of the native protein. Amyloid-forming proteins are one example, in which conformational change may lead to fibril formation and, in many cases, neurodegenerative disease. We have proposed that partial unfolding provides a mechanism to generate new and useful functional variants from a given polypeptide chain. Here we present HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumor cells) as an example where partial unfolding and the incorporation of cofactor create a complex with new, beneficial properties. Native alpha-lactalbumin functions as a substrate specifier in lactose synthesis, but when partially unfolded the protein binds oleic acid and forms the tumoricidal HAMLET complex. When the properties of HAMLET were first described they were surprising, as protein folding intermediates and especially amyloid-forming protein intermediates had been regarded as toxic conformations, but since then structural studies have supported functional diversity arising from a change in fold. The properties of HAMLET suggest a mechanism of structure-function variation, which might help the limited number of human protein genes to generate sufficient structural diversity to meet the diverse functional demands of complex organisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07853890802502614DOI Listing
July 2009

Recurrent and multiple bladder tumors show conserved expression profiles.

BMC Cancer 2008 Jun 30;8:183. Epub 2008 Jun 30.

Department of Clinical Genetics, Lund University Hospital, Lund, Sweden.

Background: Urothelial carcinomas originate from the epithelial cells of the inner lining of the bladder and may appear as single or as multiple synchronous tumors. Patients with urothelial carcinomas frequently show recurrences after treatment making follow-up necessary. The leading hypothesis explaining the origin of meta- and synchronous tumors assumes a monoclonal origin. However, the genetic relationship among consecutive tumors has been shown to be complex in as much as the genetic evolution does not adhere to the chronological appearance of the metachronous tumors. Consequently, genetically less evolved tumors may appear chronologically later than genetically related but more evolved tumors.

Methods: Forty-nine meta- or synchronous urothelial tumors from 22 patients were analyzed using expression profiling, conventional CGH, LOH, and mutation analyses.

Results: We show by CGH that partial chromosomal losses in the initial tumors may not be present in the recurring tumors, by LOH that different haplotypes may be lost and that detected regions of LOH may be smaller in recurring tumors, and that mutations present in the initial tumor may not be present in the recurring ones. In contrast we show that despite apparent genomic differences, the recurrent and multiple bladder tumors from the same patients display remarkably similar expression profiles.

Conclusion: Our findings show that even though the vast majority of the analyzed meta- and synchronous tumors from the same patients are not likely to have originated directly from the preceding tumor they still show remarkably similar expressions profiles. The presented data suggests that an expression profile is established early in tumor development and that this profile is stable and maintained in recurring tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2407-8-183DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2483988PMC
June 2008

Apoptosis and tumor cell death in response to HAMLET (human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells).

Adv Exp Med Biol 2008 ;606:217-40

Department for Experimental Medical Sciences, Section for Lungbiology, Lund, Sweden.

HAMLET (human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells) is a molecular complex derived from human milk that kills tumor cells by a process resembling programmed cell death. The complex consists of partially unfolded alpha-lactalbumin and oleic acid, and both the protein and the fatty acid are required for cell death. HAMLET has broad antitumor activity in vitro, and its therapeutic effect has been confirmed in vivo in a human glioblastoma rat xenograft model, in patients with skin papillomas and in patients with bladder cancer. The mechanisms of tumor cell death remain unclear, however. Immediately after the encounter with tumor cells, HAMLET invades the cells and causes mitochondrial membrane depolarization, cytochrome c release, phosphatidyl serine exposure, and a low caspase response. A fraction of the cells undergoes morphological changes characteristic of apoptosis, but caspase inhibition does not rescue the cells and Bcl-2 overexpression or altered p53 status does not influence the sensitivity of tumor cells to HAMLET. HAMLET also creates a state of unfolded protein overload and activates 20S proteasomes, which contributes to cell death. In parallel, HAMLET translocates to tumor cell nuclei, where high-affinity interactions with histones cause chromatin disruption, loss of transcription, and nuclear condensation. The dying cells also show morphological changes compatible with macroautophagy, and recent studies indicate that macroautophagy is involved in the cell death response to HAMLET. The results suggest that HAMLET, like a hydra with many heads, may interact with several crucial cellular organelles, thereby activating several forms of cell death, in parallel. This complexity might underlie the rapid death response of tumor cells and the broad antitumor activity of HAMLET.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-74087-4_8DOI Listing
January 2008