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Special Issue "Intercellular and Intracellular Communication in Human Health and Disease"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Molecular Pathology, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Henrique Girao
Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, iCBR, 3000-548 Coimbra, Portugal
Interests: Gap junctions; extracellular vesicles; TNTs; autophagy; endocytosis; intercellular communication

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

A fine-tuned flow of information is essential to maintain the homeostasis and function of living organisms. This communication can occur between adjacent cells, through intercellular junctions or structures such as tunneling nanotubes (TNT), or physically separated cells via extracellular vesicles or soluble factors, including hormones, growth factors, cytokines and second messengers. These strategies are used by both unicellular and multicellular organisms to mount an integrative response that allows rapid and efficient adaptation to environmental stressors or external changes. For example, single-celled organisms, such as bacteria and yeasts, use both chemical molecules and physical structures to exchange information, allowing cell colonies to behave in a synchronized manner, like a multicellular entity. In multicellular organisms, an intricate meshwork of communication processes is essential to not only maintain the functions of tissues and organs but also to ensure an orchestrated interorgan crosstalk, required for a coordinated systemic response of the organism. Very often, intercellular communication mediated by extracellular signals elicits a stepwise intracellular cascade of reactions that imply highly regulated communication mechanisms, including interorganelle interplay.

This Special Issue intends to bring together, in a comprehensive and holistic overview, new advances concerning intercellular and intracellular communication strategies, used by either unicellular or multicellular organisms.

Dr. Henrique Girao
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Gap Junctions between Endothelial Cells Are Disrupted by Circulating Extracellular Vesicles from Sickle Cell Patients with Acute Chest Syndrome
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(23), 8884; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21238884 - 24 Nov 2020
Abstract
Intercellular junctions maintain the integrity of the endothelium. We previously found that the adherens and tight junctions between endothelial cells are disrupted by plasma extracellular vesicles from patients with sickle cell disease (especially those with Acute Chest Syndrome). In the current study, we [...] Read more.
Intercellular junctions maintain the integrity of the endothelium. We previously found that the adherens and tight junctions between endothelial cells are disrupted by plasma extracellular vesicles from patients with sickle cell disease (especially those with Acute Chest Syndrome). In the current study, we evaluated the effects of these vesicles on endothelial gap junctions. The vesicles from sickle cell patients (isolated during episodes of Acute Chest Syndrome) disrupted gap junction structures earlier and more severely than the other classes of intercellular junctions (as detected by immunofluorescence). These vesicles were much more potent than those isolated at baseline from the same subject. The treatment of endothelial cells with these vesicles led to reduced levels of connexin43 mRNA and protein. These vesicles severely reduced intercellular communication (transfer of microinjected Neurobiotin). Our data suggest a hierarchy of progressive disruption of different intercellular connections between endothelial cells by circulating extracellular vesicles that may contribute to the pathophysiology of the endothelial disturbances in sickle cell disease. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Connexin43 Region 266–283, via Src Inhibition, Reduces Neural Progenitor Cell Proliferation Promoted by EGF and FGF-2 and Increases Astrocytic Differentiation
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(22), 8852; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21228852 - 23 Nov 2020
Abstract
Neural progenitor cells (NPCs) are self-renewing cells that give rise to the major cells in the nervous system and are considered to be the possible cell of origin of glioblastoma. The gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) is expressed by NPCs, exerting channel-dependent and [...] Read more.
Neural progenitor cells (NPCs) are self-renewing cells that give rise to the major cells in the nervous system and are considered to be the possible cell of origin of glioblastoma. The gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) is expressed by NPCs, exerting channel-dependent and -independent roles. We focused on one property of Cx43—its ability to inhibit Src, a key protein in brain development and oncogenesis. Because Src inhibition is carried out by the sequence 266–283 of the intracellular C terminus in Cx43, we used a cell-penetrating peptide containing this sequence, TAT-Cx43266–283, to explore its effects on postnatal subventricular zone NPCs. Our results show that TAT-Cx43266–283 inhibited Src activity and reduced NPC proliferation and survival promoted by epidermal growth factor (EGF) and fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2). In differentiation conditions, TAT-Cx43266–283 increased astrocyte differentiation at the expense of neuronal differentiation, which coincided with a reduction in Src activity and β-catenin expression. We propose that Cx43, through the region 266–283, reduces Src activity, leading to disruption of EGF and FGF-2 signaling and to down-regulation of β-catenin with effects on proliferation and differentiation. Our data indicate that the inhibition of Src might contribute to the complex role of Cx43 in NPCs and open new opportunities for further research in gliomagenesis. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Hypoxic Melanoma Cells Deliver microRNAs to Dendritic Cells and Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes through Connexin-43 Channels
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(20), 7567; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21207567 - 13 Oct 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Alterations in microRNA (miRNA) profiles, induced by tumor microenvironment stressors, like hypoxia, allow cancer cells to acquire immune-resistance phenotypes. Indeed, hypoxia-induced miRNAs have been implicated in cancer progression through numerous cancer cell non-autonomous mechanisms, including the direct transfer of hypoxia-responsive miRNA from cancer [...] Read more.
Alterations in microRNA (miRNA) profiles, induced by tumor microenvironment stressors, like hypoxia, allow cancer cells to acquire immune-resistance phenotypes. Indeed, hypoxia-induced miRNAs have been implicated in cancer progression through numerous cancer cell non-autonomous mechanisms, including the direct transfer of hypoxia-responsive miRNA from cancer to immune cells via extracellular vesicles. Connexin-43 (Cx43)-constituted gap junctions (GJs) have also been involved in miRNA intercellular mobilization, in other biological processes. In this report, we aimed to evaluate the involvement of Cx43-GJs in the shift of miRNAs induced by hypoxia, from hypoxic melanoma cells to dendritic cells and melanoma-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Using qRT-PCR arrays, we identified that miR-192-5p was strongly induced in hypoxic melanoma cells. Immune cells acquired this miRNA after co-culture with hypoxic melanoma cells. The transfer of miR-192-5p was inhibited when hypoxic melanoma cells expressed a dominant negative Cx43 mutant or when Cx43 expression was silenced using specific short-hairpin RNAs. Interestingly, miR-192-5p levels on CTLs after co-culture with hypoxic melanoma cells were inversely correlated with the cytotoxic activity of T cells and with ZEB2 mRNA expression, a validated immune-related target of miR-192-5p, which is also observed in vivo. Altogether, our data suggest that hypoxic melanoma cells may suppress CTLs cytotoxic activity by transferring hypoxia-induced miR-192-5p through a Cx43-GJs driven mechanism, constituting a resistance strategy for immunological tumor escape. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Antimicrobial Effects of Thymosin Beta-4 and Ciprofloxacin Adjunctive Therapy in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Induced Keratitis
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(18), 6840; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21186840 - 18 Sep 2020
Abstract
Prior work has indicated that thymosin beta 4 (Tβ4) administered with ciprofloxacin markedly improves disease outcome for Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA)-induced keratitis. As a result, the goal of the current study was to elucidate mechanisms by which Tβ4 mitigates the corneal response; specifically, regarding [...] Read more.
Prior work has indicated that thymosin beta 4 (Tβ4) administered with ciprofloxacin markedly improves disease outcome for Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA)-induced keratitis. As a result, the goal of the current study was to elucidate mechanisms by which Tβ4 mitigates the corneal response; specifically, regarding its bactericidal influence and potential synergy with ciprofloxacin. An in vitro approach was carried out using minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) assays to assess bactericidal activity against PA. In addition, antimicrobial peptide (AMP) production was evaluated at the mRNA levels using human corneal epithelial cells in response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge. The results of the MIC assays did not show direct bactericidal activity with Tβ4 alone, although ciprofloxacin exhibited significant killing at concentrations far lower than clinically dosed. Tβ4, however, displayed an indirect effect on bacterial killing, as shown by an upregulation of AMPs and related molecules. The cumulative data from this study indicate an indirect bactericidal role of Tβ4, as well as a synergistic relationship with ciprofloxacin. Furthermore, ciprofloxacin alone was found to influence cellular functions that otherwise have yet to be reported. These results highlight a mechanism of intracellular communication for Tβ4 and further strengthen its development as an adjunct therapy with antibiotics for corneal infections. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Trogocytosis between Non-Immune Cells for Cell Clearance, and among Immune-Related Cells for Modulating Immune Responses and Autoimmunity
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(5), 2236; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22052236 - 24 Feb 2021
Abstract
The term trogocytosis refers to a rapid bidirectional and active transfer of surface membrane fragment and associated proteins between cells. The trogocytosis requires cell-cell contact, and exhibits fast kinetics and the limited lifetime of the transferred molecules on the surface of the acceptor [...] Read more.
The term trogocytosis refers to a rapid bidirectional and active transfer of surface membrane fragment and associated proteins between cells. The trogocytosis requires cell-cell contact, and exhibits fast kinetics and the limited lifetime of the transferred molecules on the surface of the acceptor cells. The biological actions of trogocytosis include information exchange, cell clearance of unwanted tissues in embryonic development, immunoregulation, cancer surveillance/evasion, allogeneic cell survival and infectious pathogen killing or intercellular transmission. In the present review, we will extensively review all these aspects. In addition to its biological significance, aberrant trogocytosis in the immune system leading to autoimmunity and immune-mediated inflammatory diseases will also be discussed. Finally, the prospective investigations for further understanding the molecular basis of trogocytosis and its clinical applications will also be proposed. Full article
Open AccessReview
Cell-to-Cell Communication by Host-Released Extracellular Vesicles in the Gut: Implications in Health and Disease
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(4), 2213; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22042213 - 23 Feb 2021
Abstract
Communication between cells is crucial to preserve body homeostasis and health. Tightly controlled intercellular dialog is particularly relevant in the gut, where cells of the intestinal mucosa are constantly exposed to millions of microbes that have great impact on intestinal homeostasis by controlling [...] Read more.
Communication between cells is crucial to preserve body homeostasis and health. Tightly controlled intercellular dialog is particularly relevant in the gut, where cells of the intestinal mucosa are constantly exposed to millions of microbes that have great impact on intestinal homeostasis by controlling barrier and immune functions. Recent knowledge involves extracellular vesicles (EVs) as mediators of such communication by transferring messenger bioactive molecules including proteins, lipids, and miRNAs between cells and tissues. The specific functions of EVs principally depend on the internal cargo, which upon delivery to target cells trigger signal events that modulate cellular functions. The vesicular cargo is greatly influenced by genetic, pathological, and environmental factors. This finding provides the basis for investigating potential clinical applications of EVs as therapeutic targets or diagnostic biomarkers. Here, we review current knowledge on the biogenesis and cargo composition of EVs in general terms. We then focus the attention to EVs released by cells of the intestinal mucosa and their impact on intestinal homeostasis in health and disease. We specifically highlight their role on epithelial barrier integrity, wound healing of epithelial cells, immunity, and microbiota shaping. Microbiota-derived EVs are not reviewed here. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Integrin Regulation in Immunological and Cancerous Cells and Exosomes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(4), 2193; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22042193 - 23 Feb 2021
Abstract
Integrins represent the biologically and medically significant family of cell adhesion molecules that govern a wide range of normal physiology. The activities of integrins in cells are dynamically controlled via activation-dependent conformational changes regulated by the balance of intracellular activators, such as talin [...] Read more.
Integrins represent the biologically and medically significant family of cell adhesion molecules that govern a wide range of normal physiology. The activities of integrins in cells are dynamically controlled via activation-dependent conformational changes regulated by the balance of intracellular activators, such as talin and kindlin, and inactivators, such as Shank-associated RH domain interactor (SHARPIN) and integrin cytoplasmic domain-associated protein 1 (ICAP-1). The activities of integrins are alternatively controlled by homotypic lateral association with themselves to induce integrin clustering and/or by heterotypic lateral engagement with tetraspanin and syndecan in the same cells to modulate integrin adhesiveness. It has recently emerged that integrins are expressed not only in cells but also in exosomes, important entities of extracellular vesicles secreted from cells. Exosomal integrins have received considerable attention in recent years, and they are clearly involved in determining the tissue distribution of exosomes, forming premetastatic niches, supporting internalization of exosomes by target cells and mediating exosome-mediated transfer of the membrane proteins and associated kinases to target cells. A growing body of evidence shows that tumor and immune cell exosomes have the ability to alter endothelial characteristics (proliferation, migration) and gene expression, some of these effects being facilitated by vesicle-bound integrins. As endothelial metabolism is now thought to play a key role in tumor angiogenesis, we also discuss how tumor cells and their exosomes pleiotropically modulate endothelial functions in the tumor microenvironment. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Circulating Extracellular Vesicles: The Missing Link between Physical Exercise and Depression Management?
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(2), 542; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22020542 - 07 Jan 2021
Abstract
Depression is associated with an increased risk of aging-related diseases. It is also seemingly a common psychological reaction to pandemic outbreaks with forced quarantines and lockdowns. Thus, depression represents, now more than ever, a major global health burden with therapeutic management challenges. Clinical [...] Read more.
Depression is associated with an increased risk of aging-related diseases. It is also seemingly a common psychological reaction to pandemic outbreaks with forced quarantines and lockdowns. Thus, depression represents, now more than ever, a major global health burden with therapeutic management challenges. Clinical data highlights that physical exercise is gaining momentum as a non-pharmacological intervention in depressive disorders. Although it may contribute to the reduction of systemic inflammation associated with depression, the mechanisms underlying the beneficial physical exercise effects in emotional behavior remain to be elucidated. Current investigations indicate that a rapid release of extracellular vesicles into the circulation might be the signaling mediators of systemic adaptations to physical exercise. These biological entities are now well-established intercellular communicators, playing a major role in relevant physiological and pathophysiological functions, including brain cell–cell communication. We also reviewed emerging evidence correlating depression with modified circulating extracellular vesicle surfaces and cargo signatures (e.g., microRNAs and proteins), envisioned as potential biomarkers for diagnosis, efficient disease stratification and appropriate therapeutic management. Accordingly, the clinical data summarized in the present review prompted us to hypothesize that physical exercise-related circulating extracellular vesicles contribute to its antidepressant effects, particularly through the modulation of inflammation. This review sheds light on the triad “physical exercise–extracellular vesicles–depression” and suggests new avenues in this novel emerging field. Full article
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