Various types ordering processes in systems with large fluctuation are overviewed. Generally, the so-called order–disorder phase transition takes place in competition between the interaction causing the system be ordered and the entropy causing a random disturbance. Nature of the phase transition strongly depends on the type of fluctuation which is determined by the structure of the order parameter of the system. As to the critical property of phase transitions, the concept “universality of the critical phenomena” is well established. However, we still find variety of features of ordering processes. In this article, we study effects of various mechanisms which bring large fluctuation in the system, e.g., continuous symmetry of the spin in low dimensions, contradictions among interactions (frustration), randomness of the lattice, quantum fluctuations, and a long range interaction in off-lattice systems.
ATP synthase (FoF1) consists of an ATP-driven motor (F1) and a H+-driven motor (Fo), which rotate in opposite directions. FoF1 reconstituted into a lipid membrane is capable of ATP synthesis driven by H+ flux. As the basic structures of F1 (α3β3γδε) and Fo (ab2c10) are ubiquitous, stable thermophilic FoF1 (TFoF1) has been used to elucidate molecular mechanisms, while human F1Fo (HF1Fo) has been used to study biomedical significance. Among F1s, only thermophilic F1 (TF1) can be analyzed simultaneously by reconstitution, crystallography, mutagenesis and nanotechnology for torque-driven ATP synthesis using elastic coupling mechanisms. In contrast to the single operon of TFoF1, HFoF1 is encoded by both nuclear DNA with introns and mitochondrial DNA. The regulatory mechanism, tissue specificity and physiopathology of HFoF1 were elucidated by proteomics, RNA interference, cytoplasts and transgenic mice. The ATP synthesized daily by HFoF1 is in the order of tens of kilograms, and is primarily controlled by the brain in response to fluctuations in activity.
The authors reviewed contribution of Kumamoto University group to the progress of the studies on transthyretin (TTR)-related familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy (TTR-related FAP) for 42 years (from 1967 to 2009). Andrade (1952) first described a large group of patients with FAP in Portugal and Araki et al. (1967) in second discovered similar FAP patients in Arao, Kumamoto, Japan. Owing to progress in biochemical and molecular genetic analyses, FAP is now believed to occur worldwide. As of today, reports of about 100 different points of single or two mutations, or a deletion in the transthyretin (TTR) gene, have been published. The authors’ group has made pioneer works for study of FAP in the world. The focus on therapy in amylodosis will increase sharply as an impetus in near future, and successful treatments are expected.
This article summarizes my research over 40 years. The main theme of my work is nitrogen metabolism of amino acids, though later I focused on protein turnover in the cell. In the first years of my research work, I was busy dissecting the pathways involved in the metabolism of certain amino acids and their related enzymes. Then I became interested in the physiology and regulation of matabolism of these amino acids. For that, I used primary cultured hepatocytes, which contain many liver-specific enzymes. However, this play field was very rough around 1970 and hence I had to smooth them (differentiated) first. We discovered a specific growth factor (hepatocyte growth factor, HGF) in rat platelets. Exceptionally, I also worked on branched chain amino acids (valine, leucine and isoleucine). These amino acids are not efficiently metabolized in the liver, so I had to consider the physiology of extrahepatic tissues as well. Finally, I came across a huge protease complex, the proteasome. Whether these players, small amino acid metabolizing enzymes and the huge protease complex, danced well in harmony on my playground or not, I still do not know.
In this review, the author discusses the research that led to the identification and characterization of interleukin 6 (IL-6), including his own experience isolating IL-6, and the roles this cytokine has on autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The cDNAs encoding B-cell stimulatory factor 2 (BSF-2), interferon (IFN)-β2 and a 26-kDa protein were independently cloned in 1986, which in turn led to the identification of each. To resolve the confusing nomenclature, these identical molecules were named IL-6. Characterization of IL-6 revealed a multifunctional cytokine that is involved in not only immune responses but also hematopoiesis, inflammation, and bone metabolism. Moreover, IL-6 makes significant contributions to such autoimmune and inflammatory diseases as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). IL-6 activates both the STAT3 and SHP2/Gab/MAPK signaling pathways via the gp130 signal transducer. F759 mice, which contain a single amino-acid substitution in gp130 (Y759F) and show enhanced STAT3 activation, spontaneously develop a RA-like arthritis as they age. F759 arthritis is dependent on CD4+ T cells, IL-6, and IL-17A, and is enhanced by the pX gene product from human T cell leukemia virus 1 (HTLV-1). Arthritis development in these mice requires that the F759 mutation is present in nonhematopoietic cells, but not in immune cells, highlighting the important role of the interaction between nonimmune tissues and the immune system in this disease. Furthermore, this interaction is mediated by the IL-6 amplifier through STAT3 and NF-κB. Ultimately, this model may represent a general etiologic process underlying other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. More importantly, the understanding of IL-6 has paved the way for new therapeutic approaches for RA and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
Comparative study of the oligosaccharide profiles of individual human milk revealed the presence of three different patterns. Four oligosaccharides containing the Fucα1-2Gal group were missing in the milk of non-secretor, and three oligosaccharides containing the Fucα1-4GlcNAc group were missing in the milk of Lewis negative individuals. Disappearance of some major oligosaccharides in these samples led to the finding of five novel minor oligosaccharides, which were hidden under the missing oligosaccharides. Following these studies, structures of many novel milk oligosaccharides were elucidated. At least 13 core oligosaccharides were found in these oligosaccharides. By adding α-fucosyl residues and sialic acid residues to these core oligosaccharides, more than one hundred oligosaccharides were formed. All these oligosaccharides contain lactose at their reducing termini. This evidence, together with the deletion phenomena found in the milk oligosaccharides of non-secretor and Lewis negative individuals, suggested that the oligosaccharides are formed from lactose by the concerted action of glycosyltransferases, which are responsible for elongation and branching of the Galβ1-4GlcNAc group in the sugar chains of glycoconjugates on the surface of epithelial cells. Therefore, oligosaccharides in human milk could include many structures, starting from the Galβ1-4GlcNAc group in the sugar chains of various glycoconjugates. Many lines of evidence recently indicated that virulent enteric bacteria and viruses start their infection by binding to particular sugar chains of glycoconjugates on the target cell surfaces. Therefore, milk oligosaccharides could be useful for developing drugs, which inhibit the infection of bacteria and viruses.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked, progressive muscle-wasting disease caused by mutations in the DMD gene. Since the disease was described by physicians in the 19th century, information about the subject has been accumulated. One author (Sugita) was one of the coworkers who first reported that the serum creatine kinase (CK) level is elevated in progressive muscular dystrophy patients. Even 50 years after that first report, an elevated serum CK level is still the most useful marker in the diagnosis of DMD, a sensitive index of the state of skeletal muscle, and useful to evaluate therapeutic effects. In the latter half of this article, we describe recent progress in the therapy of DMD, with an emphasis on gene therapies, particularly exon skipping.
O-Methyltransferases, which catalyze the production of small molecules in plants, play a crucial role in determining biosynthetic pathways in secondary metabolism because of their strict substrate specificity. Using three O-methyltransferase (OMT) cDNAs that are involved in berberine biosynthesis, we investigated the structure that was essential for this substrate specificity and the possibility of creating a chimeric enzyme with novel substrate specificity. Since each OMT has a relatively well-conserved C-terminal putative S-adenosyl-L-methionine-binding domain, we first exchanged the N-terminal halves of different OMTs. Among the 6 combinations that we tested for creating chimeric OMTs, 5 constructs produced detectable amounts of recombinant proteins, and only one of these with an N-terminal half of 6-OMT and a C-terminal half of 4′-OMT (64′-OMT) showed methylation activity with isoquinoline alkaloids as a substrate. Further enzymological analysis of 64′-OMT reaction product indicated that 64′-OMT retained the regio-specificity of 6-OMT. Further examination of the N-terminal region of 64′-OMT showed that about 90 amino acid residues in the N-terminal half were critical for reaction specificity. The creation of OMTs with novel reactivity is discussed.