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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Recent Work

UC Research Initiatives supports multicampus research teams, partners UC and national laboratory scientists, and advances innovations that benefit California.

Cover page of The CoQ oxidoreductase FSP1 acts parallel to GPX4 to inhibit ferroptosis.

The CoQ oxidoreductase FSP1 acts parallel to GPX4 to inhibit ferroptosis.


Ferroptosis is a form of regulated cell death that is caused by the iron-dependent peroxidation of lipids1,2. The glutathione-dependent lipid hydroperoxidase glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) prevents ferroptosis by converting lipid hydroperoxides into non-toxic lipid alcohols3,4. Ferroptosis has previously been implicated in the cell death that underlies several degenerative conditions2, and induction of ferroptosis by the inhibition of GPX4 has emerged as a therapeutic strategy to trigger cancer cell death5. However, sensitivity to GPX4 inhibitors varies greatly across cancer cell lines6, which suggests that additional factors govern resistance to ferroptosis. Here, using a synthetic lethal CRISPR-Cas9 screen, we identify ferroptosis suppressor protein 1 (FSP1) (previously known as apoptosis-inducing factor mitochondrial 2 (AIFM2)) as a potent ferroptosis-resistance factor. Our data indicate that myristoylation recruits FSP1 to the plasma membrane where it functions as an oxidoreductase that reduces coenzyme Q10 (CoQ) (also known as ubiquinone-10), which acts as a lipophilic radical-trapping antioxidant that halts the propagation of lipid peroxides. We further find that FSP1 expression positively correlates with ferroptosis resistance across hundreds of cancer cell lines, and that FSP1 mediates resistance to ferroptosis in lung cancer cells in culture and in mouse tumour xenografts. Thus, our data identify FSP1 as a key component of a non-mitochondrial CoQ antioxidant system that acts in parallel to the canonical glutathione-based GPX4 pathway. These findings define a ferroptosis suppression pathway and indicate that pharmacological inhibition of FSP1 may provide an effective strategy to sensitize cancer cells to ferroptosis-inducing chemotherapeutic agents.

Cover page of A multi-modal data resource for investigating topographic heterogeneity in patient-derived xenograft tumors.

A multi-modal data resource for investigating topographic heterogeneity in patient-derived xenograft tumors.


Patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) are an essential pre-clinical resource for investigating tumor biology. However, cellular heterogeneity within and across PDX tumors can strongly impact the interpretation of PDX studies. Here, we generated a multi-modal, large-scale dataset to investigate PDX heterogeneity in metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC) across tumor models, spatial scales and genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and imaging assay modalities. To showcase this dataset, we present analysis to assess sources of PDX variation, including anatomical orientation within the implanted tumor, mouse contribution, and differences between replicate PDX tumors. A unique aspect of our dataset is deep characterization of intra-tumor heterogeneity via immunofluorescence imaging, which enables investigation of variation across multiple spatial scales, from subcellular to whole tumor levels. Our study provides a benchmark data resource to investigate PDX models of metastatic CRC and serves as a template for future, quantitative investigations of spatial heterogeneity within and across PDX tumor models.

Cover page of Performance of a Nonelectric Infant Warmer in Rwandan Health Centers.

Performance of a Nonelectric Infant Warmer in Rwandan Health Centers.


Background. Neonatal hypothermia remains a challenge in resource-limited settings. Methods. We conducted a prospective mixed-methods cohort study in rural Rwandan health centers to assess the performance of an infant warmer we designed for low-resource settings. All hypothermic infants were eligible for enrollment. Outcomes. Safety: incidence of adverse reactions. Effectiveness: attainment of euthermia, rate of temperature rise. Feasibility: correct use of warmer, signs of wear. Interviews of caregivers and nurses. Findings. Of 102 encounters, there were no adverse reactions. Of 80 encounters for hypothermia when infants on warmer for ≥1 hour, 79 achieved euthermia; 73 in ≤2 hours. Of the 80 encounters, 64 had temperature rise ≥0.5°C/h. Of the 102 encounters, there were no instances of the warmer being prepared, used, or cleaned incorrectly. Five out of the 12 warmers exhibited wear. Interview participants were predominantly positive; some found time for readiness of warmer challenging. Interpretation. The warmer performed well. It is appropriate to study in larger scale.

Cover page of Specific hippocampal representations are linked to generalized cortical representations in memory.

Specific hippocampal representations are linked to generalized cortical representations in memory.


Memories link information about specific experiences to more general knowledge that is abstracted from and contextualizes those experiences. Hippocampal-cortical activity patterns representing features of past experience are reinstated during awake memory reactivation events, but whether representations of both specific and general features of experience are simultaneously reinstated remains unknown. We examined hippocampal and prefrontal cortical firing patterns during memory reactivation in rats performing a well-learned foraging task with multiple spatial paths. We found that specific hippocampal place representations are preferentially reactivated with the subset of prefrontal cortical task representations that generalize across different paths. Our results suggest that hippocampal-cortical networks maintain links between stored representations for specific and general features of experience, which could support abstraction and task guidance in mammals.

Cover page of Modeling Cell-to-Cell Communication Networks Using Response-Time Distributions.

Modeling Cell-to-Cell Communication Networks Using Response-Time Distributions.


Cell-to-cell communication networks have critical roles in coordinating diverse organismal processes, such as tissue development or immune cell response. However, compared with intracellular signal transduction networks, the function and engineering principles of cell-to-cell communication networks are far less understood. Major complications include: cells are themselves regulated by complex intracellular signaling networks; individual cells are heterogeneous; and output of any one cell can recursively become an additional input signal to other cells. Here, we make use of a framework that treats intracellular signal transduction networks as black boxes with characterized input-to-output response relationships. We study simple cell-to-cell communication circuit motifs and find conditions that generate bimodal responses in time, as well as mechanisms for independently controlling synchronization and delay of cell-population responses. We apply our modeling approach to explain otherwise puzzling data on cytokine secretion onset times in T cells. Our approach can be used to predict communication network structure using experimentally accessible input-to-output measurements and without detailed knowledge of intermediate steps.

Cover page of Subcellular organization of UBE3A in human cerebral cortex.

Subcellular organization of UBE3A in human cerebral cortex.


Background: Loss of UBE3A causes Angelman syndrome, whereas excess UBE3A activity appears to increase the risk for autism. Despite this powerful association with neurodevelopmental disorders, there is still much to be learned about UBE3A, including its cellular and subcellular organization in the human brain. The issue is important, since UBE3As localization is integral to its function. Methods: We used light and electron microscopic immunohistochemistry to study the cellular and subcellular distribution of UBE3A in the adult human cerebral cortex. Experiments were performed on multiple tissue sources, but our results focused on optimally preserved material, using surgically resected human temporal cortex of high ultrastructural quality from nine individuals. Results: We demonstrate that UBE3A is expressed in both glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons, and to a lesser extent in glial cells. We find that UBE3A in neurons has a non-uniform subcellular distribution. In somata, UBE3A preferentially concentrates in euchromatin-rich domains within the nucleus. Electron microscopy reveals that labeling concentrates in the head and neck of dendritic spines and is excluded from the PSD. Strongest labeling within the neuropil was found in axon terminals. Conclusions: By highlighting the subcellular compartments in which UBE3A is likely to function in the human neocortex, our data provide insight into the diverse functional capacities of this E3 ligase. These anatomical data may help to elucidate the role of UBE3A in Angelman syndrome and autism spectrum disorder.

Cover page of Cultural heritage in context: the temples of Nubia, digital technologies and the future of conservation

Cultural heritage in context: the temples of Nubia, digital technologies and the future of conservation


President's Research Catalyst Awards, Grant ID# CA-16-376911, Preserving at-Risk Cultural Heritage.