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Zhao Yang, Zhi-Li Huang, and Ya-Xiong Tao

The melanocortin-3 receptor (MC3R) is a member of the family A G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). The MC3R remains the most enigmatic of the melanocortin receptors with regard to its physiological functions, especially its role in energy homeostasis. The N/DPxxY motif and the eighth helix (helix 8) in the carboxyl terminus of GPCRs have been identified to be important for receptor expression, ligand binding, signal transduction and internalization. To gain a better understanding of the structure-function relationship of MC3R, we performed a systematic study of all 20 residues in this domain using alanine-scanning mutagenesis. We showed that although all mutants were expressed normally on the cell surface, eleven residues were important for ligand binding and one was indispensable for downstream cAMP generation. F347A showed constitutive activity in cAMP signaling while all the other mutants had normal basal activities. We studied the signaling capacity of nine mutants in the ERK1/2 signaling pathway. All of these mutants showed normal basal ERK1/2 phosphorylation levels. The pERK1/2 levels of six binding- or signaling-defective mutants were enhanced upon agonist stimulation. The unbalanced cAMP and pERK1/2 signaling pathways suggested the existence of biased signaling in MC3R mutants. In summary, we showed that the DPLIY motif and helix 8 was important for MC3R activation and signal transduction. Our data led to a better understanding of the structure-function relationship of MC3R.

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Ting Yan, Wangwang Qiu, Jianlu Song, Youben Fan, and Zhili Yang

The diagnosis and treatment of recurrence and metastasis in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) are still clinical challenges. One of the key factors is the lack of specific diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets for recurrence and metastasis. Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) has emerged as a powerful approach to find specific biomarkers by dissecting expression profiling in human cancers at the resolution of individual cells. Here, we investigated cell profiles of the primary tumor and lymph node metastasis and paracancerous normal tissues in one PTC patient using scRNA-seq, and compared individual cell gene expression differences. The transcriptomes of 11,805 single cells were profiled, and malignant cells exhibited a profound transcriptional overlap between primary and metastatic lesions, but there were differences in the composition and quantity of non-malignant cells. ARHGAP36 was one of the genes that were highly expressed in almost all of the primary and metastatic malignant cells without non-malignant or normal follicular cells and was then confirmed by immunostaining in a sample cohort. Compared with the paracancerous normal tissue, the expression of ARHGAP36 in primary and metastatic carcinoma tissues was significantly higher as assayed by qRT-PCR. ARHGAP36 knockdown significantly inhibited the proliferation and migration of PTC cells in vitro and involved several proliferation and migration-associated signaling pathways by RNA seq. Our study demonstrated that ARHGAP36 is exclusively expressed in the malignant cells of primary PTC, as well as metastatic lesions, and regulates their proliferation and migration, meaning it can be used as a potential diagnostic marker and therapeutic target molecule.