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  1. Abstract Background Uncontrolled growth in solid breast cancer generates mechanical compression that may drive the cancer cells into a more invasive phenotype, but little is known about how such compression affects the key events and corresponding regulatory mechanisms associated with invasion of breast cancer cells including cellular behaviors and matrix degradation. Results Here we show that compression enhanced invasion and matrix degradation of breast cancer cells. We also identified Piezo1 as the putative mechanosensitive cellular component that transmitted compression to not only enhance the invasive phenotype, but also induce calcium influx and downstream Src signaling. Furthermore, we demonstrated that Piezo1 was mainly localized in caveolae, and both Piezo1 expression and compression-enhanced invasive phenotype of the breast cancer cells were reduced when caveolar integrity was compromised by either knocking down caveolin1 expression or depleting cholesterol content. Conclusions Taken together, our data indicate that mechanical compression activates Piezo1 channels to mediate enhanced breast cancer cell invasion, which involves both cellular events and matrix degradation. This may be a critical mechanotransduction pathway during breast cancer metastasis, and thus potentially a novel therapeutic target for the disease. 
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  2. Cellular unjamming is the collective fluidization of cell motion and has been linked to many biological processes, including development, wound repair, and tumor growth. In tumor growth, the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in a confined space generates mechanical compressive stress. However, because multiple cellular and molecular mechanisms may be operating simultaneously, the role of compressive stress in unjamming transitions during cancer progression remains unknown. Here, we investigate which mechanism dominates in a dense, mechanically stressed monolayer. We find that long-term mechanical compression triggers cell arrest in benign epithelial cells and enhances cancer cell migration in transitions correlated with cell shape, leading us to examine the contributions of cell–cell adhesion and substrate traction in unjamming transitions. We show that cadherin-mediated cell–cell adhesion regulates differential cellular responses to compressive stress and is an important driver of unjamming in stressed monolayers. Importantly, compressive stress does not induce the epithelial–mesenchymal transition in unjammed cells. Furthermore, traction force microscopy reveals the attenuation of traction stresses in compressed cells within the bulk monolayer regardless of cell type and motility. As traction within the bulk monolayer decreases with compressive pressure, cancer cells at the leading edge of the cell layer exhibit sustained traction under compression. Together, strengthened intercellular adhesion and attenuation of traction forces within the bulk cell sheet under compression lead to fluidization of the cell layer and may impact collective cell motion in tumor development and breast cancer progression. 
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  3. In the pursuit of understanding life, model membranes made of phospholipids were envisaged decades ago as a platform for the bottom-up study of biological processes. Micron-sized lipid vesicles have gained great acceptance as their bilayer membrane resembles the natural cell membrane. Important biological events involving membranes, such as membrane protein insertion, membrane fusion, and intercellular communication, will be highlighted in this review with recent research updates. We will first review different lipid bilayer platforms used for incorporation of integral membrane proteins and challenges associated with their functional reconstitution. We next discuss different methods for reconstitution of membrane fusion and compare their fusion efficiency. Lastly, we will highlight the importance and challenges of intercellular communication between synthetic cells and synthetic cells-to-natural cells. We will summarize the review by highlighting the challenges and opportunities associated with studying membrane–membrane interactions and possible future research directions. 
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  4. We demonstrate the facile and robust generation of giant peptide vesicles by using an emulsion transfer method. These robust vesicles can sustain chemical and physical stresses. The peptide vesicles can host cell-free expression reactions by encapsulating essential ingredients. We show the incorporation of another cell-free expressed elastin-like polypeptide into the existing membrane of the peptide vesicles. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    Giant lipid vesicles have been used extensively as a synthetic cell model to recapitulate various life-like processes, including in vitro protein synthesis, DNA replication, and cytoskeleton organization. Cell-sized lipid vesicles are mechanically fragile in nature and prone to rupture due to osmotic stress, which limits their usability. Recently, peptide vesicles have been introduced as a synthetic cell model that would potentially overcome the aforementioned limitations. Peptide vesicles are robust, reasonably more stable than lipid vesicles and can withstand harsh conditions including pH, thermal, and osmotic variations. This mini-review summarizes the current state-of-the-art in the design, engineering, and realization of peptide-based chassis materials, including both experimental and computational work. We present an outlook for simulation-aided and data-driven design and experimental realization of engineered and multifunctional synthetic cells. 
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  6. Abstract

    It has become increasingly apparent that G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) localization is a master regulator of cell signaling. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in this process are not well understood. To date, observations of intracellular GPCR activation can be organized into two categories: a dependence on OCT3 cationic channel-permeable ligands or the necessity of endocytic trafficking. Using CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) as a model, we identified a third mechanism of intracellular GPCR signaling. We show that independent of membrane permeable ligands and endocytosis, upon stimulation, plasma membrane and internal pools of CXCR4 are post-translationally modified and collectively regulate EGR1 transcription. We found that β-arrestin-1 (arrestin 2) is necessary to mediate communication between plasma membrane and internal pools of CXCR4. Notably, these observations may explain that while CXCR4 overexpression is highly correlated with cancer metastasis and mortality, plasma membrane localization is not. Together these data support a model where a small initial pool of plasma membrane-localized GPCRs are capable of activating internal receptor-dependent signaling events.

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  7. The cell-free molecular synthesis of biochemical systems is a rapidly growing field of research. Advances in the Human Genome Project, DNA synthesis, and other technologies have allowed the in vitro construction of biochemical systems, termed cell-free biology, to emerge as an exciting domain of bioengineering. Cell-free biology ranges from the molecular to the cell-population scales, using an ever-expanding variety of experimental platforms and toolboxes. In this review, we discuss the ongoing efforts undertaken in the three major classes of cell-free biology methodologies, namely protein-based, nucleic acids–based, and cell-free transcription–translation systems, and provide our perspectives on the current challenges as well as the major goals in each of the subfields. 
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