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1.  Exacerbation of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis in the Absence of Breast Regression Protein-39/Chitinase 3-like-1 
We previously reported that YKL-40, the human analog of mouse breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39; chitinase 3-like 1), is elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with a variety of neuroinflammatory conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury. YKL-40 expression in the CNS was predominantly associated with reactive astrocytes in the vicinity of inflammatory lesions. Because previous studies have shown that reactive astrocytes play a critical role in limiting immune infiltration in the mouse model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), we explored the role of BRP-39 in regulating neuroinflammation in EAE. Using BRP-39-deficient mice (BRP-39−/−), we demonstrate the importance of BRP-39 in modulating the severity of clinical EAE and CNS neuroinflammation. At disease onset, absence of BRP-39 had little effect on clinical disease or lymphocytic infiltrate, but by 14 days post-immunization (dpi), differences in clinical scores were evident. By 28 dpi, BRP-39−/− mice showed more severe and persistent clinical disease than BRP-39+/+ controls. Histopathological evaluation showed that BRP-39−/− mice had more marked lymphocytic and macrophage infiltrates and gliosis vs. BRP-39+/+ mice. These findings support the role of BRP-39 expression in limiting immune cell infiltration into the CNS and offer a new target to modulate neuroinflammation.
PMCID: PMC3481009  PMID: 23041842
BRP-39; Chitinase-like proteins; Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; Multiple sclerosis; Neuroimmunology; YKL-40
2.  The Chitinase-like Proteins Breast Regression Protein-39 and YKL-40 Regulate Hyperoxia-induced Acute Lung Injury 
Rationale: Prolonged exposure to 100% O2 causes hyperoxic acute lung injury (HALI), characterized by alveolar epithelial cell injury and death. We previously demonstrated that the murine chitinase-like protein, breast regression protein (BRP)–39 and its human homolog, YKL-40, inhibit cellular apoptosis. However, the regulation and roles of these molecules in hyperoxia have not been addressed.
Objectives: We hypothesized that BRP-39 and YKL-40 (also called chitinase-3–like 1) play important roles in the pathogenesis of HALI.
Methods: We characterized the regulation of BRP-39 during HALI and the responses induced by hyperoxia in wild-type mice, BRP-39–null (−/−) mice, and BRP-39−/− mice in which YKL-40 was overexpressed in respiratory epithelium. We also compared the levels of tracheal aspirate YKL-40 in premature newborns with respiratory failure.
Measurements and Main Results: These studies demonstrate that hyperoxia inhibits BRP-39 in vivo in the murine lung and in vitro in epithelial cells. They also demonstrate that BRP-39−/− mice have exaggerated permeability, protein leak, oxidation, inflammatory, chemokine, and epithelial apoptosis responses, and experience premature death in 100% O2. Lastly, they demonstrate that YKL-40 ameliorates HALI, prolongs survival in 100% O2, and rescues the exaggerated injury response in BRP-39−/− animals. In accord with these findings, the levels of tracheal aspirate YKL-40 were lower in premature infants treated with hyperoxia for respiratory failure who subsequently experienced bronchopulmonary dysplasia or death compared with those that did not experience these complications.
Conclusions: These studies demonstrate that hyperoxia inhibits BRP-39/YKL-40, and that BRP-39 and YKL-40 are critical regulators of oxidant injury, inflammation, and epithelial apoptosis in the murine and human lung.
PMCID: PMC2970863  PMID: 20558631
BRP-39; YKL-40; hyperoxygen; BPD; HALI
3.  Bruchpilot in Ribbon-Like Axonal Agglomerates, Behavioral Defects, and Early Death in SRPK79D Kinase Mutants of Drosophila 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(10):e1000700.
Defining the molecular structure and function of synapses is a central theme in brain research. In Drosophila the Bruchpilot (BRP) protein is associated with T-shaped ribbons (“T-bars”) at presynaptic active zones (AZs). BRP is required for intact AZ structure and normal evoked neurotransmitter release. By screening for mutations that affect the tissue distribution of Bruchpilot, we have identified a P-transposon insertion in gene CG11489 (location 79D) which shows high homology to mammalian genes for SR protein kinases (SRPKs). SRPKs phosphorylate serine-arginine rich splicing factors (SR proteins). Since proteins expressed from CG11489 cDNAs phosphorylate a peptide from a human SR protein in vitro, we name CG11489 the Drosophila Srpk79D gene. We have characterized Srpk79D transcripts and generated a null mutant. Mutation of the Srpk79D gene causes conspicuous accumulations of BRP in larval and adult nerves. At the ultrastructural level, these correspond to extensive axonal agglomerates of electron-dense ribbons surrounded by clear vesicles. Basic synaptic structure and function at larval neuromuscular junctions appears normal, whereas life expectancy and locomotor behavior of adult mutants are significantly impaired. All phenotypes of the mutant can be largely or completely rescued by panneural expression of SRPK79D isoforms. Isoform-specific antibodies recognize panneurally overexpressed GFP-tagged SRPK79D-PC isoform co-localized with BRP at presynaptic active zones while the tagged -PB isoform is found in spots within neuronal perikarya. SRPK79D concentrations in wild type apparently are too low to be revealed by these antisera. We propose that the Drosophila Srpk79D gene characterized here may be expressed at low levels throughout the nervous system to prevent the assembly of BRP containing agglomerates in axons and maintain intact brain function. The discovery of an SR protein kinase required for normal BRP distribution calls for the identification of its substrate and the detailed analysis of SRPK function for the maintenance of nervous system integrity.
Author Summary
Neurons communicate through release of neurotransmitters at specialized contacts called synapses. Modulation of synaptic transmission likely underlies all higher brain function including feature abstraction, learning and memory, and cognition. The complex molecular machinery that regulates neurotransmitter release has been conserved in evolution but is still incompletely understood. Using the genetic model organism Drosophila, we recently discovered a protein of the presynaptic ribbon (T-bar) that was called Bruchpilot (German for crash pilot) because flies with reduced amounts of this protein cannot fly. We now screened various Drosophila mutants for changes in tissue localization of Bruchpilot and discovered a gene that codes for an enzyme which is similar to mammalian kinases that phosphorylate splicing factors and may co-localize with Bruchpilot at the synapse. Larval nerves of mutants for this gene contain conspicuous accumulations of Bruchpilot that correspond to extensive electron-dense ribbon-like agglomerates surrounded by vesicles. While general axonal transport and basic synaptic transmission at larval nerve-muscle synapses are not affected, adult mutants show reduced life span and impaired flight and walking. The substrate for this kinase and its role in maintaining brain function must now be identified. Its discovery raises important questions about the function of homologous proteins in mammals including humans.
PMCID: PMC2759580  PMID: 19851455
4.  Role of breast regression protein-39/YKL-40 in asthma and allergic responses 
BRP-39 and its human homolog YKL-40 have been regarded as a prototype of chitinase-like proteins (CLP) in mammals. Exaggerated levels of YKL-40 protein and/or mRNA have been noted in a number of diseases characterized by inflammation, tissue remodeling, and aberrant cell growth. Asthma is an inflammatory disease characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness and airway remodeling. Recently, the novel regulatory role of BRP-39/YKL-40 in the pathogenesis of asthma has been demonstrated both in human studies and allergic animal models. The levels of YKL-40 are increased in the circulation and lungs from asthmatics where they correlate with disease severity, and CHI3L1 polymorphisms correlate with serum YKL-40 levels, asthma and abnormal lung function. Animal studies using BRP-39 null mutant mice demonstrated that BRP-39 was required for optimal allergen sensitization and Th2 inflammation. These studies suggest the potential use of BRP-39 as a biomarker as well as a therapeutic target for asthma and other allergic diseases. Here, we present an overview of chitin/chitinase biology and summarize recent findings on the role of BRP-39 in the pathogenesis of asthma and allergic responses.
PMCID: PMC2831605  PMID: 20224674
BRP-39; human CHI3L1 protein; asthma; hypersensitivity
5.  Role of breast regression protein 39 (BRP-39)/chitinase 3-like-1 in Th2 and IL-13–induced tissue responses and apoptosis 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2009;206(5):1149-1166.
Mouse breast regression protein 39 (BRP-39; Chi3l1) and its human homologue YKL-40 are chitinase-like proteins that lack chitinase activity. Although YKL-40 is expressed in exaggerated quantities and correlates with disease activity in asthma and many other disorders, the biological properties of BRP-39/YKL-40 have only been rudimentarily defined. We describe the generation and characterization of BRP-39−/− mice, YKL-40 transgenic mice, and mice that lack BRP-39 and produce YKL-40 only in their pulmonary epithelium. Studies of these mice demonstrated that BRP-39−/− animals have markedly diminished antigen-induced Th2 responses and that epithelial YKL-40 rescues the Th2 responses in these animals. The ability of interleukin13 to induce tissue inflammation and fibrosis was also markedly diminished in the absence of BRP-39. Mechanistic investigations demonstrated that BRP-39 and YKL-40 play an essential role in antigen sensitization and immunoglobulin E induction, stimulate dendritic cell accumulation and activation, and induce alternative macrophage activation. These proteins also inhibit inflammatory cell apoptosis/cell death while inhibiting Fas expression, activating protein kinase B/AKT, and inducing Faim 3. These studies establish novel regulatory roles for BRP-39/YKL-40 in the initiation and effector phases of Th2 inflammation and remodeling and suggest that these proteins are therapeutic targets in Th2- and macrophage-mediated disorders.
PMCID: PMC2715037  PMID: 19414556
6.  Differential expression and function of breast regression protein 39 (BRP-39) in murine models of subacute cigarette smoke exposure and allergic airway inflammation 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):39.
While the presence of the chitinase-like molecule YKL40 has been reported in COPD and asthma, its relevance to inflammatory processes elicited by cigarette smoke and common environmental allergens, such as house dust mite (HDM), is not well understood. The objective of the current study was to assess expression and function of BRP-39, the murine equivalent of YKL40 in a murine model of cigarette smoke-induced inflammation and contrast expression and function to a model of HDM-induced allergic airway inflammation.
CD1, C57BL/6, and BALB/c mice were room air- or cigarette smoke-exposed for 4 days in a whole-body exposure system. In separate experiments, BALB/c mice were challenged with HDM extract once a day for 10 days. BRP-39 was assessed by ELISA and immunohistochemistry. IL-13, IL-1R1, IL-18, and BRP-39 knock out (KO) mice were utilized to assess the mechanism and relevance of BRP-39 in cigarette smoke- and HDM-induced airway inflammation.
Cigarette smoke exposure elicited a robust induction of BRP-39 but not the catalytically active chitinase, AMCase, in lung epithelial cells and alveolar macrophages of all mouse strains tested. Both BRP-39 and AMCase were increased in lung tissue after HDM exposure. Examining smoke-exposed IL-1R1, IL-18, and IL-13 deficient mice, BRP-39 induction was found to be IL-1 and not IL-18 or IL-13 dependent, while induction of BRP-39 by HDM was independent of IL-1 and IL-13. Despite the importance of BRP-39 in cellular inflammation in HDM-induced airway inflammation, BRP-39 was found to be redundant for cigarette smoke-induced airway inflammation and the adjuvant properties of cigarette smoke.
These data highlight the contrast between the importance of BRP-39 in HDM- and cigarette smoke-induced inflammation. While functionally important in HDM-induced inflammation, BRP-39 is a biomarker of cigarette smoke induced inflammation which is the byproduct of an IL-1 inflammatory pathway.
PMCID: PMC3079621  PMID: 21473774
7.  Safety and Reactogenicity of an MSP-1 Malaria Vaccine Candidate: A Randomized Phase Ib Dose-Escalation Trial in Kenyan Children 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2006;1(7):e32.
Our aim was to evaluate the safety, reactogenicity, and immunogenicity of an investigational malaria vaccine.
This was an age-stratified phase Ib, double-blind, randomized, controlled, dose-escalation trial. Children were recruited into one of three cohorts (dosage groups) and randomized in 2:1 fashion to receive either the test product or a comparator.
The study was conducted in a rural population in Kombewa Division, western Kenya.
Subjects were 135 children, aged 12–47 mo.
Subjects received 10, 25, or 50 μg of falciparum malaria protein 1 (FMP1) formulated in 100, 250, and 500 μL, respectively, of AS02A, or they received a comparator (Imovax® rabies vaccine).
Outcome Measures:
We performed safety and reactogenicity parameters and assessment of adverse events during solicited (7 d) and unsolicited (30 d) periods after each vaccination. Serious adverse events were monitored for 6 mo after the last vaccination.
Both vaccines were safe and well tolerated. FMP1/AS02A recipients experienced significantly more pain and injection-site swelling with a dose-effect relationship. Systemic reactogenicity was low at all dose levels. Hemoglobin levels remained stable and similar across arms. Baseline geometric mean titers were comparable in all groups. Anti-FMP1 antibody titers increased in a dose-dependent manner in subjects receiving FMP1/AS02A; no increase in anti-FMP1 titers occurred in subjects who received the comparator. By study end, subjects who received either 25 or 50 μg of FMP1 had similar antibody levels, which remained significantly higher than that of those who received the comparator or 10 μg of FMP1. A longitudinal mixed effects model showed a statistically significant effect of dosage level on immune response (F3,1047 = 10.78, or F3, 995 = 11.22, p < 0.001); however, the comparison of 25 μg and 50 μg recipients indicated no significant difference (F1,1047 = 0.05; p = 0.82).
The FMP1/AS02A vaccine was safe and immunogenic in malaria-exposed 12- to 47-mo-old children and the magnitude of immune response of the 25 and 50 μg doses was superior to that of the 10 μg dose.
Editorial Commentary
Background: Malaria is thought to kill between 1 and 2 million people each year in sub-Saharan Africa; most of these are young children under the age of five, who are particularly prone to developing clinical malaria because their immunity is not yet developed. Many groups of researchers around the world are developing candidate vaccines of different types that it is hoped would protect against malaria. One of these types is a “blood-stage” vaccine, which would prevent parasite multiplication in red blood cells. A candidate blood-stage vaccine is FMP1/AS02A, which is designed to raise an immune response against a particular protein (merozoite surface protein-1) on the surface of the blood-stage infectious form of the malaria parasite. In early-stage clinical trials performed in people not exposed to malaria (healthy volunteers in the United States) and in African adults who were exposed to malaria, this candidate vaccine has already been shown to be safe and to bring about an immune response. As part of the next stage in developing this vaccine, a group of researchers next wanted to see whether the vaccine was also safe and brought about an immune response in the population most in need of a vaccine: young children living in an African region with very intense malaria transmission. Therefore, as reported here, this group performed a small trial in western Kenya, recruiting 135 children under 5 y of age to receive either the FMP1/AS02A vaccine (at three different doses) or rabies vaccine for comparison (thus ensuring that children in the control arm got some benefit from being in the trial). The outcomes that the researchers were interested in were primarily adverse events, which they categorized using a standard questionnaire at up to 7 d after vaccination; unsolicited events reported up to 30 d after vaccination; and, finally, any serious events occurring up to 8 mo later. The researchers also examined antibody responses to the FMP1/AS02A vaccine.
What this trial shows: Participants who received the FMP1/AS02A vaccine (as compared to the rabies vaccine) experienced more immediate symptoms, such as pain and swelling at the injection site. Most participants reported unsolicited events during follow-up, but the proportion of participants with adverse events did not seem to be different between the FMP1/AS02A vaccine groups and the rabies vaccine group. Unsolicited outcomes that were reported included, for example, clinical malaria, upper respiratory tract infections, and a few events that were thought to be related to the vaccines, such as fever and eczema. A few serious adverse events occurred up to 8 mo after vaccination, but the numbers did not seem to be different between the FMP1/AS02A and rabies vaccine groups, and the events were not judged to be related to vaccination. Finally, participants who received the FMP1/AS02A vaccine raised an antibody response to the vaccine, which was highest in those who received the highest vaccine dose. The researchers concluded that this vaccine was safe and brought about an immune response in the group of malaria-exposed children studied.
Strengths and limitations: The trial was conducted in a population that is likely to benefit from the vaccine, if it is shown to be effective in further studies. Therefore, the data obtained from this study will be informative in helping to design future trials on FMP1/AS02A. The randomization procedures used in this study were appropriate, and in particular participants of different ages were equally distributed to the different intervention groups, helping to minimize bias. Procedures were also set up to prevent participants and staff giving the vaccines and collecting data from knowing which interventions participants had received. However, the number of participants recruited into the trial was small, and it therefore was not powered to detect anything other than large differences in rates of adverse events between the study groups.
Contribution to the evidence: This study extends evidence from prior trials on the safety and immunogenicity of the FMP1/AS02A vaccine to a population that is representative of those most in need of an effective vaccine—young African children. The results suggest that the vaccine candidate should undergo further evaluation in trials examining vaccine efficacy in a similar population.
PMCID: PMC1851726  PMID: 17124529
8.  Safety and Allele-Specific Immunogenicity of a Malaria Vaccine in Malian Adults: Results of a Phase I Randomized Trial 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2006;1(7):e34.
The objectives were to evaluate the safety, reactogenicity, and allele-specific immunogenicity of the blood-stage malaria vaccine FMP1/AS02A in adults exposed to seasonal malaria and the impact of natural infection on vaccine-induced antibody levels.
We conducted a randomized, double-blind, controlled phase I clinical trial.
Bandiagara, Mali, West Africa, is a rural town with intense seasonal transmission of Plasmodium falciparum malaria.
Forty healthy, malaria-experienced Malian adults aged 18–55 y were enrolled.
The FMP1/AS02A malaria vaccine is a 42-kDa recombinant protein based on the carboxy-terminal end of merozoite surface protein-1 (MSP-142) from the 3D7 clone of P. falciparum, adjuvanted with AS02A. The control vaccine was a killed rabies virus vaccine (Imovax). Participants were randomized to receive either FMP1/AS02A or rabies vaccine at 0, 1, and 2 mo and were followed for 1 y.
Outcome Measures:
Solicited and unsolicited adverse events and allele-specific antibody responses to recombinant MSP-142 and its subunits derived from P. falciparum strains homologous and heterologous to the 3D7 vaccine strain were measured.
Transient local pain and swelling were more common in the malaria vaccine group than in the control group (11/20 versus 3/20 and 10/20 versus 6/20, respectively). MSP-142 antibody levels rose during the malaria transmission season in the control group, but were significantly higher in malaria vaccine recipients after the second immunization and remained higher after the third immunization relative both to baseline and to the control group. Immunization with the malaria vaccine was followed by significant increases in antibodies recognizing three diverse MSP-142 alleles and their subunits.
FMP1/AS02A was well tolerated and highly immunogenic in adults exposed to intense seasonal malaria transmission and elicited immune responses to genetically diverse parasite clones. Anti-MSP-142 antibody levels followed a seasonal pattern that was significantly augmented and prolonged by the malaria vaccine.
Editorial Commentary
Background: In sub-Saharan Africa the burden of death and disease from malaria is particularly severe. Most affected are young children under the age of five, in whom natural immunity against the malaria parasite has not yet developed. There are not yet any approved vaccines that would reduce this burden, although many research groups are currently developing potential vaccines. One such candidate vaccine is FMP1/AS02A. This vaccine is designed to trigger an immune response against a protein (merozoite surface protein-1, or MSP-1) found on the surface of the infectious, blood-stage form of the malaria parasite. Early-stage clinical trials have already been performed in healthy people in the United States, who were not exposed to clinical malaria, and in Kenyan adults who are exposed to malaria throughout the year. These studies did not identify any safety concerns regarding the candidate vaccine, which meant that it could progress further in clinical testing. As part of this next stage, a group of researchers wanted to examine the safety and ability of the vaccine to boost immune responses in an area of sub-Saharan Africa where people are not exposed to malaria throughout the year, but rather only in the wet season. The trial reported here was carried out in northeast Mali, in which 40 adults received either the FMP1/AS02A vaccine or a rabies vaccine for comparison, just at the start of the malaria transmission season. The researchers primarily looked at safety outcomes, collecting data on certain specific signs or symptoms up to 8 d after immunization, other reported symptoms up to 31 d after immunization, and any serious adverse events during a follow-up period of 364 d after immunization. The researchers also examined antibody levels in the participants' blood against the MSP-1 protein.
What this trial shows: The researchers found that participants receiving the FMP1/AS02A vaccine had more immediate symptoms at the injection site (for example, pain or swelling) than the comparison group did. Other general symptoms, both solicited and unsolicited, such as headache, muscle aches, fever, and infections, were also more common in the malaria vaccine group than in the group receiving the rabies vaccine. There were two serious adverse events in the vaccine group, but these were not judged to be related to the vaccination. Antibody levels against the MSP-1 protein increased in both study groups through the course of the rainy season (when individuals would be likely exposed to bites from malaria-infected mosquitoes) and subsequently fell after the end of the malaria transmission season. However, participants receiving the vaccine had higher antibody responses at all timepoints measured; the differences were statistically significant at some timepoints, but not at others. Finally, the researchers looked at antibody reactions against three different variants of the MSP-1 protein in sera from participants receiving the candidate vaccine and found that the sera reacted similarly to all three variants.
Strengths and limitations: The study protocol followed established procedures for phase I clinical trials of this type, which allows the data to be compared across studies. Randomization procedures were appropriate, and steps were taken to blind participants in the trial, as well as those assessing outcomes, to the intervention participants received. A limitation of this study, which can apply to other phase I studies in general, is that small numbers of participants were recruited. Therefore, the trial was not powered to detect statistically significant differences between participant groups. It is also not clear whether the higher antibody levels seen in the participants receiving the FMP1/AS02A vaccine would be biologically significant (that is, act to prevent clinical malaria cases), a question that would need to be addressed in further trials.
Contribution to the evidence: The safety results from this study are similar to those from other trials and confirm that no safety concerns have thus far been identified regarding the FMP1/AS02A vaccine, which has now progressed to efficacy testing. This study was also conducted in a population exposed to seasonal malaria, whereas previous trials had been done among people exposed to malaria year-round. Finally, results from the trial also suggest that this vaccine induces antibodies that recognize genetically diverse forms of the vaccine antigen.
PMCID: PMC1851722  PMID: 17124530
9.  The impact of a consortium of fermented milk strains on the gut microbiome of gnotobiotic mice and monozygotic twins 
Science Translational Medicine  2011;3(106):106ra106.
Understanding how the human gut microbiota and host are impacted by probiotic bacterial strains requires carefully controlled studies in humans and in mouse models of the gut ecosystem where potentially confounding variables that are difficult to control in humans can be constrained. Therefore, we characterized the fecal microbiomes and metatranscriptomes of adult female monozygotic twin pairs through repeated sampling 4 weeks prior to, 7 weeks during, and 4 weeks following consumption of a commercially available fermented milk product (FMP) containing a consortium of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis, two strains of Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, and Streptococcus thermophilus. In addition, gnotobiotic mice harboring a 15-species model human gut microbiota whose genomes contain 58,399 known or predicted protein-coding genes were studied prior to and after gavage with all five sequenced FMP strains. No significant changes in bacterial species composition or in the proportional representation of genes encoding known enzymes were observed in the feces of humans consuming the FMP. Only minimal changes in microbiota configuration were noted in mice following single or repeated gavage with the FMP consortium. However, RNA-Seq analysis of fecal samples and follow-up mass spectrometry of urinary metabolites disclosed that introducing the FMP strains into mice results in significant changes in expression of microbiome-encoded enzymes involved in numerous metabolic pathways, most prominently those related to carbohydrate metabolism. B. animalis subsp. lactis, the dominant persistent member of the FMP consortium in gnotobiotic mice, upregulates a locus in vivo that is involved in the catabolism of xylooligosaccharides, a class of glycans widely distributed in fruits, vegetables and other foods, underscoring the importance of these sugars to this bacterial species. The human fecal metatranscriptome exhibited significant changes, confined to the period of FMP consumption, that mirror changes in gnotobiotic mice, including those related to plant polysaccharide metabolism. These experiments illustrate a translational research pipeline for characterizing the effects of fermented milk products on the human gut microbiome.
PMCID: PMC3303609  PMID: 22030749
10.  Bruchpilot and Synaptotagmin collaborate to drive rapid glutamate release and active zone differentiation 
The active zone (AZ) protein Bruchpilot (Brp) is essential for rapid glutamate release at Drosophila melanogaster neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). Quantal time course and measurements of action potential-waveform suggest that presynaptic fusion mechanisms are altered in brp null mutants (brp69). This could account for their increased evoked excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC) delay and rise time (by about 1 ms). To test the mechanism of release protraction at brp69 AZs, we performed knock-down of Synaptotagmin-1 (Syt) via RNAi (sytKD) in wildtype (wt), brp69 and rab3 null mutants (rab3rup), where Brp is concentrated at a small number of AZs. At wt and rab3rup synapses, sytKD lowered EPSC amplitude while increasing rise time and delay, consistent with the role of Syt as a release sensor. In contrast, sytKD did not alter EPSC amplitude at brp69 synapses, but shortened delay and rise time. In fact, following sytKD, these kinetic properties were strikingly similar in wt and brp69, which supports the notion that Syt protracts release at brp69synapses. To gain insight into this surprising role of Syt at brp69 AZs, we analyzed the structural and functional differentiation of synaptic boutons at the NMJ. At ‘tonic’ type Ib motor neurons, distal boutons contain more AZs, more Brp proteins per AZ and show elevated and accelerated glutamate release compared to proximal boutons. The functional differentiation between proximal and distal boutons is Brp-dependent and reduced after sytKD. Notably, sytKD boutons are smaller, contain fewer Brp positive AZs and these are of similar number in proximal and distal boutons. In addition, super-resolution imaging via dSTORM revealed that sytKD increases the number and alters the spatial distribution of Brp molecules at AZs, while the gradient of Brp proteins per AZ is diminished. In summary, these data demonstrate that normal structural and functional differentiation of Drosophila AZs requires concerted action of Brp and Syt.
PMCID: PMC4318344
Bruchpilot; active zone; neurotransmitter release; synaptic delay; presynaptic differentiation; synaptotagmin; dSTORM
11.  Establishment of a quantitative PCR system for discriminating chitinase-like proteins: catalytically inactive breast regression protein-39 and Ym1 are constitutive genes in mouse lung 
BMC Molecular Biology  2014;15:23.
Mice and humans produce chitinase-like proteins (CLPs), which are highly homologous to chitinases but lack chitinolytic activity. Mice express primarily three CLPs, including breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39) [chitinase 3-like-1 (Chi3l1) or 38-kDa glycoprotein (gp38k)], Ym1 (Chi3l3) and Ym2 (Chi3l4). Recently, CLPs have attracted considerable attention due to their increased expression in a number of pathological conditions, including asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and malignant tumors. Although the exact functions of CLPs are largely unknown, the significance of their increased expression levels during pathophysiological states needs to be determined. The quantification of BRP-39, Ym1 and Ym2 is an important step in gaining insight into the in vivo regulation of the CLPs.
We constructed a standard DNA for quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) by containing three CLPs target fragments and five reference genes cDNA in a one-to-one ratio. We evaluated this system by analyzing the eight target cDNA sequences. Tissue cDNAs obtained by reverse transcription from total RNA from four embryonic stages and eight adult tissues were analyzed using the qPCR system with the standard DNA.
We established a qPCR system detecting CLPs and comparing their expression levels with those of five reference genes using the same scale in mouse tissues. We found that BRP-39 and Ym1 were abundant in the mouse lung, whereas Ym2 mRNA was abundant in the stomach, followed by lung. The expression levels of BRP-39 and Ym1 in the mouse lung were higher than those of two active chitinases and were comparable to glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, a housekeeping gene which is constitutively expressed in all tissues.
Our results indicate that catalytically inactive BRP-39 and Ym1 are constitutive genes in normal mouse lung.
PMCID: PMC4195342  PMID: 25294623
BRP-39; Chitinase; Chitinase-like protein; Gene expression analysis; Quantitative real-time PCR system; Ym1; Ym2
12.  Chemical genetic dissection of brassinosteroid-ethylene interaction 
Molecular plant  2008;1(2):368-379.
We undertook a chemical genetics screen to identify chemical inhibitors of brassinosteroid (BR) action. From a chemical library of 10,000 small molecules, one compound was found to inhibit hypocotyl length and activate the expression of a BR-repressed reportergene (CPD-GUS) in Arabidopsis, and it was named brassinopride (BRP). These effects of BRP could be reversed by co-treatment with brassinolide, suggesting that BRP either directly or indirectly inhibits BR biosynthesis. Interestingly, the compound causes exaggerated apical hooks, similar to that caused by ethylene treatment. The BRP-induced apical hook phenotype can be blocked by a chemical inhibitor of ethylene perception or an ethylene insensitive mutant, suggesting that, in addition to inhibiting BR, BRP activates ethylene response. Analysis of BRP analogs provided clues about structural features important for its effects on two separate targets in the BR and ethylene pathways. Analyses of the responses of various BR and ethylene mutants to BRP, ethylene, and BR treatments revealed modes of crosstalk between ethylene and BR in dark-grown seedlings. Our results suggest that active downstream BR signaling, but not BR synthesis or a BR gradient, is required for ethylene-induced apical hook formation. The BRP-related compounds can be useful tools for manipulating plant growth and studying hormone interactions.
PMCID: PMC2975526  PMID: 19825546
13.  Breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39) promotes dendritic cell maturation in vitro and enhances Th2 inflammation in murine model of asthma 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2012;33(12):1525-1532.
To determine the roles of breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39) in regulating dendritic cell maturation and in pathology of acute asthma.
Mouse bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) were prepared, and infected with adenovirus over-expressing BRP-39. Ovalbumin (OVA)-induced murine model of acute asthma was made in female BALB/c mice by sensitizing and challenging with chicken OVA and Imject Alum. The transfected BMDCs were adoptively transferred into OVA-treated mice via intravenous injection. Airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), inflammation and pulmonary histopathology were characterized.
The expression of BRP-39 mRNA and protein was significantly increased in lung tissues of OVA-treated mice. The BMDCs infected with adenovirus BRP-39 exhibited greater maturation and higher activity in vitro. Adoptive transfer of the cells into OVA-treated mice significantly augmented OVA-induced AHR and eosinophilic inflammation. Meanwhile, BRP-39 further enhanced the production of OVA-induced Th2 cytokines IL-4, IL-5 and IL-13, but significantly attenuated OVA-induced IFN-γ production in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid.
In OVA-induced murine model of acute asthma, BRP-39 is over-expressed in lung tissue and augments Th2 inflammatory response and AHR. BRP-39 promotes dendritic cell maturation in vitro. Therefore, BRP-39 may be a potential therapeutic target of asthma.
PMCID: PMC4001840  PMID: 23178461
asthma; ovalbumin; bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs); breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39); YKL-40; Th2 inflammation; airway hyperresponsiveness; bronchoalveolar lavage fluid
14.  Relating smoking, obesity, insulin resistance and ovarian biomarker changes to the final menstrual period (FMP) 
In order to determine if smoking, obesity, and insulin resistance mediated age at final menstrual period (FMP), we examined anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), inhibin B, and follicle-stimulating hormone as biomarkers of changing follicle status and ovarian aging. We performed a longitudinal data analysis from a cohort of premenopausal women followed to their FMP. Our results found that smokers had an earlier age at FMP (p<0.003) and a more rapid decline in their AMH slope relative to age at FMP (p<0.002). Smokers had a lower baseline inhibin B level relative to age at the FMP than non-smokers (p=0.002). Increasing insulin resistance was associated with a shorter time to FMP (p<0.003) and associations of obesity and time to FMP were observed (p=0.004, in model with FSH). Change in ovarian biomarkers did not mediate the time to FMP. We found that smoking was associated with age at FMP and modified associations of AMH and inhibin B with age at FMP. Insulin resistance was associated with shorter time to FMP independent of the biomarkers. Interventions targeting smoking and insulin resistance could curtail the undue advancement of reproductive aging.
PMCID: PMC3296522  PMID: 20738279
obesity; insulin resistance; smoking; anti-Müllerian hormone; inhibin B; menopause
15.  The bioenergetic signature of isogenic colon cancer cells predicts the cell death response to treatment with 3-bromopyruvate, iodoacetate or 5-fluorouracil 
Metabolic reprogramming resulting in enhanced glycolysis is a phenotypic trait of cancer cells, which is imposed by the tumor microenvironment and is linked to the down-regulation of the catalytic subunit of the mitochondrial H+-ATPase (β-F1-ATPase). The bioenergetic signature is a protein ratio (β-F1-ATPase/GAPDH), which provides an estimate of glucose metabolism in tumors and serves as a prognostic indicator for cancer patients. Targeting energetic metabolism could be a viable alternative to conventional anticancer chemotherapies. Herein, we document that the bioenergetic signature of isogenic colon cancer cells provides a gauge to predict the cell-death response to the metabolic inhibitors, 3-bromopyruvate (3BrP) and iodoacetate (IA), and the anti-metabolite, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU).
The bioenergetic signature of the cells was determined by western blotting. Aerobic glycolysis was determined from lactate production rates. The cell death was analyzed by fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. Cellular ATP concentrations were determined using bioluminiscence. Pearson's correlation coefficient was applied to assess the relationship between the bioenergetic signature and the cell death response. In vivo tumor regression activities of the compounds were assessed using a xenograft mouse model injected with the highly glycolytic HCT116 colocarcinoma cells.
We demonstrate that the bioenergetic signature of isogenic HCT116 cancer cells inversely correlates with the potential to execute necrosis in response to 3BrP or IA treatment. Conversely, the bioenergetic signature directly correlates with the potential to execute apoptosis in response to 5-FU treatment in the same cells. However, despite the large differences observed in the in vitro cell-death responses associated with 3BrP, IA and 5-FU, the in vivo tumor regression activities of these agents were comparable.
Overall, we suggest that the determination of the bioenergetic signature of colon carcinomas could provide a tool for predicting the therapeutic response to various chemotherapeutic strategies aimed at combating tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC3045315  PMID: 21303518
16.  A yeast phenomic model for the gene interaction network modulating CFTR-ΔF508 protein biogenesis 
Genome Medicine  2012;4(12):103.
The overall influence of gene interaction in human disease is unknown. In cystic fibrosis (CF) a single allele of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR-ΔF508) accounts for most of the disease. In cell models, CFTR-ΔF508 exhibits defective protein biogenesis and degradation rather than proper trafficking to the plasma membrane where CFTR normally functions. Numerous genes function in the biogenesis of CFTR and influence the fate of CFTR-ΔF508. However it is not known whether genetic variation in such genes contributes to disease severity in patients. Nor is there an easy way to study how numerous gene interactions involving CFTR-ΔF would manifest phenotypically.
To gain insight into the function and evolutionary conservation of a gene interaction network that regulates biogenesis of a misfolded ABC transporter, we employed yeast genetics to develop a 'phenomic' model, in which the CFTR-ΔF508-equivalent residue of a yeast homolog is mutated (Yor1-ΔF670), and where the genome is scanned quantitatively for interaction. We first confirmed that Yor1-ΔF undergoes protein misfolding and has reduced half-life, analogous to CFTR-ΔF. Gene interaction was then assessed quantitatively by growth curves for approximately 5,000 double mutants, based on alteration in the dose response to growth inhibition by oligomycin, a toxin extruded from the cell at the plasma membrane by Yor1.
From a comparative genomic perspective, yeast gene interactions influencing Yor1-ΔF biogenesis were representative of human homologs previously found to modulate processing of CFTR-ΔF in mammalian cells. Additional evolutionarily conserved pathways were implicated by the study, and a ΔF-specific pro-biogenesis function of the recently discovered ER membrane complex (EMC) was evident from the yeast screen. This novel function was validated biochemically by siRNA of an EMC ortholog in a human cell line expressing CFTR-ΔF508. The precision and accuracy of quantitative high throughput cell array phenotyping (Q-HTCP), which captures tens of thousands of growth curves simultaneously, provided powerful resolution to measure gene interaction on a phenomic scale, based on discrete cell proliferation parameters.
We propose phenomic analysis of Yor1-ΔF as a model for investigating gene interaction networks that can modulate cystic fibrosis disease severity. Although the clinical relevance of the Yor1-ΔF gene interaction network for cystic fibrosis remains to be defined, the model appears to be informative with respect to human cell models of CFTR-ΔF. Moreover, the general strategy of yeast phenomics can be employed in a systematic manner to model gene interaction for other diseases relating to pathologies that result from protein misfolding or potentially any disease involving evolutionarily conserved genetic pathways.
PMCID: PMC3906889  PMID: 23270647
Gene interaction; Genetic buffering; Genotype-phenotype complexity; Phenomics; Quantitative high throughput cell array phenotyping (Q-HTCP); Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR); ER membrane complex (EMC); ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter; Membrane protein biogenesis; Yeast model of human disease; Comparative functional genomics
17.  Candida albicans SUR7 contributes to secretion, biofilm formation, and macrophage killing 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:133.
Candida albicans SUR7 has been shown to be required for plasma membrane organization and cell wall synthesis, but its role in virulence is not known. Using a bioinformatics strategy, we previously identified several novel putative secretion pathway proteins potentially involved in virulence, including the C. albicans homolog of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae endocytosis-related protein Sur7p. We therefore generated a C. albicans sur7Δ null mutant and examined its contribution to key virulence attributes.
Structurally, the C. albicans sur7Δ mutant was impaired in response to filamentation-inducing conditions, and formed aberrant hyphae with extensive accumulation of plasma membrane-derived structures within the cell. Absence of SUR7 resulted in a temperature-sensitive growth defect at high temperatures (42°C), which was partially rescued by addition of NaCl. We next examined the role of the SUR7 paralog C. albicans FMP45 in this temperature-sensitive phenotype. Analysis of C. albicans Fmp45p-GFP demonstrated co-localization of Fmp45p with Sur7p and increased fluorescence in the plasma membrane in the presence of high salt. We next focused on key virulence-related phenotypes. The C. albicans sur7Δ null mutant exhibited secretory defects: reduced lipase secretion, and increased levels of secreted Sap2p. The null mutant was hyper-susceptible to sub-inhibitory concentrations of caspofungin, but not amphotericin B and 5-fluorocytosine. Functionally, the sur7Δ mutant demonstrated increased adhesion to polystyrene and of note, was markedly defective in biofilm formation. In an in vitro macrophage model of virulence, the sur7Δ mutant was impaired in macrophage killing.
Plasma membrane and cell wall organization are important for cell morphology, and alterations of these structures contributed to impairment of several key virulence-associated phenotypes in the C. albicans sur7Δ mutant.
PMCID: PMC2887802  PMID: 20433738
18.  A Novel Protein Kinase-Like Domain in a Selenoprotein, Widespread in the Tree of Life 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32138.
Selenoproteins serve important functions in many organisms, usually providing essential oxidoreductase enzymatic activity, often for defense against toxic xenobiotic substances. Most eukaryotic genomes possess a small number of these proteins, usually not more than 20. Selenoproteins belong to various structural classes, often related to oxidoreductase function, yet a few of them are completely uncharacterised.
Here, the structural and functional prediction for the uncharacterised selenoprotein O (SELO) is presented. Using bioinformatics tools, we predict that SELO protein adopts a three-dimensional fold similar to protein kinases. Furthermore, we argue that despite the lack of conservation of the “classic” catalytic aspartate residue of the archetypical His-Arg-Asp motif, SELO kinases might have retained catalytic phosphotransferase activity, albeit with an atypical active site. Lastly, the role of the selenocysteine residue is considered and the possibility of an oxidoreductase-regulated kinase function for SELO is discussed.
The novel kinase prediction is discussed in the context of functional data on SELO orthologues in model organisms, FMP40 a.k.a.YPL222W (yeast), and ydiU (bacteria). Expression data from bacteria and yeast suggest a role in oxidative stress response. Analysis of genomic neighbourhoods of SELO homologues in the three domains of life points toward a role in regulation of ABC transport, in oxidative stress response, or in basic metabolism regulation. Among bacteria possessing SELO homologues, there is a significant over-representation of aquatic organisms, also of aerobic ones. The selenocysteine residue in SELO proteins occurs only in few members of this protein family, including proteins from Metazoa, and few small eukaryotes (Ostreococcus, stramenopiles). It is also demonstrated that enterobacterial mchC proteins involved in maturation of bactericidal antibiotics, microcins, form a distant subfamily of the SELO proteins.
The new protein structural domain, with a putative kinase function assigned, expands the known kinome and deserves experimental determination of its biological role within the cell-signaling network.
PMCID: PMC3281104  PMID: 22359664
19.  Murine Immune Responses to Liver-Stage Antigen 1 Protein FMP011, a Malaria Vaccine Candidate, Delivered with Adjuvant AS01B or AS02A▿  
Infection and Immunity  2006;75(2):838-845.
Liver-stage antigen 1 (LSA1) is expressed by Plasmodium falciparum only during the intrahepatic cell stage of the parasite's development. Immunoepidemiological studies in regions where malaria is endemic suggested an association between the level of LSA1-specific humoral and cell-mediated immune responses and susceptibility to clinical malaria. A recombinant LSA1 protein, FMP011, has been manufactured as a preerythrocytic vaccine to induce an immune response that would have the effect of controlling parasitemia and disease in humans. To evaluate the immunogenicity of FMP011, we analyzed the immune response of three inbred strains of mice to antigen immunization using two different adjuvant formulations, AS01B and AS02A. We report here the ability of BALB/c and A/J mice, but not C57BL/6J mice, to mount FMP011-specific humoral (antibody titer) and cellular (gamma interferon [IFN-γ] production) responses following immunization with FMP011 formulated in AS01B or AS02A. Immunization of BALB/c and A/J mice with FMP011/AS01B induced more antigen-specific IFN-γ-producing splenocytes than immunization with FMP011/AS02A. A slightly higher titer of antibody was induced using AS02A than AS01B in both strains. C57BL/6J mice did not respond with any detectable FMP011-specific IFN-γ splenocytes or antibody when immunized with FMP011 in AS01B or AS02A. Intracellular staining of cells isolated from FMP011/AS01B-immunized BALB/c mice indicated that CD4+ cells, but not CD8+ cells, were the main IFN-γ-producing splenocyte. However, inclusion of blocking anti-CD4+ antibody during the in vitro restimulation ELISpot analysis failed to completely abolish IFN-γ production, indicating that while CD4+ T cells were the major source of IFN-γ, other cell types also were involved.
PMCID: PMC1828476  PMID: 17101665
20.  Autotaxin and LPA Receptors Represent Potential Molecular Targets for the Radiosensitization of Murine Glioma through Effects on Tumor Vasculature 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22182.
Despite wide margins and high dose irradiation, unresectable malignant glioma (MG) is less responsive to radiation and is uniformly fatal. We previously found that cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) is a molecular target for radiosensitizing cancer through the vascular endothelium. Autotaxin (ATX) and lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) receptors are downstream from cPLA2 and highly expressed in MG. Using the ATX and LPA receptor inhibitor, α-bromomethylene phosphonate LPA (BrP-LPA), we studied ATX and LPA receptors as potential molecular targets for the radiosensitization of tumor vasculature in MG. Treatment of Human Umbilical Endothelial cells (HUVEC) and mouse brain microvascular cells bEND.3 with 5 µmol/L BrP-LPA and 3 Gy irradiation showed decreased clonogenic survival, tubule formation, and migration. Exogenous addition of LPA showed radioprotection that was abrogated in the presence of BrP-LPA. In co-culture experiments using bEND.3 and mouse GL-261 glioma cells, treatment with BrP-LPA reduced Akt phosphorylation in both irradiated cell lines and decreased survival and migration of irradiated GL-261 cells. Using siRNA to knock down LPA receptors LPA1, LPA2 or LPA3 in HUVEC, we demonstrated that knockdown of LPA2 but neither LPA1 nor LPA3 led to increased viability and proliferation. However, knockdown of LPA1 and LPA3 but not LPA2 resulted in complete abrogation of tubule formation implying that LPA1 and LPA3 on endothelial cells are likely targets of BrP-LPA radiosensitizing effect. Using heterotopic tumor models of GL-261, mice treated with BrP-LPA and irradiation showed a tumor growth delay of 6.8 days compared to mice treated with irradiation alone indicating that inhibition of ATX and LPA receptors may significantly improve malignant glioma response to radiation therapy. These findings identify ATX and LPA receptors as molecular targets for the development of radiosensitizers for MG.
PMCID: PMC3140496  PMID: 21799791
21.  Factors Related to Age at Natural Menopause: Longitudinal Analyses From SWAN 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2013;178(1):70-83.
Early age at the natural final menstrual period (FMP) or menopause has been associated with numerous health outcomes and might be a marker of future ill health. However, potentially modifiable factors affecting age at menopause have not been examined longitudinally in large, diverse populations. The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) followed 3,302 initially premenopausal and early perimenopausal women from 7 US sites and 5 racial/ethnic groups, using annual data (1996–2007) and Cox proportional hazards models to assess the relation of time-invariant and time-varying sociodemographic, lifestyle, and health factors to age at natural FMP. Median age at the FMP was 52.54 years (n = 1,483 observed natural FMPs). Controlling for sociodemographic, lifestyle, and health factors, we found that racial/ethnic groups did not differ in age at the FMP. Higher educational level, prior oral contraceptive use, and higher weight at baseline, as well as being employed, not smoking, consuming alcohol, having less physical activity, and having better self-rated health over follow-up, were significantly associated with later age at the FMP. These results suggest that age at the natural FMP reflects a complex interrelation of health and socioeconomic factors, which could partially explain the relation of late age at FMP to reduced morbidity and mortality.
PMCID: PMC3698989  PMID: 23788671
age; education; ethnicity; menopause; oral contraceptives; race; smoking; weight
22.  Brazilian Red Propolis Induces Apoptosis-Like Cell Death and Decreases Migration Potential in Bladder Cancer Cells 
Natural products continue to be an invaluable resource of anticancer drug discovery in recent years. Propolis is known for its biological activities such as antimicrobial and antitumor effects. This study assessed the effects of Brazilian red propolis (BRP) on apoptosis and migration potential in human bladder cancer cells. The effect of BRP ethanolic extract (25, 50, and 100 μg/mL) on 5637 cells was determined by MTT, LIVE/DEAD, and migration (scratch assay) assays. Apoptosis induction was investigated through flow cytometry and gene expression profile was investigated by qRT-PCR. Results showed cytotoxicity on MTT and LIVE/DEAD assays, with IC50 values of 95 μg/mL in 24 h of treatment. Cellular migration of 5637 cells was significantly inhibited through lower doses of BRP ethanolic extract (25 and 50 μg/mL). Flow cytometry analyses showed that BRP induced cytotoxicity through apoptosis-like mechanisms in 5637 cells and qRT-PCR revealed increased levels of Bax/Bcl-2 ratio, p53, AIF, and antioxidant enzymes genes. Data suggest that BRP may be a potential source of drugs to bladder cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC4235187  PMID: 25530785
23.  A systematic screen for protein–lipid interactions in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Lipids are important cellular metabolites, with a wide range of structural and functional diversity. Many operate as signaling molecules. Lipids though have rarely been studied in large-scale interaction screen; they are poorly represented in current biological networks.Here, we describe the use of miniaturized lipid–arrays for the large-scale study of protein–lipid interactions. In yeast, we show general feasibility with a systematic screen implying 172 proteins. We report 530 protein–lipid associations, the majority is novel and several were validated using other techniques.The screen uncovers numerous insights into lipid function in yeast and equivalent systems in humans. It revealed (i) previously undetected cryptic lipid-binding domains, (ii) series of new cellular targets for sphingolipids and (iii) new ligands for some PH domains that can cooperatively bind additional lipids and work as coincidence sensor to integrate both phosphatidylinositol phosphates and sphingolipid signaling pathways.The significant number of biological insights uncovered shows that even major classes of metabolites have been insufficiently studied. This illustrates the general relevance of such systematic screens and calls for further system-wide analyses.
Deciphering the molecular mechanisms behind cellular processes requires the systematic charting of the multitude of interactions between all cellular components. While protein–protein and protein–DNA networks have been the subject of many systematic surveys, other critically important cellular components, such as lipids, have to date rarely been studied in large-scale interaction screens. Growing numbers of lipids are known to operate as signaling molecules. The importance of protein–lipid interactions is evident from the variety of protein domains that have evolved to bind particular lipids (Lemmon, 2008 #392) and from the large list of disorders, such as cancer and bipolar disorder, arising from altered protein–lipid interactions. The current understanding of protein–lipid recognition comes from the study of a limited number of lipids, principally PtdInsPs (Zhu et al, 2001 #16), and lipid-binding domains (LBDs) in isolation (Dowler et al, 2000 #81; Yu and Lemmon, 2001 #396; Yu et al, 2004 #31). For other signaling lipids, such as sphingolipids, intracellular targets and molecular mechanisms are only partially understood (Hannun and Obeid, 2008 #397). The importance of lipids in biological processes and their under-representation in current biological networks suggest the need for systematic, unbiased biochemical screens.
To systematically study protein–lipid interactions, we developed miniaturized arrays that contained sets of 56 lipids covering the main lipid classes in yeast. We used the arrays to determine the binding profiles of 172 soluble proteins. The selection included proteins that contained one or several predicted LBD that were lipid regulated or enzymes involved in lipid metabolism (Figure 1). We obtained 530 protein–lipid interactions (accuracy and coverage: 61 and 60%, respectively). More than half were supported by additional experimental evidences obtained from a large validation effort using a variety of biochemical and cell biology approaches, and the integration of a data set of genetic interactions (Figure 1). As a substantial fraction (45%) of the analyzed proteins were conserved in humans, the protein–lipid data set will have functional implications for higher eukaryotes and thus for human biology.
Overall, 68% of all interactions were novel or unexpected from either protein sequences or known LBDs specificities. We discovered cryptic LBDs that were previously undetected in Ecm25 (a RhoGAP) and Ira2 (a RasGAP). We also identified a set of proteins that bound sphingolipids, a class of bioactive lipids that play important signaling functions in yeast and higher eukaryotes. The exact mode of action for these lipids remains elusive and the data set points to series of new cellular targets. We identified 63 proteins, involved in endocytosis, cell polarity and lipid metabolism that interacted with sphingoid long-chain bases (LCBs), ceramides or phosphorylated LCBs (Figure 5).
Despite the importance of sphingolipids in signaling processes, only a few domains, such as START or Saposins, have been reported to specifically bind these lipids in higher eukaryotes, and none of them have been found in yeast. Interestingly, almost 60% of proteins binding to phosphorylated LCBs in our assay also contained a pleckstrin homology (PH) domain and bound PtdInsPs (Figure 5). This suggests some PH domains might have unanticipated ligands and also have a function in sphingolipid recognition. We showed, using a variety of biochemical and cell-based assays, that the PH domain of Slm1, a component of the TORC2 signaling pathway (Fadri et al, 2005 #429), can bind PtdIns(4,5)P2 and sphingolipid cooperatively. The structure of Slm1-PH, which we solved by X-ray crystallography at 2 Å resolution, suggests the presence of two positively charged binding pockets for anionic lipids. These results indicate that the PH domain of Slm1 might work as a coincidence sensor to integrate both PtdInsP and sphingolipid signaling pathways. This reinforces the emerging notion that cooperative mechanisms have important functions in PH domains functioning (Maffucci and Falasca, 2001 #528). These mechanisms initially described between PtdInsPs and proteins can now be extended to new lipid classes, illustrating the benefit of unbiased and systematic analyses.
This work shows the feasibility and benefits of large-scale analyses combining biochemical arrays and live-cell imaging for charting protein–lipid interactions. Accurate representations of biological processes require systematic charting of the physical and functional links between all cellular components. There is a clear need to expand molecular interaction space from proteome- to metabolome-wide efforts and of systematic classifications of bioactive molecules based on their binding profiles. The data provided here represents an excellent resource to enhance the understanding of lipids function in eukaryotic systems.
Protein–metabolite networks are central to biological systems, but are incompletely understood. Here, we report a screen to catalog protein–lipid interactions in yeast. We used arrays of 56 metabolites to measure lipid-binding fingerprints of 172 proteins, including 91 with predicted lipid-binding domains. We identified 530 protein–lipid associations, the majority of which are novel. To show the data set's biological value, we studied further several novel interactions with sphingolipids, a class of conserved bioactive lipids with an elusive mode of action. Integration of live-cell imaging suggests new cellular targets for these molecules, including several with pleckstrin homology (PH) domains. Validated interactions with Slm1, a regulator of actin polarization, show that PH domains can have unexpected lipid-binding specificities and can act as coincidence sensors for both phosphatidylinositol phosphates and phosphorylated sphingolipids.
PMCID: PMC3010107  PMID: 21119626
interactome; lipid–array; network; pleckstrin homology domains; sphingolipids
24.  A Bromodomain-Containing Host Protein Mediates the Nuclear Importation of a Satellite RNA of Cucumber Mosaic Virus 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(4):1890-1896.
Replication of the satellite RNA (satRNA) of Cucumber Mosaic Virus is dependent on replicase proteins of helper virus (HV). However, we recently demonstrated that like with Potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd), a satRNA associated with Cucumber Mosaic Virus strain Q (Q-satRNA) has the propensity to localize in the nucleus and generate multimers that subsequently serve as templates for HV-dependent replication. But the mechanism regulating the nuclear importation of Q-satRNA is unknown. Here we show that the nuclear importation of Q-satRNA is mediated by a bromodomain-containing host protein (BRP1), which is also apparently involved in the nuclear localization of PSTVd. A comparative analysis of nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions from Nicotiana benthamiana plants coinfected with Q-satRNA and its HV confirmed the association of Q-satRNA but not HV with the nuclear compartment. A combination of the MS2-capsid protein-based RNA tagging assay and confocal microscopy demonstrated that the nuclear localization of Q-satRNA was completely blocked in transgenic lines of Nicotiana benthamiana (ph5.2nb) that are defective in BRP1 expression. This defect, however, was restored when the ph5.2nb lines of N. benthamiana were trans-complemented by ectopically expressed BRP1. The binding specificity of BRP1 with Q-satRNA was confirmed in vivo and in vitro by coimmunoprecipitation and electrophoretic mobility shift assays, respectively. Finally, infectivity assays involving coexpression of Q-satRNA and its HV in wild-type and ph5.2nb lines of N. benthamiana accentuated a biological role for BRP1 in the Q-satRNA infection cycle. The significance of these results in relation to a possible evolutionary relationship to viroids is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3911573  PMID: 24284314
25.  Metagenomic Identification of a Novel Salt Tolerance Gene from the Human Gut Microbiome Which Encodes a Membrane Protein with Homology to a brp/blh-Family β-Carotene 15,15′-Monooxygenase 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e103318.
The human gut microbiome consists of at least 3 million non-redundant genes, 150 times that of the core human genome. Herein, we report the identification and characterisation of a novel stress tolerance gene from the human gut metagenome. The locus, assigned brpA, encodes a membrane protein with homology to a brp/blh-family β-carotene monooxygenase. Cloning and heterologous expression of brpA in Escherichia coli confers a significant salt tolerance phenotype. Furthermore, when cultured in the presence of exogenous β-carotene, cell pellets adopt a red/orange pigmentation indicating the incorporation of carotenoids in the cell membrane.
PMCID: PMC4110020  PMID: 25058308

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