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1.  The Effect of Antitumor Glycosides on Glioma Cells and Tissues as Studied by Proton HR-MAS NMR Spectroscopy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78391.
The effect of the treatment with glycolipid derivatives on the metabolic profile of intact glioma cells and tumor tissues, investigated using proton high resolution magic angle spinning (1H HR-MAS) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, is reported here. Two compounds were used, a glycoside and its thioglycoside analogue, both showing anti-proliferative activity on glioma C6 cell cultures; however, only the thioglycoside exhibited antitumor activity in vivo. At the drug concentrations showing anti-proliferative activity in cell culture (20 and 40 µM), significant increases in choline containing metabolites were observed in the 1H NMR spectra of the same intact cells. In vivo experiments in nude mice bearing tumors derived from implanted C6 glioma cells, showed that reduction of tumor volume was associated with significant changes in the metabolic profile of the same intact tumor tissues; and were similar to those observed in cell culture. Specifically, the activity of the compounds is mainly associated with an increase in choline and phosphocholine, in both the cell cultures and tumoral tissues. Taurine, a metabolite that has been considered a biomarker of apoptosis, correlated with the reduction of tumor volume. Thus, the results indicate that the mode of action of the glycoside involves, at least in part, alteration of phospholipid metabolism, resulting in cell death.
PMCID: PMC3806797  PMID: 24194925
2.  Specific Synthesis of Neurostatin and Gangliosides O-Acetylated in the Outer Sialic Acids Using a Sialate Transferase 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e49983.
Gangliosides are sialic acid containing glycosphingolipids, commonly found on the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane. O-acetylation of sialic acid hydroxyl groups is one of the most common modifications in gangliosides. Studies on the biological activity of O-acetylated gangliosides have been limited by their scarcity in nature. This comparatively small change in ganglioside structure causes major changes in their physiological properties. When the ganglioside GD1b was O-acetylated in the outer sialic acid, it became the potent inhibitor of astroblast and astrocytoma proliferation called Neurostatin. Although various chemical and enzymatic methods to O-acetylate commercial gangliosides have been described, O-acetylation was nonspecific and produced many side-products that reduced the yield. An enzyme with O-acetyltransferase activity (SOAT) has been previously cloned from the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni. This enzyme catalyzed the acetylation of oligosaccharide-bound sialic acid, with high specificity for terminal alpha-2,8-linked residues. Using this enzyme and commercial gangliosides as starting material, we have specifically O-acetylated the gangliosides’ outer sialic acids, to produce the corresponding gangliosides specifically O-acetylated in the sialic acid bound in alpha-2,3 and alpha-2,8 residues. We demonstrate here that O-acetylation occurred specifically in the C-9 position of the sialic acid. In summary, we present a new method of specific O-acetylation of ganglioside sialic acids that permits the large scale preparation of these modified glycosphingolipids, facilitating both, the study of their mechanism of antitumoral action and their use as therapeutic drugs for treating glioblastoma multiform (GBM) patients.
PMCID: PMC3513307  PMID: 23226505
3.  Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) Interactions in Solution Studied by NMR 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48390.
PCNA is an essential factor for DNA replication and repair. It forms a ring shaped structure of 86 kDa by the symmetric association of three identical protomers. The ring encircles the DNA and acts as a docking platform for other proteins, most of them containing the PCNA Interaction Protein sequence (PIP-box). We have used NMR to characterize the interactions of PCNA with several other proteins and fragments in solution. The binding of the PIP-box peptide of the cell cycle inhibitor p21 to PCNA is consistent with the crystal structure of the complex. A shorter p21 peptide binds with reduced affinity but retains most of the molecular recognition determinants. However the binding of the corresponding peptide of the tumor suppressor ING1 is extremely weak, indicating that slight deviations from the consensus PIP-box sequence dramatically reduce the affinity for PCNA, in contrast with a proposed less stringent PIP-box sequence requirement. We could not detect any binding between PCNA and the MCL-1 or the CDK2 protein, reported to interact with PCNA in biochemical assays. This suggests that they do not bind directly to PCNA, or they do but very weakly, with additional unidentified factors stabilizing the interactions in the cell. Backbone dynamics measurements show three PCNA regions with high relative flexibility, including the interdomain connector loop (IDCL) and the C-terminus, both of them involved in the interaction with the PIP-box. Our work provides the basis for high resolution studies of direct ligand binding to PCNA in solution.
PMCID: PMC3491057  PMID: 23139781
4.  The solution structure of double helical arabino nucleic acids (ANA and 2′F-ANA): effect of arabinoses in duplex-hairpin interconversion 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(18):9329-9339.
We report here the first structure of double helical arabino nucleic acid (ANA), the C2′-stereoisomer of RNA, and the 2′-fluoro-ANA analogue (2′F-ANA). A chimeric dodecamer based on the Dickerson sequence, containing a contiguous central segment of arabino nucleotides, flanked by two 2′-deoxy-2′F-ANA wings was studied. Our data show that this chimeric oligonucleotide can adopt two different structures of comparable thermal stabilities. One structure is a monomeric hairpin in which the stem is formed by base paired 2′F-ANA nucleotides and the loop by unpaired ANA nucleotides. The second structure is a bimolecular duplex, with all the nucleotides (2′F-ANA and ANA) forming Watson–Crick base pairs. The duplex structure is canonical B-form, with all arabinoses adopting a pure C2′-endo conformation. In the ANA:ANA segment, steric interactions involving the 2′-OH substituent provoke slight changes in the glycosidic angles and, therefore, in the ANA:ANA base pair geometry. These distortions are not present in the 2′F-ANA:2′F-ANA regions of the duplex, where the –OH substituent is replaced by a smaller fluorine atom. 2′F-ANA nucleotides adopt the C2′-endo sugar pucker and fit very well into the geometry of B-form duplex, allowing for favourable 2′F···H8 interactions. This interaction shares many features of pseudo-hydrogen bonds previously observed in 2′F-ANA:RNA hybrids and in single 2′F-ANA nucleotides.
PMCID: PMC3467067  PMID: 22798499
5.  Reduced Stability and Increased Dynamics in the Human Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) Relative to the Yeast Homolog 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16600.
Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) is an essential factor for DNA replication and repair. PCNA forms a toroidal, ring shaped structure of 90 kDa by the symmetric association of three identical monomers. The ring encircles the DNA and acts as a platform where polymerases and other proteins dock to carry out different DNA metabolic processes. The amino acid sequence of human PCNA is 35% identical to the yeast homolog, and the two proteins have the same 3D crystal structure. In this report, we give evidence that the budding yeast (sc) and human (h) PCNAs have highly similar structures in solution but differ substantially in their stability and dynamics. hPCNA is less resistant to chemical and thermal denaturation and displays lower cooperativity of unfolding as compared to scPCNA. Solvent exchange rates measurements show that the slowest exchanging backbone amides are at the β-sheet, in the structure core, and not at the helices, which line the central channel. However, all the backbone amides of hPCNA exchange fast, becoming undetectable within hours, while the signals from the core amides of scPCNA persist for longer times. The high dynamics of the α-helices, which face the DNA in the PCNA-loaded form, is likely to have functional implications for the sliding of the PCNA ring on the DNA since a large hole with a flexible wall facilitates the establishment of protein-DNA interactions that are transient and easily broken. The increased dynamics of hPCNA relative to scPCNA may allow it to acquire multiple induced conformations upon binding to its substrates enlarging its binding diversity.
PMCID: PMC3041752  PMID: 21364740
6.  Solution Structure of the Endonuclease Domain from the Master Replication Initiator Protein of the Nanovirus Faba Bean Necrotic Yellows Virus and Comparison with the corresponding Geminivirus and Circovirus Structures†‡ 
Biochemistry  2007;46(21):6201-6212.
Nanoviruses are a family of plant viruses that posses a genome of multiple circular single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) components and are strikingly similar in their replication mode to the plant geminiviruses and to the circoviruses that infect birds or mammals. These viruses multiply by rolling circle replication using virus-encoded multifunctional replication initiator proteins (Rep proteins) that catalyze the initiation of replication on a double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) intermediate and the resolution of the ssDNA into circles. Here we report the solution NMR three-dimensional structure of the endonuclease domain from the Master Rep (M-Rep) protein of faba bean necrotic yellows virus (FBNYV), a representative of the nanoviruses. The domain comprises amino acids 2-95 (M-Rep2-95) and its global fold is similar to those previously described for the gemini- and circovirus Rep endonuclease domain, consisting of a central 5-stranded antiparallel β-sheet covered on one side by an α-helix and irregular loops and on the other, more open side of the domain, by an α-helix containing the catalytic tyrosine residue (the catalytic helix). Longer domain constructs extending to amino acids 117 and 124, were also characterized. They contain an additional α-helix, are monomeric and exhibit catalytic activity indistinguishable from that of M-Rep2-95. The binding site for the catalytic metal was identified by paramagnetic broadening and maps to residues on the exposed face of the central β-sheet. A comparison with the previously determined Rep endonuclease domain structures of tomato yellow leaf curl Sardinia virus (TYLCSV), a geminivirus, and that of porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) Rep allows the identification of a positively charged surface that is most likely involved dsDNA binding, and reveals common features shared by all endonuclease domains of nanovirus, geminivirus, and circovirus Rep proteins.
PMCID: PMC2577285  PMID: 17472345

Results 1-6 (6)