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1.  Improved Neurological Outcome by Intramuscular Injection of Human Amniotic Fluid Derived Stem Cells in a Muscle Denervation Model 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0124624.
The skeletal muscle develops various degrees of atrophy and metabolic dysfunction following nerve injury. Neurotrophic factors are essential for muscle regeneration. Human amniotic fluid derived stem cells (AFS) have the potential to secrete various neurotrophic factors necessary for nerve regeneration. In the present study, we assess the outcome of neurological function by intramuscular injection of AFS in a muscle denervation and nerve anastomosis model.
Materials and Methods
Seventy two Sprague-Dawley rats weighing 200–250 gm were enrolled in this study. Muscle denervation model was conducted by transverse resection of a sciatic nerve with the proximal end sutured into the gluteal muscle. The nerve anastomosis model was performed by transverse resection of the sciatic nerve followed by four stitches reconnection. These animals were allocated to three groups: control, electrical muscle stimulation, and AFS groups.
NT-3 (Neurotrophin 3), BDNF (Brain derived neurotrophic factor), CNTF (Ciliary neurotrophic factor), and GDNF (Glia cell line derived neurotrophic factor) were highly expressed in AFS cells and supernatant of culture medium. Intra-muscular injection of AFS exerted significant expression of several neurotrophic factors over the distal end of nerve and denervated muscle. AFS caused high expression of Bcl-2 in denervated muscle with a reciprocal decrease of Bad and Bax. AFS preserved the muscle morphology with high expression of desmin and acetylcholine receptors. Up to two months, AFS produced significant improvement in electrophysiological study and neurological functions such as SFI (sciatic nerve function index) and Catwalk gait analysis. There was also significant preservation of the number of anterior horn cells and increased nerve myelination as well as muscle morphology.
Intramuscular injection of AFS can protect muscle apoptosis and likely does so through the secretion of various neurotrophic factors. This protection furthermore improves the nerve regeneration in a long term nerve anastomosis model.
PMCID: PMC4422615  PMID: 25945496
2.  Infection of Pericytes In Vitro by Japanese Encephalitis Virus Disrupts the Integrity of the Endothelial Barrier 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(2):1150-1161.
Though the compromised blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a pathological hallmark of Japanese encephalitis-associated neurological sequelae, the underlying mechanisms and the specific cell types involved are not understood. BBB characteristics are induced and maintained by cross talk between brain microvascular endothelial cells and neighboring elements of the neurovascular unit. In this study, we show a potential mechanism of disruption of endothelial barrier integrity during the course of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) infection through the activation of neighboring pericytes. We found that cultured brain pericytes were susceptible to JEV infection but were without signs of remarkable cytotoxicity. JEV-infected pericytes were found to release biologically active molecules which activated ubiquitin proteasome, degraded zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1), and disrupted endothelial barrier integrity in cultured brain microvascular endothelial cells. Infection of pericytes with JEV was found to elicit elevated production of interleukin-6 (IL-6), which contributed to the aforementioned endothelial changes. We further demonstrated that ubiquitin-protein ligase E3 component n-recognin-1 (Ubr 1) was a key upstream regulator which caused proteasomal degradation of ZO-1 downstream of IL-6 signaling. During JEV central nervous system trafficking, endothelial cells rather than pericytes are directly exposed to cell-free viruses in the peripheral bloodstream. Therefore, the results of this study suggest that subsequent to primary infection of endothelial cells, JEV infection of pericytes might contribute to the initiation and/or augmentation of Japanese encephalitis-associated BBB breakdown in concerted action with other unidentified barrier disrupting factors.
PMCID: PMC3911661  PMID: 24198423
3.  Purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic analysis of glycosyltransferase-1 from Bacillus cereus  
The purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic analysis of B. cereus glycosyltransferase-1 are reported.
Glycosyltransferases (GTs), which are distributed widely in various organisms, including bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, play a role in synthesizing biological compounds. Glycosyltransferase-1 from Bacillus cereus (BcGT-1), which is capable of transferring glucose to small molecules such as kaempferol and quercetin, has been identified as a member of the family 1 glycosyltransferases which utilize uridine diphosphate glucose (UDP-glucose) as the sugar donor. BcGT-1 (molecular mass 45.5 kDa) has been overexpressed, purified and crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. According to X-ray diffraction of BcGT-1 crystals to 2.10 Å resolution, the crystal belonged to space group P1, with unit-cell parameters a = 54.56, b = 84.81, c = 100.12 Å, α = 78.36, β = 84.66, γ = 84.84°. Preliminary analysis indicates the presence of four BcGT-1 molecules in the asymmetric unit with a solvent content of 50.27%.
PMCID: PMC4157424  PMID: 25195897
glycosyltransferase; Bacillus cereus
4.  Crystal Structures of Complexes of the Branched-Chain Aminotransferase from Deinococcus radiodurans with α-Ketoisocaproate and l-Glutamate Suggest the Radiation Resistance of This Enzyme for Catalysis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(22):6206-6216.
Branched-chain aminotransferases (BCAT), which utilize pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP) as a cofactor, reversibly catalyze the transfer of the α-amino groups of three of the most hydrophobic branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), leucine, isoleucine, and valine, to α-ketoglutarate to form the respective branched-chain α-keto acids and glutamate. The BCAT from Deinococcus radiodurans (DrBCAT), an extremophile, was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli for structure and functional studies. The crystal structures of the native DrBCAT with PLP and its complexes with l-glutamate and α-ketoisocaproate (KIC), respectively, have been determined. The DrBCAT monomer, comprising 358 amino acids, contains large and small domains connected with an interdomain loop. The cofactor PLP is located at the bottom of the active site pocket between two domains and near the dimer interface. The substrate (l-glutamate or KIC) is bound with key residues through interactions of the hydrogen bond and the salt bridge near PLP inside the active site pocket. Mutations of some interaction residues, such as Tyr71, Arg145, and Lys202, result in loss of the specific activity of the enzymes. In the interdomain loop, a dynamic loop (Gly173 to Gly179) clearly exhibits open and close conformations in structures of DrBCAT without and with substrates, respectively. DrBCAT shows the highest specific activity both in nature and under ionizing radiation, but with lower thermal stability above 60°C, than either BCAT from Escherichia coli (eBCAT) or from Thermus thermophilus (HB8BCAT). The dimeric molecular packing and the distribution of cysteine residues at the active site and the molecular surface might explain the resistance to radiation but small thermal stability of DrBCAT.
PMCID: PMC3486342  PMID: 22984263
5.  Induction of Apoptosis by Luteolin Involving Akt Inactivation in Human 786-O Renal Cell Carcinoma Cells 
There is a growing interest in the health-promoting effects of natural substances obtained from plants. Although luteolin has been identified as a potential therapeutic and preventive agent for cancer because of its potent cancer cell-killing activity, the molecular mechanisms have not been well elucidated. This study provides evidence of an alternative target for luteolin and sheds light on the mechanism of its physiological benefits. Treatment of 786-O renal cell carcinoma (RCC) cells (as well as A498 and ACHN) with luteolin caused cell apoptosis and death. This cytotoxicity was caused by the downregulation of Akt and resultant upregulation of apoptosis signal-regulating kinase-1 (Ask1), p38, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activities, probably via protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) activation. In addition to being a concurrent substrate of caspases and event of cell death, heat shock protein-90 (HSP90) cleavage might also play a role in driving further cellular alterations and cell death, at least in part, involving an Akt-related mechanism. Due to the high expression of HSP90 and Akt-related molecules in RCC and other cancer cells, our findings suggest that PP2A activation might work in concert with HSP90 cleavage to inactivate Akt and lead to a vicious caspase-dependent apoptotic cycle in luteolin-treated 786-O cells.
PMCID: PMC3576787  PMID: 23476679
7.  Feasibility of Human Amniotic Fluid Derived Stem Cells in Alleviation of Neuropathic Pain in Chronic Constrictive Injury Nerve Model 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(7):e0159482.
The neurobehavior of neuropathic pain by chronic constriction injury (CCI) of sciatic nerve is very similar to that in humans, and it is accompanied by a profound local inflammation response. In this study, we assess the potentiality of human amniotic fluid derived mesenchymal stem cells (hAFMSCs) for alleviating the neuropathic pain in a chronic constriction nerve injury model.
Methods and Methods
This neuropathic pain animal model was conducted by four 3–0 chromic gut ligatures loosely ligated around the left sciatic nerve in Sprague—Dawley rats. The intravenous administration of hAFMSCs with 5x105 cells was conducted for three consecutive days.
The expression IL-1β, TNF-α and synaptophysin in dorsal root ganglion cell culture was remarkably attenuated when co-cultured with hAFMSCs. The significant decrease of PGP 9.5 in the skin after CCI was restored by administration of hAFMSCs. Remarkably increased expression of CD 68 and TNF-α and decreased S-100 and neurofilament expression in injured nerve were rescued by hAFMSCs administration. Increases in synaptophysin and TNF-α over the dorsal root ganglion were attenuated by hAFMSCs. Significant expression of TNF-α and OX-42 over the dorsal spinal cord was substantially attenuated by hAFMSCs. The increased amplitude of sensory evoked potential as well as expression of synaptophysin and TNF-α expression was alleviated by hAFMSCs. Human AFMSCs significantly improved the threshold of mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia as well as various parameters of CatWalk XT gait analysis.
Human AFMSCs administration could alleviate the neuropathic pain demonstrated in histomorphological alteration and neurobehavior possibly through the modulation of the inflammatory response.
PMCID: PMC4956194  PMID: 27441756
8.  Ab initio phasing by molecular averaging in real space with new criteria: application to structure determination of a betanodavirus 
A two-step process of phase determination in the X-ray structural analysis of the coat protein of a betanodavirus is described. A new indicator, the free fraction, for molecular averaging in real space is introduced to effectively evaluate the phasing power in order to enhance the success of determining new structures.
Molecular averaging, including noncrystallographic symmetry (NCS) averaging, is a powerful method for ab initio phase determination and phase improvement. Applications of the cross-crystal averaging (CCA) method have been shown to be effective for phase improvement after initial phasing by molecular replacement, isomorphous replacement, anomalous dispersion or combinations of these methods. Here, a two-step process for phase determination in the X-ray structural analysis of a new coat protein from a betanodavirus, Grouper nervous necrosis virus, is described in detail. The first step is ab initio structure determination of the T = 3 icosahedral virus-like particle using NCS averaging (NCSA). The second step involves structure determination of the protrusion domain of the viral molecule using cross-crystal averaging. In this method, molecular averaging and solvent flattening constrain the electron density in real space. To quantify these constraints, a new, simple and general indicator, free fraction (ff), is introduced, where ff is defined as the ratio of the volume of the electron density that is freely changed to the total volume of the crystal unit cell. This indicator is useful and effective to evaluate the strengths of both NCSA and CCA. Under the condition that a mask (envelope) covers the target molecule well, an ff value of less than 0.1, as a new rule of thumb, gives sufficient phasing power for the successful construction of new structures.
PMCID: PMC4932916  PMID: 27377380
ab initio phasing; NCS averaging; cross-crystal averaging; multi-crystal averaging; phasing power; icosahedral virus structure; free fraction
9.  Protective effects of luteolin against lipopolysaccharide-induced acute lung injury involves inhibition of MEK/ERK and PI3K/Akt pathways in neutrophils 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2010;31(7):831-838.
To investigate whether luteolin, the major polyphenolic components of Lonicera japonica, has beneficial effects against lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced acute lung injury (ALI) and to determine whether the protective mechanism involves anti-inflammatory effects on neutrophils.
ALI was induced with intratracheal instillation of LPS in mice. The level of ALI was determined by measuring the cell count and protein content in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid. Neutrophils were stimulated with formyl-Met-Leu-Phe (fMLP) or LPS in vitro. Chemotaxis and superoxide anion generation were measured to evaluate neutrophil activation. The potential involvement of intracellular signaling molecules in regulating neutrophil activation was analyzed by using Western blot.
LPS induced ALI in mice, as evidenced with leukocyte infiltration and protein leakage into the lungs. Luteolin attenuated LPS-induced leukocyte infiltration and protein extravasation. In cell studies, luteolin attenuated the fMLP-induced neutrophil chemotaxis and respiratory burst (IC50 0.2±0.1 μmol/L and 2.2±0.8 μmol/L, respectively), but had a negligible effect on superoxide anion generation during phorbol myristate acetate stimulation. Furthermore luteolin effectively blocked MAPK/ERK kinase 1/2 (MEK), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and Akt phosphorylation in fMLP- and LPS-stimulated neutrophils.
These results indicate that luteolin has beneficial effects against LPS-induced ALI in mice, and the attenuation of neutrophil chemotaxis and respiratory burst by luteolin involves the blockade of MEK-, ERK-, and Akt-related signaling cascades.
PMCID: PMC4007725  PMID: 20562902
acute lung injury; chemotaxis; luteolin; mitogen activated protein kinase; neutrophils; respiratory burst; PI3K/Akt
10.  Stereoselective Esterase from Pseudomonas putida IFO12996 Reveals α/β Hydrolase Folds for d-β-Acetylthioisobutyric Acid Synthesis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(24):8470-8476.
Esterase (EST) from Pseudomonas putida IFO12996 catalyzes the stereoselective hydrolysis of methyl dl-β-acetylthioisobutyrate (dl-MATI) to produce d-β-acetylthioisobutyric acid (DAT), serving as a key intermediate for the synthesis of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. The EST gene was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli; the recombinant protein is a non-disulfide-linked homotrimer with a monomer molecular weight of 33,000 in both solution and crystalline states, indicating that these ESTs function as trimers. EST hydrolyzed dl-MATI to produce DAT with a degree of conversion of 49.5% and an enantiomeric excess value of 97.2% at an optimum pH of about 8 to 10 and an optimum temperature of about 57 to 67°C. The crystal structure of EST has been determined by X-ray diffraction to a resolution of 1.6 Å, confirming that EST is a member of the α/β hydrolase fold superfamily of enzymes and includes a catalytic triad of Ser97, Asp227, and His256. The active site is located approximately in the middle of the molecule at the end of a pocket ∼12 Å deep. EST can hydrolyze the methyl ester group without affecting the acetylthiol ester moiety in dl-MATI. The examination of substrate specificity of EST toward other linear esters revealed that the enzyme showed specific activity toward methyl esters and that it recognized the configuration at C-2.
PMCID: PMC1317000  PMID: 16321951
11.  Identification of a Polyomavirus microRNA Highly Expressed in Tumors 
Virology  2014;476:43-53.
Polyomaviruses (PyVs) are associated with tumors including Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). Several PyVs encode microRNAs (miRNAs) but to date no abundant PyV miRNAs have been reported in tumors. To better understand the function of the Merkel cell PyV (MCPyV) miRNA, we examined phylogenetically-related viruses for miRNA expression. We show that two primate PyVs and the more distantly-related raccoon PyV (RacPyV) encode miRNAs that share genomic position and partial sequence identity with MCPyV miRNAs. Unlike MCPyV miRNA in MCC, RacPyV miRNA is highly abundant in raccoon tumors. RacPyV miRNA negatively regulates reporters of early viral (T antigen) transcripts, yet robust viral miRNA expression is tolerated in tumors. We also identify raccoon miRNAs expressed in RacPyV-associated neuroglial brain tumors, including several likely oncogenic miRNAs (oncomiRs). This work describes the first PyV miRNA abundantly expressed in tumors and is consistent with a possible role for both host and viral miRNAs in RacPyV-associated tumors.
PMCID: PMC4323772  PMID: 25514573
Polyomavirus; microRNA; miRNA; Merkel cell carcinoma; MCV; Raccoon Polyomavirus
12.  Crystal structure of an antigenic outer-membrane protein from Salmonella Typhi suggests a potential antigenic loop and an efflux mechanism 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:16441.
ST50, an outer-membrane component of the multi-drug efflux system from Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi, is an obligatory diagnostic antigen for typhoid fever. ST50 is an excellent and unique diagnostic antigen with 95% specificity and 90% sensitivity and is used in the commercial diagnosis test kit (TYPHIDOTTM). The crystal structure of ST50 at a resolution of 2.98 Å reveals a trimer that forms an α-helical tunnel and a β-barrel transmembrane channel traversing the periplasmic space and outer membrane. Structural investigations suggest significant conformational variations in the extracellular loop regions, especially extracellular loop 2. This is the location of the most plausible antibody-binding domain that could be used to target the design of new antigenic epitopes for the development of better diagnostics or drugs for the treatment of typhoid fever. A molecule of the detergent n-octyl-β-D-glucoside is observed in the D-cage, which comprises three sets of Asp361 and Asp371 residues at the periplasmic entrance. These structural insights suggest a possible substrate transport mechanism in which the substrate first binds at the periplasmic entrance of ST50 and subsequently, via iris-like structural movements to open the periplasmic end, penetrates the periplasmic domain for efflux pumping of molecules, including poisonous metabolites or xenobiotics, for excretion outside the pathogen.
PMCID: PMC4643347  PMID: 26563565
13.  Crystal Structures of a Piscine Betanodavirus: Mechanisms of Capsid Assembly and Viral Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(10):e1005203.
Betanodaviruses cause massive mortality in marine fish species with viral nervous necrosis. The structure of a T = 3 Grouper nervous necrosis virus-like particle (GNNV-LP) is determined by the ab initio method with non-crystallographic symmetry averaging at 3.6 Å resolution. Each capsid protein (CP) shows three major domains: (i) the N-terminal arm, an inter-subunit extension at the inner surface; (ii) the shell domain (S-domain), a jelly-roll structure; and (iii) the protrusion domain (P-domain) formed by three-fold trimeric protrusions. In addition, we have determined structures of the T = 1 subviral particles (SVPs) of (i) the delta-P-domain mutant (residues 35−217) at 3.1 Å resolution; and (ii) the N-ARM deletion mutant (residues 35−338) at 7 Å resolution; and (iii) the structure of the individual P-domain (residues 214−338) at 1.2 Å resolution. The P-domain reveals a novel DxD motif asymmetrically coordinating two Ca2+ ions, and seems to play a prominent role in the calcium-mediated trimerization of the GNNV CPs during the initial capsid assembly process. The flexible N-ARM (N-terminal arginine-rich motif) appears to serve as a molecular switch for T = 1 or T = 3 assembly. Finally, we find that polyethylene glycol, which is incorporated into the P-domain during the crystallization process, enhances GNNV infection. The present structural studies together with the biological assays enhance our understanding of the role of the P-domain of GNNV in the capsid assembly and viral infection by this betanodavirus.
Author Summary
Betanodaviruses belong to the family Nodaviridae and cause the mortality of numerous larval-stage fish species. Here we report protein crystal structures of a piscine betanodavirus, the Grouper nervous necrosis virus (GNNV), in four different forms. Highlights are two structural features that contribute to the viral molecular mechanisms of the T = 3 and T = 1 capsid assembly: a calcium-associated protrusion domain and a functional arginine-rich motif. These results also shed insights into the structural basis for evolutionary lineage of the family Nodaviridae.
PMCID: PMC4619592  PMID: 26491970
14.  Naturally Arising Strains of Polyomaviruses with Severely Attenuated MicroRNA Expression 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(21):12683-12693.
Several different polyomaviruses (PyVs) encode microRNAs (miRNAs) that regulate viral as well as host gene expression. However, the functions of polyomaviral miRNAs, particularly during in vivo infection, remain poorly understood. Here we identify rare naturally arising PyVs that are severely attenuated or null for miRNA expression. We identify hypomorphic or null strains for miRNA expression from rhesus macaque simian virus 40 (SV40) and human JC virus. These strains were isolated from immunocompromised hosts and derive from insertions or deletions in the viral DNA that preserve the amino acid reading frame of opposing-strand large T antigen gene. Characterization of the SV40 miRNA hypomorph, K661, shows that it is inhibited at the early miRNA biogenesis step of Drosha-mediated processing. Despite having a nonrearranged enhancer, which a previous study has shown renders some PyVs more susceptible to the autoregulatory activities of the miRNA, restoring miRNA expression to K661 has little effect on virus growth in either immortalized or primary monkey kidney cells. Thus, in addition to any effect of accompanying genomic elements, these results suggest that the cellular context also determines susceptibility to PyV miRNA-mediated effects. Combined, these results demonstrate that polyomaviruses lacking miRNAs can arise infrequently and that the functional importance of polyomaviral miRNAs is context dependent, consistent with an activity connected to the immune status of the host.
IMPORTANCE Diverse virus families encode miRNAs, yet much remains unknown about viral miRNA function and contribution to the infectious cycle. Polyomaviruses (PyVs) are small DNA viruses, long known to be important as etiological agents of rare diseases and valuable models of DNA virus infection. Here, in immunosuppressed hosts, we uncover rare naturally arising variants of different PyVs that have lost the ability to express miRNAs. This represents some of the only known natural viruses to have lost miRNA expression. By probing the biogenesis pathways of these variants, we uncover that miRNA expression is lost via small insertions or deletions that render the transcripts resistant to early steps of miRNA biogenesis while preserving the reading frame of the opposing T antigen transcripts. Overall, our study informs how miRNA genes evolve/devolve in viruses and suggests that miRNA function is exquisitely dependent not only on viral genomic context but also on the cellular and host environment.
PMCID: PMC4248899  PMID: 25142594
15.  Structures of the hydrolase domain of zebrafish 10-formyltetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase and its complexes reveal a complete set of key residues for hydrolysis and product inhibition 
Structures of the hydrolase domain of 10-formyltetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase from zebrafish and its complexes are reported.
10-Formyltetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase (FDH), which is composed of a small N-terminal domain (Nt-FDH) and a large C-terminal domain, is an abundant folate enzyme in the liver and converts 10-formyltetrahydrofolate (10-FTHF) to tetrahydrofolate (THF) and CO2. Nt-FDH alone possesses a hydrolase activity, which converts 10-FTHF to THF and formate in the presence of β-mercaptoethanol. To elucidate the catalytic mechanism of Nt-FDH, crystal structures of apo-form zNt-FDH from zebrafish and its complexes with the substrate analogue 10-formyl-5,8-dideazafolate (10-FDDF) and with the products THF and formate have been determined. The structures reveal that the conformations of three loops (residues 86–90, 135–143 and 200–203) are altered upon ligand (10-FDDF or THF) binding in the active site. The orientations and geometries of key residues, including Phe89, His106, Arg114, Asp142 and Tyr200, are adjusted for substrate binding and product release during catalysis. Among them, Tyr200 is especially crucial for product release. An additional potential THF binding site is identified in the cavity between two zNt-FDH molecules, which might contribute to the properties of product inhibition and THF storage reported for FDH. Together with mutagenesis studies and activity assays, the structures of zNt-FDH and its complexes provide a coherent picture of the active site and a potential THF binding site of zNt-FDH along with the substrate and product specificity, lending new insights into the molecular mechanism underlying the enzymatic properties of Nt-FDH.
PMCID: PMC4388273  PMID: 25849409
10-formyltetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase; zebrafish
16.  Gab1 is essential for membrane translocation, activity and integrity of mTORCs after EGF stimulation in urothelial cell carcinoma 
Oncotarget  2015;6(3):1478-1489.
Urothelial carcinoma is the most common type of malignancy in long-term dialysis patients and kidney transplant recipients in Taiwan. mTORCs (mammalian target of rapamycin complexes) and EGF are important in urothelial carcinoma. To identify the regulation of mTORCs upon EGF stimulation is necessary. mTOR integrates signals from growth factors via mTOR Complex 1 (mTORC1) and mTOR Complex 2 (mTORC2). The mechanism of mTORC1 action has been widely studied; however, the regulation of mTORC2 has not been well studied. Here, we demonstrate that Gab1 is an important upstream regulator in EGF-mediated activation of mTORCs. In our study, we confirm that mTORCs translocate from the cytoplasm to the plasma membrane via the PH domain of Gab1 upon EGF stimulation. Moreover, Gab1 associates with mTORCs. This association stabilizes the integrity of mTORCs and induces mTORC activity. Compared to normal bladder tissue, the expression of Gab1 and activity of mTORCs are elevated in urothelial carcinoma. Collectively, our results suggest that Gab1 is an essential regulator of the EGF-mediated mTORC pathways and may potentially be used as a biomarker for urothelial carcinoma to predict diagnosis and drug response.
PMCID: PMC4359308  PMID: 25596749
mTORCs; Gab1; EGF; urothelial carcinoma
17.  Susceptibility of Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Neural Cells to Japanese Encephalitis Virus Infection 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114990.
Pluripotent human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be efficiently directed to become immature neuroepithelial precursor cells (NPCs) and functional mature neural cells, including neurotransmitter-secreting neurons and glial cells. Investigating the susceptibility of these hESCs-derived neural cells to neurotrophic viruses, such as Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), provides insight into the viral cell tropism in the infected human brain. We demonstrate that hESC-derived NPCs are highly vulnerable to JEV infection at a low multiplicity of infection (MOI). In addition, glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP)-expressing glial cells are also susceptible to JEV infection. In contrast, only a few mature neurons were infected at MOI 10 or higher on the third day post-infection. In addition, functional neurotransmitter-secreting neurons are also resistant to JEV infection at high MOI. Moreover, we discover that vimentin intermediate filament, reported as a putative neurovirulent JEV receptor, is highly expressed in NPCs and glial cells, but not mature neurons. These results indicate that the expression of vimentin in neural cells correlates to the cell tropism of JEV. Finally, we further demonstrate that membranous vimentin is necessary for the susceptibility of hESC-derived NPCs to JEV infection.
PMCID: PMC4269419  PMID: 25517725
18.  Structures of Plasmodium vivax serine hydroxymethyltransferase: implications for ligand-binding specificity and functional control 
Crystal structures of P. vivax serine hydroxymethyltransferase (PvSHMT) in complex with l-serine and with d-serine and 5-formyltetrahydrofolate provide better understanding of ligand binding and the catalytic mechanism. Features that are important for controlling the activity and specificity of PvSHMT such as stereoselectivity and redox status are addressed.
Plasmodium parasites, the causative agent of malaria, rely heavily on de novo folate biosynthesis, and the enzymes in this pathway have therefore been explored extensively for antimalarial development. Serine hydroxymethyltransferase (SHMT) from Plasmodium spp., an enzyme involved in folate recycling and dTMP synthesis, has been shown to catalyze the conversion of l- and d-serine to glycine (Gly) in a THF-dependent reaction, the mechanism of which is not yet fully understood. Here, the crystal structures of P. vivax SHMT (PvSHMT) in a binary complex with l-serine and in a ternary complex with d-serine (d-Ser) and (6R)-5-formyl­tetra­hydro­folate (5FTHF) provide clues to the mechanism underlying the control of enzyme activity. 5FTHF in the ternary-complex structure was found in the 6R form, thus differing from the previously reported structures of SHMT–Gly–(6S)-5FTHF from other organisms. This suggested that the presence of d-Ser in the active site can alter the folate-binding specificity. Investigation of binding in the presence of d-Ser and the (6R)- or (6S)-5FTHF enantiomers indicated that both forms of 5FTHF can bind to the enzyme but that only (6S)-5FTHF gives rise to a quinonoid intermediate. Likewise, a large surface area with a highly positively charged electrostatic potential surrounding the PvSHMT folate pocket suggested a preference for a polyglutamated folate substrate similar to the mammalian SHMTs. Furthermore, as in P. falciparum SHMT, a redox switch created from a cysteine pair (Cys125–Cys364) was observed. Overall, these results assert the importance of features such as stereoselectivity and redox status for control of the activity and specificity of PvSHMT.
PMCID: PMC4257618  PMID: 25478836
Plasmodium vivax; serine hydroxymethyltransferase; antimalarial targets; d-serine; (6R)-5-formyltetrahydrofolate; redox switch
19.  Direct phase selection of initial phases from single-wavelength anomalous dispersion (SAD) for the improvement of electron density and ab initio structure determination 
A novel direct phase-selection method to select optimized phases from the ambiguous phases of a subset of reflections to replace the corresponding initial SAD phases has been developed. With the improved phases, the completeness of built residues of protein molecules is enhanced for efficient structure determination.
Optimization of the initial phasing has been a decisive factor in the success of the subsequent electron-density modification, model building and structure determination of biological macromolecules using the single-wavelength anomalous dispersion (SAD) method. Two possible phase solutions (ϕ1 and ϕ2) generated from two symmetric phase triangles in the Harker construction for the SAD method cause the well known phase ambiguity. A novel direct phase-selection method utilizing the θDS list as a criterion to select optimized phases ϕam from ϕ1 or ϕ2 of a subset of reflections with a high percentage of correct phases to replace the corresponding initial SAD phases ϕSAD has been developed. Based on this work, reflections with an angle θDS in the range 35–145° are selected for an optimized improvement, where θDS is the angle between the initial phase ϕSAD and a preliminary density-modification (DM) phase ϕDM NHL. The results show that utilizing the additional direct phase-selection step prior to simple solvent flattening without phase combination using existing DM programs, such as RESOLVE or DM from CCP4, significantly improves the final phases in terms of increased correlation coefficients of electron-density maps and diminished mean phase errors. With the improved phases and density maps from the direct phase-selection method, the completeness of residues of protein molecules built with main chains and side chains is enhanced for efficient structure determination.
PMCID: PMC4157445  PMID: 25195747
direct phase selection; ab initio structure determination; electron-density improvement
20.  Detection of subtle neurological alterations by the Catwalk XT gait analysis system 
A new version of the CatWalk XT system was evaluated as a tool for detecting very subtle alteration in gait based on higher speed sample rate; the system could also demonstrate minor changes in neurological function. In this study, we evaluated the neurological outcome of sciatic nerve injury intervened by local injection of hyaluronic acid. Using the CatWalk XT system, we looked for differences between treated and untreated groups and differences within the same group as a function of time so as to assess the power of the Catwalk XT system for detecting subtle neurological change.
Peripheral nerve injury was induced in 36 Sprague–Dawley rats by crushing the left sciatic nerve using a vessel clamp. The animals were randomized into one of two groups: Group I: crush injury as the control; Group II: crush injury and local application with hyaluronic acid. These animals were subjected to neurobehavior assessment, histomorphology evaluation, and electrophysiology study periodically. These data were retrieved for statistical analysis.
The density of neurofilament and S-100 over the distal end of crushed nerve showed significant differences either in inter-group comparison at various time points or intra-group comparison from 7 to 28 days. Neuronal structure architecture, axon counts, intensity of myelination, electrophysiology, and collagen deposition demonstrate significant differences between the two groups. There was significant difference of SFI and angle of ankle in inter- group analysis from 7 to 28 days, but there were no significant differences in SFI and angle of ankle at time points of 7 and 14 days. In the Cat Walk XT analysis, the intensity, print area, stance duration, and swing duration all showed detectable differences at 7, 14, 21, and 28 days, whereas there were no significant difference at 7 and 14 days with CatWalk 7 testing. In addition, there were no significant differences of step sequence or regularity index between the two versions.
Hyaluronic acid augmented nerve regeneration as early as 7 days after crush injury. This subtle neurological alteration could be detected through the CatWalk XT gait analysis but not the SFI, angle of ankle, or CatWalk 7 methods.
PMCID: PMC3997750  PMID: 24739213
21.  Divergent MicroRNA Targetomes of Closely Related Circulating Strains of a Polyomavirus 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(20):11135-11147.
Hundreds of virus-encoded microRNAs (miRNAs) have been uncovered, but an in-depth functional understanding is lacking for most. A major challenge for the field is separating those miRNA targets that are biologically relevant from those that are not advantageous to the virus. Here, we show that miRNAs from related variants of the polyomavirus simian vacuolating virus 40 (SV40) have differing host target repertoires (targetomes) while their direct autoregulatory activity on virus-encoded early gene products is completely preserved. These results underscore the importance of miRNA-mediated viral gene autoregulation in some polyomavirus life cycles. More broadly, these findings imply that some host targets of virus-encoded miRNAs are likely to be of little selective advantage to the virus, and our approach provides a strategy for prioritizing relevant targets.
PMCID: PMC3807300  PMID: 23926342
22.  FeoC from Klebsiella pneumoniae Contains a [4Fe-4S] Cluster 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(20):4726-4734.
Iron is essential for pathogen survival, virulence, and colonization. Feo is suggested to function as the ferrous iron (Fe2+) transporter. The enterobacterial Feo system is composed of 3 proteins: FeoB is the indispensable component and is a large membrane protein likely to function as a permease; FeoA is a small Src homology 3 (SH3) domain protein that interacts with FeoB; FeoC is a winged-helix protein containing 4 conserved Cys residues in a sequence suitable for harboring a putative iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster. The presence of an iron-sulfur cluster on FeoC has never been shown experimentally. We report that under anaerobic conditions, the recombinant Klebsiella pneumoniae FeoC (KpFeoC) exhibited hyperfine-shifted nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and a UV-visible (UV-Vis) absorbance spectrum characteristic of a paramagnetic center. The electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) and extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) results were consistent only with the [4Fe-4S] clusters. Substituting the cysteinyl sulfur with oxygen resulted in significantly reduced cluster stability, establishing the roles of these cysteines as the ligands for the Fe-S cluster. When exposed to oxygen, the [4Fe-4S] cluster degraded to [3Fe-4S] and eventually disappeared. We propose that KpFeoC may regulate the function of the Feo transporter through the oxygen- or iron-sensitive coordination of the Fe-S cluster.
PMCID: PMC3807426  PMID: 23955005
23.  Viral MicroRNA Effects on Pathogenesis of Polyomavirus SV40 Infections in Syrian Golden Hamsters 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(2):e1003912.
Effects of polyomavirus SV40 microRNA on pathogenesis of viral infections in vivo are not known. Syrian golden hamsters are the small animal model for studies of SV40. We report here effects of SV40 microRNA and influence of the structure of the regulatory region on dynamics of SV40 DNA levels in vivo. Outbred young adult hamsters were inoculated by the intracardiac route with 1×107 plaque-forming units of four different variants of SV40. Infected animals were sacrificed from 3 to 270 days postinfection and viral DNA loads in different tissues determined by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction assays. All SV40 strains displayed frequent establishment of persistent infections and slow viral clearance. SV40 had a broad tissue tropism, with infected tissues including liver, kidney, spleen, lung, and brain. Liver and kidney contained higher viral DNA loads than other tissues; kidneys were the preferred site for long-term persistent infection although detectable virus was also retained in livers. Expression of SV40 microRNA was demonstrated in wild-type SV40-infected tissues. MicroRNA-negative mutant viruses consistently produced higher viral DNA loads than wild-type SV40 in both liver and kidney. Viruses with complex regulatory regions displayed modestly higher viral DNA loads in the kidney than those with simple regulatory regions. Early viral transcripts were detected at higher levels than late transcripts in liver and kidney. Infectious virus was detected infrequently. There was limited evidence of increased clearance of microRNA-deficient viruses. Wild-type and microRNA-negative mutants of SV40 showed similar rates of transformation of mouse cells in vitro and tumor induction in weanling hamsters in vivo. This report identified broad tissue tropism for SV40 in vivo in hamsters and provides the first evidence of expression and function of SV40 microRNA in vivo. Viral microRNA dampened viral DNA levels in tissues infected by SV40 strains with simple or complex regulatory regions.
Author Summary
The recent discovery of virally encoded microRNAs (miRNAs) raises the possibility of additional regulatory processes being involved in viral replication, immune recognition, and host cell survival. In this study, we sought to characterize the effect of SV40-encoded miRNAs and the structure of the viral regulatory region on infections in outbred Syrian golden hamsters. Results revealed that SV40 has a wide tissue tropism, including liver, kidney, spleen, lung, and brain, with kidney the preferred site for long-term persistent infection. Significant increases in tissue-associated viral DNA loads were observed with miRNA-negative mutant strains, whereas the presence of SV40 miRNAs had no effect on tumor induction and little effect on viral clearance. Our results provide the first evidence for SV40 miRNA expression and function in an in vivo animal model and highlight the complexity of regulation of SV40 viral replication and persistent infections.
PMCID: PMC3916418  PMID: 24516384
24.  Degradation of high affinity HuD targets releases Kv1.1 mRNA from miR-129 repression by mTORC1 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2013;202(1):53-69.
Inhibition of mTORC1 leads to the degradation of high affinity HuD target mRNAs, freeing HuD to bind Kv1.1 mRNA and promote its translation by overcoming miR-129–mediated repression.
Little is known about how a neuron undergoes site-specific changes in intrinsic excitability during neuronal activity. We provide evidence for a novel mechanism for mTORC1 kinase–dependent translational regulation of the voltage-gated potassium channel Kv1.1 messenger RNA (mRNA). We identified a microRNA, miR-129, that repressed Kv1.1 mRNA translation when mTORC1 was active. When mTORC1 was inactive, we found that the RNA-binding protein, HuD, bound to Kv1.1 mRNA and promoted its translation. Unexpectedly, inhibition of mTORC1 activity did not alter levels of miR-129 and HuD to favor binding to Kv1.1 mRNA. However, reduced mTORC1 signaling caused the degradation of high affinity HuD target mRNAs, freeing HuD to bind Kv1.1 mRNA. Hence, mTORC1 activity regulation of mRNA stability and high affinity HuD-target mRNA degradation mediates the bidirectional expression of dendritic Kv1.1 ion channels.
PMCID: PMC3704988  PMID: 23836929
25.  Depression-Like Effect of Prenatal Buprenorphine Exposure in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82262.
Studies indicate that perinatal opioid exposure produces a variety of short- and long-term neurobehavioral consequences. However, the precise modes of action are incompletely understood. Buprenorphine, a mixed agonist/antagonist at the opioid receptors, is currently being used in clinical trials for managing pregnant opioid addicts. This study provides evidence of depression-like consequence following prenatal exposure to supra-therapeutic dose of buprenorphine and sheds light on potential mechanisms of action in a rat model involving administration of intraperitoneal injection to pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats starting from gestation day 7 and lasting for 14 days. Results showed that pups at postnatal day 21 but not the dams had worse parameters of depression-like neurobehaviors using a forced swimming test and tail suspension test, independent of gender. Neurobehavioral changes were accompanied by elevation of oxidative stress, reduction of plasma levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and serotonin, and attenuation of tropomyosin-related kinase receptor type B (TrkB) phosphorylation, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation, protein kinase A activity, cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation, and CREB DNA-binding activity. Since BDNF/serotonin and CREB signaling could orchestrate a positive feedback loop, our findings suggest that the induction of oxidative stress, reduction of BDNF and serotonin expression, and attenuation of CREB signaling induced by prenatal exposure to supra-therapeutic dose of buprenorphine provide evidence of potential mechanism for the development of depression-like neurobehavior.
PMCID: PMC3867331  PMID: 24367510

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