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1.  Recombinant Clostridium difficile Toxin Fragments as Carrier Protein for PSII Surface Polysaccharide Preserve Their Neutralizing Activity 
Toxins  2014;6(4):1385-1396.
Clostridium difficile is a Gram-positive bacterium and is the most commonly diagnosed cause of hospital-associated and antimicrobial-associated diarrhea. Despite the emergence of epidemic C. difficile strains having led to an increase in the incidence of the disease, a vaccine against this pathogen is not currently available. C. difficile strains produce two main toxins (TcdA and TcdB) and express three highly complex cell-surface polysaccharides (PSI, PSII and PSIII). PSII is the more abundantly expressed by most C. difficile ribotypes offering the opportunity of the development of a carbohydrate-based vaccine. In this paper, we evaluate the efficacy, in naive mice model, of PSII glycoconjugates where recombinant toxins A and B fragments (TcdA_B2 and TcdB_GT respectively) have been used as carriers. Both glycoconjugates elicited IgG titers anti-PSII although only the TcdB_GT conjugate induced a response comparable to that obtained with CRM197. Moreover, TcdA_B2 and TcdB_GT conjugated to PSII retained the ability to elicit IgG with neutralizing activity against the respective toxins. These results are a crucial proof of concept for the development of glycoconjugate vaccines against C. difficile infection (CDI) that combine different C. difficile antigens to potentially prevent bacterial colonization of the gut and neutralize toxin activity.
PMCID: PMC4014741  PMID: 24759173
Clostridium difficile; glycoconjugate; PSII polysaccharide; recombinant toxin fragment
2.  Proline is required for male gametophyte development in Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:236.
In crosses between the proline-deficient mutant homozygous for p5cs1 and heterozygous for p5cs2 (p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2), used as male, and different Arabidopsis mutants, used as females, the p5cs2 mutant allele was rarely transmitted to the outcrossed progeny, suggesting that the fertility of the male gametophyte carrying mutations in both P5CS1 and P5CS2 is severely compromised.
To confirm the fertility defects of pollen from p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 mutants, transmission of mutant alleles through pollen was tested in two ways. First, the number of progeny inheriting a dominant sulfadiazine resistance marker linked to p5cs2 was determined. Second, the number of p5cs2/p5cs2 embryos was determined. A ratio of resistant to susceptible plantlets close to 50%, and the absence of aborted embryos were consistent with the hypothesis that the male gametophyte carrying both p5cs1 and p5cs2 alleles is rarely transmitted to the offspring. In addition, in reciprocal crosses with wild type, about 50% of the p5cs2 mutant alleles were transmitted to the sporophytic generation when p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 was used as a female, while less than 1% of the p5cs2 alleles could be transmitted to the outcrossed progeny when p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 was used as a male. Morphological and functional analysis of mutant pollen revealed a population of small, degenerated, and unviable pollen grains, indicating that the mutant homozygous for p5cs1 and heterozygous for p5cs2 is impaired in pollen development, and suggesting a role for proline in male gametophyte development. Consistent with these findings, we found that pollen from p5cs1 homozygous mutants, display defects similar to, but less pronounced than pollen from p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 mutants. Finally, we show that pollen from p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 plants contains less proline than wild type and that exogenous proline supplied from the beginning of another development can partially complement both morphological and functional pollen defects.
Our data show that the development of the male gametophyte carrying mutations in both P5CS1 and P5CS2 is severely compromised, and indicate that proline is required for pollen development and transmission.
PMCID: PMC3543202  PMID: 23234543
Proline; Male gametophyte; Arabidopsis; p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2
3.  Cadmium tolerance and phytochelatin content of Arabidopsis seedlings over-expressing the phytochelatin synthase gene AtPCS1 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;62(15):5509-5519.
Previous studies demonstrated that expression of the Arabidopsis phytochelatin (PC) biosynthetic gene AtPCS1 in Nicotiana tabacum plants increases the Cd tolerance in the presence of exogenous glutathione (GSH). In this paper, the Cd tolerance of Arabidopsis plants over-expressing AtPCS1 (AtPCSox lines) has been analysed and the differences between Arabidopsis and tobacco are shown. Based on the analysis of seedling fresh weight, primary root length, and alterations in root anatomy, evidence is provided that, at relatively low Cd concentrations, the Cd tolerance of AtPCSox lines is lower than the wild type, while AtPCS1 over-expressing tobacco is more tolerant to Cd than the wild type. At higher Cd concentrations, Arabidopsis AtPCSox seedlings are more tolerant to Cd than the wild type, while tobacco AtPCS1 seedlings are as sensitive as the wild type. Exogenous GSH, in contrast to what was observed in tobacco, did not increase the Cd tolerance of AtPCSox lines. The PC content in wild-type Arabidopsis at low Cd concentrations is more than three times higher than in tobacco and substantial differences were also found in the PC chain lengths. These data indicate that the differences in Cd tolerance and in its dependence on exogenous GSH between Arabidopsis and tobacco are due to species-specific differences in the endogenous content of PCs and GSH and may be in the relative abundance of PCs of different length.
PMCID: PMC3223047  PMID: 21841172
Arabidopsis; Cd tolerance; PCS1 over-expression; phytochelatins; seedlings; tobacco
4.  Proline accumulation in plants 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2009;4(11):1016-1018.
In addition to its role in protein synthesis and the plant cells' response to environmental stresses, circumstantial evidence suggest that proline may also play a role in flowering and development both as a metabolite and as a signal molecule. Although there is a growing consensus that proline is of special importance throughout the reproductive phase (from flower transition to seed development) a general agreement on the molecular and genetic mechanisms proline is involved in, is yet to be established. In this paper we shall review and critically discuss most of the evidence supporting a role for proline in plant development, paying special attention to the recently reported role of proline in flower transition.
PMCID: PMC2819507  PMID: 20009553
proline; flower transition; embryo development; P5CS1; P5CS2
5.  A novel glyco-conjugate vaccine against fungal pathogens 
To generate a vaccine to protect against a variety of human pathogenic fungi, we conjugated laminarin (Lam), a well-characterized but poorly immunogenic β-glucan preparation from the brown alga Laminaria digitata, with the diphtheria toxoid CRM197, a carrier protein used in some glyco-conjugate bacterial vaccines. This Lam-CRM conjugate proved to be immunogenic and protective as immunoprophylactic vaccine against both systemic and mucosal (vaginal) infections by Candida albicans. Protection probably was mediated by anti-β-glucan antibodies as demonstrated by passive transfer of protection to naive mice by the whole immune serum, the immune vaginal fluid, and the affinity-purified anti-β-glucan IgG fractions, as well as by administration of a β-glucan–directed IgG2b mAb. Passive protection was prevented by adsorption of antibodies on Candida cells or β-glucan particles before transfer. Anti-β-glucan antibodies bound to C. albicans hyphae and inhibited their growth in vitro in the absence of immune-effector cells. Remarkably, Lam-CRM–vaccinated mice also were protected from a lethal challenge with conidia of Aspergillus fumigatus, and their serum also bound to and markedly inhibited the growth of A. fumigatus hyphae. Thus, this novel conjugate vaccine can efficiently immunize and protect against two major fungal pathogens by mechanisms that may include direct antifungal properties of anti-β-glucan antibodies.
PMCID: PMC2212864  PMID: 16147975
6.  A Competitive Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay for Measuring the Levels of Serum Antibody to Haemophilus influenzae Type b 
A competitive ELISA method is described for the measurement of total antibodies to the capsular polysaccharide of Haemophilus influenzae type b (HibCPS) in human sera. The competitive method showed an excellent correlation to the radioantigen binding assay (RABA, or Farr assay) and improved correlation of sera with low titers with respect to the more conventional noncompetitive method. Overestimation of samples in the low concentration range was no longer observed with the competitive ELISA method. The free HibCPS competition allowed us to eliminate the day-to-day background variation typical of some sera; thus, only values representing the true anti-HibCPS response were determined. The use of precoated microplates, which could be stored up to 8 months, greatly improved the speed of the procedure. An overall correlation coefficient of 0.9660 was found when 407 serum samples with a wide variety of anti-HibCPS antibody levels were tested with the competitive ELISA and RABA. The regression line was very close to the ideal line, with a slope of 1.0045 and an intercept of −0.1996. A subset of 96 serum samples representative of all pre- and postimmunization samples was used to compare the competitive ELISA with a previously described ELISA method. The competitive method performed in two laboratories in different countries showed a better correlation with the RABA. The correlation factors were 0.9770 and 0.9816, respectively, while a factor of 0.9547 was found with the previously described noncompetitive procedure, which was better for this method than previously reported (r = 0.917). Therefore, the competitive ELISA is proposed for the assay of anti-HibCPS titers in sera from vaccinated subjects.
PMCID: PMC95638  PMID: 9729534

Results 1-6 (6)