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1.  Reconstruction and Evaluation of the Synthetic Bacterial MEP Pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52498.
Isoprenoids, which are a large group of natural and chemical compounds with a variety of applications as e.g. fragrances, pharmaceuticals and potential biofuels, are produced via two different metabolic pathways, the mevalonate (MVA) pathway and the 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. Here, we attempted to replace the endogenous MVA pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae by a synthetic bacterial MEP pathway integrated into the genome to benefit from its superior properties in terms of energy consumption and productivity at defined growth conditions. It was shown that the growth of a MVA pathway deficient S. cerevisiae strain could not be restored by the heterologous MEP pathway even when accompanied by the co-expression of genes erpA, hISCA1 and CpIscA involved in the Fe-S trafficking routes leading to maturation of IspG and IspH and E. coli genes fldA and fpr encoding flavodoxin and flavodoxin reductase believed to be responsible for electron transfer to IspG and IspH.
PMCID: PMC3532213  PMID: 23285068
2.  Combined metabolic engineering of precursor and co-factor supply to increase α-santalene production by Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Sesquiterpenes are a class of natural products with a diverse range of attractive industrial proprieties. Due to economic difficulties of sesquiterpene production via extraction from plants or chemical synthesis there is interest in developing alternative and cost efficient bioprocesses. The hydrocarbon α-santalene is a precursor of sesquiterpenes with relevant commercial applications. Here, we construct an efficient Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell factory for α-santalene production.
A multistep metabolic engineering strategy targeted to increase precursor and cofactor supply was employed to manipulate the yeast metabolic network in order to redirect carbon toward the desired product. To do so, genetic modifications were introduced acting to optimize the farnesyl diphosphate branch point, modulate the mevalonate pathway, modify the ammonium assimilation pathway and enhance the activity of a transcriptional activator. The approach employed resulted in an overall α-santalene yield of a 0.0052 Cmmol (Cmmol glucose)-1 corresponding to a 4-fold improvement over the reference strain. This strategy, combined with a specifically developed continuous fermentation process, led to a final α-santalene productivity of 0.036 Cmmol (g biomass)-1 h-1.
The results reported in this work illustrate how the combination of a metabolic engineering strategy with fermentation technology optimization can be used to obtain significant amounts of the high-value sesquiterpene α-santalene. This represents a starting point toward the construction of a yeast “sesquiterpene factory” and for the development of an economically viable bio-based process that has the potential to replace the current production methods.
PMCID: PMC3527295  PMID: 22938570
Metabolic engineering; Isoprenoids; Sesquiterpenes; Continuous culture; Saccharomyces cerevisiae
3.  Ezrin Ubiquitylation by the E3 Ubiquitin Ligase, WWP1, and Consequent Regulation of Hepatocyte Growth Factor Receptor Activity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37490.
The membrane cytoskeleton linker ezrin participates in several functions downstream of the receptor Met in response to Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF) stimulation. Here we report a novel interaction of ezrin with a HECT E3 ubiquitin ligase, WWP1/Aip5/Tiul1, a potential oncogene that undergoes genomic amplification and overexpression in human breast and prostate cancers. We show that ezrin binds to the WW domains of WWP1 via the consensus motif PPVY477 present in ezrin’s C-terminus. This association results in the ubiquitylation of ezrin, a process that requires an intact PPVY477 motif. Interestingly ezrin ubiquitylation does not target the protein for degradation by the proteasome. We find that ezrin ubiquitylation by WWP1 in epithelial cells leads to the upregulation of Met level in absence of HGF stimulation and increases the response of Met to HGF stimulation as measured by the ability of the cells to heal a wound. Interestingly this effect requires ubiquitylated ezrin since it can be rescued, after depletion of endogenous ezrin, by wild type ezrin but not by a mutant of ezrin that cannot be ubiquitylated. Taken together our data reveal a new role for ezrin in Met receptor stability and activity through its association with the E3 ubiquitin ligase WWP1. Given the role of Met in cell proliferation and tumorigenesis, our results may provide a mechanistic basis for understanding the role of ezrin in tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC3358263  PMID: 22629406
4.  Functional Annotation, Genome Organization and Phylogeny of the Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) Terpene Synthase Gene Family Based on Genome Assembly, FLcDNA Cloning, and Enzyme Assays 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:226.
Terpenoids are among the most important constituents of grape flavour and wine bouquet, and serve as useful metabolite markers in viticulture and enology. Based on the initial 8-fold sequencing of a nearly homozygous Pinot noir inbred line, 89 putative terpenoid synthase genes (VvTPS) were predicted by in silico analysis of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera) genome assembly [1]. The finding of this very large VvTPS family, combined with the importance of terpenoid metabolism for the organoleptic properties of grapevine berries and finished wines, prompted a detailed examination of this gene family at the genomic level as well as an investigation into VvTPS biochemical functions.
We present findings from the analysis of the up-dated 12-fold sequencing and assembly of the grapevine genome that place the number of predicted VvTPS genes at 69 putatively functional VvTPS, 20 partial VvTPS, and 63 VvTPS probable pseudogenes. Gene discovery and annotation included information about gene architecture and chromosomal location. A dense cluster of 45 VvTPS is localized on chromosome 18. Extensive FLcDNA cloning, gene synthesis, and protein expression enabled functional characterization of 39 VvTPS; this is the largest number of functionally characterized TPS for any species reported to date. Of these enzymes, 23 have unique functions and/or phylogenetic locations within the plant TPS gene family. Phylogenetic analyses of the TPS gene family showed that while most VvTPS form species-specific gene clusters, there are several examples of gene orthology with TPS of other plant species, representing perhaps more ancient VvTPS, which have maintained functions independent of speciation.
The highly expanded VvTPS gene family underpins the prominence of terpenoid metabolism in grapevine. We provide a detailed experimental functional annotation of 39 members of this important gene family in grapevine and comprehensive information about gene structure and phylogeny for the entire currently known VvTPS gene family.
PMCID: PMC3017849  PMID: 20964856
5.  Posttranscriptional regulation of angiotensin II type 1 receptor expression by glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(7):2346-2358.
Regulation of angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1R) has a pathophysiological role in hypertension, atherosclerosis and heart failure. We started from an observation that the 3′-untranslated region (3′-UTR) of AT1R mRNA suppressed AT1R translation. Using affinity purification for the separation of 3′-UTR-binding proteins and mass spectrometry for their identification, we describe glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) as an AT1R 3′-UTR-binding protein. RNA electrophoretic mobility shift analysis with purified GAPDH further demonstrated a direct interaction with the 3′-UTR while GAPDH immunoprecipitation confirmed this interaction with endogenous AT1R mRNA. GAPDH-binding site was mapped to 1–100 of 3′-UTR. GAPDH-bound target mRNAs were identified by expression array hybridization. Analysis of secondary structures shared among GAPDH targets led to the identification of a RNA motif rich in adenines and uracils. Silencing of GAPDH increased the expression of both endogenous and transfected AT1R. Similarly, a decrease in GAPDH expression by H2O2 led to an increased level of AT1R expression. Consistent with GAPDH having a central role in H2O2-mediated AT1R regulation, both the deletion of GAPDH-binding site and GAPDH overexpression attenuated the effect of H2O2 on AT1R mRNA. Taken together, GAPDH is a translational suppressor of AT1R and mediates the effect of H2O2 on AT1R mRNA.
PMCID: PMC2673440  PMID: 19246543
6.  The interaction of IQGAP1 with the exocyst complex is required for tumor cell invasion downstream of Cdc42 and RhoA 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;181(6):985-998.
Invadopodia are actin-based membrane protrusions formed at contact sites between invasive tumor cells and the extracellular matrix with matrix proteolytic activity. Actin regulatory proteins participate in invadopodia formation, whereas matrix degradation requires metalloproteinases (MMPs) targeted to invadopodia. In this study, we show that the vesicle-tethering exocyst complex is required for matrix proteolysis and invasion of breast carcinoma cells. We demonstrate that the exocyst subunits Sec3 and Sec8 interact with the polarity protein IQGAP1 and that this interaction is triggered by active Cdc42 and RhoA, which are essential for matrix degradation. Interaction between IQGAP1 and the exocyst is necessary for invadopodia activity because enhancement of matrix degradation induced by the expression of IQGAP1 is lost upon deletion of the exocyst-binding site. We further show that the exocyst and IQGAP1 are required for the accumulation of cell surface membrane type 1 MMP at invadopodia. Based on these results, we propose that invadopodia function in tumor cells relies on the coordination of cytoskeletal assembly and exocytosis downstream of Rho guanosine triphosphatases.
PMCID: PMC2426946  PMID: 18541705
7.  Expression of the AT2 receptor developmentally programs extracellular signal-regulated kinase activity and influences fetal vascular growth 
Angiotensin II type 2 (AT2) receptor is abundantly expressed in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) of the fetal vasculature during late gestation (embryonic day 15–20), during which the blood vessels undergo remodeling. To examine directly the influence of AT2 receptor expression in the developmental biology of VSMC, we studied cultures of VSMC from fetal and postnatal wild-type (Agtr2+) and AT2 receptor null (Agtr2–) mice. Consistent with in vivo data, AT2 receptor binding in cultured Agtr2+ VSMC increased by age, peaking at embryonic day 20, and decreased dramatically after birth. Angiotensin II–induced growth in Agtr2+ VSMC (embryonic day 20) was increased by the AT2 receptor blocker PD123319, indicating that the AT2 receptors are functional and exert an antigrowth effect in Agtr2+ VSMC. Growth of VSMC in response to serum decreased age dependently and was higher in Agtr2– than in Agtr2+, inversely correlating with AT2 receptor expression. However, serum-induced growth in Agtr2+ and Agtr2– VSMC and the exaggerated Agtr2– VSMC growth was maintained even in the presence of PD123319 or losartan, an AT1 receptor blocker. Moreover, Agtr2– VSMC showed greater growth responses to platelet-derived growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factor, indicating that Agtr2– cells exhibit a generalized exaggerated growth phenotype. We studied the mechanism responsible for this phenotype and observed that extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activity was higher in Agtr2– VSMC at baseline and also in response to serum. ERK kinase inhibitor PD98059 inhibited both growth and ERK phosphorylation dose–dependently, while the regression lines between growth and ERK phosphorylation were identical in Agtr2+ and Agtr2– VSMC, suggesting that increased ERK activity in Agtr2– VSMC is pivotal in the growth enhancement. Furthermore, the difference in ERK phosphorylation between Agtr2+ and Agtr2– was abolished by vanadate but not by okadaic acid, implicating tyrosine phosphatase in the difference in ERK activity. These results suggest that the AT2 receptor expression during the fetal vasculogenesis influences the growth phenotype of VSMC via the modulation of ERK cascade.
PMCID: PMC407869  PMID: 9884335

Results 1-7 (7)