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1.  Glutamine-fueled mitochondrial metabolism is decoupled from glycolysis in melanoma 
Pigment cell & melanoma research  2012;25(6):732-739.
In this perspective, we revise the historic notion that cancer is a disease of mitochondria. We summarize recent findings on the function and rewiring of central carbon metabolism in melanoma. Metabolic profiling studies using stable isotope tracers show that glycolysis is decoupled from the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. This decoupling is not ‘dysfunction’ but rather an alternate wiring required by tumor cells to remain metabolically versatile. In large part, this requirement is met by glutamine feeding the TCA cycle as an alternative source of carbon. Glutamine is also used in non-conventional ways, like traveling in reverse through the TCA flux to feed fatty acid biosynthesis. The biosynthetic networks linked with non-essential amino acids alanine, serine, arginine, and proline are also significantly impacted by the use of glutamine as an alternate carbon source.
PMCID: PMC3639292  PMID: 22846158
metabolism; mitochondria; glutamine; systems biology; NMR
2.  Quinolinate Salvage and Insights for Targeting NAD Biosynthesis in Group A Streptococci 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(4):726-732.
The essential coenzyme NAD plays important roles in metabolic reactions and cell regulation in all organisms. As such, NAD synthesis has been investigated as a source for novel antibacterial targets. Cross-species genomics-based reconstructions of NAD metabolism in group A streptococci (GAS), combined with focused experimental testing in Streptococcus pyogenes, led to a better understanding of NAD metabolism in the pathogen. The predicted niacin auxotrophy was experimentally verified, as well as the essential role of the nicotinamidase PncA in the utilization of nicotinamide (Nm). PncA is dispensable in the presence of nicotinate (Na), ruling it out as a viable antibacterial target. The function of the “orphan” NadC enzyme, which is uniquely present in all GAS species despite the absence of other genes of NAD de novo synthesis, was elucidated. Indeed, the quinolinate (Qa) phosphoribosyltransferase activity of NadC from S. pyogenes allows the organism to sustain growth when Qa is present as a sole pyridine precursor. Finally, the redundancy of functional upstream salvage pathways in GAS species narrows the choice of potential drug targets to the two indispensable downstream enzymes of NAD synthesis, nicotinate adenylyltransferase (NadD family) and NAD synthetase (NadE family). Biochemical characterization of NadD confirmed its functional role in S. pyogenes, and its potential as an antibacterial target was supported by inhibition studies with previously identified class I inhibitors of the NadD enzyme family. One of these inhibitors efficiently inhibited S. pyogenes NadD (sp.NadD) in vitro (50% inhibitory concentration [IC50], 15 μM), exhibiting a noncompetitive mechanism with a Ki of 8 μM.
PMCID: PMC3562111  PMID: 23204464
3.  Functional Specialization in Proline Biosynthesis of Melanoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45190.
Proline metabolism is linked to hyperprolinemia, schizophrenia, cutis laxa, and cancer. In the latter case, tumor cells tend to rely on proline biosynthesis rather than salvage. Proline is synthesized from either glutamate or ornithine; both are converted to pyrroline-5-carboxylate (P5C), and then to proline via pyrroline-5-carboxylate reductases (PYCRs). Here, the role of three isozymic versions of PYCR was addressed in human melanoma cells by tracking the fate of 13C-labeled precursors. Based on these studies we conclude that PYCR1 and PYCR2, which are localized in the mitochondria, are primarily involved in conversion of glutamate to proline. PYCRL, localized in the cytosol, is exclusively linked to the conversion of ornithine to proline. This analysis provides the first clarification of the role of PYCRs to proline biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3443215  PMID: 23024808
4.  Glutamine versus Ammonia Utilization in the NAD Synthetase Family 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39115.
NAD is a ubiquitous and essential metabolic redox cofactor which also functions as a substrate in certain regulatory pathways. The last step of NAD synthesis is the ATP-dependent amidation of deamido-NAD by NAD synthetase (NADS). Members of the NADS family are present in nearly all species across the three kingdoms of Life. In eukaryotic NADS, the core synthetase domain is fused with a nitrilase-like glutaminase domain supplying ammonia for the reaction. This two-domain NADS arrangement enabling the utilization of glutamine as nitrogen donor is also present in various bacterial lineages. However, many other bacterial members of NADS family do not contain a glutaminase domain, and they can utilize only ammonia (but not glutamine) in vitro. A single-domain NADS is also characteristic for nearly all Archaea, and its dependence on ammonia was demonstrated here for the representative enzyme from Methanocaldococcus jannaschi. However, a question about the actual in vivo nitrogen donor for single-domain members of the NADS family remained open: Is it glutamine hydrolyzed by a committed (but yet unknown) glutaminase subunit, as in most ATP-dependent amidotransferases, or free ammonia as in glutamine synthetase? Here we addressed this dilemma by combining evolutionary analysis of the NADS family with experimental characterization of two representative bacterial systems: a two-subunit NADS from Thermus thermophilus and a single-domain NADS from Salmonella typhimurium providing evidence that ammonia (and not glutamine) is the physiological substrate of a typical single-domain NADS. The latter represents the most likely ancestral form of NADS. The ability to utilize glutamine appears to have evolved via recruitment of a glutaminase subunit followed by domain fusion in an early branch of Bacteria. Further evolution of the NADS family included lineage-specific loss of one of the two alternative forms and horizontal gene transfer events. Lastly, we identified NADS structural elements associated with glutamine-utilizing capabilities.
PMCID: PMC3376133  PMID: 22720044
5.  Structure and function of an ADP-ribose dependent transcriptional regulator of NAD metabolism 
Besides its function as an essential redox cofactor, NAD also serves as consumable substrate for several reactions with broad impact on many cellular processes. NAD homeostasis appears to be tightly controlled, but the mechanism of its regulation is little understood. Here we demonstrate that a previously predicted bacterial transcriptional regulator, NrtR, represses the transcription of NAD biosynthetic genes in vitro. The NAD metabolite ADP-ribose functions as an activator suppressing NrtR repressor activity. The presence of high ADP-ribose levels in the cell is indicative of active NAD turnover in bacteria, which could signal the activation of NAD biosynthetic gene expression via inhibiting the repressor function of NrtR. By comparing the crystal structures of NrtR in complex with DNA and with ADP-ribose, we identified a “Nudix switch” element that likely plays a critical role in the allosteric regulation of DNA binding and repressor function of NrtR.
PMCID: PMC2896262  PMID: 19604474
6.  Constraint-Based Model of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 Metabolism: A Tool for Data Analysis and Hypothesis Generation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(6):e1000822.
Shewanellae are gram-negative facultatively anaerobic metal-reducing bacteria commonly found in chemically (i.e., redox) stratified environments. Occupying such niches requires the ability to rapidly acclimate to changes in electron donor/acceptor type and availability; hence, the ability to compete and thrive in such environments must ultimately be reflected in the organization and utilization of electron transfer networks, as well as central and peripheral carbon metabolism. To understand how Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 utilizes its resources, the metabolic network was reconstructed. The resulting network consists of 774 reactions, 783 genes, and 634 unique metabolites and contains biosynthesis pathways for all cell constituents. Using constraint-based modeling, we investigated aerobic growth of S. oneidensis MR-1 on numerous carbon sources. To achieve this, we (i) used experimental data to formulate a biomass equation and estimate cellular ATP requirements, (ii) developed an approach to identify cycles (such as futile cycles and circulations), (iii) classified how reaction usage affects cellular growth, (iv) predicted cellular biomass yields on different carbon sources and compared model predictions to experimental measurements, and (v) used experimental results to refine metabolic fluxes for growth on lactate. The results revealed that aerobic lactate-grown cells of S. oneidensis MR-1 used less efficient enzymes to couple electron transport to proton motive force generation, and possibly operated at least one futile cycle involving malic enzymes. Several examples are provided whereby model predictions were validated by experimental data, in particular the role of serine hydroxymethyltransferase and glycine cleavage system in the metabolism of one-carbon units, and growth on different sources of carbon and energy. This work illustrates how integration of computational and experimental efforts facilitates the understanding of microbial metabolism at a systems level.
Author Summary
The role of members of the genus Shewanella in global carbon and nutrient cycles is implicated based on their wide distribution and their ability to link organic matter oxidation to reduction of many organic and inorganic electron acceptors both natural and artificial. These bacteria are also important in bioremediation efforts and other developing fields, including energy generating biocatalysis and the production of useful carbon containing compounds. In this study we applied a suite of systems-biology tools, including computational and high-throughput experimental approaches, to develop a predictive understanding of S. oneidensis MR-1 metabolism. We built a metabolic model and used it to analyze experimental data and to predict cellular phenotypes. Predicted cellular biomass yields on different carbon sources under aerobiosis were compared to experimental measurements, and experimental results were used to refine metabolic fluxes for growth on lactate. Computational and experimental analysis of S. oneidensis MR-1 metabolism revealed some of the reasons for a significant difference between experimental and predicted aerobic growth efficiency on lactate. The developed model provides a platform for a systematic assessment of Shewanella metabolism, which may be used for redesigning metabolic networks for chemical production.
PMCID: PMC2891590  PMID: 20589080
7.  Pichia anomala DBVPG 3003 Secretes a Ubiquitin-Like Protein That Has Antimicrobial Activity▿  
The yeast strain Pichia anomala DBVPG 3003 secretes a killer toxin (Pikt) that has antifungal activity against Brettanomyces/Dekkera sp. yeasts. Pikt interacts with β-1,6-glucan, consistent with binding to the cell wall of sensitive targets. In contrast to that of toxin K1, secreted by Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Pikt killer activity is not mediated by an increase in membrane permeability. Purification of the toxin yielded a homogeneous protein of about 8 kDa, which showed a marked similarity to ubiquitin in terms of molecular mass and N-terminal sequences. Pikt is also specifically recognized by anti-bovine ubiquitin antibodies and, similar to ubiquitin-like peptides, is not absorbed by DEAE-cellulose. However, Pikt differs from ubiquitin in its sensitivity to proteolytic enzymes. Therefore, Pikt appears to be a novel ubiquitin-like peptide that has killer activity.
PMCID: PMC2643562  PMID: 19114528
8.  Transcriptional regulation of NAD metabolism in bacteria: NrtR family of Nudix-related regulators 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(6):2047-2059.
A novel family of transcription factors responsible for regulation of various aspects of NAD synthesis in a broad range of bacteria was identified by comparative genomics approach. Regulators of this family (here termed NrtR for Nudix-related transcriptional regulators), currently annotated as ADP-ribose pyrophosphatases from the Nudix family, are composed of an N-terminal Nudix-like effector domain and a C-terminal DNA-binding HTH-like domain. NrtR regulons were reconstructed in diverse bacterial genomes by identification and comparative analysis of NrtR-binding sites upstream of genes involved in NAD biosynthetic pathways. The candidate NrtR-binding DNA motifs showed significant variability between microbial lineages, although the common consensus sequence could be traced for most of them. Bioinformatics predictions were experimentally validated by gel mobility shift assays for two NrtR family representatives. ADP-ribose, the product of glycohydrolytic cleavage of NAD, was found to suppress the in vitro binding of NrtR proteins to their DNA target sites. In addition to a major role in the direct regulation of NAD homeostasis, some members of NrtR family appear to have been recruited for the regulation of other metabolic pathways, including sugar pentoses utilization and biogenesis of phosphoribosyl pyrophosphate. This work and the accompanying study of NiaR regulon demonstrate significant variability of regulatory strategies for control of NAD metabolic pathway in bacteria.
PMCID: PMC2330246  PMID: 18276643

Results 1-8 (8)