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1.  Expansion of the Preimmune Antibody Repertoire by Junctional Diversity in Bos taurus 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99808.
Cattle have a limited range of immunoglobulin genes which are further diversified by antigen independent somatic hypermutation in fetuses. Junctional diversity generated during somatic recombination contributes to antibody diversity but its relative significance has not been comprehensively studied. We have investigated the importance of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) -mediated junctional diversity to the bovine immunoglobulin repertoire. We also searched for new bovine heavy chain diversity (IGHD) genes as the information of the germline sequences is essential to define the junctional boundaries between gene segments. New heavy chain variable genes (IGHV) were explored to address the gene usage in the fetal recombinations. Our bioinformatics search revealed five new IGHD genes, which included the longest IGHD reported so far, 154 bp. By genomic sequencing we found 26 new IGHV sequences that represent potentially new IGHV genes or allelic variants. Sequence analysis of immunoglobulin heavy chain cDNA libraries of fetal bone marrow, ileum and spleen showed 0 to 36 nontemplated N-nucleotide additions between variable, diversity and joining genes. A maximum of 8 N nucleotides were also identified in the light chains. The junctional base profile was biased towards A and T nucleotide additions (64% in heavy chain VD, 52% in heavy chain DJ and 61% in light chain VJ junctions) in contrast to the high G/C content which is usually observed in mice. Sequence analysis also revealed extensive exonuclease activity, providing additional diversity. B-lymphocyte specific TdT expression was detected in bovine fetal bone marrow by reverse transcription-qPCR and immunofluorescence. These results suggest that TdT-mediated junctional diversity and exonuclease activity contribute significantly to the size of the cattle preimmune antibody repertoire already in the fetal period.
PMCID: PMC4057420  PMID: 24926997
2.  DNA Barcodes of Rosy Tetras and Allied Species (Characiformes: Characidae: Hyphessobrycon) from the Brazilian Amazon Basin 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e98603.
DNA barcoding can be an effective tool for fast and accurate species-level identification based on sequencing of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit (COI) gene. The diversity of this fragment can be used to estimate the richness of the respective species. In this study, we explored the use of DNA barcoding in a group of ornamental freshwater fish of the genus Hyphessobrycon. We sequenced the COI from 10 species of Hyphessobrycon belonging to the “Rosy Tetra Clade” collected from the Amazon and Negro River basins and combined our results with published data. The average conspecific and congeneric Kimura 2-parameter distances were 2.3% and 19.3%, respectively. Six of the 10 species were easily distinguishable by DNA barcoding (H. bentosi, H. copelandi, H. eques, H. epicharis, H. pulchrippinis, and H. sweglesi), whereas the remaining species (H. erythrostigma, H. pyrrhonotus, H. rosaceus and H. socolofi) lacked reciprocal monophyly. Although the COI gene was not fully diagnostic, the discovery of distinct evolutionary units in certain Hyphessobrycon species under the same specific epithet as well as haplotype sharing between different species suggest that DNA barcoding is useful for species identification in this speciose genus.
PMCID: PMC4039478  PMID: 24878569
3.  Combination of FACS and Homologous Recombination for the Generation of Stable and High-Expression Engineered Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91712.
Traditionally, cell line generation requires several months and involves screening of over several hundred cell clones for high productivity before dozens are selected as candidate cell lines. Here, we have designed a new strategy for the generation of stable and high-expression cell lines by combining homologous recombination (HR) and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). High expression was indicated by the expression of secreted green fluorescent protein (SEGFP). Parental cell lines with the highest expression of SEGFP were then selected by FACS and identified by stability analysis. Consequently, HR vectors were constructed using the cassette for SEGFP as the HR region. After transfecting the HR vector, the cells with negative SEGFP expression were enriched by FACS. The complete exchange between SEGFP and target gene (TNFR-Fc) cassettes was demonstrated by DNA analysis. Compared with the traditional method, by integrating the cassette containing the gene of interest into the pre-selected site, the highest producing cells secreted a more than 8-fold higher titer of target protein. Hence, this new strategy can be applied to isolated stable cell lines with desirable expression of any gene of interest. The stable cell lines can rapidly produce proteins for researching protein structure and function and are even applicable in drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3960159  PMID: 24646904
4.  Revealing Individual Signatures of Human T Cell CDR3 Sequence Repertoires with Kidera Factors 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86986.
The recent development of High Throughput Sequencing technologies has enabled an individual’s TCR repertoire to be efficiently analysed at the nucleotide level. However, with unique clonotypes ranging in the tens of millions per individual, this approach gives a surfeit of information that is difficult to analyse and interpret in a biological context and gives little information about TCR structural diversity. Using publicly available TCR CDR3 sequence data, we analysed TCR repertoires by converting the encoded CDR3 amino acid sequences into Kidera Factors, a set of orthogonal physico-chemical properties that reflect protein structure. This approach enabled the TCR repertoire from different individuals to be distinguished and demonstrated the close similarity of the repertoire in different samples from the same individual.
PMCID: PMC3906109  PMID: 24489822
5.  Monitoring Repair of UV-Induced 6-4-Photoproducts with a Purified DDB2 Protein Complex 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85896.
Because cells are constantly subjected to DNA damaging insults, DNA repair pathways are critical for genome integrity [1]. DNA damage recognition protein complexes (DRCs) recognize DNA damage and initiate DNA repair. The DNA-Damage Binding protein 2 (DDB2) complex is a DRC that initiates nucleotide excision repair (NER) of DNA damage caused by ultraviolet light (UV) [2]–[4]. Using a purified DDB2 DRC, we created a probe (“DDB2 proteo-probe”) that hybridizes to nuclei of cells irradiated with UV and not to cells exposed to other genotoxins. The DDB2 proteo-probe recognized UV-irradiated DNA in classical laboratory assays, including cyto- and histo-chemistry, flow cytometry, and slot-blotting. When immobilized, the proteo-probe also bound soluble UV-irradiated DNA in ELISA-like and DNA pull-down assays. In vitro, the DDB2 proteo-probe preferentially bound 6-4-photoproducts [(6-4)PPs] rather than cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs). We followed UV-damage repair by cyto-chemistry in cells fixed at different time after UV irradiation, using either the DDB2 proteo-probe or antibodies against CPDs, or (6-4)PPs. The signals obtained with the DDB2 proteo-probe and with the antibody against (6-4)PPs decreased in a nearly identical manner. Since (6-4)PPs are repaired only by nucleotide excision repair (NER), our results strongly suggest the DDB2 proteo-probe hybridizes to DNA containing (6-4)PPs and allows monitoring of their removal during NER. We discuss the general use of purified DRCs as probes, in lieu of antibodies, to recognize and monitor DNA damage and repair.
PMCID: PMC3904869  PMID: 24489677
6.  Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors Selectively Target Homology Dependent DNA Repair Defective Cells and Elevate Non-Homologous Endjoining Activity 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87203.
We have previously used the ATAD5-luciferase high-throughput screening assay to identify genotoxic compounds with potential chemotherapeutic capabilities. The successful identification of known genotoxic agents, including the histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi) trichostatin A (TSA), confirmed the specificity of the screen since TSA has been widely studied for its ability to cause apoptosis in cancer cells. Because many cancers have acquired mutations in DNA damage checkpoints or repair pathways, we hypothesized that these cancers may be susceptible to treatments that target compensatory pathways. Here, we used a panel of isogenic chicken DT40 B lymphocyte mutant and human cell lines to investigate the ability of TSA to define selective pathways that promote HDACi toxicity.
HDACi induced a DNA damage response and reduced viability in all repair deficient DT40 mutants although ATM-nulls were least affected. The most dramatic sensitivity was observed in mutants lacking the homology dependent repair (HDR) factor BLM or the non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) and HDR factors, KU/RAD54, suggesting an involvement of either HDR or NHEJ in HDACi-induced cell death. To extend these findings, we measured the frequencies of HDR and NHEJ after HDACi treatment and monitored viability in human cell lines comparably deficient in HDR or NHEJ. Although no difference in HDR frequency was observed between HDACi treated and untreated cells, HDR-defective human cell lines were clearly more sensitive than wild type. Unexpectedly, cells treated with HDACis showed a significantly elevated NHEJ frequency.
HDACi targeting drugs induced significant increases in NHEJ activity in human cell lines but did not alter HDR frequency. Moreover, HDR is required for cellular resistance to HDACi therapy; therefore, NHEJ does not appear to be a critical axis for HDACi resistance. Rather, HDACi compounds induced DNA damage, most likely double strand breaks (DSBs), and HDR proficiency is correlated with cell survival.
PMCID: PMC3900704  PMID: 24466340
7.  Divergent Wnt8a Gene Expression in Teleosts 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85303.
The analysis of genes in evolutionarily distant but morphologically similar species is of major importance to unravel the changes in genomes over millions of years, which led to gene silencing and functional diversification. We report the analysis of Wnt8a gene expression in the medakafish and provide a detailed comparison to other vertebrates. In all teleosts analyzed there are two paralogous Wnt8a copies. These show largely overlapping expression in the early developing zebrafish embryo, an evolutionarily distant relative of medaka. In contrast to zebrafish, we find that both maternal and zygotic expression of particularly one Wnt8a paralog has diverged in medaka. While Wnt8a1 expression is mostly conserved at early embryonic stages, the expression of Wnt8a2 differs markedly. In addition, both genes are distinctly expressed during organogenesis unlike the zebrafish homologs, which may hint at the emergence of functional diversification of Wnt8a ligands during evolution.
PMCID: PMC3896364  PMID: 24465531
8.  Evolutionary Conservation of Divergent Pro-Inflammatory and Homeostatic Responses in Lamprey Phagocytes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86255.
In higher vertebrates, phagocytosis plays a critical role in development and immunity, based on the internalization and removal of apoptotic cells and invading pathogens, respectively. Previous studies describe the effective uptake of these particles by lower vertebrate and invertebrate phagocytes, and identify important molecular players that contribute to this internalization. However, it remains unclear if individual phagocytes mediate internalization processes in these ancient organisms, and how this impacts the balance of pro-inflammatory and homeostatic events within their infection sites. Herein we show that individual phagocytes of the jawless vertebrate Petromyzon marinus (sea lamprey), like those of teleost fish and mice, display the capacity for divergent pro-inflammatory and homeostatic responses following internalization of zymosan and apoptotic cells, respectively. Professional phagocytes (macrophages, monocytes, neutrophils) were the primary contributors to the internalization of pro-inflammatory particles among goldfish (C. auratus) and lamprey (P. marinus) hematopoietic leukocytes. However, goldfish showed a greater ability for zymosan phagocytosis when compared to their jawless counterparts. Coupled to this increase was a significantly lower sensitivity of goldfish phagocytes to homeostatic signals derived from apoptotic cell internalization. Together, this translated into a significantly greater capacity for induction of antimicrobial respiratory burst responses compared to lamprey phagocytes, but also a decreased efficacy in apoptotic cell-driven leukocyte homeostatic mechanisms that attenuate this pro-inflammatory process. Overall, our results show the long-standing evolutionary contribution of intrinsic phagocyte mechanisms for the control of inflammation, and illustrate one effective evolutionary strategy for increased responsiveness against invading pathogens. In addition, they highlight the need for development of complementary regulatory mechanisms of inflammation to ensure continued maintenance of host integrity amidst increasing challenges from invading pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3896464  PMID: 24465992
9.  Immune Mediated Shaping of Microflora Community Composition Depends on Barrier Site 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84019.
Barrier surfaces, such as the intestinal lining and the skin, are colonized by a diverse community of commensal microorganisms. Although commensal microorganisms clearly impact the host immune system, whether the immune system also shapes the commensal community is poorly understood. We used 16S rDNA deep sequencing to test whether mice with specific immune defects have an altered commensal microflora. Initially, skin swabs were obtained from wild-type and Langerhans Cell (LC) deficient mice. Despite the intimate contacts that LC make with the upper epidermis, no significant differences were observed in microbial community composition. Similarly, the skin of MyD88/TRIF−/−, Rag1−/− and heterozygous littermate controls showed no alteration in their commensal communities. Next we examined mouth swabs and feces. We did not find a difference in the MyD88/TRIF−/− mice. However, we did observe a significant shift in the microbial composition in the feces and mouths of Rag1−/− mice. Thus, we conclude that the adaptive immune system modulates the microbial composition at mucosal surfaces in the steady-state but LC, adaptive immunity, and MyD88-dependent innate responses do not affect the skin microbiome revealing a major distinction between barrier sites.
PMCID: PMC3885526  PMID: 24416190
10.  Genetic Patterns in European Geometrid Moths Revealed by the Barcode Index Number (BIN) System 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84518.
The geometrid moths of Europe are one of the best investigated insect groups in traditional taxonomy making them an ideal model group to test the accuracy of the Barcode Index Number (BIN) system of BOLD (Barcode of Life Datasystems), a method that supports automated, rapid species delineation and identification.
Methodology/Principal Findings
This study provides a DNA barcode library for 219 of the 249 European geometrid moth species (88%) in five selected subfamilies. The data set includes COI sequences for 2130 specimens. Most species (93%) were found to possess diagnostic barcode sequences at the European level while only three species pairs (3%) were genetically indistinguishable in areas of sympatry. As a consequence, 97% of the European species we examined were unequivocally discriminated by barcodes within their natural areas of distribution. We found a 1:1 correspondence between BINs and traditionally recognized species for 67% of these species. Another 17% of the species (15 pairs, three triads) shared BINs, while specimens from the remaining species (18%) were divided among two or more BINs. Five of these species are mixtures, both sharing and splitting BINs. For 82% of the species with two or more BINs, the genetic splits involved allopatric populations, many of which have previously been hypothesized to represent distinct species or subspecies.
This study confirms the effectiveness of DNA barcoding as a tool for species identification and illustrates the potential of the BIN system to characterize formal genetic units independently of an existing classification. This suggests the system can be used to efficiently assess the biodiversity of large, poorly known assemblages of organisms. For the moths examined in this study, cases of discordance between traditionally recognized species and BINs arose from several causes including overlooked species, synonymy, and cases where DNA barcodes revealed regional variation of uncertain taxonomic significance.
PMCID: PMC3866169  PMID: 24358363
11.  Molecular Phylogeny and Barcoding of Caulerpa (Bryopsidales) Based on the tufA, rbcL, 18S rDNA and ITS rDNA Genes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82438.
The biodiversity assessment of different taxa of the genus Caulerpa is of interest from the context of morphological plasticity, invasive potential of some species and biotechnological and pharmacological applications. The present study investigated the identification and molecular phylogeny of different species of Caulerpa occurring along the Indian coast inferred from tufA, rbcL, 18S rDNA and ITS rDNA nucleotide sequences. Molecular data confirmed the identification of 10 distinct Caulerpa species: C. veravalensis, C. verticillata, C. racemosa, C. microphysa, C. taxifolia, C. sertularioides, C. scalpelliformis, C. serrulata, C. peltata and C. mexicana. All datasets significantly supported the sister relationship between C. veravalensis and C. racemosa var. cylindracea. It was also concluded from the results that the specimen identified previously as C. microphysa and C. lentillifera could not be considered as separate species. The molecular data revealed the presence of multiple lineages for C. racemosa which can be resolved into separate species. All four markers were used to ascertain their utility for DNA barcoding. The tufA gene proved a better marker with monophyletic association as the main criteria for identification at the species level. The results also support the use of 18S rDNA insertion sequences to delineate the Caulerpa species through character-based barcoding. The ITS rDNA (5.8S-ITS2) phylogenetic analysis also served as another supporting tool. Further, more sequences from additional Caulerpa specimens will need to be analysed in order to support the role of these two markers (ITS rDNA and 18S insertion sequence) in identification of Caulerpa species. The present study revealed the phylogeny of Caulerpa as complete as possible using the currently available data, which is the first comprehensive report illustrating the molecular phylogeny and barcoding of the genus Caulerpa from Indian waters.
PMCID: PMC3855484  PMID: 24340028
12.  Sequencing and De Novo Analysis of the Hemocytes Transcriptome in Litopenaeus vannamei Response to White Spot Syndrome Virus Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76718.
White spot syndrome virus (WSSV) is a causative pathogen found in most shrimp farming areas of the world and causes large economic losses to the shrimp aquaculture. The mechanism underlying the molecular pathogenesis of the highly virulent WSSV remains unknown. To better understand the virus-host interactions at the molecular level, the transcriptome profiles in hemocytes of unchallenged and WSSV-challenged shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) were compared using a short-read deep sequencing method (Illumina).
RNA-seq analysis generated more than 25.81 million clean pair end (PE) reads, which were assembled into 52,073 unigenes (mean size = 520 bp). Based on sequence similarity searches, 23,568 (45.3%) genes were identified, among which 6,562 and 7,822 unigenes were assigned to gene ontology (GO) categories and clusters of orthologous groups (COG), respectively. Searches in the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes Pathway database (KEGG) mapped 14,941 (63.4%) unigenes to 240 KEGG pathways. Among all the annotated unigenes, 1,179 were associated with immune-related genes. Digital gene expression (DGE) analysis revealed that the host transcriptome profile was slightly changed in the early infection (5 hours post injection) of the virus, while large transcriptional differences were identified in the late infection (48 hpi) of WSSV. The differentially expressed genes mainly involved in pattern recognition genes and some immune response factors. The results indicated that antiviral immune mechanisms were probably involved in the recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns.
This study provided a global survey of host gene activities against virus infection in a non-model organism, pacific white shrimp. Results can contribute to the in-depth study of candidate genes in white shrimp, and help to improve the current understanding of host-pathogen interactions.
PMCID: PMC3799976  PMID: 24204661
13.  Analysis of Expression, Cellular Localization, and Function of Three Inhibitors of Apoptosis (IAPs) from Litopenaeus vannamei during WSSV Infection and in Regulation of Antimicrobial Peptide Genes (AMPs) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72592.
Inhibitors of apoptosis (IAPs) play important roles in apoptosis and NF-κB activation. In this study, we cloned and characterized three IAPs (LvIAP1-3) from the Pacific white shrimp, Litopenaeusvannamei. LvIAP1-3 proteins shared signature domains and exhibited significant similarities with other IAP family proteins. The tissue distributions of LvIAP1-3 were studied. The expression of LvIAP1-3 was induced in the muscle after white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) infection. LvIAP1 expression in the gill, hemocytes, hepatopancreas, and intestine was responsive to WSSV and Vibrioalginolyticus infections. LvIAP2 expression in the gill, hemocytes, and hepatopancreas was also responsive to WSSV infection. The expression of LvIAP3 in the gill, hemocytes, and intestine was reduced after V. alginolyticus infection. When overexpressed in Drosophila S2 cells, GFP labeled-LvIAP2 was distributed in the cytoplasm and appeared as speck-like aggregates in the nucleus. Both LvIAP1 and LvIAP3 were widely distributed throughout the cytoplasm and nucleus. The expression of LvIAP1, LvIAP2, and LvIAP3 was significantly knocked down by dsRNA-mediated gene silencing. In the gill of LvIAP1- or LvIAP3-silenced shrimp, the expression of WSSV VP28 was significantly higher than that of the dsGFP control group, suggesting that LvIAP1 and LvIAP3 may play protective roles in host defense against WSSV infection. Intriguingly, the LvIAP2-silenced shrimp all died within 48 hours after dsLvIAP2 injection. In the hemocytes of LvIAP2-silenced shrimps, the expression of antimicrobial peptide genes (AMPs), including Penaeidins, lysozyme, crustins, Vibriopenaeicidae-induced cysteine and proline-rich peptides (VICPs), was significantly downregulated, while the expression of anti-lipopolysaccharide factors (ALFs) was upregulated. Moreover, LvIAP2 activated the promoters of the NF-κB pathway-controlled AMPs, such as shrimp Penaeidins and Drosophila drosomycin and attacin A, in Drosophila S2 cells. Taken together, these results reveal that LvIAP1 and LvIAP3 might participate in the host defense against WSSV infection, and LvIAP2 might be involved in the regulation of shrimp AMPs.
PMCID: PMC3743791  PMID: 23967321
14.  Differential Programming of B Cells in AID Deficient Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69815.
The Aicda locus encodes the activation induced cytidine deaminase (AID) and is highly expressed in germinal center (GC) B cells to initiate somatic hypermutation (SHM) and class switch recombination (CSR) of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes. Besides these Ig specific activities in B cells, AID has been implicated in active DNA demethylation in non-B cell systems. We here determined a potential role of AID as an epigenetic eraser and transcriptional regulator in B cells. RNA-Seq on different B cell subsets revealed that Aicda−/− B cells are developmentally affected. However as shown by RNA-Seq, MethylCap-Seq, and SNP analysis these transcriptome alterations may not relate to AID, but alternatively to a CBA mouse strain derived region around the targeted Aicda locus. These unexpected confounding parameters provide alternative, AID-independent interpretations on genotype-phenotype correlations previously reported in numerous studies on AID using the Aicda−/− mouse strain.
PMCID: PMC3726761  PMID: 23922811
15.  Fate Mapping for Activation-Induced Cytidine Deaminase (AID) Marks Non-Lymphoid Cells During Mouse Development 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69208.
The Aicda gene encodes Activation-Induced cytidine Deaminase (AID), an enzyme essential for remodeling antibody genes in mature B lymphocytes. AID is also responsible for DNA damage at oncogenes, leading to their mutation and cancer-associated chromosome translocation in lymphoma. We used fate mapping and AIDGFP reporter mice to determine if AID expression in the mouse extends beyond lymphocytes. We discovered that AIDcre tags a small fraction of non-lymphoid cells starting at 10.5 days post conception (dpc), and that AIDGFP+ cells are detectable at dpc 11.5 and 12.5. Embryonic cells are tagged by AIDcre in the submandibular region, where conditional deletion of the tumor suppressor PTEN causes squamous papillomas. AIDcre also tags non-lymphoid cells in the embryonic central nervous system. Finally, in the adult mouse brain, AIDcre marks a small fraction of diverse neurons and distinct neuronal populations, including pyramidal cells in cortical layer IV.
PMCID: PMC3704518  PMID: 23861962
16.  Comparison of Lentiviral and Sleeping Beauty Mediated αβ T Cell Receptor Gene Transfer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e68201.
Transfer of tumour antigen-specific receptors to T cells requires efficient delivery and integration of transgenes, and currently most clinical studies are using gamma retroviral or lentiviral systems. Whilst important proof-of-principle data has been generated for both chimeric antigen receptors and αβ T cell receptors, the current platforms are costly, time-consuming and relatively inflexible. Alternative, more cost-effective, Sleeping Beauty transposon-based plasmid systems could offer a pathway to accelerated clinical testing of a more diverse repertoire of recombinant high affinity T cell receptors. Nucleofection of hyperactive SB100X transposase-mediated stable transposition of an optimised murine-human chimeric T cell receptor specific for Wilm’s tumour antigen from a Sleeping Beauty transposon plasmid. Whilst transfer efficiency was lower than that mediated by lentiviral transduction, cells could be readily enriched and expanded, and mediated effective target cells lysis in vitro and in vivo. Integration sites of transposed TCR genes in primary T cells were almost randomly distributed, contrasting the predilection of lentiviral vectors for transcriptionally active sites. The results support exploitation of the Sleeping Beauty plasmid based system as a flexible and adaptable platform for accelerated, early-phase assessment of T cell receptor gene therapies.
PMCID: PMC3695921  PMID: 23840834
17.  The Candidate Histocompatibility Locus of a Basal Chordate Encodes Two Highly Polymorphic Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65980.
The basal chordate Botryllus schlosseri undergoes a natural transplantation reaction governed by a single, highly polymorphic locus called the fuhc. Our initial characterization of this locus suggested it encoded a single gene alternatively spliced into two transcripts: a 555 amino acid–secreted form containing the first half of the gene, and a full-length, 1008 amino acid transmembrane form, with polymorphisms throughout the ectodomain determining outcome. We have now found that the locus encodes two highly polymorphic genes which are separated by a 227 bp intergenic region: first, the secreted form as previously described, and a second gene encoding a 531 amino acid membrane-bound gene containing three extracellular immunoglobulin domains. While northern blotting revealed only these two mRNAs, both PCR and mRNA-seq detect a single capped and polyadenylated transcript that encodes processed forms of both genes linked by the intergenic region, as well as other transcripts in which exons of the two genes are spliced together. These results might suggest that the two genes are expressed as an operon, during which both genes are co-transcribed and then trans-spliced into two separate messages. This type of transcriptional regulation has been described in tunicates previously; however, the membrane-bound gene does not encode a typical Splice Leader (SL) sequence at the 5′ terminus that usually accompanies trans-splicing. Thus, the presence of stable transcripts encoding both genes may suggest a novel mechanism of regulation, or conversely may be rare but stable transcripts in which the two mRNAs are linked due to a small amount of read-through by RNA polymerase. Both genes are highly polymorphic and co-expressed on tissues involved in histocompatibility. In addition, polymorphisms on both genes correlate with outcome, although we have found a case in which it appears that the secreted form may be major allorecognition determinant.
PMCID: PMC3691228  PMID: 23826085
18.  R-Loop Mediated Transcription-Associated Recombination in trf4Δ Mutants Reveals New Links between RNA Surveillance and Genome Integrity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65541.
To get further insight into the factors involved in the maintenance of genome integrity we performed a screening of Saccharomyces cerevisiae deletion strains inducing hyperrecombination. We have identified trf4, a gene encoding a non-canonical polyA-polymerase involved in RNA surveillance, as a factor that prevents recombination between DNA repeats. We show that trf4Δ confers a transcription-associated recombination phenotype that is mediated by the nascent mRNA. In addition, trf4Δ also leads to an increase in the mutation frequency. Both genetic instability phenotypes can be suppressed by overexpression of RNase H and are exacerbated by overexpression of the human cytidine deaminase AID. These results suggest that in the absence of Trf4 R-loops accumulate co-transcriptionally increasing the recombination and mutation frequencies. Altogether our data indicate that Trf4 is necessary for both mRNA surveillance and maintenance of genome integrity, serving as a link between RNA and DNA metabolism in S. cerevisiae.
PMCID: PMC3676323  PMID: 23762389
19.  Evolvability Is Inevitable: Increasing Evolvability without the Pressure to Adapt 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62186.
Why evolvability appears to have increased over evolutionary time is an important unresolved biological question. Unlike most candidate explanations, this paper proposes that increasing evolvability can result without any pressure to adapt. The insight is that if evolvability is heritable, then an unbiased drifting process across genotypes can still create a distribution of phenotypes biased towards evolvability, because evolvable organisms diffuse more quickly through the space of possible phenotypes. Furthermore, because phenotypic divergence often correlates with founding niches, niche founders may on average be more evolvable, which through population growth provides a genotypic bias towards evolvability. Interestingly, the combination of these two mechanisms can lead to increasing evolvability without any pressure to out-compete other organisms, as demonstrated through experiments with a series of simulated models. Thus rather than from pressure to adapt, evolvability may inevitably result from any drift through genotypic space combined with evolution's passive tendency to accumulate niches.
PMCID: PMC3634764  PMID: 23637999
20.  Aggregation of Sea Urchin Phagocytes Is Augmented In Vitro by Lipopolysaccharide 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61419.
Development of protocols and media for culturing immune cells from marine invertebrates has not kept pace with advancements in mammalian immune cell culture, the latter having been driven by the need to understand the causes of and develop therapies for human and animal diseases. However, expansion of the aquaculture industry and the diseases that threaten these systems creates the need to develop cell and tissue culture methods for marine invertebrates. Such methods will enable us to better understand the causes of disease outbreaks and to develop means to avoid and remedy epidemics. We report a method for the short-term culture of phagocytes from the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, by modifying an approach previously used to culture cells from another sea urchin species. The viability of cultured phagocytes from the purple sea urchin decreases from 91.6% to 57% over six days and phagocyte morphology changes from single cells to aggregates leading to the formation of syncytia-like structures. This process is accelerated in the presence of lipopolysaccharide suggesting that phagocytes are capable of detecting this molecular pattern in culture conditions. Sea urchin immune response proteins, called Sp185/333, are expressed on the surface of a subset of phagocytes and have been associated with syncytia-like structures. We evaluated their expression in cultured phagocytes to determine their possible role in cell aggregation and in the formation of syncytia-like structures. Between 0 and 3 hr, syncytia-like structures were observed in cultures when only ∼10% of the cells were positive for Sp185/333 proteins. At 24 hr, ∼90% of the nuclei were Sp185/333-positive when all of the phagocytes had aggregated into syncytia-like structures. Consequently, we conclude that the Sp185/333 proteins do not have a major role in initiating the aggregation of cultured phagocytes, however the Sp185/333 proteins are associated with the clustered nuclei within the syncytia-like structures.
PMCID: PMC3629189  PMID: 23613847
21.  A NF-κB-Dependent Dual Promoter-Enhancer Initiates the Lipopolysaccharide-Mediated Transcriptional Activation of the Chicken Lysozyme in Macrophages 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59389.
The transcriptional activation of the chicken lysozyme gene (cLys) by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in macrophages is dependent on transcription of a LPS-Inducible Non-Coding RNA (LINoCR) triggering eviction of the CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) from a negative regulatory element upstream of the lysozyme transcription start site. LINoCR is transcribed from a promoter originally characterized as a hormone response enhancer in the oviduct. Herein, we report the characterization of this cis-regulatory element (CRE). In activated macrophages, a 60 bp region bound by NF-κB, AP1 and C/EBPβ controls this CRE, which is strictly dependent on NF-κB binding for its activity in luciferase assays. Moreover, the serine/threonine kinase IKKα, known to be recruited by NF-κB to NF-κB-dependent genes is found at the CRE and within the transcribing regions of both cLys and LINoCR. Such repartition suggests a simultaneous promoter and enhancer activity of this CRE, initiating cLys transcriptional activation and driving CTCF eviction. This recruitment was transient despite persistence of both cLys transcription and NF-κB binding to the CRE. Finally, comparing cLys with other LPS-inducible genes indicates that IKKα detection within transcribing regions can be correlated with the presence of the elongating form of RNA polymerase II or concentrated in the 3′ end of the gene.
PMCID: PMC3606415  PMID: 23533622
22.  Contribution of VH Replacement Products in Mouse Antibody Repertoire 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57877.
VH replacement occurs through RAG-mediated recombination between the cryptic recombination signal sequence (cRSS) near the 3′ end of a rearranged VH gene and the 23-bp RSS from an upstream unrearranged VH gene. Due to the location of the cRSS, VH replacement leaves a short stretch of nucleotides from the previously rearranged VH gene at the newly formed V-D junction, which can be used as a marker to identify VH replacement products. To determine the contribution of VH replacement products to mouse antibody repertoire, we developed a Java-based VH Replacement Footprint Analyzer (VHRFA) program and analyzed 17,179 mouse IgH gene sequences from the NCBI database to identify VH replacement products. The overall frequency of VH replacement products in these IgH genes is 5.29% based on the identification of pentameric VH replacement footprints at their V-D junctions. The identified VH replacement products are distributed similarly in IgH genes using most families of VH genes, although different families of VH genes are used differentially. The frequencies of VH replacement products are significantly elevated in IgH genes derived from several strains of autoimmune prone mice and in IgH genes encoding autoantibodies. Moreover, the identified VH replacement footprints in IgH genes from autoimmune prone mice or IgH genes encoding autoantibodies preferentially encode positively charged amino acids. These results revealed a significant contribution of VH replacement products to the diversification of antibody repertoire and potentially, to the generation of autoantibodies in mice.
PMCID: PMC3585286  PMID: 23469094
23.  Characterization of P2X7R and Its Function in the Macrophages of ayu, Plecoglossus altivelis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57505.
P2X purinoceptor 7 (P2X7R), an ATP-gated ion channel, plays an important role during the innate immune response in mammals. However, relatively little is known about the role of P2X7R in the fish immune system. Here, we cloned a cDNA sequence encoding ayu (Plecoglossus altivelis) P2X7R (aP2X7R). The predicted protein was composed of 574 amino acid residues with a P2X family signature, two transmembrane domains, and a long C-terminal. aP2X7R transcripts were mainly distributed in ayu immune tissues and significantly increased in all tested tissues and in macrophages after Listonella anguillarum infection. The aP2X7R protein was upregulated significantly in macrophages upon bacterial challenge. An antibody against the ectodomain of aP2X7R (aEPAb) and an antagonist (oATP) were used to block aP2X7R. aP2X7R siRNA was also used to knockdown the receptor expression in ayu macrophages. Cell death induced by ATP was significantly inhibited in ayu macrophages after aEPAb, oATP, or siRNA treatment. Moreover, aP2X7R ablation also resulted in suppression of phagocytic activity and ATP-induced bacterial killing in ayu macrophages. Our results indicated that aP2X7R was upregulated after infection and mediated cell death, phagocytosis, and bacterial killing of ayu macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3578793  PMID: 23437395
24.  Cell Type-Dependent Induction of DNA Damage by 1800 MHz Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields Does Not Result in Significant Cellular Dysfunctions 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54906.
Although IARC clarifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) as possible human carcinogen, the debate on its health impact continues due to the inconsistent results. Genotoxic effect has been considered as a golden standard to determine if an environmental factor is a carcinogen, but the currently available data for RF-EMF remain controversial. As an environmental stimulus, the effect of RF-EMF on cellular DNA may be subtle. Therefore, more sensitive method and systematic research strategy are warranted to evaluate its genotoxicity.
To determine whether RF-EMF does induce DNA damage and if the effect is cell-type dependent by adopting a more sensitive method γH2AX foci formation; and to investigate the biological consequences if RF-EMF does increase γH2AX foci formation.
Six different types of cells were intermittently exposed to GSM 1800 MHz RF-EMF at a specific absorption rate of 3.0 W/kg for 1 h or 24 h, then subjected to immunostaining with anti-γH2AX antibody. The biological consequences in γH2AX-elevated cell type were further explored with comet and TUNEL assays, flow cytometry, and cell growth assay.
Exposure to RF-EMF for 24 h significantly induced γH2AX foci formation in Chinese hamster lung cells and Human skin fibroblasts (HSFs), but not the other cells. However, RF-EMF-elevated γH2AX foci formation in HSF cells did not result in detectable DNA fragmentation, sustainable cell cycle arrest, cell proliferation or viability change. RF-EMF exposure slightly but not significantly increased the cellular ROS level.
RF-EMF induces DNA damage in a cell type-dependent manner, but the elevated γH2AX foci formation in HSF cells does not result in significant cellular dysfunctions.
PMCID: PMC3552808  PMID: 23355902
25.  Cloning, Annotation and Developmental Expression of the Chicken Intestinal MUC2 Gene 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53781.
Intestinal mucin 2 (MUC2) encodes a heavily glycosylated, gel-forming mucin, which creates an important protective mucosal layer along the gastrointestinal tract in humans and other species. This first line of defense guards against attacks from microorganisms and is integral to the innate immune system. As a first step towards characterizing the innate immune response of MUC2 in different species, we report the cloning of a full-length, 11,359 bp chicken MUC2 cDNA, and describe the genomic organization and functional annotation of this complex, 74.5 kb locus. MUC2 contains 64 exons and demonstrates distinct spatiotemporal expression profiles throughout development in the gastrointestinal tract; expression increases with gestational age and from anterior to posterior along the gut. The chicken protein has a similar domain organization as the human orthologue, with a signal peptide and several von Willebrand domains in the N-terminus and the characteristic cystine knot at the C-terminus. The PTS domain of the chicken MUC2 protein spans ∼1600 amino acids and is interspersed with four CysD motifs. However, the PTS domain in the chicken diverges significantly from the human orthologue; although the chicken domain is shorter, the repetitive unit is 69 amino acids in length, which is three times longer than the human. The amino acid composition shows very little similarity to the human motif, which potentially contributes to differences in the innate immune response between species, as glycosylation across this rapidly evolving domain provides much of the musical barrier. Future studies of the function of MUC2 in the innate immune response system in chicken could provide an important model organism to increase our understanding of the biological significance of MUC2 in host defense and highlight the potential of the chicken for creating new immune-based therapies.
PMCID: PMC3549977  PMID: 23349743

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