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Proteomics  2013;14(1):42-50.
Proteolytic signaling, or regulated proteolysis, is an essential part of many important pathways such as Notch, Wnt, and Hedgehog. How the structure of the cleaved substrate regions influences the efficacy of proteolytic processing remains underexplored. Here, we analyzed the relative importance in proteolysis of various structural features derived from substrate sequences using a dataset of more than five thousand experimentally verified proteolytic events captured in CutDB. Accessibility to the solvent was recognized as an essential property of a proteolytically processed polypeptide chain. Proteolytic events were found nearly uniformly distributed among three types of secondary structure, although with some enrichment in loops. Cleavages in α-helices were found to be relatively abundant in regions apparently prone to unfolding, while cleavages in β-structures tended to be located at the periphery of β-sheets. Application of the same statistical procedures to proteolytic events divided into separate sets according to the catalytic classes of proteases proved consistency of the results and confirmed that the structural mechanisms of proteolysis are universal. The estimated prediction power of sequence-derived structural features, which turned out to be sufficiently high, presents a rationale for their use in bioinformatic prediction of proteolytic events.
PMCID: PMC3926948  PMID: 24227478
2.  Evolution of Pan-Genomes of Escherichia coli, Shigella spp., and Salmonella enterica 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(12):2786-2792.
Multiple sequencing of genomes belonging to a bacterial species allows one to analyze and compare statistics and dynamics of the gene complements of species, their pan-genomes. Here, we analyzed multiple genomes of Escherichia coli, Shigella spp., and Salmonella enterica. We demonstrate that the distribution of the number of genomes harboring a gene is well approximated by a sum of two power functions, describing frequent genes (present in many strains) and rare genes (present in few strains). The virtual absence of Shigella-specific genes not present in E. coli genomes confirms previous observations that Shigella is not an independent genus. While the pan-genome size is increasing with each new strain, the number of genes present in a fixed fraction of strains stabilizes quickly. For instance, slightly fewer than 4,000 genes are present in at least half of any group of E. coli genomes. Comparison of S. enterica and E. coli pan-genomes revealed the existence of a common periphery, that is, genes present in some but not all strains of both species. Analysis of phylogenetic trees demonstrates that rare genes from the periphery likely evolve under horizontal transfer, whereas frequent periphery genes may have been inherited from the periphery genome of the common ancestor.
PMCID: PMC3697250  PMID: 23585535
3.  Genomic Reconstruction of the Transcriptional Regulatory Network in Bacillus subtilis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(11):2463-2473.
The adaptation of microorganisms to their environment is controlled by complex transcriptional regulatory networks (TRNs), which are still only partially understood even for model species. Genome scale annotation of regulatory features of genes and TRN reconstruction are challenging tasks of microbial genomics. We used the knowledge-driven comparative-genomics approach implemented in the RegPredict Web server to infer TRN in the model Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis and 10 related Bacillales species. For transcription factor (TF) regulons, we combined the available information from the DBTBS database and the literature with bioinformatics tools, allowing inference of TF binding sites (TFBSs), comparative analysis of the genomic context of predicted TFBSs, functional assignment of target genes, and effector prediction. For RNA regulons, we used known RNA regulatory motifs collected in the Rfam database to scan genomes and analyze the genomic context of new RNA sites. The inferred TRN in B. subtilis comprises regulons for 129 TFs and 24 regulatory RNA families. First, we analyzed 66 TF regulons with previously known TFBSs in B. subtilis and projected them to other Bacillales genomes, resulting in refinement of TFBS motifs and identification of novel regulon members. Second, we inferred motifs and described regulons for 28 experimentally studied TFs with previously unknown TFBSs. Third, we discovered novel motifs and reconstructed regulons for 36 previously uncharacterized TFs. The inferred collection of regulons is available in the RegPrecise database ( and can be used in genetic experiments, metabolic modeling, and evolutionary analysis.
PMCID: PMC3676070  PMID: 23504016
4.  RegPrecise 3.0 – A resource for genome-scale exploration of transcriptional regulation in bacteria 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:745.
Genome-scale prediction of gene regulation and reconstruction of transcriptional regulatory networks in prokaryotes is one of the critical tasks of modern genomics. Bacteria from different taxonomic groups, whose lifestyles and natural environments are substantially different, possess highly diverged transcriptional regulatory networks. The comparative genomics approaches are useful for in silico reconstruction of bacterial regulons and networks operated by both transcription factors (TFs) and RNA regulatory elements (riboswitches).
RegPrecise ( is a web resource for collection, visualization and analysis of transcriptional regulons reconstructed by comparative genomics. We significantly expanded a reference collection of manually curated regulons we introduced earlier. RegPrecise 3.0 provides access to inferred regulatory interactions organized by phylogenetic, structural and functional properties. Taxonomy-specific collections include 781 TF regulogs inferred in more than 160 genomes representing 14 taxonomic groups of Bacteria. TF-specific collections include regulogs for a selected subset of 40 TFs reconstructed across more than 30 taxonomic lineages. Novel collections of regulons operated by RNA regulatory elements (riboswitches) include near 400 regulogs inferred in 24 bacterial lineages. RegPrecise 3.0 provides four classifications of the reference regulons implemented as controlled vocabularies: 55 TF protein families; 43 RNA motif families; ~150 biological processes or metabolic pathways; and ~200 effectors or environmental signals. Genome-wide visualization of regulatory networks and metabolic pathways covered by the reference regulons are available for all studied genomes. A separate section of RegPrecise 3.0 contains draft regulatory networks in 640 genomes obtained by an conservative propagation of the reference regulons to closely related genomes.
RegPrecise 3.0 gives access to the transcriptional regulons reconstructed in bacterial genomes. Analytical capabilities include exploration of: regulon content, structure and function; TF binding site motifs; conservation and variations in genome-wide regulatory networks across all taxonomic groups of Bacteria. RegPrecise 3.0 was selected as a core resource on transcriptional regulation of the Department of Energy Systems Biology Knowledgebase, an emerging software and data environment designed to enable researchers to collaboratively generate, test and share new hypotheses about gene and protein functions, perform large-scale analyses, and model interactions in microbes, plants, and their communities.
PMCID: PMC3840689  PMID: 24175918
Regulatory network; Regulon; Transcription factor; Riboswitch; Comparative genomics; Bacteria
5.  Comparative genomics of metabolic capacities of regulons controlled by cis-regulatory RNA motifs in bacteria 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:597.
In silico comparative genomics approaches have been efficiently used for functional prediction and reconstruction of metabolic and regulatory networks. Riboswitches are metabolite-sensing structures often found in bacterial mRNA leaders controlling gene expression on transcriptional or translational levels.
An increasing number of riboswitches and other cis-regulatory RNAs have been recently classified into numerous RNA families in the Rfam database. High conservation of these RNA motifs provides a unique advantage for their genomic identification and comparative analysis.
A comparative genomics approach implemented in the RegPredict tool was used for reconstruction and functional annotation of regulons controlled by RNAs from 43 Rfam families in diverse taxonomic groups of Bacteria. The inferred regulons include ~5200 cis-regulatory RNAs and more than 12000 target genes in 255 microbial genomes. All predicted RNA-regulated genes were classified into specific and overall functional categories. Analysis of taxonomic distribution of these categories allowed us to establish major functional preferences for each analyzed cis-regulatory RNA motif family. Overall, most RNA motif regulons showed predictable functional content in accordance with their experimentally established effector ligands. Our results suggest that some RNA motifs (including thiamin pyrophosphate and cobalamin riboswitches that control the cofactor metabolism) are widespread and likely originated from the last common ancestor of all bacteria. However, many more analyzed RNA motifs are restricted to a narrow taxonomic group of bacteria and likely represent more recent evolutionary innovations.
The reconstructed regulatory networks for major known RNA motifs substantially expand the existing knowledge of transcriptional regulation in bacteria. The inferred regulons can be used for genetic experiments, functional annotations of genes, metabolic reconstruction and evolutionary analysis. The obtained genome-wide collection of reference RNA motif regulons is available in the RegPrecise database (
PMCID: PMC3766115  PMID: 24060102
RNA regulatory motif; Riboswitch; Regulon; Gene function; Comparative genomics; Bacteria
6.  Genomics-Guided Analysis of NAD Recycling Yields Functional Elucidation of COG1058 as a New Family of Pyrophosphatases 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65595.
We have recently identified the enzyme NMN deamidase (PncC), which plays a key role in the regeneration of NAD in bacteria by recycling back to the coenzyme the pyridine by-products of its non redox consumption. In several bacterial species, PncC is fused to a COG1058 domain of unknown function, highly conserved and widely distributed in all living organisms. Here, we demonstrate that the PncC-fused domain is endowed with a novel Co+2- and K+-dependent ADP-ribose pyrophosphatase activity, and discuss the functional connection of such an activity with NAD recycling. An in-depth phylogenetic analysis of the COG1058 domain evidenced that in most bacterial species it is fused to PncC, while in α- and some δ-proteobacteria, as well as in archaea and fungi, it occurs as a stand-alone protein. Notably, in mammals and plants it is fused to FAD synthase. We extended the enzymatic characterization to a representative bacterial single-domain protein, which resulted to be a more versatile ADP-ribose pyrophosphatase, active also towards diadenosine 5′-diphosphate and FAD. Multiple sequence alignment analysis, and superposition of the available three-dimensional structure of an archaeal COG1058 member with the structure of the enzyme MoeA of the molybdenum cofactor biosynthesis, allowed identification of residues likely involved in catalysis. Their role has been confirmed by site-directed mutagenesis.
PMCID: PMC3680494  PMID: 23776507
7.  Genomic reconstruction of transcriptional regulatory networks in lactic acid bacteria 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:94.
Genome scale annotation of regulatory interactions and reconstruction of regulatory networks are the crucial problems in bacterial genomics. The Lactobacillales order of bacteria collates various microorganisms having a large economic impact, including both human and animal pathogens and strains used in the food industry. Nonetheless, no systematic genome-wide analysis of transcriptional regulation has been previously made for this taxonomic group.
A comparative genomics approach was used for reconstruction of transcriptional regulatory networks in 30 selected genomes of lactic acid bacteria. The inferred networks comprise regulons for 102 orthologous transcription factors (TFs), including 47 novel regulons for previously uncharacterized TFs. Numerous differences between regulatory networks of the Streptococcaceae and Lactobacillaceae groups were described on several levels. The two groups are characterized by substantially different sets of TFs encoded in their genomes. Content of the inferred regulons and structure of their cognate TF binding motifs differ for many orthologous TFs between the two groups. Multiple cases of non-orthologous displacements of TFs that control specific metabolic pathways were reported.
The reconstructed regulatory networks substantially expand the existing knowledge of transcriptional regulation in lactic acid bacteria. In each of 30 studied genomes the obtained regulatory network contains on average 36 TFs and 250 target genes that are mostly involved in carbohydrate metabolism, stress response, metal homeostasis and amino acids biosynthesis. The inferred networks can be used for genetic experiments, functional annotations of genes, metabolic reconstruction and evolutionary analysis. All reconstructed regulons are captured within the Streptococcaceae and Lactobacillaceae collections in the RegPrecise database (
PMCID: PMC3616900  PMID: 23398941
Transcriptional regulatory network; Comparative genomics; Carbohydrate metabolism; Lactobacillaceae; Streptococcaceae; Lactic acid bacteria; Regulon; Transcription factor
8.  Functional diversification of ROK-family transcriptional regulators of sugar catabolism in the Thermotogae phylum 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(2):790-803.
Large and functionally heterogeneous families of transcription factors have complex evolutionary histories. What shapes specificities toward effectors and DNA sites in paralogous regulators is a fundamental question in biology. Bacteria from the deep-branching lineage Thermotogae possess multiple paralogs of the repressor, open reading frame, kinase (ROK) family regulators that are characterized by carbohydrate-sensing domains shared with sugar kinases. We applied an integrated genomic approach to study functions and specificities of regulators from this family. A comparative analysis of 11 Thermotogae genomes revealed novel mechanisms of transcriptional regulation of the sugar utilization networks, DNA-binding motifs and specific functions. Reconstructed regulons for seven groups of ROK regulators were validated by DNA-binding assays using purified recombinant proteins from the model bacterium Thermotoga maritima. All tested regulators demonstrated specific binding to their predicted cognate DNA sites, and this binding was inhibited by specific effectors, mono- or disaccharides from their respective sugar catabolic pathways. By comparing ligand-binding domains of regulators with structurally characterized kinases from the ROK family, we elucidated signature amino acid residues determining sugar-ligand regulator specificity. Observed correlations between signature residues and the sugar-ligand specificities provide the framework for structure functional classification of the entire ROK family.
PMCID: PMC3553997  PMID: 23209028
9.  Evolution of transcriptional regulation in closely related bacteria 
The exponential growth of the number of fully sequenced genomes at varying taxonomic closeness allows one to characterize transcriptional regulation using comparative-genomics analysis instead of time-consuming experimental methods. A transcriptional regulatory unit consists of a transcription factor, its binding site and a regulated gene. These units constitute a graph which contains so-called “network motifs”, subgraphs of a given structure. Here we consider genomes of closely related Enterobacteriales and estimate the fraction of conserved network motifs and sites as well as positions under selection in various types of non-coding regions.
Using a newly developed technique, we found that the highest fraction of positions under selection, approximately 50%, was observed in synvergon spacers (between consecutive genes from the same strand), followed by ~45% in divergon spacers (common 5’-regions), and ~10% in convergon spacers (common 3’-regions). The fraction of selected positions in functional regions was higher, 60% in transcription factor-binding sites and ~45% in terminators and promoters. Small, but significant differences were observed between Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica. This fraction is similar to the one observed in eukaryotes.
The conservation of binding sites demonstrated some differences between types of regulatory units. In E. coli, strains the interactions of the type “local transcriptional factor ➝ gene” turned out to be more conserved in feed-forward loops (FFLs) compared to non-motif interactions. The coherent FFLs tend to be less conserved than the incoherent FFLs. A natural explanation is that the former imply functional redundancy.
A naïve hypothesis that FFL would be highly conserved turned out to be not entirely true: its conservation depends on its status in the transcriptional network and also from its usage. The fraction of positions under selection in intergenic regions of bacterial genomes is roughly similar to that of eukaryotes. Known regulatory sites explain 20±5% of selected positions.
PMCID: PMC3735044  PMID: 23039862
10.  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
11.  Structural determinants of limited proteolysis 
Journal of proteome research  2011;10(8):3642-3651.
Limited or regulatory proteolysis plays a critical role in many important biological pathways like blood coagulation, cell proliferation, and apoptosis. A better understanding of mechanisms that control this process is required for discovering new proteolytic events and for developing inhibitors with potential therapeutic value. Two features that determine the susceptibility of peptide bonds to proteolysis are the sequence in the vicinity of the scissile bond and the structural context in which the bond is displayed. In this study we assessed statistical significance and predictive power of individual structural descriptors and combination thereof for the identification of cleavage sites. The analysis was performed on a dataset of >200 proteolytic events documented in CutDB for a variety of mammalian regulatory proteases and their physiological substrates with known 3D structures. The results confirmed the significance and provided a ranking within three main categories of structural features: exposure > flexibility > local interactions. Among secondary structure elements, the largest frequency of proteolytic cleavage was confirmed for loops and lower but significant frequency for helices. Limited proteolysis has lower albeit appreciable frequency of occurrence in certain types of β-strands, which is in contrast with some previous reports. Descriptors deduced directly from the amino acid sequence displayed only marginal predictive capabilities. Homology-based structural models showed a predictive performance comparable to protein substrates with experimentally established structures. Overall, this study provided a foundation for accurate automated prediction of segments of protein structure susceptible to proteolytic processing and, potentially, other post-translational modifications.
PMCID: PMC3164237  PMID: 21682278
proteolysis; proteolytic processing; limited proteolysis; regulatory proteolysis; protease; cleavage site; cleavage site prediction
12.  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
13.  Comparative genomic reconstruction of transcriptional networks controlling central metabolism in the Shewanella genus 
BMC Genomics  2011;12(Suppl 1):S3.
Genome-scale prediction of gene regulation and reconstruction of transcriptional regulatory networks in bacteria is one of the critical tasks of modern genomics. The Shewanella genus is comprised of metabolically versatile gamma-proteobacteria, whose lifestyles and natural environments are substantially different from Escherichia coli and other model bacterial species. The comparative genomics approaches and computational identification of regulatory sites are useful for the in silico reconstruction of transcriptional regulatory networks in bacteria.
To explore conservation and variations in the Shewanella transcriptional networks we analyzed the repertoire of transcription factors and performed genomics-based reconstruction and comparative analysis of regulons in 16 Shewanella genomes. The inferred regulatory network includes 82 transcription factors and their DNA binding sites, 8 riboswitches and 6 translational attenuators. Forty five regulons were newly inferred from the genome context analysis, whereas others were propagated from previously characterized regulons in the Enterobacteria and Pseudomonas spp.. Multiple variations in regulatory strategies between the Shewanella spp. and E. coli include regulon contraction and expansion (as in the case of PdhR, HexR, FadR), numerous cases of recruiting non-orthologous regulators to control equivalent pathways (e.g. PsrA for fatty acid degradation) and, conversely, orthologous regulators to control distinct pathways (e.g. TyrR, ArgR, Crp).
We tentatively defined the first reference collection of ~100 transcriptional regulons in 16 Shewanella genomes. The resulting regulatory network contains ~600 regulated genes per genome that are mostly involved in metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, metals, and stress responses. Several reconstructed regulons including NagR for N-acetylglucosamine catabolism were experimentally validated in S. oneidensis MR-1. Analysis of correlations in gene expression patterns helps to interpret the reconstructed regulatory network. The inferred regulatory interactions will provide an additional regulatory constrains for an integrated model of metabolism and regulation in S. oneidensis MR-1.
PMCID: PMC3223726  PMID: 21810205
14.  Abundance and functional diversity of riboswitches in microbial communities 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:347.
Several recently completed large-scale enviromental sequencing projects produced a large amount of genetic information about microbial communities ('metagenomes') which is not biased towards cultured organisms. It is a good source for estimation of the abundance of genes and regulatory structures in both known and unknown members of microbial communities. In this study we consider the distribution of RNA regulatory structures, riboswitches, in the Sargasso Sea, Minnesota Soil and Whale Falls metagenomes.
Over three hundred riboswitches were found in about 2 Gbp metagenome DNA sequences. The abundabce of riboswitches in metagenomes was highest for the TPP, B12 and GCVT riboswitches; the S-box, RFN, YKKC/YXKD, YYBP/YKOY regulatory elements showed lower but significant abundance, while the LYS, G-box, GLMS and YKOK riboswitches were rare. Regions downstream of identified riboswitches were scanned for open reading frames. Comparative analysis of identified ORFs revealed new riboswitch-regulated functions for several classes of riboswitches. In particular, we have observed phosphoserine aminotransferase serC (COG1932) and malate synthase glcB (COG2225) to be regulated by the glycine (GCVT) riboswitch; fatty acid desaturase ole1 (COG1398), by the cobalamin (B12) riboswitch; 5-methylthioribose-1-phosphate isomerase ykrS (COG0182), by the SAM-riboswitch. We also identified conserved riboswitches upstream of genes of unknown function: thiamine (TPP), cobalamine (B12), and glycine (GCVT, upstream of genes from COG4198).
This study demonstrates applicability of bioinformatics to the analysis of RNA regulatory structures in metagenomes.
PMCID: PMC2211319  PMID: 17908319

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