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1.  Cerebral Hemodynamic Changes of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury at the Acute Stage 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0118061.
Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a significant public health care burden in the United States. However, we lack a detailed understanding of the pathophysiology following mTBI and its relation to symptoms and recovery. With advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we can investigate brain perfusion and oxygenation in regions known to be implicated in symptoms, including cortical gray matter and subcortical structures. In this study, we assessed 14 mTBI patients and 18 controls with susceptibility weighted imaging and mapping (SWIM) for blood oxygenation quantification. In addition to SWIM, 7 patients and 12 controls had cerebral perfusion measured with arterial spin labeling (ASL). We found increases in regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the left striatum, and in frontal and occipital lobes in patients as compared to controls (p = 0.01, 0.03, 0.03 respectively). We also found decreases in venous susceptibility, indicating increases in venous oxygenation, in the left thalamostriate vein and right basal vein of Rosenthal (p = 0.04 in both). mTBI patients had significantly lower delayed recall scores on the standardized assessment of concussion, but neither susceptibility nor CBF measures were found to correlate with symptoms as assessed by neuropsychological testing. The increased CBF combined with increased venous oxygenation suggests an increase in cerebral blood flow that exceeds the oxygen demand of the tissue, in contrast to the regional hypoxia seen in more severe TBI. This may represent a neuroprotective response following mTBI, which warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4320047  PMID: 25659079
2.  Covalent Modification of a Cysteine Residue in the XPB Subunit of the General Transcription Factor TFIIH Through Single Epoxide Cleavage of the Transcription Inhibitor Triptolide** 
Triptolide is a key component of the traditional Chinese medicinal plant Thunder God Vine and has potent anticancer and immunosuppressive activities. It is an irreversible inhibitor of eukaryotic transcription through covalent modification of XPB, a subunit of the general transcription factor TFIIH. Cys342 of XPB was identified as the residue that undergoes covalent modification by the 12,13-epoxide group of triptolide. Mutation of Cys342 of XPB to threonine conferred resistance to triptolide on the mutant protein. Replacement of the endogenous wild-type XPB with the Cys342Thr mutant in a HEK293T cell line rendered it completely resistant to triptolide, thus validating XPB as the physiologically relevant target of triptolide. Together, these results deepen our understanding of the interaction between triptolide and XPB and have implications for the future development of new analogues of triptolide as leads for anticancer and immunosuppressive drugs.
PMCID: PMC4314353  PMID: 25504624
inhibitors; medicinal chemistry; natural products; target validation; transcription factors
3.  PIMiner: a web tool for extraction of protein interactions from biomedical literature 
Information on protein interactions (PIs) is valuable for biomedical research, but often lies buried in the scientific literature and cannot be readily retrieved. While much progress has been made over the years in extracting PIs from the literature using computational methods, there is a lack of free, public, user-friendly tools for the discovery of PIs. We developed PIMiner, an online tool for the extraction of PI relationships from PubMed-abstracts. Protein pairs and the words that describe their interactions are reported by PIMiner along with the interaction likelihood levels, so that new interactions can be readily detected within text. The option to extract only specific types of interactions is also provided. The PIMiner server can be accessed through a web browser or remotely through a client’s command line. PIMiner can process 50,000 PubMed abstracts in approximately seven minutes and is thus suitable for large scale processing of biological literature.
PMCID: PMC4303605  PMID: 23798227
Protein interactions; PIs; literature mining; biological textmining; systems biology; interactome mining; data mining; bioinformatics; complex networks
4.  Using the Circumplex Model of Affect to Study Valence and Arousal Ratings of Emotional Faces by Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders 
The Affective Circumplex Model holds that emotions can be described as linear combinations of two underlying, independent neurophysiological systems (arousal, valence). Given research suggesting individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulty processing emotions, we used the circumplex model to compare how individuals with ASD and typically-developing (TD) individuals respond to facial emotions. Participants (51 ASD, 80 TD) rated facial expressions along arousal and valence dimensions; we fitted closed, smooth, 2-dimensional curves to their ratings to examine overall circumplex contours. We modeled individual and group influences on parameters describing curve contours to identify differences in dimensional effects across groups. Significant main effects of diagnosis indicated the ASD-group’ s ratings were constricted for the entire circumplex, suggesting range constriction across all emotions. Findings did not change when covarying for overall intelligence.
PMCID: PMC4301408  PMID: 24234677
Circumplex model of affect; Valence; Arousal; Autism spectrum disorders; Facial emotion
5.  Application of a Novel Population of Multipotent Stem Cells Derived from Skin Fibroblasts as Donor Cells in Bovine SCNT 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0114423.
Undifferentiated stem cells are better donor cells for somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), resulting in more offspring than more differentiated cells. While various stem cell populations have been confirmed to exist in the skin, progress has been restricted due to the lack of a suitable marker for their prospective isolation. To address this fundamental issue, a marker is required that could unambiguously prove the differentiation state of the donor cells. We therefore utilized magnetic activated cell sorting (MACS) to separate a homogeneous population of small SSEA-4+ cells from a heterogeneous population of bovine embryonic skin fibroblasts (BEF). SSEA-4+ cells were 8-10 μm in diameter and positive for alkaline phosphatase (AP). The percentage of SSEA-4+ cells within the cultured BEF population was low (2-3%). Immunocytochemistry and PCR analyses revealed that SSEA-4+ cells expressed pluripotency-related markers, and could differentiate into cells comprising all three germ layers in vitro. They remained undifferentiated over 20 passages in suspension culture. In addition, cloned embryos derived from SSEA-4 cells showed significant differences in cleavage rate and blastocyst development when compared with those from BEF and SSEA-4− cells. Moreover, blastocysts derived from SSEA-4+ cells showed a higher total cell number and lower apoptotic index as compared to BEF and SSEA-4– derived cells. It is well known that nuclei from pluripotent stem cells yield a higher cloning efficiency than those from adult somatic cells, however, pluripotent stem cells are relatively difficult to obtain from bovine. The SSEA-4+ cells described in the current study provide an attractive candidate for SCNT and a promising platform for the generation of transgenic cattle.
PMCID: PMC4300223  PMID: 25602959
6.  Cerebellar Morphology in Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder 
Annals of neurology  2010;67(4):479-487.
Neuroanatomical and functional imaging studies have identified the cerebellum as an integral component of motor and language control. Few studies, however, have investigated the role of the cerebellum in Tourette syndrome (TS), a condition defined by the presence of semi-involuntary movements and sounds.
Magnetic resonance imaging was conducted in 163 persons with TS and 147 control participants. Multivariate linear regression models were used to explore effects on cerebellar surface morphology and underlying volumes for the main diagnosis effects of TS as well as comorbid obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Additionally, the correlations of symptom severity with cerebellar morphology were also assessed.
The TS group demonstrated reduced volumes of the cerebellar hemispheres bilaterally that derived primarily from reduced gray matter in crus I and lobules VI, VIIB, and VIIIA. These decreased regional volumes accompanied increasing tic symptom severity and motoric disinhibition as demonstrated by a finger tapping test. Males had reduced volumes of these same regions compared with females, irrespective of diagnosis. Comorbid OCD was associated with relative enlargement of these regions in proportion to the increasing severity of OCD symptoms.
The cerebellum is involved in the pathogenesis of TS and tic-related OCD. Baseline gender differences in cerebellar morphology may in part account for the more prevalent expression of TS in males.
PMCID: PMC4286180  PMID: 20437583
7.  Multimodal Magnetic Resonance Imaging: The Coordinated Use of Multiple, Mutually Informative Probes to Understand Brain Structure and Function 
Human brain mapping  2011;34(2):253-271.
Differing imaging modalities provide unique channels of information to probe differing aspects of the brain’s structural or functional organization. In combination, differing modalities provide complementary and mutually informative data about tissue organization that is more than their sum. We acquired and spatially coregistered data in four MRI modalities – anatomical MRI, functional MRI, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) – from 20 healthy adults to understand how inter-individual variability in measures from one modality account for variability in measures from other modalities at each voxel of the brain. We detected significant correlations of local volumes with the magnitude of functional activation, suggesting that underlying variation in local volumes contributes to individual variability in functional activation. We also detected significant inverse correlations of NAA (a putative measure of neuronal density and viability) with volumes of white matter in the frontal cortex, with DTI-based measures of tissue organization within the superior longitudinal fasciculus, and with the magnitude of functional activation and default-mode activity during simple visual and motor tasks, indicating that substantial variance in local volumes, white matter organization, and functional activation derives from an underlying variability in the number or density of neurons in those regions. Many of these imaging measures correlated with measures of intellectual ability within differing brain tissues and differing neural systems, demonstrating that the neural determinants of intellectual capacity involve numerous and disparate features of brain tissue organization, a conclusion that could be made with confidence only when imaging the same individuals with multiple MRI modalities.
PMCID: PMC4284056  PMID: 22076792
multimodal MRI; anatomical MRI; functional MRI; diffusion tensor imaging; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; correlation; brain structure; brain function
8.  Fluorapatite Enhances Mineralization of Mesenchymal/Endothelial Cocultures 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2013;20(1-2):12-22.
In addition to the widely used mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), endothelial cells appear to be a favorable cell source for hard tissue regeneration. Previously, fluorapatite was shown to stimulate and enhance mineralization of MSCs. This study aims to investigate the growth of endothelial cells on synthesized ordered fluorapatite surfaces and their effect on the mineralization of adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) through coculture. Endothelial cells were grown on fluorapatite surfaces and characterized by cell counting, flow cytometry, scanning electron microscopy, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Cells were then cocultured with ASCs and stained for alkaline phosphatase and mineral formation. Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) pathway perturbation and basic FGF (bFGF) treatment of the ASCs were also conducted to observe their effects on differentiation and mineralization of these cells. Fluorapatite surfaces showed good biocompatibility in supporting endothelial cells. Without a mineralization supplement, coculture with endothelial cells induced osteogenic differentiation of ASCs, which was further enhanced by the fluorapatite surfaces. This suggested a combined stimulating effect of endothelial cells and fluorapatite surfaces on the enhanced mineralization of ASCs. Greater amounts of bFGF release by endothelial cells alone or cocultures with ASCs stimulated by fluorapatite surfaces, together with FGF pathway perturbation and bFGF treatment results, suggested that the FGF signaling pathway may function in this process.
PMCID: PMC3875212  PMID: 23859365
9.  Second-generation derivatives of the eukaryotic translation initiation inhibitor pateamine A targeting eIF4A as potential anticancer agents 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2013;22(1):116-125.
A series of pateamine A (1) derivatives were synthesized for structure/activity relationship (SAR) studies and a selection of previous generation analogs were re-evaluated based on current information regarding the mechanism of action of these translation inhibitors. Structural modifications in the new generation of derivatives focused on alternations to the C19-C22 Z, E-diene and the trienyl side chain of the previously described simplified, des-methyl, des-amino pateamine A (DMDAPatA, 2). Derivatives were tested for anti-proliferative activity in cell culture and for inhibition of mammalian cap-dependent translation in vitro. Activity was highly dependent on the rigidity and conformation of the macrolide and the functionality of the side chain. The only well tolerated substitutions were replacement of the N,N-dimethyl amino group found on the side chain of 2 with other tertiary amine groups. SAR reported here suggests that this site may be modified in future studies to improve serum stability, cell-type specificity, and/or specificity towards rapidly proliferating cells.
PMCID: PMC3958936  PMID: 24359706
Pateamine A; DMDAPatA; Stille coupling; Translation initiation; eIF4A
10.  Ventral midbrain correlation between genetic variation and expression of the dopamine transporter gene in cocaine-abusing versus non-abusing subjects 
Addiction biology  2011;19(1):10.1111/j.1369-1600.2011.00391.x.
Altered activity of the human dopamine transporter gene (hDAT) is asssociated with several common and severe brain disorders including cocaine abuse. However, there is little a priori information on whether such alteration was due to nature (genetic variantion) or nurture (human behaviors such as cocaine abuse). This study investigated the correlation between seven markers throughout hDAT and its mRNA levels in postmortem ventral midbrain tissues from 18 cocaine abusers and 18 strictly matched drug-free controls in the African American population. Here we show that one major haplotype with same frequency in cocaine abusers versus drug-free controls displays a 37.1%-reduction of expression levels in cocaine abusers, compared to matched controls (P = 0.0057). The most studied genetic marker, variable number tandem repeats (VNTR) located in Exon 15 (3′VNTR), is not correlated with hDAT mRNA levels. A 5′ upstream VNTR (rs70957367) has repeat numbers positively correlated with expression levels in controls (r2 0.9536, P = 0.0235) but this positive correlation disappears in cocaine abusers. The findings suggest that varying hDAT activity is attributed to both genetics and cocaine abuse.
PMCID: PMC3270208  PMID: 22026501
Addiction; DAT; expressional variation; pharmacogenomics; postmortem; epigenetics
11.  Western white pine SNP discovery and high-throughput genotyping for breeding and conservation applications 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14(1):380.
Western white pine (WWP, Pinus monticola Douglas ex D. Don) is of high interest in forest breeding and conservation because of its high susceptibility to the invasive disease white pine blister rust (WPBR, caused by the fungus Cronartium ribicola J. C. Fisch). However, WWP lacks genomic resource development and is evolutionarily far away from plants with available draft genome sequences. Here we report a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) study by bulked segregation-based RNA-Seq analysis.
A collection of resistance germplasm was used for construction of cDNA libraries and SNP genotyping. Approximately 36–89 million 2 × 100-bp reads were obtained per library and de-novo assembly generated the first shoot-tip reference transcriptome containing a total of 54,661 unique transcripts. Bioinformatic SNP detection identified >100,000 high quality SNPs in three expressed candidate gene groups: Pinus highly conserved genes (HCGs), differential expressed genes (DEGs) in plant defense response, and resistance gene analogs (RGAs). To estimate efficiency of in-silico SNP discovery, genotyping assay was developed by using Sequenom iPlex and it unveiled SNP success rates from 40.1% to 61.1%. SNP clustering analyses consistently revealed distinct populations, each composed of multiple full-sib seed families by parentage assignment in the WWP germplasm collection. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) analysis identified six genes in significant association with major gene (Cr2) resistance, including three RGAs (two NBS-LRR genes and one receptor-like protein kinase -RLK gene), two HCGs, and one DEG. At least one SNP locus provided an excellent marker for Cr2 selection across P. monticola populations.
The WWP shoot tip transcriptome and those validated SNP markers provide novel genomic resources for genetic, evolutionary and ecological studies. SNP loci of those candidate genes associated with resistant phenotypes can be used as positional and functional variation sites for further characterization of WWP major gene resistance against C. ribicola. Our results demonstrate that integration of RNA-seq-based transcriptome analysis and high-throughput genotyping is an effective approach for discovery of a large number of nucleotide variations and for identification of functional gene variants associated with adaptive traits in a non-model species.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0380-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302426  PMID: 25547170
Five-needle pine; Genotyping array; Linkage disequilibrium; Marker-based selection; Pedigree reconstruction
12.  Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 expression is transiently up-regulated in the acute period of myocardial infarction in rat 
The proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) has been confirmed as a major factor regulating cholesterol homeostasis and has low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) independent effects. In addition, the pathogenesis of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) involves lipids alteration and other acute phase responses. It remains unknown whether the PCSK9 expression is influenced by the impact of AMI. The present study aimed to investigate the changes of PCSK9 concentration using AMI rat model.
AMI (n = 6-8 at each time point) or sham operated (n = 6) adult male rats model were used. Whole blood and liver tissue were collected at 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 24, 48, and 96 hour (h) post infarction. The plasma PCSK9 concentration was measured by ELISA and lipid profiles were measured by enzymatic assay. The liver mRNA levels of PCSK9, LDLR, sterol response element binding protein-2 (SREBP-2) and hepatocyte nuclear factor 1α (HNF1α) were measured by quantitative real-time PCR.
The plasma PCSK9 concentration was increased from 12 h to 96 h (P < 0.05 vs. control). Paralleled with the enhanced plasma PCSK9 concentration, the hepatic PCSK9 mRNA expression was up-regulated by 2.2-fold at 12 h and 4.1-fold at 24 h. Hepatic mRNA levels of LDLR, SREBP-2 and HNF1α were all increased and lipid profiles underwent great changes at this acute period.
We firstly demonstrated that PCSK9 was transiently up-regulated in the acute period of AMI, which is also driven by transcriptional factors, SREBP-2 and HNF1α, suggesting that the role of PCSK9 in myocardial injury may be needed further study.
PMCID: PMC4279995  PMID: 25519174
Acute myocardial infarction; PCSK9; Rat
13.  Phosphine-Catalyzed [3+2] and [4+3]Annulation Reactions of C,N-Cyclic Azomethine Imines with Allenoates 
Advanced synthesis & catalysis  2012;354(6):1023-1034.
Phosphine-catalyzed [3+2] and [4+3]annulation reactions of C,N-cyclic azomethine imines with allenoates have been developed to give a variety of pharmaceutically attractive tetrahydroisoquinoline derivatives in moderate to excellent yields. The two distinct reaction pathways, [3+2] and [4+3]cyclization, depend on the nature of the nucleophilic phosphine and the allenoate. Generally, for α-alkylallenoates, the reactions always proceed with [3 +2]cyclization as the major pathway no matter what phosphine was used; for α-ArCH2-substituted allenoates, the reaction pathway was controlled by the phosphine catalyst used.
PMCID: PMC4266944  PMID: 25525424
allenoates; annulation; azomethine imines; catalysis; phosphines
14.  The emerging genomics and systems biology research lead to systems genomics studies 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(Suppl 11):I1.
Synergistically integrating multi-layer genomic data at systems level not only can lead to deeper insights into the molecular mechanisms related to disease initiation and progression, but also can guide pathway-based biomarker and drug target identification. With the advent of high-throughput next-generation sequencing technologies, sequencing both DNA and RNA has generated multi-layer genomic data that can provide DNA polymorphism, non-coding RNA, messenger RNA, gene expression, isoform and alternative splicing information. Systems biology on the other hand studies complex biological systems, particularly systematic study of complex molecular interactions within specific cells or organisms. Genomics and molecular systems biology can be merged into the study of genomic profiles and implicated biological functions at cellular or organism level. The prospectively emerging field can be referred to as systems genomics or genomic systems biology.
The Mid-South Bioinformatics Centre (MBC) and Joint Bioinformatics Ph.D. Program of University of Arkansas at Little Rock and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are particularly interested in promoting education and research advancement in this prospectively emerging field. Based on past investigations and research outcomes, MBC is further utilizing differential gene and isoform/exon expression from RNA-seq and co-regulation from the ChiP-seq specific for different phenotypes in combination with protein-protein interactions, and protein-DNA interactions to construct high-level gene networks for an integrative genome-phoneme investigation at systems biology level.
PMCID: PMC4304174  PMID: 25558922
15.  Advances in translational bioinformatics facilitate revealing the landscape of complex disease mechanisms 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15(Suppl 17):I1.
Advances of high-throughput technologies have rapidly produced more and more data from DNAs and RNAs to proteins, especially large volumes of genome-scale data. However, connection of the genomic information to cellular functions and biological behaviours relies on the development of effective approaches at higher systems level. In particular, advances in RNA-Seq technology has helped the studies of transcriptome, RNA expressed from the genome, while systems biology on the other hand provides more comprehensive pictures, from which genes and proteins actively interact to lead to cellular behaviours and physiological phenotypes. As biological interactions mediate many biological processes that are essential for cellular function or disease development, it is important to systematically identify genomic information including genetic mutations from GWAS (genome-wide association study), differentially expressed genes, bidirectional promoters, intrinsic disordered proteins (IDP) and protein interactions to gain deep insights into the underlying mechanisms of gene regulations and networks. Furthermore, bidirectional promoters can co-regulate many biological pathways, where the roles of bidirectional promoters can be studied systematically for identifying co-regulating genes at interactive network level. Combining information from different but related studies can ultimately help revealing the landscape of molecular mechanisms underlying complex diseases such as cancer.
PMCID: PMC4304187  PMID: 25559210
16.  Identification of genes and pathways involved in kidney renal clear cell carcinoma 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15(Suppl 17):S2.
Kidney Renal Clear Cell Carcinoma (KIRC) is one of fatal genitourinary diseases and accounts for most malignant kidney tumours. KIRC has been shown resistance to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Like many types of cancers, there is no curative treatment for metastatic KIRC. Using advanced sequencing technologies, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project of NIH/NCI-NHGRI has produced large-scale sequencing data, which provide unprecedented opportunities to reveal new molecular mechanisms of cancer. We combined differentially expressed genes, pathways and network analyses to gain new insights into the underlying molecular mechanisms of the disease development.
Followed by the experimental design for obtaining significant genes and pathways, comprehensive analysis of 537 KIRC patients' sequencing data provided by TCGA was performed. Differentially expressed genes were obtained from the RNA-Seq data. Pathway and network analyses were performed. We identified 186 differentially expressed genes with significant p-value and large fold changes (P < 0.01, |log(FC)| > 5). The study not only confirmed a number of identified differentially expressed genes in literature reports, but also provided new findings. We performed hierarchical clustering analysis utilizing the whole genome-wide gene expressions and differentially expressed genes that were identified in this study. We revealed distinct groups of differentially expressed genes that can aid to the identification of subtypes of the cancer. The hierarchical clustering analysis based on gene expression profile and differentially expressed genes suggested four subtypes of the cancer. We found enriched distinct Gene Ontology (GO) terms associated with these groups of genes. Based on these findings, we built a support vector machine based supervised-learning classifier to predict unknown samples, and the classifier achieved high accuracy and robust classification results. In addition, we identified a number of pathways (P < 0.04) that were significantly influenced by the disease. We found that some of the identified pathways have been implicated in cancers from literatures, while others have not been reported in the cancer before. The network analysis leads to the identification of significantly disrupted pathways and associated genes involved in the disease development. Furthermore, this study can provide a viable alternative in identifying effective drug targets.
Our study identified a set of differentially expressed genes and pathways in kidney renal clear cell carcinoma, and represents a comprehensive computational approach to analysis large-scale next-generation sequencing data. The pathway and network analyses suggested that information from distinctly expressed genes can be utilized in the identification of aberrant upstream regulators. Identification of distinctly expressed genes and altered pathways are important in effective biomarker identification for early cancer diagnosis and treatment planning. Combining differentially expressed genes with pathway and network analyses using intelligent computational approaches provide an unprecedented opportunity to identify upstream disease causal genes and effective drug targets.
PMCID: PMC4304191  PMID: 25559354
Kidney Renal Clear Cell Carcinoma; TCGA; RNA-Seq; Differentially Expressed Genes; Pathways; Gene Network Analysis; Machine Learning Classifier
17.  Energy Stress Regulates Hippo–YAP Signaling involving AMPK-mediated Regulation of Angiomotin Like-1 Protein 
Cell reports  2014;9(2):495-503.
Hippo signaling is a tumor suppressor pathway involved in organ size control and tumorigenesis, through the inhibition of YAP and TAZ. Here we show that energy stress induces YAP cytoplasmic retention and Ser127 phosphorylation and inhibits YAP transcriptional activity and YAP-dependent transformation. These effects require the central metabolic sensor AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), and the upstream Hippo pathway components Lats1/2 and Angiomotin-like 1 (AMOTL1). We further show that AMPK directly phosphorylates Ser793 of AMOTL1. AMPK activation stabilizes and increases AMOTL1 steady-state protein levels, contributing to YAP inhibition. The phosphorylation-deficient Ser793Ala mutant of AMOTL1 showed a shorter half-life and conferred resistance to energy stress-induced YAP inhibition. Our findings link energy sensing to the Hippo-YAP pathway, and suggest that YAP may integrate spatial (contact inhibition), mechanical and metabolic signals to control cellular proliferation and survival.
PMCID: PMC4223634  PMID: 25373897
18.  Identification of synthetic lethality of PRKDC in MYC-dependent human cancers by pooled shRNA screening 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:944.
MYC family members are among the most frequently deregulated oncogenes in human cancers, yet direct therapeutic targeting of MYC in cancer has been challenging thus far. Synthetic lethality provides an opportunity for therapeutic intervention of MYC-driven cancers.
A pooled kinase shRNA library screen was performed and next-generation deep sequencing efforts identified that PRKDC was synthetically lethal in cells overexpressing MYC. Genes and proteins of interest were knocked down or inhibited using RNAi technology and small molecule inhibitors, respectively. Quantitative RT-PCR using TaqMan probes examined mRNA expression levels and cell viability was assessed using CellTiter-Glo (Promega). Western blotting was performed to monitor different protein levels in the presence or absence of RNAi or compound treatment. Statistical significance of differences among data sets were determined using unpaired t test (Mann–Whitney test) or ANOVA.
Inhibition of PRKDC using RNAi (RNA interference) or small molecular inhibitors preferentially killed MYC-overexpressing human lung fibroblasts. Moreover, inducible PRKDC knockdown decreased cell viability selectively in high MYC-expressing human small cell lung cancer cell lines. At the molecular level, we found that inhibition of PRKDC downregulated MYC mRNA and protein expression in multiple cancer cell lines. In addition, we confirmed that overexpression of MYC family proteins induced DNA double-strand breaks; our results also revealed that PRKDC inhibition in these cells led to an increase in DNA damage levels.
Our data suggest that the synthetic lethality between PRKDC and MYC may in part be due to PRKDC dependent modulation of MYC expression, as well as MYC-induced DNA damage where PRKDC plays a key role in DNA damage repair.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-944) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4320452  PMID: 25495526
PRKDC; MYC; Synthetic lethality; RNAi screen; Cancer; DNA damage; DNA repair
19.  The Pseudomonas syringae Type III Effector HopF2 Suppresses Arabidopsis Stomatal Immunity 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114921.
Pseudomonas syringae subverts plant immune signalling through injection of type III secreted effectors (T3SE) into host cells. The T3SE HopF2 can disable Arabidopsis immunity through Its ADP-ribosyltransferase activity. Proteomic analysis of HopF2 interacting proteins identified a protein complex containing ATPases required for regulating stomatal aperture, suggesting HopF2 may manipulate stomatal immunity. Here we report HopF2 can inhibit stomatal immunity independent of its ADP-ribosyltransferase activity. Transgenic expression of HopF2 in Arabidopsis inhibits stomatal closing in response to P. syringae and increases the virulence of surface inoculated P. syringae. Further, transgenic expression of HopF2 inhibits flg22 induced reactive oxygen species production. Intriguingly, ADP-ribosyltransferase activity is dispensable for inhibiting stomatal immunity and flg22 induced reactive oxygen species. Together, this implies HopF2 may be a bifunctional T3SE with ADP-ribosyltransferase activity required for inhibiting apoplastic immunity and an independent function required to inhibit stomatal immunity.
PMCID: PMC4263708  PMID: 25503437
20.  Global chromatin profiling reveals NSD2 mutations in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia 
Nature genetics  2013;45(11):1386-1391.
Epigenetic dysregulation is an emerging hallmark of cancers. We developed a high-information-content mass spectrometry approach to profile global histone modifications in human cancers. When applied to 115 lines from the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia1, this approach identified distinct molecular chromatin signatures. One signature was characterized by increased histone 3 lysine 36 (H3K36) dimethylation, exhibited by several lines harboring translocations in NSD2, which encodes a methyltransferase. A previously unknown NSD2 p.Glu1099Lys (p.E1099K) variant was identified in nontranslocated acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cell lines sharing this signature. Ectopic expression of the variant induced a chromatin signature characteristic of NSD2 hyperactivation and promoted transformation. NSD2 knockdown selectively inhibited the proliferation of NSD2-mutant lines and impaired the in vivo growth of an NSD2-mutant ALL xenograft. Sequencing analysis of >1,000 pediatric cancer genomes identified the NSD2 p.E1099K alteration in 14% of t(12;21) ETV6-RUNX1–containing ALLs. These findings identify NSD2 as a potential therapeutic target for pediatric ALL and provide a general framework for the functional annotation of cancer epigenomes.
PMCID: PMC4262138  PMID: 24076604
22.  Targeting Serum Glucocorticoid-Regulated Kinase-1 in Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck: A Novel Modality of Local Control 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e113795.
The inhibition of serum glucocorticoid-regulated kinase-1 (SGK-1) has been found to decrease growth of colon and prostate cancer cells. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the therapeutic effect of SGK-1 inhibition in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Experimental Design
Human head and neck tumors (HTB41/43) were established in athymic mice. Growth rates between mice treated with vehicle (PBS) injection (group 1, n = 5), SGK-1 Inhibitor GSK 650394 (group 2, n = 6), systemic cisplatin (group 3, n = 6), and a combination of SGK-1 Inhibitor and cisplatin (group 4, n = 6) were compared using repeated measures one-way ANOVA with Newman-Keuls Multiple Comparison Test. Tumor cells were subsequently submitted to further analyses.
At the end of the experiment mean tumor sizes were 122.33+/−105.86, 76.73+/−36.09, 94.52+/−75.92, and 25.76+/−14.89 mm2 (mean +/− SD) for groups 1 to 4. Groups 2 and 3 showed decreased tumor growth compared to controls (p<0.001). Group 4 displayed even greater growth suppression (p<0.0001). Importantly, group 4 fared better than group 3 (p<0.001). CD44 expression was reduced in group 2 (p<0.05), and to an even greater extent in groups 3 and 4 (p<0.0025). A trend towards reduction of HER 2 expression was noted in group 4.
SGK-1 inhibition suppresses tumor growth, and in combination with systemic cisplatin exceeds the effect of cisplatin alone. Decreased expression of CD44 and HER 2 implies depletion of tumor stem cells, and less tumorigenicity. SGK-1 inhibition represents a potential modality of local control for palliation in advanced cases.
PMCID: PMC4259465  PMID: 25485633
23.  Ethyl Acetate Extract from Celastrus aculeatus Merr. Suppresses Synovial Inflammation in Adjuvant Arthritis Rats through Apoptosis Induction of CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ T Cells 
Celastrus aculeatus Merr. has been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in clinic. However, the main active fraction of this plant is still unclear. In this study, we attempted to evaluate the suppressive effect of ethyl acetate extract (EAE) from Celastrus aculeatus Merr. on synovial inflammation in adjuvant arthritis (AA) rats induced by Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Ra (Mtb) and to explore the underlying mechanisms. SD rats immunized with heat-killed Mtb were fed with EAE and observed for erythema, swelling, and induration of each paw. The pathologic changes in joint synovium were tested by hematoxylin-eosin staining. Apoptosis induction of synoviocytes was tested immunohistochemically. Apoptosis of peripheral lymphocytes and the level of regulatory T cells were analyzed by flow cytometry. After treatment with EAE, the joint inflammation in rats with AA was alleviated. Both apoptotic ratios of synoviocytes and peripheral lymphocytes and the ratio of CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ to CD4 regulatory T cells were significantly increased. In summary, we first demonstrated that EAE of Celastrus aculeatus Merr. can inhibit synovial inflammation in AA rats through apoptosis induction of CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ T cells. Our study provides a rationale for the application of Celastrus aculeatus Merr. to treat RA.
PMCID: PMC4274646  PMID: 25548591
24.  Utilisation of adsorption and desorption for simultaneously improving protein crystallisation success rate and crystal quality 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:7308.
High-quality protein crystals of suitable size are an important prerequisite for applying X-ray crystallography to determine the 3-dimensional structure of proteins. However, it is often difficult to obtain protein crystals of appropriate size and quality because nucleation and growth processes can be unsuccessful. Here, we show that by adsorbing proteins onto porous polystyrene-divinylbenzene microspheres (SDB) floating on the surface of the crystallisation solution, a localised high supersaturation region at the surface of the microspheres and a low supersaturation region below the microspheres can coexist in a single solution. The crystals will easily nucleate in the region of high supersaturation, but when they grow to a certain size, they will sediment to the region of low supersaturation and continue to grow. In this way, the probability of crystallisation and crystal quality can be simultaneously increased in a single solution without changing other crystallisation parameters.
PMCID: PMC4255177  PMID: 25471817
25.  Lyn mitigates mouse airway remodeling by down-regulating the TGF-β3 isoform in house dust mite models 
Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)  2013;191(11):10.4049/jimmunol.1301596.
Chronic airway remodeling is a serious consequence of asthma, which is caused by complex but largely unknown mechanisms. Despite versatile functions, the role of Lyn in chronic airway remodeling remains undefined. Using Lyn−/− mice, we show that continual exposure (for 8 weeks) of house dust mite (HDM) extracts induced a severe phenotype of chronic airway remodeling including exacerbated mucus production, collagen deposition, dysregulated cytokine secretion, and elevated inflammation. Strikingly, a significant increase in TGF-β3 rather than TGF-β1 was observed in Lyn−/− mouse lungs compared to wild-type mice. Furthermore, TGF-β3 neutralizing antibodies not only inhibited the expression of STAT6 and Smad2/3, but also decreased phosphorylation of Smad2 and NFκB in Lyn−/− mouse lungs. In addition, both recombinant and adenoviral TGF-β3 significantly promoted epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and intensified collagen I production and MUC5AC expression. Further examining chronic asthma patients showed that a decreased Lyn correlated with the severity of airway inflammation and mucus hypersecretion. Finally, Lyn may critically regulate airway remodeling by directly interacting with TGF-β3. Collectively, these findings revealed that Lyn regulates TGF-β3 isoform and modulates the development of airway remodeling, which may have therapeutic indications for severe chronic asthma.
PMCID: PMC3863691  PMID: 24127553
knockout mice; Th2 cytokines; HDM extracts; oxidative stress; airway remodeling; EMT

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