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1.  Multistrain Probiotic Modulation of Intestinal Epithelial Cells' Immune Response to a Double-Stranded RNA Ligand, Poly(I·C) 
A commercially available product containing three probiotic bacterial strains (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052, Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis R0033, and Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071) was previously shown in animal trials to modulate both TH1 and TH2 immune responses. Clinical studies on this combination of bacteria have also shown positive health effects against seasonal winter diseases and rotavirus infection. The goal of this study was to use a well-established in vitro intestinal epithelial (HT-29) cell model that has been shown to constitutively express double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) sensors (Toll-like receptor 3 [TLR3], retinoic acid-inducible gene I, melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5, and dsRNA-activated protein kinase). By using the HT-29 cell model, we wanted to evaluate whether or not this combination of three bacteria had the capacity to immune modulate the host cell response to a dsRNA ligand, poly(I·C). Using a custom-designed, two-color expression microarray targeting genes of the human immune system, we investigated the response of HT-29 cells challenged with poly(I·C) both in the presence and in the absence of the three probiotic bacteria. We observed that the combination of the three bacteria had a major impact on attenuating the expression of genes connected to proinflammatory TH1 and antiviral innate immune responses compared to that obtained by the poly(I·C)-only challenge. Major pathways through which the multistrain combination may be eliciting its immune-modulatory effect include the TLR3 domain-containing adapter-inducing beta interferon (TRIF), mitogen-activated protein kinase, and NF-κB signaling pathways. Such a model may be useful for selecting potential biomarkers for the design of future clinical trials.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03411-13
PMCID: PMC3957618  PMID: 24375132
2.  Stress-Induced Activation of Heterochromatic Transcription 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(10):e1001175.
Constitutive heterochromatin comprising the centromeric and telomeric parts of chromosomes includes DNA marked by high levels of methylation associated with histones modified by repressive marks. These epigenetic modifications silence transcription and ensure stable inheritance of this inert state. Although environmental cues can alter epigenetic marks and lead to modulation of the transcription of genes located in euchromatic parts of the chromosomes, there is no evidence that external stimuli can globally destabilize silencing of constitutive heterochromatin. We have found that heterochromatin-associated silencing in Arabidopsis plants subjected to a particular temperature regime is released in a genome-wide manner. This occurs without alteration of repressive epigenetic modifications and does not involve common epigenetic mechanisms. Such induced release of silencing is mostly transient, and rapid restoration of the silent state occurs without the involvement of factors known to be required for silencing initiation. Thus, our results reveal new regulatory aspects of transcriptional repression in constitutive heterochromatin and open up possibilities to identify the molecular mechanisms involved.
Author Summary
In eukaryotic cells, DNA is packaged into chromatin that is present in two different forms named euchromatin and heterochromatin. Gene-rich euchromatin is relaxed and permissive to transcription compared with heterochromatin that essentially contains transcriptionally inert non-coding repeated DNA. The silent state associated with heterochromatin correlates with the presence of distinctive repressive epigenetic modifications. Mutations in genes required for maintenance of these epigenetic marks reactivate heterochromatin transcription, which is otherwise maintained silent in a highly stable manner. In this paper, we defined a specific temperature stress that leads to genome-wide transcriptional activation of sequences located within heterochromatin of Arabidopsis thaliana. Unexpectedly, release of silencing occurs in spite of conservation of the repressive epigenetic marks and independently of common epigenetic regulators. In addition, we provide evidence that stress-induced transcriptional activation is mostly transient, and silencing is rapidly restored upon return to optimal growth conditions. These results are important in that they disclose the dynamics of silencing associated with heterochromatin as well as the existence of a new level of transcriptional control that might play a role in plant acclimation to changing environmental conditions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001175
PMCID: PMC2965753  PMID: 21060865
3.  Divergent Evolution of CHD3 Proteins Resulted in MOM1 Refining Epigenetic Control in Vascular Plants 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(8):e1000165.
Arabidopsis MOM1 is required for the heritable maintenance of transcriptional gene silencing (TGS). Unlike many other silencing factors, depletion of MOM1 evokes transcription at selected loci without major changes in DNA methylation or histone modification. These loci retain unusual, bivalent chromatin properties, intermediate to both euchromatin and heterochromatin. The structure of MOM1 previously suggested an integral nuclear membrane protein with chromatin-remodeling and actin-binding activities. Unexpected results presented here challenge these presumed MOM1 activities and demonstrate that less than 13% of MOM1 sequence is necessary and sufficient for TGS maintenance. This active sequence encompasses a novel Conserved MOM1 Motif 2 (CMM2). The high conservation suggests that CMM2 has been the subject of strong evolutionary pressure. The replacement of Arabidopsis CMM2 by a poplar motif reveals its functional conservation. Interspecies comparison suggests that MOM1 proteins emerged at the origin of vascular plants through neo-functionalization of the ubiquitous eukaryotic CHD3 chromatin remodeling factors. Interestingly, despite the divergent evolution of CHD3 and MOM1, we observed functional cooperation in epigenetic control involving unrelated protein motifs and thus probably diverse mechanisms.
Author Summary
Epigenetic regulation of transcription usually involves changes in histone modifications, as well as DNA methylation changes in plants and mammals. Previously, we found an exceptional epigenetic regulator in Arabidopsis, MOM1, acting independently of these epigenetic marks. Interestingly, MOM1 controls loci associated with bivalent chromatin marks, intermediate to active euchromatin and silent heterochromatin. Such bivalent marks are often associated with newly inserted and/or potentially active transposons, silent transgenes, and certain chromosomal loci. Notably, bivalent chromatin seems to be characteristic for embryonic stem cells, where such loci change their activity and determination of epigenetic marks during cell differentiation. Here, we provide evidence that in vascular plants, the MOM1-like proteins evolved from the ubiquitous eukaryotic chromatin remodeling factor CHD3. The domains necessary for CHD3 function degenerated in MOM1, became dispensable for its gene silencing activity, and were replaced by a novel, unrelated domain providing silencing function. Therefore, MOM1-like proteins use a different silencing mechanism compared to the ancestral CHD3s. In spite of this divergent evolution, CHD3 and MOM1 seem to retain a functional cooperation in control of transcriptionally silent loci. Our results provide an unprecedented example of an evolutionary path for epigenetic components resulting in increased complexity of an epigenetic regulatory network characteristic for multicellular eukaryotes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000165
PMCID: PMC2507757  PMID: 18725928
4.  Identification and characterization of transcription factor IIIA and ribosomal protein L5 from Arabidopsis thaliana 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(9):2424-2433.
Thus far, no transcription factor IIIA (TFIIIA) from higher plants has been cloned and characterized. We have cloned and characterized TFIIIA and ribosomal protein L5 from Arabidopsis thaliana. Primary sequence comparison revealed a high divergence of AtTFIIIA and a relatively high conservation of AtL5 when compared with other organisms. The AtTFIIIA cDNA encodes a protein with nine Cys2-His2-type zinc fingers, a 23 amino acid spacer between fingers 1 and 2, a 66 amino acid spacer between fingers 4 and 5, and a 50 amino acid non-finger C-terminal tail. Aside from the amino acids required for proper zinc finger folding, AtTFIIIA is highly divergent from other known TFIIIAs. AtTFIIIA can bind 5S rDNA, as well as 5S rRNA, and efficiently stimulates the transcription of an Arabidopsis 5S rRNA gene in vitro. AtL5 identity was confirmed by demonstrating that this protein binds to 5S rRNA but not to 5S rDNA. Protoplast transient expression assays with green fluorescent protein fusion proteins revealed that AtTFIIIA is absent from the cytoplasm and concentrated at several nuclear foci including the nucleolus. AtL5 protein accumulates in the nucleus, especially in the nucleolus, and is also present in the cytoplasm.
PMCID: PMC154221  PMID: 12711688

Results 1-4 (4)