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1.  Identification of Human Proteins That Modify Misfolding and Proteotoxicity of Pathogenic Ataxin-1 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(8):e1002897.
Proteins with long, pathogenic polyglutamine (polyQ) sequences have an enhanced propensity to spontaneously misfold and self-assemble into insoluble protein aggregates. Here, we have identified 21 human proteins that influence polyQ-induced ataxin-1 misfolding and proteotoxicity in cell model systems. By analyzing the protein sequences of these modifiers, we discovered a recurrent presence of coiled-coil (CC) domains in ataxin-1 toxicity enhancers, while such domains were not present in suppressors. This suggests that CC domains contribute to the aggregation- and toxicity-promoting effects of modifiers in mammalian cells. We found that the ataxin-1–interacting protein MED15, computationally predicted to possess an N-terminal CC domain, enhances spontaneous ataxin-1 aggregation in cell-based assays, while no such effect was observed with the truncated protein MED15ΔCC, lacking such a domain. Studies with recombinant proteins confirmed these results and demonstrated that the N-terminal CC domain of MED15 (MED15CC) per se is sufficient to promote spontaneous ataxin-1 aggregation in vitro. Moreover, we observed that a hybrid Pum1 protein harboring the MED15CC domain promotes ataxin-1 aggregation in cell model systems. In strong contrast, wild-type Pum1 lacking a CC domain did not stimulate ataxin-1 polymerization. These results suggest that proteins with CC domains are potent enhancers of polyQ-mediated protein misfolding and aggregation in vitro and in vivo.
Author Summary
Spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) are a group of inherited neurodegenerative diseases with around 30 subtypes, which are characterized by a progressive loss of cerebellar neurons. Neuronal death has been linked to the aggregation of mutated disease-causing proteins, such as ataxin-1 (ATXN1). Pathogenic ATXN1 contains an elongated glutamine stretch, which triggers spontaneous misfolding and self-assembly of the protein into aggregates. Earlier studies in lower organisms have discovered many non-human proteins that alter aggregation and/or toxicity of mutant ATXN1. Here, we combine an experimental screening approach with bioinformatics to find human proteins that modulate aggregation and toxicity of ATXN1. We identified 21 proteins affecting mutant ATXN1 in mammalian cells. Further characterization revealed that enhancers of ATXN1-mediated toxicity contain α-helical coiled-coil domains as structural motifs, while suppressors do not. Detailed studies with the ATXN1 interacting proteins MED15 and Pum1 finally demonstrated that coiled-coil domains are indeed critical for the aggregation and toxicity promoting effects of human proteins. Our study contributes to a deeper understanding of ATXN1 aggregation and SCA1 pathogenesis and highlights potential therapeutic targets for further investigations.
PMCID: PMC3420947  PMID: 22916034
2.  A Novel Multiplex Cell Viability Assay for High-Throughput RNAi Screening 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28338.
Cell-based high-throughput RNAi screening has become a powerful research tool in addressing a variety of biological questions. In RNAi screening, one of the most commonly applied assay system is measuring the fitness of cells that is usually quantified using fluorescence, luminescence and absorption-based readouts. These methods, typically implemented and scaled to large-scale screening format, however often only yield limited information on the cell fitness phenotype due to evaluation of a single and indirect physiological indicator. To address this problem, we have established a cell fitness multiplexing assay which combines a biochemical approach and two fluorescence-based assaying methods. We applied this assay in a large-scale RNAi screening experiment with siRNA pools targeting the human kinome in different modified HEK293 cell lines. Subsequent analysis of ranked fitness phenotypes assessed by the different assaying methods revealed average phenotype intersections of 50.7±2.3%–58.7±14.4% when two indicators were combined and 40–48% when a third indicator was taken into account. From these observations we conclude that combination of multiple fitness measures may decrease false-positive rates and increases confidence for hit selection. Our robust experimental and analytical method improves the classical approach in terms of time, data comprehensiveness and cost.
PMCID: PMC3230607  PMID: 22162763

Results 1-2 (2)