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1.  Phosphatidic acid phospholipase A1 mediates ER–Golgi transit of a family of G protein–coupled receptors 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2014;206(1):79-95.
Cytosolic phosphatidic acid phospholipase A1 interacts with COPII protein family members and is required for the anterograde trafficking of GPCRs.
The coat protein II (COPII)–coated vesicular system transports newly synthesized secretory and membrane proteins from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the Golgi complex. Recruitment of cargo into COPII vesicles requires an interaction of COPII proteins either with the cargo molecules directly or with cargo receptors for anterograde trafficking. We show that cytosolic phosphatidic acid phospholipase A1 (PAPLA1) interacts with COPII protein family members and is required for the transport of Rh1 (rhodopsin 1), an N-glycosylated G protein–coupled receptor (GPCR), from the ER to the Golgi complex. In papla1 mutants, in the absence of transport to the Golgi, Rh1 is aberrantly glycosylated and is mislocalized. These defects lead to decreased levels of the protein and decreased sensitivity of the photoreceptors to light. Several GPCRs, including other rhodopsins and Bride of sevenless, are similarly affected. Our findings show that a cytosolic protein is necessary for transit of selective transmembrane receptor cargo by the COPII coat for anterograde trafficking.
PMCID: PMC4085702  PMID: 25002678
2.  Ciliopathy-associated gene Cc2d2a promotes assembly of subdistal appendages on the mother centriole during cilia biogenesis 
Nature communications  2014;5:4207.
The primary cilium originates from the mother centriole and participates in critical functions during organogenesis. Defects in cilia biogenesis or function lead to pleiotropic phenotypes. Mutations in centrosome-cilia gene CC2D2A result in Meckel and Joubert syndromes. Here we generate a Cc2d2a-/- mouse that recapitulates features of Meckel syndrome including embryonic lethality and multi-organ defects. Cilia are absent in Cc2d2a-/- embryonic node and other somatic tissues; disruption of cilia-dependent Shh signaling appears to underlie exencephaly in mutant embryos. The Cc2d2a-/- mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) lack cilia though mother centriole and pericentriolar proteins are detected. Odf2, associated with subdistal appendages, is absent and ninein is reduced in mutant MEFs. In Cc2d2a-/- MEFs, subdistal appendages are lacking or abnormal by transmission-EM. Consistent with this, CC2D2A localizes to subdistal appendages by immuno-EM in wild type cells. We conclude that CC2D2A is essential for the assembly of subdistal appendages, which anchor cytoplasmic microtubules and prime the mother centriole for axoneme biogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4096663  PMID: 24947469
3.  An IKKα-Nucleophosmin Axis Utilizes Inflammatory Signaling to Promote Genome Integrity 
Cell reports  2013;5(5):1243-1255.
The inflammatory microenvironment promotes skin tumorigenesis. However, the mechanisms of how cells protect themselves from inflammatory signals have yet to be revealed. Downregulation of IKKα promotes skin tumor progression from papillomas to squamous cell carcinomas, which is frequently accompanied by genomic instability, including aneuploid chromosomes and extra centrosomes. In this study, we found that IKKα promoted oligomerization of nucleophosmin (NPM), a negative centrosome duplication regulator, which further enhanced NPM and centrosome association, inhibited centrosome amplification, and maintained genome integrity. Levels of NPM hexamers and IKKα were conversely associated with skin tumor progression. Importantly, pro-inflammatory cytokine-induced IKKα activation promoted the formation of NPM oligomers and reduced centrosome numbers in mouse and human cells, whereas kinase-dead IKKα blocked this connection. Therefore, our findings suggest a previously unknown mechanism in which an IKKα-NPM axis may use the inflammatory signal to suppress centrosome amplification, promote genomic integrity, and prevent tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC4159076  PMID: 24290756
4.  Ceramide Transfer Protein Deficiency Compromises Organelle Function and Leads to Senescence in Primary Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92142.
Ceramide transfer protein (CERT) transfers ceramide from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the Golgi complex. Its deficiency in mouse leads to embryonic death at E11.5. CERT deficient embryos die from cardiac failure due to defective organogenesis, but not due to ceramide induced apoptotic or necrotic cell death. In the current study we examined the effect of CERT deficiency in a primary cell line, namely, mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). We show that in MEFs, unlike in mutant embryos, lack of CERT does not lead to increased ceramide but causes an accumulation of hexosylceramides. Nevertheless, the defects due to defective sphingolipid metabolism that ensue, when ceramide fails to be trafficked from ER to the Golgi complex, compromise the viability of the cell. Therefore, MEFs display an incipient ER stress. While we observe that ceramide trafficking from ER to the Golgi complex is compromised, the forward transport of VSVG-GFP protein is unhindered from ER to Golgi complex to the plasma membrane. However, retrograde trafficking of the plasma membrane-associated cholera toxin B to the Golgi complex is reduced. The dysregulated sphingolipid metabolism also leads to increased mitochondrial hexosylceramide. The mitochondrial functions are also compromised in mutant MEFs since they have reduced ATP levels, have increased reactive oxygen species, and show increased glutathione reductase activity. Live-cell imaging shows that the mutant mitochondria exhibit reduced fission and fusion events. The mitochondrial dysfunction leads to an increased mitophagy in the CERT mutant MEFs. The compromised organelle function compromise cell viability and results in premature senescence of these MEFs.
PMCID: PMC3958450  PMID: 24642596
5.  Essential role of Cenexin1, but not Odf2, in ciliogenesis 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(4):655-662.
Primary cilia are microtubule-based solitary sensing structures on the cell surface that play crucial roles in cell signaling and development. Abnormal ciliary function leads to various human genetic disorders, collectively known as ciliopathies. Outer dense fiber protein 2 (Odf2) was initially isolated as a major component of sperm-tail fibers. Subsequent studies have demonstrated the existence of many splicing variants of Odf2, including Cenexin1 (Odf2 isoform 9), which bears an unusual C-terminal extension. Strikingly, Odf2 localizes along the axoneme of primary cilia, whereas Cenexin1 localizes to basal bodies in cultured mammalian cells. Whether Odf2 and Cenexin1 contribute to primary cilia assembly by carrying out either concerted or distinct functions is unknown. By taking advantage of odf2−/− cells lacking endogenous Odf2 and Cenexin1, but exogenously expressing one or both of these proteins, we showed that Cenexin1, but not Odf2, was necessary and sufficient to induce ciliogenesis. Furthermore, the Cenexin1-dependent primary cilia assembly pathway appeared to function independently of Odf2. Consistently, Cenexin1, but not Odf2, interacted with GTP-loaded Rab8a, localized to the distal/subdistal appendages of basal bodies, and facilitated the recruitment of Chibby, a centriolar component that is important for proper ciliogenesis. Taken together, our results suggest that Cenexin1 plays a critical role in ciliogenesis through its C-terminal extension that confers a unique ability to mediate primary cilia assembly. The presence of multiple splicing variants hints that the function of Odf2 is diversified in such a way that each variant has a distinct role in the complex cellular and developmental processes.
PMCID: PMC3594266  PMID: 23343771
Cenexin1; Odf2; Rab8a; Chibby; primary cilia; ciliogenesis
6.  Regulation of Mitochondrial Oxidative Metabolism by Tumor Suppressor FLCN  
Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome is a hereditary hamartoma syndrome that predisposes patients to develop hair follicle tumors, lung cysts, and kidney cancer. Genetic studies of BHD patients have uncovered the causative gene, FLCN, but its function is incompletely understood.
Mice with conditional alleles of FLCN and/or peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PPARGC1A), a transcriptional coactivator that regulates mitochondrial biogenesis, were crossbred with mice harboring either muscle creatine kinase (CKM) –Cre or myogenin (MYOG) –Cre transgenes to knock out FLCN and/or PPARGC1A in muscle, or cadherin 16 (CDH16)– Cre transgenes to knock out FLCN and/or PPARGC1A in kidney. Real-time polymerase chain reaction, immunoblotting, electron microscopy, and metabolic profiling assay were performed to evaluate mitochondrial biogenesis and function in muscle. Immunoblotting, electron microscopy, and histological analysis were used to investigate expression and the pathological role of PPARGC1A in FLCN-deficient kidney. Real-time polymerase chain reaction, oxygen consumption measurement, and flow cytometry were carried out using a FLCN-null kidney cancer cell line. All statistical analyses were two-sided.
Muscle-targeted FLCN knockout mice underwent a pronounced metabolic shift toward oxidative phosphorylation, including increased mitochondrial biogenesis (FLCN f/f vs FLCN f/f /CKM–Cre: % mitochondrial area mean = 7.8% vs 17.8%; difference = 10.0%; 95% confidence interval = 5.7% to 14.3%; P < .001), and the observed increase in mitochondrial biogenesis was PPARGC1A dependent. Reconstitution of FLCN-null kidney cancer cells with wild-type FLCN suppressed mitochondrial metabolism and PPARGC1A expression. Kidney-targeted PPARGC1A inactivation partially rescued the enlarged kidney phenotype and abrogated the hyperplastic cells observed in the FLCN-deficient kidney.
FLCN deficiency and subsequent increased PPARGC1A expression result in increased mitochondrial function and oxidative metabolism as the source of cellular energy, which may give FLCN-null kidney cells a growth advantage and drive hyperplastic transformation.
PMCID: PMC3502196  PMID: 23150719
7.  Roles Played by Capsid-Dependent Induction of Membrane Curvature and Gag-ESCRT Interactions in Tetherin Recruitment to HIV-1 Assembly Sites 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(8):4650-4664.
Tetherin/BST-2 (here called tetherin) is an antiviral protein that restricts release of diverse enveloped viruses from infected cells through physically tethering virus envelope and host plasma membrane. For HIV-1, specific recruitment of tetherin to assembly sites has been observed as its colocalization with the viral structural protein Gag or its accumulation in virus particles. Because of its broad range of targets, we hypothesized that tetherin is recruited through conserved features shared among various enveloped viruses, such as lipid raft association, membrane curvature, or ESCRT dependence. We observed that reduction of cellular cholesterol does not block tetherin anti-HIV-1 function, excluding an essential role for lipid rafts. In contrast, mutations in the capsid domain of Gag, which inhibit induction of membrane curvature, prevented tetherin-Gag colocalization detectable by confocal microscopy. Disruption of Gag-ESCRT interactions also inhibited tetherin-Gag colocalization when disruption was accomplished via amino acid substitutions in late domain motifs, expression of a dominant-negative Tsg101 derivative, or small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated depletion of Tsg101 or Alix. However, further analyses of these conditions by quantitative superresolution localization microscopy revealed that Gag-tetherin coclustering is significantly reduced but persists at intermediate levels. Notably, this residual tetherin recruitment was still sufficient for the full restriction of HIV-1 release. Unlike the late domain mutants, the capsid mutants defective in inducing membrane curvature showed little or no coclustering with tetherin in superresolution analyses. These results support a model in which both Gag-induced membrane curvature and Gag-ESCRT interactions promote tetherin recruitment, but the recruitment level achieved by the former is sufficient for full restriction.
PMCID: PMC3624355  PMID: 23408603
9.  Ubiquitin conjugation to Gag is essential for ESCRT-mediated HIV-1 budding 
Retrovirology  2013;10:79.
HIV-1 relies on the host ESCRTs for release from cells. HIV-1 Gag engages ESCRTs by directly binding TSG101 or Alix. ESCRTs also sort ubiquitinated membrane proteins through endosomes to facilitate their lysosomal degradation. The ability of ESCRTs to recognize and process ubiquitinated proteins suggests that ESCRT-dependent viral release may also be controlled by ubiquitination. Although both Gag and ESCRTs undergo some level of ubiquitination, definitive demonstration that ubiquitin is required for viral release is lacking. Here we suppress ubiquitination at viral budding sites by fusing the catalytic domain of the Herpes Simplex UL36 deubiquitinating enzyme (DUb) onto TSG101, Alix, or Gag.
Expressing DUb-TSG101 suppressed Alix-independent HIV-1 release and viral particles remained tethered to the cell surface. DUb-TSG101 had no effect on budding of MoMLV or EIAV, two retroviruses that rely on the ESCRT machinery for exit. Alix-dependent virus release such as EIAV’s, and HIV-1 lacking access to TSG101, was instead dramatically blocked by co-expressing DUb-Alix. Finally, Gag-DUb was unable to support virus release and dominantly interfered with release of wild type HIV-1. Fusion of UL36 did not effect interactions with Alix, TSG101, or Gag and all of the inhibitory effects of UL36 fusion were abolished when its catalytic activity was ablated. Accordingly, Alix, TSG101 and Gag fused to inactive UL36 functionally replaced their unfused counterparts. Interestingly, coexpression of the Nedd4-2s ubiquitin ligase suppressed the ability of DUb-TSG101 to inhibit HIV-1 release while also restoring detectable Gag ubiquitination at the membrane. Similarly, incorporation of Gag-Ub fusion proteins into virions lifted DUb-ESCRT inhibitory effect. In contrast, Nedd4-2s did not suppress the inhibition mediated by Gag-DUb despite restoring robust ubiquitination of TSG101/ESCRT-I at virus budding sites.
These studies demonstrate a necessary and natural role for ubiquitin in ESCRT-dependent viral release and indicate a critical role for ubiquitination of Gag rather than ubiquitination of ESCRTs themselves.
PMCID: PMC3751857  PMID: 23895345
Ubiquitin; HIV budding; ESCRT; Deubiquitination; Gag
10.  Essential Regulation of Lung Surfactant Homeostasis by the Orphan G-protein Coupled Receptor GPR116 
Cell reports  2013;3(5):1457-1464.
GPR116 is an orphan seven-pass transmembrane receptor of previously unknown function. Global disruption of the Gpr116 gene in mice revealed an unexpected, critical role for this receptor in lung surfactant homeostasis, resulting in progressive accumulation of surfactant lipids and proteins in the alveolar space, labored breathing, and a reduced lifespan. GPR116 expression analysis, bone marrow transplantation studies and characterization of conditional knockout mice revealed that GPR116 expression in ATII cells is required for maintaining normal surfactant levels. Aberrant packaging of surfactant proteins with lipids in the Gpr116 mutant mice resulted in compromised surfactant structure, function, uptake, and processing. Thus, GPR116 plays an indispensable role in lung surfactant homeostasis with important ramifications for the understanding and treatment of lung surfactant disorders.
PMCID: PMC3695742  PMID: 23684610
11.  Functional Redundancy in HIV-1 Viral Particle Assembly 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(23):12991-12996.
Expression of a retroviral Gag protein in mammalian cells leads to the assembly of virus particles. In vitro, recombinant Gag proteins are soluble but assemble into virus-like particles (VLPs) upon addition of nucleic acid. We have proposed that Gag undergoes a conformational change when it is at a high local concentration and that this change is an essential prerequisite for particle assembly; perhaps one way that this condition can be fulfilled is by the cooperative binding of Gag molecules to nucleic acid. We have now characterized the assembly in human cells of HIV-1 Gag molecules with a variety of defects, including (i) inability to bind to the plasma membrane, (ii) near-total inability of their capsid domains to engage in dimeric interaction, and (iii) drastically compromised ability to bind RNA. We find that Gag molecules with any one of these defects still retain some ability to assemble into roughly spherical objects with roughly correct radius of curvature. However, combination of any two of the defects completely destroys this capability. The results suggest that these three functions are somewhat redundant with respect to their contribution to particle assembly. We suggest that they are alternative mechanisms for the initial concentration of Gag molecules; under our experimental conditions, any two of the three is sufficient to lead to some semblance of correct assembly.
PMCID: PMC3497692  PMID: 22993163
12.  Dimeric RNA Recognition Regulates HIV-1 Genome Packaging 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(3):e1003249.
How retroviruses regulate the amount of RNA genome packaged into each virion has remained a long-standing question. Our previous study showed that most HIV-1 particles contain two copies of viral RNA, indicating that the number of genomes packaged is tightly regulated. In this report, we examine the mechanism that controls the number of RNA genomes encapsidated into HIV-1 particles. We hypothesize that HIV-1 regulates genome packaging by either the mass or copy number of the viral RNA. These two distinct mechanisms predict different outcomes when the genome size deviates significantly from that of wild type. Regulation by RNA mass would result in multiple copies of a small genome or one copy of a large genome being packaged, whereas regulation by copy number would result in two copies of a genome being packaged independent of size. To distinguish between these two hypotheses, we examined the packaging of viral RNA that was larger (≈17 kb) or smaller (≈3 kb) than that of wild-type HIV-1 (≈9 kb) and found that most particles packaged two copies of the viral genome regardless of whether they were 17 kb or 3 kb. Therefore, HIV-1 regulates RNA genome encapsidation not by the mass of RNA but by packaging two copies of RNA. To further explore the mechanism that governs this regulation, we examined the packaging of viral RNAs containing two packaging signals that can form intermolecular dimers or intramolecular dimers (self-dimers) and found that one self-dimer is packaged. Therefore, HIV-1 recognizes one dimeric RNA instead of two copies of RNA. Our findings reveal that dimeric RNA recognition is the key mechanism that regulates HIV-1 genome encapsidation and provide insights into a critical step in the generation of infectious viruses.
Author Summary
Viruses must package their genomes in particles to pass their genetic information to the next generation. Although many aspects of RNA packaging are well-studied, how retroviruses regulate the number of genomes in the particle is currently unknown. Based on the dimeric nature of retroviral genomes in particles, it was often assumed that two copies of RNA were packaged into one particle. This assumption was validated recently when we demonstrated that most HIV-1 particles contain two copies of viral RNA, which revealed that the number of genomes packaged is tightly controlled. In this report, we examined the mechanism that regulates the amount of RNAs encapsidated into HIV-1 particles. Our results showed that RNA packaging is not regulated by the mass of the viral RNA as two copies of small or large genomes are packaged. However, packaging of two copies of RNA can be perturbed; HIV-1 can encapsidate one copy of its genome when the RNA contains two packaging/dimerization signals that allow for intramolecular dimer (self-dimer) formation. These studies revealed that HIV-1 regulates genome packaging by recognizing the dimeric RNA structure, and suggest that the interaction of viral protein Gag and dimeric RNA serves as the nucleation point of virus assembly.
PMCID: PMC3605237  PMID: 23555259
13.  DNA immunization with HBsAg-based particles expressing a B cell epitope of amyloid β-peptide attenuates disease progression and prolongs survival in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease 
Vaccine  2012;30(9):1650-1658.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is an incurable and progressive neurodegenerative senile disorder associated with the brain accumulation of Aβ plaques. Although vaccines that reduce Aβ plaques can control AD, the rationale for their use at the onset of the disease remains debatable. Old humans and mice usually respond poorly to vaccines due to presumably age-related immunological impairments. Here, we report that by modifying vaccines, the poor responsiveness of old mice can be reversed. Unlike the Aβ peptide vaccine, DNA immunizations with the amino-terminal Aβ(1-11) fragment exposed on the surface of HBsAg particles elicit high levels of anti-Aβ antibody both in young and old mice. Importantly, in AD model 3xTgAD mice, the vaccine reduced Aβ plaques, ameliorated cognitive impairments and, surprisingly, significantly increased life span. Hence, we propose that vaccines targeting Aβ(1-11) can efficiently combat AD-induced pathological alterations and provide survival benefit in patients with AD.
PMCID: PMC3278568  PMID: 22248819
Aβ; Alzheimer's disease vaccine; old age; life span
14.  The Interdomain Linker Region of HIV-1 Capsid Protein is a Critical Determinant of Proper Core Assembly and Stability 
Virology  2011;421(2):253-265.
The HIV-1 capsid protein consists of two independently folded domains connected by a flexible peptide linker (residues 146–150), the function of which remains to be defined. To investigate the role of this region in virus replication, we made alanine or leucine substitutions in each linker residue and two flanking residues. Three classes of mutants were identified: (i) S146A and T148A behave like wild type (WT); (ii) Y145A, I150A, and L151A are noninfectious, assemble unstable cores with aberrant morphology, and synthesize almost no viral DNA; and (iii) P147L and S149A display a poorly infectious, attenuated phenotype. Infectivity of P147L and S149A is rescued specifically by pseudotyping with vesicular stomatitis virus envelope glycoprotein. Moreover, despite having unstable cores, these mutants assemble WT-like structures and synthesize viral DNA, although less efficiently than WT. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that the linker region is essential for proper assembly and stability of cores and efficient replication.
PMCID: PMC3573886  PMID: 22036671
HIV-1 capsid protein; HIV-1 assembly; HIV-1 cores; VSV-G pseudotyping; interdomain linker; in vitro assembly; TRIM5 proteins; host restriction; virus disassembly; reverse transcription
15.  Towards an atlas of mammalian cell ultrastructure by cryo soft X-ray tomography 
Journal of Structural Biology  2011;177(2):179-192.
We provide a catalog of 3D cryo soft X-ray tomography (cryo-SXT) images obtained from ~6–12 µm thick mouse adenocarcinoma cells. Included are multiple representative images of nuclei, nucleoli, nuclear membrane, nuclear membrane channels, mitochondria, lysosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, filaments and plasma membrane, plus three structures not previously described by cryo-SXT, namely Golgi, microvilli and nuclear-membrane blebs. Sections from the 3D cryo-SXT tomograms for all the preceding structures closely resemble those seen by thin-section transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Some structures such as nuclear-membrane channels and nuclear-membrane blebs are more easily detected by cryo-SXT than TEM most likely due to their better contrast and cellular preservation in cryo-SXT combined with the ability to rapidly locate these structures within a full 3D image. We identify and discuss two current limitations in cryo-SXT: variability in image quality and difficulties in detecting weaker contrast structures such as chromatin and various nuclear bodies. Progress on these points is likely to come from the solution of several technical problems in image acquisition, plus the implementation of advanced cryo soft X-ray microscopy approaches such as phase contrast or optical sectioning.
PMCID: PMC3288423  PMID: 22155291
soft X-ray tomography; mammalian cells; ultrastructure
16.  Structural and Functional Insights into the HIV-1 Maturation Inhibitor Binding Pocket 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(11):e1002997.
Processing of the Gag precursor protein by the viral protease during particle release triggers virion maturation, an essential step in the virus replication cycle. The first-in-class HIV-1 maturation inhibitor dimethylsuccinyl betulinic acid [PA-457 or bevirimat (BVM)] blocks HIV-1 maturation by inhibiting the cleavage of the capsid-spacer peptide 1 (CA-SP1) intermediate to mature CA. A structurally distinct molecule, PF-46396, was recently reported to have a similar mode of action to that of BVM. Because of the structural dissimilarity between BVM and PF-46396, we hypothesized that the two compounds might interact differentially with the putative maturation inhibitor-binding pocket in Gag. To test this hypothesis, PF-46396 resistance was selected for in vitro. Resistance mutations were identified in three regions of Gag: around the CA-SP1 cleavage site where BVM resistance maps, at CA amino acid 201, and in the CA major homology region (MHR). The MHR mutants are profoundly PF-46396-dependent in Gag assembly and release and virus replication. The severe defect exhibited by the inhibitor-dependent MHR mutants in the absence of the compound is also corrected by a second-site compensatory change far downstream in SP1, suggesting structural and functional cross-talk between the HIV-1 CA MHR and SP1. When PF-46396 and BVM were both present in infected cells they exhibited mutually antagonistic behavior. Together, these results identify Gag residues that line the maturation inhibitor-binding pocket and suggest that BVM and PF-46396 interact differentially with this putative pocket. These findings provide novel insights into the structure-function relationship between the CA MHR and SP1, two domains of Gag that are critical to both assembly and maturation. The highly conserved nature of the MHR across all orthoretroviridae suggests that these findings will be broadly relevant to retroviral assembly. Finally, the results presented here provide a framework for increased structural understanding of HIV-1 maturation inhibitor activity.
Author Summary
Maturation of HIV-1 particles, which occurs as they bud off from the infected cell, is triggered by the step-wise cleavage of the major viral structural polyprotein, Pr55Gag, to individual, mature Gag proteins. The viral protease is the enzyme responsible for Gag polyprotein cleavage. Maturation inhibitors prevent the viral protease from processing Gag at one particular cleavage site, but how they accomplish this is not understood. In this study, the ability of HIV-1 to become resistant to the two structurally distinct maturation inhibitors that have thus far been reported was examined. We found that one of these compounds, PF-46396, gives rise to resistance mutations that map to three domains in Gag, including a region known as the major homology region (MHR). The MHR is highly conserved among retroviruses and is known to be very important for virus assembly and maturation. These MHR mutants were observed to replicate much better in the presence of PF-46396 than in its absence; i.e., these mutants are compound-dependent. We were also able to select for second-site mutations in Gag that reversed the replication defects imposed by the MHR mutations. These results define residues in Gag that comprise the maturation inhibitor-binding pocket and also identify regions of Gag that structurally and functionally interact with the MHR.
PMCID: PMC3493477  PMID: 23144615
18.  Budding of Retroviruses Utilizing Divergent L Domains Requires Nucleocapsid 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(8):4182-4193.
We recently reported that human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) carrying PTAP and LYPXnL L domains ceased budding when the nucleocapsid (NC) domain was mutated, suggesting a role for NC in HIV-1 release. Here we investigated whether NC involvement in virus release is a property specific to HIV-1 or a general requirement of retroviruses. Specifically, we examined a possible role for NC in the budding of retroviruses relying on divergent L domains and structurally homologous NC domains that harbor diverse protein sequences. We found that NC is critical for the release of viruses utilizing the PTAP motif whether it functions within its native Gag in simian immunodeficiency virus cpzGAB2 (SIVcpzGAB2) or SIVsmmE543 or when it is transplanted into the heterologous Gag protein of equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV). In both cases, virus release was severely diminished even though NC mutant Gag proteins retained the ability to assemble spherical particles. Moreover, budding-defective NC mutants, which displayed particles tethered to the plasma membrane, were triggered to release virus when access to the cell endocytic sorting complex required for transport pathway was restored (i.e., in trans expression of Nedd4.2s). We also examined the role of NC in the budding of EIAV, a retrovirus relying exclusively on the (L)YPXnL-type L domain. We found that EIAV late budding defects were rescued by overexpression of the isolated Alix Bro1 domain (Bro1). Bro1-mediated rescue of EIAV release required the wild-type NC. EIAV NC mutants lost interactions with Bro1 and failed to produce viruses despite retaining the ability to self-assemble. Together, our studies establish a role for NC in the budding of retroviruses harboring divergent L domains and evolutionarily diverse NC sequences, suggesting the utilization of a common conserved mechanism and/or cellular factor rather than a specific motif.
PMCID: PMC3318634  PMID: 22345468
19.  Melanoregulin, Product of the dsu Locus, Links the BLOC-Pathway and Oa1 in Organelle Biogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e42446.
Humans with Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS) or ocular albinism (OA1) display abnormal aspects of organelle biogenesis. The multigenic disorder HPS displays broad defects in biogenesis of lysosome-related organelles including melanosomes, platelet dense granules, and lysosomes. A phenotype of ocular pigmentation in OA1 is a smaller number of macromelanosomes, in contrast to HPS, where in many cases the melanosomes are smaller than normal. In these studies we define the role of the Mregdsu gene, which suppresses the coat color dilution of Myo5a, melanophilin, and Rab27a mutant mice in maintaining melanosome size and distribution. We show that the product of the Mregdsu locus, melanoregulin (MREG), interacts both with members of the HPS BLOC-2 complex and with Oa1 in regulating melanosome size. Loss of MREG function facilitates increase in the size of micromelanosomes in the choroid of the HPS BLOC-2 mutants ruby, ruby2, and cocoa, while a transgenic mouse overexpressing melanoregulin corrects the size of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) macromelanosomes in Oa1ko/ko mice. Collectively, these results suggest that MREG levels regulate pigment incorporation into melanosomes. Immunohistochemical analysis localizes melanoregulin not to melanosomes, but to small vesicles in the cytoplasm of the RPE, consistent with a role for this protein in regulating membrane interactions during melanosome biogenesis. These results provide the first link between the BLOC pathway and Oa1 in melanosome biogenesis, thus supporting the hypothesis that intracellular G-protein coupled receptors may be involved in the biogenesis of other organelles. Furthermore these studies provide the foundation for therapeutic approaches to correct the pigment defects in the RPE of HPS and OA1.
PMCID: PMC3439427  PMID: 22984402
20.  Innate Immunity against Granulibacter bethesdensis, an Emerging Gram-Negative Bacterial Pathogen 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(3):975-981.
Acetic acid bacteria were previously considered nonpathogenic in humans. However, over the past decade, five genera of Acetobacteraceae have been isolated from patients with inborn or iatrogenic immunodeficiencies. Here, we describe the first studies of the interactions of the human innate immune system with a member of this bacterial family, Granulibacter bethesdensis, an emerging pathogen in patients with chronic granulomatous disease (CGD). Efficient phagocytosis of G. bethesdensis by normal and CGD polymorphonuclear leukocytes (CGD PMN) required heat-labile serum components (e.g., C3), and binding of C3 and C9 to G. bethesdensis was detected by immunoblotting. However, this organism survived in human serum concentrations of ≥90%, indicating a high degree of serum resistance. Consistent with the clinical host tropism of G. bethesdensis, CGD PMN were unable to kill this organism, while normal PMN, in the presence of serum, reduced the number of CFU by about 50% after a 24-h coculture. This finding, together with the observations that G. bethesdensis was sensitive to H2O2 but resistant to LL-37, a human cationic antimicrobial peptide, suggests an inherent resistance to O2-independent killing. Interestingly, 10 to 100 times greater numbers of G. bethesdensis were required to achieve the same level of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production induced by Escherichia coli in normal PMN. In addition to the relative inability of the organism to elicit production of PMN ROS, G. bethesdensis inhibited both constitutive and FAS-induced PMN apoptosis. These properties of reduced PMN activation and resistance to nonoxidative killing mechanisms likely play an important role in G. bethesdensis pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3294668  PMID: 22184421
21.  Effects of UVA Irradiation, Aryl Azides, and Reactive Oxygen Species on the Orthogonal Inactivation of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV-1) 
Virology  2011;417(1):221-228.
Previously we reported that hydrophobic aryl azides partition into hydrophobic regions of the viral membrane of enveloped viruses and inactivate the virus upon UVA irradiation for 2 minutes. Prolonged irradiation (15 minutes) resulted in viral protein aggregation as visualized via Western blot analysis, due to reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation, with preservation of the surface antigenic epitopes. Herein, we demonstrate that these aggregates show detergent resistance and that this property may be useful towards the creation of a novel orthogonal virus inactivation strategy for use in preparing experimental vaccines. When ROS-modified HIV virus preparations were treated with 1% Triton X-100, there was an increase in the percent of viral proteins (gp41, p24) in the viral pellet after ultracentrifugation through sucrose. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of these detergent-resistant pellets show some recognizable virus fragments, and immunoprecipitation studies of the gp41 aggregates suggest the aggregation is covalent in nature, involving short-range interactions.
PMCID: PMC3152596  PMID: 21726886
HIV; Detergent; Vaccine; Triton; Hydrophobic; Azide; Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS); Viral Membrane
22.  Identification of CBX3 and ABCA5 as Putative Biomarkers for Tumor Stem Cells in Osteosarcoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e41401.
Recently, there has been renewed interest in the role of tumor stem cells (TSCs) in tumorigenesis, chemoresistance, and relapse of malignant tumors including osteosarcoma. The potential exists to improve osteosarcoma treatment through characterization of TSCs and identification of therapeutic targets. Using transcriptome, proteome, immunophenotyping for cell-surface markers, and bioinformatic analyses, heterogeneous expression of previously reported TSC or osteosarcoma markers, such as CD133, nestin, POU5F1 (OCT3/4), NANOG, SOX2, and aldehyde dehydrogenase, among others, was observed in vitro. However, consistently significantly lower CD326, CD24, CD44, and higher ABCG2 expression in TSC-enriched as compared with un-enriched osteosarcoma cultures was observed. In addition, consistently higher CBX3 expression in TSC-enriched osteosarcoma cultures was identified. ABCA5 was identified as a putative biomarker of TSCs and/or osteosarcoma. Lastly, in a high-throughput screen we identified epigenetic (5-azacytidine), anti-microtubule (vincristine), and anti-telomerase (3,11-difluoro-6,8,13-trimethyl- 8H-quino [4,3,2-kl] acridinium methosulfate; RHPS4)-targeted therapeutic agents as candidates for TSC ablation in osteosarcoma.
PMCID: PMC3411700  PMID: 22870217
23.  Targeting the HIV entry, assembly and release pathways for anti-HIV gene therapy 
Virology  2011;415(2):95-106.
Targeting the HIV entry and assembly pathways holds promise for development of novel anti-HIV gene therapy vectors. We characterized discrete dominant negative (DN) Gag and Envelope mutants for their anti HIV-1 activity. We show here that capsid mutants (Q155N and Y164A) are more potent inhibitors of WT HIV than the matrix mutant 1GA. Both the Envelope mutants tested, V513E and R515A, were equally effective and a combination of Gag and Envelope DN genes significantly enhanced potency. Interestingly, the DN mutants acted at multiple steps in the virus life cycle rather than solely disrupting virus release or infection. Inhibition mediated by R515A could be partially attributed to the Envelope cytoplasmic tail, as deletion of R515A tail partially abrogated its DN effect. Finally, the Y164A/R515A double mutant expressed in a lentiviral vector was effective at inhibiting HIV replication in CD34+ hematopoietic stem cell-derived macrophages demonstrating the therapeutic potential of our approach.
PMCID: PMC3107932  PMID: 21529874
HIV; Gag; Envelope; Virus assembly; HIV entry; Dominant negative; Gene therapy
24.  Gag Induces the Coalescence of Clustered Lipid Rafts and Tetraspanin-Enriched Microdomains at HIV-1 Assembly Sites on the Plasma Membrane ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(19):9749-9766.
The HIV-1 structural protein Gag associates with two types of plasma membrane microdomains, lipid rafts and tetraspanin-enriched microdomains (TEMs), both of which have been proposed to be platforms for HIV-1 assembly. However, a variety of studies have demonstrated that lipid rafts and TEMs are distinct microdomains in the absence of HIV-1 infection. To measure the impact of Gag on microdomain behaviors, we took advantage of two assays: an antibody-mediated copatching assay and a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) assay that measures the clustering of microdomain markers in live cells without antibody-mediated patching. We found that lipid rafts and TEMs copatched and clustered to a greater extent in the presence of membrane-bound Gag in both assays, suggesting that Gag induces the coalescence of lipid rafts and TEMs. Substitutions in membrane binding motifs of Gag revealed that, while Gag membrane binding is necessary to induce coalescence of lipid rafts and TEMs, either acylation of Gag or binding of phosphatidylinositol-(4,5)-bisphosphate is sufficient. Finally, a Gag derivative that is defective in inducing membrane curvature appeared less able to induce lipid raft and TEM coalescence. A higher-resolution analysis of assembly sites by correlative fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy showed that coalescence of clustered lipid rafts and TEMs occurs predominately at completed cell surface virus-like particles, whereas a transmembrane raft marker protein appeared to associate with punctate Gag fluorescence even in the absence of cell surface particles. Together, these results suggest that different membrane microdomain components are recruited in a stepwise manner during assembly.
PMCID: PMC3196429  PMID: 21813604
25.  Restricted Replication of Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-Related Virus in Pigtailed Macaques 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(6):3152-3166.
Although xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) has been previously linked to prostate cancer and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, recent data indicate that results interpreted as evidence of human XMRV infection reflect laboratory contamination rather than authentic in vivo infection. Nevertheless, XMRV is a retrovirus of undefined pathogenic potential that is able to replicate in human cells. Here we describe a comprehensive analysis of two male pigtailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) experimentally infected with XMRV. Following intravenous inoculation with >1010 RNA copy equivalents of XMRV, viral replication was limited and transient, peaking at ≤2,200 viral RNA (vRNA) copies/ml plasma and becoming undetectable by 4 weeks postinfection, though viral DNA (vDNA) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells remained detectable through 119 days of follow-up. Similarly, vRNA was not detectable in lymph nodes by in situ hybridization despite detectable vDNA. Sequencing of cell-associated vDNA revealed extensive G-to-A hypermutation, suggestive of APOBEC-mediated viral restriction. Consistent with limited viral replication, we found transient upregulation of type I interferon responses that returned to baseline by 2 weeks postinfection, no detectable cellular immune responses, and limited or no spread to prostate tissue. Antibody responses, including neutralizing antibodies, however, were detectable by 2 weeks postinfection and maintained throughout the study. Both animals were healthy for the duration of follow-up. These findings indicate that XMRV replication and spread were limited in pigtailed macaques, predominantly by APOBEC-mediated hypermutation. Given that human APOBEC proteins restrict XMRV infection in vitro, human XMRV infection, if it occurred, would be expected to be characterized by similarly limited viral replication and spread.
PMCID: PMC3302341  PMID: 22238316

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