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2.  CleavPredict: A Platform for Reasoning about Matrix Metalloproteinases Proteolytic Events 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0127877.
CleavPredict ( is a Web server for substrate cleavage prediction for matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). It is intended as a computational platform aiding the scientific community in reasoning about proteolytic events. CleavPredict offers in silico prediction of cleavage sites specific for 11 human MMPs. The prediction method employs the MMP specific position weight matrices (PWMs) derived from statistical analysis of high-throughput phage display experimental results. To augment the substrate cleavage prediction process, CleavPredict provides information about the structural features of potential cleavage sites that influence proteolysis. These include: secondary structure, disordered regions, transmembrane domains, and solvent accessibility. The server also provides information about subcellular location, co-localization, and co-expression of proteinase and potential substrates, along with experimentally determined positions of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), and posttranslational modification (PTM) sites in substrates. All this information will provide the user with perspectives in reasoning about proteolytic events. CleavPredict is freely accessible, and there is no login required.
PMCID: PMC4440711  PMID: 25996941
3.  Glutamate and asparagine cataplerosis underlie glutamine addiction in melanoma 
Oncotarget  2015;6(10):7379-7389.
Glutamine dependence is a prominent feature of cancer metabolism, and here we show that melanoma cells, irrespective of their oncogenic background, depend on glutamine for growth. A quantitative audit of how carbon from glutamine is used showed that TCA-cycle-derived glutamate is, in most melanoma cells, the major glutamine-derived cataplerotic output and product of glutaminolysis. In the absence of glutamine, TCA cycle metabolites were liable to depletion through aminotransferase-mediated α-ketoglutarate-to-glutamate conversion and glutamate secretion. Aspartate was an essential cataplerotic output, as melanoma cells demonstrated a limited capacity to salvage external aspartate. Also, the absence of asparagine increased the glutamine requirement, pointing to vulnerability in the aspartate-asparagine biosynthetic pathway within melanoma metabolism. In contrast to melanoma cells, melanocytes could grow in the absence of glutamine. Melanocytes use more glutamine for protein synthesis rather than secreting it as glutamate and are less prone to loss of glutamate and TCA cycle metabolites when starved of glutamine.
PMCID: PMC4480687  PMID: 25749035
Melanoma; Glutaminolysis; Cataplerosis; Stable isotopes
4.  Glutamine-fueled mitochondrial metabolism is decoupled from glycolysis in melanoma 
Pigment cell & melanoma research  2012;25(6):732-739.
In this perspective, we revise the historic notion that cancer is a disease of mitochondria. We summarize recent findings on the function and rewiring of central carbon metabolism in melanoma. Metabolic profiling studies using stable isotope tracers show that glycolysis is decoupled from the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. This decoupling is not ‘dysfunction’ but rather an alternate wiring required by tumor cells to remain metabolically versatile. In large part, this requirement is met by glutamine feeding the TCA cycle as an alternative source of carbon. Glutamine is also used in non-conventional ways, like traveling in reverse through the TCA flux to feed fatty acid biosynthesis. The biosynthetic networks linked with non-essential amino acids alanine, serine, arginine, and proline are also significantly impacted by the use of glutamine as an alternate carbon source.
PMCID: PMC3639292  PMID: 22846158
metabolism; mitochondria; glutamine; systems biology; NMR
5.  Functional Specialization in Proline Biosynthesis of Melanoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45190.
Proline metabolism is linked to hyperprolinemia, schizophrenia, cutis laxa, and cancer. In the latter case, tumor cells tend to rely on proline biosynthesis rather than salvage. Proline is synthesized from either glutamate or ornithine; both are converted to pyrroline-5-carboxylate (P5C), and then to proline via pyrroline-5-carboxylate reductases (PYCRs). Here, the role of three isozymic versions of PYCR was addressed in human melanoma cells by tracking the fate of 13C-labeled precursors. Based on these studies we conclude that PYCR1 and PYCR2, which are localized in the mitochondria, are primarily involved in conversion of glutamate to proline. PYCRL, localized in the cytosol, is exclusively linked to the conversion of ornithine to proline. This analysis provides the first clarification of the role of PYCRs to proline biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3443215  PMID: 23024808
6.  Structural determinants of limited proteolysis 
Journal of proteome research  2011;10(8):3642-3651.
Limited or regulatory proteolysis plays a critical role in many important biological pathways like blood coagulation, cell proliferation, and apoptosis. A better understanding of mechanisms that control this process is required for discovering new proteolytic events and for developing inhibitors with potential therapeutic value. Two features that determine the susceptibility of peptide bonds to proteolysis are the sequence in the vicinity of the scissile bond and the structural context in which the bond is displayed. In this study we assessed statistical significance and predictive power of individual structural descriptors and combination thereof for the identification of cleavage sites. The analysis was performed on a dataset of >200 proteolytic events documented in CutDB for a variety of mammalian regulatory proteases and their physiological substrates with known 3D structures. The results confirmed the significance and provided a ranking within three main categories of structural features: exposure > flexibility > local interactions. Among secondary structure elements, the largest frequency of proteolytic cleavage was confirmed for loops and lower but significant frequency for helices. Limited proteolysis has lower albeit appreciable frequency of occurrence in certain types of β-strands, which is in contrast with some previous reports. Descriptors deduced directly from the amino acid sequence displayed only marginal predictive capabilities. Homology-based structural models showed a predictive performance comparable to protein substrates with experimentally established structures. Overall, this study provided a foundation for accurate automated prediction of segments of protein structure susceptible to proteolytic processing and, potentially, other post-translational modifications.
PMCID: PMC3164237  PMID: 21682278
proteolysis; proteolytic processing; limited proteolysis; regulatory proteolysis; protease; cleavage site; cleavage site prediction
7.  High Throughput Substrate Phage Display for Protease Profiling 
The interplay between a protease and its substrates is controlled at many different levels, including coexpression, colocalization, binding driven by ancillary contacts, and the presence of natural inhibitors. Here we focus on the most basic parameter that guides substrate recognition by a protease, the recognition specificity at the catalytic cleft. An understanding of this substrate specificity can be used to predict the putative substrates of a protease, to design protease activated imaging agents, and to initiate the design of active site inhibitors. Our group has characterized protease specificities of several matrix metalloproteinases using substrate phage display. Recently, we have adapted this method to a semiautomated platform that includes several high-throughput steps. The semiautomated platform allows one to obtain an order of magnitude more data, thus permitting precise comparisons among related proteases to define their functional distinctions.
PMCID: PMC3372406  PMID: 19377968
Substrate phage display; Substrate; Protease; Specificity; Proteolysis; Filamentous phage; M13 coat protein; 3 gene protein
8.  Virtual Ligand Screening of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Compound Library Leads to the Allosteric Inhibitory Scaffolds of the West Nile Virus NS3 Proteinase 
Viruses of the genus Flavivirus are responsible for significant human disease and mortality. The N-terminal domain of the flaviviral nonstructural (NS)3 protein codes for the serine, chymotrypsin-fold proteinase (NS3pro). The presence of the nonstructural (NS)2B cofactor, which is encoded by the upstream gene in the flaviviral genome, is necessary for NS3pro to exhibit its proteolytic activity. The two-component NS2B-NS3pro functional activity is essential for the viral polyprotein processing and replication. Both the structure and the function of NS2B-NS3pro are conserved in the Flavivirus family. Because of its essential function in the posttranslational processing of the viral polyprotein precursor, NS2B-NS3pro is a promising target for anti-flavivirus drugs. To identify selective inhibitors with the reduced cross-reactivity and off-target effects, we focused our strategy on the allosteric inhibitors capable of targeting the NS2B-NS3pro interface rather than the NS3pro active site. Using virtual ligand screening of the diverse, ∼275,000-compound library and the catalytic domain of the two-component West Nile virus (WNV) NS2B-NS3pro as a receptor, we identified a limited subset of the novel inhibitory scaffolds. Several of the discovered compounds performed as allosteric inhibitors and exhibited a nanomolar range potency in the in vitro cleavage assays. The inhibitors were also potent in cell-based assays employing the sub-genomic, luciferase-tagged WNV and Dengue viral replicons. The selectivity of the inhibitors was confirmed using the in vitro cleavage assays with furin, a human serine proteinase, the substrate preferences of which are similar to those of WNV NS2B-NS3pro. Conceptually, the similar in silico drug discovery strategy may be readily employed for the identification of inhibitors of other flaviviruses.
PMCID: PMC3033206  PMID: 21050032
9.  Isolation and characterization of selective and potent human Fab inhibitors directed to the active-site region of the two-component NS2B–NS3 proteinase of West Nile virus 
The Biochemical journal  2010;427(3):369-376.
There is a need to develop inhibitors of mosquito-borne flaviviruses, including WNV (West Nile virus). In the present paper, we describe a novel and efficient recombinant-antibody technology that led us to the isolation of inhibitory high-affinity human antibodies to the active-site region of a viral proteinase. As a proof-of-principal, we have successfully used this technology and the synthetic naive human combinatorial antibody library HuCAL GOLD® to isolate selective and potent function-blocking active-site-targeting antibodies to the two-component WNV NS (non-structural protein) 2B–NS3 serine proteinase, the only proteinase encoded by the flaviviral genome. First, we used the wild-type enzyme in antibody screens. Next, the positive antibody clones were counter-screened using an NS2B–NS3 mutant with a single mutation of the catalytically essential active-site histidine residue. The specificity of the antibodies to the active site was confirmed by substrate-cleavage reactions and also by using proteinase mutants with additional single amino-acid substitutions in the active-site region. The selected WNV antibodies did not recognize the structurally similar viral proteinases from Dengue virus type 2 and hepatitis C virus, and human serine proteinases. Because of their high selectivity and affinity, the identified human antibodies are attractive reagents for both further mutagenesis and structure-based optimization and, in addition, for studies of NS2B–NS3 activity. Conceptually, it is likely that the generic technology reported in the present paper will be useful for the generation of active-site-specific antibody probes for multiple enzymes.
PMCID: PMC2958048  PMID: 20156198
antibody; Fab; flavivirus; IgG; serine proteinase; West Nile virus (WNV)
10.  Structure-activity relationship and improved hydrolytic stability of pyrazole derivatives that are allosteric inhibitors of West Nile Virus NS2B-NS3 proteinase 
West Nile Virus (WNV) is a potentially deadly mosquito-borne flavivirus which has spread rapidly throughout the world. Currently there is no effective vaccine against flaviviral infections. We previously reported the identification of pyrazole ester derivatives as allosteric inhibitors of WNV NS2B-NS3 proteinase. These compounds degrade rapidly in pH 8 buffer with a half life of 1-2h. We now report the design, synthesis and in vitro evaluation of pyrazole derivatives that are inhibitors of WNV NS2B-NS3 proteinase with greatly improved stability in the assay medium.
PMCID: PMC2776708  PMID: 19703770
11.  Recreation of the terminal events in physiological integrin activation 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2010;188(1):157-173.
In vitro analysis confirms talin binding is sufficient for activation and extension of membrane-embedded integrin.
Increased affinity of integrins for the extracellular matrix (activation) regulates cell adhesion and migration, extracellular matrix assembly, and mechanotransduction. Major uncertainties concern the sufficiency of talin for activation, whether conformational change without clustering leads to activation, and whether mechanical force is required for molecular extension. Here, we reconstructed physiological integrin activation in vitro and used cellular, biochemical, biophysical, and ultrastructural analyses to show that talin binding is sufficient to activate integrin αIIbβ3. Furthermore, we synthesized nanodiscs, each bearing a single lipid-embedded integrin, and used them to show that talin activates unclustered integrins leading to molecular extension in the absence of force or other membrane proteins. Thus, we provide the first proof that talin binding is sufficient to activate and extend membrane-embedded integrin αIIbβ3, thereby resolving numerous controversies and enabling molecular analysis of reconstructed integrin signaling.
PMCID: PMC2812850  PMID: 20048261
12.  Matrix Metalloproteinase Proteolysis of the Myelin Basic Protein Isoforms Is a Source of Immunogenic Peptides in Autoimmune Multiple Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e4952.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) play a significant role in the fragmentation of myelin basic protein (MBP) and demyelination leading to autoimmune multiple sclerosis (MS) and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). The classic MBP isoforms are predominantly expressed in the oligodendrocytes of the CNS. The splice variants of the single MBP gene (Golli-MBP BG21 and J37) are widely expressed in the neurons and also in the immune cells. The relative contribution of the individual MMPs to the MBP cleavage is not known.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To elucidate which MMP plays the primary role in cleaving MBP, we determined the efficiency of MMP-2, MMP-8, MMP-9, MMP-10, MMP-12, MT1-MMP, MT2-MMP, MT3-MMP, MT4-MMP, MT5-MMP and MT6-MMP in the cleavage of the MBP, BG21 and J37 isoforms in the in vitro cleavage reactions followed by mass-spectroscopy analysis of the cleavage fragments. As a result, we identified the MMP cleavage sites and the sequence of the resulting fragments. We determined that MBP, BG21 and J37 are highly sensitive to redundant MMP proteolysis. MT6-MMP (initially called leukolysin), however, was superior over all of the other MMPs in cleaving the MBP isoforms. Using the mixed lymphocyte culture assay, we demonstrated that MT6-MMP proteolysis of the MBP isoforms readily generated, with a near quantitative yield, the immunogenic N-terminal 1–15 MBP peptide. This peptide selectively stimulated the proliferation of the PGPR7.5 T cell clone isolated from mice with EAE and specific for the 1–15 MBP fragment presented in the MHC H-2U context.
In sum, our biochemical observations led us to hypothesize that MT6-MMP, which is activated by furin and associated with the lipid rafts, plays an important role in MS pathology and that MT6-MMP is a novel and promising drug target in MS especially when compared with other individual MMPs.
PMCID: PMC2654159  PMID: 19300513
13.  PMAP: databases for analyzing proteolytic events and pathways 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(Database issue):D611-D618.
The Proteolysis MAP (PMAP, is a user-friendly website intended to aid the scientific community in reasoning about proteolytic networks and pathways. PMAP is comprised of five databases, linked together in one environment. The foundation databases, ProteaseDB and SubstrateDB, are driven by an automated annotation pipeline that generates dynamic ‘Molecule Pages’, rich in molecular information. PMAP also contains two community annotated databases focused on function; CutDB has information on more than 5000 proteolytic events, and ProfileDB is dedicated to information of the substrate recognition specificity of proteases. Together, the content within these four databases will ultimately feed PathwayDB, which will be comprised of known pathways whose function can be dynamically modeled in a rule-based manner, and hypothetical pathways suggested by semi-automated culling of the literature. A Protease Toolkit is also available for the analysis of proteases and proteolysis. Here, we describe how the databases of PMAP can be used to foster understanding of proteolytic pathways, and equally as significant, to reason about proteolysis.
PMCID: PMC2686432  PMID: 18842634
14.  Expression and purification of a two-component flaviviral proteinase resistant to autocleavage at the NS2B-NS3 junction region 
Regulated proteolysis of the polyprotein precursor of West Nile virus (WNV) by the essential NS2B-NS3(pro)tease, a promising drug target for WNV inhibitors, is required for the propagation of infectious virions. Structural and drug design studies, however, require pilot-scale quantities of a pure and catalytically active WNV protease that is resistant to self-proteolysis. Autolytic cleavage at the NS2B-NS3 boundary leads to individual, non-covalently associated, NS2B and NS3 domains, together with residual amounts of the intact NS2B-NS3, in the NS2B-NS3pro samples. We modified the cleavage site sequence of the NS2B-NS3 junction region and then developed expression and purification procedures to prepare a covalently linked, single-chain, NS2B-NS3pro K48A mutant construct. This construct exhibits high stability and functional activity and is thus well suited for the follow-up purification and structural and drug design studies.
PMCID: PMC1857357  PMID: 17189703
15.  Switching the Substrate Specificity of the Two-Component NS2B-NS3 Flavivirus Proteinase by Structure-Based Mutagenesis▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(9):4501-4509.
The flavivirus NS2B-NS3(pro)teinase is an essential element in the proteolytic processing of the viral precursor polyprotein and therefore a potential drug target. Recently, crystal structures and substrate preferences of NS2B-NS3pro from Dengue and West Nile viruses (DV and WNV) were determined. We established that the presence of Gly-Gly at the P1′-P2′ positions is optimal for cleavage by WNV NS3pro, whereas DV NS3pro tolerates well the presence of bulky residues at either P1′ or P2′. Structure-based modeling suggests that Arg76 and Pro131-Thr132 limit the P1′-P2′ subsites and restrict the cleavage preferences of the WNV enzyme. In turn, Leu76 and Lys131-Pro132 widen the specificity of DV NS3pro. Guided by these structural models, we expressed and purified mutant WNV NS2B-NS3pro and evaluated cleavage preferences by using positional scanning of the substrate peptides in which the P4-P1 and the P3′-P4′ positions were fixed and the P1′ and P2′ positions were each randomized. We established that WNV R76L and P131K-T132P mutants acquired DV-like cleavage preferences, whereas T52V had no significant effect. Our work is the first instance of engineering a viral proteinase with switched cleavage preferences and should provide valuable data for the design of optimized substrates and substrate-based selective inhibitors of flaviviral proteinases.
PMCID: PMC1900165  PMID: 17301157

Results 1-15 (15)