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1.  Cx36 makes channels coupling human pancreatic β-cells, and correlates with insulin expression 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;18(3):428-439.
Previous studies have documented that the insulin-producing β-cells of laboratory rodents are coupled by gap junction channels made solely of the connexin36 (Cx36) protein, and have shown that loss of this protein desynchronizes β-cells, leading to secretory defects reminiscent of those observed in type 2 diabetes. Since human islets differ in several respects from those of laboratory rodents, we have now screened human pancreas, and islets isolated thereof, for expression of a variety of connexin genes, tested whether the cognate proteins form functional channels for islet cell exchanges, and assessed whether this expression changes with β-cell function in islets of control and type 2 diabetics. Here, we show that (i) different connexin isoforms are differentially distributed in the exocrine and endocrine parts of the human pancreas; (ii) human islets express at the transcript level different connexin isoforms; (iii) the membrane of β-cells harbors detectable levels of gap junctions made of Cx36; (iv) this protein is concentrated in lipid raft domains of the β-cell membrane where it forms gap junctions; (v) Cx36 channels allow for the preferential exchange of cationic molecules between human β-cells; (vi) the levels of Cx36 mRNA correlated with the expression of the insulin gene in the islets of both control and type 2 diabetics. The data show that Cx36 is a native protein of human pancreatic islets, which mediates the coupling of the insulin-producing β-cells, and contributes to control β-cell function by modulating gene expression.
PMCID: PMC2638800  PMID: 19000992
2.  Rhamnolipids Are Virulence Factors That Promote Early Infiltration of Primary Human Airway Epithelia by Pseudomonas aeruginosa  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(6):3134-3147.
The opportunistic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes chronic respiratory infections in cystic fibrosis and immunocompromised individuals. Bacterial adherence to the basolateral domain of the host cells and internalization are thought to participate in P. aeruginosa pathogenicity. However, the mechanism by which the pathogen initially modulates the paracellular permeability of polarized respiratory epithelia remains to be understood. To investigate this mechanism, we have searched for virulence factors secreted by P. aeruginosa that affect the structure of human airway epithelium in the early stages of infection. We have found that only bacterial strains secreting rhamnolipids were efficient in modulating the barrier function of an in vitro-reconstituted human respiratory epithelium, irrespective of their release of elastase and lipopolysaccharide. In contrast to previous reports, we document that P. aeruginosa was not internalized by epithelial cells. We further report that purified rhamnolipids, applied on the surfaces of the epithelia, were sufficient to functionally disrupt the epithelia and to promote the paracellular invasion of rhamnolipid-deficient P. aeruginosa. The mechanism involves the incorporation of rhamnolipids within the host cell membrane, leading to tight-junction alterations. The study provides direct evidence for a hitherto unknown mechanism whereby the junction-dependent barrier of the respiratory epithelium is selectively altered by rhamnolipids.
PMCID: PMC1479292  PMID: 16714541
3.  Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium RamA, Intracellular Oxidative Stress Response, and Bacterial Virulence  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(2):996-1003.
Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium have evolved genetic systems, such as the soxR/S and marA regulons, to detoxify reactive oxygen species, like superoxide, which are formed as by-products of metabolism. Superoxide also serves as a microbicidal effector mechanism of the host's phagocytes. Here, we investigate whether regulatory genes other than soxR/S and marA are active in response to oxidative stress in Salmonella and may function as virulence determinants. We identified a bacterial gene, which was designated ramA (342 bp) and mapped at 13.1 min on the Salmonella chromosome, that, when overexpressed on a plasmid in E. coli or Salmonella, confers a pleiotropic phenotype characterized by increased resistance to the redox-cycling agent menadione and to multiple unrelated antibiotics. The ramA gene is present in Salmonella serovars but is absent in E. coli. The gene product displays 37 to 52% homology to the transcriptional activators soxR/S and marA and 80 to 100% identity to a multidrug resistance gene in Klebsiella pneumoniae and Salmonella enterica serovar Paratyphi A. Although a ramA soxR/S double null mutant is highly susceptible to intracellular superoxide generated by menadione and displays decreased Mn-superoxide dismutase activity, intracellular survival of this mutant within macrophage-like RAW 264.7 cells and in vivo replication in the spleens in Ityr mice are not affected. We concluded that despite its role in the protective response of the bacteria to oxidative stress in vitro, the newly identified ramA gene, together with soxR/S, does not play a role in initial replication of Salmonella in the organs of mice.
PMCID: PMC321585  PMID: 14742546
4.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa Virulence Analyzed in a Dictyostelium discoideum Host System 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(11):3027-3033.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an important opportunistic pathogen that produces a variety of cell-associated and secreted virulence factors. P. aeruginosa infections are difficult to treat effectively because of the rapid emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains. In this study, we analyzed whether the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum can be used as a simple model system to analyze the virulence of P. aeruginosa strains. The virulent wild-type strain PAO1 was shown to inhibit growth of D. discoideum. Isogenic mutants deficient in the las quorum-sensing system were almost as inhibitory as the wild type, while rhl quorum-sensing mutants permitted growth of Dictyostelium cells. Therefore, in this model system, factors controlled by the rhl quorum-sensing system were found to play a central role. Among these, rhamnolipids secreted by the wild-type strain PAO1 could induce fast lysis of D. discoideum cells. By using this simple model system, we predicted that certain antibiotic-resistant mutants of P. aeruginosa should show reduced virulence. This result was confirmed in a rat model of acute pneumonia. Thus, D. discoideum could be used as a simple nonmammalian host system to assess pathogenicity of P. aeruginosa.
PMCID: PMC135065  PMID: 12003944
5.  Dominant-Negative Inhibition of Prion Formation Diminished by Deletion Mutagenesis of the Prion Protein 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(9):4351-4360.
Polymorphic basic residues near the C terminus of the prion protein (PrP) in humans and sheep appear to protect against prion disease. In heterozygotes, inhibition of prion formation appears to be dominant negative and has been simulated in cultured cells persistently infected with scrapie prions. The results of nuclear magnetic resonance and mutagenesis studies indicate that specific substitutions at the C-terminal residues 167, 171, 214, and 218 of PrPC act as dominant-negative, inhibitors of PrPSc formation (K. Kaneko et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94:10069–10074, 1997). Trafficking of substituted PrPC to caveaola-like domains or rafts by the glycolipid anchor was required for the dominant-negative phenotype; interestingly, amino acid replacements at multiple sites were less effective than single-residue substitutions. To elucidate which domains of PrPC are responsible for dominant-negative inhibition of PrPSc formation, we analyzed whether N-terminally truncated PrP(Q218K) molecules exhibited dominant-negative effects in the conversion of full-length PrPC to PrPSc. We found that the C-terminal domain of PrP is not sufficient to impede the conversion of the full-length PrPC molecule and that N-terminally truncated molecules (with residues 23 to 88 and 23 to 120 deleted) have reduced dominant-negative activity. Whether the N-terminal region of PrP acts by stabilizing the C-terminal domain of the molecule or by modulating the binding of PrPC to an auxiliary molecule that participates in PrPSc formation remains to be established.
PMCID: PMC111952  PMID: 10756050

Results 1-5 (5)