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1.  A Systems Biology Approach Uncovers Cellular Strategies Used by Methylobacterium extorquens AM1 During the Switch from Multi- to Single-Carbon Growth 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e14091.
When organisms experience environmental change, how does their metabolic network reset and adapt to the new condition? Methylobacterium extorquens is a bacterium capable of growth on both multi- and single-carbon compounds. These different modes of growth utilize dramatically different central metabolic pathways with limited pathway overlap.
Methodology/Principal Findings
This study focused on the mechanisms of metabolic adaptation occurring during the transition from succinate growth (predicted to be energy-limited) to methanol growth (predicted to be reducing-power-limited), analyzing changes in carbon flux, gene expression, metabolites and enzymatic activities over time. Initially, cells experienced metabolic imbalance with excretion of metabolites, changes in nucleotide levels and cessation of cell growth. Though assimilatory pathways were induced rapidly, a transient block in carbon flow to biomass synthesis occurred, and enzymatic assays suggested methylene tetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase as one control point. This “downstream priming” mechanism ensures that significant carbon flux through these pathways does not occur until they are fully induced, precluding the buildup of toxic intermediates. Most metabolites that are required for growth on both carbon sources did not change significantly, even though transcripts and enzymatic activities required for their production changed radically, underscoring the concept of metabolic setpoints.
This multi-level approach has resulted in new insights into the metabolic strategies carried out to effect this shift between two dramatically different modes of growth and identified a number of potential flux control and regulatory check points as a further step toward understanding metabolic adaptation and the cellular strategies employed to maintain metabolic setpoints.
PMCID: PMC2991311  PMID: 21124828
2.  Reference-Free Validation of Short Read Data 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12681.
High-throughput DNA sequencing techniques offer the ability to rapidly and cheaply sequence material such as whole genomes. However, the short-read data produced by these techniques can be biased or compromised at several stages in the sequencing process; the sources and properties of some of these biases are not always known. Accurate assessment of bias is required for experimental quality control, genome assembly, and interpretation of coverage results. An additional challenge is that, for new genomes or material from an unidentified source, there may be no reference available against which the reads can be checked.
We propose analytical methods for identifying biases in a collection of short reads, without recourse to a reference. These, in conjunction with existing approaches, comprise a methodology that can be used to quantify the quality of a set of reads. Our methods involve use of three different measures: analysis of base calls; analysis of k-mers; and analysis of distributions of k-mers. We apply our methodology to wide range of short read data and show that, surprisingly, strong biases appear to be present. These include gross overrepresentation of some poly-base sequences, per-position biases towards some bases, and apparent preferences for some starting positions over others.
The existence of biases in short read data is known, but they appear to be greater and more diverse than identified in previous literature. Statistical analysis of a set of short reads can help identify issues prior to assembly or resequencing, and should help guide chemical or statistical methods for bias rectification.
PMCID: PMC2943903  PMID: 20877643
3.  Proteome-Wide Search Reveals Unexpected RNA-Binding Proteins in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12671.
The vast landscape of RNA-protein interactions at the heart of post-transcriptional regulation remains largely unexplored. Indeed it is likely that, even in yeast, a substantial fraction of the regulatory RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) remain to be discovered. Systematic experimental methods can play a key role in discovering these RBPs - most of the known yeast RBPs lack RNA-binding domains that might enable this activity to be predicted. We describe here a proteome-wide approach to identify RNA-protein interactions based on in vitro binding of RNA samples to yeast protein microarrays that represent over 80% of the yeast proteome. We used this procedure to screen for novel RBPs and RNA-protein interactions. A complementary mass spectrometry technique also identified proteins that associate with yeast mRNAs. Both the protein microarray and mass spectrometry methods successfully identify previously annotated RBPs, suggesting that other proteins identified in these assays might be novel RBPs. Of 35 putative novel RBPs identified by either or both of these methods, 12, including 75% of the eight most highly-ranked candidates, reproducibly associated with specific cellular RNAs. Surprisingly, most of the 12 newly discovered RBPs were enzymes. Functional characteristics of the RNA targets of some of the novel RBPs suggest coordinated post-transcriptional regulation of subunits of protein complexes and a possible link between mRNA trafficking and vesicle transport. Our results suggest that many more RBPs still remain to be identified and provide a set of candidates for further investigation.
PMCID: PMC2937035  PMID: 20844764
4.  Thar She Blows! A Novel Method for DNA Collection from Cetacean Blow 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12299.
Molecular tools are now widely used to address crucial management and conservation questions. To date, dart biopsying has been the most commonly used method for collecting genetic data from cetaceans; however, this method has some drawbacks. Dart biopsying is considered inappropriate for young animals and has recently come under scrutiny from ethical boards, conservationists, and the general public. Thus, identifying alternative genetic collection techniques for cetaceans remains a priority, especially for internationally protected species.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this study, we investigated whether blow-sampling, which involves collecting exhalations from the blowholes of cetaceans, could be developed as a new less invasive method for DNA collection. Our current methodology was developed using six bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, housed at the National Aquarium, Baltimore (USA), from which we were able to collect both blow and blood samples. For all six individuals, we found that their mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA profile taken from blow, matched their corresponding mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA profile collected from blood. This indicates that blow-sampling is a viable alternative method for DNA collection.
In this study, we show that blow-sampling provides a viable and less invasive method for collection of genetic data, even for small cetaceans. In contrast to dart biopsying, the advantage of this method is that it capitalizes on the natural breathing behaviour of dolphins and can be applied to even very young dolphins. Both biopsy and blow-sampling require close proximity of the boat, but blow-sampling can be achieved when dolphins voluntarily bow-ride and involves no harmful contact.
PMCID: PMC2928266  PMID: 20811619
5.  Dicer Is Associated with Ribosomal DNA Chromatin in Mammalian Cells 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12175.
RNA silencing is a common term for pathways utilizing small RNAs as sequence-specific guides to repress gene expression. Components of the RNA silencing machinery are involved in different aspects of chromatin function in numerous organisms. However, association of RNA silencing with chromatin in mammalian cells remains unclear.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Immunostaining of mitotic chromosomes with antibodies visualizing either endogenous or ectopically expressed Dicer in mammalian cells revealed association of the protein with ribosomal DNA (rDNA) repeats. Chromatin immunoprecipitations and bisulfite sequencing experiments indicated that Dicer is associated with transcribed regions of both active and silenced genes in rDNA arrays of interphase chromosomes. Metabolic labeling of the mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells lacking Dicer did not reveal apparent defect in rRNA biogenesis though pre-rRNA synthesis in these cells was decreased, likely as a consequence of their slower growth caused by the loss of miRNAs. We analyzed in detail chromatin structure of rDNA but did not find any epigenetic changes at rDNA loci in Dicer−/− ES cells. Instead, we found that rDNA methylation is rather low in primary tissues, contrasting with rDNA methylation patterns in transformed cell lines.
We found that Dicer, a key component of RNA silencing pathways, can be detected in association with rDNA chromatin in mammalian cells. The role of this particular localization of Dicer is not readily apparent since the enzyme is associated with rDNA genes regardless of their transcriptional activity. However, localization of Dicer to the transcribed region suggests that transcription may contribute to the Dicer deposition at rDNA chromatin. We hypothesize that Dicer functions in maintaining integrity of rDNA arrays.
PMCID: PMC2921364  PMID: 20730047
6.  Gene Expression Profiling of the Local Cecal Response of Genetic Chicken Lines That Differ in Their Susceptibility to Campylobacter jejuni Colonization 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11827.
Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni) is one of the most common causes of human bacterial enteritis worldwide primarily due to contaminated poultry products. Previously, we found a significant difference in C. jejuni colonization in the ceca between two genetically distinct broiler lines (Line A (resistant) has less colony than line B (susceptible) on day 7 post inoculation). We hypothesize that different mechanisms between these two genetic lines may affect their ability to resist C. jejuni colonization in chickens. The molecular mechanisms of the local host response to C. jejuni colonization in chickens have not been well understood. In the present study, to profile the cecal gene expression in the response to C. jejuni colonization and to compare differences between two lines at the molecular level, RNA of ceca from two genetic lines of chickens (A and B) were applied to a chicken whole genome microarray for a pair-comparison between inoculated (I) and non-inoculated (N) chickens within each line and between lines. Our results demonstrated that metabolism process and insulin receptor signaling pathways are key contributors to the different response to C. jejuni colonization between lines A and B. With C. jejuni inoculation, lymphocyte activation and lymphoid organ development functions are important for line A host defenses, while cell differentiation, communication and signaling pathways are important for line B. Interestingly, circadian rhythm appears play a critical role in host response of the more resistant A line to C. jejuni colonization. A dramatic differential host response was observed between these two lines of chickens. The more susceptible line B chickens responded to C. jejuni inoculation with a dramatic up-regulation in lipid, glucose, and amino acid metabolism, which is undoubtedly for use in the response to the colonization with little or no change in immune host defenses. However, in more resistant line A birds the host defense responses were characterized by an up-regulation lymphocyte activation, probably by regulatory T cells and an increased expression of the NLR recognition receptor NALP1. To our knowledge, this is the first time each of these responses has been observed in the avian response to an intestinal bacterial pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2911375  PMID: 20676366
7.  Tip1/CLIP-170 Protein Is Required for Correct Chromosome Poleward Movement in Fission Yeast 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10634.
The plus-end microtubule binding proteins (+TIPs) play an important role in the regulation of microtubule stability and cell polarity during interphase. In S. pombe, the CLIP-170 like protein Tip1, together with the kinesin Tea2, moves along the microtubules towards their plus ends. Tip1 also requires the EB1 homolog Mal3 to localize to the microtubule tips. Given the requirement for Tip1 for microtubule stability, we have investigated its role during spindle morphogenesis and chromosome movement. Loss of Tip1 affects metaphase plate formation and leads to the activation of the spindle assembly checkpoint. In the absence of Tip1 we also observed the appearance of lagging chromosomes, which do not influence the normal rate of spindle elongation. Our results suggest that S. pombe Tip1/CLIP170 is directly or indirectly required for correct chromosome poleward movement independently of Mal3/EB1.
PMCID: PMC2869355  PMID: 20498706
8.  Genome-Wide Maps of Mononucleosomes and Dinucleosomes Containing Hyperacetylated Histones of Aspergillus fumigatus 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9916.
It is suggested that histone modifications and/or histone variants influence the nucleosomal DNA length. We sequenced both ends of mononucleosomal and dinucleosomal DNA fragments of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus fumigatus, after treatment with the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA). After mapping the DNA fragments to the genome, we identified >7 million mononucleosome positions and >7 million dinucleosome positions. We showed that the distributions of the lengths of the mononucleosomal DNA fragments after 15-min and 30-min treatments with micrococcal nuclease (MNase) showed a single peak at 168 nt and 160 nt, respectively. The distributions of the lengths of the dinucleosomal DNA fragments after 15-min- and 30-min-treatment with MNase showed a single peak at 321 nt and 306 nt, respectively. The nucleosomal DNA fragments obtained from the TSA-treated cells were significantly longer than those obtained from the untreated cells. On the other hand, most of the genes did not undergo any change after treatment. Between the TSA-treated and untreated cells, only 77 genes had ≥2-fold change in expression levels. In addition, our results showed that the locations where mononucleosomes were frequently detected were conserved between the TSA-treated cells and untreated cells in the gene promoters (lower density of the nucleosomes). However, these locations were less conserved in the bodies (higher density of the nucleosomes) of genes with ≥2-fold changes. Our findings indicate that TSA influences the nucleosome positions, especially of the regions with high density of the nucleosomes by elongation of the nucleosomal DNA. However, most of the nucleosome positions are conserved in the gene promoters, even after treatment with TSA, because of the low density of nucleosomes in the gene promoters.
PMCID: PMC2845647  PMID: 20361043
9.  Discovery of Phytophthora infestans Genes Expressed in Planta through Mining of cDNA Libraries 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9847.
Phytophthora infestans (Mont.) de Bary causes late blight of potato and tomato, and has a broad host range within the Solanaceae family. Most studies of the Phytophthora – Solanum pathosystem have focused on gene expression in the host and have not analyzed pathogen gene expression in planta.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We describe in detail an in silico approach to mine ESTs from inoculated host plants deposited in a database in order to identify particular pathogen sequences associated with disease. We identified candidate effector genes through mining of 22,795 ESTs corresponding to P. infestans cDNA libraries in compatible and incompatible interactions with hosts from the Solanaceae family.
We annotated genes of P. infestans expressed in planta associated with late blight using different approaches and assigned putative functions to 373 out of the 501 sequences found in the P. infestans genome draft, including putative secreted proteins, domains associated with pathogenicity and poorly characterized proteins ideal for further experimental studies. Our study provides a methodology for analyzing cDNA libraries and provides an understanding of the plant – oomycete pathosystems that is independent of the host, condition, or type of sample by identifying genes of the pathogen expressed in planta.
PMCID: PMC2844423  PMID: 20352100
10.  Constructing Fluorogenic Bacillus Spores (F-Spores) via Hydrophobic Decoration of Coat Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9283.
Bacterial spores are protected by a coat consisting of about 60 different proteins assembled as a biochemically complex structure with intriguing morphological and mechanical properties. Historically, the coat has been considered a static structure providing rigidity and mainly acting as a sieve to exclude exogenous large toxic molecules, such as lytic enzymes. Over recent years, however, new information about the coat's architecture and function have emerged from experiments using innovative tools such as automated scanning microscopy, and high resolution atomic force microscopy.
Principal Findings
Using thin-section electron microscopy, we found that the coat of Bacillus spores has topologically specific proteins forming a layer that is identifiable because it spontaneously becomes decorated with hydrophobic fluorogenic probes from the milieu. Moreover, spores with decorated coat proteins (termed F-spores) have the unexpected attribute of responding to external germination signals by generating intense fluorescence. Fluorescence data from diverse experimental designs, including F-spores constructed from five different Bacilli species, indicated that the fluorogenic ability of F-spores is under control of a putative germination-dependent mechanism.
This work uncovers a novel attribute of spore-coat proteins that we exploited to decorate a specific layer imparting germination-dependent fluorogenicity to F-spores. We expect that F-spores will provide a model system to gain new insights into structure/function dynamics of spore-coat proteins.
PMCID: PMC2824812  PMID: 20174569
11.  Functional Overlap between eIF4G Isoforms in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9114.
Initiation factor eIF4G is a key regulator of eukaryotic protein synthesis, recognizing proteins bound at both ends of an mRNA to help recruit messages to the small (40S) ribosomal subunit. Notably, the genomes of a wide variety of eukaryotes encode multiple distinct variants of eIF4G. We found that deletion of eIF4G1, but not eIF4G2, impairs growth and global translation initiation rates in budding yeast under standard laboratory conditions. Not all mRNAs are equally sensitive to loss of eIF4G1; genes that encode messages with longer poly(A) tails are preferentially affected. However, eIF4G1-deletion strains contain significantly lower levels of total eIF4G, relative to eIF4G2-delete or wild type strains. Homogenic strains, which encode two copies of either eIF4G1 or eIF4G2 under native promoter control, express a single isoform at levels similar to the total amount of eIF4G in a wild type cell and have a similar capacity to support normal translation initiation rates. Polysome microarray analysis of these strains and the wild type parent showed that translationally active mRNAs are similar. These results suggest that total eIF4G levels, but not isoform-specific functions, determine mRNA-specific translational efficiency.
PMCID: PMC2817733  PMID: 20161741
12.  Shewanella spp. Genomic Evolution for a Cold Marine Lifestyle and In-Situ Explosive Biodegradation 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9109.
Shewanella halifaxensis and Shewanella sediminis were among a few aquatic γ-proteobacteria that were psychrophiles and the first anaerobic bacteria that degraded hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX). Although many mesophilic or psychrophilic strains of Shewanella and γ-proteobacteria were sequenced for their genomes, the genomic evolution pathways for temperature adaptation were poorly understood. On the other hand, the genes responsible for anaerobic RDX mineralization pathways remain unknown. To determine the unique genomic properties of bacteria responsible for both cold-adaptation and RDX degradation, the genomes of S. halifaxensis and S. sediminis were sequenced and compared with 108 other γ-proteobacteria including Shewanella that differ in temperature and Na+ requirements, as well as RDX degradation capability. Results showed that for coping with marine environments their genomes had extensively exchanged with deep sea bacterial genomes. Many genes for Na+-dependent nutrient transporters were recruited to use the high Na+ content as an energy source. For coping with low temperatures, these two strains as well as other psychrophilic strains of Shewanella and γ-proteobacteria were found to decrease their genome G+C content and proteome alanine, proline and arginine content (p-value <0.01) to increase protein structural flexibility. Compared to poorer RDX-degrading strains, S. halifaxensis and S. sediminis have more number of genes for cytochromes and other enzymes related to RDX metabolic pathways. Experimentally, one cytochrome was found induced in S. halifaxensis by RDX when the chemical was the sole terminal electron acceptor. The isolated protein degraded RDX by mono-denitration and was identified as a multiheme 52 kDa cytochrome using a proteomic approach. The present analyses provided the first insight into divergent genomic evolution of bacterial strains for adaptation to the specific cold marine conditions and to the degradation of the pollutant RDX. The present study also provided the first evidence for the involvement of a specific c-type cytochrome in anaerobic RDX metabolism.
PMCID: PMC2824531  PMID: 20174598
13.  MutS and MutL Are Dispensable for Maintenance of the Genomic Mutation Rate in the Halophilic Archaeon Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9045.
The genome of the halophilic archaeon Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 encodes for homologs of MutS and MutL, which are key proteins of a DNA mismatch repair pathway conserved in Bacteria and Eukarya. Mismatch repair is essential for retaining the fidelity of genetic information and defects in this pathway result in the deleterious accumulation of mutations and in hereditary diseases in humans.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We calculated the spontaneous genomic mutation rate of H. salinarum NRC-1 using fluctuation tests targeting genes of the uracil monophosphate biosynthesis pathway. We found that H. salinarum NRC-1 has a low incidence of mutation suggesting the presence of active mechanisms to control spontaneous mutations during replication. The spectrum of mutational changes found in H. salinarum NRC-1, and in other archaea, appears to be unique to this domain of life and might be a consequence of their adaption to extreme environmental conditions. In-frame targeted gene deletions of H. salinarum NRC-1 mismatch repair genes and phenotypic characterization of the mutants demonstrated that the mutS and mutL genes are not required for maintenance of the observed mutation rate.
We established that H. salinarum NRC-1 mutS and mutL genes are redundant to an alternative system that limits spontaneous mutation in this organism. This finding leads to the puzzling question of what mechanism is responsible for maintenance of the low genomic mutation rates observed in the Archaea, which for the most part do not have MutS and MutL homologs.
PMCID: PMC2816208  PMID: 20140215
14.  An Integrated Mass-Spectrometry Pipeline Identifies Novel Protein Coding-Regions in the Human Genome 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8949.
Most protein mass spectrometry (MS) experiments rely on searches against a database of known or predicted proteins, limiting their ability as a gene discovery tool.
Using a search against an in silico translation of the entire human genome, combined with a series of annotation filters, we identified 346 putative novel peptides [False Discovery Rate (FDR)<5%] in a MS dataset derived from two human breast epithelial cell lines. A subset of these were then successfully validated by a different MS technique. Two of these correspond to novel isoforms of Heterogeneous Ribonuclear Proteins, while the rest correspond to novel loci.
MS technology can be used for ab initio gene discovery in human data, which, since it is based on different underlying assumptions, identifies protein-coding genes not found by other techniques. As MS technology continues to evolve, such approaches will become increasingly powerful.
PMCID: PMC2812506  PMID: 20126623
15.  Biochemical Profiling of Histone Binding Selectivity of the Yeast Bromodomain Family 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8903.
It has been shown that molecular interactions between site-specific chemical modifications such as acetylation and methylation on DNA-packing histones and conserved structural modules present in transcriptional proteins are closely associated with chromatin structural changes and gene activation. Unlike methyl-lysine that can interact with different protein modules including chromodomains, Tudor and MBT domains, as well as PHD fingers, acetyl-lysine (Kac) is known thus far to be recognized only by bromodomains. While histone lysine acetylation plays a crucial role in regulation of chromatin-mediated gene transcription, a high degree of sequence variation of the acetyl-lysine binding site in the bromodomains has limited our understanding of histone binding selectivity of the bromodomain family. Here, we report a systematic family-wide analysis of 14 yeast bromodomains binding to 32 lysine-acetylated peptides derived from known major acetylation sites in four core histones that are conserved in eukaryotes.
The histone binding selectivity of purified recombinant yeast bromodomains was assessed by using the native core histones in an overlay assay, as well as N-terminally biotinylated lysine-acetylated histone peptides spotted on streptavidin-coated nitrocellulose membrane in a dot blot assay. NMR binding analysis further validated the interactions between histones and selected bromodomain. Structural models of all yeast bromodomains were built using comparative modeling to provide insights into the molecular basis of their histone binding selectivity.
Our study reveals that while not all members of the bromodomain family are privileged to interact with acetylated-lysine, identifiable sequence features from those that bind histone emerge. These include an asparagine residue at the C-terminus of the third helix in the 4-helix bundle, negatively charged residues around the ZA loop, and preponderance of aromatic amino acid residues in the binding pocket. Further, while bromodomains exhibit selectivity for different sites in histones, individual interactions are of modest affinity. Finally, electrostatic interactions appear to be a primary determining factor that guides productive association between a bromodomain and a lysine-acetylated histone.
PMCID: PMC2811197  PMID: 20126658
16.  The Imprinted Retrotransposon-Like Gene PEG11 (RTL1) Is Expressed as a Full-Length Protein in Skeletal Muscle from Callipyge Sheep 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8638.
Members of the Ty3-Gypsy retrotransposon family are rare in mammalian genomes despite their abundance in invertebrates and some vertebrates. These elements contain a gag-pol-like structure characteristic of retroviruses but have lost their ability to retrotranspose into the mammalian genome and are thought to be inactive relics of ancient retrotransposition events. One of these retrotransposon-like elements, PEG11 (also called RTL1) is located at the distal end of ovine chromosome 18 within an imprinted gene cluster that is highly conserved in placental mammals. The region contains several conserved imprinted genes including BEGAIN, DLK1, DAT, GTL2 (MEG3), PEG11 (RTL1), PEG11as, MEG8, MIRG and DIO3. An intergenic point mutation between DLK1 and GTL2 causes muscle hypertrophy in callipyge sheep and is associated with large changes in expression of the genes linked in cis between DLK1 and MEG8. It has been suggested that over-expression of DLK1 is the effector of the callipyge phenotype; however, PEG11 gene expression is also strongly correlated with the emergence of the muscling phenotype as a function of genotype, muscle type and developmental stage. To date, there has been no direct evidence that PEG11 encodes a protein, especially as its anti-sense transcript (PEG11as) contains six miRNA that cause cleavage of the PEG11 transcript. Using immunological and mass spectrometry approaches we have directly identified the full-length PEG11 protein from postnatal nuclear preparations of callipyge skeletal muscle and conclude that its over-expression may be involved in inducing muscle hypertrophy. The developmental expression pattern of the PEG11 gene is consistent with the callipyge mutation causing recapitulation of the normal fetal-like gene expression program during postnatal development. Analysis of the PEG11 sequence indicates strong conservation of the regions encoding the antisense microRNA and in at least two cases these correspond with structural or functional domains of the protein suggesting co-evolution of the sense and antisense genes.
PMCID: PMC2799525  PMID: 20072617
17.  An Epigenetic Signature in Peripheral Blood Predicts Active Ovarian Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8274.
Recent studies have shown that DNA methylation (DNAm) markers in peripheral blood may hold promise as diagnostic or early detection/risk markers for epithelial cancers. However, to date no study has evaluated the diagnostic and predictive potential of such markers in a large case control cohort and on a genome-wide basis.
Principal Findings
By performing genome-wide DNAm profiling of a large ovarian cancer case control cohort, we here demonstrate that active ovarian cancer has a significant impact on the DNAm pattern in peripheral blood. Specifically, by measuring the methylation levels of over 27,000 CpGs in blood cells from 148 healthy individuals and 113 age-matched pre-treatment ovarian cancer cases, we derive a DNAm signature that can predict the presence of active ovarian cancer in blind test sets with an AUC of 0.8 (95% CI (0.74–0.87)). We further validate our findings in another independent set of 122 post-treatment cases (AUC = 0.76 (0.72–0.81)). In addition, we provide evidence for a significant number of candidate risk or early detection markers for ovarian cancer. Furthermore, by comparing the pattern of methylation with gene expression data from major blood cell types, we here demonstrate that age and cancer elicit common changes in the composition of peripheral blood, with a myeloid skewing that increases with age and which is further aggravated in the presence of ovarian cancer. Finally, we show that most cancer and age associated methylation variability is found at CpGs located outside of CpG islands.
Our results underscore the potential of DNAm profiling in peripheral blood as a tool for detection or risk-prediction of epithelial cancers, and warrants further in-depth and higher CpG coverage studies to further elucidate this role.
PMCID: PMC2793425  PMID: 20019873
18.  Plant SET Domain-containing Proteins: Structure, Function and Regulation 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2007;1769(5-6):316-329.
Modification of the histone proteins that form the core around which chromosomal DNA is looped has profound epigenetic effects on the accessibility of the associated DNA for transcription, replication and repair. The SET domain is now recognized as generally having methyltransferase activity targeted to specific lysine residues of histone H3 or H4. There is considerable sequence conservation within the SET domain and within its flanking regions. Previous reviews have shown that SET proteins from Arabidopsis and maize fall into five classes according to their sequence and domain architectures. These classes generally reflect specificity for a particular substrate. SET proteins from rice were found to fall into similar groupings, strengthening the merit of the approach taken. Two additional classes, VI and VII, were established that include proteins with truncated/interrupted SET domains. Diverse mechanisms are involved in shaping the function and regulation of SET proteins. These include protein-protein interactions through both intra- and inter- molecular associations that are important in plant developmental processes, such as flowering time control and embryogenesis. Alternative splicing that can result in the generation of two to several different transcript isoforms is now known to be widespread. An exciting and tantalizing question is whether, or how, this alternative splicing affects gene function. For example, it is conceivable that one isoform may debilitate methyltransferase function whereas the other may enhance it, providing an opportunity for differential regulation. The review concludes with the speculation that modulation of SET protein function is mediated by antisense or sense-antisense RNA.
PMCID: PMC2794661  PMID: 17512990
Arabidopsis SET genes; alternative splicing; epigenetics; histone methylation; rice SET genes; SET domain classes
19.  rRNA Maturation in Yeast Cells Depleted of Large Ribosomal Subunit Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8249.
The structural constituents of the large eukaryotic ribosomal subunit are 3 ribosomal RNAs, namely the 25S, 5.8S and 5S rRNA and about 46 ribosomal proteins (r-proteins). They assemble and mature in a highly dynamic process that involves more than 150 proteins and 70 small RNAs. Ribosome biogenesis starts in the nucleolus, continues in the nucleoplasm and is completed after nucleo-cytoplasmic translocation of the subunits in the cytoplasm. In this work we created 26 yeast strains, each of which conditionally expresses one of the large ribosomal subunit (LSU) proteins. In vivo depletion of the analysed LSU r-proteins was lethal and led to destabilisation and degradation of the LSU and/or its precursors. Detailed steady state and metabolic pulse labelling analyses of rRNA precursors in these mutant strains showed that LSU r-proteins can be grouped according to their requirement for efficient progression of different steps of large ribosomal subunit maturation. Comparative analyses of the observed phenotypes and the nature of r-protein – rRNA interactions as predicted by current atomic LSU structure models led us to discuss working hypotheses on i) how individual r-proteins control the productive processing of the major 5′ end of 5.8S rRNA precursors by exonucleases Rat1p and Xrn1p, and ii) the nature of structural characteristics of nascent LSUs that are required for cytoplasmic accumulation of nascent subunits but are nonessential for most of the nuclear LSU pre-rRNA processing events.
PMCID: PMC2788216  PMID: 20011513
20.  Loss of the Histone Pre-mRNA Processing Factor Stem-Loop Binding Protein in Drosophila Causes Genomic Instability and Impaired Cellular Proliferation 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8168.
Metazoan replication-dependent histone mRNAs terminate in a conserved stem-loop structure rather than a polyA tail. Formation of this unique mRNA 3′ end requires Stem-loop Binding Protein (SLBP), which directly binds histone pre-mRNA and stimulates 3′ end processing. The 3′ end stem-loop is necessary for all aspects of histone mRNA metabolism, including replication coupling, but its importance to organism fitness and genome maintenance in vivo have not been characterized.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In Drosophila, disruption of the Slbp gene prevents normal histone pre-mRNA processing and causes histone pre-mRNAs to utilize the canonical 3′ end processing pathway, resulting in polyadenylated histone mRNAs that are no longer properly regulated. Here we show that Slbp mutants display genomic instability, including loss of heterozygosity (LOH), increased presence of chromosome breaks, tetraploidy, and changes in position effect variegation (PEV). During imaginal disc growth, Slbp mutant cells show defects in S phase and proliferate more slowly than control cells.
These data are consistent with a model in which changing the 3′ end of histone mRNA disrupts normal replication-coupled histone mRNA biosynthesis and alters chromatin assembly, resulting in genomic instability, inhibition of cell proliferation, and impaired development.
PMCID: PMC2781718  PMID: 19997601
21.  Identification of miRNAs in a Liver of a Human Fetus by a Modified Method 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7594.
miRNAs are 17–25 nucleotides long RNA molecules that have been found to regulate gene expression in human cells. There are studies showing that different groups of miRNAs are involved in development of different tissues. In hepatocytes there are reported particular types of miRNAs that regulate gene expression.
We established a human fetal liver cDNA library by a modified cloning protocol. Then plasmid isolation from the colonies was performed. After sequencing and database searching, the miRNAs were recognized. RT-PCR and sequencing were carried out to validate the miRNAs detected. Real-time PCR was used to analyze the expression of each miRNA.
One novel miRNA was discovered, together with another 35 previously-known miRNAs in the fetal liver. Some of them existed in variants. The miRNAs identified were validated by RT-PCR and sequencing. Quantitative analysis showed that they have variable expression.
Our results indicate that a special group of miRNAs may play an important role in fetal liver development in a synergistic manner.
PMCID: PMC2762743  PMID: 19855840
22.  Histone H1 Subtypes Differentially Modulate Chromatin Condensation without Preventing ATP-Dependent Remodeling by SWI/SNF or NURF 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e0007243.
Although ubiquitously present in chromatin, the function of the linker histone subtypes is partly unknown and contradictory studies on their properties have been published. To explore whether the various H1 subtypes have a differential role in the organization and dynamics of chromatin we have incorporated all of the somatic human H1 subtypes into minichromosomes and compared their influence on nucleosome spacing, chromatin compaction and ATP-dependent remodeling. H1 subtypes exhibit different affinities for chromatin and different abilities to promote chromatin condensation, as studied with the Atomic Force Microscope. According to this criterion, H1 subtypes can be classified as weak condensers (H1.1 and H1.2), intermediate condensers (H1.3) and strong condensers (H1.0, H1.4, H1.5 and H1x). The variable C-terminal domain is required for nucleosome spacing by H1.4 and is likely responsible for the chromatin condensation properties of the various subtypes, as shown using chimeras between H1.4 and H1.2. In contrast to previous reports with isolated nucleosomes or linear nucleosomal arrays, linker histones at a ratio of one per nucleosome do not preclude remodeling of minichromosomes by yeast SWI/SNF or Drosophila NURF. We hypothesize that the linker histone subtypes are differential organizers of chromatin, rather than general repressors.
PMCID: PMC2748705  PMID: 19794910
23.  Visualization of Shared Genomic Regions and Meiotic Recombination in High-Density SNP Data 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6711.
A fundamental goal of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping is to determine the sharing of alleles between individuals across genomic loci. Such analyses have diverse applications in defining the relatedness of individuals (including unexpected relationships in nominally unrelated individuals, or consanguinity within pedigrees), analyzing meiotic crossovers, and identifying a broad range of chromosomal anomalies such as hemizygous deletions and uniparental disomy, and analyzing population structure.
Principal Findings
We present SNPduo, a command-line and web accessible tool for analyzing and visualizing the relatedness of any two individuals using identity by state. Using identity by state does not require prior knowledge of allele frequencies or pedigree information, and is more computationally tractable and is less affected by population stratification than calculating identity by descent probabilities. The web implementation visualizes shared genomic regions, and generates UCSC viewable tracks. The command-line version requires pedigree information for compatibility with existing software and determining specified relationships even though pedigrees are not required for IBS calculation, generates no visual output, is written in portable C++, and is well-suited to analyzing large datasets. We demonstrate how the SNPduo web tool identifies meiotic crossover positions in siblings, and confirm our findings by visualizing meiotic recombination in synthetic three-generation pedigrees. We applied SNPduo to 210 nominally unrelated Phase I / II HapMap samples and, consistent with previous findings, identified six undeclared pairs of related individuals. We further analyzed identity by state in 2,883 individuals from multiplex families with autism and identified a series of anomalies including related parents, an individual with mosaic loss of chromosome 18, an individual with maternal heterodisomy of chromosome 16, and unexplained replicate samples.
SNPduo provides the ability to explore and visualize SNP data to characterize the relatedness between individuals. It is compatible with, but distinct from, other established analysis software such as PLINK, and performs favorably in benchmarking studies for the analyses of genetic relatedness.
PMCID: PMC2725774  PMID: 19696932
24.  Impact of Chromatin Structures on DNA Processing for Genomic Analyses 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6700.
Chromatin has an impact on recombination, repair, replication, and evolution of DNA. Here we report that chromatin structure also affects laboratory DNA manipulation in ways that distort the results of chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) experiments. We initially discovered this effect at the Saccharomyces cerevisiae HMR locus, where we found that silenced chromatin was refractory to shearing, relative to euchromatin. Using input samples from ChIP-Seq studies, we detected a similar bias throughout the heterochromatic portions of the yeast genome. We also observed significant chromatin-related effects at telomeres, protein binding sites, and genes, reflected in the variation of input-Seq coverage. Experimental tests of candidate regions showed that chromatin influenced shearing at some loci, and that chromatin could also lead to enriched or depleted DNA levels in prepared samples, independently of shearing effects. Our results suggested that assays relying on immunoprecipitation of chromatin will be biased by intrinsic differences between regions packaged into different chromatin structures - biases which have been largely ignored to date. These results established the pervasiveness of this bias genome-wide, and suggested that this bias can be used to detect differences in chromatin structures across the genome.
PMCID: PMC2725323  PMID: 19693276
25.  Histone Modifications within the Human X Centromere Region 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6602.
Human centromeres are multi-megabase regions of highly ordered arrays of alpha satellite DNA that are separated from chromosome arms by unordered alpha satellite monomers and other repetitive elements. Complexities in assembling such large repetitive regions have limited detailed studies of centromeric chromatin organization. However, a genomic map of the human X centromere has provided new opportunities to explore genomic architecture of a complex locus. We used ChIP to examine the distribution of modified histones within centromere regions of multiple X chromosomes. Methylation of H3 at lysine 4 coincided with DXZ1 higher order alpha satellite, the site of CENP-A localization. Heterochromatic histone modifications were distributed across the 400–500 kb pericentromeric regions. The large arrays of alpha satellite and gamma satellite DNA were enriched for both euchromatic and heterochromatic modifications, implying that some pericentromeric repeats have multiple chromatin characteristics. Partial truncation of the X centromere resulted in reduction in the size of the CENP-A/Cenp-A domain and increased heterochromatic modifications in the flanking pericentromere. Although the deletion removed ∼1/3 of centromeric DNA, the ratio of CENP-A to alpha satellite array size was maintained in the same proportion, suggesting that a limited, but defined linear region of the centromeric DNA is necessary for kinetochore assembly. Our results indicate that the human X centromere contains multiple types of chromatin, is organized similarly to smaller eukaryotic centromeres, and responds to structural changes by expanding or contracting domains.
PMCID: PMC2719913  PMID: 19672304

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