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1.  Dextran Nanoparticle Synthesis and Properties 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(1):e0146237.
Dextran is widely exploited in medical products and as a component of drug-delivering nanoparticles (NPs). Here, we tested whether dextran can serve as the main substrate of NPs and form a stable backbone. We tested dextrans with several molecular masses under several synthesis conditions to optimize NP stability. The analysis of the obtained nanoparticles showed that dextran NPs that were synthesized from 70 kDa dextran with a 5% degree of oxidation of the polysaccharide chain and 50% substitution with dodecylamine formed a NP backbone composed of modified dextran subunits, the mean diameter of which in an aqueous environment was around 100 nm. Dextran NPs could be stored in a dry state and reassembled in water. Moreover, we found that different chemical moieties (e.g., drugs such as doxorubicin) can be attached to the dextran NPs via a pH-dependent bond that allows release of the drug with lowering pH. We conclude that dextran NPs are a promising nano drug carrier.
PMCID: PMC4713431  PMID: 26752182
2.  miR-132 Regulates Dendritic Spine Structure by Direct Targeting of Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 mRNA 
Molecular Neurobiology  2015;53:4701-4712.
Mir-132 is a neuronal activity-regulated microRNA that controls the morphology of dendritic spines and neuronal transmission. Similar activities have recently been attributed to matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), an extrasynaptic protease. In the present study, we provide evidence that miR-132 directly regulates MMP-9 mRNA in neurons to modulate synaptic plasticity. With the use of luciferase reporter system, we show that miR-132 binds to the 3’UTR of MMP-9 mRNA to regulate its expression in neurons. The overexpression of miR-132 in neurons reduces the level of endogenous MMP-9 protein secretion. In synaptoneurosomes, metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR)-induced signaling stimulates the dissociation of miR-132 from polyribosomal fractions and shifts it towards the messenger ribonucleoprotein (mRNP)-containing fraction. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the overexpression of miR-132 in the cultured hippocampal neurons from Fmr1 KO mice that have increased synaptic MMP-9 level provokes enlargement of the dendritic spine heads, a process previously implicated in enhanced synaptic plasticity. We propose that activity-dependent miR-132 regulates structural plasticity of dendritic spines through matrix metalloproteinase 9.
PMCID: PMC4965491  PMID: 26319558
Matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9); miR-132; Structural plasticity of dendritic spines
3.  Structural Plasticity of Dendritic Spines Requires GSK3α and GSK3β 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0134018.
Although memories appear to be elusive phenomena, they are stored in the network of physical connections between neurons. Dendritic spines, which are actin-rich dendritic protrusions, serve as the contact points between networked neurons. The spines’ shape contributes to the strength of signal transmission. To acquire and store information, dendritic spines must remain plastic, i.e., able to respond to signals, by changing their shape. We asked whether glycogen synthase kinase (GSK) 3α and GSK3β, which are implicated in diseases with neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as Alzheimer's disease, bipolar disease and schizophrenia, play a role in a spine structural plasticity. We used Latrunculin B, an actin polymerization inhibitor, and chemically induced Long-Term Depression to trigger fast spine shape remodeling in cultured hippocampal neurons. Spine shrinkage induced by either stimulus required GSK3α activity. GSK3β activity was only important for spine structural changes after treatment with Latrunculin B. Our results indicate that GSK3α is an essential component for short-term spine structural plasticity. This specific function should be considered in future studies of neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychiatric conditions that originate from suboptimal levels of GSK3α/β activity.
PMCID: PMC4514647  PMID: 26207897
4.  2′-O-ribose methylation of cap2 in human: function and evolution in a horizontally mobile family 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(11):4756-4768.
The 5′ cap of human messenger RNA consists of an inverted 7-methylguanosine linked to the first transcribed nucleotide by a unique 5′–5′ triphosphate bond followed by 2′-O-ribose methylation of the first and often the second transcribed nucleotides, likely serving to modify efficiency of transcript processing, translation and stability. We report the validation of a human enzyme that methylates the ribose of the second transcribed nucleotide encoded by FTSJD1, henceforth renamed HMTR2 to reflect function. Purified recombinant hMTr2 protein transfers a methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine to the 2′-O-ribose of the second nucleotide of messenger RNA and small nuclear RNA. Neither N7 methylation of the guanosine cap nor 2′-O-ribose methylation of the first transcribed nucleotide are required for hMTr2, but the presence of cap1 methylation increases hMTr2 activity. The hMTr2 protein is distributed throughout the nucleus and cytosol, in contrast to the nuclear hMTr1. The details of how and why specific transcripts undergo modification with these ribose methylations remains to be elucidated. The 2′-O-ribose RNA cap methyltransferases are present in varying combinations in most eukaryotic and many viral genomes. With the capping enzymes in hand their biological purpose can be ascertained.
PMCID: PMC3113572  PMID: 21310715
5.  The dissection of transcriptional modules regulated by various drugs of abuse in the mouse striatum 
Genome Biology  2010;11(5):R48.
The transcriptional response to six commonly-abused drugs was assessed in the mouse brain revealing common modules of drug-induced genes.
Various drugs of abuse activate intracellular pathways in the brain reward system. These pathways regulate the expression of genes that are essential to the development of addiction. To reveal genes common and distinct for different classes of drugs of abuse, we compared the effects of nicotine, ethanol, cocaine, morphine, heroin and methamphetamine on gene expression profiles in the mouse striatum.
We applied whole-genome microarray profiling to evaluate detailed time-courses (1, 2, 4 and 8 hours) of transcriptome alterations following acute drug administration in mice. We identified 42 drug-responsive genes that were segregated into two main transcriptional modules. The first module consisted of activity-dependent transcripts (including Fos and Npas4), which are induced by psychostimulants and opioids. The second group of genes (including Fkbp5 and S3-12), which are controlled, in part, by the release of steroid hormones, was strongly activated by ethanol and opioids. Using pharmacological tools, we were able to inhibit the induction of particular modules of drug-related genomic profiles. We selected a subset of genes for validation by in situ hybridization and quantitative PCR. We also showed that knockdown of the drug-responsive genes Sgk1 and Tsc22d3 resulted in alterations to dendritic spines in mice, possibly reflecting an altered potential for plastic changes.
Our study identified modules of drug-induced genes that share functional relationships. These genes may play a critical role in the early stages of addiction.
PMCID: PMC2898085  PMID: 20459597
6.  EXOG, a novel paralog of Endonuclease G in higher eukaryotes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(4):1369-1379.
Evolutionary conserved mitochondrial nucleases are involved in programmed cell death and normal cell proliferation in lower and higher eukaryotes. The endo/exonuclease Nuc1p, also termed ‘yeast Endonuclease G (EndoG)’, is a member of this class of enzymes that differs from mammalian homologs by the presence of a 5′–3′ exonuclease activity in addition to its broad spectrum endonuclease activity. However, this exonuclease activity is thought to be essential for a function of the yeast enzyme in DNA recombination and repair. Here we show that higher eukaryotes in addition to EndoG contain its paralog ‘EXOG’, a novel EndoG-like mitochondrial endo/exonuclease. We find that during metazoan evolution duplication of an ancestral nuclease gene obviously generated the paralogous EndoG- and EXOG-protein subfamilies in higher eukaryotes, thereby maintaining the full endo/exonuclease activity found in mitochondria of lower eukaryotes. We demonstrate that human EXOG is a dimeric mitochondrial enzyme that displays 5′–3′ exonuclease activity and further differs from EndoG in substrate specificity. We hypothesize that in higher eukaryotes the complementary enzymatic activities of EndoG and EXOG probably together account for both, the lethal and vital functions of conserved mitochondrial endo/exonucleases.
PMCID: PMC2275078  PMID: 18187503
7.  Type II restriction endonuclease R.KpnI is a member of the HNH nuclease superfamily 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(20):6129-6135.
The restriction endonuclease (REase) R.KpnI is an orthodox Type IIP enzyme, which binds to DNA in the absence of metal ions and cleaves the DNA sequence 5′-GGTAC^C-3′ in the presence of Mg2+ as shown generating 3′ four base overhangs. Bioinformatics analysis reveals that R.KpnI contains a ββα-Me-finger fold, which is characteristic of many HNH-superfamily endonucleases, including homing endonuclease I-HmuI, structure-specific T4 endonuclease VII, colicin E9, sequence non-specific Serratia nuclease and sequence-specific homing endonuclease I-PpoI. According to our homology model of R.KpnI, D148, H149 and Q175 correspond to the critical D, H and N or H residues of the HNH nucleases. Substitutions of these three conserved residues lead to the loss of the DNA cleavage activity by R.KpnI, confirming their importance. The mutant Q175E fails to bind DNA at the standard conditions, although the DNA binding and cleavage can be rescued at pH 6.0, indicating a role for Q175 in DNA binding and cleavage. Our study provides the first experimental evidence for a Type IIP REase that does not belong to the PD…D/EXK superfamily of nucleases, instead is a member of the HNH superfamily.
PMCID: PMC534630  PMID: 15562004

Results 1-7 (7)