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1.  Somatic perception, cultural differences and immigration: results from administration of the Modified Somatic Perception Questionnaire (MSPQ) to a sample of immigrants 
The number of immigrants in Italy has doubled every 10 years from 1972 and Genoa hosts two large communities of immigrants from South America and Africa. We investigated differences in the somatic perception between immigrants and Italians and between South Americans and Africans living in the city of Genoa. During a 7 month period, an anonymous questionnaire asking for sociodemographic information and the Modified Somatic Perception Questionnaire (MSPQ) were administered to all immigrants accessing an outpatient clinic or the general practitioners offices. MSPQ mean scores were significantly higher in immigrant patients than in Italian patients, after adjusting for sex and age differences. We found no differences between South Americans and Africans in MSPQ score. The tendency to express discomfort through physical symptoms appears to be related to being a foreigner who arrived in Italy through a migratory trip and also to being a person who comes from a cultural context that is very different from the one of developed countries.
doi:10.2147/PRBM.S55393
PMCID: PMC4062560  PMID: 24966706
immigrants; Modified Somatic Perception Questionnaire (MSPQ); somatization; transcultural psychiatry
2.  Rhamnogalacturonan from Acmella oleracea (L.) R.K. Jansen: Gastroprotective and Ulcer Healing Properties in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84762.
A rhamnogalacturonan (RGal) isolated from Acmella oleracea (L.) R.K. Jansen administered by oral route showed gastroprotective activity against acute lesions induced by ethanol. In this study, we investigated the gastric ulcer healing effect of RGal and its mechanisms of action. Intraperitoneal treatment of animals with RGal protected the gastric mucosa against acute lesions induced by ethanol, with participation of gastric mucus. Furthermore, in the chronic ulcer model, oral administration of RGal accelerates the gastric ulcer healing, accompanied by increasing of cellular proliferation and gastric mucus content, reducing inflammatory parameters and oxidative stress. In addition, the repeated 7 days-treatment of animals with RGal did not show alterations of clinical and behavioral symptoms, body and organs weights or plasmatic biochemical parameters. Collectively, these results showed that RGal has an interesting antiulcerogenic activity and could constitute an attractive molecule of interest for the development of new antiulcer agents.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084762
PMCID: PMC3885607  PMID: 24416280
3.  Involvement of Interleukin-10 in the Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Sanyinjiao (SP6) Acupuncture in a Mouse Model of Peritonitis 
In this study, we determined the anti-inflammatory effect of manual acupuncture at the Sanyinjiao or Spleen 6 (SP6) point on carrageenan-induced peritonitis in mice and investigated mechanisms that may underlie this effect. In the first set of experiments, male Swiss mice were allocated into five groups: the control (sterile saline), dexamethasone (DEXA), invasive sham-acupuncture (non-acupoint), SP6 acupuncture and carrageenan-treated groups. Ten minutes after needle retention or 30 min after DEXA treatment, mice received an intraperitoneal injection of carrageenan (750 μg/mouse). After 4 h, total leukocyte and differential cell counts (neutrophils and mononuclear), myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity, vascular permeability and cytokine levels were evaluated. In another set of experiments, adrenalectomized (ADX) mice were used to study the involvement of the adrenal gland on the therapeutic effects of acupuncture. Mice were allocated into two groups: the ADX and sham-operated animals (Sham ADX) that were subdivided into four subgroups each: the control (sterile saline), DEXA, SP6 acupuncture and carrageenan-treated groups. The SP6 and DEXA treatments inhibited the inflammatory cell infiltration, vascular permeability and MPO activity in carrageenan-injected mice. In addition, the SP6 treatment also increased interleukin (IL)-10 levels. In contrast, when the animals were adrenalectomized, the SP6 treatment failed to reduce total leukocyte and the plasma extravasation. In conclusion, this study clearly demonstrates the anti-inflammatory effect of SP6 acupuncture in a model of carrageenan-induced peritonitis. Our results demonstrated that SP6 acupuncture depends of the adrenal glands and increased IL-10 levels to produce its anti-inflammatory action.
doi:10.1093/ecam/neq036
PMCID: PMC3135881  PMID: 21799673
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.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr038
PMCID: PMC3113572  PMID: 21310715
5.  Integrating ELF4 into the circadian system through combined structural and functional studies 
HFSP Journal  2009;3(5):350-366.
The circadian clock is a timekeeping mechanism that enables anticipation of daily environmental changes. In the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the circadian system is a multiloop series of interlocked transcription-translation feedbacks. Several genes have been arranged in these oscillation loops, but the position of the core-clock gene ELF4 in this network was previously undetermined. ELF4 lacks sequence similarity to known domains, and functional homologs have not yet been identified. Here we show that ELF4 is functionally conserved within a subclade of related sequences, and forms an alpha-helical homodimer with a likely electrostatic interface that could be structurally modeled. We support this hypothesis by expression analysis of new elf4 hypomorphic alleles. These weak mutants were found to have expression level phenotypes of both morning and evening clock genes, implicating multiple entry points of ELF4 within the multiloop network. This could be mathematically modeled. Furthermore, morning-expression defects were particular to some elf4 alleles, suggesting predominant ELF4 action just preceding dawn. We provide a new hypothesis about ELF4 in the oscillator—it acts as a homodimer to integrate two arms of the circadian clock.
doi:10.2976/1.3218766
PMCID: PMC2801535  PMID: 20357892
6.  Dynamics of Uptake and Metabolism of Small Molecules in Cellular Response Systems 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e4923.
Background
Proper cellular function requires uptake of small molecules from the environment. In response to changes in extracellular conditions cells alter the import and utilization of small molecules. For a wide variety of small molecules the cellular response is regulated by a network motif that combines two feedback loops, one which regulates the transport and the other which regulates the subsequent metabolism.
Results
We analyze the dynamic behavior of two widespread but logically distinct two-loop motifs. These motifs differ in the logic of the feedback loop regulating the uptake of the small molecule. Our aim is to examine the qualitative features of the dynamics of these two classes of feedback motifs. We find that the negative feedback to transport is accompanied by overshoot in the intracellular amount of small molecules, whereas a positive feedback to transport removes overshoot by boosting the final steady state level. On the other hand, the negative feedback allows for a rapid initial response, whereas the positive feedback is slower. We also illustrate how the dynamical deficiencies of one feedback motif can be mitigated by an additional loop, while maintaining the original steady-state properties.
Conclusions
Our analysis emphasizes the core of the regulation found in many motifs at the interface between the metabolic network and the environment of the cell. By simplifying the regulation into uptake and the first metabolic step, we provide a basis for elaborate studies of more realistic network structures. Particularly, this theoretical analysis predicts that FeS cluster formation plays an important role in the dynamics of iron homeostasis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004923
PMCID: PMC2654506  PMID: 19290058
7.  Epstein-Barr virus latency switch in human B-cells: a physico-chemical model 
BMC Systems Biology  2007;1:40.
Background
The Epstein-Barr virus is widespread in all human populations and is strongly associated with human disease, ranging from infectious mononucleosis to cancer. In infected cells the virus can adopt several different latency programs, affecting the cells' behaviour. Experimental results indicate that a specific genetic switch between viral latency programs, reprograms human B-cells between proliferative and resting states. Each of these two latency programs makes use of a different viral promoter, Cp and Qp, respectively. The hypothesis tested in this study is that this genetic switch is controlled by both human and viral transcription factors; Oct-2 and EBNA-1. We build a physico-chemical model to investigate quantitatively the dynamical properties of the promoter regulation and experimentally examine protein level variations between the two latency programs.
Results
Our experimental results display significant differences in EBNA-1 and Oct-2 levels between resting and proliferating programs. With the model we identify two stable latency programs, corresponding to a resting and proliferating cell. The two programs differ in robustness and transcriptional activity. The proliferating state is markedly more stable, with a very high transcriptional activity from its viral promoter. We predict the promoter activities to be mutually exclusive in the two different programs, and our relative promoter activities correlate well with experimental data. Transitions between programs can be induced, by affecting the protein levels of our transcription factors. Simulated time scales are in line with experimental results.
Conclusion
We show that fundamental properties of the Epstein-Barr virus involvement in latent infection, with implications for tumor biology, can be modelled and understood mathematically. We conclude that EBNA-1 and Oct-2 regulation of Cp and Qp is sufficient to establish mutually exclusive expression patterns. Moreover, the modelled genetic control predict both mono- and bistable behavior and a considerable difference in transition dynamics, based on program stability and promoter activities. Both these phenomena we hope can be further investigated experimentally, to increase the understanding of this important switch. Our results also stress the importance of the little known regulation of human transcription factor Oct-2.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-1-40
PMCID: PMC2164963  PMID: 17764547
8.  Structural analysis of human 2′-O-ribose methyltransferases involved in mRNA cap structure formation 
Nature Communications  2014;5:3004.
The 5′ cap of human messenger RNA contains 2′-O-methylation of the first and often second transcribed nucleotide that is important for its processing, translation and stability. Human enzymes that methylate these nucleotides, termed CMTr1 and CMTr2, respectively, have recently been identified. However, the structures of these enzymes and their mechanisms of action remain unknown. In the present study, we solve the crystal structures of the active CMTr1 catalytic domain in complex with a methyl group donor and a capped oligoribonucleotide, thereby revealing the mechanism of specific recognition of capped RNA. This mechanism differs significantly from viral enzymes, thus providing a framework for their specific targeting. Based on the crystal structure of CMTr1, a comparative model of the CMTr2 catalytic domain is generated. This model, together with mutational analysis, leads to the identification of residues involved in RNA and methyl group donor binding.
Human mRNA transcripts possess a 5' cap structure that is modified by methylation. Here, Smietanski et al. present the structures of human methyltransferases responsible for this reaction, revealing key differences to their viral counterparts and thereby providing a framework for targeted drug design.
doi:10.1038/ncomms4004
PMCID: PMC3941023  PMID: 24402442

Results 1-8 (8)