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1.  Identification of Novel Death-Associated Protein Kinase 2 Interaction Partners by Proteomic Screening Coupled with Bimolecular Fluorescence Complementation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2015;36(1):132-143.
Death-associated protein kinase 2 (DAPK2) is a Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent Ser/Thr kinase that possesses tumor-suppressive functions and regulates programmed cell death, autophagy, oxidative stress, hematopoiesis, and motility. As only few binding partners of DAPK2 have been determined, the molecular mechanisms governing these biological functions are largely unknown. We report the identification of 180 potential DAPK2 interaction partners by affinity purification-coupled mass spectrometry, 12 of which are known DAPK binding proteins. A small subset of established and potential binding proteins detected in this screen was further investigated by bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) assays, a method to visualize protein interactions in living cells. These experiments revealed that α-actinin-1 and 14-3-3-β are novel DAPK2 binding partners. The interaction of DAPK2 with α-actinin-1 was localized at the plasma membrane, resulting in massive membrane blebbing and reduced cellular motility, whereas the interaction of DAPK2 with 14-3-3-β was localized to the cytoplasm, with no impact on blebbing, motility, or viability. Our results therefore suggest that DAPK2 effector functions are influenced by the protein's subcellular localization and highlight the utility of combining mass spectrometry screening with bimolecular fluorescence complementation to identify and characterize novel protein-protein interactions.
PMCID: PMC4702601  PMID: 26483415
2.  Scalable Production in Human Cells and Biochemical Characterization of Full-Length Normal and Mutant Huntingtin 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0121055.
Huntingtin (Htt) is a 350 kD intracellular protein, ubiquitously expressed and mainly localized in the cytoplasm. Huntington’s disease (HD) is caused by a CAG triplet amplification in exon 1 of the corresponding gene resulting in a polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion at the N-terminus of Htt. Production of full-length Htt has been difficult in the past and so far a scalable system or process has not been established for recombinant production of Htt in human cells. The ability to produce Htt in milligram quantities would be a prerequisite for many biochemical and biophysical studies aiming in a better understanding of Htt function under physiological conditions and in case of mutation and disease. For scalable production of full-length normal (17Q) and mutant (46Q and 128Q) Htt we have established two different systems, the first based on doxycycline-inducible Htt expression in stable cell lines, the second on “gutless” adenovirus mediated gene transfer. Purified material has then been used for biochemical characterization of full-length Htt. Posttranslational modifications (PTMs) were determined and several new phosphorylation sites were identified. Nearly all PTMs in full-length Htt localized to areas outside of predicted alpha-solenoid protein regions. In all detected N-terminal peptides methionine as the first amino acid was missing and the second, alanine, was found to be acetylated. Differences in secondary structure between normal and mutant Htt, a helix-rich protein, were not observed in our study. Purified Htt tends to form dimers and higher order oligomers, thus resembling the situation observed with N-terminal fragments, although the mechanism of oligomer formation may be different.
PMCID: PMC4370734  PMID: 25799558
3.  Protein Complex Interactor Analysis and Differential Activity of KDM3 Subfamily Members Towards H3K9 Methylation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60549.
Histone modifications play an important role in chromatin organization and gene regulation, and their interpretation is referred to as epigenetic control. The methylation levels of several lysine residues in histone tails are tightly controlled, and JmjC domain-containing proteins are one class of broadly expressed enzymes catalyzing methyl group removal. However, several JmjC proteins remain uncharacterized, gaps persist in understanding substrate recognition, and the integration of JmjC proteins into signaling pathways is just emerging. The KDM3 subfamily is an evolutionarily conserved group of histone demethylase proteins, thought to share lysine substrate specificity. Here we use a systematic approach to compare KDM3 subfamily members. We show that full-length KDM3A and KDM3B are H3K9me1/2 histone demethylases whereas we fail to observe histone demethylase activity for JMJD1C using immunocytochemical and biochemical approaches. Structure-function analyses revealed the importance of a single amino acid in KDM3A implicated in the catalytic activity towards H3K9me1/2 that is not conserved in JMJD1C. Moreover, we use quantitative proteomic analyses to identify subsets of the interactomes of the 3 proteins. Specific interactor candidates were identified for each of the three KDM3 subfamily members. Importantly, we find that SCAI, a known transcriptional repressor, interacts specifically with KDM3B. Taken together, we identify substantial differences in the biology of KDM3 histone demethylases, namely enzymatic activity and protein-protein interactions. Such comparative approaches pave the way to a better understanding of histone demethylase specificity and protein function at a systems level and are instrumental in identifying the more subtle differences between closely related proteins.
PMCID: PMC3623819  PMID: 23593242
4.  Phosphoproteomic Analysis Reveals Interconnected System-Wide Responses to Perturbations of Kinases and Phosphatases in Yeast 
Science signaling  2010;3(153):rs4.
The phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of proteins by kinases and phosphatases constitute an essential regulatory network in eukaryotic cells. This network supports the flow of information from sensors through signaling systems to effector molecules, and ultimately drives the phenotype and function of cells, tissues, and organisms. Dysregulation of this process has severe consequences and is one of the main factors in the emergence and progression of diseases, including cancer. Thus, major efforts have been invested in developing specific inhibitors that modulate the activity of individual kinases or phosphatases; however, it has been difficult to assess how such pharmacological interventions would affect the cellular signaling network as a whole. Here, we used label-free, quantitative phosphoproteomics in a systematically perturbed model organism (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to determine the relationships between 97 kinases, 27 phosphatases, and more than 1000 phosphoproteins. We identified 8814 regulated phosphorylation events, describing the first system-wide protein phosphorylation network in vivo. Our results show that, at steady state, inactivation of most kinases and phosphatases affected large parts of the phosphorylation-modulated signal transduction machinery, and not only the immediate downstream targets. The observed cellular growth phenotype was often well maintained despite the perturbations, arguing for considerable robustness in the system. Our results serve to constrain future models of cellular signaling and reinforce the idea that simple linear representations of signaling pathways might be insufficient for drug development and for describing organismal homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3072779  PMID: 21177495
5.  Transcriptional profiling of ErbB signalling in mammary luminal epithelial cells - interplay of ErbB and IGF1 signalling through IGFBP3 regulation 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:490.
Members of the ErbB family of growth factor receptors are intricately linked with epithelial cell biology, development and tumourigenesis; however, the mechanisms involved in their downstream signalling are poorly understood. Indeed, it is unclear how signal specificity is achieved and the relative contribution each receptor has to specific gene expression.
Gene expression profiling of a human mammary luminal epithelial cell model of ErbB2-overexpression was carried out using cDNA microarrays with a common RNA reference approach to examine long-term overlapping and differential responses to EGF and heregulin beta1 treatment in the context of ErbB2 overexpression. Altered gene expression was validated using quantitative real time PCR and/or immunoblotting. One gene of interest was targeted for further characterisation, where the effects of siRNA-mediated silencing on IGF1-dependent signalling and cellular phenotype were examined and compared to the effects of loss of ErbB2 expression.
775 genes were differentially expressed and clustered in terms of their growth factor responsiveness. As well as identifying uncharacterized genes as novel targets of ErbB2-dependent signalling, ErbB2 overexpression augmented the induction of multiple genes involved in proliferation (e.g. MYC, MAP2K1, MAP2K3), autocrine growth factor signalling (VEGF, PDGF) and adhesion/cytoskeletal regulation (ZYX, THBS1, VCL, CNN3, ITGA2, ITGA3, NEDD9, TAGLN), linking them to the hyper-poliferative and altered adhesive phenotype of the ErbB2-overexpressing cells. We also report ErbB2-dependent down-regulation of multiple interferon-stimulated genes that may permit ErbB2-overexpressing cells to resist the anti-proliferative action of interferons. Finally, IGFBP3 was unique in its pattern of regulation and we further investigated a possible role for IGFBP3 down-regulation in ErbB2-dependent transformation through suppressed IGF1 signalling. We show that IGF1-dependent signalling and proliferation were enhanced in ErbB2-overexpressing cells, whilst loss of ErbB2 expression by siRNA silencing reduced IGF1 signalling. Furthermore, IGFBP3 knockdown resulted in basal ERK and Akt activation in luminal epithelial cells and increased invasiveness and anchorage-independent colony formation in SKBR3 cells.
These data show IGFBP3 as a negative regulator of transformation and that its down-regulation enhances IGF1-dependent signalling. They also show that ErbB2 can up-regulate IGF1-dependent signalling, possibly via the regulated expression of IGFBP3.
PMCID: PMC2946312  PMID: 20840765
7.  Identification and Functional Characterization of N-Terminally Acetylated Proteins in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(11):e1000236.
A new study reveals a functional rule for N-terminal acetylation in higher eukaryotes called the (X)PX rule and describes a generic method that prevents this modification to allow the study of N-terminal acetylation in any given protein.
Protein modifications play a major role for most biological processes in living organisms. Amino-terminal acetylation of proteins is a common modification found throughout the tree of life: the N-terminus of a nascent polypeptide chain becomes co-translationally acetylated, often after the removal of the initiating methionine residue. While the enzymes and protein complexes involved in these processes have been extensively studied, only little is known about the biological function of such N-terminal modification events. To identify common principles of N-terminal acetylation, we analyzed the amino-terminal peptides from proteins extracted from Drosophila Kc167 cells. We detected more than 1,200 mature protein N-termini and could show that N-terminal acetylation occurs in insects with a similar frequency as in humans. As the sole true determinant for N-terminal acetylation we could extract the (X)PX rule that indicates the prevention of acetylation under all circumstances. We could show that this rule can be used to genetically engineer a protein to study the biological relevance of the presence or absence of an acetyl group, thereby generating a generic assay to probe the functional importance of N-terminal acetylation. We applied the assay by expressing mutated proteins as transgenes in cell lines and in flies. Here, we present a straightforward strategy to systematically study the functional relevance of N-terminal acetylations in cells and whole organisms. Since the (X)PX rule seems to be of general validity in lower as well as higher eukaryotes, we propose that it can be used to study the function of N-terminal acetylation in all species.
Author Summary
Widely hailed as the workhorses of the cell, proteins participate in virtually every process within a living organism. How well they perform these diverse tasks depends on successful passage through the intricate course of protein production, from transcription of the protein-encoded DNA template to processing and folding of the nascent amino acid chain. Some of the processing steps—including enzymatic cleavage or the attachment of chemical modifications—take place during protein synthesis, while others occur afterward. One modification that takes place during protein synthesis is the attachment of an acetyl group at the tip (N-terminus) of proteins. Although N-terminal acetylation is found throughout the tree of life and the machinery and mechanisms responsible for this modification are quite well characterized, little is known about how it affects protein function. We analyzed the acetylation state of proteins in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and show that this modification occurs at a lower frequency in flies than in man but at a much higher frequency than in yeast. Based on our dataset we developed a generic method that can analyze the biological relevance of N-terminal protein acetylation in any organism.
PMCID: PMC2762599  PMID: 19885390
8.  MRE11 complex links RECQ5 helicase to sites of DNA damage 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(8):2645-2657.
RECQ5 DNA helicase suppresses homologous recombination (HR) possibly through disruption of RAD51 filaments. Here, we show that RECQ5 is constitutively associated with the MRE11–RAD50–NBS1 (MRN) complex, a primary sensor of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) that promotes DSB repair and regulates DNA damage signaling via activation of the ATM kinase. Experiments with purified proteins indicated that RECQ5 interacts with the MRN complex through both MRE11 and NBS1. Functional assays revealed that RECQ5 specifically inhibited the 3′→5′ exonuclease activity of MRE11, while MRN had no effect on the helicase activity of RECQ5. At the cellular level, we observed that the MRN complex was required for the recruitment of RECQ5 to sites of DNA damage. Accumulation of RECQ5 at DSBs was neither dependent on MDC1 that mediates binding of MRN to DSB-flanking chromatin nor on CtIP that acts in conjunction with MRN to promote resection of DSBs for repair by HR. Collectively, these data suggest that the MRN complex recruits RECQ5 to sites of DNA damage to regulate DNA repair.
PMCID: PMC2677886  PMID: 19270065
9.  PhosphoPep—a phosphoproteome resource for systems biology research in Drosophila Kc167 cells 
The ability to analyze and understand the mechanisms by which cells process information is a key question of systems biology research. Such mechanisms critically depend on reversible phosphorylation of cellular proteins, a process that is catalyzed by protein kinases and phosphatases. Here, we present PhosphoPep, a database containing more than 10 000 unique high-confidence phosphorylation sites mapping to nearly 3500 gene models and 4600 distinct phosphoproteins of the Drosophila melanogaster Kc167 cell line. This constitutes the most comprehensive phosphorylation map of any single source to date. To enhance the utility of PhosphoPep, we also provide an array of software tools that allow users to browse through phosphorylation sites on single proteins or pathways, to easily integrate the data with other, external data types such as protein–protein interactions and to search the database via spectral matching. Finally, all data can be readily exported, for example, for targeted proteomics approaches and the data thus generated can be again validated using PhosphoPep, supporting iterative cycles of experimentation and analysis that are typical for systems biology research.
PMCID: PMC2063582  PMID: 17940529
data integration; Drosophila; interactive database; phosphoproteomics; systems biology

Results 1-9 (9)