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1.  The Oxygenase CAO-1 of Neurospora crassa Is a Resveratrol Cleavage Enzyme 
Eukaryotic Cell  2013;12(9):1305-1314.
The genome of the ascomycete Neurospora crassa encodes CAO-1 and CAO-2, two members of the carotenoid cleavage oxygenase family that target double bonds in different substrates. Previous studies demonstrated the role of CAO-2 in cleaving the C40 carotene torulene, a key step in the synthesis of the C35 apocarotenoid pigment neurosporaxanthin. In this work, we investigated the activity of CAO-1, assuming that it may provide retinal, the chromophore of the NOP-1 rhodopsin, by cleaving β-carotene. For this purpose, we tested CAO-1 activity with carotenoid substrates that were, however, not converted. In contrast and consistent with its sequence similarity to family members that act on stilbenes, CAO-1 cleaved the interphenyl Cα-Cβ double bond of resveratrol and its derivative piceatannol. CAO-1 did not convert five other similar stilbenes, indicating a requirement for a minimal number of unmodified hydroxyl groups in the stilbene background. Confirming its biological function in converting stilbenes, adding resveratrol led to a pronounced increase in cao-1 mRNA levels, while light, a key regulator of carotenoid metabolism, did not alter them. Targeted Δcao-1 mutants were not impaired by the presence of resveratrol, a phytoalexin active against different fungi, which did not significantly affect the growth and development of wild-type Neurospora. However, under partial sorbose toxicity, the Δcao-1 colonies exhibited faster radial growth than control strains in the presence of resveratrol, suggesting a moderate toxic effect of resveratrol cleavage products.
PMCID: PMC3811574  PMID: 23893079
2.  Provenance and Geographic Spread of St. Louis Encephalitis Virus 
mBio  2013;4(3):e00322-13.
St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) is the prototypic mosquito-borne flavivirus in the Americas. Birds are its primary vertebrate hosts, but amplification in certain mammals has also been suggested. The place and time of SLEV emergence remain unknown. In an ecological investigation in a tropical rainforest in Palenque National Park, Mexico, we discovered an ancestral variant of SLEV in Culex nigripalpus mosquitoes. Those SLEV-Palenque strains form a highly distinct phylogenetic clade within the SLEV species. Cell culture studies of SLEV-Palenque versus epidemic SLEV (MSI-7) revealed no growth differences in insect cells but a clear inability of SLEV-Palenque to replicate in cells from birds, cotton rats, and free-tailed bats permissive for MSI-7 replication. Only cells from nonhuman primates and neotropical fruit bats were moderately permissive. Phylogeographic reconstruction identified the common ancestor of all epidemic SLEV strains to have existed in an area between southern Mexico and Panama ca. 330 years ago. Expansion of the epidemic lineage occurred in two waves, the first representing emergence near the area of origin and the second involving almost parallel appearances of the virus in the lower Mississippi and Amazon delta regions. Early diversification events overlapped human habitat invasion during the post-Columbian era. Several documented SLEV outbreaks, such as the 1964 Houston epidemic or the 1990 Tampa epidemic, were predated by the arrival of novel strains between 1 and 4 years before the outbreaks. Collectively, our data provide insight into the putative origins of SLEV, suggesting that virus emergence was driven by human invasion of primary rainforests.
St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) is the prototypic mosquito-transmitted flavivirus of the Americas. Unlike the West Nile virus, which we know was recently introduced into North America from the Old World, the provenience of SLEV is obscure. In an ecological investigation in a primary rainforest area of Palenque National Park, Mexico, we have discovered an ancestral variant of SLEV. The ancestral virus was much less active than the epidemic virus in cell cultures, reflecting its incomplete adaptation to hosts encountered outside primary rainforests. Knowledge of this virus enabled a spatiotemporal reconstruction of the common ancestor of all SLEVs and how the virus spread from there. We can infer that the cosmopolitan SLEV lineage emerged from Central America in the 17th century, a period of post-Columbian colonial history marked by intense human invasion of primary rainforests. Further spread followed major bird migration pathways over North and South America.
PMCID: PMC3685209  PMID: 23760463
3.  Remote Magnetic Navigation for Accurate, Real-time Catheter Positioning and Ablation in Cardiac Electrophysiology Procedures 
New remote navigation systems have been developed to improve current limitations of conventional manually guided catheter ablation in complex cardiac substrates such as left atrial flutter. This protocol describes all the clinical and invasive interventional steps performed during a human electrophysiological study and ablation to assess the accuracy, safety and real-time navigation of the Catheter Guidance, Control and Imaging (CGCI) system. Patients who underwent ablation of a right or left atrium flutter substrate were included. Specifically, data from three left atrial flutter and two counterclockwise right atrial flutter procedures are shown in this report. One representative left atrial flutter procedure is shown in the movie. This system is based on eight coil-core electromagnets, which generate a dynamic magnetic field focused on the heart. Remote navigation by rapid changes (msec) in the magnetic field magnitude and a very flexible magnetized catheter allow real-time closed-loop integration and accurate, stable positioning and ablation of the arrhythmogenic substrate.
PMCID: PMC3665328  PMID: 23628883
Medicine; Issue 74; Anatomy; Physiology; Biomedical Engineering; Surgery; Cardiology; catheter ablation; remote navigation; magnetic; robotic; catheter; positioning; electrophysiology; clinical techniques
4.  Organized Atrial Tachycardias after Atrial Fibrillation Ablation 
The efficacy of catheter-based ablation techniques to treat atrial fibrillation is limited not only by recurrences of this arrhythmia but also, and not less importantly, by new-onset organized atrial tachycardias. The incidence of such tachycardias depends on the type and duration of the baseline atrial fibrillation and specially on the ablation technique which was used during the index procedure. It has been repeatedly reported that the more extensive the left atrial surface ablated, the higher the incidence of organized atrial tachycardias. The exact origin of the pathologic substrate of these trachycardias is not fully understood and may result from the interaction between preexistent regions with abnormal electrical properties and the new ones resultant from radiofrequency delivery. From a clinical point of view these atrial tachycardias tend to remit after a variable time but in some cases are responsible for significant symptoms. A precise knowledge of the most frequent types of these arrhythmias, of their mechanisms and components is necessary for a thorough electrophysiologic characterization if a new ablation procedure is required.
PMCID: PMC3175708  PMID: 21941669
5.  Analysis of al-2 Mutations in Neurospora 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21948.
The orange pigmentation of the fungus Neurospora crassa is due to the accumulation of the xanthophyll neurosporaxanthin and precursor carotenoids. Two key reactions in the synthesis of these pigments, the formation of phytoene from geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate and the introduction of β cycles in desaturated carotenoid products, are catalyzed by two domains of a bifunctional protein, encoded by the gene al-2. We have determined the sequence of nine al-2 mutant alleles and analyzed the carotenoid content in the corresponding strains. One of the mutants is reddish and it is mutated in the cyclase domain of the protein, and the remaining eight mutants are albino and harbor different mutations on the phytoene synthase (PS) domain. Some of the mutations are expected to produce truncated polypeptides. A strain lacking most of the PS domain contained trace amounts of a carotenoid-like pigment, tentatively identified as the squalene desaturation product diapolycopene. In support, trace amounts of this compound were also found in a knock-out mutant for gene al-2, but not in that for gene al-1, coding for the carotene desaturase. The cyclase activity of the AL-2 enzyme from two albino mutants was investigated by heterologous expression in an appropriately engineered E. coli strain. One of the AL-2 enzymes, predictably with only 20% of the PS domain, showed full cyclase activity, suggesting functional independence of both domains. However, the second mutant showed no cyclase activity, indicating that some alterations in the phytoene synthase segment affect the cyclase domain. Expression experiments showed a diminished photoinduction of al-2 transcripts in the al-2 mutants compared to the wild type strain, suggesting a synergic effect between reduced expression and impaired enzymatic activities in the generation of their albino phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3139582  PMID: 21818281
6.  A common allele in RPGRIP1L is a modifier of retinal degeneration in ciliopathies 
Nature genetics  2009;41(6):739-745.
Despite rapid advances in disease gene identification, the predictive power of the genotype remains limited, in part due to poorly understood effects of second-site modifiers. Here we demonstrate that a polymorphic coding variant of RPGRIP1L (retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator-interacting protein-1 like), a ciliary gene mutated in Meckel-Gruber (MKS) and Joubert (JBTS) syndromes, is associated with the development of retinal degeneration in patients with ciliopathies caused by mutations in other genes. As part of our resequencing efforts of the ciliary proteome, we identified several putative loss of function RPGRIP1L mutations, including one common variant, A229T. Multiple genetic lines of evidence showed this allele to be associated with photoreceptor loss in ciliopathies. Moreover, we show that RPGRIP1L interacts biochemically with RPGR, loss of which causes retinal degeneration, and that the 229T-encoded protein significantly compromises this interaction. Our data represent an example of modification of a discrete phenotype of syndromic disease and highlight the importance of a multifaceted approach for the discovery of modifier alleles of intermediate frequency and effect.
PMCID: PMC2783476  PMID: 19430481

Results 1-6 (6)