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1.  Flipping in the Pore: Discovery of Dual Inhibitors That Bind in Different Orientations to the Wild-Type versus the Amantadine-Resistant S31N Mutant of the Influenza A Virus M2 Proton Channel 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2014;136(52):17987-17995.
Influenza virus infections lead to numerous deaths and millions of hospitalizations each year. One challenge facing anti-influenza drug development is the heterogeneity of the circulating influenza viruses, which comprise several strains with variable susceptibility to antiviral drugs. For example, the wild-type (WT) influenza A viruses, such as the seasonal H1N1, tend to be sensitive to antiviral drugs, amantadine and rimantadine, while the S31N mutant viruses, such as the pandemic 2009 H1N1 (H1N1pdm09) and seasonal H3N2, are resistant to this class of drugs. Thus, drugs targeting both WT and the S31N mutant are highly desired. We report our design of a novel class of dual inhibitors along with their ion channel blockage and antiviral activities. The potency of the most active compound 11 in inhibiting WT and the S31N mutant influenza viruses is comparable with that of amantadine in inhibiting WT influenza virus. Solution NMR studies and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of drug-M2 interactions supported our design hypothesis: namely, the dual inhibitor binds in the WT M2 channel with an aromatic group facing down toward the C-terminus, while the same drug binds in the S31N M2 channel with its aromatic group facing up toward the N-terminus. The flip-flop mode of drug binding correlates with the structure–activity relationship (SAR) and has paved the way for the next round of rational design of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs.
PMCID: PMC4286326  PMID: 25470189
2.  Risk of Geographic Atrophy in the Comparison of Age-related Macular Degeneration Treatments Trials 
Ophthalmology  2013;121(1):150-161.
To describe risk factors for geographic atrophy (GA) in the Comparison of Age-related Macular Degeneration Treatments Trials (CATT).
Cohort within a randomized clinical trial.
We analyzed 1024 CATT patients with no GA visible on color fundus photographs (CFPs) and/or fluorescein angiograms (FAs) at enrollment.
Eyes were assigned to ranibizumab (0.5 mg) or bevacizumab (1.25 mg) treatment and to a 2-year monthly or pro re nata (PRN) injection regimen, or monthly injections for 1 year and PRN for 1 year. Demographic, genetic, and baseline ocular characteristics and lesion features of CFP/FA and optical coherence tomography (OCT) were evaluated as risk factors for GA through 2 years of follow-up. Time-dependent Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs).
Main Outcome Measures
Development of GA.
By 2 years, GA developed in 187 of 1024 patients (18.3%). Baseline risk factors for GA development included baseline visual acuity (VA) ≤20/200 (aHR, 2.65; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.43–4.93), retinal angiomatous proliferation (RAP; aHR, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.16–2.47), GA in the fellow eye (aHR, 2.07; 95% CI, 1.40–3.08), and intraretinal fluid at the foveal center (aHR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.34–3.31). Baseline factors associated with lower risk for GA development included blocked fluorescence (aHR, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.29–0.82), OCT measurements of subretinal fluid thickness of >25 μ (aHR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.35–0.78), subretinal tissue complex thickness of >275 compared with ≤75 μ (aHR, 0.31; 95% CI, 0.19–0.50), and vitreomacular attachment (aHR, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.31–0.97). Ranibizumab compared with bevacizumab had a higher risk (aHR, 1.43; 95% CI, 1.06–1.93), and monthly dosing had a higher risk (aHR, 1.59; 95% CI, 1.17–2.16) than PRN dosing. There were no strong associations between development of GA and the presence of risk alleles for CFH, ARMS 2, HTRA1, C3, or TLR3.
Approximately one fifth of CATT patients developed GA within 2 years of treatment. Independent baseline risk factors included poor VA, RAP, foveal intraretinal fluid, monthly dosing, and treatment with ranibizumab. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy may have a role in the development of GA.
PMCID: PMC3892560  PMID: 24084496
3.  Prevalence of anti-retinal autoantibodies in different stages of Age-related macular degeneration 
BMC Ophthalmology  2014;14(1):154.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of central vision loss in older adults. Anti-retinal autoantibodies (AAbs) have been found in individuals with AMD. The goal of the study was to determine the AAb specificity in different stages of AMD, and determine whether there is a prevalent AAb signature.
Sera of 134 participants in the Age-related Eye Disease Study were analyzed for anti-retinal AAbs by western blotting. The subjects were classified by diagnostic subgroups based upon their clinical classification: No AMD, Intermediate AMD, and Late AMD - geographic atrophy (GA) and Late AMD - neovascular (NV).
The presence of anti-retinal AAb was detected in 58% patients with Intermediate and Late AMD, and 54% of those with no AMD. AAbs bound to fifteen different retinal antigens. Most individuals had 1 specific AAbs (67%), with the remainder having 2 to 4 different AAbs. Over 40% of patients with Intermediate AMD, and 46% of those with GA had anti-enolase AAbs, compared with 29% of individuals with NV and 29% with no AMD. Different AAbs signatures related to NV as compared to GA and/or Intermediate AMD were distinguished. Anti-40-kDa (10%) and 42-kDa (16%) autoantibodies were associated with Intermediate AMD, while anti-30-kDa AAbs (23%) were primarily present in GA. Anti-32-kDa (12%), 35-kDa (21%), and 60-kDa (8%) AAbs were more frequent in NV AMD.
A unique AAb pattern for each of the disease subgroups was present when AMD progressed from the intermediate to the late forms of severity. Differences in the frequency of specific AAbs between AMD subgroups suggested that they may participate in pathogenicity of AMD. Further studies are necessary to confirm these observations in the larger cohort and individual AMD patients over time.
PMCID: PMC4269864  PMID: 25488058
Age-related macular degeneration; AREDS; Autoantibodies; Enolase; Antibody signature; Biomarker; Retina; Macula; Smoking; Arthritis
4.  TCR Triggering by pMHC Ligands Tethered on Surfaces via Poly(Ethylene Glycol) Depends on Polymer Length 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112292.
Antigen recognition by T cells relies on the interaction between T cell receptor (TCR) and peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) at the interface between the T cell and the antigen presenting cell (APC). The pMHC-TCR interaction is two-dimensional (2D), in that both the ligand and receptor are membrane-anchored and their movement is limited to 2D diffusion. The 2D nature of the interaction is critical for the ability of pMHC ligands to trigger TCR. The exact properties of the 2D pMHC-TCR interaction that enable TCR triggering, however, are not fully understood. Here, we altered the 2D pMHC-TCR interaction by tethering pMHC ligands to a rigid plastic surface with flexible poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) polymers of different lengths, thereby gradually increasing the ligands’ range of motion in the third dimension. We found that pMHC ligands tethered by PEG linkers with long contour length were capable of activating T cells. Shorter PEG linkers, however, triggered TCR more efficiently. Molecular dynamics simulation suggested that shorter PEGs exhibit faster TCR binding on-rates and off-rates. Our findings indicate that TCR signaling can be triggered by surface-tethered pMHC ligands within a defined 3D range of motion, and that fast binding rates lead to higher TCR triggering efficiency. These observations are consistent with a model of TCR triggering that incorporates the dynamic interaction between T cell and antigen-presenting cell.
PMCID: PMC4226474  PMID: 25383949
5.  Evolutionary imprint of activation: The design principles of VSDs 
The Journal of General Physiology  2014;143(2):145-156.
Approaches from information theory and probabilistic modeling show that voltage-sensing domain sequences conform to a small set of rules.
Voltage-sensor domains (VSDs) are modular biomolecular machines that transduce electrical signals in cells through a highly conserved activation mechanism. Here, we investigate sequence–function relationships in VSDs with approaches from information theory and probabilistic modeling. Specifically, we collect over 6,600 unique VSD sequences from diverse, long-diverged phylogenetic lineages and relate the statistical properties of this ensemble to functional constraints imposed by evolution. The VSD is a helical bundle with helices labeled S1–S4. Surrounding conserved VSD residues such as the countercharges and the S2 phenylalanine, we discover sparse networks of coevolving residues. Additional networks are found lining the VSD lumen, tuning the local hydrophilicity. Notably, state-dependent contacts and the absence of coevolution between S4 and the rest of the bundle are imprints of the activation mechanism on the VSD sequence ensemble. These design principles rationalize existing experimental results and generate testable hypotheses.
PMCID: PMC4001776  PMID: 24470486
6.  Discovery of Novel Dual Inhibitors of the Wild-Type and the Most Prevalent Drug-Resistant Mutant, S31N, of the M2 Proton Channel from Influenza A Virus 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(7):2804-2812.
Anti-influenza drugs, amantadine and rimantadine, targeting the M2 channel from influenza A virus are no longer effective because of widespread drug resistance. S31N is the predominant and amantadine-resistant M2 mutant, present in almost all of the circulating influenza A strains as well as in the pandemic 2009 H1N1 and the highly pathogenic H5N1 flu strains. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop second-generation M2 inhibitors targeting the S31N mutant. However, the S31N mutant presents a huge challenge to drug discovery, and it has been considered undruggable for several decades. Using structural information, classical medicinal chemistry approaches, and M2-specific biological testing, we discovered benzyl-substituted amantadine derivatives with activity against both S31N and WT, among which 4-(adamantan-1-ylaminomethyl)-benzene-1,3-diol (44) is the most potent dual inhibitor. These inhibitors demonstrate that S31N is a druggable target and provide a new starting point to design novel M2 inhibitors that address the problem of drug-resistant influenza A infections.
PMCID: PMC4036227  PMID: 23437766
7.  Retinal and Choroidal Imaging With 870-nm Spectral-Domain OCT Compared With 1050-nm Spectral-Domain OCT, With and Without Enhanced Depth Imaging 
The purpose of this study was to compare images of the retina and choroid obtained with Spectralis 1050-nm spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) with and without enhanced depth imaging (EDI) to the commercially available 870-nm SD-OCT with and without EDI.
Full-length 30° line scans were obtained with both 870- and 1050-nm Spectralis OCT instruments, with and without EDI. Two trained retina physicians masked to wavelength and EDI status assessed the ability to visualize the vitreoretinal interface and full-thickness choroid, and subfoveal choroidal thickness (SFCT) was measured.
Included in the study were 21 eyes. The vitreoretinal interface was visualized best with 870-nm OCT without EDI and was diminished with 1050-nm OCT. Graders preferred 1050 nm with EDI over 870 nm with EDI in qualitative comparisons of the choroid; 1050 nm without EDI was slightly preferred over 870 nm with EDI but was not statistically significant. SFCT measurements correlated well among the imaging modalities except for 870 nm without EDI.
SD-OCT with EDI at 870 nm provides good visualization of both the vitreoretinal interface and choroid, whereas 1050-nm SD-OCT with or without EDI provides more choroidal detail at the expense of visualization of the vitreoretinal interface.
Translational Relevance
Use of longer wavelength 1050-nm SD-OCT provides greater choroidal detail compared with 870-nm SD-OCT, but has reduced detail of the vitreoretinal interface. The significance of this trade-off for clinical management of retinal disease needs further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC4043107  PMID: 24932431
optical coherence tomography (OCT); retina; choroid; longer wavelength
8.  Progression of Geographic Atrophy and Genotype in Age-Related Macular Degeneration 
Ophthalmology  2010;117(8):1554-1559.e1.
To determine if genotype is associated with rate of growth of geographic atrophy (GA) in eyes with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Prospective analysis of participants in a randomized controlled clinical trial.
114 eyes of 114 participants in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).
Fundus photographs from AREDS participants with GA from whom a DNA specimen had been obtained and serial photographs had been taken over a minimum of 2 years were evaluated for progression as determined by change in cumulative area of GA. All fundus photographs were scanned, digitized, and centrally graded longitudinally for area of GA. The relationship of GA progression with previously identified genetic variants associated with AMD was assessed.
Main Outcome Measures
Genotype frequencies and change in cumulative area of GA.
The mean growth rate of geographic atrophy for the 114 eyes was 1.79 mm2/year (range= 0.17–4.76 mm2/year). No association between growth rate and genotype was present for variants in the CFH, C2, C3, APOE, and TLR3genes. For the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs10490924 in LOC387715/ARMS2, there was a significant association of GA growth rate, both adjusted and unadjusted for initial lesion size, with the homozygous risk genotype as compared to the homozygous non-risk genotype (unadjusted p-value = 0.002; Bonferroni corrected p-value = 0.014) and for allelic association(Bonferroni corrected p-value = 0.011). Analyses of other measures of geographic atrophy progression (progression to central GA from extrafoveal GA and development of bilateral GA in those initially with unilateral GA) showed no statistically significant association between progression and the LOC387715/ARMS2/HTRA1 genotype.
GA growth rates calculated from digitized serial fundus photographs showed no association with variants in the CFH, C2, C3, APOE, and TLR3 genes. There was a nominally statistically significant association with the LOC387715/ARMS2/HTRA1 genotype, although this finding was not supported by analyses of secondary measures of GA progression. Replication in other populations would be needed to establish the existence of an association.
PMCID: PMC2904435  PMID: 20381870
9.  Identification of a Rare Coding Variant in Complement 3 Associated with Age-related Macular Degeneration 
Nature genetics  2013;45(11):10.1038/ng.2758.
Macular degeneration is a common cause of blindness in the elderly. To identify rare coding variants associated with a large increase in risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), we sequenced 2,335 cases and 789 controls in 10 candidate loci (57 genes). To increase power, we augmented our control set with ancestry-matched exome sequenced controls. An analysis of coding variation in 2,268 AMD cases and 2,268 ancestry matched controls revealed two large-effect rare variants; previously described R1210C in the CFH gene (fcase = 0.51%, fcontrol = 0.02%, OR = 23.11), and newly identified K155Q in the C3 gene (fcase = 1.06%, fcontrol = 0.39%, OR = 2.68). The variants suggest decreased inhibition of C3 by Factor H, resulting in increased activation of the alternative complement pathway, as a key component of disease biology.
PMCID: PMC3812337  PMID: 24036949
10.  Emerging Applications of Polymersomes in Delivery: from Molecular Dynamics to Shrinkage of Tumors 
Progress in polymer science  2007;32(8-9):838-857.
Polymersomes are self-assembled shells of amphiphilic block copolymers that are currently being developed by many groups for fundamental insights into the nature of self-assembled states as well as for a variety of potential applications. While recent reviews have highlighted distinctive properties – particularly stability – that are strongly influenced by both copolymer type and polymer molecular weight, here we first review some of the more recent developments in computational molecular dynamics (MD) schemes that lend insight into assembly. We then review polymersome loading, in vivo stealthiness, degradation-based disassembly for controlled release, and even tumor-shrinkage in vivo. Comparisons of polymersomes with viral capsids are shown to encompass and inspire many aspects of current designs.
PMCID: PMC3969797  PMID: 24692840
liposomes; amphiphile; block copolymers; nanoparticles; controlled release
11.  Nanoparticle Shape Improves Delivery: Rational Coarse Grain Molecular Dynamics (rCG-MD) of Taxol in Worm-Like PEG-PCL Micelles 
Nanoparticle shape can improve drug delivery, based in part on recent findings that flexible, worm-like nanocarriers (Worms) increase the amount of drug delivered to tumors and shrink the tumors more effectively than spherical micelles (Spheres). Here, all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are used to build a rational coarse grain (rCG) model that helps clarify shape-dependent effects in delivery of the widely used anticancer drug Taxol by block copolymer micelles. Potentials for rCG-MD were developed to examine the partitioning of this hydrophobic-aromatic drug into Worms and Spheres that self-assemble in water from poly(ethyleneglycol)-poly(caprolactone) (PEG-PCL), a weakly segregating amphiphile. PCL is a biodegradable, hydrophobic polymer widely used in biomaterials and accurately modeled here. Thermodynamic integration of the force to pull a single Taxol molecule from the micelles into solvent shows that twice as much drug loads into Worms than Spheres, fully consistent with experiments. Diffusivity of drug in the hydrated PEG corona is surprisingly slow compared to that in the core, indicative of strong but transient drug-polymer interactions. The distinctly distended corona of the Worms enhances such interactions and reflects the same balance of molecular forces that underlie an experimentally-validated phase diagram for simulated Spheres, Worms, and Bilayers. Moreover, with realistic drug loadings in micro-second simulations, Taxol is seen to draw PEG chains into the PCL core, dispersing the drug while localizing it near the interface—thus providing a molecular explanation for a measurable burst release of drug as well as the enhanced delivery seen with Worms.
PMCID: PMC3966472  PMID: 22105885
12.  Pharmacogenetics for Genes Associated with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) in the Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials (CATT) 
Ophthalmology  2013;120(3):593-599.
To evaluate the pharmacogenetic relationship between genotypes of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) known to be associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and response to treatment with ranibizumab (Lucentis) or bevacizumab (Avastin) for neovascular AMD.
Clinical trial.
834 (73%) of 1149 patients participating in the Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials (CATT) were recruited through 43 CATT clinical centers.
Each patient was genotyped for SNPs rs1061170 (CFH), rs10490924 (ARMS2), rs11200638 (HTRA1), and rs2230199 (C3), using TaqMan SNP genotyping assays.
Main Outcomes Measures
Genotypic frequencies were compared to clinical measures of response to therapy at one year including mean visual acuity (VA), mean change in VA, ≥15 letter increase, retinal thickness, mean change in total foveal thickness, presence of fluid on OCT, presence of leakage on fluorescein angiography (FA), mean change in lesion size and mean number of injections administered. Differences in response by genotype were evaluated with tests of linear trend calculated from logistic regression models for categorical outcomes and linear regression models for continuous outcomes. To adjust for multiple comparisons, p≤0.01 was considered statistically significant.
No statistically significant differences in response by genotype were identified for any of the clinical measures studied. Specifically, there were no high-risk alleles that predicted final VA or change in VA, the degree of anatomical response (fluid on OCT or FA, retinal thickness, change in total foveal thickness, change in lesion size) or the number of injections. Furthermore, a stepwise analysis failed to show a significant epistatic interaction among the variants analyzed; i.e., response did not vary by the number of risk alleles present. The lack of association was similar whether patients were treated with ranibizumab or bevacizumab or whether they received monthly or pro re nata (PRN) dosing.
Although specific alleles for CFH, ARMS2, HTRA1 and C3 may predict the development of AMD, they did not predict response to anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy.
PMCID: PMC3633658  PMID: 23337555
13.  A Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channel Mutation Associated with Canine Daylight Blindness Provides Insight into a Role for the S2 Segment Tri-Asp motif in Channel Biogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88768.
Cone cyclic nucleotide-gated channels are tetramers formed by CNGA3 and CNGB3 subunits; CNGA3 subunits function as homotetrameric channels but CNGB3 exhibits channel function only when co-expressed with CNGA3. An aspartatic acid (Asp) to asparagine (Asn) missense mutation at position 262 in the canine CNGB3 (D262N) subunit results in loss of cone function (daylight blindness), suggesting an important role for this aspartic acid residue in channel biogenesis and/or function. Asp 262 is located in a conserved region of the second transmembrane segment containing three Asp residues designated the Tri-Asp motif. This motif is conserved in all CNG channels. Here we examine mutations in canine CNGA3 homomeric channels using a combination of experimental and computational approaches. Mutations of these conserved Asp residues result in the absence of nucleotide-activated currents in heterologous expression. A fluorescent tag on CNGA3 shows mislocalization of mutant channels. Co-expressing CNGB3 Tri-Asp mutants with wild type CNGA3 results in some functional channels, however, their electrophysiological characterization matches the properties of homomeric CNGA3 channels. This failure to record heteromeric currents suggests that Asp/Asn mutations affect heteromeric subunit assembly. A homology model of S1–S6 of the CNGA3 channel was generated and relaxed in a membrane using molecular dynamics simulations. The model predicts that the Tri-Asp motif is involved in non-specific salt bridge pairings with positive residues of S3/S4. We propose that the D262N mutation in dogs with CNGB3-day blindness results in the loss of these inter-helical interactions altering the electrostatic equilibrium within in the S1–S4 bundle. Because residues analogous to Tri-Asp in the voltage-gated Shaker potassium channel family were implicated in monomer folding, we hypothesize that destabilizing these electrostatic interactions impairs the monomer folding state in D262N mutant CNG channels during biogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3931646  PMID: 24586388
14.  Asp44 Stabilizes the Trp41 Gate of the M2 Proton Channel of Influenza A Virus 
Structure (London, England : 1993)  2013;21(11):2033-2041.
Channel gating and proton conductance of the influenza A virus M2 channel result from complex pH-dependent interactions involving the pore-lining residues His37, Trp41, and Asp44. Protons diffusing from the outside of the virus protonate His37, which opens the Trp41 gate and allows one or more protons to move into the virus interior. The Trp41 gate gives rise to a strong asymmetry in the conductance, favoring rapid proton flux only when the outside is at acid pH. Here, we show that the proton currents recorded for mutants of Asp44, including D44N found in the A/FPV/Rostock/34 strain, lose this asymmetry. Moreover, NMR and MD simulations show that the mutations induce a conformational change similar to that induced by protonation of His37 at low pH, and decrease the structural stability of the hydrophobic seal associated with the Trp41 gate. Thus, Asp44 is able to determine two important properties of the M2 proton channel.
PMCID: PMC3927992  PMID: 24139991
15.  Solution NMR Structure of a Designed Metalloprotein and Complementary Molecular Dynamics Refinement 
Structure (London, England : 1993)  2008;16(2):10.1016/j.str.2007.11.011.
We report the solution NMR structure of a designed dimetal-binding protein, di-Zn(II) DFsc, along with a secondary refinement step employing molecular dynamics techniques. Calculation of the initial NMR structural ensemble by standard methods led to distortions in the metal-ligand geometries at the active site. Unrestrained molecular dynamics using a non-bonded force field for the metal shell, followed by quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical dynamics of DFsc, were used to relax local frustrations at the dimetal site that were apparent in the initial NMR structure and provide a more realistic description of the structure. The MD model is consistent with NMR restraints, and in good agreement with the structural and functional properties expected for DF proteins. This work demonstrates that NMR structures of metalloproteins can be further refined using classical and first-principles molecular dynamics methods in the presence of explicit solvent to provide otherwise unavailable insight into the geometry of the metal center.
PMCID: PMC3814030  PMID: 18275812
16.  Exploring Histidine Conformations in the M2 Channel Lumen of the Influenza A Virus at Neutral pH via Molecular Simulations 
The pH-regulated M2 proton channel from the influenza A virus has a His-tetrad in its transmembrane (TM) domain that is essential for proton conduction. At neutral pH, the tetrad has been observed in two distinct configurations, the “His-box” and “dimer-of-dimers”, with similar backbone structures suggesting competing models for proton conduction. Here, we propose that both conformations can play a role. In support of this hypothesis, we used molecular dynamics simulations based on density functional theory to simulate the M2-TM domain and force-field-based simulations to estimate the relevant free-energy barriers. Both configurations are stable on accessible simulation time scales, and transitions between them occur faster than the millisecond time scale of proton conduction. Moreover, the deprotonation energy is too high for spontaneous conduction, consistent with their occurrence in the low-current regime. Our computations support a multiconfiguration model with different population levels, thereby connecting experimental data obtained under different conditions.
PMCID: PMC3779100  PMID: 24069512
17.  Hinge-bending motions in the pore domain of a bacterial voltage -gated sodium channel 
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta  2012;1818(9):2120-2125.
Computational methods and experimental data are used to provide structural models for NaChBac, the homo-tetrameric voltage-gated sodium channel from the bacterium Bacillus halodurans, with a closed and partially open pore domain. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations on membrane-bound homo-tetrameric NaChBac structures, each comprising six helical transmembrane segments (labeled S1 through S6), reveal that the shape of the lumen, which is defined by the bundle of four alpha-helical S6 segments, is modulated by hinge bending motions around the S6 glycine residues. Mutation of these glycine residues into proline and alanine affects, respectively, the structure and conformational flexibility of the S6 bundle. In the closed channel conformation, a cluster of stacked phenylalanine residues from the four S6 helices hinders diffusion of water molecules and Na+ ions. Activation of the voltage sensor domains causes destabilization of the aforementioned cluster of phenylalanines, leading to a more open structure. The conformational change involving the phenylalanine cluster promotes a kink in S6, suggesting that channel gating likely results from the combined action of hinge-bending motions of the S6 bundle and concerted reorientation of the aromatic phenylalanine side-chains.
PMCID: PMC3378804  PMID: 22579978
18.  Genetic Determinants of Macular Pigments in Women of the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study 
To investigate genetic determinants of macular pigment optical density in women from the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS), an ancillary study of the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.
1585 of 2005 CAREDS participants had macular pigment optical density (MPOD) measured noninvasively using customized heterochromatic flicker photometry and blood samples genotyped for 440 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 26 candidate genes related to absorption, transport, binding, and cleavage of carotenoids directly, or via lipid transport. SNPs were individually tested for associations with MPOD using least-squares linear regression.
Twenty-one SNPs from 11 genes were associated with MPOD (P ≤ 0.05) after adjusting for dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin. This includes variants in or near genes related to zeaxanthin binding in the macula (GSTP1), carotenoid cleavage (BCMO1), cholesterol transport or uptake (SCARB1, ABCA1, ABCG5, and LIPC), long-chain omega-3 fatty acid status (ELOVL2, FADS1, and FADS2), and various maculopathies (ALDH3A2 and RPE65). The strongest association was for rs11645428 near BCMO1 (βA = 0.029, P = 2.2 × 10−4). Conditional modeling within genes and further adjustment for other predictors of MPOD, including waist circumference, diabetes, and dietary intake of fiber, resulted in 13 SNPs from 10 genes maintaining independent association with MPOD. Variation in these single gene polymorphisms accounted for 5% of the variability in MPOD (P = 3.5 × 10−11).
Our results support that MPOD is a multi-factorial phenotype associated with variation in genes related to carotenoid transport, uptake, and metabolism, independent of known dietary and health influences on MPOD.
In 1585 postmenopausal women of the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study sample, common genetic variants in or near genes involved in carotenoid transport, uptake, and metabolism were associated with density of lutein and zeaxanthin in the macula, independent of other known predictors, including dietary intake of carotenoids.
PMCID: PMC3626525  PMID: 23404124
19.  Exploring Volatile General Anesthetic Binding to a Closed Membrane-Bound Bacterial Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel via Computation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(6):e1003090.
Despite the clinical ubiquity of anesthesia, the molecular basis of anesthetic action is poorly understood. Amongst the many molecular targets proposed to contribute to anesthetic effects, the voltage gated sodium channels (VGSCs) should also be considered relevant, as they have been shown to be sensitive to all general anesthetics tested thus far. However, binding sites for VGSCs have not been identified. Moreover, the mechanism of inhibition is still largely unknown. The recently reported atomic structures of several members of the bacterial VGSC family offer the opportunity to shed light on the mechanism of action of anesthetics on these important ion channels. To this end, we have performed a molecular dynamics “flooding” simulation on a membrane-bound structural model of the archetypal bacterial VGSC, NaChBac in a closed pore conformation. This computation allowed us to identify binding sites and access pathways for the commonly used volatile general anesthetic, isoflurane. Three sites have been characterized with binding affinities in a physiologically relevant range. Interestingly, one of the most favorable sites is in the pore of the channel, suggesting that the binding sites of local and general anesthetics may overlap. Surprisingly, even though the activation gate of the channel is closed, and therefore the pore and the aqueous compartment at the intracellular side are disconnected, we observe binding of isoflurane in the central cavity. Several sampled association and dissociation events in the central cavity provide consistent support to the hypothesis that the “fenestrations” present in the membrane-embedded region of the channel act as the long-hypothesized hydrophobic drug access pathway.
Author Summary
The molecular mechanisms mediating the pharmacologically induced state of general anesthesia are, in general, poorly understood. Modulation of voltage gated sodium channels is thought to play a major role in anesthesia, as several members of this class of channels show a significant response to general anesthetics. However, the detailed mechanism of inhibition or potentiation of these channels is completely unknown. Recently, the structures of several members of the bacterial family became available, thereby offering the opportunity to shed light on some of these issues. We have performed molecular dynamics simulations on one of these bacterial voltage gated sodium channels, NaChBac, to identify binding sites and access pathways for the volatile general anesthetic isoflurane. We found that isoflurane, at physiologically relevant concentrations, binds the channel at three distinct sites. One site is in the pore of the channel, suggesting that isoflurane may hinder the permeant sodium ions. Surprisingly, we found that this binding site is accessible to the drug even when the pore and the aqueous compartment at the intracellular side are disconnected. In our simulations, the “fenestrations” present in the membrane-embedded region of the channel act as the long-hypothesized hydrophobic drug access pathway.
PMCID: PMC3681623  PMID: 23785267
20.  An emerging consensus on voltage-dependent gating from computational modeling and molecular dynamics simulations 
The Journal of General Physiology  2012;140(6):587-594.
Developing an understanding of the mechanism of voltage-gated ion channels in molecular terms requires knowledge of the structure of the active and resting conformations. Although the active-state conformation is known from x-ray structures, an atomic resolution structure of a voltage-dependent ion channel in the resting state is not currently available. This has motivated various efforts at using computational modeling methods and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to provide the missing information. A comparison of recent computational results reveals an emerging consensus on voltage-dependent gating from computational modeling and MD simulations. This progress is highlighted in the broad context of preexisting work about voltage-gated channels.
PMCID: PMC3514734  PMID: 23183694
21.  Computer Simulations of Voltage-Gated Cation Channels 
The relentless growth in computational power has seen increasing applications of molecular dynamics (MD) simulation to the study of membrane proteins in realistic membrane environments, which include explicit membrane lipids, water and ions. The concomitant increasing availability of membrane protein structures for ion channels, and transporters -- to name just two examples -- has stimulated many of these MD studies. In the case of voltage-gated cation channels (VGCCs) recent computational works have focused on ion-conduction and gating mechanisms, along with their regulation by agonist/antagonist ligands. The information garnered from these computational studies is largely inaccessible to experiment and is crucial for understanding the interplay between the structure and function as well as providing new directions for experiments. This article highlights recent advances in probing the structure and function of potassium channels and offers a perspective on the challenges likely to arise in making analogous progress in characterizing sodium channels.
PMCID: PMC3328965  PMID: 22523619
Ion Channels; Ionic Conduction; Gating; S4 helix; Regulation; Molecular Dynamics Simulations; Structure and Function
22.  Hypomethylation of IL17RC Promoter Associates with Age-related Macular Degeneration 
Cell reports  2012;2(5):1151-1158.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the elderly population worldwide. While recent studies have demonstrated strong genetic associations of single nucleotide polymorphisms within a number of genes and AMD, other modes of regulation are also likely to play a role in its etiology. We identified a significantly decreased level of methylation on the IL17RC promoter in AMD patients. Further, we showed that hypomethylation of the IL17RC promoter in AMD patients led to an elevated expression of its protein and mRNA in peripheral blood as well as in the affected retina and choroid, suggesting that the DNA methylation pattern and expression of IL17RC may potentially serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis of AMD and likely plays a role in disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3513594  PMID: 23177625
23.  Evidence of association of APOE with age-related macular degeneration - a pooled analysis of 15 studies 
Human mutation  2011;32(12):1407-1416.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of incurable visual impairment in high-income countries. Previous studies report inconsistent associations between AMD and apolipoprotein E (APOE), a lipid transport protein involved in low-density cholesterol modulation. Potential interaction between APOE and sex, and smoking status, has been reported. We present a pooled analysis (n=21,160) demonstrating associations between late AMD and APOε4 (OR=0.72 per haplotype; CI: 0.65–0.74; P=4.41×10−11) and APOε2 (OR=1.83 for homozygote carriers; CI: 1.04–3.23; P=0.04), following adjustment for age-group and sex within each study and smoking status. No evidence of interaction between APOE and sex or smoking was found. Ever smokers had significant increased risk relative to never smokers for both neovascular (OR=1.54; CI: 1.38–1.72; P=2.8×10−15) and atrophic (OR=1.38; CI: 1.18–1.61; P=3.37×10−5) AMD but not early AMD (OR=0.94; CI: 0.86–1.03; P=0.16), implicating smoking as a major contributing factor to disease progression from early signs to the visually disabling late forms. Extended haplotype analysis incorporating rs405509 did not identify additional risks beyondε2 and ε4 haplotypes. Our expanded analysis substantially improves our understanding of the association between the APOE locus and AMD. It further provides evidence supporting the role of cholesterol modulation, and low-density cholesterol specifically, in AMD disease etiology.
PMCID: PMC3217135  PMID: 21882290
age-related macular degeneration; AMD; apolipoprotein E; APOE; case-control association study
24.  The Related Transcriptional Enhancer Factor-1 Isoform, TEAD4216, Can Repress Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Expression in Mammalian Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e31260.
Increased cellular production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is responsible for the development and progression of multiple cancers and other neovascular conditions, and therapies targeting post-translational VEGF products are used in the treatment of these diseases. Development of methods to control and modify the transcription of the VEGF gene is an alternative approach that may have therapeutic potential. We have previously shown that isoforms of the transcriptional enhancer factor 1-related (TEAD4) protein can enhance the production of VEGF. In this study we describe a new TEAD4 isoform, TEAD4216, which represses VEGF promoter activity. The TEAD4216 isoform inhibits human VEGF promoter activity and does not require the presence of the hypoxia responsive element (HRE), which is the sequence critical to hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-mediated effects. The TEAD4216 protein is localized to the cytoplasm, whereas the enhancer isoforms are found within the nucleus. The TEAD4216 isoform can competitively repress the stimulatory activity of the TEAD4434 and TEAD4148 enhancers. Synthesis of the native VEGF165 protein and cellular proliferation is suppressed by the TEAD4216 isoform. Mutational analysis indicates that nuclear or cytoplasmic localization of any isoform determines whether it acts as an enhancer or repressor, respectively. The TEAD4216 isoform appears to inhibit VEGF production independently of the HRE required activity by HIF, suggesting that this alternatively spliced isoform of TEAD4 may provide a novel approach to treat VEGF-dependent diseases.
PMCID: PMC3382240  PMID: 22761647
25.  Variations in Apolipoprotein E Frequency With Age in a Pooled Analysis of a Large Group of Older People 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;173(12):1357-1364.
Variation in the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE) has been reported to be associated with longevity in humans. The authors assessed the allelic distribution of APOE isoforms ε2, ε3, and ε4 among 10,623 participants from 15 case-control and cohort studies of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in populations of European ancestry (study dates ranged from 1990 to 2009). The authors included only the 10,623 control subjects from these studies who were classified as having no evidence of AMD, since variation within the APOE gene has previously been associated with AMD. In an analysis stratified by study center, gender, and smoking status, there was a decreasing frequency of the APOE ε4 isoform with increasing age (χ2 for trend = 14.9 (1 df); P = 0.0001), with a concomitant increase in the ε3 isoform (χ2 for trend = 11.3 (1 df); P = 0.001). The association with age was strongest in ε4 homozygotes; the frequency of ε4 homozygosity decreased from 2.7% for participants aged 60 years or less to 0.8% for those over age 85 years, while the proportion of participants with the ε3/ε4 genotype decreased from 26.8% to 17.5% across the same age range. Gender had no significant effect on the isoform frequencies. This study provides strong support for an association of the APOE gene with human longevity.
PMCID: PMC3145394  PMID: 21498624
aged; apolipoprotein E2; apolipoprotein E3; apolipoprotein E4; apolipoproteins E; longevity; meta-analysis; multicenter study

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