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1.  PCA3 in prostate cancer and tumor aggressiveness detection on 407 high-risk patients: a National Cancer Institute experience 
Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most common male cancer in Europe and the US. The early diagnosis relies on prostate specific antigen (PSA) serum test, even if it showed clear limits. Among the new tests currently under study, one of the most promising is the prostate cancer gene 3 (PCA3), a non-coding mRNA whose level increases up to 100 times in PCa tissues when compared to normal tissues. With the present study we contribute to the validation of the clinical utility of the PCA3 test and to the evaluation of its prognostic potential.
407 Italian men, with two or more PCa risk factors and at least a previous negative biopsy, entering the Urology Unit of Regina Elena National Cancer Institute, were tested for PCA3, total PSA (tPSA) and free PSA (fPSA and f/tPSA) tests. Out of the 407 men enrolled, 195 were positive for PCa and 114 of them received an accurate staging with evaluation of the Gleason score (Gs). Then, the PCA3 score was correlated to biopsy outcome, and the diagnostic and prognostic utility were evaluated.
Out of the 407 biopsies performed after the PCA3 test, 195 (48%) resulted positive for PCa; the PCA3 score was significantly higher in this population (p < 0.0001) differently to tPSA (p = 0.87). Moreover, the PCA3 test outperformed the f/tPSA (p = 0.01). The sensitivity (94.9) and specificity (60.1) of the PCA3 test showed a better balance for a threshold of 35 when compared to 20, even if the best result was achieved considering a cutoff of 51, with sensitivity and specificity of 82.1% and 79.3%, respectively. Finally, comparing values of the PCA3 test between two subgroups with increasing Gs (Gs ≤ 6 versus Gs ≥ 7) a significant association between PCA3 score and Gs was found (p = 0.02).
The PCA3 test showed the best diagnostic performance when compared to tPSA and f/tPSA, facilitating the selection of high-risk patients that may benefit from the execution of a saturation prostatic biopsy. Moreover, the PCA3 test showed a prognostic value, as higher PCA3 score values are associated to a greater tumor aggressiveness.
PMCID: PMC4324853  PMID: 25651917
Prostate cancer; Urine and blood biomarkers; Prostate Specific Antigen; Prostate Cancer gene 3; Tumor aggressiveness
2.  Identification of the Interactors of Human Nibrin (NBN) and of Its 26 kDa and 70 kDa Fragments Arising from the NBN 657del5 Founder Mutation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114651.
Nibrin (also named NBN or NBS1) is a component of the MRE11/RAD50/NBN complex, which is involved in early steps of DNA double strand breaks sensing and repair. Mutations within the NBN gene are responsible for the Nijmegen breakage syndrome (NBS). The 90% of NBS patients are homozygous for the 657del5 mutation, which determines the synthesis of two truncated proteins of 26 kDa (p26) and 70 kDa (p70). Here, HEK293 cells have been exploited to transiently express either the full-length NBN protein or the p26 or p70 fragments, followed by affinity chromatography enrichment of the eluates. The application of an unsupervised proteomics approach, based upon SDS-PAGE separation and shotgun digestion of protein bands followed by MS/MS protein identification, indicates the occurrence of previously unreported protein interacting partners of the full-length NBN protein and the p26 fragment containing the FHA/BRCT1 domains, especially after cell irradiation. In particular, results obtained shed light on new possible roles of NBN and of the p26 fragment in ROS scavenging, in the DNA damage response, and in protein folding and degradation. In particular, here we show that p26 interacts with PARP1 after irradiation, and this interaction exerts an inhibitory effect on PARP1 activity as measured by NAD+ levels. Furthermore, the p26-PARP1 interaction seems to be responsible for the persistence of ROS, and in turn of DSBs, at 24 h from IR. Since some of the newly identified interactors of the p26 and p70 fragments have not been found to interact with the full-length NBN, these interactions may somehow contribute to the key biological phenomena underpinning NBS.
PMCID: PMC4259352  PMID: 25485873
3.  The Five-To-Six-Coordination Transition of Ferric Human Serum Heme-Albumin Is Allosterically-Modulated by Ibuprofen and Warfarin: A Combined XAS and MD Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104231.
Human serum albumin (HSA) is involved physiologically in heme scavenging; in turn, heme-albumin (HSA-heme-Fe) displays globin-like properties. Here, the allosteric effect of ibuprofen and warfarin on the local atomic structure around the ferric heme-Fe (heme-Fe(III)) atom of HSA-heme-Fe (HSA-heme-Fe(III)) has been probed by Fe-K edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). The quantitative analysis of the Fe-K edge extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) signals and modeling of the near edge (XANES) spectral features demonstrated that warfarin and ibuprofen binding modify the local structure of the heme-Fe(III). Combined XAS data analysis and targeted molecular dynamics (MD) simulations provided atomic resolution insights of protein structural rearrangements required to accommodate the heme-Fe(III) upon ibuprofen and warfarin binding. In the absence of drugs, the heme-Fe(III) atom is penta-coordinated having distorted 4+1 configuration made by the nitrogen atoms of the porphyrin ring and the oxygen phenoxy atom of the Tyr161 residue. MD simulations show that ibuprofen and warfarin association to the secondary fatty acid (FA) binding site 2 (FA2) induces a reorientation of domain I of HSA-heme-Fe(III), this leads to the redirection of the His146 residue providing an additional bond to the heme-Fe(III) atom, providing the 5+1 configuration. The comparison of Fe-K edge XANES spectra calculated using MD structures with those obtained experimentally confirms the reliability of the proposed structural model. As a whole, combining XAS and MD simulations it has been possible to provide a reliable model of the heme-Fe(III) atom coordination state and to understand the complex allosteric transition occurring in HSA-heme-Fe(III) upon ibuprofen and warfarin binding.
PMCID: PMC4143227  PMID: 25153171
4.  Characterization of the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Catalytic Mechanism: A Pre-Steady-State and Steady-State Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102470.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA), an enzyme of 30 kDa grouped in the kallikrein family is synthesized to high levels by normal and malignant prostate epithelial cells. Therefore, it is the main biomarker currently used for early diagnosis of prostate cancer. Here, presteady-state and steady-state kinetics of the PSA-catalyzed hydrolysis of the fluorogenic substrate Mu-His-Ser-Ser-Lys-Leu-Gln-AMC (spanning from pH 6.5 to pH 9.0, at 37.0°C) are reported. Steady-state kinetics display at every pH value a peculiar feature, represented by an initial “burst” phase of the fluorescence signal before steady-state conditions are taking place. This behavior, which has been already observed in other members of the kallikrein family, suggests the occurrence of a proteolytic mechanism wherefore the acylation step is faster than the deacylation process. This feature allows to detect the acyl intermediate, where the newly formed C-terminal carboxylic acid of the cleaved substrate forms an ester bond with the -OH group of the Ser195 catalytic residue, whereas the AMC product has been already released. Therefore, the pH-dependence of the two enzymatic steps (i.e., acylation and deacylation) has been separately characterized, allowing the determination of pKa values. On this basis, possible residues are tentatively identified in PSA, which might regulate these two steps by interacting with the two portions of the substrate.
PMCID: PMC4113483  PMID: 25068395
5.  Nitrosylation Mechanisms of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Campylobacter jejuni Truncated Hemoglobins N, O, and P 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102811.
Truncated hemoglobins (trHbs) are widely distributed in bacteria and plants and have been found in some unicellular eukaryotes. Phylogenetic analysis based on protein sequences shows that trHbs branch into three groups, designated N (or I), O (or II), and P (or III). Most trHbs are involved in the O2/NO chemistry and/or oxidation/reduction function, permitting the survival of the microorganism in the host. Here, a detailed comparative analysis of kinetics and/or thermodynamics of (i) ferrous Mycobacterium tubertulosis trHbs N and O (Mt-trHbN and Mt-trHbO, respectively), and Campylobacter jejuni trHb (Cj-trHbP) nitrosylation, (ii) nitrite-mediated nitrosylation of ferrous Mt-trHbN, Mt-trHbO, and Cj-trHbP, and (iii) NO-based reductive nitrosylation of ferric Mt-trHbN, Mt-trHbO, and Cj-trHbP is reported. Ferrous and ferric Mt-trHbN and Cj-trHbP display a very high reactivity towards NO; however, the conversion of nitrite to NO is facilitated primarily by ferrous Mt-trHbN. Values of kinetic and/or thermodynamic parameters reflect specific trHb structural features, such as the ligand diffusion pathways to/from the heme, the heme distal pocket structure and polarity, and the ligand stabilization mechanisms. In particular, the high reactivity of Mt-trHbN and Cj-trHbP reflects the great ligand accessibility to the heme center by two protein matrix tunnels and the E7-path, respectively, and the penta-coordination of the heme-Fe atom. In contrast, the heme-Fe atom of Mt-trHbO the ligand accessibility to the heme center of Mt-trHbO needs large conformational readjustments, thus limiting the heme-based reactivity. These results agree with different roles of Mt-trHbN, Mt-trHbO, and Cj-trHbP in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4106858  PMID: 25051055
6.  Nitrite-Reductase and Peroxynitrite Isomerization Activities of Methanosarcina acetivorans Protoglobin 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95391.
Within the globin superfamily, protoglobins (Pgb) belong phylogenetically to the same cluster of two-domain globin-coupled sensors and single-domain sensor globins. Multiple functional roles have been postulated for Methanosarcina acetivorans Pgb (Ma-Pgb), since the detoxification of reactive nitrogen and oxygen species might co-exist with enzymatic activity(ies) to facilitate the conversion of CO to methane. Here, the nitrite-reductase and peroxynitrite isomerization activities of the CysE20Ser mutant of Ma-Pgb (Ma-Pgb*) are reported and analyzed in parallel with those of related heme-proteins. Kinetics of nitrite-reductase activity of ferrous Ma-Pgb* (Ma-Pgb*-Fe(II)) is biphasic and values of the second-order rate constant for the reduction of NO2– to NO and the concomitant formation of nitrosylated Ma-Pgb*-Fe(II) (Ma-Pgb*-Fe(II)-NO) are kapp1 = 9.6±0.2 M–1 s–1 and kapp2 = 1.2±0.1 M–1 s–1 (at pH 7.4 and 20°C). The kapp1 and kapp2 values increase by about one order of magnitude for each pH unit decrease, between pH 8.3 and 6.2, indicating that the reaction requires one proton. On the other hand, kinetics of peroxynitrite isomerization catalyzed by ferric Ma-Pgb* (Ma-Pgb*-Fe(III)) is monophasic and values of the second order rate constant for peroxynitrite isomerization by Ma-Pgb*-Fe(III) and of the first order rate constant for the spontaneous conversion of peroxynitrite to nitrate are happ = 3.8×104 M–1 s–1 and h0 = 2.8×10–1 s–1 (at pH 7.4 and 20°C). The pH-dependence of hon and h0 values reflects the acid-base equilibrium of peroxynitrite (pKa = 6.7 and 6.9, respectively; at 20°C), indicating that HOONO is the species that reacts preferentially with the heme-Fe(III) atom. These results highlight the potential role of Pgbs in the biosynthesis and scavenging of reactive nitrogen and oxygen species.
PMCID: PMC4020757  PMID: 24827820
7.  Isoniazid Inhibits the Heme-Based Reactivity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Truncated Hemoglobin N 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69762.
Isoniazid represents a first-line anti-tuberculosis medication in prevention and treatment. This prodrug is activated by a mycobacterial catalase-peroxidase enzyme called KatG in Mycobacterium tuberculosis), thereby inhibiting the synthesis of mycolic acid, required for the mycobacterial cell wall. Moreover, isoniazid activation by KatG produces some radical species (e.g., nitrogen monoxide), that display anti-mycobacterial activity. Remarkably, the ability of mycobacteria to persist in vivo in the presence of reactive nitrogen and oxygen species implies the presence in these bacteria of (pseudo-)enzymatic detoxification systems, including truncated hemoglobins (trHbs). Here, we report that isoniazid binds reversibly to ferric and ferrous M. tuberculosis trHb type N (or group I; Mt-trHbN(III) and Mt-trHbN(II), respectively) with a simple bimolecular process, which perturbs the heme-based spectroscopic properties. Values of thermodynamic and kinetic parameters for isoniazid binding to Mt-trHbN(III) and Mt-trHbN(II) are K = (1.1±0.1)×10−4 M, kon = (5.3±0.6)×103 M−1 s−1 and koff = (4.6±0.5)×10−1 s−1; and D = (1.2±0.2)×10−3 M, don = (1.3±0.4)×103 M−1 s−1, and doff = 1.5±0.4 s−1, respectively, at pH 7.0 and 20.0°C. Accordingly, isoniazid inhibits competitively azide binding to Mt-trHbN(III) and Mt-trHbN(III)-catalyzed peroxynitrite isomerization. Moreover, isoniazid inhibits Mt-trHbN(II) oxygenation and carbonylation. Although the structure of the Mt-trHbN-isoniazid complex is not available, here we show by docking simulation that isoniazid binding to the heme-Fe atom indeed may take place. These data suggest a direct role of isoniazid to impair fundamental functions of mycobacteria, e.g. scavenging of reactive nitrogen and oxygen species, and metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3731299  PMID: 23936350
8.  Structure and Haem-Distal Site Plasticity in Methanosarcina acetivorans Protoglobin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66144.
Protoglobin from Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A (MaPgb), a strictly anaerobic methanogenic Archaea, is a dimeric haem-protein whose biological role is still unknown. As other globins, protoglobin can bind O2, CO and NO reversibly in vitro, but it displays specific functional and structural properties within members of the hemoglobin superfamily. CO binding to and dissociation from the haem occurs through biphasic kinetics, which arise from binding to (and dissociation from) two distinct tertiary states in a ligation-dependent equilibrium. From the structural viewpoint, protoglobin-specific loops and a N-terminal extension of 20 residues completely bury the haem within the protein matrix. Thus, access of small ligand molecules to the haem is granted by two apolar tunnels, not common to other globins, which reach the haem distal site from locations at the B/G and B/E helix interfaces. Here, the roles played by residues Trp(60)B9, Tyr(61)B10 and Phe(93)E11 in ligand recognition and stabilization are analyzed, through crystallographic investigations on the ferric protein and on selected mutants. Specifically, protein structures are reported for protoglobin complexes with cyanide, with azide (also in the presence of Xenon), and with more bulky ligands, such as imidazole and nicotinamide. Values of the rate constant for cyanide dissociation from ferric MaPgb-cyanide complexes have been correlated to hydrogen bonds provided by Trp(60)B9 and Tyr(61)B10 that stabilize the haem-Fe(III)-bound cyanide. We show that protoglobin can strikingly reshape, in a ligand-dependent way, the haem distal site, where Phe(93)E11 acts as ligand sensor and controls accessibility to the haem through the tunnel system by modifying the conformation of Trp(60)B9.
PMCID: PMC3680402  PMID: 23776624
9.  Reciprocal Allosteric Modulation of Carbon Monoxide and Warfarin Binding to Ferrous Human Serum Heme-Albumin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58842.
Human serum albumin (HSA), the most abundant protein in human plasma, could be considered as a prototypic monomeric allosteric protein, since the ligand-dependent conformational adaptability of HSA spreads beyond the immediate proximity of the binding site(s). As a matter of fact, HSA is a major transport protein in the bloodstream and the regulation of the functional allosteric interrelationships between the different binding sites represents a fundamental information for the knowledge of its transport function. Here, kinetics and thermodynamics of the allosteric modulation: (i) of carbon monoxide (CO) binding to ferrous human serum heme-albumin (HSA-heme-Fe(II)) by warfarin (WF), and (ii) of WF binding to HSA-heme-Fe(II) by CO are reported. All data were obtained at pH 7.0 and 25°C. Kinetics of CO and WF binding to the FA1 and FA7 sites of HSA-heme-Fe(II), respectively, follows a multi-exponential behavior (with the same relative percentage for the two ligands). This can be accounted for by the existence of multiple conformations and/or heme-protein axial coordination forms of HSA-heme-Fe(II). The HSA-heme-Fe(II) populations have been characterized by resonance Raman spectroscopy, indicating the coexistence of different species characterized by four-, five- and six-coordination of the heme-Fe atom. As a whole, these results suggest that: (i) upon CO binding a conformational change of HSA-heme-Fe(II) takes place (likely reflecting the displacement of an endogenous ligand by CO), and (ii) CO and/or WF binding brings about a ligand-dependent variation of the HSA-heme-Fe(II) population distribution of the various coordinating species. The detailed thermodynamic and kinetic analysis here reported allows a quantitative description of the mutual allosteric effect of CO and WF binding to HSA-heme-Fe(II).
PMCID: PMC3605432  PMID: 23555601
10.  Neuroprotective Effects of 17β-Estradiol Rely on Estrogen Receptor Membrane Initiated Signals 
Besides its crucial role in many physiological events, 17β-estradiol (E2) exerts protective effects in the central nervous system. The E2 effects are not restricted to the brain areas related with the control of reproductive function, but rather are widespread throughout the developing and the adult brain. E2 actions are mediated through estrogen receptors (i.e., ERα and ERβ) belonging to the nuclear receptor super-family. As members of the ligand-regulated transcription factor family, classically, the actions of ERs in the brain were thought to mediate only the E2 long-term transcriptional effects. However, a growing body of evidence highlighted rapid, membrane initiated E2 effects in the brain that are independent of ER transcriptional activities and are involved in E2-induced neuroprotection. The aim of this review is to focus on the rapid effects of E2 in the brain highlighting the specific role of the signaling pathway(s) of the ERβ subtype in the neuroprotective actions of E2.
PMCID: PMC3319910  PMID: 22493583
estrogen receptor α; estrogen receptor β; 17β-estradiol; neuroprotective effects; membrane initiated signals
11.  Ligation Tunes Protein Reactivity in an Ancient Haemoglobin: Kinetic Evidence for an Allosteric Mechanism in Methanosarcina acetivorans Protoglobin 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33614.
Protoglobin from Methanosarcina acetivorans (MaPgb) is a dimeric globin with peculiar structural properties such as a completely buried haem and two orthogonal tunnels connecting the distal cavity to the solvent. CO binding to and dissociation from MaPgb occur through a biphasic kinetics. We show that the heterogenous kinetics arises from binding to (and dissociation from) two tertiary conformations in ligation-dependent equilibrium. Ligation favours the species with high binding rate (and low dissociation rate). The equilibrium is shifted towards the species with low binding (and high dissociation) rates for the unliganded molecules. A quantitative model is proposed to describe the observed carbonylation kinetics.
PMCID: PMC3313925  PMID: 22479420
12.  Estrogen Signaling Multiple Pathways to Impact Gene Transcription 
Current Genomics  2006;7(8):497-508.
Steroid hormones exert profound effects on cell growth, development, differentiation, and homeostasis. Their effects are mediated through specific intracellular steroid receptors that act via multiple mechanisms. Among others, the action mechanism starting upon 17β-estradiol (E2) binds to its receptors (ER) is considered a paradigmatic example of how steroid hormones function. Ligand-activated ER dimerizes and translocates in the nucleus where it recognizes specific hormone response elements located in or near promoter DNA regions of target genes. Behind the classical genomic mechanism shared with other steroid hormones, E2 also modulates gene expression by a second indirect mechanism that involves the interaction of ER with other transcription factors which, in turn, bind their cognate DNA elements. In this case, ER modulates the activities of transcription factors such as the activator protein (AP)-1, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) and stimulating protein-1 (Sp-1), by stabilizing DNA-protein complexes and/or recruiting co-activators. In addition, E2 binding to ER may also exert rapid actions that start with the activation of a variety of signal transduction pathways (e.g. ERK/MAPK, p38/MAPK, PI3K/AKT, PLC/PKC). The debate about the contribution of different ER-mediated signaling pathways to coordinate the expression of specific sets of genes is still open. This review will focus on the recent knowledge about the mechanism by which ERs regulate the expression of target genes and the emerging field of integration of membrane and nuclear receptor signaling, giving examples of the ways by which the genomic and non-genomic actions of ERs on target genes converge.
PMCID: PMC2269003  PMID: 18369406
Estrogen; estrogen receptors; genomic and non-genomic action mechanism; gene transcription
13.  Involvement of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Rhodanese in Protection from Cyanide Toxicity▿  
Cyanide is a serious environmental pollutant and a biocontrol metabolite in plant growth-promoting Pseudomonas species. Here we report on the presence of multiple sulfurtransferases in the cyanogenic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 and investigate in detail RhdA, a thiosulfate:cyanide sulfurtransferase (rhodanese) which converts cyanide to less toxic thiocyanate. RhdA is a cytoplasmic enzyme acting as the principal rhodanese in P. aeruginosa. The rhdA gene forms a transcriptional unit with the PA4955 and psd genes and is controlled by two promoters located upstream of PA4955 and rhdA. Both promoters direct constitutive RhdA expression and show similar patterns of activity, involving moderate down-regulation at the stationary phase or in the presence of exogenous cyanide. We previously observed that RhdA overproduction protects Escherichia coli against cyanide toxicity, and here we show that physiological RhdA levels contribute to P. aeruginosa survival under cyanogenic conditions. The growth of a ΔrhdA mutant is impaired under cyanogenic conditions and fully restored upon complementation with rhdA. Wild-type P. aeruginosa outcompetes the ΔrhdA mutant in cyanogenic coculture assays. Hence, RhdA could be regarded as an effector of P. aeruginosa intrinsic resistance to cyanide, insofar as it provides the bacterium with a defense mechanism against endogenous cyanide toxicity, in addition to cyanide-resistant respiration.
PMCID: PMC1796984  PMID: 17098912
14.  Palmitoylation-dependent Estrogen Receptor α Membrane Localization: Regulation by 17β-Estradiol 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2005;16(1):231-237.
A fraction of the nuclear estrogen receptor α (ERα) is localized to the plasma membrane region of 17β-estradiol (E2) target cells. We previously reported that ERα is a palmitoylated protein. To gain insight into the molecular mechanism of ERα residence at the plasma membrane, we tested both the role of palmitoylation and the impact of E2 stimulation on ERα membrane localization. The cancer cell lines expressing transfected or endogenous human ERα (HeLa and HepG2, respectively) or the ERα nonpalmitoylable Cys447Ala mutant transfected in HeLa cells were used as experimental models. We found that palmitoylation of ERα enacts ERα association with the plasma membrane, interaction with the membrane protein caveolin-1, and nongenomic activities, including activation of signaling pathways and cell proliferation (i.e., ERK and AKT activation, cyclin D1 promoter activity, DNA synthesis). Moreover, E2 reduces both ERα palmitoylation and its interaction with caveolin-1, in a time- and dose-dependent manner. These data point to the physiological role of ERα palmitoylation in the receptor localization to the cell membrane and in the regulation of the E2-induced cell proliferation.
PMCID: PMC539167  PMID: 15496458

Results 1-14 (14)