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1.  Antibody Phage Display Assisted Identification of Junction Plakoglobin as a Potential Biomarker for Atherosclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47985.
To date, no plaque-derived blood biomarker is available to allow diagnosis, prognosis or monitoring of atherosclerotic vascular diseases. In this study, specimens of thrombendarterectomy material from carotid and iliac arteries were incubated in protein-free medium to obtain plaque and control secretomes for subsequent subtractive phage display. The selection of nine plaque secretome-specific antibodies and the analysis of their immunopurified antigens by mass spectrometry led to the identification of 22 proteins. One of them, junction plakoglobin (JUP-81) and its smaller isoforms (referred to as JUP-63, JUP-55 and JUP-30 by molecular weight) were confirmed by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting with independent antibodies to be present in atherosclerotic plaques and their secretomes, coronary thrombi of patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and macrophages differentiated from peripheral blood monocytes as well as macrophage-like cells differentiated from THP1 cells. Plasma of patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD) (n = 15) and ACS (n = 11) contained JUP-81 at more than 2- and 14-fold higher median concentrations, respectively, than plasma of CAD-free individuals (n = 13). In conclusion, this proof of principle study identified and verified JUP isoforms as potential plasma biomarkers for atherosclerosis. Clinical validation studies are needed to determine its diagnostic efficacy and clinical utility as a biomarker for diagnosis, prognosis or monitoring of atherosclerotic vascular diseases.
PMCID: PMC3480477  PMID: 23110151
2.  Individual Assessment of Arteriosclerosis by Empiric Clinical Profiling 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(11):e1215.
Arteriosclerosis is a common cause of chronic morbidity and mortality. Myocardial infarction, stroke or other cardiovascular events identify vulnerable patients who suffer from symptomatic arteriosclerosis. Biomarkers to identify vulnerable patients before cardiovascular events occur are warranted to improve care for affected individuals. We tested how accurately basic clinical data can describe and assess the activity of arteriosclerosis in the individual patient.
Methodology/Principal Findings
269 in-patients who were treated for various conditions at the department of general medicine of an academic tertiary care center were included in a cross-sectional study. Personal history and clinical examination were obtained. When paraclinical tests were performed, the results were added to the dataset. The numerical variables in the clinical examination were statistically compared between patients with proven symptomatic arteriosclerosis (n = 100) and patients who had never experienced cardiovascular events in the past (n = 110). 25 variables were different between these two patient groups and contributed to the disease activity score. The percentile distribution of these variables defined the empiric clinical profile. Anthropometric data, signs of arterial, cardiac and renal disease, systemic inflammation and health economics formed the major categories of the empiric clinical profile that described an individual patient's disease activity. The area under the curve of the receiver operating curve for symptomatic arteriosclerosis was 0.891 (95% CI 0.799-0.983) for the novel disease activity score compared to 0.684 (95% CI 0.600-0.769) for the 10-year risk calculated according to the Framingham score. In patients suffering from symptomatic arteriosclerosis, the disease activity score deteriorated more rapidly after two years of follow-up (from 1.25 to 1.48, P = 0.005) compared to age- and sex-matched individuals free of cardiovascular events (from 1.09 to 1.19, P = 0.125).
Empiric clinical profiling and the disease activity score that are based on accessible, available and affordable clinical data are valid markers for symptomatic arteriosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2080761  PMID: 18043731
3.  A Translocated Bacterial Protein Protects Vascular Endothelial Cells from Apoptosis 
PLoS Pathogens  2006;2(11):e115.
The modulation of host cell apoptosis by bacterial pathogens is of critical importance for the outcome of the infection process. The capacity of Bartonella henselae and B. quintana to cause vascular tumor formation in immunocompromised patients is linked to the inhibition of vascular endothelial cell (EC) apoptosis. Here, we show that translocation of BepA, a type IV secretion (T4S) substrate, is necessary and sufficient to inhibit EC apoptosis. Ectopic expression in ECs allowed mapping of the anti-apoptotic activity of BepA to the Bep intracellular delivery domain, which, as part of the signal for T4S, is conserved in other T4S substrates. The anti-apoptotic activity appeared to be limited to BepA orthologs of B. henselae and B. quintana and correlated with (i) protein localization to the host cell plasma membrane, (ii) elevated levels of intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), and (iii) increased expression of cAMP-responsive genes. The pharmacological elevation of cAMP levels protected ECs from apoptosis, indicating that BepA mediates anti-apoptosis by heightening cAMP levels by a plasma membrane–associated mechanism. Finally, we demonstrate that BepA mediates protection of ECs against apoptosis triggered by cytotoxic T lymphocytes, suggesting a physiological context in which the anti-apoptotic activity of BepA contributes to tumor formation in the chronically infected vascular endothelium.
The capacity of infected host cells to die by apoptosis (programmed cell death) is critical for controlling pathogen replication and survival. Bacterial pathogens have thus developed strategies to inhibit host cell apoptosis, allowing them to preserve their cellular habitat during chronic infection. For instance, the capacity of the facultative intracellular pathogen Bartonella henselae to trigger tumor formation as a consequence of chronic infection of the human vasculature is linked to the inhibition of endothelial cell apoptosis. This study describes the identification and functional characterization of the anti-apoptotic bacterial effector protein BepA of B. henselae, which is shown to be sufficient to inhibit endothelial cell apoptosis, i.e., as triggered by activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Upon translocation into endothelial cells via a bacterial type IV secretion system, BepA localizes to the plasma membrane, where it triggers the production of second messenger cyclic adenosine monophosphate in quantities effective for blocking apoptosis. Strikingly, the capacity of BepA to mediate membrane localization, cyclic adenosine monophosphate production, and the resulting inhibition of apoptosis is confined to a conserved domain that originally evolved in bacteria as a signal for type IV secretion. This study thus highlights the convergent evolution of an anti-apoptotic effector protein of purely bacterial origin.
PMCID: PMC1657063  PMID: 17121462

Results 1-3 (3)