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1.  Structure of a Protozoan Virus from the Human Genitourinary Parasite Trichomonas vaginalis 
mBio  2013;4(2):e00056-13.
The flagellated protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis is an obligate human genitourinary parasite and the most frequent cause of sexually transmitted disease worldwide. Most clinical isolates of T. vaginalis are persistently infected with one or more double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses from the genus Trichomonasvirus, family Totiviridae, which appear to influence not only protozoan biology but also human disease. Here we describe the three-dimensional structure of Trichomonas vaginalis virus 1 (TVV1) virions, as determined by electron cryomicroscopy and icosahedral image reconstruction. The structure reveals a T = 1 capsid comprising 120 subunits, 60 in each of two nonequivalent positions, designated A and B, as previously observed for fungal Totiviridae family members. The putative protomer is identified as an asymmetric AB dimer consistent with either decamer or tetramer assembly intermediates. The capsid surface is notable for raised plateaus around the icosahedral 5-fold axes, with canyons connecting the 2- and 3-fold axes. Capsid-spanning channels at the 5-fold axes are unusually wide and may facilitate release of the viral genome, promoting dsRNA-dependent immunoinflammatory responses, as recently shown upon the exposure of human cervicovaginal epithelial cells to either TVV-infected T. vaginalis or purified TVV1 virions. Despite extensive sequence divergence, conservative features of the capsid reveal a helix-rich fold probably derived from an ancestor shared with fungal Totiviridae family members. Also notable are mass spectrometry results assessing the virion proteins as a complement to structure determination, which suggest that translation of the TVV1 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase in fusion with its capsid protein involves −2, and not +1, ribosomal frameshifting, an uncommonly found mechanism to date.
Trichomonas vaginalis causes ~250 million new cases of sexually transmitted disease each year worldwide and is associated with serious complications, including premature birth and increased transmission of other pathogens, including HIV. It is an extracellular parasite that, in turn, commonly hosts infections with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses, trichomonasviruses, which appear to exacerbate disease through signaling of immunoinflammatory responses by human epithelial cells. Here we report the first three-dimensional structure of a trichomonasvirus, which is also the first such structure of any protozoan dsRNA virus; show that it has unusually wide channels at the capsid vertices, with potential for releasing the viral genome and promoting dsRNA-dependent responses by human cells; and provide evidence that it uses −2 ribosomal frameshifting, an uncommon mechanism, to translate its RNA polymerase in fusion with its capsid protein. These findings provide both mechanistic and translational insights concerning the role of trichomonasviruses in aggravating disease attributable to T. vaginalis.
PMCID: PMC3622925  PMID: 23549915
2.  The effects of light regimes and hormones on corneal growth in vivo and in organ culture 
Journal of anatomy  2011;219(6):766-775.
When chicks are exposed to constant light during growth, their corneas become flatter and lighter in weight, and their anterior segments become shallower than those of chicks exposed to cyclical periods of light and dark. These effects have been correlated with constant light suppression of cyclical changes in melatonin levels. The question of whether light directly influences corneal growth (e.g. via cryptochromes in the cornea) or whether it acts remotely via the suppression of the melatonin rhythm has not yet been answered. Retinoic acid, an ubiquitous morphogen, also causes non-functional flattening during corneal growth, but its effect in vivo has not been correlated with light regimes.
We wished to characterize and distinguish between hormonal and light effects on corneal growth. We used organ culture to study the direct effects of light regimes, melatonin, and retinoic acid, and compared these results with those of parallel in vivo experiments.
In this study, eye drops containing melatonin or retinoic acid were applied to corneas exposed to constant light in vivo or in organ culture, and effects on corneal mass and hydration were measured. We applied a melatonin blocker, luzindole, to chick corneas in normal light/dark conditions to confirm that the observed melatonin effects are mediated at the cell membrane. Anterior chamber depth and refraction in vivo were measured.
Principal Findings
We found that, during constant light exposure, combined application of melatonin and retinoic acid eye drops increase the depth of the anterior segment in vivo, (p = 0.003) and interestingly, both also reduced the hyperopia of constant light exposure after two weeks (p = 0.002), thus partially reversing the effects of constant light. Retinoic acid increased corneal hydration in vivo (p = 0.030) but not in organ culture. Melatonin had no effect on corneal hydration in vivo, but in organ culture, melatonin significantly decreased hydration (p <0.001).
We found no evidence for a direct effect of light on corneal hydration in growing chick corneas in culture. Melatonin is required for normal corneal growth in vivo, and together melatonin and retinoic acid, or retinoic acid alone, affect the regulation of water content within the chick cornea. Melatonin also affects corneal hydration in vitro, but retinoic acid does not.
PMCID: PMC3215908  PMID: 21951233
cornea; organ culture; melatonin; retinoic acid; luzindole; receptor blocker; chick; growth; keratocytes; hydration
3.  Endobiont Viruses Sensed by the Human Host – Beyond Conventional Antiparasitic Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48418.
Wide-spread protozoan parasites carry endosymbiotic dsRNA viruses with uncharted implications to the human host. Among them, Trichomonas vaginalis, a parasite adapted to the human genitourinary tract, infects globally ∼250 million each year rendering them more susceptible to devastating pregnancy complications (especially preterm birth), HIV infection and HPV-related cancer. While first-line antibiotic treatment (metronidazole) commonly kills the protozoan pathogen, it fails to improve reproductive outcome. We show that endosymbiotic Trichomonasvirus, highly prevalent in T. vaginalis clinical isolates, is sensed by the human epithelial cells via Toll-like receptor 3, triggering Interferon Regulating Factor -3, interferon type I and proinflammatory cascades previously implicated in preterm birth and HIV-1 susceptibility. Metronidazole treatment amplified these proinflammatory responses. Thus, a new paradigm targeting the protozoan viruses along with the protozoan host may prevent trichomoniasis-attributable inflammatory sequelae.
PMCID: PMC3492353  PMID: 23144878
4.  Phospholipase D Family Member 4, a Transmembrane Glycoprotein with No Phospholipase D Activity, Expression in Spleen and Early Postnatal Microglia 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13932.
Phospholipase D (PLD) catalyzes conversion of phosphatidylcholine into choline and phosphatidic acid, leading to a variety of intracellular signal transduction events. Two classical PLDs, PLD1 and PLD2, contain phosphatidylinositide-binding PX and PH domains and two conserved His-x-Lys-(x)4-Asp (HKD) motifs, which are critical for PLD activity. PLD4 officially belongs to the PLD family, because it possesses two HKD motifs. However, it lacks PX and PH domains and has a putative transmembrane domain instead. Nevertheless, little is known regarding expression, structure, and function of PLD4.
Methodology/Principal Findings
PLD4 was analyzed in terms of expression, structure, and function. Expression was analyzed in developing mouse brains and non-neuronal tissues using microarray, in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and immunocytochemistry. Structure was evaluated using bioinformatics analysis of protein domains, biochemical analyses of transmembrane property, and enzymatic deglycosylation. PLD activity was examined by choline release and transphosphatidylation assays. Results demonstrated low to modest, but characteristic, PLD4 mRNA expression in a subset of cells preferentially localized around white matter regions, including the corpus callosum and cerebellar white matter, during the first postnatal week. These PLD4 mRNA-expressing cells were identified as Iba1-positive microglia. In non-neuronal tissues, PLD4 mRNA expression was widespread, but predominantly distributed in the spleen. Intense PLD4 expression was detected around the marginal zone of the splenic red pulp, and splenic PLD4 protein recovered from subcellular membrane fractions was highly N-glycosylated. PLD4 was heterologously expressed in cell lines and localized in the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus. Moreover, heterologously expressed PLD4 proteins did not exhibit PLD enzymatic activity.
Results showed that PLD4 is a non-PLD, HKD motif-carrying, transmembrane glycoprotein localized in the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus. The spatiotemporally restricted expression patterns suggested that PLD4 might play a role in common function(s) among microglia during early postnatal brain development and splenic marginal zone cells.
PMCID: PMC2978679  PMID: 21085684
5.  Archaeal RNA ligase is a homodimeric protein that catalyzes intramolecular ligation of single-stranded RNA and DNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(19):6218-6227.
RNA ligases participate in repair, splicing and editing pathways that either reseal broken RNAs or alter their primary structure. Here, we report the characterization of an RNA ligase from the thermophilic archaeon, Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum. The 381-amino acid Methanobacterium RNA ligase (MthRnl) catalyzes intramolecular ligation of 5′-PO4 single-strand RNA to form a covalently closed circular RNA molecule through ligase-adenylylate and RNA-adenylylate (AppRNA) intermediates. At the optimal temperature of 65°C, AppRNA was predominantly ligated to a circular product. In contrast, at 35°C, phosphodiester bond formation was suppressed and the majority of the AppRNA was deadenylylated. Sedimentation analysis indicates that MthRnl is a homodimer in solution. The C-terminal 127-amino acid segment is required for dimerization, is itself capable of oligomeization and acts in trans to inhibit the ligation activity of native MthRnl. MthRnl can also join single-stranded DNA to form a circular molecule. The lack of specificity for RNA and DNA by MthRnl may exemplify an undifferentiated ancestral stage in the evolution of ATP-dependent ligases.
PMCID: PMC2577357  PMID: 18829718
6.  Distinct RNA Elements Confer Specificity to Flavivirus RNA Cap Methylation Events▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(9):4412-4421.
The 5′ end of the flavivirus plus-sense RNA genome contains a type 1 cap (m7GpppAmG), followed by a conserved stem-loop structure. We report that nonstructural protein 5 (NS5) from four serocomplexes of flaviviruses specifically methylates the cap through recognition of the 5′ terminus of viral RNA. Distinct RNA elements are required for the methylations at guanine N-7 on the cap and ribose 2′-OH on the first transcribed nucleotide. In a West Nile virus (WNV) model, N-7 cap methylation requires specific nucleotides at the second and third positions and a 5′ stem-loop structure; in contrast, 2′-OH ribose methylation requires specific nucleotides at the first and second positions, with a minimum 5′ viral RNA of 20 nucleotides. The cap analogues GpppA and m7GpppA are not active substrates for WNV methytransferase. Footprinting experiments using Gppp- and m7Gppp-terminated RNAs suggest that the 5′ termini of RNA substrates interact with NS5 during the sequential methylation reactions. Cap methylations could be inhibited by an antisense oligomer targeting the first 20 nucleotides of WNV genome. The viral RNA-specific cap methylation suggests methyltransferase as a novel target for flavivirus drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC1900168  PMID: 17301144
7.  Dynamic Aspects of the Structured Cell Population in a Swarming Colony of Proteus mirabilis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(2):385-393.
Proteus mirabilis forms a concentric-ring colony by undergoing periodic swarming. A colony in the process of such synchronized expansion was examined for its internal population structure. In alternating phases, i.e., swarming (active migration) and consolidation (growth without colony perimeter expansion), phase-specific distribution of cells differing in length, in situ mobility, and migration ability on an agar medium were recognized. In the consolidation phase, the distribution of mobile cells was restricted to the inner part of a new ring and a previous terrace. Cells composing the outer part of the ring were immobile in spite of their ordinary swimming ability in a viscous solution. A sectorial cell population having such an internal structure was replica printed on fresh agar medium. After printing, a transplant which was in the swarming phase continued its ongoing swarming while a transplanted consolidation front continued its scheduled consolidation. This shows that cessation of migration during the consolidation phase was not due to substances present in the underlying agar medium. The ongoing swarming schedule was modifiable by separative cutting of the swarming front or disruption of the ring pattern by random mixing of the pattern-forming cell population. The structured cell population seemed to play a role in characteristic colony growth. However, separation of a narrow consolidation front from a backward area did not induce disturbance in the ongoing swarming schedule. Thus, cells at the frontal part of consolidation area were independent of the internal cell population and destined to exert consolidation and swarming with the ongoing ordinary schedule.
PMCID: PMC94287  PMID: 10629184
8.  The Villain Team-Up or how Trichomonas vaginalis and bacterial vaginosis alter innate immunity in concert 
Sexually Transmitted Infections  2013;89(6):460-466.
Complex interactions of vaginal microorganisms with the genital tract epithelium shape mucosal innate immunity, which holds the key to sexual and reproductive health. Bacterial vaginosis (BV), a microbiome-disturbance syndrome prevalent in reproductive-age women, occurs commonly in concert with trichomoniasis, and both are associated with increased risk of adverse reproductive outcomes and viral infections, largely attributable to inflammation. To investigate the causative relationships among inflammation, BV and trichomoniasis, we established a model of human cervicovaginal epithelial cells colonised by vaginal Lactobacillus isolates, dominant in healthy women, and common BV species (Atopobium vaginae, Gardnerella vaginalis and Prevotella bivia).
Colonised epithelia were infected with Trichomonas vaginalis (TV) or exposed to purified TV virulence factors (membrane lipophosphoglycan (LPG), its ceramide-phosphoinositol-glycan core (CPI-GC) or the endosymbiont Trichomonas vaginalis virus (TVV)), followed by assessment of bacterial colony-forming units, the mucosal anti-inflammatory microbicide secretory leucocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI), and chemokines that drive pro-inflammatory, antigen-presenting and T cells.
TV reduced colonisation by Lactobacillus but not by BV species, which were found inside epithelial cells. TV increased interleukin (IL)-8 and suppressed SLPI, likely via LPG/CPI-GC, and upregulated IL-8 and RANTES, likely via TVV as suggested by use of purified pathogenic determinants. BV species A vaginae and G vaginalis induced IL-8 and RANTES, and also amplified the pro-inflammatory responses to both LPG/CPI-GC and TVV, whereas P bivia suppressed the TV/TVV-induced chemokines.
These molecular host–parasite–endosymbiont–bacteria interactions explain epidemiological associations and suggest a revised paradigm for restoring vaginal immunity and preventing BV/TV-attributable inflammatory sequelae in women.
PMCID: PMC3746192  PMID: 23903808

Results 1-8 (8)