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1.  Effects of a Defective Endoplasmic Reticulum-Associated Degradation Pathway on the Stress Response, Virulence, and Antifungal Drug Susceptibility of the Mold Pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus 
Eukaryotic Cell  2013;12(4):512-519.
Proteins that are destined for release outside the eukaryotic cell, insertion into the plasma membrane, or delivery to intracellular organelles are processed and folded in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). An imbalance between the level of nascent proteins entering the ER and the organelle's ability to manage that load results in the accumulation of unfolded proteins. Terminally unfolded proteins are disposed of by ER-associated degradation (ERAD), a pathway that transports the aberrant proteins across the ER membrane into the cytosol for proteasomal degradation. The ERAD pathway was targeted in the mold pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus by deleting the hrdA gene, encoding the A. fumigatus ortholog of Hrd1, the E3 ubiquitin ligase previously shown to contribute to ERAD in other species. Loss of HrdA was associated with impaired degradation of a folding-defective ERAD substrate, CPY*, as well as activation of the unfolded-protein response (UPR). The ΔhrdA mutant showed resistance to voriconazole and reduced thermotolerance but was otherwise unaffected by a variety of environmental stressors. A double-deletion mutant deficient in both HrdA and another component of the same ERAD complex, DerA, was defective in secretion and showed hypersensitivity to ER, thermal, and cell wall stress. However, the ΔhrdA ΔderA mutant remained virulent in mouse and insect infection models. These data demonstrate that HrdA and DerA support complementary ERAD functions that promote survival under conditions of ER stress but are dispensable for virulence in the host environment.
PMCID: PMC3623444  PMID: 23355008
2.  Effect of dietary sphingomyelin on absorption and fractional synthetic rate of cholesterol and serum lipid profile in humans 
Diets enriched with sphingolipids may improve blood lipid profiles. Studies in animals have shown reductions in cholesterol absorption and alterations in blood lipids after treatment with sphingomyelin (SM). However, minimal information exists on effect of SM on cholesterol absorption and metabolism in humans. The objective was to assess the effect of SM consumption on serum lipid concentrations and cholesterol metabolism in healthy humans.
Ten healthy adult males and females completed a randomized crossover study. Subjects consumed controlled diets with or without 1 g/day SM for 14 days separated by at least 4 week washout period. Serum lipid profile and markers of cholesterol metabolism including cholesterol absorption and synthesis were analyzed.
Serum triglycerides, total, LDL- and VLDL- cholesterol were not affected while HDL cholesterol concentrations were increased (p = 0.043) by SM diet consumption. No change in cholesterol absorption and cholesterol fractional synthesis rate was observed with supplementation of SM compared to control. Intraluminal cholesterol solubilization was also not affected by consumption of SM enriched diet.
In humans, 1 g/day of dietary SM does not alter the blood lipid profile except for an increased HDL-cholesterol concentration and has no effect on cholesterol absorption, synthesis and intraluminal solubilization compared to control.
Trial registration # NCT00328211
PMCID: PMC3765565  PMID: 23958473
Sphingomyelin; Cholesterol absorption; Fractional synthetic rate; Bile; Human
3.  HacA-Independent Functions of the ER Stress Sensor IreA Synergize with the Canonical UPR to Influence Virulence Traits in Aspergillus fumigatus 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(10):e1002330.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is a condition in which the protein folding capacity of the ER becomes overwhelmed by an increased demand for secretion or by exposure to compounds that disrupt ER homeostasis. In yeast and other fungi, the accumulation of unfolded proteins is detected by the ER-transmembrane sensor IreA/Ire1, which responds by cleaving an intron from the downstream cytoplasmic mRNA HacA/Hac1, allowing for the translation of a transcription factor that coordinates a series of adaptive responses that are collectively known as the unfolded protein response (UPR). Here, we examined the contribution of IreA to growth and virulence in the human fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. Gene expression profiling revealed that A. fumigatus IreA signals predominantly through the canonical IreA-HacA pathway under conditions of severe ER stress. However, in the absence of ER stress IreA controls dual signaling circuits that are both HacA-dependent and HacA-independent. We found that a ΔireA mutant was avirulent in a mouse model of invasive aspergillosis, which contrasts the partial virulence of a ΔhacA mutant, suggesting that IreA contributes to pathogenesis independently of HacA. In support of this conclusion, we found that the ΔireA mutant had more severe defects in the expression of multiple virulence-related traits relative to ΔhacA, including reduced thermotolerance, decreased nutritional versatility, impaired growth under hypoxia, altered cell wall and membrane composition, and increased susceptibility to azole antifungals. In addition, full or partial virulence could be restored to the ΔireA mutant by complementation with either the induced form of the hacA mRNA, hacAi, or an ireA deletion mutant that was incapable of processing the hacA mRNA, ireAΔ10. Together, these findings demonstrate that IreA has both HacA-dependent and HacA-independent functions that contribute to the expression of traits that are essential for virulence in A. fumigatus.
Author Summary
Aspergillus fumigatus is the predominant mold pathogen of humans, responsible for life-threatening infections in patients with depressed immunity. The fungus is highly adapted for secretion, a feature that it uses to extract nutrients from the host environment. High rates of protein secretion can overwhelm the protein folding capacity of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The resulting ER stress is alleviated by the unfolded protein response (UPR), a signaling pathway that is triggered by the ER-membrane sensor IreA and executed by the downstream transcription factor HacA. This paper uncovers a novel role for IreA in the expression of multiple adaptive traits that allow the fungus to cope with stress conditions that are encountered during infection. Gene expression profiling of ΔireA and ΔhacA mutants revealed that IreA signals predominantly through the canonical IreA-HacA UPR pathway under extreme conditions of ER stress, but has unexpected HacA-dependent and HacA-independent functions even in the absence of ER stress. These findings establish IreA as an important regulator of A. fumigatus pathogenicity and suggest that therapeutic targeting of the dual functions of this protein could be an effective antifungal strategy.
PMCID: PMC3197630  PMID: 22028661
4.  Enhanced placental cholesterol efflux by fetal HDL in Smith–Lemli–Opitz syndrome 
Molecular genetics and metabolism  2008;94(2):240-247.
Previous studies from this laboratory have shown that maternal-derived cholesterol can be effluxed from trophoblasts to fetal HDL and plasma. We had the opportunity to study for the first time the ability of HDL and plasma from a fetus with the Smith–Lemli–Opitz syndrome (SLOS) to efflux cholesterol from trophoblasts. It was unclear whether cholesterol could be effluxed to fetuses with SLOS since lipoprotein levels are often very low. To answer this question, cord blood was collected from the placentas of an SLOS fetus and unaffected fetuses just after delivery. Plasma cholesterol concentrations were very low in the affected fetus; cholesterol, 7-dehydrocholesterol, and 8-dehydocholesterol concentrations were 14.1, 4.5, and 5.2 mg/dl, respectively. The HDL from the fetal SLOS effluxed ≈50% more cholesterol from a trophoblast cell line, were smaller in size, and had a lower cholesterol to phospholipid ratio as compared to HDL from unaffected fetuses or adults. Plasma from the SLOS fetus effluxed cholesterol to a similar percentage as unaffected fetal plasma or adult plasma, possibly due to fewer HDL particles as demonstrated in previous SLOS patients. These novel data demonstrate that the cholesterol-deficient SLOS fetus is able to obtain cholesterol from trophoblasts at a time when cholesterol is playing a critical role in development, and has implications for design of treatments for cholesterol deficiency syndromes as well as understanding of prenatal cholesterol transport in humans.
PMCID: PMC3037116  PMID: 18346920
Fetus; Trophoblast; BeWo cells; Pregnancy; Cholesterol transport
5.  Resveratrol delays age-related deterioration and mimics transcriptional aspects of dietary restriction without extending lifespan 
Cell metabolism  2008;8(2):157-168.
A small molecule that safely mimics the ability of dietary restriction (DR) to delay age-related diseases in laboratory animals is greatly sought after. We and others have shown that resveratrol mimics effects of DR in lower organisms. In mice, we find that resveratrol induces gene expression patterns in multiple tissues that parallel those induced by DR and every-other-day feeding. Moreover, resveratrol-fed elderly mice show a marked reduction in signs of aging including reduced albuminuria, decreased inflammation and apoptosis in the vascular endothelium, increased aortic elasticity, greater motor coordination, reduced cataract formation, and preserved bone mineral density. However, mice fed a standard diet did not live longer when treated with resveratrol beginning at 12 months of age. Our findings indicate that resveratrol treatment has a range of beneficial effects in mice but does not increase the longevity of ad libitum-fed animals when started mid-life.
PMCID: PMC2538685  PMID: 18599363
6.  Inability to fully suppress sterol synthesis rates with exogenous sterol in embryonic and extraembyronic fetal tissues 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2007;1771(11):1372-1379.
The requirement for cholesterol is greater in developing tissues (fetus, placenta, and yolk sac) as compared to adult tissues. Here, we compared cholesterol-induced suppression of sterol synthesis rates in the adult liver to the fetal liver, fetal body, placenta, and yolk sac of the Golden Syrian hamster. Sterol synthesis rates were suppressed maximally in non-pregnant adult livers when cholesterol concentrations were increased. In contrast, sterol synthesis rates were suppressed only marginally in fetal livers, fetal bodies, placentas, and yolk sacs when cholesterol concentrations were increased. To begin to elucidate the mechanism responsible for the blunted response of sterol synthesis rates in fetal tissues to exogenous cholesterol, the ratio of sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) cleavage-activating protein (SCAP) to Insig-1 was measured in these same tissues since the ratio of SCAP to the Insigs can impact SREBP processing. The fetal tissues had anywhere from a 2- to 6-fold greater ratio of SCAP to Insig-1 than did the adult liver, suggesting constitutive processing of the SREBPs. As expected, the level of mature, nuclear SREBP-2 was not different in the fetal tissues with different levels of cholesterol whereas it was different in adult livers. These findings indicate that the suppression of sterol synthesis to exogenous sterol is blunted in developing tissues and the lack of response appears to be mediated at least partly through relative levels of Insigs and SCAP.
PMCID: PMC2711845  PMID: 17950663
cholesterol; Smith-Lemli-Opitz; HMG-CoA reductase; fetus; SREBP-2; IUGR
7.  A high throughput live transparent animal bioassay to identify non-toxic small molecules or genes that regulate vertebrate fat metabolism for obesity drug development 
The alarming rise in the obesity epidemic and growing concern for the pathologic consequences of the metabolic syndrome warrant great need for development of obesity-related pharmacotherapeutics. The search for such therapeutics is severely limited by the slow throughput of animal models of obesity. Amenable to placement into a 96 well plate, zebrafish larvae have emerged as one of the highest throughput vertebrate model organisms for performing small molecule screens. A method for visually identifying non-toxic molecular effectors of fat metabolism using a live transparent vertebrate was developed. Given that increased levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) via deletion of CD38 have been shown to prevent high fat diet induced obesity in mice in a SIRT-1 dependent fashion we explored the possibility of directly applying NAD to zebrafish.
Zebrafish larvae were incubated with daily refreshing of nile red containing media starting from a developmental stage of equivalent fat content among siblings (3 days post-fertilization, dpf) and continuing with daily refreshing until 7 dpf.
PPAR activators, beta-adrenergic agonists, SIRT-1 activators, and nicotinic acid treatment all caused predicted changes in fat, cholesterol, and gene expression consistent with a high degree of evolutionary conservation of fat metabolism signal transduction extending from man to zebrafish larvae. All changes in fat content were visually quantifiable in a relative fashion using live zebrafish larvae nile red fluorescence microscopy. Resveratrol treatment caused the greatest and most consistent loss of fat content. The resveratrol tetramer Vaticanol B caused loss of fat equivalent in potency to resveratrol alone. Significantly, the direct administration of NAD decreased fat content in zebrafish. Results from knockdown of a zebrafish G-PCR ortholog previously determined to decrease fat content in C. elegans support that future GPR142 antagonists may be effective non-toxic anti-obesity therapeutics.
Owing to the apparently high level of evolutionary conservation of signal transduction pathways regulating lipid metabolism, the zebrafish can be useful for identifying non-toxic small molecules or pharmacological target gene products for developing molecular therapeutics for treating clinical obesity. Our results support the promising potential in applying NAD or resveratrol where the underlying target protein likely involves Sirtuin family member proteins. Furthermore data supports future studies focused on determining whether there is a high concentration window for resveratrol that is effective and non-toxic in high fat obesity murine models.
PMCID: PMC2531115  PMID: 18752667
8.  The liver plays a key role in whole body sterol accretion of the neonatal Golden Syrian hamster 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2007;1771(4):550-557.
Neonates have a significant requirement for cholesterol. From −1 to 25 days of age, the liver accrues 6.9 mg cholesterol and the extra-hepatic tissues accrue 107.7 mg cholesterol in the hamster. It is currently unknown if each of these body compartments synthesizes their own cholesterol or if they have alternative source(s) of sterol. Using 3H2O, in vivo hepatic sterol synthesis rates (per g liver per animal) increased between −1 and 5 days of age, decreased by 10 days of age, and increased again by 15 days of age. HMG-CoA reductase (HMGR) expression levels paralleled in vivo synthesis rates. Extra-hepatic sterol synthesis rates followed the same pattern as sterol synthesis rates in the liver. When sterol synthesis rates were converted to the mass of sterol synthesized per day, the liver synthesized 38.9 and the extra-hepatic tissues synthesized 63.9 mg cholesterol in the 26-day neonatal period. Comparing the amount of cholesterol accrued to that synthesized, one can conclude that the liver is a major source of sterol for the whole body during the neonatal period of the hamster. These results may help elucidate the cause(s) of reduced growth rates in neonates with liver disease or in neonates with compromised sterol synthesis rates.
PMCID: PMC1905147  PMID: 17363324
development; cholesterol; Smith-Lemli-Opitz; cholestasis; HMG-CoA reductase; neonate

Results 1-8 (8)