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1.  Rim2, a pyrimidine nucleotide exchanger, is needed for iron utilization in mitochondria 
The Biochemical journal  2011;440(1):137-146.
Mitochondria transport and utilize iron for the synthesis of haem and Fe–S clusters. Although many proteins are known to be involved in these processes, additional proteins are likely to participate. To test this hypothesis, in the present study we used a genetic screen looking for yeast mutants that are synthetically lethal with the mitochondrial iron carriers Mrs3 and Mrs4. Several genes were identified, including an isolate mutated for Yfh1, the yeast frataxin homologue. All such triple mutants were complemented by increased expression of Rim2, another mitochondrial carrier protein. Rim2 overexpression was able to enhance haem and Fe–S cluster synthesis in wild-type or Δmrs3/Δmrs4 backgrounds. Conversely Rim2 depletion impaired haem and Fe–S cluster synthesis in wild-type or Δmrs3/Δmrs4 backgrounds, indicating a unique requirement for this mitochondrial transporter for these processes. Rim2 was previously shown to mediate pyrimidine exchange in and out of vesicles. In the present study we found that isolated mitochondria lacking Rim2 exhibited concordant iron defects and pyrimidine transport defects, although the connection between these two functions is not explained. When organellar membranes were ruptured to bypass iron transport, haem synthesis from added iron and porphyrin was still markedly deficient in Rim2-depleted mitochondrial lysate. The results indicate that Rim2 is a pyrimidine exchanger with an additional unique function in promoting mitochondrial iron utilization.
PMCID: PMC4792122  PMID: 21777202
haem; iron; iron–sulfur; mitochondrial carrier protein; mitochondrion; pyrimidine
2.  Turning Saccharomyces cerevisiae into a Frataxin-Independent Organism 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(5):e1005135.
Frataxin (Yfh1 in yeast) is a conserved protein and deficiency leads to the neurodegenerative disease Friedreich’s ataxia. Frataxin is a critical protein for Fe-S cluster assembly in mitochondria, interacting with other components of the Fe-S cluster machinery, including cysteine desulfurase Nfs1, Isd11 and the Isu1 scaffold protein. Yeast Isu1 with the methionine to isoleucine substitution (M141I), in which the E. coli amino acid is inserted at this position, corrected most of the phenotypes that result from lack of Yfh1 in yeast. This suppressor Isu1 behaved as a genetic dominant. Furthermore frataxin-bypass activity required a completely functional Nfs1 and correlated with the presence of efficient scaffold function. A screen of random Isu1 mutations for frataxin-bypass activity identified only M141 substitutions, including Ile, Cys, Leu, or Val. In each case, mitochondrial Nfs1 persulfide formation was enhanced, and mitochondrial Fe-S cluster assembly was improved in the absence of frataxin. Direct targeting of the entire E. coli IscU to ∆yfh1 mitochondria also ameliorated the mutant phenotypes. In contrast, expression of IscU with the reverse substitution i.e. IscU with Ile to Met change led to worsening of the ∆yfh1 phenotypes, including severely compromised growth, increased sensitivity to oxygen, deficiency in Fe-S clusters and heme, and impaired iron homeostasis. A bioinformatic survey of eukaryotic Isu1/prokaryotic IscU database entries sorted on the amino acid utilized at the M141 position identified unique groupings, with virtually all of the eukaryotic scaffolds using Met, and the preponderance of prokaryotic scaffolds using other amino acids. The frataxin-bypassing amino acids Cys, Ile, Leu, or Val, were found predominantly in prokaryotes. This amino acid position 141 is unique in Isu1, and the frataxin-bypass effect likely mimics a conserved and ancient feature of the prokaryotic Fe-S cluster assembly machinery.
Author Summary
Frataxin was discovered because mutations in the corresponding gene cause the neurodegenerative disease Friedreich’s ataxia. The finding that frataxin protein physically associates with scaffold proteins Isu1/IscU places it squarely in the pathway of Fe-S cluster assembly. Fe-S clusters are essential cofactors for many proteins involved in cellular respiration, DNA repair, translation and other processes. Frataxin is conserved throughout evolution, being present in eukaryotes such as yeast and human and in some prokaryotes including E. coli. However, differences exist between the eukaryotic and prokaryotic forms of frataxin. The eukaryotic forms are critical for Fe-S cluster assembly whereas prokaryotic forms are more dispensable. We found that a key to this difference is a single amino acid in the scaffold protein Isu1 at position 141. Changes of the eukaryotic amino acid, Met, to prokaryotic amino acids, Ile, Leu, Cys, or Val, rendered mitochondria more frataxin-independent. No other changes were able to replicate this effect. Thus, Isu1 containing Met at position 141 may have coevolved with frataxin in eukaryotes, conferring frataxin-dependence. In contrast, the appearance of other amino acids at this position may have rendered prokaryotic cells less dependent on frataxin.
PMCID: PMC4440810  PMID: 25996596
3.  Frataxin-bypassing Isu1: characterization of the bypass activity in cells and mitochondria 
The Biochemical journal  2014;459(1):71-81.
Frataxin is a conserved mitochondrial protein, and deficiency underlies the neurodegenerative disease Friedreich’s ataxia. Frataxin interacts with the core machinery for Fe–S cluster assembly in mitochondria. Recently we reported that in frataxin-deleted yeast strains, a spontaneously occurring mutation in one of two genes encoding redundant Isu scaffold proteins, bypassed the mutant phenotypes. In the present study we created strains expressing a single scaffold protein, either Isu1 or the bypass mutant M107I Isu1. Our results show that in the frataxin-deletion strain expressing the bypass mutant Isu1, cell growth, Fe–S cluster protein activities, haem proteins and iron homoeostasis were restored to normal or close to normal. The bypass effects were not mediated by changes in Isu1 expression level. The persulfide-forming activity of the cysteine desulfurase was diminished in the frataxin deletion (Δyfh1 ISU1) and was improved by expression of the bypass Isu1 (Δyfh1 M107I ISU1). The addition of purified bypass M107I Isu1 protein to a Δyfh1 lysate conferred similar enhancement of cysteine desulfurase as did frataxin, suggesting that this effect contributed to the bypass mechanism. Fe–S cluster-forming activity in isolated mitochondria was stimulated by the bypass Isu1, albeit at a lower rate. The rescuing effects of the bypass Isu1 point to ways that the core defects in Friedreich’s ataxia mitochondria can be restored.
PMCID: PMC4021491  PMID: 24433162
cysteine desulfurase; eukaryote; frataxin; iron–sulfur; Isu1 scaffold; mitochondrion
4.  Mutation in the Fe–S scaffold protein Isu bypasses frataxin deletion 
The Biochemical journal  2012;441(1):473-480.
Frataxin is a conserved mitochondrial protein deficient in patients with Friedreich’s ataxia. Frataxin has been implicated in control of iron homoeostasis and Fe–S cluster assembly. In yeast or human mitochondria, frataxin interacts with components of the Fe–S cluster synthesis machinery, including the cysteine desulfurase Nfs1, accessory protein Isd11 and scaffold protein Isu. In the present paper, we report that a single amino acid substitution (methionine to isoleucine) at position 107 in the mature form of Isu1 restored many deficient functions in Δyfh1 or frataxin-depleted yeast cells. Iron homoeostasis was improved such that soluble/usable mitochondrial iron was increased and accumulation of insoluble/non-usable iron within mitochondria was largely prevented. Cytochromes were returned to normal and haem synthesis was restored. In mitochondria carrying the mutant Isu1 and no frataxin, Fe–S cluster enzyme activities were improved. The efficiency of newFe–S cluster synthesis in isolated mitochondria was markedly increased compared with frataxin-negative cells, although the response to added iron was minimal. The M107I substitution in the highly conserved Isu scaffold protein is typically found in bacterial orthologues, suggesting that a unique feature of the bacterial Fe–S cluster machinery may be involved. The mechanism by which the mutant Isu bypasses the absence of frataxin remains to be determined, but could be related to direct effects on Fe–S cluster assembly and/or indirect effects on mitochondrial iron availability.
PMCID: PMC4018837  PMID: 21936771
frataxin; haem; iron; iron–sulfur cluster (Fe–S cluster); mitochondrion
5.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis whole genome sequencing and protein structure modelling provides insights into anti-tuberculosis drug resistance 
BMC Medicine  2016;14:31.
Combating the spread of drug resistant tuberculosis is a global health priority. Whole genome association studies are being applied to identify genetic determinants of resistance to anti-tuberculosis drugs. Protein structure and interaction modelling are used to understand the functional effects of putative mutations and provide insight into the molecular mechanisms leading to resistance.
To investigate the potential utility of these approaches, we analysed the genomes of 144 Mycobacterium tuberculosis clinical isolates from The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) collection sourced from 20 countries in four continents. A genome-wide approach was applied to 127 isolates to identify polymorphisms associated with minimum inhibitory concentrations for first-line anti-tuberculosis drugs. In addition, the effect of identified candidate mutations on protein stability and interactions was assessed quantitatively with well-established computational methods.
The analysis revealed that mutations in the genes rpoB (rifampicin), katG (isoniazid), inhA-promoter (isoniazid), rpsL (streptomycin) and embB (ethambutol) were responsible for the majority of resistance observed. A subset of the mutations identified in rpoB and katG were predicted to affect protein stability. Further, a strong direct correlation was observed between the minimum inhibitory concentration values and the distance of the mutated residues in the three-dimensional structures of rpoB and katG to their respective drugs binding sites.
Using the TDR resource, we demonstrate the usefulness of whole genome association and convergent evolution approaches to detect known and potentially novel mutations associated with drug resistance. Further, protein structural modelling could provide a means of predicting the impact of polymorphisms on drug efficacy in the absence of phenotypic data. These approaches could ultimately lead to novel resistance mutations to improve the design of tuberculosis control measures, such as diagnostics, and inform patient management.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12916-016-0575-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4804620  PMID: 27005572
Tuberculosis; Drug resistance; Genomics; Protein structural modelling; Association study; Convergent evolution
6.  An assessment of bacterial small RNA target prediction programs 
RNA Biology  2015;12(5):509-513.
Most bacterial regulatory RNAs exert their function through base-pairing with target RNAs. Computational prediction of targets is a busy research field that offers biologists a variety of web sites and software. However, it is difficult for a non-expert to evaluate how reliable those programs are. Here, we provide a simple benchmark for bacterial sRNA target prediction based on trusted E. coli sRNA/target pairs. We use this benchmark to assess the most recent RNA target predictors as well as earlier programs for RNA-RNA hybrid prediction. Moreover, we consider how the definition of mRNA boundaries can impact overall predictions. Recent algorithms that exploit both conservation of targets and accessibility information offer improved accuracy over previous software. However, even with the best predictors, the number of true biological targets with low scores and non-targets with high scores remains puzzling.
PMCID: PMC4615726  PMID: 25760244
bacteria; sRNA; sRNA target prediction
7.  Sensitivity and specificity of parallel or serial serological testing for detection of canine Leishmania infection 
Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz  2016;111(3):168-173.
In Brazil, human and canine visceral leishmaniasis (CVL) caused byLeishmania infantum has undergone urbanisation since 1980, constituting a public health problem, and serological tests are tools of choice for identifying infected dogs. Until recently, the Brazilian zoonoses control program recommended enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) and indirect immunofluorescence assays (IFA) as the screening and confirmatory methods, respectively, for the detection of canine infection. The purpose of this study was to estimate the accuracy of ELISA and IFA in parallel or serial combinations. The reference standard comprised the results of direct visualisation of parasites in histological sections, immunohistochemical test, or isolation of the parasite in culture. Samples from 98 cases and 1,327 noncases were included. Individually, both tests presented sensitivity of 91.8% and 90.8%, and specificity of 83.4 and 53.4%, for the ELISA and IFA, respectively. When tests were used in parallel combination, sensitivity attained 99.2%, while specificity dropped to 44.8%. When used in serial combination (ELISA followed by IFA), decreased sensitivity (83.3%) and increased specificity (92.5%) were observed. Serial testing approach improved specificity with moderate loss in sensitivity. This strategy could partially fulfill the needs of public health and dog owners for a more accurate diagnosis of CVL.
PMCID: PMC4804499  PMID: 26910354
dogs; sensitivity; specificity; visceral leishmaniasis; Leishmania infantum; serology
8.  Recombination in pe/ppe genes contributes to genetic variation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis lineages 
BMC Genomics  2016;17:151.
Approximately 10 % of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome is made up of two families of genes that are poorly characterized due to their high GC content and highly repetitive nature. The PE and PPE families are typified by their highly conserved N-terminal domains that incorporate proline-glutamate (PE) and proline-proline-glutamate (PPE) signature motifs. They are hypothesised to be important virulence factors involved with host-pathogen interactions, but their high genetic variability and complexity of analysis means they are typically disregarded in genome studies.
To elucidate the structure of these genes, 518 genomes from a diverse international collection of clinical isolates were de novo assembled. A further 21 reference M. tuberculosis complex genomes and long read sequence data were used to validate the approach. SNP analysis revealed that variation in the majority of the 168 pe/ppe genes studied was consistent with lineage. Several recombination hotspots were identified, notably pe_pgrs3 and pe_pgrs17. Evidence of positive selection was revealed in 65 pe/ppe genes, including epitopes potentially binding to major histocompatibility complex molecules.
This, the first comprehensive study of the pe and ppe genes, provides important insight into M. tuberculosis diversity and has significant implications for vaccine development.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-016-2467-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4770551  PMID: 26923687
9.  An immersed-shell method for modelling fluid–structure interactions 
The paper presents a novel method for numerically modelling fluid–structure interactions. The method consists of solving the fluid-dynamics equations on an extended domain, where the computational mesh covers both fluid and solid structures. The fluid and solid velocities are relaxed to one another through a penalty force. The latter acts on a thin shell surrounding the solid structures. Additionally, the shell is represented on the extended domain by a non-zero shell-concentration field, which is obtained by conservatively mapping the shell mesh onto the extended mesh. The paper outlines the theory underpinning this novel method, referred to as the immersed-shell approach. It also shows how the coupling between a fluid- and a structural-dynamics solver is achieved. At this stage, results are shown for cases of fundamental interest.
PMCID: PMC4290410  PMID: 25583857
fluid–structure interactions; immersed-body approach; aerodynamics
10.  Can Seeding in the Clinic Reach a Wide Audience? A Proof of Concept Study on Spreading a Health Message About Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Using a Shareable Online Video 
Shareable online video offers the potential for spreading a health message across online and real world social networks. Seeding a message in a clinical setting may be advantageous.
To investigate the potential of an online video to spread a health message about juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when delivered or seeded in a clinical setting and investigate factors that influence sharing behavior.
Multimethod proof of concept study. Concepts for two different styles of video were developed using focus groups and interviews and reviewed by an online market research panel. We compared dissemination of the two videos from two specialist pediatric rheumatology clinics in NHS Hospitals. Participants were 15 patients, family members, and clinical staff with knowledge of JIA at concept stage; 300 market research panel members in development stage; and 38 patients and their parents or guardians in the seeding stage. Newly diagnosed patients with JIA and/or parents or guardians were invited to view and share an online video with a health message about JIA across real-life and electronic social networks. Main outcome measures were viewing statistics, sharing behavior and patterns, and participant feedback.
Of 38 patients and/or their parents or guardians given links, 26 visited the video webpage and shared the link, 2 visited and did not share, and 10 did not visit. Most links were viewed and shared within a few days. A total of 3314 pageviews were recorded with a mean of 89.6 pageviews per link (range 0-1245). Links were accessed from 26 countries, with most viewers in the United Kingdom (82.5%). Mothers were the most active group of sharers.
Distribution of a video link in a clinical setting may be an effective way to spread a health message. Parents or guardians of children with JIA are more likely to share a link than young people. Dissemination depends on a small number of active sharers, the content of the video, and the willingness of participants to share health information about themselves.
Trial Registration
UK Clinical Research Network Study Portfolio ID (UKCRN): 13747; (Archived by WebCite at
PMCID: PMC4782013  PMID: 26903485
juvenile arthritis; video-audio media; patient education; Internet
11.  A first-in-human phase I, dose-escalation, multicentre study of HSP990 administered orally in adult patients with advanced solid malignancies 
British Journal of Cancer  2015;112(4):650-659.
Heat-shock protein 990 (HSP990) is a potent and selective synthetic small-molecule HSP90 inhibitor. The primary objectives of this phase I first-in-human study were to determine dose-limiting toxicities (DLTs), maximum-tolerated dose (MTD) and recommended phase II dose (RP2D). Secondary objectives included characterisation of the safety profile, pharmacokinetics (PKs) and pharmacodynamics (PDs).
Heat-shock protein 990 was administered orally once or two times weekly on a 28-day cycle schedule in patients with advanced solid tumours. Dose escalation was guided by a Bayesian logistic regression model with overdose control.
A total of 64 patients were enrolled. Fifty-three patients received HSP990 once weekly at 2.5, 5, 10, 20, 30, 50 or 60 mg, whereas 11 patients received HSP990 two times weekly at 25 mg. Median duration of exposure was 8 weeks (range 1–116 weeks) and 12 patients remained on treatment for >16 weeks. Dose-limiting toxicities occurred in seven patients and included diarrhoea, QTc prolongation, ALT/AST elevations and central neurological toxicities. The most common drug-related adverse events were diarrhoea, fatigue and decreased appetite. Further dose escalation beyond 60 mg once weekly was not possible owing to neurological toxicity. Rapid absorption, no drug accumulation and large interpatient variability in PK exposures were observed. No objective responses were seen; 25 patients had a best overall response of stable disease.
Heat-shock protein 990 is relatively well tolerated, with neurological toxicity being the most relevant DLT. The single agent MTD/RP2D of HSP990 was declared at 50 mg once weekly.
PMCID: PMC4333497  PMID: 25625276
HSP90 inhibitors; molecular chaperone; phase I study
12.  Synergistic Malaria Parasite Killing by Two Types of Plasmodial Surface Anion Channel Inhibitors 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(2):e0149214.
Malaria parasites increase their host erythrocyte’s permeability to a broad range of ions and organic solutes. The plasmodial surface anion channel (PSAC) mediates this uptake and is an established drug target. Development of therapies targeting this channel is limited by several problems including interactions between known inhibitors and permeating solutes that lead to incomplete channel block. Here, we designed and executed a high-throughput screen to identify a novel class of PSAC inhibitors that overcome this solute-inhibitor interaction. These new inhibitors differ from existing blockers and have distinct effects on channel-mediated transport, supporting a model of two separate routes for solute permeation though PSAC. Combinations of inhibitors specific for the two routes had strong synergistic action against in vitro parasite propagation, whereas combinations acting on a single route produced only additive effects. The magnitude of synergism depended on external nutrient concentrations, consistent with an essential role of the channel in parasite nutrient acquisition. The identified inhibitors will enable a better understanding of the channel’s structure-function and may be starting points for novel combination therapies that produce synergistic parasite killing.
PMCID: PMC4750852  PMID: 26866812
13.  Chicken embryonic stem cells and primordial germ cells display different heterochromatic histone marks than their mammalian counterparts 
Chromatin epigenetics participate in control of gene expression during metazoan development. DNA methylation and post-translational modifications (PTMs) of histones have been extensively characterised in cell types present in, or derived from, mouse embryos. In embryonic stem cells (ESCs) derived from blastocysts, factors involved in deposition of epigenetic marks regulate properties related to self-renewal and pluripotency. In the germ lineage, changes in histone PTMs and DNA demethylation occur during formation of the primordial germ cells (PGCs) to reset the epigenome of the future gametes. Trimethylation of histone H3 on lysine 27 (H3K27me3) by Polycomb group proteins is involved in several epigenome-remodelling steps, but it remains unclear whether these epigenetic features are conserved in non-mammalian vertebrates. To investigate this question, we compared the abundance and nuclear distribution of the main histone PTMs, 5-methylcytosine (5mC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) in chicken ESCs, PGCs and blastodermal cells (BCs) with differentiated chicken ESCs and embryonic fibroblasts. In addition, we analysed the expression of chromatin modifier genes to better understand the establishment and dynamics of chromatin epigenetic profiles.
The nuclear distributions of most PTMs and 5hmC in chicken stem cells were similar to what has been described for mammalian cells. However, unlike mouse pericentric heterochromatin (PCH), chicken ESC PCH contained high levels of trimethylated histone H3 on lysine 27 (H3K27me3). In differentiated chicken cells, PCH was less enriched in H3K27me3 relative to chromatin overall. In PGCs, the H3K27me3 global level was greatly reduced, whereas the H3K9me3 level was elevated. Most chromatin modifier genes known in mammals were expressed in chicken ESCs, PGCs and BCs. Genes presumably involved in de novo DNA methylation were very highly expressed. DNMT3B and HELLS/SMARCA6 were highly expressed in chicken ESCs, PGCs and BCs compared to differentiated chicken ESCs and embryonic fibroblasts, and DNMT3A was strongly expressed in ESCs, differentiated ESCs and BCs.
Chicken ESCs and PGCs differ from their mammalian counterparts with respect to H3K27 methylation. High enrichment of H3K27me3 at PCH is specific to pluripotent cells in chicken. Our results demonstrate that the dynamics in chromatin constitution described during mouse development is not universal to all vertebrate species.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13072-016-0056-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4748481  PMID: 26865862
Chicken blastocyst; Chicken embryonic stem cells; Chicken primordial germ cells; H3K27me3; DNA methylation; Epigenetic reprogramming
14.  Identification of the genes involved in odorant reception and detection in the palm weevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, an important quarantine pest, by antennal transcriptome analysis 
BMC Genomics  2016;17:69.
The Red Palm Weevil (RPW) Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Oliver) is one of the most damaging invasive insect species in the world. This weevil is highly specialized to thrive in adverse desert climates, and it causes major economic losses due to its effects on palm trees around the world. RPWs locate palm trees by means of plant volatile cues and use an aggregation pheromone to coordinate a mass-attack. Here we report on the high throughput sequencing of the RPW antennal transcriptome and present a description of the highly expressed chemosensory gene families.
Deep sequencing and assembly of the RPW antennal transcriptome yielded 35,667 transcripts with an average length of 857 bp and identified a large number of highly expressed transcripts of odorant binding proteins (OBPs), chemosensory proteins (CSPs), odorant receptors/co-receptors (ORs/Orcos), sensory neuron membrane proteins (SNMPs), gustatory receptors (GRs) and ionotropic receptors (IRs). In total, 38 OBPs, 12 CSPs, 76 ORs, 1 Orco, 6 SNMPs, 15 GRs and 10 IRs were annotated in the R. ferrugineus antennal transcriptome. A comparative transcriptome analysis with the bark beetle showed that 25 % of the blast hits were unique to R. ferrugineus, indicating a higher, more complete transcript coverage for R. ferrugineus. We categorized the RPW ORs into seven subfamilies of coleopteran ORs and predicted two new subfamilies of ORs. The OR protein sequences were compared with those of the flour beetle, the cerambycid beetle and the bark beetle, and we identified coleopteran-specific, highly conserved ORs as well as unique ORs that are putatively involved in RPW aggregation pheromone detection. We identified 26 Minus-C OBPs and 8 Plus-C OBPs and grouped R. ferrugineus OBPs into different OBP-subfamilies according to phylogeny, which indicated significant species-specific expansion and divergence in R. ferrugineus. We also identified a diverse family of CSP proteins, as well as a coleopteran-specific CSP lineage that diverged from Diptera and Lepidoptera. We identified several extremely diverged IR orthologues as well as highly conserved insect IR co-receptor orthologous transcripts in R. ferrugineus. Notably, GR orthologous transcripts for CO2-sensing and sweet tastants were identified in R. ferrugineus, and we found a great diversity of GRs within the coleopteran family. With respect to SNMP-1 and SNMP-2 orthologous transcripts, one SNMP-1 orthologue was found to be strikingly highly expressed in the R. ferrugineus antennal transcriptome.
Our study presents the first comprehensive catalogue of olfactory gene families involved in pheromone and general odorant detection in R. ferrugineus, which are potential novel targets for pest control strategies.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-016-2362-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4722740  PMID: 26800671
Red palm weevil; Antennal transcriptome; Chemical communication; Olfactory gene families
15.  Plaque Echolucency and Stroke Risk in Asymptomatic Carotid Stenosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
Background and Purpose
Ultrasonographic plaque echolucency has been studied as a stroke risk marker in carotid atherosclerotic disease. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to summarize the association between ultrasound determined carotid plaque echolucency and future ipsilateral stroke risk.
We searched the medical literature for studies evaluating the association between carotid plaque echolucency and future stroke in asymptomatic patients. We included prospective observational studies with stroke outcome ascertainment after baseline carotid plaque echolucency assessment. We performed a meta-analysis and assessed study heterogeneity and publication bias. We also performed subgroup analyses limited to patients with stenosis ≥50%, studies in which plaque echolucency was determined via subjective visual interpretation, studies with a relatively lower risk of bias, and studies published after the year 2000.
We analyzed data from 7 studies on 7557 subjects with a mean follow up of 37.2 months. We found a significant positive relationship between predominantly echolucent (compared to predominantly echogenic) plaques and the risk of future ipsilateral stroke across all stenosis severities (0-99%) (relative risk [RR], 2.31, 95% CI, 1.58-3.39, P<.001) and in subjects with ≥50% stenosis (RR, 2.61 95% CI, 1.47-4.63, P=.001). A statistically significant increased RR for future stroke was preserved in all additional subgroup analyses. No statistically significant heterogeneity or publication bias was present in any of the meta-analyses.
The presence of ultrasound-determined carotid plaque echolucency provides predictive information in asymptomatic carotid artery stenosis beyond luminal stenosis. However, the magnitude of the increased risk is not sufficient on its own to identify patients likely to benefit from surgical revascularization.
PMCID: PMC4280234  PMID: 25406150
carotid stenosis; ultrasound; plaque; stroke; risk factor
16.  Sensitivity of human pleural mesothelioma to oncolytic measles virus depends on defects of the type I interferon response 
Oncotarget  2015;6(42):44892-44904.
Attenuated measles virus (MV) is currently being evaluated as an oncolytic virus in clinical trials and could represent a new therapeutic approach for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). Herein, we screened the sensitivity to MV infection and replication of twenty-two human MPM cell lines and some healthy primary cells. We show that MV replicates in fifteen of the twenty-two MPM cell lines. Despite overexpression of CD46 by a majority of MPM cell lines compared to healthy cells, we found that the sensitivity to MV replication did not correlate with this overexpression. We then evaluated the antiviral type I interferon (IFN) responses of MPM cell lines and healthy cells. We found that healthy cells and the seven insensitive MPM cell lines developed a type I IFN response in presence of the virus, thereby inhibiting replication. In contrast, eleven of the fifteen sensitive MPM cell lines were unable to develop a complete type I IFN response in presence of MV. Finally, we show that addition of type I IFN onto MV sensitive tumor cell lines inhibits replication. These results demonstrate that defects in type I IFN response are frequent in MPM and that MV takes advantage of these defects to exert oncolytic activity.
PMCID: PMC4792599  PMID: 26539644
oncolytic virus; measles virus; oncolytic virotherapy; mesothelioma; type I interferon
17.  Representative mammalian cell culture test materials for assessment of primary recovery technologies: A rapid method with industrial applicability 
Biotechnology Journal  2014;10(1):162-170.
Mammalian cell culture material is often difficult to produce accurately and reproducibly for downstream studies. This article presents a methodology for the creation of a set of cell culture test materials where key variables including cell density, cell viability, product, and the host cell protein (HCP) load can be manipulated individually. The methodology was developed using a glutamine synthetase Chinese hamster ovary cell line cultured at 5-L and 70-L scales. Cell concentration post-cell growth was manipulated using tangential flow filtration to generate a range of target cell densities of up to 100 × 106 cells/mL. A method to prepare an apoptotic cell stock to achieve target viabilities of 40–90% is also described. In addition, a range of IgG1 and HCP concentrations was achieved. The results illustrate that the proposed methodology is able to mimic different cell culture profiles by decoupling the control of the key variables. The cell culture test materials were shown to be representative of typical cell culture feed material in terms of particle size distribution and HCP population. This provides a rapid method to create the required feeds for assessing the feasibility of primary recovery technologies designed to cope with higher cell density cultures.
PMCID: PMC4674960  PMID: 25377169
Bioseparation; Mammalian cell culture; High cell density; Primary recovery
18.  Metabolic pathway redundancy within the apicomplexan-dinoflagellate radiation argues against an ancient chromalveolate plastid 
The chromalveolate hypothesis presents an attractively simple explanation for the presence of red algal-derived secondary plastids in 5 major eukaryotic lineages: “chromista” phyla, cryptophytes, haptophytes and ochrophytes; and alveolate phyla, dinoflagellates and apicomplexans. It posits that a single secondary endosymbiotic event occurred in a common ancestor of these diverse groups, and that this ancient plastid has since been maintained by vertical inheritance only. Substantial testing of this hypothesis by molecular phylogenies has, however, consistently failed to provide support for the predicted monophyly of the host organisms that harbour these plastids—the “chromalveolates.” This lack of support does not disprove the chromalveolate hypothesis per se, but rather drives the proposed endosymbiosis deeper into the eukaryotic tree, and requires multiple plastid losses to have occurred within intervening aplastidic lineages. An alternative perspective on plastid evolution is offered by considering the metabolic partnership between the endosymbiont and its host cell. A recent analysis of metabolic pathways in a deep-branching dinoflagellate indicates a high level of pathway redundancy in the common ancestor of apicomplexans and dinoflagellates, and differential losses of these pathways soon after radiation of the major extant lineages. This suggests that vertical inheritance of an ancient plastid in alveolates is highly unlikely as it would necessitate maintenance of redundant pathways over very long evolutionary timescales.
PMCID: PMC4802802  PMID: 27066182
apicomplexa; chromalveolate; dinoflagellates; endosymbiosis; plastid
19.  Plasmodium P-Type Cyclin CYC3 Modulates Endomitotic Growth during Oocyst Development in Mosquitoes 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(11):e1005273.
Cell-cycle progression and cell division in eukaryotes are governed in part by the cyclin family and their regulation of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). Cyclins are very well characterised in model systems such as yeast and human cells, but surprisingly little is known about their number and role in Plasmodium, the unicellular protozoan parasite that causes malaria. Malaria parasite cell division and proliferation differs from that of many eukaryotes. During its life cycle it undergoes two types of mitosis: endomitosis in asexual stages and an extremely rapid mitotic process during male gametogenesis. Both schizogony (producing merozoites) in host liver and red blood cells, and sporogony (producing sporozoites) in the mosquito vector, are endomitotic with repeated nuclear replication, without chromosome condensation, before cell division. The role of specific cyclins during Plasmodium cell proliferation was unknown. We show here that the Plasmodium genome contains only three cyclin genes, representing an unusual repertoire of cyclin classes. Expression and reverse genetic analyses of the single Plant (P)-type cyclin, CYC3, in the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium berghei, revealed a cytoplasmic and nuclear location of the GFP-tagged protein throughout the lifecycle. Deletion of cyc3 resulted in defects in size, number and growth of oocysts, with abnormalities in budding and sporozoite formation. Furthermore, global transcript analysis of the cyc3-deleted and wild type parasites at gametocyte and ookinete stages identified differentially expressed genes required for signalling, invasion and oocyst development. Collectively these data suggest that cyc3 modulates oocyst endomitotic development in Plasmodium berghei.
Author Summary
The malaria parasite is a single-celled organism that multiplies asexually in a non-canonical way in both vertebrate host and mosquito vector. In the mosquito midgut, atypical cell division occurs in oocysts, where repeated nuclear division (endomitosis) precedes cell division, which then gives rise to many sporozoites in a process known as sporogony. The molecular mechanisms controlling this process are poorly understood. In many model organisms including mouse and yeast cells the cell cycle is regulated by members of the cyclin protein family, but the role of this family in the malaria parasite is unknown. Here, we show that there are only three cyclin genes and investigate the function of the single P-type cyclin (CYC3) in the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium berghei. We show that CYC3 has a cytoplasmic and nuclear localisation throughout most of the parasite lifecycle and by gene deletion we demonstrate that CYC3 is important for normal oocyst development, maturation and sporozoite formation. Moreover, we show that deletion of cyc3 affects the transcription of genes required for cell signalling and oocyst development. The data suggest that CYC3 modulates asexual multiplication in oocysts and plays a vital role in parasite development in the mosquito.
PMCID: PMC4643991  PMID: 26565797
20.  Genome-Wide Transposon Mutagenesis Indicates that Mycobacterium marinum Customizes Its Virulence Mechanisms for Survival and Replication in Different Hosts 
Infection and Immunity  2015;83(5):1778-1788.
The interaction of environmental bacteria with unicellular eukaryotes is generally considered a major driving force for the evolution of intracellular pathogens, allowing them to survive and replicate in phagocytic cells of vertebrate hosts. To test this hypothesis on a genome-wide level, we determined for the intracellular pathogen Mycobacterium marinum whether it uses conserved strategies to exploit host cells from both protozoan and vertebrate origin. Using transposon-directed insertion site sequencing (TraDIS), we determined differences in genetic requirements for survival and replication in phagocytic cells of organisms from different kingdoms. In line with the general hypothesis, we identified a number of general virulence mechanisms, including the type VII protein secretion system ESX-1, biosynthesis of polyketide lipids, and utilization of sterols. However, we were also able to show that M. marinum contains an even larger set of host-specific virulence determinants, including proteins involved in the modification of surface glycolipids and, surprisingly, the auxiliary proteins of the ESX-1 system. Several of these factors were in fact counterproductive in other hosts. Therefore, M. marinum contains different sets of virulence factors that are tailored for specific hosts. Our data imply that although amoebae could function as a training ground for intracellular pathogens, they do not fully prepare pathogens for crossing species barriers.
PMCID: PMC4399070  PMID: 25690095
21.  Whole genome sequencing reveals genomic heterogeneity and antibiotic purification in Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates 
BMC Genomics  2015;16:857.
Whole genome sequencing has revolutionised the interrogation of mycobacterial genomes. Recent studies have reported conflicting findings on the genomic stability of Mycobacterium tuberculosis during the evolution of drug resistance. In an age where whole genome sequencing is increasingly relied upon for defining the structure of bacterial genomes, it is important to investigate the reliability of next generation sequencing to identify clonal variants present in a minor percentage of the population. This study aimed to define a reliable cut-off for identification of low frequency sequence variants and to subsequently investigate genetic heterogeneity and the evolution of drug resistance in M. tuberculosis.
Genomic DNA was isolated from single colonies from 14 rifampicin mono-resistant M. tuberculosis isolates, as well as the primary cultures and follow up MDR cultures from two of these patients. The whole genomes of the M. tuberculosis isolates were sequenced using either the Illumina MiSeq or Illumina HiSeq platforms. Sequences were analysed with an in-house pipeline.
Using next-generation sequencing in combination with Sanger sequencing and statistical analysis we defined a read frequency cut-off of 30 % to identify low frequency M. tuberculosis variants with high confidence. Using this cut-off we demonstrated a high rate of genetic diversity between single colonies isolated from one population, showing that by using the current sequencing technology, single colonies are not a true reflection of the genetic diversity within a whole population and vice versa. We further showed that numerous heterogeneous variants emerge and then disappear during the evolution of isoniazid resistance within individual patients. Our findings allowed us to formulate a model for the selective bottleneck which occurs during the course of infection, acting as a genomic purification event.
Our study demonstrated true levels of genetic diversity within an M. tuberculosis population and showed that genetic diversity may be re-defined when a selective pressure, such as drug exposure, is imposed on M. tuberculosis populations during the course of infection. This suggests that the genome of M. tuberculosis is more dynamic than previously thought, suggesting preparedness to respond to a changing environment.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-2067-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4619333  PMID: 26496891
Genetic complexity; Clinical isolates; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Heterogeneity; Next generation sequencing; Relaxed variant filtering
22.  Genomic expression catalogue of a global collection of BCG vaccine strains show evidence for highly diverged metabolic and cell-wall adaptations 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:15443.
Although Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccines against tuberculosis have been available for more than 90 years, their effectiveness has been hindered by variable protective efficacy and a lack of lasting memory responses. One factor contributing to this variability may be the diversity of the BCG strains that are used around the world, in part from genomic changes accumulated during vaccine production and their resulting differences in gene expression. We have compared the genomes and transcriptomes of a global collection of fourteen of the most widely used BCG strains at single base-pair resolution. We have also used quantitative proteomics to identify key differences in expression of proteins across five representative BCG strains of the four tandem duplication (DU) groups. We provide a comprehensive map of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), copy number variation and insertions and deletions (indels) across fourteen BCG strains. Genome-wide SNP characterization allowed the construction of a new and robust phylogenic genealogy of BCG strains. Transcriptional and proteomic profiling revealed a metabolic remodeling in BCG strains that may be reflected by altered immunogenicity and possibly vaccine efficacy. Together, these integrated-omic data represent the most comprehensive catalogue of genetic variation across a global collection of BCG strains.
PMCID: PMC4614345  PMID: 26487098
23.  Functional development of the adult ovine mammary gland—insights from gene expression profiling 
BMC Genomics  2015;16:748.
The mammary gland is a dynamic organ that undergoes dramatic physiological adaptations during the transition from late pregnancy to lactation. Investigation of the molecular basis of mammary development and function will provide fundamental insights into tissue remodelling as well as a better understanding of milk production and mammary disease. This is important to livestock production systems and human health.
Here we use RNA-seq to identify differences in gene expression in the ovine mammary gland between late pregnancy and lactation.
Between late pregnancy (135 days of gestation ± 2.4 SD) and lactation (15 days post partum ± 1.27 SD) 13 % of genes in the sheep genome were differentially expressed in the ovine mammary gland. In late pregnancy, cell proliferation, beta-oxidation of fatty acids and translation were identified as key biological processes. During lactation, high levels of milk fat synthesis were mirrored by enrichment of genes associated with fatty acid biosynthesis, transport and lipogenesis. Protein processing in the endoplasmic reticulum was enriched during lactation, likely in support of active milk protein synthesis. Hormone and growth factor signalling and activation of signal transduction pathways, including the JAK-STAT and PPAR pathways, were also differently regulated, indicating key roles for these pathways in functional development of the ovine mammary gland. Changes in the expression of epigenetic regulators, particularly chromatin remodellers, indicate a possible role in coordinating the large-scale transcriptional changes that appear to be required to switch mammary processes from growth and development during late pregnancy to synthesis and secretion of milk during lactation.
Coordinated transcriptional regulation of large numbers of genes is required to switch between mammary tissue establishment during late pregnancy, and activation and maintenance of milk production during lactation. Our findings indicate the remarkable plasticity of the mammary gland, and the coordinated regulation of multiple genes and pathways to begin milk production. Genes and pathways identified by the present study may be important for managing milk production and mammary development, and may inform studies of diseases affecting the mammary gland.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1947-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4595059  PMID: 26437771
Sheep; Mammary gland; RNA-seq; Development; Lactation
24.  Functionalized Anodic Aluminum Oxide Membrane–Electrode System for Enzyme Immobilization 
ACS nano  2014;8(8):8104-8112.
A nanoporous membrane system with directed flow carrying reagents to sequentially attached enzymes to mimic nature’s enzyme complex system was demonstrated. Genetically modified glycosylation enzyme, OleD Loki variant, was immobilized onto nanometer-scale electrodes at the pore entrances/exits of anodic aluminum oxide membranes through His6-tag affinity binding. The enzyme activity was assessed in two reactions—a one-step “reverse” sugar nucleotide formation reaction (UDP-Glc) and a two-step sequential sugar nucleotide formation and sugar nucleotide-based glycosylation reaction. For the one-step reaction, enzyme specific activity of 6–20 min−1 on membrane supports was seen to be comparable to solution enzyme specific activity of 10 min−1. UDP-Glc production efficiencies as high as 98% were observed at a flow rate of 0.5 mL/min, at which the substrate residence time over the electrode length down pore entrances was matched to the enzyme activity rate. This flow geometry also prevented an unwanted secondary product hydrolysis reaction, as observed in the test homogeneous solution. Enzyme utilization increased by a factor of 280 compared to test homogeneous conditions due to the continuous flow of fresh substrate over the enzyme. To mimic enzyme complex systems, a two-step sequential reaction using OleD Loki enzyme was performed at membrane pore entrances then exits. After UDP-Glc formation at the entrance electrode, aglycon 4-methylumbelliferone was supplied at the exit face of the reactor, affording overall 80% glycosylation efficiency. The membrane platform showed the ability to be regenerated with purified enzyme as well as directly from expression crude, thus demonstrating a single-step immobilization and purification process.
PMCID: PMC4148145  PMID: 25025628
biomimetic enzyme immobilization; membrane–electrode; glycosyltransferase; glycosylation; enzyme purification; sequential reactions
25.  Three-dimensional electron microscopy reconstruction and cysteine-mediated crosslinking provide a model of the type III secretion system needle tip complex 
Molecular Microbiology  2014;95(1):31-50.
Type III secretion systems are found in many Gram-negative bacteria. They are activated by contact with eukaryotic cells and inject virulence proteins inside them. Host cell detection requires a protein complex located at the tip of the device's external injection needle. The Shigella tip complex (TC) is composed of IpaD, a hydrophilic protein, and IpaB, a hydrophobic protein, which later forms part of the injection pore in the host membrane. Here we used labelling and crosslinking methods to show that TCs from a ΔipaB strain contain five IpaD subunits while the TCs from wild-type can also contain one IpaB and four IpaD subunits. Electron microscopy followed by single particle and helical image analysis was used to reconstruct three-dimensional images of TCs at ∼20 Å resolution. Docking of an IpaD crystal structure, constrained by the crosslinks observed, reveals that TC organisation is different from that of all previously proposed models. Our findings suggest new mechanisms for TC assembly and function. The TC is the only site within these secretion systems targeted by disease-protecting antibodies. By suggesting how these act, our work will allow improvement of prophylactic and therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC4539596  PMID: 25353930

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