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1.  Enhanced membrane protein expression by engineering increased intracellular membrane production 
Membrane protein research is frequently hampered by the low natural abundance of these proteins in cells and typically relies on recombinant gene expression. Different expression systems, like mammalian cells, insect cells, bacteria and yeast are being used, but very few research efforts have been directed towards specific host cell customization for enhanced expression of membrane proteins. Here we show that by increasing the intracellular membrane production by interfering with a key enzymatic step of lipid synthesis, enhanced expression of membrane proteins in yeast is achieved.
We engineered the oleotrophic yeast, Yarrowia lipolytica, by deleting the phosphatidic acid phosphatase, PAH1, which led to massive proliferation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes. For all eight tested representatives of different integral membrane protein families, we obtained enhanced protein accumulation levels and in some cases enhanced proteolytic integrity in the ∆pah1 strain. We analysed the adenosine A2AR G-protein coupled receptor case in more detail and found that concomitant induction of the unfolded protein response in the ∆pah1 strain enhanced the specific ligand binding activity of the receptor. These data indicate an improved quality control mechanism for membrane proteins accumulating in yeast cells with proliferated ER.
We conclude that redirecting the metabolic flux of fatty acids away from triacylglycerol- and sterylester-storage towards membrane phospholipid synthesis by PAH1 gene inactivation, provides a valuable approach to enhance eukaryotic membrane protein production. Complementary to this improvement in membrane protein quantity, UPR co-induction further enhances the quality of the membrane protein in terms of its proper folding and biological activity. Importantly, since these pathways are conserved in all eukaryotes, it will be of interest to investigate similar engineering approaches in other cell types of biotechnological interest, such as insect cells and mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC3878919  PMID: 24321035
2.  Matrix metalloproteinase 13 modulates intestinal epithelial barrier integrity in inflammatory diseases by activating TNF 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;5(7):932-948.
Several pathological processes, such as sepsis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are associated with impairment of intestinal epithelial barrier. Here, we investigated the role of matrix metalloproteinase MMP13 in these diseases. We observed that MMP13−/− mice display a strong protection in LPS- and caecal ligation and puncture-induced sepsis. We could attribute this protection to reduced LPS-induced goblet cell depletion, endoplasmic reticulum stress, permeability and tight junction destabilization in the gut of MMP13−/− mice compared to MMP13+/+ mice. Both in vitro and in vivo, we found that MMP13 is able to cleave pro-TNF into bioactive TNF. By LC-MS/MS, we identified three MMP13 cleavage sites, which proves that MMP13 is an alternative TNF sheddase next to the TNF converting enzyme TACE. Similarly, we found that the same mechanism was responsible for the observed protection of the MMP13−/− mice in a mouse model of DSS-induced colitis. We identified MMP13 as an important mediator in sepsis and IBD via the shedding of TNF. Hence, we propose MMP13 as a novel drug target for diseases in which damage to the gut is essential.
PMCID: PMC3721470  PMID: 23723167
IBD; intestinal permeability; matrix metalloproteinase; sepsis; tumour necrosis factor
3.  Phloem-associated auxin response maxima determine radial positioning of lateral roots in maize 
In Arabidopsis thaliana, lateral-root-forming competence of pericycle cells is associated with their position at the xylem poles and depends on the establishment of protoxylem-localized auxin response maxima. In maize, our histological analyses revealed an interruption of the pericycle at the xylem poles, and confirmed the earlier reported proto-phloem-specific lateral root initiation. Phloem-pole pericycle cells were larger and had thinner cell walls compared with the other pericycle cells, highlighting the heterogeneous character of the maize root pericycle. A maize DR5::RFP marker line demonstrated the presence of auxin response maxima in differentiating xylem cells at the root tip and in cells surrounding the proto-phloem vessels. Chemical inhibition of auxin transport indicated that the establishment of the phloem-localized auxin response maxima is crucial for lateral root formation in maize, because in their absence, random divisions of pericycle and endodermis cells occurred, not resulting in organogenesis. These data hint at an evolutionarily conserved mechanism, in which the establishment of vascular auxin response maxima is required to trigger cells in the flanking outer tissue layer for lateral root initiation. It further indicates that lateral root initiation is not dependent on cellular specification or differentiation of the type of vascular tissue.
PMCID: PMC3321689  PMID: 22527395
lateral root development; maize; auxin; pericycle
4.  Is HUB1 a hub for plant fitness? 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2012;7(12):1537-1540.
Recently, we have identified circadian clock genes as targets of Histone Monoubiquitination1 (HUB1) in Arabidopsis from a transcriptome comparison between the hub1–1 mutant and HUB1 overexpression lines. HUB1 affected the amplitudes of the circadian clock gene expression profiles in the hub1–1 mutant that coincided with reduced monoubiquitination of histone H2B at their coding regions. Here we showed that parameters for plant fitness are altered in HUB1 mutant and overexpression lines, suggesting that the histone H2B monoubiquitination status affects plant fitness.
PMCID: PMC3578887  PMID: 23073007
H2B monoubiquitination; germination; chloroplast development; seed parameters; yield; Arabidopsis thaliana
5.  Cell Polarity and Patterning by PIN Trafficking through Early Endosomal Compartments in Arabidopsis thaliana 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(5):e1003540.
PIN-FORMED (PIN) proteins localize asymmetrically at the plasma membrane and mediate intercellular polar transport of the plant hormone auxin that is crucial for a multitude of developmental processes in plants. PIN localization is under extensive control by environmental or developmental cues, but mechanisms regulating PIN localization are not fully understood. Here we show that early endosomal components ARF GEF BEN1 and newly identified Sec1/Munc18 family protein BEN2 are involved in distinct steps of early endosomal trafficking. BEN1 and BEN2 are collectively required for polar PIN localization, for their dynamic repolarization, and consequently for auxin activity gradient formation and auxin-related developmental processes including embryonic patterning, organogenesis, and vasculature venation patterning. These results show that early endosomal trafficking is crucial for cell polarity and auxin-dependent regulation of plant architecture.
Author Summary
Auxin is a unique plant hormone, which is actively and directionally transported in plant tissues. Transported auxin locally accumulates in the plant body and triggers a multitude of responses, including organ formation and patterning. Therefore, regulation of the directional auxin transport is very important in multiple aspects of plant development. The PIN-FORMED (PIN) family of auxin transporters is known to localize at specific sides of cells and export auxin from the cells, enabling the directional transport of auxin in the tissues. PIN proteins are rapidly shuttling between the plasma membrane and intracellular compartments, potentially allowing dynamic changes of the asymmetric localization according to developmental and environmental cues. Here, we discovered that a mutation in the Sec1/Munc18 family protein VPS45 abolishes its own early endosomal localization and compromises intracellular trafficking of PIN proteins. By genetic and pharmacological inhibition of early endosomal trafficking, we also revealed that another early endosomal protein, ARF GEF BEN1, is involved in early endosomal trafficking at a distinct step. Furthermore, we showed that these components play crucial roles in polar localization and dynamic repolarization of PIN proteins, which underpin various developmental processes. These findings highlight the indispensable roles of early endosomal components in regulating PIN polarity and plant architecture.
PMCID: PMC3667747  PMID: 23737757
6.  Visualization of the exocyst complex dynamics at the plasma membrane of Arabidopsis thaliana 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(4):510-520.
The exocyst complex localizes to distinct foci at the plasma membrane of Arabidopsis thaliana cells. Their localization at the plasma membrane is insensitive to BFA treatment but is decreased in an exocyst-subunit mutant. In turn, exocyst-subunit mutants show decreased exocytosis.
The exocyst complex, an effector of Rho and Rab GTPases, is believed to function as an exocytotic vesicle tether at the plasma membrane before soluble N-ethylmaleimide–sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE) complex formation. Exocyst subunits localize to secretory-active regions of the plasma membrane, exemplified by the outer domain of Arabidopsis root epidermal cells. Using variable-angle epifluorescence microscopy, we visualized the dynamics of exocyst subunits at this domain. The subunits colocalized in defined foci at the plasma membrane, distinct from endocytic sites. Exocyst foci were independent of cytoskeleton, although prolonged actin disruption led to changes in exocyst localization. Exocyst foci partially overlapped with vesicles visualized by VAMP721 v-SNARE, but the majority of the foci represent sites without vesicles, as indicated by electron microscopy and drug treatments, supporting the concept of the exocyst functioning as a dynamic particle. We observed a decrease of SEC6–green fluorescent protein foci in an exo70A1 exocyst mutant. Finally, we documented decreased VAMP721 trafficking to the plasma membrane in exo70A1 and exo84b mutants. Our data support the concept that the exocyst-complex subunits dynamically dock and undock at the plasma membrane to create sites primed for vesicle tethering.
PMCID: PMC3571873  PMID: 23283982
7.  Neutrophil extracellular trap cell death requires both autophagy and superoxide generation 
Cell Research  2010;21(2):290-304.
Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) are extracellular chromatin structures that can trap and degrade microbes. They arise from neutrophils that have activated a cell death program called NET cell death, or NETosis. Activation of NETosis has been shown to involve NADPH oxidase activity, disintegration of the nuclear envelope and most granule membranes, decondensation of nuclear chromatin and formation of NETs. We report that in phorbol myristate acetate (PMA)-stimulated neutrophils, intracellular chromatin decondensation and NET formation follow autophagy and superoxide production, both of which are required to mediate PMA-induced NETosis and occur independently of each other. Neutrophils from patients with chronic granulomatous disease, which lack NADPH oxidase activity, still exhibit PMA-induced autophagy. Conversely, PMA-induced NADPH oxidase activity is not affected by pharmacological inhibition of autophagy. Interestingly, inhibition of either autophagy or NADPH oxidase prevents intracellular chromatin decondensation, which is essential for NETosis and NET formation, and results in cell death characterized by hallmarks of apoptosis. These results indicate that apoptosis might function as a backup program for NETosis when autophagy or NADPH oxidase activity is prevented.
PMCID: PMC3193439  PMID: 21060338
neutrophil extracellular trap; granulocyte; chronic granulomatous disease; superoxide; autophagy; live cell imaging
8.  Transcriptional analysis of cell growth and morphogenesis in the unicellular green alga Micrasterias (Streptophyta), with emphasis on the role of expansin 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:128.
Streptophyte green algae share several characteristics of cell growth and cell wall formation with their relatives, the embryophytic land plants. The multilobed cell wall of Micrasterias denticulata that rebuilds symmetrically after cell division and consists of pectin and cellulose, makes this unicellular streptophyte alga an interesting model system to study the molecular controls on cell shape and cell wall formation in green plants.
Genome-wide transcript expression profiling of synchronously growing cells identified 107 genes of which the expression correlated with the growth phase. Four transcripts showed high similarity to expansins that had not been examined previously in green algae. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that these genes are most closely related to the plant EXPANSIN A family, although their domain organization is very divergent. A GFP-tagged version of the expansin-resembling protein MdEXP2 localized to the cell wall and in Golgi-derived vesicles. Overexpression phenotypes ranged from lobe elongation to loss of growth polarity and planarity. These results indicate that MdEXP2 can alter the cell wall structure and, thus, might have a function related to that of land plant expansins during cell morphogenesis.
Our study demonstrates the potential of M. denticulata as a unicellular model system, in which cell growth mechanisms have been discovered similar to those in land plants. Additionally, evidence is provided that the evolutionary origins of many cell wall components and regulatory genes in embryophytes precede the colonization of land.
PMCID: PMC3191482  PMID: 21943227
9.  Disruption of the SapM locus in Mycobacterium bovis BCG improves its protective efficacy as a vaccine against M. tuberculosis 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2011;3(4):222-234.
Mycobacterium bovis bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) provides only limited protection against pulmonary tuberculosis. We tested the hypothesis that BCG might have retained immunomodulatory properties from its pathogenic parent that limit its protective immunogenicity. Mutation of the molecules involved in immunomodulation might then improve its vaccine potential. We studied the vaccine potential of BCG mutants deficient in the secreted acid phosphatase, SapM, or in the capping of the immunomodulatory ManLAM cell wall component with α-1,2-oligomannoside. Both systemic and intratracheal challenge of mice with Mycobacterium tuberculosis following vaccination showed that the SapM mutant, compared to the parental BCG vaccine, provided better protection: it led to longer-term survival. Persistence of the SapM-mutated BCG in vivo resembled that of the parental BCG indicating that this mutation will likely not compromise the safety of the BCG vaccine. The SapM mutant BCG vaccine was more effective than the parental vaccine in inducing recruitment and activation of CD11c+MHC-IIintCD40int dendritic cells (DCs) to the draining lymph nodes. Thus, SapM acts by inhibiting recruitment of DCs and their activation at the site of vaccination.
PMCID: PMC3377067  PMID: 21328541
Mycobacterium; SapM; tuberculosis; vaccine; BCG
10.  IL-17 produced by Paneth cells drives TNF-induced shock 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2008;205(8):1755-1761.
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) has very potent antitumor activity, but it also provokes a systemic inflammatory response syndrome that leads to shock, organ failure, and death. Here, we demonstrate that interleukin (IL)-17, a proinflammatory cytokine known to be produced mainly by activated T cells, has a critical role in this process. Antiserum against IL-17 or deletion of Il17r protected mice against a lethal TNF challenge. Serum levels of TNF-induced IL-6 and nitric oxide metabolites were significantly reduced in mice deficient in the IL-17R. TNF-induced leukocyte influx in the small intestine was reduced, and there was no injury to the small intestine. Surprisingly, electron microscopy showed that IL-17 was constitutively present in Paneth cells of the crypts. Upon TNF challenge, the intracellular pool of IL-17 in these cells was drastically reduced, suggesting rapid release of IL-17 from the granules of Paneth cells. Our findings assign a novel role for IL-17 in an acute inflammation and identify Paneth cells as a source of the IL-17 that plays a role in this process. These data indicate that innate immune cytokine responses in the local mucosa may participate in rapidly amplifying responses to systemic inflammatory challenges.
PMCID: PMC2525583  PMID: 18663129

Results 1-10 (10)