Simvastatin is the active pharmaceutical ingredient of the blockbuster cholesterol lowering drug Zocor. We have previously developed an Escherichia coli based whole-cell biocatalytic platform towards the synthesis of simvastatin sodium salt (SS) starting from the precursor monacolin J sodium salt (MJSS). The centerpiece of the biocatalytic approach is the simvastatin synthase LovD, which is highly prone to misfolding and aggregation when overexpressed from E. coli. Increasing the solubility of LovD without decreasing its catalytic activity can therefore elevate the performance of the whole-cell biocatalyst. Using a combination of homology structural prediction and site-directed mutagenesis, we identified two cysteine residues in LovD that are responsible for nonspecific intermolecular crosslinking, which leads to oligomer formation and protein aggregation. Replacement of Cys40 and Cys60 with alanine residues resulted in marked gain in both protein solubility and whole-cell biocatalytic activities. Further mutagenesis experiments converting these two residues to small or polar natural amino acids showed that C40A and C60N are the most beneficial, affording 27% and 26% increase in whole cell activities, respectively. The double mutant C40A/C60N combines the individual improvements and displayed ~50% increase in protein solubility and whole-cell activity. Optimized fed-batch high-cell-density fermentation of the double mutant in an E. coli strain engineered for simvastatin production quantitatively (>99%) converted 45 mM MJSS to SS within 18 hours, which represents a significant improvement over the performance of wild type LovD under identical conditions. The high efficiency of the improved whole-cell platform renders the biocatalytic synthesis of SS an attractive substitute over the existing semisynthetic routes.
Acyltransferase; simvastatin; site-directed mutagenesis; whole-cell biocatalyst; protein solubility
Activation of the polycyclic polyketide prenyltransferases (pcPTase)-containing silent clusters in Aspergillus fumigatus and Neosartorya fischeri led to isolation of a new metabolite neosartoricin (3). The structure of 3 was solved by X-ray crystallography and NMR to be a prenylated anthracenone. 3 Exhibits T-cell antiproliferative activity with an IC50 of 3 μM, suggestive of a physiological role as an immunosuppressive agent.
Forest litter decomposition is a major component of the global carbon (C) budget, and is greatly affected by the atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition observed globally. However, the effects of N addition on forest litter decomposition, in ecosystems receiving increasingly higher levels of ambient N deposition, are poorly understood.
We conducted a two-year field experiment in five forests along the western edge of the Sichuan Basin in China, where atmospheric N deposition was up to 82–114 kg N ha–1 in the study sites. Four levels of N treatments were applied: (1) control (no N added), (2) low-N (50 kg N ha–1 year–1), (3) medium-N (150 kg N ha–1 year–1), and (4) high-N (300 kg N ha–1 year–1), N additions ranging from 40% to 370% of ambient N deposition. The decomposition processes of ten types of forest litters were then studied. Nitrogen additions significantly decreased the decomposition rates of six types of forest litters. N additions decreased forest litter decomposition, and the mass of residual litter was closely correlated to residual lignin during the decomposition process over the study period. The inhibitory effect of N addition on litter decomposition can be primarily explained by the inhibition of lignin decomposition by exogenous inorganic N. The overall decomposition rate of ten investigated substrates exhibited a significant negative linear relationship with initial tissue C/N and lignin/N, and significant positive relationships with initial tissue K and N concentrations; these relationships exhibited linear and logarithmic curves, respectively.
This study suggests that the expected progressive increases in N deposition may have a potential important impact on forest litter decomposition in the study area in the presence of high levels of ambient N deposition.
The use of molecular methods to diagnose Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) has improved diagnostic yield compared to conventional methods. However, PCR testing can detect colonization and has introduced several practical challenges pertaining to need for treatment and isolation of cases.
For all new cases detected by real-time PCR, concurrent cytotoxin assay was performed and genetic characterization with MLVA (multi-locus variable number tandem repeat analysis) was done to determine relatedness. We used PCR cycle threshold (Ct) of detection as surrogate marker for bacterial burden in stool.
Overall, 54 cases of CDI were detected during the study period. 42 were concurrently tested by CYT and characterized by MLVA .MLVA analysis revealed marked genetic diversity with no ongoing outbreaks; four cases were due to NAP1 strain. CYT −/PCR + cases had a higher median Ct value of detection compared to CYT+/PCR + cases (28.2 vs 22.5; p = 0.01). Among 25 strains that were genetically related, 9/11 isolates in this dominant cluster were positive by CYT compared to 4/14 in non-dominant clusters (p = 0.02).
CYT−/PCR+ cases contribute to hospital based transmission. However, the risk of transmission of C. difficile from CYT +/PCR+ cases may be higher than those that are CYT−/PCR+.
Iterative polyketide synthases (PKS) are large multifunctional enzymes that resemble eukaryotic fatty acid synthases, but can make highly functionalized secondary metabolites using complex and unresolved programming rules. During biosynthesis of the kinase inhibitor hypothemycin by Hypomyces subiculosus, a highly-reducing iterative PKS, Hpm8, cooperates with a non-reducing iterative PKS, Hpm3, to construct the advanced intermediate dehydrozearalenol (DHZ). The identity of putative intermediates in the formation of the highly reduced hexaketide portion of DHZ could be confirmed by incorporation of 13C-labeled N-acetylcysteamine (SNAC) thioesters using the purified enzymes. The results show that Hpm8 can accept SNAC thioesters of intermediates ready for transfer from its acyl carrier protein (ACP) domain to its ketosynthase (KS) domain and assemble them into DHZ in cooperation with Hpm3. Addition of certain structurally modified analogs of intermediates to Hpm8 and Hpm3 can produce DHZ derivatives.
The prenyltransferase (PTase) gene vrtC was proposed to be involved in viridicatumtoxin (1) biosynthesis in Penicillium aethiopicum. Targeted gene deletion and reconstitution of recombinant VrtC activity in vitro established that VrtC is a geranyl transferase that catalyzes a regiospecific Friedel-Crafts alkylation of the naphthacenedione carboxamide intermediate 2 at carbon 6 with geranyl diphosphate (GPP). VrtC can function in the absence of divalent ions and can utilize similar naphthacenedione substrates, such as the acetyl-primed TAN-1612 (4). Genome mining using the VrtC protein sequence leads to the identification of a homologous group of PTase genes in the genomes of human and animal-associated fungi. Three enzymes encoded by this new subgroup of PTase genes from Neosartorya fischeri, Microsporum canis and Trichophyton tonsurans were shown to be able to catalyze transfer of dimethylallyl to several tetracyclic naphthacenedione substrates in vitro. In total, seven C5- or C10-prenylated naphthacenedione compounds were generated. The regioselectivity of these new polycyclic PTases (pcPTases) was confirmed by characterization of product 9 obtained from biotransformation of 4 in Escherichia coli expressing the N. fischeri pcPTase gene. The discovery of this new subgroup of PTases extends our enzymatic tools for modifying polycyclic compounds and enables genome mining of new prenylated polyketides.
filamentous fungi; Friedel-Crafts alkylation; secondary metabolite; tetracycline; immunosuppressive
A dazzling array of enzymes is used by nature in making structurally complex natural products. These enzymes constitute a molecular toolbox that may be used in the construction and fine-tuning of pharmaceutically active molecules. Aided by technological advancements in protein engineering, it is now possible to tailor the activities and specificities of these enzymes as biocatalysts in the production of both natural products and their unnatural derivatives. These efforts are crucial in drug discovery and development, where there is a continuous quest for more potent agents. Both rational and random evolution techniques have been utilized in engineering these enzymes. This review will highlight some examples from several large families of natural products.
Muscle-derived stem cells (MDSCs) are multipotent stem cells with a remarkable long-term self-renewal and regeneration capacity. Here, we show that postnatal MDSCs could be transdifferentiated into Schwann cell-like cells upon the combined treatment of three neurotrophic factors (PDGF, NT-3 and IGF-2). The transdifferentiation of MDSCs was initially induced by Schwann cell (SC) conditioned medium. MDSCs adopted a spindle-like morphology similar to SCs after the transdifferentiation. Immunocytochemistry and immunoblot showed clearly that the SC markers S100, GFAP and p75 were expressed highly only after the transdifferentiation. Flow cytometry assay showed that the portion of S100 expressed cells was more than 60 percent and over one fourth of the transdifferentiated cells expressed all the three SC markers, indicating an efficient transdifferentiation. We then tested neurotrophic factors in the conditioned medium and found it was PDGF, NT-3 and IGF-2 in combination that conducted the transdifferentiation. Our findings demonstrate that it is possible to use specific neurotrophic factors to transdifferentiate MDSCs into Schwann cell-like cells, which might be therapeutically useful for clinical applications.
Mindfulness neuroscience is an emerging research field that investigates the underlying mechanisms of different mindfulness practices, different stages and different states of practice as well as different effects of practice over the lifespan. Mindfulness neuroscience research integrates theory and methods from eastern contemplative traditions, western psychology and neuroscience, and from neuroimaging techniques, physiological measures and behavioral tests. We here review several key theoretical and methodological challenges in the empirical study of mindfulness neuroscience and provide suggestions for overcoming these challenges.
mindfulness neuroscience; mindfulness; meditation; neuroplasticity; gene-environment interaction
self-transcendence; altered state of consciousness; anterior cingulate cortex; meditation; integrative body–mind training
Here, we report the complete genome sequences of two tembusu virus strains, ZC-1 and LQ-1, isolated from ducks and geese, respectively, in 2012. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the nucleotide and amino acid sequences of the two strains are closely related to those of the TMUV isolates around Shandong province. The full-length genome sequences of two waterfowl-origin TMUVs provided herein will help to understand the molecular epidemiology of tembusu virus in China, which deserves further investigation.
The iterative type I polyketide synthases (IPKSs) are central to the biosynthesis of an enormously diverse array of natural products in fungi. These natural products, known as polyketides, exhibit a wide range of biological activities and include clinically important drugs as well as undesirable toxins. The PKSs synthesize these structurally diverse polyketides via a series of decarboxylative condensations of malonyl-CoA extender units and β-keto modifications in a highly programmed manner. Significant progress has been made over the past few years in understanding the biosynthetic mechanism and programming of fungal PKSs. The continuously expanding fungal genome sequence data have sparked genome-directed discoveries of new fungal PKSs and associated products. The increasing number of fungal PKSs that have been linked to their products along with in-depth biochemical and structural characterizations of these large enzymes have remarkably improved our knowledge on the molecular basis for polyketide structural diversity in fungi. This perspective highlights the recent advances and examines how the newly expanded paradigm has contributed to our ability to link fungal PKS genes to chemical structures and vice versa. The knowledge will help us navigate through the logarithmically expanding seas of genomic information for polyketide compound discovery and provided opportunities to reprogram these megasynthases to generate new chemical entities.
The purpose of this work was to evaluate a previously proposed approach that aims to improve the point-spread-function (PSF) of MR spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) in order to avoid corruption by lipid signal arising from neighboring voxels. Retrospective spatial filtering can be used to alter the PSF, however, this either reduces spatial resolution or requires extending the acquisition in k-space at the cost of increased imaging time. Alternatively, the method evaluated here, PSF-Choice, can modify the PSF localization to reduce the contamination from adjacent lipids by conforming the signal response more closely to the desired MRSI voxel grid. This is done without increasing scan time or degrading SNR of important metabolites. PSF-Choice achieves improvements in spatial localization through modifications to the RF excitation pulses. An implementation of this method is reported for MRSI of the prostate, where it is demonstrated that, in 13 of 16 pilot prostate MRSI scans, intra-voxel spectral contamination from lipid was significantly reduced when using PSF-Choice. Phantom studies were also performed that demonstrate, compared to MRSI with standard Fourier phase encoding, out-of-voxel signal contamination of spectra was significantly reduced in MRSI with PSF-Choice.
point-spread-function (PSF); MR spectroscopic imaging (MRSI); prostate imaging; truncation artifact
We report the identification and characterization of the caz biosynthetic cluster from C. globosum and the characterization of a highly-reducing polyketide synthase (PKS) that acts in both a sequential and convergent manner with a nonreducing PKS to form the chaetomugilin and chaetoviridin azaphilones. Genetic inactivation studies verified the involvement of individual caz genes in the biosynthesis of the azaphilones. Through in vitro reconstitution, we demonstrated the in vitro synthesis of chaetoviridin A 3 from the pyrano-quinone intermediate cazisochromene 8 using the highly-reducing PKS and an acyltransferase.
Azaphilone; filamentous fungi; acyltransferase; biosynthesis
Members of the asperlicin family of fungal metabolites produced by Aspergillus alliaceus are known potent CCKA antagonists. Herein we report the identification of the gene cluster responsible for directing their biosynthesis. We validate and probe the pathway by genetic manipulation, and provide the first biochemical characterization of the oxidative cyclization en route to the heptacyclic asperlicin E by reconstituting the activity of the FAD depend monooxygenase AspB. This report provides the first genetic characterization of a NRPS assembly line that efficiently activates two anthranilate building blocks and illustrates the remarkably efficient biosynthesis of the complex heptacyclic asperlicin E.
Echinocandins are a family of fungal lipidated cyclic hexapeptide natural products. Due to their effectiveness as antifungal agents, three semisynthetic derivatives have been developed and approved for treatment of human invasive candidiasis. All six of the amino acid residues are hydroxylated, including 4R,5R-dihydroxy-L-ornithine, 4R-hydroxyl-L-proline, 3S,4S-dihydroxy-L-homotyrosine, and 3S-hydroxyl,4S-methyl-L-proline. We report here the biosynthetic gene cluster of echinocandin B 1 from Emericella rugulosa NRRL 11440 containing genes encoding for a six-module nonribosomal peptide synthetase EcdA, an acyl-AMP ligase EcdI and oxygenases EcdG, EcdH and EcdK. We showed EcdI activates linoleate as linoleyl-AMP and installs it on the first thiolation domain of EcdA. We have also established through ATP:PPi exchange assay that EcdA loads L-ornithine in the first module. A separate hty gene cluster encodes four enzymes for de novo generation of L-homotyrosine from acetyl-CoA and 4-hydroxy-phenyl-pyruvate is found from the sequenced genome. Deletions in the ecdA, and htyA genes validate their essential roles in echinocandin B production. Five predicted iron-centered oxygenase genes, ecdG, ecdH, ecdK, htyE, htyF, in the two separate ecd and hty clusters are likely to be the tailoring oxygenases for maturation of the nascent NRPS lipohexapeptidolactam product.
antifungal; nonribosomal peptide; lipopeptide; unnatural amino acids; genome mining
Aspergillus fumigatus is the causative agent of invasive aspergillosis, leading to infection-related mortality in immunocompromised patients. We previously showed that the conserved and unique-to-fungi veA gene affects different cell processes such as morphological development, gliotoxin biosynthesis and protease activity, suggesting a global regulatory effect on the genome of this medically relevant fungus. In this study, RNA sequencing analysis revealed that veA controls the expression of hundreds of genes in A. fumigatus, including those comprising more than a dozen known secondary metabolite gene clusters. Chemical analysis confirmed that veA controls the synthesis of other secondary metabolites in this organism in addition to gliotoxin. Among the secondary metabolite gene clusters regulated by veA is the elusive but recently identified gene cluster responsible for the biosynthesis of fumagillin, a meroterpenoid known for its anti-angiogenic activity by binding to human methionine aminopeptidase 2. The fumagillin gene cluster contains a veA-dependent regulatory gene, fumR (Afu8g00420), encoding a putative C6 type transcription factor. Deletion of fumR results in silencing of the gene cluster and elimination of fumagillin biosynthesis. We found expression of fumR to also be dependent on laeA, a gene encoding another component of the fungal velvet complex. The results in this study argue that veA is a global regulator of secondary metabolism in A. fumigatus, and that veA may be a conduit via which chemical development is coupled to morphological development and other cellular processes.
To analyze the mechanism for the therapeutic effects of TNFα inhibition in a murine model SLE.
We used the IFN induced NZB/W model of SLE nephritis and treated mice with TNFR2-Ig after TNF expression was detected in the kidneys. Autoantibodies were measured by ELISA and autoantibody forming cells by ELISpot. Activation of splenocytes was analyzed by flow cytometry. Kidneys were harvested and analyzed using flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, ELISA, Western blot and real-time PCR.
TNFR2-Ig treatment stabilized nephritis and markedly prolonged survival. Autoantibody production and systemic immune activation were not inhibited but the renal response to glomerular immune complex deposition was attenuated. This was associated with decreases in renal production of chemokines, renal endothelial cell activation, interstitial F4/80hi macrophage accumulation, tubular damage and oxidative stress. In contrast, perivascular lymphoid aggregates containing B cells, T cells and dendritic cells accumulated unabated.
Our data suggest that TNFα is a critical cytokine that amplifies the response of the nephron to immune complex deposition but it has less influence on the response of the systemic vasculature to inflammation.
SLE; Macrophages; Cytokines; Rodent; TNF alpha
Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded skin biopsy specimens, including 72 suppurative granulomatous inflammation (SGI) and 47 non-SGI controls, were tested for mycobacteria by using a broad-range PCR and a suspension array identification system. Mycobacterium smegmatis was detected in 13 (18.1%) of the SGI skin biopsy specimens, which was significantly more than 2 (4.3%) in the controls (odds ratio, 5.73; 95% confidence interval, 1.21 to 27.06; P = 0.028).
Azaphilones are a class of fungal metabolites characterized by a highly oxygenated pyrano-quinone bicyclic core and exhibits a broad range of bioactivities. While widespread among various fungi, their biosynthesis has not been thoroughly elucidated. By activation of a silent (aza) gene cluster in Aspergillus niger ATCC 1015, we have discovered six new azaphilone compounds, azanigerones A-F (1, 3-7). Transcriptional analysis and deletion of a key polyketide synthase (PKS) gene further confirmed the involvement of the aza gene cluster. The biosynthetic pathway was shown to involve the convergent actions of a highly-reducing and a non-reducing PKSs. Most significantly, in vitro reaction of a key flavin-dependent monooxygenase encoded in the cluster with an early benzaldehyde intermediate revealed its roles in hydroxylation and pyran-ring formation to afford the characteristic bicylic core shared by azaphilones.
The novel IsoAmp® HSV Assay employs isothermal helicase-dependent nucleic acid amplification and a user-friendly disposable test device to achieve rapid (<1.5 hours), on-demand qualitative detection of herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2 in oral and genital lesions.
To compare performance of the IsoAmp® HSV Assay with the ELVIS® HSV ID/typing (shell-vial culture and DFA) test system for clinical specimens collected from oral and genital lesions in symptomatic patients.
A total of 994 specimens from male and female genital and oral lesions were obtained and evaluated at five study sites in the United States. Results from the IsoAmp® HSV Assay were compared to those from the ELVIS® system. Separate reproducibility studies were performed at 3 sites using a blinded and randomized study panel. Discrepant specimens were resolved by bidirectional sequencing analysis.
After discrepant analysis, overall agreement of IsoAmp® with ELVIS® was 98.8% with 37.0% overall prevalence (all study sites). Reproducibility rates were well within expectations.
The IsoAmp® HSV assay showed excellent performance for clinical use for detection of HSV in genital and oral specimens. In contrast to ELVIS®, IsoAmp® HSV offers excellent sensitivity plus rapid on-demand testing and simpler specimen preparation.
Herpes simplex virus; Isothermal helicase-dependent amplification; Disposable detection device
Redox enzymes such as FAD-dependent and cytochrome P450 oxygenases play indispensible roles in generating structural complexity during natural product biosynthesis. In the pre-assembly steps, redox enzymes can convert garden variety primary metabolites into unique starter and extender building blocks. In the post-assembly tailoring steps, redox cascades can transform nascent scaffolds into structurally complex final products. In this review, we will discuss several recently characterized redox enzymes in the biosynthesis of polyketides and nonribosomal peptides.
Respiratory tract infections caused by influenza A and B viruses often present nonspecifically, and a rapid, high-throughput laboratory technique that can identify influenza viruses is clinically and epidemiologically desirable. The PLEX-ID Flu assay (Abbott Molecular Inc., Des Plaines, IL) incorporates multilocus PCR and electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry to detect and differentiate influenza A 2009 H1N1 (H1N1-p), seasonal H1N1 (H1N1-s), influenza A H3N2, and influenza B viruses in nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) specimens. The clinical performance characteristics of the PLEX-ID Flu assay in symptomatic patients were determined in this multicenter trial. A total of 2,617 prospectively and retrospectively collected NPS specimens from patients with influenza-like illness between February 2008 and 28 May 2010 were eligible for inclusion in the study. Each specimen was tested in parallel by the PLEX-ID Flu assay and by the Prodesse ProFLU+ assay (Prodesse Inc., Madison, WI), to detect influenza A and B viruses. Specimens testing positive for influenza A virus by ProFLU+ were subtyped as H1N1-p, H1N1-s, or H3N2 by using the ProFAST+ assay (Gen-Probe Prodesse Inc.). The reproducibility of the PLEX-ID Flu assay ranged from 98.3 to 100.0%, as determined by testing a nine-specimen panel at three clinical sites on each of 5 days. Positive percent agreements (PPAs) and negative percent agreements (NPAs) of the PLEX-ID Flu assay were 94.5% and 99.0% for influenza A virus and 96.0% and 99.9% for influenza B virus, respectively. For the influenza A virus subtyping characterization, the PLEX-ID Flu assay had PPAs and NPAs of 98.3% and 97.5% for H1N1-p, 88.6% and 100.0% for H1N1-s, and 98.0% and 99.9% for H3N2, respectively. The overall agreements between the PLEX-ID and Prodesse ProFLU+/ProFAST+ assays were 97.1 to 100.0%. Bidirectional Sanger sequencing analysis revealed that 87.5% of 96 discrepant results between the PLEX-ID Flu and ProFLU+/ProFAST+ assays were found upon influenza A virus detection and H1N1-p subtyping. The PLEX-ID Flu assay demonstrated a high level of accuracy for the simultaneous detection and identification of influenza A and B viruses in patient specimens, providing a new laboratory tool for the rapid diagnosis and management of influenza A and B virus infections.
As pulmonary fungal infections continue to increase due to an increasing number of immunocompromised patients, rapid detection and accurate identification of these fungal pathogens are critical. A broad fungal assay was developed by incorporating broad-range multilocus PCR amplification and electrospray ionization/mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) to detect and identify fungal organisms directly from clinical specimens. The aims of this study were to evaluate the performance of PCR/ESI-MS for detection, identification, and determination of the distribution of fungal organisms in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid specimens. The BAL fluid specimens submitted for fungal culture at Vanderbilt University Medical Center between May 2005 and October 2011 were included. Cultures and identification were done using standard procedures. In addition, DNA was extracted from BAL fluid specimens, and fungal DNA amplification/identification were performed by PCR/ESI-MS. The results were compared with those of the standard cultures. A total of 691 nonduplicated BAL fluid specimens with sufficient leftover volume for molecular testing were evaluated using PCR/ESI-MS. Among them, 134 specimens (19.4%) were positive for fungi by both culture and PCR/ESI-MS testing. Of the dual-positive specimens, 125 (93.3%) were positive for Candida and Aspergillus species, with concordances between culture and PCR/ESI-MS results being 84 (67.2%) at the species level and 109 (87.2%) at the genus level. In addition, 243 (35.2%) and 30 (4.3%) specimens were positive only by PCR/ESI-MS or by culture, respectively (odds ratio [OR] = 11.95, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 7.90 to 18.17, P = 0.0000). Codetection of fungal organisms was noted in 23 (3.3%) specimens by PCR/ESI-MS, which was significantly higher than the 4 (0.6%) in which they were noted by culture (OR = 5.91, 95% CI = 1.93 to 20.27, P = 0.0002). Among 53 specimens in which cultures failed because of bacterial overgrowth, at least one fungus was identified in 26 specimens (47.3%) by PCR/ESI-MS. PCR/ESI-MS provides an advanced tool for rapid and sensitive detection, identification, and determination of the distribution of fungal organisms directly from BAL fluid specimens. Moreover, it detected fungal organisms in specimens in which cultures failed because of bacterial overgrowth. The clinical relevance of the significantly higher detection rate of fungal organisms by PCR/ESI-MS merits further investigation.