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1.  Using Fourier transform IR spectroscopy to analyze biological materials 
Nature protocols  2014;9(8):1771-1791.
IR spectroscopy is an excellent method for biological analyses. It enables the nonperturbative, label-free extraction of biochemical information and images toward diagnosis and the assessment of cell functionality. Although not strictly microscopy in the conventional sense, it allows the construction of images of tissue or cell architecture by the passing of spectral data through a variety of computational algorithms. Because such images are constructed from fingerprint spectra, the notion is that they can be an objective reflection of the underlying health status of the analyzed sample. One of the major difficulties in the field has been determining a consensus on spectral pre-processing and data analysis. This manuscript brings together as coauthors some of the leaders in this field to allow the standardization of methods and procedures for adapting a multistage approach to a methodology that can be applied to a variety of cell biological questions or used within a clinical setting for disease screening or diagnosis. We describe a protocol for collecting IR spectra and images from biological samples (e.g., fixed cytology and tissue sections, live cells or biofluids) that assesses the instrumental options available, appropriate sample preparation, different sampling modes as well as important advances in spectral data acquisition. After acquisition, data processing consists of a sequence of steps including quality control, spectral pre-processing, feature extraction and classification of the supervised or unsupervised type. A typical experiment can be completed and analyzed within hours. Example results are presented on the use of IR spectra combined with multivariate data processing.
doi:10.1038/nprot.2014.110
PMCID: PMC4480339  PMID: 24992094
2.  Genetic screening and functional characterization of PDGFRB mutations associated with Basal Ganglia Calcification of Unknown Etiology 
Human mutation  2014;35(8):964-971.
Three causal genes for Idiopathic Basal Ganglia Calcification (IBGC) have been identified. Most recently, mutations in PDGFRB, encoding a member of the platelet-derived growth factor receptor family type β, and PDGFB, encoding PDGF-B, the specific ligand of PDGFRβ, were found implicating the PDGF-B/PDGFRβ pathway in abnormal brain calcification. In this study we aimed to identify and study mutations in PDGFRB and PDGFB in a series of 26 patients from the Mayo Clinic Florida Brain Bank with moderate to severe basal ganglia calcification (BCG) of unknown etiology. No mutations in PDGFB were found. However, we identified one mutation in PDGFRB, p.R695C located in the tyrosine kinase domain, in one BGC patient. We further studied the function of p.R695C mutant PDGFRβ and two previously reported mutants, p.L658P and p.R987W PDGFRβ in cell culture. We show that, in response to PDGF-BB stimulation, the p.L658P mutation completely suppresses PDGFRβ autophosphorylation whereas the p.R695C mutation results in partial loss of autophosphorylation. For the p.R987W mutation, our data suggest a different mechanism involving reduced protein levels. These genetic and functional studies provide the first insight into the pathogenic mechanisms associated with PDGFRB mutations and provide further support for a pathogenic role of PDGFRB mutations in BGC.
doi:10.1002/humu.22582
PMCID: PMC4107018  PMID: 24796542
Basal Ganglia Calcification; BGC; IBGC; Fahr disease; PDGFRB; PDGFB
3.  Genome-wide association study of corticobasal degeneration identifies risk variants shared with progressive supranuclear palsy 
Nature Communications  2015;6:7247.
Corticobasal degeneration (CBD) is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting movement and cognition, definitively diagnosed only at autopsy. Here, we conduct a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in CBD cases (n=152) and 3,311 controls, and 67 CBD cases and 439 controls in a replication stage. Associations with meta-analysis were 17q21 at MAPT (P=1.42 × 10−12), 8p12 at lnc-KIF13B-1, a long non-coding RNA (rs643472; P=3.41 × 10−8), and 2p22 at SOS1 (rs963731; P=1.76 × 10−7). Testing for association of CBD with top progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) GWAS single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified associations at MOBP (3p22; rs1768208; P=2.07 × 10−7) and MAPT H1c (17q21; rs242557; P=7.91 × 10−6). We previously reported SNP/transcript level associations with rs8070723/MAPT, rs242557/MAPT, and rs1768208/MOBP and herein identified association with rs963731/SOS1. We identify new CBD susceptibility loci and show that CBD and PSP share a genetic risk factor other than MAPT at 3p22 MOBP (myelin-associated oligodendrocyte basic protein).
Corticobasal degeneration is a rare neurodegenerative disorder that can only be definitively diagnosed by autopsy. Here, Kouri et al. conduct a genome-wide-association study and identify two genetic susceptibility loci 17q21 (MAPT) and 3p12 (MOBP), and a novel susceptibility locus at 8p12.
doi:10.1038/ncomms8247
PMCID: PMC4469997  PMID: 26077951
4.  Multiple functional roles of the accessory I-domain of bacteriophage P22 coat protein revealed by NMR structure and cryoEM modeling 
SUMMARY
Some capsid proteins built on the ubiquitous HK97-fold have accessory domains that impart specific functions. Bacteriophage P22 coat protein has a unique inserted I-domain. Two prior I-domain models from sub-nanometer cryoEM reconstructions differed substantially. Therefore, the NMR structure of the I-domain was determined, which also was used to improve cryoEM models of coat protein. The I-domain has an anti-parallel 6-stranded β-barrel fold, previously not observed in HK97-fold accessory domains. The D-loop, which is dynamic both in the isolated I-domain and intact monomeric coat protein, forms stabilizing salt bridges between adjacent capsomers in procapsids. A newly described S-loop is important for capsid size determination, likely through intra-subunit interactions. Ten of eighteen coat protein temperature-sensitive-folding substitutions are in the I-domain, indicating its importance in folding and stability. Several are found on a positively charged face of the β-barrel that anchors the I-domain to a negatively charged surface of the coat protein HK97-core.
doi:10.1016/j.str.2014.04.003
PMCID: PMC4068711  PMID: 24836025
5.  Regional distribution of synaptic markers and APP correlate with distinct clinicopathological features in sporadic and familial Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2014;137(5):1533-1549.
Sporadic and familial Alzheimer’s disease differ in region-specific amyloid-β accumulation, pattern of neurodegeneration, and symptoms. Shinohara et al. quantify amyloid-β, tau and related molecules and reveal a synapse-associated pattern of amyloid-β42 in sporadic disease, and APP-associated amyloid-β42 in familial cases. Aberrant synaptic processes and APP processing respectively may drive these differences.
Recent studies suggest that subcortical structures, including striatum, are vulnerable to amyloid-β accumulation and other neuropathological features in familial Alzheimer’s disease due to autosomal dominant mutations. We explored differences between familial and sporadic Alzheimer’s disease that might shed light on their respective pathogenic mechanisms. To this end, we analysed 12 brain regions, including neocortical, limbic and subcortical areas, from post-mortem brains of familial Alzheimer’s disease (n = 10; age at death: 50.0 ± 8.6 years) with mutations in amyloid precursor protein (APP) or presenilin 1 (PSEN1), sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (n = 19; age at death: 84.7 ± 7.8 years), neurologically normal elderly without amyloid-β accumulation (normal ageing; n = 13, age at death: 82.9 ± 10.8 years) and neurologically normal elderly with extensive cortical amyloid-β deposits (pathological ageing; n = 15; age at death: 92.7 ± 5.9 years). The levels of amyloid-β40, amyloid-β42, APP, apolipoprotein E, the synaptic marker PSD95 (now known as DLG4), the astrocyte marker GFAP, other molecules related to amyloid-β metabolism, and tau were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. We observed that familial Alzheimer’s disease had disproportionate amyloid-β42 accumulation in subcortical areas compared with sporadic Alzheimer’s disease, whereas sporadic Alzheimer’s disease had disproportionate amyloid-β42 accumulation in cortical areas compared to familial Alzheimer’s disease. Compared with normal ageing, the levels of several proteins involved in amyloid-β metabolism were significantly altered in both sporadic and familial Alzheimer’s disease; however, such changes were not present in pathological ageing. Among molecules related to amyloid-β metabolism, the regional distribution of PSD95 strongly correlated with the regional pattern of amyloid-β42 accumulation in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease and pathological ageing, whereas the regional distribution of APP as well as β-C-terminal fragment of APP were strongly associated with the regional pattern of amyloid-β42 accumulation in familial Alzheimer’s disease. Apolipoprotein E and GFAP showed negative regional association with amyloid-β (especially amyloid-β40) accumulation in both sporadic and familial Alzheimer’s disease. Familial Alzheimer’s disease had greater striatal tau pathology than sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. In a retrospective medical record review, atypical signs and symptoms were more frequent in familial Alzheimer’s disease compared with sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. These results suggest that disproportionate amyloid-β42 accumulation in cortical areas in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease may be mediated by synaptic processes, whereas disproportionate amyloid-β42 accumulation in subcortical areas in familial Alzheimer’s disease may be driven by APP and its processing. Region-specific amyloid-β42 accumulation might account for differences in the relative amounts of tau pathology and clinical symptoms in familial and sporadic Alzheimer’s disease.
doi:10.1093/brain/awu046
PMCID: PMC3999719  PMID: 24625695
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-β; neuroanatomy; APP; synapses
6.  An atomic model of brome mosaic virus using direct electron detection and real-space optimization 
Nature communications  2014;5:4808.
Advances in electron cryo-microscopy have enabled structure determination of macromolecules at near-atomic resolution. However, structure determination, even using de novo methods, remains susceptible to model bias and overfitting. Here, we describe a complete workflow for data acquisition, image processing, all-atom modeling, and validation of brome mosaic virus, an RNA virus. Data were collected with a direct electron detector in integrating mode and an exposure beyond the traditional radiation damage limit. The final density map has a resolution of 3.8 Å as assessed by two independent data sets and maps. We used the map to derive an all-atom model with a newly implemented real-space optimization protocol. Validity of the model was verified by its match with the density map and a previous model from X-ray crystallography, as well as the internal consistency of models from independent maps. This study demonstrates a practical approach to obtain a rigorously-validated atomic resolution cryo-EM structure.
doi:10.1038/ncomms5808
PMCID: PMC4155512  PMID: 25185801
7.  Consequences of chirality on the dynamics of a water-soluble supramolecular polymer 
Nature Communications  2015;6:6234.
The rational design of supramolecular polymers in water is imperative for their widespread use, but the design principles for these systems are not well understood. Herein, we employ a multi-scale (spatial and temporal) approach to differentiate two analogous water-soluble supramolecular polymers: one with and one without a stereogenic methyl. Initially aiming simply to understand the molecular behaviour of these systems in water, we find that while the fibres may look identical, the introduction of homochirality imparts a higher level of internal order to the supramolecular polymer. Although this increased order does not seem to affect the basic dimensions of the supramolecular fibres, the equilibrium dynamics of the polymers differ by almost an order of magnitude. This report represents the first observation of a structure/property relationship with regard to equilibrium dynamics in water-soluble supramolecular polymers.
Water-soluble supramolecular polymers assemble from individual building blocks, but there is a lack of understanding as to how the properties depend on the components. Here the authors show how the introduction of chiral groups can affect the structural features and dynamic behaviour of the polymer.
doi:10.1038/ncomms7234
PMCID: PMC4346625  PMID: 25698667
8.  TMEM106B protects C9ORF72 expansion carriers against frontotemporal dementia 
Acta neuropathologica  2014;127(3):397-406.
Variants in transmembrane protein 106 B (TMEM106B) modify the disease penetrance of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in carriers of progranulin (GRN) mutations. We investigated whether TMEM106B is also a genetic modifier of disease in carriers of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) expansions. We assessed the genotype of 325 C9ORF72 expansion carriers (cohort 1), 586 FTD patients lacking C9ORF72 expansions (with or without motor neuron disease [MND]; cohort 2), and a total of 1,302 controls for TMEM106B variants (rs3173615 and rs1990622) using MassArray iPLEX and Taqman genotyping assays. For our primary analysis, we focused on functional variant rs3173615, and employed a recessive genotypic model. In cohort 1, patients with C9ORF72 expansions showed a significantly reduced frequency of carriers homozygous for the minor allele as compared to controls (11.9% versus 19.1%, odds ratio (OR): 0.57, p=0.014; same direction as carriers of GRN mutations). The strongest evidence was provided by FTD patients (OR: 0.33, p=0.009) followed by FTD/MND patients (OR: 0.38, p=0.017), whereas no significant difference was observed in MND patients (OR: 0.85, p=0.55). In cohort 2, the frequency of carriers homozygous for the minor allele was not significantly reduced in patients as compared to controls (OR: 0.77, p=0.079); however, a significant reduction was observed when focusing on those patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP; OR: 0.26, p<0.001).
Our study identifies TMEM106B as the first genetic factor modifying disease presentation in C9ORF72 expansion carriers. Homozygosity for the minor allele protects carriers from developing FTD, but not from developing MND; similar effects are seen in FTLD-TDP patients with yet unknown genetic causes. These new findings show that the protective effects of TMEM106B are not confined to carriers of GRN mutations, and might be relevant for prognostic testing, and as a promising therapeutic target for the entire spectrum of FTLD-TDP.
doi:10.1007/s00401-013-1240-4
PMCID: PMC3944829  PMID: 24385136
C9ORF72; TMEM106B; frontotemporal dementia; motor neuron disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; disease modifier
9.  Progranulin-associated PiB-negative logopenic primary progressive aphasia 
Journal of neurology  2014;261(3):604-614.
The logopenic variant of primary progressive aphasia (lvPPA) strongly associates with Alzheimer’s disease, but can also associate with frontotemporal lobar degeneration. We aimed to assess the frequency of lvPPA in patients with speech and language disorders without β-amyloid deposition, and to perform detailed neuroimaging and genetic testing in such lvPPA patients. Seventy-six patients with a neurodegenerative speech and language disorder and Pittsburgh compound B (PiB) PET imaging demonstrating no β-amyloid deposition were analyzed. Six lvPPA patients (8 %) were identified. All six underwent progranulin (GRN) gene testing. Structural abnormality index maps and Cortex ID analysis were utilized to assess individual patterns of grey matter atrophy on MRI and hypometabolism on 18-F fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET. Statistical parametric mapping was used to perform MRI and FDG-PET group comparisons between those with (GRN-positive) and without (GRN-negative) progranulin mutations. All six lvPPA patients showed left temporoparietal atrophy and hypometabolism. Three patients (50 %) were GRN-positive. Speech, language, and neurological and neuropsychological profiles did not differ between GRN-positive and negative patients, although GRN-positive patients had family histories, were on average 8 years younger, and had lower PiB-PET ratios. All six patients showed similar patterns of atrophy and hypometabolism, although, as a group, GRN-positive patients had more severe abnormalities, particularly in anteromedial temporal lobes. Logopenic PPA accounts for a small minority of neurodegenerative speech and language disorders not associated with β-amyloid deposition. Identification of such patients, however, should prompt testing for GRN mutations, since GRN-positive patients do not have distinctive features, yet account for 50 % of this patient population.
doi:10.1007/s00415-014-7243-9
PMCID: PMC3961471  PMID: 24449064
Progranulin; Logopenic; Primary progressive aphasia; β-amyloid; MRI; FDG-PET
11.  Structural and Biophysical Characterization of Bacillus thuringiensis Insecticidal Proteins Cry34Ab1 and Cry35Ab1 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112555.
Bacillus thuringiensis strains are well known for the production of insecticidal proteins upon sporulation and these proteins are deposited in parasporal crystalline inclusions. The majority of these insect-specific toxins exhibit three domains in the mature toxin sequence. However, other Cry toxins are structurally and evolutionarily unrelated to this three-domain family and little is known of their three dimensional structures, limiting our understanding of their mechanisms of action and our ability to engineer the proteins to enhance their function. Among the non-three domain Cry toxins, the Cry34Ab1 and Cry35Ab1 proteins from B. thuringiensis strain PS149B1 are required to act together to produce toxicity to the western corn rootworm (WCR) Diabrotica virgifera virgifera Le Conte via a pore forming mechanism of action. Cry34Ab1 is a protein of ∼14 kDa with features of the aegerolysin family (Pfam06355) of proteins that have known membrane disrupting activity, while Cry35Ab1 is a ∼44 kDa member of the toxin_10 family (Pfam05431) that includes other insecticidal proteins such as the binary toxin BinA/BinB. The Cry34Ab1/Cry35Ab1 proteins represent an important seed trait technology having been developed as insect resistance traits in commercialized corn hybrids for control of WCR. The structures of Cry34Ab1 and Cry35Ab1 have been elucidated to 2.15 Å and 1.80 Å resolution, respectively. The solution structures of the toxins were further studied by small angle X-ray scattering and native electrospray ion mobility mass spectrometry. We present here the first published structure from the aegerolysin protein domain family and the structural comparisons of Cry34Ab1 and Cry35Ab1 with other pore forming toxins.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112555
PMCID: PMC4229197  PMID: 25390338
12.  Expanded C9ORF72 Hexanucleotide Repeat in Depressive Pseudodementia 
JAMA neurology  2014;71(6):775-781.
Importance
Expanded hexanucleotide repeats in C9ORF72 are a common genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Repeat expansions have also been detected infrequently in other disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinsonian disorders.
Objective
To assess the incidence of the expanded C9ORF72 repeat in cases of depressive pseudodementia.
Design
An immunohistochemical screen of autopsied brains collected between 1998 and 2013.
Setting
Brain bank at Mayo Clinic Florida, a large tertiary care research institution.
Participants
Thirty one neuropathologically normal individuals (no atrophy, neuronal loss, or gliosis beyond what would be expected for age) with an antemortem clinical history or diagnosis of depression and/or dementia.
Main Outcome Measures
Presence of the hexanucleotide repeat was established using immunohistochemistry with a highly disease-specific antibody (C9RANT), and was further validated in carriers using repeat-primed polymerase chain reaction and Southern blotting.
Results
Of the 31 cases studied, 2 (6.45%) individuals harbored the C9ORF72 repeat expansion. Both patients were men with refractory depression. One patient experienced drug-induced Parkinsonism and sudden-onset dementia, while the other patient had a more insidious disease course suspected to be Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical and neuropathologic features are described.
Conclusions and Relevance
This report expands the range of clinicopathologic presentations of C9ORF72 expanded hexanucleotide repeat to include psychiatric disorders such as depressive pseudodementia.
doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.6368
PMCID: PMC4197801  PMID: 24756204
13.  An adult-onset leukoencephalopathy with axonal spheroids and pigmented glia accompanied by brain calcifications 
Journal of neurology  2013;260(10):10.1007/s00415-013-7093-x.
doi:10.1007/s00415-013-7093-x
PMCID: PMC3865925  PMID: 24036850
adult-onset leukoencephalopathy with axonal spheroids and pigmented glia; CSF1R; calcification; computed tomography; white matter; differential diagnosis
14.  Associations of repeat sizes with clinical and pathological characteristics in C9ORF72 expansion carriers (Xpansize-72): a cross-sectional cohort study 
Lancet neurology  2013;12(10):10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70210-2.
Summary
Background
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are currently the major genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Presently, it is unknown whether expansion size affects disease severity or phenotypes.
Methods
We performed a cross-sectional Southern blot characterization study (Xpansize-72) in a cohort of subjects obtained at the Mayo Clinic and Banner Sun Health Research Institute. All subjects carried GGGGCC repeat expansions in C9ORF72, and high quality DNA was available from the frontal cortex, cerebellum and/or blood. Southern blotting techniques and densitometry were employed to estimate the repeat size of the most abundant expansion species. Comparisons of repeat sizes between tissues were made using Wilcoxon rank sum and Wilcoxon signed rank tests, and between disease subgroups using Kruskal-Wallis rank sum tests. The association of repeat size with age at onset and age at collection was evaluated using a Spearman’s test of correlation; whereas the association between repeat size and survival after disease onset was examined using Cox proportional hazards regression models.
Findings
Our cohort consisted of 84 C9ORF72 expansion carriers, including FTD patients (n=35), FTD/MND patients (n=16), MND patients (n=30), and unaffected subjects (n=3). We focused our analysis on three major tissue subgroups: frontal cortex (41 subjects [21 FTD, 11 FTD/MND, 9 MND]), cerebellum (40 subjects [20 FTD, 12 FTD/MND, 8 MND]), and blood (50 subjects [15 FTD, 9 FTD/MND, 23 MND, 3 unaffected expansion carriers]). Repeat lengths in the cerebellum were significantly smaller (median 12·3 kb [~1667 repeat units], IQR 11·1–14·3) than in the frontal cortex (median 33·8 kb [~5250 repeat units], IQR 23·5–44·9, p<0·0001), or in blood (median 18·6 kb [~2717 repeat units], IQR 13·9–28·1, p=0·0002). Within these tissues, there was no significant difference in repeat length between disease subgroups (cerebellum p=0·96, frontal cortex p=0·27, blood p=0·10). In the frontal cortex of FTD patients, repeat length correlated with age at onset (r=0·63, p=0·003) and age at collection (r=0·58, p=0·006); this correlation was not detected in the cerebellum or blood. Finally, only in the cerebellum, survival after disease onset was poorer in patients from our overall cohort with repeat lengths greater than 1467 repeat units (25th percentile, HR 3·27, 95% CI 1·34–7·95, p=0·009): the median survival was 4·8 years (IQR 3·0–7·4) in the group with longer expansions versus 7·4 years (IQR 6·3–10·9) in the group with smaller expansions.
Interpretation
Substantial variation in repeat size is observed between cerebellum, frontal cortex, and blood; relatively long repeat sizes in the cerebellum confer an important survival disadvantage. Our findings indicate that expansion size does affect disease severity, which could be relevant for genetic counseling.
doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70210-2
PMCID: PMC3879782  PMID: 24011653
15.  Genetic modifiers in carriers of repeat expansions in the C9ORF72 gene 
Background
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are causative for frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Substantial phenotypic heterogeneity has been described in patients with these expansions. We set out to identify genetic modifiers of disease risk, age at onset, and survival after onset that may contribute to this clinical variability.
Results
We examined a cohort of 330 C9ORF72 expansion carriers and 374 controls. In these individuals, we assessed variants previously implicated in FTD and/or MND; 36 variants were included in our analysis. After adjustment for multiple testing, our analysis revealed three variants significantly associated with age at onset (rs7018487 [UBAP1; p-value = 0.003], rs6052771 [PRNP; p-value = 0.003], and rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.003]), and six variants significantly associated with survival after onset (rs5848 [GRN; p-value = 0.001], rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.001], rs13268953 [ELP3; p-value = 0.003], the epsilon 4 allele [APOE; p-value = 0.004], rs12608932 [UNC13A; p-value = 0.003], and rs1800435 [ALAD; p-value = 0.003]).
Conclusions
Variants identified through this study were previously reported to be involved in FTD and/or MND, but we are the first to describe their effects as potential disease modifiers in the presence of a clear pathogenic mutation (i.e. C9ORF72 repeat expansion). Although validation of our findings is necessary, these variants highlight the importance of protein degradation, antioxidant defense and RNA-processing pathways, and additionally, they are promising targets for the development of therapeutic strategies and prognostic tests.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1750-1326-9-38) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1750-1326-9-38
PMCID: PMC4190282  PMID: 25239657
C9ORF72; Frontotemporal dementia; Motor neuron disease; Genetic modifier; Repeat expansion
16.  An atomic model of brome mosaic virus using direct electron detection and real-space optimization 
Nature Communications  2014;5:4808.
Advances in electron cryo-microscopy have enabled structure determination of macromolecules at near-atomic resolution. However, structure determination, even using de novo methods, remains susceptible to model bias and overfitting. Here we describe a complete workflow for data acquisition, image processing, all-atom modelling and validation of brome mosaic virus, an RNA virus. Data were collected with a direct electron detector in integrating mode and an exposure beyond the traditional radiation damage limit. The final density map has a resolution of 3.8 Å as assessed by two independent data sets and maps. We used the map to derive an all-atom model with a newly implemented real-space optimization protocol. The validity of the model was verified by its match with the density map and a previous model from X-ray crystallography, as well as the internal consistency of models from independent maps. This study demonstrates a practical approach to obtain a rigorously validated atomic resolution electron cryo-microscopy structure.
Recent developments in cryo-electron microscopy have enabled structure determination of large protein complexes at almost atomic resolution. Wang et al. combine some of these technologies into an effective workflow, and demonstrate the protocol by solving the atomic structure of an icosahedral RNA virus.
doi:10.1038/ncomms5808
PMCID: PMC4155512  PMID: 25185801
17.  Profilin-1 mutations are rare in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia 
Objective
Mutations in profilin-1 (PFN1) have recently been identified in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Because of the considerable overlap between ALS and the common subtype of frontotemporal dementia, which is characterized by transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 pathology (FTLD-TDP), we tested cohorts of ALS and FTLD-TDP patients for PFN1 mutations.
Methods
DNA was obtained from 342 ALS patients and 141 FTLD-TDP patients at our outpatient clinic and brain bank for neurodegenerative diseases at the Mayo Clinic Florida, Jacksonville, USA. We screened these patients for mutations in coding regions of PFN1 by Sanger sequencing. Subsequently, we used TaqMan genotyping assays to investigate the identified variant in 1167 control subjects.
Results
One variant, p.E117G, was detected in 1 ALS patient, 1 FTLD-TDP patient, and 2 control subjects. The mutation frequency of patients versus control subjects was not significantly different (p-value = 0.36). Moreover, PFN1 and TDP-43 staining of autopsy material did not differ between patients with or without this variant.
Conclusion
The p.E117G variant appears to represent a benign polymorphism. PFN1 mutations, in general, are rare in ALS and FTLD-TDP patients.
doi:10.3109/21678421.2013.787630
PMCID: PMC3923463  PMID: 23634771
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; profilin-1; TDP-43; genetics
18.  Protruding knob-like proteins violate local symmetries in an icosahedral marine virus 
Nature Communications  2014;5:4278.
Marine viruses play crucial roles in shaping the dynamics of oceanic microbial communities and in the carbon cycle on Earth. Here we report a 4.7-Å structure of a cyanobacterial virus, Syn5, by electron cryo-microscopy and modelling. A Cα backbone trace of the major capsid protein (gp39) reveals a classic phage protein fold. In addition, two knob-like proteins protruding from the capsid surface are also observed. Using bioinformatics and structure analysis tools, these proteins are identified to correspond to gp55 and gp58 (each with two copies per asymmetric unit). The non 1:1 stoichiometric distribution of gp55/58 to gp39 breaks all expected local symmetries and leads to non-quasi-equivalence of the capsid subunits, suggesting a role in capsid stabilization. Such a structural arrangement has not yet been observed in any known virus structures.
Some viruses are spherical particles in which protein components are organized with well-defined icosahedral and local symmetries. Here, Gipson et al. describe a unique arrangement of proteins, breaking all expected local symmetries, in particles of a marine bacterial virus.
doi:10.1038/ncomms5278
PMCID: PMC4102127  PMID: 24985522
19.  β-hairpin-mediated nucleation of polyglutamine amyloid formation 
Journal of molecular biology  2013;425(7):1183-1197.
The conformational preferences of polyglutamine (polyQ) sequences are of major interest because of their central importance in the expanded CAG repeat diseases that include Huntington’s disease (HD). Here we explore the response of various biophysical parameters to the introduction of β-hairpin motifs within polyQ sequences. These motifs (trpzip, disulfide, D-Pro-Gly, Coulombic attraction, L-Pro-Gly) enhance formation rates and stabilities of amyloid fibrils with degrees of effectiveness well-correlated with their known abilities to enhance β-hairpin formation in other peptides. These changes led to decreases in the critical nucleus for amyloid formation from a value of n* = 4 for a simple, unbroken Q23 sequence to approximate unitary n* values for similar length polyQs containing β-hairpin motifs. At the same time, the morphologies, secondary structures, and bioactivities of the resulting fibrils were essentially unchanged from simple polyQ aggregates. In particular, the signature pattern of SSNMR 13C Gln resonances that appears to be unique to polyQ amyloid is replicated exactly in fibrils from a β-hairpin polyQ. Importantly, while β-hairpin motifs do produce enhancements in the equilibrium constant for nucleation in aggregation reactions, these Kn* values remain quite low (~ 10−10) and there is no evidence for significant embellishment of β-structure within the monomer ensemble. The results indicate an important role for β-turns in the nucleation mechanism and structure of polyQ amyloid and have implications for the nature of the toxic species in expanded CAG repeat diseases.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2013.01.016
PMCID: PMC3602386  PMID: 23353826
20.  Anterior brain glucose hypometabolism predates dementia in progranulin mutation carriers 
Neurology  2013;81(15):1322-1331.
Objective:
In this prospective cohort study, we investigated cerebral glucose metabolism reductions on [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-PET in progranulin (GRN) mutation carriers prior to frontotemporal dementia (FTD) onset.
Methods:
Nine mutation carriers (age 51.5 ± 13.5 years) and 11 noncarriers (age 52.7 ± 9.5 years) from 5 families with FTD due to GRN mutations underwent brain scanning with FDG-PET and MRI and clinical evaluation. Normalized FDG uptake values were calculated with reference to the pons. PET images were analyzed with regions of interest (ROI) and statistical parametric mapping (SPM) approaches.
Results:
Compared with noncarriers, GRN mutation carriers had a lowered anterior-to-posterior (AP) ratio of FDG uptake (0.86 ± 0.09 vs 0.92 ± 0.05) and less left-right asymmetry, consistent with an overall pattern of right anterior cerebral hypometabolism. This pattern was observed regardless of whether they were deemed clinically symptomatic no dementia or asymptomatic. Individual ROIs with lowered FDG uptake included right anterior cingulate, insula, and gyrus rectus. SPM analysis supported and extended these findings, demonstrating abnormalities in the right and left medial frontal regions, right insular cortex, right precentral and middle frontal gyri, and right cerebellum. Right AP ratio was correlated with cognitive and clinical scores (modified Mini-Mental State Examination r = 0.74; Functional Rating Scale r = −0.73) but not age and years to estimated onset in mutation carriers.
Conclusion:
The frontotemporal lobar degenerative process associated with GRN mutations appears to begin many years prior to the average age at FTD onset (late 50s–early 60s). Right medial and ventral frontal cortex and insula may be affected in this process but the specific regional patterns associated with specific clinical variants remain to be elucidated.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182a8237e
PMCID: PMC3806924  PMID: 24005336
21.  C9ORF72 repeat expansions in cases with previously identified pathogenic mutations 
Neurology  2013;81(15):1332-1341.
Objective:
To identify potential genetic modifiers contributing to the phenotypic variability that is detected in patients with repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72), we investigated the frequency of these expansions in a cohort of 334 subjects previously found to carry mutations in genes known to be associated with a spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases.
Methods:
A 2-step protocol, with a fluorescent PCR and a repeat-primed PCR, was used to determine the presence of hexanucleotide expansions in C9ORF72. For one double mutant, we performed Southern blots to assess expansion sizes, and immunohistochemistry to characterize neuropathology.
Results:
We detected C9ORF72 repeat expansions in 4 of 334 subjects (1.2% [or 1.8% of 217 families]). All these subjects had behavioral phenotypes and also harbored well-known pathogenic mutations in either progranulin (GRN: p.C466LfsX46, p.R493X, p.C31LfsX35) or microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT: p.P301L). Southern blotting of one double mutant with a p.C466LfsX46 GRN mutation demonstrated a long repeat expansion in brain (>3,000 repeats), and immunohistochemistry showed mixed neuropathology with characteristics of both C9ORF72 expansions and GRN mutations.
Conclusions:
Our findings indicate that co-occurrence of 2 evidently pathogenic mutations could contribute to the pleiotropy that is detected in patients with C9ORF72 repeat expansions. These findings suggest that patients with known mutations should not be excluded from further studies, and that genetic counselors should be aware of this phenomenon when advising patients and their family members.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182a8250c
PMCID: PMC3806926  PMID: 24027057
22.  Reconstructing virus structures from nanometer to near-atomic resolutions with cryo-electron microscopy and tomography 
The past few decades have seen tremendous advances in single particle electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM). The field has matured to the point that near-atomic resolution density maps can be generated for icosahedral viruses without the need for crystallization. In parallel, substantial progress has been made in determining the structures of non-icosahedrally arranged proteins in viruses by employing either single particle cryo-EM or cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET). Implicit in this course has been the availability of a new generation of electron cryo-microscopes and the development of the computational tools that are essential for generating these maps and models. This methodology has enabled structural biologists to analyze structures in increasing detail for virus particles that are in different morphogenetic and biochemical states. Furthermore, electron imaging of frozen, hydrated cells, in the process of being infected by viruses, has also opened up a new avenue for studying virus structures “in situ”. Here we present the common techniques used to acquire and process cryo-EM and cryo-ET data and discuss their implications for structural virology both now and in the future.
doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-0980-9_4
PMCID: PMC3954858  PMID: 22297510
Microscopy; Cryo-EM; Cryo-ET; Subnanometer Resolution; Near-Atomic Resolution; Modeling; Virus Structure
23.  Tau Pathology in Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration with C9ORF72 Hexanucleotide Repeat Expansion 
Acta neuropathologica  2012;125(2):289-302.
An expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in C9ORF72 is the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP). In addition to TDP-43-positive neuronal and glial inclusions, C9ORF72-linked FTLD-TDP has characteristic TDP-43-negative neuronal cytoplasmic and intranuclear inclusions as well as dystrophic neurites in the hippocampus and cerebellum. These lesions are immunopositive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin-binding proteins, such as sequestosome-1/p62 and ubiquilin-2. Studies examining the frequency of the C9ORF72 mutation in clinically probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have found a small proportion of AD cases with the mutation. This prompted us to systematically explore the frequency of Alzheimer type pathology in a series of 17 FTLD-TDP cases with mutations in C9ORF72 (FTLD-C9ORF72). We identified 4 cases with sufficient Alzheimer type pathology to meet criteria for intermediate-to-high likelihood AD. We compared AD pathology in the 17 FTLD-C9ORF72 to 13 cases of FTLD-TDP linked to mutations in the gene for progranulin (FTLD-GRN) and 36 cases of sporadic FTLD (sFTLD). FTLD-C9ORF72 cases had higher Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage than FTLD-GRN. Increased tau pathology in FTLD-C9ORF72 was assessed with thioflavin-S fluorescent microscopy-based neurofibrillary tangle counts and with image analysis of tau burden in temporal cortex and hippocampus. FTLD-C9ORF72 had significantly more neurofibrillary tangles and higher tau burden compared with FTLD-GRN. The differences were most marked in limbic regions. On the other hand, sFTLD and FTLD-C9ORF72 had a similar burden of tau pathology. These results suggest FTLD-C9ORF72 has increased propensity for tau pathology compared to FTLD-GRN, but not sFTLD. The accumulation of tau as well as lesions immunoreactive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin binding proteins (p62 and ubiquilin-2) suggests that mutations in C9ORF72 may involve disrupted protein degradation that favors accumulation of multiple different proteins.
doi:10.1007/s00401-012-1048-7
PMCID: PMC3551994  PMID: 23053135
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9ORF72; ubiquitin; p62; ubiquilin-2; tau
24.  Refinement of Protein Structures into Low-Resolution Density Maps using Rosetta 
Journal of molecular biology  2009;392(1):181-190.
We describe a method based on Rosetta structure refinement for generating high-resolution all-atom protein models from electron cryo-microscopy density maps. A local measure of the fit of a model to the density is used to directly guide structure refinement and to identify regions incompatible with the density that are then targeted for extensive rebuilding. Over a range of test cases using both simulated and experimentally generated data, the method consistently increases the accuracy of starting models generated either by comparative modeling or by hand-tracing the density. The method can achieve near atomic resolution starting from density maps at 4-6Å resolution.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2009.07.008
PMCID: PMC3899897  PMID: 19596339
25.  Gorgon and Pathwalking: Macromolecular Modeling Tools for Subnanometer Resolution Density Maps 
Biopolymers  2012;97(9):655-668.
The complex interplay of proteins and other molecules, often in the form of large transitory assemblies, are critical to cellular function. Today, X-ray crystallography and electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) are routinely used to image these macromolecular complexes, though often at limited resolutions. Despite the rapidly growing number of macromolecular structures, few tools exist for modeling and annotating structures in the range of 3-10Å resolution. To address this need, we have developed a number of utilities specifically targeting subnanometer resolution density maps. As part of the 2010 Cryo-EM Modeling Challenge, we demonstrated two of our latest de novo modeling tools, Pathwalking and Gorgon, as well as a tool for secondary structure identification (SSEHunter) and a new rigid-body/flexible fitting tool in Gorgon. In total, we submitted 30 structural models from ten different subnanometer resolution data sets in four of the six challenge categories. Each of our utlities produced accurate structural models and annotations across the various density maps. In the end, the utilities that we present here offer users a robust toolkit for analyzing and modeling protein structure in macromolecular assemblies at non-atomic resolutions.
doi:10.1002/bip.22065
PMCID: PMC3899894  PMID: 22696403

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