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1.  An Insulin-to-Insulin Regulatory Network Orchestrates Phenotypic Specificity in Development and Physiology 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004225.
Insulin-like peptides (ILPs) play highly conserved roles in development and physiology. Most animal genomes encode multiple ILPs. Here we identify mechanisms for how the forty Caenorhabditis elegans ILPs coordinate diverse processes, including development, reproduction, longevity and several specific stress responses. Our systematic studies identify an ILP-based combinatorial code for these phenotypes characterized by substantial functional specificity and diversity rather than global redundancy. Notably, we show that ILPs regulate each other transcriptionally, uncovering an ILP-to-ILP regulatory network that underlies the combinatorial phenotypic coding by the ILP family. Extensive analyses of genetic interactions among ILPs reveal how their signals are integrated. A combined analysis of these functional and regulatory ILP interactions identifies local genetic circuits that act in parallel and interact by crosstalk, feedback and compensation. This organization provides emergent mechanisms for phenotypic specificity and graded regulation for the combinatorial phenotypic coding we observe. Our findings also provide insights into how large hormonal networks regulate diverse traits.
Author Summary
Insulin signaling is widely implicated in regulating diverse physiological processes ranging from metabolism to longevity across many animal species. Many animals have multiple insulin-like peptides that can regulate the activity of this signaling pathway. For example, while humans have ten, including the well-studied insulin hormone, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has forty such peptides. The similarity among these insulin-like peptides led to the predominant notion that widespread redundancy occurs among these peptides. Contrary to this notion, we find that the forty insulin-like peptides in the nematode C. elegans have specific and distinct effects on eight different physiological outputs that range from development, stress responses, lifespan and reproduction. Interestingly, we also find that these peptides regulate each other at the transcriptional level to form a signaling network. In addition, we observe that this network is organized into parallel circuits, whose activities are affected by compensation, feedback and crosstalk. Finally, the organization of the network helps to explain how different combinations of peptides generate specific outputs and captures the complexity of how these peptides orchestrate an animal's physiology through distinct peptide-to-peptide signaling circuits.
PMCID: PMC3967928  PMID: 24675767
2.  Reconstruction of phrenic neuron identity in embryonic stem cell-derived motor neurons 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(4):784-794.
Air breathing is an essential motor function for vertebrates living on land. The rhythm that drives breathing is generated within the central nervous system and relayed via specialised subsets of spinal motor neurons to muscles that regulate lung volume. In mammals, a key respiratory muscle is the diaphragm, which is innervated by motor neurons in the phrenic nucleus. Remarkably, relatively little is known about how this crucial subtype of motor neuron is generated during embryogenesis. Here, we used direct differentiation of motor neurons from mouse embryonic stem cells as a tool to identify genes that direct phrenic neuron identity. We find that three determinants, Pou3f1, Hoxa5 and Notch, act in combination to promote a phrenic neuron molecular identity. We show that Notch signalling induces Pou3f1 in developing motor neurons in vitro and in vivo. This suggests that the phrenic neuron lineage is established through a local source of Notch ligand at mid-cervical levels. Furthermore, we find that the cadherins Pcdh10, which is regulated by Pou3f1 and Hoxa5, and Cdh10, which is controlled by Pou3f1, are both mediators of like-like clustering of motor neuron cell bodies. This specific Pcdh10/Cdh10 activity might provide the means by which phrenic neurons are assembled into a distinct nucleus. Our study provides a framework for understanding how phrenic neuron identity is conferred and will help to generate this rare and inaccessible yet vital neuronal subtype directly from pluripotent stem cells, thus facilitating subsequent functional investigations.
PMCID: PMC3912827  PMID: 24496616
Embryonic stem cell; Phrenic neuron; Transcriptional identity; Motor neuron differentiation
3.  Genome-Wide Transcription Analysis of Clinal Genetic Variation in Drosophila 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34620.
Clinal variation in quantitative traits is widespread, but its genetic basis awaits identification. Drosophila melanogaster shows adaptive, clinal variation in traits such as body size along latitudinal gradients on multiple continents. To investigate genome wide transcription differentiation between North and South that might contribute to the clinal phenotypic variation, we compared RNA expression patterns during development of D. melanogaster from tropical northern and temperate southern populations using whole genome tiling arrays. We found that genes that were differentially expressed between the cline ends were generally associated with metabolism and growth, and experimental alteration of expression of a sample of them generally resulted in altered body size in the predicted direction, sometimes significantly so. We further identified the serpent (srp) transcription factor binding sites to be enriched near genes up-regulated in expression in the south. Analysis of clinal populations revealed a significant cline in the expression level of srp. Experimental over-expression of srp increased body size, as predicted from its clinal expression pattern, suggesting that it may be involved in regulating adaptive clinal variation in Drosophila. This study identified a handful of genes that contributed to clinal phenotypic variation through altered gene expression level, yet misexpression of individual gene led to modest body size change.
PMCID: PMC3326059  PMID: 22514645
4.  Tetartohedral twinning could happen to you too 
A review of published tetartohedrally twinned macromolecular structures is presented, together with details of the recent structure determination of triclinic tetartohedrally twinned crystals of human complement factor I.
Tetartohedral crystal twinning is discussed as a particular case of (pseudo)merohedral twinning when the number of twinned domains is four. Tetartohedrally twinned crystals often possess pseudosymmetry, with the rotational part of the pseudo­symmetry operators coinciding with the twinning operators. Tetartohedrally twinned structures from the literature are reviewed and the recent structure determination of tetartohedrally twinned triclinic crystals of human complement factor I is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3322600  PMID: 22505261
tetartohedral twinning
5.  Proteomic and protein interaction network analysis of human T lymphocytes during cell-cycle entry 
Proteomic analysis of T cells emerging from quiescence identifies dynamic network-level changes in key cellular processes. Disruption of two such processes, ribosome biogenesis and RNA splicing, reveals that the programs controlling cell growth and cell-cycle entry are separable.
The authors conduct a proteomic and protein interaction network analysis of human T lymphocytes during entry into the first cell cycle.Inhibiting the induction of eIF6 (60S ribosome biogenesis) causes T cells to enter the cell cycle without growing in size.Inhibiting the induction of SF3B2/SF3B4 (U2/U12-dependent RNA splicing) allows an increase in cell size without entering the cell cycle.These results provide proof of principle that blastogenesis and proliferation programs are separable in primary human T cells.
Regulating the transition of cells such as T lymphocytes from quiescence (G0) into an activated, proliferating state involves initiation of cellular programs resulting in entry into the cell cycle (proliferation), the growth cycle (blastogenesis, cell size) and effector (functional) activation. We show the first proteomic analysis of protein interaction networks activated during entry into the first cell cycle from G0. We also provide proof of principle that blastogenesis and proliferation programs are separable in primary human T cells. We employed a proteomic profiling method to identify large-scale changes in chromatin/nuclear matrix-bound and unbound proteins in human T lymphocytes during the transition from G0 into the first cell cycle and mapped them to form functionally annotated, dynamic protein interaction networks. Inhibiting the induction of two proteins involved in two of the most significantly upregulated cellular processes, ribosome biogenesis (eIF6) and hnRNA splicing (SF3B2/SF3B4), showed, respectively, that human T cells can enter the cell cycle without growing in size, or increase in size without entering the cell cycle.
PMCID: PMC3321526  PMID: 22415777
cell cycle; cell size; mass spectrometry; proteomics; T cells
6.  Stratification of co-evolving genomic groups using ranked phylogenetic profiles 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:355.
Previous methods of detecting the taxonomic origins of arbitrary sequence collections, with a significant impact to genome analysis and in particular metagenomics, have primarily focused on compositional features of genomes. The evolutionary patterns of phylogenetic distribution of genes or proteins, represented by phylogenetic profiles, provide an alternative approach for the detection of taxonomic origins, but typically suffer from low accuracy. Herein, we present rank-BLAST, a novel approach for the assignment of protein sequences into genomic groups of the same taxonomic origin, based on the ranking order of phylogenetic profiles of target genes or proteins across the reference database.
The rank-BLAST approach is validated by computing the phylogenetic profiles of all sequences for five distinct microbial species of varying degrees of phylogenetic proximity, against a reference database of 243 fully sequenced genomes. The approach - a combination of sequence searches, statistical estimation and clustering - analyses the degree of sequence divergence between sets of protein sequences and allows the classification of protein sequences according to the species of origin with high accuracy, allowing taxonomic classification of 64% of the proteins studied. In most cases, a main cluster is detected, representing the corresponding species. Secondary, functionally distinct and species-specific clusters exhibit different patterns of phylogenetic distribution, thus flagging gene groups of interest. Detailed analyses of such cases are provided as examples.
Our results indicate that the rank-BLAST approach can capture the taxonomic origins of sequence collections in an accurate and efficient manner. The approach can be useful both for the analysis of genome evolution and the detection of species groups in metagenomics samples.
PMCID: PMC2775751  PMID: 19860884
7.  Dendritic Targeting in the Leg Neuropil of Drosophila: The Role of Midline Signalling Molecules in Generating a Myotopic Map 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(9):e1000199.
During development of the Drosophila motor system, global guidance cues control and coordinate the targeting of both input and output elements of the neural system.
Neural maps are emergent, highly ordered structures that are essential for organizing and presenting synaptic information. Within the embryonic nervous system of Drosophila motoneuron dendrites are organized topographically as a myotopic map that reflects their pattern of innervation in the muscle field. Here we reveal that this fundamental organizational principle exists in adult Drosophila, where the dendrites of leg motoneurons also generate a myotopic map. A single postembryonic neuroblast sequentially generates different leg motoneuron subtypes, starting with those innervating proximal targets and medial neuropil regions and producing progeny that innervate distal muscle targets and lateral neuropil later in the lineage. Thus the cellular distinctions in peripheral targets and central dendritic domains, which make up the myotopic map, are linked to the birth-order of these motoneurons. Our developmental analysis of dendrite growth reveals that this myotopic map is generated by targeting. We demonstrate that the medio-lateral positioning of motoneuron dendrites in the leg neuropil is controlled by the midline signalling systems Slit-Robo and Netrin-Fra. These results reveal that dendritic targeting plays a major role in the formation of myotopic maps and suggests that the coordinate spatial control of both pre- and postsynaptic elements by global neuropilar signals may be an important mechanism for establishing the specificity of synaptic connections.
Author Summary
During development the axons of sensory neurons generate highly ordered ”sensory maps„ within the nervous system that represent specific qualities of the environment. Much less is known about the anatomical organization and development of motor systems. Here, we show that the leg motoneurons of Drosophila organize their dendrites within the central nervous system in a way that reflects the position of the muscles they innervate. These motoneurons generate a ‘myotopic map’ by targeting the growth of their dendrites (sites of synaptic input) into discrete territories during development. The precise targeting of dendrites along the mediolateral axis is controlled by the signaling molecules Slit and Netrin, which are secreted by midline cells. These proteins act as global guidance cues and exert their effects via distinct signaling pathways using receptors called Roundabout and Frazzled, respectively. Previous studies have shown that Slit also helps to position the termini of axons (sites of synaptic output), independent of their synaptic partners. We suggest that the coordinated targeting of both input and output elements of a neural system into a common space using shared global guidance cues could be a simple way of establishing the specificity of synaptic connections within neural networks.
PMCID: PMC2737123  PMID: 19771147
8.  Rhombomere-specific analysis reveals the repertoire of genetic cues expressed across the developing hindbrain 
Neural Development  2009;4:6.
The Hox family of homeodomain transcription factors comprises pivotal regulators of cell specification and identity during animal development. However, despite their well-defined roles in the establishment of anteroposterior pattern and considerable research into their mechanism of action, relatively few target genes have been identified in the downstream regulatory network. We have sought to investigate this issue, focussing on the developing hindbrain and the cranial motor neurons that arise from this region. The reiterated anteroposterior compartments of the developing hindbrain (rhombomeres (r)) are normally patterned by the combinatorial action of distinct Hox genes. Alteration in the normal pattern of Hox cues in this region results in a transformation of cellular identity to match the remaining Hox profile, similar to that observed in Drosophila homeotic transformations.
To define the repertoire of genes regulated in each rhombomere, we have analysed the transcriptome of each rhombomere from wild-type mouse embryos and not those where pattern is perturbed by gain or loss of Hox gene function. Using microarray and bioinformatic methodologies in conjunction with other confirmatory techniques, we report here a detailed and comprehensive set of potential Hox target genes in r2, r3, r4 and r5. We have demonstrated that the data produced are both fully reflective and predictive of rhombomere identity and, thus, may represent some the of Hox targets. These data have been interrogated to generate a list of candidate genes whose function may contribute to the generation of neuronal subtypes characteristic of each rhombomere. Interestingly, the data can also be classified into genetic motifs that are predicted by the specific combinations of Hox genes and other regulators of hindbrain anteroposterior identity. The sets of genes described in each or combinations of rhombomeres span a wide functional range and suggest that the Hox genes, as well as other regulatory inputs, exert their influence across the full spectrum of molecular machinery.
We have performed a systematic survey of the transcriptional status of individual segments of the developing mouse hindbrain and identified hundreds of previously undescribed genes expressed in this region. The functional range of the potential candidate effectors or upstream modulators of Hox activity suggest multiple unexplored mechanisms. In particular, we present evidence of a potential new retinoic acid signalling system in ventral r4 and propose a model for the refinement of identity in this region. Furthermore, the rhombomeres demonstrate a molecular relationship to each other that is consistent with known observations about neurogenesis in the hindbrain. These findings give the first genome-wide insight into the complexity of gene expression during patterning of the developing hindbrain.
PMCID: PMC2649922  PMID: 19208226
9.  Evolutionary conservation of regulated longevity assurance mechanisms 
Genome Biology  2007;8(7):R132.
Short abstract: A multi-level cross-species comparative analysis of gene-expression changes accompanying increased longevity in mutant nematodes, fruit flies and mice with reduced insulin/IGF-1 signaling revealed candidate conserved mechanisms.
To what extent are the determinants of aging in animal species universal? Insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 signaling (IIS) is an evolutionarily conserved (public) regulator of longevity; yet it remains unclear whether the genes and biochemical processes through which IIS acts on aging are public or private (that is, lineage specific). To address this, we have applied a novel, multi-level cross-species comparative analysis to compare gene expression changes accompanying increased longevity in mutant nematodes, fruitflies and mice with reduced IIS.
Surprisingly, there is little evolutionary conservation at the level of individual, orthologous genes or paralogous genes under IIS regulation. However, a number of gene categories are significantly enriched for genes whose expression changes in long-lived animals of all three species. Down-regulated categories include protein biosynthesis-associated genes. Up-regulated categories include sugar catabolism, energy generation, glutathione-S-transferases (GSTs) and several other categories linked to cellular detoxification (that is, phase 1 and phase 2 metabolism of xenobiotic and endobiotic toxins). Protein biosynthesis and GST activity have recently been linked to aging and longevity assurance, respectively.
These processes represent candidate, regulated mechanisms of longevity-control that are conserved across animal species. The longevity assurance mechanisms via which IIS acts appear to be lineage-specific at the gene level (private), but conserved at the process level (or semi-public). In the case of GSTs, and cellular detoxification generally, this suggests that the mechanisms of aging against which longevity assurance mechanisms act are, to some extent, lineage specific.
PMCID: PMC2323215  PMID: 17612391
10.  Estimation and correction of non-specific binding in a large-scale spike-in experiment 
Genome Biology  2007;8(6):R126.
A combined statistical analysis using the MAS5 PM-MM, GC-NSB and PDNN methods to generate probeset values from microarray data results in an improved ability to detect differential expression and estimates of false discovery rates compared with the individual methods.
The availability of a recently published large-scale spike-in microarray dataset helps us to understand the influence of probe sequence in non-specific binding (NSB) signal and enables the benchmarking of several models for the estimation of NSB. In a typical microarray experiment using Affymetrix whole genome chips, 30% to 50% of the probes will apparently have absent target transcripts and show only NSB signal, and these probes can have significant repercussions for normalization and the statistical analysis of the data if NSB is not estimated correctly.
We have found that the MAS5 perfect match-mismatch (PM-MM) model is a poor model for estimation of NSB, and that the Naef and Zhang sequence-based models can reasonably estimate NSB. In general, using the GC robust multi-array average, which uses Naef binding affinities, to calculate NSB (GC-NSB) outperforms other methods for detecting differential expression. However, there is an intensity dependence of the best performing methods for generating probeset expression values. At low intensity, methods using GC-NSB outperform other methods, but at medium intensity, MAS5 PM-MM methods perform best, and at high intensity, MAS5 PM-MM and Zhang's position-dependent nearest-neighbor (PDNN) methods perform best.
A combined statistical analysis using the MAS5 PM-MM, GC-NSB and PDNN methods to generate probeset values results in an improved ability to detect differential expression and estimates of false discovery rates compared with the individual methods. Additional improvements in detecting differential expression can be achieved by a strict elimination of empty probesets before normalization. However, there are still large gaps in our understanding of the Affymetrix GeneChip technology, and additional large-scale datasets, in which the concentration of each transcript is known, need to be produced before better models of specific binding can be created.
PMCID: PMC2394775  PMID: 17594493
11.  Correcting for sequence biases in present/absent calls 
Genome Biology  2007;8(6):R125.
Correction of non-specific binding for both PM and MM probes using probe-sequence models can partially remove the probe-sequence bias in Affymetrix microarray experiments and result in better performance of the MAS 5.0 algorithm.
The probe sequence of short oligonucleotides in Affymetrix microarray experiments can have a significant influence on present/absent calls of probesets with absent target transcripts. Probesets enriched for central Ts and depleted of central As in the perfect-match probes tend to be falsely classified as having present transcripts. Correction of non-specific binding for both perfect-match and mismatch probes using probe-sequence models can partially remove the probe-sequence bias and result in better performance of the MAS 5.0 algorithm.
PMCID: PMC2394774  PMID: 17594492
12.  Relating tissue specialization to the differentiation of expression of singleton and duplicate mouse proteins 
Genome Biology  2006;7(10):R89.
An analysis of the relationship between duplication events, the time they took place and the expression breadth of the duplicated genes supports the subfunctionalization model, in which expression divergence following gene duplication promotes the retention of a gene in multicellular species.
Gene duplications have been hypothesized to be a major factor in enabling the evolution of tissue differentiation. Analyses of the expression profiles of duplicate genes in mammalian tissues have indicated that, with time, the expression patterns of duplicate genes diverge and become more tissue specific. We explored the relationship between duplication events, the time at which they took place, and both the expression breadth of the duplicated genes and the cumulative expression breadth of the gene family to which they belong.
We show that only duplicates that arose through post-multicellularity duplication events show a tendency to become more specifically expressed, whereas such a tendency is not observed for duplicates that arose in a unicellular ancestor. Unlike the narrow expression profile of the duplicated genes, the overall expression of gene families tends to maintain a global expression pattern.
The work presented here supports the view suggested by the subfunctionalization model, namely that expression divergence in different tissues, following gene duplication, promotes the retention of a gene in the genome of multicellular species. The global expression profile of the gene families suggests division of expression between family members, whose expression becomes specialized. Because specialization of expression is coupled with an increased rate of sequence divergence, it can facilitate the evolution of new, tissue-specific functions.
PMCID: PMC1794571  PMID: 17029626
13.  Genome-wide gene expression in response to parasitoid attack in Drosophila 
Genome Biology  2005;6(11):R94.
Expression profiling of the transcriptional response at 9 time points of Drosophila larvae attacked by insect parasites revealed 159 genes that were differentially expressed between parasitized and control larvae. Most genes with altered expression following parasitoid attack had not previously been associated with immune defense.
Parasitoids are insect parasites whose larvae develop in the bodies of other insects. The main immune defense against parasitoids is encapsulation of the foreign body by blood cells, which subsequently often melanize. The capsule sequesters and kills the parasite. The molecular processes involved are still poorly understood, especially compared with insect humoral immunity.
We explored the transcriptional response to parasitoid attack in Drosophila larvae at nine time points following parasitism, hybridizing five biologic replicates per time point to whole-genome microarrays for both parasitized and control larvae. We found significantly different expression profiles for 159 probe sets (representing genes), and we classified them into 16 clusters based on patterns of co-expression. A series of functional annotations were nonrandomly associated with different clusters, including several involving immunity and related functions. We also identified nonrandom associations of transcription factor binding sites for three main regulators of innate immune responses (GATA/srp-like, NF-κB/Rel-like and Stat), as well as a novel putative binding site for an unknown transcription factor. The appearance or absence of candidate genes previously associated with insect immunity in our differentially expressed gene set was surveyed.
Most genes that exhibited altered expression following parasitoid attack differed from those induced during antimicrobial immune responses, and had not previously been associated with defense. Applying bioinformatic techniques contributed toward a description of the encapsulation response as an integrated system, identifying putative regulators of co-expressed and functionally related genes. Genome-wide studies such as ours are a powerful first approach to investigating novel genes involved in invertebrate immunity.
PMCID: PMC1297650  PMID: 16277749

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