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1.  Nanocomplexation of thrombin with cationic amylose derivative for improved stability and hemostatic efficacy 
As a topical hemostatic agent, thrombin has wide application for many surgical treatments. However, native thrombin always suffers from its physical and chemical instabilities. In this work, a nanocomplexation strategy was developed for modifying the stability and hemostatic efficacy of thrombin, in which a water-soluble cationic amylose derivative containing poly(l-lysine) dendrons was prepared by a click reaction and then used to complex thrombin in an aqueous system. For resultant thrombin nanocomplexes, their morphology and particle size distribution were investigated. Their stabilities were studied in terms of activity retention percentages under different storage time, pH values, and illumination time. In addition, their ability to achieve in vitro fibrinogen and blood coagulation were evaluated. Via a rat hepatic hemorrhage model and a rat iliac artery hemorrhage model, these thrombin nanocomplexes were confirmed to have good tissue biocompatibility and in vivo hemostatic effectiveness.
PMCID: PMC4321601
thrombin; nanoparticles; amylose derivative; complexation; stability; hemostatic activity
2.  Intrathecal injection of fluorocitric acid inhibits the activation of glial cells causing reduced mirror pain in rats 
BMC Anesthesiology  2014;14(1):119.
Growing evidence has shown that unilateral nerve injury results in pain hypersensitivity in the ipsilateral and contralateral sides respective to the injury site. This phenomenon is known as mirror image pain (MIP). Glial cells have been indicated in the mechanism of MIP; however, it is not clear how glial cells are involved in MIP.
To observe phenomenon MIP and the following mechanism, 20 adult male Sprague–Dawley rats (weighing 180–220 g) were separated into two groups: Sham Group (n = 10) and left L5 spinal nerve ligated and sectioned (SNL) group (n = 10). Thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical hypersensitivity were measured for both groups to determine if the SNL model had Mirror image of Pain (MIP). Nav1.7 protein expression in DRG was analyzed using immunohistochemistry and western-blotting. And then to observe the effect of fluorocitrate on MIP, 15 rats were separated into three Groups: Sham Group (n = 5); SNL + FC group: intrathecal injection of Fluorocitric acid(FC) 1 nmol/10 μL (n = 5); SNL + NS group: intrathecal injection of 0.9% Normal Saline (n = 5). Behavior testing, immunocytochemistry, and western-blotting using dorsal root ganglion (DRG) from both sides were then conducted.
The results showed pain hypersensitivity in both hind-paws of the SNL animals, Mechanical tests showed the paw withdrawal threshold dropped from 13.30 ± 1.204 g to 2.57 ± 1.963 g at 14 d as will as the ipsilateral paw thermal withdrawal threshold dropped from 16.5 ± 2.236 s to 4.38 ± 2.544 s at 14d. Mechanical tests showed the contralateral paw withdrawal threshold dropped from 14.01 ± 1.412 to 4.2 ± 1.789 g at 7d will the thermal withdrawal threshold dropped from 16.8 ± 2.176 s to 7.6 ± 1.517 s at 7d. Nav1.7 expression increased and glial cells actived in bilateral side DRG after SNL compared with sham group. After intrathecal injection of fluorocitrate, the glial cell in bilatral DRG were inhibited and the pain behavior were reversed in both hindpaws too.
Fluorocitrate can inhibit the activation of glial cells in spinal cord and DRG, and reduce MIP.
PMCID: PMC4297429  PMID: 25598703
Mirror-image pain; Satellite glial cells; DL-fluorocitric acid; Nav1.7 protein
3.  Adjuvant and Salvage Radiotherapy after Prostatectomy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104918.
In men with adverse prognostic factors (APFs) after radical prostatectomy (RP), the most appropriate timing to administer radiotherapy remains a subject for debate. We conducted a systemic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the therapeutic strategies: adjuvant radiotherapy (ART) and salvage radiotherapy (SRT).
Materials and Methods
We comprehensively searched PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science and the Cochrane Library and performed the meta-analysis of all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and retrospective comparative studies assessing the prognostic factors of ART and SRT.
Between May 1998 and July 2012, 2 matched control studies and 16 retrospective studies including a total of 2629 cases were identified (1404 cases for ART and 1185 cases for SRT). 5-year biochemical failure free survival (BFFS) for ART was longer than that for SRT (Hazard Ratio [HR]: 0.37; 95% CI, 0.30–0.46; p<0.00001, I2 = 0%). 3-year BFFS was significantly longer in the ART (HR: 0.38; 95% CI, 0.28–0.52; p<0.00001, I2 = 0%). Overall survival (OS) was also better in the ART (RR: 0.53; 95% CI, 0.41–0.68; p<0.00001, I2 = 0%), as did disease free survival (DFS) (RR: 0.53; 95% CI, 0.43–0.66; p<0.00001, I2 = 0%). Exploratory subgroup analysis and sensitivity analysis revealed the similar results with original analysis.
ART therapy offers a safe and efficient alternative to SRT with longer 3-year and 5-year BFFS, better OS and DFS. Our recommendation is to suggest ART for patients with APFs and may reduce the need for SRT. Given the inherent limitations of the included studies, future well-designed RCTs are awaited to confirm and update this analysis.
PMCID: PMC4133270  PMID: 25121769
4.  High-Efficiency Targeted Editing of Large Viral Genomes by RNA-Guided Nucleases 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(5):e1004090.
A facile and efficient method for the precise editing of large viral genomes is required for the selection of attenuated vaccine strains and the construction of gene therapy vectors. The type II prokaryotic CRISPR-Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-associated (Cas)) RNA-guided nuclease system can be introduced into host cells during viral replication. The CRISPR-Cas9 system robustly stimulates targeted double-stranded breaks in the genomes of DNA viruses, where the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) and homology-directed repair (HDR) pathways can be exploited to introduce site-specific indels or insert heterologous genes with high frequency. Furthermore, CRISPR-Cas9 can specifically inhibit the replication of the original virus, thereby significantly increasing the abundance of the recombinant virus among progeny virus. As a result, purified recombinant virus can be obtained with only a single round of selection. In this study, we used recombinant adenovirus and type I herpes simplex virus as examples to demonstrate that the CRISPR-Cas9 system is a valuable tool for editing the genomes of large DNA viruses.
Author Summary
The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-associated (Cas) system was discovered as a component of the bacterial acquired immune system that cleaves foreign DNA. This system is now used for site-specific genome editing in a wide range of organisms, including bacteria, yeasts, plants, and animals. However, the use of this approach in non-cell organisms, such as non-integrating viruses, has not been reported. Because multiple steps are required to construct mutant or recombinant DNA viruses with large genomes using the current approaches, we used the CRISPR-Cas9 system to introduce site-specific indels and insert a foreign gene into an adenoviral vector and wild-type herpes simplex virus. The high efficiency of CRISPR-Cas9 editing allowed for simple construction and purification of recombinant progeny virus. We believe that this new technique will have broad practical significance for selecting attenuated vaccine strains and antiviral drugs, constructing gene therapy vectors, and establishing efficient methods for viral biological studies.
PMCID: PMC4006927  PMID: 24788700
5.  CD44v/CD44s expression patterns are associated with the survival of pancreatic carcinoma patients 
Diagnostic Pathology  2014;9:79.
Background and purpose
CD44 variants have been associated with tumor invasion and metastasis, but CD44 expression patterns have not been systematically investigated in pancreatic carcinoma. This study systematically investigated whether CD44 expression patterns are involved in pancreatic carcinoma metastasis and prognosis.
We applied primers specific for all CD44 variants and CD44s to analyze the expression patterns of CD44 (CD44v2-CD44v10 and CD44s) using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). We then further evaluated their roles in pancreatic carcinoma metastasis and prognosis using clinical survival analysis.
Increased CD44v expression and decreased CD44s expression were found in metastatic pancreatic carcinoma in three different cell lines and in human tumor tissue. Clinical analysis showed that CD44v6+ and CD44v9+ were correlated with lymph node metastasis, liver metastasis and TNM stage. However, CD44s− was associated with liver metastasis, tumor differentiation and TNM stage. Survival analysis showed that patients with CD44v6+/CD44s− or CD44v6+/CD44s− had lower overall survival (OS) rates, although the individual expression of CD44v6, CD44v9 and CD44s was also related to decreased OS rates. Univariate analysis showed that lymph node metastasis; vessel invasion; hepatic metastases; TNM stage; and individual or co-expression of CD44v6, CD44v9 and CD44s were risk factors affecting survival. Multivariate analysis showed that CD44v6+/CD44s− was an independent predictor of survival.
We found that CD44v6+, CD44v9+ and CD44s− were associated with pancreatic carcinoma metastasis and progression and that CD44v6+/CD44s− was an independent risk factor affecting survival in pancreatic carcinoma. Therefore, the different expression patterns of CD44v/CD44s may determine pancreatic carcinoma prognosis.
Virtual slides
The virtual slide(s) for this article can be found here:
PMCID: PMC4108087  PMID: 24708709
CD44; CD44v; CD44s; Pancreatic carcinoma; Survival
6.  Macrophage migration inhibitory factor is overexpressed in pancreatic cancer tissues and impairs insulin secretion function of β-cell 
Understanding the pathogenic mechanism of pancreatic cancer associated diabetes (PCDM) might help yield biomarkers for the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer (PC) from population with new-onset diabetes. In the current study, we sought to determine the role of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) in PCDM pathogenesis.
The protein and mRNA levels of MIF in paraffin-embedded human PC samples, chronic pancreatitis specimens, and normal pancreas were measured by immunohistochemistry and quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. We measured serum levels of MIF in PC patients and controls. The biologic impacts of MIF overexpression on insulin secretion function of mice islets and β cells (HIT-T15) were investigated in vitro.
MIF expression was significantly increased in pancreatic cancer tissues compared with chronic pancreatitis or normal pancreas specimens. The insulin secretion function of both islets and HIT-T15 cells was impaired by indirect co-cultured with PC cells or treated with conditioned media from them. Stable MIF knock-down significantly decreased the diabetogenic effect of PC cells, while MIF knock-in HPDE6 cells demonstrated a strong inhibitory effect on insulin secretion function of islets and HIT-T15 cells. MIF impaired βcell function by depressing the Ca2+ currents, decreasing L-type Ca2+ channel α1 subunit protein expression level, and enhancing p-Src activity. Mean serum level of MIF was significant higher in new-onset diabetes associated PC patients in comparison with other groups.
MIF is up-regulated in patients with pancreatic cancer and causes dysfunction of insulin secretion in β-cells.
PMCID: PMC4022046  PMID: 24708788
Pancreatic cancer; Diabetes mellitus; Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor; Biomarker; Diagnosis
7.  A facile approach to synthesize SiO2 · Re2O3 (Re = Y, Eu, La, Sm, Tb, Pr) hollow sphere and its application in drug release 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2013;8(1):435.
Multifunctional SiO2 · Re2O3 (Re = Y, Eu, La, Sm, Tb, Pr) hollow spheres (HSs) have been fabricated using an acidic Re3+ ion solution. Under ultraviolet radiation, functional HSs emit different colors of light according to the different rare-earth ions embedded into the shell of SiO2 hollow spheres. The as-prepared hollow capsules were characterized by X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, Brunauer-Emmett-Teller method, scanning electron microscopy, and energy-dispersive spectrometry. Drug loading and release experiments have been carried out using SiO2 · Eu2O3 HSs that acted as drug carriers. The results demonstrate that the multifunctional HSs exhibit a high storage capacity and the ability of retaining drug stability and activity, which indicates that the as-synthesized fluorescent hollow capsules are a potential candidate as drug delivery materials.
PMCID: PMC3819671  PMID: 24144278
SiO2 · Re2O3; Hollow spheres (HSs); Fluorescence
8.  Downstream Signaling Pathways in Mouse Adipose Tissues Following Acute In Vivo Administration of Fibroblast Growth Factor 21 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73011.
FGF21 is a novel secreted protein with robust anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, and anti-atherogenic activities in preclinical species. In the current study, we investigated the signal transduction pathways downstream of FGF21 following acute administration of the growth factor to mice. Focusing on adipose tissues, we identified FGF21-mediated downstream signaling events and target engagement biomarkers. Specifically, RNA profiling of adipose tissues and phosphoproteomic profiling of adipocytes, following FGF21 treatment revealed several specific changes in gene expression and post-translational modifications, specifically phosphorylation, in several relevant proteins. Affymetrix microarray analysis of white adipose tissues isolated from both C57BL/6 (fed either regular chow or HFD) and db/db mice identified over 150 robust potential RNA transcripts and over 50 potential secreted proteins that were changed greater than 1.5 fold by FGF21 acutely. Phosphoprofiling analysis identified over 130 phosphoproteins that were modulated greater than 1.5 fold by FGF21 in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Bioinformatic analysis of the combined gene and phosphoprotein profiling data identified a number of known metabolic pathways such as glucose uptake, insulin receptor signaling, Erk/Mapk signaling cascades, and lipid metabolism. Moreover, a number of novel events with hitherto unknown links to FGF21 signaling were observed at both the transcription and protein phosphorylation levels following treatment. We conclude that such a combined "omics" approach can be used not only to identify robust biomarkers for novel therapeutics but can also enhance our understanding of downstream signaling pathways; in the example presented here, novel FGF21-mediated signaling events in adipose tissue have been revealed that warrant further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3765203  PMID: 24039848
9.  A Census of Human Soluble Protein Complexes 
Cell  2012;150(5):1068-1081.
Cellular processes often depend on stable physical associations between proteins. Despite recent progress, knowledge of the composition of human protein complexes remains limited. To close this gap, we applied an integrative global proteomic profiling approach, based on chromatographic separation of cultured human cell extracts into more than one thousand biochemical fractions which were subsequently analyzed by quantitative tandem mass spectrometry, to systematically identify a network of 13,993 high-confidence physical interactions among 3,006 stably-associated soluble human proteins. Most of the 622 putative protein complexes we report are linked to core biological processes, and encompass both candidate disease genes and unnanotated proteins to inform on mechanism. Strikingly, whereas larger multi-protein assemblies tend to be more extensively annotated and evolutionarily conserved, human protein complexes with 5 or fewer subunits are far more likely to be functionally un-annotated or restricted to vertebrates, suggesting more recent functional innovations.
PMCID: PMC3477804  PMID: 22939629
10.  A Bacteriophage Tailspike Domain Promotes Self-Cleavage of a Human Membrane-Bound Transcription Factor, the Myelin Regulatory Factor MYRF 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(8):e1001624.
Myelination of the central nervous system (CNS) is critical to vertebrate nervous systems for efficient neural signaling. CNS myelination occurs as oligodendrocytes terminally differentiate, a process regulated in part by the myelin regulatory factor, MYRF. Using bioinformatics and extensive biochemical and functional assays, we find that MYRF is generated as an integral membrane protein that must be processed to release its transcription factor domain from the membrane. In contrast to most membrane-bound transcription factors, MYRF proteolysis seems constitutive and independent of cell- and tissue-type, as we demonstrate by reconstitution in E. coli and yeast. The apparent absence of physiological cues raises the question as to how and why MYRF is processed. By using computational methods capable of recognizing extremely divergent sequence homology, we identified a MYRF protein domain distantly related to bacteriophage tailspike proteins. Although occurring in otherwise unrelated proteins, the phage domains are known to chaperone the tailspike proteins' trimerization and auto-cleavage, raising the hypothesis that the MYRF domain might contribute to a novel activation method for a membrane-bound transcription factor. We find that the MYRF domain indeed serves as an intramolecular chaperone that facilitates MYRF trimerization and proteolysis. Functional assays confirm that the chaperone domain-mediated auto-proteolysis is essential both for MYRF's transcriptional activity and its ability to promote oligodendrocyte maturation. This work thus reveals a previously unknown key step in CNS myelination. These data also reconcile conflicting observations of this protein family, different members of which have been identified as transmembrane or nuclear proteins. Finally, our data illustrate a remarkable evolutionary repurposing between bacteriophages and eukaryotes, with a chaperone domain capable of catalyzing trimerization-dependent auto-proteolysis in two entirely distinct protein and cellular contexts, in one case participating in bacteriophage tailspike maturation and in the other activating a key transcription factor for CNS myelination.
Author Summary
Membrane-bound transcription factors are synthesized as integral membrane proteins, but are proteolytically cleaved in response to relevant cues, untethering their transcription factor domains from the membrane to control gene expression in the nucleus. Here, we find that the myelin regulatory factor MYRF, a major transcriptional regulator of oligodendrocyte differentiation and central nervous system myelination, is also a membrane-bound transcription factor. In marked contrast to most well-known membrane-bound transcription factors, cleavage of MYRF appears to be unconditional. Surprisingly, this processing is performed by a protein domain shared with bacteriophages in otherwise unrelated proteins, where the domain is critical to the folding and proteolytic maturation of virus tailspikes. In addition to revealing a previously unknown key step in central nervous system myelination, this work also illustrates a remarkable example of evolutionary repurposing between bacteriophages and eukaryotes, with the same protein domain capable of catalyzing trimerization-dependent auto-proteolysis in two completely distinct protein and cellular contexts.
PMCID: PMC3742443  PMID: 23966832
11.  FGF21 Analogs of Sustained Action Enabled by Orthogonal Biosynthesis Demonstrate Enhanced Antidiabetic Pharmacology in Rodents 
Diabetes  2012;61(2):505-512.
Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) mitigates many of the pathogenic features of type 2 diabetes, despite a short circulating half-life. PEGylation is a proven approach to prolonging the duration of action while enhancing biophysical solubility and stability. However, in the absence of a specific protein PEGylation site, chemical conjugation is inherently heterogeneous and commonly leads to dramatic loss in bioactivity. This work illustrates a novel means of specific PEGylation, producing FGF21 analogs with high specific activity and salutary biological activities. Using homology modeling and structure-based design, specific sites were chosen in human FGF21 for site-specific PEGylation to ensure that receptor binding regions were preserved. The in vitro activity of the PEGylated FGF21 ana-logs corresponded with the site of PEG placement within the binding model. Site-specific PEGylated analogs demonstrated dramatically increased circulating half-life and enhanced efficacy in db/db mice. Twice-weekly dosing of an optimal FGF21 analog reduced blood glucose, plasma lipids, liver triglycerides, and plasma glucagon and enhanced pancreatic insulin content, islet number, and glucose-dependent insulin secretion. Restoration of insulin sensitivity was demonstrated by the enhanced ability of insulin to induce Akt/protein kinase B phosphorylation in liver, muscle, and adipose tissues. PEGylation of human FGF21 at a specific and preferred site confers superior metabolic pharmacology.
PMCID: PMC3266413  PMID: 22210323
12.  Anti-Diabetic Efficacy and Impact on Amino Acid Metabolism of GRA1, a Novel Small-Molecule Glucagon Receptor Antagonist 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49572.
Hyperglucagonemia is implicated in the pathophysiology of hyperglycemia. Antagonism of the glucagon receptor (GCGR) thus represents a potential approach to diabetes treatment. Herein we report the characterization of GRA1, a novel small-molecule GCGR antagonist that blocks glucagon binding to the human GCGR (hGCGR) and antagonizes glucagon-induced intracellular accumulation of cAMP with nanomolar potency. GRA1 inhibited glycogenolysis dose-dependently in primary human hepatocytes and in perfused liver from hGCGR mice, a transgenic line of mouse that expresses the hGCGR instead of the murine GCGR. When administered orally to hGCGR mice and rhesus monkeys, GRA1 blocked hyperglycemic responses to exogenous glucagon. In several murine models of diabetes, acute and chronic dosing with GRA1 significantly reduced blood glucose concentrations and moderately increased plasma glucagon and glucagon-like peptide-1. Combination of GRA1 with a dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor had an additive antihyperglycemic effect in diabetic mice. Hepatic gene-expression profiling in monkeys treated with GRA1 revealed down-regulation of numerous genes involved in amino acid catabolism, an effect that was paralleled by increased amino acid levels in the circulation. In summary, GRA1 is a potent glucagon receptor antagonist with strong antihyperglycemic efficacy in preclinical models and prominent effects on hepatic gene-expression related to amino acid metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3501516  PMID: 23185367
13.  An in-depth map of polyadenylation sites in cancer 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(17):8460-8471.
We present a comprehensive map of over 1 million polyadenylation sites and quantify their usage in major cancers and tumor cell lines using direct RNA sequencing. We built the Expression and Polyadenylation Database to enable the visualization of the polyadenylation maps in various cancers and to facilitate the discovery of novel genes and gene isoforms that are potentially important to tumorigenesis. Analyses of polyadenylation sites indicate that a large fraction (∼30%) of mRNAs contain alternative polyadenylation sites in their 3′ untranslated regions, independent of the cell type. The shortest 3′ untranslated region isoforms are preferentially upregulated in cancer tissues, genome-wide. Candidate targets of alternative polyadenylation-mediated upregulation of short isoforms include POLR2K, and signaling cascades of cell–cell and cell–extracellular matrix contact, particularly involving regulators of Rho GTPases. Polyadenylation maps also helped to improve 3′ untranslated region annotations and identify candidate regulatory marks such as sequence motifs, H3K36Me3 and Pabpc1 that are isoform dependent and occur in a position-specific manner. In summary, these results highlight the need to go beyond monitoring only the cumulative transcript levels for a gene, to separately analysing the expression of its RNA isoforms.
PMCID: PMC3458571  PMID: 22753024
14.  Extensive terminal and asymmetric processing of small RNAs from rRNAs, snoRNAs, snRNAs, and tRNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(14):6787-6799.
Deep sequencing studies frequently identify small RNA fragments of abundant RNAs. These fragments are thought to represent degradation products of their precursors. Using sequencing, computational analysis, and sensitive northern blot assays, we show that constitutively expressed non-coding RNAs such as tRNAs, snoRNAs, rRNAs and snRNAs preferentially produce small 5′ and 3′ end fragments. Similar to that of microRNA processing, these terminal fragments are generated in an asymmetric manner that predominantly favors either the 5′ or 3′ end. Terminal-specific and asymmetric processing of these small RNAs occurs in both mouse and human cells. In addition to the known processing of some 3′ terminal tRNA-derived fragments (tRFs) by the RNase III endonuclease Dicer, we show that several RNase family members can produce tRFs, including Angiogenin that cleaves the TψC loop to generate 3′ tRFs. The 3′ terminal tRFs but not the 5′ tRFs are highly complementary to human endogenous retroviral sequences in the genome. Despite their independence from Dicer processing, these tRFs associate with Ago2 and are capable of down regulating target genes by transcript cleavage in vitro. We suggest that endogenous 3′ tRFs have a role in regulating the unwarranted expression of endogenous viruses through the RNA interference pathway.
PMCID: PMC3413118  PMID: 22492706
15.  Coupled transcriptome and proteome analysis of human lymphotropic tumor viruses: insights on the detection and discovery of viral genes 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:625.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) are related human tumor viruses that cause primary effusion lymphomas (PEL) and Burkitt's lymphomas (BL), respectively. Viral genes expressed in naturally-infected cancer cells contribute to disease pathogenesis; knowing which viral genes are expressed is critical in understanding how these viruses cause cancer. To evaluate the expression of viral genes, we used high-resolution separation and mass spectrometry coupled with custom tiling arrays to align the viral proteomes and transcriptomes of three PEL and two BL cell lines under latent and lytic culture conditions.
The majority of viral genes were efficiently detected at the transcript and/or protein level on manipulating the viral life cycle. Overall the correlation of expressed viral proteins and transcripts was highly complementary in both validating and providing orthogonal data with latent/lytic viral gene expression. Our approach also identified novel viral genes in both KSHV and EBV, and extends viral genome annotation. Several previously uncharacterized genes were validated at both transcript and protein levels.
This systems biology approach coupling proteome and transcriptome measurements provides a comprehensive view of viral gene expression that could not have been attained using each methodology independently. Detection of viral proteins in combination with viral transcripts is a potentially powerful method for establishing virus-disease relationships.
PMCID: PMC3282826  PMID: 22185355
16.  Defining the pathway of cytoplasmic maturation of the 60S ribosomal subunit 
Molecular cell  2010;39(2):196-208.
In eukaryotic cells the final maturation of ribosomes occurs in the cytoplasm, where trans-acting factors are removed and critical ribosomal proteins are added for functionality. Here, we have carried out a comprehensive analysis of cytoplasmic maturation, ordering the known steps into a coherent pathway. Maturation is initiated by the ATPase Drg1. Downstream, assembly of the ribosome stalk is essential for the release of Tif6. The stalk recruits GTPases during translation. Because the GTPase Efl1, which is required for the release of Tif6, resembles the translation elongation factor eEF2, we suggest that assembly of the stalk recruits Efl1, triggering a step in 60S biogenesis that mimics aspects of translocation. Efl1 could thereby provide a mechanism to functionally check the nascent subunit. Finally, the release of Tif6 is a prerequisite for the release of the nuclear export adapter Nmd3. Establishing this pathway provides an important conceptual framework for understanding ribosome maturation.
PMCID: PMC2925414  PMID: 20670889
ribosome; ribosome biogenesis; EFL1; NMD3; TIF6
17.  Ago-associated human usRNAs and other similar small RNAs 
Genome Biology  2010;11(Suppl 1):P6.
PMCID: PMC3026277
18.  Characterization of Viral and Human RNAs Smaller than Canonical MicroRNAs▿ §  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(24):12751-12758.
Recently identified small (20 to 40 bases) RNAs, such as microRNAs (miRNAs) and endogenous small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) participate in important cellular pathways. In this report, we systematically characterized several novel features of human and viral RNA products smaller than miRNAs. We found that Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus K12-1 miRNA (23 bases) associates with a distinct, unusually small (17-base) RNA (usRNA) that can effectively downregulate a K12-1 miRNA target, human RAD21, suggesting that stable degradation-like products may also contribute to gene regulation. High-throughput sequencing reveals a diverse set of human miRNA-derived usRNAs and other non-miRNA-derived usRNAs. Human miRNA-derived usRNAs preferentially match to 5′ ends of miRNAs and are also more likely to associate with the siRNA effector protein Ago2 than with Ago1. Many non-miRNA-derived usRNAs associate with Ago proteins and also frequently contain C-rich 3′-specific motifs that are overrepresented in comparison to Piwi-interacting RNAs and transcription start site-associated RNAs. We postulate that approximately 30% of usRNAs could have evolved to participate in biological processes, including gene silencing.
PMCID: PMC2786840  PMID: 19812168
19.  PharmMapper server: a web server for potential drug target identification using pharmacophore mapping approach 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(Web Server issue):W609-W614.
In silico drug target identification, which includes many distinct algorithms for finding disease genes and proteins, is the first step in the drug discovery pipeline. When the 3D structures of the targets are available, the problem of target identification is usually converted to finding the best interaction mode between the potential target candidates and small molecule probes. Pharmacophore, which is the spatial arrangement of features essential for a molecule to interact with a specific target receptor, is an alternative method for achieving this goal apart from molecular docking method. PharmMapper server is a freely accessed web server designed to identify potential target candidates for the given small molecules (drugs, natural products or other newly discovered compounds with unidentified binding targets) using pharmacophore mapping approach. PharmMapper hosts a large, in-house repertoire of pharmacophore database (namely PharmTargetDB) annotated from all the targets information in TargetBank, BindingDB, DrugBank and potential drug target database, including over 7000 receptor-based pharmacophore models (covering over 1500 drug targets information). PharmMapper automatically finds the best mapping poses of the query molecule against all the pharmacophore models in PharmTargetDB and lists the top N best-fitted hits with appropriate target annotations, as well as respective molecule’s aligned poses are presented. Benefited from the highly efficient and robust triangle hashing mapping method, PharmMapper bears high throughput ability and only costs 1 h averagely to screen the whole PharmTargetDB. The protocol was successful in finding the proper targets among the top 300 pharmacophore candidates in the retrospective benchmarking test of tamoxifen. PharmMapper is available at
PMCID: PMC2896160  PMID: 20430828
20.  Ribosome stalk assembly requires the dual-specificity phosphatase Yvh1 for the exchange of Mrt4 with P0 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2009;186(6):849-862.
The step by step assembly process from preribosome in the nucleus to translation-competent 60S ribosome subunit in the cytoplasm is revealed (also see Kemmler et al. in this issue).
The ribosome stalk is essential for recruitment of translation factors. In yeast, P0 and Rpl12 correspond to bacterial L10 and L11 and form the stalk base of mature ribosomes, whereas Mrt4 is a nuclear paralogue of P0. In this study, we show that the dual-specificity phosphatase Yvh1 is required for the release of Mrt4 from the pre-60S subunits. Deletion of YVH1 leads to the persistence of Mrt4 on pre-60S subunits in the cytoplasm. A mutation in Mrt4 at the protein–RNA interface bypasses the requirement for Yvh1. Pre-60S subunits associated with Yvh1 contain Rpl12 but lack both Mrt4 and P0. These results suggest a linear series of events in which Yvh1 binds to the pre-60S subunit to displace Mrt4. Subsequently, P0 loads onto the subunit to assemble the mature stalk, and Yvh1 is released. The initial assembly of the ribosome with Mrt4 may provide functional compartmentalization of ribosome assembly in addition to the spatial separation afforded by the nuclear envelope.
PMCID: PMC2753163  PMID: 19797078
21.  A sensitive non-radioactive northern blot method to detect small RNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(7):e98.
The continuing discoveries of potentially active small RNAs at an unprecedented rate using high-throughput sequencing have raised the need for methods that can reliably detect and quantitate the expression levels of small RNAs. Currently, northern blot is the most widely used method for validating small RNAs that are identified by methods such as high-throughput sequencing. We describe a new northern blot-based protocol (LED) for small RNA (∼15–40 bases) detection using digoxigenin (DIG)-labeled oligonucleotide probes containing locked nucleic acids (LNA) and 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide for cross-linking the RNA to the membrane. LED generates clearly visible signals for RNA amounts as low as 0.05 fmol. This method requires as little as a few seconds of membrane exposure to outperform the signal intensity using overnight exposure of isotope-based methods, corresponding to ∼1000-fold improvement in exposure-time. In contrast to commonly used radioisotope-based methods, which require freshly prepared and hazardous probes, LED probes can be stored for at least 6 months, facilitate faster and more cost-effective experiments, and are more environmentally friendly. A detailed protocol of LED is provided in the Supplementary Data.
PMCID: PMC2853138  PMID: 20081203
22.  Rational Extension of the Ribosome Biogenesis Pathway Using Network-Guided Genetics 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(10):e1000213.
Gene networks are an efficient route for associating candidate genes with biological processes. Here, networks are used to discover more than 15 new genes for ribosomal subunit maturation, rRNA processing, and ribosomal export from the nucleus.
Biogenesis of ribosomes is an essential cellular process conserved across all eukaryotes and is known to require >170 genes for the assembly, modification, and trafficking of ribosome components through multiple cellular compartments. Despite intensive study, this pathway likely involves many additional genes. Here, we employ network-guided genetics—an approach for associating candidate genes with biological processes that capitalizes on recent advances in functional genomic and proteomic studies—to computationally identify additional ribosomal biogenesis genes. We experimentally evaluated >100 candidate yeast genes in a battery of assays, confirming involvement of at least 15 new genes, including previously uncharacterized genes (YDL063C, YIL091C, YOR287C, YOR006C/TSR3, YOL022C/TSR4). We associate the new genes with specific aspects of ribosomal subunit maturation, ribosomal particle association, and ribosomal subunit nuclear export, and we identify genes specifically required for the processing of 5S, 7S, 20S, 27S, and 35S rRNAs. These results reveal new connections between ribosome biogenesis and mRNA splicing and add >10% new genes—most with human orthologs—to the biogenesis pathway, significantly extending our understanding of a universally conserved eukaryotic process.
Author Summary
Ribosomes are the extremely complex cellular machines responsible for constructing new proteins. In eukaryotic cells, such as yeast, each ribosome contains more than 80 protein or RNA components. These complex machines must themselves be assembled by an even more complex machinery spanning multiple cellular compartments and involving perhaps 200 components in an ordered series of processing events, resulting in delivery of the two halves of the mature ribosome, the 40S and 60S components, to the cytoplasm. The ribosome biogenesis machinery has been only partially characterized, and many lines of evidence suggest that there are additional components that are still unknown. We employed an emerging computational technique called network-guided genetics to identify new candidate genes for this pathway. We then tested the candidates in a battery of experimental assays to determine what roles the genes might play in the biogenesis of ribosomes. This approach proved an efficient route to the discovery of new genes involved in ribosome biogenesis, significantly extending our understanding of a universally conserved eukaryotic process.
PMCID: PMC2749941  PMID: 19806183
23.  Integrating shotgun proteomics and mRNA expression data to improve protein identification 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(11):1397-1403.
Motivation: Tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) offers fast and reliable characterization of complex protein mixtures, but suffers from low sensitivity in protein identification. In a typical shotgun proteomics experiment, it is assumed that all proteins are equally likely to be present. However, there is often other information available, e.g. the probability of a protein's presence is likely to correlate with its mRNA concentration.
Results: We develop a Bayesian score that estimates the posterior probability of a protein's presence in the sample given its identification in an MS/MS experiment and its mRNA concentration measured under similar experimental conditions. Our method, MSpresso, substantially increases the number of proteins identified in an MS/MS experiment at the same error rate, e.g. in yeast, MSpresso increases the number of proteins identified by ∼40%. We apply MSpresso to data from different MS/MS instruments, experimental conditions and organisms (Escherichia coli, human), and predict 19–63% more proteins across the different datasets. MSpresso demonstrates that incorporating prior knowledge of protein presence into shotgun proteomics experiments can substantially improve protein identification scores.
Availability and Implementation: Software is available upon request from the authors. Mass spectrometry datasets and supplementary information are available from
Supplementary Information: Supplementary data website:
PMCID: PMC2682515  PMID: 19318424
24.  Bud23 Methylates G1575 of 18S rRNA and Is Required for Efficient Nuclear Export of Pre-40S Subunits▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(10):3151-3161.
BUD23 was identified from a bioinformatics analysis of Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes involved in ribosome biogenesis. Deletion of BUD23 leads to severely impaired growth, reduced levels of the small (40S) ribosomal subunit, and a block in processing 20S rRNA to 18S rRNA, a late step in 40S maturation. Bud23 belongs to the S-adenosylmethionine-dependent Rossmann-fold methyltransferase superfamily and is related to small-molecule methyltransferases. Nevertheless, we considered that Bud23 methylates rRNA. Methylation of G1575 is the only mapped modification for which the methylase has not been assigned. Here, we show that this modification is lost in bud23 mutants. The nuclear accumulation of the small-subunit reporters Rps2-green fluorescent protein (GFP) and Rps3-GFP, as well as the rRNA processing intermediate, the 5′ internal transcribed spacer 1, indicate that bud23 mutants are defective for small-subunit export. Mutations in Bud23 that inactivated its methyltransferase activity complemented a bud23Δ mutant. In addition, mutant ribosomes in which G1575 was changed to adenosine supported growth comparable to that of cells with wild-type ribosomes. Thus, Bud23 protein, but not its methyltransferase activity, is important for biogenesis and export of the 40S subunit in yeast.
PMCID: PMC2423152  PMID: 18332120
25.  Mechanisms of Cell Cycle Control Revealed by a Systematic and Quantitative Overexpression Screen in S. cerevisiae 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(7):e1000120.
Regulation of cell cycle progression is fundamental to cell health and reproduction, and failures in this process are associated with many human diseases. Much of our knowledge of cell cycle regulators derives from loss-of-function studies. To reveal new cell cycle regulatory genes that are difficult to identify in loss-of-function studies, we performed a near-genome-wide flow cytometry assay of yeast gene overexpression-induced cell cycle delay phenotypes. We identified 108 genes whose overexpression significantly delayed the progression of the yeast cell cycle at a specific stage. Many of the genes are newly implicated in cell cycle progression, for example SKO1, RFA1, and YPR015C. The overexpression of RFA1 or YPR015C delayed the cell cycle at G2/M phases by disrupting spindle attachment to chromosomes and activating the DNA damage checkpoint, respectively. In contrast, overexpression of the transcription factor SKO1 arrests cells at G1 phase by activating the pheromone response pathway, revealing new cross-talk between osmotic sensing and mating. More generally, 92%–94% of the genes exhibit distinct phenotypes when overexpressed as compared to their corresponding deletion mutants, supporting the notion that many genes may gain functions upon overexpression. This work thus implicates new genes in cell cycle progression, complements previous screens, and lays the foundation for future experiments to define more precisely roles for these genes in cell cycle progression.
Author Summary
All cells require proper cell cycle regulation; failure leads to numerous human diseases. Cell cycle mechanisms are broadly conserved across eukaryotes, with many key regulatory genes known. Nonetheless, our knowledge of regulators is incomplete. Many classic studies have analyzed yeast loss-of-function mutants to identify cell cycle genes. Studies have also implicated genes based upon their overexpression phenotypes, but the effects of gene overexpression on the cell cycle have not been quantified for all yeast genes. We individually quantified the effect of overexpression on cell cycle progression for nearly all (91%) of yeast genes, and we report the 108 genes causing the most significant and reproducible cell cycle defects, most of which have not been previously observed. We characterize three genes in more detail, implicating one in chromosomal segregation and mitotic spindle formation. A second affects mitotic stability and the DNA damage checkpoint. Curiously, overexpression of a third gene, SKO1, arrests the cell cycle by activating the pheromone response pathway, with cells mistakenly behaving as if mating pheromone is present. These results establish a basis for future experiments elucidating precise cell cycle roles for these genes. Similar assays in human cells could help further clarify the many connections between cell cycle control and cancers.
PMCID: PMC2438615  PMID: 18617996

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