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author:("masland, Rein")
1.  Towards Rational Design of a Toxoid Vaccine against the Heat-Stable Toxin of Escherichia coli 
Infection and Immunity  2016;84(4):1239-1249.
Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) is an important cause of diarrheal disease and death in children <5 years old. ETEC strains that express the heat-stable toxin (ST), with or without the heat-labile toxin, are among the four most important diarrhea-causing pathogens. This makes ST an attractive target for an ETEC vaccine. An ST vaccine should be nontoxic and elicit an immune response that neutralizes native ST without cross-reacting with the human endogenous guanylate cyclase C receptor ligands. To identify variants of ST with no or low toxicity, we screened a library of all 361 possible single-amino-acid mutant forms of ST by using the T84 cell assay. Moreover, we identified mutant variants with intact epitopes by screening for the ability to bind neutralizing anti-ST antibodies. ST mutant forms with no or low toxicity and intact epitopes are termed toxoid candidates, and the top 30 candidates all had mutations of residues A14, N12, and L9. The identification of nontoxic variants of L9 strongly suggests that it is a novel receptor-interacting residue, in addition to the previously identified N12, P13, and A14 residues. The screens also allowed us to map the epitopes of three neutralizing monoclonal antibodies, one of which cross-reacts with the human ligand uroguanylin. The common dominant epitope residue for all non-cross-reacting antibodies was Y19. Our results suggest that it should be possible to rationally design ST toxoids that elicit neutralizing immune responses against ST with minimal risk of immunological cross-reactivity.
PMCID: PMC4807477  PMID: 26883587
2.  Characterization of Immunological Cross-Reactivity between Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli Heat-Stable Toxin and Human Guanylin and Uroguanylin 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(7):2913-2922.
Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) expressing the heat-stable toxin (ST) (human-type [STh] and porcine-type [STp] variants) is among the five most important enteric pathogens in young children living in low- and middle-income countries. ST mediates diarrheal disease through activation of the guanylate cyclase C (GC-C) receptor and is an attractive vaccine target with the potential to confer protection against a wide range of ETEC strains. However, immunological cross-reactivity to the endogenous GC-C ligands guanylin and uroguanylin is a major concern because of the similarities to ST in amino acid sequence, structure, and function. We have investigated the presence of similar epitopes on STh, STp, guanylin, and uroguanylin by analyzing these peptides in eight distinct competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). A fraction (27%) of a polyclonal anti-STh antibody and an anti-STh monoclonal antibody (MAb) cross-reacted with uroguanylin, the latter with a 73-fold-lower affinity. In contrast, none of the antibodies raised against STp, one polyclonal antibody and three MAbs, cross-reacted with the endogenous peptides. Antibodies raised against guanylin and uroguanylin showed partial cross-reactivity with the ST peptides. Our results demonstrate, for the first time, that immunological cross-reactions between ST and the endogenous peptides can occur. However, the partial nature and low affinity of the observed cross-reactions suggest that the risk of adverse effects from a future ST vaccine may be low. Furthermore, our results suggest that this risk may be reduced or eliminated by basing an ST immunogen on STp or a selectively mutated variant of STh.
PMCID: PMC4097616  PMID: 24778111
3.  Plasticity of Animal Genome Architecture Unmasked by Rapid Evolution of a Pelagic Tunicate 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2010;330(6009):1381-1385.
Genomes of animals as different as sponges and humans show conservation of global architecture. Here we show that multiple genomic features including transposon diversity, developmental gene repertoire, physical gene order, and intron-exon organization are shattered in the tunicate Oikopleura, belonging to the sister group of vertebrates and retaining chordate morphology. Ancestral architecture of animal genomes can be deeply modified and may therefore be largely nonadaptive. This rapidly evolving animal lineage thus offers unique perspectives on the level of genome plasticity. It also illuminates issues as fundamental as the mechanisms of intron gain.
PMCID: PMC3760481  PMID: 21097902
4.  Structure of Mammalian AMPK and its regulation by ADP 
Nature  2011;472(7342):230-233.
The heterotrimeric AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) plays a key role in regulating cellular energy metabolism; in response to a fall in intracellular ATP levels it activates energy producing pathways and inhibits energy consuming processes1. AMPK has been implicated in a number of diseases related to energy metabolism including type 2 diabetes, obesity and, most recently, cancer 2,3,4,5,6. AMPK is converted from an inactive to catalytically competent form by phosphorylation of the activation loop within the kinase domain7; AMP binding to the γ regulatory domain promotes phosphorylation by the upstream kinase8, protects the enzyme against dephosphorylation as well as causing allosteric activation9. We show here that ADP binding to just one of the two exchangeable AXP binding sites on the regulatory domain protects the enzyme from dephosphorylation, although it does not lead to allosteric activation. Our studies show that active AMPK displays significantly tighter binding to ADP than to Mg.ATP, explaining how the enzyme is regulated under physiological conditions where the concentration of Mg.ATP is higher than that of ADP and much higher than that of AMP. We have determined the crystal structure of an active AMPK complex. It shows how the activation loop of the kinase domain is stabilized by the regulatory domain and how the kinase linker region interacts with the regulatory nucleotide binding site that mediates protection against dephosphorylation. From our biochemical and structural data we develop a model for how the energy status of a cell regulates AMPK activity (Supplementary Fig. 1).
PMCID: PMC3078618  PMID: 21399626
5.  Heat-Stable Enterotoxin of Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli as a Vaccine Target ▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(5):1824-1831.
Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) is responsible for 280 million to 400 million episodes of diarrhea and about 380,000 deaths annually. Epidemiological data suggest that ETEC strains which secrete heat-stable toxin (ST), alone or in combination with heat-labile toxin (LT), induce the most severe disease among children in developing countries. This makes ST an attractive target for inclusion in an ETEC vaccine. ST is released upon colonization of the small intestine and activates the guanylate cyclase C receptor, causing profuse diarrhea. To generate a successful toxoid, ST must be made immunogenic and nontoxic. Due to its small size, ST is nonimmunogenic in its natural form but becomes immunogenic when coupled to an appropriate large-molecular-weight carrier. This has been successfully achieved with several carriers, using either chemical conjugation or recombinant fusion techniques. Coupling of ST to a carrier may reduce toxicity, but further reduction by mutagenesis is desired to obtain a safe vaccine. More than 30 ST mutants with effects on toxicity have been reported. Some of these mutants, however, have lost the ability to elicit neutralizing immune responses to the native toxin. Due to the small size of ST, separating toxicity from antigenicity is a particular challenge that must be met. Another obstacle to vaccine development is possible cross-reactivity between anti-ST antibodies and the endogenous ligands guanylin and uroguanylin, caused by structural similarity to ST. Here we review the molecular and biological properties of ST and discuss strategies for developing an ETEC vaccine that incorporates immunogenic and nontoxic derivatives of the ST toxin.
PMCID: PMC2863518  PMID: 20231404
6.  ELM: the status of the 2010 eukaryotic linear motif resource 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(Database issue):D167-D180.
Linear motifs are short segments of multidomain proteins that provide regulatory functions independently of protein tertiary structure. Much of intracellular signalling passes through protein modifications at linear motifs. Many thousands of linear motif instances, most notably phosphorylation sites, have now been reported. Although clearly very abundant, linear motifs are difficult to predict de novo in protein sequences due to the difficulty of obtaining robust statistical assessments. The ELM resource at provides an expanding knowledge base, currently covering 146 known motifs, with annotation that includes >1300 experimentally reported instances. ELM is also an exploratory tool for suggesting new candidates of known linear motifs in proteins of interest. Information about protein domains, protein structure and native disorder, cellular and taxonomic contexts is used to reduce or deprecate false positive matches. Results are graphically displayed in a ‘Bar Code’ format, which also displays known instances from homologous proteins through a novel ‘Instance Mapper’ protocol based on PHI-BLAST. ELM server output provides links to the ELM annotation as well as to a number of remote resources. Using the links, researchers can explore the motifs, proteins, complex structures and associated literature to evaluate whether candidate motifs might be worth experimental investigation.
PMCID: PMC2808914  PMID: 19920119
7.  The Schizosaccharomyces pombe JmjC-Protein, Msc1, Prevents H2A.Z Localization in Centromeric and Subtelomeric Chromatin Domains 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(11):e1000726.
Eukaryotic genomes are repetitively packaged into chromatin by nucleosomes, however they are regulated by the differences between nucleosomes, which establish various chromatin states. Local chromatin cues direct the inheritance and propagation of chromatin status via self-reinforcing epigenetic mechanisms. Replication-independent histone exchange could potentially perturb chromatin status if histone exchange chaperones, such as Swr1C, loaded histone variants into wrong sites. Here we show that in Schizosaccharomyces pombe, like Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Swr1C is required for loading H2A.Z into specific sites, including the promoters of lowly expressed genes. However S. pombe Swr1C has an extra subunit, Msc1, which is a JumonjiC-domain protein of the Lid/Jarid1 family. Deletion of Msc1 did not disrupt the S. pombe Swr1C or its ability to bind and load H2A.Z into euchromatin, however H2A.Z was ectopically found in the inner centromere and in subtelomeric chromatin. Normally this subtelomeric region not only lacks H2A.Z but also shows uniformly lower levels of H3K4me2, H4K5, and K12 acetylation than euchromatin and disproportionately contains the most lowly expressed genes during vegetative growth, including many meiotic-specific genes. Genes within and adjacent to subtelomeric chromatin become overexpressed in the absence of either Msc1, Swr1, or paradoxically H2A.Z itself. We also show that H2A.Z is N-terminally acetylated before, and lysine acetylated after, loading into chromatin and that it physically associates with the Nap1 histone chaperone. However, we find a negative correlation between the genomic distributions of H2A.Z and Nap1/Hrp1/Hrp3, suggesting that the Nap1 chaperones remove H2A.Z from chromatin. These data describe H2A.Z action in S. pombe and identify a new mode of chromatin surveillance and maintenance based on negative regulation of histone variant misincorporation.
Author Summary
Chromatin is based on a repetitive structural unit called the nucleosome. However, the regulatory properties of chromatin are mediated by the differences between nucleosomes, due to post-translational modifications or the inclusion of histone variants. These differences are maintained by inheritance through cis-acting epigenetic mechanisms. Here we describe a case where the local character of chromatin is not only determined by cis-acting mechanisms but also negatively regulated in trans. The case involves loading of the histone H2A variant, H2A.Z, into chromatin. We show that H2A.Z in the yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe is mainly found in genes at the first transcribed nucleosome and is inserted into this nucleosome by the Swr1C remodeling machine. However, Swr1C has a regulatory subunit, Msc1, which is not required for H2A.Z promoter loading but prevents H2A.Z occupancy in the inner centromere and subtelomeric regions. These two specialized regions are neither eu- nor heterochromatin and share certain characteristics, which may predispose them to the aberrant inclusion of H2A.Z and the requirement for trans regulation by Msc1.
PMCID: PMC2770259  PMID: 19911051
8.  ELM server: a new resource for investigating short functional sites in modular eukaryotic proteins 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(13):3625-3630.
Multidomain proteins predominate in eukaryotic proteomes. Individual functions assigned to different sequence segments combine to create a complex function for the whole protein. While on-line resources are available for revealing globular domains in sequences, there has hitherto been no comprehensive collection of small functional sites/motifs comparable to the globular domain resources, yet these are as important for the function of multidomain proteins. Short linear peptide motifs are used for cell compartment targeting, protein–protein interaction, regulation by phosphorylation, acetylation, glycosylation and a host of other post-translational modifications. ELM, the Eukaryotic Linear Motif server at, is a new bioinformatics resource for investigating candidate short non-globular functional motifs in eukaryotic proteins, aiming to fill the void in bioinformatics tools. Sequence comparisons with short motifs are difficult to evaluate because the usual significance assessments are inappropriate. Therefore the server is implemented with several logical filters to eliminate false positives. Current filters are for cell compartment, globular domain clash and taxonomic range. In favourable cases, the filters can reduce the number of retained matches by an order of magnitude or more.
PMCID: PMC168952  PMID: 12824381

Results 1-8 (8)