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1.  Trans-Splicing Improvement by the Combined Application of Antisense Strategies 
Spliceosome-mediated RNA trans-splicing has become an emergent tool for the repair of mutated pre-mRNAs in the treatment of genetic diseases. RNA trans-splicing molecules (RTMs) are designed to induce a specific trans-splicing reaction via a binding domain for a respective target pre-mRNA region. A previously established reporter-based screening system allows us to analyze the impact of various factors on the RTM trans-splicing efficiency in vitro. Using this system, we are further able to investigate the potential of antisense RNAs (AS RNAs), presuming to improve the trans-splicing efficiency of a selected RTM, specific for intron 102 of COL7A1. Mutations in the COL7A1 gene underlie the dystrophic subtype of the skin blistering disease epidermolysis bullosa (DEB). We have shown that co-transfections of the RTM and a selected AS RNA, interfering with competitive splicing elements on a COL7A1-minigene (COL7A1-MG), lead to a significant increase of the RNA trans-splicing efficiency. Thereby, accurate trans-splicing between the RTM and the COL7A1-MG is represented by the restoration of full-length green fluorescent protein GFP on mRNA and protein level. This mechanism can be crucial for the improvement of an RTM-mediated correction, especially in cases where a high trans-splicing efficiency is required.
PMCID: PMC4307297  PMID: 25569093
RNA trans-splicing; antisense oligonucleotides; RNA repair; genetic diseases
3.  Protein signatures of oxidative stress response in a patient specific cell line model for autism 
Molecular Autism  2014;5:10.
Known genetic variants can account for 10% to 20% of all cases with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Overlapping cellular pathomechanisms common to neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) and in tissues of peripheral organs, such as immune dysregulation, oxidative stress and dysfunctions in mitochondrial and protein synthesis metabolism, were suggested to support the wide spectrum of ASD on unifying disease phenotype. Here, we studied in patient-derived lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) how an ASD-specific mutation in ribosomal protein RPL10 (RPL10[H213Q]) generates a distinct protein signature. We compared the RPL10[H213Q] expression pattern to expression patterns derived from unrelated ASD patients without RPL10[H213Q] mutation. In addition, a yeast rpl10 deficiency model served in a proof-of-principle study to test for alterations in protein patterns in response to oxidative stress.
Protein extracts of LCLs from patients, relatives and controls, as well as diploid yeast cells hemizygous for rpl10, were subjected to two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and differentially regulated spots were identified by mass spectrometry. Subsequently, Gene Ontology database (GO)-term enrichment and network analysis was performed to map the identified proteins into cellular pathways.
The protein signature generated by RPL10[H213Q] is a functionally related subset of the ASD-specific protein signature, sharing redox-sensitive elements in energy-, protein- and redox-metabolism. In yeast, rpl10 deficiency generates a specific protein signature, harboring components of pathways identified in both the RPL10[H213Q] subjects’ and the ASD patients’ set. Importantly, the rpl10 deficiency signature is a subset of the signature resulting from response of wild-type yeast to oxidative stress.
Redox-sensitive protein signatures mapping into cellular pathways with pathophysiology in ASD have been identified in both LCLs carrying the ASD-specific mutation RPL10[H213Q] and LCLs from ASD patients without this mutation. At pathway levels, this redox-sensitive protein signature has also been identified in a yeast rpl10 deficiency and an oxidative stress model. These observations point to a common molecular pathomechanism in ASD, characterized in our study by dysregulation of redox balance. Importantly, this can be triggered by the known ASD-RPL10[H213Q] mutation or by yet unknown mutations of the ASD cohort that act upstream of RPL10 in differential expression of redox-sensitive proteins.
PMCID: PMC3931328  PMID: 24512814
Autism spectrum disorder; RPL10; Translation; Protein expression; Redox-sensitive protein signature; Oxidative stress response; Energy metabolism
4.  MMP-9 and CXCL8/IL-8 Are Potential Therapeutic Targets in Epidermolysis Bullosa Simplex 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70123.
Epidermolysis bullosa refers to a group of genodermatoses that affects the integrity of epithelial layers, phenotypically resulting in severe skin blistering. Dowling-Meara, the major subtype of epidermolysis bullosa simplex, is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner and can be caused by mutations in either the keratin-5 (K5) or the keratin-14 (K14) gene. Currently, no therapeutic approach is known, and the main objective of this study was to identify novel therapeutic targets. We used microarray analysis, semi-quantitative real-time PCR, western blot and ELISA to identify differentially regulated genes in two K14 mutant cell lines carrying the mutations K14 R125P and K14 R125H, respectively. We found kallikrein-related peptidases and matrix metalloproteinases to be upregulated. We also found elevated expression of chemokines, and we observed deregulation of the Cdc42 pathway as well as aberrant expression of cytokeratins and junction proteins. We further demonstrated, that expression of these genes is dependent on interleukin-1 β signaling. To evaluate these data in vivo we analysed the blister fluids of epidermolysis bullosa simplex patients vs. healthy controls and identified matrix metalloproteinase-9 and the chemokine CXCL8/IL-8 as potential therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3716611  PMID: 23894602
5.  Specialized Yeast Ribosomes: A Customized Tool for Selective mRNA Translation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67609.
Evidence is now accumulating that sub-populations of ribosomes - so-called specialized ribosomes - can favour the translation of subsets of mRNAs. Here we use a large collection of diploid yeast strains, each deficient in one or other copy of the set of ribosomal protein (RP) genes, to generate eukaryotic cells carrying distinct populations of altered ‘specialized’ ribosomes. We show by comparative protein synthesis assays that different heterologous mRNA reporters based on luciferase are preferentially translated by distinct populations of specialized ribosomes. These mRNAs include reporters carrying premature termination codons (PTC) thus allowing us to identify specialized ribosomes that alter the efficiency of translation termination leading to enhanced synthesis of the wild-type protein. This finding suggests that these strains can be used to identify novel therapeutic targets in the ribosome. To explore this further we examined the translation of the mRNA encoding the extracellular matrix protein laminin β3 (LAMB3) since a LAMB3-PTC mutant is implicated in the blistering skin disease Epidermolysis bullosa (EB). This screen identified specialized ribosomes with reduced levels of RP L35B as showing enhanced synthesis of full-length LAMB3 in cells expressing the LAMB3-PTC mutant. Importantly, the RP L35B sub-population of specialized ribosomes leave both translation of a reporter luciferase carrying a different PTC and bulk mRNA translation largely unaltered.
PMCID: PMC3704640  PMID: 23861776
6.  Topical diacerein for epidermolysis bullosa: a randomized controlled pilot study 
Blistering in epidermolysis bullosa simplex type Dowling-Meara (EBS-DM) is associated with an inflammatory phenotype, which can be disrupted by diacerein in vitro. In this pilot study we hypothesized, that a topical formulation of diacerein 1% reduces blistering. Five patients initially applied diacerein underneath both armpits. Then, each participant received 1% diacerein-cream for one armpit, and placebo for the other (randomized withdrawal). The number of blisters was reduced significantly (left: -78%; right: -66% of baseline) within two weeks and remained significantly below the initial level even during withdrawal in four patients. These findings point to a relevant effect of diacerein and provide important information for a confirmative study.
PMCID: PMC3655927  PMID: 23651789
Epidermolysis bullosa; Small molecule therapies; Pilot study; Keratin 14; Diacerein; Interleukin-1ß
7.  Construction of a highly flexible and comprehensive gene collection representing the ORFeome of the human pathogen Chlamydia pneumoniae 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:632.
The Gram-negative bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae (Cpn) is the leading intracellular human pathogen responsible for respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Basic and applied research in pathogen biology, especially the elaboration of new mechanism-based anti-pathogen strategies, target discovery and drug development, rely heavily on the availability of the entire set of pathogen open reading frames, the ORFeome. The ORFeome of Cpn will enable genome- and proteome-wide systematic analysis of Cpn, which will improve our understanding of the molecular networks and mechanisms underlying and governing its pathogenesis.
Here we report the construction of a comprehensive gene collection covering 98.5% of the 1052 predicted and verified ORFs of Cpn (Chlamydia pneumoniae strain CWL029) in Gateway® ‘entry’ vectors. Based on genomic DNA isolated from the vascular chlamydial strain CV-6, we constructed an ORFeome library that contains 869 unique Gateway® entry clones (83% coverage) and an additional 168 PCR-verified ‘pooled’ entry clones, reaching an overall coverage of ~98.5% of the predicted CWL029 ORFs. The high quality of the ORFeome library was verified by PCR-gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing, and its functionality was demonstrated by expressing panels of recombinant proteins in Escherichia coli and by genome-wide protein interaction analysis for a test set of three Cpn virulence factors in a yeast 2-hybrid system. The ORFeome is available in different configurations of resource stocks, PCR-products, purified plasmid DNA, and living cultures of E. coli harboring the desired entry clone or pooled entry clones. All resources are available in 96-well microtiterplates.
This first ORFeome library for Cpn provides an essential new tool for this important pathogen. The high coverage of entry clones will enable a systems biology approach for Cpn or host–pathogen analysis. The high yield of recombinant proteins and the promising interactors for Cpn virulence factors described here demonstrate the possibilities for proteome-wide studies.
PMCID: PMC3534531  PMID: 23157390
ORFeome; Chlamydia pneumoniae; Omics; Pathogen; Systems biology; Infectious diseases
8.  PIM-1 kinase interacts with the DNA binding domain of the vitamin D receptor: a further kinase implicated in 1,25-(OH)2D3 signaling 
BMC Molecular Biology  2012;13:18.
The vitamin D3 receptor (VDR) is responsible for mediating the pleiotropic and, in part, cell-type-specific effects of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (calcitriol) on the cardiovascular and the muscle system, on the bone development and maintenance, mineral homeostasis, cell proliferation, cell differentiation, vitamin D metabolism, and immune response modulation.
Based on data obtained from genome-wide yeast two-hybrid screenings, domain mapping studies, intracellular co-localization approaches as well as reporter transcription assay measurements, we show here that the C-terminus of human PIM-1 kinase isoform2 (amino acid residues 135–313), a serine/threonine kinase of the calcium/calmodulin-regulated kinase family, directly interacts with VDR through the receptor’s DNA-binding domain. We further demonstrate that PIM-1 modulates calcitriol signaling in HaCaT keratinocytes by enhancing both endogenous calcitriol response gene transcription (osteopontin) and an extrachromosomal DR3 reporter response.
These results, taken together with previous reports of involvement of kinase pathways in VDR transactivation, underscore the biological relevance of this novel protein-protein interaction.
PMCID: PMC3404970  PMID: 22720752
Coactivator; PIM-1 kinase; Protein-Protein interaction; Serine/Threonine kinase; Vitamin D; Vitamin D receptor
9.  A novel screening system improves genetic correction by internal exon replacement 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(16):e108.
Trans-splicing is a powerful approach to reprogram the genome. It can be used to replace 5′, 3′ or internal exons. The latter approach has been characterized by low efficiency, as the requirements to promote internal trans-splicing are largely uncharacterized. The trans-splicing process is induced by engineered ‘RNA trans-splicing molecules’ (RTMs), which target a selected pre-mRNA to be reprogrammed via two complementary binding domains. To facilitate the development of more efficient RTMs for therapeutic applications we constructed a novel fluorescence based screening system. We incorporated exon 52 of the COL17A1 gene into a GFP-based cassette system as the target exon. This exon is mutated in many patients with the devastating skin blistering disease epidermolysis bullosa. In a double transfection assay we were able to rapidly identify optimal binding domains targeted to sequences in the surrounding introns 51 and 52. The ability to replace exon 52 was then evaluated in a more endogenous context using a target containing COL17A1 exon 51–intron 51–exon 52–intron 52–exon 53. Two selected RTMs produced significantly higher levels of GFP expression in up to 61% assayed cells. This novel approach allows for rapid identification of efficient RTMs for internal exon replacement.
PMCID: PMC3167625  PMID: 21685452
10.  Diagnostic Pitfalls in Newborns and Babies with Blisters and Erosions 
Establishing the correct diagnosis in newborns presenting with blisters and erosions is not always a straightforward process. Many different disease entities including acquired (i.e., infectious, immunobullous, traumatic) and inherited disorders have to be taken into consideration. Similarities in clinical appearance, colonization and/or superinfections of preexisting skin lesions, as well as the absence of late changes in the neonate often pose significant diagnostic challenges. In this paper we discuss by giving examples the process of making an accurate diagnosis of blistering skin diseases in the neonatal period on the basis of a diagnostic algorithm. In addition, we provide an overview of the rational use and the limitations of laboratory procedures such as microbial testing, routine light microscopy, immunofluorescence antigen mapping, transmission electron microscopy, and molecular genetic analysis.
PMCID: PMC2879860  PMID: 20585476
11.  Improved homology-driven computational validation of protein-protein interactions motivated by the evolutionary gene duplication and divergence hypothesis 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:21.
Protein-protein interaction (PPI) data sets generated by high-throughput experiments are contaminated by large numbers of erroneous PPIs. Therefore, computational methods for PPI validation are necessary to improve the quality of such data sets. Against the background of the theory that most extant PPIs arose as a consequence of gene duplication, the sensitive search for homologous PPIs, i.e. for PPIs descending from a common ancestral PPI, should be a successful strategy for PPI validation.
To validate an experimentally observed PPI, we combine FASTA and PSI-BLAST to perform a sensitive sequence-based search for pairs of interacting homologous proteins within a large, integrated PPI database. A novel scoring scheme that incorporates both quality and quantity of all observed matches allows us (1) to consider also tentative paralogs and orthologs in this analysis and (2) to combine search results from more than one homology detection method. ROC curves illustrate the high efficacy of this approach and its improvement over other homology-based validation methods.
New PPIs are primarily derived from preexisting PPIs and not invented de novo. Thus, the hallmark of true PPIs is the existence of homologous PPIs. The sensitive search for homologous PPIs within a large body of known PPIs is an efficient strategy to separate biologically relevant PPIs from the many spurious PPIs reported by high-throughput experiments.
PMCID: PMC2637843  PMID: 19152684
12.  The ORFeome of Staphylococcus aureus v 1.1 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:321.
The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus causes significant morbidity and mortality in humans, primarily due to the emergence of strains that are resistant to antibiotics – notably methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) isolates. Development of effective strategies for the control and treatment of MRSA infections may best be achieved through 'omics' approaches, which first requires cloning the entire set of S. aureus' protein-encoding open reading frames (ORFs), or ORFeome.
The complete genome sequence of S. aureus strain Mu50 has 2697 predicted protein-coding ORFs. Based on the sequence of this strain we designed PCR primers to construct from an S. aureus (non-MRSA) clinical isolate an ORFeome library that contains 2562 unique Gateway® entry clones (95% coverage), each corresponding to a defined ORF. The high quality of the ORFeome library was verified by DNA sequencing and PCR amplification, and its functionality was demonstrated by expressing recombinant proteins and observing protein interactions in a yeast 2-hybrid homodimerization screen.
This first ORFeome library for S. aureus provides an essential new tool for investigating the systems biology of this important pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2474624  PMID: 18605992
13.  Revertant mosaicism: partial correction of a germ-line mutation in COL17A1 by a frame-restoring mutation 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;103(10):1371-1377.
Generalized atrophic benign epidermolysis bullosa is an autosomal recessive subepidermal blistering disease typified by null mutations in COL17A1. In 1 large kindred, affected individuals were homozygous for a 2-bp deletion in COL17A1, 4003delTC, which resulted in a downstream premature termination codon, nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, and abrogation of type XVII collagen synthesis. Interestingly, 1 of these patients, although phenotypically identical to her affected siblings, showed focal expression of type XVII collagen in epidermal basement membrane in a pattern suggestive of revertant mosaicism. When studies of randomly obtained epidermal, oromucosal, and peripheral blood cells failed to identify the genetic basis of this apparent mosaicism, microscopic subpopulations of potentially revertant epidermal cells (i.e., those overlying basement membrane containing type XVII collagen) were selectively isolated using laser capture microdissection. Analysis of DNA and RNA from these cells revealed a second mutation, 4080insGG, on 1 allele of COL17A1. This 2-bp insertion corrected the reading frame just proximal to the premature termination codon, countered nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, and allowed protein production by patient keratinocytes in vivo and in vitro. These studies elucidate the molecular basis of a novel form of revertant mosaicism in humans.
PMCID: PMC408449  PMID: 10330419
14.  miR-17, miR-19b, miR-20a, and miR-106a are down-regulated in human aging 
Aging Cell  2010;9(2):291-296.
Aging is a multifactorial process where deterioration of body functions is driven by stochastic damage while counteracted by distinct genetically encoded repair systems. To better understand the genetic component of aging, many studies have addressed the gene and protein expression profiles of various aging model systems engaging different organisms from yeast to human. The recently identified small non-coding miRNAs are potent post-transcriptional regulators that can modify the expression of up to several hundred target genes per single miRNA, similar to transcription factors. Increasing evidence shows that miRNAs contribute to the regulation of most if not all important physiological processes, including aging. However, so far the contribution of miRNAs to age-related and senescence-related changes in gene expression remains elusive. To address this question, we have selected four replicative cell aging models including endothelial cells, replicated CD8+ T cells, renal proximal tubular epithelial cells, and skin fibroblasts. Further included were three organismal aging models including foreskin, mesenchymal stem cells, and CD8+ T cell populations from old and young donors. Using locked nucleic acid-based miRNA microarrays, we identified four commonly regulated miRNAs, miR-17 down-regulated in all seven; miR-19b and miR-20a, down-regulated in six models; and miR-106a down-regulated in five models. Decrease in these miRNAs correlated with increased transcript levels of some established target genes, especially the cdk inhibitor p21/CDKN1A. These results establish miRNAs as novel markers of cell aging in humans.
PMCID: PMC2848978  PMID: 20089119
aging; miR-106a; miR-17; miR-17-92 cluster; miR-19b; miR-20a; miRNA microarray; p21 (CDKN1A); senescence

Results 1-14 (14)