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1.  Reduced plasma levels of soluble interleukin-7 receptor during graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in children and adults 
BMC Immunology  2014;15:25.
Interleukin 7 (IL-7) signals via the IL-7 receptor (IL-7R) and drives homeostatic T-cell proliferation in patients after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (aHSCT).
We performed a prospective study in adults (n = 33) and children (n = 29) undergoing aHSCT measuring plasma IL-7 and soluble IL-7R (sIL-7R) concentrations between 1 and 12 months after HSCT in order to investigate the link between sIL-7R and clinical events after aHSCT.
sIL-7R, but not IL-7, increased with time after HSCT in plasma from all patients enrolled in the study. sIL-7R values were higher at 2, 3, and 6 months (p < 0.01) if the donor was a sibling as compared to an unrelated donor. Increased sIL-7R levels were also identified in plasma from patients who were not treated with anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG). Low sIL-7R was associated with any grade of acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) at 2 and 6 months (p = 0.02) and with a positive CMV PCR at 2 months after HSCT (p < 0.05). Patients with cytomegalovirus (CMV) reactivation had increased IL-7 values at 2 and 3 months (p = 0.02) after HSCT. In multivariate analysis, lower sIL-7R levels were associated with acute GVHD (relative hazard (RH): 0.70, p > 0.01) and sibling donors (RH: 2.23, p = 0.004). Recipients of sibling grafts showed high levels of IL-7 (RH: 1.38, p < 0.05) and bone marrow recipients had low IL-7 levels (RH: 0.73, p = 0.04).
Measurement of the sIL-7R/IL-7 axis will help in guided immune monitoring after HSCT and guided interference with sIL-7R may be explored in GVHD management.
PMCID: PMC4074150  PMID: 24946690
HSCT; Interleukin-7; Interleukin-7 receptor; Immune reconstitution; CMV; GVHD
2.  Transcriptional Activity of Heparan Sulfate Biosynthetic Machinery is Specifically Impaired in Benign Prostate Hyperplasia and Prostate Cancer 
Heparan sulfates (HSs) are key components of mammalian cells surface and extracellular matrix. Structure and composition of HS, generated by HS-biosynthetic system through non-template-driven process, are significantly altered in cancer tissues. The aim of this study was to investigate the involvement of HS-metabolic machinery in prostate carcinogenesis. Transcriptional patterns of HS-metabolic enzymes (EXT1, EXT2, NDST1, NDST2, GLCE, 3OST1/HS3ST1, SULF1, SULF2, HPSE) were determined in normal, benign, and cancer human prostate tissues and cell lines (PNT2, LNCaP, PC3, DU145). Stability of the HS-metabolic system patterns under the pressure of external or internal stimuli was studied. Overall impairment of transcriptional activity of HS-metabolic machinery was detected in benign prostate hyperplasia, while both significant decrease in the transcriptional activity and changes in the expression patterns of HS metabolism-involved genes were observed in prostate tumors. Prostate cancer cell lines possessed specific transcriptional patterns of HS metabolism-involved genes; however, expression activity of the system was similar to that of normal prostate PNT2 cells. HS-metabolic system was able to dynamically react to different external or internal stimuli in a cell type-dependent manner. LNCaP cells were sensitive to the external stimuli (5-aza-deoxycytidin or Trichostatin A treatments; co-cultivation with human fibroblasts), whereas PC3 cells almost did not respond to the treatments. Ectopic GLCE over-expression resulted in transcriptional activation of HS-biosynthetic machinery in both cell lines, suggesting an existence of a self-regulating mechanism for the coordinated transcription of HS metabolism-involved genes. Taken together, these findings demonstrate impairment of HS-metabolic system in prostate tumors in vivo but not in prostate cancer cells in vitro, and suggest that as a potential microenvironmental biomarker for prostate cancer diagnostics and treatment.
PMCID: PMC3995048  PMID: 24782989
heparan sulfate; proteoglycan; biosynthesis; expression; transcriptional pattern; prostate cancer
3.  Heterogeneity of d-glucuronyl C5-epimerase expression and epigenetic regulation in prostate cancer 
Cancer Medicine  2013;2(5):654-661.
Heparansulfate proteoglycans (HSPG) play an important role in cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions and signaling, and one of the key enzymes in heparansulfate biosynthesis is d-glucuronyl C5-epimerase (GLCE). A tumor suppressor function has been demonstrated for GLCE in breast and lung carcinogenesis; however, no data are available as to the expression and regulation of the gene in prostate cancer. In this study, decreased GLCE expression was observed in 10% of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) tissues and 53% of prostate tumors, and increased GLCE mRNA levels were detected in 49% of BPH tissues and 21% of tumors. Statistical analysis showed a positive correlation between increased GLCE expression and Gleason score, TNM staging, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level in the prostate tumors (Pearson correlation coefficients GLCE/Gleason = 0.56, P < 0.05; GLCE/TNM = 0.62, P < 0.05; and GLCE/PSA = 0.88, P < 0.01), suggesting GLCE as a candidate molecular marker for advanced prostate cancer. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed an intratumoral heterogeneity of GLCE protein levels both in BPH and prostate cancer cells, resulting in a mixed population of GLCE-expressing and nonexpressing epithelial cells in vivo. A model experiment on normal (PNT2) and prostate cancer (LNCaP, PC3, DU145) cell lines in vitro showed a 1.5- to 2.5-fold difference in GLCE expression levels between the cancer cell lines and an overall decrease in GLCE expression in cancer cells. Methyl-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR), bisulfite sequencing, and deoxy-azacytidin (aza-dC) treatment identified differential GLCE promoter methylation (LNCaP 70–72%, PC3 32–35%, DU145, and PNT2 no methylation), which seems to contribute to heterogeneous GLCE expression in prostate tumors. The obtained results reveal the complex deregulation of GLCE expression in prostatic diseases compared with normal prostate tissue and suggest that GLCE may be used as a potential model to study the functional role of intratumor cell heterogeneity in prostate cancer progression.
The molecular mechanisms of intratumour heterogeneity of cancer cells, contributing to tissue malignisation, remain unclear. This study reveals the complex deregulation of d-glucuronyl C5-epimerase (GLCE) expression in benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate tumours, and the high intratumour heterogeneity of prostate cancer cells in terms of GLCE expression and promoter methylation. The results suggest that GLCE may be used as a potential target gene to study the functional role of cancer cell heterogeneity in disease progression and treatment.
PMCID: PMC3892797  PMID: 24403231
d-Glucuronyl C5-epimerase; expression; heparansulfate proteoglycan; heterogeneity; methylation; prostate cancer
4.  The TCF4/β-catenin pathway and chromatin structure cooperate to regulate D-glucuronyl C5-epimerase expression in breast cancer 
Epigenetics  2012;7(8):930-939.
D-glucuronyl C5-epimerase (GLCE) is a potential tumor-suppressor gene involved in heparan sulfate biosynthesis. GLCE expression is significantly decreased in breast tumors; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. This study examined the possible epigenetic mechanisms for GLCE inactivation in breast cancer. Very little methylation of the GLCE promoter region was detected in breast tumors in vivo and in breast cancer cells (MCF7 and T47D) in vitro and GLCE expression in breast cancer cells was not altered by 5-deoxyazacytidine (5-aza-dC) treatment, suggesting that promoter methylation is not involved in regulating GLCE expression. Chromatin activation by Trichostatin A (TSA) or 5-aza-dC/TSA treatment increased GLCE expression by two to 3-fold due to an increased interaction between the GLCE promoter and the TCF4/β-catenin transactivation complex, or H3K9ac and H3K4Me3 histone modifications. However, ectopic expression of TCF4/β-catenin was not sufficient to activate GLCE expression in MCF7 cells, suggesting that chromatin structure plays a key role in GLCE regulation. Although TSA treatment significantly repressed canonical WNT signaling in MCF7 cells, it did not influence endogenous TCF4/β-catenin mRNA levels and activated TCF4/β-catenin-driven transcription from the GLCE promoter, indicating GLCE as a novel target for TCF4/β-catenin complex in breast cancer cells. A correlation was observed between GLCE, TCF4 and β-catenin expression in breast cancer cells and primary tumors, suggesting an important role for TCF4/β-catenin in regulating GLCE expression both in vitro and in vivo. Taken together, the results indicate that GLCE expression in breast cancer is regulated by a combination of chromatin structure and TCF4/β-catenin complex activity.
PMCID: PMC3427288  PMID: 22805760
D-glucuronyl C5-epimerase; GLCE; heparan sulphate proteoglycan; biosynthesis; tumor-suppressor gene; hypermethylation; chromatin structure; WNT signaling; TCF4/β-catenin target; breast cancer
5.  Epstein Barr virus DNA analysis in blood predicts disease progression in a rare case of plasmablastic lymphoma with effusion 
In HIV-1-infected patients a long lasting CD4+ cell decline influences the host-EBV balance and thereby increases the risk for EBV related malignancies. In spite of a world-wide access to combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) there are still a considerable number of HIV-1-infected patients who will develop severe immunodeficiency. These undiagnosed HIV-1 infected patients, so called late testers, demonstrate an increased lymphoma risk, compared to patients diagnosed early. Consecutive individual screening for EBV DNA-load in late testers might be a useful predictor of emerging EBV-malignancy.
Patient biopsies and ascites were analyzed morphologically, by immuncyto-histochemistry and in-situ hybridization. Viral DNA and RNA load were quantified by PCR. Cell lines from primary tumor and from ascites, were established in vitro and further analyzed.
We here report on a case of EBV-positive lymphoma in an AIDS patient, first presenting with pleural effusion and ascites and was thus initially considered a primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) but was later diagnosed as a plasmablastic lymphoma (PBL). The patient had responded to cART with undetectable HIV-RNA and increased CD4 cell count one year prior to lymphoma presentation. At the time of lymphoma diagnosis the HIV-RNA values were <50 RNA-copies per mL blood (undetectable) and the CD4-positive cell count 170 ×106/L. The lymphoma was CD45-negative and weakly CD22- and CD30-positive. The patient had a history of Kaposi sarcoma and HHV-8 seropositivity. The lymphoma biopsies, and three cell lines derived on different occasions from the tumor cell effusion, were all EBV-positive but HHV-8 negative.
A noticeable EBV-DNA load decline was observed during the remission of the lymphoma following CHOP-therapy. The EBV-DNA load increased dramatically at the time of recurrence.
EBV DNA load might be useful in monitoring the effect of lymphoma treatment as well as in estimating the risk of EBV-associated lymphoma in HIV-1 infected patients with pronounced immunosuppression.
PMCID: PMC3726497  PMID: 23880011
EBV; HIV-1; HHV-8; DNA load; Plasmablastic lymphoma
6.  Increase of Faecal Tryptic Activity Relates to Changes in the Intestinal Microbiome: Analysis of Crohn's Disease with a Multidisciplinary Platform 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66074.
To investigate—by molecular, classical and functional methods—the microbiota in biopsies and faeces from patients with active Crohn's disease (CD) and controls.
The microbiota in biopsies was investigated utilizing a novel molecular method and classical cultivation technology. Faecal samples were investigated by classical technology and four functional methods, reflecting alterations in short chain fatty acids pattern, conversion of cholesterol and bilirubin and inactivation of trypsin.
By molecular methods we found more than 92% similarity in the microbiota on the biopsies from the two groups. However, 4.6% of microbes found in controls were lacking in CD patients. Furthermore, NotI representation libraries demonstrate two different clusters representing CD patients and controls, respectively. Utilizing conventional technology, Bacteroides (alt. Parabacteroides) was less frequently detected in the biopsies from CD patients than from controls. A similar reduction in the number of Bacteroides was found in faecal samples. Bacteroides is the only group of bacteria known to be able to inactivate pancreatic trypsin. Faecal tryptic activity was high in CD patients, and inversely correlated to the levels of Bacteroides.
CD patients have compositional and functional alterations in their intestinal microbiota, in line with the global description hypothesis rather than the candidate microorganism theory. The most striking functional difference was high amount of faecal tryptic activity in CD patients, inversely correlated to the levels of Bacteroides in faeces.
PMCID: PMC3688706  PMID: 23840402
7.  Reduced Expression of ZDHHC2 Is Associated with Lymph Node Metastasis and Poor Prognosis in Gastric Adenocarcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56366.
Zinc finger, DHHC-type containing 2 (ZDHHC2), originally named as reduced expression associated with metastasis protein (REAM), has been proposed as a putative tumor/metastasis suppressor gene and is often aberrantly decreased in human cancers. However ZDHHC2 expression pattern and its clinical significance have not yet been investigated in gastric adenocarcinoma.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Quantitative Real-Time PCR (qRT-PCR) and immunostaining were performed to detect ZDHHC2 expression in gastric adenocarcinoma, and then the correlation between ZDHHC2 expression and clinicpathologic parameters, and patient survival was analyzed. Compared to the adjacent normal tissues, ZDHHC2 expression was significantly reduced in gastric tumor tissues as shown by qRT-PCR and immunostaining. Low expression of ZDHHC2 was observed in 44.7% (211/472) of gastric adenocarcinoma patients, and was associated significantly with lymph node metastasis (p<0.001) and histological grade (p<0.001). Multivariate Cox regression analysis indicated that ZDHHC2 expression had a significant, independent predictive value for survival of gastric cancer patients (HR = 0.627, p = 0.001).
Our data suggest that reduced ZDHHC2 expression is associated with lymph node metastasis and independently predicts an unfavorable prognosis in gastric adenocarcinoma patients.
PMCID: PMC3574152  PMID: 23457560
8.  Development of a Non-Invasive Method, Multiplex Methylation Specific PCR (MMSP), for Early Diagnosis of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e45908.
Increasing evidence demonstrated that inactivation of tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) by aberrant promoter methylation is an early event during carcinogenesis. Aiming at developing early diagnostic or prognostic tools for various tumors, we took an EBV-associated tumor, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), as a model and developed a powerful assay based on “multiplex methylation specific-PCR (MMSP)”. The MMSP assay was designed to detect tumor-specific methylation status of several NPC-related genes and was capable of acquiring multiplex information simultaneously through a single PCR reaction with the tiny tumor DNA derived from the direct body fluid close to the primary tumor. In this study, we collected paired nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs and NPC biopsies from 49 NPC patients and twenty noncancerous controls. A panel of markers including two EBV, and two cellular TSG markers were applied in this NPC-specific-MMSP assay. We optimized the working condition of MMSP so that it provides information equal to that from the corresponding separate PCRs. The results showed that MMSP patterns of NPC swab were largely consistent with those of corresponding biopsies and significantly distinguished themselves from those of 20 noncancerous volunteers. Among the 69 samples (49 NPCs and 20 normal controls), the sensitivity of detecting NPC from NP swabs is 98%. The specificity is as high as 100%. In conclusion, being characterized by its noninvasiveness, high reproducibility and informativeness, MMSP assay is a reliable and potential diagnostic tool for NPC. It paves the way for the development of population screening and early diagnosis approaches for various tumor types.
PMCID: PMC3489875  PMID: 23144779
9.  miRNA-218 contributes to the regulation of D-glucuronyl C5-epimerase expression in normal and tumor breast tissues 
Epigenetics  2012;7(10):1109-1114.
microRNAs (miRNAs) are key posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression. In the present study, regulation of tumor-suppressor gene D-glucuronyl C5-epimerase (GLCE) by miRNA-218 was investigated. Significant downregulation of miRNA-218 expression was shown in primary breast tumors. Exogenous miRNA-218/anti-miRNA-218 did not affect GLCE mRNA but regulated GLCE protein level in MCF7 breast carcinoma cells in vitro. Comparative analysis showed a positive correlation between miRNA-218 and GLCE mRNA, and negative correlation between miRNA-218 and GLCE protein levels in breast tissues and primary tumors in vivo, supporting a direct involvement of miRNA-218 in posttranscriptional regulation of GLCE in human breast tissue. A common scheme for the regulation of GLCE expression in normal and tumor breast tissues is suggested.
PMCID: PMC3469452  PMID: 22968430
miRNA; D-glucuronyl C5-epimerase; GLCE; tumor-suppressor gene; expression; heparan sulphate proteoglycan; biosynthesis; breast cancer
10.  A single nucleotide polymorphism in the matrix metalloproteinase 2 promoter is closely associated with high risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma in Cantonese from southern China 
Chinese Journal of Cancer  2011;30(9):620-626.
Matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2) has been shown to play an important role in several steps of cancer development. The -1306C/T polymorphism of the MMP2 gene displays a strikingly lower promoter activity than the T allele, and the CC genotype in the MMP2 promoter has been reported to associate with the development of several cancers. To assess the contribution of the MMP2 -1306C/T polymorphism to the risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), we conducted a case-control study and analyzed MMP2 genotypes in 370 patients with NPC and 390 frequency-matched controls using real-time PCR-based TaqMan allele analysis. We found that subjects with the CC genotype had an increased risk (OR = 1.55, 95% CI = 1.05-2.27) of developing NPC compared to those with the CT or TT genotypes. Furthermore, we found that the risk of NPC was markedly increased in subjects who were smokers (OR = 15.04, 95% CI = 6.65-33.99), heavy smokers who smoked ≥20 pack-years (OR = 18.66, 95% CI = 7.67-45.38), or young (<60 years) at diagnosis (OR = 1.52, 95% CI = 1.01-2.29). Our results provide molecular epidemiological evidence that the MMP2 –1306C/T promoter polymorphism is associated with NPC risk, and this association is especially noteworthy in heavy smokers.
PMCID: PMC4013324  PMID: 21880183
Matrix metalloproteinase 2 gene; polymorphism; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; smoker; epidemiology
11.  Systems medicine and integrated care to combat chronic noncommunicable diseases 
Genome Medicine  2011;3(7):43.
We propose an innovative, integrated, cost-effective health system to combat major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular, chronic respiratory, metabolic, rheumatologic and neurologic disorders and cancers, which together are the predominant health problem of the 21st century. This proposed holistic strategy involves comprehensive patient-centered integrated care and multi-scale, multi-modal and multi-level systems approaches to tackle NCDs as a common group of diseases. Rather than studying each disease individually, it will take into account their intertwined gene-environment, socio-economic interactions and co-morbidities that lead to individual-specific complex phenotypes. It will implement a road map for predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory (P4) medicine based on a robust and extensive knowledge management infrastructure that contains individual patient information. It will be supported by strategic partnerships involving all stakeholders, including general practitioners associated with patient-centered care. This systems medicine strategy, which will take a holistic approach to disease, is designed to allow the results to be used globally, taking into account the needs and specificities of local economies and health systems.
PMCID: PMC3221551  PMID: 21745417
12.  Upregulation of MiR-155 in Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma is Partly Driven by LMP1 and LMP2A and Downregulates a Negative Prognostic Marker JMJD1A 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19137.
The role of microRNA-155 (miR-155) has been associated with oncogenesis of several human tumors. However the expression pattern of miR-155 has not been investigated in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). The present study was to assess miR-155 expression pattern and its possible function in NPC, to identify its targets and evaluate their clinical applications in NPC. MiR-155 was found to be upregulated in two Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) negative NPC derived cell lines CNE1 and TW03, as well as in NPC clinical samples by quantitative Real-time PCR and in situ hybridization detection. EBV encoded LMP1 and LMP2A could further enhance the expression of miR-155 in NPC CNE1 and TW03 cells. JMJD1A and BACH1 were identified as putative targets of miR-155 in a bioinformatics screen. Overexpression of miR-155 downregulated a luciferase transcript fused to the 3′UTR of JMJD1A and BACH1. MiR-155 mimic could downregulate the expression of JMJD1A and BACH1, while miR-155 inhibitor could upregulate JMJD1A expression in NPC cell lines. Moreover, downregulation of JMJD1A was significantly correlated with N stage in TNM classification (p = 0.023), a lower five-year survival rate (p = 0.021), and a lower five-year disease-free survival rate (p = 0.049) of NPC patients. Taken together, up-regulation of miR-155 in NPC is partly driven by LMP1 and LMP2A, and results in downregulation of JMJD1A, which is associated with N stage and poor prognosis of NPC patients. The potential of miR-155 and JMJD1A as therapeutic targets in NPC should be further investigated.
PMCID: PMC3082546  PMID: 21541331
13.  Cancer attractors: A systems view of tumors from a gene network dynamics and developmental perspective 
Cell lineage commitment and differentiation are governed by a complex gene regulatory network. Disruption of these processes by inappropriate regulatory signals and by mutational rewiring of the network can lead to tumorigenesis. Cancer cells often exhibit immature or embryonic traits and dysregulated developmental genes can act as oncogenes. However, the prevailing paradigm of somatic evolution and multi-step tumorigenesis, while useful in many instances, offers no logically coherent reason for why oncogenesis recapitulates ontogenesis. The formal concept of “cancer attractors”, derived from an integrative, complex systems approach to gene regulatory network may provide a natural explanation. Here we present the theory of attractors in gene network dynamics and review the concept of cell types as attractors. We argue that cancer cells are trapped in abnormal attractors and discuss this concept in the light of recent ideas in cancer biology, including cancer genomics and cancer stem cells, as well as the implications for differentiation therapy.
PMCID: PMC2754594  PMID: 19595782
14.  The Effect of Antiretroviral Combination Treatment on Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) Genome Load in HIV-Infected Patients 
Viruses  2010;2(4):867-879.
We evaluated the effect of combination anti-retroviral treatment (cART) on the host control of EBV infection in moderately immunosuppressed HIV-1 patients. Twenty HIV-1 infected individuals were followed for five years with repeated measurements of EBV DNA load in peripheral blood lymphocytes in relation to HIV-RNA titers and CD4+ cell counts. Individuals with optimal response, i.e. durable non-detectable HIV-RNA, showed a decline of EBV load to the level of healthy controls. Individuals with non-optimal HIV-1 control did not restore their EBV control. Long-lasting suppression of HIV-replication after early initiation of cART is a prerequisite for re-establishing the immune control of EBV.
PMCID: PMC3185664  PMID: 21994658
Epstein-Barr virus; HIV-1; antiretroviral treatment; host virus relationship
15.  High Mutability of the Tumor Suppressor Genes RASSF1 and RBSP3 (CTDSPL) in Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5231.
Many different genetic alterations are observed in cancer cells. Individual cancer genes display point mutations such as base changes, insertions and deletions that initiate and promote cancer growth and spread. Somatic hypermutation is a powerful mechanism for generation of different mutations. It was shown previously that somatic hypermutability of proto-oncogenes can induce development of lymphomas.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We found an exceptionally high incidence of single-base mutations in the tumor suppressor genes RASSF1 and RBSP3 (CTDSPL) both located in 3p21.3 regions, LUCA and AP20 respectively. These regions contain clusters of tumor suppressor genes involved in multiple cancer types such as lung, kidney, breast, cervical, head and neck, nasopharyngeal, prostate and other carcinomas. Altogether in 144 sequenced RASSF1A clones (exons 1–2), 129 mutations were detected (mutation frequency, MF = 0.23 per 100 bp) and in 98 clones of exons 3–5 we found 146 mutations (MF = 0.29). In 85 sequenced RBSP3 clones, 89 mutations were found (MF = 0.10). The mutations were not cytidine-specific, as would be expected from alterations generated by AID/APOBEC family enzymes, and appeared de novo during cell proliferation. They diminished the ability of corresponding transgenes to suppress cell and tumor growth implying a loss of function. These high levels of somatic mutations were found both in cancer biopsies and cancer cell lines.
This is the first report of high frequencies of somatic mutations in RASSF1 and RBSP3 in different cancers suggesting it may underlay the mutator phenotype of cancer. Somatic hypermutations in tumor suppressor genes involved in major human malignancies offer a novel insight in cancer development, progression and spread.
PMCID: PMC2684631  PMID: 19478941
16.  Epstein-Barr virus latency switch in human B-cells: a physico-chemical model 
BMC Systems Biology  2007;1:40.
The Epstein-Barr virus is widespread in all human populations and is strongly associated with human disease, ranging from infectious mononucleosis to cancer. In infected cells the virus can adopt several different latency programs, affecting the cells' behaviour. Experimental results indicate that a specific genetic switch between viral latency programs, reprograms human B-cells between proliferative and resting states. Each of these two latency programs makes use of a different viral promoter, Cp and Qp, respectively. The hypothesis tested in this study is that this genetic switch is controlled by both human and viral transcription factors; Oct-2 and EBNA-1. We build a physico-chemical model to investigate quantitatively the dynamical properties of the promoter regulation and experimentally examine protein level variations between the two latency programs.
Our experimental results display significant differences in EBNA-1 and Oct-2 levels between resting and proliferating programs. With the model we identify two stable latency programs, corresponding to a resting and proliferating cell. The two programs differ in robustness and transcriptional activity. The proliferating state is markedly more stable, with a very high transcriptional activity from its viral promoter. We predict the promoter activities to be mutually exclusive in the two different programs, and our relative promoter activities correlate well with experimental data. Transitions between programs can be induced, by affecting the protein levels of our transcription factors. Simulated time scales are in line with experimental results.
We show that fundamental properties of the Epstein-Barr virus involvement in latent infection, with implications for tumor biology, can be modelled and understood mathematically. We conclude that EBNA-1 and Oct-2 regulation of Cp and Qp is sufficient to establish mutually exclusive expression patterns. Moreover, the modelled genetic control predict both mono- and bistable behavior and a considerable difference in transition dynamics, based on program stability and promoter activities. Both these phenomena we hope can be further investigated experimentally, to increase the understanding of this important switch. Our results also stress the importance of the little known regulation of human transcription factor Oct-2.
PMCID: PMC2164963  PMID: 17764547
17.  Polymorphisms of XRCC1 genes and risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma in the Cantonese population 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:167.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is one of the most common cancers in southern China. In addition to environmental factors such as Epstein-Barr virus infection and diet, genetic susceptibility has been reported to play a key role in the development of this disease. The x-ray repair cross-complementing group 1 (XRCC1) gene is important in DNA base excision repair. We hypothesized that two common single nucleotide polymorphisms of XRCC1 (codons 194 Arg→Trp and 399 Arg→Gln) are related to the risk of NPC and interact with tobacco smoking.
We sought to determine whether these genetic variants of the XRCC1 gene were associated with the risk of NPC among the Cantonese population in a hospital-based case control study using polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. We conducted this study in 462 NPC patients and 511 healthy controls.
After adjustment for sex and age, we found a reduced risk of developing NPC in individuals with the Trp194Trp genotype (OR = 0.48; 95% CI, 0.27–0.86) and the Arg194Trp genotype (OR = 0.79; 95% CI, 0.60–1.05) compared with those with the Arg194Arg genotype. Compared with those with the Arg399Arg genotype, the risk for NPC was not significantly different in individuals with the Arg399Gln genotype (OR = 0.82; 95% CI, 0.62–1.08) and the Gln399Gln genotype (OR = 1.20; 95% CI, 0.69–2.06). Further analyses stratified by gender and smoking status revealed a significantly reduced risk of NPC among males (OR = 0.32; 95% CI, 0.14–0.70) and smokers (OR = 0.34; 95% CI, 0.14–0.82) carrying the XRCC1 194Trp/Trp genotype compared with those carrying the Arg/Arg genotype. No association was observed between Arg399Gln variant genotypes and the risk of NPC combined with smoking and gender.
Our findings suggest that the XRCC1 Trp194Trp variant genotype is associated with a reduced risk of developing NPC in Cantonese population, particularly in males and smokers. Larger studies are needed to confirm our findings and unravel the underlying mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC1550725  PMID: 16796765
18.  Genomic Sequence Analysis of Epstein-Barr Virus Strain GD1 from a Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Patient†  
Journal of Virology  2005;79(24):15323-15330.
To date, the only entire Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genomic sequence available in the database is the prototype B95.8, which was derived from an individual with infectious mononucleosis. A causative link between EBV and nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), a disease with a distinctly high incidence in southern China, has been widely investigated. However, no full-length analysis of any substrain of EBV from this area has been reported. In this study, we analyzed the entire genomic sequence of an EBV strain from a patient with NPC in Guangdong, China. This EBV strain was termed GD1 (Guangdong strain 1), and the full-length sequence of GD1 was submitted to the GenBank database. The assigned accession number is AY961628. The entire GD1 sequence is 171,656 bp in length, with 59.5% G+C content and 40.5% A+T content. We detected many sequence variations in GD1 compared to prototypical strain B95.8, including 43 deletion sites, 44 insertion sites, and 1,413 point mutations. Furthermore, we evaluated the frequency of some of these GD1 mutations in Cantonese NPC patients and found them to be highly prevalent. These findings suggest that GD1 is highly representative of the EBV strains isolated from NPC patients in Guangdong, China, an area with the highest incidence of NPC in the world. Furthermore, these findings provide the second full-length sequence analysis of any EBV strain as well as the first full-length sequence analysis of an NPC-derived EBV strain.
PMCID: PMC1316000  PMID: 16306603
19.  DNA-dependent conversion of Oct-1 and Oct-2 into transcriptional repressors by Groucho/TLE 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(14):4618-4625.
POU domain proteins contain a bipartite DNA-binding element that can confer allosteric control of coactivator recruitment. Dimerization of Oct-1 and Oct-2 on palindromic response elements results in the conformational dependent inclusion or exclusion of the transcriptional coactivator OBF-1. In this paper, we demonstrate that Oct-1 and Oct-2 can function as transcriptional repressors by recruiting and physically interacting with members of the Grg/TLE family of corepressors. In accordance with a model of DNA induced cofactor assembly, and analogous to the recruitment of the OBF-1 coactivator, the different Grg/TLE members can discriminate between both Oct-1 and Oct-2, and the monomeric or dimeric nature of the POU/DNA complex.
PMCID: PMC1187819  PMID: 16103132
20.  WW Domains Provide a Platform for the Assembly of Multiprotein Networks†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(16):7092-7106.
WW domains are protein modules that mediate protein-protein interactions through recognition of proline-rich peptide motifs and phosphorylated serine/threonine-proline sites. To pursue the functional properties of WW domains, we employed mass spectrometry to identify 148 proteins that associate with 10 human WW domains. Many of these proteins represent novel WW domain-binding partners and are components of multiprotein complexes involved in molecular processes, such as transcription, RNA processing, and cytoskeletal regulation. We validated one complex in detail, showing that WW domains of the AIP4 E3 protein-ubiquitin ligase bind directly to a PPXY motif in the p68 subunit of pre-mRNA cleavage and polyadenylation factor Im in a manner that promotes p68 ubiquitylation. The tested WW domains fall into three broad groups on the basis of hierarchical clustering with respect to their associated proteins; each such cluster of bound proteins displayed a distinct set of WW domain-binding motifs. We also found that separate WW domains from the same protein or closely related proteins can have different specificities for protein ligands and also demonstrated that a single polypeptide can bind multiple classes of WW domains through separate proline-rich motifs. These data suggest that WW domains provide a versatile platform to link individual proteins into physiologically important networks.
PMCID: PMC1190255  PMID: 16055720
21.  The molecular portrait of in vitro growth by meta-analysis of gene-expression profiles 
Genome Biology  2005;6(8):R65.
A meta analysis comparing 60 tumor cell lines, 135 normal tissue samples and 176 tumor tissue samples in humans shows significant differential expression between cell lines and tissues of around 30% of the 7,000 genes analyzed.
Cell lines as model systems of tumors and tissues are essential in molecular biology, although they only approximate the properties of in vivo cells in tissues. Cell lines have been selected under in vitro conditions for a long period of time, affecting many specific cellular pathways and processes.
To identify the transcriptional changes caused by long term in vitro selection, we performed a gene-expression meta-analysis and compared 60 tumor cell lines (of nine tissue origins) to 135 human tissue and 176 tumor tissue samples. Using significance analysis of microarrays we demonstrated that cell lines showed statistically significant differential expression of approximately 30% of the approximately 7,000 genes investigated compared to the tissues. Most of the differences were associated with the higher proliferation rate and the disrupted tissue organization in vitro. Thus, genes involved in cell-cycle progression, macromolecule processing and turnover, and energy metabolism were upregulated in cell lines, whereas cell adhesion molecules and membrane signaling proteins were downregulated.
Detailed molecular understanding of how cells adapt to the in vitro environment is important, as it will both increase our understanding of tissue organization and result in a refined molecular portrait of proliferation. It will further indicate when to use immortalized cell lines, or when it is necessary to instead use three-dimensional cultures, primary cell cultures or tissue biopsies.
PMCID: PMC1273632  PMID: 16086847
22.  Restriction site tagged (RST) microarrays: a novel technique to study the species composition of complex microbial systems 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(16):e95.
We have developed a new type of microarray, restriction site tagged (RST), for example NotI, microarrays. In this approach only sequences surrounding specific restriction sites (i.e. NotI linking clones) were used for generating microarrays. DNA was labeled using a new procedure, NotI representation, where only sequences surrounding NotI sites were labeled. Due to these modifications, the sensitivity of RST microarrays increases several hundred-fold compared to that of ordinary genomic microarrays. In a pilot experiment we have produced NotI microarrays from Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and have shown that even closely related Escherichia coli strains can be easily discriminated using this technique. For example, two E.coli strains, K12 and R2, differ by less than 0.1% in their 16S rRNA sequences and thus the 16S rRNA sequence would not easily discriminate between these strains. However, these strains showed distinctly different hybridization patterns with NotI microarrays. The same technique can be adapted to other restriction enzymes as well. This type of microarray opens the possibility not only for studies of the normal flora of the gut but also for any problem where quantitative and qualitative analysis of microbial (or large viral) genomes is needed.
PMCID: PMC169987  PMID: 12907747
23.  NotI passporting to identify species composition of complex microbial systems 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(2):e5.
We describe here a new method for large-scale scanning of microbial genomes on a quantitative and qualitative basis. To achieve this aim we propose to create NotI passports: databases containing NotI tags. We demonstrated that these tags comprising 19 bp of sequence information could be successfully generated using DNA isolated from intestinal or fecal samples. Such NotI passports allow the discrimination between closely related bacterial species and even strains. This procedure for generating restriction site tagged sequences (RSTS) is called passporting and can be adapted to any other rare cutting restriction enzyme. A comparison of 1312 tags from available sequenced Escherichia coli genomes, generated with the NotI, PmeI and SbfI restriction enzymes, revealed only 219 tags that were not unique. None of these tags matched human or rodent sequences. Therefore the approach allows analysis of complex microbial mixtures such as in human gut and identification with high accuracy of a particular bacterial strain on a quantitative and qualitative basis.
PMCID: PMC140530  PMID: 12527794
24.  A new approach to genome mapping and sequencing: slalom libraries 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(2):e6.
We describe here an efficient strategy for simultaneous genome mapping and sequencing. The approach is based on physically oriented, overlapping restriction fragment libraries called slalom libraries. Slalom libraries combine features of general genomic, jumping and linking libraries. Slalom libraries can be adapted to different applications and two main types of slalom libraries are described in detail. This approach was used to map and sequence (with ∼46% coverage) two human P1-derived artificial chromosome (PAC) clones, each of ∼100 kb. This model experiment demonstrates the feasibility of the approach and shows that the efficiency (cost-effectiveness and speed) of existing mapping/sequencing methods could be improved at least 5–10-fold. Furthermore, since the efficiency of contig assembly in the slalom approach is virtually independent of length of sequence reads, even short sequences produced by rapid, high throughput sequencing techniques would suffice to complete a physical map and a sequence scan of a small genome.
PMCID: PMC99845  PMID: 11788732
25.  C-Terminal Domain of the Epstein-Barr Virus LMP2A Membrane Protein Contains a Clustering Signal 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(22):10941-10949.
The latency-regulated transmembrane protein LMP2A interferes with signaling from the B-cell antigen receptor by recruiting the tyrosine kinases Lyn and Syk and by targeting them for degradation by binding the cellular E3 ubiquitin ligase AIP4. It has been hypothesized that this constitutive activity of LMP2A requires clustering in the membrane, but molecular evidence for this has been lacking. In the present study we show that LMP2A coclusters with chimeric rat CD2 transmembrane molecules carrying the 27-amino-acid (aa) intracellular C terminus of LMP2A and that this C-terminal domain fused to the glutathione-S-transferase protein associates with LMP2A in cell lysates. This molecular association requires neither the cysteine-rich region between aa 471 and 480 nor the terminal three aa 495 to 497. We also show that the juxtamembrane cysteine repeats in the LMP2A C terminus are the major targets for palmitoylation but that this acylation is not required for targeting of LMP2A to detergent-insoluble glycolipid-enriched membrane microdomains.
PMCID: PMC114674  PMID: 11602734

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