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1.  HippDB: a database of readily targeted helical protein–protein interactions 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(21):2806-2807.
Summary: HippDB catalogs every protein–protein interaction whose structure is available in the Protein Data Bank and which exhibits one or more helices at the interface. The Web site accepts queries on variables such as helix length and sequence, and it provides computational alanine scanning and change in solvent-accessible surface area values for every interfacial residue. HippDB is intended to serve as a starting point for structure-based small molecule and peptidomimetic drug development.
Availability and implementation: HippDB is freely available on the web at The Web site is implemented in PHP, MySQL and Apache. Source code freely available for download at, implemented in Perl and supported on Linux.
PMCID: PMC3799476  PMID: 23958730
2.  Glycine Betaine as a Direct Substrate for Methanogens (Methanococcoides spp.) 
Nine marine methanogenic Methanococcoides strains, including the type strains of Methanococcoides methylutens, M. burtonii, and M. alaskense, were tested for the utilization of N-methylated glycines. Three strains (NM1, PM2, and MKM1) used glycine betaine (N,N,N-trimethylglycine) as a substrate for methanogenesis, partially demethylating it to N,N-dimethylglycine, whereas none of the strains used N,N-dimethylglycine or sarcosine (N-methylglycine). Growth rates and growth yields per mole of substrate with glycine betaine (3.96 g [dry weight] per mol) were similar to those with trimethylamine (4.11 g [dry weight] per mol). However, as glycine betaine is only partially demethylated, the yield per methyl group was significantly higher than with trimethylamine. If glycine betaine and trimethylamine are provided together, trimethylamine is demethylated to dimethyl- and methylamine with limited glycine betaine utilization. After trimethylamine is depleted, dimethylamine and glycine betaine are consumed rapidly, before methylamine. Glycine betaine extends the range of substrates that can be directly utilized by some methanogens, allowing them to gain energy from the substrate without the need for syntrophic partners.
PMCID: PMC3911008  PMID: 24162571
3.  Testing for departures from additivity in mixtures of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) 
Toxicology  2013;306:10.1016/j.tox.2013.02.016.
This study is a follow-up to a paper by Carr et al. that determined a design structure to optimally test for departures from additivity in a fixed ratio mixture of four perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) using an in vitro transiently-transfected COS-1 PPARα reporter model with a mixing ratio that is based on average serum levels in NHANES subjects. Availability of information regarding potential for additivity of PFAAs in mixtures is critically important for risk assessors who are concerned with the ability of the compounds to affect human health and impact ecological systems. It is clear that exposures are not to single compounds, but to mixtures of the PFAAs. This paper presents the results from the data collected using the design from Carr et al. along with subsequent analyses that were performed to classify the relationships among mixtures of PFAAs. A non-linear logistic additivity model was employed to predict relative luciferase units (RLU), an indicator of PPARα activation. The results indicated a less than additive relationship among the four PFAAs. To determine if the possible “antagonism” is from the competition among or between carboxylates and sulfonates, four different binary mixtures were also studied. There was a less than additive relationship in all four binary mixtures. These findings are generally similar to two other reports of interfering interactions between PFAAs in mixtures. The most conservative interpretation for our data would be an assumption of additivity (and lack of a greater than additive interaction), with a potential for antagonistic interactions.
PMCID: PMC3810000  PMID: 23470359
Biomonitoring; Mixtures; PFAAs
4.  Outbreak Investigation Using High-Throughput Genome Sequencing within a Diagnostic Microbiology Laboratory 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(5):1396-1401.
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) of bacterial genomes has recently become more accessible and is now available to the routine diagnostic microbiology laboratory. However, questions remain regarding its feasibility, particularly with respect to data analysis in nonspecialist centers. To test the applicability of NGS to outbreak investigations, Ion Torrent sequencing was used to investigate a putative multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli outbreak in the neonatal unit of the Mercy Hospital for Women, Melbourne, Australia. Four suspected outbreak strains and a comparator strain were sequenced. Genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis demonstrated that the four neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) strains were identical and easily differentiated from the comparator strain. Genome sequence data also determined that the NICU strains belonged to multilocus sequence type 131 and carried the blaCTX-M-15 extended-spectrum beta-lactamase. Comparison of the outbreak strains to all publicly available complete E. coli genome sequences showed that they clustered with neonatal meningitis and uropathogenic isolates. The turnaround time from a positive culture to the completion of sequencing (prior to data analysis) was 5 days, and the cost was approximately $300 per strain (for the reagents only). The main obstacles to a mainstream adoption of NGS technologies in diagnostic microbiology laboratories are currently cost (although this is decreasing), a paucity of user-friendly and clinically focused bioinformatics platforms, and a lack of genomics expertise outside the research environment. Despite these hurdles, NGS technologies provide unparalleled high-resolution genotyping in a short time frame and are likely to be widely implemented in the field of diagnostic microbiology in the next few years, particularly for epidemiological investigations (replacing current typing methods) and the characterization of resistance determinants. Clinical microbiologists need to familiarize themselves with these technologies and their applications.
PMCID: PMC3647928  PMID: 23408689
5.  Adding Diverse Noncanonical Backbones to Rosetta: Enabling Peptidomimetic Design 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67051.
Peptidomimetics are classes of molecules that mimic structural and functional attributes of polypeptides. Peptidomimetic oligomers can frequently be synthesized using efficient solid phase synthesis procedures similar to peptide synthesis. Conformationally ordered peptidomimetic oligomers are finding broad applications for molecular recognition and for inhibiting protein-protein interactions. One critical limitation is the limited set of design tools for identifying oligomer sequences that can adopt desired conformations. Here, we present expansions to the ROSETTA platform that enable structure prediction and design of five non-peptidic oligomer scaffolds (noncanonical backbones), oligooxopiperazines, oligo-peptoids, -peptides, hydrogen bond surrogate helices and oligosaccharides. This work is complementary to prior additions to model noncanonical protein side chains in ROSETTA. The main purpose of our manuscript is to give a detailed description to current and future developers of how each of these noncanonical backbones was implemented. Furthermore, we provide a general outline for implementation of new backbone types not discussed here. To illustrate the utility of this approach, we describe the first tests of the ROSETTA molecular mechanics energy function in the context of oligooxopiperazines, using quantum mechanical calculations as comparison points, scanning through backbone and side chain torsion angles for a model peptidomimetic. Finally, as an example of a novel design application, we describe the automated design of an oligooxopiperazine that inhibits the p53-MDM2 protein-protein interaction. For the general biological and bioengineering community, several noncanonical backbones have been incorporated into web applications that allow users to freely and rapidly test the presented protocols ( This work helps address the peptidomimetic community's need for an automated and expandable modeling tool for noncanonical backbones.
PMCID: PMC3712014  PMID: 23869206
6.  Choline and N,N-Dimethylethanolamine as Direct Substrates for Methanogens 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(23):8298-8303.
Choline (N,N,N-trimethylethanolamine), which is widely distributed in membrane lipids and is a component of sediment biota, has been shown to be utilized anaerobically by mixed prokaryote cultures to produce methane but not by pure cultures of methanogens. Here, we show that five recently isolated Methanococcoides strains from a range of sediments (Aarhus Bay, Denmark; Severn Estuary mudflats at Portishead, United Kingdom; Darwin Mud Volcano, Gulf of Cadiz; Napoli mud volcano, eastern Mediterranean) can directly utilize choline for methanogenesis producing ethanolamine, which is not further metabolized. Di- and monomethylethanolamine are metabolic intermediates that temporarily accumulate. Consistent with this, dimethylethanolamine was shown to be another new growth substrate, but monomethylethanolamine was not. The specific methanogen inhibitor 2-bromoethanesulfonate (BES) inhibited methane production from choline. When choline and trimethylamine are provided together, diauxic growth occurs, with trimethylamine being utilized first, and then after a lag (∼7 days) choline is metabolized. Three type strains of Methanococcoides (M. methylutens, M. burtonii, and M. alaskense), in contrast, did not utilize choline. However, two of them (M. methylutens and M. burtonii) did metabolize dimethylethanolamine. These results extend the known substrates that can be directly utilized by some methanogens, giving them the advantage that they would not be reliant on bacterial syntrophs for their substrate supply.
PMCID: PMC3497383  PMID: 23001649
8.  Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors Alpha, Beta, and Gamma mRNA and Protein Expression in Human Fetal Tissues 
PPAR Research  2010;2010:690907.
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) regulate lipid and glucose homeostasis, are targets of pharmaceuticals, and are also activated by environmental contaminants. Almost nothing is known about expression of PPARs during human fetal development. This study examines expression of PPARα, β, and γ mRNA and protein in human fetal tissues. With increasing fetal age, mRNA expression of PPARα and β increased in liver, but PPARβ decreased in heart and intestine, and PPARγ decreased in adrenal. Adult and fetal mean expression of PPARα, β, and γ mRNA did not differ in intestine, but expression was lower in fetal stomach and heart. PPARα and β mRNA in kidney and spleen, and PPARγ mRNA in lung and adrenal were lower in fetal versus adult. PPARγ in liver and PPARβ mRNA in thymus were higher in fetal versus adult. PPARα protein increased with fetal age in intestine and decreased in lung, kidney, and adrenal. PPARβ protein in adrenal and PPARγ in kidney decreased with fetal age. This study provides new information on expression of PPAR subtypes during human development and will be important in evaluating the potential for the developing human to respond to PPAR environmental or pharmaceutical agonists.
PMCID: PMC2913814  PMID: 20706641
9.  Pre-synaptic regulation of astroglial excitatory neurotransmitter transporter GLT1 
Neuron  2009;61(6):880-894.
The neuron-astrocyte synaptic complex is a fundamental operational unit of the nervous system. Astroglia play a central role in the regulation of synaptic glutamate, via neurotransmitter transport by GLT1/EAAT2. The astroglial mechanisms underlying this essential neuron-glial communication are not known. Here we show that presynaptic terminals are sufficient and necessary for GLT1/EAAT2 transcriptional activation and have identified the molecular pathway that regulates astroglial responses to presynaptic input. Presynaptic terminals regulate astroglial GLT1/EAAT2 via kappa B-motif binding phosphoprotein (KBBP), the mouse homologue of human heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein K (hnRNP K), which binds to an essential element of GLT1/EAAT2 promoter. This neuron-stimulated factor is required for GLT1/EATT2 transcriptional activation and is responsible for astroglial alterations in neural injury. Denervation of neuron-astrocyte signaling in vivo, by acute corticospinal tract transection, ricin-induced motor neuron death, or chronic neurodegeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) all result in reduced astroglial KBBP expression and transcriptional dysfunction of astroglial transporter expression. Our studies indicate that presynaptic elements dynamically coordinate normal astroglial function and also provide a fundamental signaling mechanism by which altered neuronal function and injury leads to dysregulated astroglia in CNS disease.
PMCID: PMC2743171  PMID: 19323997

Results 1-10 (10)