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1.  Pan-viral specificity of IFN-induced genes reveals new roles for cGAS in innate immunity 
Nature  2013;505(7485):691-695.
The type I interferon (IFN) response protects cells from viral infection by inducing hundreds of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), some of which encode direct antiviral effectors1–3. Recent screening studies have begun to catalogue ISGs with antiviral activity against several RNA and DNA viruses4–13. However, antiviral ISG specificity across multiple distinct classes of viruses remains largely unexplored. Here we used an ectopic expression assay to screen a library of more than 350 human ISGs for effects on 14 viruses representing 7 families and 11 genera. We show that 47 genes inhibit one or more viruses, and 25 genes enhance virus infectivity. Comparative analysis reveals that the screened ISGs target positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses more effectively than negative-sense single-stranded RNA viruses. Gene clustering highlights the cytosolic DNA sensor cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS, also known as MB21D1) as a gene whose expression also broadly inhibits several RNA viruses. In vitro, lentiviral delivery of enzymatically active cGAS triggers a STING-dependent, IRF3-mediated antiviral program that functions independently of canonical IFN/STAT1 signalling. In vivo, genetic ablation of murine cGAS reveals its requirement in the antiviral response to two DNA viruses, and an unappreciated contribution to the innate control of an RNA virus. These studies uncover new paradigms for the preferential specificity of IFN-mediated antiviral pathways spanning several virus families.
PMCID: PMC4077721  PMID: 24284630
2.  Nuclear pore complex evolution: a trypanosome Mlp analogue functions in chromosomal segregation but lacks transcriptional barrier activity 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2014;25(9):1421-1436.
The nuclear face of the nuclear pore complex (NPC) interfaces with chromatin, transcription, and transport intermediates. A novel architecture for the nuclear face of the trypanosome NPC provides insights into NPC function and evolution.
The nuclear pore complex (NPC) has dual roles in nucleocytoplasmic transport and chromatin organization. In many eukaryotes the coiled-coil Mlp/Tpr proteins of the NPC nuclear basket have specific functions in interactions with chromatin and defining specialized regions of active transcription, whereas Mlp2 associates with the mitotic spindle/NPC in a cell cycle–dependent manner. We previously identified two putative Mlp-related proteins in African trypanosomes, TbNup110 and TbNup92, the latter of which associates with the spindle. We now provide evidence for independent ancestry for TbNup92/TbNup110 and Mlp/Tpr proteins. However, TbNup92 is required for correct chromosome segregation, with knockout cells exhibiting microaneuploidy and lowered fidelity of telomere segregation. Further, TbNup92 is intimately associated with the mitotic spindle and spindle anchor site but apparently has minimal roles in control of gene transcription, indicating that TbNup92 lacks major barrier activity. TbNup92 therefore acts as a functional analogue of Mlp/Tpr proteins, and, together with the lamina analogue NUP-1, represents a cohort of novel proteins operating at the nuclear periphery of trypanosomes, uncovering complex evolutionary trajectories for the NPC and nuclear lamina.
PMCID: PMC4004592  PMID: 24600046
3.  Molecular mechanisms of system responses to novel stimuli are predictable from public data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(3):1442-1460.
Systems scale models provide the foundation for an effective iterative cycle between hypothesis generation, experiment and model refinement. Such models also enable predictions facilitating the understanding of biological complexity and the control of biological systems. Here, we demonstrate the reconstruction of a globally predictive gene regulatory model from public data: a model that can drive rational experiment design and reveal new regulatory mechanisms underlying responses to novel environments. Specifically, using ∼1500 publically available genome-wide transcriptome data sets from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we have reconstructed an environment and gene regulatory influence network that accurately predicts regulatory mechanisms and gene expression changes on exposure of cells to completely novel environments. Focusing on transcriptional networks that induce peroxisomes biogenesis, the model-guided experiments allow us to expand a core regulatory network to include novel transcriptional influences and linkage across signaling and transcription. Thus, the approach and model provides a multi-scalar picture of gene dynamics and are powerful resources for exploiting extant data to rationally guide experimentation. The techniques outlined here are generally applicable to any biological system, which is especially important when experimental systems are challenging and samples are difficult and expensive to obtain—a common problem in laboratory animal and human studies.
PMCID: PMC3919619  PMID: 24185701
4.  A FOXO3/IRF7 gene regulatory circuit limits inflammatory sequelae of antiviral responses 
Nature  2012;490(7420):421-425.
Antiviral responses must be tightly regulated to rapidly defend against infection while minimizing inflammatory damage. Type 1 interferons (IFN-I) are crucial mediators of antiviral responses1 and their transcription is regulated by a variety of transcription factors2; principal amongst these is the family of interferon regulatory factors (IRFs)3. The IRF gene regulatory networks are complex and contain multiple feedback loops. The tools of systems biology are well suited to elucidate the complex interactions that give rise to precise coordination of the interferon response. Here we have used an unbiased systems approach to predict that a member of the forkhead family of transcription factors, FOXO3, is a negative regulator of a subset of antiviral genes. This prediction was validated using macrophages isolated from Foxo3-null mice. Genome-wide location analysis combined with gene deletion studies identified the Irf7 gene as a critical target of FOXO3. FOXO3 was identified as a negative regulator of Irf7 transcription and we have further demonstrated that FOXO3, IRF7 and IFN-I form a coherent feed-forward regulatory circuit. Our data suggest that the FOXO3-IRF7 regulatory circuit represents a novel mechanism for establishing the requisite set points in the interferon pathway that balances the beneficial effects and deleterious sequelae of the antiviral response.
PMCID: PMC3556990  PMID: 22982991
5.  Metallochaperones Regulate Intracellular Copper Levels 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(1):e1002880.
Copper (Cu) is an important enzyme co-factor that is also extremely toxic at high intracellular concentrations, making active efflux mechanisms essential for preventing Cu accumulation. Here, we have investigated the mechanistic role of metallochaperones in regulating Cu efflux. We have constructed a computational model of Cu trafficking and efflux based on systems analysis of the Cu stress response of Halobacterium salinarum. We have validated several model predictions via assays of transcriptional dynamics and intracellular Cu levels, discovering a completely novel function for metallochaperones. We demonstrate that in addition to trafficking Cu ions, metallochaperones also function as buffers to modulate the transcriptional responsiveness and efficacy of Cu efflux. This buffering function of metallochaperones ultimately sets the upper limit for intracellular Cu levels and provides a mechanistic explanation for previously observed Cu metallochaperone mutation phenotypes.
Author Summary
Copper (Cu) toxicity is a problem of medical, agricultural, and environmental significance. Cu toxicity severely inhibits growth of plant roots significantly affecting their morphology; Cu overload also accounts for some of the most common metal-metabolism abnormalities and neuropsychiatric problems including Wilson's and Menkes diseases. There is a large body of literature on how Cu enters and exits the cell; the kinetic and structural details of Cu translocation between trafficking, sensing, metabolic, and pumping proteins; and phenotypes associated with defects in metalloregulatory and efflux functions. Although the role of metallochaperones in Cu-cytotoxicity has been poorly studied, it has been observed that in animals deletion of metallochaperones results in elevated intracellular Cu levels along with overexpression of the P1-type ATPase efflux pump, ultimately causing malformation with high mortality. These observations are mechanistically explained by a predictive model of the Cu circuit in Halobacterium salinarum, which serves as an excellent model system for Cu trafficking and regulation in organisms with multiple chaperones. Constructed through iterative modeling and experimentation, this model accurately recapitulates known dynamical properties of the Cu circuit and predicts that intracellular Cu-buffering emerges as a consequence of the interplay of paralogous metallochaperones that traffic and allocate Cu to distinct targets.
PMCID: PMC3551603  PMID: 23349626
6.  Asymmetric positive feedback loops reliably control biological responses 
A common regulatory motif, where a heterodimeric transcriptional regulator positively autoregulates only one of its components, is found to have particular properties that enable precise and robust control of cellular responses to environmental stimuli, providing an explanation for the prevalence of this motif in evolved regulatory networks.
Many important biological systems rely on regulation by dimers of proteins which upregulate the transcription of numerous targets, including one, and only one, of the dimer pair. This is termed asymmetric self-upregulation.ASymmetric Self-UpREgulated (ASSURE) networks confer rapid induction of their targets and their network behaviors are robust to parameter variation—both features appear to have contributed to the prevalence of the network across widely different biological systems.Likely evolutionary precursors to ASSURE networks are symmetrically self-upregulated network mediated by homodimers. In silico and experimental studies demonstrate that the ASSURE network confers a competitive advantage over its symmetrical counterpart.
Positive feedback is a common mechanism enabling biological systems to respond to stimuli in a switch-like manner. Such systems are often characterized by the requisite formation of a heterodimer where only one of the pair is subject to feedback. This ASymmetric Self-UpREgulation (ASSURE) motif is central to many biological systems, including cholesterol homeostasis (LXRα/RXRα), adipocyte differentiation (PPARγ/RXRα), development and differentiation (RAR/RXR), myogenesis (MyoD/E12) and cellular antiviral defense (IRF3/IRF7). To understand why this motif is so prevalent, we examined its properties in an evolutionarily conserved transcriptional regulatory network in yeast (Oaf1p/Pip2p). We demonstrate that the asymmetry in positive feedback confers a competitive advantage and allows the system to robustly increase its responsiveness while precisely tuning the response to a consistent level in the presence of varying stimuli. This study reveals evolutionary advantages for the ASSURE motif, and mechanisms for control, that are relevant to pharmacologic intervention and synthetic biology applications.
PMCID: PMC3361002  PMID: 22531117
heterodimer; kinetic model; positive feedback; regulatory network motif; robustness
7.  NUP-1 Is a Large Coiled-Coil Nucleoskeletal Protein in Trypanosomes with Lamin-Like Functions 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(3):e1001287.
NUP1, the first example of a nuclear lamin analog in nonmetazoans, performs roles similar to those of lamins in maintaining the structure and organization of the nucleus in Trypanosoma brucei.
A unifying feature of eukaryotic nuclear organization is genome segregation into transcriptionally active euchromatin and transcriptionally repressed heterochromatin. In metazoa, lamin proteins preserve nuclear integrity and higher order heterochromatin organization at the nuclear periphery, but no non-metazoan lamin orthologues have been identified, despite the likely presence of nucleoskeletal elements in many lineages. This suggests a metazoan-specific origin for lamins, and therefore that distinct protein elements must compose the nucleoskeleton in other lineages. The trypanosomatids are highly divergent organisms and possess well-documented but remarkably distinct mechanisms for control of gene expression, including polycistronic transcription and trans-splicing. NUP-1 is a large protein localizing to the nuclear periphery of Trypanosoma brucei and a candidate nucleoskeletal component. We sought to determine if NUP-1 mediates heterochromatin organization and gene regulation at the nuclear periphery by examining the influence of NUP-1 knockdown on morphology, chromatin positioning, and transcription. We demonstrate that NUP-1 is essential and part of a stable network at the inner face of the trypanosome nuclear envelope, since knockdown cells have abnormally shaped nuclei with compromised structural integrity. NUP-1 knockdown also disrupts organization of nuclear pore complexes and chromosomes. Most significantly, we find that NUP-1 is required to maintain the silenced state of developmentally regulated genes at the nuclear periphery; NUP-1 knockdown results in highly specific mis-regulation of telomere-proximal silenced variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) expression sites and procyclin loci, indicating a disruption to normal chromatin organization essential to life-cycle progression. Further, NUP-1 depletion leads to increased VSG switching and therefore appears to have a role in control of antigenic variation. Thus, analogous to vertebrate lamins, NUP-1 is a major component of the nucleoskeleton with key roles in organization of the nuclear periphery, heterochromatin, and epigenetic control of developmentally regulated loci.
Author Summary
Eukaryotes—fungi, plants, animals, and many unicellular organisms—are defined by the presence of a cell nucleus that contains the chromosomes and is enveloped by a lipid membrane lined on the inner face with a protein network called the lamina. Among other functions, the lamina serves as an anchorage site for the ends of chromosomes. In multicellular animals (metazoa), the lamina comprises a few related proteins called lamins, which are very important for many functions related to the nucleus; abnormal lamins result in multiple nuclear defects and diseases, including inappropriate gene expression and premature aging. Until now, however, lamins had been found only in metazoa; no protein of equivalent function had been identified in plants, fungi, or unicellular organisms. Here, we describe a protein from African trypanosomes—the single-cell parasites that cause sleeping sickness—that fulfils many lamin-like roles, including maintaining nuclear structure and organizing the chromosomes of this organism. We show that this protein, which we call NUP-1 for nuclear periphery protein-1, is vital for the antigenic variation mechanisms that allow the parasite to escape the host immune response. We propose that NUP-1 is a lamin analogue that performs similar functions in trypanosomes to those of authentic lamins in metazoa. These findings, we believe, have important implications for understanding the evolution of the nucleus.
PMCID: PMC3313915  PMID: 22479148
8.  Trade-off between Responsiveness and Noise Suppression in Biomolecular System Responses to Environmental Cues 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(6):e1002091.
When living systems detect changes in their external environment their response must be measured to balance the need to react appropriately with the need to remain stable, ignoring insignificant signals. Because this is a fundamental challenge of all biological systems that execute programs in response to stimuli, we developed a generalized time-frequency analysis (TFA) framework to systematically explore the dynamical properties of biomolecular networks. Using TFA, we focused on two well-characterized yeast gene regulatory networks responsive to carbon-source shifts and a mammalian innate immune regulatory network responsive to lipopolysaccharides (LPS). The networks are comprised of two different basic architectures. Dual positive and negative feedback loops make up the yeast galactose network; whereas overlapping positive and negative feed-forward loops are common to the yeast fatty-acid response network and the LPS-induced network of macrophages. TFA revealed remarkably distinct network behaviors in terms of trade-offs in responsiveness and noise suppression that are appropriately tuned to each biological response. The wild type galactose network was found to be highly responsive while the oleate network has greater noise suppression ability. The LPS network appeared more balanced, exhibiting less bias toward noise suppression or responsiveness. Exploration of the network parameter space exposed dramatic differences in system behaviors for each network. These studies highlight fundamental structural and dynamical principles that underlie each network, reveal constrained parameters of positive and negative feedback and feed-forward strengths that tune the networks appropriately for their respective biological roles, and demonstrate the general utility of the TFA approach for systems and synthetic biology.
Author Summary
Biological systems constantly balance noise suppression with responsiveness. In a fluctuating environment, some changes are insignificant to living cells while others represent cues to which they must respond. These stimuli are interpreted by molecular circuits that enable the cell to strike an appropriate balance between responsiveness and noise suppression. This trade-off is governed by the structure and kinetic parameters of molecular networks, which have been tuned by evolutionary selection for different stimuli and responses. We consider three regulatory circuits (two from yeast and one from mammalian cells), which respond to different environments and involve very different physiological processes. To investigate the responses to a time varying signal, we developed a generalized time-frequency analysis framework for studying such trade-offs using mathematical models of regulatory circuits and explore how the structure and parameters of the circuit affect the trade-offs between noise suppression and responsiveness. The generalized TFA approach represents an effective tool for exploring and analyzing different systems-level dynamical properties. Making use of such properties can facilitate prediction and network control for systems- and synthetic biology applications.
PMCID: PMC3127798  PMID: 21738459
9.  Role of the Histone Variant H2A.Z/Htz1p in TBP Recruitment, Chromatin Dynamics, and Regulated Expression of Oleate-Responsive Genes▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(9):2346-2358.
The histone variant H2A.Z (Htz1p) has been implicated in transcriptional regulation in numerous organisms, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genome-wide transcriptome profiling and chromatin immunoprecipitation studies identified a role for Htz1p in the rapid and robust activation of many oleate-responsive genes encoding peroxisomal proteins, in particular POT1, POX1, FOX2, and CTA1. The Swr1p-, Gcn5p-, and Chz1p-dependent association of Htz1p with these promoters in their repressed states appears to establish an epigenetic marker for the rapid and strong expression of these highly inducible promoters. Isw2p also plays a role in establishing the nucleosome state of these promoters and associates stably in the absence of Htz1p. An analysis of the nucleosome dynamics and Htz1p association with these promoters suggests a complex mechanism in which Htz1p-containing nucleosomes at fatty acid-responsive promoters are disassembled upon initial exposure to oleic acid leading to the loss of Htz1p from the promoter. These nucleosomes reassemble at later stages of gene expression. While these new nucleosomes do not incorporate Htz1p, the initial presence of Htz1p appears to mark the promoter for sustained gene expression and the recruitment of TATA-binding protein.
PMCID: PMC2668375  PMID: 19273605

Results 1-9 (9)