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1.  Metabolic and Target-Site Mechanisms Combine to Confer Strong DDT Resistance in Anopheles gambiae 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92662.
The development of resistance to insecticides has become a classic exemplar of evolution occurring within human time scales. In this study we demonstrate how resistance to DDT in the major African malaria vector Anopheles gambiae is a result of both target-site resistance mechanisms that have introgressed between incipient species (the M- and S-molecular forms) and allelic variants in a DDT-detoxifying enzyme. Sequencing of the detoxification enzyme, Gste2, from DDT resistant and susceptible strains of An. gambiae, revealed a non-synonymous polymorphism (I114T), proximal to the DDT binding domain, which segregated with strain phenotype. Recombinant protein expression and DDT metabolism analysis revealed that the proteins from the susceptible strain lost activity at higher DDT concentrations, characteristic of substrate inhibition. The effect of I114T on GSTE2 protein structure was explored through X-ray crystallography. The amino acid exchange in the DDT-resistant strain introduced a hydroxyl group nearby the hydrophobic DDT-binding region. The exchange does not result in structural alterations but is predicted to facilitate local dynamics and enzyme activity. Expression of both wild-type and 114T alleles the allele in Drosophila conferred an increase in DDT tolerance. The 114T mutation was significantly associated with DDT resistance in wild caught M-form populations and acts in concert with target-site mutations in the voltage gated sodium channel (Vgsc-1575Y and Vgsc-1014F) to confer extreme levels of DDT resistance in wild caught An. gambiae.
PMCID: PMC3968025  PMID: 24675797
2.  The 2014 Nucleic Acids Research Database Issue and an updated NAR online Molecular Biology Database Collection 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(D1):D1-D6.
The 2014 Nucleic Acids Research Database Issue includes descriptions of 58 new molecular biology databases and recent updates to 123 databases previously featured in NAR or other journals. For convenience, the issue is now divided into eight sections that reflect major subject categories. Among the highlights of this issue are six databases of the transcription factor binding sites in various organisms and updates on such popular databases as CAZy, Database of Genomic Variants (DGV), dbGaP, DrugBank, KEGG, miRBase, Pfam, Reactome, SEED, TCDB and UniProt. There is a strong block of structural databases, which includes, among others, the new RNA Bricks database, updates on PDBe, PDBsum, ArchDB, Gene3D, ModBase, Nucleic Acid Database and the recently revived iPfam database. An update on the NCBI’s MMDB describes VAST+, an improved tool for protein structure comparison. Two articles highlight the development of the Structural Classification of Proteins (SCOP) database: one describes SCOPe, which automates assignment of new structures to the existing SCOP hierarchy; the other one describes the first version of SCOP2, with its more flexible approach to classifying protein structures. This issue also includes a collection of articles on bacterial taxonomy and metagenomics, which includes updates on the List of Prokaryotic Names with Standing in Nomenclature (LPSN), Ribosomal Database Project (RDP), the Silva/LTP project and several new metagenomics resources. The NAR online Molecular Biology Database Collection,, has been expanded to 1552 databases. The entire Database Issue is freely available online on the Nucleic Acids Research website (
PMCID: PMC3965027  PMID: 24316579
3.  Application of the AMPLE cluster-and-truncate approach to NMR structures for molecular replacement 
Processing of NMR structures for molecular replacement by AMPLE works well.
AMPLE is a program developed for clustering and truncating ab initio protein structure predictions into search models for molecular replacement. Here, it is shown that its core cluster-and-truncate methods also work well for processing NMR ensembles into search models. Rosetta remodelling helps to extend success to NMR structures bearing low sequence identity or high structural divergence from the target protein. Potential future routes to improved performance are considered and practical, general guidelines on using AMPLE are provided.
PMCID: PMC3817692  PMID: 24189230
molecular replacement; AMPLE; NMR structures; search models
4.  The first structure in a family of peptidase inhibitors reveals an unusual Ig-like fold 
F1000Research  2013;2:154.
We report the crystal structure solution of the Intracellular Protease Inhibitor (IPI) protein from Bacillus subtilis, which has been reported to be an inhibitor of the intracellular subtilisin Isp1 from the same organism. The structure of IPI is a variant of the all-beta, immunoglobulin (Ig) fold. It is possible that IPI is important for protein-protein interactions, of which inhibition of Isp1 is one. The intracellular nature of ISP is questioned, because an alternative ATG codon in the ipi gene would produce a protein with an N-terminal extension containing a signal peptide. It is possible that alternative initiation exists, producing either an intracellular inhibitor or a secreted form that may be associated with the cell surface.  Homologues of the IPI protein from other species are multi-domain proteins, containing signal peptides and domains also associated with the bacterial cell-surface. The cysteine peptidase inhibitors chagasin and amoebiasin also have Ig-like folds, but their topology differs significantly from that of IPI, and they share no recent common ancestor. A model of IPI docked to Isp1 shows similarities to other subtilisin:inhibitor complexes, particularly where the inhibitor interacts with the peptidase active site.
PMCID: PMC3901451  PMID: 24555072
5.  The first structure in a family of peptidase inhibitors reveals an unusual Ig-like fold 
F1000Research  2013;2:154.
We report the crystal structure solution of the Intracellular Protease Inhibitor (IPI) protein from Bacillus subtilis, which has been reported to be an inhibitor of the intracellular subtilisin Isp1 from the same organism. The structure of IPI is a variant of the all-beta, immunoglobulin (Ig) fold. It is possible that IPI is important for protein-protein interactions, of which inhibition of Isp1 is one. The intracellular nature of ISP is questioned, because an alternative ATG codon in the ipi gene would produce a protein with an N-terminal extension containing a signal peptide. It is possible that alternative initiation exists, producing either an intracellular inhibitor or a secreted form that may be associated with the cell surface.  Homologues of the IPI protein from other species are multi-domain proteins, containing signal peptides and domains also associated with the bacterial cell-surface. The cysteine peptidase inhibitors chagasin and amoebiasin also have Ig-like folds, but their topology differs significantly from that of IPI, and they share no recent common ancestor. A model of IPI docked to Isp1 shows similarities to other subtilisin:inhibitor complexes, particularly where the inhibitor interacts with the peptidase active site.
PMCID: PMC3901451  PMID: 24555072
6.  mRNA 3′ Tagging Is Induced by Nonsense-Mediated Decay and Promotes Ribosome Dissociation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(13):2585-2595.
For a range of eukaryote transcripts, the initiation of degradation is coincident with the addition of a short pyrimidine tag at the 3′ end. Previously, cytoplasmic mRNA tagging has been observed for human and fungal transcripts. We now report that Arabidopsis thaliana mRNA is subject to 3′ tagging with U and C nucleotides, as in Aspergillus nidulans. Mutations that disrupt tagging, including A. nidulans cutA and a newly characterized gene, cutB, retard transcript degradation. Importantly, nonsense-mediated decay (NMD), a major checkpoint for transcript fidelity, elicits 3′ tagging of transcripts containing a premature termination codon (PTC). Although PTC-induced transcript degradation does not require 3′ tagging, subsequent dissociation of mRNA from ribosomes is retarded in tagging mutants. Additionally, tagging of wild-type and NMD-inducing transcripts is greatly reduced in strains lacking Upf1, a conserved NMD factor also required for human histone mRNA tagging. We argue that PTC-induced translational termination differs fundamentally from normal termination in polyadenylated transcripts, as it leads to transcript degradation and prevents rather than facilitates further translation. Furthermore, transcript deadenylation and the consequent dissociation of poly(A) binding protein will result in PTC-like termination events which recruit Upf1, resulting in mRNA 3′ tagging, ribosome clearance, and transcript degradation.
PMCID: PMC3434495  PMID: 22547684
7.  Systematic survey of deubiquitinase localization identifies USP21 as a regulator of centrosome- and microtubule-associated functions 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(6):1095-1103.
A localization atlas is provided for 66 of 90 mammalian GFP-tagged deubiquitinases (DUBs). USP21 is the only DUB in the panel that localizes to both microtubules and the centrosome. Functional data suggest a key role for USP21 in the choreography of microtubule reorganization.
Ubiquitination is a reversible modification that influences a broad range of physiological processes. There are approximately 90 deubiquitinases (DUBs) encoded in the human genome, of which 79 are predicted to have catalytic activity. We tagged 66 DUBs with green fluorescent protein and systematically surveyed their subcellular distribution, identifying enzymes specific to the nucleus, plasma membrane, and secretory and endocytic pathways. USP21 is unique in showing clear association with both centrosomes and microtubules. Using an in vitro assay, we show that microtubule binding is direct and identify a novel microtubule-binding motif encompassed within amino acids 59–75 of the N-terminus of USP21. Our functional studies indicate a key role for USP21 in the governance of microtubule- and centrosome-associated physiological processes: Depletion of USP21 in A549 cells compromises the reestablishment of a radial array of microtubules during recovery from cold-induced depolymerization and also reduces the probability of primary cilium formation, whereas USP21 knockdown in PC12 cells inhibits nerve growth factor–induced neurite outgrowth.
PMCID: PMC3302736  PMID: 22298430
8.  Rab14 and Its Exchange Factor FAM116 Link Endocytic Recycling and Adherens Junction Stability in Migrating Cells 
Developmental Cell  2012;22-540(5):952-966.
Rab GTPases define the vesicle trafficking pathways underpinning cell polarization and migration. Here, we find that Rab4, Rab11, and Rab14 and the candidate Rab GDP-GTP exchange factors (GEFs) FAM116A and AVL9 are required for cell migration. Rab14 and its GEF FAM116A localize to and act on an intermediate compartment of the transferrin-recycling pathway prior to Rab11 and after Rab5 and Rab4. This Rab14 intermediate recycling compartment has specific functions in migrating cells discrete from early and recycling endosomes. Rab14-depleted cells show increased N-cadherin levels at junctional complexes and cannot resolve cell-cell junctions. This is due to decreased shedding of cell-surface N-cadherin by the ADAM family protease ADAM10/Kuzbanian. In FAM116A- and Rab14-depleted cells, ADAM10 accumulates in a transferrin-positive endocytic compartment, and the cell-surface level of ADAM10 is correspondingly reduced. FAM116 and Rab14 therefore define an endocytic recycling pathway needed for ADAM protease trafficking and regulation of cell-cell junctions.
Graphical Abstract
► FAM116A is a GDP-GTP exchange factor for the GTPase Rab14 ► Rab14 defines an endocytic recycling pathway required for ADAM10 transport ► In Rab14-depleted cells, ADAM10 fails to degrade its substrate, N-cadherin ► Dysregulation of ADAM10/N-cadherin accounts for Rab14 effects on cell migration
Linford et al. show that Rab14 and its exchange factor FAM116 are required for the endocytic recycling of the ADAM10 protease. In cells lacking Rab14 or FAM116, ADAM10 is mislocalized and cannot process its substrate N-cadherin. This leads to stabilization of the adherens junctions and thereby interferes with cell migration.
PMCID: PMC3383995  PMID: 22595670
9.  Autophagy in protists 
Autophagy  2011;7(2):127-158.
Autophagy is the degradative process by which eukaryotic cells digest their own components using acid hydrolases within the lysosome. Originally thought to function almost exclusively in providing starving cells with nutrients taken from their own cellular constituents, autophagy is in fact involved in numerous cellular events including differentiation, turnover of macromolecules and organelles and defense against parasitic invaders. During the past 10–20 years, molecular components of the autophagic machinery have been discovered, revealing a complex interactome of proteins and lipids, which, in a concerted way, induce membrane formation to engulf cellular material and target it for lysosomal degradation. Here, our emphasis is autophagy in protists. We discuss experimental and genomic data indicating that the canonical autophagy machinery characterized in animals and fungi appeared prior to the radiation of major eukaryotic lineages. Moreover, we describe how comparative bioinformatics revealed that this canonical machinery has been subject to moderation, outright loss or elaboration on multiple occasions in protist lineages, most probably as a consequence of diverse lifestyle adaptations. We also review experimental studies illustrating how several pathogenic protists either utilize autophagy mechanisms or manipulate host-cell autophagy in order to establish or maintain infection within a host. The essentiality of autophagy for the pathogenicity of many parasites, and the unique features of some of the autophagy-related proteins involved, suggest possible new targets for drug discovery. Further studies of the molecular details of autophagy in protists will undoubtedly enhance our understanding of the diversity and complexity of this cellular phenomenon and the opportunities it offers as a drug target.
PMCID: PMC3039767  PMID: 20962583
autophagy; ubiquitination; pexophagy; evolution; free-living protist; parasitic protist; life-cycle differentiation, Trypanosomatidae; Apicomplexa; drug discovery
10.  Correction: Comparative Genomics of the Anopheline Glutathione S-Transferase Epsilon Cluster 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):10.1371/annotation/1dbf46fc-3f3f-47d0-9605-514bda135ba4.
PMCID: PMC3268786
11.  New Structural and Functional Contexts of the Dx[DN]xDG Linear Motif: Insights into Evolution of Calcium-Binding Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21507.
Binding of calcium ions (Ca2+) to proteins can have profound effects on their structure and function. Common roles of calcium binding include structure stabilization and regulation of activity. It is known that diverse families – EF-hands being one of at least twelve – use a Dx[DN]xDG linear motif to bind calcium in near-identical fashion. Here, four novel structural contexts for the motif are described. Existing experimental data for one of them, a thermophilic archaeal subtilisin, demonstrate for the first time a role for Dx[DN]xDG-bound calcium in protein folding. An integrin-like embedding of the motif in the blade of a β-propeller fold – here named the calcium blade – is discovered in structures of bacterial and fungal proteins. Furthermore, sensitive database searches suggest a common origin for the calcium blade in β-propeller structures of different sizes and a pan-kingdom distribution of these proteins. Factors favouring the multiple convergent evolution of the motif appear to include its general Asp-richness, the regular spacing of the Asp residues and the fact that change of Asp into Gly and vice versa can occur though a single nucleotide change. Among the known structural contexts for the Dx[DN]xDG motif, only the calcium blade and the EF-hand are currently found intracellularly in large numbers, perhaps because the higher extracellular concentration of Ca2+ allows for easier fixing of newly evolved motifs that have acquired useful functions. The analysis presented here will inform ongoing efforts toward prediction of similar calcium-binding motifs from sequence information alone.
PMCID: PMC3123361  PMID: 21720552
12.  Family-wide characterization of the DENN domain Rab GDP-GTP exchange factors 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2010;191(2):367-381.
Target or substrate Rab GTPases are identified for 17 proteins with DENN domains.
A key requirement for Rab function in membrane trafficking is site-specific activation by GDP-GTP exchange factors (GEFs), but the majority of the 63 human Rabs have no known GEF. We have performed a systematic characterization of the 17 human DENN domain proteins and demonstrated that they are specific GEFs for 10 Rabs. DENND1A/1B localize to clathrin patches at the plasma membrane and activate Rab35 in an endocytic pathway trafficking Shiga toxin to the trans-Golgi network. DENND2 GEFs target to actin filaments and control Rab9-dependent trafficking of mannose-6-phosphate receptor to lysosomes. DENND4 GEFs target to a tubular membrane compartment adjacent to the Golgi, where they activate Rab10, which suggests a function in basolateral polarized sorting in epithelial cells that compliments the non-DENN GEF Sec2 acting on Rab8 in apical sorting. DENND1C, DENND3, DENND5A/5B, MTMR5/13, and MADD activate Rab13, Rab12, Rab39, Rab28, and Rab27A/27B, respectively. Together, these findings provide a basis for future studies on Rab regulation and function.
PMCID: PMC2958468  PMID: 20937701
13.  CUCU Modification of mRNA Promotes Decapping and Transcript Degradation in Aspergillus nidulans▿ † 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;30(2):460-469.
In eukaryotes, mRNA decay is generally initiated by the shortening of the poly(A) tail mediated by the major deadenylase complex Ccr4-Caf1-Not. The deadenylated transcript is then rapidly degraded, primarily via the decapping-dependent pathway. Here we report that in Aspergillus nidulans both the Caf1 and Ccr4 orthologues are functionally distinct deadenylases in vivo: Caf1 is required for the regulated degradation of specific transcripts, and Ccr4 is responsible for basal degradation. Intriguingly disruption of the Ccr4-Caf1-Not complex leads to deadenylation-independent decapping. Additionally, decapping is correlated with a novel transcript modification, addition of a CUCU sequence. A member of the nucleotidyltransferase superfamily, CutA, is required for this modification, and its disruption leads to a reduced rate of decapping and subsequent transcript degradation. We propose that 3′ modification of adenylated mRNA, which is likely to represent a common eukaryotic process, primes the transcript for decapping and efficient degradation.
PMCID: PMC2798463  PMID: 19901075
14.  Identification of novel aspartic proteases from Strongyloides ratti and characterisation of their evolutionary relationships, stage-specific expression and molecular structure 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:611.
Aspartic proteases are known to play an important role in the biology of nematode parasitism. This role is best characterised in blood-feeding nematodes, where they digest haemoglobin, but they are also likely to play important roles in the biology of nematode parasites that do not feed on blood. In the present work, we investigate the evolution and expression of aspartic proteases in Strongyloides ratti, which permits a unique comparison between parasitic and free-living adult forms within its life-cycle.
We identified eight transcribed aspartic protease sequences and a further two genomic sequences and compared these to homologues in Caenorhabditis elegans and other nematode species. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated a complex pattern of gene evolution, such that some S. ratti sequences had a one-to-one correspondence with orthologues of C. elegans but that lineage-specific expansions have occurred for other aspartic proteases in these two nematodes. These gene duplication events may have contributed to the adaptation of the two species to their different lifestyles. Among the set of S. ratti aspartic proteases were two closely-related isoforms that showed differential expression during different life stages: ASP-2A is highly expressed in parasitic females while ASP-2B is predominantly found in free-living adults. Molecular modelling of the ASP-2 isoforms reveals that their substrate specificities are likely to be very similar, but that ASP-2B is more electrostatically negative over its entire molecular surface than ASP-2A. This characteristic may be related to different pH values of the environments in which these two isoforms operate.
We have demonstrated that S. ratti provides a powerful model to explore the genetic adaptations associated with parasitic versus free-living life-styles. We have discovered gene duplication of aspartic protease genes in Strongyloides and identified a pair of paralogues differentially expressed in either the parasitic or the free-living phase of the nematode life-cycle, consistent with an adaptive role for aspartic proteases in the evolution of nematode parasitism.
PMCID: PMC2805697  PMID: 20015380
15.  Sequence analysis of GerM and SpoVS, uncharacterized bacterial ‘sporulation’ proteins with widespread phylogenetic distribution 
Bioinformatics  2008;24(16):1793-1797.
Sporulation in low-G+C gram-positive bacteria (Firmicutes) is an important survival mechanism that involves up to 150 genes, acting in a highly regulated manner. Many sporulation genes have close homologs in non-sporulating bacteria, including cyanobacteria, proteobacteria and spirochaetes, indicating that their products play a wider biological role. Most of them have been characterized as regulatory proteins or enzymes of peptidoglycan turnover; functions of others remain unknown but they are likely to have a general role in cell division and/or development. We have compiled a list of such widely conserved sporulation and germination proteins with poorly characterized functions, ranked them by the width of their phylogenetic distribution, and performed detailed sequence analysis and, where possible, structural modeling aimed at estimating their potential functions. Here we report the results of sequence analysis of Bacillus subtilis spore germination protein GerM, suggesting that it is a widespread cell development protein, whose function might involve binding to peptidoglycan. GerM consists of two tandem copies of a new domain (designated the GERMN domain) that forms phylum-specific fusions with two other newly described domains, GERMN-associated domains 1 and 2 (GMAD1 and GMAD2). Fold recognition reveals a β-propeller fold for GMAD1, while ab initio modeling suggests that GMAD2 adopts a fibronectin type III fold. SpoVS is predicted to adopt the AlbA archaeal chromatin protein fold, which suggests that it is a DNA-binding protein, most likely a novel transcriptional regulator.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at
PMCID: PMC2732212  PMID: 18562273
16.  The protein that binds to DNA base J in trypanosomatids has features of a thymidine hydroxylase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(7):2107-2115.
Trypanosomatids contain an unusual DNA base J (β-d-glucosylhydroxymethyluracil), which replaces a fraction of thymine in telomeric and other DNA repeats. To determine the function of base J, we have searched for enzymes that catalyze J biosynthesis. We present evidence that a protein that binds to J in DNA, the J-binding protein 1 (JBP1), may also catalyze the first step in J biosynthesis, the conversion of thymine in DNA into hydroxymethyluracil. We show that JBP1 belongs to the family of Fe2+ and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases and that replacement of conserved residues putatively involved in Fe2+ and 2-oxoglutarate-binding inactivates the ability of JBP1 to contribute to J synthesis without affecting its ability to bind to J-DNA. We propose that JBP1 is a thymidine hydroxylase responsible for the local amplification of J inserted by JBP2, another putative thymidine hydroxylase.
PMCID: PMC1874643  PMID: 17389644
17.  Genomic determinants of sporulation in Bacilli and Clostridia: towards the minimal set of sporulation-specific genes 
Environmental Microbiology  2012;14(11):2870-2890.
Three classes of low-G+C Gram-positive bacteria (Firmicutes), Bacilli, Clostridia and Negativicutes, include numerous members that are capable of producing heat-resistant endospores. Spore-forming firmicutes include many environmentally important organisms, such as insect pathogens and cellulose-degrading industrial strains, as well as human pathogens responsible for such diseases as anthrax, botulism, gas gangrene and tetanus. In the best-studied model organism Bacillus subtilis, sporulation involves over 500 genes, many of which are conserved among other bacilli and clostridia. This work aimed to define the genomic requirements for sporulation through an analysis of the presence of sporulation genes in various firmicutes, including those with smaller genomes than B. subtilis. Cultivable spore-formers were found to have genomes larger than 2300 kb and encompass over 2150 protein-coding genes of which 60 are orthologues of genes that are apparently essential for sporulation in B. subtilis. Clostridial spore-formers lack, among others, spoIIB, sda, spoVID and safA genes and have non-orthologous displacements of spoIIQ and spoIVFA, suggesting substantial differences between bacilli and clostridia in the engulfment and spore coat formation steps. Many B. subtilis sporulation genes, particularly those encoding small acid-soluble spore proteins and spore coat proteins, were found only in the family Bacillaceae, or even in a subset of Bacillus spp. Phylogenetic profiles of sporulation genes, compiled in this work, confirm the presence of a common sporulation gene core, but also illuminate the diversity of the sporulation processes within various lineages. These profiles should help further experimental studies of uncharacterized widespread sporulation genes, which would ultimately allow delineation of the minimal set(s) of sporulation-specific genes in Bacilli and Clostridia.
PMCID: PMC3533761  PMID: 22882546
18.  Evaluating Caveolin Interactions: Do Proteins Interact with the Caveolin Scaffolding Domain through a Widespread Aromatic Residue-Rich Motif? 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44879.
Caveolins are coat proteins of caveolae, small flask-shaped pits of the plasma membranes of most cells. Aside from roles in caveolae formation, caveolins recruit, retain and regulate many caveolae-associated signalling molecules. Caveolin-protein interactions are commonly considered to occur between a ∼20 amino acid region within caveolin, the caveolin scaffolding domain (CSD), and an aromatic-rich caveolin binding motif (CBM) on the binding partner (фXфXXXXф, фXXXXфXXф or фXфXXXXфXXф, where ф is an aromatic and X an unspecified amino acid). The CBM resembles a typical linear motif - a short, simple sequence independently evolved many times in different proteins for a specific function. Here we exploit recent improvements in bioinformatics tools and in our understanding of linear motifs to critically examine the role of CBMs in caveolin interactions. We find that sequences conforming to the CBM occur in 30% of human proteins, but find no evidence for their statistical enrichment in the caveolin interactome. Furthermore, sequence- and structure-based considerations suggest that CBMs do not have characteristics commonly associated with true interaction motifs. Analysis of the relative solvent accessible area of putative CBMs shows that the majority of their aromatic residues are buried within the protein and are thus unlikely to interact directly with caveolin, but may instead be important for protein structural stability. Together, these findings suggest that the canonical CBM may not be a common characteristic of caveolin-target interactions and that interfaces between caveolin and targets may be more structurally diverse than presently appreciated.
PMCID: PMC3444507  PMID: 23028656
19.  Improving Cry8Ka toxin activity towards the cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:85.
The cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) is a serious insect-pest in the Americas, particularly in Brazil. The use of chemical or biological insect control is not effective against the cotton boll weevil because of its endophytic life style. Therefore, the use of biotechnological tools to produce insect-resistant transgenic plants represents an important strategy to reduce the damage to cotton plants caused by the boll weevil. The present study focuses on the identification of novel molecules that show improved toxicity against the cotton boll weevil. In vitro directed molecular evolution through DNA shuffling and phage display screening was applied to enhance the insecticidal activity of variants of the Cry8Ka1 protein of Bacillus thuringiensis.
Bioassays carried out with A. grandis larvae revealed that the LC50 of the screened mutant Cry8Ka5 toxin was 3.15-fold higher than the wild-type Cry8Ka1 toxin. Homology modelling of Cry8Ka1 and the Cry8Ka5 mutant suggested that both proteins retained the typical three-domain Cry family structure. The mutated residues were located mostly in loops and appeared unlikely to interfere with molecular stability.
The improved toxicity of the Cry8Ka5 mutant obtained in this study will allow the generation of a transgenic cotton event with improved potential to control A. grandis.
PMCID: PMC3179717  PMID: 21906288
Anthonomus grandis; Bacillus thuringiensis; Cotton; DNA shuffling; Phage display; Molecular modeling
20.  Characterisation of a Desmosterol Reductase Involved in Phytosterol Dealkylation in the Silkworm, Bombyx mori 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21316.
Most species of invertebrate animals cannot synthesise sterols de novo and many that feed on plants dealkylate phytosterols (mostly C29 and C28) yielding cholesterol (C27). The final step of this dealkylation pathway involves desmosterol reductase (DHCR24)-catalysed reduction of desmosterol to cholesterol. We now report the molecular characterisation in the silkworm, Bombyx mori, of such a desmosterol reductase involved in production of cholesterol from phytosterol, rather than in de novo synthesis of cholesterol. Phylogenomic analysis of putative desmosterol reductases revealed the occurrence of various clades that allowed for the identification of a strong reductase candidate gene in Bombyx mori (BGIBMGA 005735). Following PCR-based cloning of the cDNA (1.6 kb) and its heterologous expression in Saccharomyces cerevisae, the recombinant protein catalysed reduction of desmosterol to cholesterol in an NADH- and FAD- dependent reaction.
Conceptual translation of the cDNA, that encodes a 58.9 kDa protein, and database searching, revealed that the enzyme belongs to an FAD-dependent oxidoreductase family. Western blotting revealed reductase protein expression exclusively in the microsomal subcellular fraction and primarily in the gut. The protein is peripherally associated with microsomal membranes. 2D-native gel and PAGE analysis revealed that the reductase is part of a large complex with molecular weight approximately 250kDa. The protein occurs in midgut microsomes at a fairly constant level throughout development in the last two instars, but is drastically reduced during the wandering stage in preparation for metamorphosis. Putative Broad Complex transcription factor-binding sites detectable upstream of the DHCR24 gene may play a role in this down-regulation.
PMCID: PMC3124498  PMID: 21738635
21.  Encapsulated in silica: genome, proteome and physiology of the thermophilic bacterium Anoxybacillus flavithermus WK1 
Genome Biology  2008;9(11):R161.
Sequencing of the complete genome of Anoxybacillus flavithermus reveals enzymes that are required for silica adaptation and biofilm formation.
Gram-positive bacteria of the genus Anoxybacillus have been found in diverse thermophilic habitats, such as geothermal hot springs and manure, and in processed foods such as gelatin and milk powder. Anoxybacillus flavithermus is a facultatively anaerobic bacterium found in super-saturated silica solutions and in opaline silica sinter. The ability of A. flavithermus to grow in super-saturated silica solutions makes it an ideal subject to study the processes of sinter formation, which might be similar to the biomineralization processes that occurred at the dawn of life.
We report here the complete genome sequence of A. flavithermus strain WK1, isolated from the waste water drain at the Wairakei geothermal power station in New Zealand. It consists of a single chromosome of 2,846,746 base pairs and is predicted to encode 2,863 proteins. In silico genome analysis identified several enzymes that could be involved in silica adaptation and biofilm formation, and their predicted functions were experimentally validated in vitro. Proteomic analysis confirmed the regulation of biofilm-related proteins and crucial enzymes for the synthesis of long-chain polyamines as constituents of silica nanospheres.
Microbial fossils preserved in silica and silica sinters are excellent objects for studying ancient life, a new paleobiological frontier. An integrated analysis of the A. flavithermus genome and proteome provides the first glimpse of metabolic adaptation during silicification and sinter formation. Comparative genome analysis suggests an extensive gene loss in the Anoxybacillus/Geobacillus branch after its divergence from other bacilli.
PMCID: PMC2614493  PMID: 19014707

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