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author:("wiat, Anil")
1.  Bayesian integration of networks without gold standards 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(11):1495-1500.
Motivation: Biological experiments give insight into networks of processes inside a cell, but are subject to error and uncertainty. However, due to the overlap between the large number of experiments reported in public databases it is possible to assess the chances of individual observations being correct. In order to do so, existing methods rely on high-quality ‘gold standard’ reference networks, but such reference networks are not always available.
Results: We present a novel algorithm for computing the probability of network interactions that operates without gold standard reference data. We show that our algorithm outperforms existing gold standard-based methods. Finally, we apply the new algorithm to a large collection of genetic interaction and protein–protein interaction experiments.
Availability: The integrated dataset and a reference implementation of the algorithm as a plug-in for the Ondex data integration framework are available for download at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3356839  PMID: 22492647
2.  A Novel Extracellular Metallopeptidase Domain Shared by Animal Host-Associated Mutualistic and Pathogenic Microbes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30287.
The mucosal microbiota is recognised as an important factor for our health, with many disease states linked to imbalances in the normal community structure. Hence, there is considerable interest in identifying the molecular basis of human-microbe interactions. In this work we investigated the capacity of microbes to thrive on mucosal surfaces, either as mutualists, commensals or pathogens, using comparative genomics to identify co-occurring molecular traits. We identified a novel domain we named M60-like/PF13402 (new Pfam entry PF13402), which was detected mainly among proteins from animal host mucosa-associated prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes ranging from mutualists to pathogens. Lateral gene transfers between distantly related microbes explained their shared M60-like/PF13402 domain. The novel domain is characterised by a zinc-metallopeptidase-like motif and is distantly related to known viral enhancin zinc-metallopeptidases. Signal peptides and/or cell surface anchoring features were detected in most microbial M60-like/PF13402 domain-containing proteins, indicating that these proteins target an extracellular substrate. A significant subset of these putative peptidases was further characterised by the presence of associated domains belonging to carbohydrate-binding module family 5/12, 32 and 51 and other glycan-binding domains, suggesting that these novel proteases are targeted to complex glycoproteins such as mucins. An in vitro mucinase assay demonstrated degradation of mammalian mucins by a recombinant form of an M60-like/PF13402-containing protein from the gut mutualist Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. This study reveals that M60-like domains are peptidases targeting host glycoproteins. These peptidases likely play an important role in successful colonisation of both vertebrate mucosal surfaces and the invertebrate digestive tract by both mutualistic and pathogenic microbes. Moreover, 141 entries across various peptidase families described in the MEROPS database were also identified with carbohydrate-binding modules defining a new functional context for these glycan-binding domains and providing opportunities to engineer proteases targeting specific glycoproteins for both biomedical and industrial applications.
PMCID: PMC3267712  PMID: 22299034
3.  The Gel Electrophoresis Markup Language (GelML) from the Proteomics Standards Initiative 
Proteomics  2010;10(17):3073-3081.
The Human Proteome Organisation’s Proteomics Standards Initiative (HUPO-PSI) has developed the GelML data exchange format for representing gel electrophoresis experiments performed in proteomics investigations. The format closely follows the reporting guidelines for gel electrophoresis, which are part of the Minimum Information About a Proteomics Experiment (MIAPE) set of modules. GelML supports the capture of metadata (such as experimental protocols) and data (such as gel images) resulting from gel electrophoresis so that laboratories can be compliant with the MIAPE Gel Electrophoresis guidelines, while allowing such data sets to be exchanged or downloaded from public repositories. The format is sufficiently flexible to capture data from a broad range of experimental processes, and complements other PSI formats for mass spectrometry data and the results of protein and peptide identifications to capture entire gel-based proteome workflows. GelML has resulted from the open standardisation process of PSI consisting of both public consultation and anonymous review of the specifications.
PMCID: PMC3193076  PMID: 20677327
data standard; gel electrophoresis; database; ontology
4.  Keratinocyte apoptosis in epidermal remodelling and clearance of psoriasis induced by ultraviolet radiation 
Psoriasis is common chronic skin disorder, but the mechanisms involved in resolution and clearance of plaques remain poorly defined. We investigated the mechanism of action of UVB which is highly effective in clearing psoriasis and inducing remission, and tested the hypothesis that apoptosis is a key mechanism. To distinguish bystander effects, equal erythemal doses of two UVB wavelengths were compared following in vivo irradiation of psoriatic plaques; one is clinically effective (311nm), and one has no therapeutic effect on psoriasis (290nm). Only 311nm UVB induced significant apoptosis in lesional epidermis, and most apoptotic cells were keratinocytes. To determine clinical relevance, we created a computational model of psoriatic epidermis. Modelling predicted apoptosis would occur in both stem and transit-amplifying cells to account for plaque clearance; this was confirmed and quantified experimentally. The median rate of keratinocyte apoptosis from onset to cell death was 20 minutes. These data were fed back into the model and demonstrated that the observed level of keratinocyte apoptosis was sufficient to explain UVB-induced plaque resolution. Our human studies combined with a systems biology approach demonstrate that keratinocyte apoptosis is a key mechanism in psoriatic plaques clearance, providing the basis for future molecular investigation and therapeutic development.
PMCID: PMC3160491  PMID: 21614017
Apoptosis; Computer modelling; Keratinocytes; Psoriasis; Ultraviolet B
5.  Genome-Wide Analysis to Identify Pathways Affecting Telomere-Initiated Senescence in Budding Yeast 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2011;1(3):197-208.
In telomerase-deficient yeast cells, like equivalent mammalian cells, telomeres shorten over many generations until a period of senescence/crisis is reached. After this, a small fraction of cells can escape senescence, principally using recombination-dependent mechanisms. To investigate the pathways that affect entry into and recovery from telomere-driven senescence, we combined a gene deletion disrupting telomerase (est1Δ) with the systematic yeast deletion collection and measured senescence characteristics in high-throughput assays. As expected, the vast majority of gene deletions showed no strong effects on entry into/exit from senescence. However, around 200 gene deletions behaving similarly to a rad52Δest1Δ archetype (rad52Δ affects homologous recombination) accelerated entry into senescence, and such cells often could not recover growth. A smaller number of strains similar to a rif1Δest1Δ archetype (rif1Δ affects proteins that bind telomeres) accelerated entry into senescence but also accelerated recovery from senescence. Our genome-wide analysis identifies genes that affect entry into and/or exit from telomere-initiated senescence and will be of interest to those studying telomere biology, replicative senescence, cancer, and ageing. Our dataset is complementary to other high-throughput studies relevant to telomere biology, genetic stability, and DNA damage responses.
PMCID: PMC3276134  PMID: 22384331
telomere; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; senescence; crisis
6.  Quantitative Fitness Analysis Shows That NMD Proteins and Many Other Protein Complexes Suppress or Enhance Distinct Telomere Cap Defects 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(4):e1001362.
To better understand telomere biology in budding yeast, we have performed systematic suppressor/enhancer analyses on yeast strains containing a point mutation in the essential telomere capping gene CDC13 (cdc13-1) or containing a null mutation in the DNA damage response and telomere capping gene YKU70 (yku70Δ). We performed Quantitative Fitness Analysis (QFA) on thousands of yeast strains containing mutations affecting telomere-capping proteins in combination with a library of systematic gene deletion mutations. To perform QFA, we typically inoculate 384 separate cultures onto solid agar plates and monitor growth of each culture by photography over time. The data are fitted to a logistic population growth model; and growth parameters, such as maximum growth rate and maximum doubling potential, are deduced. QFA reveals that as many as 5% of systematic gene deletions, affecting numerous functional classes, strongly interact with telomere capping defects. We show that, while Cdc13 and Yku70 perform complementary roles in telomere capping, their genetic interaction profiles differ significantly. At least 19 different classes of functionally or physically related proteins can be identified as interacting with cdc13-1, yku70Δ, or both. Each specific genetic interaction informs the roles of individual gene products in telomere biology. One striking example is with genes of the nonsense-mediated RNA decay (NMD) pathway which, when disabled, suppress the conditional cdc13-1 mutation but enhance the null yku70Δ mutation. We show that the suppressing/enhancing role of the NMD pathway at uncapped telomeres is mediated through the levels of Stn1, an essential telomere capping protein, which interacts with Cdc13 and recruitment of telomerase to telomeres. We show that increased Stn1 levels affect growth of cells with telomere capping defects due to cdc13-1 and yku70Δ. QFA is a sensitive, high-throughput method that will also be useful to understand other aspects of microbial cell biology.
Author Summary
Telomeres, specialized structures at the end of linear chromosomes, ensure that chromosome ends are not mistakenly treated as DNA double-strand breaks. Defects in the telomere cap contribute to ageing and cancer. In yeast, defects in telomere capping proteins can cause telomeres to behave like double-strand breaks. To better understand the telomere and responses to capping failure, we have combined a systematic yeast gene deletion library with mutations affecting important yeast telomere capping proteins, Cdc13 or Yku70. Quantitative Fitness Analysis (QFA) was used to accurately measure the fitness of thousands of different yeast strains containing telomere capping defects and additional deletion mutations. Interestingly, we find that many gene deletions suppress one type of telomere capping defect while enhancing another. Through QFA, we can begin to define the roles of different gene products in contributing to different aspects of the telomere cap. Strikingly, mutations in nonsense-mediated mRNA decay pathways, which degrade many RNA molecules, suppress the cdc13-1 defect while enhancing the yku70Δ defect. QFA is widely applicable and will be useful for understanding other aspects of yeast cell biology.
PMCID: PMC3072368  PMID: 21490951
7.  Customizable views on semantically integrated networks for systems biology 
Bioinformatics  2011;27(9):1299-1306.
Motivation: The rise of high-throughput technologies in the post-genomic era has led to the production of large amounts of biological data. Many of these datasets are freely available on the Internet. Making optimal use of these data is a significant challenge for bioinformaticians. Various strategies for integrating data have been proposed to address this challenge. One of the most promising approaches is the development of semantically rich integrated datasets. Although well suited to computational manipulation, such integrated datasets are typically too large and complex for easy visualization and interactive exploration.
Results: We have created an integrated dataset for Saccharomyces cerevisiae using the semantic data integration tool Ondex, and have developed a view-based visualization technique that allows for concise graphical representations of the integrated data. The technique was implemented in a plug-in for Cytoscape, called OndexView. We used OndexView to investigate telomere maintenance in S. cerevisiae.
Availability: The Ondex yeast dataset and the OndexView plug-in for Cytoscape are accessible at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data is available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3077072  PMID: 21414991
8.  Model annotation for synthetic biology: automating model to nucleotide sequence conversion 
Bioinformatics  2011;27(7):973-979.
Motivation: The need for the automated computational design of genetic circuits is becoming increasingly apparent with the advent of ever more complex and ambitious synthetic biology projects. Currently, most circuits are designed through the assembly of models of individual parts such as promoters, ribosome binding sites and coding sequences. These low level models are combined to produce a dynamic model of a larger device that exhibits a desired behaviour. The larger model then acts as a blueprint for physical implementation at the DNA level. However, the conversion of models of complex genetic circuits into DNA sequences is a non-trivial undertaking due to the complexity of mapping the model parts to their physical manifestation. Automating this process is further hampered by the lack of computationally tractable information in most models.
Results: We describe a method for automatically generating DNA sequences from dynamic models implemented in CellML and Systems Biology Markup Language (SBML). We also identify the metadata needed to annotate models to facilitate automated conversion, and propose and demonstrate a method for the markup of these models using RDF. Our algorithm has been implemented in a software tool called MoSeC.
Availability: The software is available from the authors' web site
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3065685  PMID: 21296753
9.  Cellular senescence: unravelling complexity 
Age  2009;31(4):353-363.
Cellular senescence might be a tumour suppressing mechanism as well as a contributor to age-related loss of tissue function. It has been characterised classically as the result of the loss of DNA sequences called telomeres at the end of chromosomes. However, recent studies have revealed that senescence is in fact an intricate process, involving the sequential activation of multiple cellular processes, which have proven necessary for the establishment and maintenance of the phenotype. Here, we review some of these processes, namely, the role of mitochondrial function and reactive oxygen species, senescence-associated secreted proteins and chromatin remodelling. Finally, we illustrate the use of systems biology to address the mechanistic, functional and biochemical complexity of senescence.
PMCID: PMC2813046  PMID: 19618294
Senescence; Oxidative stress; Mitochondria; Secretory phenotype; Systems biology; Interactomes
10.  Annotation of SBML models through rule-based semantic integration 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2010;1(Suppl 1):S3.
The creation of accurate quantitative Systems Biology Markup Language (SBML) models is a time-intensive, manual process often complicated by the many data sources and formats required to annotate even a small and well-scoped model. Ideally, the retrieval and integration of biological knowledge for model annotation should be performed quickly, precisely, and with a minimum of manual effort.
Here we present rule-based mediation, a method of semantic data integration applied to systems biology model annotation. The heterogeneous data sources are first syntactically converted into ontologies, which are then aligned to a small domain ontology by applying a rule base. We demonstrate proof-of-principle of this application of rule-based mediation using off-the-shelf semantic web technology through two use cases for SBML model annotation. Existing tools and technology provide a framework around which the system is built, reducing development time and increasing usability.
Integrating resources in this way accommodates multiple formats with different semantics, and provides richly-modelled biological knowledge suitable for annotation of SBML models. This initial work establishes the feasibility of rule-based mediation as part of an automated SBML model annotation system.
Detailed information on the project files as well as further information on and comparisons with similar projects is available from the project page at
PMCID: PMC2903722  PMID: 20626923
11.  Feedback between p21 and reactive oxygen production is necessary for cell senescence 
The sustained activation of CDKN1A (p21/Waf1/Cip1) by a DNA damage response induces mitochondrial dysfunction and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production via signalling through CDKN1A-GADD45A-MAPK14- GRB2-TGFBR2-TGFbeta in senescing primary human and mouse cells in vitro and in vivo.Enhanced ROS production in senescing cells generates additional DNA damage. Although this damage is repairable and transient, it elevates the average levels of DNA damage response permanently, thus forming a positive feedback loop.This loop is necessary and sufficient to maintain the stability of growth arrest until a ‘point of no return' is reached during establishment of senescence.
The phenomenon of cellular ‘senescence'—the permanent arrest of division in normally proliferating mammalian cells such as fibroblasts—is thought to be a central component of the ageing process. Senescence contributes both to age-related loss of tissue homeostasis, as the loss of division capacity leads to impaired cell renewal, and also to protect against cancer, because it acts to block the uncontrolled proliferation of cells that may give rise to a malignant tumour. Replicative senescence is triggered by uncapped telomeres or by ‘unrepairable' non-telomeric DNA damage. Both lesions initiate the same canonical DNA damage response (DDR) (d'Adda di Fagagna, 2008). This response is characterized by activation of sensor kinases (ATM/ATR, DNA-PK), formation of DNA damage foci containing activated H2A.X (γH2A.X) and ultimately induction of cell cycle arrest through activation of checkpoint proteins, notably p53 (TP53) and the CDK inhibitor p21 (CDKN1A). This signalling pathway continues to contribute actively to the stability of the G0 arrest in fully senescent cells long after induction of senescence (d'Adda di Fagagna et al, 2003). However, senescence is more complex than mere CDKI-mediated growth arrest. Senescent cells alter their expression of literally hundreds of genes (Shelton et al, 1999), prominent among these being pro-inflammatory secretory genes (Coppe et al, 2008) and marker genes for a retrograde response induced by mitochondrial dysfunction (Passos et al, 2007a).
There is a growing evidence that multiple mechanisms interact to underpin ageing at the cellular level (Kirkwood, 2005; Passos et al, 2007b) necessitating a systems biology approach if the complex mechanisms of ageing are to be understood (Kirkwood, 2008). With respect to cell senescence, the two major unanswered questions are (i) How does a DNA lesion that can be repaired, at least in principle, induce and maintain irreversible growth arrest? and (ii) How does a growth arrest trigger a completely different cellular phenotype as soon as it becomes irreversible?
To understand those questions, we performed a kinetic analysis of the establishment phase of senescence initiated by DNA damage or telomere dysfunction, focussing on pathways downstream of the classical DDR. Using an approach that combined (i) in-silico interactome analysis, (ii) functional target gene inhibition, (iii) stochastic modelling, and (iv) live cell microscopy, we identified a positive feedback loop between DDR and mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as necessary and sufficient for long-term maintenance of growth arrest. Using pathway log likelihood scores calculated by a quantitative in-silico interactome analysis to guide siRNA and small molecule inhibition experiments, and using results of sequential and combined inhibition experiments to refine the predictions from the interactome analysis, we found that DDR triggered mitochondrial dysfunction leading to enhanced ROS activation through a linear signal transduction through TP53, CDKN1A, GADD45A, p38 (MAPK14), GRB2, TGFBR2 and TGFβ(Figure 2D). We hypothesized that these ROS stochastically generate novel DNA damage in the nucleus, thus forming a positive feedback loop contributing to the long-term maintenance of DDR (Figure 3A). First confirmation came from static inhibitor experiments as before, showing that nuclear DNA damage foci frequencies in senescent cells were reduced if feedback signalling was suppressed. To formally establish the existence of a feedback loop and its relevance for senescence, we used live cell microscopy in combination with quantitative modelling.
We transformed the conceptual model shown in Figure 3A into a stochastic mechanistic model of the DDR feedback loop by extending the previously published model of the TP53/Mdm2 circuit (Proctor and Gray, 2008) to include reactions for synthesis/activation and degradation/deactivation/repair of CDKN1A, GADD45, MAPK14, ROS and DNA damage. The model replicated very precisely the kinetic behaviour of activated TP53, CDKN1A, ROS and DNA damage foci after initiation of senescence by irradiation. Having established its concordance with the experimental data, the model was then used to predict the effects of intervening in the feedback loop. The model predicted that any intervention reducing ROS levels by about half would decrease average DNA damage foci frequencies from six to four foci/nucleus within about 15 h. It further predicted that this would be sufficient to reduce CDKN1A to basal levels continuously for at least 6 h in about 20% of the treated cells, thus allowing a significant fraction of cells to escape from growth arrest and to resume proliferation. This should happen even if the intervention into the feedback loop was started at a late time point (e.g. 6 days) after induction of senescence.
To analyse DNA damage foci dynamics we used a reporter construct (AcGFP–53BP1c) that quantitatively reports single DNA damage foci kinetics in time-resolved live cell microscopy (Nelson et al, 2009). Foci frequency measurements quantitatively confirmed the prediction from the stochastic model. More importantly, we found that many individual foci in both telomere- and stress-dependent senescence had short lifespans with half-lives below 15 h. Feedback loop inhibition reduced only the frequencies of short-lived DNA damage foci in accordance with the hypothesis that ROS production contributed to DDR by constant replenishment of short-lived DNA damage foci.
Finally, we inhibited signalling through the loop at different time points after induction of senescence by ionizing radiation and measured ROS levels, DNA damage foci frequencies and proliferation markers. Treatments with the MAPK14 inhibitor SB203580 or the free radical scavenger PBN were used to block the loop. The results quantitatively confirmed the model prediction and indicated that the feedback loop between DDR and ROS production was both necessary and sufficient to maintain cell cycle arrest for at least 6–10 days after induction of senescence. Interestingly, the loop was still active at later time points and in deep senescence, but proliferation arrest was then stabilized by additional factor(s). This indicated that certain features of the senescent phenotype-like ROS production that might be responsible for the negative impact of senescent cells into their tissue environment can be successfully inhibited even in deep senescence. This may prove relevant for novel therapeutic studies aiming to modulate intracellular ROS levels in both aging and cancer.
Cellular senescence—the permanent arrest of cycling in normally proliferating cells such as fibroblasts—contributes both to age-related loss of mammalian tissue homeostasis and acts as a tumour suppressor mechanism. The pathways leading to establishment of senescence are proving to be more complex than was previously envisaged. Combining in-silico interactome analysis and functional target gene inhibition, stochastic modelling and live cell microscopy, we show here that there exists a dynamic feedback loop that is triggered by a DNA damage response (DDR) and, which after a delay of several days, locks the cell into an actively maintained state of ‘deep' cellular senescence. The essential feature of the loop is that long-term activation of the checkpoint gene CDKN1A (p21) induces mitochondrial dysfunction and production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) through serial signalling through GADD45-MAPK14(p38MAPK)-GRB2-TGFBR2-TGFβ. These ROS in turn replenish short-lived DNA damage foci and maintain an ongoing DDR. We show that this loop is both necessary and sufficient for the stability of growth arrest during the establishment of the senescent phenotype.
PMCID: PMC2835567  PMID: 20160708
aging; cell senescence; DNA damage foci; mitochondria; reactive oxygen
12.  Saint: a lightweight integration environment for model annotation 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(22):3026-3027.
Summary: Saint is a web application which provides a lightweight annotation integration environment for quantitative biological models. The system enables modellers to rapidly mark up models with biological information derived from a range of data sources.
Availability and Implementation: Saint is freely available for use on the web at The web application is implemented in Google Web Toolkit and Tomcat, with all major browsers supported. The Java source code is freely available for download at The Saint web server requires an installation of libSBML and has been tested on Linux (32-bit Ubuntu 8.10 and 9.04).
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2773255  PMID: 19734151
13.  A genome wide analysis of the response to uncapped telomeres in budding yeast reveals a novel role for the NAD+ biosynthetic gene BNA2 in chromosome end protection 
Genome Biology  2008;9(10):R146.
NAD+ metabolism may be linked to telomere end protection in yeast.
Telomeres prevent the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes from being recognized as damaged DNA and protect against cancer and ageing. When telomere structure is perturbed, a co-ordinated series of events promote arrest of the cell cycle so that cells carrying damaged telomeres do not divide. In order to better understand the eukaryotic response to telomere damage, budding yeast strains harboring a temperature sensitive allele of an essential telomere capping gene (cdc13-1) were subjected to a transcriptomic study.
The genome-wide response to uncapped telomeres in yeast cdc13-1 strains, which have telomere capping defects at temperatures above approximately 27°C, was determined. Telomere uncapping in cdc13-1 strains is associated with the differential expression of over 600 transcripts. Transcripts affecting responses to DNA damage and diverse environmental stresses were statistically over-represented. BNA2, required for the biosynthesis of NAD+, is highly and significantly up-regulated upon telomere uncapping in cdc13-1 strains. We find that deletion of BNA2 and NPT1, which is also involved in NAD+ synthesis, suppresses the temperature sensitivity of cdc13-1 strains, indicating that NAD+ metabolism may be linked to telomere end protection.
Our data support the hypothesis that the response to telomere uncapping is related to, but distinct from, the response to non-telomeric double-strand breaks. The induction of environmental stress responses may be a conserved feature of the eukaryotic response to telomere damage. BNA2, which is involved in NAD+ synthesis, plays previously unidentified roles in the cellular response to telomere uncapping.
PMCID: PMC2760873  PMID: 18828915
14.  The minimum information about a genome sequence (MIGS) specification 
Nature biotechnology  2008;26(5):541-547.
With the quantity of genomic data increasing at an exponential rate, it is imperative that these data be captured electronically, in a standard format. Standardization activities must proceed within the auspices of open-access and international working bodies. To tackle the issues surrounding the development of better descriptions of genomic investigations, we have formed the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC). Here, we introduce the minimum information about a genome sequence (MIGS) specification with the intent of promoting participation in its development and discussing the resources that will be required to develop improved mechanisms of metadata capture and exchange. As part of its wider goals, the GSC also supports improving the ‘transparency’ of the information contained in existing genomic databases.
PMCID: PMC2409278  PMID: 18464787
15.  Phosphate Starvation Induces the Sporulation Killing Factor of Bacillus subtilis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(14):5299-5303.
Bacillus subtilis produces and exports a peptide sporulation killing factor (SkfA) that induces lysis of sibling cells. skfA is part of the skf operon (skfA-H), which is responsible for immunity to SkfA, as well as for production and export of SkfA. Here we report that transcription of skfA is markedly induced when cells of B. subtilis are subjected to phosphate starvation. The role of PhoP in regulation of the skf operon was confirmed by in vitro gel shift assays, which showed that this operon is a new member of the PhoP regulon. A putative stem-loop structure in the skfA-skfB intergenic region is proposed to act as a stabilizer of an skfA-specific transcript.
PMCID: PMC1539955  PMID: 16816204
16.  Genome-Wide Transcriptional Analysis of the Phosphate Starvation Stimulon of Bacillus subtilis†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(23):8063-8080.
Bacillus subtilis responds to phosphate starvation stress by inducing the PhoP and SigB regulons. While the PhoP regulon provides a specific response to phosphate starvation stress, maximizing the acquisition of phosphate (Pi) from the environment and reducing the cellular requirement for this essential nutrient, the SigB regulon provides nonspecific resistance to stress by protecting essential cellular components, such as DNA and membranes. We have characterized the phosphate starvation stress response of B. subtilis at a genome-wide level using DNA macroarrays. A combination of outlier and cluster analyses identified putative new members of the PhoP regulon, namely, yfkN (2′,3′ cyclic nucleotide 2′-phosphodiesterase), yurI (RNase), yjdB (unknown), and vpr (extracellular serine protease). YurI is thought to be responsible for the nonspecific degradation of RNA, while the activity of YfkN on various nucleotide phosphates suggests that it could act on substrates liberated by YurI, which produces 3′ or 5′ phosphoribonucleotides. The putative new PhoP regulon members are either known or predicted to be secreted and are likely to be important for the recovery of inorganic phosphate from a variety of organic sources of phosphate in the environment.
PMCID: PMC1291260  PMID: 16291680
17.  Ontology for Genome Comparison and Genomic Rearrangements 
Comparative and Functional Genomics  2004;5(6-7):537-544.
We present an ontology for describing genomes, genome comparisons, their evolution and biological function. This ontology will support the development of novel genome comparison algorithms and aid the community in discussing genomic evolution. It provides a framework for communication about comparative genomics, and a basis upon which further automated analysis can be built. The nomenclature defined by the ontology will foster clearer communication between biologists, and also standardize terms used by data publishers in the results of analysis programs. The overriding aim of this ontology is the facilitation of consistent annotation of genomes through computational methods, rather than human annotators. To this end, the ontology includes definitions that support computer analysis and automated transfer of annotations between genomes, rather than relying upon human mediation.
PMCID: PMC2447425  PMID: 18629137
18.  From Genome to Function: Systematic Analysis of the Soil Bacterium Bacillus Subtilis  
Bacillus subtilis is a sporulating Gram-positive bacterium that lives primarily in the soil and associated water sources. Whilst this bacterium has been studied extensively in the laboratory, relatively few studies have been undertaken to study its activity in natural environments. The publication of the B. subtilis genome sequence and subsequent systematic functional analysis programme have provided an opportunity to develop tools for analysing the role and expression of Bacillus genes in situ. In this paper we discuss analytical approaches that are being developed to relate genes to function in environments such as the rhizosphere.
PMCID: PMC2447186  PMID: 18628943
19.  Keratinocyte Apoptosis in Epidermal Remodeling and Clearance of Psoriasis Induced by UV Radiation 
Psoriasis is a common chronic skin disorder, but the mechanisms involved in the resolution and clearance of plaques remain poorly defined. We investigated the mechanism of action of UVB, which is highly effective in clearing psoriasis and inducing remission, and tested the hypothesis that apoptosis is a key mechanism. To distinguish bystander effects, equal erythemal doses of two UVB wavelengths were compared following in vivo irradiation of psoriatic plaques; one is clinically effective (311 nm) and one has no therapeutic effect on psoriasis (290 nm). Only 311 nm UVB induced significant apoptosis in lesional epidermis, and most apoptotic cells were keratinocytes. To determine clinical relevance, we created a computational model of psoriatic epidermis. Modeling predicted apoptosis would occur in both stem and transit-amplifying cells to account for plaque clearance; this was confirmed and quantified experimentally. The median rate of keratinocyte apoptosis from onset to cell death was 20 minutes. These data were fed back into the model and demonstrated that the observed level of keratinocyte apoptosis was sufficient to explain UVB-induced plaque resolution. Our human studies combined with a systems biology approach demonstrate that keratinocyte apoptosis is a key mechanism in psoriatic plaques clearance, providing the basis for future molecular investigation and therapeutic development.
PMCID: PMC3160491  PMID: 21614017
20.  Human Tra2 proteins jointly control a CHEK1 splicing switch among alternative and constitutive target exons 
Nature Communications  2014;5:4760.
Alternative splicing—the production of multiple messenger RNA isoforms from a single gene—is regulated in part by RNA binding proteins. While the RBPs transformer2 alpha (Tra2α) and Tra2β have both been implicated in the regulation of alternative splicing, their relative contributions to this process are not well understood. Here we find simultaneous—but not individual—depletion of Tra2α and Tra2β induces substantial shifts in splicing of endogenous Tra2β target exons, and that both constitutive and alternative target exons are under dual Tra2α–Tra2β control. Target exons are enriched in genes associated with chromosome biology including CHEK1, which encodes a key DNA damage response protein. Dual Tra2 protein depletion reduces expression of full-length CHK1 protein, results in the accumulation of the DNA damage marker γH2AX and decreased cell viability. We conclude Tra2 proteins jointly control constitutive and alternative splicing patterns via paralog compensation to control pathways essential to the maintenance of cell viability.
RNA binding proteins are key regulators of alternative splicing. Here, Best et al. show that the human Tra2α and Tra2ß RNA binding proteins jointly contribute to the control of constitutive and alternative splicing events to regulate essential biological processes including the response to DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC4175592  PMID: 25208576

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