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1.  Multiple site-selective insertions of non-canonical amino acids into sequence-repetitive polypeptides 
A simple and efficient method is described for introduction of non-canonical amino acids at multiple, structurally defined sites within recombinant polypeptide sequences. E. coli MRA30, a bacterial host strain with attenuated activity for release factor 1 (RF1), is assessed for its ability to support the incorporation of a diverse range of non-canonical amino acids in response to multiple encoded amber (TAG) codons within genetic templates derived from superfolder GFP and an elastin-mimetic protein polymer. Suppression efficiency and isolated protein yield were observed to depend on the identity of the orthogonal aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase/tRNACUA pair and the non-canonical amino acid substrate. This approach afforded elastin-mimetic protein polymers containing non-canonical amino acid derivatives at up to twenty-two positions within the repeat sequence with high levels of substitution. The identity and position of the variant residues was confirmed by mass spectrometric analysis of the full-length polypeptides and proteolytic cleavage fragments resulting from thermolysin digestion. The accumulated data suggest that this multi-site suppression approach permits the preparation of protein-based materials in which novel chemical functionality can be introduced at precisely defined positions within the polypeptide sequence.
PMCID: PMC3786561  PMID: 23625817
non-sense suppression; non-canonical amino acid; protein engineering; mutagenesis; protein material
2.  TARDBP mutations in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with TDP-43 neuropathology: a genetic and histopathological analysis 
Lancet neurology  2008;7(5):409-416.
TDP-43 is a major component of the ubiquitinated inclusions that characterise amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin inclusions (FTLD-U). TDP-43 is an RNA-binding and DNA-binding protein that has many functions and is encoded by the TAR DNA-binding protein gene (TARDBP) on chromosome 1. Our aim was to investigate whether TARDBP is a candidate disease gene for familial ALS that is not associated with mutations in superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1).
TARDBP was sequenced in 259 patients with ALS, FTLD, or both. We used TaqMan-based SNP genotyping to screen for the identifi ed variants in control groups matched to two kindreds of patients for age and ethnic origin. Additional clinical, genetic, and pathological assessments were made in these two families.
We identified two variants, p.Gly290Ala and p.Gly298Ser, in TARDBP in two familial ALS kindreds and we observed TDP-43 neuropathology in the CNS tissue available from one family. The variants are considered pathogenic mutations because they co-segregate with disease in both families, are absent in ethnically-matched controls, and are associated with TDP-43 neuropathology in several family members.
The p.Gly290Ala and p.Gly298Ser mutations are located in the glycine-rich domain that regulates gene expression and mediates protein-protein interactions; in particular TDP-43 binds to heterogeneous ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs) via this domain. We postulate that due to the varied and important cellular functions of TDP-43, these mutations may cause neurodegeneration through both gains and losses of function. The finding of TARDBP mutations implicates TDP-43 as an active mediator of neurodegeneration in a novel class of disorders, TDP-43 proteinopathies, a class of disorder that includes ALS and FTLD-U.
PMCID: PMC3546119  PMID: 18396105
3.  Ser-634 and Ser-636 of Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus RTA are Involved in Transactivation and are Potential Cdk9 Phosphorylation Sites 
The replication and transcription activator (RTA) of Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), K-RTA, is a lytic switch protein that moderates the reactivation process of KSHV latency. By mass spectrometric analysis of affinity purified K-RTA, we showed that Thr-513 or Thr-514 was the primary in vivo phosphorylation site. Thr-513 and Thr-514 are proximal to the nuclear localization signal (527KKRK530) and were previously hypothesized to be target sites of Ser/Thr kinase hKFC. However, substitutions of Thr with Ala at 513 and 514 had no effect on K-RTA subcellular localization or transactivation activity. By contrast, replacement of Ser with Ala at Ser-634 and Ser-636 located in a Ser/Pro-rich region of K-RTA, designated as S634A/S636A, produced a polypeptide with ∼10 kDa shorter in molecular weight and reduced transactivation in a luciferase reporter assay relative to the wild type. In contrast to prediction, the decrease in molecular weight was not due to lack of phosphorylation because the overall Ser and Thr phosphorylation state in K-RTA and S634A/S636A were similar, excluding that Ser-634 or Ser-636 motif served as docking sites for consecutive phosphorylation. Interestingly, S634A/S636A lost ∼30% immuno-reactivity to MPM2, an antibody specific to pSer/pThr-Pro motif, indicating that 634SPSP637 motif was in vivo phosphorylated. By in vitro kinase assay, we showed that K-RTA is a substrate of CDK9, a Pro-directed Ser/Thr kinase central to transcriptional regulation. Importantly, the capability of K-RTA in associating with endogenous CDK9 was reduced in S634A/S636A, which suggested that Ser-634 and Ser-636 may be involved in CDK9 recruitment. In agreement, S634A/S636A mutant exhibited ∼25% reduction in KSHV lytic cycle reactivation relative to that by the wild type K-RTA. Taken together, our data propose that Ser-634 and Ser-636 of K-RTA are phosphorylated by host transcriptional kinase CDK9 and such a process contributes to a full transcriptional potency of K-RTA.
PMCID: PMC3283893  PMID: 22371709
Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus; replication and transcription activator; phosphorylation; negative elongation factor B; CDK9
4.  Suppressive Regulation of KSHV RTA with O-GlcNAcylation 
The replication and transcription activator (RTA) of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a molecular switch that initiates a productive replication of latent KSHV genomes. KSHV RTA (K-RTA) is composed of 691 amino acids with high Ser and Thr content (17.7%), but to what extent these Ser and Thr are modified in vivo has not been explored.
By using tandem mass spectrometric analysis of affinity-purified FLAG tagged K-RTA, we sought to identify Ser and Thr residues that are post-translationally modified in K-RTA.
We found that K-RTA is an O-GlcNAcylated protein and Thr-366/Thr-367 is the primary motif with O-GlcNAcylation in vivo. The biological significance of O-GlcNAc modified Thr-366 and Thr-367 was assessed by site-specific amino acid substitution. Replacement of Thr with Ala at amino acid 366 or 367 caused a modest enhancement of K-RTA transactivation activity in a luciferase reporter assay and a cell model for KSHV reactivation. By using co-immunoprecipitation coupled with western blot analysis, we showed that the capacity of K-RTA in associating with endogenous PARP1 was significantly reduced in the Thr-366/Thr-367 O-GlcNAc mutants. PARP1 is a documented negative regulator of K-RTA that can be ascribed by the attachment of large negatively charged polymer onto K-RTA via PARP1's poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase activity. In agreement, shRNA-mediated depletion of O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) in KSHV infected cells augmented viral reactivation and virus production that was accompanied by diminished K-RTA and PARP1 complexes.
KSHV latent-lytic switch K-RTA is modified by cellular O-GlcNAcylation, which imposes a negative effect on K-RTA transactivation activity. This inhibitory effect involves OGT and PARP1, two nutritional sensors recently emerging as chromatin modifiers. Thus, we speculate that the activity of K-RTA on its target genes is continuously checked and modulated by OGT and PARP1 in response to cellular metabolic state.
PMCID: PMC3395832  PMID: 22300411
KSHV; K-RTA; O-GlcNAcylation; PARP1; Polycomb group (PcG) complex
5.  The molecular language of semagenesis 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2008;3(8):560-561.
Semagenesis, the process of signal generation, is a novel signaling strategy first uncovered within the parasitic plants. Recent evidence suggests that the parasite's production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) has been focused externally to exploit the host's innate immunity. Here we use the inducer identified from decoding semagenesis, as well as other signaling strategies of the parasitic plants, to synchronize host commitments of Striga asiatica and reveal the molecular events that control plant development.
PMCID: PMC2634496  PMID: 19704468
parasitic plants; semagenesis; ROS; signals; development; pathogenesis

Results 1-5 (5)