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1.  DHCR24 associates strongly with the endoplasmic reticulum beyond predicted membrane domains: implications for the activities of this multi-functional enzyme 
Bioscience Reports  2014;34(2):e00098.
Cholesterol synthesis occurs in the ER (endoplasmic reticulum), where most of the cholesterogenic machinery resides. As membrane-bound proteins, their topology is difficult to determine, and thus their structures are largely unknown. To help resolve this, we focused on the final enzyme in cholesterol synthesis, DHCR24 (3β-hydroxysterol Δ24-reductase). Prediction programmes and previous studies have shown conflicting results regarding which regions of DHCR24 are associated with the membrane, although there was general agreement that this was limited to only the N-terminal portion. Here, we present biochemical evidence that in fact the majority of the enzyme is associated with the ER membrane. This has important consequences for the many functions attributed to DHCR24. In particular, those that suggest DHCR24 alters its localization within the cell should be reassessed in light of this new information. Moreover, we propose that the expanding database of post-translational modifications will be a valuable resource for mapping the topology of membrane-associated proteins, such as DHCR24, that is, flagging cytosolic residues accessible to modifying enzymes such as kinases and ubiquitin ligases.
We present new findings indicating that the final enzyme in cholesterol synthesis is strongly associated with the endoplasmic reticulum membrane throughout its length, contrary to previous studies that indicated only the beginning of the enzyme was associated with the membrane.
doi:10.1042/BSR20130127
PMCID: PMC3958128  PMID: 24502685
cholesterol; DHCR24; ER; membrane; peduncle; topology; CHO, Chinese-hamster ovary; DAPI, 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole; DHCR24, 3β-hydroxysterol Δ24-reductase; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; FAD, flavin adenine dinucleotide; GRAVY, grand average of hydropathicity; HMM, hidden Markov model; MSA, multiple sequence alignment; PTM, post-translational modification; SA, signal anchor; SP, signal peptide; TM, transmembrane; TMD, transmembrane domain
2.  Reassortment patterns of avian influenza virus internal segments among different subtypes 
Background
The segmented RNA genome of avian Influenza viruses (AIV) allows genetic reassortment between co-infecting viruses, providing an evolutionary pathway to generate genetic innovation. The genetic diversity (16 haemagglutinin and 9 neuraminidase subtypes) of AIV indicates an extensive reservoir of influenza viruses exists in bird populations, but how frequently subtypes reassort with each other is still unknown. Here we quantify the reassortment patterns among subtypes in the Eurasian avian viral pool by reconstructing the ancestral states of the subtypes as discrete states on time-scaled phylogenies with respect to the internal protein coding segments. We further analyzed how host species, the inferred evolutionary rates and the dN/dS ratio varied among segments and between discrete subtypes, and whether these factors may be associated with inter-subtype reassortment rate.
Results
The general patterns of reassortment are similar among five internal segments with the exception of segment 8, encoding the Non-Structural genes, which has a more divergent phylogeny. However, significant variation in rates between subtypes was observed. In particular, hemagglutinin-encoding segments of subtypes H5 to H9 reassort at a lower rate compared to those of H1 to H4, and Neuraminidase-encoding segments of subtypes N1 and N2 reassort less frequently than N3 to N9. Both host species and dN/dS ratio were significantly associated with reassortment rate, while evolutionary rate was not associated. The dN/dS ratio was negatively correlated with reassortment rate, as was the number of negatively selected sites for all segments.
Conclusions
These results indicate that overall selective constraint and host species are both associated with reassortment rate. These results together identify the wild bird population as the major source of new reassortants, rather than domestic poultry. The lower reassortment rates observed for H5N1 and H9N2 may be explained by the large proportion of strains derived from domestic poultry populations. In contrast, the higher rates observed in the H1N1, H3N8 and H4N6 subtypes could be due to their primary origin as infections of wild birds with multiple low pathogenicity strains in the large avian reservoir.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-16
PMCID: PMC3905155  PMID: 24456010
3.  A Practical Comparison of Ligation-Independent Cloning Techniques 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83888.
The precise assembly of specific DNA sequences is a critical technique in molecular biology. Traditional cloning techniques use restriction enzymes and ligation of DNA in vitro, which can be hampered by a lack of appropriate restriction-sites and inefficient enzymatic steps. A number of ligation-independent cloning techniques have been developed, including polymerase incomplete primer extension (PIPE) cloning, sequence and ligation-independent cloning (SLIC), and overlap extension cloning (OEC). These strategies rely on the generation of complementary overhangs by DNA polymerase, without requiring specific restriction sites or ligation, and achieve high efficiencies in a fraction of the time at low cost. Here, we outline and optimise these techniques and identify important factors to guide cloning project design, including avoiding PCR artefacts such as primer-dimers and vector plasmid background. Experiments made use of a common reporter vector and a set of modular primers to clone DNA fragments of increasing size. Overall, PIPE achieved cloning efficiencies of ∼95% with few manipulations, whereas SLIC provided a much higher number of transformants, but required additional steps. Our data suggest that for small inserts (<1.5 kb), OEC is a good option, requiring only two new primers, but performs poorly for larger inserts. These ligation-independent cloning approaches constitute an essential part of the researcher's molecular-tool kit.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083888
PMCID: PMC3871625  PMID: 24376768
4.  EFFECTS OF SIMULATED INJURY ON THE ANTEROINFERIOR GLENOHUMERAL CAPSULE 
Glenohumeral dislocation results in permanent deformation (nonrecoverable strain) of the glenohumeral capsule which leads to increased range of motion and recurrent instability. Minimal research has examined the effects of injury on the biomechanical properties of the capsule which may contribute to poor patient outcome following repair procedures. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of simulated injury on the stiffness and material properties of the AB-IGHL during tensile deformation. Using a combined experimental and computational methodology, the stiffness and material properties of six AB-IGHL samples during tensile elongation were determined before and after simulated injury. The AB-IGHL was subjected to 12.7±3.2% maximum principal strain which resulted in 2.5±0.9% nonrecoverable strain. The linear region stiffness and modulus of stress-stretch curves between the normal (52.4±30.0 N/mm, 39.1±26.6 MPa) and injured (64.7±21.3N/mm, 73.5±53.8MPa) AB-IGHL increased significantly (p=0.03, p=0.04). These increases suggest that changes in the tissue microstructure exist following simulated injury. The injured tissue could contain more aligned collagen fibers and may not be able to support a normal range of joint motion. Collagen fiber kinematics during simulated injury will be examined in the future.
doi:10.1007/s11517-012-0961-1
PMCID: PMC3515711  PMID: 23054378
Shoulder; Glenohumeral Joint; Finite Element Analysis; Mechanical Properties; Soft Tissue Injury
5.  Evolutionary interactions between haemagglutinin and neuraminidase in avian influenza 
Background
Reassortment between the RNA segments encoding haemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA), the major antigenic influenza proteins, produces viruses with novel HA and NA subtype combinations and has preceded the emergence of pandemic strains. It has been suggested that productive viral infection requires a balance in the level of functional activity of HA and NA, arising from their closely interacting roles in the viral life cycle, and that this functional balance could be mediated by genetic changes in the HA and NA. Here, we investigate how the selective pressure varies for H7 avian influenza HA on different NA subtype backgrounds.
Results
By extending Bayesian stochastic mutational mapping methods to calculate the ratio of the rate of non-synonymous change to the rate of synonymous change (dN/dS), we found the average dN/dS across the avian influenza H7 HA1 region to be significantly greater on an N2 NA subtype background than on an N1, N3 or N7 background. Observed differences in evolutionary rates of H7 HA on different NA subtype backgrounds could not be attributed to underlying differences between avian host species or virus pathogenicity. Examination of dN/dS values for each subtype on a site-by-site basis indicated that the elevated dN/dS on the N2 NA background was a result of increased selection, rather than a relaxation of selective constraint.
Conclusions
Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that reassortment exposes influenza HA to significant changes in selective pressure through genetic interactions with NA. Such epistatic effects might be explicitly accounted for in future models of influenza evolution.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-222
PMCID: PMC3854068  PMID: 24103105
Influenza; Evolution; Reassortment; Selection; Subtype
6.  Phylogeography of Japanese Encephalitis Virus: Genotype Is Associated with Climate 
The circulation of vector-borne zoonotic viruses is largely determined by the overlap in the geographical distributions of virus-competent vectors and reservoir hosts. What is less clear are the factors influencing the distribution of virus-specific lineages. Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the most important etiologic agent of epidemic encephalitis worldwide, and is primarily maintained between vertebrate reservoir hosts (avian and swine) and culicine mosquitoes. There are five genotypes of JEV: GI-V. In recent years, GI has displaced GIII as the dominant JEV genotype and GV has re-emerged after almost 60 years of undetected virus circulation. JEV is found throughout most of Asia, extending from maritime Siberia in the north to Australia in the south, and as far as Pakistan to the west and Saipan to the east. Transmission of JEV in temperate zones is epidemic with the majority of cases occurring in summer months, while transmission in tropical zones is endemic and occurs year-round at lower rates. To test the hypothesis that viruses circulating in these two geographical zones are genetically distinct, we applied Bayesian phylogeographic, categorical data analysis and phylogeny-trait association test techniques to the largest JEV dataset compiled to date, representing the envelope (E) gene of 487 isolates collected from 12 countries over 75 years. We demonstrated that GIII and the recently emerged GI-b are temperate genotypes likely maintained year-round in northern latitudes, while GI-a and GII are tropical genotypes likely maintained primarily through mosquito-avian and mosquito-swine transmission cycles. This study represents a new paradigm directly linking viral molecular evolution and climate.
Author Summary
Although Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a major cause of death and disability throughout tropical and temperate Asia, little is known about the evolution, geographical distribution and epidemiology of the five JEV genotypes (genetically distinct groups). To address this gap in our knowledge, we performed a genetic-based geographical analysis using the largest JEV sequence dataset assembled to date, including 487 viral sequences sampled from 12 countries over 75 years. We showed that both the newly and previously dominant genotypes of JEV are associated with temperate climates and are maintained throughout the cold winter months in northern Asia, likely by hibernating mosquitoes (survive throughout the winter), vertical transmission in mosquitoes (female to offspring), cold-blooded vertebrates and/or bats.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002411
PMCID: PMC3757071  PMID: 24009790
7.  Norovirus RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase Is Phosphorylated by an Important Survival Kinase, Akt▿ 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(20):10894-10898.
Viruses commonly use host cell survival mechanisms to their own advantage. We show that Akt, an important signaling kinase involved in cell survival, phosphorylates the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) from norovirus, the major cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks worldwide. The Akt phosphorylation of RdRp appears to be a feature unique to the more prevalent norovirus genotypes such as GII.4 and GII.b. This phosphorylation event occurs at a residue (Thr33) located at the interface where the RdRp finger and thumb domains interact and decreases de novo activity of the polymerase. This finding provides fresh insights into virus-host cell interactions.
doi:10.1128/JVI.05562-11
PMCID: PMC3187498  PMID: 21849454
8.  Transmission Network Parameters Estimated From HIV Sequences for a Nationwide Epidemic 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;204(9):1463-1469.
Background. Many studies of sexual behavior have shown that individuals vary greatly in their number of sexual partners over time, but it has proved difficult to obtain parameter estimates relating to the dynamics of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission except in small-scale contact tracing studies. Recent developments in molecular phylodynamics have provided new routes to obtain these parameter estimates, and current clinical practice provides suitable data for entire infected populations.
Methods. A phylodynamic analysis was performed on partial pol gene sequences obtained for routine clinical care from 14 560 individuals, representing approximately 60% of the HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) under care in the United Kingdom.
Results. Among individuals linked to others in the data set, 29% are linked to only 1 individual, 41% are linked to 2–10 individuals, and 29% are linked to ≥10 individuals. The right-skewed degree distribution can be approximated by a power law, but the data are best fitted by a Waring distribution for all time depths. For time depths of 5–7 years, the distribution parameter ρ lies within the range that indicates infinite variance.
Conclusions. The transmission network among UK MSM is characterized by preferential association such that a randomly distributed intervention would not be expected to stop the epidemic.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jir550
PMCID: PMC3182313  PMID: 21921202
9.  Estimating the Rate of Intersubtype Recombination in Early HIV-1 Group M Strains 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(4):1967-1973.
West Central Africa has been implicated as the epicenter of the HIV-1 epidemic, and almost all group M subtypes can be found there. Previous analysis of early HIV-1 group M sequences from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, revealed that isolates from a number of individuals fall in different positions in phylogenetic trees constructed from sequences from opposite ends of the genome as a result of recombination between viruses of different subtypes. Here, we use discrete ancestral trait mapping to develop a procedure for quantifying HIV-1 group M intersubtype recombination across phylogenies, using individuals' gag (p17) and env (gp41) subtypes. The method was applied to previously described HIV-1 group M sequences from samples obtained in Kinshasa early in the global radiation of HIV. Nine different p17 and gp41 intersubtype recombinant combinations were present in the data set. The mean number of excess ancestral subtype transitions (NEST) required to map individuals' p17 subtypes onto the gp14 phylogeny samples, compared to the number required to map them onto the p17 phylogenies, and vice versa, indicated that excess subtype transitions occurred at a rate of approximately 7 × 10−3 to 8 × 10−3 per lineage per year as a result of intersubtype recombination. Our results imply that intersubtype recombination may have occurred in approximately 20% of lineages evolving over a period of 30 years and confirm intersubtype recombination as a substantial force in generating HIV-1 group M diversity.
doi:10.1128/JVI.02478-12
PMCID: PMC3571495  PMID: 23236072
11.  GPR55 regulates cannabinoid 2 receptor-mediated responses in human neutrophils 
Cell Research  2011;21(10):1452-1469.
The directional migration of neutrophils towards inflammatory mediators, such as chemokines and cannabinoids, occurs via the activation of seven transmembrane G protein coupled receptors (7TM/GPCRs) and is a highly organized process. A crucial role for controlling neutrophil migration has been ascribed to the cannabinoid CB2 receptor (CB2R), but additional modulatory sites distinct from CB2R have recently been suggested to impact CB2R-mediated effector functions in neutrophils. Here, we provide evidence that the recently de-orphanized 7TM/GPCR GPR55 potently modulates CB2R-mediated responses. We show that GPR55 is expressed in human blood neutrophils and its activation augments the migratory response towards the CB2R agonist 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), while inhibiting neutrophil degranulation and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Using HEK293 and HL60 cell lines, along with primary neutrophils, we show that GPR55 and CB2R interfere with each other's signaling pathways at the level of small GTPases, such as Rac2 and Cdc42. This ultimately leads to cellular polarization and efficient migration as well as abrogation of degranulation and ROS formation in neutrophils. Therefore, GPR55 limits the tissue-injuring inflammatory responses mediated by CB2R, while it synergizes with CB2R in recruiting neutrophils to sites of inflammation.
doi:10.1038/cr.2011.60
PMCID: PMC3132458  PMID: 21467997
GPR55; CB2R; chemotaxis; ROS production; Rac2; Cdc42
12.  Origin and fate of A/H1N1 influenza in Scotland during 2009 
The Journal of General Virology  2012;93(Pt 6):1253-1260.
The spread of influenza has usually been described by a ‘density’ model, where the largest centres of population drive the epidemic within a country. An alternative model emphasizing the role of air travel has recently been developed. We have examined the relative importance of the two in the context of the 2009 H1N1 influenza epidemic in Scotland. We obtained genome sequences of 70 strains representative of the geographical and temporal distribution of H1N1 influenza during the summer and winter phases of the pandemic in 2009. We analysed these strains, together with another 128 from the rest of the UK and 292 globally distributed strains, using maximum-likelihood phylogenetic and Bayesian phylogeographical methods. This revealed strikingly different epidemic patterns within Scotland in the early and late parts of 2009. The summer epidemic in Scotland was characterized by multiple independent introductions from both international and other UK sources, followed by major local expansion of a single clade that probably originated in Birmingham. The winter phase, in contrast, was more diverse genetically, with several clades of similar size in different locations, some of which had no particularly close phylogenetic affinity to strains sampled from either Scotland or England. Overall there was evidence to support both models, with significant links demonstrated between North American sequences and those from England, and between England and East Asia, indicating that major air-travel routes played an important role in the pattern of spread of the pandemic, both within the UK and globally.
doi:10.1099/vir.0.039370-0
PMCID: PMC3755513  PMID: 22337637
13.  The HIV Epidemic: High-Income Countries 
The HIV epidemic in higher-income nations is driven by receptive anal intercourse, injection drug use through needle/syringe sharing, and, less efficiently, vaginal intercourse. Alcohol and noninjecting drug use increase sexual HIV vulnerability. Appropriate diagnostic screening has nearly eliminated blood/blood product-related transmissions and, with antiretroviral therapy, has reduced mother-to-child transmission radically. Affected subgroups have changed over time (e.g., increasing numbers of Black and minority ethnic men who have sex with men). Molecular phylogenetic approaches have established historical links between HIV strains from central Africa to those in the United States and thence to Europe. However, Europe did not just receive virus from the United States, as it was also imported from Africa directly. Initial introductions led to epidemics in different risk groups in Western Europe distinguished by viral clades/sequences, and likewise, more recent explosive epidemics linked to injection drug use in Eastern Europe are associated with specific strains. Recent developments in phylodynamic approaches have made it possible to obtain estimates of sequence evolution rates and network parameters for epidemics.
Molecular phylogenetic approaches have traced the evolutionary history of HIV strains, showing that HIV spread from central Africa to the United States and then to Europe, as well as directly from Africa to Europe.
doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a007195
PMCID: PMC3331688  PMID: 22553497
14.  Novel HIV-1 Recombinants Spreading across Multiple Risk Groups in the United Kingdom: The Identification and Phylogeography of Circulating Recombinant Form (CRF) 50_A1D 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e83337.
Background
An increase in non-B HIV-1 infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United Kingdom (UK) has created opportunities for novel recombinants to arise and become established. We used molecular mapping to characterize the importance of such recombinants to the UK HIV epidemic, in order to gain insights into transmission dynamics that can inform control strategies.
Methods and Results
A total of 55,556 pol (reverse transcriptase and protease) sequences in the UK HIV Drug Resistance Database were analyzed using Subtype Classification Using Evolutionary Algorithms (SCUEAL). Overall 72 patients shared the same A1/D recombination breakpoint in pol, comprising predominantly MSM but also heterosexuals and injecting drug users (IDUs). In six MSM, full-length single genome amplification of plasma HIV-1 RNA was performed in order to characterize the A1/D recombinant. Subtypes and recombination breakpoints were identified using sliding window and jumping profile hidden markov model approaches. Global maximum likelihood trees of gag, pol and env genes were drawn using FastTree version 2.1. Five of the six strains showed the same novel A1/D recombinant (8 breakpoints), which has been classified as CRF50_A1D. The sixth strain showed a complex CRF50_A1D/B/U structure. Divergence dates and phylogeographic inferences were determined using Bayesian Evolutionary Analysis using Sampling Trees (BEAST). This estimated that CRF50_A1D emerged in the UK around 1992 in MSM, with subsequent transmissions to heterosexuals and IDUs. Analysis of CRF50_A1D/B/U demonstrated that around the year 2000 CRF50_A1D underwent recombination with a subtype B strain.
Conclusions
We report the identification of CRF50_A1D, a novel circulating recombinant that emerged in UK MSM around 1992, with subsequent onward transmission to heterosexuals and IDUs, and more recent recombination with subtype B. These findings highlight the changing dynamics of HIV transmission in the UK and the converging of the two previously distinct MSM and heterosexual epidemics.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083337
PMCID: PMC3893077  PMID: 24454702
15.  GPR55 regulates cannabinoid 2 receptor-mediated responses in human neutrophils 
Cell research  2011;21(10):1452-1469.
The directional migration of neutrophils towards inflammatory mediators, such as chemokines and cannabinoids, occurs via the activation of seven transmembrane spanning/G protein coupled receptors (7TM/GPCRs) and is a highly organized process. A crucial role for controlling neutrophil migration has been ascribed to the cannabinoid CB2 receptor (CB2R), but additional modulatory sites distinct from CB2R have recently been suggested to impact CB2R-mediated effector functions in neutrophils. Here, we provide evidence that the recently de-orphanized 7TM/GPCR GPR55 potently modulates CB2R-mediated responses. We show that GPR55 is expressed in human blood neutrophils and its activation augments the migratory response towards the CB2R agonist 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), whilst inhibiting the degranulation and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Using HEK293 and HL60 cell lines, along with primary neutrophils, we show that the GPR55 and the cannabinoid 2 receptor (CB2R) interfere with each other’s signaling pathways at the level of small GTPases, such as Rac2 and Cdc42. This ultimately leads to cellular polarization and efficient migration but abrogation of degranulation and ROS formation in neutrophils. Therefore, GPR55 limits the tissue-injuring inflammatory responses mediated by CB2R, while it synergizes with CB2R in recruiting neutrophils to sites of inflammation.
doi:10.1038/cr.2011.60
PMCID: PMC3132458  PMID: 21467997
GPR55; CB2R; Chemotaxis; ROS production; Rac2; Cdc42
16.  Involvement of Akt in ER-to-Golgi Transport of SCAP/SREBP: A Link between a Key Cell Proliferative Pathway and Membrane Synthesis 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2006;17(6):2735-2745.
Akt is a critical regulator of cell growth, proliferation, and survival that is activated by phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K). We investigated the effect of PI3K inhibition on activation of sterol regulatory element binding protein-2 (SREBP-2), a master regulator of cholesterol homeostasis. SREBP-2 processing increased in response to various cholesterol depletion approaches (including statin treatment) and this increase was blunted by treatment with a potent and specific inhibitor of PI3K, LY294002, or when a plasmid encoding a dominant-negative form of Akt (DN-Akt) was expressed. LY294002 also suppressed SREBP-2 processing induced by insulin-like growth factor-1. Furthermore, LY294002 treatment down-regulated SREBP-2 or -1c gene targets and decreased cholesterol and fatty acid synthesis. Fluorescence microscopy studies indicated that LY294002 disrupts transport of the SREBP escort protein, SCAP, from the endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi. This disruption was also shown by immunofluorescence staining when DN-Akt was expressed. Taken together, our studies indicate that the PI3K/Akt pathway is involved in SREBP-2 transport to the Golgi, contributing to the control of SREBP-2 activation. Our results provide a crucial mechanistic link between the SREBP and PI3K/Akt pathways that may be reconciled teleologically because synthesis of new membrane is an absolute requirement for cell growth and proliferation.
doi:10.1091/mbc.E05-11-1094
PMCID: PMC1474807  PMID: 16571675
17.  A Role for Phosphatidic Acid in the Formation of “Supersized” Lipid Droplets 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(7):e1002201.
Lipid droplets (LDs) are important cellular organelles that govern the storage and turnover of lipids. Little is known about how the size of LDs is controlled, although LDs of diverse sizes have been observed in different tissues and under different (patho)physiological conditions. Recent studies have indicated that the size of LDs may influence adipogenesis, the rate of lipolysis and the oxidation of fatty acids. Here, a genome-wide screen identifies ten yeast mutants producing “supersized” LDs that are up to 50 times the volume of those in wild-type cells. The mutated genes include: FLD1, which encodes a homologue of mammalian seipin; five genes (CDS1, INO2, INO4, CHO2, and OPI3) that are known to regulate phospholipid metabolism; two genes (CKB1 and CKB2) encoding subunits of the casein kinase 2; and two genes (MRPS35 and RTC2) of unknown function. Biochemical and genetic analyses reveal that a common feature of these mutants is an increase in the level of cellular phosphatidic acid (PA). Results from in vivo and in vitro analyses indicate that PA may facilitate the coalescence of contacting LDs, resulting in the formation of “supersized” LDs. In summary, our results provide important insights into how the size of LDs is determined and identify novel gene products that regulate phospholipid metabolism.
Author Summary
Lipid droplets (LD) are primary lipid storage structures that also function in membrane and lipid trafficking, protein turnover, and the reproduction of deadly viruses. Increased LD accumulation in liver, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue is a hallmark of the metabolic syndrome. Enlarged LDs are often found in these tissues under disease conditions. However, little is known about how the size of LDs is controlled in eukaryotic cells. In this study, we use genetic and biochemical methods to identify important gene products that regulate the size of the LDs. Notably, a common feature among these mutants with “supersized” LDs is an increased level of phosphatidic acid (PA). We also show that a small amount of PA can increase the size of artificial LDs in vitro. Overall, our study identifies important lipids and proteins in determining LD size. These results provide valuable insights into how human cells/tissues handle abnormal influx of lipids in today's obesogenic environment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002201
PMCID: PMC3145623  PMID: 21829381
18.  A role for oxysterol-binding protein–related protein 5 in endosomal cholesterol trafficking 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;192(1):121-135.
ORP5 works together with Niemann Pick C-1 to facilitate exit of cholesterol from endosomes and lysosomes.
Oxysterol-binding protein (OSBP) and its related proteins (ORPs) constitute a large and evolutionarily conserved family of lipid-binding proteins that target organelle membranes to mediate sterol signaling and/or transport. Here we characterize ORP5, a tail-anchored ORP protein that localizes to the endoplasmic reticulum. Knocking down ORP5 causes cholesterol accumulation in late endosomes and lysosomes, which is reminiscent of the cholesterol trafficking defect in Niemann Pick C (NPC) fibroblasts. Cholesterol appears to accumulate in the limiting membranes of endosomal compartments in ORP5-depleted cells, whereas depletion of NPC1 or both ORP5 and NPC1 results in luminal accumulation of cholesterol. Moreover, trans-Golgi resident proteins mislocalize to endosomal compartments upon ORP5 depletion, which depends on a functional NPC1. Our results establish the first link between NPC1 and a cytoplasmic sterol carrier, and suggest that ORP5 may cooperate with NPC1 to mediate the exit of cholesterol from endosomes/lysosomes.
doi:10.1083/jcb.201004142
PMCID: PMC3019559  PMID: 21220512
19.  HIV phylogenetics 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2007;335(7618):460-461.
Criminal convictions relying solely on this to establish transmission are unsafe
doi:10.1136/bmj.39315.398843.BE
PMCID: PMC1971185  PMID: 17823148
20.  Molecular Phylodynamics of the Heterosexual HIV Epidemic in the United Kingdom 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(9):e1000590.
The heterosexual risk group has become the largest HIV infected group in the United Kingdom during the last 10 years, but little is known of the network structure and dynamics of viral transmission in this group. The overwhelming majority of UK heterosexual infections are of non-B HIV subtypes, indicating viruses originating among immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. The high rate of HIV evolution, combined with the availability of a very high density sample of viral sequences from routine clinical care has allowed the phylodynamics of the epidemic to be investigated for the first time. Sequences of the viral protease and partial reverse transcriptase coding regions from 11,071 patients infected with HIV of non-B subtypes were studied. Of these, 2774 were closely linked to at least one other sequence by nucleotide distance. Including the closest sequences from the global HIV database identified 296 individuals that were in UK-based groups of 3 or more individuals. There were a total of 8 UK-based clusters of 10 or more, comprising 143/2774 (5%) individuals, much lower than the figure of 25% obtained earlier for men who have sex with men (MSM). Sample dates were incorporated into relaxed clock phylogenetic analyses to estimate the dates of internal nodes. From the resulting time-resolved phylogenies, the internode lengths, used as estimates of maximum transmission intervals, had a median of 27 months overall, over twice as long as obtained for MSM (14 months), with only 2% of transmissions occurring in the first 6 months after infection. This phylodynamic analysis of non-B subtype HIV sequences representing over 40% of the estimated UK HIV-infected heterosexual population has revealed heterosexual HIV transmission in the UK is clustered, but on average in smaller groups and is transmitted with slower dynamics than among MSM. More effective intervention to restrict the epidemic may therefore be feasible, given effective diagnosis programmes.
Author Summary
Since 1995, HIV among heterosexuals in the UK increased to the point where the total number of heterosexuals infected with HIV, predominantly of non-B subtypes, exceeds the number of HIV-positive homosexual men. To understand the dynamics of this epidemic, we have applied the novel technique of phylodynamics to the analysis of viral sequences taken in the course of routine clinical care from approximately 40% of the HIV-infected heterosexual population in the UK. Phylodynamics reconstructs the pattern of viral sequence divergence in time, revealing the size of transmission clusters and the dynamics of transmission within them. Of 11,071 patients studied, 296 were linked to at least two others in the UK. There were 8 clusters comprising 10 or more individuals among these, yielding a total of 143 or 5% of all individuals with links, much lower than seen earlier among homosexual men (25%). Viral transmissions within clusters also occurred less rapidly, only 2% being dated to the first 6 months of infection, compared to 25% among homosexual men. Overall, transmission clusters exist in the UK heterosexual HIV epidemic but they are generally smaller than among homosexuals; onward transmission occurs less rapidly and is not associated with acute HIV infection.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000590
PMCID: PMC2742734  PMID: 19779560
21.  A Maximum Likelihood Method for Detecting Directional Evolution in Protein Sequences and Its Application to Influenza A Virus 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2008;25(9):1809-1824.
We develop a model-based phylogenetic maximum likelihood test for evidence of preferential substitution toward a given residue at individual positions of a protein alignment—directional evolution of protein sequences (DEPS). DEPS can identify both the target residue and sites evolving toward it, help detect selective sweeps and frequency-dependent selection—scenarios that confound most existing tests for selection, and achieve good power and accuracy on simulated data. We applied DEPS to alignments representing different genomic regions of influenza A virus (IAV), sampled from avian hosts (H5N1 serotype) and human hosts (H3N2 serotype), and identified multiple directionally evolving sites in 5/8 genomic segments of H5N1 and H3N2 IAV. We propose a simple descriptive classification of directionally evolving sites into 5 groups based on the temporal distribution of residue frequencies and document known functional correlates, such as immune escape or host adaptation.
doi:10.1093/molbev/msn123
PMCID: PMC2515872  PMID: 18511426
directional selection; evolution of influenza; maximum likelihood; episodic selection
22.  Fld1p, a functional homologue of human seipin, regulates the size of lipid droplets in yeast 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;180(3):473-482.
Lipid droplets (LDs) are emerging cellular organelles that are of crucial importance in cell biology and human diseases. In this study, we present our screen of ∼4,700 Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants for abnormalities in the number and morphology of LDs; we identify 17 fld (few LDs) and 116 mld (many LDs) mutants. One of the fld mutants (fld1) is caused by the deletion of YLR404W, a previously uncharacterized open reading frame. Cells lacking FLD1 contain strikingly enlarged (supersized) LDs, and LDs from fld1Δ cells demonstrate significantly enhanced fusion activities both in vivo and in vitro. Interestingly, the expression of human seipin, whose mutant forms are associated with Berardinelli-Seip congenital lipodystrophy and motoneuron disorders, rescues LD-associated defects in fld1Δ cells. Lipid profiling reveals alterations in acyl chain compositions of major phospholipids in fld1Δ cells. These results suggest that an evolutionally conserved function of seipin in phospholipid metabolism and LD formation may be functionally important in human adipogenesis.
doi:10.1083/jcb.200711136
PMCID: PMC2234226  PMID: 18250201
23.  Episodic Sexual Transmission of HIV Revealed by Molecular Phylodynamics 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e50.
Background
The structure of sexual contact networks plays a key role in the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections, and their reconstruction from interview data has provided valuable insights into the spread of infection. For HIV, the long period of infectivity has made the interpretation of contact networks more difficult, and major discrepancies have been observed between the contact network and the transmission network revealed by viral phylogenetics. The high rate of HIV evolution in principle allows for detailed reconstruction of links between virus from different individuals, but often sampling has been too sparse to describe the structure of the transmission network. The aim of this study was to analyze a high-density sample of an HIV-infected population using recently developed techniques in phylogenetics to infer the short-term dynamics of the epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods and Findings
Sequences of the protease and reverse transcriptase coding regions from 2,126 patients, predominantly MSM, from London were compared: 402 of these showed a close match to at least one other subtype B sequence. Nine large clusters were identified on the basis of genetic distance; all were confirmed by Bayesian Monte Carlo Markov chain (MCMC) phylogenetic analysis. Overall, 25% of individuals with a close match with one sequence are linked to 10 or more others. Dated phylogenies of the clusters using a relaxed clock indicated that 65% of the transmissions within clusters took place between 1995 and 2000, and 25% occurred within 6 mo after infection. The likelihood that not all members of the clusters have been identified renders the latter observation conservative.
Conclusions
Reconstruction of the HIV transmission network using a dated phylogeny approach has revealed the HIV epidemic among MSM in London to have been episodic, with evidence of multiple clusters of transmissions dating to the late 1990s, a period when HIV prevalence is known to have doubled in this population. The quantitative description of the transmission dynamics among MSM will be important for parameterization of epidemiological models and in designing intervention strategies.
Using viral genotype data from HIV drug resistance testing at a London clinic, Andrew Leigh Brown and colleagues derive the structure of the transmission network through phylogenetic analysis.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is mainly spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. Like other sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS spreads through networks of sexual contacts. The characteristics of these complex networks (which include people who have serial sexual relationships with single partners and people who have concurrent sexual relationships with several partners) affect how quickly diseases spread in the short term and how common the disease is in the long term. For many sexually transmitted diseases, sexual contact networks can be reconstructed from interview data. The information gained in this way can be used for partner notification so that transmitters of the disease and people who may have been unknowingly infected can be identified, treated, and advised about disease prevention. It can also be used to develop effective community-based prevention strategies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although sexual contact networks have provided valuable information about the spread of many sexually transmitted diseases, they cannot easily be used to understand HIV transmission patterns. This is because the period of infectivity with HIV is long and the risk of infection from a single sexual contact with an infected person is low. Another way to understand the spread of HIV is through phylogenetics, which examines the genetic relatedness of viruses obtained from different individuals. Frequent small changes in the genetic blueprint of HIV allow the virus to avoid the human immune response and to become resistant to antiretroviral drugs. In this study, the researchers use recently developed analytical methods, viral sequences from a large proportion of a specific HIV-infected population, and information on when each sample was taken, to learn about transmission of HIV/AIDS in London among men who have sex with men (MSM; a term that encompasses gay, bisexual, and transgendered men and heterosexual men who sometimes have sex with men). This new approach, which combines information on viral genetic variation and viral population dynamics, is called “molecular phylodynamics.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers compared the sequences of the genes encoding the HIV-1 protease and reverse transcriptase from more than 2,000 patients, mainly MSM, attending a large London HIV clinic between 1997 and 2003. 402 of these sequences closely matched at least one other subtype B sequence (the HIV/AIDS epidemic among MSM in the UK primarily involves HIV subtype B). Further analysis showed that the patients from whom this subset of sequences came formed six clusters of ten or more individuals, as well as many smaller clusters, based on the genetic relatedness of their HIV viruses. The researchers then used information on the date when each sample was collected and a “relaxed clock” approach (which accounts for the possibility that different sequences evolve at different rates) to determine dated phylogenies (patterns of genetic relatedness that indicate when gene sequences change) for the clusters. These phylogenies indicated that at least in one in four transmissions between the individuals in the large clusters occurred within 6 months of infection, and that most of the transmissions within each cluster occurred over periods of 3–4 years during the late 1990s.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This phylodynamic reconstruction of the HIV transmission network among MSM in a London clinic indicates that the HIV epidemic in this population has been episodic with multiple clusters of transmission occurring during the late 1990s, a time when the number of HIV infections in this population doubled. It also suggests that transmission of the virus during the early stages of HIV infection is likely to be an important driver of the epidemic. Whether these results apply more generally to the MSM population at risk for transmitting or acquiring HIV depends on whether the patients in this study are representative of that group. Additional studies are needed to determine this, but if the patterns revealed here are generalizable, then this quantitative description of HIV transmission dynamics should help in the design of strategies to strengthen HIV prevention among MSM.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050050.
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including a list of organizations that provide information for gay men and MSM
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on HIV/AIDS and on HIV/AIDS among MSM (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV, AIDS, and men who have sex with men
The Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (University of California, San Francisco) provides information on sexual networks and HIV prevention
The US National Center for Biotechnology Information provides a science primer on molecular phylogenetics
UK Collaborative Group on HIV Drug Resistance maintains a database of resistance tests
HIV i-Base offers HIV treatment information for health-care professionals and HIV-positive people
The NIH-funded HIV Sequence Database contains data on genetic sequences, resistance, immunology, and vaccine trials
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050050
PMCID: PMC2267814  PMID: 18351795
24.  Synthesis of the oxysterol, 24(S), 25-epoxycholesterol, parallels cholesterol production and may protect against cellular accumulation of newly-synthesized cholesterol 
Aim
The effects of 24(S),25-epoxycholesterol (24,25EC) on aspects of cholesterol homeostasis is well-documented. When added to cells, 24,25EC decreases cholesterol synthesis and up-regulates cholesterol efflux genes, including ABCA1. Synthesis of 24,25EC occurs in a shunt of the mevalonate pathway which also produces cholesterol. Therefore, 24,25EC synthesis should be subject to the same negative feedback regulation as cholesterol synthesis. To date, no role has been ascribed to 24,25EC in light of the fact that increased accumulation of cholesterol should decrease formation of this oxysterol through feedback inhibition. This leads to the intriguing paradox: why inhibit production of an apparently important regulator of cholesterol homeostasis when it is needed most?
Methods
We used a combination of pharmacological and genetic approaches in Chinese Hamster Ovary cell-lines to investigate this paradox. Endogenous synthesis of 24,25EC was manipulated using partial inhibition of the enzyme, Oxidosqualene Cyclase. Changes in cholesterol and 24,25EC synthesis were determined using metabolic labelling with [1-14C]-acetate, thin-layer chromatography and phosphorimaging. Transcriptional effects mediated via SREBP and LXR were analysed by luciferase reporter assays.
Results
We showed that cholesterol addition to cells lead to a rapid and preferential inhibition of 24,25EC synthesis. Addition of 24,25EC resulted in parallel inhibition of 24,25EC and cholesterol synthesis. Furthermore, we used a variety of approaches to examine the relationship between cholesterol and 24,25EC synthesis, including cell-lines with different rates of cholesterol synthesis, varying cholesterol synthetic rates by pre-treatment with a statin, or lipoprotein cholesterol loading of macrophages. In all cases, we showed that 24,25EC synthesis faithfully tracked cholesterol synthesis. Moreover, changes in 24,25EC synthesis exerted downstream effects, reducing SREBP transcriptional activity whilst increasing ABCA1 and LXR transcriptional activity.
Conclusion
Our results show that 24,25EC synthesis parallels cholesterol synthesis, consistent with this oxysterol functioning as a safety valve to protect against the accumulation of newly-synthesised cholesterol (as opposed to exogenously-derived cholesterol). Considering that 24,25EC is capable of being produced in all cholesterogenic cells, we propose that production of 24,25EC may represent a ubiquitous defence mechanism.
doi:10.1186/1476-511X-6-10
PMCID: PMC1854894  PMID: 17408498
25.  Adaptation to Human Populations Is Revealed by Within-Host Polymorphisms in HIV-1 and Hepatitis C Virus 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(3):e45.
CD8+ cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) perform a critical role in the immune control of viral infections, including those caused by human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). As a result, genetic variation at CTL epitopes is strongly influenced by host-specific selection for either escape from the immune response, or reversion due to the replicative costs of escape mutations in the absence of CTL recognition. Under strong CTL-mediated selection, codon positions within epitopes may immediately “toggle” in response to each host, such that genetic variation in the circulating virus population is shaped by rapid adaptation to immune variation in the host population. However, this hypothesis neglects the substantial genetic variation that accumulates in virus populations within hosts. Here, we evaluate this quantity for a large number of HIV-1– (n ≥ 3,000) and HCV-infected patients (n ≥ 2,600) by screening bulk RT-PCR sequences for sequencing “mixtures” (i.e., ambiguous nucleotides), which act as site-specific markers of genetic variation within each host. We find that nonsynonymous mixtures are abundant and significantly associated with codon positions under host-specific CTL selection, which should deplete within-host variation by driving the fixation of the favored variant. Using a simple model, we demonstrate that this apparently contradictory outcome can be explained by the transmission of unfavorable variants to new hosts before they are removed by selection, which occurs more frequently when selection and transmission occur on similar time scales. Consequently, the circulating virus population is shaped by the transmission rate and the disparity in selection intensities for escape or reversion as much as it is shaped by the immune diversity of the host population, with potentially serious implications for vaccine design.
Author Summary
The rapid accumulation of genetic variation in human viruses, such as human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and hepatitis C virus (HCV), enables these pathogens to elude the immune system and forestalls the development of effective vaccines. This variation may be shaped by selection due to host-specific immune responses, such that the total virus population mirrors the immune diversity of the host population. However, the often-neglected viral genetic variation within hosts may also play an important role in shaping variation in the total virus population. We carry out an innovative analysis of bulk HIV-1 and HCV sequences isolated from over 4,000 human patients, exploiting “mixtures” (i.e., ambiguous nucleotides) as a site-specific marker of within-host genetic variation. We find that nonsynonymous mixtures are disproportionately abundant at codon positions under strong host-specific immune selection. Because existing models of virus evolution provide no explanation for this outcome, we have formulated a new model supplemented with stochastic simulations to demonstrate that the rapid transmission of viruses through diverse selective environments creates a positive correlation between nonsynonymous variation within and among hosts.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.0030045
PMCID: PMC1839164  PMID: 17397261

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