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1.  A Mathematical Model of the Circadian Phase-Shifting Effects of Exogenous Melatonin 
Journal of biological rhythms  2013;28(1):79-89.
Melatonin is endogenously produced and released in humans during nighttime darkness and is suppressed by ocular light exposure. Exogenous melatonin is used to induce circadian phase shifts and sleep. The circadian phase-shifting ability of a stimulus (e.g., melatonin or light) relative to its timing may be displayed as a phase response curve (PRC). Published PRCs to exogenous melatonin show a transition from phase advances to delays approximately 1 h after dim light melatonin onset. A previously developed mathematical model simulates endogenous production and clearance of melatonin as a function of circadian phase, light-induced suppression, and resetting of circadian phase by light. We extend this model to include the pharmacokinetics of oral exogenous melatonin and phase-shifting effects via melatonin receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the mammalian hypothalamus. Model parameters are fit using 2 data sets: (1) blood melatonin concentration following a 0.3- or 5.0-mg dose, and (2) a PRC to a 3.0-mg dose of melatonin. After fitting to the 3.0-mg PRC, the model correctly predicts that, by comparison, the 0.5-mg PRC is slightly decreased in amplitude and shifted to a later circadian phase. This model also reproduces blood concentration profiles of various melatonin preparations that differ only in absorption rate and percentage degradation by first-pass hepatic metabolism. This model can simulate experimental protocols using oral melatonin, with potential application to guide dose size and timing to optimally shift and entrain circadian rhythms.
PMCID: PMC3733227  PMID: 23382594
melatonin; modeling; circadian rhythms; pharmacokinetics; phase shift; exogenous dose; phase response curve
2.  Small molecule probes to target the human Mediator complex 
Israel journal of chemistry  2013;53(8):588-595.
The human Mediator complex is a central integrator for transcription and represents a primary interface that allows DNA-binding transcription factors to communicate their regulatory signals to the RNA polymerase II enzyme. Because Mediator is dynamic both in terms of subunit composition and structure, it presents challenges as a target for small molecule probes. Moreover, little high-resolution structural information exists for Mediator. Its global requirement for transcription, as well as its distinct, transcription factor specific interaction surfaces, however, suggest that development of probes that bind specific Mediator subunits might enable gene- and pathway-specific modulation of transcription. Here we provide a brief overview of the Mediator complex, highlighting biological and structural features that make it an attractive target for molecular probes. We then outline several chemical strategies that might be effective for targeting the complex.
PMCID: PMC4334163
gene expression; CDK8 module; Mediator complex; probe discovery
3.  Xyolide, a bioactive nonenolide from an Amazonian endophytic fungus, Xylaria feejeensis 
Tetrahedron letters  2013;54(31):4058-4060.
Endophytes isolated from tropical plants represent a largely untapped reservoir of bioactive secondary metabolites. We screened a library of fungal endophyte extracts for inhibition of the plant pathogen, Pythium ultimum, and purified an active compound using bioassay-guided fractionation. A new nonenolide, (4S,7S,8S,9R)-4-O-succinyl-7,8-dihydroxy-9-heptyl-nonen-9-olide, was isolated and named xyolide. The structure was elucidated by a combination of 1D and 2D NMR methods and the absolute configuration was determined by exciton-coupled circular dichroism. The MIC of xyolide against P. ultimum was 425 µM.
PMCID: PMC3729479  PMID: 23913990
Natural product; Nonenolide; Fungal endophyte; Pythium ultimum
4.  A Physiologically Based Model of Orexinergic Stabilization of Sleep and Wake 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91982.
The orexinergic neurons of the lateral hypothalamus (Orx) are essential for regulating sleep-wake dynamics, and their loss causes narcolepsy, a disorder characterized by severe instability of sleep and wake states. However, the mechanisms through which Orx stabilize sleep and wake are not well understood. In this work, an explanation of the stabilizing effects of Orx is presented using a quantitative model of important physiological connections between Orx and the sleep-wake switch. In addition to Orx and the sleep-wake switch, which is composed of mutually inhibitory wake-active monoaminergic neurons in brainstem and hypothalamus (MA) and the sleep-active ventrolateral preoptic neurons of the hypothalamus (VLPO), the model also includes the circadian and homeostatic sleep drives. It is shown that Orx stabilizes prolonged waking episodes via its excitatory input to MA and by relaying a circadian input to MA, thus sustaining MA firing activity during the circadian day. During sleep, both Orx and MA are inhibited by the VLPO, and the subsequent reduction in Orx input to the MA indirectly stabilizes sustained sleep episodes. Simulating a loss of Orx, the model produces dynamics resembling narcolepsy, including frequent transitions between states, reduced waking arousal levels, and a normal daily amount of total sleep. The model predicts a change in sleep timing with differences in orexin levels, with higher orexin levels delaying the normal sleep episode, suggesting that individual differences in Orx signaling may contribute to chronotype. Dynamics resembling sleep inertia also emerge from the model as a gradual sleep-to-wake transition on a timescale that varies with that of Orx dynamics. The quantitative, physiologically based model developed in this work thus provides a new explanation of how Orx stabilizes prolonged episodes of sleep and wake, and makes a range of experimentally testable predictions, including a role for Orx in chronotype and sleep inertia.
PMCID: PMC3961294  PMID: 24651580
5.  Distinctive Expansion of Potential Virulence Genes in the Genome of the Oomycete Fish Pathogen Saprolegnia parasitica 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(6):e1003272.
Oomycetes in the class Saprolegniomycetidae of the Eukaryotic kingdom Stramenopila have evolved as severe pathogens of amphibians, crustaceans, fish and insects, resulting in major losses in aquaculture and damage to aquatic ecosystems. We have sequenced the 63 Mb genome of the fresh water fish pathogen, Saprolegnia parasitica. Approximately 1/3 of the assembled genome exhibits loss of heterozygosity, indicating an efficient mechanism for revealing new variation. Comparison of S. parasitica with plant pathogenic oomycetes suggests that during evolution the host cellular environment has driven distinct patterns of gene expansion and loss in the genomes of plant and animal pathogens. S. parasitica possesses one of the largest repertoires of proteases (270) among eukaryotes that are deployed in waves at different points during infection as determined from RNA-Seq data. In contrast, despite being capable of living saprotrophically, parasitism has led to loss of inorganic nitrogen and sulfur assimilation pathways, strikingly similar to losses in obligate plant pathogenic oomycetes and fungi. The large gene families that are hallmarks of plant pathogenic oomycetes such as Phytophthora appear to be lacking in S. parasitica, including those encoding RXLR effectors, Crinkler's, and Necrosis Inducing-Like Proteins (NLP). S. parasitica also has a very large kinome of 543 kinases, 10% of which is induced upon infection. Moreover, S. parasitica encodes several genes typical of animals or animal-pathogens and lacking from other oomycetes, including disintegrins and galactose-binding lectins, whose expression and evolutionary origins implicate horizontal gene transfer in the evolution of animal pathogenesis in S. parasitica.
Author Summary
Fish are an increasingly important source of animal protein globally, with aquaculture production rising dramatically over the past decade. Saprolegnia is a fungal-like oomycete and one of the most destructive fish pathogens, causing millions of dollars in losses to the aquaculture industry annually. Saprolegnia has also been linked to a worldwide decline in wild fish and amphibian populations. Here we describe the genome sequence of the first animal pathogenic oomycete and compare the genome content with the available plant pathogenic oomycetes. We found that Saprolegnia lacks the large effector families that are hallmarks of plant pathogenic oomycetes, showing evolutionary adaptation to the host. Moreover, Saprolegnia harbors pathogenesis-related genes that were derived by lateral gene transfer from the host and other animal pathogens. The retrotransposon LINE family also appears to be acquired from animal lineages. By transcriptome analysis we show a high rate of allelic variation, which reveals rapidly evolving genes and potentially adaptive evolutionary mechanisms coupled to selective pressures exerted by the animal host. The genome and transcriptome data, as well as subsequent biochemical analyses, provided us with insight in the disease process of Saprolegnia at a molecular and cellular level, providing us with targets for sustainable control of Saprolegnia.
PMCID: PMC3681718  PMID: 23785293
6.  Structural Basis of the Antiproliferative Activity of Largazole, a Depsipeptide Inhibitor of the Histone Deacetylases 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2011;133(32):12474-12477.
Largazole is a macrocyclic depsipeptide originally isolated from the marine cyanobacterium Symploca sp., which is indigenous to the warm, blue-green waters of Key Largo, Florida (whence largazole derives its name). Largazole contains an unusual thiazoline-thiazole ring system that rigidifies its macrocyclic skeleton, and it also contains a lipophilic thioester side chain. Hydrolysis of the thioester in vivo yields largazole thiol, which exhibits remarkable antiproliferative effects and is believed to be the most potent inhibitor of the metal-dependent histone deacetylases (HDACs). Here, the 2.14 Å-resolution crystal structure of the HDAC8-largazole thiol complex is the first of an HDAC complexed with a macrocyclic inhibitor and reveals that ideal thiolate-zinc coordination geometry is the key chemical feature responsible for its exceptional affinity and biological activity. Notably, the core structure of largazole is conserved in romidepsin, a depsipeptide natural product formulated as the drug Istodax® recently approved for cancer chemotherapy. Accordingly, the structure of the HDAC8-largazole thiol complex is the first to illustrate the mode of action of a new class of therapeutically important HDAC inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3162211  PMID: 21790156
7.  Identification and Mechanistic Studies of a Novel Ubiquitin E1 Inhibitor 
Journal of Biomolecular Screening  2012;17(4):421-434.
Protein degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway is important for a diverse number of cellular processes ranging from cell signaling to development. Disruption of the ubiquitin pathway occurs in a variety of human diseases, including several cancers and neurological disorders. Excessive proteolysis of tumor suppressor proteins, such as p27, occurs in numerous aggressive human tumors. To discover small-molecule inhibitors that potentially prevent p27 degradation, we developed a series of screening assays, including a cell-based screen of a small-molecule compound library and two novel nucleotide exchange assays. Several small-molecule inhibitors, including NSC624206, were identified and subsequently verified to prevent p27 ubiquitination in vitro. The mechanism of NSC624206 inhibition of p27 ubiquitination was further unraveled using the nucleotide exchange assays and shown to be due to antagonizing ubiquitin activating enzyme (E1). We determined that NSC624206 and PYR-41, a recently reported inhibitor of ubiquitin E1, specifically block ubiquitin-thioester formation but have no effect on ubiquitin adenylation. These studies reveal a novel E1 inhibitor that targets a specific step of the E1 activation reaction. NSC624206 could, therefore, be potentially useful for the control of excessive ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3339042  PMID: 22274912
ubiquitin E1; inhibitor; p27kip1; ubiquitin; proteolysis
8.  Largazole and Its Derivatives Selectively Inhibit Ubiquitin Activating Enzyme (E1) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29208.
Protein ubiquitination plays an important role in the regulation of almost every aspect of eukaryotic cellular function; therefore, its destabilization is often observed in most human diseases and cancers. Consequently, developing inhibitors of the ubiquitination system for the treatment of cancer has been a recent area of interest. Currently, only a few classes of compounds have been discovered to inhibit the ubiquitin-activating enzyme (E1) and only one class is relatively selective in E1 inhibition in cells. We now report that Largazole and its ester and ketone analogs selectively inhibit ubiquitin conjugation to p27Kip1 and TRF1 in vitro. The inhibitory activity of these small molecules on ubiquitin conjugation has been traced to their inhibition of the ubiquitin E1 enzyme. To further dissect the mechanism of E1 inhibition, we analyzed the effects of these inhibitors on each of the two steps of E1 activation. We show that Largazole and its derivatives specifically inhibit the adenylation step of the E1 reaction while having no effect on thioester bond formation between ubiquitin and E1. E1 inhibition appears to be specific to human E1 as Largazole ketone fails to inhibit the activation of Uba1p, a homolog of E1 in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Moreover, Largazole analogs do not significantly inhibit SUMO E1. Thus, Largazole and select analogs are a novel class of ubiquitin E1 inhibitors and valuable tools for studying ubiquitination in vitro. This class of compounds could be further developed and potentially be a useful tool in cells.
PMCID: PMC3261141  PMID: 22279528
9.  A Concise and Modular Synthesis of Pyranicin 
Organic letters  2008;10(21):4955-4957.
A modular, 13 step, synthesis of the tetrahydropyran-containing annonaceous acetogenin pyranicin is reported. Key features are the use of an Achmatowicz oxidation-Kishi reduction sequence for the assembly of a pyranone from a furan, and the application of Fu’fs alkyl-alkyl Suzuki coupling for subunit union.
PMCID: PMC2901595  PMID: 18844364
10.  A Total Synthesis of Norhalichondrin B** 
PMCID: PMC2901598  PMID: 19213001
natural products; pyrans; polyethers; metathesis
11.  The Origin of Stereoselectivity in the Reduction of a Planar Oxacarbenium 
Organic letters  2008;10(17):3769-3772.
The Kishi reduction of a planar oxacarbenium was investigated theoretically. The high diastereoselectivity for hydride transfer to the oxacarbenium intermediate is attributed to the conformation of the transition state that places the allyl side chain in an equatorial position in the major transition state and axial position in the minor. The minor transition state is destabilized by a 1,3-diaxial strain between the attacking hydride and the syn allyl side chain.
PMCID: PMC2893305  PMID: 18646767
12.  Total Synthesis of Aburatubolactam A** 
PMCID: PMC2892237  PMID: 18825765
natural products; metathesis; cross-coupling
13.  Mammalian Sleep Dynamics: How Diverse Features Arise from a Common Physiological Framework 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(6):e1000826.
Mammalian sleep varies widely, ranging from frequent napping in rodents to consolidated blocks in primates and unihemispheric sleep in cetaceans. In humans, rats, mice and cats, sleep patterns are orchestrated by homeostatic and circadian drives to the sleep–wake switch, but it is not known whether this system is ubiquitous among mammals. Here, changes of just two parameters in a recent quantitative model of this switch are shown to reproduce typical sleep patterns for 17 species across 7 orders. Furthermore, the parameter variations are found to be consistent with the assumptions that homeostatic production and clearance scale as brain volume and surface area, respectively. Modeling an additional inhibitory connection between sleep-active neuronal populations on opposite sides of the brain generates unihemispheric sleep, providing a testable hypothetical mechanism for this poorly understood phenomenon. Neuromodulation of this connection alone is shown to account for the ability of fur seals to transition between bihemispheric sleep on land and unihemispheric sleep in water. Determining what aspects of mammalian sleep patterns can be explained within a single framework, and are thus universal, is essential to understanding the evolution and function of mammalian sleep. This is the first demonstration of a single model reproducing sleep patterns for multiple different species. These wide-ranging findings suggest that the core physiological mechanisms controlling sleep are common to many mammalian orders, with slight evolutionary modifications accounting for interspecies differences.
Author Summary
The field of sleep physiology has made huge strides in recent years, uncovering the neurological structures which are critical to sleep regulation. However, given the small number of species studied in such detail in the laboratory, it remains to be seen how universal these mechanisms are across the whole mammalian order. Mammalian sleep is extremely diverse, and the unihemispheric sleep of dolphins is nothing like the rapidly cycling sleep of rodents, or the single daily block of humans. Here, we use a mathematical model to demonstrate that the established sleep physiology can indeed account for the sleep of a wide range of mammals. Furthermore, the model gives insight into why the sleep patterns of different species are so distinct: smaller animals burn energy more rapidly, resulting in more rapid sleep–wake cycling. We also show that mammals that sleep unihemispherically may have a single additional neuronal pathway which prevents sleep-promoting neurons on opposite sides of the hypothalamus from activating simultaneously. These findings suggest that the basic physiology controlling sleep evolved before mammals, and illustrate the functional flexibility of this simple system.
PMCID: PMC2891699  PMID: 20585613
14.  A synthesis of the C1-C15 domain of the halichondrins 
Tetrahedron letters  2008;49(18):2939-2941.
A concise route to the C1–C15 domain of the halichondrins is described. The key reaction is the conversion of a furfuryl alcohol to a pyranone. The stereocenter of this pyranone serves as the starting point for the other 8 stereocenters.
PMCID: PMC2884163  PMID: 20548799
15.  Conversion of cyanthiwigin U to related cyanthiwigins: total syntheses of cyanthiwigin W and cyanthiwigin Z 
Tetrahedron letters  2008;49(48):6860-6861.
The conversion of cyanthiwigin U to cyanthiwigins W and Z is described.
PMCID: PMC2630249  PMID: 19946354
16.  A Concise Total Synthesis of Largazole, Solution Structure, and Some Preliminary Structure Activity Relationships 
Organic letters  2008;10(16):3595-3598.
A total synthesis of largazole that proceeds in 8 steps from commercial materials is reported, along with some structure-activity relationships. A combination of NMR studies and molecular modeling have also provided a preliminary picture of the conformation of largazole.
PMCID: PMC2664405  PMID: 18616341

Results 1-16 (16)