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1.  Helicobacter pylori-Mediated Protection from Allergy Is Associated with IL-10-Secreting Peripheral Blood Regulatory T Cells 
Helicobacter pylori infections are usually established in early childhood and continuously stimulate immunity, including T-helper 1 (Th1), Th17, and regulatory T-cell (Treg) responses, throughout life. Although known to be the major cause of peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer, disease occurs in a minority of those who are infected. Recently, there has been much interest in beneficial effects arising from infection with this pathogen. Published data robustly show that the infection is protective against asthma in mouse models. Epidemiological studies show that H. pylori is inversely associated with human allergy and asthma, but there is a paucity of mechanistic data to explain this. Since Th1 and Treg responses are reported to protect against allergic responses, we investigated if there were links between the human systemic Th1 and Treg response to H. pylori and allergen-specific IgE levels. The human cytokine and T-cell responses were examined using peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 49 infected and 58 uninfected adult patients. Concentrations of total and allergen-specific plasma IgE were determined by ELISA and ImmunoCAP assays. These responses were analyzed according to major virulence factor genotypes of the patients’ colonizing H. pylori strains. An in vitro assay was employed, using PBMCs from infected and uninfected donors, to determine the role of Treg cytokines in the suppression of IgE. Significantly higher frequencies of IL-10-secreting CD4+CD25hi Tregs, but not H. pylori-specific Th1 cells, were present in the peripheral blood of infected patients. Total and allergen-specific IgE concentrations were lower when there was a strong Treg response, and blocking IL-10 in vitro dramatically restored IgE responses. IgE concentrations were also significantly lower when patients were infected with CagA+ strains or those expressing the more active i1 form of VacA. The systemic IL-10+ Treg response is therefore likely to play a role in H. pylori-mediated protection against allergy in humans.
PMCID: PMC4779884  PMID: 27014260
Helicobacter pylori; allergy; regulatory T cells; interleukin-10; IgE
2.  Differential inflammatory response to Helicobacter pylori infection: etiology and clinical outcomes 
The bacterial pathogen Helicobacter pylori commonly colonizes the human gastric mucosa during early childhood and persists throughout life. The organism has evolved multiple mechanisms for evading clearance by the immune system and, despite inducing inflammation in the stomach, the majority of infections are asymptomatic. H. pylori is the leading cause of peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. However, disease outcomes are related to the pattern and severity of chronic inflammation in the gastric mucosa, which in turn is influenced by both bacterial and host factors. Despite over 2 decades of intensive research, there remains an incomplete understanding of the circumstances leading to disease development, due to the fascinating complexity of the host–pathogen interactions. There is accumulating data concerning the virulence factors associated with increased risk of disease, and the majority of these have pro-inflammatory activities. Despite this, only a small proportion of those infected with virulent strains develop disease. Several H. pylori virulence factors have multiple effects on different cell types, including the induction of pro- and anti-inflammatory, immune stimulatory, and immune modulatory responses. The expression of multiple virulence factors is also often linked, making it difficult to assess the meaning of their effects in isolation. Overall, H. pylori is thought to usually modulate inflammation and limit acute damage to the mucosa, enabling the bacteria to persist. If this delicate balance is disturbed, disease may then develop.
PMCID: PMC4540215  PMID: 26316793
Helicobacter pylori; inflammation; mucosal immunity; peptic ulcer disease; gastric cancer
3.  Helicobacter pylori Membrane Vesicles Stimulate Innate Pro- and Anti-Inflammatory Responses and Induce Apoptosis in Jurkat T Cells 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(4):1372-1381.
Persistent Helicobacter pylori infection induces chronic inflammation in the human gastric mucosa, which is associated with development of peptic ulceration, gastric atrophy, and gastric adenocarcinoma. It has been postulated that secretion of immunomodulatory molecules by H. pylori facilitates bacterial persistence, and membrane vesicles (MV), which have the potential to cross the gastric epithelial barrier, may mediate delivery of these molecules to host immune cells. However, bacterial MV effects on human immune cells remain largely uncharacterized to date. In the present study, we investigated the immunomodulatory effects of H. pylori MV with and without the vacuolating cytotoxin, VacA, which inhibits human T cell activity. We show a high degree of variability in the toxin content of vesicles between two H. pylori strains (SS1 and 60190). Vesicles from the more toxigenic 60190 strain contain more VacA (s1i1 type) than vesicles from the SS1 strain (s2i2 VacA), but engineering the SS1 strain to produce s1i1 VacA did not increase the toxin content of its vesicles. Vesicles from all strains tested, including a 60190 isogenic mutant null for VacA, strongly induced interleukin-10 (IL-10) and IL-6 production by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells independently of the infection status of the donor. Finally, we show that H. pylori MV induce T cell apoptosis and that this is enhanced by, but not completely dependent on, the carriage of VacA. Together, these findings suggest a role for H. pylori MV in the stimulation of innate pro- and anti-inflammatory responses and in the suppression of T cell immunity.
PMCID: PMC3993389  PMID: 24421041
4.  A Role for the Vacuolating Cytotoxin, VacA, in Colonization and Helicobacter pylori–Induced Metaplasia in the Stomach 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2014;210(6):954-963.
Carriage of Helicobacter pylori strains producing more active (s1/i1) forms of VacA is strongly associated with gastric adenocarcinoma. To our knowledge, we are the first to determine effects of different polymorphic forms of VacA on inflammation and metaplasia in the mouse stomach. Bacteria producing the less active s2/i2 form of VacA colonized mice more efficiently than mutants null for VacA or producing more active forms of it, providing the first evidence of a positive role for the minimally active s2/i2 toxin. Strains producing more active toxin forms induced more severe and extensive metaplasia and inflammation in the mouse stomach than strains producing weakly active (s2/i2) toxin. We also examined the association in humans, controlling for cagPAI status. In human gastric biopsy specimens, the vacA i1 allele was strongly associated with precancerous intestinal metaplasia, with almost complete absence of intestinal metaplasia in subjects infected with i2-type strains, even in a vacA s1, cagA+ background.
PMCID: PMC4136800  PMID: 24625807
gastric cancer; pathogenesis; SPEM; Helicobacter pylori; virulence; colonization
5.  The UmuC subunit of the E. coli DNA polymerase V shows a unique interaction with the β-clamp processivity factor 
Strict regulation of replisome components is essential to ensure the accurate transmission of the genome to the next generation. The sliding clamp processivity factors play a central role in this regulation, interacting with both DNA polymerases and multiple DNA processing and repair proteins. Clamp binding partners share a common peptide binding motif, the nature of which is essentially conserved from phage through to humans. Given the degree of conservation of these motifs, much research effort has focussed on understanding how the temporal and spatial regulation of multiple clamp binding partners is managed. The bacterial sliding clamps have come under scrutiny as potential targets for rational drug design and comprehensive understanding of the structural basis of their interactions is crucial for success.
In this study we describe the crystal structure of a complex of the E. coli β-clamp with a 12-mer peptide from the UmuC protein. UmuC is the catalytic subunit of the translesion DNA polymerase, Pol V (UmuD’2C). Due to its potentially mutagenic action, Pol V is tightly regulated in the cell to limit access to the replication fork. Atypically for the translesion polymerases, both bacterial and eukaryotic, Pol V is heterotrimeric and its β-clamp binding motif (357 QLNLF 361) is internal to the protein, rather than at the more usual C-terminal position. Our structure shows that the UmuC peptide follows the overall disposition of previously characterised structures with respect to the highly conserved glutamine residue. Despite good agreement with the consensus β-clamp binding motif, distinct variation is shown within the hydrophobic binding pocket. While UmuC Leu-360 interacts as noted in other structures, Phe-361 does not penetrate the pocket at all, sitting above the surface.
Although the β-clamp binding motif of UmuC conforms to the consensus sequence, variation in its mode of clamp binding is observed compared to related structures, presumably dictated by the proximal aspartate residues that act as linker to the poorly characterised, unique C-terminal domain of UmuC. Additionally, interactions between Asn-359 of UmuC and Arg-152 on the clamp surface may compensate for the reduced interaction of Phe-361.
PMCID: PMC3716654  PMID: 23822808
Translesion synthesis; Sliding clamp; Processivity factor; UmuC; Regulation
6.  Rings in the Extreme: PCNA Interactions and Adaptations in the Archaea 
Archaea  2012;2012:951010.
Biochemical and structural analysis of archaeal proteins has enabled us to gain great insight into many eukaryotic processes, simultaneously offering fascinating glimpses into the adaptation and evolution of proteins at the extremes of life. The archaeal PCNAs, central to DNA replication and repair, are no exception. Characterisation of the proteins alone, and in complex with both peptides and protein binding partners, has demonstrated the diversity and subtlety in the regulatory role of these sliding clamps. Equally, studies have provided valuable detailed insight into the adaptation of protein interactions and mechanisms that are necessary for life in extreme environments.
PMCID: PMC3504372  PMID: 23209375
7.  DNA Binding in High Salt: Analysing the Salt Dependence of Replication Protein A3 from the Halophile Haloferax volcanii 
Archaea  2012;2012:719092.
Halophilic archaea maintain intracellular salt concentrations close to saturation to survive in high-salt environments and their cellular processes have adapted to function under these conditions. Little is known regarding halophilic adaptation of the DNA processing machinery, particularly intriguing since protein-DNA interactions are classically salt sensitive. To investigate such adaptation, we characterised the DNA-binding capabilities of recombinant RPA3 from Haloferax volcanii (HvRPA3). Under physiological salt conditions (3 M KCl), HvRPA3 is monomeric, binding 18 nucleotide ssDNA with nanomolar affinity, demonstrating that RPAs containing the single OB-fold/zinc finger architecture bind with broadly comparable affinity to two OB-fold/zinc finger RPAs. Reducing the salt concentration to 1 M KCl induces dimerisation of the protein, which retains its ability to bind DNA. On circular ssDNA, two concentration-dependent binding modes are observed. Conventionally, increased salt concentration adversely affects DNA binding but HvRPA3 does not bind DNA in 0.2 M KCl, although multimerisation may occlude the binding site. The single N-terminal OB-fold is competent to bind DNA in the absence of the C-terminal zinc finger, albeit with reduced affinity. This study represents the first quantitative characterisation of DNA binding in a halophilic protein in extreme salt concentrations.
PMCID: PMC3438722  PMID: 22973163
8.  The crystal structure of Haloferax volcanii proliferating cell nuclear antigen reveals unique surface charge characteristics due to halophilic adaptation 
The high intracellular salt concentration required to maintain a halophilic lifestyle poses challenges to haloarchaeal proteins that must stay soluble, stable and functional in this extreme environment. Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) is a fundamental protein involved in maintaining genome integrity, with roles in both DNA replication and repair. To investigate the halophilic adaptation of such a key protein we have crystallised and solved the structure of Haloferax volcanii PCNA (HvPCNA) to a resolution of 2.0 Å.
The overall architecture of HvPCNA is very similar to other known PCNAs, which are highly structurally conserved. Three commonly observed adaptations in halophilic proteins are higher surface acidity, bound ions and increased numbers of intermolecular ion pairs (in oligomeric proteins). HvPCNA possesses the former two adaptations but not the latter, despite functioning as a homotrimer. Strikingly, the positive surface charge considered key to PCNA's role as a sliding clamp is dramatically reduced in the halophilic protein. Instead, bound cations within the solvation shell of HvPCNA may permit sliding along negatively charged DNA by reducing electrostatic repulsion effects.
The extent to which individual proteins adapt to halophilic conditions varies, presumably due to their diverse characteristics and roles within the cell. The number of ion pairs observed in the HvPCNA monomer-monomer interface was unexpectedly low. This may reflect the fact that the trimer is intrinsically stable over a wide range of salt concentrations and therefore additional modifications for trimer maintenance in high salt conditions are not required. Halophilic proteins frequently bind anions and cations and in HvPCNA cation binding may compensate for the remarkable reduction in positive charge in the pore region, to facilitate functional interactions with DNA. In this way, HvPCNA may harness its environment as opposed to simply surviving in extreme halophilic conditions.
PMCID: PMC2737543  PMID: 19698123
9.  Effects of α-Synuclein Overexpression in Transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans Strains 
The neural protein α-synuclein aggregates both in vivo and in vitro to form insoluble fibrils that are involved in Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis. We have generated α-synuclein/fluorescent-protein fusion constructs overexpressed in muscle cells of the nematode, Caenorhabdtis elegans. Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) variants, Cerulean (C) or Venus (V), were fused to the C-terminus of human α-synuclein (S); the resultant fusion genes were designated SV and SC, plus a CV fusion as well as S, C and V singly. The aggregation behavior of the purified fusion proteins (expressed in E. coli) will be described elsewhere. These constructs were fused to a C. elegans unc-54 myosin promoter, and integrated transgenic lines generated by microinjection, γ-irradiation, and outcrossing of fluorescent progeny. All transgenic lines expressing α-synuclein showed significant reductions (p < 0.05) in lifespan, motility and pharyngeal pumping, as compared to wild-type worms or lines expressing CFP and/or YFP only. We showed that CFP and YFP labels colocalised in granular inclusions throughout the body wall in transgenic lines expressing both SC and SV fusions (SC+SV), whereas SV+C worms displayed YFP-labelled inclusions on a diffuse CFP background. These findings implied that the α-synuclein moieties of these fusion proteins still aggregated together in vivo, whereas CFP or YFP moieties alone did not. This in turn suggested that Foerster Resonanace Energy Transfer (FRET) between CFP and YFP labels in α-synuclein aggregates could allow the extent of aggregation to be quantified. Accordingly, we also showed that net FRET signals increased 2-fold between L4 and adult SC+SV worms.
PMCID: PMC3744922  PMID: 23244416
Caenorhabditis elegans; CFP and YFP reporters; FRET; protein aggregation; α-synuclein; transgenic strains.

Results 1-9 (9)