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1.  Data to knowledge: how to get meaning from your result 
IUCrJ  2015;2(Pt 1):45-58.
This paper presents a variety of techniques and technologies aimed at the transformation of crystallographic data into information and knowledge.
Structural and functional studies require the development of sophisticated ‘Big Data’ technologies and software to increase the knowledge derived and ensure reproducibility of the data. This paper presents summaries of the Structural Biology Knowledge Base, the VIPERdb Virus Structure Database, evaluation of homology modeling by the Protein Model Portal, the ProSMART tool for conformation-independent structure comparison, the LabDB ‘super’ laboratory information management system and the Cambridge Structural Database. These techniques and technologies represent important tools for the transformation of crystallographic data into knowledge and information, in an effort to address the problem of non-reproducibility of experimental results.
PMCID: PMC4285880  PMID: 25610627
meaning from data; big data; databases; knowledge bases; data deposition
2.  Tools for macromolecular model building and refinement into electron cryo-microscopy reconstructions 
A description is given of new tools to facilitate model building and refinement into electron cryo-microscopy reconstructions.
The recent rapid development of single-particle electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) now allows structures to be solved by this method at resolutions close to 3 Å. Here, a number of tools to facilitate the interpretation of EM reconstructions with stereochemically reasonable all-atom models are described. The BALBES database has been repurposed as a tool for identifying protein folds from density maps. Modifications to Coot, including new Jiggle Fit and morphing tools and improved handling of nucleic acids, enhance its functionality for interpreting EM maps. REFMAC has been modified for optimal fitting of atomic models into EM maps. As external structural information can enhance the reliability of the derived atomic models, stabilize refinement and reduce overfitting, ProSMART has been extended to generate interatomic distance restraints from nucleic acid reference structures, and a new tool, LIBG, has been developed to generate nucleic acid base-pair and parallel-plane restraints. Furthermore, restraint generation has been integrated with visualization and editing in Coot, and these restraints have been applied to both real-space refinement in Coot and reciprocal-space refinement in REFMAC.
PMCID: PMC4304694  PMID: 25615868
model building; refinement;  electron cryo-microscopy reconstructions; LIBG
3.  Conformation-independent structural comparison of macromolecules with ProSMART  
The Procrustes Structural Matching Alignment and Restraints Tool (ProSMART) has been developed to allow local comparative structural analyses independent of the global conformations and sequence homology of the compared macromolecules. This allows quick and intuitive visualization of the conservation of backbone and side-chain conformations, providing complementary information to existing methods.
The identification and exploration of (dis)similarities between macromolecular structures can help to gain biological insight, for instance when visualizing or quantifying the response of a protein to ligand binding. Obtaining a residue alignment between compared structures is often a prerequisite for such comparative analysis. If the conformational change of the protein is dramatic, conventional alignment methods may struggle to provide an intuitive solution for straightforward analysis. To make such analyses more accessible, the Procrustes Structural Matching Alignment and Restraints Tool (ProSMART) has been developed, which achieves a conformation-independent structural alignment, as well as providing such additional functionalities as the generation of restraints for use in the refinement of macromolecular models. Sensible comparison of protein (or DNA/RNA) structures in the presence of conformational changes is achieved by enforcing neither chain nor domain rigidity. The visualization of results is facilitated by popular molecular-graphics software such as CCP4mg and PyMOL, providing intuitive feedback regarding structural conservation and subtle dissimilarities between close homologues that can otherwise be hard to identify. Automatically generated colour schemes corresponding to various residue-based scores are provided, which allow the assessment of the conservation of backbone and side-chain conformations relative to the local coordinate frame. Structural comparison tools such as ProSMART can help to break the complexity that accompanies the constantly growing pool of structural data into a more readily accessible form, potentially offering biological insight or influencing subsequent experiments.
PMCID: PMC4157452  PMID: 25195761
ProSMART; Procrustes; structural comparison; alignment; external restraints; refinement
4.  SCEDS: protein fragments for molecular replacement in Phaser  
Protein fragments suitable for use in molecular replacement can be generated by normal-mode perturbation, analysis of the difference distance matrix of the original versus normal-mode perturbed structures, and SCEDS, a score that measures the sphericity, continuity, equality and density of the resulting fragments.
A method is described for generating protein fragments suitable for use as molecular-replacement (MR) template models. The template model for a protein suspected to undergo a conformational change is perturbed along combinations of low-frequency normal modes of the elastic network model. The unperturbed structure is then compared with each perturbed structure in turn and the structurally invariant regions are identified by analysing the difference distance matrix. These fragments are scored with SCEDS, which is a combined measure of the sphericity of the fragments, the continuity of the fragments with respect to the polypeptide chain, the equality in number of atoms in the fragments and the density of Cα atoms in the triaxial ellipsoid of the fragment extents. The fragment divisions with the highest SCEDS are then used as separate template models for MR. Test cases show that where the protein contains fragments that undergo a change in juxtaposition between template model and target, SCEDS can identify fragments that lead to a lower R factor after ten cycles of all-atom refinement with REFMAC5 than the original template structure. The method has been implemented in the software Phaser.
PMCID: PMC3817695  PMID: 24189233
difference distance matrix; normal-mode analysis
5.  Growth Hormone Research Society Workshop Summary: Consensus Guidelines for Recombinant Human Growth Hormone Therapy in Prader-Willi Syndrome 
Recombinant human GH (rhGH) therapy in Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) has been used by the medical community and advocated by parental support groups since its approval in the United States in 2000 and in Europe in 2001. Its use in PWS represents a unique therapeutic challenge that includes treating individuals with cognitive disability, varied therapeutic goals that are not focused exclusively on increased height, and concerns about potential life-threatening adverse events.
The aim of the study was to formulate recommendations for the use of rhGH in children and adult patients with PWS.
We performed a systematic review of the clinical evidence in the pediatric population, including randomized controlled trials, comparative observational studies, and long-term studies (>3.5 y). Adult studies included randomized controlled trials of rhGH treatment for ≥ 6 months and uncontrolled trials. Safety data were obtained from case reports, clinical trials, and pharmaceutical registries.
Forty-three international experts and stakeholders followed clinical practice guideline development recommendations outlined by the AGREE Collaboration ( Evidence was synthesized and graded using a comprehensive multicriteria methodology (EVIDEM) (
Following a multidisciplinary evaluation, preferably by experts, rhGH treatment should be considered for patients with genetically confirmed PWS in conjunction with dietary, environmental, and lifestyle interventions. Cognitive impairment should not be a barrier to treatment, and informed consent/assent should include benefit/risk information. Exclusion criteria should include severe obesity, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, untreated severe obstructive sleep apnea, active cancer, or psychosis. Clinical outcome priorities should vary depending upon age and the presence of physical, mental, and social disability, and treatment should be continued for as long as demonstrated benefits outweigh the risks.
PMCID: PMC3789886  PMID: 23543664
6.  Structural characterization of H. pylori dethiobiotin synthetase reveals differences between family members 
The FEBS journal  2012;279(6):1093-1105.
Dethiobiotin synthetase (DTBS) is involved in the biosynthesis of biotin in bacteria, fungi and plants. As humans lack this pathway, dethiobiotin synthetase is a promising antimicrobial drug target. We determined structures of DBTS from H. pylori (hpDTBS) bound with cofactors and a substrate analog and described its unique characteristics relative to other DTBS proteins. Comparison with bacterial DTBS orthologues revealed considerable structural differences in nucleotide recognition. The C-terminal region of DTBS proteins, which contains two nucleotide-recognition motifs, greatly differs among DTBS proteins from different species. The structure of hpDTBS revealed that this protein is unique and does not contain a C-terminal region containing one of the motifs. The single nucleotide-binding motif in hpDTBS is similar to its counterpart in GTPases, however, ITC binding studies show that hpDTBS has a strong preference for ATP. The structural determinants of ATP specificity were assessed through X-ray crystallographic studies of hpDTBS:ATP and hpDTBS:GTP complexes. The unique mode of nucleotide recognition in hpDTBS makes this protein a good target for H. pylori-specific inhibitors of the biotin synthesis pathway.
PMCID: PMC3392494  PMID: 22284390
7.  In Vivo Evolution of Tumor-Derived Endothelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37138.
The growth of a malignant tumor beyond a certain, limited size requires that it first develop an independent blood supply. In addition to providing metabolic support, this neovasculature also allows tumor cells to access the systemic circulation, thus facilitating metastatic dissemination. The neovasculature may originate either from normal blood vessels in close physical proximity to the tumor and/or from the recruitment of bone marrow-derived endothelial cell (EC) precursors. Recent studies have shown that human tumor vasculature ECs may also arise directly from tumor cells themselves and that the two populations have highly similar or identical karyotypes. We now show that, during the course of serial in vivo passage, these tumor-derived ECs (TDECs) progressively acquire more pronounced EC-like properties. These include higher-level expression of EC-specific genes and proteins, a greater capacity for EC-like behavior in vitro, and a markedly enhanced propensity to incorporate into the tumor vasculature. In addition, both vessel density and size are significantly increased in neoplasms derived from mixtures of tumor cells and serially passaged TDECs. A comparison of early- and late-passage TDECs using whole-genome single nucleotide polymorphism profiling showed the latter cells to have apparently evolved by a process of clonal expansion of a population with a distinct pattern of interstitial chromosomal gains and losses affecting a relatively small number of genes. The majority of these have established roles in vascular development, tumor suppression or epithelial-mesenchymal transition. These studies provide direct evidence that TDECs have a strong evolutionary capacity as a result of their inherent genomic instability. Consequently such cells might be capable of escaping anti-angiogenic cancer therapies by generating resistant populations.
PMCID: PMC3356387  PMID: 22623986
8.  Transcriptional and Post-Transcriptional Regulation of SPAST, the Gene Most Frequently Mutated in Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36505.
Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) comprise a group of neurodegenerative disorders that are characterized by progressive spasticity of the lower extremities, due to axonal degeneration in the corticospinal motor tracts. HSPs are genetically heterogeneous and show autosomal dominant inheritance in ∼70–80% of cases, with additional cases being recessive or X-linked. The most common type of HSP is SPG4 with mutations in the SPAST gene, encoding spastin, which occurs in 40% of dominantly inherited cases and in ∼10% of sporadic cases. Both loss-of-function and dominant-negative mutation mechanisms have been described for SPG4, suggesting that precise or stoichiometric levels of spastin are necessary for biological function. Therefore, we hypothesized that regulatory mechanisms controlling expression of SPAST are important determinants of spastin biology, and if altered, could contribute to the development and progression of the disease. To examine the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of SPAST, we used molecular phylogenetic methods to identify conserved sequences for putative transcription factor binding sites and miRNA targeting motifs in the SPAST promoter and 3′-UTR, respectively. By a variety of molecular methods, we demonstrate that SPAST transcription is positively regulated by NRF1 and SOX11. Furthermore, we show that miR-96 and miR-182 negatively regulate SPAST by effects on mRNA stability and protein level. These transcriptional and miRNA regulatory mechanisms provide new functional targets for mutation screening and therapeutic targeting in HSP.
PMCID: PMC3344893  PMID: 22574173
9.  Low-resolution refinement tools in REFMAC5 
Low-resolution refinement tools implemented in REFMAC5 are described, including the use of external structural restraints, helical restraints and regularized anisotropic map sharpening.
Two aspects of low-resolution macromolecular crystal structure analysis are considered: (i) the use of reference structures and structural units for provision of structural prior information and (ii) map sharpening in the presence of noise and the effects of Fourier series termination. The generation of interatomic distance restraints by ProSMART and their subsequent application in REFMAC5 is described. It is shown that the use of such external structural information can enhance the reliability of derived atomic models and stabilize refinement. The problem of map sharpening is considered as an inverse deblurring problem and is solved using Tikhonov regularizers. It is demonstrated that this type of map sharpening can automatically produce a map with more structural features whilst maintaining connectivity. Tests show that both of these directions are promising, although more work needs to be performed in order to further exploit structural information and to address the problem of reliable electron-density calculation.
PMCID: PMC3322599  PMID: 22505260
low-resolution refinement; REFMAC5
10.  The snoRNA MBII-52 (SNORD 115) is processed into smaller RNAs and regulates alternative splicing 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(7):1153-1164.
The loss of HBII-52 and related C/D box small nucleolar RNA (snoRNA) expression units have been implicated as a cause for the Prader–Willi syndrome (PWS). We recently found that the C/D box snoRNA HBII-52 changes the alternative splicing of the serotonin receptor 2C pre-mRNA, which is different from the traditional C/D box snoRNA function in non-mRNA methylation. Using bioinformatic predictions and experimental verification, we identified five pre-mRNAs (DPM2, TAF1, RALGPS1, PBRM1 and CRHR1) containing alternative exons that are regulated by MBII-52, the mouse homolog of HBII-52. Analysis of a single member of the MBII-52 cluster of snoRNAs by RNase protection and northern blot analysis shows that the MBII-52 expressing unit generates shorter RNAs that originate from the full-length MBII-52 snoRNA through additional processing steps. These novel RNAs associate with hnRNPs and not with proteins associated with canonical C/D box snoRNAs. Our data indicate that not a traditional C/D box snoRNA MBII-52, but a processed version lacking the snoRNA stem is the predominant MBII-52 RNA missing in PWS. This processed snoRNA functions in alternative splice-site selection. Its substitution could be a therapeutic principle for PWS.
PMCID: PMC2838533  PMID: 20053671
11.  REFMAC5 for the refinement of macromolecular crystal structures 
The general principles behind the macromolecular crystal structure refinement program REFMAC5 are described.
This paper describes various components of the macromolecular crystallographic refinement program REFMAC5, which is distributed as part of the CCP4 suite. REFMAC5 utilizes different likelihood functions depending on the diffraction data employed (amplitudes or intensities), the presence of twinning and the availability of SAD/SIRAS experimental diffraction data. To ensure chemical and structural integrity of the refined model, REFMAC5 offers several classes of restraints and choices of model parameterization. Reliable models at resolutions at least as low as 4 Å can be achieved thanks to low-resolution refinement tools such as secondary-structure restraints, restraints to known homologous structures, automatic global and local NCS restraints, ‘jelly-body’ restraints and the use of novel long-range restraints on atomic displacement parameters (ADPs) based on the Kullback–Leibler divergence. REFMAC5 additionally offers TLS parameterization and, when high-resolution data are available, fast refinement of anisotropic ADPs. Refinement in the presence of twinning is performed in a fully automated fashion. REFMAC5 is a flexible and highly optimized refinement package that is ideally suited for refinement across the entire resolution spectrum encountered in macromolecular crystallography.
PMCID: PMC3069751  PMID: 21460454
REFMAC5; refinement
12.  Development of type 2 diabetes following intrauterine growth retardation in rats is associated with progressive epigenetic silencing of Pdx1  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2008;118(6):2316-2324.
Intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) has been linked to the onset of diseases in adulthood, including type 2 diabetes, and has been proposed to result from altered gene regulation patterns due to epigenetic modifications of developmental genes. To determine whether epigenetic modifications may play a role in the development of adult diabetes following IUGR, we used a rodent model of IUGR that expresses lower levels of Pdx1, a pancreatic and duodenal homeobox 1 transcription factor critical for β cell function and development, which develops diabetes in adulthood. We found that expression of Pdx1 was permanently reduced in IUGR β cells and underwent epigenetic modifications throughout development. The fetal IUGR state was characterized by loss of USF-1 binding at the proximal promoter of Pdx1, recruitment of the histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) and the corepressor Sin3A, and deacetylation of histones H3 and H4. Following birth, histone 3 lysine 4 (H3K4) was demethylated and histone 3 lysine 9 (H3K9) was methylated. During the neonatal period, these epigenetic changes and the reduction in Pdx1 expression could be reversed by HDAC inhibition. After the onset of diabetes in adulthood, the CpG island in the proximal promoter was methylated, resulting in permanent silencing of the Pdx1 locus. These results provide insight into the development of type 2 diabetes following IUGR and we believe they are the first to describe the ontogeny of chromatin remodeling in vivo from the fetus to the onset of disease in adulthood.
PMCID: PMC2373422  PMID: 18464933
13.  Recent Assembly of an Imprinted Domain from Non-Imprinted Components 
PLoS Genetics  2006;2(10):e182.
Genomic imprinting, representing parent-specific expression of alleles at a locus, raises many questions about how—and especially why—epigenetic silencing of mammalian genes evolved. We present the first in-depth study of how a human imprinted domain evolved, analyzing a domain containing several imprinted genes that are involved in human disease. Using comparisons of orthologous genes in humans, marsupials, and the platypus, we discovered that the Prader-Willi/Angelman syndrome region on human Chromosome 15q was assembled only recently (105–180 million years ago). This imprinted domain arose after a region bearing UBE3A (Angelman syndrome) fused with an unlinked region bearing SNRPN (Prader-Willi syndrome), which had duplicated from the non-imprinted SNRPB/B′. This region independently acquired several retroposed gene copies and arrays of small nucleolar RNAs from different parts of the genome. In their original configurations, SNRPN and UBE3A are expressed from both alleles, implying that acquisition of imprinting occurred after their rearrangement and required the evolution of a control locus. Thus, the evolution of imprinting in viviparous mammals is ongoing.
Humans and other mammals have two copies of the genome. For most genes, both copies are active. However, some genes are active only when they are inherited from the father, others only when inherited from the mother. These “imprinted” genes are clustered in domains that are controlled coordinately. Only mammals show genomic imprinting. It is not understood how or why genes became imprinted during mammalian evolution. The authors used comparisons between humans and the most distantly related mammals, marsupials and monotremes, to discover how one of these imprinted domains evolved. The authors studied an imprinted domain on human Chromosome 15, mutations which cause Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes (PWS-AS). They discovered that the PWS and AS genes lie on different chromosomes in kangaroos and platypus and are not imprinted. Other imprinted genes in the domain, including the putative control region, are absent from the genome and derived from copies of genes from yet other chromosomes. The arrangement in kangaroos and platypus is present also in the chicken genome, so it must be ancestral. This study concludes that the PWS-AS imprinted region was assembled relatively recently from non-imprinted components that were moved together or copied from all over the genome.
PMCID: PMC1626109  PMID: 17069464
14.  The gene encoding the fragile X RNA-binding protein is controlled by nuclear respiratory factor 2 and the CREB family of transcription factors 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(4):1205-1215.
FMR1 encodes an RNA-binding protein whose absence results in fragile X mental retardation. In most patients, the FMR1 gene is cytosine-methylated and transcriptionally inactive. NRF-1 and Sp1 are known to bind and stimulate the active, but not the methylated/silenced, FMR1 promoter. Prior analysis has implicated a CRE site in regulation of FMR1 in neural cells but the role of this site is controversial. We now show that a phospho-CREB/ATF family member is bound to this site in vivo. We also find that the histone acetyltransferases CBP and p300 are associated with active FMR1 but are lost at the hypoacetylated fragile X allele. Surprisingly, FMR1 is not cAMP-inducible and resides in a newly recognized subclass of CREB-regulated genes. We have also elucidated a role for NRF-2 as a regulator of FMR1 in vivo through a previously unrecognized and highly conserved recognition site in FMR1. NRF-1 and NRF-2 act additively while NRF-2 synergizes with CREB/ATF at FMR1's promoter. These data add FMR1 to the collection of genes controlled by both NRF-1 and NRF-2 and disfavor its membership in the immediate early response group of genes.
PMCID: PMC1383620  PMID: 16500891
15.  Genetic mapping of putative Chrna7 and Luzp2 neuronal transcriptional enhancers due to impact of a transgene-insertion and 6.8 Mb deletion in a mouse model of Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes 
BMC Genomics  2005;6:157.
Prader-Willi and Angelman syndrome (PWS and AS) patients typically have an ~5 Mb deletion of human chromosome 15q11-q13, of opposite parental origin. A mouse model of PWS and AS has a transgenic insertion-deletion (TgPWS/TgAS) of chromosome 7B/C subsequent to paternal or maternal inheritance, respectively. In this study, we define the deletion endpoints and examine the impact on expression of flanking genes.
Using molecular and cytological methods we demonstrate that 13 imprinted and 11 non-imprinted genes are included in the TgPWS/TgAS deletion. Normal expression levels were found in TgPWS brain for genes extending 9.1- or 5.6-Mb centromeric or telomeric of the deletion, respectively. Our molecular cytological studies map the proximal deletion breakpoint between the Luzp2 and Siglec-H loci, and we show that overall mRNA levels of Luzp2 in TgPWS and TgAS brain are significantly reduced by 17%. Intriguingly, 5' Chrna7 shows 1.7-fold decreased levels in TgPWS and TgAS brain whereas there is a ≥15-fold increase in expression in neonatal liver and spleen of these mouse models. By isolating a Chrna7-Tg fusion transcript from TgAS mice, we mapped the telomeric deletion breakpoint in Chrna7 intron 4.
Based on the extent of the deletion, TgPWS/TgAS mice are models for PWS/AS class I deletions. Other than for the first gene promoters immediately outside the deletion, since genes extending 5.6–9.1 Mb away from each end of the deletion show normal expression levels in TgPWS brain, this indicates that the transgene array does not induce silencing and there are no additional linked rearrangements. Using gene expression, non-coding conserved sequence (NCCS) and synteny data, we have genetically mapped a putative Luzp2 neuronal enhancer responsible for ~33% of allelic transcriptional activity. The Chrna7 results are explained by hypothesizing loss of an essential neuronal transcriptional enhancer required for ~80% of allelic Chrna7 promoter activity, while the Chrna7 promoter is upregulated in B lymphocytes by the transgene immunoglobulin enhancer. The mapping of a putative Chrna7 neuronal enhancer inside the deletion has significant implications for understanding the transcriptional regulation of this schizophrenia-susceptibility candidate gene.
PMCID: PMC1322230  PMID: 16280085
16.  Characterization of cis- and trans-acting elements in the imprinted human SNURF-SNRPN locus 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(15):4740-4753.
The imprinted SNRPN locus is a complex transcriptional unit that encodes the SNURF and SmN polypeptides as well as multiple non-coding RNAs. SNRPN is located within the Prader-Willi and Angelman syndrome (PWS/AS) region that contains multiple imprinted genes, which are coordinately regulated by a bipartite imprinting center (IC). The SNRPN 5′ region co-localizes with the PWS-IC and contains two DNase I hypersensitive sites, DHS1 at the SNRPN promoter, and DHS2 within intron 1, exclusively on the paternally inherited chromosome. We have examined DHS1 and DHS2 to identify cis- and trans-acting regulatory elements within the endogenous SNRPN 5′ region. Analysis of DHS1 by in vivo footprinting and chromatin immunoprecipitation identified allele-specific interaction with multiple regulatory proteins, including NRF-1, which regulates genes involved in mitochondrial and metabolic functions. DHS2 acted as an enhancer of the SNRPN promoter and contained a highly conserved region that showed allele-specific interaction with unphosphorylated RNA polymerase II, YY1, Sp1 and NRF-1, further suggesting a key role for NRF-1 in regulation of the SNRPN locus. We propose that one or more of the regulatory elements identified in this study may also contribute to PWS-IC function.
PMCID: PMC1188517  PMID: 16116039
18.  Changing hospitals 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;319(7219):1262-1264.
PMCID: PMC1117029  PMID: 10550100

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