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1.  Virus transcript levels and cell growth rates after naturally occurring HPV16 integration events in basal cervical keratinocytes 
The Journal of Pathology  2014;233(3):281-293.
Cervical carcinogenesis is characterized by a clonal selection process in which the high-risk human papillomavirus (HRHPV) genome usually changes from the extra-chromosomal (episomal) state seen in productive infections to DNA that is integrated into host chromosomes. However, it is not clear whether all HRHPV integration events provide cells with a selective growth advantage compared with the episome-containing cells from which they originate. It is also unclear whether selection of cells containing a particular integrant from a mixed population simply reflects the highest levels of virus oncogene expression or has additional determinants. These early events in cervical carcinogenesis cannot readily be addressed by cross-sectional studies of clinical samples. We used the W12 model system to generate a panel of cervical squamous cell clones that were derived from an identical background under non-competitive conditions and differed only by the genomic site of HPV16 integration. Compared with the ‘baseline’ episome-containing cells from which they were isolated, only 9/17 clones (53%) showed significantly greater growth rates and only 7/17 (41%) showed significantly greater expression of the major virus oncogenes E7/E6. There were significant variations in levels of HPV16 transcription per DNA template, changes that were associated with histone modifications in the integrated virus chromatin. Cell growth rates showed only weak and non-significant associations with protein and mRNA levels for E7, E6, and the mean E7/E6 values. We conclude that HPV16 integration in basal cervical cells does not necessarily lead to increased levels of virus oncogenes, or to a competitive growth advantage, when compared with the initiating episome-containing cells.
PMCID: PMC4285939  PMID: 24752734
human papillomavirus; E6/E7; selection; integration
2.  LIN28 expression in malignant germ cell tumors down-regulates let-7 and increases oncogene levels 
Cancer research  2013;73(15):4872-4884.
Despite their clinico-pathologic heterogeneity, malignant germ-cell-tumors (GCTs) share molecular abnormalities that are likely to be functionally important. In this study, we investigated the potential significance of down-regulation of the let-7 family of tumor-suppressor microRNAs in malignant-GCTs. Microarray results from pediatric and adult samples (n=45) showed that LIN28, the negative-regulator of let-7 biogenesis, was abundant in malignant-GCTs, regardless of patient age, tumor site or histologic subtype. Indeed, a strong negative-correlation existed between LIN28 and let-7 levels in specimens with matched datasets. Low let-7 levels were biologically significant, since the sequence complementary to the 2-7nt common let-7 seed ‘GAGGUA’ was enriched in the 3′untranslated regions of mRNAs up-regulated in pediatric and adult malignant-GCTs, compared with normal gonads (a mixture of germ cells and somatic cells). We identified 27 mRNA targets of let-7 that were up-regulated in malignant-GCT cells, confirming significant negative-correlations with let-7 levels. Among 16 mRNAs examined in a largely independent set of specimens by qRT-PCR, we defined negative-associations with let-7e levels for six oncogenes, including MYCN, AURKB, CCNF, RRM2, MKI67 and C12orf5 (when including normal control tissues). Importantly, LIN28 depletion in malignant-GCT cells restored let-7 levels and repressed all of these oncogenic let-7 mRNA targets, with LIN28 levels correlating with cell proliferation and MYCN levels. Conversely, ectopic expression of let-7e was sufficient to reduce proliferation and down-regulate MYCN, AURKB and LIN28, the latter via a double-negative feedback loop. We concluded that the LIN28/let-7 pathway has a critical pathobiological role in malignant-GCTs and therefore offers a promising target for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3732484  PMID: 23774216
germ cell tumor; let-7; LIN28; microRNA
3.  Depletion of polycistronic transcripts using short interfering RNAs: cDNA synthesis method affects levels of non-targeted genes determined by quantitative PCR 
Virology Journal  2013;10:159.
Short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are often used to deplete viral polycistronic transcripts, such as those encoded by human papillomavirus (HPV). There are conflicting data in the literature concerning how siRNAs targeting one HPV gene can affect levels of other genes in the polycistronic transcripts. We hypothesised that the conflict might be partly explained by the method of cDNA synthesis used prior to transcript quantification.
We treated HPV16-positive cervical keratinocytes with siRNAs targeting the HPV16 E7 gene and used quantitative PCR to compare transcript levels of E7 with those of E6 and E2, viral genes located upstream and downstream of the target site respectively. We compared our findings from cDNA generated using oligo-dT primers alone with those from cDNA generated using a combination of random hexamer and oligo-dT primers. Our data show that when polycistronic transcripts are targeted by siRNAs, there is a period when untranslatable cleaved mRNA upstream of the siRNA binding site remains detectable by PCR, if cDNA is generated using random hexamer primers. Such false indications of mRNA abundance are avoided using oligo-dT primers. The period corresponds to the time taken for siRNA activity and degradation of the cleaved transcripts. Genes downstream of the siRNA binding site are detectable during this interval, regardless of how the cDNA is generated.
These data emphasise the importance of the cDNA synthesis method used when measuring transcript abundance following siRNA depletion of polycistronic transcripts. They provide a partial explanation for erroneous reports suggesting that siRNAs targeting HPV E7 can have gene-specific effects.
PMCID: PMC3685557  PMID: 23693071
Quantitative PCR; Short interfering RNA; cDNA synthesis
4.  Management of irritable bowel syndrome in primary care: the results of an exploratory randomised controlled trial of mebeverine, methylcellulose, placebo and a self-management website 
BMC Gastroenterology  2013;13:68.
Many patients with IBS suffer on-going symptoms. The evidence base is poor for IBS drugs but they are widely prescribed and advised in Guidelines. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be helpful, but availability is poor in the NHS. We developed a web-based CBT self-management programme (Regul8) in partnership with patients and trialled it and common IBS medications in an exploratory factorial RCT to test trial procedures and provide information for a larger trial.
Patients, 16 to 60 years, with IBS symptoms fulfilling Rome III criteria were recruited via GP practices and randomised to over-encapsulated mebeverine, methylcellulose or placebo for 6 weeks and to 1 of 3 website conditions: Regul8 with a nurse telephone session and email support, Regul8 with minimal email support, or no website.
135 patients recruited from 26 GP practices. Mean IBS SSS score 241.9 (sd 87.7), IBS-QOL 64 (sd 20) at baseline. 91% follow-up at 12 weeks. Mean IBS SSS decreased by 35 points from baseline to 12 weeks. There was no significant difference in IBS SSS or IBS-QOL score between medication or website groups at 12 weeks, or in medication groups at 6 weeks, or IBS-QOL in website groups at 6 weeks. However, IBS SSS at 6 weeks was lower in the No website group than the website groups (IBS SSS no website =162.8 (95% CI 137.4-188.3), website 197.0 (172.4 - 221.7), Website + telephone support 208.0 (183.1-233.0) p = 0.037).
Enablement and Subjects Global Assessment of relief (SGA) were significantly improved in the Regul8 groups compared to the non-website group at 12 weeks (Enablement = 0 in 56.8% of No website group, 18.4% website, 10.5% Website + support, p = 0.001) (SGA; 32.4% responders in No website group, 45.7% website group, 63.2% website + support group, p = 0.035).
This exploratory study demonstrates feasibility and high follow-up rates and provides information for a larger trial. Primary outcomes (IBS SS and IBS QOL) did not reach significance at 6 or 12 weeks, apart from IBS SSS being lower in the no-website group at 6 weeks - this disappeared by 12 weeks. Improved Enablement suggests patients with access to the Regul8 website felt better able to cope with their symptoms than the non-website group. Improved SGA score in the Regul8 groups may indicate some overall improvement not captured on other measures.
Trial registration Identifier (NCT number): NCT00934973.
PMCID: PMC3651308  PMID: 23602047
Irritable bowel syndrome; Cognitive behavioural therapy; Web-based intervention; Self-management; Primary care
5.  Hydrocarbon monooxygenase in Mycobacterium: recombinant expression of a member of the ammonia monooxygenase superfamily 
The ISME Journal  2011;6(1):171-182.
The copper membrane monooxygenases (CuMMOs) are an important group of enzymes in environmental science and biotechnology. Areas of relevance include the development of green chemistry for sustainable exploitation of methane (CH4) reserves, remediation of chlorinated hydrocarbon contamination and monitoring human impact in the biogeochemical cycles of CH4 and nitrogen. Challenges for all these applications are that many aspects of the ecology, physiology and structure–function relationships in the CuMMOs are inadequately understood. Here, we describe genetic and physiological characterization of a novel member of the CuMMO family that has an unusual physiological substrate range (C2–C4 alkanes) and a distinctive bacterial host (Mycobacterium). The Mycobacterial CuMMO genes (designated hmoCAB) were amenable to heterologous expression in M. smegmatis—this is the first example of recombinant expression of a complete and highly active CuMMO enzyme. The apparent specific activity of recombinant cells containing hmoCAB ranged from 2 to 3 nmol min–1 per mg protein on ethane, propane and butane as substrates, and the recombinants could also attack ethene, cis-dichloroethene and 1,2-dichloroethane. No detectable activity of recombinants or wild-type strains was seen with methane. The specific inhibitor allylthiourea strongly inhibited growth of wild-type cells on C2–C4 alkanes, and omission of copper from the medium had a similar effect, confirming the physiological role of the CuMMO for growth on alkanes. The hydrocarbon monooxygenase provides a new model for studying this important enzyme family, and the recombinant expression system will enable biochemical and molecular biological experiments (for example, site-directed mutagenesis) that were previously not possible.
PMCID: PMC3246247  PMID: 21796219
methane monooxygenase; ammonia monooxygenase; hydrocarbon monooxygenase; Mycobacterium; alkane; biogeochemistry
6.  A High-Throughput Computational Framework for Identifying Significant Copy Number Aberrations from Array Comparative Genomic Hybridisation Data 
Advances in Bioinformatics  2012;2012:876976.
Reliable identification of copy number aberrations (CNA) from comparative genomic hybridization data would be improved by the availability of a generalised method for processing large datasets. To this end, we developed swatCGH, a data analysis framework and region detection heuristic for computational grids. swatCGH analyses sequentially displaced (sliding) windows of neighbouring probes and applies adaptive thresholds of varying stringency to identify the 10% of each chromosome that contains the most frequently occurring CNAs. We used the method to analyse a published dataset, comparing data preprocessed using four different DNA segmentation algorithms, and two methods for prioritising the detected CNAs. The consolidated list of the most commonly detected aberrations confirmed the value of swatCGH as a simplified high-throughput method for identifying biologically significant CNA regions of interest.
PMCID: PMC3449101  PMID: 23008709
7.  Genome Sequence of the Ethene- and Vinyl Chloride-Oxidizing Actinomycete Nocardioides sp. Strain JS614▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(13):3399-3400.
Nocardioides sp. strain JS614 grows on ethene and vinyl chloride (VC) as sole carbon and energy sources and is of interest for bioremediation and biocatalysis. Sequencing of the complete genome of JS614 provides insight into the genetic basis of alkene oxidation, supports ongoing research into the physiology and biochemistry of growth on ethene and VC, and provides biomarkers to facilitate detection of VC/ethene oxidizers in the environment. This is the first genome sequence from the genus Nocardioides and the first genome of a VC/ethene-oxidizing bacterium.
PMCID: PMC3133255  PMID: 21551312
8.  Malignant Germ Cell Tumors Display Common microRNA Profiles Resulting in Global Changes in Expression of mRNA Targets 
Cancer research  2010;70(7):2911-2923.
Despite their extensive clinical and pathological heterogeneity, all malignant germ cell tumors (GCTs) are thought to originate from primordial germ cells. However, no common biological abnormalities have been identified to date. We profiled 615 microRNAs (miRNAs) in pediatric malignant GCTs, controls and GCT cell lines (48 samples in total) and re-analyzed available miRNA expression data in adult gonadal malignant GCTs. We applied the bioinformatic algorithm Sylamer to identify miRNAs that are of biological importance by inducing global shifts in mRNA levels. The most significant differentially expressed miRNAs in malignant GCTs were all from the miR-371~373 and miR-302 clusters (adjusted p<0.00005), which were over-expressed regardless of histological subtype [yolk sac tumor (YST)/seminoma/embryonal carcinoma (EC)], site (gonadal/extragonadal) or patient age (pediatric/adult). Sylamer revealed that the hexamer GCACTT, complementary to the 2-7 nucleotide miRNA seed AAGUGC shared by six members of the miR-371~373 and miR-302 clusters, was the only sequence significantly enriched in the 3′untranslated region (3′UTR) of mRNAs down-regulated in pediatric malignant GCTs (as a group), YSTs and ECs; and in adult YSTs (all versus non-malignant tissue controls; p<0.05). For the pediatric samples, down-regulated genes containing 3′UTR GCACTT showed significant over-representation of Gene Ontology (GO) terms related to cancer–associated processes, whereas for down-regulated genes lacking GCACTT, GO terms generally represented metabolic processes only, with few genes per term (adjusted p<0.05). We conclude that the miR-371~373 and miR-302 clusters are universally over-expressed in malignant GCTs and coordinately down-regulate mRNAs involved in biologically significant pathways.
PMCID: PMC3000593  PMID: 20332240
AAGUGC; embryonic stem cell; germ cell tumor; miRNA; mRNA
9.  Association of Missense Mutations in Epoxyalkane Coenzyme M Transferase with Adaptation of Mycobacterium sp. Strain JS623 to Growth on Vinyl Chloride▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(11):3413-3419.
Vinyl chloride (VC) is a toxic groundwater pollutant associated with plastic manufacture and chlorinated solvent use. Aerobic bacteria that grow on VC as a carbon and energy source can evolve in the laboratory from bacteria that grow on ethene, but the genetic changes involved are unknown. We investigated VC adaptation in two variants (JS623-E and JS623-T) of the ethene-oxidizing Mycobacterium strain JS623. Missense mutations in the EtnE gene developed at two positions (W243 and R257) in cultures exposed to VC but not in cultures maintained on ethene. Epoxyalkane-coenzyme M transferase (EaCoMT) activities in cell extracts of JS623-E and JS623-T (150 and 645 nmol/min/mg protein, respectively) were higher than that of wild-type JS623 (74 nmol/min/mg protein), and in both variant cultures epoxyethane no longer accumulated during growth on ethene. The heterologous expression of two variant etnE alleles (W243G [etnE1] and R257L [etnE2]) from strain JS623 in Mycobacterium smegmatis showed that they had 42 to 59% higher activities than the wild type. Recombinant JS623 cultures containing mutant EtnE genes cloned in the vector pMV261 adapted to growth on VC more rapidly than the wild-type JS623 strain, with incubation times of 60 days (wild type), 1 day (pMVetnE1), and 35 days (pMVetnE2). The JS623(pMVetnE) culture did not adapt to VC after more than 60 days of incubation. Adaptation to VC in strain JS623 is consistently associated with two particular missense mutations in the etnE gene that lead to higher EaCoMT activity. This is the first report to pinpoint a genetic change associated with the transition from cometabolic to growth-linked VC oxidation in bacteria.
PMCID: PMC2876445  PMID: 20363787
10.  Management of irritable bowel syndrome in primary care: feasibility randomised controlled trial of mebeverine, methylcellulose, placebo and a patient self-management cognitive behavioural therapy website. (MIBS trial) 
BMC Gastroenterology  2010;10:136.
IBS affects 10-22% of the UK population. Abdominal pain, bloating and altered bowel habit affect quality of life, social functioning and time off work. Current GP treatment relies on a positive diagnosis, reassurance, lifestyle advice and drug therapies, but many suffer ongoing symptoms.
A recent Cochrane review highlighted the lack of research evidence for IBS drugs. Neither GPs, nor patients have good evidence to inform prescribing decisions. However, IBS drugs are widely used: In 2005 the NHS costs were nearly £10 million for mebeverine and over £8 million for fibre-based bulking agents. CBT and self-management can be helpful, but poor availability in the NHS restricts their use. We have developed a web-based CBT self-management programme, Regul8, based on an existing evidence based self-management manual and in partnership with patients. This could increase access with minimal increased costs.
The aim is to undertake a feasibility factorial RCT to assess the effectiveness of the commonly prescribed medications in UK general practice for IBS: mebeverine (anti-spasmodic) and methylcellulose (bulking-agent) and Regul8, the CBT based self-management website.
135 patients aged 16 to 60 years with IBS symptoms fulfilling Rome III criteria, recruited via GP practices, will be randomised to 1 of 3 levels of the drug condition: mebeverine, methylcellulose or placebo for 6 weeks and to 1 of 3 levels of the website condition, Regul8 with a nurse telephone session and email support, Regul8 with minimal email support, or no website, thus creating 9 groups.
Outcomes: Irritable bowel symptom severity scale and IBS-QOL will be measured at baseline, 6 and 12 weeks as the primary outcomes. An intention to treat analysis will be undertaken by ANCOVA for a factorial trial.
This pilot will provide valuable information for a larger trial. Determining the effectiveness of commonly used drug treatments will help patients and doctors make informed treatment decisions regarding drug management of IBS symptoms, enabling better targeting of treatment. A web-based self-management CBT programme for IBS developed in partnership with patients has the potential to benefit large numbers of patients with low cost to the NHS. Assessment of the amount of email or therapist support required for the website will enable economic analysis to be undertaken.
Trial Registration Identifier (NCT number): NCT00934973.
PMCID: PMC2998449  PMID: 21087463
11.  In Vitro Progression of HPV16 Episome-Associated Cervical Neoplasia Displays Fundamental Similarities to Integrant-Associated Carcinogenesis 
Cancer research  2010;70(10):4081-4091.
An important event in the development of cervical squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is deregulated expression of high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) oncogenes, most commonly related to viral integration into host DNA. Mechanisms of development of the ~15% of SCCs that contain extra-chromosomal (episomal) HR-HPV are poorly understood, due to limited longitudinal data. We therefore employed the W12 model to study mechanisms of cervical carcinogenesis associated with episomal HPV16. In vitro progression of W12 normally occurs through selection of cells containing integrated HPV16. However, in one long-term culture, keratinocytes developed a selective growth advantage and invasive phenotype, while retaining HPV16 episomes at increased copy number in the absence of transcriptionally active integrants. Longitudinal investigations revealed similarities between the episome- and integrant-associated routes of neoplastic progression. Most notable were dynamic changes in viral early gene expression in episome-retaining cells, consistent with continually changing selective pressures. An early increase in viral transcription preceded elevated episome copy number and was followed by a reduction to near baseline after the development of invasiveness. Episomal transcriptional deregulation did not require selection of a specific sequence variant of the HPV16 upstream regulatory region, although increased levels of acetylated histone H4 around the late promoter implicated a role for altered chromatin structure. Interestingly, invasive episome-retaining cells demonstrated high levels of HPV16-E2/E6 proteins (despite decreased transcript levels) and reduced expression of interferon-stimulated genes, adaptations that support viral persistence and cell survival. Our findings suggest a unified working model for events important in cervical neoplastic progression, regardless of HR-HPV physical state.
PMCID: PMC2872760  PMID: 20442284
Human papillomavirus; episome; transcription; viral copy number; cervical neoplastic progression
12.  The two most common histological subtypes of malignant germ cell tumour are distinguished by global microRNA profiles, associated with differential transcription factor expression 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:290.
We hypothesised that differences in microRNA expression profiles contribute to the contrasting natural history and clinical outcome of the two most common types of malignant germ cell tumour (GCT), yolk sac tumours (YSTs) and germinomas.
By direct comparison, using microarray data for paediatric GCT samples and published qRT-PCR data for adult samples, we identified microRNAs significantly up-regulated in YSTs (n = 29 paediatric, 26 adult, 11 overlapping) or germinomas (n = 37 paediatric). By Taqman qRT-PCR we confirmed differential expression of 15 of 16 selected microRNAs and further validated six of these (miR-302b, miR-375, miR-200b, miR-200c, miR-122, miR-205) in an independent sample set. Interestingly, the miR-302 cluster, which is over-expressed in all malignant GCTs, showed further over-expression in YSTs versus germinomas, representing six of the top eight microRNAs over-expressed in paediatric YSTs and seven of the top 11 in adult YSTs. To explain this observation, we used mRNA expression profiles of paediatric and adult malignant GCTs to identify 10 transcription factors (TFs) consistently over-expressed in YSTs versus germinomas, followed by linear regression to confirm associations between TF and miR-302 cluster expression levels. Using the sequence motif analysis environment iMotifs, we identified predicted binding sites for four of the 10 TFs (GATA6, GATA3, TCF7L2 and MAF) in the miR-302 cluster promoter region. Finally, we showed that miR-302 family over-expression in YST is likely to be functionally significant, as mRNAs down-regulated in YSTs were enriched for 3' untranslated region sequences complementary to the common seed of miR-302a~miR-302d. Such mRNAs included mediators of key cancer-associated processes, including tumour suppressor genes, apoptosis regulators and TFs.
Differential microRNA expression is likely to contribute to the relatively aggressive behaviour of YSTs and may enable future improvements in clinical diagnosis and/or treatment.
PMCID: PMC2993676  PMID: 21059207
13.  Histological changes in HCV antibody–positive, HCV RNA–negative subjects suggest persistent virus infection 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2008;48(6):1737-1745.
It is unclear whether hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been eradicated or persists at a low level in HCV antibody–positive HCV RNA–negative individuals. The natural history and liver histology are not well characterized. One hundred seventy-two HCV antibody–positive, serum HCV RNA–negative patients underwent diagnostic liver biopsy between 1992 and 2000 and were followed a median 7 years (range, 5–12). Patients with any possible cause of liver injury other than HCV were excluded. A single histopathologist scored sections using Ishak criteria. Characterization of the inflammatory infiltrate in selected cases used a novel semiquantitative technique and compared with HCV RNA–positive patients and healthy controls. One hundred two patients were excluded because of a risk factor for liver injury other than HCV. Seventy patients met the study criteria; four (5.7%) became HCV RNA–positive during follow-up. Sixty-six cases remained HCV RNA–negative; five (7.5%) had a normal liver biopsy; 54 (82%) had fibrosis (stage 2 or 3 in 16 (24%)). Nonviremic cases revealed expanded portal tracts (P < 0.05), with fewer CD4+ (P < 0.05) and more CD8+ cells (P < 0.05) than healthy controls, but were indistinguishable from HCV RNA–positive cases for these parameters. Lobular CD4 staining, absent in healthy controls, was noted in both HCV RNA–negative and –positive cases and was more marked in the latter (P < 0.05) with a sinusoidal lining cell distribution. Conclusion: Nonviremic HCV antibody–positive patients have a liver biopsy that is usually abnormal. Fibrosis was present in most with similar inflammatory infiltrate to viremic cases. The presence of a CD8+ rich inflammatory infiltrate suggests an ongoing immune response in the liver, supporting the view that HCV may persist in the liver in the majority of HCV RNA–negative cases. (Hepatology 2008;48;1737-1745.)
PMCID: PMC2680218  PMID: 18925639
14.  The Genome of Polaromonas sp. Strain JS666: Insights into the Evolution of a Hydrocarbon- and Xenobiotic-Degrading Bacterium, and Features of Relevance to Biotechnology▿ † 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(20):6405-6416.
Polaromonas sp. strain JS666 can grow on cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cDCE) as a sole carbon and energy source and may be useful for bioremediation of chlorinated solvent-contaminated sites. Analysis of the genome sequence of JS666 (5.9 Mb) shows a bacterium well adapted to pollution that carries many genes likely to be involved in hydrocarbon and xenobiotic catabolism and metal resistance. Clusters of genes coding for haloalkane, haloalkanoate, n-alkane, alicyclic acid, cyclic alcohol, and aromatic catabolism were analyzed in detail, and growth on acetate, catechol, chloroacetate, cyclohexane carboxylate, cyclohexanol, ferulate, heptane, 3-hydroxybenzoate, hydroxyquinol, gentisate, octane, protocatechuate, and salicylate was confirmed experimentally. Strain JS666 also harbors diverse putative mobile genetic elements, including retrons, inteins, a miniature inverted-repeat transposable element, insertion sequence transposases from 14 families, eight genomic islands, a Mu family bacteriophage, and two large (338- and 360-kb) plasmids. Both plasmids are likely to be self-transferable and carry genes for alkane, alcohol, aromatic, and haloacid metabolism. Overall, the JS666 genome sequence provides insights into the evolution of pollutant-degrading bacteria and provides a toolbox of catabolic genes with utility for biotechnology.
PMCID: PMC2570305  PMID: 18723656
15.  Critical evaluation of HPV16 gene copy number quantification by SYBR green PCR 
BMC Biotechnology  2008;8:57.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) load and physical status are considered useful parameters for clinical evaluation of cervical squamous cell neoplasia. However, the errors implicit in HPV gene quantification by PCR are not well documented. We have undertaken the first rigorous evaluation of the errors that can be expected when using SYBR green qPCR for quantification of HPV type 16 gene copy numbers. We assessed a modified method, in which external calibration curves were generated from a single construct containing HPV16 E2, HPV16 E6 and the host gene hydroxymethylbilane synthase in a 1:1:1 ratio.
When testing dilutions of mixed HPV/host DNA in replicate runs, we observed errors in quantifying E2 and E6 amplicons of 5–40%, with greatest error at the lowest DNA template concentration (3 ng/μl). Errors in determining viral copy numbers per diploid genome were 13–53%. Nevertheless, in cervical keratinocyte cell lines we observed reasonable agreement between viral loads determined by qPCR and Southern blotting. The mean E2/E6 ratio in episome-only cells was 1.04, but with a range of 0.76–1.32. In three integrant-only lines the mean E2/E6 ratios were 0.20, 0.72 and 2.61 (values confirmed by gene-specific Southern blotting). When E2/E6 ratios in fourteen HPV16-positive cervical carcinomas were analysed, conclusions regarding viral physical state could only be made in three cases, where the E2/E6 ratio was ≤ 0.06.
Run-to-run variation in SYBR green qPCR produces unavoidable inaccuracies that should be allowed for when quantifying HPV gene copy number. While E6 copy numbers can be considered to provide a useable indication of viral loads, the E2/E6 ratio is of limited value. Previous studies may have overestimated the frequency of mixed episomal/integrant HPV infections.
PMCID: PMC2529285  PMID: 18652663
16.  Cell Cycle Phase Abnormalities Do Not Account for Disordered Proliferation in Barrett's Carcinogenesis 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2004;6(6):751-760.
Barrett's esophagus (BE) epithelium is the precursor lesion for esophageal adenocarcinoma. Cell cycle proteins have been advocated as biomarkers to predict the malignant potential in BE. However, whether disruption of the cell cycle plays a causal role in Barrett's carcinogenesis is not clear. Specimens from the Barrett's dysplasia-carcinoma sequence were immunostained for cell cycle phase markers (cyclin D1 for G1; cyclin A for S, G2, and M; cytoplasmic cyclin B1 for G2; and phosphorylated histone 3 for M phase) and expressed as a proportion of proliferating cells. Flow cytometric analysis of the cell cycle phase of prospective biopsies was also performed. The proliferation status of nondysplastic BE was similar to gastric antrum and D2, but the proliferative compartment extended to the luminal surface. In dysplastic samples, the number of proliferating cells correlated with the degree of dysplasia (P < .001). The overall levels of cyclins A and B1 correlated with the degree of dysplasia (P < .001). However, the cell cycle phase distribution measured with both immunostaining and flow cytometry was conserved during all stages of BE, dysplasia, and cancer. Hence, the increased proliferation seen in Barrett's carcinogenesis is due to abnormal cell cycle entry or exit, rather than a primary abnormality within the cell cycle.
PMCID: PMC1531679  PMID: 15720801
Cell proliferation; dysplasia; adenocarcinoma; cyclin; cell cycle
17.  Distribution of the Coenzyme M Pathway of Epoxide Metabolism among Ethene- and Vinyl Chloride-Degrading Mycobacterium Strains 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2003;69(10):6041-6046.
An epoxyalkane:coenzyme M (CoM) transferase (EaCoMT) enzyme was recently found to be active in the aerobic vinyl chloride (VC) and ethene assimilation pathways of Mycobacterium strain JS60. In the present study, EaCoMT activity and genes were investigated in 10 different mycobacteria isolated on VC or ethene from diverse environmental samples. In all cases, epoxyethane metabolism in cell extracts was dependent on CoM, with average specific activities of EaCoMT between 380 and 2,910 nmol/min/mg of protein. PCR with primers based on conserved regions of EaCoMT genes from Mycobacterium strain JS60 and the propene oxidizers Xanthobacter strain Py2 and Rhodococcus strain B-276 yielded fragments (834 bp) of EaCoMT genes from all of the VC- and ethene-assimilating isolates. The Mycobacterium EaCoMT genes form a distinct cluster and are more closely related to the EaCoMT of Rhodococcus strain B-276 than that of Xanthobacter strain Py2. The incongruence of the EaCoMT and 16S rRNA gene trees and the fact that isolates from geographically distant locations possessed almost identical EaCoMT genes suggest that lateral transfer of EaCoMT among the Mycobacterium strains has occurred. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis revealed large linear plasmids (110 to 330 kb) in all of the VC-degrading strains. In Southern blotting experiments, the strain JS60 EaCoMT gene hybridized to many of the plasmids. The CoM-mediated pathway of epoxide metabolism appears to be universal in alkene-assimilating mycobacteria, possibly because of plasmid-mediated lateral gene transfer.
PMCID: PMC201217  PMID: 14532060
18.  Organization of Human Papillomavirus Productive Cycle during Neoplastic Progression Provides a Basis for Selection of Diagnostic Markers 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(19):10186-10201.
The productive cycle of human papillomaviruses (HPVs) can be divided into discrete phases. Cell proliferation and episomal maintenance in the lower epithelial layers are followed by genome amplification and the expression of capsid proteins. These events, which occur in all productive infections, can be distinguished by using antibodies to viral gene products or to surrogate markers of their expression. Here we have compared precancerous lesions caused by HPV type 16 (HPV16) with lesions caused by HPV types that are not generally associated with human cancer. These include HPV2 and HPV11, which are related to HPV16 (supergroup A), as well as HPV1 and HPV65, which are evolutionarily divergent (supergroups E and B). HPV16-induced low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (CIN1) are productive infections which resemble those caused by other HPV types. During progression to cancer, however, the activation of late events is delayed, and the thickness of the proliferative compartment is progressively increased. In many HPV16-induced high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (CIN3), late events are restricted to small areas close to the epithelial surface. Such heterogeneity in the organization of the productive cycle was seen only in lesions caused by HPV16 and was not apparent when lesions caused by other HPV types were compared. By contrast, the order in which events in the productive cycle were initiated was invariant and did not depend on the infecting HPV type or the severity of disease. The distribution of viral gene products in the infected cervix depends on the extent to which the virus can complete its productive cycle, which in turn reflects the severity of cervical neoplasia. It appears from our work that the presence of such proteins in cells at the epithelial surface allows the severity of the underlying disease to be predicted and that markers of viral gene expression may improve cervical screening.
PMCID: PMC228472  PMID: 12970404
19.  Epoxyalkane:Coenzyme M Transferase in the Ethene and Vinyl Chloride Biodegradation Pathways of Mycobacterium Strain JS60 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(18):5536-5545.
Mycobacterium strains that grow on ethene and vinyl chloride (VC) are widely distributed in the environment and are potentially useful for biocatalysis and bioremediation. The catabolic pathway of alkene assimilation in mycobacteria is not well characterized. It is clear that the initial step is a monooxygenase-mediated epoxidation that produces epoxyethane from ethene and chlorooxirane from VC, but the enzymes involved in subsequent transformation of the epoxides have not been identified. We investigated epoxyethane metabolism in Mycobacterium strain JS60 and discovered a coenzyme M (CoM)-dependent enzyme activity in extracts from VC- and ethene-grown cells. PCR amplifications using primers targeted at epoxyalkane:CoM transferase (EaCoMT) genes yielded part of the JS60 EaCoMT gene, which was used to clone an 8.4-kb genomic DNA fragment. The complete EaCoMT gene (etnE) was recovered, along with genes (etnABCD) encoding a four-component monooxygenase and two genes possibly involved in acyl-CoA ester metabolism. Reverse transcription-PCR indicated that the etnE and etnA genes were cotranscribed and inducible by ethene and VC. Heterologous expression of the etnE gene in Mycobacterium smegmatis mc2155 using the pMV261 vector gave a recombinant strain capable of transforming epoxyethane, epoxypropane, and chlorooxirane. A metabolite identified by mass spectrometry as 2-hydroxyethyl-CoM was produced from epoxyethane. The results indicate that the EaCoMT and monooxygenase enzymes encoded by a single operon (etnEABCD) catalyze the initial reactions in both the VC and ethene assimilation pathways. CoM-mediated reactions appear to be more widespread in bacteria than was previously believed.
PMCID: PMC193758  PMID: 12949106
20.  Phylogenetic and Kinetic Diversity of Aerobic Vinyl Chloride-Assimilating Bacteria from Contaminated Sites 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2002;68(12):6162-6171.
Aerobic bacteria that grow on vinyl chloride (VC) have been isolated previously, but their diversity and distribution are largely unknown. It is also unclear whether such bacteria contribute to the natural attenuation of VC at chlorinated-ethene-contaminated sites. We detected aerobic VC biodegradation in 23 of 37 microcosms and enrichments inoculated with samples from various sites. Twelve different bacteria (11 Mycobacterium strains and 1 Nocardioides strain) capable of growth on VC as the sole carbon source were isolated, and 5 representative strains were examined further. All the isolates grew on ethene in addition to VC and contained VC-inducible ethene monooxygenase activity. The Mycobacterium strains (JS60, JS61, JS616, and JS617) all had similar growth yields (5.4 to 6.6 g of protein/mol), maximum specific growth rates (0.17 to 0.23 day−1), and maximum specific substrate utilization rates (9 to 16 nmol/min/mg of protein) with VC. The Nocardioides strain (JS614) had a higher growth yield (10.3 g of protein/mol), growth rate (0.71 day−1), and substrate utilization rate (43 nmol/min/mg of protein) with VC but was much more sensitive to VC starvation. Half-velocity constant (Ks) values for VC were between 0.5 and 3.2 μM, while Ks values for oxygen ranged from 0.03 to 0.3 mg/liter. Our results indicate that aerobic VC-degrading microorganisms (predominantly Mycobacterium strains) are widely distributed at sites contaminated with chlorinated solvents and are likely to be responsible for the natural attenuation of VC.
PMCID: PMC134444  PMID: 12450841
21.  Biodegradation of cis-Dichloroethene as the Sole Carbon Source by a β-Proteobacterium 
An aerobic bacterium capable of growth on cis-dichloroethene (cDCE) as a sole carbon and energy source was isolated by enrichment culture. The 16S ribosomal DNA sequence of the isolate (strain JS666) had 97.9% identity to the sequence from Polaromonas vacuolata, indicating that the isolate was a β-proteobacterium. At 20°C, strain JS666 grew on cDCE with a minimum doubling time of 73 ± 7 h and a growth yield of 6.1 g of protein/mol of cDCE. Chloride analysis indicated that complete dechlorination of cDCE occurred during growth. The half-velocity constant for cDCE transformation was 1.6 ± 0.2 μM, and the maximum specific substrate utilization rate ranged from 12.6 to 16.8 nmol/min/mg of protein. Resting cells grown on cDCE could transform cDCE, ethene, vinyl chloride, trans-dichloroethene, trichloroethene, and 1,2-dichloroethane. Epoxyethane was produced from ethene by cDCE-grown cells, suggesting that an epoxidation reaction is the first step in cDCE degradation.
PMCID: PMC123969  PMID: 12039726
22.  cis Expression of DC-SIGN Allows for More Efficient Entry of Human and Simian Immunodeficiency Viruses via CD4 and a Coreceptor 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(24):12028-12038.
DC-SIGN is a C-type lectin expressed on dendritic cells and restricted macrophage populations in vivo that binds gp120 and acts in trans to enable efficient infection of T cells by human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). We report here that DC-SIGN, when expressed in cis with CD4 and coreceptors, allowed more efficient infection by both HIV and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) strains, although the extent varied from 2- to 40-fold, depending on the virus strain. Expression of DC-SIGN on target cells did not alleviate the requirement for CD4 or coreceptor for viral entry. Stable expression of DC-SIGN on multiple lymphoid lines enabled more efficient entry and replication of R5X4 and X4 viruses. Thus, 10- and 100-fold less 89.6 (R5/X4) and NL4–3 (X4), respectively, were required to achieve productive replication in DC-SIGN-transduced Jurkat cells when compared to the parental cell line. In addition, DC-SIGN expression on T-cell lines that express very low levels of CCR5 enabled entry and replication of R5 viruses in a CCR5-dependent manner, a property not exhibited by the parental cell lines. Therefore, DC-SIGN expression can boost virus infection in cis and can expand viral tropism without affecting coreceptor preference. In addition, coexpression of DC-SIGN enabled some viruses to use alternate coreceptors like STRL33 to infect cells, whereas in its absence, infection was not observed. Immunohistochemical and confocal microscopy data indicated that DC-SIGN was coexpressed and colocalized with CD4 and CCR5 on alveolar macrophages, underscoring the physiological significance of these cis enhancement effects.
PMCID: PMC116098  PMID: 11711593
23.  Oncostatin M receptor is a novel therapeutic target in cervical squamous cell carcinoma 
The Journal of Pathology  2014;232(4):386-390.
Cervical carcinoma is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide. Treatments have not changed for decades and survival rates for advanced disease remain low. An exciting new molecular target for the treatment of cervical squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and possibly for SCCs at other anatomical sites, is the oncostatin M receptor (OSMR). This cell surface cytokine receptor is commonly copy number gained and overexpressed in advanced cervical SCC, changes that are associated with significantly worse clinical outcomes. OSMR overexpression in cervical SCC cells results in enhanced responsiveness to the major ligand oncostatin M (OSM), which induces several pro-malignant effects, including a pro-angiogenic phenotype and increased cell migration and invasiveness. OSMR is a strong candidate for antibody-mediated inhibition, a strategy that has had a major impact on haematological malignancies and various solid tumours such as HER2-positive breast cancers. © 2013 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
PMCID: PMC4260121  PMID: 24659184
oncostatin M receptor; squamous cell carcinoma; cervix; cell migration; invasion; angiogenesis; 5p gain
24.  Tissue transglutaminase mediates the pro-malignant effects of oncostatin M receptor over-expression in cervical squamous cell carcinoma 
The Journal of Pathology  2013;231(2):168-179.
Oncostatin M receptor (OSMR) is commonly over-expressed in advanced cervical squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), producing a significantly worse clinical outcome. Cervical SCC cells that over-express OSMR show enhanced responsiveness to the major ligand OSM, which induces multiple pro-malignant effects, including increased cell migration and invasiveness. Here, we show that tissue transglutaminase (TGM2) is an important mediator of the ligand-dependent phenotypic effects of OSMR over-expression in SCC cells. TGM2 expression correlated with disease progression and with OSMR levels in clinical samples of cervical and oral SCC. TGM2 depletion in cervical SCC cells abrogated OSM-induced migration on fibronectin-coated surfaces and invasiveness through extracellular matrix, while ectopic expression of TGM2 increased cell motility and invasiveness. Confocal microscopy and co-immunoprecipitation assays showed that TGM2 interacted with integrin–α5β1 in the presence of fibronectin in cervical SCC cells, with OSM treatment strengthening the interaction. Importantly, integrin–α5β1 and fibronectin were also over-expressed in cervical and oral SCC, where levels correlated with those of OSMR and TGM2. This combined tissue and in vitro study demonstrates for the first time that stimulation of over-expressed OSMR in cervical SCC cells activates TGM2/integrin-α5β1 interactions and induces pro-malignant changes. We conclude that an OSMR/TGM2/integrin-α5β1/fibronectin pathway is of biological significance in cervical SCC and a candidate for therapeutic targeting. Copyright © 2013 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
© 2013 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
PMCID: PMC4288975  PMID: 23765377
tissue transglutaminase; oncostatin M receptor; squamous cell carcinoma; cell migration; invasion; integrin–α5β1; fibronectin

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