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1.  The role of group II metabotropic glutamate receptors in cognition and anxiety: Comparative studies in GRM2−/−, GRM3−/− and GRM2/3−/− knockout mice 
Neuropharmacology  2015;89:19-32.
Group II metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGlu2 and mGlu3, encoded by GRM2 and GRM3) have been implicated in both cognitive and emotional processes, although their precise role remains to be established. Studies with knockout (KO) mice provide an important approach for investigating the role of specific receptor genes in behaviour. In the present series of experiments we extended our prior characterisation of GRM2/3−/− double KO mice and, in complementary experiments, investigated the behavioural phenotype of single GRM2−/− and GRM3−/− mice. We found no consistent effect on anxiety in either the double or single KO mice. The lack of an anxiety phenotype in any of the lines contrasts with the clear anxiolytic effects of mGlu2/3 ligands. Motor co-ordination was impaired in GRM2/3−/− mice, but spared in single GRM2−/− and GRM3−/− mice. Spatial working memory (rewarded alternation) testing on the elevated T-maze revealed a deficit in GRM2−/− mice throughout testing, whereas GRM3−/− mice exhibited a biphasic effect (initially impaired, but performing better than controls by the end of training). A biphasic effect on activity levels was seen for the GRM2−/− mice. Overall, the phenotype in both GRM2−/− and GRM3−/− mice was less pronounced – if present at all – compared to GRM2/3−/− mice, across the range of task domains. This is consistent with possible redundancy of function and/or compensation in the single KO lines. Results are discussed with reference to a possible role for group II metabotropic glutamate receptors at the interface between arousal and behavioural performance, according to an inverted U-shaped function.
•GRM2−/− mice exhibited impaired spatial short-term memory (rewarded alternation).•GRM3−/− mice displayed bi-directional effects on this spatial short-term memory task.•GRM2−/− mice displayed bi-directional effects on activity levels.•There was no consistent anxiety effect in either double or single knockout mice.•Behavioural phenotypes were weaker (or absent) in single than in double knockout mice.
PMCID: PMC4259517  PMID: 25158312
Hippocampus; Spatial memory; Anxiety; Arousal
2.  No effect of schizophrenia risk genes MIR137, TCF4, and ZNF804A on macroscopic brain structure 
Schizophrenia Research  2014;159(2-3):329-332.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the MIR137, TCF4, and ZNF804A genes show genome-wide association to schizophrenia. However, the biological basis for the associations is unknown. Here, we tested the effects of these genes on brain structure in 1300 healthy adults. Using volumetry and voxel-based morphometry, neither gene-wide effects—including the combined effect of the genes—nor single SNP effects—including specific psychosis risk SNPs—were found on total brain volume, grey matter, white matter, or hippocampal volume. These results suggest that the associations between these risk genes and schizophrenia are unlikely to be mediated via effects on macroscopic brain structure.
PMCID: PMC4245712  PMID: 25217366
miR-137; TCF4; ZNF804A; Genetic neuroimaging; Brain volume
3.  Levels of procoagulant microvesicles are elevated after traumatic injury and platelet microvesicles are negatively correlated with mortality 
Journal of Extracellular Vesicles  2014;3:10.3402/jev.v3.25625.
Microvesicles (MV) have been implicated in the development of thrombotic disease, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and multiple organ failure (MOF). Trauma patients are at increased risk of late thrombotic events, particularly those who receive a major transfusion. The aims of this study were: (a) to determine whether there were increased numbers of pro-coagulant MV following injury; (b) to determine their cellular origin; and (c) to explore the effects of MV with clinical outcomes; in particular red cell transfusion requirements and death.
Trauma patients were recruited at a Level 1 trauma centre. The presence of MV procoagulant phospholipid (PPL) was assessed using 2 activity assays (PPL and thrombin generation). Enumeration and MV cellular origin was assessed using 2 colour flow cytometry.
Fifty consecutive patients were recruited; median age 38 (IQR: 24–55), median ISS 18 (IQR: 9–27). Circulating procoagulant MV, rich in phospholipid, were significantly elevated following traumatic injury relative to controls and remained elevated at 72 h post-injury. Red cell/AnnV+ and platelet/AnnV+ MV numbers were 6-fold and 2-fold higher than controls, respectively. Patients who died (n=9, 18%) had significantly fewer CD41/AnnV+ MV and lower endogenous thrombin potential relative to patients who survived.
MV are elevated following traumatic injury and may be implicated in the increased risk of trauma patients to pro-thrombotic states such as MOF and ARDS. Lower levels of procoagulant MV are associated with mortality and further investigation of this association is warranted.
PMCID: PMC4216813
trauma; microvesicles; thrombin generation; flow cytometry
4.  Procoagulant and platelet-derived microvesicle absolute counts determined by flow cytometry correlates with a measurement of their functional capacity 
Journal of Extracellular Vesicles  2014;3:10.3402/jev.v3.25348.
Flow cytometry is the most commonly used technology to measure microvesicles (MVs). Despite reported limitations of this technique, MV levels obtained using conventional flow cytometry have yielded many clinically relevant findings, such as associations with disease severity and ability to predict clinical outcomes. This study aims to determine if MV enumeration by flow cytometry correlates with a measurement of their functional capacity, as this may explain how flow cytometry generates clinically relevant results.
One hundred samples from healthy individuals and patients with obstructive sleep apnoea were analysed by conventional flow cytometry (FACSCalibur) and by three functional MV assays: Zymuphen MP-activity in which data were given as phosphatidylserine equivalent, STA® Phospholipid Procoag Assay expressed as clotting time and Endogenous Thrombin Potential (ETP) reflecting in vitro thrombin generation. Correlations were determined by Spearman correlation.
Absolute counts of lactadherin+ procoagulant MVs generated by flow cytometry weakly correlated with the results obtained from the Zymuphen MP-activity (r=0.5370, p<0.0001); correlated with ETP (r=0.7444, p<0.0001); negatively correlated with STA® Phospholipid Procoag Assay clotting time (−0.7872, p<0.0001), reflecting a positive correlation between clotting activity and flow cytometry. Levels of Annexin V+ procoagulant and platelet-derived MVs were also associated with functional assays. Absolute counts of MVs derived from other cell types were not correlated with the functional results.
Quantitative results of procoagulant and platelet-derived MVs from conventional flow cytometry are associated with the functional capability of the MVs, as defined by three functional MV assays. Flow cytometry is a valuable technique for the quantification of MVs from different cellular origins; however, a combination of several analytical techniques may give the most comprehensive information on the role of MVs in health and disease.
PMCID: PMC4185095  PMID: 25317277
microvesicles; conventional flow cytometry; functional assays; thrombin generation; clotting assays
5.  CCR1 Plays a Critical Role in Modulating Pain through Hematopoietic and Non-Hematopoietic Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105883.
Inflammation is associated with immune cells infiltrating into the inflammatory site and pain. CC chemokine receptor 1 (CCR1) mediates trafficking of leukocytes to sites of inflammation. However, the contribution of CCR1 to pain is incompletely understood. Here we report an unexpected discovery that CCR1-mediated trafficking of neutrophils and CCR1 activity on non-hematopoietic cells both modulate pain. Using a genetic approach (CCR1−/− animals) and pharmacological inhibition of CCR1 with selective inhibitors, we show significant reductions in pain responses using the acetic acid-induced writhing and complete Freund's adjuvant-induced mechanical hyperalgesia models. Reductions in writhing correlated with reduced trafficking of myeloid cells into the peritoneal cavity. We show that CCR1 is highly expressed on circulating neutrophils and their depletion decreases acetic acid-induced writhing. However, administration of neutrophils into the peritoneal cavity did not enhance acetic acid-induced writhing in wild-type (WT) or CCR1−/− mice. Additionally, selective knockout of CCR1 in either the hematopoietic or non-hematopoietic compartments also reduced writhing. Together these data suggest that CCR1 functions to significantly modulate pain by controlling neutrophil trafficking to the inflammatory site and having an unexpected role on non-hematopoietic cells. As inflammatory diseases are often accompanied with infiltrating immune cells at the inflammatory site and pain, CCR1 antagonism may provide a dual benefit by restricting leukocyte trafficking and reducing pain.
PMCID: PMC4149507  PMID: 25170619
6.  Response of Bacterial Metabolic Activity to Riverine Dissolved Organic Carbon and Exogenous Viruses in Estuarine and Coastal Waters: Implications for CO2 Emission 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102490.
A cross-transplant experiment between estuarine water and seawater was conducted to examine the response of bacterial metabolic activity to riverine dissolved organic carbon (DOC) input under virus-rich and virus-free conditions, as well as to exogenous viruses. Riverine DOC input increased bacterial production significantly, but not bacterial respiration (BR) because of its high lability. The bioavailable riverine DOC influenced bulk bacterial respiration in two contrasting ways; it enhanced the bulk BR by stimulating bacterial growth, but simultaneously reduced the cell-specific BR due to its high lability. As a result, there was little stimulation of the bulk BR by riverine DOC. This might be partly responsible for lower CO2 degassing fluxes in estuaries receiving high sewage-DOC that is highly labile. Viruses restricted microbial decomposition of riverine DOC dramatically by repressing the growth of metabolically active bacteria. Bacterial carbon demand in the presence of viruses only accounted for 7–12% of that in the absence of viruses. Consequently, a large fraction of riverine DOC was likely transported offshore to the shelf. In addition, marine bacteria and estuarine bacteria responded distinctly to exogenous viruses. Marine viruses were able to infect estuarine bacteria, but not as efficiently as estuarine viruses, while estuarine viruses infected marine bacteria as efficiently as marine viruses. We speculate that the rapid changes in the viral community due to freshwater input destroyed the existing bacteria-virus relationship, which would change the bacterial community composition and affect the bacterial metabolic activity and carbon cycling in this estuary.
PMCID: PMC4103809  PMID: 25036641
7.  Interaction Networks of Prion, Prionogenic and Prion-Like Proteins in Budding Yeast, and Their Role in Gene Regulation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100615.
Prions are transmissible, propagating alternative states of proteins. Prions in budding yeast propagate heritable phenotypes and can function in large-scale gene regulation, or in some cases occur as diseases of yeast. Other ‘prionogenic’ proteins are likely prions that have been determined experimentally to form amyloid in vivo, and to have prion-like domains that are able to propagate heritable states. Furthermore, there are over 300 additional ‘prion-like’ yeast proteins that have similar amino-acid composition to prions (primarily a bias for asparagines and glutamines). Here, we examine the protein functional and interaction networks that involve prion, prionogenic and prion-like proteins. Set against a marked overall preference for N/Q-rich prion-like proteins not to interact with each other, we observe a significant tendency of prion/prionogenic proteins to interact with other, N/Q-rich prion-like proteins. This tendency is mostly due to a small number of networks involving the proteins NUP100p, LSM4p and PUB1p. In general, different data analyses of functional and interaction networks converge to indicate a strong linkage of prionogenic and prion-like proteins, to stress-granule assembly and related biological processes. These results further elucidate how prions may impact gene regulation, and reveal a broader horizon for the functional relevance of N/Q-rich prion-like domains.
PMCID: PMC4074094  PMID: 24972093
8.  Inter- and intra-individual variability in alpha peak frequency 
Neuroimage  2014;92(100):46-55.
Converging electrophysiological evidence suggests that the alpha rhythm plays an important and active role in cognitive processing. Here, we systematically studied variability in posterior alpha peak frequency both between and within subjects. We recorded brain activity using MEG in 51 healthy human subjects under three experimental conditions — rest, passive visual stimulation and an N-back working memory paradigm, using source reconstruction methods to separate alpha activity from parietal and occipital sources. We asked how alpha peak frequency differed within subjects across cognitive conditions and regions of interest, and looked at the distribution of alpha peak frequency between subjects. In both regions we observed an increase of alpha peak frequency from resting state and passive visual stimulation conditions to the N-back paradigm, with a significantly higher alpha peak frequency in the 2-back compared to the 0-back condition. There was a trend for a greater increase in alpha peak frequency during the N-back task in the occipital vs. parietal cortex. The average alpha peak frequency across all subjects, conditions, and regions of interest was 10.3 Hz with a within-subject SD of 0.9 Hz and a between-subject SD of 2.8 Hz. We also measured beta peak frequencies, and except in the parietal cortex during rest, found no indication of a strictly harmonic relationship with alpha peak frequencies. We conclude that alpha peak frequency in posterior regions increases with increasing cognitive demands, and that the alpha rhythm operates across a wider frequency range than the 8–12 Hz band many studies tend to include in their analysis. Thus, using a fixed and limited alpha frequency band might bias results against certain subjects and conditions.
•Alpha peak frequency increases with cognitive demand.•No strict harmonic relationship between alpha and beta.•Using a limited and fixed band for alpha biases against certain subjects/conditions.
PMCID: PMC4013551  PMID: 24508648
Alpha; Beta; Oscillations; MEG
9.  Analysis of the Small RNA Transcriptional Response in Multidrug-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus after Antimicrobial Exposure 
The critical role of noncoding small RNAs (sRNAs) in the bacterial response to changing conditions is increasingly recognized. However, a specific role for sRNAs during antibiotic exposure has not been investigated in Staphylococcus aureus. Here, we used Illumina RNA-Seq to examine the sRNA response of multiresistant sequence type 239 (ST239) S. aureus after exposure to four antibiotics (vancomycin, linezolid, ceftobiprole, and tigecycline) representing the major classes of antimicrobials used to treat methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections. We identified 409 potential sRNAs and then compared global sRNA and mRNA expression profiles at 2 and 6 h, without antibiotic exposure and after exposure to each antibiotic, for a vancomycin-susceptible strain (JKD6009) and a vancomycin-intermediate strain (JKD6008). Exploration of this data set by multivariate analysis using a novel implementation of nonnegative matrix factorization (NMF) revealed very different responses for mRNA and sRNA. Where mRNA responses clustered with strain or growth phase conditions, the sRNA responses were predominantly linked to antibiotic exposure, including sRNA responses that were specific for particular antibiotics. A remarkable feature of the antimicrobial response was the prominence of antisense sRNAs to genes encoding proteins involved in protein synthesis and ribosomal function. This study has defined a large sRNA repertoire in epidemic ST239 MRSA and shown for the first time that a subset of sRNAs are part of a coordinated transcriptional response to specific antimicrobial exposures in S. aureus. These data provide a framework for interrogating the role of staphylococcal sRNAs in antimicrobial resistance and exploring new avenues for sRNA-based antimicrobial therapies.
PMCID: PMC3719707  PMID: 23733475
10.  Adaptive Change Inferred from Genomic Population Analysis of the ST93 Epidemic Clone of Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2014;6(2):366-378.
Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) has emerged as a major public health problem around the world. In Australia, ST93-IV[2B] is the dominant CA-MRSA clone and displays significantly greater virulence than other S. aureus. Here, we have examined the evolution of ST93 via genomic analysis of 12 MSSA and 44 MRSA ST93 isolates, collected from around Australia over a 17-year period. Comparative analysis revealed a core genome of 2.6 Mb, sharing greater than 99.7% nucleotide identity. The accessory genome was 0.45 Mb and comprised additional mobile DNA elements, harboring resistance to erythromycin, trimethoprim, and tetracycline. Phylogenetic inference revealed a molecular clock and suggested that a single clone of methicillin susceptible, Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) positive, ST93 S. aureus likely spread from North Western Australia in the early 1970s, acquiring methicillin resistance at least twice in the mid 1990s. We also explored associations between genotype and important MRSA phenotypes including oxacillin MIC and production of exotoxins (α-hemolysin [Hla], δ-hemolysin [Hld], PSMα3, and PVL). High-level expression of Hla is a signature feature of ST93 and reduced expression in eight isolates was readily explained by mutations in the agr locus. However, subtle but significant decreases in Hld were also noted over time that coincided with decreasing oxacillin resistance and were independent of agr mutations. The evolution of ST93 S. aureus is thus associated with a reduction in both exotoxin expression and oxacillin MIC, suggesting MRSA ST93 isolates are under pressure for adaptive change.
PMCID: PMC3942038  PMID: 24482534
Staphylococcus aureus; community-acquired MRSA; comparative genomics; alpha-hemolysin
11.  The Use of High-Throughput DNA Sequencing in the Investigation of Antigenic Variation: Application to Neisseria Species 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86704.
Antigenic variation occurs in a broad range of species. This process resembles gene conversion in that variant DNA is unidirectionally transferred from partial gene copies (or silent loci) into an expression locus. Previous studies of antigenic variation have involved the amplification and sequencing of individual genes from hundreds of colonies. Using the pilE gene from Neisseria gonorrhoeae we have demonstrated that it is possible to use PCR amplification, followed by high-throughput DNA sequencing and a novel assembly process, to detect individual antigenic variation events. The ability to detect these events was much greater than has previously been possible. In N. gonorrhoeae most silent loci contain multiple partial gene copies. Here we show that there is a bias towards using the copy at the 3′ end of the silent loci (copy 1) as the donor sequence. The pilE gene of N. gonorrhoeae and some strains of Neisseria meningitidis encode class I pilin, but strains of N. meningitidis from clonal complexes 8 and 11 encode a class II pilin. We have confirmed that the class II pili of meningococcal strain FAM18 (clonal complex 11) are non-variable, and this is also true for the class II pili of strain NMB from clonal complex 8. In addition when a gene encoding class I pilin was moved into the meningococcal strain NMB background there was no evidence of antigenic variation. Finally we investigated several members of the opa gene family of N. gonorrhoeae, where it has been suggested that limited variation occurs. Variation was detected in the opaK gene that is located close to pilE, but not at the opaJ gene located elsewhere on the genome. The approach described here promises to dramatically improve studies of the extent and nature of antigenic variation systems in a variety of species.
PMCID: PMC3899283  PMID: 24466206
12.  D-amino acid oxidase is expressed in the ventral tegmental area and modulates cortical dopamine 
D-amino acid oxidase (DAO, DAAO) degrades the NMDA receptor co-agonist D-serine, modulating D-serine levels and thence NMDA receptor function. DAO inhibitors are under development as a therapy for schizophrenia, a disorder involving both NMDA receptor and dopaminergic dysfunction. However, a direct role for DAO in dopamine regulation has not been demonstrated. Here, we address this question in two ways. First, using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, we show that DAO mRNA and immunoreactivity are present in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the rat, in tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive and -negative neurons, and in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-immunoreactive astrocytes. Second, we show that injection into the VTA of sodium benzoate, a DAO inhibitor, increases frontal cortex extracellular dopamine, as measured by in vivo microdialysis and high performance liquid chromatography. Combining sodium benzoate and D-serine did not enhance this effect, and injection of D-serine alone affected dopamine metabolites but not dopamine. These data show that DAO is expressed in the VTA, and suggest that it impacts on the mesocortical dopamine system. The mechanism by which the observed effects occur, and the implications of these findings for schizophrenia therapy, require further study.
PMCID: PMC4014674  PMID: 24822045
DAAO; DAO; D-serine; microdialysis; NMDA receptor; schizophrenia
13.  Decreased striatal dopamine in group II metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGlu2/mGlu3) double knockout mice 
BMC Neuroscience  2013;14:102.
Group II metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGlu2 and mGlu3, encoded by Grm2 and Grm3) have been the focus of attention as treatment targets for a number of psychiatric conditions. Double knockout mice lacking mGlu2 and mGlu3 (mGlu2/3−/−) show a subtle behavioural phenotype, being hypoactive under basal conditions and in response to amphetamine, and with a spatial memory deficit that depends on the arousal properties of the task. The neurochemical correlates of this profile are unknown. Here, we measured tissue levels of dopamine, 5-HT, noradrenaline and their metabolites in the striatum and frontal cortex of mGlu2/3−/− double knockout mice, using high performance liquid chromatography. We also measured the same parameters in mGlu2−/− and mGlu3−/− single knockout mice.
mGlu2/3−/−mice had reduced dopamine levels in the striatum but not in frontal cortex, compared to wild-types. In a separate cohort we replicated this deficit and, using tissue punches, found it was more prominent in the nucleus accumbens than in dorsolateral striatum. Noradrenaline, 5-HT and their metabolites were not altered in the striatum of mGlu2/3−/− mice, although the noradrenaline metabolite MHPG was increased in the cortex. In mGlu2−/− and mGlu3−/− single knockout mice we found no difference in any monoamine or metabolite, in either brain region, compared to their wild-type littermates.
Group II metabotropic glutamate receptors impact upon striatal dopamine. The effect may contribute to the behavioural phenotype of mGlu2/3−/− mice. The lack of dopaminergic alterations in mGlu2−/− and mGlu3−/− single knockout mice reveals a degree of redundancy between the two receptors. The findings support the possibility that interactions between mGlu2/3 and dopamine may be relevant to the pathophysiology and therapy of schizophrenia and other disorders.
PMCID: PMC3857325  PMID: 24053122
mGlu2; mGlu3; Grm2; Grm3; HPLC; Striatum; Nucleus accumbens
14.  Regulation of Sialidase Production in Clostridium perfringens by the Orphan Sensor Histidine Kinase ReeS 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73525.
Clostridium perfringens is ubiquitous in nature and is often found as a commensal of the human and animal gastrointestinal tract. It is the primary etiological agent of clostridial myonecrosis, or gas gangrene, a serious infection that results in extensive tissue necrosis due to the action of one or more potent extracellular toxins. α-toxin and perfringolysin O are the major extracellular toxins involved in the pathogenesis of gas gangrene, but histotoxic strains of C. perfringens, such as strain 13, also produce many degradative enzymes such as collagenases, hyaluronidases, sialidases and the cysteine protease, α-clostripain. The production of many of these toxins is regulated either directly or indirectly by the global VirSR two-component signal transduction system. By isolating a chromosomal mutant and carrying out microarray analysis we have identified an orphan sensor histidine kinase, which we have named ReeS (regulator of extracellular enzymes sensor). Expression of the sialidase genes nanI and nanJ was down-regulated in a reeS mutant. Since complementation with the wild-type reeS gene restored nanI and nanJ expression to wild-type levels, as shown by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR and sialidase assays we concluded that ReeS positively regulates the expression of these sialidase genes. However, mutation of the reeS gene had no significant effect on virulence in the mouse myonecrosis model. Sialidase production in C. perfringens has been previously shown to be regulated by both the VirSR system and RevR. In this report, we have analyzed a previously unknown sensor histidine kinase, ReeS, and have shown that it also is involved in controlling the expression of sialidase genes, adding further complexity to the regulatory network that controls sialidase production in C. perfringens.
PMCID: PMC3762733  PMID: 24023881
16.  Sexually Dimorphic Effects of Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) Inhibition on Dopamine Metabolism in Multiple Brain Regions 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61839.
The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) enzyme metabolises catecholamines. COMT inhibitors are licensed for the adjunctive treatment of Parkinson's disease and are attractive therapeutic candidates for other neuropsychiatric conditions. COMT regulates dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) but plays a lesser role in the striatum. However, its significance in other brain regions is largely unknown, despite its links with a broad range of behavioural phenotypes hinting at more widespread effects. Here, we investigated the effect of acute systemic administration of the brain-penetrant COMT inhibitor tolcapone on tissue levels of dopamine, noradrenaline, and the dopamine metabolites 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA). We examined PFC, striatum, hippocampus and cerebellum in the rat. We studied both males and females, given sexual dimorphisms in several aspects of COMT's function. Compared with vehicle, tolcapone significantly increased dopamine levels in the ventral hippocampus, but did not affect dopamine in other regions, nor noradrenaline in any region investigated. Tolcapone increased DOPAC and/or decreased HVA in all brain regions studied. Notably, several of the changes in DOPAC and HVA, particularly those in PFC, were more prominent in females than males. These data demonstrate that COMT alters ventral hippocampal dopamine levels, as well as regulating dopamine metabolism in all brain regions studied. They demonstrate that COMT is of significance beyond the PFC, consistent with its links with a broad range of behavioural phenotypes. Furthermore, they suggest that the impact of tolcapone may be greater in females than males, a finding which may be of clinical significance in terms of the efficacy and dosing of COMT inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3629045  PMID: 23613951
17.  Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) influences the connectivity of the prefrontal cortex at rest 
Neuroimage  2013;68(C):49-54.
Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) modulates dopamine in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and influences PFC dopamine-dependent cognitive task performance. A human COMT polymorphism (Val158Met) alters enzyme activity and is associated with both the activation and functional connectivity of the PFC during task performance, particularly working memory. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and a data-driven, independent components analysis (ICA) approach to compare resting state functional connectivity within the executive control network (ECN) between young, male COMT Val158 (n = 27) and Met158 (n = 28) homozygotes. COMT genotype effects on grey matter were assessed using voxel-based morphometry. COMT genotype significantly modulated functional connectivity within the ECN, which included the head of the caudate, and anterior cingulate and frontal cortical regions. Val158 homozygotes showed greater functional connectivity between a cluster within the left ventrolateral PFC and the rest of the ECN (using a threshold of Z > 2.3 and a family-wise error cluster significance level of p < 0.05). This difference occurred in the absence of any alterations in grey matter. Our data show that COMT Val158Met affects the functional connectivity of the PFC at rest, complementing its prominent role in the activation and functional connectivity of this region during cognitive task performance. The results suggest that genotype-related differences in prefrontal dopaminergic tone result in neuroadaptive changes in basal functional connectivity, potentially including subtle COMT genotype-dependent differences in the relative coupling of task-positive and task-negative regions, which could in turn contribute to its effects on brain activation, connectivity, and behaviour.
► We studied the impact of COMT Val158Met genotype on resting state connectivity. ► We compared resting state functional connectivity in Val/Val vs. Met/Met men. ► We focussed on the predominantly prefrontal (PFC) executive control network (ECN). ► The ECN was identified using a group ICA approach. ► We found greater resting PFC functional connectivity in Val/Val vs. Met/Met men.
PMCID: PMC3566589  PMID: 23228511
Resting state network; Dopamine; Working memory; Prefrontal cortex; Polymorphism; fMRI
18.  Pramanicin Analog Induces Apoptosis in Human Colon Cancer Cells: Critical Roles for Bcl-2, Bim, and p38 MAPK Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56369.
Pramanicin (PMC) is an antifungal agent that was previously demonstrated to exhibit antiangiogenic and anticancer properties in a few in vitro studies. We initially screened a number of PMC analogs for their cytotoxic effects on HCT116 human colon cancer cells. PMC-A, the analog with the most potent antiproliferative effect was chosen to further interrogate the underlying mechanism of action. PMC-A led to apoptosis through activation of caspase-9 and -3. The apoptotic nature of cell death was confirmed by abrogation of cell death with pretreatment with specific caspase inhibitors. Stress-related MAPKs JNK and p38 were both activated concomittantly with the intrinsic apoptotic pathway. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of p38 proved to attenuate the cell death induction while pretreatment with JNK inhibitor did not exhibit a protective effect. Resistance of Bax −/− cells and the protective nature of caspase-9 inhibition indicate that mitochondria play a central role in PMC-A induced apoptosis. Early post-exposure elevation of cellular Bim and Bax was followed by a marginal Bcl-2 depletion and Bid cleavage. Further analysis revealed that Bcl-2 downregulation occurs at the mRNA level and is critical to mediate PMC-A induced apoptosis, as ectopic Bcl-2 expression substantially spared the cells from death. Conversely, forced expression of Bim proved to significantly increase cell death. In addition, analyses of p53−/− cells demonstrated that Bcl-2/Bim/Bax modulation and MAPK activations take place independently of p53 expression. Taken together, p53-independent transcriptional Bcl-2 downregulation and p38 signaling appear to be the key modulatory events in PMC-A induced apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3575438  PMID: 23441183
19.  The Clinically-tested S1P Receptor Agonists, FTY720 and BAF312, Demonstrate Subtype-Specific Bradycardia (S1P1) and Hypertension (S1P3) in Rat 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52985.
Sphingosine-1-phospate (S1P) and S1P receptor agonists elicit mechanism-based effects on cardiovascular function in vivo. Indeed, FTY720 (non-selective S1PX receptor agonist) produces modest hypertension in patients (2–3 mmHg in 1-yr trial) as well as acute bradycardia independent of changes in blood pressure. However, the precise receptor subtypes responsible is controversial, likely dependent upon the cardiovascular response in question (e.g. bradycardia, hypertension), and perhaps even species-dependent since functional differences in rodent, rabbit, and human have been suggested. Thus, we characterized the S1P receptor subtype specificity for each compound in vitro and, in vivo, the cardiovascular effects of FTY720 and the more selective S1P1,5 agonist, BAF312, were tested during acute i.v. infusion in anesthetized rats and after oral administration for 10 days in telemetry-instrumented conscious rats. Acute i.v. infusion of FTY720 (0.1, 0.3, 1.0 mg/kg/20 min) or BAF312 (0.5, 1.5, 5.0 mg/kg/20 min) elicited acute bradycardia in anesthetized rats demonstrating an S1P1 mediated mechanism-of-action. However, while FTY720 (0.5, 1.5, 5.0 mg/kg/d) elicited dose-dependent hypertension after multiple days of oral administration in rat at clinically relevant plasma concentrations (24-hr mean blood pressure = 8.4, 12.8, 16.2 mmHg above baseline vs. 3 mmHg in vehicle controls), BAF312 (0.3, 3.0, 30.0 mg/kg/d) had no significant effect on blood pressure at any dose tested suggesting that hypertension produced by FTY720 is mediated S1P3 receptors. In summary, in vitro selectivity results in combination with studies performed in anesthetized and conscious rats administered two clinically tested S1P agonists, FTY720 or BAF312, suggest that S1P1 receptors mediate bradycardia while hypertension is mediated by S1P3 receptor activation.
PMCID: PMC3532212  PMID: 23285242
20.  Differential Contributions of Monocyte- and Platelet-derived Microparticles towards Thrombin Generation and Fibrin Formation and Stability 
Microparticles (MPs) are submicron vesicles shed by activated or apoptotic cells, including platelets and monocytes. Increased circulating MPs are associated with thrombosis; however, their role in thrombogenesis is poorly understood.
To determine how MPs promote thrombin generation and modulate fibrin density and stability.
Platelets and monocytes were isolated from healthy donors. Platelets were stimulated with calcium ionophore, thrombin receptor agonist peptide (TRAP), or TRAP/convulxin. Monocytes and human monocytic THP-1 cells were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide. MPs were isolated, washed by high-speed centrifugation, and assessed by transmission electron microscopy, nanoparticle tracking analysis, flow cytometry, tissue factor (TF) activity, prothrombinase activity, thrombin generation, and clot formation, density, and stability.
MPs from monocytes (M-MPs) and platelets (PMPs) had similar shapes and diameters (100–300 nm). M-MPs had TF activity (16.7±2.4 pM TF/106 MP), supported prothrombinase activity, and triggered shorter thrombin generation lag times than buffer controls (5.4±0.5 versus 84.2±4.8 min, respectively). Compared to controls, M-MPs supported faster fibrin formation (0.24±0.24 versus 76.7±15.1 mOD/min, respectively), 38% higher fibrin network density, and higher clot stability (3.8-fold higher turbidity in the presence of tissue plasminogen activator). In contrast, PMPs did not have TF activity and supported 2.8-fold lower prothrombinase activity than M-MPs. PMPs supported contact-dependent thrombin generation, but did not independently increase fibrin network density or stability. Interestingly, PMPs increased rates of thrombin generation and fibrin formation (1.7- and 1.3-fold, respectively) when mixed with THP-1-derived MPs.
MPs from platelets and monocytes differentially modulate clot formation, structure and stability, suggesting unique contributions to thrombosis.
PMCID: PMC3206146  PMID: 21883880
fibrinogen; microparticle; phosphatidylserine; thrombosis; tissue factor
21.  Transcriptional Profiling of a Yeast Colony Provides New Insight into the Heterogeneity of Multicellular Fungal Communities 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46243.
Understanding multicellular fungal structures is important for designing better strategies against human fungal pathogens. For example, the ability to form multicellular biofilms is a key virulence property of the yeast Candida albicans. C. albicans biofilms form on indwelling medical devices and are drug resistant, causing serious infections in hospital settings. Multicellular fungal communities are heterogeneous, consisting of cells experiencing different environments. Heterogeneity is likely important for the phenotypic characteristics of communities, yet it is poorly understood. Here we used colonies of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model fungal multicellular structure. We fractionated the outside colony layers from the cells in the center by FACS, using a Cit1-GFP marker expressed exclusively on the outside. Transcriptomics analysis of the two subpopulations revealed that the outside colony layers are actively growing by fermentative metabolism, while the cells residing on the inside are in a resting state and experience changes to mitochondrial activity. Our data shows several parallels with C. albicans biofilms providing insight into the contributions of heterogeneity to biofilm phenotypes. Hallmarks of C. albicans biofilms – the expression of ribosome and translation functions and activation of glycolysis and ergosterol biosynthesis occur on the outside of colonies, while expression of genes associates with sulfur assimilation is observed in the colony center. Cell wall restructuring occurs in biofilms, and cell wall functions are enriched in both fractions: the outside cells display enrichment of cell wall biosynthesis enzymes and cell wall proteins, while the inside cells express cell wall degrading enzymes. Our study also suggests that noncoding transcription and posttranscriptional mRNA regulation play important roles during growth of yeast in colonies, setting the scene for investigating these pathways in the development of multicellular fungal communities.
PMCID: PMC3460911  PMID: 23029448
22.  The Landscape of the Prion Protein's Structural Response to Mutation Revealed by Principal Component Analysis of Multiple NMR Ensembles 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(8):e1002646.
Prion Proteins (PrP) are among a small number of proteins for which large numbers of NMR ensembles have been resolved for sequence mutants and diverse species. Here, we perform a comprehensive principle components analysis (PCA) on the tertiary structures of PrP globular proteins to discern PrP subdomains that exhibit conformational change in response to point mutations and clade-specific evolutionary sequence mutation trends. This is to our knowledge the first such large-scale analysis of multiple NMR ensembles of protein structures, and the first study of its kind for PrPs. We conducted PCA on human (n = 11), mouse (n = 14), and wildtype (n = 21) sets of PrP globular structures, from which we identified five conformationally variable subdomains within PrP. PCA shows that different non-local patterns and rankings of variable subdomains arise for different pathogenic mutants. These subdomains may thus be key areas for initiating PrP conversion during disease. Furthermore, we have observed the conformational clustering of divergent TSE-non-susceptible species pairs; these non-phylogenetic clusterings indicate structural solutions towards TSE resistance that do not necessarily coincide with evolutionary divergence. We discuss the novelty of our approach and the importance of PrP subdomains in structural conversion during disease.
Author Summary
Prion Proteins (PrP) cause a variety of incurable TSE diseases, and are among a small number of proteins for which large numbers of NMR ensembles have been resolved for sequence mutants and diverse species. Here, we perform a comprehensive PCA study to assess conformational variation and discern the landscape of the PrP structural response to sequence mutation. This is to our knowledge the first large-scale analysis of multiple NMR ensembles for a specific protein, and the first study to perform a multivariate PCA on the native globular structures of PrP. We conducted exhaustive PCA on three PrP subsets: human and mouse subsets that include structures of sequence mutants, and the set of wild-type PrP (16 PrP species). PCA shows that different non-local patterns of variable subdomains arise for different pathogenic mutants. These subdomains may thus be key areas for initiating PrP conversion during disease. Furthermore, we observed that some evolutionarily divergent species that are non-susceptible to TSEs have surprising structural similarities in their PrPs. We discuss the novelty of our approach with respect to prions, and the advantage of this analysis as a fast, reliable starting point to identify interesting domains that may warrant further experimental and computational analysis.
PMCID: PMC3415401  PMID: 22912570
23.  Colistin-Resistant, Lipopolysaccharide-Deficient Acinetobacter baumannii Responds to Lipopolysaccharide Loss through Increased Expression of Genes Involved in the Synthesis and Transport of Lipoproteins, Phospholipids, and Poly-β-1,6-N-Acetylglucosamine 
We recently demonstrated that colistin resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii can result from mutational inactivation of genes essential for lipid A biosynthesis (Moffatt JH, et al., Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 54:4971–4977). Consequently, strains harboring these mutations are unable to produce the major Gram-negative bacterial surface component, lipopolysaccharide (LPS). To understand how A. baumannii compensates for the lack of LPS, we compared the transcriptional profile of the A. baumannii type strain ATCC 19606 to that of an isogenic, LPS-deficient, lpxA mutant strain. The analysis of the expression profiles indicated that the LPS-deficient strain showed increased expression of many genes involved in cell envelope and membrane biogenesis. In particular, upregulated genes included those involved in the Lol lipoprotein transport system and the Mla-retrograde phospholipid transport system. In addition, genes involved in the synthesis and transport of poly-β-1,6-N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) also were upregulated, and a corresponding increase in PNAG production was observed. The LPS-deficient strain also exhibited the reduced expression of genes predicted to encode the fimbrial subunit FimA and a type VI secretion system (T6SS). The reduced expression of genes involved in T6SS correlated with the detection of the T6SS-effector protein AssC in culture supernatants of the A. baumannii wild-type strain but not in the LPS-deficient strain. Taken together, these data show that, in response to total LPS loss, A. baumannii alters the expression of critical transport and biosynthesis systems associated with modulating the composition and structure of the bacterial surface.
PMCID: PMC3256090  PMID: 22024825
24.  Reduced Myelin Basic Protein and Actin-Related Gene Expression in Visual Cortex in Schizophrenia 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38211.
Most brain gene expression studies of schizophrenia have been conducted in the frontal cortex or hippocampus. The extent to which alterations occur in other cortical regions is not well established. We investigated primary visual cortex (Brodmann area 17) from the Stanley Neuropathology Consortium collection of tissue from 60 subjects with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, or controls. We first carried out a preliminary array screen of pooled RNA, and then used RT-PCR to quantify five mRNAs which the array identified as differentially expressed in schizophrenia (myelin basic protein [MBP], myelin-oligodendrocyte glycoprotein [MOG], β-actin [ACTB], thymosin β-10 [TB10], and superior cervical ganglion-10 [SCG10]). Reduced mRNA levels were confirmed by RT-PCR for MBP, ACTB and TB10. The MBP reduction was limited to transcripts containing exon 2. ACTB and TB10 mRNAs were also decreased in bipolar disorder. None of the transcripts were altered in subjects with major depression. Reduced MBP mRNA in schizophrenia replicates findings in other brain regions and is consistent with oligodendrocyte involvement in the disorder. The decreases in expression of ACTB, and the actin-binding protein gene TB10, suggest changes in cytoskeletal organisation. The findings confirm that the primary visual cortex shows molecular alterations in schizophrenia and extend the evidence for a widespread, rather than focal, cortical pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC3365879  PMID: 22675524
25.  COMT Val158Met Genotype Determines the Direction of Cognitive Effects Produced by Catechol-O-Methyltransferase Inhibition 
Biological Psychiatry  2012;71(6):538-544.
Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) metabolizes dopamine. The COMT Val158Met polymorphism influences its activity, and multiple neural correlates of this genotype on dopaminergic phenotypes, especially working memory, have been reported. COMT activity can also be regulated pharmacologically by COMT inhibitors. The inverted-U relationship between cortical dopamine signaling and working memory predicts that the effects of COMT inhibition will differ according to COMT genotype.
Thirty-four COMT Met158Met (Met-COMT) and 33 COMT Val158Val (Val-COMT) men were given a single 200-mg dose of the brain-penetrant COMT inhibitor tolcapone or placebo in a randomized, double-blind, between-subjects design. They completed the N-back task of working memory and a gambling task.
In the placebo group, Met-COMT subjects outperformed Val-COMT subjects on the 2- back, and they were more risk averse. Tolcapone had opposite effects in the two genotype groups: it worsened N-back performance in Met-COMT subjects but enhanced it in Val-COMT subjects. Tolcapone made Met-COMT subjects less risk averse but Val-COMT subjects more so. In both tasks, tolcapone reversed the baseline genotype differences.
Depending on genotype, COMT inhibition can enhance or impair working memory and increase or decrease risky decision making. To our knowledge, the data are the clearest demonstration to date that the direction of effect of a drug can be influenced by a polymorphism in its target gene. The results support the inverted-U model of dopamine function. The findings are of translational relevance, because COMT inhibitors are used in the adjunctive treatment of Parkinson's disease and are under evaluation in schizophrenia and other disorders.
PMCID: PMC3314969  PMID: 22364739
Catechol-o-methyltransferase; decision making; pharmacogenetics; polymorphism; tolcapone; working memory

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