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1.  Age-Dependent Decrease and Alternative Splicing of Methionine Synthase mRNA in Human Cerebral Cortex and an Accelerated Decrease in Autism 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56927.
The folate and vitamin B12-dependent enzyme methionine synthase (MS) is highly sensitive to cellular oxidative status, and lower MS activity increases production of the antioxidant glutathione, while simultaneously decreasing more than 200 methylation reactions, broadly affecting metabolic activity. MS mRNA levels in postmortem human cortex from subjects across the lifespan were measured and a dramatic progressive biphasic decrease of more than 400-fold from 28 weeks of gestation to 84 years was observed. Further analysis revealed alternative splicing of MS mRNA, including deletion of folate-binding domain exons and age-dependent deletion of exons from the cap domain, which protects vitamin B12 (cobalamin) from oxidation. Although three species of MS were evident at the protein level, corresponding to full-length and alternatively spliced mRNA transcripts, decreasing mRNA levels across the lifespan were not associated with significant changes in MS protein or methionine levels. MS mRNA levels were significantly lower in autistic subjects, especially at younger ages, and this decrease was replicated in cultured human neuronal cells by treatment with TNF-α, whose CSF levels are elevated in autism. These novel findings suggest that rather than serving as a housekeeping enzyme, MS has a broad and dynamic role in coordinating metabolism in the brain during development and aging. Factors adversely affecting MS activity, such as oxidative stress, can be a source of risk for neurological disorders across the lifespan via their impact on methylation reactions, including epigenetic regulation of gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3577685  PMID: 23437274
2.  Screening Helicobacter pylori genes induced during infection of mouse stomachs 
AIM: To investigate the effect of in vivo environment on gene expression in Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) as it relates to its survival in the host.
METHODS: In vivo expression technology (IVET) systems are used to identify microbial virulence genes. We modified the IVET-transcriptional fusion vector, pIVET8, which uses antibiotic resistance as the basis for selection of candidate genes in host tissues to develop two unique IVET-promoter-screening vectors, pIVET11 and pIVET12. Our novel IVET systems were developed by the fusion of random Sau3A DNA fragments of H. pylori and a tandem-reporter system of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase and beta-galactosidase. Additionally, each vector contains a kanamycin resistance gene. We used a mouse macrophage cell line, RAW 264.7 and mice, as selective media to identify specific genes that H. pylori expresses in vivo. Gene expression studies were conducted by infecting RAW 264.7 cells with H. pylori. This was followed by real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis to determine the relative expression levels of in vivo induced genes.
RESULTS: In this study, we have identified 31 in vivo induced (ivi) genes in the initial screens. These 31 genes belong to several functional gene families, including several well-known virulence factors that are expressed by the bacterium in infected mouse stomachs. Virulence factors, vacA and cagA, were found in this screen and are known to play important roles in H. pylori infection, colonization and pathogenesis. Their detection validates the efficacy of these screening systems. Some of the identified ivi genes have already been implicated to play an important role in the pathogenesis of H. pylori and other bacterial pathogens such as Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. Transcription profiles of all ivi genes were confirmed by real time PCR analysis of H. pylori RNA isolated from H. pylori infected RAW 264.7 macrophages. We compared the expression profile of H. pylori and RAW 264.7 coculture with that of H. pylori only. Some genes such as cagA, vacA, lpxC, murI, tlpC, trxB, sodB, tnpB, pgi, rbfA and infB showed a 2-20 fold upregulation. Statistically significant upregulation was obtained for all the above mentioned genes (P < 0.05). tlpC, cagA, vacA, sodB, rbfA, infB, tnpB, lpxC and murI were also significantly upregulated (P < 0.01). These data suggest a strong correlation between results obtained in vitro in the macrophage cell line and in the intact animal.
CONCLUSION: The positive identification of these genes demonstrates that our IVET systems are powerful tools for studying H. pylori gene expression in the host environment.
PMCID: PMC3436047  PMID: 22969195
Helicobacter pylori; In vivo expression technology; Virulence genes; Mice; Infection
3.  Prenatal and Postnatal Epigenetic Programming: Implications for GI, Immune, and Neuronal Function in Autism 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:190930.
Although autism is first and foremost a disorder of the central nervous system, comorbid dysfunction of the gastrointestinal (GI) and immune systems is common, suggesting that all three systems may be affected by common molecular mechanisms. Substantial systemic deficits in the antioxidant glutathione and its precursor, cysteine, have been documented in autism in association with oxidative stress and impaired methylation. DNA and histone methylation provide epigenetic regulation of gene expression during prenatal and postnatal development. Prenatal epigenetic programming (PrEP) can be affected by the maternal metabolic and nutritional environment, whereas postnatal epigenetic programming (PEP) importantly depends upon nutritional support provided through the GI tract. Cysteine absorption from the GI tract is a crucial determinant of antioxidant capacity, and systemic deficits of glutathione and cysteine in autism are likely to reflect impaired cysteine absorption. Excitatory amino acid transporter 3 (EAAT3) provides cysteine uptake for GI epithelial, neuronal, and immune cells, and its activity is decreased during oxidative stress. Based upon these observations, we propose that neurodevelopmental, GI, and immune aspects of autism each reflect manifestations of inadequate antioxidant capacity, secondary to impaired cysteine uptake by the GI tract. Genetic and environmental factors that adversely affect antioxidant capacity can disrupt PrEP and/or PEP, increasing vulnerability to autism.
PMCID: PMC3420412  PMID: 22934169
4.  Regulation of Cell Growth during Serum Starvation and Bacterial Survival in Macrophages by the Bifunctional Enzyme SpoT in Helicobacter pylori▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(24):8025-8032.
In Helicobacter pylori the stringent response is mediated solely by spoT. The spoT gene is known to encode (p)ppGpp synthetase activity and is required for H. pylori survival in the stationary phase. However, neither the hydrolase activity of the H. pylori SpoT protein nor the role of SpoT in the regulation of growth during serum starvation and intracellular survival of H. pylori in macrophages has been determined. In this study, we examined the effects of SpoT on these factors. Our results showed that the H. pylori spoT gene encodes a bifunctional enzyme with both a hydrolase activity and the previously described (p)ppGpp synthetase activity, as determined by introducing the gene into Escherichia coli relA and spoT defective strains. Also, we found that SpoT mediates a serum starvation response, which not only restricts the growth but also maintains the helical morphology of H. pylori. Strikingly, a spoT null mutant was able to grow to a higher density in serum-free medium than the wild-type strain, mimicking the “relaxed” growth phenotype of an E. coli relA mutant during amino acid starvation. Finally, SpoT was found to be important for intracellular survival in macrophages during phagocytosis. The unique role of (p)ppGpp in cell growth during serum starvation, in the stress response, and in the persistence of H. pylori is discussed.
PMCID: PMC2593245  PMID: 18835987

Results 1-4 (4)