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1.  A systems toxicology approach identifies Lyn as a key signaling phosphoprotein modulated by mercury in a B lymphocyte cell model 
Network and protein-protein interaction analyses of proteins undergoing Hg2+-induced phosphorylation and dephosphorylation in Hg2+-intoxicated mouse WEHI-231 B cells identified Lyn as the most interconnected node. Lyn is a Src family protein tyrosine kinase known to be intimately involved in the B Cell Receptor (BCR) signaling pathway. Under normal signaling conditions the tyrosine kinase activity of Lyn is controlled by phosphorylation, primarily of two well known canonical regulatory tyrosine sites, Y-397 and Y-508. However, Lyn has several tyrosine residues that have not yet been determined to play a major role under normal signaling conditions, but are potentially important sites for phosphorylation following mercury exposure. In order to determine how Hg2+ exposure modulates the phosphorylation of additional residues in Lyn, a targeted MS assay was developed. Initial mass spectrometric surveys of purified Lyn identified 7 phosphorylated tyrosine residues. A quantitative assay was developed from these results using the multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) strategy. WEHI-231 cells were treated with Hg2+, pervanadate (a phosphatase inhibitor), or anti-Ig antibody (to stimulate the BCR). Results from these studies showed that the phosphoproteomic profile of Lyn after exposure of the WEHI-231 cells to low a low concentration of Hg2+ closely resembled that of anti-Ig antibody stimulation, whereas exposure to higher concentrations of Hg2+ led to increases in the phosphorylation of Y-193/Y-194, Y-501 and Y-508 residues. These data indicate that mercury can disrupt a key regulatory signal transduction pathway in B cells and point to phospho-Lyn as a potential biomarker for mercury exposure.
PMCID: PMC4005802  PMID: 24440445
autoimmune disease; B cell; Lyn; mass spectrometry; mercury; multiple reaction monitoring; phosphoproteomics; systems biology; toxicology; WEHI-231
2.  Elements of the B Cell Signalosome Are Differentially Affected by Mercury Intoxication 
Autoimmune Diseases  2014;2014:239358.
It has been suggested that environmental exposures to mercury contribute to autoimmune disease. Disruption of BCR signaling is associated with failure of central tolerance and autoimmunity, and we have previously shown that low levels of Hg2+ interfere with BCR signaling. In this report we have employed multiparametric phosphoflow cytometry, as well as a novel generalization of the Overton algorithm from one- to two-dimensional unimodal distributions to simultaneously monitor the effect of low level Hg2+ intoxication on activation of ERK and several upstream elements of the BCR signaling pathway in WEHI-231 B cells. We have found that, after exposure to low levels of Hg2+, only about a third of the cells are sensitive to the metal. For those cells which are sensitive, we confirm our earlier work that activation of ERK is attenuated but now report that Hg2+ has little upstream effect on the Btk tyrosine kinase. On the other hand, we find that signaling upstream through the Syk tyrosine kinase is actually augmented, as is upstream activation of the B cell signalosome scaffolding protein BLNK.
PMCID: PMC4024408  PMID: 24876949
3.  HLA Immune Function Genes in Autism 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:959073.
The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes on chromosome 6 are instrumental in many innate and adaptive immune responses. The HLA genes/haplotypes can also be involved in immune dysfunction and autoimmune diseases. It is now becoming apparent that many of the non-antigen-presenting HLA genes make significant contributions to autoimmune diseases. Interestingly, it has been reported that autism subjects often have associations with HLA genes/haplotypes, suggesting an underlying dysregulation of the immune system mediated by HLA genes. Genetic studies have only succeeded in identifying autism-causing genes in a small number of subjects suggesting that the genome has not been adequately interrogated. Close examination of the HLA region in autism has been relatively ignored, largely due to extraordinary genetic complexity. It is our proposition that genetic polymorphisms in the HLA region, especially in the non-antigen-presenting regions, may be important in the etiology of autism in certain subjects.
PMCID: PMC3420779  PMID: 22928105
4.  Exposure to inorganic mercury in vivo attenuates extrinsic apoptotic signaling in Staphylococcal aureus enterotoxin B stimulated T-cells 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2007;225(3):238-250.
The heavy metal mercury (Hg) is known to have immunomodulatory properties affecting lymphocyte signal transduction, death receptor signaling and autoimmunity. In this study we tested the hypothesis that Hg exposure would attenuate T-cell activation and caspase 8 and 3 activity in response to antigenic stimuli. To test this hypothesis, BALB/cJ mice were exposed to 10 mg/L mercuric chloride (HgCl2) in their drinking water for two weeks followed injection with 20μg of the Staphylococcal aureus enterotoxin B (SEB) superantigen. Eighteen hours after SEB challenge, there was a statistically significant reduction in caspase 8 and caspase 3 enzyme activity in the SEB reactive Vβ8+ T-cells. The attenuated caspase activity in Hg exposed mice persisted for 48 hours after exposure. Moreover, activation of caspase 8 and caspase 3 was reduced by more than 60% in CD95 deficient MRL/MpJ-Faslpr mice demonstrating caspase 8 and 3 activation in response to SEB is CD95 dependent. In addition to the effects of Hg on caspase activity, expression of the T-cell activation marker CD69 was also attenuated in SEB reactive Vβ8 T-cells in Hg-exposed mice. Moreover, CD69 expression in MRL/MpJ-Faslpr mice was also reduced. Taken together the caspase and CD69 data support a role for CD95 in promoting a proapoptotic and activated state in SEB responsive T-lymphocytes and this state is attenuated by the autoimmune potentiating environmental agent mercury.
PMCID: PMC2195550  PMID: 17950395
T-cells; Autoimmunity; Superantigens; Apoptosis

Results 1-4 (4)