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1.  Three-dimensional topology of the SMC2/SMC4 subcomplex from chicken condensin I revealed by cross-linking and molecular modelling 
Open Biology  2015;5(2):150005.
SMC proteins are essential components of three protein complexes that are important for chromosome structure and function. The cohesin complex holds replicated sister chromatids together, whereas the condensin complex has an essential role in mitotic chromosome architecture. Both are involved in interphase genome organization. SMC-containing complexes are large (more than 650 kDa for condensin) and contain long anti-parallel coiled-coils. They are thus difficult subjects for conventional crystallographic and electron cryomicroscopic studies. Here, we have used amino acid-selective cross-linking and mass spectrometry combined with structure prediction to develop a full-length molecular draft three-dimensional structure of the SMC2/SMC4 dimeric backbone of chicken condensin. We assembled homology-based molecular models of the globular heads and hinges with the lengthy coiled-coils modelled in fragments, using numerous high-confidence cross-links and accounting for potential irregularities. Our experiments reveal that isolated condensin complexes can exist with their coiled-coil segments closely apposed to one another along their lengths and define the relative spatial alignment of the two anti-parallel coils. The centres of the coiled-coils can also approach one another closely in situ in mitotic chromosomes. In addition to revealing structural information, our cross-linking data suggest that both H2A and H4 may have roles in condensin interactions with chromatin.
PMCID: PMC4345284  PMID: 25716199
SMC; condensin; structure; cross-linking; mass spectrometry; coiled-coil
2.  MaGnET: Malaria Genome Exploration Tool 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(18):2350-2352.
Summary: The Malaria Genome Exploration Tool (MaGnET) is a software tool enabling intuitive ‘exploration-style’ visualization of functional genomics data relating to the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. MaGnET provides innovative integrated graphic displays for different datasets, including genomic location of genes, mRNA expression data, protein–protein interactions and more. Any selection of genes to explore made by the user is easily carried over between the different viewers for different datasets, and can be changed interactively at any point (without returning to a search).
Availability and Implementation: Free online use (Java Web Start) or download (Java application archive and MySQL database; requires local MySQL installation) at
Contact: or
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3753565  PMID: 23894142
3.  Protein Domains of Unknown Function Are Essential in Bacteria 
mBio  2013;5(1):e00744-13.
More than 20% of all protein domains are currently annotated as “domains of unknown function” (DUFs). About 2,700 DUFs are found in bacteria compared with just over 1,500 in eukaryotes. Over 800 DUFs are shared between bacteria and eukaryotes, and about 300 of these are also present in archaea. A total of 2,786 bacterial Pfam domains even occur in animals, including 320 DUFs. Evolutionary conservation suggests that many of these DUFs are important. Here we show that 355 essential proteins in 16 model bacterial species contain 238 DUFs, most of which represent single-domain proteins, clearly establishing the biological essentiality of DUFs. We suggest that experimental research should focus on conserved and essential DUFs (eDUFs) for functional analysis given their important function and wide taxonomic distribution, including bacterial pathogens.
The functional units of proteins are domains. Typically, each domain has a distinct structure and function. Genomes encode thousands of domains, and many of the domains have no known function (domains of unknown function [DUFs]). They are often ignored as of little relevance, given that many of them are found in only a few genomes. Here we show that many DUFs are essential DUFs (eDUFs) based on their presence in essential proteins. We also show that eDUFs are often essential even if they are found in relatively few genomes. However, in general, more common DUFs are more often essential than rare DUFs.
PMCID: PMC3884060  PMID: 24381303
4.  BRCT Domains: a little more than kin, and less than kind 
FEBS letters  2012;586(17):2711-2716.
BRCT domains are versatile protein modular domains found as single units or as multiple copies in more than twenty different proteins in the human genome. Interestingly, most BRCT-containing proteins function in the same biological process, the DNA damage response network, but show specificity in their molecular interactions. BRCT domains have been found to bind a wide array of ligands from proteins, phosphorylated linear motifs, and DNA. Here we discuss the biology of BRCT domains and how a domain-centric analysis can aid in the understanding of signal transduction events in the DNA damage response network.
PMCID: PMC3413754  PMID: 22584059
BRCT domain; protein domains; phosphopeptide binding; DNA damage response
5.  Cell Contact–Dependent Outer Membrane Exchange in Myxobacteria: Genetic Determinants and Mechanism 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(4):e1002626.
Biofilms are dense microbial communities. Although widely distributed and medically important, how biofilm cells interact with one another is poorly understood. Recently, we described a novel process whereby myxobacterial biofilm cells exchange their outer membrane (OM) lipoproteins. For the first time we report here the identification of two host proteins, TraAB, required for transfer. These proteins are predicted to localize in the cell envelope; and TraA encodes a distant PA14 lectin-like domain, a cysteine-rich tandem repeat region, and a putative C-terminal protein sorting tag named MYXO-CTERM, while TraB encodes an OmpA-like domain. Importantly, TraAB are required in donors and recipients, suggesting bidirectional transfer. By use of a lipophilic fluorescent dye, we also discovered that OM lipids are exchanged. Similar to lipoproteins, dye transfer requires TraAB function, gliding motility and a structured biofilm. Importantly, OM exchange was found to regulate swarming and development behaviors, suggesting a new role in cell–cell communication. A working model proposes TraA is a cell surface receptor that mediates cell–cell adhesion for OM fusion, in which lipoproteins/lipids are transferred by lateral diffusion. We further hypothesize that cell contact–dependent exchange helps myxobacteria to coordinate their social behaviors.
Author Summary
All cells interact with their environment, including other cells, to elicit cellular responses. Cell–cell interactions between eukaryotic cells are widely appreciated as large multicellular organisms coordinate cell behaviors for tissue and organ functions. In bacteria cell–cell interactions are not widely appreciated, as these organisms are relatively simple and are often depicted as single-cell entities. However, over the past decade, the concept of bacteria living in microbial communities or biofilms has received broad acceptance as a major lifestyle. As biofilm cells are packed in tight physical contact, there is an opportunity for cell–cell signaling to provide spatial and physiological clues of neighboring cells to elicit cellular responses. Although much has been learned about diffusible signals through quorum sensing, little is known about cell contact–dependent signaling in bacteria. In this report we describe a new mechanism where bacterial cells within structured biofilms form contacts that allow cellular material to be exchanged. This exchange elicits phenotypic changes, including in cell movements and development. We hypothesize that OM exchange involves kin recognition that bestows social benefits to myxobacterial populations.
PMCID: PMC3325183  PMID: 22511878
6.  OpenKnowledge for peer-to-peer experimentation in protein identification by MS/MS 
Traditional scientific workflow platforms usually run individual experiments with little evaluation and analysis of performance as required by automated experimentation in which scientists are being allowed to access numerous applicable workflows rather than being committed to a single one. Experimental protocols and data under a peer-to-peer environment could potentially be shared freely without any single point of authority to dictate how experiments should be run. In such environment it is necessary to have mechanisms by which each individual scientist (peer) can assess, locally, how he or she wants to be involved with others in experiments. This study aims to implement and demonstrate simple peer ranking under the OpenKnowledge peer-to-peer infrastructure by both simulated and real-world bioinformatics experiments involving multi-agent interactions.
A simulated experiment environment with a peer ranking capability was specified by the Lightweight Coordination Calculus (LCC) and automatically executed under the OpenKnowledge infrastructure. The peers such as MS/MS protein identification services (including web-enabled and independent programs) were made accessible as OpenKnowledge Components (OKCs) for automated execution as peers in the experiments. The performance of the peers in these automated experiments was monitored and evaluated by simple peer ranking algorithms.
Peer ranking experiments with simulated peers exhibited characteristic behaviours, e.g., power law effect (a few dominant peers dominate), similar to that observed in the traditional Web. Real-world experiments were run using an interaction model in LCC involving two different types of MS/MS protein identification peers, viz., peptide fragment fingerprinting (PFF) and de novo sequencing with another peer ranking algorithm simply based on counting the successful and failed runs. This study demonstrated a novel integration and useful evaluation of specific proteomic peers and found MASCOT to be a dominant peer as judged by peer ranking.
The simulated and real-world experiments in the present study demonstrated that the OpenKnowledge infrastructure with peer ranking capability can serve as an evaluative environment for automated experimentation.
PMCID: PMC3377912  PMID: 22192521
7.  BISC: Binary SubComplexes in proteins database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(Database issue):D705-D711.
Binary subcomplexes in proteins database (BISC) is a new protein–protein interaction (PPI) database linking up the two communities most active in their characterization: structural biology and functional genomics researchers. The BISC resource offers users (i) a structural perspective and related information about binary subcomplexes (i.e. physical direct interactions between proteins) that are either structurally characterized or modellable entries in the main functional genomics PPI databases BioGRID, IntAct and HPRD; (ii) selected web services to further investigate the validity of postulated PPI by inspection of their hypothetical modelled interfaces. Among other uses we envision that this resource can help identify possible false positive PPI in current database records. BISC is freely available at
PMCID: PMC3013763  PMID: 21081561
8.  Welcome to Automated Experimentation: a new open access journal 
Modern experimental science provides more opportunities for yet larger series of experiments. Demand for experimental results also has become more diverse, requiring results that have direct connections to systems outside the laboratory. With this has come an ability to automate many areas of experimental science, not only the experiments themselves but also the larger processes that contribute to experimentation and analysis more broadly. As automated experimentation becomes more widely used and understood, we launch this journal to provide a proper publication channel for this new breed of interdisciplinary research as well as a bridge to all significant groundwork research that would facilitate possible automated experimentation. With this in mind, we are interested in publishing all kinds of research into scientific experimentation, including research where the potential for automation is at proof or concept or early deployment stage.
PMCID: PMC2809325  PMID: 20098588
9.  Highly Sensitive Detection of Individual HEAT and ARM Repeats with HHpred and COACH 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e7148.
HEAT and ARM repeats occur in a large number of eukaryotic proteins. As these repeats are often highly diverged, the prediction of HEAT or ARM domains can be challenging. Except for the most clear-cut cases, identification at the individual repeat level is indispensable, in particular for determining domain boundaries. However, methods using single sequence queries do not have the sensitivity required to deal with more divergent repeats and, when applied to proteins with known structures, in some cases failed to detect a single repeat.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Testing algorithms which use multiple sequence alignments as queries, we found two of them, HHpred and COACH, to detect HEAT and ARM repeats with greatly enhanced sensitivity. Calibration against experimentally determined structures suggests the use of three score classes with increasing confidence in the prediction, and prediction thresholds for each method. When we applied a new protocol using both HHpred and COACH to these structures, it detected 82% of HEAT repeats and 90% of ARM repeats, with the minimum for a given protein of 57% for HEAT repeats and 60% for ARM repeats. Application to bona fide HEAT and ARM proteins or domains indicated that similar numbers can be expected for the full complement of HEAT/ARM proteins. A systematic screen of the Protein Data Bank for false positive hits revealed their number to be low, in particular for ARM repeats. Double false positive hits for a given protein were rare for HEAT and not at all observed for ARM repeats. In combination with fold prediction and consistency checking (multiple sequence alignments, secondary structure prediction, and position analysis), repeat prediction with the new HHpred/COACH protocol dramatically improves prediction in the twilight zone of fold prediction methods, as well as the delineation of HEAT/ARM domain boundaries.
A protocol is presented for the identification of individual HEAT or ARM repeats which is straightforward to implement. It provides high sensitivity at a low false positive rate and will therefore greatly enhance the accuracy of predictions of HEAT and ARM domains.
PMCID: PMC2744927  PMID: 19777061
10.  CENP-V is required for centromere organization, chromosome alignment and cytokinesis 
The EMBO Journal  2008;27(19):2510-2522.
The mechanism of mitotic chromosome condensation is poorly understood, but even less is known about the mechanism of formation of the primary constriction, or centromere. A proteomic analysis of mitotic chromosome scaffolds led to the identification of CENP-V, a novel kinetochore protein related to a bacterial enzyme that detoxifies formaldehyde, a by-product of histone demethylation in eukaryotic cells. Overexpression of CENP-V leads to hypercondensation of pericentromeric heterochromatin, a phenotype that is abolished by mutations in the putative catalytic site. CENP-V depletion in HeLa cells leads to abnormal expansion of the primary constriction of mitotic chromosomes, mislocalization and destabilization of the chromosomal passenger complex (CPC) and alterations in the distribution of H3K9me3 in interphase nucleoplasm. CENP-V-depleted cells suffer defects in chromosome alignment in metaphase, lagging chromosomes in anaphase, failure of cytokinesis and rapid cell death. CENP-V provides a novel link between centromeric chromatin, the primary constriction and the CPC.
PMCID: PMC2532784  PMID: 18772885
chromosome passenger complex; kinetochore; mitosis; pericentromeric heterochromatin; primary constriction
11.  Borealin 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;166(2):179-191.
The chromosomal passenger complex of Aurora B kinase, INCENP, and Survivin has essential regulatory roles at centromeres and the central spindle in mitosis. Here, we describe Borealin, a novel member of the complex. Approximately half of Aurora B in mitotic cells is complexed with INCENP, Borealin, and Survivin; and Borealin binds Survivin and INCENP in vitro. A second complex contains Aurora B and INCENP, but no Borealin or Survivin. Depletion of Borealin by RNA interference delays mitotic progression and results in kinetochore–spindle misattachments and an increase in bipolar spindles associated with ectopic asters. The extra poles, which apparently form after chromosomes achieve a bipolar orientation, severely disrupt the partitioning of chromosomes in anaphase. Borealin depletion has little effect on histone H3 serine10 phosphorylation. These results implicate the chromosomal passenger holocomplex in the maintenance of spindle integrity and suggest that histone H3 serine10 phosphorylation is performed by an Aurora B–INCENP subcomplex.
PMCID: PMC2172304  PMID: 15249581
mitosis; Aurora B kinase; Survivin; INCENP; TD-60

Results 1-11 (11)