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1.  DAAM Is Required for Thin Filament Formation and Sarcomerogenesis during Muscle Development in Drosophila 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(2):e1004166.
During muscle development, myosin and actin containing filaments assemble into the highly organized sarcomeric structure critical for muscle function. Although sarcomerogenesis clearly involves the de novo formation of actin filaments, this process remained poorly understood. Here we show that mouse and Drosophila members of the DAAM formin family are sarcomere-associated actin assembly factors enriched at the Z-disc and M-band. Analysis of dDAAM mutants revealed a pivotal role in myofibrillogenesis of larval somatic muscles, indirect flight muscles and the heart. We found that loss of dDAAM function results in multiple defects in sarcomere development including thin and thick filament disorganization, Z-disc and M-band formation, and a near complete absence of the myofibrillar lattice. Collectively, our data suggest that dDAAM is required for the initial assembly of thin filaments, and subsequently it promotes filament elongation by assembling short actin polymers that anneal to the pointed end of the growing filaments, and by antagonizing the capping protein Tropomodulin.
Author Summary
Sarcomeres, the smallest contractile units of muscle, are formed by two major filament systems, the myosin containing thick and the actin containing thin filaments. Although it is well established that sarcomerogenesis involves the formation of novel actin filaments, so far it remained largely unclear how these filaments form. In this study, we show that the Drosophila and mouse members of the DAAM formin subfamily are sarcomere associated actin assembly factors. Genetic analysis revealed that dDAAM plays an essential role in thin filament formation and sarcomere organization. In addition, we demonstrate that mDaam1 is an early determinant of myofibrillogenesis. Our data suggest that besides a role at the barbed end of the thin filaments, dDAAM also functions at the pointed end where it antagonizes the capping protein Tropomodulin. Based on these observations, we propose that DAAM family formins are very good candidates for being the long sought-after muscle actin nucleators, that also promote filament elongation by assembling short actin polymers that anneal to the Z-disc anchored growing filament. Given that cardiomyopathies, muscular dystrophies and the cardiovascular disease related heart muscle degenerations belong to the major health problems worldwide, understanding the mechanism of how muscles normally form is of immense biomedical relevance.
PMCID: PMC3937221  PMID: 24586196
2.  Different effects of Atg2 and Atg18 mutations on Atg8a and Atg9 trafficking during starvation in Drosophila☆ 
Febs Letters  2014;588(3):408-413.
•Atg9 and Atg18 are required for autophagy upstream of Atg8a, unlike Atg2.•Atg9 accumulates on Ref(2)P aggregates in Atg8a, Atg7 and Atg2 mutants.•Ultrastructurally, Atg9 vesicles cluster around Ref(2)P aggregates in stalled PAS.•Atg9 does not accumulate on Ref(2)P upon loss of Atg18 or Vps34, while FIP200 does.•Atg18 simultaneously interacts with both Atg9 and Ref(2)P.
The Atg2–Atg18 complex acts in parallel to Atg8 and regulates Atg9 recycling from phagophore assembly site (PAS) during autophagy in yeast. Here we show that in Drosophila, both Atg9 and Atg18 are required for Atg8a puncta formation, unlike Atg2. Selective autophagic degradation of ubiquitinated proteins is mediated by Ref(2)P/p62. The transmembrane protein Atg9 accumulates on refractory to Sigma P (Ref(2)P) aggregates in Atg7, Atg8a and Atg2 mutants. No accumulation of Atg9 is seen on Ref(2)P in cells lacking Atg18 or Vps34 lipid kinase function, while the Atg1 complex subunit FIP200 is recruited. The simultaneous interaction of Atg18 with both Atg9 and Ref(2)P raises the possibility that Atg18 may facilitate selective degradation of ubiquitinated protein aggregates by autophagy.
Structured summary of protein interactions
Ref(2)Pphysically interacts with Atg18 by anti tag coimmunoprecipitation (View interaction) Atg18physically interacts with Atg2 by anti tag coimmunoprecipitation (View interaction) CG8678physically interacts with Atg2 by anti tag coimmunoprecipitation (View interaction) Atg18physically interacts with atg9 by anti tag coimmunoprecipitation (View interaction)
PMCID: PMC3928829  PMID: 24374083
Atg, autophagy-related; PAS, phagophore assembly site; PI3P, phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate; Ref(2)P, refractory to Sigma P; ULK, uncoordinated-51 like autophagy kinase; Vps, vacuolar protein sorting; WIPI, WD40 repeat domain phosphoinositide-interacting protein; Atg2; Atg7; Atg8a; Atg9; Atg18; Ref(2)P/p62
3.  Autophagosomal Syntaxin17-dependent lysosomal degradation maintains neuronal function in Drosophila 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2013;201(4):531-539.
Lysosomal degradation and recycling of sequestered autophagosome content is crucial to maintain proper functioning of the fly nervous system.
During autophagy, phagophores capture portions of cytoplasm and form double-membrane autophagosomes to deliver cargo for lysosomal degradation. How autophagosomes gain competence to fuse with late endosomes and lysosomes is not known. In this paper, we show that Syntaxin17 is recruited to the outer membrane of autophagosomes to mediate fusion through its interactions with ubisnap (SNAP-29) and VAMP7 in Drosophila melanogaster. Loss of these genes results in accumulation of autophagosomes and a block of autolysosomal degradation during basal, starvation-induced, and developmental autophagy. Viable Syntaxin17 mutant adults show large-scale accumulation of autophagosomes in neurons, severe locomotion defects, and premature death. These mutant phenotypes cannot be rescued by neuron-specific inhibition of caspases, suggesting that caspase activation and cell death do not play a major role in brain dysfunction. Our findings reveal the molecular mechanism underlying autophagosomal fusion events and show that lysosomal degradation and recycling of sequestered autophagosome content is crucial to maintain proper functioning of the nervous system.
PMCID: PMC3653357  PMID: 23671310
4.  Myc-Driven Overgrowth Requires Unfolded Protein Response-Mediated Induction of Autophagy and Antioxidant Responses in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003664.
Autophagy, a lysosomal self-degradation and recycling pathway, plays dual roles in tumorigenesis. Autophagy deficiency predisposes to cancer, at least in part, through accumulation of the selective autophagy cargo p62, leading to activation of antioxidant responses and tumor formation. While cell growth and autophagy are inversely regulated in most cells, elevated levels of autophagy are observed in many established tumors, presumably mediating survival of cancer cells. Still, the relationship of autophagy and oncogenic signaling is poorly characterized. Here we show that the evolutionarily conserved transcription factor Myc (dm), a proto-oncogene involved in cell growth and proliferation, is also a physiological regulator of autophagy in Drosophila melanogaster. Loss of Myc activity in null mutants or in somatic clones of cells inhibits autophagy. Forced expression of Myc results in cell-autonomous increases in cell growth, autophagy induction, and p62 (Ref2P)-mediated activation of Nrf2 (cnc), a transcription factor promoting antioxidant responses. Mechanistically, Myc overexpression increases unfolded protein response (UPR), which leads to PERK-dependent autophagy induction and may be responsible for p62 accumulation. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of UPR, autophagy or p62/Nrf2 signaling prevents Myc-induced overgrowth, while these pathways are dispensable for proper growth of control cells. In addition, we show that the autophagy and antioxidant pathways are required in parallel for excess cell growth driven by Myc. Deregulated expression of Myc drives tumor progression in most human cancers, and UPR and autophagy have been implicated in the survival of Myc-dependent cancer cells. Our data obtained in a complete animal show that UPR, autophagy and p62/Nrf2 signaling are required for Myc-dependent cell growth. These novel results give additional support for finding future approaches to specifically inhibit the growth of cancer cells addicted to oncogenic Myc.
Author Summary
The evolutionarily conserved transcription factor Myc promotes protein synthesis, cell growth and cancer progression through incompletely understood mechanisms. In this work, we show that forced expression of Myc induces the accumulation of abnormal proteins leading to unfolded protein responses (UPR), presumably by overloading the protein synthetic capacity of cells in Drosophila. UPR then results in autophagy-mediated breakdown and recycling of cytoplasmic material, and at the same time, to activation of antioxidant responses in these cells. Blocking the UPR stress signaling, autophagy and antioxidant pathways genetically, or by feeding larvae an autophagy-inhibiting drug, prevents overgrowth of Myc-expressing cells, but these treatments do not affect the growth of control cells in the same tissues. These results, together with recent reports in mammalian cancer models, suggest that drugs targeting UPR, autophagy and antioxidant responses may specifically inhibit cancer cell proliferation driven by oncogenic Myc.
PMCID: PMC3738540  PMID: 23950728
5.  Impaired proteasomal degradation enhances autophagy via hypoxia signaling in Drosophila 
BMC Cell Biology  2013;14:29.
Two pathways are responsible for the majority of regulated protein catabolism in eukaryotic cells: the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) and lysosomal self-degradation through autophagy. Both processes are necessary for cellular homeostasis by ensuring continuous turnover and quality control of most intracellular proteins. Recent studies established that both UPS and autophagy are capable of selectively eliminating ubiquitinated proteins and that autophagy may partially compensate for the lack of proteasomal degradation, but the molecular links between these pathways are poorly characterized.
Here we show that autophagy is enhanced by the silencing of genes encoding various proteasome subunits (α, β or regulatory) in larval fat body cells. Proteasome inactivation induces canonical autophagy, as it depends on core autophagy genes Atg1, Vps34, Atg9, Atg4 and Atg12. Large-scale accumulation of aggregates containing p62 and ubiquitinated proteins is observed in proteasome RNAi cells. Importantly, overexpressed Atg8a reporters are captured into the cytoplasmic aggregates, but these do not represent autophagosomes. Loss of p62 does not block autophagy upregulation upon proteasome impairment, suggesting that compensatory autophagy is not simply due to the buildup of excess cargo. One of the best characterized substrates of UPS is the α subunit of hypoxia-inducible transcription factor 1 (HIF-1α), which is continuously degraded by the proteasome during normoxic conditions. Hypoxia is a known trigger of autophagy in mammalian cells, and we show that genetic activation of hypoxia signaling also induces autophagy in Drosophila. Moreover, we find that proteasome inactivation-induced autophagy requires sima, the Drosophila ortholog of HIF-1α.
We have characterized proteasome inactivation- and hypoxia signaling-induced autophagy in the commonly used larval Drosophila fat body model. Activation of both autophagy and hypoxia signaling was implicated in various cancers, and mutations affecting genes encoding UPS enzymes have recently been suggested to cause renal cancer. Our studies identify a novel genetic link that may play an important role in that context, as HIF-1α/sima may contribute to upregulation of autophagy by impaired proteasomal activity.
PMCID: PMC3700814  PMID: 23800266
Autophagy; Drosophila; HIF-1α/sima; Hypoxia; p62/Ref2P; Proteasome
6.  Altered Functional Protein Networks in the Prefrontal Cortex and Amygdala of Victims of Suicide 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e50532.
Probing molecular brain mechanisms related to increased suicide risk is an important issue in biological psychiatry research. Gene expression studies on post mortem brains indicate extensive changes prior to a successful suicide attempt; however, proteomic studies are scarce. Thus, we performed a DIGE proteomic analysis of post mortem tissue samples from the prefrontal cortex and amygdala of suicide victims to identify protein changes and biomarker candidates of suicide. Among our matched spots we found 46 and 16 significant differences in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, respectively; by using the industry standard t test and 1.3 fold change as cut off for significance. Because of the risk of false discoveries (FDR) in these data, we also made FDR adjustment by calculating the q-values for all the t tests performed and by using 0.06 and 0.4 as alpha thresholds we reduced the number of significant spots to 27 and 9 respectively. From these we identified 59 proteins in the cortex and 11 proteins in the amygdala. These proteins are related to biological functions and structures such as metabolism, the redox system, the cytoskeleton, synaptic function, and proteolysis. Thirteen of these proteins (CBR1, DPYSL2, EFHD2, FKBP4, GFAP, GLUL, HSPA8, NEFL, NEFM, PGAM1, PRDX6, SELENBP1 and VIM,) have already been suggested to be biomarkers of psychiatric disorders at protein or genome level. We also pointed out 9 proteins that changed in both the amygdala and the cortex, and from these, GFAP, INA, NEFL, NEFM and TUBA1 are interacting cytoskeletal proteins that have a functional connection to glutamate, GABA, and serotonin receptors. Moreover, ACTB, CTSD and GFAP displayed opposite changes in the two examined brain structures that might be a suitable characteristic for brain imaging studies. The opposite changes of ACTB, CTSD and GFAP in the two brain structures were validated by western blot analysis.
PMCID: PMC3516509  PMID: 23272063
7.  Interpretation of bafilomycin, pH neutralizing or protease inhibitor treatments in autophagic flux experiments 
Autophagy  2012;8(12):1875-1876.
Recent publications showed that the kinase MTOR localizes to lysosomes and its activation depends on amino acids inside the lysosomal lumen, implying that autophagic protein degradation is a positive regulator of MTOR in this setting. Since decreased MTOR activity results in autophagy induction, drug treatments that block autolysosomal degradation (a commonly used technique to estimate autophagic flux) may actually interfere not only with lysosomal breakdown, but also increase autophagosome generation through impaired MTOR signaling.
PMCID: PMC3541311  PMID: 22874642
Atg8; autophagy; bafilomycin A1; chloroquine; LC3; leupeptin; lysosome; MTOR; TOR; v-ATPase
8.  Increased Tau Phosphorylation and Impaired Presynaptic Function in Hypertriglyceridemic ApoB-100 Transgenic Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46007.
ApoB-100 is the major protein component of cholesterol- and triglyceride-rich LDL and VLDL lipoproteins in the serum. Previously, we generated and partially described transgenic mice overexpressing the human ApoB-100 protein. Here, we further characterize this transgenic strain in order to reveal a possible link between hypeprlipidemia and neurodegeneration.
Methods and Results
We analyzed the serum and cerebral lipid profiles, tau phosphorylation patterns, amyloid plaque-formation, neuronal apoptosis and synaptic plasticity of young (3 month old), adult (6 month old) and aging (10–11 month old) transgenic mice. We show that ApoB-100 transgenic animals present i) elevated serum and cerebral levels of triglycerides and ApoB-100, ii) increased cerebral tau phosphorylation at phosphosites Ser199, Ser199/202, Ser396 and Ser404. Furthermore, we demonstrate, that tau hyperphosphorylation is accompanied by impaired presynaptic function, long-term potentiation and widespread hippocampal neuronal apoptosis.
The results presented here indicate that elevated ApoB-100 level and the consequent chronic hypertriglyceridemia may lead to impaired neuronal function and neurodegeneration, possibly via hyperphosphorylation of tau protein. On account of their specific phenotype, ApoB-100 transgenic mice may be considered a versatile model of hyperlipidemia-induced age-related neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC3454377  PMID: 23029362
9.  A Foldamer-Dendrimer Conjugate Neutralizes Synaptotoxic β-Amyloid Oligomers 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39485.
Background and Aims
Unnatural self-organizing biomimetic polymers (foldamers) emerged as promising materials for biomolecule recognition and inhibition. Our goal was to construct multivalent foldamer-dendrimer conjugates which wrap the synaptotoxic β-amyloid (Aβ) oligomers with high affinity through their helical foldamer tentacles. Oligomeric Aβ species play pivotal role in Alzheimer's disease, therefore recognition and direct inhibition of this undruggable target is a great current challenge.
Methods and Results
Short helical β-peptide foldamers with designed secondary structures and side chain chemistry patterns were applied as potential recognition segments and their binding to the target was tested with NMR methods (saturation transfer difference and transferred-nuclear Overhauser effect). Helices exhibiting binding in the µM region were coupled to a tetravalent G0-PAMAM dendrimer. In vitro biophysical (isothermal titration calorimetry, dynamic light scattering, transmission electron microscopy and size-exclusion chromatography) and biochemical tests (ELISA and dot blot) indicated the tight binding between the foldamer conjugates and the Aβ oligomers. Moreover, a selective low nM interaction with the low molecular weight fraction of the Aβ oligomers was found. Ex vivo electrophysiological experiments revealed that the new material rescues the long-term potentiation from the toxic Aβ oligomers in mouse hippocampal slices at submicromolar concentration.
The combination of the foldamer methodology, the fragment-based approach and the multivalent design offers a pathway to unnatural protein mimetics that are capable of specific molecular recognition, and has already resulted in an inhibitor for an extremely difficult target.
PMCID: PMC3408453  PMID: 22859942
10.  Loss of the starvation-induced gene Rack1 leads to glycogen deficiency and impaired autophagic responses in Drosophila 
Autophagy  2012;8(7):1124-1135.
Autophagy delivers cytoplasmic material for lysosomal degradation in eukaryotic cells. Starvation induces high levels of autophagy to promote survival in the lack of nutrients. We compared genome-wide transcriptional profiles of fed and starved control, autophagy-deficient Atg7 and Atg1 null mutant Drosophila larvae to search for novel regulators of autophagy. Genes involved in catabolic processes including autophagy were transcriptionally upregulated in all cases. We also detected repression of genes involved in DNA replication in autophagy mutants compared with control animals. The expression of Rack1 (receptor of activated protein kinase C 1) increased 4.1- to 5.5-fold during nutrient deprivation in all three genotypes. The scaffold protein Rack1 plays a role in a wide range of processes including translation, cell adhesion and migration, cell survival and cancer. Loss of Rack1 led to attenuated autophagic response to starvation, and glycogen stores were decreased 11.8-fold in Rack1 mutant cells. Endogenous Rack1 partially colocalized with GFP-Atg8a and early autophagic structures on the ultrastructural level, suggesting its involvement in autophagosome formation. Endogenous Rack1 also showed a high degree of colocalization with glycogen particles in the larval fat body, and with Shaggy, the Drosophila homolog of glycogen synthase kinase 3B (GSK-3B). Our results, for the first time, demonstrated the fundamental role of Rack1 in autophagy and glycogen synthesis.
PMCID: PMC3429548  PMID: 22562043
antimicrobial peptides; Atg8; autophagy; Drosophila; fat body; glycogen; GSK-3B; microarray; Rack1; starvation
11.  GluA1 Phosphorylation Alters Evoked Firing Pattern In Vivo 
Neural Plasticity  2012;2012:286215.
AMPA and NMDA receptors convey fast synaptic transmission in the CNS. Their relative contribution to synaptic output and phosphorylation state regulate synaptic plasticity. The AMPA receptor subunit GluA1 is central in synaptic plasticity. Phosphorylation of GluA1 regulates channel properties and trafficking. The firing rate averaged over several hundred ms is used to monitor cellular input. However, plasticity requires the timing of spiking within a few ms; therefore, it is important to understand how phosphorylation governs these events. Here, we investigate whether the GluA1 phosphorylation (p-GluA1) alters the spiking patterns of CA1 cells in vivo. The antidepressant Tianeptine was used for inducing p-GluA1, which resulted in enhanced AMPA-evoked spiking. By comparing the spiking patterns of AMPA-evoked activity with matched firing rates, we show that the spike-trains after Tianeptine application show characteristic features, distinguishing from spike-trains triggered by strong AMPA stimulation. The interspike-interval distributions are different between the two groups, suggesting that neuronal output may differ when new inputs are activated compared to increasing the gain of previously activated receptors. Furthermore, we also show that NMDA evokes spiking with different patterns to AMPA spike-trains. These results support the role of the modulation of NMDAR/AMPAR ratio and p-GluA1 in plasticity and temporal coding.
PMCID: PMC3337492  PMID: 22567428
12.  Redistribution of CB1 Cannabinoid Receptors in the Acute and Chronic Phases of Pilocarpine-Induced Epilepsy 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27196.
The endocannabinoid system plays a central role in retrograde synaptic communication and may control the spread of activity in an epileptic network. Using the pilocarpine model of temporal lobe epilepsy we examined the expression pattern of the Type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1-R) in the hippocampi of CD1 mice at survival times of 2 hours, 1 day, 3 days and 2 months (acute, latent and chronic phases). Based on the behavioral signs of the acute seizures, animals were classified as “weakly” or “strongly” epileptic using the modified Racine scale. Mice of the weak group had mild seizures, whereas seizures in the strong group were frequent with intense motor symptoms and the majority of these animals developed sclerosis in the chronic phase. In control samples the most intense staining of CB1-R-positive fibers was found in the molecular layer of the dentate gyrus and in str. pyramidale of the cornu Ammonis. In weak animals no significant changes were seen at any survival time compared to controls. In strong animals, however, in the acute phase, a massive reduction in CB1-R-stained terminals occurred in the hippocampus. In the latent phase CB1-R immunoreactivity gradually recovered. In the chronic phase, CB1-immunostaining in sclerotic samples was stronger throughout the hippocampus. Quantitative electron microscopic analysis showed an increase in the number of CB1-R-positive terminals in the dentate gyrus. Moreover, the number of immunogold particles significantly increased in GABAergic terminals. Our results suggest a proconvulsive downregulation of CB1 receptors in the acute phase most probably due to receptor internalization, followed by compensatory upregulation and sprouting in the chronic phase of epilepsy. In conclusion, the changes in CB1 receptor expression pattern revealed in this study are associated with the severity of hippocampal injury initiated by acute seizures that ultimately leads to sclerosis in the vulnerable regions in the chronic phase.
PMCID: PMC3208595  PMID: 22076136
13.  Thalamic Gap Junctions Control Local Neuronal Synchrony and Influence Macroscopic Oscillation Amplitude during EEG Alpha Rhythms 
Although EEG alpha (α; 8–13 Hz) rhythms are often considered to reflect an “idling” brain state, numerous studies indicate that they are also related to many aspects of perception. Recently, we outlined a potential cellular substrate by which such aspects of perception might be linked to basic α rhythm mechanisms. This scheme relies on a specialized subset of rhythmically bursting thalamocortical (TC) neurons (high-threshold bursting cells) in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) which are interconnected by gap junctions (GJs). By engaging GABAergic interneurons, that in turn inhibit conventional relay-mode TC neurons, these cells can lead to an effective temporal framing of thalamic relay-mode output. Although the role of GJs is pivotal in this scheme, evidence for their involvement in thalamic α rhythms has thus far mainly derived from experiments in in vitro slice preparations. In addition, direct anatomical evidence of neuronal GJs in the LGN is currently lacking. To address the first of these issues we tested the effects of the GJ inhibitors, carbenoxolone (CBX), and 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid (18β-GA), given directly to the LGN via reverse microdialysis, on spontaneous LGN and EEG α rhythms in behaving cats. We also examined the effect of CBX on α rhythm-related LGN unit activity. Indicative of a role for thalamic GJs in these activities, 18β-GA and CBX reversibly suppressed both LGN and EEG α rhythms, with CBX also decreasing neuronal synchrony. To address the second point, we used electron microscopy to obtain definitive ultrastructural evidence for the presence of GJs between neurons in the cat LGN. As interneurons show no phenotypic evidence of GJ coupling (i.e., dye-coupling and spikelets) we conclude that these GJs must belong to TC neurons. The potential significance of these findings for relating macroscopic changes in α rhythms to basic cellular processes is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3187667  PMID: 22007176
EEG; gap junctions; electrical synapse; alpha rhythms; acetylcholine; metabotropic glutamate receptor
14.  Cleavage of Kininogen and Subsequent Bradykinin Release by the Complement Component: Mannose-Binding Lectin-Associated Serine Protease (MASP)-1 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e20036.
Bradykinin (BK), generated from high-molecular-weight kininogen (HK) is the major mediator of swelling attacks in hereditary angioedema (HAE), a disease associated with C1-inhibitor deficiency. Plasma kallikrein, activated by factor XIIa, is responsible for most of HK cleavage. However other proteases, which activate during episodes of angioedema, might also contribute to BK production. The lectin pathway of the complement system activates after infection and oxidative stress on endothelial cells generating active serine proteases: MASP-1 and MASP-2. Our aim was to study whether activated MASPs are able to digest HK to release BK. Initially we were trying to find potential new substrates of MASP-1 in human plasma by differential gel electrophoresis, and we identified kininogen cleavage products by this proteomic approach. As a control, MASP-2 was included in the study in addition to MASP-1 and kallikrein. The proteolytic cleavage of HK by MASPs was followed by SDS-PAGE, and BK release was detected by HPLC. We showed that MASP-1 was able to cleave HK resulting in BK production. MASP-2 could also cleave HK but could not release BK. The cleavage pattern of MASPs is similar but not strictly identical to that of kallikrein. The catalytic efficiency of HK cleavage by a recombinant version of MASP-1 and MASP-2 was about 4.0×102 and 2.7×102 M−1s−1, respectively. C1-inhibitor, the major inhibitor of factor XIIa and kallikrein, also prevented the cleavage of HK by MASPs. In all, a new factor XII- and kallikrein-independent mechanism of bradykinin production by MASP-1 was demonstrated, which may contribute to the pro-inflammatory effect of the lectin pathway of complement and to the elevated bradykinin levels in HAE patients.
PMCID: PMC3100311  PMID: 21625439
15.  Novel modes of rhythmic burst firing at cognitively-relevant frequencies in thalamocortical neurons 
Brain research  2008;1235:12-20.
It is now widely accepted that certain types of cognitive functions are intimately related to synchronized neuronal oscillations at both low (α/θ) (4–7/8–13 Hz) and high (β/γ) (18–35/30–70 Hz) frequencies. The thalamus is a key participant in many of these oscillations, yet the cellular mechanisms by which this participation occurs are poorly understood. Here we describe how, under appropriate conditions, thalamocortical (TC) neurons from different nuclei can exhibit a wide array of largely unrecognised intrinsic oscillatory activities at a range of cognitively-relevant frequencies. For example, both metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) and muscarinic Ach receptor (mAchR) activation can cause rhythmic bursting at α/θ frequencies. Interestingly, key differences exist between mGluR- and mAchR-induced bursting, with the former involving extensive dendritic Ca2+ electrogenesis and being mimicked by a non-specific block of K+ channels with Ba2+, whereas the latter appears to be more reliant on proximal Na+ channels and a prominent spike afterdepolarization (ADP). This likely relates to the differential somatodendritic distribution of mGluRs and mAChRs and may have important functional consequences. We also show here that in similarity to some neocortical neurons, inhibiting large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels in TC neurons can lead to fast rhythmic bursting (FRB) at ~40 Hz. This activity also appears to rely on a Na+ channel-dependent spike ADP and may occur in vivo during natural wakefulness. Taken together, these results show that TC neurons are considerably more flexible than generally thought and strongly endorse a role for the thalamus in promoting a range of cognitively-relevant brain rhythms.
PMCID: PMC2778821  PMID: 18602904
acetylcholine; metabotropic glutamate receptors; lateral geniculate nucleus; intralaminar nuclei; oscillations; EEG; cognition; perception; memory
16.  Status epilepticus affects the gigantocellular network of the pontine reticular formation 
BMC Neuroscience  2009;10:133.
The impairment of the pontine reticular formation (PRF) has recently been revealed to be histopathologically connected with focal-cortical seizure induced generalized convulsive status epilepticus. To elucidate whether the impairment of the PRF is a general phenomenon during status epilepticus, the focal-cortical 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) application was compared with other epilepsy models. The presence of "dark" neurons in the PRF was investigated by the sensitive silver method of Gallyas in rats sacrificed at 3 h after focal 4-AP crystal or systemic 4-AP, pilocarpine, or kainic acid application. The behavioral signs of the developing epileptic seizures were scored in all rats. The EEG activity was recorded in eight rats.
Regardless of the initiating drug or method of administration, "dark" neurons were consistently found in the PRF of animals entered the later phases of status epilepticus. EEG recordings demonstrated the presence of slow oscillations (1.5-2.5 Hz) simultaneously with the appearance of giant "dark" neurons in the PRF.
We argue that the observed slow oscillation corresponds to the late periodic epileptiform discharge phase of status epilepticus, and that the PRF may be involved in the progression of status epilepticus.
PMCID: PMC2781816  PMID: 19912649
17.  Temporal Framing of Thalamic Relay-Mode Firing by Phasic Inhibition during the Alpha Rhythm 
Neuron  2009;63(5):683-696.
Several aspects of perception, particularly those pertaining to vision, are closely linked to the occipital alpha (α) rhythm. However, how the α rhythm relates to the activity of neurons that convey primary visual information is unknown. Here we show that in behaving cats, thalamocortical neurons in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) that operate in a conventional relay-mode form two groups where the cumulative firing is subject to a cyclic suppression that is centered on the negative α rhythm peak in one group and on the positive peak in the other. This leads to an effective temporal framing of relay-mode output and results from phasic inhibition from LGN interneurons, which in turn are rhythmically excited by thalamocortical neurons that exhibit high-threshold bursts. These results provide a potential cellular substrate for linking the α rhythm to perception and further underscore the central role of inhibition in controlling spike timing during cognitively relevant brain oscillations.
PMCID: PMC2791173  PMID: 19755110
18.  The class III PI(3)K Vps34 promotes autophagy and endocytosis but not TOR signaling in Drosophila 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;181(4):655-666.
Degradation of cytoplasmic components by autophagy requires the class III phosphatidylinositol 3 (PI(3))–kinase Vps34, but the mechanisms by which this kinase and its lipid product PI(3) phosphate (PI(3)P) promote autophagy are unclear. In mammalian cells, Vps34, with the proautophagic tumor suppressors Beclin1/Atg6, Bif-1, and UVRAG, forms a multiprotein complex that initiates autophagosome formation. Distinct Vps34 complexes also regulate endocytic processes that are critical for late-stage autophagosome-lysosome fusion. In contrast, Vps34 may also transduce activating nutrient signals to mammalian target of rapamycin (TOR), a negative regulator of autophagy. To determine potential in vivo functions of Vps34, we generated mutations in the single Drosophila melanogaster Vps34 orthologue, causing cell-autonomous disruption of autophagosome/autolysosome formation in larval fat body cells. Endocytosis is also disrupted in Vps34−/− animals, but we demonstrate that this does not account for their autophagy defect. Unexpectedly, TOR signaling is unaffected in Vps34 mutants, indicating that Vps34 does not act upstream of TOR in this system. Instead, we show that TOR/Atg1 signaling regulates the starvation-induced recruitment of PI(3)P to nascent autophagosomes. Our results suggest that Vps34 is regulated by TOR-dependent nutrient signals directly at sites of autophagosome formation.
PMCID: PMC2386105  PMID: 18474623
19.  Direct induction of autophagy by Atg1 inhibits cell growth and induces apoptotic cell death 
Current biology : CB  2007;17(1):1-11.
To survive starvation and other forms of stress, eukaryotic cells undergo a lysosomal process of cytoplasmic degradation known as autophagy. Autophagy has been implicated in a number of cellular and developmental processes, including cell growth control and programmed cell death. However, direct evidence of a causal role for autophagy in these processes is lacking, due in part to the pleiotropic effects of signaling molecules such as TOR that regulate autophagy. Here, we circumvent this difficulty by directly manipulating autophagy rates in Drosophila through the autophagy-specific protein kinase Atg1.
We find that overexpression of Atg1 is sufficient to induce high levels of autophagy, the first such demonstration among wild type Atg proteins. In contrast to findings in yeast, induction of autophagy by Atg1 is dependent on its kinase activity. We find that cells with high levels of Atg1-induced autophagy are rapidly eliminated, demonstrating that autophagy is capable of inducing cell death. However, this cell death is caspase dependent and displays DNA fragmentation, suggesting that autophagy represents an alternative induction of apoptosis, rather than a distinct form of cell death. In addition, we demonstrate that Atg1-induced autophagy strongly inhibits cell growth, and that Atg1 mutant cells have a relative growth advantage under conditions of reduced TOR signaling. Finally, we show that Atg1 expression results in negative feedback on the activity of TOR itself.
Our results reveal a central role for Atg1 in mounting a coordinated autophagic response, and demonstrate that autophagy has the capacity to induce cell death. Furthermore, this work identifies autophagy as a critical mechanism by which inhibition of TOR signaling leads to reduced cell growth.
PMCID: PMC1865528  PMID: 17208179
autophagy; cell growth; programmed cell death; Target of Rapamycin (TOR); Drosophila
20.  Gene Expression Profiling Identifies FKBP39 as an Inhibitor of Autophagy in Larval Drosophila Fat Body 
Cell death and differentiation  2007;14(6):1181-1190.
In Drosophila, the fat body undergoes a massive burst of autophagy at the end of larval development in preparation for the pupal transition. To identify genes involved in this process, we carried out a microarray analysis. We found that mRNA levels of the homologs of Atg8, the coat protein of early autophagic structures, and lysosomal hydrolases were upregulated, consistent with previous results. Genes encoding mitochondrial proteins and many chaperones were downregulated, including the inhibitor of eIF2alpha kinases and the peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerase (PPiase) FKBP39. Genetic manipulation of FKBP39 expression had a significant effect on autophagy, potentially through modulation of the transcription factor Foxo. Accordingly, we found that Foxo mutants can not properly undergo autophagy in response to starvation, and that overexpression of Foxo induces autophagy.
PMCID: PMC2084463  PMID: 17363962
autophagy; Drosophila; FKBP39; Foxo; microarray

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