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1.  Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy as a method to study lipid accumulation in oleaginous yeasts 
Background
Oleaginous microorganisms, such as different yeast and algal species, can represent a sustainable alternative to plant oil for the production of biodiesel. They can accumulate fatty acids (FA) up to 70% of their dry weight with a predominance of (mono)unsaturated species, similarly to what plants do, but differently from animals. In addition, their growth is not in competition either with food, feed crops, or with agricultural land.
Despite these advantages, the exploitation of the single cell oil system is still at an early developmental stage. Cultivation mode and conditions, as well as lipid extraction technologies, represent the main limitations. The monitoring of lipid accumulation in oleaginous microorganisms is consequently crucial to develop and validate new approaches, but at present the majority of the available techniques is time consuming, invasive and, when relying on lipid extraction, can be affected by FA degradation.
Results
In this work the fatty acid accumulation of the oleaginous yeasts Cryptococcus curvatus and Rhodosporidium toruloides and of the non-oleaginous yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (as a negative control) was monitored in situ by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Indeed, this spectroscopic tool can provide complementary information to those obtained by classical techniques, such as microscopy, flow cytometry and gas chromatography. As shown in this work, through the analysis of the absorption spectra of intact oleaginous microorganisms it is possible not only to monitor the progression of FA accumulation but also to identify the most represented classes of the produced lipids.
Conclusions
Here we propose FTIR microspectroscopy - supported by multivariate analysis - as a fast, reliable and non invasive method to monitor and analyze FA accumulation in intact oleaginous yeasts. The results obtained by the FTIR approach were in agreement with those obtained by the other classical methods like flow cytometry and gas chromatography. Moreover, the possibility to track lipid production in real time is highly desirable to support the initial screening of strains and media as well as to optimize the scaling up experiments, which are essential for a viable and successful development of an industrial production process.
doi:10.1186/1754-6834-7-12
PMCID: PMC3923900  PMID: 24450603
Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR); Principal component analysis (PCA); Cryptococcus curvatus; Rhodosporidium toruloides; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Oleaginous yeasts; Fatty acids (FA); Biodiesel
2.  Two Interconvertible Folds Modulate the Activity of a DNA Aptamer Against Transferrin Receptor 
Thanks to their ability to recognize biomolecular targets with high affinity and specificity, nucleic acid aptamers are increasingly investigated as diagnostic and therapeutic tools, particularly when their targets are cell-surface receptors. Here, we investigate the relationship between the folding of an anti-mouse transferrin receptor DNA aptamer and its interaction with the transferrin receptor both in vitro and in living cells. We identified and purified two aptamer conformers by means of chromatographic techniques. Fluorescence-anisotropy measurements showed that only one fold is able to bind mouse transferrin receptor. Besides displaying enhanced endocytosis in living mouse fibroblasts, the purified active fold is internalized also in human pancreatic cancer cells. Starting from these observations, we rationally designed variations of the parent sequence aimed at stabilizing the active fold, and consequently increase aptamer activity. A truncated version and full-length mutants with higher affinity than the parent sequence are shown.
doi:10.1038/mtna.2013.71
PMCID: PMC3912326  PMID: 24472870
aptamer folding; aptamer-mediated endocytosis; aptamer rational engineering; transferrin receptor
3.  Diffusion of hydrophobin proteins in solution and interactions with a graphite surface 
BMC Biophysics  2011;4:9.
Background
Hydrophobins are small proteins produced by filamentous fungi that have a variety of biological functions including coating of spores and surface adhesion. To accomplish these functions, they rely on unique interface-binding properties. Using atomic-detail implicit solvent rigid-body Brownian dynamics simulations, we studied the diffusion of HFBI, a class II hydrophobin from Trichoderma reesei, in aqueous solution in the presence and absence of a graphite surface.
Results
In the simulations, HFBI exists in solution as a mixture of monomers in equilibrium with different types of oligomers. The oligomerization state depends on the conformation of HFBI. When a Highly Ordered Pyrolytic Graphite (HOPG) layer is present in the simulated system, HFBI tends to interact with the HOPG layer through a hydrophobic patch on the protein.
Conclusions
From the simulations of HFBI solutions, we identify a tetrameric encounter complex stabilized by non-polar interactions between the aliphatic residues in the hydrophobic patch on HFBI. After the formation of the encounter complex, a local structural rearrangement at the protein interfaces is required to obtain the tetrameric arrangement seen in HFBI crystals. Simulations performed with the graphite surface show that, due to a combination of a geometric hindrance and the interaction of the aliphatic sidechains with the graphite layer, HFBI proteins tend to accumulate close to the hydrophobic surface.
doi:10.1186/2046-1682-4-9
PMCID: PMC3114038  PMID: 21595866
4.  Diffusion and association processes in biological systems: theory, computation and experiment 
BMC Biophysics  2011;4:2.
Macromolecular diffusion plays a fundamental role in biological processes. Here, we give an overview of recent methodological advances and some of the challenges for understanding how molecular diffusional properties influence biological function that were highlighted at a recent workshop, BDBDB2, the second Biological Diffusion and Brownian Dynamics Brainstorm.
doi:10.1186/2046-1682-4-2
PMCID: PMC3093674  PMID: 21595997
5.  Validation of protein models by a neural network approach 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:66.
Background
The development and improvement of reliable computational methods designed to evaluate the quality of protein models is relevant in the context of protein structure refinement, which has been recently identified as one of the bottlenecks limiting the quality and usefulness of protein structure prediction.
Results
In this contribution, we present a computational method (Artificial Intelligence Decoys Evaluator: AIDE) which is able to consistently discriminate between correct and incorrect protein models. In particular, the method is based on neural networks that use as input 15 structural parameters, which include energy, solvent accessible surface, hydrophobic contacts and secondary structure content. The results obtained with AIDE on a set of decoy structures were evaluated using statistical indicators such as Pearson correlation coefficients, Znat, fraction enrichment, as well as ROC plots. It turned out that AIDE performances are comparable and often complementary to available state-of-the-art learning-based methods.
Conclusion
In light of the results obtained with AIDE, as well as its comparison with available learning-based methods, it can be concluded that AIDE can be successfully used to evaluate the quality of protein structures. The use of AIDE in combination with other evaluation tools is expected to further enhance protein refinement efforts.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-66
PMCID: PMC2276493  PMID: 18230168
6.  MoD Tools: regulatory motif discovery in nucleotide sequences from co-regulated or homologous genes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(Web Server issue):W566-W570.
Understanding the complex mechanisms regulating gene expression at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels is one of the greatest challenges of the post-genomic era. The MoD (MOtif Discovery) Tools web server comprises a set of tools for the discovery of novel conserved sequence and structure motifs in nucleotide sequences, motifs that in turn are good candidates for regulatory activity. The server includes the following programs: Weeder, for the discovery of conserved transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) in nucleotide sequences from co-regulated genes; WeederH, for the discovery of conserved TFBSs and distal regulatory modules in sequences from homologous genes; RNAProfile, for the discovery of conserved secondary structure motifs in unaligned RNA sequences whose secondary structure is not known. In this way, a given gene can be compared with other co-regulated genes or with its homologs, or its mRNA can be analyzed for conserved motifs regulating its post-transcriptional fate. The web server thus provides researchers with different strategies and methods to investigate the regulation of gene expression, at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. Available at and .
doi:10.1093/nar/gkl285
PMCID: PMC1538899  PMID: 16845071
7.  Weeder Web: discovery of transcription factor binding sites in a set of sequences from co-regulated genes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(Web Server issue):W199-W203.
One of the greatest challenges that modern molecular biology is facing is the understanding of the complex mechanisms regulating gene expression. A fundamental step in this process requires the characterization of regulatory motifs playing key roles in the regulation of gene expression at transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. In particular, transcription is modulated by the interaction of transcription factors with their corresponding binding sites. Weeder Web is a web interface to Weeder, an algorithm for the automatic discovery of conserved motifs in a set of related regulatory DNA sequences. The motifs found are in turn likely to be instances of binding sites for some transcription factor. Other than providing access to the program, the interface has been designed so to make usage of the program itself as simple as possible, and to require very little prior knowledge about the length and the conservation of the motifs to be found. In fact, the interface automatically starts different runs of the program, each one with different parameters, and provides the user with an overall summary of the results as well as some ‘advice’ on which motifs look more interesting according to their statistical significance and some simple considerations. The web interface is available at the address www.pesolelab.it by following the ‘Tools’ link.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkh465
PMCID: PMC441603  PMID: 15215380

Results 1-7 (7)