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1.  A mutation in a ganglioside biosynthetic enzyme, ST3GAL5, results in salt & pepper syndrome, a neurocutaneous disorder with altered glycolipid and glycoprotein glycosylation 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):418-433.
‘Salt & Pepper’ syndrome is an autosomal recessive condition characterized by severe intellectual disability, epilepsy, scoliosis, choreoathetosis, dysmorphic facial features and altered dermal pigmentation. High-density SNP array analysis performed on siblings first described with this syndrome detected four shared regions of loss of heterozygosity (LOH). Whole-exome sequencing narrowed the candidate region to chromosome 2p11.2. Sanger sequencing confirmed a homozygous c.994G>A transition (p.E332K) in the ST3GAL5 gene, which encodes for a sialyltransferase also known as GM3 synthase. A different homozygous mutation of this gene has been previously associated with infantile-onset epilepsy syndromes in two other cohorts. The ST3GAL5 enzyme synthesizes ganglioside GM3, a glycosophingolipid enriched in neural tissue, by adding sialic acid to lactosylceramide. Unlike disorders of glycosphingolipid (GSL) degradation, very little is known regarding the molecular and pathophysiologic consequences of altered GSL biosynthesis. Glycolipid analysis confirmed a complete lack of GM3 ganglioside in patient fibroblasts, while microarray analysis of glycosyltransferase mRNAs detected modestly increased expression of ST3GAL5 and greater changes in transcripts encoding enzymes that lie downstream of ST3GAL5 and in other GSL biosynthetic pathways. Comprehensive glycomic analysis of N-linked, O-linked and GSL glycans revealed collateral alterations in response to loss of complex gangliosides in patient fibroblasts and in zebrafish embryos injected with antisense morpholinos that targeted zebrafish st3gal5 expression. Morphant zebrafish embryos also exhibited increased apoptotic cell death in multiple brain regions, emphasizing the importance of GSL expression in normal neural development and function.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt434
PMCID: PMC3869362  PMID: 24026681
2.  On the electrostatic properties of homodimeric proteins 
A large fraction of proteins function as homodimers, but it is not always clear why the dimerization is important for functionality since frequently each monomer possesses a distinctive active site. Recent work (PLoS Computational Biology, 9(2), e1002924) indicates that homodimerization may be important for forming an electrostatic funnel in the spermine synthase homodimer which guides changed substrates toward the active centers. This prompted us to investigate the electrostatic properties of a large set of homodimeric proteins and resulted in an observation that in a vast majority of the cases the dimerization indeed results in specific electrostatic features, although not necessarily in an electrostatic funnel. It is demonstrated that the electrostatic dipole moment of the dimer is predominantly perpendicular to the axis connecting the centers of the mass of the monomers. In addition, the surface points with highest potential are located in the proximity of the interfacial plane of the homodimeric complexes. These findings indicate that frequently homodimerization provides specific electrostatic features needed for the function of proteins.
doi:10.1142/S0219633614400070
PMCID: PMC4238107  PMID: 25419028
electrostatics; Poisson-Boltzmann equation; homodimers; electrostatic field; electrostatic funneling
3.  Chronic Beryllium Disease: Revealing the Role of Beryllium Ion and Small Peptides Binding to HLA-DP2 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e111604.
Chronic Beryllium (Be) Disease (CBD) is a granulomatous disorder that predominantly affects the lung. The CBD is caused by Be exposure of individuals carrying the HLA-DP2 protein of the major histocompatibility complex class II (MHCII). While the involvement of Be in the development of CBD is obvious and the binding site and the sequence of Be and peptide binding were recently experimentally revealed [1], the interplay between induced conformational changes and the changes of the peptide binding affinity in presence of Be were not investigated. Here we carry out in silico modeling and predict the Be binding to be within the acidic pocket (Glu26, Glu68 and Glu69) present on the HLA-DP2 protein in accordance with the experimental work [1]. In addition, the modeling indicates that the Be ion binds to the HLA-DP2 before the corresponding peptide is able to bind to it. Further analysis of the MD generated trajectories reveals that in the presence of the Be ion in the binding pocket of HLA-DP2, all the different types of peptides induce very similar conformational changes, but their binding affinities are quite different. Since these conformational changes are distinctly different from the changes caused by peptides normally found in the cell in the absence of Be, it can be speculated that CBD can be caused by any peptide in presence of Be ion. However, the affinities of peptides for Be loaded HLA-DP2 were found to depend of their amino acid composition and the peptides carrying acidic group at positions 4 and 7 are among the strongest binders. Thus, it is proposed that CBD is caused by the exposure of Be of an individual carrying the HLA-DP2*0201 allele and that the binding of Be to HLA-DP2 protein alters the conformational and ionization properties of HLA-DP2 such that the binding of a peptide triggers a wrong signaling cascade.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111604
PMCID: PMC4219729  PMID: 25369028
4.  Molecular mechanisms of disease-causing missense mutations 
Journal of molecular biology  2013;425(21):3919-3936.
Genetic variations resulting in a change of amino acid sequence can have a dramatic effect on stability, hydrogen bond network, conformational dynamics, activity and many other physiologically important properties of proteins. The substitutions of only one residue in a protein sequence, so-called missense mutations, can be related to many pathological conditions, and may influence susceptibility to disease and drug treatment. The plausible effects of missense mutations range from affecting the macromolecular stability to perturbing macromolecular interactions and cellular localization. Here we review the individual cases and genome-wide studies which illustrate the association between missense mutations and diseases. In addition we emphasize that the molecular mechanisms of effects of mutations should be revealed in order to understand the disease origin. Finally we report the current state-of-the-art methodologies which predict the effects of mutations on protein stability, the hydrogen bond network, pH-dependence, conformational dynamics and protein function.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2013.07.014
PMCID: PMC3796015  PMID: 23871686
Genetic variation; single nucleotide polymorphism; SNP; rare mutations; diseases
5.  Continuous development of schemes for parallel computing of the electrostatics in biological systems: Implementation in DelPhi 
Journal of computational chemistry  2013;34(22):1949-1960.
Due to the enormous importance of electrostatics in molecular biology, calculating the electrostatic potential and corresponding energies has become a standard computational approach for the study of biomolecules and nano-objects immersed in water and salt phase or other media. However, the electrostatics of large macromolecules and macromolecular complexes, including nano-objects, may not be obtainable via explicit methods and even the standard continuum electrostatics methods may not be applicable due to high computational time and memory requirements. Here, we report further development of the parallelization scheme reported in our previous work (J Comput Chem. 2012 Sep 15; 33(24):1960–6.) to include parallelization of the molecular surface and energy calculations components of the algorithm. The parallelization scheme utilizes different approaches such as space domain parallelization, algorithmic parallelization, multi-threading, and task scheduling, depending on the quantity being calculated. This allows for efficient use of the computing resources of the corresponding computer cluster. The parallelization scheme is implemented in the popular software DelPhi and results in speedup of several folds. As a demonstration of the efficiency and capability of this methodology, the electrostatic potential and electric field distributions are calculated for the bovine mitochondrial supercomplex illustrating their complex topology which cannot be obtained by modeling the supercomplex components alone.
doi:10.1002/jcc.23340
PMCID: PMC3707979  PMID: 23733490
electrostatics; DelPhi; Poisson-Boltzmann equation; parallel computing
6.  ProBLM Web Server: Protein and Membrane Placement and Orientation Package 
The 3D structures of membrane proteins are typically determined without the presence of a lipid bilayer. For the purpose of studying the role of membranes on the wild type characteristics of the corresponding protein, determining the position and orientation of transmembrane proteins within a membrane environment is highly desirable. Here we report a geometry-based approach to automatically insert a membrane protein with a known 3D structure into pregenerated lipid bilayer membranes with various dimensions and lipid compositions or into a pseudomembrane. The pseudomembrane is built using the Protein Nano-Object Integrator which generates a parallelepiped of user-specified dimensions made up of pseudoatoms. The pseudomembrane allows for modeling the desolvation effects while avoiding plausible errors associated with wrongly assigned protein-lipid contacts. The method is implemented into a web server, the ProBLM server, which is freely available to the biophysical community. The web server allows the user to upload a protein coordinate file and any missing residues or heavy atoms are regenerated. ProBLM then creates a combined protein-membrane complex from the given membrane protein and bilayer lipid membrane or pseudomembrane. The user is given an option to manually refine the model by manipulating the position and orientation of the protein with respect to the membrane.
doi:10.1155/2014/838259
PMCID: PMC4122144  PMID: 25126110
7.  BION web server: predicting non-specifically bound surface ions 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(6):805-806.
Motivation: Ions are essential component of the cell and frequently are found bound to various macromolecules, in particular to proteins. A binding of an ion to a protein greatly affects protein’s biophysical characteristics and needs to be taken into account in any modeling approach. However, ion’s bounded positions cannot be easily revealed experimentally, especially if they are loosely bound to macromolecular surface.
Results: Here, we report a web server, the BION web server, which addresses the demand for tools of predicting surface bound ions, for which specific interactions are not crucial; thus, they are difficult to predict. The BION is easy to use web server that requires only coordinate file to be inputted, and the user is provided with various, but easy to navigate, options. The coordinate file with predicted bound ions is displayed on the output and is available for download.
Availability: http://compbio.clemson.edu/bion_server/
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Contact: ealexov@clemson.edu
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btt032
PMCID: PMC3597141  PMID: 23380591
8.  Progress in developing Poisson-Boltzmann equation solvers 
Molecular based mathematical biology  2013;1:10.2478/mlbmb-2013-0002.
This review outlines the recent progress made in developing more accurate and efficient solutions to model electrostatics in systems comprised of bio-macromolecules and nano-objects, the last one referring to objects that do not have biological function themselves but nowadays are frequently used in biophysical and medical approaches in conjunction with bio-macromolecules. The problem of modeling macromolecular electrostatics is reviewed from two different angles: as a mathematical task provided the specific definition of the system to be modeled and as a physical problem aiming to better capture the phenomena occurring in the real experiments. In addition, specific attention is paid to methods to extend the capabilities of the existing solvers to model large systems toward applications of calculations of the electrostatic potential and energies in molecular motors, mitochondria complex, photosynthetic machinery and systems involving large nano-objects.
doi:10.2478/mlbmb-2013-0002
PMCID: PMC3816640  PMID: 24199185
Continuum electrostatics; Poisson-Boltzmann equation; numerical techniques; dielectric constant; molecular surface
9.  The Role of Protonation States in Ligand-Receptor Recognition and Binding 
Current pharmaceutical design  2013;19(23):4182-4190.
In this review we discuss the role of protonation states in receptor-ligand interactions, providing experimental evidences and computational predictions that complex formation may involve titratable groups with unusual pKa’s and that protonation states frequently change from unbound to bound states. These protonation changes result in proton uptake/release, which in turn causes the pH-dependence of the binding. Indeed, experimental data strongly suggests that almost any binding is pH-dependent and to be correctly modeled, the protonation states must be properly assigned prior to and after the binding. One may accurately predict the protonation states when provided with the structures of the unbound proteins and their complex; however, the modeling becomes much more complicated if the bound state has to be predicted in a docking protocol or if the structures of either bound or unbound receptor-ligand are not available. The major challenges that arise in these situations are the coupling between binding and protonation states, and the conformational changes induced by the binding and ionization states of titratable groups. In addition, any assessment of the protonation state, either before or after binding, must refer to the pH of binding, which is frequently unknown. Thus, even if the pKa’s of ionizable groups can be correctly assigned for both unbound and bound state, without knowing the experimental pH one cannot assign the corresponding protonation states, and consequently one cannot calculate the resulting proton uptake/release. It is pointed out, that while experimental pH may not be the physiological pH and binding may involve proton uptake/release, there is a tendency that the native receptor-ligand complexes have evolved toward specific either subcellular or tissue characteristic pH at which the proton uptake/release is either minimal or absent.
PMCID: PMC3625499  PMID: 23170880
protonation states; receptor-ligand interactions; pKa calculations; pH-dependence; electrostatics
10.  DelPhi: a comprehensive suite for DelPhi software and associated resources 
BMC Biophysics  2012;5:9.
Background
Accurate modeling of electrostatic potential and corresponding energies becomes increasingly important for understanding properties of biological macromolecules and their complexes. However, this is not an easy task due to the irregular shape of biological entities and the presence of water and mobile ions.
Results
Here we report a comprehensive suite for the well-known Poisson-Boltzmann solver, DelPhi, enriched with additional features to facilitate DelPhi usage. The suite allows for easy download of both DelPhi executable files and source code along with a makefile for local installations. The users can obtain the DelPhi manual and parameter files required for the corresponding investigation. Non-experienced researchers can download examples containing all necessary data to carry out DelPhi runs on a set of selected examples illustrating various DelPhi features and demonstrating DelPhi’s accuracy against analytical solutions.
Conclusions
DelPhi suite offers not only the DelPhi executable and sources files, examples and parameter files, but also provides links to third party developed resources either utilizing DelPhi or providing plugins for DelPhi. In addition, the users and developers are offered a forum to share ideas, resolve issues, report bugs and seek help with respect to the DelPhi package. The resource is available free of charge for academic users from URL: http://compbio.clemson.edu/DelPhi.php.
doi:10.1186/2046-1682-5-9
PMCID: PMC3463482  PMID: 22583952
DelPhi; Poisson-Boltzmann equation; Implicit solvation model; Electrostatics; Biological macromolecules; Software

Results 1-10 (10)