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1.  FKBP5 Genotype-Dependent DNA Methylation and mRNA Regulation After Psychosocial Stress in Remitted Depression and Healthy Controls 
Polymorphisms in the FK506 binding protein 5 (FKBP5) gene have been shown to influence glucocorticoid receptor sensitivity, stress response regulation, and depression risk in traumatized subjects, with most consistent findings reported for the functional variant rs1360780. In the present study, we investigated whether the FKBP5 polymorphism rs1360780 and lifetime history of major depression are associated with DNA methylation and FKBP5 gene expression after psychosocial stress.
A total of 116 individuals with a positive (n = 61) and negative (n = 55) lifetime history of major depression participated in the Trier Social Stress Test. We assessed plasma cortisol concentrations, FKBP5 mRNA expression, and CpG methylation of FKBP5 intron 7 in peripheral blood cells.
Genotype-dependent plasma cortisol response to psychosocial stress exposure was observed in healthy controls, with the highest and longest-lasting cortisol increase in subjects with the TT genotype of the FKBP5 polymorphism rs1360780, and healthy controls carrying the T risk allele responded with a blunted FKBP5 mRNA expression after psychosocial stress. No genotype effects could be found in remitted depression.
The FKBP5 rs1360780 polymorphism is associated with plasma cortisol and FKBP5 mRNA expression after psychosocial stress in healthy controls but not in remitted depression. Preliminary results of the DNA methylation analysis suggest that epigenetic modifications could be involved.
PMCID: PMC4360217  PMID: 25522420
major depression; HPA axis; FKBP5; gene expression; DNA methylation
2.  Glycosylations in the globular head of the hemagglutinin protein modulate the virulence and antigenic properties of the H1N1 influenza viruses 
Science translational medicine  2013;5(187):187ra70.
The global spread of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) virus in humans increases the likelihood that this influenza virus strain could undergo antigenic drift in the coming years. Previous seasonal H1N1 and H3N2 influenza strains acquired additional glycosylations in the globular head of their hemagglutinin (HA) proteins as they evolved over time; these are believed to shield antigenically relevant regions. We used influenza A/Netherlands/602/2009 recombinant (rpH1N1) viruses to which we added additional HA glycosylation sites reflecting their temporal appearance in previous seasonal H1N1 viruses. Additional glycosylations resulted in substantial attenuation in mice and ferrets, while deleting HA glycosylation sites from a pre-pandemic 1991 seasonal H1N1 influenza virus resulted in increased pathogenicity in mice. Sera from mice infected with wild type (WT) rpH1N1 virus showed a considerable loss of HA inhibitory (HI) activity against rpH1N1 viruses glycosylated at sites 144 or 144-172, indicating that the polyclonal antibody response elicited by WT rpH1N1 HA seems to be directed against an immunodominant region, likely site Sa, shielded by glycosylation at 144. Sera from humans vaccinated with the pH1N1 inactivated vaccine also showed reduced activity against the 144 and 144-172 mutant viruses. Remarkably, the HI activity of sera from virus-infected mice demonstrated that glycosylation at position 144 resulted in the induction of a broader polyclonal response able to cross-neutralize all WT and glycosylation mutant pH1N1 viruses. Mice infected with a recent seasonal virus in which glycosylation sites 71, 142 and 177 were removed, elicited antibodies that protected against challenge with the antigenically distant pH1N1 virus. Thus, acquisition of glycosylation sites in the HA of H1N1 human influenza viruses not only affects their pathogenicity and ability to escape from polyclonal antibodies elicited by previous influenza virus strains, but also their ability to induce cross-reactive antibodies against drifted antigenic variants. These findings provide the basis for designing improved vaccines and immunization strategies capable of protecting against a broader range of influenza virus strains.
PMCID: PMC3940933  PMID: 23720581
3.  Interaction of FKBP5 Gene Variants and Adverse Life Events in Predicting Depression Onset: Results From a 10-Year Prospective Community Study 
The American journal of psychiatry  2011;168(10):10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.10111577.
The binding protein FKBP5 is an important modulator of the function of the glucocorticoid receptor, the main receptor of the stress horm one system. This turns the FKBP5 gene into a key candidate for gene-environment interactions, which are considered critical for pathogenesis of stress-related disorders. The authors explored gene-environment interactions between FKBP5 gene variants and adverse life events in predicting the first occurrence of a major depressive episode.
The analyses were based on 884 Caucasians in a 10-year prospective community study. At baseline, they were 14–24 years old and did not fulfill criteria for a major depressive episode. The DSM-IV-based Munich Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to assess adverse life events preceding baseline and major depressive episodes during follow-up. On the basis of previous findings, five single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the FKBP5 gene were selected for genotyping.
While the authors did not observe genetic main effects, they found interactions between the five SNPs and traumatic (but not separation) events, with the strongest effect for severe trauma. The effect of trauma on incident major depressive episodes was evident among subjects homozygous for the minor alleles but not subjects with other genotypes. The findings were replicated in the U.K. Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study.
These hypothesis-driven results suggest that an interaction between FKBP5 genotype and trauma is involved in the onset of depression. Subjects homozygous for the minor alleles of the investigated FKBP5 SNPs seem to be particularly sensitive to effects of trauma exposure in terms of triggering depression onset.
PMCID: PMC3856576  PMID: 21865530
4.  Pandemic Influenza A Viruses Escape from Restriction by Human MxA through Adaptive Mutations in the Nucleoprotein 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(3):e1003279.
The interferon-induced dynamin-like MxA GTPase restricts the replication of influenza A viruses. We identified adaptive mutations in the nucleoprotein (NP) of pandemic strains A/Brevig Mission/1/1918 (1918) and A/Hamburg/4/2009 (pH1N1) that confer MxA resistance. These resistance-associated amino acids in NP differ between the two strains but form a similar discrete surface-exposed cluster in the body domain of NP, indicating that MxA resistance evolved independently. The 1918 cluster was conserved in all descendent strains of seasonal influenza viruses. Introduction of this cluster into the NP of the MxA-sensitive influenza virus A/Thailand/1(KAN-1)/04 (H5N1) resulted in a gain of MxA resistance coupled with a decrease in viral replication fitness. Conversely, introduction of MxA-sensitive amino acids into pH1N1 NP enhanced viral growth in Mx-negative cells. We conclude that human MxA represents a barrier against zoonotic introduction of avian influenza viruses and that adaptive mutations in the viral NP should be carefully monitored.
Author Summary
Influenza A viruses of avian or swine origin sporadically enter into the human population but do not transmit between individuals. In rare cases, however, they establish a new virus lineage in humans. The mechanisms by which invading viruses overcome the species barrier are not well understood, but multiple adaptations to the new host are required. Surprisingly little is known about adaptive mutations that overcome restriction factors of the intrinsic and innate host defense system. In this study, we have identified adaptive mutations in pandemic strains A/Brevig Mission/1/1918 and A/Hamburg/4/2009 that confer resistance to the interferon-induced antiviral factor MxA which is a dynamin-like large GTPase that recognizes the incoming viral nucleocapsids and blocks their function. The resistance-enhancing mutations changed several amino acids in the viral nucleoprotein which is the main nucleocapsid component. These mutations were sufficient to increase the pathogenicity of an avian influenza virus strain in a Mx-positive mouse model. Interestingly, the resistance-associated amino acids are counter-selected in circulating avian influenza strains, because they compromise general viral replication fitness. The present data indicate that the innate immunity factor MxA provides a barrier against zoonotic introduction of influenza A viruses and that adaptive mutations in the nucleoprotein must be carefully monitored.
PMCID: PMC3610643  PMID: 23555271
5.  Actinobaculum schaalii an emerging pediatric pathogen? 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:201.
Actinobaculum schaalii was first described as a causative agent for human infection in 1997. Since then it has mainly been reported causing urinary tract infections (UTI) in elderly individuals with underlying urological diseases. Isolation and identification is challenging and often needs molecular techniques. A. schaalii is increasingly reported as a cause of infection in humans, however data in children is very limited.
Case presentation
We present the case of an 8-month-old Caucasian boy suffering from myelomeningocele and neurogenic bladder who presented with a UTI. An ultrasound of the urinary tract was unremarkable. Urinalysis and microscopy showed an elevated leukocyte esterase test, pyuria and a high number of bacteria. Empiric treatment with oral co-trimoxazole was started.
Growth of small colonies of Gram-positive rods was observed after 48 h. Sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene confirmed an A. schaalii infection 9 days later. Treatment was changed to oral amoxicillin for 14 days. On follow-up urinalysis was normal and urine cultures were negative.
A.schaalii is an emerging pathogen in adults and children. Colonization and subsequent infection seem to be influenced by the age of the patient. In young children with high suspicion of UTI who use diapers or in children who have known abnormalities of their urogenital tract, infection with A. schaalii should be considered and empiric antimicrobial therapy chosen accordingly.
PMCID: PMC3457841  PMID: 22928807
Actinobaculum schaalii; Children; Emerging infection; Urinary tract infection; Gram-positive; Antimicrobial susceptibility
6.  The Viral Nucleoprotein Determines Mx Sensitivity of Influenza A Viruses▿ 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(16):8133-8140.
Host restriction factors play a crucial role in preventing trans-species transmission of viral pathogens. In mammals, the interferon-induced Mx GTPases are powerful antiviral proteins restricting orthomyxoviruses. Hence, the human MxA GTPase may function as an efficient barrier against zoonotic introduction of influenza A viruses into the human population. Successful viruses are likely to acquire adaptive mutations allowing them to evade MxA restriction. We compared the 2009 pandemic influenza A virus [strain A/Hamburg/4/09 (pH1N1)] with a highly pathogenic avian H5N1 isolate [strain A/Thailand/1(KAN-1)/04] for their relative sensitivities to human MxA and murine Mx1. The H5N1 virus was highly sensitive to both Mx GTPases, whereas the pandemic H1N1 virus was almost insensitive. Substitutions of the viral polymerase subunits or the nucleoprotein (NP) in a polymerase reconstitution assay demonstrated that NP was the main determinant of Mx sensitivity. The NP of H5N1 conferred Mx sensitivity to the pandemic H1N1 polymerase, whereas the NP of pandemic H1N1 rendered the H5N1 polymerase insensitive. Reassortant viruses which expressed the NP of H5N1 in a pH1N1 genetic background and vice versa were generated. Congenic Mx1-positive mice survived intranasal infection with these reassortants if the challenge virus contained the avian NP. In contrast, they succumbed to infection if the NP of pH1N1 origin was present. These findings clearly indicate that the origin of NP determines Mx sensitivity and that human influenza viruses acquired adaptive mutations to evade MxA restriction. This also explains our previous observations that human and avian influenza A viruses differ in their sensitivities to Mx.
PMCID: PMC3147989  PMID: 21680506
7.  Adaptive Mutations Resulting in Enhanced Polymerase Activity Contribute to High Virulence of Influenza A Virus in Mice▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(13):6673-6680.
High virulence of influenza virus A/Puerto Rico/8/34 in mice carrying the Mx1 resistance gene was recently shown to be determined by the viral surface proteins and the viral polymerase. Here, we demonstrated high-level polymerase activity in mammalian host cells but not avian host cells and investigated which mutations in the polymerase subunits PB1, PB2, and PA are critical for increased polymerase activity and high virus virulence. Mutational analyses demonstrated that an isoleucine-to-valine change at position 504 in PB2 was the most critical and strongly enhanced the activity of the reconstituted polymerase complex. An isoleucine-to-leucine change at position 550 in PA further contributed to increased polymerase activity and high virulence, whereas all other mutations in PB1, PB2, and PA were irrelevant. To determine whether this pattern of acquired mutations represents a preferred viral strategy to gain virulence, two independent new virus adaptation experiments were performed. Surprisingly, the conservative I504V change in PB2 evolved again and was the only mutation present in an aggressive virus variant selected during the first adaptation experiment. In contrast, the virulent virus selected in the second adaptation experiment had a lysine-to-arginine change at position 208 in PB1 and a glutamate-to-glycine change at position 349 in PA. These results demonstrate that a variety of minor amino acid changes in the viral polymerase can contribute to enhanced virulence of influenza A virus. Interestingly, all virulence-enhancing mutations that we identified in this study resulted in substantially increased viral polymerase activity.
PMCID: PMC2698553  PMID: 19403683
8.  Processing of Genome 5′ Termini as a Strategy of Negative-Strand RNA Viruses to Avoid RIG-I-Dependent Interferon Induction 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(4):e2032.
Innate immunity is critically dependent on the rapid production of interferon in response to intruding viruses. The intracellular pathogen recognition receptors RIG-I and MDA5 are essential for interferon induction by viral RNAs containing 5′ triphosphates or double-stranded structures, respectively. Viruses with a negative-stranded RNA genome are an important group of pathogens causing emerging and re-emerging diseases. We investigated the ability of genomic RNAs from substantial representatives of this virus group to induce interferon via RIG-I or MDA5. RNAs isolated from particles of Ebola virus, Nipah virus, Lassa virus, and Rift Valley fever virus strongly activated the interferon-beta promoter. Knockdown experiments demonstrated that interferon induction depended on RIG-I, but not MDA5, and phosphatase treatment revealed a requirement for the RNA 5′ triphosphate group. In contrast, genomic RNAs of Hantaan virus, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and Borna disease virus did not trigger interferon induction. Sensitivity of these RNAs to a 5′ monophosphate-specific exonuclease indicates that the RIG-I-activating 5′ triphosphate group was removed post-transcriptionally by a viral function. Consequently, RIG-I is unable to bind the RNAs of Hantaan virus, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and Borna disease virus. These results establish RIG-I as a major intracellular recognition receptor for the genome of most negative-strand RNA viruses and define the cleavage of triphosphates at the RNA 5′ end as a strategy of viruses to evade the innate immune response.
PMCID: PMC2323571  PMID: 18446221

Results 1-8 (8)