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1.  Identification of Candidate Downstream Targets of TGFβ Signaling During Palate Development by Genome-Wide Transcript Profiling 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2013;114(4):796-807.
Nonsyndromic orofacial clefts are common birth defects whose etiology is influenced by complex genetic and environmental factors and gene–environment interactions. Although these risk factors are not yet fully elucidated, it is known that alterations in transforming growth factor-beta (TGFβ) signaling can cause craniofacial abnormalities, including cleft palate, in mammals. To elucidate the downstream targets of TGFβ signaling in palatogenesis, we analyzed the gene expression profiles of Tgfbr2fl/fl;Wnt1-Cre mouse embryos with cleft palate and other craniofacial deformities resulting from the targeted inactivation of the Tgfbr2 gene in their cranial neural crest (CNC) cells. Relative to controls, palatal tissues obtained from Tgfbr2fl/fl;Wnt1-Cre mouse embryos at embryonic day 14.5 (E14.5) of gestation have a robust gene expression signature reflective of known defects in CNC-derived mesenchymal cell proliferation. Groups of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were involved in diverse cellular processes and components associated with orofacial clefting, including the extracellular matrix, cholesterol metabolism, ciliogenesis, and multiple signaling pathways. A subset of the DEGs are known or suspected to be associated with an increased risk of orofacial clefting in humans and/or genetically engineered mice. Based on bioinformatics analyses, we highlight the functional relationships among differentially expressed transcriptional regulators of palatogenesis as well as transcriptional factors not previously associated with this process. We suggest that gene expression profiling studies of mice with TGFβ signaling defects provide a valuable approach for identifying candidate mechanisms by which this pathway controls cell fate during palatogenesis and its role in the etiology of human craniofacial abnormalities.
doi:10.1002/jcb.24417
PMCID: PMC3777336  PMID: 23060211
TGFβ SIGNALING; CLEFT PALATE; MICROARRAY; GENE EXPRESSION PROFILING
2.  The Circadian Clock Modulates Enamel Development 
Journal of biological rhythms  2012;27(3):237-245.
Fully mature enamel is about 98% mineral by weight. While mineral crystals appear very early during its formative phase, the newly secreted enamel is a soft gel-like matrix containing several enamel matrix proteins of which the most abundant is amelogenin (Amelx). Histological analysis of mineralized dental enamel reveals markings called cross-striations associated with daily increments of enamel formation, as evidenced by injections of labeling dyes at known time intervals. The daily incremental growth of enamel has led to the hypothesis that the circadian clock might be involved in the regulation of enamel development. To identify daily rhythms of clock genes and Amelx, we subjected murine ameloblast cells to serum synchronization to analyze the expression of the circadian transcription factors Per2 and Bmal1 by real-time PCR. Results indicate that these key genetic regulators of the circadian clock are expressed in synchronized murine ameloblast cell cultures and that their expression profile follows a circadian pattern with acrophase and bathyphase for both gene transcripts in antiphase. Immunohistological analysis confirms the protein expression of Bmal and Cry in enamel cells. Amelx expression in 2-day postnatal mouse molars dissected every 4 hours for a duration of 48 hours oscillated with an approximately 24-hour period, with a significant approximately 2-fold decrease in expression during the dark period compared to the light period. The expression of genes involved in bicarbonate production (Car2) and transport (Slc4a4), as well as in enamel matrix endocytosis (Lamp1), was greater during the dark period, indicating that ameloblasts express these proteins when Amelx expression is at the nadir. The human and mouse Amelx genes each contain a single nonconserved E-box element within 10 kb upstream of their respective transcription start sites. We also found that within 2 kb of the transcription start site of the human NFYA gene, which encodes a positive regulator of amelogenin, there is an E-box element that is conserved in rodents and other mammals. Moreover, we found that Nfya expression in serum-synchronized murine ameloblasts oscillated with a strong 24-hour rhythm. Taken together, our data support the hypothesis that the circadian clock temporally regulates enamel development.
doi:10.1177/0748730412442830
PMCID: PMC3511783  PMID: 22653892
circadian rhythms; enamel development; ameloblast cells; amelogenin
3.  IDENTIFICATION OF NOVEL CANDIDATE GENES INVOLVED IN MINERALIZATION OF DENTAL ENAMEL BY GENOME-WIDE TRANSCRIPT PROFILING 
Journal of Cellular Physiology  2012;227(5):2264-2275.
The gene repertoire regulating vertebrate biomineralization is poorly understood. Dental enamel, the most highly mineralized tissue in mammals, differs from other calcifying systems in that the formative cells (ameloblasts) lack remodeling activity and largely degrade and resorb the initial extracellular matrix. Enamel mineralization requires that ameloblasts undergo a profound functional switch from matrix-secreting to maturational (calcium transport, protein resorption) roles as mineralization progresses. During the maturation stage, extracellular pH decreases markedly, placing high demands on ameloblasts to regulate acidic environments present around the growing hydroxyapatite crystals. To identify the genetic events driving enamel mineralization, we conducted genome-wide transcript profiling of the developing enamel organ from rat incisors and highlight over 300 genes differentially expressed during maturation. Using multiple bioinformatics analyses, we identified groups of maturation-associated genes whose functions are linked to key mineralization processes including pH regulation, calcium handling and matrix turnover. Subsequent qPCR and Western blot analyses revealed that a number of solute carrier (SLC) gene family members were up-regulated during maturation, including the novel protein Slc24a4 involved in calcium handling as well as other proteins of similar function (Stim1). By providing the first global overview of the cellular machinery required for enamel maturation, this study provide a strong foundation for improving basic understanding of biomineralization and its practical applications in healthcare.
doi:10.1002/jcp.22965
PMCID: PMC3243804  PMID: 21809343
enamel maturation; genome-wide analysis; mineralization
4.  Gene expression analysis of early and late maturation stage rat enamel organ 
European Journal of Oral Sciences  2011;119(Suppl 1):149-157.
Enamel maturation is a dynamic process that involves high rates of mineral acquisition, associated fluctuations in extracellular pH and resorption of extracellular enamel proteins. During maturation, ameloblasts change from a tall, thin and highly polarized organization characteristic of the secretory stage, to a low columnar and widened morphology in the maturation stage. To identify potential differences in gene expression throughout maturation, we obtained enamel organ epithelial cells derived from the early and late maturation stages from rat incisor and analyzed global gene expression profiles at each stage. Sixty three candidate genes were identified with potential roles in the maturation process. qPCR was used to confirm results from this genome-wide analysis in a subset of genes. Enriched transcripts in late maturation (n= 38) included those associated with lysosomal activity, solute carrier transport and calcium signaling. Cellular responses to oxidative stress, proton transport, cell death and immune system-related transcripts were also up-regulated. Transcripts down-regulated in the late maturation stage (n= 25) included those with functions related to cell adhesion, cell signaling, and T-cell activation. These results indicate that ameloblasts undergo widespread molecular changes during the maturation stage of amelogenesis and so provide the bases for future functional investigations into the mechanistic basis of enamel mineralization.
doi:10.1111/j.1600-0722.2011.00881.x
PMCID: PMC3286129  PMID: 22243241
amelogenesis; early maturation; late maturation; enamel organ; gene expression
5.  The gene expression profiles of induced pluripotent stem cells from individuals with childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy are consistent with proposed mechanisms of pathogenesis 
Introduction
X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD) is a complex disorder with variable expressivity that affects the nervous, adrenocortical and male reproductive systems. Although ABCD1 mutations are known to provide the genetic basis for X-ALD, its pathogenesis is not fully elucidated. While elevated very long chain fatty acid (VLCFA) levels in blood and reduced VLCFA catabolic activity in cultured fibroblasts are biomarkers used to identify ABCD1 mutation carriers, the roles peroxisomal lipid metabolism play in disease etiology are unknown.
Methods
Primary skin fibroblasts from two male patients with the childhood cerebral form of the disease (CCALD) caused by ABCD1 frameshift or missense mutations and three healthy donors were transduced with retroviral vectors expressing the OCT4, SOX2, KLF4 and c-MYC factors. Candidate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were subject to global gene expression, DNA methylation, DNA copy number variation, and genotyping analysis and tested for pluripotency through in vitro differentiation and teratoma formation. Saturated VLCFA (sVLCFA) and plasmalogen levels in primary fibroblasts and iPSCs from healthy donors as well as CCALD patients were determined through mass spectroscopy.
Results
Skin fibroblasts from CCALD patients and healthy donors were reprogrammed into validated iPSCs. Unlike fibroblasts, CCALD patient iPSCs show differentially expressed genes (DEGs) relevant to both peroxisome abundance and neuroinflammation. Also, in contrast to fibroblasts, iPSCs from patients showed no significant difference in sVLCFA levels relative to those from controls. In all cell types, the plasmalogen levels tested did not correlate with ABCD1 mutation status.
Conclusion
Normal ABCD1 gene function is not required for reprogramming skin fibroblasts into iPSCs or maintaining pluripotency. Relative to DEGs found in fibroblasts, DEGs uncovered in comparisons of CCALD patient and control iPSCs are more consistent with major hypotheses regarding disease pathogenesis. These DEGs were independent of differences in sVLCFA levels, which did not vary according to ABCD1 mutation status. The highlighted genes provide new leads for pathogenic mechanisms that can be explored in animal models and human tissue specimens. We suggest that these iPSC resources will have applications that include assisting efforts to identify genetic and environmental modifiers and screening for therapeutic interventions tailored towards affected cell populations and patient genotypes.
doi:10.1186/scrt130
PMCID: PMC3580430  PMID: 23036268
6.  Modulation of noncanonical TGF-β signaling prevents cleft palate in Tgfbr2 mutant mice  
Patients with mutations in either TGF-β receptor type I (TGFBR1) or TGF-β receptor type II (TGFBR2), such as those with Loeys-Dietz syndrome, have craniofacial defects and signs of elevated TGF-β signaling. Similarly, mutations in TGF-β receptor gene family members cause craniofacial deformities, such as cleft palate, in mice. However, it is unknown whether TGF-β ligands are able to elicit signals in Tgfbr2 mutant mice. Here, we show that loss of Tgfbr2 in mouse cranial neural crest cells results in elevated expression of TGF-β2 and TGF-β receptor type III (TβRIII); activation of a TβRI/TβRIII-mediated, SMAD-independent, TRAF6/TAK1/p38 signaling pathway; and defective cell proliferation in the palatal mesenchyme. Strikingly, Tgfb2, Tgfbr1 (also known as Alk5), or Tak1 haploinsufficiency disrupted TβRI/TβRIII-mediated signaling and rescued craniofacial deformities in Tgfbr2 mutant mice, indicating that activation of this noncanonical TGF-β signaling pathway was responsible for craniofacial malformations in Tgfbr2 mutant mice. Thus, modulation of TGF-β signaling may be beneficial for the prevention of congenital craniofacial birth defects.
doi:10.1172/JCI61498
PMCID: PMC3287237  PMID: 22326956
7.  Nonsense suppressor therapies rescue peroxisome lipid metabolism and assembly in cells from patients with specific PEX gene mutations 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2011;112(5):1250-1258.
Peroxisome biogenesis disorders (PBDs) are multisystemic autosomal recessive disorders resulting from mutations in PEX genes required for normal peroxisome assembly and metabolic activities. Here, we evaluated the potential effectiveness of aminoglycoside G418 (geneticin) and PTC124 (ataluren) nonsense suppression therapies for the treatment of PBD patients with disease-causing nonsense mutations. PBD patient skin fibroblasts producing stable PEX2 or PEX12 nonsense transcripts and Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells with a Pex2 nonsense allele all showed dramatic improvements in peroxisomal very long chain fatty acid catabolism and plasmalogen biosynthesis in response to G418 treatments. Cell imaging assays provided complementary confirmatory evidence of improved peroxisome assembly in G418-treated patient fibroblasts. In contrast, we observed no appreciable rescue of peroxisome lipid metabolism or assembly for any patient fibroblast or CHO cell culture treated with various doses of PTC124. Additionally, PTC124 did not show measurable nonsense suppression in immunoblot assays that directly evaluated the read-through of PEX7 nonsense alleles found in PBD patients with rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata type 1 (RCDP1). Overall, our results support the continued development of safe and effective nonsense suppressor therapies that could benefit a significant subset of individuals with PBDs. Furthermore, we suggest that the described cell culture assay systems could be useful for evaluating and screening for novel nonsense suppressor therapies.
doi:10.1002/jcb.22979
PMCID: PMC3136445  PMID: 21465523
peroxisome biogenesis disorder; ataluren; geneticin; nonsense mutation
8.  Identification and Functional Relevance of de novo DNA Methylation in Cancerous B-Cell Populations 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2010;109(4):818-827.
Epigenetic remodeling is a hallmark of cancer, with the frequent acquisition of de novo DNA methylation in CpG islands. However, the functional relevance of de novo DNA methylation in cancer is less well-defined. To begin to address this issue in B-cells, we used BeadArray assays to survey the methylation status of 1,500 cancer-related CpG loci in two molecular subtypes of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (ABC-DLBCL and GCB-DLBCL) and cognate normal B-cell populations. We identified 81 loci that showed frequent de novo DNA methylation in GCB-DLBCL and 67 loci that showed frequent de novo DNA methylation in ABC-DLBCL. These de novo methylated CpG loci included reported targets of polycomb repressive complexes (PRC) in stem cells. All candidate loci in GCB-DLBCL are proximal to genes that are poorly expressed or silent in purified normal germinal center (GC) B-cells. This is consistent with the hypothesis that de novo DNA methylation in cancer is more frequently involved in the maintenance rather than the initiation of gene silencing (de novo repression). This suggests that epigenetic switching occurs during tumorigenesis with de novo DNA methylation locking in gene silencing normally mediated by transcriptional repressors. Furthermore, we propose that similar to de novo genetic mutations, the majority of de novo DNA methylation events observed in tumors are passengers not causally involved in tumorigenesis.
doi:10.1002/jcb.22461
PMCID: PMC3122883  PMID: 20069569
Epigenetic; DNA methylation; Gene expression; Lymphoma; B-cell
9.  Structural Analysis of a Repetitive Protein Sequence Motif in Strepsirrhine Primate Amelogenin 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e18028.
Strepsirrhines are members of a primate suborder that has a distinctive set of features associated with the development of the dentition. Amelogenin (AMEL), the better known of the enamel matrix proteins, forms 90% of the secreted organic matrix during amelogenesis. Although AMEL has been sequenced in numerous mammalian lineages, the only reported strepsirrhine AMEL sequences are those of the ring-tailed lemur and galago, which contain a set of additional proline-rich tandem repeats absent in all other primates species analyzed to date, but present in some non-primate mammals. Here, we first determined that these repeats are present in AMEL from three additional lemur species and thus are likely to be widespread throughout this group. To evaluate the functional relevance of these repeats in strepsirrhines, we engineered a mutated murine amelogenin sequence containing a similar proline-rich sequence to that of Lemur catta. In the monomeric form, the MQP insertions had no influence on the secondary structure or refolding properties, whereas in the assembled form, the insertions increased the hydrodynamic radii. We speculate that increased AMEL nanosphere size may influence enamel formation in strepsirrhine primates.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018028
PMCID: PMC3060920  PMID: 21437261
10.  Synthesis and Anticancer Properties of Water-Soluble Zinc Ionophores 
Cancer research  2008;68(13):5318-5325.
Several water-solubilized versions of the zinc ionophore 1-hydroxypyridine-2-thione (ZnHPT), synthesized as part of the present study, have been found both to increase the intracellular concentrations of free zinc and to produce an antiproliferative activity in exponential phase A549 human lung cancer cultures. Gene expression profiles of A549 cultures treated with one of these water-soluble zinc ionophores, PCI-5002, reveal the activation of stress response pathways under the control of metal-responsive transcription factor 1 (MTF-1), hypoxia-inducible transcription factor 1 (HIF-1), and heat shock transcription factors. Additional oxidative stress response and apoptotic pathways were activated in cultures grown in zinc-supplemented media. We also show that these water-soluble zinc ionophores can be given to mice at 100 μmol/kg (300 μmol/m2) with no observable toxicity and inhibit the growth of A549 lung and PC3 prostate cancer cells grown in xenograft models. Gene expression profiles of tumor specimens harvested from mice 4 h after treatment confirmed the in vivo activation of MTF-1–responsive genes. Overall, we propose that water-solubilized zinc ionophores represent a potential new class of anticancer agents.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-0601
PMCID: PMC3033660  PMID: 18593933
11.  Development and evaluation of new mask protocols for gene expression profiling in humans and chimpanzees 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:77.
Background
Cross-species gene expression analyses using oligonucleotide microarrays designed to evaluate a single species can provide spurious results due to mismatches between the interrogated transcriptome and arrayed probes. Based on the most recent human and chimpanzee genome assemblies, we developed updated and accessible probe masking methods that allow human Affymetrix oligonucleotide microarrays to be used for robust genome-wide expression analyses in both species. In this process, only data from oligonucleotide probes predicted to have robust hybridization sensitivity and specificity for both transcriptomes are retained for analysis.
Results
To characterize the utility of this resource, we applied our mask protocols to existing expression data from brains, livers, hearts, testes, and kidneys derived from both species and determined the effects probe numbers have on expression scores of specific transcripts. In all five tissues, probe sets with decreasing numbers of probes showed non-linear trends towards increased variation in expression scores. The relationships between expression variation and probe number in brain data closely matched those observed in simulated expression data sets subjected to random probe masking. However, there is evidence that additional factors affect the observed relationships between gene expression scores and probe number in tissues such as liver and kidney. In parallel, we observed that decreasing the number of probes within probe sets lead to linear increases in both gained and lost inferences of differential cross-species expression in all five tissues, which will affect the interpretation of expression data subject to masking.
Conclusion
We introduce a readily implemented and updated resource for human and chimpanzee transcriptome analysis through a commonly used microarray platform. Based on empirical observations derived from the analysis of five distinct data sets, we provide novel guidelines for the interpretation of masked data that take the number of probes present in a given probe set into consideration. These guidelines are applicable to other customized applications that involve masking data from specific subsets of probes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-77
PMCID: PMC2660304  PMID: 19265541
12.  Identification of Novel Mutations and Sequence Variation in the Zellweger Syndrome Spectrum of Peroxisome Biogenesis Disorders 
Human mutation  2009;30(3):E467-E480.
Peroxisome biogenesis disorders (PBD) are a heterogeneous group of autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorders that affect multiple organ systems. Approximately 80% of PBD patients are classified in the Zellweger syndrome spectrum (PBD-ZSS). Mutations in the PEX1, PEX6, PEX10, PEX12, or PEX26 genes are found in approximately 90% of PBD-ZSS patients. Here, we sequenced the coding regions and splice junctions of these five genes in 58 PBD-ZSS cases previously subjected to targeted sequencing of a limited number of PEX gene exons. In our cohort, 71 unique sequence variants were identified, including 18 novel mutations predicted to disrupt protein function and 2 novel silent variants. We identified 4 patients who had two deleterious mutations in one PEX gene and a third deleterious mutation in a second PEX gene. For two such patients, we conducted cell fusion complementation analyses to identify the defective gene responsible for aberrant peroxisome assembly. Overall, we provide empirical data to estimate the relative fraction of disease-causing alleles that occur in the coding and splice junction sequences of these five PEX genes and the frequency of cases where mutations occur in multiple PEX genes. This information is beneficial for efforts aimed at establishing rapid and sensitive clinical diagnostics for PBD-ZSS patients and interpreting the results from these genetic tests.
doi:10.1002/humu.20932
PMCID: PMC2649967  PMID: 19105186
peroxisome biogenesis disorders; Zellweger syndrome; PBD-ZSS; neonatal adrenoleukodystrophy; infantile Refsum disease; PEX1; PEX6; PEX10; PEX12
13.  Leaky ribosomal scanning in mammalian genomes: significance of histone H4 alternative translation in vivo 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(4):1298-1308.
Like alternative splicing, leaky ribosomal scanning (LRS), which occurs at suboptimal translational initiation codons, increases the physiological flexibility of the genome by allowing alternative translation. Comprehensive analysis of 22 208 human mRNAs indicates that, although the most important positions relative to the first nucleotide of the initiation codon, −3 and +4, are usually such that support initiation (A−3 = 42%, G−3 = 36% and G+4 = 47%), only 37.4% of the genes adhere to the purine (R)−3/G+4 rule at both positions simultaneously, suggesting that LRS may occur in some of the remaining (62.6%) genes. Moreover, 12.5% of the genes lack both R−3 and G+4, potentially leading to sLRS. Compared with 11 genes known to undergo LRS, 10 genes with experimental evidence for high fidelity A+1T+2G+3 initiation codons adhered much more strongly to the R−3/G+4 rule. Among the intron-less histone genes, only the H3 genes adhere to the R−3/G+4 rule, while the H1, H2A, H2B and H4 genes usually lack either R−3 or G+4. To address in vivo the significance of the previously described LRS of H4 mRNAs, which results in alternative translation of the osteogenic growth peptide, transgenic mice were engineered that ubiquitously and constitutively express a mutant H4 mRNA with an A+1→T+1 mutation. These transgenic mice, in particular the females, have a high bone mass phenotype, attributable to increased bone formation. These data suggest that many genes may fulfill cryptic functions by LRS.
doi:10.1093/nar/gki248
PMCID: PMC552952  PMID: 15741183
14.  Comparisons of substitution, insertion and deletion probes for resequencing and mutational analysis using oligonucleotide microarrays 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(3):e33.
Although oligonucleotide probes complementary to single nucleotide substitutions are commonly used in microarray-based screens for genetic variation, little is known about the hybridization properties of probes complementary to small insertions and deletions. It is necessary to define the hybridization properties of these latter probes in order to improve the specificity and sensitivity of oligonucleotide microarray-based mutational analysis of disease-related genes. Here, we compare and contrast the hybridization properties of oligonucleotide microarrays consisting of 25mer probes complementary to all possible single nucleotide substitutions and insertions, and one and two base deletions in the 9168 bp coding region of the ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated) gene. Over 68 different dye-labeled single-stranded nucleic acid targets representing all ATM coding exons were applied to these microarrays. We assess hybridization specificity by comparing the relative hybridization signals from probes perfectly matched to ATM sequences to those containing mismatches. Probes complementary to two base substitutions displayed the highest average specificity followed by those complementary to single base substitutions, single base deletions and single base insertions. In all the cases, hybridization specificity was strongly influenced by sequence context and possible intra- and intermolecular probe and/or target structure. Furthermore, single nucleotide substitution probes displayed the most consistent hybridization specificity data followed by single base deletions, two base deletions and single nucleotide insertions. Overall, these studies provide valuable empirical data that can be used to more accurately model the hybridization properties of insertion and deletion probes and improve the design and interpretation of oligonucleotide microarray-based resequencing and mutational analysis.
doi:10.1093/nar/gni034
PMCID: PMC549431  PMID: 15722479
15.  Improving the sensitivity and specificity of gene expression analysis in highly related organisms through the use of electronic masks 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(5):e51.
DNA microarrays are powerful tools for comparing gene expression profiles from closely related organisms. However, a single microarray design is frequently used in these studies. Therefore, the levels of certain transcripts can be grossly underestimated due to sequence differences between the transcripts and the arrayed DNA probes. Here, we seek to improve the sensitivity and specificity of oligonucleotide microarray-based gene expression analysis by using genomic sequence information to predict the hybridization efficiency of orthologous transcripts to a given microarray. To test our approach, we examine hybridization patterns from three Escherichia coli strains on E.coli K-12 MG1655 gene expression microarrays. We create electronic mask files to discard data from probes predicted to have poor hybridization sensitivity and specificity to cDNA targets from each strain. We increased the accuracy of gene expression analysis and identified genes that cannot be accurately interrogated in each strain using these microarrays. Overall, these studies provide guidelines for designing effective electronic masks for gene expression analysis in organisms where substantial genome sequence information is available.
doi:10.1093/nar/gnh048
PMCID: PMC390348  PMID: 15031318
16.  Diverse captive non-human primates with phytanic acid-deficient diets rich in plant products have substantial phytanic acid levels in their red blood cells 
Background
Humans and rodents with impaired phytanic acid (PA) metabolism can accumulate toxic stores of PA that have deleterious effects on multiple organ systems. Ruminants and certain fish obtain PA from the microbial degradation of dietary chlorophyll and/or through chlorophyll-derived precursors. In contrast, humans cannot derive PA from chlorophyll and instead normally obtain it only from meat, dairy, and fish products.
Results
Captive apes and Old world monkeys had significantly higher red blood cell (RBC) PA levels relative to humans when all subjects were fed PA-deficient diets. Given the adverse health effects resulting from PA over accumulation, we investigated the molecular evolution of thirteen PA metabolism genes in apes, Old world monkeys, and New world monkeys. All non-human primate (NHP) orthologs are predicted to encode full-length proteins with the marmoset Phyh gene containing a rare, but functional, GA splice donor dinucleotide. Acox2, Scp2, and Pecr sequences had amino acid positions with accelerated substitution rates while Amacr had significant variation in evolutionary rates in apes relative to other primates.
Conclusions
Unlike humans, diverse captive NHPs with PA-deficient diets rich in plant products have substantial RBC PA levels. The favored hypothesis is that NHPs can derive significant amounts of PA from the degradation of ingested chlorophyll through gut fermentation. If correct, this raises the possibility that RBC PA levels could serve as a biomarker for evaluating the digestive health of captive NHPs. Furthermore, the evolutionary rates of the several genes relevant to PA metabolism provide candidate genetic adaptations to NHP diets.
doi:10.1186/1476-511X-12-10
PMCID: PMC3571895  PMID: 23379307
Phytanic acid; Chlorophyll; Old world monkeys; New world monkeys; Peroxisome
17.  A founder mutation in the PEX6 gene is responsible for increased incidence of Zellweger syndrome in a French Canadian population 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:72.
Background
Zellweger syndrome (ZS) is a peroxisome biogenesis disorder due to mutations in any one of 13 PEX genes. Increased incidence of ZS has been suspected in French-Canadians of the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region (SLSJ) of Quebec, but this remains unsolved.
Methods
We identified 5 ZS patients from SLSJ diagnosed by peroxisome dysfunction between 1990–2010 and sequenced all coding exons of known PEX genes in one patient using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) for diagnostic confirmation.
Results
A homozygous mutation (c.802_815del, p.[Val207_Gln294del, Val76_Gln294del]) in PEX6 was identified and then shown in 4 other patients. Parental heterozygosity was confirmed in all. Incidence of ZS was estimated to 1 in 12,191 live births, with a carrier frequency of 1 in 55. In addition, we present data suggesting that this mutation abolishes a SF2/ASF splice enhancer binding site, resulting in the use of two alternative cryptic donor splice sites and predicted to encode an internally deleted in-frame protein.
Conclusion
We report increased incidence of ZS in French-Canadians of SLSJ caused by a PEX6 founder mutation. To our knowledge, this is the highest reported incidence of ZS worldwide. These findings have implications for carrier screening and support the utility of NGS for molecular confirmation of peroxisomal disorders.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-13-72
PMCID: PMC3483250  PMID: 22894767
Zellweger syndrome; Founder effect; Peroxisome biogenesis disorders; Next generation sequencing
18.  Human and great ape red blood cells differ in plasmalogen levels and composition 
Background
Plasmalogens are ether phospholipids required for normal mammalian developmental, physiological, and cognitive functions. They have been proposed to act as membrane antioxidants and reservoirs of polyunsaturated fatty acids as well as influence intracellular signaling and membrane dynamics. Plasmalogens are particularly enriched in cells and tissues of the human nervous, immune, and cardiovascular systems. Humans with severely reduced plasmalogen levels have reduced life spans, abnormal neurological development, skeletal dysplasia, impaired respiration, and cataracts. Plasmalogen deficiency is also found in the brain tissue of individuals with Alzheimer disease.
Results
In a human and great ape cohort, we measured the red blood cell (RBC) levels of the most abundant types of plasmalogens. Total RBC plasmalogen levels were lower in humans than bonobos, chimpanzees, and gorillas, but higher than orangutans. There were especially pronounced cross-species differences in the levels of plasmalogens with a C16:0 moiety at the sn-1 position. Humans on Western or vegan diets had comparable total RBC plasmalogen levels, but the latter group showed moderately higher levels of plasmalogens with a C18:1 moiety at the sn-1 position. We did not find robust sex-specific differences in human or chimpanzee RBC plasmalogen levels or composition. Furthermore, human and great ape skin fibroblasts showed only modest differences in peroxisomal plasmalogen biosynthetic activity. Human and chimpanzee microarray data indicated that genes involved in plasmalogen biosynthesis show cross-species differential expression in multiple tissues.
Conclusion
We propose that the observed differences in human and great ape RBC plasmalogens are primarily caused by their rates of biosynthesis and/or turnover. Gene expression data raise the possibility that other human and great ape cells and tissues differ in plasmalogen levels. Based on the phenotypes of humans and rodents with plasmalogen disorders, we propose that cross-species differences in tissue plasmalogen levels could influence organ functions and processes ranging from cognition to reproduction to aging.
doi:10.1186/1476-511X-10-101
PMCID: PMC3129581  PMID: 21679470
19.  Identification of differences in human and great ape phytanic acid metabolism that could influence gene expression profiles and physiological functions 
BMC Physiology  2010;10:19.
Background
It has been proposed that anatomical differences in human and great ape guts arose in response to species-specific diets and energy demands. To investigate functional genomic consequences of these differences, we compared their physiological levels of phytanic acid, a branched chain fatty acid that can be derived from the microbial degradation of chlorophyll in ruminant guts. Humans who accumulate large stores of phytanic acid commonly develop cerebellar ataxia, peripheral polyneuropathy, and retinitis pigmentosa in addition to other medical conditions. Furthermore, phytanic acid is an activator of the PPAR-alpha transcription factor that influences the expression of genes relevant to lipid metabolism.
Results
Despite their trace dietary phytanic acid intake, all great ape species had elevated red blood cell (RBC) phytanic acid levels relative to humans on diverse diets. Unlike humans, chimpanzees showed sexual dimorphism in RBC phytanic acid levels, which were higher in males relative to females. Cultured skin fibroblasts from all species had a robust capacity to degrade phytanic acid. We provide indirect evidence that great apes, in contrast to humans, derive significant amounts of phytanic acid from the hindgut fermentation of plant materials. This would represent a novel reduction of metabolic activity in humans relative to the great apes.
Conclusion
We identified differences in the physiological levels of phytanic acid in humans and great apes and propose this is causally related to their gut anatomies and microbiomes. Phytanic acid levels could contribute to cross-species and sex-specific differences in human and great ape transcriptomes, especially those related to lipid metabolism. Based on the medical conditions caused by phytanic acid accumulation, we suggest that differences in phytanic acid metabolism could influence the functions of human and great ape nervous, cardiovascular, and skeletal systems.
doi:10.1186/1472-6793-10-19
PMCID: PMC2964658  PMID: 20932325
20.  DNA methylation profiles in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and their relationship to gene expression status 
In an initial epigenetic characterization of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), we evaluated the DNA methylation levels of over 500 CpG islands. Twelve CpG islands (AR, CDKN1C, DLC1, DRD2, GATA4, GDNF, GRIN2B, MTHFR, MYOD1, NEUROD1, ONECUT2, and TFAP2A) showed significant methylation in over 85% of tumors. Interestingly, the methylation levels of a CpG island proximal to FLJ21062 differed between the activated B-cell-like (ABC-DLBCL) and germinal center B-cell-like (GCB-DLBCL) subtypes. In addition, we compared the methylation and expression status of sixty-seven genes proximal (within 500-bp) to the methylation assays. We frequently observed that hypermethylated CpG islands are proximal to genes that are expressed at low or undetectable levels in tumors. However, many of these same genes were also poorly expressed in DLBCL tumors where their cognate CpG islands were hypomethylated. Nevertheless, the proportional reductions in BNIP3, MGMT, RBP1, GATA4, IGSF4, CRABP1, and FLJ21062 expression with increasing methylation suggests that epigenetic processes strongly influence these genes. Lastly, the moderate expression of several genes proximal to hypermethylated CpG tracts suggests that DNA methylation assays are not always accurate predictors of gene silencing. Overall, further investigation of the highlighted CpG islands as potential clinical biomarkers is warranted.
doi:10.1038/leu.2008.18
PMCID: PMC2654231  PMID: 18288132
epigenetics; genomics; CpG island; microarray; gene expression
21.  mtDNA depletion confers specific gene expression profiles in human cells grown in culture and in xenograft 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:521.
Background
Interactions between the gene products encoded by the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes play critical roles in eukaryotic cellular function. However, the effects mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) levels have on the nuclear transcriptome have not been defined under physiological conditions. In order to address this issue, we characterized the gene expression profiles of A549 lung cancer cells and their mtDNA-depleted ρ0 counterparts grown in culture and as tumor xenografts in immune-deficient mice.
Results
Cultured A549 ρ0 cells were respiration-deficient and showed enhanced levels of transcripts relevant to metal homeostasis, initiation of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and glucuronidation pathways. Several well-established HIF-regulated transcripts showed increased or decreased abundance relative to the parental cell line. Furthermore, growth in culture versus xenograft has a significantly greater influence on expression profiles, including transcripts involved in mitochondrial structure and both aerobic and anaerobic energy metabolism. However, both in vitro and in vivo, mtDNA levels explained the majority of the variance observed in the expression of transcripts in glucuronidation, tRNA synthetase, and immune surveillance related pathways. mtDNA levels in A549 xenografts also affected the expression of genes, such as AMACR and PHYH, involved in peroxisomal lipid metabolic pathways.
Conclusion
We have identified mtDNA-dependent gene expression profiles that are shared in cultured cells and in xenografts. These profiles indicate that mtDNA-depleted cells could provide informative model systems for the testing the efficacy of select classes of therapeutics, such as anti-angiogenesis agents. Furthermore, mtDNA-depleted cells grown culture and in xenografts provide a powerful means to investigate possible relationships between mitochondrial activity and gene expression profiles in normal and pathological cells.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-521
PMCID: PMC2612029  PMID: 18980691
22.  Synthesis and biologic properties of hydrophilic sapphyrins, a new class of tumor-selective inhibitors of gene expression 
Molecular Cancer  2007;6:9.
Background
Sapphyrin analogues and related porphyrin-like species have attracted attention as anticancer agents due to their selective localization in various cancers, including hematologic malignancies, relative to surrounding tissues. Sapphyrins are electron affinic compounds that generate high yields of singlet oxygen formation. Although initially explored in the context of photodynamic therapy, sapphyrins have intrinsic anticancer activity that is independent of their photosensitizing properties. However, the mechanisms for their anticancer activity have not been fully elucidated.
Results
We have prepared a series of hydrophilic sapphyrins and evaluated their effect on proliferation, uptake, and cell death in adherent human lung (A549) and prostate (PC3) cancer cell lines and in an A549 xenograft tumor model. PCI-2050, the sapphyrin derivative with the highest in vitro growth inhibitory activity, significantly lowered 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine incorporation in S-phase A549 cells by 60% within eight hours and increased levels of reactive oxygen species within four hours. The growth inhibition pattern of PCI-2050 in the National Cancer Institute 60 cell line screen correlated most closely using the COMPARE algorithm with known transcriptional or translational inhibitors. Gene expression analyses conducted on A549 plateau phase cultures treated with PCI-2050 uncovered wide-spread decreases in mRNA levels, which especially affected short-lived transcripts. Intriguingly, PCI-2050 increased the levels of transcripts involved in RNA processing and trafficking, transcriptional regulation, and chromatin remodeling. We propose that these changes reflect the activation of cellular processes aimed at countering the observed wide-spread reductions in transcript levels. In our A549 xenograft model, the two lead compounds, PCI-2050 and PCI-2022, showed similar tumor distributions despite differences in plasma and kidney level profiles. This provides a possible explanation for the better tolerance of PCI-2022 relative to PCI-2050.
Conclusion
Hydrophilic sapphyrins were found to display promise as novel agents that localize to tumors, generate oxidative stress, and inhibit gene expression.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-6-9
PMCID: PMC1784109  PMID: 17233922

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