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1.  Dietary Methanol Regulates Human Gene Activity 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102837.
Methanol (MeOH) is considered to be a poison in humans because of the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)-mediated conversion of MeOH to formaldehyde (FA), which is toxic. Our recent genome-wide analysis of the mouse brain demonstrated that an increase in endogenous MeOH after ADH inhibition led to a significant increase in the plasma MeOH concentration and a modification of mRNA synthesis. These findings suggest endogenous MeOH involvement in homeostasis regulation by controlling mRNA levels. Here, we demonstrate directly that study volunteers displayed increasing concentrations of MeOH and FA in their blood plasma when consuming citrus pectin, ethanol and red wine. A microarray analysis of white blood cells (WBC) from volunteers after pectin intake showed various responses for 30 significantly differentially regulated mRNAs, most of which were somehow involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). There was also a decreased synthesis of hemoglobin mRNA, HBA and HBB, the presence of which in WBC RNA was not a result of red blood cells contamination because erythrocyte-specific marker genes were not significantly expressed. A qRT-PCR analysis of volunteer WBCs after pectin and red wine intake confirmed the complicated relationship between the plasma MeOH content and the mRNA accumulation of both genes that were previously identified, namely, GAPDH and SNX27, and genes revealed in this study, including MME, SORL1, DDIT4, HBA and HBB. We hypothesized that human plasma MeOH has an impact on the WBC mRNA levels of genes involved in cell signaling.
PMCID: PMC4102594  PMID: 25033451
2.  Methanol May Function as a Cross-Kingdom Signal 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e36122.
Recently, we demonstrated that leaf wounding results in the synthesis of pectin methylesterase (PME), which causes the plant to release methanol into the air. Methanol emitted by a wounded plant increases the accumulation of methanol-inducible gene mRNA and enhances antibacterial resistance as well as cell-to-cell communication, which facilitates virus spreading in neighboring plants. We concluded that methanol is a signaling molecule involved in within-plant and plant-to-plant communication. Methanol is considered to be a poison in humans because of the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)-mediated conversion of methanol into toxic formaldehyde. However, recent data showed that methanol is a natural compound in normal, healthy humans. These data call into question whether human methanol is a metabolic waste product or whether methanol has specific function in humans.
Here, to reveal human methanol-responsive genes (MRGs), we used suppression subtractive hybridization cDNA libraries of HeLa cells lacking ADH and exposed to methanol. This design allowed us to exclude genes involved in formaldehyde and formic acid detoxification from our analysis. We identified MRGs and revealed a correlation between increases in methanol content in the plasma and changes in human leukocyte MRG mRNA levels after fresh salad consumption by volunteers. Subsequently, we showed that the methanol generated by the pectin/PME complex in the gastrointestinal tract of mice induces the up- and downregulation of brain MRG mRNA. We used an adapted Y-maze to measure the locomotor behavior of the mice while breathing wounded plant vapors in two-choice assays. We showed that mice prefer the odor of methanol to other plant volatiles and that methanol changed MRG mRNA accumulation in the mouse brain.
We hypothesize that the methanol emitted by wounded plants may have a role in plant-animal signaling. The known positive effect of plant food intake on human health suggests a role for physiological methanol in human gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC3338578  PMID: 22563443
3.  Plant-Made Trastuzumab (Herceptin) Inhibits HER2/Neu+ Cell Proliferation and Retards Tumor Growth 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17541.
Plant biotechnology provides a valuable contribution to global health, in part because it can decrease the cost of pharmaceutical products. Breast cancer can now be successfully treated by a humanized monoclonal antibody (mAb), trastuzumab (Herceptin). A course of treatment, however, is expensive and requires repeated administrations of the mAb. Here we used an Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression system to produce trastuzumab in plant cells.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We describe the cloning and expression of gene constructs in Nicotiana benthamiana plants using intron-optimized Tobacco mosaic virus- and Potato virus X-based vectors encoding, respectively, the heavy and light chains of trastuzumab. Full-size antibodies extracted and purified from plant tissues were tested for functionality and specificity by (i) binding to HER2/neu on the surface of a human mammary gland adenocarcinoma cell line, SK-BR-3, in fluorescence-activated cell sorting assay and (ii) testing the in vitro and in vivo inhibition of HER-2-expressing cancer cell proliferation. We show that plant-made trastuzumab (PMT) bound to the Her2/neu oncoprotein of SK-BR-3 cells and efficiently inhibited SK-BR-3 cell proliferation. Furthermore, mouse intraperitoneal PMT administration retarded the growth of xenografted tumors derived from human ovarian cancer SKOV3 Her2+ cells.
We conclude that PMT is active in suppression of cell proliferation and tumor growth.
PMCID: PMC3048398  PMID: 21390232
4.  Itt1p, a novel protein inhibiting translation termination in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Termination of translation in eukaryotes is controlled by two interacting polypeptide chain release factors, eRFl and eRF3. eRFl recognizes nonsense codons UAA, UAG and UGA, while eRF3 stimulates polypeptide release from the ribosome in a GTP- and eRFl – dependent manner. Recent studies has shown that proteins interacting with these release factors can modulate the efficiency of nonsense codon readthrough.
We have isolated a nonessential yeast gene, which causes suppression of nonsense mutations, being in a multicopy state. This gene encodes a protein designated Itt1p, possessing a zinc finger domain characteristic of the TRIAD proteins of higher eukaryotes. Overexpression of Itt1p decreases the efficiency of translation termination, resulting in the readthrough of all three types of nonsense codons. Itt1p interacts in vitro with both eRFl and eRF3. Overexpression of eRFl, but not of eRF3, abolishes the nonsense suppressor effect of overexpressed Itt1p.
The data obtained demonstrate that Itt1p can modulate the efficiency of translation termination in yeast. This protein possesses a zinc finger domain characteristic of the TRIAD proteins of higher eukaryotes, and this is a first observation of such protein being involved in translation.
PMCID: PMC56590  PMID: 11570975

Results 1-4 (4)