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1.  Copper Complexation Screen Reveals Compounds with Potent Antibiotic Properties against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus 
Macrophages take advantage of the antibacterial properties of copper ions in the killing of bacterial intruders. However, despite the importance of copper for innate immune functions, coordinated efforts to exploit copper ions for therapeutic interventions against bacterial infections are not yet in place. Here we report a novel high-throughput screening platform specifically developed for the discovery and characterization of compounds with copper-dependent antibacterial properties toward methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). We detail how one of the identified compounds, glyoxal-bis(N4-methylthiosemicarbazone) (GTSM), exerts its potent strictly copper-dependent antibacterial properties on MRSA. Our data indicate that the activity of the GTSM-copper complex goes beyond the general antibacterial effects of accumulated copper ions and suggest that, in contrast to prevailing opinion, copper complexes can indeed exhibit species- and target-specific activities. Based on experimental evidence, we propose that copper ions impose structural changes upon binding to the otherwise inactive GTSM ligand and transfer antibacterial properties to the chelate. In turn, GTSM determines target specificity and utilizes a redox-sensitive release mechanism through which copper ions are deployed at or in close proximity to a putative target. According to our proof-of-concept screen, copper activation is not a rare event and even extends to already established drugs. Thus, copper-activated compounds could define a novel class of anti-MRSA agents that amplify copper-dependent innate immune functions of the host. To this end, we provide a blueprint for a high-throughput drug screening campaign which considers the antibacterial properties of copper ions at the host-pathogen interface.
PMCID: PMC4068557  PMID: 24752262
2.  Carbon dioxide hydrogenation to aromatic hydrocarbons by using an iron/iron oxide nanocatalyst 
The quest for renewable and cleaner energy sources to meet the rapid population and economic growth is more urgent than ever before. Being the most abundant carbon source in the atmosphere of Earth, CO2 can be used as an inexpensive C1 building block in the synthesis of aromatic fuels for internal combustion engines. We designed a process capable of synthesizing benzene, toluene, xylenes and mesitylene from CO2 and H2 at modest temperatures (T = 380 to 540 °C) employing Fe/Fe3O4 nanoparticles as catalyst. The synthesis of the catalyst and the mechanism of CO2-hydrogenation will be discussed, as well as further applications of Fe/Fe3O4 nanoparticles in catalysis.
PMCID: PMC4077464  PMID: 24991513
aromatic hydrocarbons; carbon dioxide reduction; heterogenous catalysis; iron/iron oxide nanocatalyst
3.  Copper-Boosting Compounds: a Novel Concept for Antimycobacterial Drug Discovery 
We and others recently identified copper resistance as important for virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Here, we introduce a high-throughput screening assay for agents that induce a copper hypersensitivity phenotype in M. tuberculosis and demonstrate that such copper-boosting compounds are effective against replicating and nonreplicating M. tuberculosis strains.
PMCID: PMC3553712  PMID: 23254420
4.  Nanoscopic surfactant behavior of the porin MspA in aqueous media 
The mycobacterial porin MspA is one of the most stable channel proteins known to date. MspA forms vesicles at low concentrations in aqueous buffers. Evidence from dynamic light scattering, transmission electron microscopy and zeta-potential measurements by electrophoretic light scattering indicate that MspA behaves like a nanoscale surfactant. The extreme thermostability of MspA allows these investigations to be carried out at temperatures as high as 343 K, at which most other proteins would quickly denature. The principles of vesicle formation of MspA as a function of temperature and the underlying thermodynamic factors are discussed here. The results obtained provide crucial evidence in support of the hypothesis that, during vesicle formation, nanoscopic surfactant molecules, such as MspA, deviate from the principles underlined in classical surface chemistry.
PMCID: PMC3678404  PMID: 23766950
charge-interaction; hydrophobic interaction; liposome-type cluster; protein cluster; supramolecular; temperature influence; zeta potential
5.  A Cell-Delivered and –Activated SN38-Dextran Prodrug Increases Survival in a Murine Disseminated Pancreatic Cancer Model 
Enzyme activated prodrugs have been investigated and sought after as highly specific, low side effect treatments, especially for cancer therapy. Unfortunately, excellent targets for enzyme activated therapy are rare. Here we demonstrate a system based on cell delivery that can carry both a prodrug and an activating enzyme to the cancer site. Raw264.7 cells (mouse monocyte/macrophage like cells, Mo/Ma) were engineered to express intracellular rabbit carboxylesterase (InCE), which is a potent activator of the prodrug irinotecan to SN38. InCE expression was regulated by the TetOn® system, which silences the gene unless a tetracycline, such as doxycycline, is present. Concurrently, an irinotecan-like prodrug, conjugated to dextran, was synthesized that could be loaded into the cytoplasm of Mo/Ma. To test the system, a murine pancreatic cancer model was generated by intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of Pan02 cells. Engineered Mo/Ma were loaded with the prodrug and were injected i.p. Two days later, doxycycline was given i.p. to activate InCE, which activated the prodrug. A survival study demonstrated that this system significantly increased survival in a murine pancreatic cancer model. Thus, for the first time, a prodrug/activating enzyme system self-contained within tumor-homing cells has been demonstrated that can prolong the life of i.p. pancreatic tumor bearing mice.
PMCID: PMC3583224  PMID: 22238072
Prodrug Therapy; Cytotherapy; Pancreatic Cancer; Cancer Targeting
6.  A self-contained enzyme activating prodrug cytotherapy for preclinical melanoma 
Molecular biology reports  2011;39(1):157-165.
Gene-directed enzyme prodrug therapy (GDEPT) has been investigated as a means of cancer treatment without affecting normal tissues. This system is based on the delivery of a suicide gene, a gene encoding an enzyme which is able to convert its substrate from non-toxic prodrug to cytotoxin. In this experiment, we have developed a targeted suicide gene therapeutic system that is completely contained within tumor-tropic cells and have tested this system for melanoma therapy in a preclinical model. First, we established double stable RAW264.7 monocyte/macrophage-like cells (Mo/Ma) containing a Tet-On® Advanced system for intracellular carboxylesterase (InCE) expression. Second, we loaded a prodrug into the delivery cells, double stable Mo/Ma. Third, we activated the enzyme system to convert the prodrug, irinotecan, to the cytotoxin, SN-38. Our double stable Mo/Ma homed to the lung melanomas after 1 day and successfully delivered the prodrug-activating enzyme/prodrug package to the tumors. We observed that our system significantly reduced tumor weights and numbers as targeted tumor therapy after activation of the InCE. Therefore, we propose that this system may be a useful targeted melanoma therapy system for pulmonary metastatic tumors with minimal side effects, particularly if it is combined with other treatments.
PMCID: PMC3222711  PMID: 21567204
B16-F10; Mouse lung melanoma; Mouse monocytes; Targeted cell delivery; Suicide therapy
7.  Adaptation of Mycobacterium smegmatis to an Industrial Scale Medium and Isolation of the Mycobacterial PorinMspA 
The adaptation of the organism to a simple and cost-effective growth medium is mandatory in developing a process for large scale production of the octamericporinMspA, which is isolated from Mycobacterium smegmatis. A fermentation optimization with the minimal nutrients required for growth has been performed. During the fermentation, the iron- and ammonium chloride concentrations in the medium were varied to determine their impact on the observed growth rates and cell mass yields. Common antibiotics to control contamination were eliminated in favor of copper sulfate to reduce costs. MspA has been successfully isolated from the harvested M. smegmatisusing aqueous nOPOE (n-octyloligooxyethylene) at 65°C. Because of the extraordinary stability of MspA, it is possible to denature and precipitate virtually all other proteins and contaminants by following this approach. To further purify the product, acetone is used for precipitation. Gel electrophoresis confirmed the presence and purity of MspA. A maximum of 840µg (via Bradford assay) of pure MspA per liter of the optimized simple growth medium has been obtained. This is a 40% increase with respect to the previously reported culture medium for MspA.
PMCID: PMC3680987  PMID: 23802026
Medium; optimization; Mycobacterium; smegmatis; MspA; protein extraction.
8.  Magnetic-Fe/Fe3O4-nanoparticle-bound SN38 as carboxylesterase-cleavable prodrug for the delivery to tumors within monocytes/macrophages 
The targeted delivery of therapeutics to the tumor site is highly desirable in cancer treatment, because it is capable of minimizing collateral damage. Herein, we report the synthesis of a nanoplatform, which is composed of a 15 ± 1 nm diameter core/shell Fe/Fe3O4 magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) and the topoisomerase I blocker SN38 bound to the surface of the MNPs via a carboxylesterase cleavable linker. This nanoplatform demonstrated high heating ability (SAR = 522 ± 40 W/g) in an AC-magnetic field. For the purpose of targeted delivery, this nanoplatform was loaded into tumor-homing double-stable RAW264.7 cells (mouse monocyte/macrophage-like cells (Mo/Ma)), which have been engineered to express intracellular carboxylesterase (InCE) upon addition of doxycycline by a Tet-On Advanced system. The nanoplatform was taken up efficiently by these tumor-homing cells. They showed low toxicity even at high nanoplatform concentration. SN38 was released successfully by switching on the Tet-On Advanced system. We have demonstrated that this nanoplatform can be potentially used for thermochemotherapy. We will be able to achieve the following goals: (1) Specifically deliver the SN38 prodrug and magnetic nanoparticles to the cancer site as the payload of tumor-homing double-stable RAW264.7 cells; (2) Release of chemotherapeutic SN38 at the cancer site by means of the self-containing Tet-On Advanced system; (3) Provide localized magnetic hyperthermia to enhance the cancer treatment, both by killing cancer cells through magnetic heating and by activating the immune system.
PMCID: PMC3388369  PMID: 23016149
cell-based delivery; chemotherapeutic prodrug; magnetic Fe/Fe3O4 nanoparticles; SN38
9.  Expression of the ompATb operon accelerates ammonia secretion and adaptation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to acidic environments 
Molecular microbiology  2011;80(4):900-918.
Homeostasis of intracellular pH is a trait critical for survival of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) in macrophages. However, mechanisms by which Mtb adapts to acidic environments are poorly understood. In this study, we analyzed the physiological functions of OmpATb, a surface-accessible protein of Mtb. OmpATb did not complement the permeability defects of an M. smegmatis porin mutant to glucose, serine and glycerol, in contrast to the porin MspA. Uptake rates of these solutes were unchanged in an ompATb operon mutant of Mtb indicating that OmpATb is not a general porin. Chemical analysis of low pH culture filtrates showed that the proteins encoded by the ompATb operon are involved in generating a rapid ammonia burst, which neutralized medium pH and preceded exponential growth of Mtb. Addition of ammonia accelerated growth of the ompATb operon mutant demonstrating that ammonia secretion is indeed a mechanism by which Mtb neutralizes acidic environments. Infection experiments revealed that the ompATb operon was not required for full virulence in mice suggesting that Mtb has multiple mechanisms of resisting phagosomal acidification. Taken together, these results show that the ompATb operon is necessary for rapid ammonia secretion and adaptation of Mtb to acidic environments in vitro but not in mice.
PMCID: PMC3091969  PMID: 21410778
outer membrane; permeability; porin; virulence; cell wall
10.  Human Xenografts Are Not Rejected in a Naturally Occurring Immunodeficient Porcine Line: A Human Tumor Model in Pigs 
BioResearch Open Access  2012;1(2):63-68.
Animal models for cancer therapy are invaluable for preclinical testing of potential cancer treatments; however, therapies tested in such models often fail to translate into clinical settings. Therefore, a better preclinical model for cancer treatment testing is needed. Here we demonstrate that an immunodeficient line of pigs can host and support the growth of xenografted human tumors and has the potential to be an effective animal model for cancer therapy. Wild-type and immunodeficient pigs were injected subcutaneously in the left ear with human melanoma cells (A375SM cells) and in the right ear with human pancreatic carcinoma cells (PANC-1). All immunodeficient pigs developed tumors that were verified by histology and immunohistochemistry. Nonaffected littermates did not develop tumors. Immunodeficient pigs, which do not reject xenografted human tumors, have the potential to become an extremely useful animal model for cancer therapy because of their similarity in size, anatomy, and physiology to humans.
PMCID: PMC3559234  PMID: 23514746
immunodeficient swine; large-animal cancer model; melanoma; pancreatic carcinoma; xenografts
11.  Cell-delivered magnetic nanoparticles caused hyperthermia-mediated increased survival in a murine pancreatic cancer model 
Using magnetic nanoparticles to absorb alternating magnetic field energy as a method of generating localized hyperthermia has been shown to be a potential cancer treatment. This report demonstrates a system that uses tumor homing cells to actively carry iron/iron oxide nanoparticles into tumor tissue for alternating magnetic field treatment. Paramagnetic iron/ iron oxide nanoparticles were synthesized and loaded into RAW264.7 cells (mouse monocyte/ macrophage-like cells), which have been shown to be tumor homing cells. A murine model of disseminated peritoneal pancreatic cancer was then generated by intraperitoneal injection of Pan02 cells. After tumor development, monocyte/macrophage-like cells loaded with iron/ iron oxide nanoparticles were injected intraperitoneally and allowed to migrate into the tumor. Three days after injection, mice were exposed to an alternating magnetic field for 20 minutes to cause the cell-delivered nanoparticles to generate heat. This treatment regimen was repeated three times. A survival study demonstrated that this system can significantly increase survival in a murine pancreatic cancer model, with an average post-tumor insertion life expectancy increase of 31%. This system has the potential to become a useful method for specifically and actively delivering nanoparticles for local hyperthermia treatment of cancer.
PMCID: PMC3265998  PMID: 22287840
cytotherapy; pancreatic cancer; disseminated peritoneal carcinomatosis; targeted magnetic hyperthermia; nanoparticles
12.  Attenuation of Mouse Melanoma by A/C Magnetic Field after Delivery of Bi-Magnetic Nanoparticles by Neural Progenitor Cells 
ACS nano  2010;4(12):7093-7104.
Localized magnetic hyperthermia as a treatment modality for cancer has generated renewed interest, particularly if it can be targeted to the tumor site. We examined whether tumor-tropic neural progenitor cells (NPCs) could be utilized as cell delivery vehicles for achieving preferential accumulation of core/shell iron/iron oxide magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) within a mouse model of melanoma. We developed aminosiloxane-porphyrin functionalized MNPs, evaluated cell viability and loading efficiency, and transplanted neural progenitor cells loaded with this cargo into mice with melanoma. NPCs were efficiently loaded with core/shell Fe/Fe3O4 MNPs with minimal cytotoxicity; the MNPs accumulated as aggregates in the cytosol. The NPCs loaded with MNPs could travel to subcutaneous melanomas, and after A/C (alternating current) magnetic field (AMF) exposure, the targeted delivery of MNPs by the cells resulted in a measurable regression of the tumors. The tumor attenuation was significant (p<0.05) a short time (24 hours) after the last of three AMF exposures.
PMCID: PMC3011034  PMID: 21058696
nanotechnology; cell-based; targeted delivery; magnetic nanoparticles; magnetic hyperthermia; melanoma; neural progenitor cells
13.  Poly-N-Isopropylacrylamide/acrylic Acid Copolymers for the Generation of Nanostructures at Mica Surfaces and as Hydrophobic Host Systems for the Porin MspA from Mycobacterium smegmatis 
The work presented here aims at utilizing poly-N-isopropyl-acrylamide/acrylic acid copolymers to create nanostructured layers on mica surfaces by a simple spin-casting procedure. The average composition of the copolymers determined by elemental analysis correlates excellently with the feed composition indicating that the radical polymerization process is statistical. The resulting surfaces were characterized by Atomic Force Microscopy (magnetic AC-mode) at the copolymer/air interface. Postpolymerization modification of the acrylic acid functions with perfluoro-octyl-iodide decreased the tendency towards spontaneous formation of nanopores. Crosslinking of individual polymer chains permitted the generation of ultraflat layers, which hosted the mycobacterial channel protein MspA, without compromising its channel function. The comparison of copolymers of very similar chemical composition that have been prepared by living radical polymerization and classic radical polymerization indicated that differences in polydispersity played only a minor role when poly-N-isopropyl-acrylamide/acrylic acid copolymers were spincast, but a major role when copolymers featuring the strongly hydrophobic perfluoro-octyl-labels were used. The mean pore diameters were 23.8±4.4 nm for P[(NIPAM)95.5-co-(AA)4.5] (PDI (polydispersity index)=1.55) and 21.8±4.2 nm for P[(NIPAM)95.3-co-(AA)4.7] (PDI=1.25). The depth of the nanopores was approx. 4 nm. When depositing P[(NIPAM)95-co-(AA)2.8-AAC8F17 2.2] (PDI=1.29) on Mica, the resulting mean pore diameter was 35.8±7.1 nm, with a depth of only 2 nm.
PMCID: PMC2776743  PMID: 20161351
14.  A/C magnetic hyperthermia of melanoma mediated by iron(0)/iron oxide core/shell magnetic nanoparticles: a mouse study 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:119.
There is renewed interest in magnetic hyperthermia as a treatment modality for cancer, especially when it is combined with other more traditional therapeutic approaches, such as the co-delivery of anticancer drugs or photodynamic therapy.
The influence of bimagnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) combined with short external alternating magnetic field (AMF) exposure on the growth of subcutaneous mouse melanomas (B16-F10) was evaluated. Bimagnetic Fe/Fe3O4 core/shell nanoparticles were designed for cancer targeting after intratumoral or intravenous administration. Their inorganic center was protected against rapid biocorrosion by organic dopamine-oligoethylene glycol ligands. TCPP (4-tetracarboxyphenyl porphyrin) units were attached to the dopamine-oligoethylene glycol ligands.
The magnetic hyperthermia results obtained after intratumoral injection indicated that micromolar concentrations of iron given within the modified core-shell Fe/Fe3O4 nanoparticles caused a significant anti-tumor effect on murine B16-F10 melanoma with three short 10-minute AMF exposures. We also observed a decrease in tumor size after intravenous administration of the MNPs followed by three consecutive days of AMF exposure 24 hrs after the MNPs injection.
These results indicate that intratumoral administration of surface modified MNPs can attenuate mouse melanoma after AMF exposure. Moreover, we have found that after intravenous administration of micromolar concentrations, these MNPs are capable of causing an anti-tumor effect in a mouse melanoma model after only a short AMF exposure time. This is a clear improvement to state of the art.
PMCID: PMC2859385  PMID: 20350328
15.  Direct Observation of Gold Nanoparticle Assemblies with the Porin MspA on Mica 
ACS nano  2009;3(2):462-466.
The octameric porin MspA from Mycobacterium smegmatis is sufficiently stable to form a non-membrane-supported stand-alone porin on Mica surfaces. About 98% of all MspA octamers were found to stand upright on Mica, with their periplasmic loop regions bound to the hydrophilic Mica surface. Both, small (d = 3.7 nm) and large (d = 17 nm) gold nanoparticles bind to MspA, however in different positions: small gold nanoparticles bind within the MspA pore, whereas the large gold nanoparticles bind to the upper region of MspA. These experiments demonstrate that gold nanoparticles can be positioned at different, well-defined distances from the underlying surface using the MspA pore as a template. These findings represent a significant step towards the use of electrically insulating stable proteins in combination with metal nanoparticles in nanodevices.
PMCID: PMC2657223  PMID: 19236086
MspA from M. smegmatis; AFM (Magnetic AC Mode); Mica; gold-nanoparticle; bio/nanoelectronics

Results 1-15 (15)