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1.  Anterior/Posterior Competitive Deactivation/Activation Dichotomy in the Human Hippocampus as Revealed by a 3D Navigation Task 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86213.
Anterior/posterior long axis specialization is thought to underlie the organization of the hippocampus. However it remains unclear whether antagonistic mechanisms differentially modulate processing of spatial information within the hippocampus. We used fMRI and a virtual reality 3D paradigm to study encoding and retrieval of spatial memory during active visuospatial navigation, requiring positional encoding and retrieval of object landmarks during the path. Both encoding and retrieval elicited BOLD activation of the posterior most portion of hippocampus, while concurrent deactivations (recently shown to reflect decreases in neural responses) were found in the most anterior regions. Encoding elicited stronger activity in the posterior right than the left hippocampus. The former structure also showed significantly stronger activity for allocentric vs. egocentric processing during retrieval. The anterior vs. posterior pattern mimics, from a functional point, although at much distinct temporal scales, the previous anatomical findings in London taxi drivers, whereby posterior enlargement was found at the cost of an anterior decrease, and the mirror symmetric findings observed in blind people, in whom the right anterior hippocampus was found to be larger, at the cost of a smaller posterior hippocampus, as compared with sighted people. In sum, we found a functional dichotomy whereby the anterior/posterior hippocampus shows antagonistic processing patterns for spatial encoding and retrieval of 3D spatial information. To our knowledge, this is the first study reporting such a dynamical pattern in a functional study, which suggests that differential modulation of neural responses within the human hippocampus reflects distinct roles in spatial memory processing.
PMCID: PMC3903506  PMID: 24475088
2.  BOLA1 Is an Aerobic Protein That Prevents Mitochondrial Morphology Changes Induced by Glutathione Depletion 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;18(2):129-138.
Aims: The BolA protein family is widespread among eukaryotes and bacteria. In Escherichia coli, BolA causes a spherical cell shape and is overexpressed during oxidative stress. Here we aim to elucidate the possible role of its human homolog BOLA1 in mitochondrial morphology and thiol redox potential regulation. Results: We show that BOLA1 is a mitochondrial protein that counterbalances the effect of L-buthionine-(S,R)-sulfoximine (BSO)-induced glutathione (GSH) depletion on the mitochondrial thiol redox potential. Furthermore, overexpression of BOLA1 nullifies the effect of BSO and S-nitrosocysteine on mitochondrial morphology. Conversely, knockdown of the BOLA1 gene increases the oxidation of mitochondrial thiol groups. Supporting a role of BOLA1 in controlling the mitochondrial thiol redox potential is that BOLA1 orthologs only occur in aerobic eukaryotes. A measured interaction of BOLA1 with the mitochondrial monothiol glutaredoxin GLRX5 provides hints for potential mechanisms behind BOLA1's effect on mitochondrial redox potential. Nevertheless, we have no direct evidence for a role of GLRX5 in BOLA1's function. Innovation: We implicate a new protein, BOLA1, in the regulation of the mitochondrial thiol redox potential. Conclusion: BOLA1 is an aerobic, mitochondrial protein that prevents mitochondrial morphology aberrations induced by GSH depletion and reduces the associated oxidative shift of the mitochondrial thiol redox potential. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 18, 129–138.
PMCID: PMC3513987  PMID: 22746225
3.  A three-dimensional topology of complex I inferred from evolutionary correlations 
The quaternary structure of eukaryotic NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I), the largest complex of the oxidative phosphorylation, is still mostly unresolved. Furthermore, it is unknown where transiently bound assembly factors interact with complex I. We therefore asked whether the evolution of complex I contains information about its 3D topology and the binding positions of its assembly factors. We approached these questions by correlating the evolutionary rates of eukaryotic complex I subunits using the mirror-tree method and mapping the results into a 3D representation by multidimensional scaling.
More than 60% of the evolutionary correlation among the conserved seven subunits of the complex I matrix arm can be explained by the physical distance between the subunits. The three-dimensional evolutionary model of the eukaryotic conserved matrix arm has a striking similarity to the matrix arm quaternary structure in the bacterium Thermus thermophilus (rmsd=19 Å) and supports the previous finding that in eukaryotes the N-module is turned relative to the Q-module when compared to bacteria. By contrast, the evolutionary rates contained little information about the structure of the membrane arm. A large evolutionary model of 45 subunits and assembly factors allows to predict subunit positions and interactions (rmsd = 52.6 Å). The model supports an interaction of NDUFAF3, C8orf38 and C2orf56 during the assembly of the proximal matrix arm and the membrane arm. The model further suggests a tight relationship between the assembly factor NUBPL and NDUFA2, which both have been linked to iron-sulfur cluster assembly, as well as between NDUFA12 and its paralog, the assembly factor NDUFAF2.
The physical distance between subunits of complex I is a major correlate of the rate of protein evolution in the complex I matrix arm and is sufficient to infer parts of the complex’s structure with high accuracy. The resulting evolutionary model predicts the positions of a number of subunits and assembly factors.
PMCID: PMC3436739  PMID: 22857522
Eukaryotic complex I; Quaternary topology; Assembly; Mirror-tree method; Co-evolution
4.  Evolution and Diversification of the Organellar Release Factor Family 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2012;29(11):3497-3512.
Translation termination is accomplished by proteins of the Class I release factor family (RF) that recognize stop codons and catalyze the ribosomal release of the newly synthesized peptide. Bacteria have two canonical RFs: RF1 recognizes UAA and UAG, RF2 recognizes UAA and UGA. Despite that these two release factor proteins are sufficient for de facto translation termination, the eukaryotic organellar RF protein family, which has evolved from bacterial release factors, has expanded considerably, comprising multiple subfamilies, most of which have not been functionally characterized or formally classified. Here, we integrate multiple sources of information to analyze the remarkable differentiation of the RF family among organelles. We document the origin, phylogenetic distribution and sequence structure features of the mitochondrial and plastidial release factors: mtRF1a, mtRF1, mtRF2a, mtRF2b, mtRF2c, ICT1, C12orf65, pRF1, and pRF2, and review published relevant experimental data. The canonical release factors (mtRF1a, mtRF2a, pRF1, and pRF2) and ICT1 are derived from bacterial ancestors, whereas the others have resulted from gene duplications of another release factor. These new RF family members have all lost one or more specific motifs relevant for bona fide release factor function but are mostly targeted to the same organelle as their ancestor. We also characterize the subset of canonical release factor proteins that bear nonclassical PxT/SPF tripeptide motifs and provide a molecular-model-based rationale for their retained ability to recognize stop codons. Finally, we analyze the coevolution of canonical RFs with the organellar genetic code. Although the RF presence in an organelle and its stop codon usage tend to coevolve, we find three taxa that encode an RF2 without using UGA stop codons, and one reverse scenario, where mamiellales green algae use UGA stop codons in their mitochondria without having a mitochondrial type RF2. For the latter, we put forward a “stop-codon reinvention” hypothesis that involves the retargeting of the plastid release factor to the mitochondrion.
PMCID: PMC3472500  PMID: 22688947
release factor; translation termination; mitochondrion; plastid; evolution; genetic code
5.  Structure based hypothesis of a mitochondrial ribosome rescue mechanism 
Biology Direct  2012;7:14.
mtRF1 is a vertebrate mitochondrial protein with an unknown function that arose from a duplication of the mitochondrial release factor mtRF1a. To elucidate the function of mtRF1, we determined the positions that are conserved among mtRF1 sequences but that are different in their mtRF1a paralogs. We subsequently modeled the 3D structure of mtRF1a and mtRF1 bound to the ribosome, highlighting the structural implications of these differences to derive a hypothesis for the function of mtRF1.
Our model predicts, in agreement with the experimental data, that the 3D structure of mtRF1a allows it to recognize the stop codons UAA and UAG in the A-site of the ribosome. In contrast, we show that mtRF1 likely can only bind the ribosome when the A-site is devoid of mRNA. Furthermore, while mtRF1a will adopt its catalytic conformation, in which it functions as a peptidyl-tRNA hydrolase in the ribosome, only upon binding of a stop codon in the A-site, mtRF1 appears specifically adapted to assume this extended, peptidyl-tRNA hydrolyzing conformation in the absence of mRNA in the A-site.
We predict that mtRF1 specifically recognizes ribosomes with an empty A-site and is able to function as a peptidyl-tRNA hydrolase in those situations. Stalled ribosomes with empty A-sites that still contain a tRNA bound to a peptide chain can result from the translation of truncated, stop-codon less mRNAs. We hypothesize that mtRF1 recycles such stalled ribosomes, performing a function that is analogous to that of tmRNA in bacteria.
This article was reviewed by Dr. Eugene Koonin, Prof. Knud H. Nierhaus (nominated by Dr. Sarah Teichmann) and Dr. Shamil Sunyaev.
PMCID: PMC3418547  PMID: 22569235
Class I release factor; mtRF1; mtRF1a; Mitochondrial genetic code; Translation termination; Stalled ribosome
6.  The Organellar Genome and Metabolic Potential of the Hydrogen-Producing Mitochondrion of Nyctotherus ovalis 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2011;28(8):2379-2391.
It is generally accepted that hydrogenosomes (hydrogen-producing organelles) evolved from a mitochondrial ancestor. However, until recently, only indirect evidence for this hypothesis was available. Here, we present the almost complete genome of the hydrogen-producing mitochondrion of the anaerobic ciliate Nyctotherus ovalis and show that, except for the notable absence of genes encoding electron transport chain components of Complexes III, IV, and V, it has a gene content similar to the mitochondrial genomes of aerobic ciliates. Analysis of the genome of the hydrogen-producing mitochondrion, in combination with that of more than 9,000 genomic DNA and cDNA sequences, allows a preliminary reconstruction of the organellar metabolism. The sequence data indicate that N. ovalis possesses hydrogen-producing mitochondria that have a truncated, two step (Complex I and II) electron transport chain that uses fumarate as electron acceptor. In addition, components of an extensive protein network for the metabolism of amino acids, defense against oxidative stress, mitochondrial protein synthesis, mitochondrial protein import and processing, and transport of metabolites across the mitochondrial membrane were identified. Genes for MPV17 and ACN9, two hypothetical proteins linked to mitochondrial disease in humans, were also found. The inferred metabolism is remarkably similar to the organellar metabolism of the phylogenetically distant anaerobic Stramenopile Blastocystis. Notably, the Blastocystis organelle and that of the related flagellate Proteromonas lacertae also lack genes encoding components of Complexes III, IV, and V. Thus, our data show that the hydrogenosomes of N. ovalis are highly specialized hydrogen-producing mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC3144386  PMID: 21378103
hydrogenosome; mitochondrion; horizontal gene transfer; evolution; adaptation; Nyctotherus
7.  The hydrogenosomes of Psalteriomonas lanterna 
Hydrogenosomes are organelles that produce molecular hydrogen and ATP. The broad phylogenetic distribution of their hosts suggests that the hydrogenosomes of these organisms evolved several times independently from the mitochondria of aerobic progenitors. Morphology and 18S rRNA phylogeny suggest that the microaerophilic amoeboflagellate Psalteriomonas lanterna, which possesses hydrogenosomes and elusive "modified mitochondria", belongs to the Heterolobosea, a taxon that consists predominantly of aerobic, mitochondriate organisms. This taxon is rather unrelated to taxa with hitherto studied hydrogenosomes.
Electron microscopy of P. lanterna flagellates reveals a large globule in the centre of the cell that is build up from stacks of some 20 individual hydrogenosomes. The individual hydrogenosomes are surrounded by a double membrane that encloses a homogeneous, dark staining matrix lacking cristae. The "modified mitochondria" are found in the cytoplasm of the cell and are surrounded by 1-2 cisterns of rough endoplasmatic reticulum, just as the mitochondria of certain related aerobic Heterolobosea. The ultrastructure of the "modified mitochondria" and hydrogenosomes is very similar, and they have the same size distribution as the hydrogenosomes that form the central stack.
The phylogenetic analysis of selected EST sequences (Hsp60, Propionyl-CoA carboxylase) supports the phylogenetic position of P. lanterna close to aerobic Heterolobosea (Naegleria gruberi). Moreover, this analysis also confirms the identity of several mitochondrial or hydrogenosomal key-genes encoding proteins such as a Hsp60, a pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase, a putative ADP/ATP carrier, a mitochondrial complex I subunit (51 KDa), and a [FeFe] hydrogenase.
Comparison of the ultrastructure of the "modified mitochondria" and hydrogenosomes strongly suggests that both organelles are just two morphs of the same organelle. The EST studies suggest that the hydrogenosomes of P. lanterna are physiologically similar to the hydrogenosomes of Trichomonas vaginalis and Trimastix pyriformis. Phylogenetic analysis of the ESTs confirms the relationship of P. lanterna with its aerobic relative, the heterolobosean amoeboflagellate Naegleria gruberi, corroborating the evolution of hydrogenosomes from a common, mitochondriate ancestor.
PMCID: PMC2796672  PMID: 20003182

Results 1-7 (7)