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1.  Identification of a new actin binding surface on vinculin that mediates mechanical cell and focal adhesion properties 
SUMMARY
Vinculin, a cytoskeletal scaffold protein essential for embryogenesis and cardiovascular function, localizes to focal adhesions and adherens junctions, connecting cell surface receptors to the actin cytoskeleton. While vinculin interacts with many adhesion proteins, its interaction with filamentous actin regulates cell morphology, motility, and mechanotransduction. Disruption of this interaction lowers cell traction forces and enhances actin flow rates. Although a model for the vinculin:actin complex exists, we recently identified actin-binding deficient mutants of vinculin outside sites predicted to bind actin, and developed an alternative model to better define this novel actin-binding surface, using negative-stain EM, discrete molecular dynamics, and mutagenesis. Actin-binding deficient vinculin variants expressed in vinculin knockout fibroblasts fail to rescue cell-spreading defects and reduce cellular response to external force. These findings highlight the importance of this new actin-binding surface and provide the molecular basis for elucidating additional roles of this interaction, including actin-induced conformational changes which promote actin bundling.
doi:10.1016/j.str.2014.03.002
PMCID: PMC4039106  PMID: 24685146
2.  Flanking Bases Influence the Nature of DNA Distortion by Platinum 1,2-Intrastrand (GG) Cross-Links 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23582.
The differences in efficacy and molecular mechanisms of platinum anti-cancer drugs cisplatin (CP) and oxaliplatin (OX) are thought to be partially due to the differences in the DNA conformations of the CP and OX adducts that form on adjacent guanines on DNA, which in turn influence the binding of damage-recognition proteins that control downstream effects of the adducts. Here we report a comprehensive comparison of the structural distortion of DNA caused by CP and OX adducts in the TGGT sequence context using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. When compared to our previous studies in other sequence contexts, these structural studies help us understand the effect of the sequence context on the conformation of Pt-GG DNA adducts. We find that both the sequence context and the type of Pt-GG DNA adduct (CP vs. OX) play an important role in the conformation and the conformational dynamics of Pt-DNA adducts, possibly explaining their influence on the ability of many damage-recognition proteins to bind to Pt-DNA adducts.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023582
PMCID: PMC3154474  PMID: 21853154

Results 1-2 (2)