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1.  Recognizable cerebellar dysplasia associated with mutations in multiple tubulin genes 
Human Molecular Genetics  2015;24(18):5313-5325.
Mutations in alpha- and beta-tubulins are increasingly recognized as a major cause of malformations of cortical development (MCD), typically lissencephaly, pachygyria and polymicrogyria; however, sequencing tubulin genes in large cohorts of MCD patients has detected tubulin mutations in only 1–13%. We identified patients with a highly characteristic cerebellar dysplasia but without lissencephaly, pachygyria and polymicrogyria typically associated with tubulin mutations. Remarkably, in seven of nine patients (78%), targeted sequencing revealed mutations in three different tubulin genes (TUBA1A, TUBB2B and TUBB3), occurring de novo or inherited from a mosaic parent. Careful re-review of the cortical phenotype on brain imaging revealed only an irregular pattern of gyri and sulci, for which we propose the term tubulinopathy-related dysgyria. Basal ganglia (100%) and brainstem dysplasia (80%) were common features. On the basis of in silico structural predictions, the mutations affect amino acids in diverse regions of the alpha-/beta-tubulin heterodimer, including the nucleotide binding pocket. Cell-based assays of tubulin dynamics reveal various effects of the mutations on incorporation into microtubules: TUBB3 p.Glu288Lys and p.Pro357Leu do not incorporate into microtubules at all, whereas TUBB2B p.Gly13Ala shows reduced incorporation and TUBA1A p.Arg214His incorporates fully, but at a slower rate than wild-type. The broad range of effects on microtubule incorporation is at odds with the highly stereotypical clinical phenotype, supporting differential roles for the three tubulin genes involved. Identifying this highly characteristic phenotype is important due to the low recurrence risk compared with the other (recessive) cerebellar dysplasias and the apparent lack of non-neurological medical issues.
PMCID: PMC4550818  PMID: 26130693
2.  Demethylase Inhibitor Fungicide Resistance in Pyrenophora teres f. sp. teres Associated with Target Site Modification and Inducible Overexpression of Cyp51 
Pyrenophora teres f. sp. teres is the cause of net form of net blotch (NFNB), an economically important foliar disease in barley (Hordeum vulgare). Net and spot forms of net blotch are widely controlled using site-specific systemic fungicides. Although resistance to succinate dehydrogenase inhibitors and quinone outside inhibitors has been addressed before in net blotches, mechanisms controlling demethylation inhibitor resistance have not yet been reported at the molecular level. Here we report the isolation of strains of NFNB in Australia since 2013 resistant to a range of demethylase inhibitor fungicides. Cyp51A:KO103-A1, an allele with the mutation F489L, corresponding to the archetype F495I in Aspergillus fumigatus, was only present in resistant strains and was correlated with resistance factors to various demethylase inhibitors ranging from 1.1 for epoxiconazole to 31.7 for prochloraz. Structural in silico modeling of the sensitive and resistant CYP51A proteins docked with different demethylase inhibitor fungicides showed how the interaction of F489L within the heme cavity produced a localized constriction of the region adjacent to the docking site that is predicted to result in lower binding affinities. Resistant strains also displayed enhanced induced expression of the two Cyp51A paralogs and of Cyp51B genes. While Cyp51B was found to be constitutively expressed in the absence of fungicide, Cyp51A was only detected at extremely low levels. Under fungicide induction, expression of Cyp51B, Cyp51A2, and Cyp51A1 was shown to be 1.6-, 3,- and 5.3-fold higher, respectively in the resistant isolate compared to the wild type. These increased levels of expression were not supported by changes in the promoters of any of the three genes. The implications of these findings on demethylase inhibitor activity will require current net blotch management strategies to be reconsidered in order to avoid the development of further resistance and preserve the lifespan of fungicides in use.
PMCID: PMC4990540  PMID: 27594852
Cyp51; azole; DMI; resistance; net blotch; Pyrenophora teres; overexpression; mutation
3.  Novel Substrate Specificity and Temperature-Sensitive Activity of Mycosphaerella graminicola CYP51 Supported by the Native NADPH Cytochrome P450 Reductase 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2015;81(10):3379-3386.
Mycosphaerella graminicola (Zymoseptoria tritici) is an ascomycete filamentous fungus that causes Septoria leaf blotch in wheat crops. In Europe the most widely used fungicides for this major disease are demethylation inhibitors (DMIs). Their target is the essential sterol 14α-demethylase (CYP51), which requires cytochrome P450 reductase (CPR) as its redox partner for functional activity. The M. graminicola CPR (MgCPR) is able to catalyze the sterol 14α-demethylation of eburicol and lanosterol when partnered with Candida albicans CYP51 (CaCYP51) and that of eburicol only with M. graminicola CYP51 (MgCYP51). The availability of the functional in vivo redox partner enabled the in vitro catalytic activity of MgCYP51 to be demonstrated for the first time. MgCYP51 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) studies with epoxiconazole, tebuconazole, triadimenol, and prothioconazole-desthio confirmed that MgCYP51 bound these azole inhibitors tightly. The characterization of the MgCPR/MgCYP51 redox pairing has produced a functional method to evaluate the effects of agricultural azole fungicides, has demonstrated eburicol specificity in the activity observed, and supports the conclusion that prothioconazole is a profungicide.
PMCID: PMC4407231  PMID: 25746994
4.  A Novel GABRG2 Mutation, p.R136*, in a family with GEFS+ and extended phenotypes 
Neurobiology of disease  2014;64:131-141.
Genetic mutations in voltage-gated and ligand-gated ion channel genes have been identified in a small number of Mendelian families with genetic generalised epilepsies (GGEs). They are commonly associated with febrile seizures (FS), childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) and particularly with generalised or genetic epilepsy with febrile seizures plus (GEFS+). In clinical practice, despite efforts to categorise epilepsy and epilepsy families into syndromic diagnoses, many generalised epilepsies remain unclassified with a presumed genetic basis. During the systematic collection of epilepsy families, we assembled a cohort of families with evidence of GEFS+ and screened for variations in the γ2 subunit of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) type A receptor gene (GABRG2). We detected a novel GABRG2(p.R136*) premature translation termination codon in one index-case from a two-generation nuclear family, presenting with an unclassified GGE, a borderline GEFS+ phenotype with learning difficulties and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The GABRG2(p.R136*) mutation segregates with the febrile seizure component of this family's GGE and is absent in 190 healthy control samples. In vitro expression assays demonstrated that γ2(p.R136*) subunits were produced, but had reduced cell-surface and total expression. When γ2(p.R136*) subunits were co-expressed with α1 and β2 subunits in HEK 293T cells, GABA–evoked currents were reduced. Furthermore, γ2(p.R136*) subunits were highly-expressed in intracellular aggregations surrounding the nucleus and endoplasmic reticulum (ER), suggesting compromised receptor trafficking. A novel GABRG2(p.R136*) mutation extends the spectrum of GABRG2 mutations identified in GEFS+ and GGE phenotypes, causes GABAA receptor dysfunction, and represents a putative epilepsy mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4222744  PMID: 24407264
GABAA receptors; epilepsy; protein truncating mutations; autism spectrum disorder
5.  Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood-Related Neural and Behavioural Phenotypes in Na+,K+-ATPase α3 Missense Mutant Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60141.
Missense mutations in ATP1A3 encoding Na+,K+-ATPase α3 have been identified as the primary cause of alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC), a motor disorder with onset typically before the age of 6 months. Affected children tend to be of short stature and can also have epilepsy, ataxia and learning disability. The Na+,K+-ATPase has a well-known role in maintaining electrochemical gradients across cell membranes, but our understanding of how the mutations cause AHC is limited. Myshkin mutant mice carry an amino acid change (I810N) that affects the same position in Na+,K+-ATPase α3 as I810S found in AHC. Using molecular modelling, we show that the Myshkin and AHC mutations display similarly severe structural impacts on Na+,K+-ATPase α3, including upon the K+ pore and predicted K+ binding sites. Behavioural analysis of Myshkin mice revealed phenotypic abnormalities similar to symptoms of AHC, including motor dysfunction and cognitive impairment. 2-DG imaging of Myshkin mice identified compromised thalamocortical functioning that includes a deficit in frontal cortex functioning (hypofrontality), directly mirroring that reported in AHC, along with reduced thalamocortical functional connectivity. Our results thus provide validation for missense mutations in Na+,K+-ATPase α3 as a cause of AHC, and highlight Myshkin mice as a starting point for the exploration of disease mechanisms and novel treatments in AHC.
PMCID: PMC3603922  PMID: 23527305
6.  S279 Point Mutations in Candida albicans Sterol 14-α Demethylase (CYP51) Reduce In Vitro Inhibition by Fluconazole 
The effects of S279F and S279Y point mutations in Candida albicans CYP51 (CaCYP51) on protein activity and on substrate (lanosterol) and azole antifungal binding were investigated. Both S279F and S279Y mutants bound lanosterol with 2-fold increased affinities (Ks, 7.1 and 8.0 μM, respectively) compared to the wild-type CaCYP51 protein (Ks, 13.5 μM). The S279F and S279Y mutants and the wild-type CaCYP51 protein bound fluconazole, voriconazole, and itraconazole tightly, producing typical type II binding spectra. However, the S279F and S279Y mutants had 4- to 5-fold lower affinities for fluconazole, 3.5-fold lower affinities for voriconazole, and 3.5- to 4-fold lower affinities for itraconazole than the wild-type CaCYP51 protein. The S279F and S279Y mutants gave 2.3- and 2.8-fold higher 50% inhibitory concentrations (IC50s) for fluconazole in a CYP51 reconstitution assay than the wild-type protein did. The increased fluconazole resistance conferred by the S279F and S279Y point mutations appeared to be mediated through a combination of a higher affinity for substrate and a lower affinity for fluconazole. In addition, lanosterol displaced fluconazole from the S279F and S279Y mutants but not from the wild-type protein. Molecular modeling of the wild-type protein indicated that the oxygen atom of S507 interacts with the second triazole ring of fluconazole, assisting in orientating fluconazole so that a more favorable binding conformation to heme is achieved. In contrast, in the two S279 mutant proteins, this S507-fluconazole interaction is absent, providing an explanation for the higher Kd values observed.
PMCID: PMC3318376  PMID: 22252802
7.  Impact of Recently Emerged Sterol 14α-Demethylase (CYP51) Variants of Mycosphaerella graminicola on Azole Fungicide Sensitivity▿ 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(11):3830-3837.
The progressive decline in the effectiveness of some azole fungicides in controlling Mycosphaerella graminicola, causal agent of the damaging Septoria leaf blotch disease of wheat, has been correlated with the selection and spread in the pathogen population of specific mutations in the M. graminicola CYP51 (MgCYP51) gene encoding the azole target sterol 14α-demethylase. Recent studies have suggested that the emergence of novel MgCYP51 variants, often harboring substitution S524T, has contributed to a decrease in the efficacy of prothioconazole and epoxiconazole, the two currently most effective azole fungicides against M. graminicola. In this study, we establish which amino acid alterations in novel MgCYP51 variants have the greatest impact on azole sensitivity and protein function. We introduced individual and combinations of identified alterations by site-directed mutagenesis and functionally determined their impact on azole sensitivity by expression in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutant YUG37::erg11 carrying a regulatable promoter controlling native CYP51 expression. We demonstrate that substitution S524T confers decreased sensitivity to all azoles when introduced alone or in combination with Y461S. In addition, S524T restores the function in S. cerevisiae of MgCYP51 variants carrying the otherwise lethal alterations Y137F and V136A. Sensitivity tests of S. cerevisiae transformants expressing recently emerged MgCYP51 variants carrying combinations of alterations D134G, V136A, Y461S, and S524T reveal a substantial impact on sensitivity to the currently most widely used azoles, including epoxiconazole and prothioconazole. Finally, we exploit a recently developed model of the MgCYP51 protein to predict that the substantial structural changes caused by these novel combinations reduce azole interactions with critical residues in the binding cavity, thereby causing resistance.
PMCID: PMC3127603  PMID: 21478305
8.  Molecular Modelling of the Emergence of Azole Resistance in Mycosphaerella graminicola 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20973.
A structural rationale for recent emergence of azole (imidazole and triazole) resistance associated with CYP51 mutations in the wheat pathogen Mycosphaerella graminicola is presented, attained by homology modelling of the wild type protein and 13 variant proteins. The novel molecular models of M. graminicola CYP51 are based on multiple homologues, individually identified for each variant, rather than using a single structural scaffold, providing a robust structure-function rationale for the binding of azoles, including important fungal specific regions for which no structural information is available. The wild type binding pocket reveals specific residues in close proximity to the bound azole molecules that are subject to alteration in the variants. This implicates azole ligands as important agents exerting selection on specific regions bordering the pocket, that become the focus of genetic mutation events, leading to reduced sensitivity to that group of related compounds. Collectively, the models account for several observed functional effects of specific alterations, including loss of triadimenol sensitivity in the Y137F variant, lower sensitivity to tebuconazole of I381V variants and increased resistance to prochloraz of V136A variants. Deletion of Y459 and G460, which brings about removal of that entire section of beta turn from the vicinity of the binding pocket, confers resistance to tebuconazole and epoxiconazole, but sensitivity to prochloraz in variants carrying a combination of A379G I381V ΔY459/G460. Measurements of binding pocket volume proved useful in assessment of scope for general resistance to azoles by virtue of their accommodation without bonding interaction, particularly when combined with analysis of change in positions of key amino acids. It is possible to predict the likely binding orientation of an azole molecule in any of the variant CYPs, providing potential for an in silico screening system and reliable predictive approach to assess the probability of particular variants exhibiting resistance to particular azole fungicides.
PMCID: PMC3124474  PMID: 21738598
9.  Biophysical Properties of 9 KCNQ1 Mutations Associated with Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) 
Inherited long QT syndrome (LQTS) is characterized by prolonged QT interval on the EKG, syncope and sudden death due to ventricular arrhythmia. Causative mutations occur mostly in cardiac potassium and sodium channel subunit genes. Confidence in mutation pathogenicity is usually reached through family genotype-phenotype tracking, control population studies, molecular modelling and phylogenetic alignments, however, biophysical testing offers a higher degree of validating evidence.
Methods and Results
By using in-vitro electrophysiological testing of transfected mutant and wild-type LQTS constructs into Chinese Hamster Ovary cells, we investigated the biophysical properties of 9 KCNQ1 missense mutations (A46T, T265I, F269S, A302V, G316E, F339S, R360G, H455Y, and S546L) identified in a New Zealand based LQTS screening programme. We demonstrate through electrophysiology and molecular modeling that seven of the missense mutations have profound pathological dominant negative loss-of-function properties confirming their likely disease-causing nature. This supports the use of these mutations in diagnostic family screening. Two mutations (A46T, T265I) show suggestive evidence of pathogenicity within the experimental limits of biophysical testing, indicating that these variants are disease-causing via delayed or fast activation kinetics. Further investigation of the A46T family has revealed an inconsistent co-segregation of the variant with the clinical phenotype.
Electrophysiological characterisation should be used to validate LQTS pathogenicity of novel missense channelopathies. When such results are inconclusive, great care should be taken with genetic counselling and screening of such families, and alternative disease causing mechanisms should be considered.
PMCID: PMC2748886  PMID: 19808498
Long QT; Mutations; Arrhythmia; Ion Channels; Sudden Cardiac Death
10.  Claudin Association with CD81 Defines Hepatitis C Virus Entry 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2010;285(27):21092-21102.
Viruses initiate infection by attaching to molecules or receptors at the cell surface. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) enters cells via a multistep process involving tetraspanin CD81, scavenger receptor class B member I, and the tight junction proteins Claudin-1 and Occludin. CD81 and scavenger receptor class B member I interact with HCV-encoded glycoproteins, suggesting an initial role in mediating virus attachment. In contrast, there are minimal data supporting Claudin-1 association with HCV particles, raising questions as to its role in the virus internalization process. In the present study we demonstrate a relationship between receptor active Claudins and their association and organization with CD81 at the plasma membrane by fluorescence resonance energy transfer and stoichiometric imaging methodologies. Mutation of residues 32 and 48 in the Claudin-1 first extracellular loop ablates CD81 association and HCV receptor activity. Furthermore, mutation of the same residues in the receptor-inactive Claudin-7 molecule enabled CD81 complex formation and virus entry, demonstrating an essential role for Claudin-CD81 complexes in HCV infection. Importantly, Claudin-1 associated with CD81 at the basolateral membrane of polarized HepG2 cells, whereas tight junction-associated pools of Claudin-1 demonstrated a minimal association with CD81. In summary, we demonstrate an essential role for Claudin-CD81 complexes in HCV infection and their localization at the basolateral surface of polarized hepatoma cells, consistent with virus entry into the liver via the sinusoidal blood and association with basal expressed forms of the receptors.
PMCID: PMC2898367  PMID: 20375010
Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET); Receptor Structure-Function; Receptors; Tight Junction; Virus Entry
11.  The First Virally Encoded Cytochrome P450▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(16):8266-8269.
The genome sequence of the giant virus Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus revealed the presence of two putative cytochrome P450 (CYP) genes. The product of one of the two predicted CYP genes (YP_143162) showed low-level homology to sterol 14-demethylase (CYP51) and contained a C-terminal polypeptide domain of unknown function. YP_143162 expression (without an N-terminal membrane binding domain) in Escherichia coli yields a CYP protein which gives a reduced CO difference maximum at 448 nm and was formally demonstrated as the first viral cytochrome P450. Analysis of binding of lipid and sterol substrates indicated no perturbation in CYP heme environment, and an absence of activity was seen when 14-methyl sterols were used as a substrate. The function of the CYP protein and its C-terminal domain remain unknown.
PMCID: PMC2715754  PMID: 19515774
12.  The Glycinergic System in Human Startle Disease: A Genetic Screening Approach 
Human startle disease, also known as hyperekplexia (OMIM 149400), is a paroxysmal neurological disorder caused by defects in glycinergic neurotransmission. Hyperekplexia is characterised by an exaggerated startle reflex in response to tactile or acoustic stimuli which first presents as neonatal hypertonia, followed in some with episodes of life-threatening infantile apnoea. Genetic screening studies have demonstrated that hyperekplexia is genetically heterogeneous with several missense and nonsense mutations in the postsynaptic glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit gene (GLRA1) as the primary cause. More recently, missense, nonsense and frameshift mutations have also been identified in the glycine transporter GlyT2 gene, SLC6A5, demonstrating a presynaptic component to this disease. Further mutations, albeit rare, have been identified in the genes encoding the GlyR β subunit (GLRB), collybistin (ARHGEF9) and gephyrin (GPHN) – all of which are postsynaptic proteins involved in orchestrating glycinergic neurotransmission. In this review, we describe the clinical ascertainment aspects, phenotypic considerations and the downstream molecular genetic tools utilised to analyse both presynaptic and postsynaptic components of this heterogeneous human neurological disorder. Moreover, we will describe how the ancient startle response is the preserve of glycinergic neurotransmission and how animal models and human hyperekplexia patients have provided synergistic evidence that implicates this inhibitory system in the control of startle reflexes.
PMCID: PMC2854534  PMID: 20407582
glycine; hyperekplexia; receptor; transporter; mutation
13.  Influence of CrgA on Assembly of the Cell Division Protein FtsZ during Development of Streptomyces coelicolor 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(4):1540-1550.
The product of the crgA gene of Streptomyces coelicolor represents a novel family of small proteins. A single orthologous gene is located close to the origin of replication of all fully sequenced actinomycete genomes and borders a conserved gene cluster implicated in cell growth and division. In S. coelicolor, CrgA is important for coordinating growth and cell division in sporogenic hyphae. In this study, we demonstrate that CrgA is an integral membrane protein whose peak expression is coordinated with the onset of development of aerial hyphae. The protein localizes to discrete foci away from growing hyphal tips. Upon overexpression, CrgA localizes to apical syncytial cells of aerial hyphae and inhibits the formation of productive cytokinetic rings of the bacterial tubulin homolog FtsZ, leading to proteolytic turnover of this major cell division determinant. In the absence of known prokaryotic cell division inhibitors in actinomycetes, CrgA may have an important conserved function influencing Z-ring formation in these bacteria.
PMCID: PMC1367258  PMID: 16452438
14.  In silico directed mutagenesis identifies the CD81/claudin-1 hepatitis C virus receptor interface 
Cellular Microbiology  2012;14(12):1892-1903.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) entry is dependent on host cell molecules tetraspanin CD81, scavenger receptor BI and tight junction proteins claudin-1 and occludin. We previously reported a role for CD81/claudin-1 receptor complexes in HCV entry; however, the molecular mechanism(s) driving association between the receptors is unknown. We explored the molecular interface between CD81 and claudin-1 using a combination of bioinformatic sequence-based modelling, site-directed mutagenesis and Fluorescent Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) imaging methodologies. Structural modelling predicts the first extracellular loop of claudin-1 to have a flexible beta conformation and identifies a motif between amino acids 62–66 that interacts with CD81 residues T149, E152 and T153. FRET studies confirm a role for these CD81 residues in claudin-1 association and HCV infection. Importantly, mutation of these CD81 residues has minimal impact on protein conformation or HCVglycoprotein binding, highlighting a new functional domain of CD81 that is essential for virus entry.
PMCID: PMC3549482  PMID: 22897233

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