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Recent documents in eScholarship@UMMS
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Adenovirus-Mediated Somatic Genome Editing of Pten by CRISPR/Cas9 in Mouse Liver in Spite of Cas9-Specific Immune Responses

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

CRISPR/Cas9 derived from the bacterial adaptive immunity pathway is a powerful tool for genome editing, but the safety profiles of in vivo delivered Cas9 (including host immune responses to the bacterial Cas9 protein) have not been comprehensively investigated in model organisms. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a prevalent human liver disease characterized by excessive fat accumulation in the liver. In this study, we used adenovirus (Ad) vector to deliver a Streptococcus pyogenes-derived Cas9 system (SpCas9) targeting Pten, a gene involved in NASH and a negative regulator of the PI3K-AKT pathway, in mouse liver. We found that the Ad vector mediated efficient Pten gene editing even in the presence of typical Ad vector-associated immunotoxicity in the liver. Four months after vector infusion, mice receiving the Pten gene-editing Ad vector showed massive hepatomegaly and features of NASH, consistent with the phenotypes following Cre-loxP-induced Pten deficiency in mouse liver. We also detected induction of humoral immunity against SpCas9 and the potential presence of an SpCas9-specific cellular immune response. Our findings provide a strategy to model human liver diseases in mice and highlight the importance considering Cas9-specific immune responses in future translational studies involving in vivo delivery of CRISPR/Cas9.

Massively parallel sampling of lattice proteins reveals foundations of thermal adaptation

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

Evolution of proteins in bacteria and archaea living in different conditions leads to significant correlations between amino acid usage and environmental temperature. The origins of these correlations are poorly understood, and an important question of protein theory, physics-based prediction of types of amino acids overrepresented in highly thermostable proteins, remains largely unsolved. Here, we extend the random energy model of protein folding by weighting the interaction energies of amino acids by their frequencies in protein sequences and predict the energy gap of proteins designed to fold well at elevated temperatures. To test the model, we present a novel scalable algorithm for simultaneous energy calculation for many sequences in many structures, targeting massively parallel computing architectures such as graphics processing unit. The energy calculation is performed by multiplying two matrices, one representing the complete set of sequences, and the other describing the contact maps of all structural templates. An implementation of the algorithm for the CUDA platform is available at and calculates protein folding energies over 250 times faster than a single central processing unit. Analysis of amino acid usage in 64-mer cubic lattice proteins designed to fold well at different temperatures demonstrates an excellent agreement between theoretical and simulated values of energy gap. The theoretical predictions of temperature trends of amino acid frequencies are significantly correlated with bioinformatics data on 191 bacteria and archaea, and highlight protein folding constraints as a fundamental selection pressure during thermal adaptation in biological evolution.

Novel Observations From Next-Generation RNA Sequencing of Highly Purified Human Adult and Fetal Islet Cell Subsets

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

Understanding distinct gene expression patterns of normal adult and developing fetal human pancreatic alpha- and beta-cells is crucial for developing stem cell therapies, islet regeneration strategies, and therapies designed to increase beta-cell function in patients with diabetes (type 1 or 2). Toward that end, we have developed methods to highly purify alpha-, beta-, and delta-cells from human fetal and adult pancreata by intracellular staining for the cell-specific hormone content, sorting the subpopulations by flow cytometry, and, using next-generation RNA sequencing, we report the detailed transcriptomes of fetal and adult alpha- and beta-cells. We observed that human islet composition was not influenced by age, sex, or BMI, and transcripts for inflammatory gene products were noted in fetal beta-cells. In addition, within highly purified adult glucagon-expressing alpha-cells, we observed surprisingly high insulin mRNA expression, but not insulin protein expression. This transcriptome analysis from highly purified islet alpha- and beta-cell subsets from fetal and adult pancreata offers clear implications for strategies that seek to increase insulin expression in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered.

Variation in the Microbiota of Ixodes Ticks with Regard to Geography, Species, and Sex

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

Ixodes scapularis is the principal vector of Lyme disease on the East Coast and in the upper Midwest regions of the United States, yet the tick is also present in the Southeast, where Lyme disease is absent or rare. A closely related species, I. affinis, also carries the pathogen in the South but does not seem to transmit it to humans. In order to better understand the geographic diversity of the tick, we analyzed the microbiota of 104 adult I. scapularis and 13 adult I. affinis ticks captured in 19 locations in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut, and New York. Initially, ticks from 4 sites were analyzed by 454 pyrosequencing. Subsequently, ticks from these sites plus 15 others were analyzed by sequencing with an Illumina MiSeq machine. By both analyses, the microbiomes of female ticks were significantly less diverse than those of male ticks. The dissimilarity between tick microbiomes increased with distance between sites, and the state in which a tick was collected could be inferred from its microbiota. The genus Rickettsia was prominent in all locations. Borrelia was also present in most locations and was present at especially high levels in one site in western Virginia. In contrast, members of the family Enterobacteriaceae were very common in North Carolina I. scapularis ticks but uncommon in I. scapularis ticks from other sites and in North Carolina I. affinis ticks. These data suggest substantial variations in the Ixodes microbiota in association with geography, species, and sex.

Slicing and Binding by Ago3 or Aub Trigger Piwi-Bound piRNA Production by Distinct Mechanisms

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

In Drosophila ovarian germ cells, PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) direct Aubergine and Argonaute3 to cleave transposon transcripts and instruct Piwi to repress transposon transcription, thereby safeguarding the germline genome. Here, we report that RNA cleavage by Argonaute3 initiates production of most Piwi-bound piRNAs. We find that the cardinal function of Argonaute3, whose piRNA guides predominantly correspond to sense transposon sequences, is to produce antisense piRNAs that direct transcriptional silencing by Piwi, rather than to make piRNAs that guide post-transcriptional silencing by Aubergine. We also find that the Tudor domain protein Qin prevents Aubergine's cleavage products from becoming Piwi-bound piRNAs, ensuring that antisense piRNAs guide Piwi. Although Argonaute3 slicing is required to efficiently trigger phased piRNA production, an alternative, slicing-independent pathway suffices to generate Piwi-bound piRNAs that repress transcription of a subset of transposon families. This alternative pathway may help flies silence newly acquired transposons for which they lack extensively complementary piRNAs.

Using Amplicon Deep Sequencing to Detect Genetic Signatures of Plasmodium vivax Relapse

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

Plasmodium vivax infections often recur due to relapse of hypnozoites from the liver. In malaria-endemic areas, tools to distinguish relapse from reinfection are needed. We applied amplicon deep sequencing to P. vivax isolates from 78 Cambodian volunteers, nearly one-third of whom suffered recurrence at a median of 68 days. Deep sequencing at a highly variable region of the P. vivax merozoite surface protein 1 gene revealed impressive diversity-generating 67 unique haplotypes and detecting on average 3.6 cocirculating parasite clones within individuals, compared to 2.1 clones detected by a combination of 3 microsatellite markers. This diversity enabled a scheme to classify over half of recurrences as probable relapses based on the low probability of reinfection by multiple recurring variants. In areas of high P. vivax diversity, targeted deep sequencing can help detect genetic signatures of relapse, key to evaluating antivivax interventions and achieving a better understanding of relapse-reinfection epidemiology.

Differential Toxicity of Nuclear RNA Foci versus Dipeptide Repeat Proteins in a Drosophila Model of C9ORF72 FTD/ALS

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

Dipeptide repeat (DPR) proteins are toxic in various models of FTD/ALS with GGGGCC (G4C2) repeat expansion. However, it is unclear whether nuclear G4C2 RNA foci also induce neurotoxicity. Here, we describe a Drosophila model expressing 160 G4C2 repeats (160R) flanked by human intronic and exonic sequences. Spliced intronic 160R formed nuclear G4C2 sense RNA foci in glia and neurons about ten times more abundantly than in human neurons; however, they had little effect on global RNA processing and neuronal survival. In contrast, highly toxic 36R in the context of poly(A)(+) mRNA were exported to the cytoplasm, where DPR proteins were produced at >100-fold higher level than in 160R flies. Moreover, the modest toxicity of intronic 160R expressed at higher temperature correlated with increased DPR production, but not RNA foci. Thus, nuclear RNA foci are neutral intermediates or possibly neuroprotective through preventing G4C2 RNA export and subsequent DPR production.

Updates to the Integrated Protein-Protein Interaction Benchmarks: Docking Benchmark Version 5 and Affinity Benchmark Version 2

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

We present an updated and integrated version of our widely used protein-protein docking and binding affinity benchmarks. The benchmarks consist of non-redundant, high-quality structures of protein-protein complexes along with the unbound structures of their components. Fifty-five new complexes were added to the docking benchmark, 35 of which have experimentally measured binding affinities. These updated docking and affinity benchmarks now contain 230 and 179 entries, respectively. In particular, the number of antibody-antigen complexes has increased significantly, by 67% and 74% in the docking and affinity benchmarks, respectively. We tested previously developed docking and affinity prediction algorithms on the new cases. Considering only the top 10 docking predictions per benchmark case, a prediction accuracy of 38% is achieved on all 55 cases and up to 50% for the 32 rigid-body cases only. Predicted affinity scores are found to correlate with experimental binding energies up to r=0.52 overall and r=0.72 for the rigid complexes.

Jagged 1 Rescues the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Phenotype

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), caused by mutations at the dystrophin gene, is the most common form of muscular dystrophy. There is no cure for DMD and current therapeutic approaches to restore dystrophin expression are only partially effective. The absence of dystrophin in muscle results in dysregulation of signaling pathways, which could be targets for disease therapy and drug discovery. Previously, we identified two exceptional Golden Retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD) dogs that are mildly affected, have functional muscle, and normal lifespan despite the complete absence of dystrophin. Now, our data on linkage, whole-genome sequencing, and transcriptome analyses of these dogs compared to severely affected GRMD and control animals reveals that increased expression of Jagged1 gene, a known regulator of the Notch signaling pathway, is a hallmark of the mild phenotype. Functional analyses demonstrate that Jagged1 overexpression ameliorates the dystrophic phenotype, suggesting that Jagged1 may represent a target for DMD therapy in a dystrophin-independent manner.

Evaluation of preprocessing, mapping and postprocessing algorithms for analyzing whole genome bisulfite sequencing data

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 8:11pm

Cytosine methylation regulates many biological processes such as gene expression, chromatin structure and chromosome stability. The whole genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) technique measures the methylation level at each cytosine throughout the genome. There are an increasing number of publicly available pipelines for analyzing WGBS data, reflecting many choices of read mapping algorithms as well as preprocessing and postprocessing methods. We simulated single-end and paired-end reads based on three experimental data sets, and comprehensively evaluated 192 combinations of three preprocessing, five postprocessing and five widely used read mapping algorithms. We also compared paired-end data with single-end data at the same sequencing depth for performance of read mapping and methylation level estimation. Bismark and LAST were the most robust mapping algorithms. We found that Mott trimming and quality filtering individually improved the performance of both read mapping and methylation level estimation, but combining them did not lead to further improvement. Furthermore, we confirmed that paired-end sequencing reduced error rate and enhanced sensitivity for both read mapping and methylation level estimation, especially for short reads and in repetitive regions of the human genome.

Adiposity is associated with early reduction in bone mass in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 11:35am

Background: The effect of adiposity on bone mass in the early phases of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in children and adolescents is unclear.

Aims: To determine the role of adiposity on bone mass in the first 3 years of diagnosis of IBD.

Hypothesis: Increased adiposity will be associated with increased bone mass in both the controls and IBD subjects.

Setting: University tertiary institution.

Methods: Height-adjusted bone mineral density (BMD) z-scores of 25 subjects, age 13.97 ± 2.70y, diagnosed with IBD for < 4 years were compared to 24 controls, age 13.65 ± 2.60y. Overweight was defined as BMI of ≥85th but <95th percentile, and obesity as BMI ≥95thpercentile. Severity of IBD was determined by the Pediatric Crohn’s Disease Activity Index and Lichtiger Colitis Activity Index.

Results: Prior to stratification by BMI criterion, height-adjusted BMD z-scores were non-significantly lower in IBD subjects vs. controls for both the femoral neck (-0.8 ± 1.1 vs. -0.06 ± 1.1, p=0.070) and lumbar vertebrae (-0.4 ± 1.2 vs. 0.2 ± 1.2, p=0.086). Following stratification, height-adjusted BMD z-scores were significantly lower in the overweight/obese IBD subjects vs. overweight/obese controls for femoral neck (-0.9 ± 0.9 vs. 0.3 ± 1.3, p=0.032); and non-significantly lower for the lumbar spine z-score (-0.4 ± 1.6 vs. 0.5 ± 1.3, p=0.197). BMD z-score had no relationship with the duration of disease, steroid therapy, and the severity of disease.

Conclusion: Adiposity was associated with reduced bone mass in the early phases of IBD, but with increased bone mass in the controls.

REdiii: a pipeline for automated structure solution

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:49pm

High-throughput crystallographic approaches require integrated software solutions to minimize the need for manual effort. REdiii is a system that allows fully automated crystallographic structure solution by integrating existing crystallographic software into an adaptive and partly autonomous workflow engine. The program can be initiated after collecting the first frame of diffraction data and is able to perform processing, molecular-replacement phasing, chain tracing, ligand fitting and refinement without further user intervention. Preset values for each software component allow efficient progress with high-quality data and known parameters. The adaptive workflow engine can determine whether some parameters require modifications and choose alternative software strategies in case the preconfigured solution is inadequate. This integrated pipeline is targeted at providing a comprehensive and efficient approach to screening for ligand-bound co-crystal structures while minimizing repetitiveness and allowing a high-throughput scientific discovery process.

The ssDNA Mutator APOBEC3A Is Regulated by Cooperative Dimerization

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:49pm

Deaminase activity mediated by the human APOBEC3 family of proteins contributes to genomic instability and cancer. APOBEC3A is by far the most active in this family and can cause rapid cell death when overexpressed, but in general how the activity of APOBEC3s is regulated on a molecular level is unclear. In this study, the biochemical and structural basis of APOBEC3A substrate binding and specificity is elucidated. We find that specific binding of single-stranded DNA is regulated by the cooperative dimerization of APOBEC3A. The crystal structure elucidates this homodimer as a symmetric domain swap of the N-terminal residues. This dimer interface provides insights into how cooperative protein-protein interactions may affect function in the APOBEC3 enzymes and provides a potential scaffold for strategies aimed at reducing their mutation load.

Structure of the Vif-binding domain of the antiviral enzyme APOBEC3G

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:49pm

The human APOBEC3G (A3G) DNA cytosine deaminase restricts and hypermutates DNA-based parasites including HIV-1. The viral infectivity factor (Vif) prevents restriction by triggering A3G degradation. Although the structure of the A3G catalytic domain is known, the structure of the N-terminal Vif-binding domain has proven more elusive. Here, we used evolution- and structure-guided mutagenesis to solubilize the Vif-binding domain of A3G, thus permitting structural determination by NMR spectroscopy. A smaller zinc-coordinating pocket and altered helical packing distinguish the structure from previous catalytic-domain structures and help to explain the reported inactivity of this domain. This soluble A3G N-terminal domain is bound by Vif; this enabled mutagenesis and biochemical experiments, which identified a unique Vif-interacting surface formed by the alpha1-beta1, beta2-alpha2 and beta4-alpha4 loops. This structure sheds new light on the Vif-A3G interaction and provides critical information for future drug development.

Structural basis for mutation-induced destabilization of profilin 1 in ALS

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:49pm

Mutations in profilin 1 (PFN1) are associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); however, the pathological mechanism of PFN1 in this fatal disease is unknown. We demonstrate that ALS-linked mutations severely destabilize the native conformation of PFN1 in vitro and cause accelerated turnover of the PFN1 protein in cells. This mutation-induced destabilization can account for the high propensity of ALS-linked variants to aggregate and also provides rationale for their reported loss-of-function phenotypes in cell-based assays. The source of this destabilization is illuminated by the X-ray crystal structures of several PFN1 proteins, revealing an expanded cavity near the protein core of the destabilized M114T variant. In contrast, the E117G mutation only modestly perturbs the structure and stability of PFN1, an observation that reconciles the occurrence of this mutation in the control population. These findings suggest that a destabilized form of PFN1 underlies PFN1-mediated ALS pathogenesis.

A Direct Interaction with RNA Dramatically Enhances the Catalytic Activity of the HIV-1 Protease In Vitro

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:48pm

Though the steps of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) virion maturation are well documented, the mechanisms regulating the proteolysis of the Gag and Gag-Pro-Pol polyproteins by the HIV-1 protease (PR) remain obscure. One proposed mechanism argues that the maturation intermediate p15NC must interact with RNA for efficient cleavage by the PR. We investigated this phenomenon and found that processing of multiple substrates by the HIV-1 PR was enhanced in the presence of RNA. The acceleration of proteolysis occurred independently from the substrate's ability to interact with nucleic acid, indicating that a direct interaction between substrate and RNA is not necessary for enhancement. Gel-shift assays demonstrated the HIV-1 PR is capable of interacting with nucleic acids, suggesting that RNA accelerates processing reactions by interacting with the PR rather than the substrate. All HIV-1 PRs examined have this ability; however, the HIV-2 PR does not interact with RNA and does not exhibit enhanced catalytic activity in the presence of RNA. No specific sequence or structure was required in the RNA for a productive interaction with the HIV-1 PR, which appears to be principally, though not exclusively, driven by electrostatic forces. For a peptide substrate, RNA increased the kinetic efficiency of the HIV-1 PR by an order of magnitude, affecting both turnover rate (k(cat)) and substrate affinity (K(m)). These results suggest that an allosteric binding site exists on the HIV-1 PR and that HIV-1 PR activity during maturation could be regulated in part by the juxtaposition of the enzyme with virion-packaged RNA.

Simultaneously Targeting the NS3 Protease and Helicase Activities for More Effective Hepatitis C Virus Therapy

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:48pm

This study examines the specificity and mechanism of action of a recently reported hepatitis C virus (HCV) nonstructural protein 3 (NS3) helicase-protease inhibitor (HPI), and the interaction of HPI with the NS3 protease inhibitors telaprevir, boceprevir, danoprevir, and grazoprevir. HPI most effectively reduced cellular levels of subgenomic genotype 4a replicons, followed by genotypes 3a and 1b replicons. HPI had no effect on HCV genotype 2a or dengue virus replicon levels. Resistance evolved more slowly to HPI than telaprevir, and HPI inhibited telaprevir-resistant replicons. Molecular modeling and analysis of the ability of HPI to inhibit peptide hydrolysis catalyzed by a variety of wildtype and mutant NS3 proteins suggested that HPI forms a bridge between the NS3 RNA-binding cleft and an allosteric site previously shown to bind other protease inhibitors. In most combinations, the antiviral effect of HPI was additive with telaprevir and boceprevir, minor synergy was observed with danoprevir, and modest synergy was observed with grazoprevir.

Modulation of HIV protease flexibility by the T80N mutation

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:48pm

The flexibility of HIV protease (HIVp) plays a critical role in enabling enzymatic activity and is required for substrate access to the active site. While the importance of flexibility in the flaps that cover the active site is well known, flexibility in other parts of the enzyme is also critical for function. One key region is a loop containing Thr 80, which forms the walls of the active site. Although not situated within the active site, amino acid Thr80 is absolutely conserved. The mutation T80N preserves the structure of the enzyme but catalytic activity is completely lost. To investigate the potential influence of the T80N mutation on HIVp flexibility, wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS) data was measured for a series of HIVp variants. Starting with a calculated WAXS pattern from a rigid atomic model, the modulations in the intensity distribution caused by structural fluctuations in the protein were predicted by simple analytic methods and compared with the experimental data. An analysis of T80N WAXS data shows that this variant is significantly more rigid than the WT across all length scales. The effects of this single point mutation extend throughout the protein, to alter the mobility of amino acids in the enzymatic core. These results support the contentions that significant protein flexibility extends throughout HIVp and is critical to catalytic function.

A Balance between Inhibitor Binding and Substrate Processing Confers Influenza Drug Resistance

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:48pm

The therapeutic benefits of the neuraminidase (NA) inhibitor oseltamivir are dampened by the emergence of drug resistance mutations in influenza A virus (IAV). To investigate the mechanistic features that underlie resistance, we developed an approach to quantify the effects of all possible single-nucleotide substitutions introduced into important regions of NA. We determined the experimental fitness effects of 450 nucleotide mutations encoding positions both surrounding the active site and at more distant sites in an N1 strain of IAV in the presence and absence of oseltamivir. NA mutations previously known to confer oseltamivir resistance in N1 strains, including H275Y and N295S, were adaptive in the presence of drug, indicating that our experimental system captured salient features of real-world selection pressures acting on NA. We identified mutations, including several at position 223, that reduce the apparent affinity for oseltamivir in vitro. Position 223 of NA is located adjacent to a hydrophobic portion of oseltamivir that is chemically distinct from the substrate, making it a hotspot for substitutions that preferentially impact drug binding relative to substrate processing. Furthermore, two NA mutations, K221N and Y276F, each reduce susceptibility to oseltamivir by increasing NA activity without altering drug binding. These results indicate that competitive expansion of IAV in the face of drug pressure is mediated by a balance between inhibitor binding and substrate processing.

Structural and Thermodynamic Effects of Macrocyclization in HCV NS3/4A Inhibitor MK-5172

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:48pm

Recent advances in direct-acting antivirals against Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) have led to the development of potent inhibitors, including MK-5172, that target the viral NS3/4A protease with relatively low susceptibility to resistance. MK-5172 has a P2-P4 macrocycle and a unique binding mode among current protease inhibitors where the P2 quinoxaline packs against the catalytic residues H57 and D81. However, the effect of macrocyclization on this binding mode is not clear, as is the relation between macrocyclization, thermodynamic stabilization, and susceptibility to the resistance mutation A156T. We have determined high-resolution crystal structures of linear and P1-P3 macrocyclic analogs of MK-5172 bound to WT and A156T protease and compared these structures, their molecular dynamics and experimental binding thermodynamics to the parent compound. We find that the "unique" binding mode of MK-5172 is conserved even when the P2-P4 macrocycle is removed or replaced with a P1-P3 macrocycle. While beneficial to decreasing the entropic penalty associated with binding, the constraint exerted by the P2-P4 macrocycle prevents efficient rearrangement to accommodate the A156T mutation, a deficit alleviated in the linear and P1-P3 analogs. Design of macrocyclic inhibitors against NS3/4A needs to achieve the best balance between exerting optimal conformational constraint for enhancing potency, fitting within the substrate envelope and allowing adaptability to be robust against resistance mutations.