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Testing the substrate-envelope hypothesis with designed pairs of compounds

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

Acquired resistance to therapeutic agents is a significant barrier to the development of clinically effective treatments for diseases in which evolution occurs on clinical time scales, frequently arising from target mutations. We previously reported a general strategy to design effective inhibitors for rapidly mutating enzyme targets, which we demonstrated for HIV-1 protease inhibition [Altman et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2008, 130, 6099-6113]. Specifically, we developed a computational inverse design procedure with the added constraint that designed inhibitors bind entirely inside the substrate envelope, a consensus volume occupied by natural substrates. The rationale for the substrate-envelope constraint is that it prevents designed inhibitors from making interactions beyond those required by substrates and thus limits the availability of mutations tolerated by substrates but not by designed inhibitors. The strategy resulted in subnanomolar inhibitors that bind robustly across a clinically derived panel of drug-resistant variants. To further test the substrate-envelope hypothesis, here we have designed, synthesized, and assayed derivatives of our original compounds that are larger and extend outside the substrate envelope. Our designs resulted in pairs of compounds that are very similar to one another, but one respects and one violates the substrate envelope. The envelope-respecting inhibitor demonstrates robust binding across a panel of drug-resistant protease variants, whereas the envelope-violating one binds tightly to wild type but loses affinity to at least one variant. This study provides strong support for the substrate-envelope hypothesis as a design strategy for inhibitors that reduce susceptibility to resistance mutations.

Development of a Novel Screening Strategy Designed to Discover a New Class of HIV Drugs

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

Current antiretroviral treatments target multiple pathways important for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) multiplication, including viral entry, synthesis and integration of the DNA provirus, and the processing of viral polyprotein precursors. However, HIV is becoming increasingly resistant to these "combination therapies." Recent findings show that inhibition of HIV Gag protein cleavage into its two structural proteins, matrix (MA) and capsid (CA), has a devastating effect on viral production, revealing a potential new target class for HIV treatment. Unlike the widely used HIV protease inhibitors, this new class of inhibitor would target the substrate, not the protease enzyme itself. This approach offers a distinct advantage in that inhibitors of MA/CA would only need to affect a subset of the Gag molecules to disable viral replication. To discover MA/CA-specific inhibitors, we constructed a modified MA/CA fusion peptide (MA/CADelta) that contains the HIV protease (PR) cleavage site as well as a tetracysteine motif for fluorescent labeling. The HIV PR cleavage of MA/CADelta can then be monitored via fluorescence polarization (FP). We have adapted this FP assay for high-throughput screening and validated it according to industry standards using a 384-well plate format. We have currently tested 24,000 compounds in this assay and here detail the screening methodology and the results of this screening campaign.

Improving the Resistance Profile of Hepatitis C NS3/4A Inhibitors: Dynamic Substrate Envelope Guided Design

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

Drug resistance is a principal concern in the treatment of quickly evolving diseases. The viral protease NS3/4A is a primary drug target for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and is known to evolve resistance mutations in response to drug therapy. At the molecular level, drug resistance reflects a subtle change in the balance of molecular recognition by NS3/4A; the drug resistant protease variants are no longer effectively inhibited by the competitive active site inhibitors but can still process the natural substrates with enough efficiency for viral survival. In previous works we have developed the "substrate envelope" hypothesis, which posits that inhibitors should be less susceptible to drug resistance if they better mimic the natural substrate molecular recognition features. In this work, we perform molecular dynamics simulations on four native substrates bound to NS3/4A and discover a clearly conserved dynamic substrate envelope. We show that the most severe drug resistance mutations in NS3/4A occur at residues that are outside the substrate envelope. Comparative analysis of three NS3/4A inhibitors reveals structural and dynamic characteristics of inhibitors that could lead to resistance. We also suggest inhibitor modifications to improve resistance profiles based on the dynamic substrate envelope. This study provides a general framework for guiding the development of novel inhibitors that will be more robust against resistance by mimicking the static and dynamic binding characteristics of natural substrates.

Evolution of the influenza A virus genome during development of oseltamivir resistance in vitro

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

Influenza A virus (IAV) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Current antiviral therapies include oseltamivir, a neuraminidase inhibitor that prevents the release of nascent viral particles from infected cells. However, the IAV genome can evolve rapidly, and oseltamivir resistance mutations have been detected in numerous clinical samples. Using an in vitro evolution platform and whole-genome population sequencing, we investigated the population genomics of IAV during the development of oseltamivir resistance. Strain A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1) was grown in Madin-Darby canine kidney cells with or without escalating concentrations of oseltamivir over serial passages. Following drug treatment, the H274Y resistance mutation fixed reproducibly within the population. The presence of the H274Y mutation in the viral population, at either a low or a high frequency, led to measurable changes in the neuraminidase inhibition assay. Surprisingly, fixation of the resistance mutation was not accompanied by alterations of viral population diversity or differentiation, and oseltamivir did not alter the selective environment. While the neighboring K248E mutation was also a target of positive selection prior to H274Y fixation, H274Y was the primary beneficial mutation in the population. In addition, once evolved, the H274Y mutation persisted after the withdrawal of the drug, even when not fixed in viral populations. We conclude that only selection of H274Y is required for oseltamivir resistance and that H274Y is not deleterious in the absence of the drug. These collective results could offer an explanation for the recent reproducible rise in oseltamivir resistance in seasonal H1N1 IAV strains in humans.

Crystal structures of human CtBP in complex with substrate MTOB reveal active site features useful for inhibitor design

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

The oncogenic corepressors C-terminal Binding Protein (CtBP) 1 and 2 harbor regulatory d-isomer specific 2-hydroxyacid dehydrogenase (d2-HDH) domains. 4-Methylthio 2-oxobutyric acid (MTOB) exhibits substrate inhibition and can interfere with CtBP oncogenic activity in cell culture and mice. Crystal structures of human CtBP1 and CtBP2 in complex with MTOB and NAD(+) revealed two key features: a conserved tryptophan that likely contributes to substrate specificity and a hydrophilic cavity that links MTOB with an NAD(+) phosphate. Neither feature is present in other d2-HDH enzymes. These structures thus offer key opportunities for the development of highly selective anti-neoplastic CtBP inhibitors. Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

HIV-1 protease-substrate coevolution in nelfinavir resistance

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

Resistance to various human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) protease inhibitors (PIs) challenges the effectiveness of therapies in treating HIV-1-infected individuals and AIDS patients. The virus accumulates mutations within the protease (PR) that render the PIs less potent. Occasionally, Gag sequences also coevolve with mutations at PR cleavage sites contributing to drug resistance. In this study, we investigated the structural basis of coevolution of the p1-p6 cleavage site with the nelfinavir (NFV) resistance D30N/N88D protease mutations by determining crystal structures of wild-type and NFV-resistant HIV-1 protease in complex with p1-p6 substrate peptide variants with L449F and/or S451N. Alterations of residue 30's interaction with the substrate are compensated by the coevolving L449F and S451N cleavage site mutations. This interdependency in the PR-p1-p6 interactions enhances intermolecular contacts and reinforces the overall fit of the substrate within the substrate envelope, likely enabling coevolution to sustain substrate recognition and cleavage in the presence of PR resistance mutations. IMPORTANCE: Resistance to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) protease inhibitors challenges the effectiveness of therapies in treating HIV-1-infected individuals and AIDS patients. Mutations in HIV-1 protease selected under the pressure of protease inhibitors render the inhibitors less potent. Occasionally, Gag sequences also mutate and coevolve with protease, contributing to maintenance of viral fitness and to drug resistance. In this study, we investigated the structural basis of coevolution at the Gag p1-p6 cleavage site with the nelfinavir (NFV) resistance D30N/N88D protease mutations. Our structural analysis reveals the interdependency of protease-substrate interactions and how coevolution may restore substrate recognition and cleavage in the presence of protease drug resistance mutations.

Drug Resistance Mutations Alter Dynamics of Inhibitor-Bound HIV-1 Protease

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

Under the selective pressure of therapy, HIV-1 protease mutants resistant to inhibitors evolve to confer drug resistance. Such mutations can impact both the dynamics and structures of the bound and unbound forms of the enzyme. Flap+ is a multidrug-resistant variant of HIV-1 protease with a combination of primary and secondary resistance mutations (L10I, G48V, I54V, V82A) and a strikingly altered thermodynamic profile for darunavir (DRV) binding relative to the wild-type protease. We elucidated the impact of these mutations on protein dynamics in the DRV-bound state using molecular dynamics simulations and NMR relaxation experiments. Both methods concur in that the conformational ensemble and dynamics of protease are impacted by the drug resistance mutations in Flap+ variant. Surprisingly this change in ensemble dynamics is different from that observed in the unliganded form of the same variant (Cai, Y. et al. J. Chem. Theory Comput. 2012, 8, 3452-3462). Our comparative analysis of both inhibitor-free and bound states presents a comprehensive picture of the altered dynamics in drug-resistant mutant HIV-1 protease and underlies the importance of incorporating dynamic analysis of the whole system, including the unliganded state, into revealing drug resistance mechanisms.

Drug resistance conferred by mutations outside the active site through alterations in the dynamic and structural ensemble of HIV-1 protease

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

HIV-1 protease inhibitors are part of the highly active antiretroviral therapy effectively used in the treatment of HIV infection and AIDS. Darunavir (DRV) is the most potent of these inhibitors, soliciting drug resistance only when a complex combination of mutations occur both inside and outside the protease active site. With few exceptions, the role of mutations outside the active site in conferring resistance remains largely elusive. Through a series of DRV-protease complex crystal structures, inhibition assays, and molecular dynamics simulations, we find that single and double site mutations outside the active site often associated with DRV resistance alter the structure and dynamic ensemble of HIV-1 protease active site. These alterations correlate with the observed inhibitor binding affinities for the mutants, and suggest a network hypothesis on how the effect of distal mutations are propagated to pivotal residues at the active site and may contribute to conferring drug resistance.

Structural basis and distal effects of Gag substrate coevolution in drug resistance to HIV-1 protease

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

Drug resistance mutations in response to HIV-1 protease inhibitors are selected not only in the drug target but elsewhere in the viral genome, especially at the protease cleavage sites in the precursor protein Gag. To understand the molecular basis of this protease-substrate coevolution, we solved the crystal structures of drug resistant I50V/A71V HIV-1 protease with p1-p6 substrates bearing coevolved mutations. Analyses of the protease-substrate interactions reveal that compensatory coevolved mutations in the substrate do not restore interactions lost due to protease mutations, but instead establish other interactions that are not restricted to the site of mutation. Mutation of a substrate residue has distal effects on other residues' interactions as well, including through the induction of a conformational change in the protease. Additionally, molecular dynamics simulations suggest that restoration of active site dynamics is an additional constraint in the selection of coevolved mutations. Hence, protease-substrate coevolution permits mutational, structural, and dynamic changes via molecular mechanisms that involve distal effects contributing to drug resistance.

Structural analysis of asunaprevir resistance in HCV NS3/4A protease

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:22pm

Asunaprevir (ASV), an isoquinoline-based competitive inhibitor targeting the hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS3/4A protease, is very potent in vivo. However, the potency is significantly compromised by the drug resistance mutations R155K and D168A. In this study three crystal structures of ASV and an analogue were determined to analyze the structural basis of drug resistance susceptibility. These structures revealed that ASV makes extensive contacts with Arg155 outside the substrate envelope. Arg155 in turn is stabilized by Asp168, and thus when either residue is mutated, the enzyme's interaction with ASV's P2* isoquinoline is disrupted. Adding a P1-P3 macrocycle to ASV enhances the inhibitor's resistance barrier, likely due to poising the inhibitor to its bound conformation. Macrocyclic inhibitors with P2* extension moieties avoiding interaction with the protease S2 residues including Arg155 must be chosen for future design of more robust protease inhibitors.

Acute stroke imaging: recent updates

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:43pm

Acute ischemic stroke imaging is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Neuroimaging plays a crucial role in early diagnosis and yields essential information regarding tissue integrity, a factor that remains a key therapeutic determinant. Given the widespread public health implications of stroke and central role of neuroimaging in overall management, acute stroke imaging remains a heavily debated, extensively researched, and rapidly evolving subject. There has been recent debate in the scientific community due to divided opinions on the use of CT perfusion and access-related limitations of MRI. In this paper we review and summarize recent updates relevant to acute stroke imaging and propose an imaging paradigm based on the recently available evidence.

Control of neutrophil inflammation at mucosal surfaces by secreted epithelial products

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:43pm

The human intestine is a large and delicately balanced organ, responsible for efficiently absorbing nutrients and selectively eliminating disease-causing pathogens. The gut architecture consists of a single layer of epithelial cells that forms a barrier against the food antigens and resident microbiota within the lumen. This barrier is augmented by a thick layer of mucus on the luminal side and an underlying lamina propria containing a resident population of immune cells. Attempted breaches of the intestinal barrier by pathogenic bacteria result in the rapid induction of a coordinated innate immune response that includes release of antimicrobial peptides, activation of pattern recognition receptors, and recruitment of various immune cells. In recent years, the role of epithelial cells in initiating this immune response has been increasingly appreciated. In particular, epithelial cells are responsible for the release of a variety of factors that attract neutrophils, the body's trained bacterial killers. In this review we will highlight recent research that details a new understanding of how epithelial cells directionally secrete specific compounds at distinct stages of the inflammatory response in order to coordinate the immune response to intestinal microbes. In addition to their importance during the response to infection, evidence suggests that dysregulation of these pathways may contribute to pathologic inflammation during inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, a continued understanding of the mechanisms by which epithelial cells control neutrophil migration into the intestine will have tremendous benefits in both the understanding of biological processes and the identification of potential therapeutic targets.

Evaluation and management of patients with isolated neutropenia

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:43pm

Neutropenia, defined as an absolute neutrophil count (ANC) < 1.5 x 10(9)/L, encompasses a wide range of diagnoses, from normal variants to life-threatening acquired and congenital disorders. This review addresses the diagnosis and management of isolated neutropenia, not multiple cytopenias due to splenomegaly, bone marrow replacement, or myelosuppression by chemotherapy or radiation. Laboratory evaluation generally includes repeat complete blood cell counts (CBCs) with differentials and bone marrow examination with cytogenetics. Neutrophil antibody testing may be useful but only in the context of clinical and bone marrow findings. The discovery of genes responsible for congenital neutropenias now permits genetic diagnosis in many cases. Management of severe chronic neutropenia includes commonsense precautions to avoid infection, aggressive treatment of bacterial or fungal infections, and administration of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). Patients with severe chronic neutropenia, particularly those who respond poorly to G-CSF, have a risk of eventually developing myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) or acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and require monitoring for this complication, which also can occur without G-CSF therapy. Patients with cyclic, idiopathic, and autoimmune neutropenia have virtually no risk of evolving to MDS or AML. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is a curative therapy for congenital neutropenia with MDS/AML or with cytogenetic abnormalities indicating impending conversion.

hnRNP A1 and secondary structure coordinate alternative splicing of Mag

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:43pm

Myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG) is a major component of myelin in the vertebrate central nervous system. MAG is present in the periaxonal region of the myelin structure, where it interacts with neuronal proteins to inhibit axon outgrowth and protect neurons from degeneration. Two alternatively spliced isoforms of Mag mRNA have been identified. The mRNA encoding the shorter isoform, known as S-MAG, contains a termination codon in exon 12, while the mRNA encoding the longer isoform, known as L-MAG, skips exon 12 and produces a protein with a longer C-terminal region. L-MAG is required in the central nervous system. How inclusion of Mag exon 12 is regulated is not clear. In a previous study, we showed that heteronuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 (hnRNP A1) contributes to Mag exon 12 skipping. Here, we show that hnRNP A1 interacts with an element that overlaps the 5' splice site of Mag exon 12. The element has a reduced ability to interact with the U1 snRNP compared with a mutant that improves the splice site consensus. An evolutionarily conserved secondary structure is present surrounding the element. The structure modulates interaction with both hnRNP A1 and U1. Analysis of splice isoforms produced from a series of reporter constructs demonstrates that the hnRNP A1-binding site and the secondary structure both contribute to exclusion of Mag exon 12.

Seven propositions of the science of improvement: exploring foundations

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:43pm

CONTEXT: The phrase "Science of Improvement" or "Improvement Science" is commonly used today by a range of people and professions to mean different things, creating confusion to those trying to learn about improvement. In this article, we briefly define the concepts of improvement and science, and review the history of the consideration of "improvement" as a science.

METHODS: We trace key concepts and ideas in improvement to their philosophical and theoretical foundation with a focus on Deming's System of Profound Knowledge. We suggest that Deming's system has a firm association with many contemporary and historic philosophic and scientific debates and concepts. With reference to these debates and concepts, we identify 7 propositions that provide the scientific and philosophical foundation for the science of improvement.

FINDINGS: A standard view of the science of improvement does not presently exist that is grounded in the philosophical and theoretical basis of the field. The 7 propositions outlined here demonstrate the value of examining the underpinnings of improvement. This is needed to both advance the field and minimize confusion about what the phrase "science of improvement" represents. We argue that advanced scientists of improvement are those who like Deming and Shewhart can integrate ideas, concepts, and models between scientific disciplines for the purpose of developing more robust improvement models, tools, and techniques with a focus on application and problem solving in real world contexts.

CONCLUSIONS: The epistemological foundations and theoretical basis of the science of improvement and its reasoning methods need to be critically examined to ensure its continued development and relevance. If improvement efforts and projects in health care are to be characterized under the canon of science, then health care professionals engaged in quality improvement work would benefit from a standard set of core principles, a standard lexicon, and an understanding of the evolution of the science of improvement.

Data citation and the author byline: who's line is it anyway

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:43pm

A recent article by Rohlfing & Poline has started a dialog regarding the use of "Institutional Authorship" in the authorship list of manuscripts that utilize the resources of some consortia and organizations.

Vertebral artery ostial stenosis: prevalence by digital subtraction angiography, MR angiography, and CT angiography

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:43pm

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: (1) To determine the prevalence of vertebral arterial ostial stenosis (VOS) as determined by the "gold standard" of digital subtraction angiography (DSA). (2) To learn the correlation between vertebral ostial stenosis and study indication. (3) To determine the ability of contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance angiography (CE MRA) and computed tomographic angiography (CTA) to reflect the true prevalence of vertebral ostial stenosis as determined by DSA.

METHODS: Three hundred and twenty-nine patients who underwent DSA had recorded evaluation of 443 vertebral artery origins. Cases were categorized by patient age and study indication. Similar numbers of CTA and MRA studies were assessed.

RESULTS: The prevalence of VOS in the study population was 5.4%. VOS was not observed in patients under 40 years of age, and was seen in 12.5% of patients over 70 years. CE MRA demonstrated decreased signal at the vertebral origins consistent with stenosis in 20% of patients. CTA estimated VOS at .8%, and yielded 7.3% of studies, which were nondiagnostic for VOS.

CONCLUSION: The prevalence of VOS as determined by DSA is low and increases with patient age and correlates with factors such as anterior infarct (18.4%), posterior infarct (33.3%), carotid atherosclerosis (30.8%), and vertebrobasilar insufficiency (33%). Patients being evaluated for reasons less closely correlated with atherosclerotic disease, such as arteriovenous malformation (AVM) or hemorrhage showed a lower prevalence of VA stenosis (brain aneurysm or AVM 5/121, 4.1%, brain hemorrhage 5/153, 3.3%). Routine clinical MRA significantly overestimates VOS prevalence, and findings suggest that CTA underestimates the degree and prevalence of VOS.

DNA Replication Timing

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:42pm

Patterns of replication within eukaryotic genomes correlate with gene expression, chromatin structure, and genome evolution. Recent advances in genome-scale mapping of replication kinetics have allowed these correlations to be explored in many species, cell types, and growth conditions, and these large data sets have allowed quantitative and computational analyses. One striking new correlation to emerge from these analyses is between replication timing and the three-dimensional structure of chromosomes. This correlation, which is significantly stronger than with any single histone modification or chromosome-binding protein, suggests that replication timing is controlled at the level of chromosomal domains. This conclusion dove tails with parallel work on the heterogeneity of origin firing and the competition between origins for limiting activators to suggest a model in which the stochastic probability of individual origin firing is modulated by chromosomal domain structure to produce patterns of replication. Whether these patterns have inherent biological functions or simply reflect higher-order genome structure is an open question.

Five top stories in anatomic pathology: stories from the faculty at UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center, Worcester, Massachusetts

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:42pm

This month's issue of the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine introduces a new series of special sections featuring relevant and contemporary topics in Anatomic Pathology and Cytopathology, herein referred to as “Five Top Stories.”