Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Department of

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Non-Coding-Regulatory Regions Of Human Brain Genes Delineated By Bacterial Artificial Chromosome Knock-In Mice

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Background

The next big challenge in human genetics is understanding the 98% of the genome that comprises non-coding DNA. Hidden in this DNA are sequences critical for gene regulation, and new experimental strategies are needed to understand the functional role of gene-regulation sequences in health and disease. In this study, we build upon our HuGX ('high-throughput human genes on the X chromosome’) strategy to expand our understanding of human gene regulation in vivo.

Results

In all, ten human genes known to express in therapeutically important brain regions were chosen for study. For eight of these genes, human bacterial artificial chromosome clones were identified, retrofitted with a reporter, knocked single-copy into the Hprt locus in mouse embryonic stem cells, and mouse strains derived. Five of these human genes expressed in mouse, and all expressed in the adult brain region for which they were chosen. This defined the boundaries of the genomic DNA sufficient for brain expression, and refined our knowledge regarding the complexity of gene regulation. We also characterized for the first time the expression of human MAOA and NR2F2, two genes for which the mouse homologs have been extensively studied in the central nervous system (CNS), and AMOTL1 and NOV, for which roles in CNS have been unclear.

Conclusions

We have demonstrated the use of the HuGX strategy to functionally delineate non-coding-regulatory regions of therapeutically important human brain genes. Our results also show that a careful investigation, using publicly available resources and bioinformatics, can lead to accurate predictions of gene expression.

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Attenuation Of Multiple Nef Functions In HIV-1 Elite Controllers

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Background

Impaired HIV-1 Gag, Pol, and Env function has been described in elite controllers (EC) who spontaneously suppress plasma viremia to < 50 RNA copies/mL; however, activity of the accessory protein Nef remains incompletely characterized. We examined the ability of 91 Nef clones, isolated from plasma of 45 EC and 46 chronic progressors (CP), to down-regulate HLA class I and CD4, up-regulate HLA class II invariant chain (CD74), enhance viral infectivity, and stimulate viral replication in PBMC.

Results

In general, EC Nef clones were functional; however, all five activities were significantly lower in EC compared to CP. Nef clones from HLA-B*57-expressing EC exhibited poorer CD4 down-regulation function compared to those from non-B*57 EC, and the number of EC-specific B*57-associated Nef polymorphisms correlated inversely with 4 of 5 Nef functions in these individuals.

Conclusion

Results indicate that decreased HIV-1 Nef function, due in part to host immune selection pressures, may be a hallmark of the EC phenotype.

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Draft Genome Of The Mountain Pine Beetle, Dendroctonus Ponderosae Hopkins, A Major Forest Pest

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Background

The mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, is the most serious insect pest of western North American pine forests. A recent outbreak destroyed more than 15 million hectares of pine forests, with major environmental effects on forest health, and economic effects on the forest industry. The outbreak has in part been driven by climate change, and will contribute to increased carbon emissions through decaying forests.

Results

We developed a genome sequence resource for the mountain pine beetle to better understand the unique aspects of this insect's biology. A draft de novo genome sequence was assembled from paired-end, short-read sequences from an individual field-collected male pupa, and scaffolded using mate-paired, short-read genomic sequences from pooled field-collected pupae, paired-end short-insert whole-transcriptome shotgun sequencing reads of mRNA from adult beetle tissues, and paired-end Sanger EST sequences from various life stages. We describe the cytochrome P450, glutathione S-transferase, and plant cell wall-degrading enzyme gene families important to the survival of the mountain pine beetle in its harsh and nutrient-poor host environment, and examine genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism variation. A horizontally transferred bacterial sucrose-6-phosphate hydrolase was evident in the genome, and its tissue-specific transcription suggests a functional role for this beetle.

Conclusions

Despite Coleoptera being the largest insect order with over 400,000 described species, including many agricultural and forest pest species, this is only the second genome sequence reported in Coleoptera, and will provide an important resource for the Curculionoidea and other insects.

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Variant Surface Antigens Of Malaria Parasites: Functional And Evolutionary Insights From Comparative Gene Family Classification And Analysis

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Background

Plasmodium parasites, the causative agents of malaria, express many variant antigens on cell surfaces. Variant surface antigens (VSAs) are typically organized into large subtelomeric gene families that play critical roles in virulence and immune evasion. Many important aspects of VSA function and evolution remain obscure, impeding our understanding of virulence mechanisms and vaccine development. To gain further insights into VSA function and evolution, we comparatively classified and examined known VSA gene families across seven Plasmodium species.

Results

We identified a set of ultra-conserved orthologs within the largest Plasmodium gene family pir, which should be considered as high-priority targets for experimental functional characterization and vaccine development. Furthermore, we predict a lipid-binding domain in erythrocyte surface-expressed PYST-A proteins, suggesting a role of this second largest rodent parasite gene family in host cholesterol salvage. Additionally, it was found that PfMC-2TM proteins carry a novel and putative functional domain named MC-TYR, which is conserved in other P. falciparum gene families and rodent parasites. Finally, we present new conclusive evidence that the major Plasmodium VSAs PfEMP1, SICAvar, and SURFIN are evolutionarily linked through a modular and structurally conserved intracellular domain.

Conclusion

Our comparative analysis of Plasmodium VSA gene families revealed important functional and evolutionary insights, which can now serve as starting points for further experimental studies.

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Mos1-Mediated Transgenesis to Probe Consequences of Single Gene Mutations in Variation-Rich Isolates of Caenorhabditis elegans

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Caenorhabditis elegans, especially the N2 isolate, is an invaluable biological model system. Numerous additional natural C. elegans isolates have been shown to have unexpected genotypic and phenotypic variations which has encouraged researchers to use next generation sequencing methodology to develop a more complete picture of genotypic variations among the isolates. To understand the phenotypic effects of a genomic variation (GV) on a single gene, in a variation-rich genetic background, one should analyze that particular GV in a well understood genetic background. In C. elegans, the analysis is usually done in N2, which requires extensive crossing to bring in the GV. This can be a very time consuming procedure thus it is important to establish a fast and efficient approach to test the effect of GVs from different isolates in N2. Here we use a Mos1-mediated single-copy insertion (MosSCI) method for phenotypic assessments of GVs from the variation-rich Hawaiian strain CB4856 in N2. Specifically, we investigate effects of variations identified in the CB4856 strain on tac-1 which is an essential gene that is necessary for mitotic spindle elongation and pronuclear migration. We show the usefulness of the MosSCI method by using EU1004 tac-1(or402) as a control. or402 is a temperature sensitive lethal allele within a well-conserved TACC domain (transforming acidic coiled-coil) that results in a leucine to phenylalanine change at amino acid 229. CB4856 contains a variation that affects the second exon of tac-1 causing a cysteine to tryptophan change at amino acid 94 also within the TACC domain. Using the MosSCI method, we analyze tac-1 from CB4856 in the N2 background and demonstrate that the C94W change, albeit significant, does not cause any obvious decrease in viability. This MosSCI method has proven to be a rapid and efficient way to analyze GVs.

Document type: 
Article

Differential Effects of an O-GlcNAcase Inhibitor on Tau Phosphorylation

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Abnormal hyperphosphorylation of microtubule-associated protein tau plays a crucial role in neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease (AD). The aggregation of hyperphosphorylated tau into neurofibrillary tangles is also a hallmark brain lesion of AD. Tau phosphorylation is regulated by tau kinases, tau phosphatases, and O-GlcNAcylation, a posttranslational modification of proteins on the serine or threonine residues with β-N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc). O-GlcNAcylation is dynamically regulated by O-GlcNAc transferase, the enzyme catalyzing the transfer of GlcNAc to proteins, and N-acetylglucosaminidase (OGA), the enzyme catalyzing the removal of GlcNAc from proteins. Thiamet-G is a recently synthesized potent OGA inhibitor, and initial studies suggest it can influence O-GlcNAc levels in the brain, allowing OGA inhibition to be a potential route to altering disease progression in AD. In this study, we injected thiamet-G into the lateral ventricle of mice to increase O-GlcNAcylation of proteins and investigated the resulting effects on site-specific tau phosphorylation. We found that acute thiamet-G treatment led to a decrease in tau phosphorylation at Thr181, Thr212, Ser214, Ser262/Ser356, Ser404 and Ser409, and an increase in tau phosphorylation at Ser199, Ser202, Ser396 and Ser422 in the mouse brain. Investigation of the major tau kinases showed that acute delivery of a high dose of thiamet-G into the brain also led to a marked activation of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β), possibly as a consequence of down-regulation of its upstream regulating kinase, AKT. However, the elevation of tau phosphorylation at the sites above was not observed and GSK-3β was not activated in cultured adult hippocampal progenitor cells or in PC12 cells after thiamet-G treatment. These results suggest that acute high-dose thiamet-G injection can not only directly antagonize tau phosphorylation, but also stimulate GSK-3β activity, with the downstream consequence being site-specific, bi-directional regulation of tau phosphorylation in the mammalian brain.

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Genome Comparison of Human and Non-Human Malaria Parasites Reveals Species Subset-Specific Genes Potentially Linked to Human Disease

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011
Abstract: 

Genes underlying important phenotypic differences between Plasmodium species, the causative agents of malaria, are frequently found in only a subset of species and cluster at dynamically evolving subtelomeric regions of chromosomes. We hypothesized that chromosome-internal regions of Plasmodium genomes harbour additional species subset-specific genes that underlie differences in human pathogenicity, human-to-human transmissibility, and human virulence. We combined sequence similarity searches with synteny block analyses to identify species subset-specific genes in chromosome-internal regions of six published Plasmodium genomes, including Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium knowlesi, Plasmodium yoelii, Plasmodium berghei, and Plasmodium chabaudi. To improve comparative analysis, we first revised incorrectly annotated gene models using homology-based gene finders and examined putative subset-specific genes within syntenic contexts. Confirmed subset-specific genes were then analyzed for their role in biological pathways and examined for molecular functions using publicly available databases. We identified 16 genes that are well conserved in the three primate parasites but not found in rodent parasites, including three key enzymes of the thiamine (vitamin B1) biosynthesis pathway. Thirteen genes were found to be present in both human parasites but absent in the monkey parasite P. knowlesi, including genes specifically upregulated in sporozoites or gametocytes that could be linked to parasite transmission success between humans. Furthermore, we propose 15 chromosome-internal P. falciparum-specific genes as new candidate genes underlying increased human virulence and detected a currently uncharacterized cluster of P. vivax-specific genes on chromosome 6 likely involved in erythrocyte invasion. In conclusion, Plasmodium species harbour many chromosome-internal differences in the form of protein-coding genes, some of which are potentially linked to human disease and thus promising leads for future laboratory research.

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Mutations in a Guanylate Cyclase GCY-35/GCY-36 Modify Bardet-Biedl Syndrome–Associated Phenotypes in Caenorhabditis elegans

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011
Abstract: 

Ciliopathies are pleiotropic and genetically heterogeneous disorders caused by defective development and function of the primary cilium. Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) proteins localize to the base of cilia and undergo intraflagellar transport, and the loss of their functions leads to a multisystemic ciliopathy. Here we report the identification of mutations in guanylate cyclases (GCYs) as modifiers of Caenorhabditis elegans bbs endophenotypes. The loss of GCY-35 or GCY-36 results in suppression of the small body size, developmental delay, and exploration defects exhibited by multiple bbs mutants. Moreover, an effector of cGMP signalling, a cGMP-dependent protein kinase, EGL-4, also modifies bbs mutant defects. We propose that a misregulation of cGMP signalling, which underlies developmental and some behavioural defects of C. elegans bbs mutants, may also contribute to some BBS features in other organisms.

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