PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), 23-36 nt small silencing RNAs, repress transposon expression in the metazoan germ line, thereby protecting the genome. Although high-throughput sequencing has made it possible to examine the genome and transcriptome at unprecedented resolution, extracting useful information from gigabytes of sequencing data still requires substantial computational skills. Additionally, researchers may analyze and interpret the same data differently, generating results that are difficult to reconcile. To address these issues, we developed a coordinated set of pipelines, 'piPipes', to analyze piRNA and transposon-derived RNAs from a variety of high-throughput sequencing libraries, including small RNA, RNA, degradome or 7-methyl guanosine cap analysis of gene expression (CAGE), chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and genomic DNA-seq. piPipes can also produce figures and tables suitable for publication. By facilitating data analysis, piPipes provides an opportunity to standardize computational methods in the piRNA field.
The growing list of mutations implicated in monogenic disorders of the developing brain includes at least seven genes (ARX, CUL4B, KDM5A, KDM5C, KMT2A, KMT2C, KMT2D) with loss-of-function mutations affecting proper regulation of histone H3 lysine 4 methylation, a chromatin mark which on a genome-wide scale is broadly associated with active gene expression, with its mono-, di- and trimethylated forms differentially enriched at promoter and enhancer and other regulatory sequences. In addition to these rare genetic syndromes, dysregulated H3K4 methylation could also play a role in the pathophysiology of some cases diagnosed with autism or schizophrenia, two conditions which on a genome-wide scale are associated with H3K4 methylation changes at hundreds of loci in a subject-specific manner. Importantly, the reported alterations for some of the diseased brain specimens included a widespread broadening of H3K4 methylation profiles at gene promoters, a process that could be regulated by the UpSET(KMT2E/MLL5)-histone deacetylase complex. Furthermore, preclinical studies identified maternal immune activation, parental care and monoaminergic drugs as environmental determinants for brain-specific H3K4 methylation. These novel insights into the epigenetic risk architectures of neurodevelopmental disease will be highly relevant for efforts aimed at improved prevention and treatment of autism and psychosis spectrum disorders.
Dynamic exchange of a subset of nucleosomes in vivo plays important roles in epigenetic inheritance of chromatin states, chromatin insulator function, chromosome folding, and the maintenance of the pluripotent state of embryonic stem cells. Here, we extend a pulse-chase strategy for carrying out genome-wide measurements of histone dynamics to several histone variants in murine embryonic stem cells and somatic tissues, recapitulating expected characteristics of the well characterized H3.3 histone variant. We extended this system to the less-studied MacroH2A2 variant, commonly described as a "repressive" histone variant whose accumulation in chromatin is thought to fix the epigenetic state of differentiated cells. Unexpectedly, we found that while large intergenic blocks of MacroH2A2 were stably associated with the genome, promoter-associated peaks of MacroH2A2 exhibited relatively rapid exchange dynamics in ES cells, particularly at highly-transcribed genes. Upon differentiation to embryonic fibroblasts, MacroH2A2 was gained primarily in additional long, stably associated blocks across gene-poor regions, while overall turnover at promoters was greatly dampened. Our results reveal unanticipated dynamic behavior of the MacroH2A2 variant in pluripotent cells, and provide a resource for future studies of tissue-specific histone dynamics in vivo.
Over-expression of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) is known to be involved in the epidermal carcinogenesis. However, the mechanism by which it enhances skin carcinogenesis remains undefined. Recently, role of stem cells localized in various epidermal compartments has been shown in the pathogenesis of skin cancer. To direct ODC expression in distinct epidermal compartments, we have developed keratin 6 (K6)-ODC/SKH-1 and keratin 14 (K14)-ODC/SKH-1 mice and employed them to investigate the role of ODC directed to these epidermal compartments on UVB-induced carcinogenesis. K6-driven ODC over-expression directed to outer root sheath (ORS) of hair follicle was more effective in augmenting tumorigenesis as compared to mice where K14-driven ODC expression was directed to inter-follicular epidermal keratinocytes. Chronically UVB-irradiated K6-ODC/SKH-1 developed 15±2.5 tumors/mouse whereas K14-ODC/SKH-1 developed only 6.8±1.5 tumors/mouse. K6-ODC/SKH-1 showed augmented UVB-induced proliferation and much higher pro-inflammatory responses than K14-ODC/SKH-1 mice. Tumors induced in K6-ODC/SKH-1 were rapidly growing, invasive and ulcerative squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) showing decreased expression of epidermal polarity marker E-cadherin and enhanced mesenchymal marker, fibronectin. Interestingly, the number of CD34/CK15/p63 positive stem-like cells was significantly higher in chronically UVB-irradiated K6-ODC/SKH-1 as compared to K14-ODC/SKH-1 mice. Reduced Notch1 expression was correlated with the expansion of stem cell compartment in these animals. However, other signaling pathways such as DNA damage response or mTOR signaling pathways were not significantly different in tumors induced in these two murine models suggesting the specificity of Notch pathway in this regard. These data provide a novel role of ODC in augmenting tumorigenesis via negatively regulated Notch-mediated expansion of stem cell compartment.
T cell receptors (TCRs) can recognize diverse lipid and metabolite antigens presented by MHC-like molecules CD1 and MR1, and the molecular basis of many of these interactions has not been determined. Here we applied our protein docking algorithm TCRFlexDock, previously developed to perform docking of TCRs to peptide-MHC (pMHC) molecules, to predict the binding of ?? and ?? TCRs to CD1 and MR1, starting with the structures of the unbound molecules.
With the completion of the human genome sequence, attention turned to identifying and annotating its functional DNA elements. As a complement to genetic and comparative genomics approaches, the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project was launched to contribute maps of RNA transcripts, transcriptional regulator binding sites, and chromatin states in many cell types. The resulting genome-wide data reveal sites of biochemical activity with high positional resolution and cell type specificity that facilitate studies of gene regulation and interpretation of noncoding variants associated with human disease. However, the biochemically active regions cover a much larger fraction of the genome than do evolutionarily conserved regions, raising the question of whether nonconserved but biochemically active regions are truly functional. Here, we review the strengths and limitations of biochemical, evolutionary, and genetic approaches for defining functional DNA segments, potential sources for the observed differences in estimated genomic coverage, and the biological implications of these discrepancies. We also analyze the relationship between signal intensity, genomic coverage, and evolutionary conservation. Our results reinforce the principle that each approach provides complementary information and that we need to use combinations of all three to elucidate genome function in human biology and disease.
To evade host immune mechanisms, many bacteria secrete immunomodulatory enzymes. Streptococcus pyogenes, one of the most common human pathogens, secretes a large endoglycosidase, EndoS, which removes carbohydrates in a highly specific manner from IgG antibodies. This modification renders antibodies incapable of eliciting host effector functions through either complement or Fc ? receptors, providing the bacteria with a survival advantage. On account of this antibody-specific modifying activity, EndoS is being developed as a promising injectable therapeutic for autoimmune diseases that rely on autoantibodies. Additionally, EndoS is a key enzyme used in the chemoenzymatic synthesis of homogenously glycosylated antibodies with tailored Fc ? receptor-mediated effector functions. Despite the tremendous utility of this enzyme, the molecular basis of EndoS specificity for, and processing of, IgG antibodies has remained poorly understood. Here, we report the X-ray crystal structure of EndoS and provide a model of its encounter complex with its substrate, the IgG1 Fc domain. We show that EndoS is composed of five distinct protein domains, including glycosidase, leucine-rich repeat, hybrid Ig, carbohydrate binding module, and three-helix bundle domains, arranged in a distinctive V-shaped conformation. Our data suggest that the substrate enters the concave interior of the enzyme structure, is held in place by the carbohydrate binding module, and that concerted conformational changes in both enzyme and substrate are required for subsequent antibody deglycosylation. The EndoS structure presented here provides a framework from which novel endoglycosidases could be engineered for additional clinical and biotechnological applications.
Insertions and excisions of transposable elements (TEs) affect both the stability and variability of the genome. Studying the dynamics of transposition at the population level can provide crucial insights into the processes and mechanisms of genome evolution. Pooling genomic materials from multiple individuals followed by high-throughput sequencing is an efficient way of characterizing genomic polymorphisms in a population. Here we describe a novel method named TEMP, specifically designed to detect TE movements present with a wide range of frequencies in a population. By combining the information provided by pair-end reads and split reads, TEMP is able to identify both the presence and absence of TE insertions in genomic DNA sequences derived from heterogeneous samples; accurately estimate the frequencies of transposition events in the population and pinpoint junctions of high frequency transposition events at nucleotide resolution. Simulation data indicate that TEMP outperforms other algorithms such as PoPoolationTE, RetroSeq, VariationHunter and GASVPro. TEMP also performs well on whole-genome human data derived from the 1000 Genomes Project. We applied TEMP to characterize the TE frequencies in a wild Drosophila melanogaster population and study the inheritance patterns of TEs during hybrid dysgenesis. We also identified sequence signatures of TE insertion and possible molecular effects of TE movements, such as altered gene expression and piRNA production. TEMP is freely available at github: https://github.com/JialiUMassWengLab/TEMP.git.
Mammalian embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and sperm exhibit unusual chromatin packaging that plays important roles in cellular function. Here, we extend a recently developed technique, based on deep paired-end sequencing of lightly digested chromatin, to assess footprints of nucleosomes and other DNA-binding proteins genome-wide in murine ESCs and sperm. In ESCs, we recover well-characterized features of chromatin such as promoter nucleosome depletion and further identify widespread footprints of sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins such as CTCF, which we validate in knockdown studies. We document global differences in nuclease accessibility between ESCs and sperm, finding that the majority of histone retention in sperm preferentially occurs in large gene-poor genomic regions, with only a small subset of nucleosomes being retained over promoters of developmental regulators. Finally, we describe evidence that CTCF remains associated with the genome in mature sperm, where it could play a role in organizing the sperm genome.
Protein-protein interactions are essential to cellular and immune function, and in many cases, because of the absence of an experimentally determined structure of the complex, these interactions must be modeled to obtain an understanding of their molecular basis. We present a user-friendly protein docking server, based on the rigid-body docking programs ZDOCK and M-ZDOCK, to predict structures of protein-protein complexes and symmetric multimers. With a goal of providing an accessible and intuitive interface, we provide options for users to guide the scoring and the selection of output models, in addition to dynamic visualization of input structures and output docking models. This server enables the research community to easily and quickly produce structural models of protein-protein complexes and symmetric multimers for their own analysis.
Transcriptional dysregulation has long been recognized as central to the pathogenesis of Huntington's disease (HD). MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a major system of post-transcriptional regulation, by either preventing translational initiation or by targeting transcripts for storage or for degradation. Using next-generation miRNA sequencing in prefrontal cortex (Brodmann Area 9) of twelve HD and nine controls, we identified five miRNAs (miR-10b-5p, miR-196a-5p, miR-196b-5p, miR-615-3p and miR-1247-5p) up-regulated in HD at genome-wide significance (FDR q-value<0.05). Three of these, miR-196a-5p, miR-196b-5p and miR-615-3p, were expressed at near zero levels in control brains. Expression was verified for all five miRNAs using reverse transcription quantitative PCR and all but miR-1247-5p were replicated in an independent sample (8HD/8C). Ectopic miR-10b-5p expression in PC12 HTT-Q73 cells increased survival by MTT assay and cell viability staining suggesting increased expression may be a protective response. All of the miRNAs but miR-1247-5p are located in intergenic regions of Hox clusters. Total mRNA sequencing in the same samples identified fifteen of 55 genes within the Hox cluster gene regions as differentially expressed in HD, and the Hox genes immediately adjacent to the four Hox cluster miRNAs as up-regulated. Pathway analysis of mRNA targets of these miRNAs implicated functions for neuronal differentiation, neurite outgrowth, cell death and survival. In regression models among the HD brains, huntingtin CAG repeat size, onset age and age at death were independently found to be inversely related to miR-10b-5p levels. CAG repeat size and onset age were independently inversely related to miR-196a-5p, onset age was inversely related to miR-196b-5p and age at death was inversely related to miR-615-3p expression. These results suggest these Hox-related miRNAs may be involved in neuroprotective response in HD. Recently, miRNAs have shown promise as biomarkers for human diseases and given their relationship to disease expression, these miRNAs are biomarker candidates in HD.
T cell receptors (TCRs) are key to antigen-specific immunity and are increasingly being explored as therapeutics, most visibly in cancer immunotherapy. As TCRs typically possess only low-to-moderate affinity for their peptide/MHC (pMHC) ligands, there is a recognized need to develop affinity-enhanced TCR variants. Previous in vitro engineering efforts have yielded remarkable improvements in TCR affinity, yet concerns exist about the maintenance of peptide specificity and the biological impacts of ultra-high affinity. As opposed to in vitro engineering, computational design can directly address these issues, in theory permitting the rational control of peptide specificity together with relatively controlled increments in affinity. Here we explored the efficacy of computational design with the clinically relevant TCR DMF5, which recognizes nonameric and decameric epitopes from the melanoma-associated Melan-A/MART-1 protein presented by the class I MHC HLA-A2. We tested multiple mutations selected by flexible and rigid modeling protocols, assessed impacts on affinity and specificity, and utilized the data to examine and improve algorithmic performance. We identified multiple mutations that improved binding affinity, and characterized the structure, affinity, and binding kinetics of a previously reported double mutant that exhibits an impressive 400-fold affinity improvement for the decameric pMHC ligand without detectable binding to non-cognate ligands. The structure of this high affinity mutant indicated very little conformational consequences and emphasized the high fidelity of our modeling procedure. Overall, our work showcases the capability of computational design to generate TCRs with improved pMHC affinities while explicitly accounting for peptide specificity, as well as its potential for generating TCRs with customized antigen targeting capabilities.
Hairless mice carrying homozygous mutations in hairless gene manifest rudimentary hair follicles (HFs), epidermal cysts, hairless phenotype, and enhanced susceptibility to squamous cell carcinomas. However, their susceptibility to basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), a neoplasm considered originated from HF-localized stem cells, is unknown. To demonstrate the role of HFs in BCC development, we bred Ptch(+/-)/C57BL6 with SKH-1 hairless mice, followed by brother-sister cross to get F2 homozygous mutant (hairless) or wild-type (haired) mice. UVB-induced inflammation was less pronounced in shaved haired than in hairless mice. In hairless mice, inflammatory infiltrate was found around the rudimentary HFs and epidermal cysts. Expression of epidermal IL1f6, S100a8, vitamin D receptor, repetin, and major histocompatibility complex II, biomarkers depicting susceptibility to cutaneous inflammation, was also higher. In these animals, HF disruption altered susceptibility to UVB-induced BCCs. Tumor onset in hairless mice was 10 weeks earlier than in haired littermates. The incidence of BCCs was significantly higher in hairless than in haired animals; however, the magnitude of sonic hedgehog signaling did not differ significantly. Overall, 100% of hairless mice developed >12 tumors per mouse after 32 weeks of UVB therapy, whereas haired mice developed fewer than three tumors per mouse after 44 weeks of long-term UVB irradiation. Tumors in hairless mice were more aggressive than in haired littermates and manifested decreased E-cadherin and enhanced mesenchymal proteins. These data provide novel evidence that disruption of HFs in Ptch(+/-) mice enhances cutaneous susceptibility to inflammation and BCCs.
Excision of introns from pre-mRNAs is mediated by the spliceosome, a multi-megadalton complex consisting of U1, U2, U4/U6, and U5 snRNPs plus scores of associated proteins. Spliceosome assembly and disassembly are highly dynamic processes involving multiple stable intermediates. In this study, we utilized a split TAP-tag approach for large-scale purification of an abundant endogenous U2·U5·U6 complex from Schizosaccharomyces pombe. RNAseq revealed this complex to largely contain excised introns, indicating that it is primarily ILS (intron lariat spliceosome) complexes. These endogenous ILS complexes are remarkably resistant to both high-salt and nuclease digestion. Mass spectrometry analysis identified 68, 45, and 43 proteins in low-salt-, high-salt-, and micrococcal nuclease-treated preps, respectively. The protein content of a S. pombe ILS complex strongly resembles that previously reported for human spliced product (P) and Saccharomyces cerevisiae ILS complexes assembled on single pre-mRNAs in vitro. However, the ATP-dependent RNA helicase Brr2 was either substoichiometric in low-salt preps or completely absent from high-salt and MNase preps. Because Brr2 facilitates spliceosome disassembly, its relative absence may explain why the ILS complex accumulates logarithmically growing cultures and the inability of S. pombe extracts to support in vitro splicing.
piRNAs guide an adaptive genome defense system that silences transposons during germline development. The Drosophila HP1 homolog Rhino is required for germline piRNA production. We show that Rhino binds specifically to the heterochromatic clusters that produce piRNA precursors, and that binding directly correlates with piRNA production. Rhino colocalizes to germline nuclear foci with Rai1/DXO-related protein Cuff and the DEAD box protein UAP56, which are also required for germline piRNA production. RNA sequencing indicates that most cluster transcripts are not spliced and that rhino, cuff, and uap56 mutations increase expression of spliced cluster transcripts over 100-fold. LacI::Rhino fusion protein binding suppresses splicing of a reporter transgene and is sufficient to trigger piRNA production from a trans combination of sense and antisense reporters. We therefore propose that Rhino anchors a nuclear complex that suppresses cluster transcript splicing and speculate that stalled splicing differentiates piRNA precursors from mRNAs.
Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the most common cause of end-stage liver disease, often leading to liver transplantation, in which case circulating virions typically infect the transplanted liver within hours and viral concentrations can quickly exceed pre-transplant levels. MBL-HCV1 is a fully human monoclonal antibody recognizing a linear epitope of the HCV E2 envelope glycoprotein (amino acids 412-423). The ability of MBL-HCV1 to prevent HCV recurrence after liver transplantation was investigated in a phase 2 randomized clinical trial evaluating six MBL-HCV1-treated subjects and five placebo-treated subjects. MBL-HCV1 treatment significantly delayed time to viral rebound compared with placebo treatment. Here we report results from high-throughput sequencing on the serum of each of the eleven enrolled subjects prior to liver transplantation and after viral rebound. We further sequenced the sera of the MBL-HCV1-treated subjects at various interim time points to study the evolution of antibody-resistant viral variants. We detected mutations at one of two positions within the antibody epitope--mutations of N at position 415 to D, K or S, or mutation of N at position 417 to S. It has been previously reported that N415 is not glycosylated in the wild-type E2 protein, but N417S can lead to glycosylation at position 415. Thus N415 is a key position for antibody recognition and the only routes we identified for viral escape, within the constraints of HCV fitness in vivo, involve mutating or glycosylating this position. Evaluation of mutations along the entire E1 and E2 proteins revealed additional positions that changed moderately before and after MBL-HCV1 treatment for subsets of the six subjects, yet underscored the relative importance of position 415 in MBL-HCV1 resistance.
In embryonic stem cells (ESCs), the Tip60 histone acetyltransferase activates genes required for proliferation and silences genes that promote differentiation. Here we show that the class II histone deacetylase Hdac6 co-purifies with Tip60-p400 complex from ESCs. Hdac6 is necessary for regulation of most Tip60-p400 target genes, particularly those repressed by the complex. Unlike differentiated cells, where Hdac6 is mainly cytoplasmic, Hdac6 is largely nuclear in ESCs, neural stem cells (NSCs), and some cancer cell lines, and interacts with Tip60-p400 in each. Hdac6 localizes to promoters bound by Tip60-p400 in ESCs, binding downstream of transcription start sites. Surprisingly, Hdac6 does not appear to deacetylate histones, but rather is required for Tip60-p400 binding to many of its target genes. Finally, we find that, like canonical subunits of Tip60-p400, Hdac6 is necessary for robust ESC differentiation. These data suggest that Hdac6 plays a major role in the modulation of Tip60-p400 function in stem cells. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01557.001.
Estrogen receptors (ERs) including ER? and ER? are known to regulate multiple biological responses in various cell-types. The expression of ER? is lost in various cancers. ER?-agonists were shown to modulate inflammation, cancer cell proliferation and differentiation. Here, we investigated the cancer chemopreventive properties of Erb-041, an ER? agonist employing a model of UVB-induced photocarcinogenesis in SKH-1 mice. Erb-041 significantly reduced UVB-induced carcinogenesis. Tumor numbers and volume were reduced by 60% and 84%, respectively in Erb-041-treated group as compared to UVB (alone) control. This inhibition in tumorigenesis was accompanied by the decrease in PCNA, cyclin D1, VEGF and CD31; and increase in apoptosis. The lost ER? expression in SCCs was significantly recovered by Erb-041 treatment. Additionally, the UVB-induced inflammatory responses were remarkably reduced. Myeloperoxidase activity; levels of cytokines IL1?, IL6 and IL10; and expression of p-ERK1/2, p-p38, p-I?B, iNOS, COX-2 and nuclear NF?Bp65 were diminished. The number of tumor-associated inflammatory cells (GR-1+/CD11b+ and F4/80+) was also decreased. Tumors excised from Erb-041-treated animal were less invasive and showed reduced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). The enhanced expression of E-cadherin with the concomitantly reduced expression of N-Cadherin, Snail, Slug and Twist characterized these lesions. WNT/?-catenin signaling pathway, which underlies pathogenesis of skin cancer was found to be down-regulated by Erb-041 treatment. Similar but not identical changes in proliferation and EMT regulatory proteins were noticed following treatment of tumor cells with a WNT-signaling inhibitor XAV939. Our results show that Erb-041 is a potent skin cancer chemopreventive agent which acts by dampening WNT/?-catenin signaling pathway.
Conformational entropy is an important component of protein-protein interactions; however, there is no reliable method for computing this parameter. We have developed a statistical measure of residual backbone entropy in folded proteins by using the ?-? distributions of the twenty amino acids in common secondary structures. The backbone entropy patterns of amino acids within helix, sheet or coil form clusters that recapitulate the branching and hydrogen bonding properties of the side-chains in the secondary structure type. The same types of residues in coil and sheet have identical backbone entropies, while helix residues have much smaller conformational entropies. We estimated the backbone entropy change for immunoglobulin Complimentarily Determining Regions (CDRs) from the crystal structures of 34 low affinity TCRs and 40 high affinity Fabs as a result of forming protein complexes. Surprisingly, we discovered that the computed backbone entropy loss of only the CDR3, but not all CDRs, correlated significantly with the kinetic and affinity constants of the 74 selected complexes. Consequently, we propose a simple algorithm to introduce proline mutations that restrict the conformational flexibility of CDRs and enhance the kinetics and affinity of immunoglobulin interactions. Combining the proline mutations with rationally designed mutants from a previous study led to 2,400-fold increase in the affinity of the A6 TCR for Tax-HLAA2. However, this mutational scheme failed to induce significant binding changes in the already high affinity C225-Fab/huEGFR interface. Our results will serve as a roadmap to formulate more effective target functions to design immune complexes with improved biological functions.
T cell receptors (TCRs) are immune proteins that specifically bind to antigenic molecules, which are often foreign peptides presented by major histocompatibility complex proteins (pMHCs), playing a key role in the cellular immune response. To advance our understanding and modeling of this dynamic immunological event, we assembled a protein-protein docking benchmark consisting of 20 structures of crystallized TCR/pMHC complexes for which unbound structures exist for both TCR and pMHC. We used our benchmark to compare predictive performance using several flexible and rigid backbone TCR/pMHC docking protocols. Our flexible TCR docking algorithm, TCRFlexDock, improved predictive success over the fixed backbone protocol, leading to near-native predictions for 80% of the TCR/pMHC cases among the top 10 models, and 100% of the cases in the top 30 models. We then applied TCRFlexDock to predict the two distinct docking modes recently described for a single TCR bound to two different antigens, and tested several protein modeling scoring functions for prediction of TCR/pMHC binding affinities. This algorithm and benchmark should enable future efforts to predict, and design of uncharacterized TCR/pMHC complexes.
We compared the performance of template-free (docking) and template-based methods for the prediction of protein-protein complex structures. We found similar performance for a template-based method based on threading (COTH) and another template-based method based on structural alignment (PRISM). The template-based methods showed similar performance to a docking method (ZDOCK) when the latter was allowed one prediction for each complex, but when the same number of predictions was allowed for each method, the docking approach outperformed template-based approaches. We identified strengths and weaknesses in each method. Template-based approaches were better able to handle complexes that involved conformational changes upon binding. Furthermore, the threading-based and docking methods were better than the structural-alignment-based method for enzyme-inhibitor complex prediction. Finally, we show that the near-native (correct) predictions were generally not shared by the various approaches, suggesting that integrating their results could be the superior strategy.
Chlorine (Cl2) is an important industrial chemical. Accidental full body exposure to Cl2 poses an environmental, occupational, and public health hazard characterized mainly by injury to the lung, skin, and ocular epithelia. The cellular mechanisms underlying its acute toxicity are incompletely understood. This study examined whether whole body exposure of BALB/c mice to Cl2 in environmental chambers leads to the up-regulation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) in their lungs and skin. Shaved BALB/c mice were exposed to a sublethal concentration of Cl2 (400 ppm for 30 min) and returned to room air for 1 or 6 hours and killed. IL-6 and TNF-? were increased significantly at 1 and 6 hours after Cl2 exposure in the lungs and at 6 hours in the skin. These changes were accompanied by increased UPR signaling (i.e., activation of protein kinase RNA-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase, inositol-requiring enzyme 1 ?, and activating transcription factor 6?) at these time points. The expression of hepcidin, which regulates tissue accumulation and mobilization of iron, was increased in the skin and lungs of Cl2-exposed mice. The data shown herein indicate for the first time the up-regulation of UPR signaling and hepcidin in the skin and lungs of Cl2-exposed mice, which persisted when the mice were returned to room air for 6 hours.
Recent studies in mammals have documented the neural expression and mobility of retrotransposons and have suggested that neural genomes are diverse mosaics. We found that transposition occurs among memory-relevant neurons in the Drosophila brain. Cell type-specific gene expression profiling revealed that transposon expression is more abundant in mushroom body (MB) ?? neurons than in neighboring MB neurons. The Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) proteins Aubergine and Argonaute 3, known to suppress transposons in the fly germline, are expressed in the brain and appear less abundant in ?? MB neurons. Loss of piRNA proteins correlates with elevated transposon expression in the brain. Paired-end deep sequencing identified more than 200 de novo transposon insertions in ?? neurons, including insertions into memory-relevant loci. Our observations indicate that genomic heterogeneity is a conserved feature of the brain.
Development of prefrontal and other higher-order association cortices is associated with widespread changes in the cortical transcriptome, particularly during the transitions from prenatal to postnatal development, and from early infancy to later stages of childhood and early adulthood. However, the timing and longitudinal trajectories of neuronal gene expression programs during these periods remain unclear in part because of confounding effects of concomitantly occurring shifts in neuron-to-glia ratios. Here, we used cell type-specific chromatin sorting techniques for genome-wide profiling of a histone mark associated with transcriptional regulation--H3 with trimethylated lysine 4 (H3K4me3)--in neuronal chromatin from 31 subjects from the late gestational period to 80 years of age. H3K4me3 landscapes of prefrontal neurons were developmentally regulated at 1,157 loci, including 768 loci that were proximal to transcription start sites. Multiple algorithms consistently revealed that the overwhelming majority and perhaps all of developmentally regulated H3K4me3 peaks were on a unidirectional trajectory defined by either rapid gain or loss of histone methylation during the late prenatal period and the first year after birth, followed by similar changes but with progressively slower kinetics during early and later childhood and only minimal changes later in life. Developmentally downregulated H3K4me3 peaks in prefrontal neurons were enriched for Paired box (Pax) and multiple Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription (STAT) motifs, which are known to promote glial differentiation. In contrast, H3K4me3 peaks subject to a progressive increase in maturing prefrontal neurons were enriched for activating protein-1 (AP-1) recognition elements that are commonly associated with activity-dependent regulation of neuronal gene expression. We uncovered a developmental program governing the remodeling of neuronal histone methylation landscapes in the prefrontal cortex from the late prenatal period to early adolescence, which is linked to cis-regulatory sequences around transcription start sites.
Community-wide blind prediction experiments such as CAPRI and CASP provide an objective measure of the current state of predictive methodology. Here we describe a community-wide assessment of methods to predict the effects of mutations on protein-protein interactions. Twenty-two groups predicted the effects of comprehensive saturation mutagenesis for two designed influenza hemagglutinin binders and the results were compared with experimental yeast display enrichment data obtained using deep sequencing. The most successful methods explicitly considered the effects of mutation on monomer stability in addition to binding affinity, carried out explicit side-chain sampling and backbone relaxation, evaluated packing, electrostatic, and solvation effects, and correctly identified around a third of the beneficial mutations. Much room for improvement remains for even the best techniques, and large-scale fitness landscapes should continue to provide an excellent test bed for continued evaluation of both existing and new prediction methodologies.
Eric Davidson at Caltech has spent several decades investigating the molecular basis of animal development using the sea urchin embryo as an experimental system although his scholarship extends to all of embryology as embodied in several editions of his landmark book. In recent years his laboratory has become a leading force in constructing gene regulatory networks (GRNs) operating in sea urchin development. This axis of his work has its roots in this laboratorys cDNA cloning of an actin mRNA from the sea urchin embryo (for the timeline, see ref. 1)--one of the first eukaryotic mRNAs to be cloned as it turned out. From that point of departure, the Davidson lab has drilled down into other genes and gene families and the factors that regulate their coordinated regulation, leading them into the GRN era (a field they helped to define) and the development of the computational tools needed to consolidate and advance the GRN field.
Animal germ cells produce PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), small silencing RNAs that suppress transposons and enable gamete maturation. Mammalian transposon-silencing piRNAs accumulate early in spermatogenesis, whereas pachytene piRNAs are produced later during postnatal spermatogenesis and account for >95% of all piRNAs in the adult mouse testis. Mutants defective for pachytene piRNA pathway proteins fail to produce mature sperm, but neither the piRNA precursor transcripts nor the trigger for pachytene piRNA production is known. Here, we show that the transcription factor A-MYB initiates pachytene piRNA production. A-MYB drives transcription of both pachytene piRNA precursor RNAs and the mRNAs for core piRNA biogenesis factors including MIWI, the protein through which pachytene piRNAs function. A-MYB regulation of piRNA pathway proteins and piRNA genes creates a coherent feedforward loop that ensures the robust accumulation of pachytene piRNAs. This regulatory circuit, which can be detected in rooster testes, likely predates the divergence of birds and mammals.
We present a two-stage hybrid-resolution approach for rigid-body protein-protein docking. The first stage is carried out at low-resolution (15°) angular sampling. In the second stage, we sample promising regions from the first stage at a higher resolution of 6°. The hybrid-resolution approach produces the same results as a 6° uniform sampling docking run, but uses only 17% of the computational time. We also show that the angular distance can be used successfully in clustering and pruning algorithms, as well as the characterization of energy funnels. Traditionally the root-mean-square-distance is used in these algorithms, but the evaluation is computationally expensive as it depends on both the rotational and translational parameters of the docking solutions. In contrast, the angular distances only depend on the rotational parameters, which are generally fixed for all docking runs. Hence the angular distances can be pre-computed, and do not add computational time to the post-processing of rigid-body docking results.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a T cell-mediated disease. It is strongly associated with susceptibility haplotypes within the major histocompatibility complex, but this association accounts for an estimated 50% of susceptibility. Other studies have identified as many as 50 additional susceptibility loci, but the effect of most is very modest (odds ratio (OR) <1.5). What accounts for the "missing heritability" is unknown and is often attributed to environmental factors. Here we review new data on the cognate ligand of MHC molecules, the T cell receptor (TCR). In rats, we found that one allele of a TCR variable gene, V ? 13A, is strongly associated with T1D (OR >5) and that deletion of V ? 13+ T cells prevents diabetes. A role for the TCR is also suspected in NOD mice, but TCR regions have not been associated with human T1D. To investigate this disparity, we tested the hypothesis in silico that previous studies of human T1D genetics were underpowered to detect MHC-contingent TCR susceptibility. We show that stratifying by MHC markedly increases statistical power to detect potential TCR susceptibility alleles. We suggest that the TCR regions are viable candidates for T1D susceptibility genes, could account for "missing heritability," and could be targets for prevention.
Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the most common type of skin cancer in Caucasian populations. Its increasing incidence has been a major public health concern. Elevated expressions of ODC and COX-2 are associated with both murine and human NMSCs. Inhibition of these molecular targets singly employing their respective small molecule inhibitors showed limited success. Here, we show that combined blockade of ODC and COX-2 using their potent inhibitors, DFMO and diclofenac respectively abrogates growth of A431 epidermal xenograft tumors in nu/nu mice by more than 90%. The tumor growth inhibition was associated with a diminution in the proliferation and enhancement in apoptosis. The proliferation markers such as PCNA and cyclin D1 were reduced. TUNEL-positive apoptotic cells and cleaved caspase-3 were increased in the residual tumors. These agents also manifested direct target-unrelated effects. Reduced expression of phosphorylated MAPKAP-2, ERK, and Akt (ser(473) & thr(308)) were noticed. The mechanism by which combined inhibition of ODC/COX attenuated tumor growth and invasion involved reduction in EMT. Akt activation by ODC+COX-2 over-expression was the key player in this regard as Akt inhibition manifested effects similar to those observed by the combined inhibition of ODC+COX-2 whereas forced over-expression of Akt resisted against DFMO+diclofenac treatment. These data suggest that ODC+COX-2 over-expression together leads to pathogenesis of aggressive and invasive cutaneous carcinomas by activating Akt signaling pathway, which through augmenting EMT contributes to tumor invasion.
Arsenic exposure through drinking water is a major global public health problem and is associated with an enhanced risk of various cancers including skin cancer. In human skin, arsenic induces precancerous melanosis and keratosis, which may progress to basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. However, the mechanism by which these pathophysiologic alterations occur remains elusive. In this study, we showed that subchronic arsenic exposure to SKH-1 mice induced unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling regulated by proteins, inositol-requiring enzyme-1 (IRE1), PKR-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) and activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6). Arsenic activated all three UPR regulatory proteins in the skin. Arsenic induced IRE1 phosphorylation which resulted in augmented splicing of X-box binding protein 1 (XBP-1) leading to its migration to the nucleus, and also enhanced transcriptional activation of downstream target proteins. Hyperphosphorylation of PERK which induces eukaryotic translation initial factor 2? (eIF2?) in a phosphorylation-dependent manner enhanced translation of ATF4, in addition to augmenting proteolytic activation of ATF6 in arsenic-treated skin. A similar increase in the expression of CHOP was observed. Enhanced XBP-1s, ATF4, and ATF6 regulated downstream chaperones GRP94 and GRP78. In addition, arsenic induced inflammation-related p38/MAPKAPK-2 MAPK signaling and alterations in Th-1/Th-2/Th-17 cytokines/chemokines and their receptors. Antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine blocked arsenic-induced reactive oxygen species, with a concomitant attenuation of UPR and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling and proinflammatory cytokine/chemokine signatures. Our results identify novel pathways involved in the pathogenesis of arsenic-mediated cutaneous inflammation which may also be related to enhanced cancer risk in arsenic exposed cohorts.
A central goal of biology is understanding and describing the molecular basis of plasticity: the sets of genes that are combinatorially selected by exogenous and endogenous environmental changes, and the relations among the genes. The most viable current approach to this problem consists of determining whether sets of genes are connected by some common theme, e.g. genes from the same pathway are overrepresented among those whose differential expression in response to a perturbation is most pronounced. There are many approaches to this problem, and the results they produce show a fair amount of dispersion, but they all fall within a common framework consisting of a few basic components. We critically review these components, suggest best practices for carrying out each step, and propose a voting method for meeting the challenge of assessing different methods on a large number of experimental data sets in the absence of a gold standard.
piRNAs guide PIWI proteins to silence transposons in animal germ cells. Reciprocal cycles of piRNA-directed RNA cleavage--catalyzed by the PIWI proteins Aubergine (Aub) and Argonaute3 (Ago3) in Drosophila melanogaster--expand the population of antisense piRNAs in response to transposon expression, a process called the Ping-Pong cycle. Heterotypic Ping-Pong between Aub and Ago3 ensures that antisense piRNAs predominate. We show that qin, a piRNA pathway gene whose protein product contains both E3 ligase and Tudor domains, colocalizes with Aub and Ago3 in nuage, a perinuclear structure implicated in transposon silencing. In qin mutants, less Ago3 binds Aub, futile Aub:Aub homotypic Ping-Pong prevails, antisense piRNAs decrease, many families of mobile genetic elements are reactivated, and DNA damage accumulates in nurse cells and oocytes. We propose that Qin enforces heterotypic Ping-Pong between Aub and Ago3, ensuring that transposons are silenced and maintaining the integrity of the germline genome.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are ~22 nucleotide (nt) small RNAs that control development, physiology, and pathology in animals and plants. Production of miRNAs involves the sequential processing of primary hairpin-containing RNA polymerase II transcripts by the RNase III enzymes Drosha in the nucleus and Dicer in the cytoplasm. miRNA duplexes then assemble into Argonaute proteins to form the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). In mature RISC, a single-stranded miRNA directs the Argonaute protein to bind partially complementary sequences, typically in the 3 untranslated regions of messenger RNAs, repressing their expression.
Computational prediction of the 3D structures of molecular interactions is a challenging area, often requiring significant computational resources to produce structural predictions with atomic-level accuracy. This can be particularly burdensome when modeling large sets of interactions, macromolecular assemblies, or interactions between flexible proteins. We previously developed a protein docking program, ZDOCK, which uses a fast Fourier transform to perform a 3D search of the spatial degrees of freedom between two molecules. By utilizing a pairwise statistical potential in the ZDOCK scoring function, there were notable gains in docking accuracy over previous versions, but this improvement in accuracy came at a substantial computational cost. In this study, we incorporated a recently developed 3D convolution library into ZDOCK, and additionally modified ZDOCK to dynamically orient the input proteins for more efficient convolution. These modifications resulted in an average of over 8.5-fold improvement in running time when tested on 176 cases in a newly released protein docking benchmark, as well as substantially less memory usage, with no loss in docking accuracy. We also applied these improvements to a previous version of ZDOCK that uses a simpler non-pairwise atomic potential, yielding an average speed improvement of over 5-fold on the docking benchmark, while maintaining predictive success. This permits the utilization of ZDOCK for more intensive tasks such as docking flexible molecules and modeling of interactomes, and can be run more readily by those with limited computational resources.
The CAPRI (Critical Assessment of Predicted Interactions) and CASP (Critical Assessment of protein Structure Prediction) experiments have demonstrated the power of community-wide tests of methodology in assessing the current state of the art and spurring progress in the very challenging areas of protein docking and structure prediction. We sought to bring the power of community-wide experiments to bear on a very challenging protein design problem that provides a complementary but equally fundamental test of current understanding of protein-binding thermodynamics. We have generated a number of designed protein-protein interfaces with very favorable computed binding energies but which do not appear to be formed in experiments, suggesting that there may be important physical chemistry missing in the energy calculations. A total of 28 research groups took up the challenge of determining what is missing: we provided structures of 87 designed complexes and 120 naturally occurring complexes and asked participants to identify energetic contributions and/or structural features that distinguish between the two sets. The community found that electrostatics and solvation terms partially distinguish the designs from the natural complexes, largely due to the nonpolar character of the designed interactions. Beyond this polarity difference, the community found that the designed binding surfaces were, on average, structurally less embedded in the designed monomers, suggesting that backbone conformational rigidity at the designed surface is important for realization of the designed function. These results can be used to improve computational design strategies, but there is still much to be learned; for example, one designed complex, which does form in experiments, was classified by all metrics as a nonbinder.
Transposons evolve rapidly and can mobilize and trigger genetic instability. Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) silence these genome pathogens, but it is unclear how the piRNA pathway adapts to invasion of new transposons. In Drosophila, piRNAs are encoded by heterochromatic clusters and maternally deposited in the embryo. Paternally inherited P element transposons thus escape silencing and trigger a hybrid sterility syndrome termed P-M hybrid dysgenesis. We show that P-M hybrid dysgenesis activates both P elements and resident transposons and disrupts the piRNA biogenesis machinery. As dysgenic hybrids age, however, fertility is restored, P elements are silenced, and P element piRNAs are produced de novo. In addition, the piRNA biogenesis machinery assembles, and resident elements are silenced. Significantly, resident transposons insert into piRNA clusters, and these new insertions are transmitted to progeny, produce novel piRNAs, and are associated with reduced transposition. P element invasion thus triggers heritable changes in genome structure that appear to enhance transposon silencing.
Numerous chromatin regulators are required for embryonic stem (ES) cell self-renewal and pluripotency, but few have been studied in detail. Here, we examine the roles of several chromatin regulators whose loss affects the pluripotent state of ES cells. We find that Mbd3 and Brg1 antagonistically regulate a common set of genes by regulating promoter nucleosome occupancy. Furthermore, both Mbd3 and Brg1 play key roles in the biology of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC): Mbd3 colocalizes with Tet1 and 5hmC in vivo, Mbd3 knockdown preferentially affects expression of 5hmC-marked genes, Mbd3 localization is Tet1-dependent, and Mbd3 preferentially binds to 5hmC relative to 5-methylcytosine in vitro. Finally, both Mbd3 and Brg1 are themselves required for normal levels of 5hmC in vivo. Together, our results identify an effector for 5hmC, and reveal that control of gene expression by antagonistic chromatin regulators is a surprisingly common regulatory strategy in ES cells.
Protein engineering is becoming increasingly important for pharmaceutical applications where controlling the specificity and affinity of engineered proteins is required to create targeted protein therapeutics. Affinity increases of several thousand-fold are now routine for a variety of protein engineering approaches, and the structural and energetic bases of affinity maturation have been investigated in a number of such cases. Previously, a 3-million-fold affinity maturation process was achieved in a protein-protein interaction composed of a variant T-cell receptor fragment and a bacterial superantigen. Here, we present the molecular basis of this affinity increase. Using X-ray crystallography, shotgun reversion/replacement scanning mutagenesis, and computational analysis, we describe, in molecular detail, a process by which extrainterfacial regions of a protein complex can be rationally manipulated to significantly improve protein engineering outcomes.
Most scoring functions for protein-protein docking algorithms are either atom-based or residue-based, with the former being able to produce higher quality structures and latter more tolerant to conformational changes upon binding. Earlier, we developed the ZRANK algorithm for reranking docking predictions, with a scoring function that contained only atom-based terms. Here we combine ZRANKs atom-based potentials with five residue-based potentials published by other labs, as well as an atom-based potential IFACE that we published after ZRANK. We simultaneously optimized the weights for selected combinations of terms in the scoring function, using decoys generated with the protein-protein docking algorithm ZDOCK. We performed rigorous cross validation of the combinations using 96 test cases from a docking benchmark. Judged by the integrative success rate of making 1000 predictions per complex, addition of IFACE and the best residue-based pair potential reduced the number of cases without a correct prediction by 38 and 27% relative to ZDOCK and ZRANK, respectively. Thus combination of residue-based and atom-based potentials into a scoring function can improve performance for protein-protein docking. The resulting scoring function is called IRAD (integration of residue- and atom-based potentials for docking) and is available at http://zlab.umassmed.edu.
We have implemented aggregation and correlation toolbox (ACT), an efficient, multifaceted toolbox for analyzing continuous signal and discrete region tracks from high-throughput genomic experiments, such as RNA-seq or ChIP-chip signal profiles from the ENCODE and modENCODE projects, or lists of single nucleotide polymorphisms from the 1000 genomes project. It is able to generate aggregate profiles of a given track around a set of specified anchor points, such as transcription start sites. It is also able to correlate related tracks and analyze them for saturation--i.e. how much of a certain feature is covered with each new succeeding experiment. The ACT site contains downloadable code in a variety of formats, interactive web servers (for use on small quantities of data), example datasets, documentation and a gallery of outputs. Here, we explain the components of the toolbox in more detail and apply them in various contexts.
We have assembled a nonredundant set of 144 protein-protein complexes that have high-resolution structures available for both the complexes and their unbound components, and for which dissociation constants have been measured by biophysical methods. The set is diverse in terms of the biological functions it represents, with complexes that involve G-proteins and receptor extracellular domains, as well as antigen/antibody, enzyme/inhibitor, and enzyme/substrate complexes. It is also diverse in terms of the partners affinity for each other, with K(d) ranging between 10(-5) and 10(-14) M. Nine pairs of entries represent closely related complexes that have a similar structure, but a very different affinity, each pair comprising a cognate and a noncognate assembly. The unbound structures of the component proteins being available, conformation changes can be assessed. They are significant in most of the complexes, and large movements or disorder-to-order transitions are frequently observed. The set may be used to benchmark biophysical models aiming to relate affinity to structure in protein-protein interactions, taking into account the reactants and the conformation changes that accompany the association reaction, instead of just the final product.
Proteins often undergo conformational changes when binding to each other. A major fraction of backbone conformational changes involves motion on the protein surface, particularly in loops. Accounting for the motion of protein surface loops represents a challenge for protein-protein docking algorithms. A first step in addressing this challenge is to distinguish protein surface loops that are likely to undergo backbone conformational changes upon protein-protein binding (mobile loops) from those that are not (stationary loops). In this study, we developed a machine learning strategy based on support vector machines (SVMs). Our SVM uses three features of loop residues in the unbound protein structures-Ramachandran angles, crystallographic B-factors, and relative accessible surface area-to distinguish mobile loops from stationary ones. This method yields an average prediction accuracy of 75.3% compared with a random prediction accuracy of 50%, and an average of 0.79 area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve using cross-validation. Testing the method on an independent dataset, we obtained a prediction accuracy of 70.5%. Finally, we applied the method to 11 complexes that involve members from the Ras superfamily and achieved prediction accuracy of 92.8% for the Ras superfamily proteins and 74.4% for their binding partners.
Since the initial annotation of miRNAs from cloned short RNAs by the Ambros, Tuschl, and Bartel groups in 2001, more than a hundred studies have sought to identify additional miRNAs in various species. We report here a meta-analysis of short RNA data from Drosophila melanogaster, aggregating published libraries with 76 data sets that we generated for the modENCODE project. In total, we began with more than 1 billion raw reads from 187 libraries comprising diverse developmental stages, specific tissue- and cell-types, mutant conditions, and/or Argonaute immunoprecipitations. We elucidated several features of known miRNA loci, including multiple phased byproducts of cropping and dicing, abundant alternative 5 termini of certain miRNAs, frequent 3 untemplated additions, and potential editing events. We also identified 49 novel genomic locations of miRNA production, and 61 additional candidate loci with limited evidence for miRNA biogenesis. Although these loci broaden the Drosophila miRNA catalog, this work supports the notion that a restricted set of cellular transcripts is competent to be specifically processed by the Drosha/Dicer-1 pathway. Unexpectedly, we detected miRNA production from coding and untranslated regions of mRNAs and found the phenomenon of miRNA production from the antisense strand of known loci to be common. Altogether, this study lays a comprehensive foundation for the study of miRNA diversity and evolution in a complex animal model.
Recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) that can cross the blood-brain-barrier and achieve efficient and stable transvascular gene transfer to the central nervous system (CNS) hold significant promise for treating CNS disorders. However, following intravascular delivery, these vectors also target liver, heart, skeletal muscle, and other tissues, which may cause untoward effects. To circumvent this, we used tissue-specific, endogenous microRNAs (miRNAs) to repress rAAV expression outside the CNS, by engineering perfectly complementary miRNA-binding sites into the rAAV9 genome. This approach allowed simultaneous multi-tissue regulation and CNS-directed stable transgene expression without detectably perturbing the endogenous miRNA pathway. Regulation of rAAV expression by miRNA was primarily via site-specific cleavage of the transgene mRNA, generating specific 5 and 3 mRNA fragments. Our findings promise to facilitate the development of miRNA-regulated rAAV for CNS-targeted gene delivery and other applications.
In flies, 22-23-nucleotide (nt) microRNA duplexes typically contain mismatches and begin with uridine, so they bind Argonaute1 (Ago1), whereas 21-nt siRNA duplexes are perfectly paired and begin with cytidine, promoting their loading into Ago2. A subset of Drosophila endogenous siRNAs-the hairpin-derived hp-esiRNAs-are born as mismatched duplexes that often begin with uridine. These would be predicted to load into Ago1, yet accumulate at steady-state bound to Ago2. In vitro, such hp-esiRNA duplexes assemble into Ago1. In vivo, they encounter complementary target mRNAs that trigger their tailing and trimming, causing Ago1-loaded hp-esiRNAs to be degraded. In contrast, Ago2-associated hp-esiRNAs are 2-O-methyl modified at their 3 ends, protecting them from tailing and trimming. Consequently, the steady-state distribution of esiRNAs reflects not only their initial sorting between Ago1 and Ago2 according to their duplex structure, length, and first nucleotide, but also the targeted destruction of the single-stranded small RNAs after their loading into an Argonaute protein.
Epigenetic information can be inherited through the mammalian germline and represents a plausible transgenerational carrier of environmental information. To test whether transgenerational inheritance of environmental information occurs in mammals, we carried out an expression profiling screen for genes in mice that responded to paternal diet. Offspring of males fed a low-protein diet exhibited elevated hepatic expression of many genes involved in lipid and cholesterol biosynthesis and decreased levels of cholesterol esters, relative to the offspring of males fed a control diet. Epigenomic profiling of offspring livers revealed numerous modest (?20%) changes in cytosine methylation depending on paternal diet, including reproducible changes in methylation over a likely enhancer for the key lipid regulator Ppara. These results, in conjunction with recent human epidemiological data, indicate that parental diet can affect cholesterol and lipid metabolism in offspring and define a model system to study environmental reprogramming of the heritable epigenome.
We report the performance of the ZDOCK and ZRANK algorithms in CAPRI rounds 13-19 and introduce a novel measure atom contact frequency (ACF). To compute ACF, we identify the residues that most often make contact with the binding partner in the complete set of ZDOCK predictions for each target. We used ACF to predict the interface of the proteins, which, in combination with the biological data available in the literature, is a valuable addition to our docking pipeline. Furthermore, we incorporated a straightforward and efficient clustering algorithm with two purposes: (1) to determine clusters of similar docking poses (corresponding to energy funnels) and (2) to remove redundancies from the final set of predictions. With these new developments, we achieved at least one acceptable prediction for targets 29 and 36, at least one medium-quality prediction for targets 41 and 42, and at least one high-quality prediction for targets 37 and 40; thus, we succeeded for six out of a total of 12 targets.
We updated our protein-protein docking benchmark to include complexes that became available since our previous release. As before, we only considered high-resolution complex structures that are nonredundant at the family-family pair level, for which the X-ray or NMR unbound structures of the constituent proteins are also available. Benchmark 4.0 adds 52 new complexes to the 124 cases of Benchmark 3.0, representing an increase of 42%. Thus, benchmark 4.0 provides 176 unbound-unbound cases that can be used for protein-protein docking method development and assessment. Seventeen of the newly added cases are enzyme-inhibitor complexes, and we found no new antigen-antibody complexes. Classifying the new cases according to expected difficulty for protein-protein docking algorithms gives 33 rigid body cases, 11 cases of medium difficulty, and 8 cases that are difficult. Benchmark 4.0 listings and processed structure files are publicly accessible at http://zlab.umassmed.edu/benchmark/.
Understanding the energetic and structural response to multiple mutations in a protein-protein interface is a key aspect of rational protein design. Here we investigate the cooperativity of combinations of point mutations of a T cell receptor (TCR) that binds in vivo to HLA-A2 MHC and a viral peptide. The mutations were obtained from two sources: a structure-based design study on the TCR alpha chain (nine mutations) and an in vitro selection study on the TCR beta chain (four mutations). In addition to combining the highest-affinity variants from each chain, we tested other combinations of mutations within and among the chains, for a total of 23 TCR mutants that we measured for binding kinetics to the peptide and major histocompatibility complex. A wide range of binding affinities was observed, from 2- to 1000-fold binding improvement versus that of the wild type, with significant nonadditive effects observed within and between TCR chains. This included an amino acid-dependent cooperative interaction between CDR1 and CDR3 residues that are separated by more than 9 A in the wild-type complex. When analyzing the kinetics of the mutations, we found that the association rates were primarily responsible for the cooperativity, while the dissociation rates were responsible for the anticooperativity (less-than-additive energetics). On the basis of structural modeling of anticooperative mutants, we determined that side chain clash between proximal mutants likely led to nonadditive binding energies. These results highlight the complex nature of TCR association and binding and will be informative in future design efforts that combine multiple mutant residues.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a common soft-tissue sarcoma of childhood in need of more effective therapeutic options. The expression of p53 in RMS is heterogeneous such that some tumors are wild-type whereas others are p53 mutant. The small molecule CP-31398 modulates both the wild-type and the mutant p53 proteins. Here, we show that CP-31398 blocks the growth of RMS cells that have either wild-type or mutant p53 status. In wild-type A204 cells, CP-31398 increased the expression of p53 and its downstream transcriptional targets, p21 and mdm2; enhanced the expression of apoptosis-related proteins; and reduced proliferation biomarkers. Flow profiling of CP-31398-treated cells indicated an enhancement in sub-G(0) and G(1) populations. CP-31398 inhibited proliferation in a manner associated with co-induction of SOX9 and p21. Apoptosis induced by CP-31398 occurred with translocation of p53 to mitochondria, leading to altered mitochondrial membrane potential, cytochrome c release, and reactive oxygen species release. In vivo, CP-31398 decreased the growth of tumor xenografts composed of wild-type or mutant p53 tumor cells, increasing tumor-free host survival. Our findings indicate that the ability of CP-31398 to modulate wild-type and mutant p53 results in the inhibition of RMS growth and invasiveness.
Transposons and other selfish DNA elements can be found in all phyla, and mobilization of these elements can compromise genome integrity. The piRNA (PIWI-interacting RNA) pathway silences transposons in the germline, but it is unclear if this pathway has additional functions during development. Here we show that mutations in the Drosophila piRNA pathway genes, armi, aub, ago3, and rhi, lead to extensive fragmentation of the zygotic genome during the cleavage stage of embryonic divisions. Additionally, aub and armi show defects in telomere resolution during meiosis and the cleavage divisions; and mutations in lig-IV, which disrupt non-homologous end joining, suppress these fusions. By contrast, lig-IV mutations enhance chromosome fragmentation. Chromatin immunoprecipitation studies show that aub and armi mutations disrupt telomere binding of HOAP, which is a component of the telomere protection complex, and reduce expression of a subpopulation of 19- to 22-nt telomere-specific piRNAs. Mutations in rhi and ago3, by contrast, do not block HOAP binding or production of these piRNAs. These findings uncover genetically separable functions for the Drosophila piRNA pathway. The aub, armi, rhi, and ago3 genes silence transposons and maintain chromosome integrity during cleavage-stage embryonic divisions. However, the aub and armi genes have an additional function in assembly of the telomere protection complex.
Antibodies differentiating between the mono-, di- and trimethylated forms of specific histone lysine residues are a critical tool in epigenome research, but show variable specificity, potentially limiting comparisons across studies and between samples. Using trimethyl histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3)-a mark enriched at transcription start sites (TSS) of active genes-as an example, we describe how simple co-incubation with synthetic peptide of the K4me2 modification leads to increased specificity for K4me3 and a much sharper peak distribution proximal to TSS following chromatin immunoprecipitation and massively parallel sequencing (ChIP-Seq).
In Drosophila, microRNAs (miRNAs) typically guide Argonaute1 to repress messenger RNA (mRNA), whereas small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) guide Argonaute2 to destroy viral and transposon RNA. Unlike siRNAs, miRNAs rarely form extensive numbers of base pairs to the mRNAs they regulate. We find that extensive complementarity between a target RNA and an Argonaute1-bound miRNA triggers miRNA tailing and 3-to-5 trimming. In flies, Argonaute2-bound small RNAs--but not those bound to Argonaute1--bear a 2-O-methyl group at their 3 ends. This modification blocks target-directed small RNA remodeling: In flies lacking Hen1, the enzyme that adds the 2-O-methyl group, Argonaute2-associated siRNAs are tailed and trimmed. Target complementarity also affects small RNA stability in human cells. These results provide an explanation for the partial complementarity between animal miRNAs and their targets.
Promoters are important regulatory elements that contain the necessary sequence features for cells to initiate transcription. To functionally characterize a large set of human promoters, we measured the transcriptional activities of 4575 putative promoters across eight cell lines using transient transfection reporter assays. In parallel, we measured gene expression in the same cell lines and observed a significant correlation between promoter activity and endogenous gene expression (r = 0.43). As transient transfection assays directly measure the promoting effect of a defined fragment of DNA sequence, decoupled from epigenetic, chromatin, or long-range regulatory effects, we sought to predict whether a promoter was active using sequence features alone. CG dinucleotide content was highly predictive of ubiquitous promoter activity, necessitating the separation of promoters into two groups: high CG promoters, mostly ubiquitously active, and low CG promoters, mostly cell line-specific. Computational models trained on the binding potential of transcriptional factor (TF) binding motifs could predict promoter activities in both high and low CG groups: average area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of the models was 91% and exceeded the AUC of CG content by an average of 23%. Known relationships, for example, between HNF4A and hepatocytes, were recapitulated in the corresponding cell lines, in this case the liver-derived cell line HepG2. Half of the associations between tissue-specific TFs and cell line-specific promoters were new. Our study underscores the importance of collecting functional information from complementary assays and conditions to understand biology in a systematic framework.
The latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) of Kaposis sarcoma-associated herpesvirus functions as an origin-binding protein (OBP) and transcriptional regulator. LANA binds the terminal repeats via the C-terminal DNA-binding domain (DBD) to support latent DNA replication. To date, the structure of LANA has not been solved. Sequence alignments among OBPs of gammaherpesviruses have revealed that the C terminus of LANA is structurally related to EBNA1, the OBP of Epstein-Barr virus. Based on secondary structure predictions for LANA(DBD) and published structures of EBNA1(DBD), this study used bioinformatics tools to model a putative structure for LANA(DBD) bound to DNA. To validate the predicted model, 38 mutants targeting the most conserved motifs, namely three alpha-helices and a conserved proline loop, were constructed and functionally tested. In agreement with data for EBNA1, residues in helices 1 and 2 mainly contributed to sequence-specific DNA binding and replication activity, whilst mutations in helix 3 affected replication activity and multimer formation. Additionally, several mutants were isolated with discordant phenotypes, which may aid further studies into LANA function. In summary, these data suggest that the secondary and tertiary structures of LANA and EBNA1 DBDs are conserved and are critical for (i) sequence-specific DNA binding, (ii) multimer formation, (iii) LANA-dependent transcriptional repression, and (iv) DNA replication.
We demonstrate the feasibility of a nanopore based single-molecule DNA sequencing method, which employs multicolor readout. Target DNA is converted according to a binary code, which is recognized by molecular beacons with two types of fluorophores. Solid-state nanopores are then used to sequentially strip off the beacons, leading to a series of detectable photon bursts, at high speed. We show that signals from multiple nanopores can be detected simultaneously, allowing straightforward parallelization to large nanopore arrays.
Little is known about the regulation of neuronal and other cell-type specific epigenomes from the brain. Here, we map the genome-wide distribution of trimethylated histone H3K4 (H3K4me3), a mark associated with transcriptional regulation, in neuronal and nonneuronal nuclei collected from prefrontal cortex (PFC) of 11 individuals ranging in age from 0.5 to 69 years. Massively parallel sequencing identified 12,732-19,704 H3K4me3 enriched regions (peaks), the majority located proximal to (within 2 kb of) the transcription start site (TSS) of annotated genes. These included peaks shared by neurons in comparison with three control (lymphocyte) cell types, as well as peaks specific to individual subjects. We identified 6,213 genes that show highly enriched H3K4me3 in neurons versus control. At least 1,370 loci, including annotated genes and novel transcripts, were selectively tagged with H3K4me3 in neuronal but not in nonneuronal PFC chromatin. Our results reveal age-correlated neuronal epigenome reorganization, including decreased H3K4me3 at approximately 600 genes (many function in developmental processes) during the first year after birth. In comparison, the epigenome of aging (>60 years) PFC neurons showed less extensive changes, including increased H3K4me3 at 100 genes. These findings demonstrate that H3K4me3 in human PFC is highly regulated in a cell type- and subject-specific manner and highlight the importance of early childhood for developmentally regulated chromatin remodeling in prefrontal neurons.
Genome-wide occupancy profiles of five components of the RNA polymerase III (Pol III) machinery in human cells identified the expected tRNA and noncoding RNA targets and revealed many additional Pol III-associated loci, mostly near short interspersed elements (SINEs). Several genes are targets of an alternative transcription factor IIIB (TFIIIB) containing Brf2 instead of Brf1 and have extremely low levels of TFIIIC. Strikingly, expressed Pol III genes, unlike nonexpressed Pol III genes, are situated in regions with a pattern of histone modifications associated with functional Pol II promoters. TFIIIC alone associates with numerous ETC loci, via the B box or a novel motif. ETCs are often near CTCF binding sites, suggesting a potential role in chromosome organization. Our results suggest that human Pol III complexes associate preferentially with regions near functional Pol II promoters and that TFIIIC-mediated recruitment of TFIIIB is regulated in a locus-specific manner.
One of the important challenges to post-genomic biology is relating observed phenotypic alterations to the underlying collective alterations in genes. Current inferential methods, however, invariably omit large bodies of information on the relationships between genes. We present a method that takes account of such information - expressed in terms of the topology of a correlation network - and we apply the method in the context of current procedures for gene set enrichment analysis.
In flies, small silencing RNAs are sorted between Argonaute1 (Ago1), the central protein component of the microRNA (miRNA) pathway, and Argonaute2 (Ago2), which mediates RNA interference. Extensive double-stranded character-as is found in small interfering RNAs (siRNAs)-directs duplexes into Ago2, whereas central mismatches, like those found in miRNA/miRNA* duplexes, direct duplexes into Ago1. Central to this sorting decision is the affinity of the small RNA duplex for the Dcr-2/R2D2 heterodimer, which loads small RNAs into Ago2. Here, we show that while most Drosophila miRNAs are bound to Ago1, miRNA* strands accumulate bound to Ago2. Like siRNA loading, efficient loading of miRNA* strands in Ago2 favors duplexes with a paired central region and requires both Dcr-2 and R2D2. Those miRNA and miRNA* sequences bound to Ago2, like siRNAs diced in vivo from long double-stranded RNA, typically begin with cytidine, whereas Ago1-bound miRNA and miRNA* disproportionately begin with uridine. Consequently, some pre-miRNA generate two or more isoforms from the same side of the stem that differentially partition between Ago1 and Ago2. Our findings provide the first genome-wide test for the idea that Drosophila small RNAs are sorted between Ago1 and Ago2 according to their duplex structure and the identity of their first nucleotide.
T-cell receptors (TCRs) are proteins that recognize peptides from foreign proteins bound to the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on the surface of an antigen-presenting cell. This interaction enables the T cells to initiate a cell-mediated immune response to terminate cells displaying the foreign peptide on their MHC. Naturally occurring TCRs have high specificity but low affinity toward the peptide-MHC (pepMHC) complex. This prevents the usage of solubilized TCRs for diagnosis and treatment of viral infections or cancers. Efforts to enhance the binding affinity of several TCRs have been reported in recent years, through randomized libraries and in vitro selection. However, there have been no reported efforts to enhance the affinity via structure-based design, which allows more control and understanding of the mechanism of improvement. Here, we have applied structure-based design to a human TCR to improve its pepMHC binding. Our design method evolved based on iterative steps of prediction, testing, and generating more predictions based on the new data. The final design function, named ZAFFI, has a correlation of 0.77 and average error of 0.35 kcal/mol with the binding free energies of 26 point mutations for this system that we measured by surface plasmon resonance (SPR). Applying the filter that we developed to remove nonbinding predictions, this correlation increases to 0.85, and the average error decreases to 0.3 kcal/mol. Using this algorithm, we predicted and tested several point mutations that improved binding, with one giving over sixfold binding improvement. Four of the point mutations that improved binding were then combined to give a mutant TCR that binds the pepMHC 99 times more strongly than the wild-type TCR.
Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance and has complex pharmacological actions in brain. In this study, we employed a novel drug target validation strategy to uncover the multiple molecular targets of caffeine using combined A(2A) receptor (A(2A)R) knockouts (KO) and microarray profiling. Caffeine (10 mg/kg) elicited a distinct profile of striatal gene expression in WT mice compared with that by A(2A)R gene deletion or by administering caffeine into A(2A)R KO mice. Thus, A(2A)Rs are required but not sufficient to elicit the striatal gene expression by caffeine (10 mg/kg). Caffeine (50 mg/kg) induced complex expression patterns with three distinct sets of striatal genes: 1) one subset overlapped with those elicited by genetic deletion of A(2A)Rs; 2) the second subset elicited by caffeine in WT as well as A(2A)R KO mice; and 3) the third subset elicited by caffeine only in A(2A)R KO mice. Furthermore, striatal gene sets elicited by the phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor rolipram and the GABA(A) receptor antagonist bicucullin, overlapped with the distinct subsets of striatal genes elicited by caffeine (50 mg/kg) administered to A(2A)R KO mice. Finally, Gene Set Enrichment Analysis reveals that adipocyte differentiation/insulin signaling is highly enriched in the striatal gene sets elicited by both low and high doses of caffeine. The identification of these distinct striatal gene populations and their corresponding multiple molecular targets, including A(2A)R, non-A(2A)R (possibly A(1)Rs and pathways associated with PDE and GABA(A)R) and their interactions, and the cellular pathways affected by low and high doses of caffeine, provides molecular insights into the acute pharmacological effects of caffeine in the brain.
Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) silence transposons and maintain genome integrity during germline development. In Drosophila, transposon-rich heterochromatic clusters encode piRNAs either on both genomic strands (dual-strand clusters) or predominantly one genomic strand (uni-strand clusters). Primary piRNAs derived from these clusters are proposed to drive a ping-pong amplification cycle catalyzed by proteins that localize to the perinuclear nuage. We show that the HP1 homolog Rhino is required for nuage organization, transposon silencing, and ping-pong amplification of piRNAs. rhi mutations virtually eliminate piRNAs from the dual-strand clusters and block production of putative precursor RNAs from both strands of the major 42AB dual-strand cluster, but not of transcripts or piRNAs from the uni-strand clusters. Furthermore, Rhino protein associates with the 42AB dual-strand cluster,but does not bind to uni-strand cluster 2 or flamenco. Rhino thus appears to promote transcription of dual-strand clusters, leading to production of piRNAs that drive the ping-pong amplification cycle.
Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) silence transposons in animal germ cells. piRNAs are thought to derive from long transcripts spanning transposon-rich genomic loci and to direct an autoamplification loop in which an antisense piRNA, bound to Aubergine or Piwi protein, triggers production of a sense piRNA bound to the PIWI protein Argonaute3 (Ago3). In turn, the new piRNA is envisioned to produce a second antisense piRNA. Here, we describe strong loss-of-function mutations in ago3, allowing a direct genetic test of this model. We find that Ago3 acts to amplify piRNA pools and to enforce on them an antisense bias, increasing the number of piRNAs that can act to silence transposons. We also detect a second, Ago3-independent piRNA pathway centered on Piwi. Transposons targeted by this second pathway often reside in the flamenco locus, which is expressed in somatic ovarian follicle cells, suggesting a role for piRNAs beyond the germline.
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