Journal Articles

  • Structural insights into Escherichia coli polymyxin B resistance protein D with X-ray crystallography and small-angle X-ray scattering
    [Dec 2014]

    Background: Polymyxin B resistance protein D (PmrD) plays a key role in the polymyxin B-resistance pathway, as it is the signaling protein that can act as a specific connecter between PmrA/PmrB and PhoP/PhoQ. We conducted structural analysis to characterize Escherichia coli (E. coli) PmrD, which exhibits different features compared with PmrD in other bacteria. Results: The X-ray crystal structure of E. coli PmrD was determined at a 2.00 Å resolution, revealing novel information such as the unambiguous secondary structures of the protein and the presence of a disulfide bond. Furthermore, various assays such as native gel electrophoresis, surface plasmon resonance (SPR), size-exclusion chromatography, dynamic light scattering (DLS), and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) measurements, were performed to elucidate the structural and functional role of the internal disulfide bond in E. coli PmrD. Conclusions: The structural characteristics of E. coli PmrD were clearly identified via diverse techniques. The findings help explain the different protective mechanism of E. coli compared to other Gram-negative bacteria.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Tip-Induced Chemical Manipulation of Metal Porphyrins at a Liquid/Solid Interface
    [Dec 2014]

    Journal of the American Chemical SocietyDOI: 10.1021/ja510930z
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Membrane Partitioning of Anionic, Ligand-Coated Nanoparticles Is Accompanied by Ligand Snorkeling, Local Disordering, and Cholesterol Depletion
    [Dec 2014]

    by Paraskevi Gkeka, Panagiotis Angelikopoulos, Lev Sarkisov, Zoe Cournia

    Intracellular uptake of nanoparticles (NPs) may induce phase transitions, restructuring, stretching, or even complete disruption of the cell membrane. Therefore, NP cytotoxicity assessment requires a thorough understanding of the mechanisms by which these engineered nanostructures interact with the cell membrane. In this study, extensive Coarse-Grained Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations are performed to investigate the partitioning of an anionic, ligand-decorated NP in model membranes containing dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) phospholipids and different concentrations of cholesterol. Spontaneous fusion and translocation of the anionic NP is not observed in any of the 10-µs unbiased MD simulations, indicating that longer timescales may be required for such phenomena to occur. This picture is supported by the free energy analysis, revealing a considerable free energy barrier for NP translocation across the lipid bilayer. 5-µs unbiased MD simulations with the NP inserted in the bilayer core reveal that the hydrophobic and hydrophilic ligands of the NP surface rearrange to form optimal contacts with the lipid bilayer, leading to the so-called snorkeling effect. Inside cholesterol-containing bilayers, the NP induces rearrangement of the structure of the lipid bilayer in its vicinity from the liquid-ordered to the liquid phase spanning a distance almost twice its core radius (8–10 nm). Based on the physical insights obtained in this study, we propose a mechanism of cellular anionic NPpartitioning, which requires structural rearrangements of both the NP and the bilayer, and conclude that the translocation of anionic NPs through cholesterol-rich membranes must be accompanied by formation of cholesterol-lean regions in the proximity of NPs.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • ECOD: An Evolutionary Classification of Protein Domains
    [Dec 2014]

    by Hua Cheng, R. Dustin Schaeffer, Yuxing Liao, Lisa N. Kinch, Jimin Pei, Shuoyong Shi, Bong-Hyun Kim, Nick V. Grishin

    Understanding the evolution of a protein, including both close and distant relationships, often reveals insight into its structure and function. Fast and easy access to such up-to-date information facilitates research. We have developed a hierarchical evolutionary classification of all proteins with experimentally determined spatial structures, and presented it as an interactive and updatable online database. ECOD (Evolutionary Classification of protein Domains) is distinct from other structural classifications in that it groups domains primarily by evolutionary relationships (homology), rather than topology (or “fold”). This distinction highlights cases of homology between domains of differing topology to aid in understanding of protein structure evolution. ECOD uniquely emphasizes distantly related homologs that are difficult to detect, and thus catalogs the largest number of evolutionary links among structural domain classifications. Placing distant homologs together underscores the ancestral similarities of these proteins and draws attention to the most important regions of sequence and structure, as well as conserved functional sites. ECOD also recognizes closer sequence-based relationships between protein domains. Currently, approximately 100,000 protein structures are classified in ECOD into 9,000 sequence families clustered into close to 2,000 evolutionary groups. The classification is assisted by an automated pipeline that quickly and consistently classifies weekly releases of PDB structures and allows for continual updates. This synchronization with PDB uniquely distinguishes ECOD among all protein classifications. Finally, we present several case studies of homologous proteins not recorded in other classifications, illustrating the potential of how ECOD can be used to further biological and evolutionary studies.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Evolution of the Division of Labor between Genes and Enzymes in the RNA World
    [Dec 2014]

    by Gergely Boza, András Szilágyi, Ádám Kun, Mauro Santos, Eörs Szathmáry

    The RNA world is a very likely interim stage of the evolution after the first replicators and before the advent of the genetic code and translated proteins. Ribozymes are known to be able to catalyze many reaction types, including cofactor-aided metabolic transformations. In a metabolically complex RNA world, early division of labor between genes and enzymes could have evolved, where the ribozymes would have been transcribed from the genes more often than the other way round, benefiting the encapsulating cells through this dosage effect. Here we show, by computer simulations of protocells harboring unlinked RNA replicators, that the origin of replicational asymmetry producing more ribozymes from a gene template than gene strands from a ribozyme template is feasible and robust. Enzymatic activities of the two modeled ribozymes are in trade-off with their replication rates, and the relative replication rates compared to those of complementary strands are evolvable traits of the ribozymes. The degree of trade-off is shown to have the strongest effect in favor of the division of labor. Although some asymmetry between gene and enzymatic strands could have evolved even in earlier, surface-bound systems, the shown mechanism in protocells seems inevitable and under strong positive selection. This could have preadapted the genetic system for transcription after the subsequent origin of chromosomes and DNA.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • The Amino Acid Alphabet and the Architecture of the Protein Sequence-Structure Map. I. Binary Alphabets
    [Dec 2014]

    by Evandro Ferrada

    The correspondence between protein sequences and structures, or sequence-structure map, relates to fundamental aspects of structural, evolutionary and synthetic biology. The specifics of the mapping, such as the fraction of accessible sequences and structures, or the sequences' ability to fold fast, are dictated by the type of interactions between the monomers that compose the sequences. The set of possible interactions between monomers is encapsulated by the potential energy function. In this study, I explore the impact of the relative forces of the potential on the architecture of the sequence-structure map. My observations rely on simple exact models of proteins and random samples of the space of potential energy functions of binary alphabets. I adopt a graph perspective and study the distribution of viable sequences and the structures they produce, as networks of sequences connected by point mutations. I observe that the relative proportion of attractive, neutral and repulsive forces defines types of potentials, that induce sequence-structure maps of vastly different architectures. I characterize the properties underlying these differences and relate them to the structure of the potential. Among these properties are the expected number and relative distribution of sequences associated to specific structures and the diversity of structures as a function of sequence divergence. I study the types of binary potentials observed in natural amino acids and show that there is a strong bias towards only some types of potentials, a bias that seems to characterize the folding code of natural proteins. I discuss implications of these observations for the architecture of the sequence-structure map of natural proteins, the construction of random libraries of peptides, and the early evolution of the natural amino acid alphabet.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Contradictory Behavioral Biases Result from the Influence of Past Stimuli on Perception
    [Dec 2014]

    by Ofri Raviv, Itay Lieder, Yonatan Loewenstein, Merav Ahissar

    Biases such as the preference of a particular response for no obvious reason, are an integral part of psychophysics. Such biases have been reported in the common two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) experiments, where participants are instructed to compare two consecutively presented stimuli. However, the principles underlying these biases are largely unknown and previous studies have typically used ad-hoc explanations to account for them. Here we consider human performance in the 2AFC tone frequency discrimination task, utilizing two standard protocols. In both protocols, each trial contains a reference stimulus. In one (Reference-Lower protocol), the frequency of the reference stimulus is always lower than that of the comparison stimulus, whereas in the other (Reference protocol), the frequency of the reference stimulus is either lower or higher than that of the comparison stimulus. We find substantial interval biases. Namely, participants perform better when the reference is in a specific interval. Surprisingly, the biases in the two experiments are opposite: performance is better when the reference is in the first interval in the Reference protocol, but is better when the reference is second in the Reference-Lower protocol. This inconsistency refutes previous accounts of the interval bias, and is resolved when experiments statistics is considered. Viewing perception as incorporation of sensory input with prior knowledge accumulated during the experiment accounts for the seemingly contradictory biases both qualitatively and quantitatively. The success of this account implies that even simple discriminations reflect a combination of sensory limitations, memory limitations, and the ability to utilize stimuli statistics.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • The HIV Mutation Browser: A Resource for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Mutagenesis and Polymorphism Data
    [Dec 2014]

    by Norman E. Davey, Venkata P. Satagopam, Salvador Santiago-Mozos, Carlos Villacorta-Martin, Tanmay A. M. Bharat, Reinhard Schneider, John A. G. Briggs

    Huge research effort has been invested over many years to determine the phenotypes of natural or artificial mutations in HIV proteins—interpretation of mutation phenotypes is an invaluable source of new knowledge. The results of this research effort are recorded in the scientific literature, but it is difficult for virologists to rapidly find it. Manually locating data on phenotypic variation within the approximately 270,000 available HIV-related research articles, or the further 1,500 articles that are published each month is a daunting task. Accordingly, the HIV research community would benefit from a resource cataloguing the available HIV mutation literature. We have applied computational text-mining techniques to parse and map mutagenesis and polymorphism information from the HIV literature, have enriched the data with ancillary information and have developed a public, web-based interface through which it can be intuitively explored: the HIV mutation browser. The current release of the HIV mutation browser describes the phenotypes of 7,608 unique mutations at 2,520 sites in the HIV proteome, resulting from the analysis of 120,899 papers. The mutation information for each protein is organised in a residue-centric manner and each residue is linked to the relevant experimental literature. The importance of HIV as a global health burden advocates extensive effort to maximise the efficiency of HIV research. The HIV mutation browser provides a valuable new resource for the research community. The HIV mutation browser is available at: http://hivmut.org.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • A Reaction-Diffusion Model of Cholinergic Retinal Waves
    [Dec 2014]

    by Benjamin Lansdell, Kevin Ford, J. Nathan Kutz

    Prior to receiving visual stimuli, spontaneous, correlated activity in the retina, called retinal waves, drives activity-dependent developmental programs. Early-stage waves mediated by acetylcholine (ACh) manifest as slow, spreading bursts of action potentials. They are believed to be initiated by the spontaneous firing of Starburst Amacrine Cells (SACs), whose dense, recurrent connectivity then propagates this activity laterally. Their inter-wave interval and shifting wave boundaries are the result of the slow after-hyperpolarization of the SACs creating an evolving mosaic of recruitable and refractory cells, which can and cannot participate in waves, respectively. Recent evidence suggests that cholinergic waves may be modulated by the extracellular concentration of ACh. Here, we construct a simplified, biophysically consistent, reaction-diffusion model of cholinergic retinal waves capable of recapitulating wave dynamics observed in mice retina recordings. The dense, recurrent connectivity of SACs is modeled through local, excitatory coupling occurring via the volume release and diffusion of ACh. In addition to simulation, we are thus able to use non-linear wave theory to connect wave features to underlying physiological parameters, making the model useful in determining appropriate pharmacological manipulations to experimentally produce waves of a prescribed spatiotemporal character. The model is used to determine how ACh mediated connectivity may modulate wave activity, and how parameters such as the spontaneous activation rate and sAHP refractory period contribute to critical wave size variability.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Molecular Dynamics Study of the Opening Mechanism for DNA Polymerase I
    [Dec 2014]

    by Bill R. Miller, Carol A. Parish, Eugene Y. Wu

    During DNA replication, DNA polymerases follow an induced fit mechanism in order to rapidly distinguish between correct and incorrect dNTP substrates. The dynamics of this process are crucial to the overall effectiveness of catalysis. Although X-ray crystal structures of DNA polymerase I with substrate dNTPs have revealed key structural states along the catalytic pathway, solution fluorescence studies indicate that those key states are populated in the absence of substrate. Herein, we report the first atomistic simulations showing the conformational changes between the closed, open, and ajar conformations of DNA polymerase I in the binary (enzyme∶DNA) state to better understand its dynamics. We have applied long time-scale, unbiased molecular dynamics to investigate the opening process of the fingers domain in the absence of substrate for B. stearothermophilis DNA polymerase in silico. These simulations are biologically and/or physiologically relevant as they shed light on the transitions between states in this important enzyme. All closed and ajar simulations successfully transitioned into the fully open conformation, which is known to be the dominant binary enzyme-DNA conformation from solution and crystallographic studies. Furthermore, we have detailed the key stages in the opening process starting from the open and ajar crystal structures, including the observation of a previously unknown key intermediate structure. Four backbone dihedrals were identified as important during the opening process, and their movements provide insight into the recognition of dNTP substrate molecules by the polymerase binary state. In addition to revealing the opening mechanism, this study also demonstrates our ability to study biological events of DNA polymerase using current computational methods without biasing the dynamics.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Intrinsic Neuronal Properties Switch the Mode of Information Transmission in Networks
    [Dec 2014]

    by Julijana Gjorgjieva, Rebecca A. Mease, William J. Moody, Adrienne L. Fairhall

    Diverse ion channels and their dynamics endow single neurons with complex biophysical properties. These properties determine the heterogeneity of cell types that make up the brain, as constituents of neural circuits tuned to perform highly specific computations. How do biophysical properties of single neurons impact network function? We study a set of biophysical properties that emerge in cortical neurons during the first week of development, eventually allowing these neurons to adaptively scale the gain of their response to the amplitude of the fluctuations they encounter. During the same time period, these same neurons participate in large-scale waves of spontaneously generated electrical activity. We investigate the potential role of experimentally observed changes in intrinsic neuronal properties in determining the ability of cortical networks to propagate waves of activity. We show that such changes can strongly affect the ability of multi-layered feedforward networks to represent and transmit information on multiple timescales. With properties modeled on those observed at early stages of development, neurons are relatively insensitive to rapid fluctuations and tend to fire synchronously in response to wave-like events of large amplitude. Following developmental changes in voltage-dependent conductances, these same neurons become efficient encoders of fast input fluctuations over few layers, but lose the ability to transmit slower, population-wide input variations across many layers. Depending on the neurons' intrinsic properties, noise plays different roles in modulating neuronal input-output curves, which can dramatically impact network transmission. The developmental change in intrinsic properties supports a transformation of a networks function from the propagation of network-wide information to one in which computations are scaled to local activity. This work underscores the significance of simple changes in conductance parameters in governing how neurons represent and propagate information, and suggests a role for background synaptic noise in switching the mode of information transmission.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Structure, Dynamics and Implied Gating Mechanism of a Human Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channel
    [Dec 2014]

    by Yana Gofman, Charlotta Schärfe, Debora S. Marks, Turkan Haliloglu, Nir Ben-Tal

    Cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) ion channels are nonselective cation channels, essential for visual and olfactory sensory transduction. Although the channels include voltage-sensor domains (VSDs), their conductance is thought to be independent of the membrane potential, and their gating regulated by cytosolic cyclic nucleotide–binding domains. Mutations in these channels result in severe, degenerative retinal diseases, which remain untreatable. The lack of structural information on CNG channels has prevented mechanistic understanding of disease-causing mutations, precluded structure-based drug design, and hampered in silico investigation of the gating mechanism. To address this, we built a 3D model of the cone tetrameric CNG channel, based on homology to two distinct templates with known structures: the transmembrane (TM) domain of a bacterial channel, and the cyclic nucleotide-binding domain of the mouse HCN2 channel. Since the TM-domain template had low sequence-similarity to the TM domains of the CNG channels, and to reconcile conflicts between the two templates, we developed a novel, hybrid approach, combining homology modeling with evolutionary coupling constraints. Next, we used elastic network analysis of the model structure to investigate global motions of the channel and to elucidate its gating mechanism. We found the following: (i) In the main mode of motion, the TM and cytosolic domains counter-rotated around the membrane normal. We related this motion to gating, a proposition that is supported by previous experimental data, and by comparison to the known gating mechanism of the bacterial KirBac channel. (ii) The VSDs could facilitate gating (supplementing the pore gate), explaining their presence in such ‘voltage-insensitive’ channels. (iii) Our elastic network model analysis of the CNGA3 channel supports a modular model of allosteric gating, according to which protein domains are quasi-independent: they can move independently, but are coupled to each other allosterically.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Detecting Functional Divergence after Gene Duplication through Evolutionary Changes in Posttranslational Regulatory Sequences
    [Dec 2014]

    by Alex N. Nguyen Ba, Bob Strome, Jun Jie Hua, Jonathan Desmond, Isabelle Gagnon-Arsenault, Eric L. Weiss, Christian R. Landry, Alan M. Moses

    Gene duplication is an important evolutionary mechanism that can result in functional divergence in paralogs due to neo-functionalization or sub-functionalization. Consistent with functional divergence after gene duplication, recent studies have shown accelerated evolution in retained paralogs. However, little is known in general about the impact of this accelerated evolution on the molecular functions of retained paralogs. For example, do new functions typically involve changes in enzymatic activities, or changes in protein regulation? Here we study the evolution of posttranslational regulation by examining the evolution of important regulatory sequences (short linear motifs) in retained duplicates created by the whole-genome duplication in budding yeast. To do so, we identified short linear motifs whose evolutionary constraint has relaxed after gene duplication with a likelihood-ratio test that can account for heterogeneity in the evolutionary process by using a non-central chi-squared null distribution. We find that short linear motifs are more likely to show changes in evolutionary constraints in retained duplicates compared to single-copy genes. We examine changes in constraints on known regulatory sequences and show that for the Rck1/Rck2, Fkh1/Fkh2, Ace2/Swi5 paralogs, they are associated with previously characterized differences in posttranslational regulation. Finally, we experimentally confirm our prediction that for the Ace2/Swi5 paralogs, Cbk1 regulated localization was lost along the lineage leading to SWI5 after gene duplication. Our analysis suggests that changes in posttranslational regulation mediated by short regulatory motifs systematically contribute to functional divergence after gene duplication.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Lattice-Based Model of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ Suggests Rules for Breast Cancer Progression to an Invasive State
    [Dec 2014]

    by Eline Boghaert, Derek C. Radisky, Celeste M. Nelson

    Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a heterogeneous group of non-invasive lesions of the breast that result from abnormal proliferation of mammary epithelial cells. Pathologists characterize DCIS by four tissue morphologies (micropapillary, cribriform, solid, and comedo), but the underlying mechanisms that distinguish the development and progression of these morphologies are not well understood. Here we explored the conditions leading to the emergence of the different morphologies of DCIS using a two-dimensional multi-cell lattice-based model that incorporates cell proliferation, apoptosis, necrosis, adhesion, and contractility. We found that the relative rates of cell proliferation and apoptosis governed which of the four morphologies emerged. High proliferation and low apoptosis favored the emergence of solid and comedo morphologies. In contrast, low proliferation and high apoptosis led to the micropapillary morphology, whereas high proliferation and high apoptosis led to the cribriform morphology. The natural progression between morphologies cannot be investigated in vivo since lesions are usually surgically removed upon detection; however, our model suggests probable transitions between these morphologies during breast cancer progression. Importantly, cribriform and comedo appear to be the ultimate morphologies of DCIS. Motivated by previous experimental studies demonstrating that tumor cells behave differently depending on where they are located within the mammary duct in vivo or in engineered tissues, we examined the effects of tissue geometry on the progression of DCIS. In agreement with our previous experimental work, we found that cells are more likely to invade from the end of ducts and that this preferential invasion is regulated by cell adhesion and contractility. This model provides additional insight into tumor cell behavior and allows the exploration of phenotypic transitions not easily monitored in vivo.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Extensive Error in the Number of Genes Inferred from Draft Genome Assemblies
    [Dec 2014]

    by James F. Denton, Jose Lugo-Martinez, Abraham E. Tucker, Daniel R. Schrider, Wesley C. Warren, Matthew W. Hahn

    Current sequencing methods produce large amounts of data, but genome assemblies based on these data are often woefully incomplete. These incomplete and error-filled assemblies result in many annotation errors, especially in the number of genes present in a genome. In this paper we investigate the magnitude of the problem, both in terms of total gene number and the number of copies of genes in specific families. To do this, we compare multiple draft assemblies against higher-quality versions of the same genomes, using several new assemblies of the chicken genome based on both traditional and next-generation sequencing technologies, as well as published draft assemblies of chimpanzee. We find that upwards of 40% of all gene families are inferred to have the wrong number of genes in draft assemblies, and that these incorrect assemblies both add and subtract genes. Using simulated genome assemblies of Drosophila melanogaster, we find that the major cause of increased gene numbers in draft genomes is the fragmentation of genes onto multiple individual contigs. Finally, we demonstrate the usefulness of RNA-Seq in improving the gene annotation of draft assemblies, largely by connecting genes that have been fragmented in the assembly process.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Some Work and Some Play: Microscopic and Macroscopic Approaches to Labor and Leisure
    [Dec 2014]

    by Ritwik K. Niyogi, Peter Shizgal, Peter Dayan

    Given the option, humans and other animals elect to distribute their time between work and leisure, rather than choosing all of one and none of the other. Traditional accounts of partial allocation have characterised behavior on a macroscopic timescale, reporting and studying the mean times spent in work or leisure. However, averaging over the more microscopic processes that govern choices is known to pose tricky theoretical problems, and also eschews any possibility of direct contact with the neural computations involved. We develop a microscopic framework, formalized as a semi-Markov decision process with possibly stochastic choices, in which subjects approximately maximise their expected returns by making momentary commitments to one or other activity. We show macroscopic utilities that arise from microscopic ones, and demonstrate how facets such as imperfect substitutability can arise in a more straightforward microscopic manner.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Live Imaging-Based Model Selection Reveals Periodic Regulation of the Stochastic G1/S Phase Transition in Vertebrate Axial Development
    [Dec 2014]

    by Mayu Sugiyama, Takashi Saitou, Hiroshi Kurokawa, Asako Sakaue-Sawano, Takeshi Imamura, Atsushi Miyawaki, Tadahiro Iimura

    In multicellular organism development, a stochastic cellular response is observed, even when a population of cells is exposed to the same environmental conditions. Retrieving the spatiotemporal regulatory mode hidden in the heterogeneous cellular behavior is a challenging task. The G1/S transition observed in cell cycle progression is a highly stochastic process. By taking advantage of a fluorescence cell cycle indicator, Fucci technology, we aimed to unveil a hidden regulatory mode of cell cycle progression in developing zebrafish. Fluorescence live imaging of Cecyil, a zebrafish line genetically expressing Fucci, demonstrated that newly formed notochordal cells from the posterior tip of the embryonic mesoderm exhibited the red (G1) fluorescence signal in the developing notochord. Prior to their initial vacuolation, these cells showed a fluorescence color switch from red to green, indicating G1/S transitions. This G1/S transition did not occur in a synchronous manner, but rather exhibited a stochastic process, since a mixed population of red and green cells was always inserted between newly formed red (G1) notochordal cells and vacuolating green cells. We termed this mixed population of notochordal cells, the G1/S transition window. We first performed quantitative analyses of live imaging data and a numerical estimation of the probability of the G1/S transition, which demonstrated the existence of a posteriorly traveling regulatory wave of the G1/S transition window. To obtain a better understanding of this regulatory mode, we constructed a mathematical model and performed a model selection by comparing the results obtained from the models with those from the experimental data. Our analyses demonstrated that the stochastic G1/S transition window in the notochord travels posteriorly in a periodic fashion, with doubled the periodicity of the neighboring paraxial mesoderm segmentation. This approach may have implications for the characterization of the pathophysiological tissue growth mode.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Syndicate content