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Journal of Biological Chemistry, The

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Journal of Biological Chemistry
Tissue factor (TF) binds the serine protease factor VIIa (FVIIa) to form a proteolytically active complex that can trigger coagulation or activate cell signaling. Here we addressed the involvement of tyrosine kinase receptors (RTKs) in TF/FVIIa signaling by antibody array analysis and subsequently found that EphB2 and EphA2 of the Eph RTK family were cleaved in their ectodomains by TF/FVIIa. We used N-terminal Edman sequencing and LC-MS/MS analysis to characterize the cleaved Eph isoforms and identified a key arginine residue at the cleavage site, in agreement with the tryptic serine protease activity of FVIIa. Protease-activated receptor 2 (PAR2) signaling and downstream coagulation activity was non-essential in this context, in further support of a direct cleavage by TF/FVIIa. EphB2 was cleaved by FVIIa concentrations in the subnanomolar range in a number of TF expressing cell types, indicating that the active cellular pool of TF was involved. FVIIa caused potentiation of cell repulsion by the EphB2 ligand ephrin-B1, demonstrating a novel proteolytical event to control Eph-mediated cell segregation. These results define Eph RTKs as novel proteolytical targets of TF/FVIIa and provide new insights into how TF/FVIIa regulates cellular functions independently of PAR2.

SNARE proteins play indispensable roles in membrane fusion events in many cellular processes, including synaptic transmission and protein trafficking. Here, we characterize the Golgi SNARE protein, Gos28, and its role in rhodopsin (Rh1) transport through Drosophila photoreceptors. Mutations in gos28 lead to defective Rh1 trafficking and retinal degeneration. We have pinpointed a role for Gos28 in the intra-Golgi transport of Rh1, downstream from α-mannosidase-II in the medial- Golgi. We have confirmed the necessity of key residues in Gos28's SNARE motif and demonstrate that its transmembrane domain is not required for vesicle fusion, consistent with Gos28 functioning as a t-SNARE for Rh1 transport. Finally, we show that human Gos28 rescues both the Rh1 trafficking defects and retinal degeneration in Drosophila gos28 mutants, demonstrating the functional conservation of these proteins. Our results identify Gos28 as an essential SNARE protein in Drosophila photoreceptors and provide mechanistic insights into the role of SNAREs in neurodegenerative disease.

Human testis determination is initiated by SRY, a Y-encoded architectural transcription factor. Mutations in SRY cause 46 XY gonadal dysgenesis with female somatic phenotype (Swyer syndrome) and confer a high risk of malignancy (gonadoblastoma). Such mutations cluster in the SRY high mobility group (HMG) box, a conserved motif of specific DNA binding and bending. To explore structure-function relationships, we constructed all possible substitutions at a site of clinical mutation (W70L). Our studies thus focused on a core aromatic residue (position 15 of the consensus HMG box) that is invariant among SRY-related HMG box transcription factors (the SOX family) and conserved as aromatic (Phe or Tyr) among other sequence-specific boxes. In a yeast one-hybrid system sensitive to specific SRY-DNA binding, the variant domains exhibited reduced (Phe and Tyr) or absent activity (the remaining 17 substitutions). Representative nonpolar variants with partial or absent activity (Tyr, Phe, Leu, and Ala in order of decreasing side-chain volume) were chosen for study in vitro and in mammalian cell culture. The clinical mutation (Leu) was found to markedly impair multiple biochemical and cellular activities as respectively probed through the following: (i) in vitro assays of specific DNA binding and protein stability, and (ii) cell culture-based assays of proteosomal degradation, nuclear import, enhancer DNA occupancy, and SRY-dependent transcriptional activation. Surprisingly, however, DNA bending is robust to this or the related Ala substitution that profoundly impairs box stability. Together, our findings demonstrate that the folding, trafficking, and gene-regulatory function of SRY requires an invariant aromatic “buttress” beneath its specific DNA-bending surface.

♦ See referenced article, J. Biol. Chem. 2014, 289, 32410–32429 In humans, testis development relies on a transcription factor called SRY, which is encoded by the sex-determining region of the Y chromosome. Mutations in SRY cause Swyer syndrome, a condition where people with X and Y chromosomes appear female with gonads that don't develop properly. The mutations tend to be localized in a protein domain called the high mobility group (HMG) box, which mediates DNA binding and bending. In this Paper of the Week, a team led by Michael Weiss at Case Western Reserve University focused on elucidating the role of a conserved, critical tryptophan residue in a HMG box of SRY. By using a yeast one-hybrid system, the investigators demonstrated that substituting the tryptophan with another aromatic amino acid, phenylalanine or tyrosine, reduced SRY's DNA binding activity whereas any other amino acid substitution abolished specific DNA binding. The clinically found mutation (leucine) impaired multiple biochemical and cellular processes. The investigators concluded, “Together, our findings demonstrate that the folding, trafficking, and gene-regulatory function of SRY requires an invariant aromatic ‘buttress’ beneath its specific DNA-bending surface.” jbc;289/47/32430/FU1F1FU1 Structural environment of Trp-70 in human SRY. Docking of Trp-70 (box position 15; blue sticks) within a cavity.

Two critical cysteine residues in the copper-A site (CuA) on subunit II (CoxB) of bacterial cytochrome c oxidase lie on the periplasmic side of the cytoplasmic membrane. As the periplasm is an oxidizing environment as compared with the reducing cytoplasm, the prediction was that a disulfide bond formed between these cysteines must be eliminated by reduction prior to copper insertion. We show here that a periplasmic thioredoxin (TlpA) acts as a specific reductant not only for the Cu2+ transfer chaperone ScoI but also for CoxB. The dual role of TlpA was documented best with high-resolution crystal structures of the kinetically trapped TlpA-ScoI and TlpA-CoxB mixed disulfide intermediates. They uncovered surprisingly disparate contact sites on TlpA for each of the two protein substrates. The equilibrium of CoxB reduction by TlpA revealed a thermodynamically favorable reaction, with a less negative redox potential of CoxB (E′0 = −231 mV) as compared with that of TlpA (E′0 = −256 mV). The reduction of CoxB by TlpA via disulfide exchange proved to be very fast, with a rate constant of 8.4 × 104 m−1 s−1 that is similar to that found previously for ScoI reduction. Hence, TlpA is a physiologically relevant reductase for both ScoI and CoxB. Although the requirement of ScoI for assembly of the CuA-CoxB complex may be bypassed in vivo by high environmental Cu2+ concentrations, TlpA is essential in this process because only reduced CoxB can bind copper ions.

♦ See referenced article, J. Biol. Chem. 2014, 289, 32431–32444 The bacterial cytochrome c oxidase has a subunit called CoxB that sits at the junction between the cytoplasm and the periplasm. The periplasm is more oxidizing than the cytoplasm so two critical cysteine residues that are in a copper-cysteine complex inside CoxB need to be reduced in order to incorporate the copper atom. In this Paper of the Week, a team led by Hauke Hennecke and Rudi Glockshuber at ETH Institutes of Microbiology and Molecular Biology in Switzerland used x-ray crystallography and kinetics studies to demonstrate the role of an enzyme called periplasmic thioredoxin (TlpA) in the metallation process. They showed that TlpA reduces the copper chaperone ScoI as well as CoxB. “TlpA is a physiologically relevant reductase for both ScoI and CoxB,” say the authors. “Although the requirement of ScoI for assembly of the CuA-CoxB complex may be bypassed in vivo by high environmental Cu2+ concentrations, TlpA is essential in this process because only reduced CoxB can bind copper ions.” jbc;289/47/32445/FU1F1FU1 The polypeptide segment containing the CuA-coordinating residues of reduced Bradyrhizobium japonicum CoxB is predicted to undergo major rearrangements during formation of the CuA center.

Numerous cytochrome P450s are involved in secondary metabolite biosynthesis. The biosynthetic gene cluster for reveromycin A (RM-A), which is a promising lead compound with anti-osteoclastic activity, also includes a P450 gene, revI. To understand the roles of P450revI, we comprehensively characterized the enzyme by genetic, kinetic, and structural studies. The revI gene disruptants (ΔrevI) resulted in accumulation of reveromycin T (RM-T), and revI gene complementation restored RM-A production, indicating that the physiological substrate of P450revI is RM-T. Indeed, the purified P450revI catalyzed the C18-hydroxylation of RM-T more efficiently than the other RM derivatives tested. Moreover, the 1.4 Å resolution co-crystal structure of P450revI with RM-T revealed that the substrate binds the enzyme with a folded compact conformation for C18-hydroxylation. To address the structure-enzyme activity relationship, site-directed mutagenesis was performed in P450revI. R190A and R81A mutations, which abolished salt bridge formation with C1 and C24 carboxyl groups of RM-T, respectively, resulted in significant loss of enzyme activity. The interaction between Arg190 and the C1 carboxyl group of RM-T elucidated why P450revI was unable to catalyze both RM-T 1-methyl ester and RM-T 1-ethyl ester. Moreover, the accumulation of RM-T in ΔrevI mutants enabled us to characterize its biological activity. Our results show that RM-T had stronger anticancer activity and isoleucyl-tRNA synthetase inhibition than RM-A. However, RM-T showed much less anti-osteoclastic activity than RM-A, indicating that hemisuccinate moiety is important for the activity. Structure-based P450revI engineering for novel hydroxylation and subsequent hemisuccinylation will help facilitate the development of RM derivatives with anti-osteoclast activity.

Cellobiohydrolases are exo-active glycosyl hydrolases that processively convert cellulose to soluble sugars, typically cellobiose. They effectively break down crystalline cellulose and make up a major component in industrial enzyme mixtures used for deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass. Identification of the rate-limiting step for cellobiohydrolases remains controversial, and recent reports have alternately suggested either association (on-rate) or dissociation (off-rate) as the overall bottleneck. Obviously, this uncertainty hampers both fundamental mechanistic understanding and rational design of enzymes with improved industrial applicability. To elucidate the role of on- and off-rates, respectively, on the overall kinetics, we have expressed a variant in which a tryptophan residue (Trp-38) in the middle of the active tunnel has been replaced with an alanine. This mutation weakens complex formation, and the population of substrate-bound W38A was only about half of the wild type. Nevertheless, the maximal, steady-state rate was twice as high for the variant enzyme. It is argued that these opposite effects on binding and activity can be reconciled if the rate-limiting step is after the catalysis (i.e. in the dissociation process).

Vision requires the generation of cone and rod photoreceptors that function in daylight and dim light, respectively. The neural retina leucine zipper factor (NRL) transcription factor critically controls photoreceptor fates as it stimulates rod differentiation and suppresses cone differentiation. However, the controls over NRL induction that balance rod and cone fates remain unclear. We have reported previously that the retinoid-related orphan receptor β gene (Rorb) is required for Nrl expression and other retinal functions. We show that Rorb differentially expresses two isoforms: RORβ2 in photoreceptors and RORβ1 in photoreceptors, progenitor cells, and other cell types. Deletion of RORβ2 or RORβ1 increased the cone:rod ratio ∼2-fold, whereas deletion of both isoforms in Rorb−/− mice produced almost exclusively cone-like cells at the expense of rods, suggesting that both isoforms induce Nrl. Electroporation of either RORβ isoform into retinal explants from Rorb−/− neonates reactivated Nrl and rod genes but, in Nrl−/− explants, failed to reactivate rod genes, indicating that NRL is the effector for both RORβ isoforms in rod differentiation. Unexpectedly, RORβ2 expression was lost in Nrl−/− mice. Moreover, NRL activated the RORβ2-specific promoter of Rorb, indicating that NRL activates Rorb, its own inducer gene. We suggest that feedback activation between Nrl and Rorb genes reinforces the commitment to rod differentiation.

Evasion of killing by the complement system, a crucial part of innate immunity, is a key evolutionary strategy of many human pathogens. A major etiological agent of chronic periodontitis, the Gram-negative bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis, produces a vast arsenal of virulence factors that compromise human defense mechanisms. One of these is peptidylarginine deiminase (PPAD), an enzyme unique to P. gingivalis among bacteria, which converts Arg residues in polypeptide chains into citrulline. Here, we report that PPAD citrullination of a critical C-terminal arginine of the anaphylatoxin C5a disabled the protein function. Treatment of C5a with PPAD in vitro resulted in decreased chemotaxis of human neutrophils and diminished calcium signaling in monocytic cell line U937 transfected with the C5a receptor (C5aR) and loaded with a fluorescent intracellular calcium probe: Fura-2 AM. Moreover, a low degree of citrullination of internal arginine residues by PPAD was also detected using mass spectrometry. Further, after treatment of C5 with outer membrane vesicles naturally shed by P. gingivalis, we observed generation of C5a totally citrullinated at the C-terminal Arg-74 residue (Arg74Cit). In stark contrast, only native C5a was detected after treatment with PPAD-null outer membrane vesicles. Our study suggests reduced antibacterial and proinflammatory capacity of citrullinated C5a, achieved via lower level of chemotactic potential of the modified molecule, and weaker cell activation. In the context of previous studies, which showed crosstalk between C5aR and Toll-like receptors, as well as enhanced arthritis development in mice infected with PPAD-expressing P. gingivalis, our findings support a crucial role of PPAD in the virulence of P. gingivalis.

Cytochrome c is a multifunctional hemoprotein in the mitochondrial intermembrane space whereby its participation in electron shuttling between respiratory complexes III and IV is alternative to its role in apoptosis as a peroxidase activated by interaction with cardiolipin (CL), and resulting in selective CL peroxidation. The switch from electron transfer to peroxidase function requires partial unfolding of the protein upon binding of CL, whose specific features combine negative charges of the two phosphate groups with four hydrophobic fatty acid residues. Assuming that other endogenous small molecule ligands with a hydrophobic chain and a negatively charged functionality may activate cytochrome c into a peroxidase, we investigated two hydrophobic anionic analogues of vitamin E, α-tocopherol succinate (α-TOS) and α-tocopherol phosphate (α-TOP), as potential inducers of peroxidase activity of cytochrome c. NMR studies and computational modeling indicate that they interact with cytochrome c at similar sites previously proposed for CL. Absorption spectroscopy showed that both analogues effectively disrupt the Fe-S(Met80) bond associated with unfolding of cytochrome c. We found that α-TOS and α-TOP stimulate peroxidase activity of cytochrome c. Enhanced peroxidase activity was also observed in isolated rat liver mitochondria incubated with α-TOS and tBOOH. A mitochondria-targeted derivative of TOS, triphenylphosphonium-TOS (mito-VES), was more efficient in inducing H2O2-dependent apoptosis in mouse embryonic cytochrome c+/+ cells than in cytochrome c−/− cells. Essential for execution of the apoptotic program peroxidase activation of cytochrome c by α-TOS may contribute to its known anti-cancer pharmacological activity.

The Gram-positive bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major human pathogen that causes infections ranging from acute otitis media to life-threatening invasive disease. Pneumococci have evolved several strategies to circumvent the host immune response, in particular the complement attack. The pneumococcal glycolytic enzyme phosphoglycerate kinase (PGK) is both secreted and bound to the bacterial surface and simultaneously binds plasminogen and its tissue plasminogen activator tPA. In the present study we demonstrate that PGK has an additional role in modulating the complement attack. PGK interacted with the membrane attack complex (MAC) components C5, C7, and C9, thereby blocking the assembly and membrane insertion of MAC resulting in significant inhibition of the hemolytic activity of human serum. Recombinant PGK interacted in a dose-dependent manner with these terminal pathway proteins, and the interactions were ionic in nature. In addition, PGK inhibited C9 polymerization both in the fluid phase and on the surface of sheep erythrocytes. Interestingly, PGK bound several MAC proteins simultaneously. Although C5 and C7 had partially overlapping binding sites on PGK, C9 did not compete with either one for PGK binding. Moreover, PGK significantly inhibited MAC deposition via both the classical and alternative pathway at the pneumococcal surface. Additionally, upon activation plasmin(ogen) bound to PGK cleaved the central complement protein C3b thereby further modifying the complement attack. In conclusion, our data demonstrate for the first time to our knowledge a novel pneumococcal inhibitor of the terminal complement cascade aiding complement evasion by this important pathogen.

The spinal cord does not spontaneously regenerate, and treatment that ensures functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI) is still not available. Recently, fibroblasts have been directly converted into induced neural stem cells (iNSCs) by the forced expression defined transcription factors. Although directly converted iNSCs have been considered to be a cell source for clinical applications, their therapeutic potential has not yet been investigated. Here we show that iNSCs directly converted from mouse fibroblasts enhance the functional recovery of SCI animals. Engrafted iNSCs could differentiate into all neuronal lineages, including different subtypes of mature neurons. Furthermore, iNSC-derived neurons could form synapses with host neurons, thus enhancing the locomotor function recovery. A time course analysis of iNSC-treated SCI animals revealed that engrafted iNSCs effectively reduced the inflammatory response and apoptosis in the injured area. iNSC transplantation also promoted the active regeneration of the endogenous recipient environment in the absence of tumor formation. Therefore, our data suggest that directly converted iNSCs hold therapeutic potential for treatment of SCI and may thus represent a promising cell source for transplantation therapy in patients with SCI.

Exosomes, also known as microvesicles (EMVs), are nano-sized membranous particles secreted from nearly all mammalian cell types. These nanoparticles play critical roles in many physiological processes including cell-cell signaling, immune activation, and suppression and are associated with disease states such as tumor progression. The biological functions of EMVs are highly dependent on their protein composition, which can dictate pathogenicity. Although some mechanisms have been proposed for the regulation of EMV protein trafficking, little attention has been paid to N-linked glycosylation as a potential sorting signal. Previous work from our laboratory found a conserved glycan signature for EMVs, which differed from that of the parent cell membranes, suggesting a potential role for glycosylation in EMV biogenesis. In this study, we further explore the role of glycosylation in EMV protein trafficking. We identify EMV glycoproteins and demonstrate alteration of their recruitment as a function of their glycosylation status upon pharmacological manipulation. Furthermore, we show that genetic manipulation of the glycosylation levels of a specific EMV glycoprotein, EWI-2, directly impacts its recruitment as a function of N-linked glycan sites. Taken together, our data provide strong evidence that N-linked glycosylation directs glycoprotein sorting into EMVs.

The activity of the transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is dysregulated in a number of hematological and solid malignancies. Development of pharmacological STAT3 Src homology 2 (SH2) domain interaction inhibitors holds great promise for cancer therapy, and a novel class of salicylic acid-based STAT3 dimerization inhibitors that includes orally bioavailable drug candidates has been recently developed. The compounds SF-1-066 and BP-1-102 are predicted to bind to the STAT3 SH2 domain. However, given the highly unstructured and dynamic nature of the SH2 domain, experimental confirmation of this prediction was elusive. We have interrogated the protein-ligand interaction of STAT3 with these small molecule inhibitors by means of time-resolved electrospray ionization hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry. Analysis of site-specific evolution of deuterium uptake induced by the complexation of STAT3 with SF-1-066 or BP-1-102 under physiological conditions enabled the mapping of the in silico predicted inhibitor binding site to the STAT3 SH2 domain. The binding of both inhibitors to the SH2 domain resulted in significant local decreases in dynamics, consistent with solvent exclusion at the inhibitor binding site and increased rigidity of the inhibitor-complexed SH2 domain. Interestingly, inhibitor binding induced hot spots of allosteric perturbations outside of the SH2 domain, manifesting mainly as increased deuterium uptake, in regions of STAT3 important for DNA binding and nuclear localization.

The main function of the 3′–5′ DNA exonuclease TREX1 is to digest cytosolic single-stranded DNA to prevent activation of cell-intrinsic responses to immunostimulatory DNA. TREX1 translocates to the nucleus following DNA damage with its nuclear activities being less well defined. Although mutations in human TREX1 have been linked to autoimmune/inflammatory diseases, the mechanisms contributing to the pathogenesis of these diseases remain incompletely understood. Here, using mass spectrometry and co-immunoprecipitation assays and in vivo overexpression models, we show that TREX1 interacts with poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP1), a nuclear enzyme involved in the DNA damage response. Two zinc finger domains at the amino terminus of PARP1 were required for the interaction with TREX1 that occurs after nuclear translocation of TREX1 in response to DNA damage. Functional studies suggested that TREX1 may contribute to stabilization of PARP1 levels in the DNA damage response and its activity. These results provide new insights into the mechanisms of single-stranded DNA repair following DNA damage and alterations induced by gene mutations.

The protein G0/G1 switch gene 2 (G0S2) is a small basic protein that functions as an endogenous inhibitor of adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL), a key enzyme in intracellular lipolysis. In this study, we identified a short sequence covering residues Lys-20 to Ala-52 in G0S2 that is still fully capable of inhibiting mouse and human ATGL. We found that a synthetic peptide corresponding to this region inhibits ATGL in a noncompetitive manner in the nanomolar range. This peptide is highly selective for ATGL and does not inhibit other lipases, including hormone-sensitive lipase, monoacylglycerol lipase, lipoprotein lipase, and patatin domain-containing phospholipases 6 and 7. Because increased lipolysis is linked to the development of metabolic disorders, the inhibition of ATGL by G0S2-derived peptides may represent a novel therapeutic tool to modulate lipolysis.

A genome-wide susceptibility assay was used to identify specific CpxR-dependent genes that facilitate Escherichia coli resistance to a model cationic antimicrobial peptide, protamine. A total of 115 strains from the Keio Collection, each of which contained a deletion at a demonstrated or predicted CpxR/CpxA-dependent locus, were tested for protamine susceptibility. One strain that exhibited high susceptibility carried a deletion of tolC, a gene that encodes the outer membrane component of multiple tripartite multidrug transporters. Concomitantly, two of these efflux systems, AcrAB/TolC and EmrAB/TolC, play major roles in protamine resistance. Activation of the CpxR/CpxA system stimulates mar transcription, suggesting a new regulatory circuit that enhances the multidrug resistance cascade. Tripartite multidrug efflux systems contribute to bacterial resistance to protamine differently from the Tat system. DNase I footprinting analysis demonstrated that the CpxR protein binds to a sequence located in the −35 and −10 regions of mar promoter. This sequence resembles the consensus CpxR binding site, however, on the opposite strand. aroK, a CpxR-dependent gene that encodes a shikimate kinase in the tryptophan biosynthesis pathway, was also found to facilitate protamine resistance. Specific aromatic metabolites from this pathway, such as indole, can stimulate expression of well studied CpxR-dependent genes degP and cpxP, which are not components of the tripartite multidrug transporters. Thus, we propose a novel mechanism for E. coli to modulate resistance to protamine and likely other cationic antimicrobial peptides in which the CpxR/CpxA system up-regulates mar transcription in response to specific aromatic metabolites, subsequently stimulating the multidrug resistance cascade.

Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) UL5/8/52 helicase-primase complex is required for DNA unwinding at the replication fork and synthesis of primers during virus replication, and it has become a promising novel target for antiviral therapy. Using molecular cloning, we have identified three separate domains of UL52. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments in extracts from cells transiently expressing HA-tagged UL5, FLAG-UL8, and enhanced GFP-tagged UL52 domains revealed that the N-terminal domain of UL52 primase binds UL5 helicase and the middle domain interacts with the UL8 accessory protein. In addition, an interaction between the single strand DNA-binding protein ICP8 and the UL52 middle domain was observed. The complex between UL5 and UL52 was stabilized by the antiviral compound BAY 54-6322, and mutations providing resistance to the drug obliterate this effect. Our results also suggest a mechanism for accommodating conformational strain resulting from movement of UL5 and UL52 in opposite directions on the lagging strand template, and they identify molecular complexes that can be further examined by structural biology techniques to resolve the mechanism of primer synthesis during herpesvirus replication. Finally, they help to explain the mechanism of action of a novel class of antiviral compounds currently being evaluated in clinical trials.

After exposure to [U-13C3]glycerol, the liver produces primarily [1,2,3-13C3]- and [4,5,6-13C3]glucose in equal proportions through gluconeogenesis from the level of trioses. Other 13C-labeling patterns occur as a consequence of alternative pathways for glucose production. The pentose phosphate pathway (PPP), metabolism in the citric acid cycle, incomplete equilibration by triose phosphate isomerase, or the transaldolase reaction all interact to produce complex 13C-labeling patterns in exported glucose. Here, we investigated 13C labeling in plasma glucose in rats given [U-13C3]glycerol under various nutritional conditions. Blood was drawn at multiple time points to extract glucose for NMR analysis. Because the transaldolase reaction and incomplete equilibrium by triose phosphate isomerase cannot break a 13C-13C bond within the trioses contributing to glucose, the appearance of [1,2-13C2]-, [2,3-13C2]-, [5,6-13C2]-, and [4,5-13C2]glucose provides direct evidence for metabolism of glycerol in the citric acid cycle or the PPP but not an influence of either triose phosphate isomerase or the transaldolase reaction. In all animals, [1,2-13C2]glucose/[2,3-13C2]glucose was significantly greater than [5,6-13C2]glucose/[4,5-13C2]glucose, a relationship that can only arise from gluconeogenesis followed by passage of substrates through the PPP. In summary, the hepatic PPP in vivo can be detected by 13C distribution in blood glucose after [U-13C3]glycerol administration.

Protein arginine methyltransferase 7 (PRMT7) methylates arginine residues on various protein substrates and is involved in DNA transcription, RNA splicing, DNA repair, cell differentiation, and metastasis. The substrate sequences it recognizes in vivo and the enzymatic mechanism behind it, however, remain to be explored. Here we characterize methylation catalyzed by a bacterially expressed GST-tagged human PRMT7 fusion protein with a broad range of peptide and protein substrates. After confirming its type III activity generating only ω-NG-monomethylarginine and its distinct substrate specificity for RXR motifs surrounded by basic residues, we performed site-directed mutagenesis studies on this enzyme, revealing that two acidic residues within the double E loop, Asp-147 and Glu-149, modulate the substrate preference. Furthermore, altering a single acidic residue, Glu-478, on the C-terminal domain to glutamine nearly abolished the activity of the enzyme. Additionally, we demonstrate that PRMT7 has unusual temperature dependence and salt tolerance. These results provide a biochemical foundation to understanding the broad biological functions of PRMT7 in health and disease.

Sterile α motif and histidine-aspartate domain-containing protein 1 (SAMHD1) plays a critical role in inhibiting HIV infection, curtailing the pool of dNTPs available for reverse transcription of the viral genome. Recent structural data suggested a compelling mechanism for the regulation of SAMHD1 enzymatic activity and revealed dGTP-induced association of two inactive dimers into an active tetrameric enzyme. Here, we present the crystal structures of SAMHD1 catalytic core (residues 113–626) tetramers, complexed with mixtures of nucleotides, including dGTP/dATP, dGTP/dCTP, dGTP/dTTP, and dGTP/dUTP. The combined structural and biochemical data provide insight into dNTP promiscuity at the secondary allosteric site and how enzymatic activity is modulated. In addition, we present biochemical analyses of GTP-induced SAMHD1 full-length tetramerization and the structure of SAMHD1 catalytic core tetramer in complex with GTP/dATP, revealing the structural basis of GTP-mediated SAMHD1 activation. Altogether, the data presented here advance our understanding of SAMHD1 function during cellular homeostasis.

Human plasminogen kringle 5 (K5) is known to display its potent anti-angiogenesis effect through inducing endothelial cell (EC) apoptosis, and the voltage-dependent anion channel 1 (VDAC1) has been identified as a receptor of K5. However, the exact role and underlying mechanisms of VDAC1 in K5-induced EC apoptosis remain elusive. In the current study, we showed that K5 increased the protein level of VDAC1, which initiated the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway of ECs. Our findings also showed that K5 inhibited the ubiquitin-dependent degradation of VDAC1 by promoting the phosphorylation of VDAC1, possibly at Ser-12 and Thr-107. The phosphorylated VDAC1 was attenuated by the AKT agonist, glycogen synthase kinase (GSK) 3β inhibitor, and siRNA, suggesting that K5 increased VDAC1 phosphorylation via the AKT-GSK3β pathway. Furthermore, K5 promoted cell surface translocation of VDAC1, and binding between K5 and VDAC1 was observed on the plasma membrane. HKI protein blocked the impact of K5 on the AKT-GSK3β pathway by competitively inhibiting the interaction of K5 and cell surface VDAC1. Moreover, K5-induced EC apoptosis was suppressed by VDAC1 antibody. These data show for the first time that K5-induced EC apoptosis is mediated by the positive feedback loop of “VDAC1-AKT-GSK3β-VDAC1,” which may provide new perspectives on the mechanisms of K5-induced apoptosis.

Patients with chronic hepatitis B usually exhibit a low response to treatment with interferon α (IFN-α). An alternative approach to increase the response rate of IFN-α might be to immunologically stimulate the host with glucocorticoids (GCs) before treatment with IFN-α, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. We hypothesized that the GCs enhance IFN signaling by inducing S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet) when hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication was effectively suppressed by IFN-α. Here, we investigated the effect of GCs and IFN-α on AdoMet production and methionine adenosyltransferase 1A (MAT1A) expression in vitro. Furthermore, we determined whether post-transcriptional regulation is involved in HBV-repressed MAT1A expression and AdoMet production induced by dexamethasone (Dex). We found that AdoMet homeostasis was disrupted by Dex and that Dex directly regulated MAT1A expression by enhancing the binding of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) to the glucocorticoid-response element (GRE) of the MAT1A promoter. HBV reduced AdoMet production by increasing methylation at GRE sites within the MAT1A promoter. The X protein of hepatitis B virus led to hypermethylation in the MAT1A promoter by recruiting DNA methyltransferase 1, and it inhibited GR binding to the GRE in the MAT1A promoter. Dex could increase an antiviral effect by inducing AdoMet production via a positive feedback loop when HBV is effectively suppressed by IFN-α, and the mechanism that involves Dex-induced AdoMet could increase STAT1 methylation rather than STAT1 phosphorylation. These findings provide a possible mechanism by which GC-induced AdoMet enhances the antiviral activity of IFN-α by restoring STAT1 methylation in HBV-infected cells.

Cotranscriptional methylation of histone H3 lysines 4 and 36 by Set1 and Set2, respectively, stimulates interaction between nucleosomes and histone deacetylase complexes to block cryptic transcription in budding yeast. We previously showed that loss of all H3K4 and H3K36 methylation in a set1Δset2Δ mutant reduces interaction between native nucleosomes and the NuA4 lysine acetyltransferase (KAT) complex. We now provide evidence that NuA4 preferentially binds H3 tails mono- and dimethylated on H3K4 and di- and trimethylated on H3K36, an H3 methylation pattern distinct from that recognized by the RPD3C(S) and Hos2/Set3 histone deacetylase complexes (HDACs). Loss of H3K4 or H3K36 methylation in set1Δ or set2Δ mutants reduces NuA4 interaction with bulk nucleosomes in vitro and in vivo, and reduces NuA4 occupancy of transcribed coding sequences at particular genes. We also provide evidence that NuA4 acetylation of lysine residues in the histone H4 tail stimulates SAGA interaction with nucleosomes and its recruitment to coding sequences and attendant acetylation of histone H3 in vivo. Thus, H3 methylation exerts opposing effects of enhancing nucleosome acetylation by both NuA4 and SAGA as well as stimulating nucleosome deacetylation by multiple HDACs to maintain the proper level of histone acetylation in transcribed coding sequences.

The Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK pathway has been identified as a major, druggable regulator of melanoma. Mutational activation of BRAF is the most prevalent genetic alteration in human melanoma, resulting in constitutive melanoma hyperproliferation. A selective BRAF inhibitor showed remarkable clinical activity in patients with mutated BRAF. Unfortunately, most patients acquire resistance to the BRAF inhibitor, highlighting the urgent need for new melanoma treatment strategies. Green tea polyphenol (−)-epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG) inhibits cell proliferation independently of BRAF inhibitor sensitivity, suggesting that increased understanding of the anti-melanoma activity of EGCG may provide a novel therapeutic target. Here, by performing functional genetic screening, we identified protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) as a critical factor in the suppression of melanoma cell proliferation. We demonstrated that tumor-overexpressed 67-kDa laminin receptor (67LR) activates PP2A through adenylate cyclase/cAMP pathway eliciting inhibitions of oncoproteins and activation of tumor suppressor Merlin. Activating 67LR/PP2A pathway leading to melanoma-specific mTOR inhibition shows strong synergy with the BRAF inhibitor PLX4720 in the drug-resistant melanoma. Moreover, SET, a potent inhibitor of PP2A, is overexpressed on malignant melanoma. Silencing of SET enhances 67LR/PP2A signaling. Collectively, activation of 67LR/PP2A signaling may thus be a novel rational strategy for melanoma-specific treatment.

The biologically and clinically important membrane transporters are challenging proteins to study because of their low level of expression, multidomain structure, and complex molecular dynamics that underlies their activity. ATP7B is a copper transporter that traffics between the intracellular compartments in response to copper elevation. The N-terminal domain of ATP7B (N-ATP7B) is involved in binding copper, but the role of this domain in trafficking is controversial. To clarify the role of N-ATP7B, we generated nanobodies that interact with ATP7B in vitro and in cells. In solution NMR studies, nanobodies revealed the spatial organization of N-ATP7B by detecting transient functionally relevant interactions between metal-binding domains 1–3. Modulation of these interactions by nanobodies in cells enhanced relocalization of the endogenous ATP7B toward the plasma membrane linking molecular and cellular dynamics of the transporter. Stimulation of ATP7B trafficking by nanobodies in the absence of elevated copper provides direct evidence for the important role of N-ATP7B structural dynamics in regulation of ATP7B localization in a cell.

Maintenance of adequate levels of glutathione (GSH) in the lens nucleus is critical for protection of lens proteins from the effects of oxidative stress and for lens transparency. How GSH is transported to the nucleus is unknown. We show that GSH diffuses to the nucleus from the outer cortex, where a high concentration of the anti-oxidant is established by synthesis or uptake, via the network of gap junctions. Using electrophysiological measurements, we found that channels formed by Cx46 and Cx50, the two connexin isoforms expressed in the lens, were moderately cation-selective (PNa/PCl ∼5 for Cx46 and ∼3 for Cx50). Single channel permeation of the larger GSH anion was low but detectable (PNa/PGSH ∼12 for Cx46 and ∼8 for Cx50), whereas permeation of divalent anion glutathione disulfide (GSSG) was undetectable. Measurement of GSH levels in the lenses from connexin knock-out (KO) mice indicated Cx46, and not Cx50, is necessary for transport of GSH to the core. Levels of GSH in the nucleus were markedly reduced in Cx46 KO, whereas they were unaffected by Cx50 KO. We also show that GSH delivery to the nucleus is not dependent on the lens microcirculation, which is believed to be responsible for extracellular transport of other nutrients to membrane transporters in the core. These results indicate that glutathione diffuses from cortical fiber cells to the nucleus via gap junction channels formed by Cx46. We present a model of GSH diffusion from outer cells to inner fiber cells through gap junctions.

High glucose-induced Akt acts as a signaling hub for mesangial cell hypertrophy and matrix expansion, which are recognized as cardinal signatures for the development of diabetic nephropathy. How mesangial cells sustain the activated state of Akt is not clearly understood. Here we show Akt-dependent phosphorylation of the transcription factor FoxO1 by high glucose. Phosphorylation-deficient, constitutively active FoxO1 inhibited the high glucose-induced phosphorylation of Akt to suppress the phosphorylation/inactivation of PRAS40 and mTORC1 activity. In contrast, dominant negative FoxO1 increased the phosphorylation of Akt, resulting in increased mTORC1 activity similar to high glucose treatment. Notably, FoxO1 regulates high glucose-induced protein synthesis, hypertrophy, and expression of fibronectin and PAI-1. High glucose paves the way for complications of diabetic nephropathy through the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). We considered whether the FoxO1 target antioxidant enzyme catalase contributes to sustained activation of Akt. High glucose-inactivated FoxO1 decreases the expression of catalase to increase the production of ROS. Moreover, we show that catalase blocks high glucose-stimulated Akt phosphorylation to attenuate the inactivation of FoxO1 and PRAS40, resulting in the inhibition of mTORC1 and mesangial cell hypertrophy and fibronectin and PAI-1 expression. Finally, using kidney cortices from type 1 diabetic OVE26 mice, we show that increased FoxO1 phosphorylation is associated with decreased catalase expression and increased fibronectin and PAI-1 expression. Together, our results provide the first evidence for the presence of a positive feedback loop for the sustained activation of Akt involving inactivated FoxO1 and a decrease in catalase expression, leading to increased ROS and mesangial cell hypertrophy and matrix protein expression.

α-Actinin-4 (ACTN4), a key regulator of the actin cytoskeleton, is up-regulated in melanoma, though its role in melanoma remains speculative. We have discovered that in WM1158, a highly aggressive melanoma cell line, down-regulation of ACTN4 by shRNA induces a collagen I-dependent amoeboidal-to-mesenchymal transition. Re-expression of low levels of WT ACTN4 but not similar expression levels of ACTN1 successfully restores the amoeboidal morphology and limits collagen I gel compaction. A truncated ACTN4 mutant 1–890, which lacks the C-terminal tail, fails to rescue the amoeboidal morphology and to compact collagen I gel. Interestingly, in three-dimensional collagen I gels, ACTN4 KD cells are more polarized compared with cells in which scrambled shRNA is expressed. Surprisingly, ACTN4 KD cells migrate faster than the ones expressing the scrambled shRNA on a collagen I gel (two-dimensional) although these two cell lines migrate similarly on tissue culture. Most importantly, down-regulation of ACTN4 significantly reduced invasion of WM1158 cells into the three-dimensional collagen I gel, a representative of the dermis. Taken together, these findings suggest that ACTN4 plays an important role in maintaining the amoeboidal morphology of invasive melanoma and thus promoting dissemination through collagen-rich matrices.

N-Formylation of initiator methionyl-tRNA (Met-tRNAMet) by methionyl-tRNA formyltransferase (MTF) is important for translation initiation in bacteria, mitochondria, and chloroplasts. Unlike all other translation systems, the metazoan mitochondrial system is unique in using a single methionine tRNA (tRNAMet) for both initiation and elongation. A portion of Met-tRNAMet is formylated for initiation, whereas the remainder is used for elongation. Recently, we showed that compound heterozygous mutations within the nuclear gene encoding human mitochondrial MTF (mt-MTF) significantly reduced mitochondrial translation efficiency, leading to combined oxidative phosphorylation deficiency and Leigh syndrome in two unrelated patients. Patient P1 has a stop codon mutation in one of the MTF genes and an S209L mutation in the other MTF gene. P2 has a S125L mutation in one of the MTF genes and the same S209L mutation as P1 in the other MTF gene. Here, we have investigated the effect of mutations at Ser-125 and Ser-209 on activities of human mt-MTF and of the corresponding mutations, Ala-89 or Ala-172, respectively, on activities of Escherichia coli MTF. The S125L mutant has 653-fold lower activity, whereas the S209L mutant has 36-fold lower activity. Thus, both patients depend upon residual activity of the S209L mutant to support low levels of mitochondrial protein synthesis. We discuss the implications of these and other results for whether the effect of the S209L mutation on mitochondrial translational efficiency is due to reduced activity of the mutant mt-MTF and/or reduced levels of the mutant mt-MTF.

It is increasingly important to understand the molecular basis for the plasticity of neoplastic cells and their capacity to transition between differentiated and stemlike phenotypes. Kruppel-like factor-9 (KLF9), a member of the large KLF transcription factor family, has emerged as a regulator of oncogenesis, cell differentiation, and neural development; however, the molecular basis for the diverse contextual functions of KLF9 remains unclear. This study focused on the functions of KLF9 in human glioblastoma stemlike cells. We established for the first time a genome-wide map of KLF9-regulated targets in human glioblastoma stemlike cells and show that KLF9 functions as a transcriptional repressor and thereby regulates multiple signaling pathways involved in oncogenesis and stem cell regulation. A detailed analysis of one such pathway, integrin signaling, showed that the capacity of KLF9 to inhibit glioblastoma cell stemness and tumorigenicity requires ITGA6 repression. These findings enhance our understanding of the transcriptional networks underlying cancer cell stemness and differentiation and identify KLF9-regulated molecular targets applicable to cancer therapeutics.

Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a key role in linking pathogen recognition with the induction of innate immunity. They have been implicated in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory diseases, representing potential targets for prevention/treatment. Vegetable-rich diets are associated with the reduced risk of several inflammatory disorders. In the present study, based on an extensive screening of vegetable extracts for TLR-inhibiting activity in HEK293 cells co-expressing TLR with the NF-κB reporter gene, we found cabbage and onion extracts to be the richest sources of a TLR signaling inhibitor. To identify the active substances, we performed activity-guiding separation of the principal inhibitors and identified 3-methylsulfinylpropyl isothiocyanate (iberin) from the cabbage and quercetin and quercetin 4′-O-β-glucoside from the onion, among which iberin showed the most potent inhibitory effect. It was revealed that iberin specifically acted on the dimerization step of TLRs in the TLR signaling pathway. To gain insight into the inhibitory mechanism of TLR dimerization, we developed a novel probe combining an isothiocyanate-reactive group and an alkyne functionality for click chemistry and detected the probe bound to the TLRs in living cells, suggesting that iberin disrupts dimerization of the TLRs via covalent binding. Furthermore, we designed a variety of iberin analogues and found that the inhibition potency was influenced by the oxidation state of the sulfur. Modeling studies of the iberin analogues showed that the oxidation state of sulfur might influence the global shape of the isothiocyanates. These findings establish the TLR dimerization step as a target of food-derived anti-inflammatory compounds.

Highly conserved glycoside hydrolase family 70 glucansucrases are able to catalyze the synthesis of α-glucans with different structure from sucrose. The structural determinants of glucansucrase specificity have remained unclear. Residue Leu940 in domain B of GTF180, the glucansucrase of the probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri 180, was shown to vary in different glucansucrases and is close to the +1 glucosyl unit in the crystal structure of GTF180-ΔN in complex with maltose. Herein, we show that mutations in Leu940 of wild-type GTF180-ΔN all caused an increased percentage of (α1→6) linkages and a decreased percentage of (α1→3) linkages in the products. α-Glucans with potential different physicochemical properties (containing 67–100% of (α1→6) linkages) were produced by GTF180 and its Leu940 mutants. Mutant L940W was unable to form (α1→3) linkages and synthesized a smaller and linear glucan polysaccharide with only (α1→6) linkages. Docking studies revealed that the introduction of the large aromatic amino acid residue tryptophan at position 940 partially blocked the binding groove, preventing the isomalto-oligosaccharide acceptor to bind in an favorable orientation for the formation of (α1→3) linkages. Our data showed that the reaction specificity of GTF180 mutant was shifted either to increased polysaccharide synthesis (L940A, L940S, L940E, and L940F) or increased oligosaccharide synthesis (L940W). The L940W mutant is capable of producing a large amount of isomalto-oligosaccharides using released glucose from sucrose as acceptors. Thus, residue Leu940 in domain B is crucial for linkage and reaction specificity of GTF180. This study provides clear and novel insights into the structure-function relationships of glucansucrase enzymes.

Mesotrypsin is an isoform of trypsin that is uniquely resistant to polypeptide trypsin inhibitors and can cleave some inhibitors rapidly. Previous studies have shown that the amyloid precursor protein Kunitz protease inhibitor domain (APPI) is a specific substrate of mesotrypsin and that stabilization of the APPI cleavage site in a canonical conformation contributes to recognition by mesotrypsin. We hypothesized that other proteins possessing potential cleavage sites stabilized in a similar conformation might also be mesotrypsin substrates. Here we evaluated a series of candidate substrates, including human Kunitz protease inhibitor domains from amyloid precursor-like protein 2 (APLP2), bikunin, hepatocyte growth factor activator inhibitor type 2 (HAI2), tissue factor pathway inhibitor-1 (TFPI1), and tissue factor pathway inhibitor-2 (TFPI2), as well as E-selectin, an unrelated protein possessing a potential cleavage site displaying canonical conformation. We find that Kunitz domains within APLP2, bikunin, and HAI2 are cleaved by mesotrypsin with kinetic profiles of specific substrates. TFPI1 and TFPI2 Kunitz domains are cleaved less efficiently by mesotrypsin, and E-selectin is not cleaved at the anticipated site. Cocrystal structures of mesotrypsin with HAI2 and bikunin Kunitz domains reveal the mode of mesotrypsin interaction with its canonical substrates. Our data suggest that major determinants of mesotrypsin substrate specificity include sequence preferences at the P1 and P′2 positions along with conformational stabilization of the cleavage site in the canonical conformation. Mesotrypsin up-regulation has been implicated previously in cancer progression, and proteolytic clearance of Kunitz protease inhibitors offers potential mechanisms by which mesotrypsin may mediate pathological effects in cancer.

Although the pancreatic duodenal homeobox 1 (Pdx-1) transcription factor is known to play an indispensable role in β cell development and secretory function, recent data also implicate Pdx-1 in the maintenance of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) health. The sarco-endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase 2b (SERCA2b) pump maintains a steep Ca2+ gradient between the cytosol and ER lumen. In models of diabetes, our data demonstrated loss of β cell Pdx-1 that occurs in parallel with altered SERCA2b expression, whereas in silico analysis of the SERCA2b promoter revealed multiple putative Pdx-1 binding sites. We hypothesized that Pdx-1 loss under inflammatory and diabetic conditions leads to decreased SERCA2b levels and activity with concomitant alterations in ER health. To test this, siRNA-mediated knockdown of Pdx-1 was performed in INS-1 cells. The results revealed reduced SERCA2b expression and decreased ER Ca2+, which was measured using fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy. Cotransfection of human Pdx-1 with a reporter fused to the human SERCA2 promoter increased luciferase activity 3- to 4-fold relative to an empty vector control, and direct binding of Pdx-1 to the proximal SERCA2 promoter was confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation. To determine whether restoration of SERCA2b could rescue ER stress induced by Pdx-1 loss, Pdx1+/− mice were fed a high-fat diet. Isolated islets demonstrated an increased spliced-to-total Xbp1 ratio, whereas SERCA2b overexpression reduced the Xbp1 ratio to that of wild-type controls. Together, these results identify SERCA2b as a novel transcriptional target of Pdx-1 and define a role for altered ER Ca2+ regulation in Pdx-1-deficient states.

A number of different enzymatic pathways have evolved to ensure that DNA replication can proceed past template base damage. These pathways include lesion skipping by the replisome, replication fork regression followed by either correction of the damage and origin-independent replication restart or homologous recombination-mediated restart of replication downstream of the lesion, and bypass of the damage by a translesion synthesis DNA polymerase. We report here that of two translesion synthesis polymerases tested, only DNA polymerase IV, not DNA polymerase II, could engage productively with the Escherichia coli replisome to bypass leading strand template damage, despite the fact that both enzymes are shown to be interacting with the replicase. Inactivation of the 3′ → 5′ proofreading exonuclease of DNA polymerase II did not enable bypass. Bypass by DNA polymerase IV required its ability to interact with the β clamp and act as a translesion polymerase but did not require its “little finger” domain, a secondary region of interaction with the β clamp. Bypass by DNA polymerase IV came at the expense of the inherent leading strand lesion skipping activity of the replisome, indicating that they are competing reactions.

PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that bind PIWI family proteins exclusively expressed in the germ cells of mammalian gonads. MIWI2-associated piRNAs are essential for silencing transposons during primordial germ cell development, and MIWI-bound piRNAs are required for normal spermatogenesis during adulthood in mice. Although piRNAs have long been regarded as germ cell-specific, increasing lines of evidence suggest that somatic cells also express piRNA-like RNAs (pilRNAs). Here, we report the detection of abundant pilRNAs in somatic cells, which are similar to MIWI-associated piRNAs mainly expressed in pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids in the testis. Based on small RNA deep sequencing and quantitative PCR analyses, pilRNA expression is dynamic and displays tissue specificity. Although pilRNAs are similar to pachytene piRNAs in both size and genomic origins, they have a distinct ping-pong signature. Furthermore, pilRNA biogenesis appears to utilize a yet to be identified pathway, which is different from all currently known small RNA biogenetic pathways. In addition, pilRNAs appear to preferentially target the 3′-UTRs of mRNAs in a partially complementary manner. Our data suggest that pilRNAs, as an integral component of the small RNA transcriptome in somatic cell lineages, represent a distinct population of small RNAs that may have functions similar to germ cell piRNAs.

Mitochondrial DNA depletion caused by thymidine kinase 2 (TK2) deficiency can be compensated by a nucleoside kinase from Drosophila melanogaster (Dm-dNK) in mice. We show that transgene expression of Dm-dNK in Tk2 knock-out (Tk2−/−) mice extended the life span of Tk2−/− mice from 3 weeks to at least 20 months. The Dm-dNK+/−Tk2−/− mice maintained normal mitochondrial DNA levels throughout the observation time. A significant difference in total body weight due to the reduction of subcutaneous and visceral fat in the Dm-dNK+/−Tk2−/− mice was the only visible difference compared with control mice. This indicates an effect on fat metabolism mediated through residual Tk2 deficiency because Dm-dNK expression was low in both liver and fat tissues. Dm-dNK expression led to increased dNTP pools and an increase in the catabolism of purine and pyrimidine nucleotides but these alterations did not apparently affect the mice during the 20 months of observation. In conclusion, Dm-dNK expression in the cell nucleus expanded the total dNTP pools to levels required for efficient mitochondrial DNA synthesis, thereby compensated the Tk2 deficiency, during a normal life span of the mice. The Dm-dNK+/− mouse serves as a model for nucleoside gene or enzyme substitutions, nucleotide imbalances, and dNTP alterations in different tissues.

Huntington disease (HD) is a fatal autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by an increased number of CAG repeats in the HTT gene coding for huntingtin. Decreased neurotrophic support and increased mitochondrial and excitotoxic stress have been reported in HD striatal and cortical neurons. The members of the class O forkhead (FOXO) transcription factor family, including FOXO3a, act as sensor proteins that are activated upon decreased survival signals and/or increased cellular stress. Using immunocytochemical screening in mouse striatal Hdh7/7 (wild type), Hdh7/109 (heterozygous for HD mutation), and Hdh109/109 (homozygous for HD mutation) cells, we identified FOXO3a as a differentially regulated transcription factor in HD. We report increased nuclear FOXO3a levels in mutant Hdh cells. Additionally, we show that treatment with mitochondrial toxin 3-nitropropionic acid results in enhanced nuclear localization of FOXO3a in wild type Hdh7/7 cells and in rat primary cortical neurons. Furthermore, mRNA levels of Foxo3a are increased in mutant Hdh cells compared with wild type cells and in 3-nitropropionic acid-treated primary neurons compared with untreated neurons. A similar increase was observed in the cortex of R6/2 mice and HD patient post-mortem caudate tissue compared with controls. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation and reporter assays, we demonstrate that FOXO3a regulates its own transcription by binding to the conserved response element in Foxo3a promoter. Altogether, the findings of this study suggest that FOXO3a levels are increased in HD cells as a result of overactive positive feedback loop.

The NAD-synthesizing enzyme nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase 2 (NMNAT2) is a critical survival factor for axons and its constant supply from neuronal cell bodies into axons is required for axon survival in primary culture neurites and axon extension in vivo. Recently, we showed that palmitoylation is necessary to target NMNAT2 to post-Golgi vesicles, thereby influencing its protein turnover and axon protective capacity. Here we find that NMNAT2 is a substrate for cytosolic thioesterases APT1 and APT2 and that palmitoylation/depalmitoylation dynamics are on a time scale similar to its short half-life. Interestingly, however, depalmitoylation does not release NMNAT2 from membranes. The mechanism of palmitoylation-independent membrane attachment appears to be mediated by the same minimal domain required for palmitoylation itself. Furthermore, we identify several zDHHC palmitoyltransferases that influence NMNAT2 palmitoylation and subcellular localization, among which a role for zDHHC17 (HIP14) in neuronal NMNAT2 palmitoylation is best supported by our data. These findings shed light on the enzymatic regulation of NMNAT2 palmitoylation and highlight individual thioesterases and palmitoyltransferases as potential targets to modulate NMNAT2-dependent axon survival.

The B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) family of proteins regulates the activation of apoptosis through the mitochondria pathway. Pro- and anti-apoptotic members of this family keep each other in check until the correct time to commit to apoptosis. The point of no return for this commitment is the permeabilization of the outer mitochondrial membrane. Translocation of the pro-apoptotic member, Bax, from the cytosol to the mitochondria is the molecular signature of this event. We employed a novel method to reliably detect Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) between pairs of fluorophores to identify intra-molecular conformational changes and inter-molecular contacts in Bax as this translocation occurs in live cells. In the cytosol, our FRET measurement indicated that the C-terminal helix is exposed instead of tucked away in the core of the protein. In addition fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) showed that cytosolic Bax diffuses much slower than expected, suggesting possible complex formation or transient membrane interaction. Cross-linking the C-terminal helix (α9) to helix α4 reduced the potential of those interactions to occur. After translocation, our FRET measurements showed that Bax molecules form homo-oligomers in the mitochondria through two distinct interfaces involving the BH3 domain (helix α2) and the C-terminal helix. These findings have implications for possible contacts with other Bcl-2 proteins necessary for the regulation of apoptosis.

Histone ubiquitination at DNA double strand breaks facilitates the recruitment of downstream repair proteins; however, how the ubiquitination is dynamically regulated during repair and terminated after repair is not well understood. Here we report that the histone H2A deubiquitinase USP16 interacts with HERC2, fine-tunes the ubiquitin signal during repair, and importantly, is required for terminating the ubiquitination signal after repair. HERC2 interacts with the coiled-coil domain of USP16 through its C-terminal HECT domain. HERC2 knockdown affects the levels of ubiquitinated H2A through the action of USP16. In response to DNA damage, USP16 levels increase, and this increase is dependent on HERC2. Increased USP16 serves as a negative regulator for DNA damage-induced ubiquitin foci formation and affects downstream factor recruitment and DNA damage response. The functional significance of USP16 is further manifested in human Down syndrome patient cells, which contain three copies of USP16 genes and have altered cellular response to DNA damage. Finally, we demonstrated that USP16 could deubiquitinate both H2A Lys-119 and H2A Lys-15 ubiquitination in vitro. Therefore, this study identifies USP16 as a critical regulator of DNA damage response and H2A Lys-15 ubiquitination as a potential target of USP16.

Cholesterol-loaded foam cell macrophages are prominent in atherosclerotic lesions and play complex roles in both inflammatory signaling and lipid metabolism, which are underpinned by large scale reprogramming of gene expression. We performed a microarray study of primary human macrophages that showed that transcription of the sphingomyelin phosphodiesterase acid-like 3A (SMPDL3A) gene is up-regulated after cholesterol loading. SMPDL3A protein expression in and secretion from primary macrophages are stimulated by cholesterol loading, liver X receptor ligands, and cyclic AMP, and N-glycosylated SMPDL3A protein is detectable in circulating blood. We demonstrate for the first time that SMPDL3A is a functional phosphodiesterase with an acidic pH optimum. We provide evidence that SMPDL3A is not an acid sphingomyelinase but unexpectedly is active against nucleotide diphosphate and triphosphate substrates at acidic and neutral pH. SMPDL3A is a major source of nucleotide phosphodiesterase activity secreted by liver X receptor-stimulated human macrophages. Extracellular nucleotides such as ATP may activate pro-inflammatory responses in immune cells. Increased expression and secretion of SMPDL3A by cholesterol-loaded macrophage foam cells in lesions may decrease local concentrations of pro-inflammatory nucleotides and potentially represent a novel anti-inflammatory axis linking lipid metabolism with purinergic signaling in atherosclerosis.

To regenerate damaged axons, neurons must express a cassette of regeneration-associated genes (RAGs) that increases intrinsic growth capacity and confers resistance to extrinsic inhibitory cues. Here we show that dibutyrl-cAMP or forskolin combined with constitutive-active CREB are superior to either agent alone in driving neurite growth on permissive and inhibitory substrates. Of the RAGs examined, only arginase 1 (Arg1) expression correlated with the increased neurite growth induced by the cAMP/CREB combination, both of which were AP1-dependent. This suggests that cAMP-induced AP1 activity is necessary and interacts with CREB to drive expression of RAGs relevant for regeneration and demonstrates that combining a small molecule (cAMP) with an activated transcription factor (CREB) stimulates the gene expression necessary to enhance axonal regeneration.

Lysosome rupture triggers NLRP3 inflammasome activation in macrophages. However, the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Here we showed that the TAK1-JNK pathway, a MAPK signaling pathway, is activated through lysosome rupture and that this activation is necessary for the complete activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome through the oligomerization of an adapter protein, apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC). We also revealed that the activation of the TAK1-JNK pathway is sustained through Ca2+ ions and that calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase type II functions upstream of the TAK1-JNK pathway and specifically regulates lysosome rupture-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation. These data suggest a novel role for the TAK1-JNK pathway as a critical regulator of NLRP3 inflammasome activation.

Pathogenic mutations in the LRRK2 gene can cause late-onset Parkinson disease. The most common mutation, G2019S, resides in the kinase domain and enhances activity. LRRK2 possesses the unique property of cis-autophosphorylation of its own GTPase domain. Because high-resolution structures of the human LRRK2 kinase domain are not available, we used novel high-throughput assays that measured both cis-autophosphorylation and trans-peptide phosphorylation to probe the ATP-binding pocket. We disclose hundreds of commercially available activity-selective LRRK2 kinase inhibitors. Some compounds inhibit cis-autophosphorylation more strongly than trans-peptide phosphorylation, and other compounds inhibit G2019S-LRRK2 more strongly than WT-LRRK2. Through exploitation of structure-activity relationships revealed through high-throughput analyses, we identified a useful probe inhibitor, SRI-29132 (11). SRI-29132 is exquisitely selective for LRRK2 kinase activity and is effective in attenuating proinflammatory responses in macrophages and rescuing neurite retraction phenotypes in neurons. Furthermore, the compound demonstrates excellent potency, is highly blood-brain barrier-permeant, but suffers from rapid first-pass metabolism. Despite the observed selectivity of SRI-29132, docking models highlighted critical interactions with residues conserved in many protein kinases, implying a unique structural configuration for the LRRK2 ATP-binding pocket. Although the human LRRK2 kinase domain is unstable and insoluble, we demonstrate that the LRRK2 homolog from ameba can be mutated to approximate some aspects of the human LRRK2 ATP-binding pocket. Our results provide a rich resource for LRRK2 small molecule inhibitor development. More broadly, our results provide a precedent for the functional interrogation of ATP-binding pockets when traditional approaches to ascertain structure prove difficult.

The human cytochrome P450 17A1 (CYP17A1) enzyme operates at a key juncture of human steroidogenesis, controlling the levels of mineralocorticoids influencing blood pressure, glucocorticoids involved in immune and stress responses, and androgens and estrogens involved in development and homeostasis of reproductive tissues. Understanding CYP17A1 multifunctional biochemistry is thus integral to treating prostate and breast cancer, subfertility, blood pressure, and other diseases. CYP17A1 structures with all four physiologically relevant steroid substrates suggest answers to four fundamental aspects of CYP17A1 function. First, all substrates bind in a similar overall orientation, rising ∼60° with respect to the heme. Second, both hydroxylase substrates pregnenolone and progesterone hydrogen bond to Asn202 in orientations consistent with production of 17α-hydroxy major metabolites, but functional and structural evidence for an A105L mutation suggests that a minor conformation may yield the minor 16α-hydroxyprogesterone metabolite. Third, substrate specificity of the subsequent 17,20-lyase reaction may be explained by variation in substrate height above the heme. Although 17α-hydroxyprogesterone is only observed farther from the catalytic iron, 17α-hydroxypregnenolone is also observed closer to the heme. In conjunction with spectroscopic evidence, this suggests that only 17α-hydroxypregnenolone approaches and interacts with the proximal oxygen of the catalytic iron-peroxy intermediate, yielding efficient production of dehydroepiandrosterone as the key intermediate in human testosterone and estrogen synthesis. Fourth, differential positioning of 17α-hydroxypregnenolone offers a mechanism whereby allosteric binding of cytochrome b5 might selectively enhance the lyase reaction. In aggregate, these structures provide a structural basis for understanding multiple key reactions at the heart of human steroidogenesis.

The molecular chaperone ClpB/Hsp104, a member of the AAA+ superfamily (ATPases associated with various cellular activities), rescues proteins from the aggregated state in collaboration with the DnaK/Hsp70 chaperone system. ClpB/Hsp104 forms a hexameric, ring-shaped complex that functions as a tightly regulated, ATP-powered molecular disaggregation machine. Highly conserved and essential arginine residues, often called arginine fingers, are located at the subunit interfaces of the complex, which also harbor the catalytic sites. Several AAA+ proteins, including ClpB/Hsp104, possess a pair of such trans-acting arginines in the N-terminal nucleotide binding domain (NBD1), both of which were shown to be crucial for oligomerization and ATPase activity. Here, we present a mechanistic study elucidating the role of this conserved arginine pair. First, we found that the arginines couple nucleotide binding to oligomerization of NBD1, which is essential for the activity. Next, we designed a set of covalently linked, dimeric ClpB NBD1 variants, carrying single subunits deficient in either ATP binding or hydrolysis, to study allosteric regulation and intersubunit communication. Using this well defined environment of site-specifically modified, cross-linked AAA+ domains, we found that the conserved arginine pair mediates the cooperativity of ATP binding and hydrolysis in an allosteric fashion.

Rho GTPases are frequent targets of virulence factors as they are keystone signaling molecules. Herein, we demonstrate that AMPylation of Rho GTPases by VopS is a multifaceted virulence mechanism that counters several host immunity strategies. Activation of NFκB, Erk, and JNK kinase signaling pathways were inhibited in a VopS-dependent manner during infection with Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Phosphorylation and degradation of IKBα were inhibited in the presence of VopS as was nuclear translocation of the NFκB subunit p65. AMPylation also prevented the generation of superoxide by the phagocytic NADPH oxidase complex, potentially by inhibiting the interaction of Rac and p67. Furthermore, the interaction of GTPases with the E3 ubiquitin ligases cIAP1 and XIAP was hindered, leading to decreased degradation of Rac and RhoA during infection. Finally, we screened for novel Rac1 interactions using a nucleic acid programmable protein array and discovered that Rac1 binds to the protein C1QA, a protein known to promote immune signaling in the cytosol. Interestingly, this interaction was disrupted by AMPylation. We conclude that AMPylation of Rho Family GTPases by VopS results in diverse inhibitory consequences during infection beyond the most obvious phenotype, the collapse of the actin cytoskeleton.

Gluconeogenesis is an active pathway in Leishmania amastigotes and is essential for their survival within the mammalian cells. However, our knowledge about this pathway in trypanosomatids is very limited. We investigated the role of glycerol kinase (GK), phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK), and pyruvate phosphate dikinase (PPDK) in gluconeogenesis by generating the respective Leishmania mexicana Δgk, Δpepck, and Δppdk null mutants. Our results demonstrated that indeed GK, PEPCK, and PPDK are key players in the gluconeogenesis pathway in Leishmania, although stage-specific differences in their contribution to this pathway were found. GK participates in the entry of glycerol in promastigotes and amastigotes; PEPCK participates in the entry of aspartate in promastigotes, and PPDK is involved in the entry of alanine in amastigotes. Furthermore, the majority of alanine enters into the pathway via decarboxylation of pyruvate in promastigotes, whereas pathway redundancy is suggested for the entry of aspartate in amastigotes. Interestingly, we also found that l-lactate, an abundant glucogenic precursor in mammals, was used by Leishmania amastigotes to synthesize mannogen, entering the pathway through PPDK. On the basis of these new results, we propose a revision in the current model of gluconeogenesis in Leishmania, emphasizing the differences between amastigotes and promastigotes. This work underlines the importance of studying the trypanosomatid intracellular life cycle stages to gain a better understanding of the pathologies caused in humans.

We previously reported that the ClpXP ATP-dependent protease specifically recognizes and degrades the flagellar master transcriptional activator complex, FlhD4C2, to negatively control flagellar biogenesis. The flagellum-related protein, FliT, is also a negative regulator of flagellar regulon by inhibiting the binding of FlhD4C2 to the promoter DNA. We have found a novel pathway of FliT inhibition of FlhD4C2 activity connected to ClpXP proteolysis. An in vitro degradation assay using purified proteins shows that FliT selectively increases ClpXP proteolysis of the FlhC subunit in the FlhD4C2 complex. FliT behaves specifically to ClpXP-dependent proteolysis of FlhC. An in vitro interaction assay detects the ternary complex of FliT-FlhD4C2-ClpX. FliT promotes the affinity of ClpX against FlhD4C2 complex, whereas FliT does not directly interact with ClpX. Thus, FliT interacts with the FlhC in FlhD4C2 complex and increases the presentation of the FlhC recognition region to ClpX. The DNA-bound form of FlhD4C2 complex is resistant to ClpXP proteolysis. We suggest that the role of FliT in negatively controlling the flagellar gene expression involves increasing free molecules of FlhD4C2 sensitive to ClpXP proteolysis by inhibiting the binding to the promoter DNA as well as enhancing the selective proteolysis of FlhC subunit by ClpXP.

The phosphotransfer protein IIAGlc of the bacterial phosphoenolpyruvate:carbohydrate phosphotransferase system plays a key role in the regulation of carbohydrate metabolism. Melibiose permease (MelB) is one among several permeases subject to IIAGlc regulation. The regulatory mechanisms are poorly understood; in addition, thermodynamic features of IIAGlc binding to other proteins are also unknown. Applying isothermal titration calorimetry and amine-specific cross-linking, we show that IIAGlc directly binds to MelB of Salmonella typhimurium (MelBSt) and Escherichia coli MelB (MelBEc) at a stoichiometry of unity in the absence or presence of melibiose. The dissociation constant values are 3–10 μm for MelBSt and 25 μm for MelBEc. All of the binding is solely driven by favorable enthalpy forces. IIAGlc binding to MelBSt in the absence or presence of melibiose yields a large negative heat capacity change; in addition, the conformational entropy is constrained upon the binding. We further found that the IIAGlc-bound MelBSt exhibits a decreased binding affinity for melibiose or nitrophenyl-α-galactoside. It is believed that sugar binding to the permease is involved in an induced fit mechanism, and the transport process requires conformational cycling between different states. Thus, the thermodynamic data are consistent with the interpretation that IIAGlc inhibits the induced fit process and restricts the conformational dynamics of MelBSt.

The p53-mediated responses to DNA damage and the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway are each recurrently dysregulated in many types of human cancer. Here we describe PTCH53, a p53 target gene that is homologous to the tumor suppressor gene PTCH1 and can function as a repressor of Hh pathway activation. PTCH53 (previously designated PTCHD4) was highly responsive to p53 in vitro and was among a small number of genes that were consistently expressed at reduced levels in diverse TP53 mutant cell lines and human tumors. Increased expression of PTCH53 inhibited canonical Hh signaling by the G protein-coupled receptor SMO. PTCH53 thus delineates a novel, inducible pathway by which p53 can repress tumorigenic Hh signals.

The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a bacterial nanomachine for the transport of effector molecules into prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. It involves the assembly of a tubular structure composed of TssB and TssC that is similar to the tail sheath of bacteriophages. The sheath contracts to provide the energy needed for effector delivery. The AAA+ ATPase ClpV disassembles the contracted sheath, which resets the systems for reassembly of an extended sheath that is ready to fire again. This mechanism is crucial for T6SS function. In Vibrio cholerae, ClpV binds the N terminus of TssC within a hydrophobic groove. In this study, we resolved the crystal structure of the N-terminal domain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa ClpV1 and observed structural alterations in the hydrophobic groove. The modification in the ClpV1 groove is matched by a change in the N terminus of TssC, suggesting the existence of distinct T6SS classes. An accessory T6SS component, TagJ/HsiE, exists predominantly in one of the classes. Using bacterial two-hybrid approaches, we showed that the P. aeruginosa homolog HsiE1 interacts strongly with ClpV1. We then resolved the crystal structure of HsiE1 in complex with the N terminus of HsiB1, a TssB homolog and component of the contractile sheath. Phylogenetic analysis confirmed that these differences distinguish T6SS classes that resulted from a functional co-evolution between TssB, TssC, TagJ/HsiE, and ClpV. The interaction of TagJ/HsiE with the sheath as well as with ClpV suggests an alternative mode of disassembly in which HsiE recruits the ATPase to the sheath.

CGI-58 is a lipid droplet-associated protein that, when mutated, causes Chanarin-Dorfman syndrome in humans, which is characterized by excessive storage of triglyceride in various tissues. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the defect remain elusive. CGI-58 was previously reported to catalyze the resynthesis of phosphatidic acid as a lysophosphatidic acid acyltransferase. In addition to triglyceride, phosphatidic acid is also used a substrate for the synthesis of various mitochondrial phospholipids. In this report, we investigated the propensity of CGI-58 in the remodeling of various phospholipids. We found that the recombinant CGI-58 overexpressed in mammalian cells or purified from Sf9 insect cells catalyzed efficiently the reacylation of lysophosphatidylglycerol to phosphatidylglycerol (PG), which requires acyl-CoA as the acyl donor. In contrast, the recombinant CGI-58 was devoid of acyltransferase activity toward other lysophospholipids. Accordingly, overexpression and knockdown of CGI-58 adversely affected the endogenous PG level in C2C12 cells. PG is a substrate for the synthesis of cardiolipin, which is required for mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation and mitophagy. Consequently, overexpression and knockdown of CGI-58 adversely affected autophagy and mitophagy in C2C12 cells. In support for a key role of CGI-58 in mitophagy, overexpression of CGI-58 significantly stimulated mitochondrial fission and translocation of PINK1 to mitochondria, key steps involved in mitophagy. Furthermore, overexpression of CGI-58 promoted mitophagic initiation through activation of 5′-AMP-activated protein kinase and inhibition of mTORC1 mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 signaling, the positive and negative regulators of autophagy, respectively. Together, these findings identified novel molecular mechanisms by which CGI-58 regulates lipid homeostasis, because defective autophagy is implicated in dyslipidemia and fatty liver diseases.

Disruption of endothelial cell-cell contact is a key event in many cardiovascular diseases and a characteristic of pathologically activated vascular endothelium. The CCM (cerebral cavernous malformation) family of proteins (KRIT1 (Krev-interaction trapped 1), PDCD10, and CCM2) are critical regulators of endothelial cell-cell contact and vascular homeostasis. Here we show novel regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling in KRIT1-depleted endothelial cells. Loss of KRIT1 and PDCD10, but not CCM2, increases nuclear β-catenin signaling and up-regulates VEGF-A protein expression. In KRIT1-depleted cells, increased VEGF-A levels led to increased VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) activation and subsequent alteration of cytoskeletal organization, migration, and barrier function and to in vivo endothelial permeability in KRIT1-deficient animals. VEGFR2 activation also increases β-catenin phosphorylation but is only partially responsible for KRIT1 depletion-dependent disruption of cell-cell contacts. Thus, VEGF signaling contributes to modifying endothelial function in KRIT1-deficient cells and microvessel permeability in Krit1+/− mice; however, VEGF signaling is likely not the only contributor to disrupted endothelial cell-cell contacts in the absence of KRIT1.