Posts Tagged ‘Gene Regulation’

Nanosensors for Protein Recognition and Gene Proteome Interaction

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator



Synthetic Antibody Detects Proteins

Research could lead to nanosensors that recognize fibrinogen, insulin, or other biomarkers

Using carbon nanotubes, MIT chemical engineers have devised a new method for detecting proteins, including fibrinogen, one of the coagulation factors critical to the blood-clotting cascade.

This approach, if developed into an implantable sensor, could be useful for monitoring patients who are taking blood thinners, allowing doctors to make sure the drugs aren’t interfering too much with blood clotting.

The new method is the first to create synthetic recognition sites (similar to natural antibodies) for proteins and to couple them directly to a powerful nanosensor such as a carbon nanotube. The researchers have also made significant progress on a similar recognition site for insulin, which could enable better monitoring of patients with diabetes. It may also be possible to use this approach to detect proteins associated with cancer or heart disease, says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT.

A targeted search

The new sensor is the latest example of a method developed in Strano’s lab, known asCorona Phase Molecular Recognition (CoPhMoRe).

This technique takes advantage of the interactions between a given polymer and a nanoparticle surface such as that of a fluorescent single-walled carbon nanotube, when the polymer is wrapped around the nanotube.

Certain regions of the polymers latch onto the nanoparticle surface like anchors, while other regions extend outwards into their environment. This outward-facing region, also known as the adsorbed phase or corona, has a 3-D structure that depends on the composition of the polymer.

CoPhMoRe works when a specific polymer adsorbs to the nanoparticle surface and creates a corona that recognizes the target molecule. These interactions are very specific, just like the binding between an antibody and its target. Binding of the target alters the carbon nanotubes’ natural fluorescence, allowing the researchers to measure how much of the target molecule is present.

Strano’s lab has previously used this approach to find recognition sites and develop nansensors for estradiol and riboflavin, among other molecules. The new paper represents their first attempt to identify corona phases that can detect proteins, which are larger, more complex, and more fragile than the molecules identified by their previous sensors.

For this study, Bisker began by screening carbon nanotubes wrapped in 20 different polymers including DNA, RNA, and polyethylene glycol (PEG), a polymer often added to drugs to increase their longevity in the bloodstream.

On their own, none of the polymers had any affinity for the 14 proteins tested, all taken from human blood. However, when the researchers tested polymer-wrapped nanotubes against the same proteins, they turned up a match between one of the modified nanotubes and fibrinogen.

“A chemist or a biologist would not be able to predict ahead of time that there should be any kind of affinity between fibrinogen and this corona phase,” Strano says. “It really is a new kind of molecular recognition.”

Fibrinogen, one of the most abundant proteins in human blood, is part of the blood-clotting cascade. When a blood vessel is damaged, an enzyme called thrombin converts fibrinogen into fibrin, a stringy protein that forms clots to seal the wound.

A sensor for fibrinogen could help doctors determine if patients who are taking blood thinners still have enough clotting capability to protect them from injury, and could allow doctors to calculate more finely tuned dosages. It could also be used to test patients’ blood clotting before they go into surgery, or to monitor wound healing, Bisker says.

Synthetic antibodies

The researchers believe their synthetic molecular recognition agents are an improvement over existing natural systems based on antibodies or DNA sequences known as aptamers, which are more fragile and tend to degrade over time.

“One of the advantages of this is that it’s a completely synthetic system that can have a much longer lifetime within the body,” Bisker says.

In 2013, researchers in Strano’s lab demonstrated that carbon nanotube sensors can remain active in mice for more than a year after being embedded in a polymer gel and surgically implanted under the skin.

In addition to insulin, the researchers are also interested in detecting troponin, a protein that is released by dying heart cells, or detecting proteins associated with cancer, which would be useful for monitoring the success of chemotherapy. These and other protein sensors could become critical components of devices that deliver drugs in response to a sign of illness.

“By measuring therapeutic markers in the human body in real time, we can enable drug delivery systems that are much smarter, and release drugs in precise quantities,” Strano says. “However, measurement of those biomarkers is the first step.”


New Device Uses Carbon Nanotubes to Snag Molecules
Nanotube “forest” in a microfluidic channel may help detect rare proteins and viruses.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Nanotube “forest” in a microfluidic channel may help detect rare proteins and viruses.

Engineers at MIT have devised a new technique for trapping hard-to-detect molecules, using forests of carbon nanotubes.

The team modified a simple microfluidic channel with an array of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes — rolled lattices of carbon atoms that resemble tiny tubes of chicken wire. The researchers had previously devised a method for standing carbon nanotubes on their ends, like trees in a forest. With this method, they created a three-dimensional array of permeable carbon nanotubes within a microfluidic device, through which fluid can flow.

Now the researchers have given the nanotube array the ability to trap certain particles. To do this, the team coated the array, layer by layer, with polymers of alternating electric charge.

“You can think of each nanotube in the forest as being concentrically coated with different layers of polymer,” says Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. “If you drew it in cross-section, it would be like rings on a tree.”

Depending on the number of layers deposited, the researchers can create thicker or thinner nanotubes and thereby tailor the porosity of the forest to capture larger or smaller particles of interest.

The nanotubes’ polymer coating may also be chemically manipulated to bind specific bioparticles flowing through the forest. To test this idea, the researchers applied an established technique to treat the surface of the nanotubes with antibodies that bind to prostate specific antigen (PSA), a common experimental target. The polymer-coated arrays captured 40 percent more antigens, compared with arrays lacking the polymer coating.

Wardle says the combination of carbon nanotubes and multilayer coatings may help finely tune microfluidic devices to capture extremely small and rare particles, such as certain viruses and proteins.

“There are smaller bioparticles that contain very rich amounts of information that we don’t currently have the ability to access in point-of-care [medical testing] devices like microfluidic chips,” says Wardle, who is a co-author on the paper. “Carbon nanotube arrays could actually be a platform that could target that size of bioparticle.”

The paper’s lead author is Allison Yost, a former graduate student who is currently an engineer at Accion Systems. Others on the paper include graduate student Setareh Shahsavari; postdoc Roberta Polak; School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Innovation Gareth McKinley; professor of materials science and engineering Michael Rubner, and Raymond A. And Helen E. St. Laurent Professor of Chemical Engineering Robert Cohen.

A porous forest

Carbon nanotubes have been a subject of intense scientific study, as they possess exceptional electrical, mechanical, and optical properties. While their use in microfluidics has not been well explored, Wardle says carbon nanotubes are an ideal platform because their properties may be manipulated to attract certain nanometer-sized molecules. Additionally, carbon nanotubes are 99 percent porous, meaning a nanotube is about 1 percent carbon and 99 percent air.

“Which is what you need,” Wardle says. “You need to flow quantities of fluid through this material to shed all the millions of particles you don’t want to find and grab the one you do want to find.”

What’s more, Wardle says, a three-dimensional forest of carbon nanotubes would provide much more surface area on which target molecules may interact, compared with the two-dimensional surfaces in conventional microfluidics.

“The capture efficiency would scale with surface area,” Wardle notes.

A versatile array

The team integrated a three-dimensional array of carbon nanotubes into a microfluidic device by using chemical vapor deposition and photolithography to grow and pattern carbon nanotubes onto silicon wafers. They then grouped the nanotubes into a cylinder-shaped forest, measuring about 50 micrometers tall and 1 millimeter wide, and centered the array within a 3 millimeter-wide, 7-millimeter long microfluidic channel.

The researchers coated the nanotubes in successive layers of alternately charged polymer solutions in order to create distinct, binding layers around each nanotube. To do so, they flowed each solution through the channel and found they were able to create a more uniform coating with a gap between the top of the nanotube forest and the roof of the channel. Such a gap allowed solutions to flow over, then down into the forest, coating each individual nanotube. In the absence of a gap, solutions simply flowed around the forest, coating only the outer nanotubes.

After coating the nanotube array in layers of polymer solution, the researchers demonstrated that the array could be primed to detect a given molecule, by treating it with antibodies that typically bind to prostate specific antigen (PSA). They pumped in a solution containing small amounts of PSA and found that the array captured the antigen effectively, throughout the forest, rather than just on the outer surface of a typical microfluidic element.

Wardle says that the nanotube array is extremely versatile, as the carbon nanotubes may be manipulated mechanically, electrically, and optically, while the polymer coatings may be chemically altered to capture a wide range of particles. He says an immediate target may be biomarkers called exosomes, which are less than 100 nanometers wide and can be important signals of a disease’s progression.

“Science is really picking up on how much information these particles contain, and they’re sort of everywhere, but really hard to find, even with large-scale equipment,” Wardle says. “This type of device actually has all the characteristics and functionality that would allow you to go after bioparticles like exosomes and things that really truly are nanometer scale.”

This research was funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation.


A Natural Light Switch

MIT scientists identify and map the protein behind a light-sensing mechanism.

MIT scientists, working with colleagues in Spain, have discovered and mapped a light-sensing protein that uses vitamin B12 to perform key functions, including gene regulation.

The result, derived from studying proteins from the bacterium Thermus thermophilus, involves at least two findings of broad interest. First, it expands our knowledge of the biological role of vitamin B12, which was already understood to help convert fat into energy, and to be involved in brain formation, but has now been identified as a key part of photoreceptor proteins — the structures that allow organisms to sense and respond to light.

Second, the research describes a new mode of gene regulation, in which the light-sensing proteins play a key role. In so doing, the scientists observe, the bacteria have repurposed existing protein structures that use vitamin B12, and put them to work in new ways.


“Nature borrowed not just the vitamin, but really the whole enzyme unit, and modified it … and made it a light sensor,” says Catherine Drennan, a professor of chemistry and biology at MIT


The paper describes the photoreceptors in three different states: in the dark, bound to DNA, and after being exposed to light.

“It’s wonderful that we’ve been able to get all the series of structures, to understand how it works at each stage,” Drennan says.

The paper has nine co-authors, including Drennan; graduate students Percival Yang-Ting Chen, Marco Jost, and Gyunghoon Kang of MIT; Jesus Fernandez-Zapata and S. Padmanabhan of the Institute of Physical Chemistry Rocasolano, in Madrid; and Monserrat Elias-Arnanz, Juan Manuel Ortiz-Guerreo, and Maria Carmen Polanco, of the University of Murcia, in Murcia, Spain.

The researchers used a combination of X-ray crystallography techniques and in-vitro analysis to study the bacteria. Drennan, who has studied enzymes that employ vitamin B12 since she was a graduate student, emphasizes that key elements of the research were performed by all the co-authors.

Jost performed crystallography to establish the shapes of the structures, while the Spanish researchers, Drennan notes, “did all of the control experiments to show that we were really thinking about this right,” among other things.


By studying the structures of the photoreceptor proteins in their three states, the scientists developed a more thorough understanding of the structures, and their functions, than they would have by viewing the proteins in just one state.

Microbes, like many other organisms, benefit from knowing whether they are in light or darkness. The photoreceptors bind to the DNA in the dark, and prevent activity pertaining to the genes of Thermus thermophilus. When light hits the microbes, the photoreceptor structures cleave and “fall apart,” as Drennan puts it, and the bacteria start producing carotenoids, which protect the organisms from negative effects of sunlight, such as DNA damage.

The research also shows that the exact manner in which the photoreceptors bind to the DNA is novel. The structures contain tetramers, four subunits of the protein, of which exactly three are bound to the genetic material — something Drennan says surprised her.

“That’s the best part about science,” Drennan says. “You see something novel, then you think it’s not really going to be that novel, but you do the experiments [and it is].”

Other scientists say the findings are significant. “It’s a very exciting development,” says Rowena Matthews, a professor emerita of biological chemistry at the University of Michigan, who has read the paper. Of the newly discovered use of vitamin B12 and a derivative of it, adenosylcobalamin, Matthews adds, “There was very limited knowledge of its versatility.”

Drennan adds that in the long run, the finding could have practical applications, such as the engineering of light-directed control of DNA transcription, or the development of controlled interactions between proteins.

“I would be very interested in … thinking about whether there could be practical applications of this,” Drennan says.


HIV Protein Manipulates Hundreds of Human Genes

Findings search for new or improved treatments for patients with AIDS.

UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have deciphered how a small protein made by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS manipulates human genes to further its deadly agenda.

The findings, published in the online journal eLife, could aid in the search for new or improved treatments for patients with AIDS, or to the development of preventive strategies.

“We have identified the molecular mechanisms by which the Tat protein made by HIV interacts with the host cell to activate or repress several hundred human genes,” said Dr. Iván D’Orso, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study. “The findings clearly suggest that blocking Tat activity may be of therapeutic value to HIV patients.”

It has long been known that HIV causes AIDS by hijacking the body’s immune cells, transforming them into HIV factories and killing other immune cells that normally fight disease. HIV also hides in cells and continues to undermine the host’s immune system despite antiretroviral therapy that has improved the outlook of those with AIDS.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012, estimated 1.2 million Americans were living with HIV, including 156,300 whose infections had not been diagnosed. About 50,000 people in the U.S. are newly infected with HIV annually, the CDC projects. In 2013, the CDC estimated that over 26,000 Americans had the advanced form of HIV infection, AIDS.

Like all retroviruses, HIV has very few genes of its own and must take over the host’s cellular machinery in order to propagate and spread throughout the body. Although the broad aspects of that cellular hijacking were known, the nuances remain to be explored, Dr. D’Orso said.

“We observed that HIV methodically and precisely manipulates the host’s genes and cellular machinery. We also observed that HIV rewires cellular defensive pathways to benefit survival of the virus,” he added.

The study provides insights into HIV’s ability to survive despite antiretroviral therapy, findings that could lead to new therapeutic targets or ways to make current therapies more effective, he said.

“Our study indicates that this small viral protein, Tat, directly binds to about 400 human genes to generate an environment in which HIV can thrive. Then, this protein precisely turns off the body’s immune defense. It is striking that such a small viral protein has such a large impact,” Dr. D’Orso said. “The human genes and pathways that Tat manipulates correlate well with symptoms observed in these patients, such as immune system hyperactivation, then weakening, and accelerated aging,” Dr. D’Orso said, describing the situation in which HIV infection leads to AIDS.

Italy’s National Institute of Health in Rome recently completed a phase II clinical trial of an experimental vaccine that targets the Tat protein. That trial, which followed 87 HIV-positive patients for up to three years, reported that the vaccine was well-tolerated without significant side effects. However, it will take several years to determine if the vaccine works, Dr. D’Orso said.

Although someone can have HIV for years without showing symptoms, AIDS occurs when HIV blocks the body’s ability to fight off illness. The person then becomes overrun by the opportunistic infections and specific cancers that are hallmarks of AIDS.


New Light Shed on Genetic Regulation

A team of scientists has uncovered greater intricacy in protein signaling than was previously understood, shedding new light on the nature of genetic production.

Christine Vogel, an assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Biology and one of the study’s senior authors, explains that “to make a protein, we need to make a messenger RNA molecule from the gene encoded in the DNA, and then, in a second process, make proteins from these RNA molecules. Both processes are highly regulated and coupled.”

This coupling is similar to the coupling between a moving escalator and a person walking on it at the same time.

The research takes a closer look at how the two coupled processes change in the cell responding to an outside stimulus.

“Until recently, it has been very difficult to study these systems and researchers have thought that the movement of the escalator is most important during the cellular response,” Vogel explains. “We now show that is not necessarily the case, and under some circumstances, the person’s walking determines the overall outcome.”

In biology, this means that both of the processes—to make RNAs and proteins—play important roles, but with different patterns.

In their study, the scientists, who also included researchers from National University Singapore and Berlin’s Max Delbruck Center, took a closer look at how the two processes exactly respond over time.

Their results showed notable distinctions between DNA and mRNA in the nature of their signaling. Notably, the process of making RNA from DNA was pulse-like—a brief messaging over the studied period that returned to the normal levels by the end of the measurements. By contrast, the process of making a protein from RNA was akin to an on/off switch: once started, levels remained constant for consistent periods before reverting back to long stretches of dormancy.

While the reasons for these differences in cell behavior remain unknown, the researchers believe the answer may lie in the nature of the two tasks.

“It is very costly for the cell to make proteins, but making RNA messages from DNA is a relatively low-energy and simple process, so it makes sense that we see frequent, or pulsating, signaling at this stage,” observes Vogel. “By contrast, creating proteins is an intricate undertaking, requiring a great deal of time and energy. This may be why, once you decided to stop production of proteins, you do not turn it back on that easily—and the other way around.”


Where Cancer Cells May Begin

Scientists use fruit fly genetics to understand how things could go wrong in cancer.

Cancer cells are normal cells that go awry by making bad developmental decisions during their lives. In a study involving the fruit fly equivalent of an oncogene implicated in many human leukemias, Northwestern University researchers have gained insight into how developing cells normally switch to a restricted, or specialized, state and how that process might go wrong in cancer.

The fruit fly’s eye is an intricate pattern of many different specialized cells, such as light-sensing neurons and cone cells. Because flies share with humans many of the same cancer-causing genes, scientists use the precisely made compound eye of Drosophila melanogaster (the common fruit fly) as a workhorse to study what goes wrong in human cancer.


A multidisciplinary team co-led by biologist Richard W. Carthew and engineer Luís A.N. Amaral studied normal cell behavior in the developing eye. The researchers were surprised to discover that the levels of an important protein called Yan start fluctuating wildly when the cell is switching from a more primitive, stem-like state to a more specialized state. If the levels don’t or can’t fluctuate, the cell doesn’t switch and move forward.

“This mad fluctuation, or noise, happens at the time of cell transition,” said Carthew, professor of molecular biosciences in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “For the first time, we see there is a brief time period as the developing cell goes from point A to point B. The noise is a state of ‘in between’ and is important for cells to switch to a more specialized state. This limbo might be where normal cells take a cancerous path.”

The researchers also found that a molecular signal received by a cell receptor called EGFR is important for turning the noise off. If that signal is not received, the cell remains in an uncontrolled state.

By pinpointing this noise and its “off” switch as important points in the normal process of cell differentiation, the Northwestern researchers provide targets for scientists studying how cells can go out of control and transform into cancer cells.

The “noisy” protein the Northwestern researchers studied is called Yan in the fly and Tel-1 in humans. (The protein is a transcription factor.) The Tel-1 protein instructs cells to turn into white blood cells; the gene that produces the protein, oncogene Tel-1, is frequently mutated in leukemia.

The EGFR protein that turns off the noise in flies is called Her-2 in humans. Her-2 is an oncogene that plays an important role in human breast cancer.

“On the surface, flies and humans are very different, but we share a remarkable amount of infrastructure,” said Carthew, a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. “We can use fruit fly genetics to understand how humans work and how things go wrong in cancer and other diseases.”

Fruit fly cells are small and closely packed together, making study of them challenging. Carthew and Amaral’s team of biologists, chemical and biological engineers, computer scientists and chemists together figured out how to identify and analyze thousands and thousands of individual cells in the flies’ eyes.

“In the past, people have built models of regulatory networks that control cell differentiation mostly by genetically perturbing one or two components of the network at a time and then compiling those results into models,” said Amaral, professor of chemical and biological engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering. “We instead measured the retina as it developed and found the unexpected behavior of the key regulatory factors Yan and EGFR.”

Nicolás Peláez, first author of the study and a Ph.D. candidate in interdisciplinary biological sciences working with Amaral and Carthew, built new tools to study this strange feature of noise in developing flies. His methods enabled the researchers to easily measure both the concentration of the Yan protein and its fluctuation (noise).

It takes 15 to 20 hours for a fruit fly cell to go from being an unrestricted cell to a restricted cell, Carthew said. Peláez determined the Yan protein is noisy, or fluctuating, for six to eight of those hours.

“Studying the dynamics of molecules regulating fly-eye patterning can inform us about human disease,” Peláez said. “Using model organisms such as fruit flies will help us understand quantitatively the basic biological principles governing differentiation in complex animals.”


Mechanism of Tumor Suppressing Gene Uncovered

The most commonly mutated gene in cancer,p53, works to prevent tumor formation by keeping mobile elements in check that otherwise lead to genomic instability, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found.

The p53 gene long has been known to suppress tumor formation, but the mechanisms behind this function – and why disabling the gene allows tumors to form – were not fully understood.

Findings from the study answer some of these questions and could one day lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating cancer, said the study’s senior author, Dr. John Abrams, Professor of Cell Biology at UT Southwestern.

The investigators found that normal p53 gene action restrains transposons, mobile genetic elements called retroelements that can make copies of themselves and move to different positions on chromosomes. But, they discovered, when p53 is disabled by mutation, dramatic eruptions of these mobile elements occur. The study revealed that in mice with cancer and in human samples of two types of cancer (Wilms’ tumors and colon tumors) disabled for p53, transposons became very active.

In a healthy state, certain mechanisms work to keep these retroelements quiet and inactive, explained Dr. Abrams. One of those mechanisms is p53 action. Conversely, when p53 is mutated, retroelements can erupt.

“If you take the gene away, transposons can wreak havoc throughout the genome by causing it to become highly dysregulated, which can lead to disease,” Dr. Abrams said. “Our findings help explain why cancer genomes are so much more fluid and destabilized than normal genomes. They also provide a novel framework for understanding how normal cells become tumors.”

Although much more research is needed, Dr. Abrams said, the potential clinical implications of the team’s findings are significant.

“Understanding how p53 prevents tumors raises the prospect of therapeutic interventions to correct cases in which p53 is disabled,” Dr. Abrams said. “If retroelements are at the heart of certain p53-driven cancers, finding ways to suppress them could potentially allow us to prevent those cancers or intervene to keep them from progressing.”

This understanding also could lead to advances in diagnosing some cancers through biomarkers related to p53 and transposon activity.

“One possibility is that perhaps blood or urine tests could detect dysregulated retroelements that could be indicative of certain types of cancer,” Dr. Abrams said.


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Summary of Proteomics

Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 


We have completed a series of discussions on proteomics, a scientific endeavor that is essentially 15 years old.   It is quite remarkable what has been accomplished in that time.  The interest is abetted by the understanding of the limitations of the genomic venture that has preceded it.  The thorough, yet incomplete knowledge of the genome, has led to the clarification of its limits.  It is the coding for all that lives, but all that lives has evolved to meet a demanding and changing environment with respect to

  1. availability of nutrients
  2. salinity
  3. temperature
  4. radiation exposure
  5. toxicities in the air, water, and food
  6. stresses – both internal and external

We have seen how both transcription and translation of the code results in a protein, lipoprotein, or other complex than the initial transcript that was modeled from tRNA. What you see in the DNA is not what you get in the functioning cell, organ, or organism.  There are comparabilities as well as significant differences between plants, prokaryotes, and eukaryotes.  There is extensive variation.  The variation goes beyond genomic expression, and includes the functioning cell, organ type, and species.

Here, I return to the introductory discussion.  Proteomics is a goal directed, sophisticated science that uses a combination of methods to find the answers to biological questions. Graves PR and Haystead TAJ.  Molecular Biologist’s Guide to Proteomics.
Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. Mar 2002; 66(1): 39–63.

Peptide mass tag searching

Peptide mass tag searching

Peptide mass tag searching. Shown is a schematic of how information from an unknown peptide (top) is matched to a peptide sequence in a database (bottom) for protein identification. The partial amino acid sequence or “tag” obtained by MS/MS is combined with the peptide mass (parent mass), the mass of the peptide at the start of the sequence (mass tag 1), and the mass of the peptide at the end of the sequence (mass tag 2). The specificity of the protease used (trypsin is shown) can also be included in the search.

ICAT method for measuring differential protein expression

ICAT method for measuring differential protein expression

The ICAT method for measuring differential protein expression. (A) Structure of the ICAT reagent. ICAT consists of a biotin affinity group, a linker region that can incorporate heavy (deuterium) or light (hydrogen) atoms, and a thiol-reactive end group for linkage to cysteines. (B) ICAT strategy. Proteins are harvested from two different cell states and labeled on cysteine residues with either the light or heavy form of the ICAT reagent. Following labeling, the two protein samples are mixed and digested with a protease such as trypsin. Peptides labeled with the ICAT reagent can be purified by virtue of the biotin tag by using avidin chromatography. Following purification, ICAT-labeled peptides can be analyzed by MS to quantitate the peak ratios and proteins can be identified by sequencing the peptides with MS/MS.

Strategies for determination of phosphorylation sites in proteins

Strategies for determination of phosphorylation sites in proteins

Strategies for determination of phosphorylation sites in proteins. Proteins phosphorylated in vitro or in vivo can be isolated by protein electrophoresis and analyzed by MS. (A) Identification of phosphopeptides by peptide mass fingerprinting. In this method, phosphopeptides are identified by comparing the mass spectrum of an untreated sample to that of a sample treated with phosphatase. In the phosphatase-treated sample, potential phosphopeptides are identified by a decrease in mass due to loss of a phosphate group (80 Da). (B) Phosphorylation sites can be identified by peptide sequencing using MS/MS. (C) Edman degradation can be used to monitor the release of inorganic 32P to provide information about phosphorylation sites in peptides.

protein mining strategy

protein mining strategy

Proteome-mining strategy. Proteins are isolated on affinity column arrays from a cell line, organ, or animal source and purified to remove nonspecific adherents. Then, compound libraries are passed over the array and the proteins eluted are analyzed by protein electrophoresis. Protein information obtained by MS or Edman degradation is then used to search DNA and protein databases. If a relevant target is identified, a sublibrary of compounds can be evaluated to refine the lead. From this method a protein target and a drug lead can be simultaneously identified.

Although the technology for the analysis of proteins is rapidly progressing, it is still not feasible to study proteins on a scale equivalent to that of the nucleic acids. Most of proteomics relies on methods, such as protein purification or PAGE, that are not high-throughput methods. Even performing MS can require considerable time in either data acquisition or analysis. Although hundreds of proteins can be analyzed quickly and in an automated fashion by a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer, the quality of data is sacrificed and many proteins cannot be identified. Much higher quality data can be obtained for protein identification by MS/MS, but this method requires considerable time in data interpretation. In our opinion, new computer algorithms are needed to allow more accurate interpretation of mass spectra without operator intervention. In addition, to access unannotated DNA databases across species, these algorithms should be error tolerant to allow for sequencing errors, polymorphisms, and conservative substitutions. New technologies will have to emerge before protein analysis on a large-scale (such as mapping the human proteome) becomes a reality.

Another major challenge for proteomics is the study of low-abundance proteins. In some eukaryotic cells, the amounts of the most abundant proteins can be 106-fold greater than those of the low-abundance proteins. Many important classes of proteins (that may be important drug targets) such as transcription factors, protein kinases, and regulatory proteins are low-copy proteins. These low-copy proteins will not be observed in the analysis of crude cell lysates without some purification. Therefore, new methods must be devised for subproteome isolation.

Tissue Proteomics for the Next Decade?  Towards a Molecular Dimension in Histology

R Longuespe´e, M Fle´ron, C Pottier, F Quesada-Calvo, Marie-Alice Meuwis, et al.
OMICS A Journal of Integrative Biology 2014; 18: 9.

The concept of tissues appeared more than 200 years ago, since textures and attendant differences were described within the whole organism components. Instrumental developments in optics and biochemistry subsequently paved the way to transition from classical to molecular histology in order to decipher the molecular contexts associated with physiological or pathological development or function of a tissue. In 1941, Coons and colleagues performed the first systematic integrated examination of classical histology and biochemistry when his team localized pneumonia antigens in infected tissue sections. Most recently, in the early 21st century, mass spectrometry (MS) has progressively become one of the most valuable tools to analyze biomolecular compounds. Currently, sampling methods, biochemical procedures, and MS instrumentations
allow scientists to perform ‘‘in depth’’ analysis of the protein content of any type of tissue of interest. This article reviews the salient issues in proteomics analysis of tissues. We first outline technical and analytical considerations for sampling and biochemical processing of tissues and subsequently the instrumental possibilities for proteomics analysis such as shotgun proteomics in an anatomical context. Specific attention concerns formalin fixed and paraffin embedded (FFPE) tissues that are potential ‘‘gold mines’’ for histopathological investigations. In all, the matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) MS imaging, which allows for differential mapping of hundreds of compounds on a tissue section, is currently the most striking evidence of linkage and transition between ‘‘classical’’ and ‘‘molecular’’ histology. Tissue proteomics represents a veritable field of research and investment activity for modern biomarker discovery and development for the next decade.

Progressively, tissue analyses evolved towards the description of the whole molecular content of a given sample. Currently, mass spectrometry (MS) is the most versatile
analytical tool for protein identification and has proven its great potential for biological and clinical applications. ‘‘Omics’’ fields, and especially proteomics, are of particular
interest since they allow the analysis of a biomolecular picture associated with a given physiological or pathological state. Biochemical techniques were then adapted for an optimal extraction of several biocompounds classes from tissues of different natures.

Laser capture microdissection (LCM) is used to select and isolate tissue areas of interest for further analysis. The developments of MS instrumentations have then definitively transformed the scientific scene, pushing back more and more detection and identification limits. Since a few decades, new approaches of analyses appeared, involving the use of tissue sections dropped on glass slides as starting material. Two types of analyses can then be applied on tissue sections: shotgun proteomics and the very promising MS imaging (MSI) using Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization (MALDI) sources. Also known as ‘‘molecular histology,’’ MSI is the most striking hyphen between histology and molecular analysis. In practice, this method allows visualization of the spatial distribution of proteins, peptides, drugs, or others analytes directly on tissue sections. This technique paved new ways of research, especially in the field of histopathology, since this approach appeared to be complementary to conventional histology.

Tissue processing workflows for molecular analyses

Tissue processing workflows for molecular analyses

Tissue processing workflows for molecular analyses. Tissues can either be processed in solution or directly on tissue sections. In solution, processing involves protein
extraction from tissue pieces in order to perform 2D gel separation and identification of proteins, shotgun proteomics, or MALDI analyses. Extracts can also be obtained from
tissues area selection and protein extraction after laser micro dissection or on-tissue processing. Imaging techniques are dedicated to the morphological characterization or molecular mapping of tissue sections. Histology can either be conducted by hematoxylin/eosin staining or by molecular mapping using antibodies with IHC. Finally, mass spectrometry imaging allows the cartography of numerous compounds in a single analysis. This approach is a modern form of ‘‘molecular histology’’ as it grafts, with the use of mathematical calculations, a molecular dimension to classical histology. (AR, antigen retrieval; FFPE, formalin fixed and paraffin embedded; fr/fr, fresh frozen; IHC, immunohistochemistry; LCM, laser capture microdissection; MALDI, matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization; MSI, mass spectrometry imaging; PTM, post translational modification.)

Analysis of tissue proteomes has greatly evolved with separation methods and mass spectrometry instrumentation. The choice of the workflow strongly depends on whether a bottom-up or a top-down analysis has to be performed downstream. In-gel or off-gel proteomics principally differentiates proteomic workflows. The almost simultaneous discoveries of the MS ionization sources (Nobel Prize awarded) MALDI (Hillenkamp and Karas, 1990; Tanaka et al., 1988) and electrospray ionization (ESI) (Fenn et al., 1989) have paved the way for analysis of intact proteins and peptides. Separation methods such as two-dimension electrophoresis (2DE) (Fey and Larsen, 2001) and nanoscale reverse phase liquid chromatography (nanoRP-LC) (Deterding et al., 1991) lead to efficient preparation of proteins for respectively topdown and bottom-up strategies. A huge panel of developments was then achieved mostly for LC-MS based proteomics in order to improve ion fragmentation approaches and peptide
identification throughput relying on database interrogation. Moreover, approaches were developed to analyze post translational modifications (PTM) such as phosphorylations (Ficarro et al., 2002; Oda et al., 2001; Zhou et al., 2001) or glycosylations (Zhang et al., 2003), proposing as well different quantification procedures. Regarding instrumentation, the most cutting edge improvements are the gain of mass accuracy for an optimal detection of the eluted peptides during LC-MS runs (Mann and Kelleher, 2008; Michalski et al., 2011) and the increase in scanning speed, for example with the use of Orbitrap analyzers (Hardman and Makarov, 2003; Makarov et al., 2006; Makarov et al., 2009; Olsen et al., 2009). Ion transfer efficiency was also drastically improved with the conception of ion funnels that homogenize the ion transmission
capacities through m/z ranges (Kelly et al., 2010; Kim et al., 2000; Page et al., 2006; Shaffer et al., 1998) or by performing electrospray ionization within low vacuum (Marginean et al., 2010; Page et al., 2008; Tang et al., 2011). Beside collision induced dissociation (CID) that is proposed for many applications (Li et al., 2009; Wells and McLuckey, 2005), new fragmentation methods were investigated, such as higher-energy collisional dissociation (HCD) especially for phosphoproteomic
applications (Nagaraj et al., 2010), and electron transfer dissociation (ETD) and electron capture dissociation (ECD) that are suited for phospho- and glycoproteomics (An
et al., 2009; Boersema et al., 2009; Wiesner et al., 2008). Methods for data-independent MS2 analysis based on peptide fragmentation in given m/z windows without precursor selection neither information knowledge, also improves identification throughput (Panchaud et al., 2009; Venable et al., 2004), especially with the use of MS instruments with high resolution and high mass accuracy specifications (Panchaud et al., 2011). Gas fractionation methods such as ion mobility (IM) can also be used as a supplementary separation dimension which enable more efficient peptide identifications (Masselon et al., 2000; Shvartsburg et al., 2013; Shvartsburg et al., 2011).

Microdissection relies on a laser ablation principle. The tissue section is dropped on a plastic membrane covering a glass slide. The preparation is then placed into a microscope
equipped with a laser. A highly focused beam will then be guided by the user at the external limit of the area of interest. This area composed by the plastic membrane, and the tissue section will then be ejected from the glass slide and collected into a tube cap for further processing. This mode of microdissection is the most widely used due to its ease of handling and the large panels of devices proposed by constructors. Indeed, Leica microsystem proposed the Leica LMD system (Kolble, 2000), Molecular Machine and Industries, the MMI laser microdissection system Microcut, which was used in combination with IHC (Buckanovich et al., 2006), Applied Biosystems developed the Arcturus
microdissection System, and Carl Zeiss patented P.A.L.M. MicroBeam technology (Braakman et al., 2011; Espina et al., 2006a; Espina et al., 2006b; Liu et al., 2012; Micke
et al., 2005). LCM represents a very adequate link between classical histology and sampling methods for molecular analyses as it is a simple customized microscope. Indeed,
optical lenses of different magnification can be used and the method is compatible with classical IHC (Buckanovich et al., 2006). Only the laser and the tube holder need to be
added to the instrumentation.

After microdissection, the tissue pieces can be processed for analyses using different available MS devices and strategies. The simplest one consists in the direct analysis of the
protein profiles by MALDI-TOF-MS (MALDI-time of flight-MS). The microdissected tissues are dropped on a MALDI target and directly covered by the MALDI matrix (Palmer-Toy et al., 2000; Xu et al., 2002). This approach was already used in order to classify breast cancer tumor types (Sanders et al., 2008), identify intestinal neoplasia protein biomarkers (Xu et al., 2009), and to determine differential profiles in glomerulosclerosis (Xu et al., 2005).

Currently the most common proteomic approach for LCM tissue analysis is LC-MS/MS. Label free LC-MS approaches have been used to study several cancers like head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (Baker et al., 2005), esophageal cancer (Hatakeyama et al., 2006), dysplasic cervical cells (Gu et al., 2007), breast carcinoma tumors (Hill et al., 2011; Johann et al., 2009), tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cells (Umar et al., 2009), ER + / – breast cancer cells (Rezaul et al., 2010), Barretts esophagus (Stingl et al., 2011), and ovarian endometrioid cancer (Alkhas et al., 2011). Different isotope labeling methods have been used in order to compare proteins expression. ICAT was first used to investigate proteomes of hepatocellular carcinoma (Li et al., 2004; 2008). The O16/O18 isotopic labeling was then used for proteomic analysis of ductal carcinoma of the breast (Zang et al., 2004).

Currently, the lowest amount of collected cells for a relevant single analysis using fr/fr breast cancer tissues was 3000–4000 (Braakman et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2012; Umar et al., 2007). With a Q-Exactive (Thermo, Waltham) mass spectrometer coupled to LC, Braakman was able to identify up to 1800 proteins from 4000 cells. Processing
of FFPE microdissected tissues of limited sizes still remains an issue which is being addressed by our team.

Among direct tissue analyses modes, two categories of investigations can be done. MALDI profiling consists in the study of molecular localization of compounds and can be
combined with parallel shotgun proteomic methods. Imaging methods give less detailed molecular information, but is more focused on the accurate mapping of the detected compounds through tissue area. In 2007, a concept of direct tissue proteomics (DTP) was proposed for high-throughput examination of tissue microarray samples. However, contrary to the classical workflow, tissue section chemical treatment involved a first step of scrapping each FFPE tissue spot with a razor blade from the glass slide. The tissues were then transferred into a tube and processed with RIPA buffer and finally submitted to boiling as an AR step (Hwang et al., 2007). Afterward, several teams proved that it was possible to perform the AR directly on tissue sections. These applications were mainly dedicated to MALDI imaging analyses (Bonnel et al., 2011; Casadonte and Caprioli, 2011; Gustafsson et al., 2010). However, more recently, Longuespe´e used citric acid antigen retrieval (CAAR) before shotgun proteomics associated to global profiling proteomics (Longuespee et al., 2013).

MALDI imaging workflow

MALDI imaging workflow

MALDI imaging workflow. For MALDI imaging experiments, tissue sections are dropped on conductive glass slides. Sample preparations are then adapted depending on the nature of the tissue sample (FFPE or fr/fr). Then, matrix is uniformly deposited on the tissue section using dedicated devices. A laser beam subsequently irradiates the preparation following a given step length and a MALDI spectrum is acquired for each position. Using adapted software, the different detected ions are then mapped through the tissue section, in function of their differential intensities. The ‘‘molecular maps’’ are called images. (FFPE, formalin fixed and paraffin embedded; fr/fr, fresh frozen; MALDI, matrix assisted laser desorption ionization.)

Proteomics instrumentations, specific biochemical preparations, and sampling methods such as LCM altogether allow for the deep exploration and comparison of different proteomes between regions of interest in tissues with up to 104 detected proteins. MALDI MS imaging that allows for differential mapping of hundreds of compounds on a tissue section is currently the most striking illustration of association between ‘‘classical’’ and ‘‘molecular’’ histology.

Novel serum protein biomarker panel revealed by mass spectrometry and its prognostic value in breast cancer

L Chung, K Moore, L Phillips, FM Boyle, DJ Marsh and RC Baxter*  Breast Cancer Research 2014, 16:R63

Introduction: Serum profiling using proteomic techniques has great potential to detect biomarkers that might improve diagnosis and predict outcome for breast cancer patients (BC). This study used surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (SELDI-TOF) mass spectrometry (MS) to identify differentially expressed proteins in sera from BC and healthy volunteers (HV), with the goal of developing a new prognostic biomarker panel.
Methods: Training set serum samples from 99 BC and 51 HV subjects were applied to four adsorptive chip surfaces (anion-exchange, cation-exchange, hydrophobic, and metal affinity) and analyzed by time-of-flight MS. For validation, 100 independent BC serum samples and 70 HV samples were analyzed similarly. Cluster analysis of protein spectra was performed to identify protein patterns related to BC and HV groups. Univariate and multivariate statistical analyses were used to develop a protein panel to distinguish breast cancer sera from healthy sera, and its prognostic potential was evaluated.
Results: From 51 protein peaks that were significantly up- or downregulated in BC patients by univariate analysis, binary logistic regression yielded five protein peaks that together classified BC and HV with a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) area-under-the-curve value of 0.961. Validation on an independent patient cohort confirmed
the five-protein parameter (ROC value 0.939). The five-protein parameter showed positive association with large tumor size (P = 0.018) and lymph node involvement (P = 0.016). By matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) MS, immunoprecipitation and western blotting the proteins were identified as a fragment
of apolipoprotein H (ApoH), ApoCI, complement C3a, transthyretin, and ApoAI. Kaplan-Meier analysis on 181 subjects after median follow-up of >5 years demonstrated that the panel significantly predicted disease-free survival (P = 0.005), its efficacy apparently greater in women with estrogen receptor (ER)-negative tumors (n = 50, P = 0.003) compared to ER-positive (n = 131, P = 0.161), although the influence of ER status needs to be confirmed after longer follow-up.
Conclusions: Protein mass profiling by MS has revealed five serum proteins which, in combination, can distinguish between serum from women with breast cancer and healthy control subjects with high sensitivity and specificity. The five-protein panel significantly predicts recurrence-free survival in women with ER-negative tumors and may have value in the management of these patients.

Cellular prion protein is required for neuritogenesis: fine-tuning of multiple signaling pathways involved in focal adhesions and actin cytoskeleton dynamics

Aurélie Alleaume-Butaux, et al.   Cell Health and Cytoskeleton 2013:5 1–12

Neuritogenesis is a dynamic phenomenon associated with neuronal differentiation that allows a rather spherical neuronal stem cell to develop dendrites and axon, a prerequisite for the integration and transmission of signals. The acquisition of neuronal polarity occurs in three steps:

(1) neurite sprouting, which consists of the formation of buds emerging from the postmitotic neuronal soma;

(2) neurite outgrowth, which represents the conversion of buds into neurites, their elongation and evolution into axon or dendrites; and

(3) the stability and plasticity of neuronal polarity.

In neuronal stem cells, remodeling and activation of focal adhesions (FAs)

  • associated with deep modifications of the actin cytoskeleton is
  • a prerequisite for neurite sprouting and subsequent neurite outgrowth.

A multiple set of growth factors and interactors located in

  • the extracellular matrix and the plasma membrane orchestrate neuritogenesis
  • by acting on intracellular signaling effectors, notably small G proteins such as RhoA, Rac, and Cdc42,
  • which are involved in actin turnover and the dynamics of FAs.

The cellular prion protein (PrPC), a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored membrane protein

  • mainly known for its role in a group of fatal neurodegenerative diseases,
  • has emerged as a central player in neuritogenesis.

Here, we review the contribution of PrPC to neuronal polarization and

  • detail the current knowledge on the signaling pathways fine-tuned
  • by PrPC to promote neurite sprouting, outgrowth, and maintenance.

We emphasize that PrPC-dependent neurite sprouting is a process in which

  • PrPC governs the dynamics of FAs and the actin cytoskeleton via β1 integrin signaling.

The presence of PrPC is necessary to render neuronal stem cells

  • competent to respond to neuronal inducers and to develop neurites.

In differentiating neurons, PrPC exerts a facilitator role towards neurite elongation.

This function relies on the interaction of PrPC with a set of diverse partners such as

  1. elements of the extracellular matrix,
  2. plasma membrane receptors,
  3. adhesion molecules, and
  4. soluble factors that control actin cytoskeleton turnover
  • through Rho-GTPase signaling.

Once neurons have reached their terminal stage of differentiation and

  • acquired their polarized morphology,
  • PrPC also takes part in the maintenance of neurites.

By acting on tissue nonspecific alkaline phosphatase, or matrix metalloproteinase type 9,

  • PrPC stabilizes interactions between neurites and the extracellular matrix.

Fusion-pore expansion during syncytium formation is restricted by an actin network

Andrew Chen et al., Journal of Cell Science 121, 3619-3628.

Cell-cell fusion in animal development and in pathophysiology

  • involves expansion of nascent fusion pores formed by protein fusogens
  • to yield an open lumen of cell-size diameter.

Here we explored the enlargement of micron-scale pores in syncytium formation,

  • which was initiated by a well-characterized fusogen baculovirus gp64.

Radial expansion of a single or, more often, of multiple fusion pores

  • proceeds without loss of membrane material in the tight contact zone.

Pore growth requires cell metabolism and is

  • accompanied by a local disassembly of the actin cortex under the pores.

Effects of actin-modifying agents indicate that

  • the actin cortex slows down pore expansion.

We propose that the growth of the strongly bent fusion-pore rim

  1. is restricted by a dynamic resistance of the actin network and
  2. driven by membrane-bending proteins that are involved in
  3. the generation of highly curved intracellular membrane compartments.

Pak1 Is Required to Maintain Ventricular Ca2+ Homeostasis and Electrophysiological Stability Through SERCA2a Regulation in Mice

Yanwen Wang, et al.  Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2014;7:00-00.

Impaired sarcoplasmic reticular Ca2+ uptake resulting from

  • decreased sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase type 2a (SERCA2a) expression or activity
  • is a characteristic of heart failure with its associated ventricular arrhythmias.

Recent attempts at gene therapy of these conditions explored strategies

  • enhancing SERCA2a expression and the activity as novel approaches to heart failure management.

We here explore the role of Pak1 in maintaining ventricular Ca2+ homeostasis and electrophysiological stability

  • under both normal physiological and acute and chronic β-adrenergic stress conditions.

Methods and Results—Mice with a cardiomyocyte-specific Pak1 deletion (Pak1cko), but not controls (Pak1f/f), showed

  • high incidences of ventricular arrhythmias and electrophysiological instability
  • during either acute β-adrenergic or chronic β-adrenergic stress leading to hypertrophy,
  • induced by isoproterenol.

Isolated Pak1cko ventricular myocytes correspondingly showed

  • aberrant cellular Ca2+ homeostasis.

Pak1cko hearts showed an associated impairment of SERCA2a function and

  • downregulation of SERCA2a mRNA and protein expression.

Further explorations of the mechanisms underlying the altered transcriptional regulation

  • demonstrated that exposure to control Ad-shC2 virus infection
  • increased SERCA2a protein and mRNA levels after
  • phenylephrine stress in cultured neonatal rat cardiomyocytes.

This was abolished by the

  • Pak1-knockdown in Ad-shPak1–infected neonatal rat cardiomyocytes and
  • increased by constitutive overexpression of active Pak1 (Ad-CAPak1).

We then implicated activation of serum response factor, a transcriptional factor well known for

  • its vital role in the regulation of cardiogenesis genes in the Pak1-dependent regulation of SERCA2a.

Conclusions—These findings indicate that

Pak1 is required to maintain ventricular Ca2+ homeostasis and electrophysiological stability

  • and implicate Pak1 as a novel regulator of cardiac SERCA2a through
  • a transcriptional mechanism

fusion in animal development and in pathophysiology involves expansion of nascent fusion pores

  • formed by protein fusogens to yield an open lumen of cell-size diameter.

Here we explored the enlargement of micron-scale pores in syncytium formation,

  • which was initiated by a well-characterized fusogen baculovirus gp64.

Radial expansion of a single or, more often, of multiple fusion pores proceeds

  • without loss of membrane material in the tight contact zone.

Pore growth requires cell metabolism and is accompanied by

  • a local disassembly of the actin cortex under the pores.

Effects of actin-modifying agents indicate that the actin cortex slows down pore expansion.

We propose that the growth of the strongly bent fusion-pore rim is restricted

  • by a dynamic resistance of the actin network and driven by
  • membrane-bending proteins that are involved in the generation of
  • highly curved intracellular membrane compartments.

Role of forkhead box protein A3 in age-associated metabolic decline

Xinran Maa,1, Lingyan Xua,1, Oksana Gavrilovab, and Elisabetta Muellera,2
PNAS Sep 30, 2014 | 111 | 39 | 14289–14294

This paper reports that the transcription factor forkhead box protein A3 (Foxa3) is

  • directly involved in the development of age-associated obesity and insulin resistance.

Mice that lack the Foxa3 gene

  1. remodel their fat tissues,
  2. store less fat, and
  3. burn more energy as they age.

These mice also live significantly longer.

We show that Foxa3 suppresses a key metabolic cofactor, PGC1α,

  • which is involved in the gene programs that turn on energy expenditure in adipose tissues.

Overall, these findings suggest that Foxa3 contributes to the increased adiposity observed during aging,

  • and that it can be a possible target for the treatment of metabolic disorders.

Aging is associated with increased adiposity and diminished thermogenesis, but

  • the critical transcription factors influencing these metabolic changes late in life are poorly understood.

We recently demonstrated that the winged helix factor forkhead box protein A3 (Foxa3)

  • regulates the expansion of visceral adipose tissue in high-fat diet regimens; however,
  • whether Foxa3 also contributes to the increase in adiposity and the decrease in brown fat activity
  • observed during the normal aging process is currently unknown.

Here we report that during aging, levels of Foxa3 are significantly and selectively

  • up-regulated in brown and inguinal white fat depots, and that
  • midage Foxa3-null mice have increased white fat browning and thermogenic capacity,
  1. decreased adipose tissue expansion,
  2. improved insulin sensitivity, and
  3. increased longevity.

Foxa3 gain-of-function and loss-of-function studies in inguinal adipose depots demonstrated

  • a cell-autonomous function for Foxa3 in white fat tissue browning.

The mechanisms of Foxa3 modulation of brown fat gene programs involve

  • the suppression of peroxisome proliferator activated receptor γ coactivtor 1 α (PGC1α) levels
  • through interference with cAMP responsive element binding protein 1-mediated
  • transcriptional regulation of the PGC1α promoter.

Our data demonstrate a role for Foxa3 in energy expenditure and in age-associated metabolic disorders.

Control of Mitochondrial pH by Uncoupling Protein 4 in Astrocytes Promotes Neuronal Survival

HP Lambert, M Zenger, G Azarias, Jean-Yves Chatton, PJ. Magistretti,§, S Lengacher
JBC (in press) M114.570879

Background: Role of uncoupling proteins (UCP) in the brain is unclear.
Results: UCP, present in astrocytes, mediate the intra-mitochondrial acidification leading to a decrease in mitochondrial ATP production.
Conclusion: Astrocyte pH regulation promotes ATP synthesis by glycolysis whose final product, lactate, increases neuronal survival.
Significance: We describe a new role for a brain uncoupling protein.

Brain activity is energetically costly and requires a steady and

  • highly regulated flow of energy equivalents between neural cells.

It is believed that a substantial share of cerebral glucose, the major source of energy of the brain,

  • will preferentially be metabolized in astrocytes via aerobic glycolysis.

The aim of this study was to evaluate whether uncoupling proteins (UCPs),

  • located in the inner membrane of mitochondria,
  • play a role in setting up the metabolic response pattern of astrocytes.

UCPs are believed to mediate the transmembrane transfer of protons

  • resulting in the uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation from ATP production.

UCPs are therefore potentially important regulators of energy fluxes. The main UCP isoforms

  • expressed in the brain are UCP2, UCP4, and UCP5.

We examined in particular the role of UCP4 in neuron-astrocyte metabolic coupling

  • and measured a range of functional metabolic parameters
  • including mitochondrial electrical potential and pH,
  1. reactive oxygen species production,
  2. NAD/NADH ratio,
  3. ATP/ADP ratio,
  4. CO2 and lactate production, and
  5. oxygen consumption rate (OCR).

In brief, we found that UCP4 regulates the intra-mitochondrial pH of astrocytes

  • which acidifies as a consequence of glutamate uptake,
  • with the main consequence of reducing efficiency of mitochondrial ATP production.
  • the diminished ATP production is effectively compensated by enhancement of glycolysis.
  • this non-oxidative production of energy is not associated with deleterious H2O2 production.

We show that astrocytes expressing more UCP4 produced more lactate,

  • used as energy source by neurons, and had the ability to enhance neuronal survival.

Jose Eduardo des Salles Roselino

The problem with genomics was it was set as explanation for everything. In fact, when something is genetic in nature the genomic reasoning works fine. However, this means whenever an inborn error is found and only in this case the genomic knowledge afterwards may indicate what is wrong and not the completely way to put biology upside down by reading everything in the DNA genetic as well as non-genetic problems.

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Compilation of References in Leaders in Pharmaceutical Intelligence about proteomics, metabolomics, signaling pathways, and cell regulation

Compilation of References in Leaders in Pharmaceutical Intelligence about
proteomics, metabolomics, signaling pathways, and cell regulation

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP



  1. The Human Proteome Map Completed
    Reporter and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  1. Proteomics – The Pathway to Understanding and Decision-making in Medicine
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  1. Advances in Separations Technology for the “OMICs” and Clarification of Therapeutic Targets
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  1. Expanding the Genetic Alphabet and Linking the Genome to the Metabolome
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  1. Synthesizing Synthetic Biology: PLOS Collections
    Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari



  1. Extracellular evaluation of intracellular flux in yeast cells
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator 
  2. Metabolomic analysis of two leukemia cell lines. I.
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator 
  3. Metabolomic analysis of two leukemia cell lines. II.
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator 
  4. Metabolomics, Metabonomics and Functional Nutrition: the next step in nutritional metabolism and biotherapeutics
    Reviewer and Curator, Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 
  5. Buffering of genetic modules involved in tricarboxylic acid cycle metabolism provides homeomeostatic regulation
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and curator


Metabolic Pathways

  1. Pentose Shunt, Electron Transfer, Galactose, more Lipids in brief
    Reviewer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  2. Mitochondria: More than just the “powerhouse of the cell”
    Reviewer and Curator: Ritu Saxena
  3. Mitochondrial fission and fusion: potential therapeutic targets?
    Reviewer and Curator: Ritu saxena 
  4. Mitochondrial mutation analysis might be “1-step” away
    Reviewer and Curator: Ritu Saxena
  5. Selected References to Signaling and Metabolic Pathways in
    Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  6. Metabolic drivers in aggressive brain tumors
    Prabodh Kandal, PhD 
  7. Metabolite Identification Combining Genetic and Metabolic Information: Genetic association links unknown metabolites to functionally related genes
    Author and Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RD
  8. Mitochondria: Origin from oxygen free environment, role in aerobic glycolysis, metabolic adaptation
    Author and curator:Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  9. Therapeutic Targets for Diabetes and Related Metabolic Disorders
    Reporter, Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RD
  10. Buffering of genetic modules involved in tricarboxylic acid cycle metabolism provides homeomeostatic regulation
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and curator
  11. The multi-step transfer of phosphate bond and hydrogen exchange energy
    Curator:Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP,
  12. Studies of Respiration Lead to Acetyl CoA
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  13. Lipid Metabolism
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  14. Carbohydrate Metabolism
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  15. Prologue to Cancer – e-book Volume One – Where are we in this journey?
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  16. Introduction – The Evolution of Cancer Therapy and Cancer Research: How We Got Here?
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  17. Inhibition of the Cardiomyocyte-Specific Kinase TNNI3K
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  18. The Binding of Oligonucleotides in DNA and 3-D Lattice Structures
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  19. Mitochondrial Metabolism and Cardiac Function
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  20. How Methionine Imbalance with Sulfur-Insufficiency Leads to Hyperhomocysteinemia
    Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  21. AMPK Is a Negative Regulator of the Warburg Effect and Suppresses Tumor Growth In Vivo
    Author and Curator: SJ. Williams
  22. A Second Look at the Transthyretin Nutrition Inflammatory Conundrum
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  23. Overview of Posttranslational Modification (PTM)
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  24. Malnutrition in India, high newborn death rate and stunting of children age under five years
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  25. Update on mitochondrial function, respiration, and associated disorders
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  26. Omega-3 fatty acids, depleting the source, and protein insufficiency in renal disease
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator 
  27. Late Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and One-carbon Metabolism
    Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.
  28. Problems of vegetarianism
    Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.


Signaling Pathways

  1. Introduction to e-Series A: Cardiovascular Diseases, Volume Four Part 2: Regenerative Medicine
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, writer, and Aviva Lev- Ari, PhD, RN
  2. Epilogue: Envisioning New Insights in Cancer Translational Biology
    Series C: e-Books on Cancer & Oncology
    Author & Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Series C Content Consultant
  3. Ca2+-Stimulated Exocytosis:  The Role of Calmodulin and Protein Kinase C in Ca2+ Regulation of Hormone and Neurotransmitter  Writer and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Curator and Content Editor: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  4. Cardiac Contractility & Myocardial Performance: Therapeutic Implications of Ryanopathy (Calcium Release-related Contractile Dysfunction) and Catecholamine Responses
    Author, and Content Consultant to e-SERIES A: Cardiovascular Diseases: Justin Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC
    Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Article Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  5. Role of Calcium, the Actin Skeleton, and Lipid Structures in Signaling and Cell Motility
    Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP Author: Stephen Williams, PhD, and Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  6. Identification of Biomarkers that are Related to the Actin Cytoskeleton
    Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Author and Curator
  7. Advanced Topics in Sepsis and the Cardiovascular System at its End Stage
    Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  8. The Delicate Connection: IDO (Indolamine 2, 3 dehydrogenase) and Cancer Immunology
    Demet Sag, PhD, Author and Curator
  9. IDO for Commitment of a Life Time: The Origins and Mechanisms of IDO, indolamine 2, 3-dioxygenase
    Demet Sag, PhD, Author and Curator
  10. Confined Indolamine 2, 3 dioxygenase (IDO) Controls the Homeostasis of Immune Responses for Good and Bad
    Author and Curator: Demet Sag, PhD, CRA, GCP
  11. Signaling Pathway that Makes Young Neurons Connect was discovered @ Scripps Research Institute
    Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  12. Naked Mole Rats Cancer-Free
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  13. Amyloidosis with Cardiomyopathy
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  14. Liver endoplasmic reticulum stress and hepatosteatosis
    Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  15. The Molecular Biology of Renal Disorders: Nitric Oxide – Part III
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  16. Nitric Oxide Function in Coagulation – Part II
    Curator and Author: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  17. Nitric Oxide, Platelets, Endothelium and Hemostasis
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  18. Interaction of Nitric Oxide and Prostacyclin in Vascular Endothelium
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  19. Nitric Oxide and Immune Responses: Part 1
    Curator and Author:  Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS
  20. Nitric Oxide and Immune Responses: Part 2
    Curator and Author:  Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS
  21. Nitric Oxide and iNOS have Key Roles in Kidney Diseases – Part II
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  22. New Insights on Nitric Oxide donors – Part IV
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  23. Crucial role of Nitric Oxide in Cancer
    Curator and Author: Ritu Saxena, Ph.D.
  24. Nitric Oxide has a ubiquitous role in the regulation of glycolysis -with a concomitant influence on mitochondrial function
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  25. Nitric Oxide and Immune Responses: Part 2
    Author and Curator: Aviral Vatsa, PhD, MBBS
  26. Mitochondrial Damage and Repair under Oxidative Stress
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  27. Is the Warburg Effect the cause or the effect of cancer: A 21st Century View?
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  28. Targeting Mitochondrial-bound Hexokinase for Cancer Therapy
    Curator and Author: Ziv Raviv, PhD, RN 04/06/2013
  29. Ubiquinin-Proteosome pathway, autophagy, the mitochondrion, proteolysis and cell apoptosis
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  30. Ubiquitin-Proteosome pathway, Autophagy, the Mitochondrion, Proteolysis and Cell Apoptosis: Part III
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  31. Biochemistry of the Coagulation Cascade and Platelet Aggregation – Part I
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP


Genomics, Transcriptomics, and Epigenetics

  1. What is the meaning of so many RNAs?
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  2. RNA and the transcription the genetic code
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Writer and Curator
  3. A Primer on DNA and DNA Replication
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  4. Pathology Emergence in the 21st Century
    Author and Curator: Larry Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  5. RNA and the transcription the genetic code
    Writer and Curator, Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  6. Commentary on Biomarkers for Genetics and Genomics of Cardiovascular Disease: Views by Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
    Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  7. Observations on Finding the Genetic Links in Common Disease: Whole Genomic Sequencing Studies
    Author an Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  8. Silencing Cancers with Synthetic siRNAs
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator
  9. Cardiometabolic Syndrome and the Genetics of Hypertension: The Neuroendocrine Transcriptome Control Points
    Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  10. Developments in the Genomics and Proteomics of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Treatment Targets
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator
  11. CT Angiography & TrueVision™ Metabolomics (Genomic Phenotyping) for new Therapeutic Targets to Atherosclerosis
    Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  12. CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: The Birth of BioInformatics & Computational Genomics
    Genomics Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  13. Big Data in Genomic Medicine
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  14.  From Genomics of Microorganisms to Translational Medicine
    Author and Curator: Demet Sag, PhD
  15.  Summary of Genomics and Medicine: Role in Cardiovascular Diseases
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

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Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter and Curator new relationship identified in preterm stress and development of autism or schizophrenia/


This is a fascinating study.  It is of considerable interest because it deals with several items that need to be addressed with respect to neurodevelopmental disruptive disorders.  It leaves open some aspects that are known, but not subject to investigation in the experiments.  Then there is also no reporting of some associations that are known at the time of deveopment of these disorders – autism spectrum, and schizophrenia.  Of course, I don’t know how it would be possible to also look at prediction of a possible relationship to later development of mood disorders.

  1. The placenta functions as an endocrine organ in the conversion of androsteinedione to testosterone during pregnancy, which is delivered to the fetus.
  2. The conversion is by a known enzymatic pathway – and there is a sex difference in the depression of testosterone in males, females not affected.
  3. There is a greater susceptibility of males to autism and schizophrenia than of females, which I as reader, had not known, but if this is true, it would lend some credence to a biological advantage to protect the females of animal species, and might raise some interest into what relationship it has to protecting multitasking for females.
  4. It is well known that the twin studies that have been carried out determined that in identical twins, there is discordance as a rule.  Those studies are old, and they did not examine whether the other identical twin might be anywhere on the autism spectrum disorder (not then termed “spectrum”.
  5. However, there is a clear effect of stress on “gene expression”, and in this case we are looking at enzymation suppression at the placental level affecting trascriptional activity in the male fetus.  The same genetic signature exists in the male genetic profile, so we are not looking at a clear somatic mutation in this study.
  6. There is also much less specific an association with the MTHFR gene mutation at either one or two loci. This would have to be looked at as a possible separate post translational somatic mutation.
  7. Whether there is another component expressed later in the function of the zinc metalloproteinase under stress in the affected subject is worth considering, but can’t be commented on with respect to the study.

Penn Team Links Placental Marker of Prenatal Stress to Neurodevelopmental Problems 

By Ilene Schneider          July 8, 2014

When a woman experiences a stressful event early in pregnancy, the risk that her child will develop autism spectrum disorders or schizophrenia increases. The way in which maternal stress is transmitted to the brain of the developing fetus, leading to these problems in neurodevelopment, is poorly understood.

New findings by University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine scientists suggest that an enzyme found in the placenta is likely playing an important role. This enzyme, O-linked-N-acetylglucosamine transferase, or OGT, translates maternal stress into a reprogramming signal for the brain before birth. The study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.

“By manipulating this one gene, we were able to recapitulate many aspects of early prenatal stress,” said Tracy L. Bale, senior author on the paper and a professor in the Department of Animal Biology at Penn Vet. “OGT seems to be serving a role as the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ offering a readout of mom’s stress to change the baby’s developing brain. Bale, who also holds an appointment in the Department of Psychiatry, co-authored tha paper with postdoctoral researcher Christopher L. Howerton, for PNAS.

OGT is known to play a role in gene expression through chromatin remodeling, a process that makes some genes more or less available to be converted into proteins. In a study published last year in PNAS, Bale’s lab found that placentas from male mice pups had lower levels of OGT than those from female pups, and placentas from mothers that had been exposed to stress early in gestation had lower overall levels of OGT than placentas from the mothers’ unstressed counterparts.

“People think that the placenta only serves to promote blood flow between a mom and her baby, but that’s really not all it’s doing,” Bale said. “It’s a very dynamic endocrine tissue and it’s sex-specific, and we’ve shown that tampering with it can dramatically affect a baby’s developing brain.”

To elucidate how reduced levels of OGT might be transmitting signals through the placenta to a fetus, Bale and Howerton bred mice that partially or fully lacked OGT in the placenta. They then compared these transgenic mice to animals that had been subjected to mild stressors during early gestation, such as predator odor, unfamiliar objects or unusual noises, during the first week of their pregnancies.

The researchers performed a genome-wide search for genes that were affected by the altered levels of OGT and were also affected by exposure to early prenatal stress using a specific activational histone mark and found a broad swath of common gene expression patterns.

They chose to focus on one particular differentially regulated gene called Hsd17b3, which encodes an enzyme that converts androstenedione, a steroid hormone, to testosterone. The researchers found this gene to be particularly interesting in part because neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia have strong gender biases, where they either predominantly affect males or present earlier in males.

Placentas associated with male mice pups born to stressed mothers had reduced levels of the enzyme Hsd17b3, and, as a result, had higher levels of androstenedione and lower levels of testosterone than normal mice.

“This could mean that, with early prenatal stress, males have less masculinization,” Bale said. “This is important because autism tends to be thought of as the brain in a hypermasculinized state, and schizophrenia is thought of as a hypomasculinized state. It makes sense that there is something about this process of testosterone synthesis that is being disrupted.”

Furthermore, the mice born to mothers with disrupted OGT looked like the offspring of stressed mothers in other ways. Although they were born at a normal weight, their growth slowed at weaning. Their body weight as adults was 10 to 20 percent lower than control mice.

Because of the key role that that the hypothalamus plays in controlling growth and many other critical survival functions, the Penn Vet researchers then screened the mouse genome for genes with differential expression in the hypothalamus, comparing normal mice, mice with reduced OGT and mice born to stressed mothers.

They identified several gene sets related to the structure and function of mitochrondria, the powerhouses of cells that are responsible for producing energy. And indeed, when compared by an enzymatic assay that examines mitochondria biogenesis, both the mice born to stressed mothers and mice born to mothers with reduced OGT had dramatically reduced mitochondrial function in their hypothalamus compared to normal mice. These studies were done in collaboration with Narayan Avadhani’s lab at Penn Vet. Such reduced function could explain why the growth patterns of mice appeared similar until weaning, at which point energy demands go up.

“If you have a really bad furnace you might be okay if temperatures are mild,” Bale said. “But, if it’s very cold, it can’t meet demand. It could be the same for these mice. If you’re in a litter close to your siblings and mom, you don’t need to produce a lot of heat, but once you wean you have an extra demand for producing heat. They’re just not keeping up.”

Bale points out that mitochondrial dysfunction in the brain has been reported in both schizophrenia and autism patients. In future work, Bale hopes to identify a suite of maternal plasma stress biomarkers that could signal an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disease for the baby.

“With that kind of a signature, we’d have a way to detect at-risk pregnancies and think about ways to intervene much earlier than waiting to look at the term placenta,” she said.


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The immune response mechanism is the holy grail of the human defense system for health.   IDO, indolamine 2, 3-dioxygenase, is a key gene for homeostasis of immune responses and producing an enzyme catabolizing the first rate-limiting step in tryptophan degradation metabolism. The hemostasis of immune system is complicated.  In this review, the  properties of IDO such as basic molecular genetics, biochemistry and genesis will be discussed.

IDO belongs to globin gene family to carry oxygen and heme.  The main function and genesis of IDO comes from the immune responses during host-microbial invasion and choice between tolerance and immunegenity.  In human there are three kinds of IDOs, which are IDO1, IDO2, and TDO, with distinguished mechanisms and expression profiles. , IDO mechanism includes three distinguished pathways: enzymatic acts through IFNgamma, non-enzymatic acts through TGFbeta-IFNalpha/IFNbeta and moonlighting acts through AhR/Kyn.

The well understood functional genomics and mechanisms is important to translate basic science for clinical interventions of human health needs. In conclusion, overall purpose is to find a method to manipulate IDO to correct/fix/modulate immune responses for clinical applications.

The first part of the review concerns the basic science information gained overall several years that lay the foundation where translational research scientist should familiar to develop a new technology for clinic. The first connection of IDO and human health came from a very natural event that is protection of pregnancy in human. The focus of the translational medicine is treatment of cancer or prevention/delay cancer by stem cell based Dendritic Cell Vaccine (DCvax) development.

Table of Contents:

  • Abstract

1         Introduction: IDO gene encodes a heme enzyme

2        Location, location, location

3        Molecular genetics

4        Types of IDO:

4.1       IDO1,

4.2       IDO2,

4.3       IDO-like proteins

5        Working mechanisms of IDO

6        Infection Diseases and IDO

7. Conclusion

  1. 1.     Indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase (IDO) gene encodes a heme enzyme

IDO is a key homeostatic regulator and confined in immune system mechanism for the balance between tolerance and immunity.  This gene encodes indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase (IDO) – a heme enzyme (EC= that catalyzes the first rate-limiting step in tryptophan catabolism to N-formyl-kynurenine and acts on multiple tryptophan substrates including D-tryptophan, L-tryptophan, 5-hydroxy-tryptophan, tryptamine, and serotonin.

The basic genetic information describes indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1, IDO, INDO) as an enzyme located at Chromosome 8p12-p11 (5; 6) that active at the first step of the Tryptophan catabolism.    The cloned gene structure showed that IDO contains 10 exons ad 9 introns (7; 8) producing 9 transcripts.

After alternative splicing only five of the transcripts encode a protein but the other four does not make protein products, three of transcripts retain intron and one of them create a nonsense code (7).  Based on IDO related studies 15 phenotypes of IDO is identified, of which, twelve in cancer tumor models of lung, kidney, endometrium, intestine, two in nervous system, and one HGMD- deletion.

  1. 2.     Location, Location and Location

The specific cellular location of IDO is in cytosol, smooth muscle contractile fibers and stereocilium bundle. The expression specificity shows that IDO is present very widely in all cell types but there is an elevation of expression in placenta, pancreas, pancreas islets, including dendritic cells (DCs) according to gene atlas of transcriptome (9).  Expression of IDO is common in antigen presenting cells (APCs), monocytes (MO), macrophages (MQs), DCs, T-cells, and some B-cells. IDO present in APCs (10; 11), due to magnitude of role play hierarchy and level of expression DCs are the better choice but including MOs during establishment of three DC cell subset, CD14+CD25+, CD14++CD25+ and CD14+CD25++ may increase the longevity and efficacy of the interventions.

IDO is strictly regulated and confined to immune system with diverse functions based on either positive or negative stimulations. The positive stimulations are T cell tolerance induction, apoptotic process, and chronic inflammatory response, type 2 immune response, interleukin-12 production (12).  The negative stimulations are interleukin-10 production, activated T cell proliferation, T cell apoptotic process.  Furthermore, there are more functions allocating fetus during female pregnancy; changing behavior, responding to lipopolysaccharide or multicellular organismal response to stress possible due to degradation of tryptophan, kynurenic acid biosynthetic process, cellular nitrogen compound metabolic process, small molecule metabolic process, producing kynurenine process (13; 14; 15).

IDO plays a role in a variety of pathophysiological processes such as antimicrobial and antitumor defense, neuropathology, immunoregulation, and antioxidant activity (16; 17; 18; 19).


 3.     Molecular Genetics of IDO:

A: Structure of human IDO2 gene and transcripts. Complete coding region is 1260 bps encoding a 420 aa polypeptide. Alternate splice isoforms lacking the exons indicated are noted. Hatch boxes represent a frameshift in the coding region to an alternate reading frame leading to termination. Black boxes represent 3' untranslated regions. Nucleotide numbers, intron sizes, and positioning are based on IDO sequence files NW_923907.1 and GI:89028628 in the Genbank database. (reference:

A: Structure of human IDO2 gene and transcripts. Complete coding region is 1260 bps encoding a 420 aa polypeptide. Alternate splice isoforms lacking the exons indicated are noted. Hatch boxes represent a frameshift in the coding region to an alternate reading frame leading to termination. Black boxes represent 3′ untranslated regions. Nucleotide numbers, intron sizes, and positioning are based on IDO sequence files NW_923907.1 and GI:89028628 in the Genbank database.

Molecular genetics data from earlier findings based on reporter assay results showed that IDO promoter is regulated by ISRE-like elements and GAS-sequence at -1126 and -1083 region (20).  Two cis-acting elements are ISRE1 (interferon sequence response element 1) and interferon sequence response element 2 (ISRE2).

Analyses of site directed and deletion mutation with transfected cells demonstrated that introduction of point mutations at these elements decreases the IDO expression. Removing ISRE1 decreases the effects of IFNgamma induction 50 fold and deleting ISRE1 at -1126 reduced by 25 fold (3). Introducing point mutations in conserved t residues at -1124 and -1122 (from T to C or G) in ISRE consensus sequence NAGtttCA/tntttNCC of IFNa/b inducible gene ISG4 eliminates the promoter activity by 24 fold (21).

ISRE2 have two boxes, X box (-114/1104) and Y Box 9-144/-135), which are essential part of the IFNgamma response region of major histocompatibility complex class II promoters (22; 23).  When these were removed from ISRE2 or introducing point mutations at two A residues of ISRE2 at -111 showed a sharp decrease after IFNgamma treatment by 4 fold (3).

The lack of responses related to truncated or deleted IRF-1 interactions whereas IRF-2, Jak2 and STAT91 levels were similar in the cells, HEPg2 and ME180 (3). Furthermore, 748 bp deleted between these elements did not affect the IDO expression, thus the distance between ISRE1 and ISRE2 elements have no function or influence on IDO (3; 24)

B: Amino acid alignment of IDO and IDO2. Amino acids determined by mutagenesis and the crystal structure of IDO that are critical for catalytic activity are positioned below the human IDO sequence. Two commonly occurring SNPs identified in the coding region of human IDO2 are shown above the sequence which alter a critical amino acid (R248W) or introduce a premature termination codon (Y359stop).

B: Amino acid alignment of IDO and IDO2. Amino acids determined by mutagenesis and the crystal structure of IDO that are critical for catalytic activity are positioned below the human IDO sequence. Two commonly occurring SNPs identified in the coding region of human IDO2 are shown above the sequence which alter a critical amino acid (R248W) or introduce a premature termination codon (Y359stop).

4.     There are three types of IDO in human genome:

IDO was originally discovered in 1967 in rabbit intestine (25). Later, in 1990 the human IDO gene is cloned and sequenced (7).  However, its importance and relevance in immunology was not created until prevention of allocation of fetal rejection and founding expression in wide range of human cancers (26; 27).

There are three types of IDO, pro-IDO like, IDO1, and IDO2.  In addition, another enzyme called TDO, tryptophan 2, 3, dehydrogenase solely degrade L-Trp at first-rate limiting mechanism in liver and brain.

4.1.  IDO1:

IDO1 mechanism is the target for immunotherapy applications. The initial discovery of IDO in human physiology is protection of pregnancy (1) since lack of IDO results in premature recurrent abortion (28; 26; 29).   The initial rate-limiting step of tryptophan metabolism is catalyzed by either IDO or tryptophan 2, 3-dioxygenase (TDO).

Structural studies of IDO versus TDO presenting active site environments, conserved Arg 117 and Tyr113, found both in TDO and IDO for the Tyr-Glu motif, but His55 in TDO replaced by Ser167b in IDO (30; 2). As a result, they are regulated with different mechanisms (1; 2) (30).  The short-lived TDO, about 2h, responds to level of tryptophan and its expression regulated by glucorticoids (31; 32).  Thus, it is a useful target for regulation and induced by tryptophan so that increasing tryptophan induces NAD biosynthesis. Whereas, IDO is not activated by the level of Trp presence but inflammatory agents with its interferon stimulated response elements (ISRE1 and ISRE2) in its (33; 34; 35; 36; 3; 10) promoter.

TDO promoter contains glucorticoid response elements (37; 38) and regulated by glucocorticoids and other available amino acids for gluconeogenesis. This is how IDO binds to only immune response cells and TDO relates to NAD biosynthesis mechanisms. Furthermore, TDO is express solely in liver and brain (36).  NAD synthesis (39) showed increased IDO ubiquitous and TDO in liver and causing NAD level increase in rat with neuronal degeneration (40; 41).  NAM has protective function in beta-cells could be used to cure Type1 diabetes (40; 42; 43). In addition, knowledge on NADH/NAD, Kyn/Trp or Trp/Kyn ratios as well as Th1/Th2, CD4/CD8 or Th17/Threg are equally important (44; 40).

Active site of IDO–PI complex. (A) Stereoview of the residues around the heme of IDO viewed from the side of heme plane. The proximal ligand H346 is H-bonded to wa1. The 6-propionate of the heme contacts with wa2 and R343 Nε. The wa2 is H-bonded to wa1, L388 O, and 6-propionate. Mutations of F226, F227, and R231 do not lose the substrate affinity but produce the inactive enzyme. Two CHES molecules are bound in the distal pocket. The cyclohexan ring of CHES-1 (green) contacts with F226 and R231. The 7-propionate of the heme interacts with the amino group of CHES-1 and side chain of Ser-263. The mutational analyses for these distal residues are shown in Table 1. (B) Top view of A by a rotation of 90°. The proximal residues are omitted. (

Active site of IDO–PI complex. (A) Stereoview of the residues around the heme of IDO viewed from the side of heme plane. The proximal ligand H346 is H-bonded to wa1. The 6-propionate of the heme contacts with wa2 and R343 Nε. The wa2 is H-bonded to wa1, L388 O, and 6-propionate. Mutations of F226, F227, and R231 do not lose the substrate affinity but produce the inactive enzyme. Two CHES molecules are bound in the distal pocket. The cyclohexan ring of CHES-1 (green) contacts with F226 and R231. The 7-propionate of the heme interacts with the amino group of CHES-1 and side chain of Ser-263. The mutational analyses for these distal residues are shown in Table 1. (B) Top view of A by a rotation of 90°. The proximal residues are omitted. (

4.2. IDO2:

The third type of IDO, called IDO2 exists in lower vertebrates like chicken, fish and frogs (45) and in human with differential expression properties. The expression of IDO2 is only in DCs, unlike IDO1 expresses on both tumors and DCs in human tissues.  Yet, in lower invertebrates IDO2 is not inhibited by general inhibitor of IDO, D-1-methyl-tryptophan (1MT) (46).   Recently, two structurally unusual natural inhibitors of IDO molecules, EXIGUAMINES A and B, are synthesized (47).  LIP mechanism cannot be switch back to activation after its induction in IDO2 (46).

Crucial cancer progression can continue with production of IL6, IL10 and TGF-beta1 to help invasion and metastasis.  Inclusion of two common SNPs affects the function of IDO2 in certain populations.  SNP1 reduces 90% of IDO2 catalytic activity in 50% of European and Asian descent and SNP2 produce premature protein through inclusion of stop-codon in 25% of African descent lack functional IDO2 (Uniport).

4.3. IDO-like proteins: The Origin of IDO:

Knowing the evolutionary steps will helps us to identify how we can manage the regulator function to protect human health in cancer, immune disorders, diabetes, and infectious diseases.

Bacterial IDO has two types of IDOs that are group I and group II IDO (48).  These are the earliest version of the IDO, pro-IDO like, proteins with a quite complicated function.  Each microorganism recognized by a specific set of receptors, called Toll-Like Receptors (TLR), to activate the IDO-like protein expression based on the origin of the bacteria or virus (49; 35).   Thus, the genesis of human IDO originates from gene duplication of these early bacterial versions of IDO-like proteins after their invasion interactions with human host.  IDO1 only exists in mammals and fungi.

Fungi also has three types of IDO; IDOa, IDO beta, and IDO gamma (50) with different properties than human IDOs, perhaps multiple IDO is necessary for the world’s decomposers.

All globins, haemoglobins and myoglobins are destined to evolve from a common ancestor, which  is only 14-16kDa (51) length. Binding of a heme and being oxygen carrier are central to the enzyme mechanism of this family.  Globins are classified under three distinct origins; a universal globin, a compact globin, and IDO-like globin (52) IDO like globin widely distributed among gastropodic mollusks (53; 51).  The indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase 1–like “myoglobin” (Myb) was discovered in 1989 in the buccal mass of the abalone Sulculus diversicolor (54).

The conserved region between Myb and IDO-like Myb existed for at least 600 million years (53) Even though the splice junction of seven introns was kept intact, the overall homolog region between Myb and IDO is only about 35%.

No significant evolutionary relationship is found between them after their amino acid sequence of each exon is compared to usual globin sequences. This led the hint that molluscan IDO-like protein must have other functions besides carrying oxygen, like myoglobin.   Alignment of S. cerevisiae cDNA, mollusk and vertebrate IDO–like globins show the key regions for controlling IDO or myoglobin function (55). These data suggest that there is an alternative pathways of myoglobin evolution.  In addition, understanding the diversity of globin may help to design better protocols for interventions of diseases.

Mechanisms of IDO:

The dichotomy of IDO mechanism lead the discovery that IDO is more than an enzyme as a versatile regulator of innate and adaptive immune responses in DCs (66; 67; 68). Meantime IDO also involve with Th2 response and B cell mediated autoimmunity showing that it has three paths, short term (acute) based on enzymatic actions, long term (chronic) based on non-enzymatic role, and moonlighting relies of downstream metabolites of tryptophan metabolism (69; 70).

IFNgamma produced by DC, MQ, NK, NKT, CD4+ T cells and CD8+ T cells, after stimulation with IL12 and IL8.  Inflammatory cytokine(s) expressed by DCs produce IFNgamma to stimulate IDO’s enzymatic reactions in acute response.  Then, TDO in liver and tryptophan catabolites act through Aryl hydrocarbon receptor induction for prevention of T cell proliferation. This mechanism is common among IDO, IDO2 (expresses in brain and liver) and TDO expresses in liver) provide an acute response for an innate immunity (30). When the pDCs are stimulated with IFNgamma, activation of IDO is go through Jak, STAT signaling pathway to degrade Trp to Kyn causing Trp depletion. The starvation of tryptophan in microenvironment inhibits generation of T cells by un-read t-RNAs and induce apoptosis through myc pathway.  In sum, lack of tryptophan halts T cell proliferation and put the T cells in apoptosis at S1 phase of cell division (71; 62).

The intermediary enzymes, functioning during Tryptophan degradation in Kynurenine (Kyn) pathway like kynurenine 3-hydroxylase and kynureninase, are also induced after stimulation with liposaccaride and proinflammatory cytokines (72). They exhibit their function in homeostasis through aryl-hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) induction by kynurenine as an endogenous signal (73; 74).  The endogenous tumor-promoting ligand of AhR are usually activated by environmental stress or xenobiotic toxic chemicals in several cellular processes like tumorigenesis, inflammation, transformation, and embryogenesis (Opitz ET. Al, 2011).

Human tumor cells constitutively produce TDO also contributes to production of Kyn as an endogenous ligand of the AhR (75; 27).  Degradation of tryptophan by IDO1/2 in tumors and tumor-draining lymph nodes occur. As a result, there are animal studies and Phase I/II clinical trials to inhibit the IDO1/2 to prevent cancer and poor prognosis (NewLink Genetics Corp. NCT00739609, 2007).

 IDO mechanism for immune response

Systemic inflammation (like in sepsis, cerebral malaria and brain tumor) creates hypotension and IDO expression has the central role on vascular tone control (63).  Moreover, inflammation activates the endothelial coagulation activation system causing coagulopathies on patients.  This reaction is namely endothelial cell activation of IDO by IFNgamma inducing Trp to Kyn conversion. After infection with malaria the blood vessel tone has decreases, inflammation induce IDO expression in endothelial cells producing Kyn causing decreased trp, lower arterial relaxation, and develop hypotension (Wang, Y. et. al 2010).  Furthermore, existing hypotension in knock out Ido mice point out a secondary mechanism driven by Kyn as an endogenous ligand to activate non-canonical NfKB pathway (63).

Another study also hints this “back –up” mechanism by a significant outcome with a differential response in pDCs against IMT treatment.  Unlike IFN gamma conditioned pDC blocks T cell proliferation and apoptosis, methyl tryptophan fails to inhibit IDO activity for activating naïve T cells to make Tregs at TGF-b1 conditioned pDCs (77; 78).

 Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase; IDO dioxygenase; Indeolamine-2,3

The second role of the IDO relies on non-enzymatic action as being a signal molecule. Yet, IDO2 and TDO are devoid of this function. This role mainly for maintenance of microenvironment condition. DCs response to TGFbeta-1 exposure starts the kinase Fyn induce phosphorylation of IDO-associated immunoreceptor tyrosine–based inhibitory motifs (ITIMs) for propagation of the downstream signals involving non-canonical (anti-inflammatory) NF-kB pathway for a long term response. When the pDCs are conditioned with TGF-beta1 the signaling (68; 77; 78) Phospho Inositol Kinase3 (PIK-3)-dependent and Smad independent pathways (79; 80; 81; 82; 83) induce Fyn-dependent phosphorylation of IDO ITIMs.  A prototypic ITIM has the I/V/L/SxYxxL/V/F sequence (84), where x in place of an amino acid and Y is phosphorylation sites of tyrosines (85; 86).

Smad independent pathway stimulates SHP and PIK3 induce both SHP and IDO phosphorylation. Then, formed SHP-IDO complex can induce non-canonical (non-inflammatory) NF-kB pathway (64; 79; 80; 82) by phosphorylation of kinase IKKa to induce nuclear translocation of p52-Relb towards their targets.  Furthermore, the SHP-IDO complex also may inhibit IRAK1 (68). SHP-IDO complex activates genes through Nf-KB for production of Ido1 and Tgfb1 genes and secretion of IFNalpha/IFNbeta.  IFNa/IFNb establishes a second short positive feedback loop towards p52-RelB for continuous gene expression of IDO, TGFb1, IFNa and IFNb (87; 68).  However, SHP-IDO inhibited IRAK1 also activates p52-RelB.  Nf-KB induction at three path, one main and two positive feedback loops, is also critical.  Finally, based on TGF-beta1 induction (76) cellular differentiation occurs to stimulate naïve CD4+ T cell differentiation to regulatory T cells (Tregs).  In sum, TGF-b1 and IFNalpha/IFNbeta stimulate pDCs to keep inducing naïve T cells for generation of Treg cells at various stages, initiate, maintain, differentiate, infect, amplify, during long-term immune responses (67; 66).

Moonlighting function of Kyn/AhR is an adaptation mechanism after the catalytic (enzymatic) role of IDO depletes tryptophan and produce high concentration of Kyn induce Treg and Tr1 cell expansion leading Tregs to use TGFbeta for maintaining this environment (67; 76). In this role, Kyn pathway has positive-feedback-loop function to induce IDO expression.

In T cells, tryptophan starvation induces Gcn2-dependent stress signaling pathway, which initiates uncharged Trp-tRNA binding onto ribosomes. Elevated GCN2 expression stimulates elF2alfa phosphorylation to stop translation initiation (88). Therefore, most genes downregulated and LIP, an alternatively initiated isoform of the b/ZIP transcription factor NF-IL6/CEBP-beta (89).

This mechanism happens in tumor cells based on Prendergast group observations. As a result, not only IDO1 propagates itself while producing IFNalpha/IFNbeta, but also demonstrates homeostasis choosing between immunegenity by production of TH17or tolerance by Tregs. This mechanism acts like a see-saw. Yet, tolerance also can be broken by IL6 induction so reversal mechanism by SOC-3 dependent proteosomal degradation of the enzyme (90).  All proper responses require functional peripheral DCs to generate mature DCs for T cells to avoid autoimmunity (91).

Niacin (vitamin B3) is the final product of tryptophan catabolism and first molecule at Nicotinomic acid (NDA) Biosynthesis.  The function of IDO in tryptophan and NDA metabolism has a great importance to develop new clinical applications (40; 42; 41).  NAD+, biosynthesis and tryptophan metabolisms regulate several steps that can be utilize pharmacologically for reformation of healthy physiology (40).

IDO for protection in Microbial Infection with Toll-like Receptors

The mechanism of microbial response and infectious tolerance are complex and the origination of IDO based on duplication of microbial IDO (49).  During microbial responses, Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a role to differentiate and determine the microbial structures as a ligand to initiate production of cytokines and pro-inflammatory agents to activate specific T helper cells (92; 93; 94; 95). Uniqueness of TLR comes from four major characteristics of each individual TLR by ligand specificity, signal transduction pathways, expression profiles and cellular localization (96). Thus, TLRs are important part of the immune response signaling mechanism to initiate and design adoptive responses from innate (naïve) immune system to defend the host.

TLRs are expressed cell type specific patterns and present themselves on APCs (DCs, MQs, monocytes) with a rich expression levels (96; 97; 98; 99; 93; 100; 101; 102; 87). Induction signals originate from microbial stimuli for the genesis of mature immune response cells.  Co-stimulation mechanisms stimulate immature DCs to travel from lymphoid organs to blood stream for proliferation of specific T cells (96).  After the induction of iDCs by microbial stimuli, they produce proinflammatory cytokines such as TNF and IL-12, which can activate differentiation of T cells into T helper cell, type one (Th1) cells. (103).

Utilizing specific TLR stimulation to link between innate and acquired responses can be possible through simple recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) or co-stimulation of PAMPs with other TLR or non-TLR receptors, or even better with proinflammatory cytokines.   Some examples of ligand- TLR specificity shown in Table1, which are bacterial lipopeptides, Pam3Cys through TLR2 (92; 104; 105).  Double stranded (ds) RNAs through TLR3 (106; 107), Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) through TLR4, bacterial flagellin through TLR5 (108; 109), single stranded RNAs through TLR7/8 (97; 98), synthetic anti-viral compounds imiquinod through TLR 7 and resiquimod through TLR8, unmethylated CpG DNA motifs through TLR9 (Krieg, 2000).

IDO action

Then, the specificity is established by correct pairing of a TLR with its proinflammatory cytokines, so that these permutations influence creation and maintenance of cell differentiation. For example, leading the T cell response toward a preferred Th1 or Th2 response possible if the cytokines TLR-2 mediated signals induce a Th2 profile when combined with IL-2 but TLR4 mediated signals lean towards Th1 if it is combined with IL-10 or Il-12, (110; 111)  (112).

TLR ligand TLR Reference
Lipopolysaccharide, LPS TLR4 (96).  (112).
Lipopeptides, Pam3Cys TLR2 (92; 104; 105)
Double stranded (ds) RNAs TLR3 (106; 107)
Bacterial flagellin TLR5 (108; 109)
Single stranded RNAs TLR7/8 (97; 98)
Unmethylated CpG DNA motifs TLR9 (Krieg, 2000)
Synthetic anti-viral compounds imiquinod and resiquimod TLR7 and TLR8 (Lee J, 2003)

Furthermore, if the DCs are stimulated with IL-6, DCs relieve the suppression of effector T cells by regulatory T cells (113).

The modification of IDO+ monocytes manage towards specific subset of T cell activation with specific TLRs are significantly important (94).

The type of cell with correct TLR and stimuli improves or decreases the effectiveness of stimuli. Induction of IDO in monocytes by synthetic viral RNAs (isRNA) and CMV was possible, but not in monocyte derived DCs or TLR2 ligand lipopeptide Pam3Cys since single- stranded RNA ligands target TLR7/8 in monocytes derive DCs only (Lee J, 2003).  These data show that TLRs has ligand specificity, signal transduction pathways, expression profiles and cellular localization so design of experiments should follow these rules.


Overall our purpose of this information is to find a method to manipulate IDO to correct/fix/modulate immune responses for clinical applications.  This first part of the review concerns the basic science information gained overall several years that lay the foundation that translational research scientist should familiar to develop a new technology for clinic. The first connection of IDO and human health came from a very natural event that is protection of pregnancy in human. The focus of the translational medicine is treatment of cancer or prevention/delay cancer by stem cell based Dendritic Cell Vaccine (DCvax) development.


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CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: Milestones along the Way – Part IIA

Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Introduction and purpose

This material goes beyond the Initiation Phase of Molecular Biology, Part I.
Part II reviews the Human Genome Project and the decade beyond.

In a three part series:
Part IIA.  CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: Milestones along the Way
Part IIB.  CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: The Birth of BioInformatics & Computational Genomics
Part IIC.  CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: Recent Advances in Genomic Analysis and Disease

Part III will conclude with Ubiquitin, it’s Role in Signaling and Regulatory Control.
Part I reviewed the huge expansion of the biological research enterprise after the Second World War. It concentrated on the

  • discovery of cellular structures,
  • metabolic function, and
  • creation of a new science of Molecular Biology.

Part II follows the race to delineation of the Human Genome, discovery methods and fundamental genomic patterns that are ancient in both animal and plant speciation. But it explores both the complexity and the systems view of the architecture that underlies and understanding of the genome.

These articles review a web-like connectivity between inter-connected scientific discoveries, as significant findings have led to novel hypotheses and many expectations over the last 75 years. This largely post WWII revolution has driven our understanding of biological and medical processes at an exponential pace owing to successive discoveries of

  • chemical structure,
  • the basic building blocks of DNA  and proteins,
  • nucleotide and protein-protein interactions,
  • protein folding, allostericity,
  • genomic structure,
  • DNA replication,
  • nuclear polyribosome interaction, and
  • metabolic control.

In addition, the emergence of methods for

  • copying,
  • removal,
  • insertion,
  • improvements in structural analysis
  • developments in applied mathematics that have transformed the research framework.

Part IIA:


Milestones along the Way

A NOVA interview with Francis Collins (NHGRI) (FC), J. Craig Venter (CELERA)(JCV), and Eric Lander (EL).
RK: For the past ten years, scientists all over the world have been painstakingly trying to read the tiny instructions buried inside our DNA. And now, finally, the “Human Genome” has been decoded.
EL: The genome is a storybook that’s been edited for a couple billion years.
The following will address the odd similarity of genes between man and yeast

EL: In the nucleus of your cell the DNA molecule resides that is about 10 angstroms wide curled up, but the amount of curling is limited by the negative charges that repel one another, but there are folds upon folds. If the DNA is stretched the length of the DNA would be thousands of feet.
EL: We have known for 2000 years that your kids look a lot like you. Well it’s because you must pass them instructions that give them the eyes, the hair color, and the nose shape they have. RK: Cracking the code of those minuscule differences in DNA that influence health and illness is what the Human Genome Project is all about. Since 1990, scientists all over the world have been involved in the effort to read all three billion As, Ts, Gs, and Cs of human DNA.  It took 10 years to find the one genetic mistake that causes cystic fibrosis. Another 10 years to find the gene for Huntington’s disease. Fifteen years to find one of the genes that increase the risk for breast cancer. One letter at a time, painfully slowly…     And then came the revolution. In the last ten years the entire process has been computerized. The computations can do a thousand every second and that has made all the difference. EL: This is basically a parts list with a lot of parts. If you take an airplane, a Boeing 777, I think it has like 100,000 parts. If I gave you a parts list for the Boeing 777 in one sense you’d know 100,000 components, screws and wires and rudders and things like that.  But you wouldn’t know how to put it together, or why it flies. We now have a parts list, and that’s not enough to understand why it flies.

The Human Genome

The Human Genome (Photo credit: dullhunk)

A Quest For Clarity

Tracy Vence is a senior editor of Genome Technology
Tracy Vence @GenomeTechMag
Projects supported by the US National Institutes of Health will have produced 68,000 total human genomes — around 18,000 of those whole human genomes — through the end of this year, National Human Genome Research Institute estimates indicate. And in his book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine, the Scripps Research Institute’s Eric Topol projects that 1 million human genomes will have been sequenced by 2013 and 5 million by 2014.
Daniel MacArthur, a group leader in Massachusetts General Hospital’s Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit estimates that “From a capacity perspective … millions of genomes are not that far off. If you look at the rate that we’re scaling, we can certainly achieve that.”    The prospect of so many genomes has brought clinical interpretation into focus. But there is an important distinction to be made between the interpretation of an apparently healthy person’s genome and that of an individual who is already affected by a disease.
In an April Science Translational Medicine paper, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine‘s Nicholas Roberts and his colleagues reported that personal genome sequences for healthy monozygotic twin pairs are not predictive of significant risk for 24 different diseases in those individuals. The researchers concluded that whole-genome sequencing was not likely to be clinically useful. Ambiguities have clouded even the most targeted interpretation efforts.

  • Technological challenges,
  • meager sample sizes,
  • a need for increased,
  • fail-safe automation and most important
  • a lack of community-wide standards for the task.

have hampered researchers’ attempts to reliably interpret the clinical significance of genomic variation.

How signals from the cell surface affect transcription of genes in the nucleus.

James Darnell, Jr., MD, Astor Professor, Rockefeller
After graduation from Washington University School of Medicine he worked with Francois Jacob at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Rockefeller in 1990-91. He is the coauthor with S.E. Luria of General Virology and the founding author with Harvey Lodish and David Baltimore of Molecular Cell Biology, now in its sixth edition. His book RNA, Life’s Indispensable Molecule was published in July 2011 by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. A member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1973, recipient of  numerous awards, including the 2003 National Medal of Science, the 2002 Albert Lasker Award.
Using interferon as a model cytokine, the Darnell group discovered that cell transcription was quickly changed by binding of cytokines to the cell surface. The bound interferon led to the tyrosine phosphorylation of latent cytoplasmic proteins now called STATs (signal transducers and activators of transcription) that dimerize by

  • reciprocal phosphotyrosine-SH2 interchange.
  • accumulate in the nucleus,
  • bind DNA and drive transcription.

This pathway has proved to be of wide importance with seven STATs now known in mammals that take part in a wide variety of developmental and homeostatic events in all multicellular animals. Crystallographic analysis defined functional domains in the STATs, and current attention is focused on two areas:

  • how the STATs complete their cycle of  activation and inactivation, which requires regulated tyrosine dephosphorylation; and how
  • persistent activation of STAT3 that occurs in a high proportion of many human cancers contributes to blocking apoptosis in cancer cells.

Current efforts are devoted to inhibiting STAT3 with modified peptides that can enter cells.

Cell cycle regulation and the cellular response to genotoxic stress

Stephen J Elledge, PhD, Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and Medicine, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School
As a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford working on eukaryotic homologous recombination, he serendipitously found a family of genes known as ribonucleotide reductases. He subsequently showed that

  • these genes are activated by DNA damage and
  • could serve as tools to help scientists dissect the signaling pathways
  • through which cells sense and respond to DNA damage and replication stress.

At Baylor College of Medicine he made a second major breakthrough with the discovery of the cyclin-dependent kinase 2 gene (Cdk2), which

  • controls the G1-to-S cell cycle transition,
  • an entry checkpoint for the cell proliferation cycle and
  • a critical regulatory step in tumorigenesis.

From there, using a novel “two-hybrid” cloning method he developed, Elledge and Wade Harper, PhD, proceeded to

  • isolate several members of the Cdk2-inhibitory family.

Their discoveries included the p21 and p57 genes, mutations in the latter (responsible for Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome), characterized by somatic overgrowth and increased cancer risk. Elledge is also recognized for his work in understanding

  • proteome remodeling through ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis.
  • they identified F-box proteins that regulate protein degradation in the cell by
  1. binding to specific target protein sequences and then
  2. marking them with ubiquitin for destruction by the cell’s proteasome machinery.

This breakthrough resulted in

  • the elucidation of the cullin ubiquitin ligase family,
  • which controls regulated protein stability in eukaryotes.

nature10774-f5.2  nature10774-f3.2   ubiquitin structures  Rn1  Rn2

Elledge’s recent research has focused on the cellular mechanisms underlying DNA damage detection and cancer using genetic technologies. In collaboration with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory researcher Gregory Hannon, PhD, Elledge has generated complete human and mouse short hairpin RNA (shRNA) libraries for genome-wide loss-of-function studies. Their efforts have led to

  • the identification of a number of tumor suppressor proteins
  • genes upon which cancer cells uniquely depend for survival.

This work led to the development of the “non-oncogene addiction” concept. This is noted as follows:

  • proteome remodeling through ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis
  • F-box proteins regulate protein degradation in the cell by binding to specific target protein sequences
  • and then marking them with ubiquitin for destruction by the cell’s proteasome machinery
  • elucidation of the cullin ubiquitin ligase family, which controls regulated protein stability in eukaryotes

Playing the dual roles of inventor and investigator, Elledge developed original techniques to define

  • what drives the cell cycle and
  • how cells respond to DNA damage.

By using these tools, he and his colleagues have identified multiple genes involved in cell-cycle regulation.

Elledge’s work has earned him many awards, including a 2001 Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research and a 2003 election to the National Academy of Sciences. In his Inaugural Article (1), published in this issue of PNAS, Elledge and his colleagues describe the function of Fbw7, a protein involved in controlling cell proliferation (see below). Elledge studied the error-prone DNA repair mechanism in E-Coli (Escherichia coli) called SOS mutagenesis for his PhD thesis at MIT. His work identified  and described

  • the regulation of a group of enzymes now known as error-prone polymerases,
  • the first members of which were the umuCD genes in E. coli.

It was then that he developed a new cloning tool. Elledge invented a technique that allowed him to approach future cloning problems of this type with great rapidity. With the new technique, “you could make large libraries in lambda that behave like plasmids. We called them `phasmid’ vectors, like plasmid and phage together”. The phasmid cloning method was an early cornerstone for molecular biology research.

Elledge began working on homologous recombination in postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University, an important niche in the field of eukaryotic genetics. Working with the yeast genome, Elledge searched for rec A, a gene that allows DNA to recombine homologously. Although he never located rec A, he discovered a family of genes known as ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs), which are involved in DNA production. Rec A and RNRs share the same last 4 amino acids, which caused an antibody crossreaction in one of Elledge’s experiments. Initially disappointed with the false positives in his hunt for rec A, Elledge was later delighted with his luck. He found that

  • RNRs are turned  on by DNA damage, and
  • these genes are regulated by the cell cycle.

Prior to leaving Stanford, Elledge attended a talk at the University of California, San Francisco, by Paul Nurse, a leader in cell-cycle research who would later win the 2001 Nobel Prize in medicine. Nurse described his success in isolating the homolog of a key human cell-cycle kinase gene, Cdc2, by using a mutant strain of yeast (8). Although Nurse’s methods were primitive, Elledge was struck by the message he carried: that

  • cell-cycle regulation was functionally conserved, and
  • many human genes could be isolated by looking for complimentary genes in yeast.

Elledge then took advantage of his past successes in building phasmid vectors to build a versatile human cDNA library that could be expressed in yeast. After setting up a laboratory at Baylor, he introduced this library into yeast, screening for complimentary cell-cycle genes.  He quickly identified the same Cdc2 gene isolated by Nurse. However, Elledge also discovered a related gene known as Cdk2. Elledge subsequently found that

  • Cdk2 controlled the G1 to S cell-cycle transition, a step that often goes awry in cancer. These results were published in the EMBO Journal in 1991.

He then continued to use

  • RNRs to perform genetic screens to
  • identify genes involved in sensing and responding to DNA damage.

He subsequently worked out the

  • signal transduction pathways in both yeast and humans that recognize damaged DNA and replication problems.

These “checkpoint” pathways are central to the

  • prevention of genomic instability and a key to understanding tumorigenesis.

This contribution is part of the special series of Inaugural Articles by members of the National Academy of Sciences elected on April 29, 2003.

Defective cardiovascular development and elevated cyclin E and Notch proteins in mice lacking the Fbw7 F-box protein.

Tetzlaff MT, Yu W, Li M, Zhang P, Finegold M, Mahon K , Harper JW, Schwartz RJ, and SJ Elledge. PNAS 2004; 101(10): 3338-3345. cgi doi 10.1073.  pnas.0307875101

The mammalian F-box protein Fbw7 and its Caenorhabditis elegans counterpart Sel-10 have been implicated in

  • the ubiquitin-mediated turnover of cyclin E
  • as well as the Notch Lin-12 family of transcriptional activators. Both unregulated
  1. Notch and cyclin E
  2. promote tumorigenesis, and
  3. inactivate mutations in human

Fbw7 studies suggest that it may be a tumor suppressor. To generate an in vivo system to assess the consequences of such unregulated signaling, we generated mice deficient for Fbw7.  Fbw7-null mice die around 10.5 days post coitus because of a combination of deficiencies in hematopoietic and vascular development and heart chamber mutations. The absence of Fbw7 results in elevated levels of cyclin E, concurrent with inappropriate DNA replication in placental giant trophoblast cells. Moreover, the levels of both Notch 1 and Notch 4 intracellular domains were elevated, leading to stimulation of downstream transcriptional pathways involving Hes1, Herp1, and Herp2. These data suggest essential functions for Fbw7 in controlling cyclin E and Notch signaling pathways in the mouse.

Science as an Adventure


Prof. Avram Hershko – Science as an Adventure
Prof. Avram Hershko shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Aaron Ciechanover and Irwin Rose for “for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation.”

Gene Switches

Nipam Patel is a professor in the Departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley and runs a research laboratory that studies the role, during embryonic development, of homeotic genes (the genetic switches described in this feature). “Ghost in Your Genes” focuses on epigenetic “switches” that turn genes “on” or “off.” But not all switches are epigenetic; some are genetic. That is, other genes within the chromosome turn genes on or off. In an animal’s embryonic stage, these gene switches play a predominant role in laying out the animal’s basic body plan and perform other early functions;

  • the epigenome begins to take over during the later stages of embryogenesis.

Beginning as a fertilized single egg that egg becomes many different kinds of cells.  Altogether, multicellular organisms like humans have thousands of differentiated cells. Each is optimized for use in the brain, the liver, the skin, and so on. Remarkably, the DNA inside all these cells is exactly the same. What makes the cells differ from one another is that different genes in that DNA are either turned on or off in each type of cell.

Take a typical cell, such as a red blood cell. Each gene within that cell has a coding region that encodes the information used to make a particular protein. (Hemoglobin shuttles oxygen to the tissues and carbon dioxide back out to the lungs—or gills, if you’re a fish.) But another region of the gene, called “regulatory DNA,” determines whether and when the gene will be expressed, or turned on, in a particular kind of cell. This precise transcribing of genes is handled by proteins known as transcription factors, which bind to the regulatory DNA, thereby generating instructions for the coding region.

One important class of transcription factors is encoded by the so called homeotic, or Hox, genes. Found in all animals, Hox genes act to “regionalize” the body along the embryo’s anterior-to-posterior (head-to-tail) axis. In a fruit fly, for example, Hox genes lay out the various main body segments—the head, thorax, and abdomen. Amazingly, all animals, from fruit flies to mice to people, rely on the same basic Hox-gene complex. Using different-colored antibody stains, we can see exactly where and to what degree Hox genes are expressed. Each Hox gene is expressed in a specific region along the anterior-to-posterior axis of the embryo.

A fly’s body has three main divisions: head, thorax, and abdomen. We’ll focus on the thorax, which itself has three main segments. In a normal adult fly, the second thoracic segment features a pair of wings, while the third thoracic segment has a pair of small, balloon-shaped structures called halteres. A modified second wing, the haltere serves as a flight stabilizer. In order for the pair of wings and the pair of halteres (as well as all other parts of the fly) to develop properly, the fly’s suite of

  • Hox genes must be expressed in a precise way and at precise times.

During development, the fly’s two wings grow from a structure in the larva known as the wing imaginal disk. (An imago is an insect in its final, adult state.) The haltere grows from the larval haltere imaginal disk. Remember the Ubx Hox gene? Using staining again, we can detect the gene product of Ubx. This reveals that

  • the Ubx gene is naturally “off” in the wing disk—
  • and is “on” in the haltere disk.
  • Now you’ll see what happens when the Ubx gene—just one of a large number of Hox genes—is turned off in the haltere disk. What if a genetic mutation caused the Ubx gene to be turned off, during the larval stage, in the third thoracic segment, the segment that normally produces the haltere? Instead of a pair of halteres, the fly has a second set of wings. With the switch of that single Hox gene, Ubx, from on to off, the third thoracic segment becomes an additional second thoracic segment and the pair of halteres became a second pair of wings. This illustrates the remarkable ability of transcription factors like Ubx to control patterning as well as cell type during development.


A. Data Suggests “Gene” Redefinition

As part of a huge collaborative effort called ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements), a research team led by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Professor Thomas Gingeras, PhD, publishes a genome-wide analysis of RNA messages, called transcripts, produced within human cells.
Their analysis—one component of a massive release of research results by ENCODE teams from 32 institutes in 5 countries, with 30 papers appearing in 3 different high-level scientific journals—shows that three-quarters of the genome is capable of being transcribed.  This indicates that nearly all of our genome is dynamic and active.  It stands in marked contrast to consensus views prior to ENCODE’s comprehensive research efforts, which suggested that

  • only the small protein-encoding fraction of the genome was transcribed.

The vast amount of data generated with advanced technologies by Gingeras’ group and others in the ENCODE project changes the prevailing understanding of what defines a gene. The current outstanding question concerns

  • the nature and range of those functions.  It is thought that these
  • “non-coding” RNA transcripts act something like components of a giant, complex switchboard, controlling a network of  many events in the cell by
  1. regulating the processes of
  2. replication,
  3. transcription
  4. and translation

– that is, the copying of DNA and the making of proteins is based on information carried by messenger RNAs.  With the understanding that so much of our DNA can be transcribed into RNA comes the realization that there is much less space between what we previously thought of as genes, Gingeras points out.

The full ENCODE Consortium data sets can be freely accessed through

  • the ENCODE project portal as well as at the University of California at Santa Cruz genome browser,
  • the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and
  • the European Bioinformatics Institute.

Topic threads that run through several different papers can be explored via the ENCODE microsite page at    Date: September 5, 2012   Source: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

1000 Genomes Project Team Reports on Variation Patterns

(from Phase I Data) October 31, 2012 GenomeWeb

In a study appearing online today in Nature, members of the 1000 Genomes Project Consortium presented an integrated haplotype map representing the genomic variation present in more than 1,000 individuals from 14 human populations.  Using data on 1,092 individuals tested by

  • low-coverage whole-genome sequencing,
  • deep exome sequencing, and/or
  • dense genotyping,

the team looked at the nature and extent of the rare and common variation present in the genomes of individuals within these populations. In addition to population-specific differences in common variant profiles, for example, the researchers found distinct rare variant patterns within populations from different parts of the world — information that is expected to be important in interpreting future disease studies. They also encountered a surprising number of the variants that are expected to impact gene function, such as

  • non-synonymous changes,
  • loss-of-function variants, and, in some cases,
  • potentially damaging mutations.

ENCODE was designed to pick up where the Human Genome Project left off.
Although that massive effort revealed the blue­print of human biology, it quickly became clear that the instruction manual for reading the blueprint was sketchy at best. Researchers could identify in its 3 billion letters many of the regions that code for proteins, but they make up little more than 1% of the genome, contained in around 20,000 genes. ENCODE, which started in 2003, is a massive data-collection effort designed to catalogue the

  • ‘functional’ DNA sequences,
  • learn when and in which cells they are active and
  • trace their effects on how the genome is
  1. packaged,
  2. regulated and
  3. read.

After an initial pilot phase, ENCODE scientists started applying their methods to the entire genome in 2007. That phase came to a close with the publication of 30 papers, in Nature, Genome Research and Genome Biology. The consortium has assigned some sort of function to roughly 80% of the genome, including

  • more than 70,000 ‘promoter’ regions — the sites, just upstream of genes, where proteins bind to control gene expression —
  • and nearly 400,000 ‘enhancer’ regions that regulate expression of  distant genes (see page 57)1. But the job is far from done.

Junk DNA? What Junk DNA?

New data reveals that at least 80% of the human genome encodes elements that have some sort of biological function. [© Gernot Krautberger –] Far from containing vast amounts of junk DNA between its protein-coding genes, at least 80% of the human genome encodes elements that have some sort of biological function, according to newly released data from the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (Encode) project, a five-year initiative that aims to delineate all functional elements within human DNA. The massive international project, data from which are published in 30 different papers in Nature, Genome Research, Genome Biology, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Science, and Cell, has identified four million gene switches, effectively

  • regulatory regions in the genome where
  • proteins interact with the DNA to control gene expression.

Overall, the Encode data define regulatory switches that are scattered all over the three billion nucleotides of the genome. In fact, the data suggests,

  • the regions that lie between gene-coding sequences contain a wealth of previously unrecognized functional elements,Including
  • nonprotein-coding RNA transcribed sequences,
  • transcription factor binding sites,
  • chromatin structural elements, and
  • DNA methylation sites.

The combined results suggest that 95% of the genome lies within 8 kb of a DNA-protein interaction, and 99% lies within 1.7 kb of at least one of the biochemical events, the researchers say. Importantly, given the complex three-dimensional nature of DNA, it’s also apparent that

  • a regulatory element for one gene may be located quite some ‘linear’ distance from the gene itself.

“The information processing and the intelligence of the genome reside in the regulatory elements,” explains Jim Kent, director of the University of California, Santa Cruz Genome Browser project and head of the Encode Data Coordination Center. “With this project, we probably went from understanding less than 5% to now around 75% of them.”
The ENCODE results also identified SNPs within regulatory regions that are associated with a range of diseases, providing new insights into the roles that

  • noncoding DNA plays in disease development.

“As much as nine out of 10 times, disease-linked genetic variants are not in protein-coding regions,” comments Mike Pazin, Encode program director at the National Human Genome Research Institute.  “Far from being junk DNA, this regulatory DNA clearly makes important contributions to human disease.”

Other Related Articles on this Open Access Online Scientific Journal, include the following: 

Big Data in Genomic Medicine LHB

BRCA1 a tumour suppressor in breast and ovarian cancer – functions in transcription, ubiquitination and DNA repair S Saha

Computational Genomics Center: New Unification of Computational Technologies at Stanford A Lev-Ari

Personalized medicine gearing up to tackle cancer ritu saxena

Differentiation Therapy – Epigenetics Tackles Solid Tumors sj Williams

Mechanism involved in Breast Cancer Cell Growth: Function in Early Detection & Treatment A Lev-Ari

The Molecular pathology of Breast Cancer Progression tilde barliya`

Paradigm Shift in Human Genomics – Predictive Biomarkers and Personalized Medicine – Part 1 ( A Lev-Ari

LEADERS in Genome Sequencing of Genetic Mutations for Therapeutic Drug Selection in Cancer Personalized Treatment: Part 2 A Lev-Ari

Personalized Medicine: An Institute Profile – Coriell Institute for Medical Research: Part 3 A Lev-Ari

Harnessing Personalized Medicine for Cancer Management, Prospects of Prevention and Cure: Opinions of Cancer Scientific Leaders @ ALA Personalized Medicine for Cancer Management, Prospects of Prevention and Cure: Opinions of Cancer Scientific Leaders/

GSK for Personalized Medicine using Cancer Drugs needs Alacris systems biology model to determine the in silico effect of the inhibitor in its “virtual clinical trial” A Lev-Ari

Recurrent somatic mutations in chromatin-remodeling and ubiquitin ligase complex genes in serous endometrial tumors S Saha

Personalized medicine-based cure for cancer might not be far away ritu saxena

Human Variome Project: encyclopedic catalog of sequence variants indexed to the human genome sequence A Lev-Ari

Prostate Cancer Cells: Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors Induce Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition sjwilliams

Inspiration From Dr. Maureen Cronin’s Achievements in Applying Genomic Sequencing to Cancer Diagnostics A Lev-Ari

The “Cancer establishments” examined by James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA w/Crick, 4/1953 A Lev-Ari

Directions for genomics in personalized medicine lhb

How mobile elements in “Junk” DNA promote cancer. Part 1: Transposon-mediated tumorigenesis. SJwilliams

Mitochondria: More than just the “powerhouse of the cell” eritu saxena

Mitochondrial fission and fusion: potential therapeutic targets? Ritu saxena

Mitochondrial mutation analysis might be “1-step” away ritu saxena

mRNA interference with cancer expression lhb

Expanding the Genetic Alphabet and linking the genome to the metabolome LHB

Breast Cancer, drug resistance, and biopharmaceutical targets lhb

Breast Cancer: Genomic profiling to predict Survival: Combination of Histopathology and Gene Expression Analysis A Lev-Ari

Gastric Cancer: Whole-genome reconstruction and mutational signatures A Lev-Ari

Ubiquinin-Proteosome pathway, autophagy, the mitochondrion, proteolysis and cell apoptosis lhb

Genomic Analysis: FLUIDIGM Technology in the Life Science and Agricultural Biotechnology A Lev-Ari

Reveals from ENCODE project will invite high synergistic collaborations to discover specific targets A. Sarkar

ENCODE: the key to unlocking the secrets of complex genetic diseases R. Saxena

Impact of evolutionary selection on functional regions: The imprint of evolutionary selection on ENCODE regulatory elements is manifested between species and within human populations s Saha

ENCODE Findings as Consortium A Lev-Ari

Genomics Orientations for Personalized Medicine SJH, ALA, LHB

2013 Genomics: The Era Beyond the Sequencing of the Human Genome: Francis Collins, Craig Venter, Eric Lander, et al.

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Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Combinatorial Pharmacogenetic Interactions of Bucindolol and β1, α2C Adrenergic Receptor Polymorphisms

Christopher M. O’Connor1*, Mona Fiuzat1, Peter E. Carson2, Inder S. Anand3, Jonathan F. Plehn4, Stephen S. Gottlieb5, Marc A. Silver6, JoAnn Lindenfeld7, Alan B. Miller8, Michel White9, Ryan Walsh7, Penny Nelson7, Allen Medway7, Gordon Davis10, Alastair D. Robertson7, J. David Port7,10, James Carr10, Guinevere A. Murphy10,Laura C. Lazzeroni11, William T. Abraham12, Stephen B. Liggett13, Michael R. Bristow7,10

1 Division of Cardiology, Duke University Medical Center/Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America,2 Division of Cardiology, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, 3 Division of Cardiology, Department of Veterans Affairs, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America, 4 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, 5 Department of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America, 6 Heart and Vascular Institute, Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn, Illinois, United States of America, 7 Division of Cardiology/Cardiovascular Institute, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America, 8 Division of Cardiology, University of Florida Health Sciences Center, Jacksonville, Florida, United States of America, 9 Research Center, Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 10 ARCA biopharma, Broomfield, Colorado, United States of America, 11 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral United States of America, Sciences and of Pediatrics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America, 12 Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, United States of America, 13 Center for Personalized Medicine and Genomics, University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, United States of America

Competing interests: Drs Bristow, Carr, Murphy, and Port and Mr Davis are employees of and own stock or stock options in ARCA biopharma, Inc., which owns the rights to bucindolol. Drs Fiuzat, Liggett, Lindenfeld, and Robertson are consultants of ARCA biopharma. Also, Drs Fiuzat and Liggett own stock or stock options in ARCA biopharma. Drs O’Connor, Carson, Anand, Plehn, Gottlieb, Silver, Miller, White, Lazzeroni, and Abraham and Mr Walsh, Ms Nelson, and Mr Medway have no conflicts to report. This does not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.* E-mail:


Pharmacogenetics involves complex interactions of gene products affecting pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics, but there is little information on the interaction of multiple genetic modifiers of drug response. Bucindolol is a β-blocker/sympatholytic agent whose efficacy is modulated by polymorphisms in the primary target (β1 adrenergic receptor [AR] Arg389 Gly on cardiac myocytes) and a secondary target modifier (α2C AR Ins [wild-type (Wt)] 322–325 deletion [Del] on cardiac adrenergic neurons). The major allele homozygotes and minor allele carriers of each polymorphism are respectively associated with efficacy enhancement and loss, creating the possibility for genotype combination interactions that can be measured by clinical trial methodology.


In a 1,040 patient substudy of a bucindolol vs. placebo heart failure clinical trial, we tested the hypothesis that combinations of β1389 and α2C322–325 polymorphisms are additive for both efficacy enhancement and loss. Additionally, norepinephrine (NE) affinity for β1389 AR variants was measured in human explanted left ventricles.

Principal Findings

The combination of β1389 Arg+α2C322–325 Wt major allele homozygotes (47% of the trial population) was non-additive for efficacy enhancement across six clinical endpoints, with an average efficacy increase of 1.70-fold vs. 2.32-fold in β1389 Arg homozygotes+α2C322–325 Del minor allele carriers. In contrast, the minor allele carrier combination (13% subset) exhibited additive efficacy loss. These disparate effects are likely due to the higher proportion (42% vs. 8.7%, P = 0.009) of high-affinity NE binding sites in β1389 Arg vs. Gly ARs, which converts α2CDel minor allele-associated NE lowering from a therapeutic liability to a benefit.


On combination, the two sets of AR polymorphisms

1) influenced bucindolol efficacy seemingly unpredictably but consistent with their pharmacologic interactions, and

2) identified subpopulations with enhanced (β1389 Arg homozygotes), intermediate (β1389 Gly carriers+α2C322–325 Wt homozygotes), and no (β1389 Gly carriers+α2C322–325 Del carriers) efficacy.


Figure 1:


There are some limitations to this study. First, although the substudy was prospectively designed and hypothesis-driven, the pharmacogenetic data were generated and analyzed after the trial’s main results were analyzed and published [5]. However, the investigators generating the pharmacogenetic data remained blinded to the treatment code and to clinical outcomes throughout. Second, approximately two-thirds of the patients were enrolled into the DNA substudy after being randomized into the parent trial. This “late entry” phenomenon has been extensively analyzed, by both L-truncation [12] and, most recently, propensity score statistical methods (unpublished observations). The effect of late entry into the DNA substudy is only to lower event rates for all clinical endpoints, without affecting genotype-specific treatment effects.


The combinatorial interaction of two sets of AR polymorphisms that influence bucindolol’s drug action resulted in unanticipated effects on HF clinical responses, non-additivity in efficacy enhancement for the major allele homozygotes, and additive effects for minor allele carrier-associated efficacy loss. An explanation for these disparate results was provided by the effects of the α2C322–325 minor (Del) allele on facilitating bucindolol’s NE-lowering properties, where excessive NE lowering abolished efficacy when the β1389 Gly minor allele and low NE affinity AR were present but did not alter or even enhance efficacy in the presence of the major allele homozygous β1389 Arg genotype, which encodes ARs with a NE affinity of ~100-fold more than 389 Gly ARs.

Combinatorial genotyping led to improvement in pharmacogenetic differentiation of drug response compared with monotype genotyping. The use of β1389 Arg/Gly and α2C322–325 Wt/Del genotype combinations accomplishes the goal of pharmacogenetics to identify response outliers from both ends of the therapeutic spectrum. Compared with the use of β1389 Arg/Gly or α2C322–325 Wt/Del monotypes, the differential efficacy gained by the use of genotype combinations was increased by respective amounts of 54% and 94%. The new identification of a completely unresponsive genotype, supported by biologic plausibility and bolstered by data consistency across multiple clinical endpoints, is especially important inasmuch as a major goal of pharmacogenetics is to identify patients with no likelihood of benefit who can then be spared drug side effects [21]. Other β-blockers that have been used to treat HF do not have these pharmacogenetic interactions [22][23], but rather exhibit response heterogeneity through other, unknown mechanisms[8]. Thus, the ability to predict drug response through pre-treatment pharmacogenetic testing should improve therapeutic response to this drug class but will need to be confirmed by prospective studies.

Finally, the unexpected results of this study, (i.e., the additive loss of efficacy by minor allele combinations in the absence of additive gain of efficacy by major allele homozygotes) emphasizes that combinations of response-altering polymorphisms may behave in unpredictable ways and in-silico predictions of combinatorial genetic effects will need to be supported by empirical data.


  1. [No authors listed] (1999) The Cardiac Insufficiency Bisoprolol Study II (CIBIS-II): a randomised trial. Lancet 353: 9–13. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  2. Flather MD, Shibata MC, Coats AJ, Van Veldhuisen DJ, Parkhomenko A, et al. (2005) Randomized trial to determine the effect of nebivolol on mortality and cardiovascular hospital admission in elderly patients with heart failure (SENIORS). Eur Heart J 26: 215–225. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  3. [No authors listed] (1999) Effect of metoprolol CR/XL in chronic heart failure: Metoprolol CR/XL Randomised Intervention Trial in Congestive Heart Failure (MERIT-HF). Lancet 353: 2001–2007.FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  4. Packer M, Coats AJ, Fowler MB, Katus HA, Krum H, et al. (2001) Effect of carvedilol on survival in severe chronic heart failure. N Engl J Med 344: 1651–1658. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  5. The Beta Blocker Evaluation of Survival Trial Investigators (2001) A trial of the beta-blocker bucindolol in patients with advanced chronic heart failure. N Engl J Med 344: 1659–1667. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  6. Domanski MJ, Krause-Steinrauf H, Massie BM, Deedwania P, Follmann D, et al. (2003) A comparative analysis of the results from 4 trials of beta-blocker therapy for heart failure: BEST, CIBIS-II, MERIT-HF, and COPERNICUS. J Card Fail 9: 354–363. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  7. O’Connor CM, Fiuzat M, Caron MF, Deedwania P, Follmann D, et al. (2011) Influence of global region on outcomes in large heart failure β-blocker trials. J Am Coll Cardiol 58: 915–922. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  8. Metra M, Bristow MR (2010) Beta-blocker therapy in chronic heart failure. In: Mann DL, ed. Heart Failure: A companion to Braunwald’s Heart Disease.
  9. Small KM, Wagoner LE, Levin AM, Kardia SL, Liggett SB (2002) Synergistic polymorphisms of beta1- and alpha2C-adrenergic receptors and the risk of congestive heart failure. N Engl J Med 347: 1135–1142. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  10. Mialet Perez J, Rathz DA, Petrashevskaya NN, Hahn HS, Wagoner LE, et al. (2003) Beta 1-adrenergic receptor polymorphisms confer differential function and predisposition to heart failure. Nat Med 9: 1300–1305. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  11. Liggett SB, Mialet-Perez J, Thaneemit-Chen S, Weber SA, Greene SM, et al. (2006) A polymorphism within a conserved beta(1)-adrenergic receptor motif alters cardiac function and beta-blocker response in human heart failure. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103: 11288–11293. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  12. Bristow MR, Murphy GA, Krause-Steinrauf H, Anderson JL, Carlquist JF, et al. (2010) An α2C-adrenergic receptor polymorphism alters the norepinephrine lowering effects and therapeutic response of the beta blocker bucindolol in chronic heart failure. Circ Heart Fail 3: 21–28. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  13. Mason DA, Moore JD, Green SA, Liggett SB (1999) A gain-of-function polymorphism in a G-protein coupling domain of the human beta1-adrenergic receptor. J Biol Chem 274: 12670–12674. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  14. Sandilands AJ, O’Shaughnessy KM, Brown MJ (2003) Greater inotropic and cyclic AMP responses evoked by noradrenaline through Arg389 β1-adrenoceptors versus Gly389 β1-adrenoceptors in isolated human atrial myocardium. Br J Pharmacol 138: 386–392. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  15. Hein L, Altman JD, Kobilka BK (1999) Two functionally distinct alpha2-adrenergic receptors regulate sympathetic neurotransmission. Nature 402: 181–184. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  16. Small KM, Forbes SL, Rahman FF, Bridges KM, Liggett SB (2000) A four amino acid deletion polymorphism in the third intracellular loop of the human alpha 2C-adrenergic receptor confers impaired coupling to multiple effectors. J Biol Chem 275: 23059–23064. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  17. Evans WE, Relling MV (2004) Moving towards individualized medicine with pharmacogenomics. Nature 429: 464–468. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  18. Sadee W, Dai Z (2005) Pharmacogenetics/genomics and personalized medicine. Hum Mol Genet 14 (Spec No.2) R207–R214. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  19. Hershberger RE, Wynn JR, Sundberg L, Bristow MR (1990) Mechanism of action of bucindolol in human ventricular myocardium. J Cardiovasc Pharm 15: 959–967. doi: 10.1097/00005344-199006000-00014FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  20. Bristow MR, Krause-Steinrauf H, Nuzzo R, Liang CS, Lindenfeld J, et al. (2004) Effect of baseline or changes in adrenergic activity on clinical outcomes in the beta-blocker evaluation of survival trial (BEST). Circulation 110: 1437–1442. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  21. Woodcock J, Lesko LJ (2009) Pharmacogenetics–tailoring treatment for the outliers. N Engl J Med 360: 811–813. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  22. White HL, de Boer RA, Maqbool A, Greenwood D, van Veldhuisen DJ, et al. (2003) An evaluation of the beta-1 adrenergic receptor Arg389Gly polymorphism in individuals with heart failure: a MERIT-HF sub-study. Eur J Heart Fail 5: 463–468. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE
  23. Sehnert AJ, Daniels SE, Elashoff M, Wingrove JA, Burrow CR, et al. (2008) Lack of association between beta adrenergic receptor genotype and survival in heart failure patients treated with carvedilol or metoprolol. J Am Coll Cardiol 52: 644–651. FIND THIS ARTICLE ONLINE

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (TheStreet) — Wacky, inexplicable things sometimes happen to biotech stocks. Like Friday, when ARCA Biopharma (ABIO) shares more than tripled after the small drug company was granted a new U.S. patent for its experimental heart failure drug.

Arca shares rose an astonishing $5.57, or 210%, to close Friday at $8.22. Calculated another way, one U.S. patent for Arca added $40 million in market value.

Not bad, especially considering Friday’s announcement wasn’t particularly new. Arca issued a press release in January announcing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had informed the company that the patent was coming. Friday’s press release simply confirmed that the patent had been issued.

In case you’re wondering, Arca shares rose just 17 cents as a result of the January press release.

So, what’s made Arca rocket Friday when it barely budged in January on the same patent news?

Like I said, some things in biotech defy logic. Fundamentals had nothing to do it, clearly. Instead, Friday’s move was more likely a function of momentum traders finding an easy plaything in Arca, which sports a tiny float of just 4.4 million shares.

More than 49 million Arca shares traded hands Friday, or seven times the number of shares outstanding.

It was little noticed Friday, but Arca actually disclosed some bad news regarding the development of its heart failure drug bucindolol. Arca and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have still not come to agreement on a Special Protocol Assessment for a proposed phase III study of bucindolol. Arca said Friday it had to submit revisions to the design of the study, which will now enroll 3,200 heart failure patients, up from 3,000 patients previously.

Arca needs FDA sign off on the bucindolol trial design, after which the company needs to raise money to conduct the trial. Arca says it can likely start the pivotal bucindolol study one year after both those things happen. The company expects the study to take two years to complete once fully enrolled.

As of December 31, Arca had $7.8 million in its coffers.

In a study sponsored by ARCA Biopharma ($ABIO) and carried out by a number of U.S. universities, a pharmacogenetic test predicted which patients would respond to the company’s beta blocker and vasodilator bucindolol (Gencaro), in development for the treatment of chronic heart failure. The level of clinical activity of this oral drug depends on two changes in two genes.

The researchers screened more than a thousand of the patients with congestive heart failure who took part in the Beta-Blocker Evaluation of Survival Trial (BEST) and were given either bucindolol or dummy pills. Based on the patients’ clinical results and genetic profile, the team created a “genetic scorecard.” The results were published in PLoS ONE.

A biomarker for bucindolol will not only speed it through development but could also be used to point out those patients who will (and won’t) respond to which drug, sparing those patients who won’t respond the risk of potential side effects.

According to Stephen B. Liggett of the University of South Florida and founder of ARCA Biopharma, the researchers were able to use the two-gene test to “identify individuals with heart failure who will not respond to bucindolol and those who have an especially favorable treatment response. We also identified those who will have an intermediate level of response. The results showed that the choice of the best drug for a given patient, made the first time without a trial-and-error period, can be accomplished using this two-gene test.”

Bucindolol has been designated as a fast track development program for the reduction of cardiovascular mortality and cardiovascular hospitalizations in a genotype-defined heart failure population.

October 17, 2012

Two-gene test predicts which patients with heart failure respond best to beta-blocker drug, study finds
Personalized medicine research at University of South Florida strikes early for heart genes

Tampa, FL – A landmark paper identifying genetic signatures that predict which patients will respond to a life-saving drug for treating congestive heart failure has been published by a research team co-led by Stephen B. Liggett, MD, of the University of South Florida.

The study, drawing upon a randomized placebo-controlled trial for the beta blocker bucindolol, appears this month in the  international online journal PLoS ONE.  In addition to Dr. Liggett, whose laboratory discovered and characterized the two genetic variations, Christopher O’Connor, MD, of Duke University Medical Center, and Michael Bristow, MD, PhD, of ARCA biopharma and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, were leading members of the research team.
The analysis led to a “genetic scorecard” for patients with congestive heart failure, a serious condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, said Dr. Liggett, the study’s co-principal investigator and the new vice dean for research and vice dean for personalized medicine and genomics at the USF Morsani College of Medicine.
“We have been studying the molecular basis of heart failure in the laboratory with a goal of finding genetic variations in a patient’s DNA that alter how drugs work,” Dr. Liggett said.  “We took this knowledge from the lab to patients and found that we can indeed, using a two-gene test, identify individuals with heart failure who will not respond to bucindolol and those who have an especially favorable treatment response. We also identified those who will have an intermediate level of response.” The research has implications for clinical practice, because the genetic test could theoretically be used to target the beta blocker to patients the drug is likely to help. Equally important, its use could be avoided in patients with no likelihood of benefit, who could then be spared potential drug side effects.  Prospective studies are needed to confirm that bucindolol would be a better treatment than other classes of beta blockers for a subset of patients with health failure.

Dr. Liggett collaborated with medical centers across the United States, including the NASDAq-listed biotech company ARCA biopharma, which he co-founded in Denver, CO.   This genetic sub-study involved 1,040 patients who participated in the Beta-Blocker Evaluation of Survival Trial (BEST).  The researchers analyzed mortality, hospital admissions for heart failure exacerbations and other clinical outcome indicators of drug performance.

“The results showed that the choice of the best drug for a given patient, made the first time without a trial-and-error period, can be accomplished using this two-gene test,” Dr. Liggett said.

The genetic test discovered by the Liggett team requires less than 1/100th of a teaspoon of blood drawn from a patient, from which DNA is isolated.  DNA is highly stable when frozen, so a single blood draw will suffice for many decades, Dr. Liggett said. And since a patient’s DNA does not change over their lifetime, as new discoveries are made and other tests need to be run, it would not be necessary to give another blood sample, he added.

This is part of the strategy for the USF Center for Personalized Medicine and Genomics. The discovery of genetic variations in diseases can be targeted to predict three new types of information: who will get a disease, how the disease will progress, and the best drug to use for treatment.

“In the not too distant future, such tests will become routine, and patient outcomes, and the efficiency and cost of medical care will be impacted in positive ways.  We also will move toward an era where we embrace the fact that one drug does not fit all,” Dr. Liggett said.  “If we can identify by straightforward tests which drug is best for which patient, drugs that work with certain smaller populations can be brought to the market, filling a somewhat empty pipeline of new drugs.”

This approach is applicable to most diseases, Dr. Liggett said, but the USF Center has initially concentrated on heart disease, because it is a leading cause of deaths, hospitalizations and lost productivity in the Tampa Bay region and Florida.  Dr. Liggett is a recent recruit to the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, coming from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  His work at USF has been supported by several National Institutes of Health grants and $2 million in funding from Hillsborough County.

Heart failure is characterized by an inability of the heart muscle to pump blood, resulting in dysfunction of multiple organs caused by poor blood and oxygen flow throughout the body.  An estimated 6 million Americans are living with heart failure, and more than half a million new cases are diagnosed each year.  About 50 percent of patients diagnosed with heart failure die within five years.  The economic burden of heart failure in the United States is estimated at $40 billion a year.

Article citation:
Christopher M. O’Connor, Mona Fiuzat, Peter E. Carson, Inder S. Anand, Jonathan F. Plehn, Stephen S. Gottlieb, Marc A. Silver, JoAnn Lindenfeld, Alan B. Miller, Michel White, Ryan Walsh, Penny Nelson, Allen Medway, Gordon Davis, Alastair D. Robertson, J. David Port, James Carr, Guinevere A. Murphy, Laura C. Lazzeroni, William T. Abraham, Stephen B. Liggett and Michael Bristow, “Combinatorial Pharmacogenetic Interactions of Bucindolol and β1, α2C Adrenergic Receptor Polymorphisms,” PLoS ONE   7(10): e44324. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044324

-USF Health-

USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. The University of South Florida is a global research university ranked 50th in the nation by the National Science Foundation for both federal and total research expenditures among all U.S. universities.

Media contact:
Anne DeLotto Baier, USF Health Communications
(813) 974-3303 or

Read more: Two-gene test predicts which patients with heart failure respond best to beta-blocker drug, study finds – FierceBiomarkers

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