Is part of the Bibliography
Identification of a novel methyltransferase, Bmt2, responsible for the N-1-methyl-adenosine base modification of 25S rRNA in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
- The 25S rRNA of yeast contains several base modifications in the functionally important regions. The enzymes responsible for most of these base modifications remained unknown. Recently, we identified Rrp8 as a methyltransferase involved in m1A645 modification of 25S rRNA. Here, we discovered a previously uncharacterized gene YBR141C to be responsible for second m1A2142 modification of helix 65 of 25S rRNA. The gene was identified by reversed phase–HPLC screening of all deletion mutants of putative RNA methyltransferase and was confirmed by gene complementation and phenotypic characterization. Because of the function of its encoded protein, YBR141C was named BMT2 (base methyltransferase of 25S RNA). Helix 65 belongs to domain IV, which accounts for most of the intersubunit surface of the large subunit. The 3D structure prediction of Bmt2 supported it to be an Ado Met methyltransferase belonging to Rossmann fold superfamily. In addition, we demonstrated that the substitution of G180R in the S-adenosyl-l-methionine–binding motif drastically reduces the catalytic function of the protein in vivo. Furthermore, we analysed the significance of m1A2142 modification in ribosome synthesis and translation. Intriguingly, the loss of m1A2142 modification confers anisomycin and peroxide sensitivity to the cells. Our results underline the importance of RNA modifications in cellular physiology.
Recognition of two distinct elements in the RNA substrate by the RNA-binding domain of the T. thermophilus DEAD box helicase Hera
Jan Philip Wurm
Martin H. Linden
Markus G. Rudolph
- DEAD box helicases catalyze the ATP-dependent destabilization of RNA duplexes. Whereas duplex separation is mediated by the helicase core shared by all members of the family, flanking domains often contribute to binding of the RNA substrate. The Thermus thermophilus DEAD-box helicase Hera (for “heat-resistant RNA-binding ATPase”) contains a C-terminal RNA-binding domain (RBD). We have analyzed RNA binding to the Hera RBD by a combination of mutational analyses, nuclear magnetic resonance and X-ray crystallography, and identify residues on helix α1 and the C-terminus as the main determinants for high-affinity RNA binding. A crystal structure of the RBD in complex with a single-stranded RNA resolves the RNA–protein interactions in the RBD core region around helix α1. Differences in RNA binding to the Hera RBD and to the structurally similar RBD of the Bacillus subtilis DEAD box helicase YxiN illustrate the versatility of RNA recognition motifs as RNA-binding platforms. Comparison of chemical shift perturbation patterns elicited by different RNAs, and the effect of sequence changes in the RNA on binding and unwinding show that the RBD binds a single-stranded RNA region at the core and simultaneously contacts double-stranded RNA through its C-terminal tail. The helicase core then unwinds an adjacent RNA duplex. Overall, the mode of RNA binding by Hera is consistent with a possible function as a general RNA chaperone.
Use of axonal projection patterns for the homologisation of cerebral nerves in Opisthobranchia, Mollusca and Gastropoda
Roger P. Croll
- Introduction: Gastropoda are guided by several sensory organs in the head region, referred to as cephalic sensory organs (CSOs). These CSOs are innervated by distinct nerves. This study proposes a unified terminology for the cerebral nerves and the categories of CSOs and then investigates the neuroanatomy and cellular innervation patterns of these cerebral nerves, in order to homologise them. The homologisation of the cerebral nerves in conjunction with other data, e.g. ontogenetic development or functional morphology, may then provide insights into the homology of the CSOs themselves.
Results: Nickel-lysine axonal tracing (“backfilling”) was used to stain the somata projecting into specific nerves in representatives of opisthobranch Gastropoda. Tracing patterns revealed the occurrence, size and relative position of somata and their axons and enabled these somata to be mapped to specific cell clusters. Assignment of cells to clusters followed a conservative approach based primarily on relative location of the cells. Each of the four investigated cerebral nerves could be uniquely identified due to a characteristic set of soma clusters projecting into the respective nerves via their axonal pathways.
Conclusions: As the described tracing patterns are highly conserved morphological characters, they can be used to homologise nerves within the investigated group of gastropods. The combination of adequate number of replicates and a comparative approach allows us to provide preliminary hypotheses on homologies for the cerebral nerves. Based on the hypotheses regarding cerebral nerve homology together with further data on ultrastructure and immunohistochemistry of CSOs published elsewhere, we can propose preliminary hypotheses regarding homology for the CSOs of the Opisthobranchia themselves.
The protein translocation systems in plants : composition and variability on the example of Solanum lycopersicum
- Background: Protein translocation across membranes is a central process in all cells. In the past decades the molecular composition of the translocation systems in the membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum, peroxisomes, mitochondria and chloroplasts have been established based on the analysis of model organisms. Today, these results have to be transferred to other plant species. We bioinformatically determined the inventory of putative translocation factors in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) by orthologue search and domain architecture analyses. In addition, we investigated the diversity of such systems by comparing our findings to the model organisms Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Arabidopsis thaliana and 12 other plant species.
Results: The literature search end up in a total of 130 translocation components in yeast and A. thaliana, which are either experimentally confirmed or homologous to experimentally confirmed factors. From our bioinformatic analysis (PGAP and OrthoMCL), we identified (co-)orthologues in plants, which in combination yielded 148 and 143 orthologues in A. thaliana and S. lycopersicum, respectively. Interestingly, we traced 82% overlap in findings from both approaches though we did not find any orthologues for 27% of the factors by either procedure. In turn, 29% of the factors displayed the presence of more than one (co-)orthologue in tomato. Moreover, our analysis revealed that the genomic composition of the translocation machineries in the bryophyte Physcomitrella patens resemble more to higher plants than to single celled green algae. The monocots (Z. mays and O. sativa) follow more or less a similar conservation pattern for encoding the translocon components. In contrast, a diverse pattern was observed in different eudicots.
Conclusions: The orthologue search shows in most cases a clear conservation of components of the translocation pathways/machineries. Only the Get-dependent integration of tail-anchored proteins seems to be distinct. Further, the complexity of the translocation pathway in terms of existing orthologues seems to vary among plant species. This might be the consequence of palaeoploidisation during evolution in plants; lineage specific whole genome duplications in Arabidopsis thaliana and triplications in Solanum lycopersicum.
Analyses of the human ribosome biogenesis co-factors PWP2, EMG1 and XPO5 / von Matthias Sebastian Leisegang
- Ribosome biogenesis is best understood in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In human or mammalian ribosome biogenesis, it has been shown that basic principles are conserved to yeast, but additional features have been reported. Our understanding about the interplay between proteins and RNA in human ribosome biogenesis is far from complete.
The present study focused on the analysis of the human ribosome biogenesis co-factors PWP2, EMG1 and Exportin 5 (XPO5) to understand the degree of conservation of ribosome biogenesis. The proteins were characterized in respect to their localization and interaction partners. For the early 90S co-factor, PWP2, it was possible to pull down and identify the human UTP-B complex with MALDI mass spectrometry. Besides the orthologues of the members of this complex known in yeast (TBL3, WDR3, WDR36, UTP6, UTP18), the human UTP-B complex is not only conserved from yeast to humans, but contains also additional components, like the DEAD-box RNA helicase DDX21, which lacks a yeast orthologue. DDX21 was localized to the nucleus, assembled to the native UTP-B complex and co-precipitated also with other UTP-B complex members, presumably extending the functions of this complex in ribosome biogenesis.
This phenomenon was also observed for the 90S co-factor EMG1, an RNA methyltransferase, whose mutant form causes the Bowen-Conradi syndrome, if aspartic acid is mutated to glycine at position 86. This study revealed that the mutant, EMG1-D86G, clearly lost its nucleolar localization and co-precipitated to histones for unknown reasons.
A participation of the nuclear export receptor XPO5 in human ribosome biogenesis was shown in this study. Pulldown analysis, sucrose density gradients and UV crosslinking and analysis of cDNAs of XPO5 revealed the involvement of XPO5 in pre-60S subunit maturation. Moreover, besides the known pre-miRNAs and tRNAs as substrates for nuclear export, XPO5 crosslinked to snoRNAs. XPO5 was further demonstrated to interact with the miRNA Let-7a, which has an important regulatory function for MYC, a transcription factor required for ribosome biogenesis.
All results support a role of these proteins in human ribosome biogenesis and therefore it seems that the biogenesis of ribosomes in human cells requires additional components, like DDX21 and XPO5.
Development of native electrophoretic techniques for the isolation and characterization of mitochondrial complexes
- In the first part of this work, the development of a novel two-dimensional native gel electrophoretic system (2-D BN/hrCNE) is described. This new system simplifies proteomics and biochemical analysis of mega protein complexes that are dissociated into the constituent complexes during 2-D electrophoresis, thereby reducing the complexity of the system considerably. This technique is exceptionally well suited for the in-gel detection of fluorescence-labeled proteins and the identification of individual enzymes and protein complexes by specific in-gel assays on native gels.
In the second part, a new technique for the native immunoblotting of blue native gels (NIBN) was developed. This new technique allows for the identification of conformation-specific antibodies and the discrimination of antibodies recognizing linear epitopes of denatured proteins. Identification of conformation-specific antibodies is becoming increasingly important not only for the electron microscopic identification of native proteins but also for structural investigations in general. For this purpose, a commonly used protocol for Western blotting of blue native gels was modified in such a way that the native state of proteins and protein complexes was retained throughout the complete protocol. Instead of using the denaturing methanol in Western blotting protocols, mild detergents such as Tween 20, digitonin and Brij 35 were used for the obligatory removal of protein bound Coomassie-dye.
The detection of respiratory complex I by activity staining on the blot membrane demonstrated that all three non-ionic detergents preserved the native state of complex I. The native state of the enzyme on the blot membrane was also monitored and confirmed with the help of a set of conformation-specific antibodies. NIBN can be used as a simple alternative method to the demanding native ELISA to screen for conformation-specific antibodies for structural studies. Unlike the time consuming native ELISA, NIBN does not require introduction of appropriate affinity tags and purification of the target protein by chromatography. Thus, the NIBN technique is especially useful for microscale projects and for proteins not easily accessible to genetic manipulation.
The third part aimed at identification of the immediate protein interaction partners of Cox26, a hydrophobic protein that has been identified by our group as a novel component of yeast respiratory supercomplex. Multi-dimensional electrophoretic techniques were applied to identify non-covalent and covalent protein-protein interactions of Cox26. Three-dimensional electrophoresis (BNE/BNE/SDS-PAGE) gave both qualitative and quantitative information on covalent and non-covalent interactions of Cox26 and subunits of cytochrome c oxidase (complex IV), and showed that most of the Cox26 protein was non-covalently bound to the complex IV moiety of the respirasomes. Four-dimensional electrophoresis (BNE/BNE/SDS/SDS-PAGE) applying reducing and non-reducing conditions revealed that a minor fraction of Cox26 used a single cysteine residue in the center of a predicted transmembrane helix to form a disulfide bond with the Cox2 subunit of complex IV. A structural role of Cox26 protein in the assembly/stability of respiratory strings or patches has been suggested.
The last part of this work focused on the isolation and characterization of native and morphologically intact nucleoids from bovine heart mitochondria, since only a few studies on nucleoid organization and composition have been carried out on mammalian tissues. The nucleoids appeared as distinct bands (apparent mass around 30-36 MDa) in blue native-PAGE on large pore gels. The moderate variation in particle size seems to reflect variations in the binding of loosely nucleoid-associated components like respiratory chain complexes. The estimated 30-36 MDa mass of nucleoids on native gels suggested that each nucleoid contains one mtDNA molecule provided that nucleoids contains equal amounts of DNA, protein and RNA (Miyakawa et al., 1987).
Electron microscopic analysis of native nucleoids, which was performed by Dr. Karen Davies from the Max-Planck-Institute of Biophysics, Department of Structural Biology, Frankfurt, showed homogenous pool of particles with dimensions in 85x100 nm (in negative stain) and 100x150 nm (in cryo-tomography). Some of the nucleoids showed dumbbell-shape indicating dimerization of nucleoids. Recent EM and high-resolution light microscopy analysis of mammalian nucleoids have reported that nucleoids have a size of 70 nm in average. We also observed the same size of 70 nm in cryo-tomogramms when we applied harsher treatment of the native nucleoid particles with dimensions 100x150 nm. This observation is in agreement with published nucleoid sizes from both EM and high-resolution light microscopy, if we assume that native nucleoids have been dissociated under harsher treatment.
The protein composition of bovine heart mt-nucleoids was analyzed by a number of complementary approaches to identify low and highly abundant, easily dissociating and tightly bound proteins, and to rank the 90 most abundant mt-nucleoid proteins. Native and denaturing gel electrophoresis techniques were coupled to LC-MS/MS to achieve a comprehensive protein component analysis. Qualitative MS analysis of highly purified nucleoids identified more than 400 proteins, including well known nucleoid proteins such as mitochondrial transcription factor and mtDNA-binding protein (TFAM), mitochondrial single-stranded DNA-binding protein (mtSSB), mitochondrial DNA polymerase subunit gamma-2 (POLG2) and mitochondrial helicase C26H10ORF2 protein (Twinkle). These proteins were ranked according to Mascot scores, and sorted according to presumed functional properties. A large group of proteins involved in protein synthesis comprised an almost complete set of subunits of mitochondrial ribosomes suggesting that the nucleoids contained significant amounts of mitochondrial ribosomes. Identification of sixty six proteins from the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) system comprising around 100 proteins in total suggested that OXPHOS proteins are also associated with mt-nucleoids.
Interestingly, TFAM, described as a main mtDNA packaging factor in human and other mammalian cells, was not confirmed here as a major nucleoid component from bovine heart mitochondria. Fluorescence staining of protein spots on 2-D IEF/SDS gels clearly identified TFAM, but according to the stain intensity, this protein did not rank in the list of the 90 most abundant nucleoid proteins. Western blot analysis of sucrose gradient fractions revealed an enrichment of putative TFAM isoform in nucleoid fractions. Unexpectedly, the uncharacterized mitochondrial protein Es1 was identified as the most abundant nucleoid protein in bovine heart nucleoids instead. This implicates that nucleoid organization may differ between species and tissues. A functional characterization of Es1 is required to clarify its role in mammalian nucleoids.
Assessing the combined effects of xenobiotics, climate change and predators on aquatic organisms in multiple stressor experiments : a case study with pyrimethanil
- The environmental impact of climate change is meanwhile not only discussed in the scientific community but also in the general public. However, little is known about the interaction between climate change and pollutants like pesticides. A combination of multiple stressors (e.g. temperature, pollutants, predators) may lead to severe alterations for organisms such as changes in time of reproduction, reproductive success and growth performance, mortality and geographic distribution. The questions if aquatic organisms tend to react more sensitive towards incidents under climate change conditions remains. Therefore, within the present thesis the aquatic ecotoxicological profile of the fungicide pyrimethanil, as an exemplarily anthropogenic used contaminant, was examined.
A large test battery of ecotoxicological standard tests and supplement bioassays with non-model species was conducted to investigate if species-specific or life stage-specific differences occur or if temperature alteration may change the impact of the fungicide. Two of the most sensitive species (Chironomus riparius and Daphnia magna) were used to investigate the acute and chronic thermal dependence of pyrimethanil effects. The results clearly depict that the ecotoxicity of pyrimethanil at optimal thermal conditions did not depend on the trophic level, but was species-specific. With regard to EC10 values the acute pyrimethanil toxicity on C. riparius increased with higher temperature (6.78 mg L-1 at 14°C and 3.06 mg L-1 at 26°C). The chronic response of D. magna to the NOEC (no observed effect concentration) of the fungicide (0.5 mg L-1) was examined in an experiment which lasted for several generations under three simulated near-natural temperature regimes (‘cold year, today’ (11 to 22.7°C), ‘warm year, today’ (14 to 25.2°C) and ‘warm year, 2080’ (16.5 to 28.1°C)). A pyrimethanil-induced mortality increase was buffered by the strongly related increase of the general reproductive capacity, while population growth was stronger influenced by temperature than by the fungicide. At a further pyrimethanil concentration (LOEC – lowest observed effect concentration: 1 mg L-1), a second generation could not be established by D. magna under all thermal regimes.
Besides daphnids, the midge C. riparius was used for a second multigeneration study. In a bifactorial test design it was tested if climate change conditions alter or affect the impact of a low fungicide concentration on life history and genetic diversity. The NOAEC/2 (half of the no observed adverse effect concentration derived from a standard toxicity test) was used as a low pyrimethanil concentration to which laboratory populations of the midges were chronically exposed under the mentioned temperature scenarios. During the 140-day-multigeneration study, survival, emergence, reproduction, population growth, and genetic diversity of C. riparius were analyzed. The results reveal that high temperatures and pyrimethanil act synergistically on life history parameters of C. riparius. In simulated present-day scenarios, a NOAEC/2 of pyrimethanil provoked only slight to moderate beneficial or adverse effects. In contrast, an exposure to a NOAEC/2 concentration of pyrimethanil at a thermal situation likely for a summer under the future expactations uncovered adverse effects on mortality and population growth rate. In addition, genetic diversity was considerably reduced by pyrimethanil in the ‘warm year, 2080’ scenario, but only slightly under current climatic conditions. The multigeneration studies under near-natural thermal conditions indicate that not only the impact of climate change, but also low concentrations of pesticides may pose a reasonable risk for aquatic invertebrates in the future. This clearly shows that thermal and multigenerational effects should be considered when appraising the ecotoxicity of pesticides and assessing their future risk for the environment.
In addition to temperature further multiple abiotic and biotic stressors alterate pollutant effects. Moreover, to better discriminate and understand the intrinsic and environmental correlates of changing aquatic ecosystems, it was experimentally unraveled how the effects of a low-dose of pyrimethanil on daphnids becomes modified by different temperatures (15°C, 20°C, 25°C) and in the presence/ absence of predator kairomones of Chaoborus flavicans larvae. The usage of a fractional multifactorial test design provided the possibility to investigate the individual growth, reproduction and population growth rate of Daphnia pulex via different exposure routes to the fungicide pyrimethanil at an environmentally relevant concentration (0.05 mg L-1) - either directly (via the water phase), indirectly (via algae food), dually (via water and food) or for multiple generations (fungicide treated source population).
The number of neonates increased with increasing temperatures. At a temperature of 25°C no significant differences between the individual treatment groups were observed although the growth was overall inhibited due to pyrimethanil. Besides, at 15 and 20°C it is obvious that daphnids which were fed with contaminated algae had the lowest reproduction and growth rate. The obtained results clearly demonstrate that multiple stress factors can modify the response of daphnids to pollutants. The exposure routes of the contaminant are of minor importance, while temperature and the presence of a predator are the dominant factors impacting the reproduction of D. pulex. It can be concluded that low concentrations of pyrimethanil may disturb the zooplankton community at suboptimal temperature conditions, but the effects will become masked if chaoborid larvae are present. Therefore it seems necessary to observe prospectively if the combination of several stress factors like pesticide exposure and suboptimal temperature may influence the life history and sensitivity of several aquatic invertebrates differently.
Besides standard test organisms it is inevitable to conduct test with aquatic invertebrate which are not yet considered regularly in ecotoxicological experiments. For example molluscs represent one of the largest phyla of macroinvertebrates with more than 100.000 species, being ecologically and economically important. Therefore, within the present study embryo, juvenile, half- and full-life cycle toxicity tests with the snail Physella acuta were performed to investigate the impact of pollutants on various life stages. Different concentrations of pyrimethanil (0.06-0.5 or 1.0 mg L-1) assessed at three temperatures (15°C, 20°C, 25°C) revealed that pyrimethanil caused concentration-dependent effects independent of temperature. Interestingly, the ecotoxicity of pyrimethanil was higher at lower temperature for the embryo hatching and F1 reproduction, but its ecotoxicity for the growth of juveniles and the F0 reproduction increased with increasing temperature. More specifically, it could have been observed that especially during the reproduction test high mortality rates occurred at the highest concentration of 1 mg L-1 at all temperatures. Due to high mortality rates no snails were available for the F1 at the highest concentrations (0.5 and 1.0 mg L-1). Compared to the F0, overall more egg masses were produced in the F1, being all fertile and no mortality occurred. For the F1-generation the strongest pyrimethanil effects were detected at 15°C. A comparison of effect concentrations between both generations showed that the F1 is more sensitive than the F0.
These results indicate that an exposure over more than one generation may give a better overview of the impact of xenobiotics. With the establishment of an embryo and reproduction test under different temperatures and various concentrations of pyrimethanil with P. acuta we could successfully show that molluscs can respond more sensitive than model organisms and that both, chemical and thermal stressor strongly influence the behaviour of the pulmonates. It can be concluded that the high susceptibility for the fungicide observed in gastropods clearly demonstrates the complexity of pesticide-temperature interactions and the challenge to draw conclusions for the ecotoxicological risk assessment of pesticides under the impact of global climate change.
Is a persistent global bias necessary for the establishment of planar cell polarity?
Nicholas A. M. Monk
Markus R. Owen
- Planar cell polarity (PCP)–the coordinated polarisation of a whole field of cells within the plane of a tissue–relies on the interaction of three modules: a global module that couples individual cellular polarity to the tissue axis, a local module that aligns the axis of polarisation of neighbouring cells, and a readout module that directs the correct outgrowth of PCP-regulated structures such as hairs and bristles. While much is known about the molecular components that are required for PCP, the functional details of–and interactions between–the modules remain unclear. In this work, we perform a mathematical and computational analysis of two previously proposed computational models of the local module (Amonlirdviman et al., Science, 307, 2005; Le Garrec et al., Dev. Dyn., 235, 2006). Both models can reproduce wild-type and mutant phenotypes of PCP observed in the Drosophila wing under the assumption that a tissue-wide polarity cue from the global module persists throughout the development of PCP. We demonstrate that both models can also generate tissue-level PCP when provided with only a transient initial polarity cue. However, in these models such transient cues are not sufficient to ensure robustness of the resulting cellular polarisation.
Transcription of Genes Involved in Sulfolipid and Polyacyltrehalose Biosynthesis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Experimental Latent Tuberculosis Infection
Jimmy E. Rodríguez
Ana S. Ramírez
Laura P. Salas
Jorge Gonzalez y Merchand
Carlos Y. Soto
- he Influence of trehalose-based glycolipids in the virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is recognised; however, the actual role of these cell-wall glycolipids in latent infection is unknown. As an initial approach, we determined by two-dimensional thin-layer chromatography the sulfolipid (SL) and diacyltrehalose/polyacyltrehalose (DAT/PAT) profile of the cell wall of hypoxic Mtb. Then, qRT-PCR was extensively conducted to determine the transcription profile of genes involved in the biosynthesis of these glycolipids in non-replicating persistent 1 (NRP1) and anaerobiosis (NRP2) models of hypoxia (Wayne model), and murine models of chronic and progressive pulmonary tuberculosis. A diminished content of SL and increased amounts of glycolipids with chromatographic profile similar to DAT were detected in Mtb grown in the NRP2 stage. A striking decrease in the transcription of mmpL8 and mmpL10 transporter genes and increased transcription of the pks (polyketidesynthase) genes involved in SL and DAT biosynthesis were detected in both the NRP2 stage and the murine model of chronic infection. All genes were found to be up-regulated in the progressive disease. These results suggest that SL production is diminished during latent infection and the DAT/PAT precursors can be accumulated inside tubercle bacilli and are possibly used in reactivation processes.
Juvenile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis: toponomics approach to identifying new drug targets / von Anna Pupu Ingeborg Krokfors
- Juvenile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (JNCL) is a rare inherited childhood neurodegenerative disease that is caused by a mutation in the gene CLN3. The function of the protein produced by the gene has remained elusive, and therefore the disease mechanism of JNCL is as of yet unknown. The disease is fatal, and no cure is currently available. We believe that simvastatin shows promise as a possible treatment. Simvastatin is well tolerated in children, and as currently no other viable, less invasive treatment for JNCL exists, at least pilot-scale clinical trials for this new off-label use of simvastatin are warranted.
The protein CLN3 has been indicated to have several different subcellular localizations and functions, but conclusive evidence about its role in cellular metabolism is lacking. It is also unclear why the mutation causes the distinct phenotype of the JNCL disease. In order to bring lucidity to the issue, we set out to identify metabolic pathways related to the phenotype of JNCL by using Multi-Epitope Ligand Cartography (MELC) and the related field of toponomics. Toponomic methods are required to process the massive amount of data generated by the MELC runs in order to extract information from them.
Our disease model of choice was the CLN3Δex7/8 knock-in mouse. To separate cause from effect, we compared embryonal wild type and mutant mouse brains to their adult counterparts. The first analyses revealed progressively abnormal Combinatorial Molecular Patterns (CMPs, an unit of toponomic data) related to cholera toxin/ganglioside 1 (Ctx/GM1), which is a membrane microdomain marker.
Cholesterol is an essential part of microdomains, so we utilized filipin staining to see if there were actual changes in cholesterol concentration and localization between healthy and diseased animals. After the disturbance in cholesterol metabolism was verified, we investigated the metabolic pathway that synthesizes cholesterol, the mevalonate pathway. Simvastatin is a drug that specifically down-regulates the mevalonate pathway. Fish oil affects lipid homeostasis and has some effects similar to those of simvastatin, and both of these drugs have previously been studied for their effects on neurodegenerative diseases. After treatment of mice with these drugs, highperformance liquid chromatography (HPLC) measurements on the brain homogenate showed a decrease in levels of farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP) and geranyl-geranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP), products of the mevalonate pathway, confirming the effect of these drugs on the brains of the animals. Analyses of motor function of the mice further supported the notion that simvastatin had a positive effect on the condition of the diseased animals.
CMP analyses from the simvastatin treated mice showed a rescue of the Ctx/GM1 CMPs, suggesting at least a partial restoration of membrane microdomain homeostasis. Filipin staining revealed reversion of the apparent cholesterol depletion in the adult mutant mouse hippocampus by simvastatin. Interestingly, an additional effect of the treatment was found: simvastatin also affected glutamate receptor homeostasis, especially as regarding to N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and alphaamino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate (AMPA) receptors. This finding suggested that excitotoxicity could be a part of the disease process, and pointed towards glutamate receptors as possible therapy targets. This is in line with previous studies that have shown that attenuation of AMPA receptors and L voltage-dependent channels improve the phenotype of a JNCL mouse and cell model, respectively.
Simvastatin mediates many of its effects via downregulation of the mevalonate pathway products, such as isoprenoids and cholesterol. However, simvastatin also has multiple pleiotropic effects that include suppression of excitotoxicity and granting neuroprotection. It is apparent that simvastatin treatment has a positive effect on JNCL mice, but if its effects are mediated via cholesterol (and membrane microdomains), isoprenoids (and isoprenylated proteins) or via a fully cholesterol independent mechanism remains to be solved.
In this study we have shown that with the MELC method and toponomics it is possible to approach rare diseases with confounded disease mechanisms with a hypothesis-free approach, to identify possible drug targets, and to monitor the effects of the drugs on treated individuals. This should open up a new avenue in the research of the many diseases that so far have avoided all attempts at discerning their nature.