Biologische Hochschulschriften (Goethe-Universität)
Investigation of the biosynthesis of bacterial natural products
- Natural products (NPs) have been a rich source for pharmaceutically used anti-infectives and other drugs. However, the application of anti-infectives inevitably causes the development of resistant and multiresistant pathogens, which have to be treated with novel anti-infectives. The industrial research for novel anti-infectives has been concentrating on members of the bacterial Actinomycetales for a long time. Due to several reasons, e.g. the rediscovery of already known NPs, pharmaceutical companies abandoned their NP-research and focused on drug development based on combinatorial chemistry. However, the limited structural diversity of merely synthetic compound libraries has not been a fruitful source for bioactive compounds. Hence the discovery of novel bioactive NPs as a source for anti-infectives is still of economical and humanitarian interest and will remain to be an important branch of research in the future. One strategy to circumvent the rediscovery of bioactive NPs is the analysis of yet unexplored bacterial taxa. Based on this assumption, this work aimed at the discovery of novel NPs from the entomopathogenic bacterial genera Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus and other promising taxa, as well as the investigation of their biosynthesis. ...
Genetic diversity and geneflow between Arctic and Antarctic populations of the lichen Cetraria aculeata along the Andes and the Rocky Mountains
Fernando Fernández Mendoza
- Lichens are present in most land ecosystems, frequently occupying habitats where few other organisms are able to survive. Their contribution to the ecosystems in terms of biomass and ground cover increases with latitude and altitude, being, together with bryophytes, the most conspicuous component of alpine and polar landscapes. Whereas some polar lichens have reduced distributions and are restricted to high latitudes, most of them have very wide distributional ranges, which oven extend over several climatic regions. Many of them are common to Polar Regions of both hemispheres, a distributional pattern that has been denominated as bipolar, antitropical or amphitropical. Bipolar distributions are not exclusive to lichens, but common to many groups of organisms. The bipolar element in lichens is exceptional as it includes a large number of species, while in most other land organisms it includes genera or families but very seldom species.
In this dissertation I use the bipolar lichen Cetraria aculeata to give a first insight into the phylogeography of this biogeographic element in lichens. I discuss how and when the disjunct distribution of C. aculeata came to be, and try to partial out the roles that historical and ecological processes played in shaping its distribution.
Sampling was designed to cover a wide geographic extension. The main e"ort was made to collect in boreal, temperate and tropical mountain ranges in North and South America, as well to include Mediterranean populations in which specimens with deviant morphologies are observed.
I found that Cetraria aculeata forms a genetically congruent taxon. Although whether it should include C. muricata remains unsolved, I excluded all specimens identified as the latter from our analyses. Thee populations of both algal and fungal symbionts have a strong geographic structure. The study of the lichen fungus suggested that the species originated in the Eurasian continent and later expanded to acquire its current distribution during the Pleistocene. The results showed that all American populations originated from an ancestral population, more similar to the extant Arctic populations than to the Mediterranean ones.
The comparison between the structure of fungal and algal populations showed a high degree of coherence between them. However, the similarity in photobiont use between Arctic and Antarctic populations suggests that photobiont use responds not only to a history of codispersal in vegetative propagula, but it is also a result of a selective process related to climate. Since this climatic pattern of similarity is also found in the community of Alphaproteobacteria associated with C. aculeata, we concluded that lichens might be able to accommodate or to respond to different environmental conditions by selectively associating with different symbiotic partners.
Lastly, we found the Mediterranean populations of C. aculeata to be genetically differentiated in algal and fungal symbionts from the rest of the populations. While we found no grounds to believe that the overgrown morphs encountered in the region are due to the association with different algal lineages, I believe that a switch in photobiont use might be responsible for the pattern of genetic isolation encountered. Furthermore, I suggest that the Mediterranean and bipolar C. aculeata could be two different species, since both are ecologically, genetically and at least in part morphologically divergent.
The phylogeny of the genus Gazella and the phylogeography and population genetics of arabian species
- Biodiversity is caused by a fundamental evolutionary process: speciation. When species can spread into new habitats and are allowed to colonize new ecological niches, speciation can become accelerated and is then called radiation. This can happen, e.g., when formerly separated land masses become connected. A prime example of such a scenario is the Arabian Peninsula that connects Africa and Asia since the Oligocene (approx. 30 Ma ago). Since then, the peninsula promoted several faunal exchanges between both continents. The mammalian genus Gazella is an excellent candidate for investigating this faunal exchange. Species are distributed on both, the African and Asian continent as well as on the Arabian Peninsula that is located in between. The aim of my thesis was to cast new light on the evolution and speciation of the genus and, furthermore, to evaluate the currently problematic taxonomy to infer suggestions for improved conservation actions for threatened gazelle species. Therefore, I investigated the taxon Gazella genetically and identified factors that promoted the speciation of this diverse genus. I assessed intraspecific genetic variability for species that inhabited the Arabian Peninsula to infer the past demography of those species and to estimate the history of species divergence and past population parameters.
In the first part of my thesis I inferred a mitochondrial phylogeny based on cytochrome b gene sequences using samples of all nine extant species of Gazella and also of closely related taxa (chapter 2). Besides the monophyly of the genus Gazella two reciprocally monophyletic clades were detected that evolved in allopatry: one predominantly African and one predominantly Asian clade. Within both clades species pairs could be inferred with species being ecologically adapted to different habitats: one species is a desert-dweller (probably the ancestral character state combination), while the other one is adapted to rather mountainous and humid habitats. These adaptations also correlate with the behavior of the species with the mountainous forms being sedentary, territorial and living in small groups and the desert forms being migratory, non-territorial and living in larger herds.
The second part of my thesis focuses on the Arabian gazelle species. In a study about G. subgutturosa I could show that the Arabian form G. marica (sand gazelle)—previously recognized as a subspecies of G. subgutturosa—is genetically distinct from the nominate form (chapter 3). Moreover, a phylogenetic tree based on cytochrome b gene sequences revealed a polyphyly of G. subgutturosa and G. marica with sand gazelles being more closely related to G. leptoceros and G. cuvieri of North Africa. Consequently, I suggested the restoration to full species level for G. marica corroborating earlier conservation practices of breeding both taxa separately in captivity.
In case of G. dorcas such a genetic differentiation could not be detected (chapter 4). Despite the large distribution range from Mali in the west to Saudi Arabia in the east only low genetic variation was detectable in mitochondrial sequence data. Statistically parsimony network analyses revealed pronounced haplotype sharing across regions. Using a coalescence approach I observed a steep population decline that started about 25,000 years ago and which is still ongoing. The decline could be correlated with human hunting activities in the Sahara. Hence, hunting of G. dorcas (already in ancient times) had a much larger impact on gazelle populations than previously thought and even led to the extinction of the Arabian form of G. dorcas.
In chapter 5 of my thesis I provided a rigorous test to genetically distinguish between the potential species G. gazella and G. arabica. Previously recognized as a single species mitochondrial sequence analyses provided first hints for the separation of both taxa. But without the investigation of nuclear loci the observed pattern could also be the result of male biased dispersal combined with female philopatry. Therefore, I amplified mitochondrial sequence markers and nuclear microsatellite loci for both taxa and found support for the earlier view of two separate species. No signs of recurrent gene flow could be detected between neighboring populations of G. arabica and G. gazella. The split of both species could be estimated one million years ago and the recommendation of breeding both taxa separately in captivity for conservation purposes is fully justified.
Several populations of G. arabica suffer from a severe decline. In chapter 6 I asked whether the population occurring on the Farasan archipelago—being at stable individual numbers for decades—may serve as potential source for future reintroduction on the Arabian mainland, although the gazelles show a reduced body size. Analyzing the genetic differentiation of Farasan gazelles, a genetic cluster could be inferred being endemic to the archipelago. However, only approx. 70% of Farasan individuals were assigned to this specific cluster, while the others showed at least intermediate or even complete assignment to the mainland cluster. This indicates ongoing introgression that is probably mediated by human translocations of gazelles from and onto the islands. Considering the uniform dwarfism of Farasan gazelles, reasons for the smaller body size might be direct consequences of resource limitations, i.e., phenotypic plasticity. If the population decline on the mainland will hold on Farasan gazelles could serve as stocks for future reintroductions.
Formation of PGE 2 in the tumor microenvironment and its impact on tumorigenesis
- Tumor development usually follows predictable paths where tumor cells acquire common characteristics and features known as the hallmarks of cancer. Recently, additional characteristics have been added to these hallmarks since solid tumors are composed of a very heterogeneous population of transformed, formerly normal tissue cells and stromal cells, e.g. immune cells and fibroblasts. Compelling evidence suggests that stromal cells and tumor cells maintain a symbiotic relationship to build up the tumor microenvironment and to fuel tumor growth. In cancer therapies, common features of tumors such as unrestricted cell growth, suppression of immunological responses, and the ability to form new blood vessels (angiogenesis) have emerged as the main targets of interest. The lipid mediator prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) is known to promote all these features and thus, is connected to cancer progression in general. Its synthesis is triggered in response to stress factors or during inflammation. Inducible PGE2 production relies on the enzymes cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) and microsomal prostanglandin E synthase 1 (mPGES-1), which are simultaneously expressed in response to a variety of different stimuli and are functionally coupled. Inhibition of COX-2 with non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for cancer treatment is, however, limited by cardiovascular risks, since selective COX-2 inhibition disrupts the prostacyclin/thromboxane balance. Therefore targeting mPGES-1 downstream of COX-2 for PGE2 inhibition was evaluated in this work in different steps of carcinogenesis. Knockdown of mPGES-1 in DU145 prostate cancer cells revealed that the mPGES-1 status did not affect growth of monolayer tumor cells, but significantly impaired 3D growth of multi-cellular tumor spheroids (MCTS). Spheroid formation induced COX-2 in DU145 and other prostate cancer spheroids. High levels of PGE2 were detected in supernatants of DU145 MCTS as opposed to monolayer DU145 cells. Pharmacological inhibition of COX-2 and mPGES-1 confirmed the pivotal role of PGE2 for DU145 MCTS growth. Besides promoting spheroid growth, MCTS-derived PGE2 also inhibited cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) activation. When investigating the mechanisms of COX-2 induction during spheroid formation, the typical tumor microenvironmental factors such as glucose deprivation, hypoxia or tumor cell apoptosis failed to enhance COX-2. Interestingly, when interfering with apoptosis in DU145 spheroids, the pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK triggered a Summary 12 shift towards necrosis, thus enhancing COX-2 expression. Coculturing viable DU145 monolayer cells with isolated heat-shocked-treated necrotic DU145 cells, but not with necrotic cell supernatants, induced COX-2 and PGE2, confirming the impact of necrosis for MCTS growth and CTL inhibition. As mentioned, in vivo tumors are very heterogenous mixtures of tumor cells and stromal cells e.g. immune cells. Hence, the interaction of the immune system with tumors was investigated in further experiments. When coculturing MCF-7 breast cancer spheroids with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), only low levels of PGE2 were detected, since MCF-7 cells did not upregulate COX-2 during spheroid formation and did not induce PGE2 production by PBMCs. Under inflammatory conditions, by adding the toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) agonist lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to cocultures, PGE2 production was triggered, spheroid sizes were reduced, and numbers of high levels of granzyme B expressing (GrBhi) CTLs were increased, while CD80 expression by tumor-associated phagocytes was also elevated. Inhibition of CD80 but not CD86 diminished numbers of GrBhi CTLs and attenuated spheroid lysis. To determine the role of ctivation-induced PGE2 production, use of the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib and the experimental mPGES-1 inhibitor C3 further increased CD80 expression. Addition of PGE2, the prostaglandin E2 (EP2) receptor agonist butaprost, and the phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) inhibitor rolipram reduced LPS/C3-triggered CD80 expression, confirming the impact of COX- 2/mPGES-1-derived PGE2 on shaping phagocyte phenotypes in an EP2/cAMP-dependent manner. In a spontaneous breast cancer model (MMTV-PyMT), mPGES-1-deficiency significantly delayed tumor growth in mice, confirming an overall protumorigenic role of mPGES-1 in breast cancer development in vivo. However in tumors of mPGES-1-/- mice, tumor-infiltrating phagocytes expressed low levels of CD80 similar to their wildtype counterparts. These data suggest that the immunosuppressive microenvironment does not allow for immunostimulatory effects by mPGES-1 inhibition without an activating stimulus. Evidences in this study recommend the application of mPGES-1 inhibitors for treating cancer diseases, since mPGES-1 promotes tumor growth in multiple steps of carcinogenesis, ranging from well-characterized effects of tumor cell growth to immune suppression of CTL activity and phagocyte polarization. Regarding the latter, blunting PGE2 during immune activation may limit the tumor-favoring features of inflammation and improve the efficiency of TLR4 based immune therapies.
Function of flotillins in Alzheimer disease and apoptosis
Bincy Anu John
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a common, age associated neurodegenerative disease that manifests as progressive dementia and is characterized by accumulation of the amyloid beta (Aβ) peptide which is a processing product of a transmembrane protein termed Alzheimer Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP). The Aβ peptide is generated by a sequential proteolytic processing of APP by two distinct proteases that are termed β- and γ-secretase. The β-secretase, also called BACE-1 or memapsin 2, belongs to the family of aspartyl proteases. BACE-1 evidently cleaves APP in an acidic endosomal compartment after endocytosis of APP, thereby facilitating Aβ peptide generation.
Sorting of transmembrane proteins is generally controlled by sorting signals in the cytoplasmic domains of the cargo proteins. The short cytoplasmic tail of BACE-1 with 23 amino acids contains a sorting signal of the acidic cluster, di-leucine (ACDL) type. The two Leu residues in this determinant are important for the clathrin mediated endocytosis of BACE-1, whereas the acidic residues together with the Leu are required for the endosomal sorting and recycling of BACE-1 back to the plasma membrane. The ACDL motif binds to the members of the GGA (Golgi-localized γ ear-containg ARF- binding proteins) family (GGA1-GGA3) that are involved in the sorting of BACE-1.
One of the major aims of this study was to address the role of flotillins in the intracellular sorting of BACE-1. This study shows that flotillin-1 directly binds to the di-leucine motif in the cytoplasmic tail of BACE-1, whereas flotillin-2 only shows an association mediated by flotillin-1. Flotillin-1 competes with GGA2 for the binding to BACE-1 tail, and thus influences the endosomal sorting of BACE-1. Importantly, depletion of flotillins results in an altered localization of the wildtype BACE-1, whereas the plasma membrane resident Leu to Ala (LLAA) mutant is not affected. Flotillin knockdown results in an accumulation of BACE-1, implicating reduced degradation and enhanced stability of this protease. Thus, flotillins appear to be important for the cellular targeting of BACE-1 and also influence the amyloidogenic processing of APP, as demonstrated by an increase in the amyloidogenic C-99 processing fragments.
When flotillin depleted cells were subjected to apoptotic stresses including Aβ25-35 synthetic peptide (inducer of the extrinsic apoptosis pathway) or several chemotherapeutic agents (staurosporine, brefeldin A, doxorubicin, carboplatin and paclitaxel: intrinsic apoptosis pathway) and cytotoxicity was determined, various apoptotic markers were activated in flotillin depleted cells. Caspase-3 and GGA3 are well accepted apoptosis markers and an enhanced caspase-3 cleavage was detected upon STS induced apoptosis in SH-SY5Y, HeLa, and HaCaT cell lines and increased GGA3 cleavage was observed in MCF7 cell line.
One of the major reasons for the apoptotic sensitivity in the absence of flotillins was a PI3K/Akt signaling defect. Neuroblastoma cells depleted of flotillins showed diminished levels of total Akt, phospho-Akt and phospho-ERK upon STS induced apoptosis. Since PI3K/Akt was the primary survival pathway affected upon STS induced apoptosis, ectopic expression of Akt in neuroblastoma cell line reduced caspase-3 cleavage and retarded apoptosis.
The direct downstream target of Akt is FOXO3a, whose localization was investigated in flotillin depleted cells. A major proportion of FOXO3a was localized in the nucleus of flotillin knockdown cells, implicating that FOXOs are active in these cells and subsequently trigger the transcription of death genes. Strikingly, an essential anti-apoptotic molecule and a major cancer target, Mcl-1, was inherently downregulated in flotillin knockdown cells. Mcl-1 is a chief member of the Bcl-2 family as it plays a pivotal role in cell survival and it is a critical protein in cancer therapeutics as suppression of Mcl-1 protein can curtail the survival and growth of tumorous cells.
Neuroblastoma cells were rescued from undergoing permanent damage due to STS induced apoptosis by overexpression of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2. Phorbol esters are well known PKC activators, and pre-treatment of neuroblastoma cells with phorbol esters along with staurosporine reduced caspase-3 cleavage.
These results demonstrate that absence of flotillins can sensitize cellular systems to apoptosis induction. The two main characteristics of cancer cells include resistance to apoptosis and unresponsiveness to chemotherapeutic agents. It is a well established fact that impaired apoptosis is central to tumour development. This study implicates that the downregulation of flotillin function can trigger cellular susceptibility and enhances apoptosis in response to conventional chemotherapeutic agents. Therefore, flotillins can serve as vital regulators in providing a more rational approach in molecular-targeted therapies for receding cancer growth and survival.
Herstellung eines Phaffia rhodozyma : Stamms mit verstärkter Astaxanthin-Synthese über gezielte genetische Modifikation chemisch mutagenisierter Stämme
- Ziel dieser Arbeit war es erstmals durch eine Kombination aus chemischer Mutagenese und gezielter genetischer Modifikation (hier: „metabolic engineering“) einen Phaffia-Stamm herzustellen, welcher über die Mutagenese hinaus über eine weiter verstärkte Astaxanthin-Synthese verfügt.
Die von „DSM Nutritional Products“ bereitgestellten chemischen Mutanten wurden analysiert und über einen Selektionsprozess auf Pigmentstabilität und Wachstum hin optimiert, da die Stämme aus cryogenisierter Dauerkultur starke Pigmentinstabilitäten und ein verzögertes Wachstum aufwiesen.
Über eine exploratorische Phase wurde die Carotinoidsynthese analysiert und festgestellt, dass in den Mutanten keine Einzelreaktionen betroffen sind, welche für die Heraufregulierung der Carotinoidsynthese in den Mutanten verantwortlich sind. Hierbei wurden Limitierungen identifiziert und diese durch Transformation von Expressionsplasmiden mit geeigneten Genen aufgehoben, um damit eine noch effizientere Metabolisierung von Astaxanthin-Vorstufen hin zu Astaxanthin zu erreichen. Eine Überexpression der Phytoensynthase/Lycopinzyklase crtYB resultierte in einem gesteigerten Carotinoidgehalt bei gleichbleibendem Astaxanthin- Anteil. Durch eine zweite Transformation mit einer Expressionskassette für die Astaxanthin-Synthase asy konnte der Carotinoidgehalt weiter gesteigert und zusätzlich eine Limitierung der Metabolisierung von Astaxanthin-Vorstufen behoben werden, sodass die Transformante nahezu alle Intermediate der Astaxanthinsynthese zu Astaxanthin metabolisieren konnte (Gassel et al. 2013). Es konnte gezeigt werden, dass auch in den Mutanten, aus Experimenten mit dem Wildtyp bekannte, Limitierungen identifiziert und ausgeglichen werden konnten.
Cell-free expression of GPCRs: the endothelin system
- The human endothelin receptors, ETA and ETB, are two members of the G-protein coupled receptors family (GPCRs) and they are key players in cardiovascular regulation. The characterization of their functionality in vitro has been limited by the possibility to obtain high quality samples using conventional expression systems. The Cell-Free expression system is an alternative technique for the production of membrane protein as well as GPCRs and can overcome some of the limitations that are commonly encountered using an in vivo approach. Cell-Free expression protocols for the two receptors ETA and ETB have been optimized by implementing post- and co-translational association to lipid bilayers. The efficiency of the reconstitution or association to liposomes and nanodiscs has systematically been studied and the ligand binding properties of the two receptors have been analyzed using a set of different complementary techniques. In several different conditions a high affinity binding of the peptide ligand ET-1 to both endothelin receptors could be obtained and the highest activity values were detected in sample prepared using a co-translational approach in presence of nanodiscs. Furthermore, the characteristic differential binding pattern of selected agonists and antagonists to the two receptors was confirmed. In samples obtained from several Cell-Free expression conditions, two intrinsic properties of the functionally folded ETB receptor, such as the proteolytic processing based on conformational recognition as well as the formation of SDS-resistant complexes with the peptide ligand ET-1, were detected. ETA and ETB are able to induce in vivo the activation of hetrotrimeric G proteins upon stimulation with an agonist, leading to the dissociation of the heterotrimeric complex and the exchange of GDP to GTP in the Galpha subunit. The Cell-Free expression system was chosen for the production of two G alpha subunit, Galpha s and Galpha q. Soluble expression of the two proteins was achieved and the production of active Galpha s was confirmed using fluorescent as well as radioactive assays. In conclusion, the obtained results document a new process for the production of ligand binding competent endothelin receptors, as well as Galpha proteins, using a Cell-Free expression system. The combination of this expression system and the nanodiscs technology appears to be a promising tool for the further characterization of membrane proteins as well as GPCRs.
Reprogramming of tumor cells : signaling events and phenotypes
Chul Min Yang
- Cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth and the capacity to disseminate to distant organs. The properties of cancers are caused by genetic and epigenetic alterations when compared to their normal counterparts. Genetic mutations occur in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes and are the initial drivers of cellular transformation (Lengauer et al., 1998; Vogelstein and Kinzler, 2004). In addition, epigenetic alterations, which influence the expression of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes independently from sequence alterations, are also involved in the transformation process (Esteller and Herman, 2001; Sharma et al., 2010). Genetic alterations and epigenetic regulatory signals cooperate in tumor etiology. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a frequent and aggressive malignant brain tumor in humans. The median survival of GBM patients is about 15 months after diagnosis. Like in other cancers, genetic and epigenetic alterations can be detected in GBM. Genetic alterations in GBM affect cell growth, apoptosis, angiogenesis, and invasion; however, epigenetic alterations in GBM also affect the expression of oncogenes or tumor suppresser genes that increase tumor malignancy (Nagarajan and Costello, 2009).
Reprogramming is a cellular process in which somatic cells can be induced to assume the properties of less differentiated stem cells. This process can be mediated through epigenetic modifications of the genome of somatic cells by the action of four defined transcription factors (Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and Myc) or by the action of the miR 302/367 cluster (Anokye-Danso et al., 2011; Takahashi and Yamanaka, 2006; Takahashi et al., 2007) and result in the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). Reprogramming of somatic cells by the miR 302/367 cluster can generate nontumorigenic iPS cells through the inhibition of the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), cell cycle regulatory genes and epigenetic modifiers (Lin and Ying, 2013).
Mathematical modeling of Arabidopsis thaliana with focus on network decomposition and reduction
- Systems biology has become an important research field during the last decade. It focusses on the understanding of the systems which emit the measured data. An important part of this research field is the network analysis, investigating biological networks. An essential point of the inspection of these network models is their validation, i.e., the successful comparison of predicted properties to measured data. Here especially Petri nets have shown their usefulness as modeling technique, coming with sound analysis methods and an intuitive representation of biological network data.
A very important tool for network validation is the analysis of the Transition-invariants (TI), which represent possible steady-state pathways, and the investigation of the liveness property. The computational complexity of the determination of both, TI and liveness property, often hamper their investigation.
To investigate this issue, a metabolic network model is created. It describes the core metabolism of Arabidopsis thaliana, and it is solely based on data from the literature. The model is too complex to determine the TI and the liveness property.
Several strategies are followed to enable an analysis and validation of the network. A network decomposition is utilized in two different ways: manually, motivated by idea to preserve the integrity of biological pathways, and automatically, motivated by the idea to minimize the number of crossing edges. As a decomposition may not be preserving important properties like the coveredness, a network reduction approach is suggested, which is mathematically proven to conserve these important properties. To deal with the large amount of data coming from the TI analysis, new organizational structures are proposed. The liveness property is investigated by reducing the complexity of the calculation method and adapting it to biological networks.
The results obtained by these approaches suggest a valid network model. In conclusion, the proposed approaches and strategies can be used in combination to allow the validation and analysis of highly complex biological networks.
Cell-free expression and molecular modeling of the γ-secretase complex and G-protein-coupled receptors
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which was first reported more than a century ago by Alhzeimer, is one of the commonest forms of dementia which affects >30 million people globally (>8 million in Europe). The origin and pathogenesis of AD is poorly understood and there is no cure available for the disease. AD is characterized by the accumulation of senile plaques composed of amyloid beta peptides (Ab 37-43) which is formed by the gamma secretase (GS) complex by cleaving amyloid precursor protein. Therefore GS can be an attractive drug target. Since GS processes several other substrates like Notch, CD44 and Cadherins, nonspecific inhibition of GS has many side effects. Due to the lack of crystal structure of GS, which is attributed to the extreme difficulties in purifying it, molecular modeling can be useful to understand its architecture. So far only low resolution cryoEM structures of the complex has been solved which only provides a rough structure of the complex at low 12-15 A resolution Furthermore the activity of GS in vitro can be achieved by means of cell-free (CF) expression.
GS comprises catalytic subunits namely presenilins and supporting elements containing Pen-2, Aph-1 and Nicastrin. The origin of AD is hidden in the regulated intramembrnae proteolysis (RIP) which is involved in various physiological processes and also in leukemia. So far growth factors, cytokines, receptors, viral proteins, cell adhesion proteins, signal peptides and GS has been shown to undergo RIP. During RIP, the target proteins undergo extracellular shredding and intramembrane proteolysis.
This thesis is based on molecular modeling, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, cell-free (CF) expression, mass spectrometry, NMR, crystallization, activity assay etc of the components of GS complex and G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs).
First I validated the NMR structure of PS1 CTF in detergent micelles and lipid bilayers using coarse-grained MD simulations using MARTINI forcefield implemented in Gromacs. CTF was simulated in DPC micelles, DPPC and DLPC lipid bilayer. Starting from random configuration of detergent and lipids, micelle and lipid bilyer were formed respectively in presence of CTF and it was oriented properly to the micelle and bilyer during the simulation. Around DPC molecules formed micelle around CTF in agreement of the experimental results in which 80-85 DPC molecules are required to form micelles. The structure obtained in DPC was similar to that of NMR structure but differed in bilayer simulations showed the possibility of substrate docking in the conserved PAL motif. Simulations of CTF in implicit membrane (IMM1) in CHAMM yielded similar structure to that from coarse grained MD.
I performed cell-free expression optimization, crystallization and NMR spectroscopy of Pen-2 in various detergent micelles. Additionally Pen-2 was modeled by a combination of rosetta membrane ab-initio method, HHPred distant homology modeling and incorporating NMR constraints. The models were validated by all atom and coarse grained MD simulations both in detergent micelles and POPC/DPPC lipid bilayers using MARTINI forcefield.
GS operon consisting of all four subunits was co-expressed in CF and purified. The presence of of GS subunits after pull-down with Aph-1 was determined by western blotting (Pen-2) and mass spectrometry (Presenilin-1 and Aph-1). I also studied interactions of especially PS1 CTF, APP and NTF by docking and MD.
I also made models and interfaces of Pen-2 with PS1 NTF and checked their stability by MD simulations and compared with experimental results. The goal is to model the interfaces between GS subunits using molecular modeling approaches based on available experimental data like cross-linking, mutations and NMR structure of C-terminal fragment of PS1 and transmembrane part of APP. The obtained interfaces of GS subunits may explain its catalysis mechanism which can be exploited for novel lead design. Due to lack of crystal/NMR structure of the GS subunits except the PS1 CTF, it is not possible to predict the effect of mutations in terms of APP cleavage. So I also developed a sequence based approach based on machine learning using support vector machine to predict the effect of PS1 CTF L383 mutations in terms of Aβ40/Aβ42 ratio with 88% accuracy. Mutational data derived from the Molgen database of Presenilin 1 mutations was using for training.
GPCRs (also called 7TM receptors) form a large superfamily of membrane proteins, which can be activated by small molecules, lipids, hormones, peptides, light, pain, taste and smell etc. Although 50% of the drugs in market target GPCRs , only few are targeted therapeutically. Such wide range of targets is due to involvement of GPCRs in signaling pathways related to many diseases i.e. dementia (like Alzheimer's disease), metabolic (like diabetes) including endocrinological disorders, immunological including viral infections, cardiovascular, inflammatory, senses disorders, pain and cancer.
Cannabinoid and adrenergic receptors belong to the class A (similar to rhodopsin) GPCRs. Docking of agonists and antagonists to CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors revealed the importance of a centrally located rotamer toggle switch, and its possible role in the mechanism of agonist/antagonist recognition. The switch is composed of two residues, F3.36 and W6.48, located on opposite transmembrane helices TM3 and TM6 in the central part of the membranous domain of cannabinoid receptors. The CB1 and CB2 receptor models were constructed based on the adenosine A2A receptor template. The two best scored conformations of each receptor were used for the docking procedure. In all poses (ligand-receptor conformations) characterized by the lowest ligand-receptor intermolecular energy and free energy of binding the ligand type matched the state of the rotamer toggle switch: antagonists maintained an inactive state of the switch, whereas agonists changed it. In case of agonists of β2AR, the (R,R) and (S,S) stereoisomers of fenoterol, the molecular dynamics simulations provided evidence of different binding modes while preserving the same average position of ligands in the binding site. The (S,S) isomer was much more labile in the binding site and only one stable hydrogen bond was created. Such dynamical binding modes may also be valid for ligands of cannabinoid receptors because of the hydrophobic nature of their ligand-receptor interactions. However, only very long molecular dynamics simulations could verify the validity of such binding modes and how they affect the process of activation.
Human N-formyl peptide receptors (FPRs) are G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) involved in many physiological processes, including host defense against bacterial infection and resolving inflammation. The three human FPRs (FPR1, FPR2 and FPR3) share significant sequence homology and perform their action via coupling to Gi protein. Activation of FPRs induces a variety of responses, which are dependent on the agonist, cell type, receptor subtype, and also species involved. FPRs are expressed mainly by phagocytic leukocytes. Together, these receptors bind a large number of structurally diverse groups of agonistic ligands, including N-formyl and nonformyl peptides of different composition, that chemoattract and activate phagocytes. For example, N-formyl-Met-Leu-Phe (fMLF), an FPR1 agonist, activates human phagocyte inflammatory responses, such as intracellular calcium mobilization, production of cytokines, generation of reactive oxygen species, and chemotaxis. This ligand can efficiently activate the major bactericidal neutrophil functions and it was one of the first characterized bacterial chemotactic peptides. Whereas fMLF is by far the most frequently used chemotactic peptide in studies of neutrophil functions, atomistic descriptions for fMLF-FPR1 binding mode are still scarce mainly because of the absence of a crystal structure of this receptor. Elucidating the binding modes may contribute to designing novel and more efficient non-peptide FPR1 drug candidates. Molecular modeling of FPR1, on the other hand, can provide an efficient way to reveal details of ligand binding and activation of the receptor. However, recent modelings of FPRs were confined only to bovine rhodopsin as a template.
To locate specific ligand-receptor interactions based on a more appropriate template than rhodopsin we generated the homology models of FPR1 using the crystal structure of the chemokine receptor CXCR4, which shares over 30% sequence identity with FPR1 and is located in the same γ branch of phylogenetic tree of GPCRs (rhodopsin is located in α branch). Docking and model refinement procedures were pursued afterward. Finally, 40 ns full-atom MD simulations were conducted for the Apo form as well as for complexes of fMLF (agonist) and tBocMLF (antagonist) with FPR1 in the membrane. Based on locations of the N- and C-termini of the ligand the FPR1 extracellular pocket can be divided into two zones, namely, the anchor and activation regions. The formylated M1 residue of fMLF bound to the activation region led to a series of conformational changes of conserved residues. Internal water molecules participating in extended hydrogen bond networks were found to play a crucial role in transmitting the agonist-receptor interactions. A mechanism of initial steps of the activation concurrent with ligand binding is proposed.
I accurately predicted the structure and ligand binding pose of dopamine receptor 3 (RMSD to the crystal structure: 2.13 Å) and chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4, RMSD to the crystal structure 3.21 Å) in GPCR-Dock 2010 competition. The homology model of the dopamine receptor 3 was 8 th best overall in the competition.