Biologische Hochschulschriften (Goethe-Universität; nur lokal zugänglich)
Insights into a Lipid Regulator by Solid-State MAS NMR: Kinetic and Structure-Functional Studies on Diacylglycerol Kinase
Sandra Johanna Ullrich
- In this thesis the integral membrane protein diacylglycerol kinase (DAGK) from E.coli is investigated with solid-state NMR. The aim is to gain an insight into the enzyme’s mechanism through integration of kinetic, structural and dynamic data. The biological function of DAGK is the transfer of the γ-phosphate group from Mg*ATP to diacylglycerol (DAG) building phosphatidic acid (PA) as port of the membrane-derived oligosaccharide cycle[31,34]. Surprisingly, DAGK does not share structural or sequential similarities with other kinases. Typical sequence motives found in other kinases, which catalyze phosphoryl transfer reactions, are not found. In its physiological form DAGK is a homo-trimer with nine transmembrane helices, three catalytic centers and a size of 39.6 kDa.
First, the set-up of a real-time 31P MAS NMR experiment is shown. This experiment allows measuring in real-time the simultaneous ATP hydrolysis in the aqueous phase and lipid substrate phos-phorylation in the membrane phase with atomic resolution under magic angle spinning. After fast transfer of the sample into the NMR spectrometer the enzymatic reaction is started with a temperature jump. This approach of real-time MAS NMR in a dual-phase system was demonstrated for the lipid substrate analogs dioleoyl- (DOG) and dibutyrylglycerol (DBG), with a C8 and C4 aliphatic chain, respectively. The combination of 31P direct and cross polarization functions as a dynamic filter. In the 31P direct polarized experiment nuclei in both phases are detected, while in the 31P cross polar-ized experiment, only nuclei in the membrane phase are detected. Rates for substrate turnover, i.e. degradation of γP-, βP, αP-ATP and build-up of βP-, αP-ADP, free phosphate as side reaction, and PA are obtained, which reveal a Michaelis-Menten behavior with regard to Mg*ATP and DBG. Here Mg*ATP and DBG follow a random-equilibrium model, where every substrate can bind indepen-dently from the other substrate. Analyses of the peak integrals from educts and products of the enzymatic reaction, revealed the stoichiometry of the reaction: 1.5 ATP molecules are used to phos-phorylate one DBG molecule. The excess of ATP is attributed to the basal ATPase activity. Further-more, experiments with ATPγS, usually regarded as a non-hydrolysable ATP-analog, where carried out. Surprisingly, DAGK hydrolyzes ATPγS and also transfers the thio-phosphate group to the lipid acceptor DBG, which points to a certain degree of plasticity in the active center. A phosphorylated enzyme intermediate was not detected. These results suggest the building of a ternary complex of Mg*ATP, DBG and DAGK performing a direct-phosphoryl transfer reaction, without passing through a phosphorylated enzyme intermediate. Experiments with the transition state analog ortho-vanadate (Vi) showed a decoupling of the ATP hydrolysis activity from lipid substrate phosphorylation. This indicates a specific transfer site for the γ-phosphate group from ATP to DAG, which can be blocked by Vi.
A general disadvantage of NMR spectroscopy compared to other spectroscopic methods is its inherent low sensitivity. One possible starting point for the improvement of signal-to-noise per unit time is the reduction of the spin-lattice relaxation time of protons. Usually 95 % of the experi-mental time is required for the relaxation of the 1H to equilibrium. The addition of paramagnetic species can be used to reduce the 1H T1. In a comprehensive study four different paramagnetic agents were tested: Cu2+-EDTA, Cu2+-EDTA-tag, Gd3+-TTAHA and Gd3+-DOTA. The titration of these paramagnetic complexes showed the principle feasibility of this approach, but differences between the tested species exist. The most promising complex is Gd3+-DOTA which, at a concentration of 2 mM, causes a 10-time improvement of signal-to-noise ratio per unit time. This allowed measuring 2D 13C-13C correlation spectra of proteoliposomes in one tenth of the usual required experimental time (i.e. 10 hours vs. 4 days) with good signal-to-noise.
For the investigation of structural or dynamic changes in the protein upon substrate interaction with MAS NMR, the spectral properties CP efficiency and resolution of the DAGK in liposomes needed to be improved. The most critical step during sample preparation is the reconstitution of the membrane protein from detergent micelles into a membrane of synthetic lipids under detergent removal. For this procedure the important criteria are enzymatic activity, measured in a coupled ATPase assay, and homogeneity of the proteoliposomes, which was tested e.g. on a discontinuous sucrose step gradient. Therefore an extensive study was carried out, in which different detergents, lipids and lipid mixtures, techniques for detergent removal and different protein-to-lipid ratios were tested. A direct correlation between high ATPase activity and good resolution was not found. Moreover, active DAGK in a mixture of DMPC and cholesterol, which emulates the membrane features of a membrane containing DAG, showed the best CP efficiency and resolution.
The assignment of the protein backbone and amino acid side chains the first mandatory step towards the investigation of structural and dynamical features influencing and defining the enzymatic mechanism by MAS NMR. As the assignment procedure is very time consuming for a total protein, a special labeling scheme for DAGK was developed, which allows assigning most of the protein areas presumably involved in enzyme catalysis. The assignment of DAGK with solution NMR was not transferable to the MAS NMR spectra. Most important for the assignment process were the unique pairs, two consecutive amino acids which only appear once in the amino acid sequence. These unique pairs served as anchor points. Five different multinuclear MAS NMR experiments (DARR, NCO, NCA, NCACX, NCOCX) were required for the sequential assignment. It was possible to assign 35 % of the total amino acid sequence with one sample and 8 experiments acquired at 850 MHz. The secondary structure analysis showed subtle differences to the DAGK assignment with solution NMR, which can be attributed to the different environment in lipid bilayers and detergent micelles.
Data about structural and dynamical changes under substrate interaction can reveal details about the enzymatic mechanism. Therefore changes in chemical shift in 2D heteronuclear correlation experiments in the apo-state and under substrate saturated conditions with the substrates Mg*AMP-PNP, a non-hydrolysable ATP-analog, DOG, a mixture of Mg*AMP-PNP and DOG as well as inhibited by Vi were recorded. The most significant peak changes were observed at the interface membrane-cytoplasm as well as the the N-terminal amphipathic helix. The residues revealing chemical shift perturbations correlate with conserved residues or such residues, for which importance for catalysis and/or folding could be shown in mutation studies. Especially noticeable were the changes at the amino acids Asn 72, Lys 64, His 87, Tyr 86 and Asp 95.
Beside changes of the chemical shift, changes of line width or signal doubling were observable. These changes can point to a correlation with dynamic reorientations in the μs-ms time regime, which are most relevant for enzymatic processes. The protein backbone dynamics in the apo-state as well as saturated with the substrates or inhibited with Vi were investigated with a 15N-CODEX experiment, which is based on the reorientation of the CSA tensor upon dynamical changes. Specific effects of the different substrates or analogs on the protein backbone dynamic were revealed complementing the structural data and the chemical shift perturbation experiments.
Astrocyte-derived Wnt growth factors regulate blood-brain barrier integrity
Cathrin Jacqueline Czupalla
Function of plant photosystem II subunits in photoprotection
- Plants absorb sunlight via photosynthetic pigments and convert light energy intochemical energy in the process of photosynthesis. These pigments are mainly bound to antenna protein complexes that funnel the excitation energy to the photosynthetic reaction centres. The peripheral antenna of plant photosystem II (PSII) consists of the major light-harvesting complex of PSII (LHC-II) and the minor LHCs CP29, CP26 and CP24. Light intensity can change frequently and plants need to adapt to high-light conditions in order to avoid photodamage. When more photons are absorbed than can be utilised by the photosynthetic machinery, excessive excitation energy is dissipated as heat by short-term adaptation processes collectively known as non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). A decrease in PSII antenna chlorophyll (Chl) fluorescence yield and a reduction in the average Chl fluorescence lifetime are associated with NPQ. The main component of NPQ is the so-called energy-dependent quenching (qE), and it is triggered by the rapid drop in thylakoid lumenal pH resulting from the plant’s photosynthetic activity. This process is thought to take place at the PSII antenna complexes, which therefore not only capture and transfer light energy but are also involved in balancing the energy flow. The decrease in lumenal pH acivates the enzyme violaxanthin de-epoxidase (VDE), which converts the xanthophyll violaxanthin (Vio) into zeaxanthin (Zea) in the xanthophyll cycle. In addition, the PSII subunit PsbS was discovered to be essential for qE by screening qE-deficient Arabidopsis thaliana mutants. This membrane protein is considered a member of the LHC superfamily, which also includes LHC-II and the minor LHCs. Previous studies on PsbS isolated either from native source or refolded in vitro have produced inconsistent results on its pigment binding capacity. Interestingly, a pH-dependent change in the quaternary structure of PsbS under high light conditions has been reported. This observed dimer-tomonomer transition very likely follows the protonation of lumenal glutamates upon the drop in pH and is accompanied by a change in PSII supercomplex localisation. PsbS dimers are preferentially found in association with the PSII core, whereas PsbS monomers co-localise with LHC-II.Despite the identification of !pH, Zea and PsbS as key players in qE, both the nature of the quencher(s) as well as the underlying molecular mechanism leading to excess energy dissipation still remain unknown. Several models have been put forward to explain the reversible switch in the antenna from an energy-transmitting to a quenched state. Proposals include a simple pigment exchange of Vio for Zea, and aggregation or an internal conformational change of LHC-II. Charge transfer (CT)quenching in the minor LHCs or quenching by carotenoid dark state (Car S1)-Chl interactions have also been suggested. However, none of these qE models has so far been capable of accommodating all the physiological observations and available experimental data. Most importantly, the function of PsbS remains an enigma. A recent qE model suggested that monomerisation of PsbS enables the protein to transiently bind a carotenoid and form a quenching unit with a Chl of a PSII LHC. In view of the various proposed qE mechanisms, this thesis aimed at understanding the interplay of the different qE components and the contribution of the PSII subunits LHC-II, the minor LHCs and PsbS to qE. The initial approach was to investigate the properties of the PSII subunits in the most simple in vitro model system, namely in detergent solution. For this purpose, LHC-II was isolated either from native source or refolded from recombinantly produced protein. Investigation of the minor LHCs and PsbS required heterologous expression and refolding. In addition, experiments were performed on aggregated LHC-II. Aggregates of LHC-II have been used as a popular model system for qE because they exhibit highly quenched Chl fluorescence. At the final stage of this doctoral work, a more sophisticated model system to approximate the thylakoid membrane was developed by reconstitution of the PSII subunits LHC-II and PsbS into liposomes. This system not only allowed for investigation of these membrane proteins in their native environment, but also for mimicking the xanthophyll cycle by distribution of Zea within the membrane as well as !pH by outside buffer exchange. The role of Zea in qE was first investigated with detergent solubilised antenna proteins. The requirement of this xanthophyll for qE is well-known, but the specific contribution to the molecular quenching mechansim is unclear. Previous work had shown that replacement of Vio for Zea in LHC-II was not sufficient to induce Chl fluorescence quenching in Zea-LHC-II, as suggested by the so-called molecular gearshift mechanism. However, by means of selective two-photon excitation spectroscopy, an increase in electronic interactions between Car S1 and Chls was observed for LHC-II upon lowering the pH of the detergent buffer. Electronic Car S1-Chl coupling became even stronger when Zea-LHC-II was probed. The extent of Car S1-Chl coupling correlated directly with the extent of Chl fluorescence quenching, in a similar way as observed previously in live plants under high-light conditions. However, very similar results were obtained with LHC-II aggregates. This implied that the increase in electronic interactions and fluorescence quenching was independent of Zea and low pH. Further experiments on aggregates of LHC-II Chl mutants indicated that the targeted pigments were also not essential for the observed effects. It is proposed that the same molecular mechanism causes an increase in electronic Car S1-Chl interactions and Chl fluorescence quenching in Zea-LHC-II at low pH as well as in aggregated LHC-II. Most likely, surface exposed pigments form random quenching centres in both cases. On the other hand, it was possible that Zea could act as a direct quencher of excess excitation energy in the minor LHCs. However, enrichment of refolded CP29, CP26 and CP24 with Zea did not lead to a change in the Chl excited state lifetime. Formation of a carotenoid radical cation, previously implied in CT quenching, was also not observed, although artificial generation of such a radical cation was principally possible as shown for CP29. During the course of this work, a study reporting the formation of Zea radical cations in minor LHCs was published. Therefore, Zea-enriched minor LHCs were again investigated on the experimental apparatus used in the reported study. Indeed, the presence of at least one carotenoid radical cation for each minor complex was detected. It is suggested that either the preparation method of incubating the refolded minor LHCs with Zea in contrast to refolding the complexes with only Zea and lutein causes the observed differences or that the observed spectral radical cation signatures are due to experimental artifacts. While the experiments with LHC-II and the minor LHCs gave useful insights into the putative qE mechanism, the quencher site and the mode of action of Zea could still not be unambiguously identified. Most importantly, these studies could not explain the function of the qE keyplayer PsbS. Therefore, the focus of the work was shifted to PsbS protein production, purification and characterisation. In view of inconsistent reports on the pigment binding capacity of this PSII subunit, refolding trials with and without photosynthetic pigments were conducted. The formation of a specific pigmentprotein complex typical for other LHCs was not observed and neither was the earlier reported “activation” of Zea for qE by binding to this protein. Nevertheless, PsbS refolded without pigments displayed secondary structure content in agreement with previous studies, indicating pigment-independent folding. Reconstitution of pigmentfree, refolded PsbS into liposomes confirmed that the protein is stable in the absence of pigments. Zea distributed in PsbS-containing liposomes also showed no spectral alteration that would indicate its “activation”. With the ability to reconstitute PsbS, it was then possible to proceed to modelling qE in a proteoliposome system. For this purpose, PsbS was co-reconstituted with LHC-II, which has been reported to interact with PsbS. One-photon excitation (OPE) and two-photon excitation (TPE) spectroscopy measurements were performed on LHC-II- and LHC-II/PsbS-containing liposomes. This enabled both quantification of Chl fluorescence quenching as well as determination of the extent of electronic Car S1-Chl interactions. The effect of Zea was investigated by incorporating it in the proteoliposome membrane. It was shown that Zea alone was not able to induce significant Chl fluorescence quenching when only LHC-II was present. However, when LHC-II and PsbS were co-reconstituted, pronounced Chl fluorescence quenching and an increase in electronic Car S1-Chl interactions were observed and both effects were enhanced when Zea was present. Western blot analysis indicated the presence of a LHC-II/PsbS-heterodimer in these proteoliposomes. In addition to the OPE and TPE measurements, the average Chl fluorescence lifetime was determined in detergent-free buffer at neutral pH and directly after buffer exchange to low pH. No significant changes in the average lifetime were observed for LHC-II proteoliposomes when either Zea was present or after exchange for low pH buffer. This indicated that Zea alone cannot act as a direct quencher, which concurs with the OPE measurements. Moreover, the complex was also properly reconstituted as no aggregation or significant Chl fluorescence quenching were observed. The average lifetime was not significantly affected in LHC-II/PsbS-proteoliposomes, independent of Zea or pH. However, a shortlived component in the presence of a long-lived component was not resolvable with the time resolution of the fluorescence lifetime apparatus.
Implications for qE model systems and the in vivo quenching mechanism are discussed based on the experiments in detergent solution, on LHC-II aggregates and with the proteoliposome model system.
Identification and Analysis of Novel Anti-Apoptotic Proteins in Pancreatic Carcinoma
Juvenile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis: toponomics approach to identifying new drug targets
- 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.
An exciting in vivo function of ATP-sensitive potassium channels in substantia nigra dopamine neurons : implications for burst firing and novelty coding
- An exciting in vivo function of ATP-sensitive potassium channels in substantia nigra dopamine neurons Ð Implications for burst firing and novelty coding ÐPhasic burst activity is a key feature of dopamine (DA) midbrain neurons. This particular pattern of excitation of DA neurons occurs via a synaptically triggered transition from low-frequency background spiking to transient high-frequency discharges. Burst-firing mediated phasic DA release is critical for flexible switching of behavioural strategies in response to unexpected rewards, novelty and other salient stimuli. However, the cellular and molecular bases of burst signalling in distinct DA subpopulations of the substantia nigra (SN) or the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are unknown.
DA neuron excitability is controlled by synaptic network inputs, neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels, which generate action potentials and determine frequency and pattern of electrical activity in a complex interplay. ATP-sensitive potassium (K-ATP) channels are widely expressed throughout the brain, where in most cases they are believed to act as metabolically-controlled 'excitation brakes' by matching excitability to cellular energy states. However, their precise physiological in vivo function in DA neurons remains elusive.
To study burst firing and the underlying ionic mechanisms with single cell resolution, in vivo single-unit recordings were combined with juxtacellular neurobiotin labelling as well as immunohistochemical and anatomical identification of individual DA neurons. In vivo recordings were performed in adult isoflurane-anaesthetised wildtype (WT) and global K-ATP channel knockout mice, lacking the pore forming Kir6.2 subunit (Kir6.2-/-). In addition, DA cell-selective functional silencing of K-ATP channel activity in vivo was established using virus-mediated expression of dominant-negative Kir6.2 subunits. Careful control experiments ruled out any significant contributions from nonDA neurons as transduction was effectively limited to SN DA neurons rather than affecting those cells that innervate them. Virus-based K-ATP channel silencing in combination with juxtacellular recording and labelling was achieved to define the electrophysiological phenotype of individually identified, virally-transduced DA neurons in vivo.
Single-unit recordings revealed that K-ATP channels Ð in contrast to their conventional hyperpolarising role Ð in a subpopulation of DA neurons located in the medial SN (m-SN) act as cell-type selective gates for excitatory burst firing in vivo. The percentage of spikes in bursts was threefold reduced in Kir6.2-/- compared to WT mice. Classification of firing patterns based on visual inspection of autocorrelation histograms and on a newly developed spike-train-model confirmed the dramatic shift from phasic burst to tonic single-spike oscillatory firing in Kir6.2-/-. This significant decrease of burstiness was selective for m-SN DA neurons and was not exhibited by DA cells in the lateral SN or VTA. Virus-based K-ATP channel silencing in vivo unequivocally demonstrated that the activity of postsynaptic K-ATP channels was sufficient to disrupt bursting in m-SN DA neuron subtypes. Patch-clamp recordings in brain slices indicated an essential role of K-ATP channels for NMDA-mediated in vitro bursting. In accordance with previous studies in DA midbrain neurons, NMDA receptor stimulation triggered burst-like firing in m-SN DA cells in vitro, but only when K-ATP channels were co-activated in these neurons.
K-ATP channel-gated burst firing in m-SN DA neurons might be functionally relevant in awake, freely moving mice. To explore the behavioural consequences of SN DA neuron subtype-selective K-ATP channel suppression, spontaneous open field (OF) behaviour of mice with bilateral K-ATP silencing across the whole SN (medial + lateral) or in only the lateral SN was tested. Analysis of WT and global Kir6.2-/- mice showed reduced exploratory locomotor activity of Kir6.2-/- in a novel OF environment. Remarkably, K-ATP channel silencing in m-SN DA neurons phenocopied this novelty-exploration deficit, indicating that K-ATP channel-gated burst firing in medial but not lateral SN DA neurons is crucial for WT-like novelty-dependent exploratory behaviour.
In summary, a novel role of K-ATP channels in promoting the excitatory switch from tonic to phasic firing in vivo in a cell-type specific manner was discovered. The present PhD thesis provides several important insights into the pivotal function of K-ATP channels in medial SN DA cells, which project to the dorsomedial striatum, for burst firing and its important consequences for context-dependent exploratory behaviour.
In collaboration with two other research groups transcriptional up-regulation of K-ATP channel and NMDA receptor subunits and high levels of in vivo burst firing were detected in surviving SN DA neurons from Parkinson's disease (PD) patients Ð providing a potential link of K-ATP channel activity to neurodegenerative pathomechanisms of PD. Using high-resolution fMRI imaging another study in humans has recently identified distinct DA midbrain regions that are preferentially activated by either reward or novelty. Taken together, these human data and the results of the present PhD thesis suggest that burst-gating K-ATP channel function in SN DA neurons impacts on phenotypes in disease as well as in health.
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.
Post-transcriptional regulation of 5-lipoxygenase mRNA expression via alternative splicing and nonsense-mediated mRNA decay
- 5-Lipoxygenase (5-LO) catalyzes the two initial steps in the biosynthesis of leukotrienes, a group of inflammatory lipid mediators derived from arachidonic acid. Here, the regulation of 5-LO mRNA expression by alternative splicing and nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) was investigated. In the present study, the identification of two truncated transcripts and four novel 5-LO splice variants containing premature termination codons (PTC) was reported. The characterization of one of the splice variants, 5-LOΔ3, revealed that it is a target for NMD since knockdown of the NMD factors UPF1, UPF2 and UPF3b in the human monocytic cell line Mono Mac 6 (MM6) altered the expression of 5-LOΔ3 mRNA up to 2-fold in a cell differentiation-dependent manner suggesting that cell differentiation alters the composition or function of the NMD complex. In contrast, the mature 5-LO mRNA transcript was not affected by UPF knockdown. Thus, the data suggest that the coupling of alternative splicing and NMD is involved in the regulation of 5-LO gene expression.
RT-PCR analysis of different cell types revealed the existence of a large number of 5-LO splice variants. The most interesting splice variants were observed in BL41-E95A cells, which give a raise to novel 5-LO protein isoforms. This leads to the hypothesis of a novel regulatory mechanism in which the dimerization of 5-LO with 5-LO isoforms might regulate the 5-LO activity.
The 5-LO protein expression was reduced on translational level in UPF1 knock down cells, suggesting that UPF1 has a positive influence on 5-LO translation. Therefore, a mass spectrometry based proteomics study was started to identify compartment specific protein expression changes upon UPF1 knockdown in differentiated and undifferentiated MM6 cells. The proteomics analysis demonstrated that the knockdown of UPF1 results in numerous protein changes in the microsomal fraction (~ 21%) but not in the soluble fraction (< 1%). Western blot data confirmed the trend of the proteomics analysis. This data suggest that UPF1 is a critical gene expression regulator in a compartment specific way. During differentiation by TGFβ and calcitriol the majority of UPF1 regulated proteins was adjusted to normal level. It appears that that not only the NMD mechanism alters its composition during differentiation. Also the gene expression regulation on translational level by UPF1 seems to be also cell differentiation dependent. An interesting group of UPF1 target genes represent the downregulated proteins. qRT-PCR analysis of randomly chosen genes revealed no effect on mRNA expression upon UPF1 knockdown, suggesting that UPF1 positively influences the translation of these genes. Computational sequence analysis identified a conserved C-rich sequence which might be a hnRNP E2-binding site. hnRNP E2 has been characterized as a translational repressor in myeloid cells. Western blot analysis revealed a differentiation independent up regulation of hnRNP E2 by UPF1 knockdown. Additionally, microRNA-328 (miR-328) has been described as an RNA decoy modulating hnRNP E2 regulation. Due to this, stem loop qRT-PCR showed an up regulation of miR-328 in TGFβ and calcitriol differentiated MM6 cells. Based on this data we suggest a model in which downregulation of UPF1 increases hnRNP E2 expression, leading to translation inhibition. During differentiation, miRNA-328 is upregulated thereby competing with hnRNP E2 leading to an efficient translation
Identification of erioflorin as a stabilizer of Pdcd4 by a HTS of natural products and discovery of its mechanism of action
- The tumor suppressor programmed cell death 4 (Pdcd4) exerts its function by inhibiting protein translation initiation. Specifically, it displaces the scaffold protein eukaryotic initiation factor 4G (eIF4G) from its binding to the eukaryotic initiation factor 4A (eIF4A). Thereby, Pdcd4 inhibits the helicase activity of eIF4A, which is necessary for the unwinding of highly structured 5’ untranslated regions (UTRs) of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) often found in oncogenes like c-myc to make them accessible for the translation machinery and subsequent protein production. Overexpression of Pdcd4 inhibits tumorigenesis in vitro and in vivo and inversely, Pdcd4 knockout mice show enhanced tumor formation. In line, Pdcd4 is lost in various tumor types and proposed as prognostic factor in colon carcinomas. Unlike most other tumor suppressors that are rendered nonfunctional by mutations (e.g., p53), Pdcd4 loss is not attributable to mutational inactivation. It is regulated via translational repression by microRNAs and increased degradation of the protein under tumor promoting, inflammatory conditions and mitogens. Specifically, proteasomal degradation of Pdcd4 is controlled by p70 S6 Kinase (p70S6K)-mediated phosphorylation in its degron sequence (serines 67, 71 and 76). Stimulation of the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway by growth factors, hormones and cytokines initiates p70S6K activity. Phosphorylated Pdcd4 is subsequently recognized by the E3 ubiquitin ligase beta-transducin repeats-containing protein (β-TrCP) and marked with a polyubiquitin tail to be detected by the 26S proteasome for degradation. β-TrCP represents the substrate specific recognition subunit of the ubiquitin ligase complex responsible for protein-protein interaction with Pdcd4 as substrate for ubiquitin transfer and subsequent proteasomal disassembly.
The first part of the present work aimed at identifying novel stabilizers of the tumor suppressor Pdcd4 in a high throughput screen (HTS). As assay design, a fragment of Pdcd4 from amino acid 39 to 91, containing the phosphorylation sensitive degron sequence, was fused to a luciferase reporter gene construct. Stable expression of this Pdcd4(39-91)luciferase (Pdcd4(39-91)luc) fusion protein in HEK 293 cells served as read-out for the Pdcd4 protein amount to be detected in a high throughput compatible cell-based assay. Loss of Pdcd4(39-91)luc was induced by treatment with 12-O-
tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA), a phorbolester, which activates the PI3K signaling cascade leading to degradation of Pdcd4. The cut-off for hit definition was set at >50% activity in rescuing the Pdcd4(39-91)luc signal from TPA-induced degradation. Activity was calculated relative to the difference of DMSO- and TPA-treated cells (ΔDMSO-TPA = RLUDMSO-RLUTPA). Initial screening of a protein kinase inhibitor library (PKI) revealed hit substances expected to show Pdcd4 stabilizing activity by inhibition of kinases involved in Pdcd4 downregulation, e.g., the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin, the PI3K inhibitors wortmannin and LY294002 and the PKC inhibitors GF 109203X and Ro 31-8220.
The Molecular Targets Laboratory (MTL) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, USA, hosts one of the largest collections of crude natural product extracts as well as a big substance libraries from pure synthetic sources. Screening of over 15 000 pure compounds and over 135 000 natural product extracts identified 46 pure and 42 extract hits as Pdcd4 stabilizers. For nine synthetic and six natural product derived compounds (after bioassay-guided fractionation), dose-dependent activities for recovering the TPA-induced Pdcd4(39-91)luc loss defined IC50s in the low micromolar range. Most importantly, these compounds were confirmed to stabilize endogenous Pdcd4 protein levels from forced degradation as well. This result proved the assay design to be highly representative for endogenous cellular mechanisms regulating Pdcd4 protein stability. The next step was to stratify the hit substances according to their likely mechanism of action to be located either up- or downstream of the p70S6K-mediated phosphorylation of Pdcd4. Therefore, phosphorylation of S6, as proto-typical p70S6K target, was analyzed and uncovered two natural derived compounds to influence p70S6K activity. Four substances did not affect p70S6K phosphorylation activity and were therefore considered to stabilize Pdcd4 by acting downstream, i.e. on the β-TrCP-mediated proteasomal degradation.
In the second part of this work, one of these compounds, namely the sesquiterpene lactone erioflorin, isolated by bioassay-guided fraction from the active extract of Eriophyllum lanatum, Asteraceae, was further characterized in detail with respect to its molecular mechanism of action. Erioflorin dose-dependently protected both Pdcd4(39-91)luc and endogenous Pdcd4 protein from TPA-induced degradation with IC50s of 1.28 and 2.64 μM, respectively. Pdcd4 stabilizing activity was maximal at 5 μM erioflorin. Up to this concentration, erioflorin was verified not to inhibit p70S6K activity. In addition, it was observed that erioflorin rescued Pdcd4(39-91)luc from both, wild type and constitutively active p70S6K-mediated downregulation. Only wild type p70S6K was inhibitable by the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin which served as an upstream acting control. To study the next section of Pdcd4 regulation, i.e. recognition by the E3 ubiquitin ligase β-TrCP, Pdcd4(39-91)luc and endogenous Pdcd4 were immunoprecipitated from whole cell extracts with the corresponding antibodies. In this key experiment, treatment with TPA increased overexpressed β-TrCP binding to both and this coimmunoprecipitation could be strongly reduced by erioflorin treatment. This result strongly pointed to an inhibitory mechanism of the β-TrCP specific binding to Pdcd4 by erioflorin. In addition, erioflorin disrupted the binding of in vitro transcribed/translated β-TrCP to Pdcd4 in an in vitro interaction assay to exclude nonspecific intracellular signals. Furthermore, polyubiquitination of Pdcd4 was decreased by erioflorin treatment as well. To clarify questions regarding specificity of erioflorin for the E3 ubiquitin ligase β-TrCP, stability of another important β-TrCP target was explored, i.e. the tumor suppressor inhibitor of kappa B alpha (IκBα). Indeed, the tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα)-mediated loss of IκBα could be prevented by erioflorin cotreatment. On the other hand, the E3 ubiquitin ligase von Hippel Lindau protein (pVHL) was left unaffected as its target hypoxia inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1α) could not be stabilized from oxygen-dependent degradation by erioflorin treatment. These results argued strongly for erioflorin being a specific inhibitor of β-TrCP-mediated protein degradation. Functional consequences of erioflorin treatment were investigated by observing its influence on the transcriptional activities of the transformation marker activator protein 1 (AP-1, an indirect downstream target of Pdcd4) and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB which is directly inhibited by IκBα). Indeed, erioflorin showed significant inhibition of AP-1 and NF-κB reporter constructs at 5 μM, a concentration for which an impact on cell viability was excluded. Finally to characterize the significance of erioflorin in a cell-based tumorigenesis assay, the highly invasive colon carcinoma cell line RKO was tested in a two dimensional migration assay. Erioflorin was discovered to significantly lower cell migration in a wound closure assay.
In conclusion, development of a high throughput compatible cell-based reporter assay successfully identified novel substances from pure synthetic and natural product derived background as potent stabilizers of the tumor suppressor Pdcd4. In addition, this work aimed at elucidating the detailed mechanism of action of the sesquiterpene lactone erioflorin from Eriophyllum lanatum, Asteraceae. Erioflorin was discovered to inhibit the E3 ubiquitin ligase β-TrCP, thereby preventing protein degradation of tumor suppressors like Pdcd4 and IκBα. This may offer the possibility to more specifically target protein degradation and generate less adverse side effects by blocking a particular E3 ubiquitin ligase compared to general proteasome inhibition.
Epigenetic regulation of innate immune responses
- We found that the HMTase G9a, that catalyzes H3K9me2 in euchromatin, plays a key modulatory role in type I IFN expression. This finding raises the possibility of targeted intervention with type I IFN expression by using small synthetic inhibitors of G9a. Given the overall minimal negative effect of G9a-deficiency on differentiated cells, the short-term suppression of G9a could be used to potentiate type I IFN expression during chronic viral diseases such as hepatitis C. Accordingly, pharmacological enhancement of methylation, for example by inhibition of the H3K9me2 specific demethylases, could be potentially used to attenuate type I IFN expression and help to control chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. The mechanism responsible for canvassing the epigenetic profile of type I IFN expressing cells are not known. It is plausible, that similar to neurons, where G9a is targeted to specific loci with the help of noncoding RNAs, IFN expressing cells possess similar mechanisms to target H3K9me2 demethylating enzymes to type I IFN loci, thus keeping these loci accessible for IFN-inducing transcription factors. Identification of non-coding RNAs that may contribute to the establishment of the epigenetic state of IFN producing cells will provide a further opportunity for targeted manipulation of IFN expression.
In my thesis, I describe the collaborative experiments that show the ability of synthetic compounds that interfere with the histone readers to suppress inflammation. Our results present a novel concept for the regulation of inflammatory gene expression. The diversity of histone readers and the combinatorial nature of regulation of gene transcription may provide an opportunity for highly selective interference with disease associated transcriptional programs by interfering with specific readers. In the future we plan to address the therapeutic potential of BET antagonists in autoimmune and chronic inflammatory conditions.In summary, the experiments described in my thesis provide an example of how the understanding of the basic mechanisms of chromatin control of gene expression can facilitate novel therapeutic approaches that target chromatin.