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.
Production, biochemical characterization and preliminary structural studies of human Endothelin B receptor in its ligand-bound state
- G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) comprise the largest superfamily of cell surface receptors and possess a signature motif of seven transmembrane helices. The endothelin B (ETB) receptor is a member of rhodopsin like GPCR family. It plays an important role in vasodilation and is found in the membranes of the endothelial cells enveloping blood vessels. Knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of G-protein coupled receptors in general would significantly add to our understanding of their molecular mechanisms and would be useful in the search for new specific drugs. However, three-dimensional structural analysis will require milligram quantities of pure and homogeneous protein. This dissertation is a study of the production, biochemical characterization and preliminary structural studies of the human ETB G-protein coupled receptor. The present work aimed at elucidating the structure and mechanistic details of function of the receptor by using a combination of X-ray crystallographic and NMR methods for collecting structural data. To obtain homogenous and monodisperse receptor protein preparation for structural and functional studies, we implemented the baculovirus expression system for the production of ETB receptor for the present work. The two step affinity purification ensured capture of full-length receptor. Silver stained SDS-PAGE of the purified receptor-ligand complex indicated greater than 90% protein purity. Based on previous reports, we used the high affinity ligand (endothelin -1) binding to the receptor for co-crystallization of receptor-ligand complex by locking the receptor in the activated conformation. As a prerequisite for 3D crystallization trials, the stability of the detergent solubilized receptor-ligand complex was assessed with respect to pH, temperature and time. Receptor-ligand complex did not show any degradation and aggregation over 6 days at 4°C and 18°C. Interestingly, change of pH suggested that receptor-ligand complex is unstable at lower pH due to possible charge induced conformational changes. In our work, we introduced the idea of using fluorophore labeled ligand for simple visual recognition of the receptor-ligand complex during purification and crystallization. On the other hand, we alternatively used biotinylated endothelin-1 to produce an adequate amount of ligand bound receptor complex, thus ensuring homogeneity of the purified complex for use in structural studies. Thus far, preliminary crystals have been obtained for both the unlabelled ET-1 and fluorophore labeled ET-1 complexed with ETB receptor. Moreover, we performed the systematic investigation of the protein/peptide binding partner for the receptor-ligand complex with the chief aims of stabilizing structure and increasing the possibilities of 3D-crystal contacts. Thus subsequent to formation of receptor-ligand complex, the additional in vitro formation of a ternary arrestin-receptor-ligand complex was also attempted for use in structural studies. We successfully demonstrated that arrestin mutant (R169E) forms a tight complex with ETB receptor regardless of its phosphorylation state. A second approach to get insight into the ETB receptor ligand binding site relied on the use of spin isotope labeled ET-1 ligand peptide by employing solid state MAS NMR method. Preliminary data provided compelling evidence that the C-terminal region of the peptide is immobilized in an ordered environment and presumably bound to the receptor. This indicates that the approach is feasible, although there are difficulties in sample preparation for further spectral measurements and data collection which are currently being discussed in ongoing investigations. At this point of our research work, we initiated a collaborative effort to obtain high yields of pure, active receptor without post translational modifications, from an E. coli cell lysate based in vitro expression system. We successfully optimized the production of homogenous and monodisperse endothelin B receptor in mg amounts. Thus this could potentially provide an alternative source of high quality receptor production in large quantities for immediate crystallization trials. Thus we hope that the results from these investigations can be applied in a more general sense to the production and crystallization of other G protein-coupled receptors.
Regulation of the catalytic subunits of NADPH oxidase Nox1 and NOX4 in rat mesangial cells
- The generation of O2- by NADPH oxidaes was mainly attributed to immune cells that kill invading bacteria or cancer cells. But importantly, in the past several years, several homologs of the catalytic subunit gp91phox (Nox2) of the phagocytic NADPH oxidase have been identified in non-immune cells and tissues. Superoxide production derived from NADPH oxidaes has been shown to play a role not only in host defense but also in defined signaling cascades mediating growth and apoptosis. The aim of this work was to study the expression and the regulation of the”new” Nox isoforms in rat renal mesangial cells (MC). In particular the following results were achieved. 1) mRNA’s for both Nox1 and Nox4 were detected by RT-PCR. 2) Nox1 mRNA levels were increased upon exposure to basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and fetal calf serum (FCS) in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Exposure of MC to bFGF and FCS increased also basal production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by MC. By contrast, Nox4 mRNA levels were not significantly affected by bFGF treatment, but were markedly down-regulated by PDGF and FCS. 3) To study the regulation of Nox1 on the protein level, an anti-Nox1 antibody was generated and characterized using affinity chromatography. Up-regulation of Nox1 expression by growth factors was confirmed also on the protein level. 4) Based on the already known cDNA sequence for Nox1, the transcriptional start site was determined by the “gene RACE” technique. 2547 bp of the genomic sequence of the 5´-flanking region of the Nox1 gene were cloned and sequenced using the „Genome-Walking“ method. To study the regulation of Nox1 transcription functional Nox1 promoter/luciferase fusions were be established. MC were transiently transfected with different promoter/luciferase constructs and stimulated with growth factors. By measuring luciferase activity it was determined that growth factors induced the Nox1 transcription and that the Nox1 core promoter is sufficient for the activation. 5) By measurement of superoxide radicals and analysis of Nox1 mRNA expression by quantitative RT-PCR (TaqMan) as well as protein level by Western blotting it could be shown that treatment of MC with NO donors inhibited the expression of Nox1 in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Moreover, using activators and inhibitors of the soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC) it could be shown, that the activation of sGC mediates the effect of NO on Nox1 expression. However, NO had no inhibitory effect on Nox1 promoter activity. Experiments with the inhibitor of transcription, actinomycin D, suggest that NO-mediated regulation of Nox1 is triggered probably via post-transcriptional mechanisms. Nox4 is regulated on the mRNA levels in a similar manner as Nox1. 6) To analyze the sub-cellular localization of the Nox isoforms, coding sequences for Nox1 and Nox4 were fused together with green fluorescent protein into the pEGFP-N1 demonstrated that both isoforms are localized predominantly in the plasma membrane, but also in the perinuclear region and cytoplasm. However, the localization of Nox1 in the plasma membrane was more pronounced. 7) In addition to Nox1 and Nox4, mRNA of the newly identified NOXA1 that is a homolog of the p67phox subunit of NADPH oxidase was detected in MC by RT-PCR.
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.
HuR promotes tumorigenic characteristics in hepatocellular carcinoma
- In the absence of apparent mutations, alteration of gene expression patterns represents the key mechanism by which normal cells evolve to cancer cells.
Gene expression is tightly regulated by posttranscriptional processes. Within this context, RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) represent fundamental factors, since they control mechanisms, such as mRNA-stabilization, -translation and -degradation. Human antigen R (HuR) was among the first RBPs that have been directly associated to carcinogenesis. HuR modulates the stability and translation of mRNAs which encode proteins facilitating various ‘hallmarks of cancer’, namely proliferation, evasion of growth suppression, angiogenesis, cell death resistance, invasion and metastasis. Furthermore, it is well established that tumor-promoting inflammation contributes to tumorigenesis. In this process, monocytes are attracted to the site of the tumor and educated towards a tumor-promoting macrophage phenotype. While HuR has been extensively studied in various tumor cell types, little is known about HuR in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Thus, the aim of my work was to characterize the contribution of HuR to the development of cancer characteristics in HCC. I was particularly interested to investigate if HuR facilitates tumor-promoting inflammation, since a role for HuR has not been described in this context. To this end, I depleted HuR in HepG2 cells (HuR k/d) and used a co-culture model of HepG2 tumor spheroids and infiltrating monocytes to study the impact of HuR on the tumor microenvironment. I could show that depletion of HuR resulted in the reduction of cell numbers. Additionally, the expression of proliferation marker KI-67 and proto-oncogene c-Myc was reduced, supporting a proliferative role of HuR. Furthermore, exposure to cytotoxic staurosporine elevated apoptosis in HuR k/d cells compared to control cells. Concomitantly, the expression of the anti-apoptotic mediator B-cell lymphoma protein-2 (Bcl-2) was markedly reduced in the HuR k/d cells, pointing to an involvement of HuR in cell survival processes.
Accordingly, a pro-survival function of HuR was also observed in tumor spheroids, since HuR k/d spheroids exhibited a larger necrotic core region at earlier time points and showed elevated numbers of dead cells compared to control (Ctr.) spheroids. Interestingly, HuR k/d spheroids isplayed reduced numbers of infiltrated macrophages, suggesting that HuR contributes to a tumor-promoting, inflammatory microenvironment by recruiting monocytes/macrophages to the tumor site. Aiming at identifying HuR-regulated factors responsible for the recruitment of monocytes, I found reduced levels of the chemokine interleukin 8 (IL-8) in supernatants of HuR k/d spheroids, supporting a critical involvement of HuR in the chemoattraction of monocytes. Analyzing supernatants of co-cultures of macrophages and HuR k/d or Ctr. spheroids revealed additional differences in chemokine secretion patterns. Interestingly, protein levels of many chemokines were elevated in co-cultures of HuR k/d spheroids compared to control co-cultures. Albeit enhanced chemokine secretion was observed, less monocytes are recruited into HuR k/d spheroids, further underlining the necessity of HuR in cancer related monocyte/macrophage attraction and infiltration. Differences between chemokine profiles of mono- and co-cultured spheroids could be attributable to changes in spheroid-derived chemokines as a result of the crosstalk with the immune cells. Provided the chemokines originate from monocytes/macrophages, the different secretion patterns suggest that HuR contributes to the modulation of the functional phenotype of infiltrated macrophages, since the tumorenvironment is critically involved in the shaping of macrophage phenotypes. Regions of low-oxygen (hypoxia) represent another critical feature of tumors. Therefore, I next analyzed the impact of HuR on the hypoxic response. Loss of HuR attenuated hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) 2α expression after exposure to hypoxia, while HIF-1α protein levels remained unaltered. Considering previous results of our group, showing that HIF-2α depletion (HIF-2α k/d) resulted in the enhanced expression of HIF-1α protein, I aimed to determine the involvement of HuR in the compensatory upregulation of HIF-1α protein in HIF-2α k/d cells. I could demonstrate that not only total HuR protein levels, but specifically cytoplasmic HuR was elevated in HIF-2α depleted cells pointing to enhanced HuR activity. Silencing HuR in HIF-2α deficient cells attenuated enhanced HIF-1α protein expression, thus confirming a direct role of HuR in the compensatory upregulation of HIF-1α. This as also reflected on HIF-1α target gene expression. I further investigated the mechanism underlying the compensatory HIF-1α expression in HIF-2α deficient cells. Analyzing HIF-1α mRNA expression, I excluded enhanced HIF1-α transcription and stability to account for elevated HIF-1α expression in HIF-2α k/d cells. HIF-1α promoter activity assays confirmed the mRNA data. Furthermore, HIF-1α protein half-life was not elevated in HIF-2α k/d cells compared to control cells, indicating that HIF-1α protein stability is not altered in HIF-2α k/d cells. Analysis of the association of HIF-1α with the translational machinery using polysomal fractionation finally revealed an increased istribution of HIF-1α mRNA in the heavier polysomal fractions in HIF-2α k/d cells compared to control cells. Since augmented ribosome occupancy is an indicator for more efficient translation, I propose enhanced HIF-1α translation as underlying principle of the compensatory increase in HIF-1α protein levels in HIF-2α k/d cells. In summary, my results demonstrate that HuR is critical for the development of cancer characteristics in HCC. Future work analyzing the impact of HuR on tumor-promoting inflammation, specifically macrophage attraction and activation could provide new trategies to inhibit macrophage-driven tumor progression. Furthermore, I provide evidence that HuR contributes to the hypoxic response by regulating the expression of HIF-1α and HIF-2α. Targeting single HIF-isoforms for tumor therapy should be carefully considered, because of their compensatory regulation when one α-subunit is depleted. Thus, therapeutic strategies targeting factors such as HuR that control both α-subunits and at the same time prevent compensation might be more promising.
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.