PubMed

Recent Publications

SBGN Bricks Ontology as a tool to describe recurring concepts in molecular networks

Brief Bioinform. 2021 Mar 24:bbab049. doi: 10.1093/bib/bbab049. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

A comprehensible representation of a molecular network is key to communicating and understanding scientific results in systems biology. The Systems Biology Graphical Notation (SBGN) has emerged as the main standard to represent such networks graphically. It has been implemented by different software tools, and is now largely used to communicate maps in scientific publications. However, learning the standard, and using it to build large maps, can be tedious. Moreover, SBGN maps are not grounded on a formal semantic layer and therefore do not enable formal analysis. Here, we introduce a new set of patterns representing recurring concepts encountered in molecular networks, called SBGN bricks. The bricks are structured in a new ontology, the Bricks Ontology (BKO), to define clear semantics for each of the biological concepts they represent. We show the usefulness of the bricks and BKO for both the template-based construction and the semantic annotation of molecular networks. The SBGN bricks and BKO can be freely explored and downloaded at sbgnbricks.org.

PMID:33758926 | DOI:10.1093/bib/bbab049



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Distinct DNA methylation patterns associated with treatment resistance in metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer

Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 23;11(1):6630. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-85812-3.

ABSTRACT

Androgens are a major driver of prostate cancer (PCa) and continue to be a critical treatment target for advanced disease, which includes castration therapy and antiandrogens. However, resistance to these therapies leading to metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), and the emergence of treatment-induced neuroendocrine disease (tNEPC) remains an ongoing challenge. Instability of the DNA methylome is well established as a major hallmark of PCa development and progression. Therefore, investigating the dynamics of the methylation changes going from the castration sensitive to the tNEPC state would provide insights into novel mechanisms of resistance. Using an established xenograft model of CRPC, genome-wide methylation analysis was performed on cell lines representing various stages of PCa progression. We confirmed extensive methylation changes with the development of CRPC and tNEPC using this model. This included key genes and pathways associated with cellular differentiation and neurodevelopment. Combined analysis of methylation and gene expression changes further highlighted genes that could potentially serve as therapeutic targets. Furthermore, tNEPC-related methylation signals from this model were detectable in circulating cell free DNA (cfDNA) from mCRPC patients undergoing androgen-targeting therapies and were associated with a faster time to clinical progression. These potential biomarkers could help with identifying patients with aggressive disease.

PMID:33758253 | PMC:PMC7988053 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-021-85812-3



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A homogeneous split-luciferase assay for rapid and sensitive detection of anti-SARS CoV-2 antibodies

Nat Commun. 2021 Mar 22;12(1):1806. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22102-6.

ABSTRACT

Better diagnostic tools are needed to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Here, to meet this urgent demand, we report a homogeneous immunoassay to detect IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. This serological assay, called SATiN, is based on a tri-part Nanoluciferase (tNLuc) approach, in which the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and protein G, fused respectively to two different tNLuc tags, are used as antibody probes. Target engagement of the probes allows reconstitution of a functional luciferase in the presence of the third tNLuc component. The assay is performed directly in the liquid phase of patient sera and enables rapid, quantitative and low-cost detection. We show that SATiN has a similar sensitivity to ELISA, and its readouts are consistent with various neutralizing antibody assays. This proof-of-principle study suggests potential applications in diagnostics, as well as disease and vaccination management.

PMID:33753733 | PMC:PMC7985487 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-021-22102-6



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Reduced gene dosage of histone H4 prevents CENP-A mislocalization and chromosomal instability in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Genetics. 2021 May 17;218(1):iyab033. doi: 10.1093/genetics/iyab033.

ABSTRACT

Mislocalization of the centromeric histone H3 variant (Cse4 in budding yeast, CID in flies, CENP-A in humans) to noncentromeric regions contributes to chromosomal instability (CIN) in yeast, fly, and human cells. Overexpression and mislocalization of CENP-A have been observed in cancers, however, the mechanisms that facilitate the mislocalization of overexpressed CENP-A have not been fully explored. Defects in proteolysis of overexpressed Cse4 (GALCSE4) lead to its mislocalization and synthetic dosage lethality (SDL) in mutants for E3 ubiquitin ligases (Psh1, Slx5, SCFMet30, and SCFCdc4), Doa1, Hir2, and Cdc7. In contrast, defects in sumoylation of overexpressed cse4K215/216/A/R prevent its mislocalization and do not cause SDL in a psh1Δ strain. Here, we used a genome-wide screen to identify factors that facilitate the mislocalization of overexpressed Cse4 by characterizing suppressors of the psh1Δ GALCSE4 SDL. Deletions of histone H4 alleles (HHF1 or HHF2), which were among the most prominent suppressors, also suppress slx5Δ, cdc4-1, doa1Δ, hir2Δ, and cdc7-4 GALCSE4 SDL. Reduced dosage of H4 leads to defects in sumoylation and reduced mislocalization of overexpressed Cse4, which contributes to suppression of CIN when Cse4 is overexpressed. We determined that the hhf1-20, cse4-102, and cse4-111 mutants, which are defective in the Cse4-H4 interaction, also exhibit reduced sumoylation of Cse4 and do not display psh1Δ GALCSE4 SDL. In summary, we have identified genes that contribute to the mislocalization of overexpressed Cse4 and defined a role for the gene dosage of H4 in facilitating Cse4 sumoylation and mislocalization to noncentromeric regions, leading to CIN when Cse4 is overexpressed.

PMID:33751052 | PMC:PMC8128410 | DOI:10.1093/genetics/iyab033



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The transcriptional landscape of Shh medulloblastoma

Nat Commun. 2021 Mar 19;12(1):1749. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21883-0.

ABSTRACT

Sonic hedgehog medulloblastoma encompasses a clinically and molecularly diverse group of cancers of the developing central nervous system. Here, we use unbiased sequencing of the transcriptome across a large cohort of 250 tumors to reveal differences among molecular subtypes of the disease, and demonstrate the previously unappreciated importance of non-coding RNA transcripts. We identify alterations within the cAMP dependent pathway (GNAS, PRKAR1A) which converge on GLI2 activity and show that 18% of tumors have a genetic event that directly targets the abundance and/or stability of MYCN. Furthermore, we discover an extensive network of fusions in focally amplified regions encompassing GLI2, and several loss-of-function fusions in tumor suppressor genes PTCH1, SUFU and NCOR1. Molecular convergence on a subset of genes by nucleotide variants, copy number aberrations, and gene fusions highlight the key roles of specific pathways in the pathogenesis of Sonic hedgehog medulloblastoma and open up opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

PMID:33741928 | PMC:PMC7979819 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-021-21883-0



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Trigenic Synthetic Genetic Array (τ-SGA) Technique for Complex Interaction Analysis

Methods Mol Biol. 2021;2212:377-400. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-0947-7_23.

ABSTRACT

Complex genetic interactions occur when mutant alleles of multiple genes combine to elicit an unexpected phenotype, which could not be predicted given the expectation based on the combination of phenotypes associated with individual mutant alleles. Trigenic Synthetic Genetic Array (τ-SGA) methodology was developed for the systematic analysis of complex interactions involving combinations of three gene perturbations. With a series of replica pinning steps of the τ-SGA procedure, haploid triple mutants are constructed through automated mating and meiotic recombination. For example, a double-mutant query strain carrying two mutant alleles of interest, such as a deletion allele of a nonessential gene and a conditional temperature-sensitive allele of an essential gene, is crossed to an input array of yeast mutants, such as the diagnostic array set of ~1200 mutants, to generate an output array of triple mutants. The colony-size measurements of the resulting triple mutants are used to estimate cellular fitness and quantify trigenic interactions by incorporating corresponding single- and double-mutant fitness estimates. Trigenic interaction networks can be further analyzed for functional modules using various clustering and enrichment analysis tools. Complex genetic interactions are rich in functional information and provide insight into the genotype-to-phenotype relationship, genome size, and speciation.

PMID:33733368 | DOI:10.1007/978-1-0716-0947-7_23



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Endogenous suppression of WNT signalling in human embryonic stem cells leads to low differentiation propensity towards definitive endoderm

Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 17;11(1):6137. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-85447-4.

ABSTRACT

Low differentiation propensity towards a targeted lineage can significantly hamper the utility of individual human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) lines in biomedical applications. Here, we use monolayer and micropatterned cell cultures, as well as transcriptomic profiling, to investigate how variability in signalling pathway activity between human embryonic stem cell lines affects their differentiation efficiency towards definitive endoderm (DE). We show that endogenous suppression of WNT signalling in hPSCs at the onset of differentiation prevents the switch from self-renewal to DE specification. Gene expression profiling reveals that this inefficient switch is reflected in NANOG expression dynamics. Importantly, we demonstrate that higher WNT stimulation or inhibition of the PI3K/AKT signalling can overcome the DE commitment blockage. Our findings highlight that redirection of the activity of Activin/NODAL pathway by WNT signalling towards mediating DE fate specification is a vulnerable spot, as disruption of this process can result in poor hPSC specification towards DE.

PMID:33731744 | PMC:PMC7969605 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-021-85447-4



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Stable oxime-crosslinked hyaluronan-based hydrogel as a biomimetic vitreous substitute

Biomaterials. 2021 Apr;271:120750. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.120750. Epub 2021 Mar 4.

ABSTRACT

Vitreous substitutes are clinically used to maintain retinal apposition and preserve retinal function; yet the most used substitutes are gases and oils which have disadvantages including strict face-down positioning post-surgery and the need for subsequent surgical removal, respectively. We have engineered a vitreous substitute comprised of a novel hyaluronan-oxime crosslinked hydrogel. Hyaluronan, which is naturally abundant in the vitreous of the eye, is chemically modified to crosslink with poly(ethylene glycol)-tetraoxyamine via oxime chemistry to produce a vitreous substitute that has similar physical properties to the native vitreous including refractive index, density and transparency. The oxime hydrogel is cytocompatible in vitro with photoreceptors from mouse retinal explants and biocompatible in rabbit eyes as determined by histology of the inner nuclear layer and photoreceptors in the outer nuclear layer. The ocular pressure in the rabbit eyes was consistent over 56 d, demonstrating limited to no swelling. Our vitreous substitute was stable in vivo over 28 d after which it began to degrade, with approximately 50% loss by day 56. We confirmed that the implanted hydrogel did not impact retina function using electroretinography over 90 days versus eyes injected with balanced saline solution. This new oxime hydrogel provides a significant improvement over the status quo as a vitreous substitute.

PMID:33725584 | DOI:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.120750



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A conformational switch driven by phosphorylation regulates the activity of the evolutionarily conserved SNARE Ykt6

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Mar 23;118(12):e2016730118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2016730118.

ABSTRACT

Ykt6 is a soluble N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor activating protein receptor (SNARE) critically involved in diverse vesicular fusion pathways. While most SNAREs rely on transmembrane domains for their activity, Ykt6 dynamically cycles between the cytosol and membrane-bound compartments where it is active. The mechanism that regulates these transitions and allows Ykt6 to achieve specificity toward vesicular pathways is unknown. Using a Parkinson's disease (PD) model, we found that Ykt6 is phosphorylated at an evolutionarily conserved site which is regulated by Ca2+ signaling. Through a multidisciplinary approach, we show that phosphorylation triggers a conformational change that allows Ykt6 to switch from a closed cytosolic to an open membrane-bound form. In the phosphorylated open form, the spectrum of protein interactions changes, leading to defects in both the secretory and autophagy pathways, enhancing toxicity in PD models. Our studies reveal a mechanism by which Ykt6 conformation and activity are regulated with potential implications for PD.

PMID:33723042 | PMC:PMC8000380 | DOI:10.1073/pnas.2016730118



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Assessing Functional Metrics of Skeletal Muscle Health in Human Skeletal Muscle Microtissues

J Vis Exp. 2021 Feb 18;(168). doi: 10.3791/62307.

ABSTRACT

Three-dimensional (3D) in vitro models of skeletal muscle are a valuable advancement in biomedical research as they afford the opportunity to study skeletal muscle reformation and function in a scalable format that is amenable to experimental manipulations. 3D muscle culture systems are desirable as they enable scientists to study skeletal muscle ex vivo in the context of human cells. 3D in vitro models closely mimic aspects of the native tissue structure of adult skeletal muscle. However, their universal application is limited by the availability of platforms that are simple to fabricate, cost and user-friendly, and yield relatively high quantities of human skeletal muscle tissues. Additionally, since skeletal muscle plays an important functional role that is impaired over time in many disease states, an experimental platform for microtissue studies is most practical when minimally invasive calcium transient and contractile force measurements can be conducted directly within the platform itself. In this protocol, the fabrication of a 96-well platform known as 'MyoTACTIC', and en masse production of 3D human skeletal muscle microtissues (hMMTs) is described. In addition, the methods for a minimally invasive application of electrical stimulation that enables repeated measurements of skeletal muscle force and calcium handling of each microtissue over time are reported.

PMID:33682863 | DOI:10.3791/62307



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