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  • 1
    Language: English
    In: PLoS ONE, 2012, Vol.7(5), p.e35077
    Description: Network inference deals with the reconstruction of biological networks from experimental data. A variety of different reverse engineering techniques are available; they differ in the underlying assumptions and mathematical models used. One common problem for all approaches stems from the complexity of the task, due to the combinatorial explosion of different network topologies for increasing network size. To handle this problem, constraints are frequently used, for example on the node degree, number of edges, or constraints on regulation functions between network components. We propose to exploit topological considerations in the inference of gene regulatory networks. Such systems are often controlled by a small number of hub genes, while most other genes have only limited influence on the network's dynamic. We model gene regulation using a Bayesian network with discrete, Boolean nodes. A hierarchical prior is employed to identify hub genes. The first layer of the prior is used to regularize weights on edges emanating from one specific node. A second prior on hyperparameters controls the magnitude of the former regularization for different nodes. The net effect is that central nodes tend to form in reconstructed networks. Network reconstruction is then performed by maximization of or sampling from the posterior distribution. We evaluate our approach on simulated and real experimental data, indicating that we can reconstruct main regulatory interactions from the data. We furthermore compare our approach to other state-of-the art methods, showing superior performance in identifying hubs. Using a large publicly available dataset of over 800 cell cycle regulated genes, we are able to identify several main hub genes. Our method may thus provide a valuable tool to identify interesting candidate genes for further study. Furthermore, the approach presented may stimulate further developments in regularization methods for network reconstruction from data.
    Keywords: Research Article ; Biology ; Genetics And Genomics ; Computational Biology
    E-ISSN: 1932-6203
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  • 2
    Language: English
    In: 2013, Vol.8(9), p.e76623
    Description: Oligodendroglial tumors form a distinct subgroup of gliomas, characterized by a better response to treatment and prolonged overall survival. Most oligodendrogliomas and also some oligoastrocytomas are characterized by a unique and typical unbalanced translocation, der(1,19), resulting in a 1p/19q co-deletion. Candidate tumor suppressor genes targeted by these losses, CIC on 19q13.2 and FUBP1 on 1p31.1, were only recently discovered. We analyzed 17 oligodendrogliomas and oligoastrocytomas by applying a comprehensive approach consisting of RNA expression analysis, DNA sequencing of CIC , FUBP1 , IDH1/2 , and array CGH. We confirmed three different genetic subtypes in our samples: i) the “oligodendroglial” subtype with 1p/19q co-deletion in twelve out of 17 tumors; ii) the “astrocytic” subtype in three tumors; iii) the “other” subtype in two tumors. All twelve tumors with the 1p/19q co-deletion carried the most common IDH1 R132H mutation. In seven of these tumors, we found protein-disrupting point mutations in the remaining allele of CIC , four of which are novel. One of these tumors also had a deleterious mutation in FUBP1 . Only by integrating RNA expression and array CGH data, were we able to discover an exon-spanning homozygous microdeletion within the remaining allele of CIC in an additional tumor with 1p/19q co-deletion. Therefore we propose that the mutation rate might be underestimated when looking at sequence variants alone. In conclusion, the high frequency and the spectrum of CIC mutations in our 1p/19q-codeleted tumor cohort support the hypothesis that CIC acts as a tumor suppressor in these tumors, whereas FUBP1 might play only a minor role.
    Keywords: Research Article
    E-ISSN: 1932-6203
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  • 3
    Language: English
    In: 2012, Vol.8(9), p.e1002960
    Description: Using a genome-wide screening approach, we have established the genetic requirements for proper telomere structure in Saccharomyces cerevisiae . We uncovered 112 genes, many of which have not previously been implicated in telomere function, that are required to form a fold-back structure at chromosome ends. Among other biological processes, lysine deacetylation, through the Rpd3L, Rpd3S, and Hda1 complexes, emerged as being a critical regulator of telomere structure. The telomeric-bound protein, Rif2, was also found to promote a telomere fold-back through the recruitment of Rpd3L to telomeres. In the absence of Rpd3 function, telomeres have an increased susceptibility to nucleolytic degradation, telomere loss, and the initiation of premature senescence, suggesting that an Rpd3-mediated structure may have protective functions. Together these data reveal that multiple genetic pathways may directly or indirectly impinge on telomere structure, thus broadening the potential targets available to manipulate telomere function. ; Impaired telomere elongation eventually results in telomere dysfunction and can lead to diseases such as dyskeratosis congenita, which is associated with bone-marrow failure and pulmonary fibrosis. Cancer cells require continuous telomere maintenance to ensure continued cellular proliferation. Therefore the regulation of telomere function, both positively (in the case of dyskeratosis congenita) and negatively (for cancer), may be of therapeutic benefit. In this study we have used yeast to determine which genetic factors are important for a certain telomeric structure (the loop structure), which may help to maintain chromosome ends in a protected state. We found that multiple genetic factors and pathways affect telomere structure, ranging from metabolic signaling to specific telomere-binding proteins. We found that proper chromatin structure at the telomere is essential to maintain a telomere fold-back structure. Importantly, there was a strong correlation between telomere structure and function, as the mutants found in our screen (looping defective) were often associated with rapid senescence and telomere dysfunction phenotypes. We believe that, through the regulation of the various genetic pathways uncovered in our screen, one may be able to both positively and negatively influence telomere function.
    Keywords: Research Article ; Biology ; Genetics And Genomics ; Microbiology ; Cell Biology
    ISSN: 1553-7390
    E-ISSN: 1553-7404
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  • 4
    Language: English
    In: 2013, Vol.9(5), p.e1003355
    Description: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) p7 is a membrane-associated ion channel protein crucial for virus production. To analyze how p7 contributes to this process, we dissected HCV morphogenesis into sub-steps including recruitment of HCV core to lipid droplets (LD), virus capsid assembly, unloading of core protein from LDs and subsequent membrane envelopment of capsids. Interestingly, we observed accumulation of slowly sedimenting capsid-like structures lacking the viral envelope in cells transfected with HCV p7 mutant genomes which possess a defect in virion production. Concomitantly, core protein was enriched at the surface of LDs. This indicates a defect in core/capsid unloading from LDs and subsequent membrane envelopment rather than defective trafficking of core to this cellular organelle. Protease and ribonuclease digestion protection assays, rate zonal centrifugation and native, two dimensional gel electrophoresis revealed increased amounts of high-order, non-enveloped core protein complexes unable to protect viral RNA in cells transfected with p7 mutant genomes. These results suggest accumulation of capsid assembly intermediates that had not yet completely incorporated viral RNA in the absence of functional p7. Thus, functional p7 is necessary for the final steps of capsid assembly as well as for capsid envelopment. These results support a model where capsid assembly is linked with membrane envelopment of nascent RNA-containing core protein multimers, a process coordinated by p7. In summary, we provide novel insights into the sequence of HCV assembly events and essential functions of p7. ; Viroporins are small hydrophobic viral membrane proteins which oligomerize and modulate membrane properties to facilitate virus propagation. Within their membrane environment these proteins can form membrane pores or channels which change the permeability of membranes for ions. These properties are known to contribute to release of infectious enveloped virus particles from infected cells and/or to facilitate viral cell entry by catalyzing virus uncoating. In case of HCV, p7 function is essential for production of infectious progeny and its ion channel activity is well documented and in cell-based systems. Recent evidence indicated that p7 channel activity dissipates the low pH of the cellular secretory compartment thus protecting the viral glycoproteins from low pH induced misfolding and inactivation. In this investigation we highlight the involvement of the p7 ion channel in the assembly and envelopment of viral RNA-containing capsids. Our results indicate that p7, likely in concert with the viral envelope proteins, comprises a membrane-bound recipient complex that provides a scaffold to initiate unloading of core protein from lipid droplets for capsid assembly and membrane envelopment. Collectively, these findings highlight novel facets of p7 function in the course of HCV morphogenesis.
    Keywords: Research Article ; Biology
    ISSN: 1553-7366
    E-ISSN: 1553-7374
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  • 5
    Language: English
    In: 2013, Vol.9(8), p.e1003561
    Description: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection develops into chronicity in 80% of all patients, characterized by persistent low-level replication. To understand how the virus establishes its tightly controlled intracellular RNA replication cycle, we developed the first detailed mathematical model of the initial dynamic phase of the intracellular HCV RNA replication. We therefore quantitatively measured viral RNA and protein translation upon synchronous delivery of viral genomes to host cells, and thoroughly validated the model using additional, independent experiments. Model analysis was used to predict the efficacy of different classes of inhibitors and identified sensitive substeps of replication that could be targeted by current and future therapeutics. A protective replication compartment proved to be essential for sustained RNA replication, balancing translation versus replication and thus effectively limiting RNA amplification. The model predicts that host factors involved in the formation of this compartment determine cellular permissiveness to HCV replication. In gene expression profiling, we identified several key processes potentially determining cellular HCV replication efficiency. ; Hepatitis C is a severe disease and a prime cause for liver transplantation. Up to 3% of the world's population are chronically infected with its causative agent, the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). This capacity to establish long (decades) lasting persistent infection sets HCV apart from other plus-strand RNA viruses typically causing acute, self-limiting infections. A prerequisite for its capacity to persist is HCV's complex and tightly regulated intracellular replication strategy. In this study, we therefore wanted to develop a comprehensive understanding of the molecular processes governing HCV RNA replication in order to pinpoint the most vulnerable substeps in the viral life cycle. For that purpose, we used a combination of biological experiments and mathematical modeling. Using the model to study HCV's replication strategy, we recognized diverse but crucial roles for the membraneous replication compartment of HCV in regulating RNA amplification. We further predict the existence of an essential limiting host factor (or function) required for establishing active RNA replication and thereby determining cellular permissiveness for HCV. Our model also proved valuable to understand and predict the effects of pharmacological inhibitors of HCV and might be a solid basis for the development of similar models for other plus-strand RNA viruses.
    Keywords: Research Article ; Biology ; Medicine
    ISSN: 1553-7366
    E-ISSN: 1553-7374
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  • 6
    Language: English
    In: 2015, Vol.11(12), p.e1005281
    Description: Adeno-associated viruses are members of the genus dependoviruses of the parvoviridae family. AAV vectors are considered promising vectors for gene therapy and genetic vaccination as they can be easily produced, are highly stable and non-pathogenic. Nevertheless, transduction of cells in vitro and in vivo by AAV in the absence of a helper virus is comparatively inefficient requiring high multiplicity of infection. Several bottlenecks for AAV transduction have previously been described, including release from endosomes, nuclear transport and conversion of the single stranded DNA into a double stranded molecule. We hypothesized that the bottlenecks in AAV transduction are, in part, due to the presence of host cell restriction factors acting directly or indirectly on the AAV-mediated gene transduction. In order to identify such factors we performed a whole genome siRNA screen which identified a number of putative genes interfering with AAV gene transduction. A number of factors, yielding the highest scores, were identified as members of the SUMOylation pathway. We identified Ubc9, the E2 conjugating enzyme as well as Sae1 and Sae2, enzymes responsible for activating E1, as factors involved in restricting AAV. The restriction effect, mediated by these factors, was validated and reproduced independently. Our data indicate that SUMOylation targets entry of AAV capsids and not downstream processes of uncoating, including DNA single strand conversion or DNA damage signaling. We suggest that transiently targeting SUMOylation will enhance application of AAV in vitro and in vivo . ; SUMOylation is a post-translational modification in which a small protein (SUMO) is covalently attached to target proteins. Three key enzymes are controlling this modification: The E1 activating complex composed of the heterodimer Sae1/Sae2, the E2 conjugation enzyme Ubc9 and one of many E3 enzymes which specifically recognize the target protein. SUMOylation regulates many processes such as protein stability, intracellular localization and protein-protein interactions. In our study we identified SUMOylation to be regulating transduction of cells by the human parvovirus adeno-associated virus (AAV). Targeting the E1 or E2 complex by RNA interference led to increased AAV transduction. We also identified putative E3 enzymes involved in this mechanism. Our data indicates that this regulation is mediated by the AAV capsid and it affects different AAV serotypes. Targeting SUMOylation might be a strategy to enhance AAV gene transduction.
    Keywords: Research Article
    ISSN: 1553-7366
    E-ISSN: 1553-7374
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  • 7
    Language: English
    In: PLoS Pathogens, 2012, Vol.8(7), p.e1002829
    Description: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has infected around 160 million individuals. Current therapies have limited efficacy and are fraught with side effects. To identify cellular HCV dependency factors, possible therapeutic targets, we manipulated signaling cascades with pathway-specific inhibitors. Using this approach we identified the MAPK/ERK regulated, cytosolic, calcium-dependent, group IVA phospholipase A2 (PLA2G4A) as a novel HCV dependency factor. Inhibition of PLA2G4A activity reduced core protein abundance at lipid droplets, core envelopment and secretion of particles. Moreover, released particles displayed aberrant protein composition and were 100-fold less infectious. Exogenous addition of arachidonic acid, the cleavage product of PLA2G4A-catalyzed lipolysis, but not other related poly-unsaturated fatty acids restored infectivity. Strikingly, production of infectious Dengue virus, a relative of HCV, was also dependent on PLA2G4A. These results highlight previously unrecognized parallels in the assembly pathways of these human pathogens, and define PLA2G4A-dependent lipolysis as crucial prerequisite for production of highly infectious viral progeny. ; The human genome encodes more than 30 phospholipase A2s. These enzymes cleave fatty acids at the C2 atom of phosphoglycerides and thus modulate membrane properties. Among all PLA2s only PLA2G4A, which is recruited to perinuclear membranes by Ca and activated by extracellular stimuli via the mitogen activated protein kinase pathway, specifically cleaves lipids with arachidonic acid. Metabolism of arachidonic acid yields prostaglandins and leukotriens, important lipid mediators of inflammation. We show that inhibition of PLA2G4A produces aberrant HCV particles and that infectivity is rescued by addition of arachidonic acid. Our results suggest that a specific lipid (arachidonic acid) is essential for production of highly infectious HCV progeny, likely by creating a membrane environment conducive for efficient incorporation of crucial host and viral factors into the lipid envelope of nascent particles. Strikingly, PLA2G4A is also essential for production of highly infectious Dengue Virus (DENV) particles but not for vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). These observations argue that HCV and DENV which unlike VSV produce particles at intracellular membranes usurp a common host factor (PLA2G4A) for assembly of highly infectious progeny. These findings open new perspectives for antiviral intervention and highlight thus far unrecognized parallels in the assembly pathway of HCV and DENV.
    Keywords: Research Article ; Biology ; Medicine ; Infectious Diseases ; Molecular Biology ; Cell Biology ; Gastroenterology And Hepatology
    ISSN: 1553-7366
    E-ISSN: 1553-7374
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  • 8
    Language: English
    In: 2015, Vol.11(1), p.e1004573
    Description: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of chronic liver disease affecting around 130 million people worldwide. While great progress has been made to define the principle steps of the viral life cycle, detailed knowledge how HCV interacts with its host cells is still limited. To overcome this limitation we conducted a comprehensive whole-virus RNA interference-based screen and identified 40 host dependency and 16 host restriction factors involved in HCV entry/replication or assembly/release. Of these factors, heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein K (HNRNPK) was found to suppress HCV particle production without affecting viral RNA replication. This suppression of virus production was specific to HCV, independent from assembly competence and genotype, and not found with the related Dengue virus. By using a knock-down rescue approach we identified the domains within HNRNPK required for suppression of HCV particle production. Importantly, HNRNPK was found to interact specifically with HCV RNA and this interaction was impaired by mutations that also reduced the ability to suppress HCV particle production. Finally, we found that in HCV-infected cells, subcellular distribution of HNRNPK was altered; the protein was recruited to sites in close proximity of lipid droplets and colocalized with core protein as well as HCV plus-strand RNA, which was not the case with HNRNPK variants unable to suppress HCV virion formation. These results suggest that HNRNPK might determine efficiency of HCV particle production by limiting the availability of viral RNA for incorporation into virions. This study adds a new function to HNRNPK that acts as central hub in the replication cycle of multiple other viruses. ; As obligate intracellular parasites with limited gene coding capacity viruses exploit host cell machineries for the sake of efficient replication and spread. Thus, identification of these cellular machineries and factors is necessary to understand how a given virus achieves efficient replication and eventually causes host cell damage. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an RNA virus replicating in the cytoplasm of hepatocytes. While viral proteins have been studied in great detail, our knowledge about how host cell factors are used by HCV for efficient replication and spread is still scarce. In the present study we conducted a comprehensive RNA-interference-based screen and identified 40 genes that promote the HCV lifecycle and 16 genes that suppress it. Follow-up studies revealed that one of these genes, the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein K (HNRNPK), selectively suppresses production of infectious HCV particles. We mapped the domains of HNRNPK required for this suppression and demonstrate that this protein selectively binds to the HCV RNA genome. Based on the correlation between suppression of virus production, HCV RNA binding and recruitment to lipid droplets, we propose that HNRNPK might limit the amount of viral RNA genomes available for incorporation into virus particles. This study provides novel insights into the complexity of reactions that are involved in the formation of HCV virions.
    Keywords: Research Article ; Biology And Life Sciences ; Medicine And Health Sciences
    ISSN: 1553-7366
    E-ISSN: 1553-7374
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  • 9
    Language: English
    In: 2015, Vol.11(1), p.e1004591
    Description: Epidemics of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are known to occur in wintertime in temperate countries including the United States, but there is a limited understanding of the importance of climatic drivers in determining the seasonality of RSV. In the United States, RSV activity is highly spatially structured, with seasonal peaks beginning in Florida in November through December and ending in the upper Midwest in February-March, and prolonged disease activity in the southeastern US. Using data on both age-specific hospitalizations and laboratory reports of RSV in the US, and employing a combination of statistical and mechanistic epidemic modeling, we examined the association between environmental variables and state-specific measures of RSV seasonality. Temperature, vapor pressure, precipitation, and potential evapotranspiration (PET) were significantly associated with the timing of RSV activity across states in univariate exploratory analyses. The amplitude and timing of seasonality in the transmission rate was significantly correlated with seasonal fluctuations in PET, and negatively correlated with mean vapor pressure, minimum temperature, and precipitation. States with low mean vapor pressure and the largest seasonal variation in PET tended to experience biennial patterns of RSV activity, with alternating years of “early-big” and “late-small” epidemics. Our model for the transmission dynamics of RSV was able to replicate these biennial transitions at higher amplitudes of seasonality in the transmission rate. This successfully connects environmental drivers to the epidemic dynamics of RSV; however, it does not fully explain why RSV activity begins in Florida, one of the warmest states, when RSV is a winter-seasonal pathogen. Understanding and predicting the seasonality of RSV is essential in determining the optimal timing of immunoprophylaxis. ; Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes annual outbreaks of respiratory disease every winter in temperate climates, which can be severe particularly among infants. In the United States, RSV activity begins each autumn in Florida and appears to spread from the southeast to the northwest. Using data on hospitalizations and laboratory tests for RSV, we show that the timing of epidemics is associated with a variety of climatic factors, including temperature, vapor pressure, precipitation, and potential evapotranspiration (PET). Furthermore, using a dynamic model, we show that seasonal variation in the transmission rate of RSV can be correlated with the amplitude and timing of variation in PET, which is a measure of demand for water from the atmosphere. States with colder, drier weather and a large seasonal swing in PET tended to experience an alternating pattern of “early-big” RSV epidemics one year followed by a “late-small” epidemic the next year, which our model was able to reproduce based on the interaction between susceptible and infectious individuals. However, we cannot fully explain why epidemics begin in Florida. Being able to understand and predict the timing of RSV activity is important for optimizing the delivery of immunoprophylaxis to high-risk individuals.
    Keywords: Research Article ; Biology And Life Sciences ; Medicine And Health Sciences
    ISSN: 1553-7366
    E-ISSN: 1553-7374
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