Recent Submissions

  • Bacterial polyextremotolerant bioemulsifiers from arid soils improve water retention capacity and humidity uptake in sandy soil

    Raddadi, Noura; Giacomucci, Lucia; Marasco, Ramona; Daffonchio, Daniele; Cherif, Ameur; Fava, Fabio (Microbial Cell Factories, Springer Nature, 2018-05-31) [Article]
    Water stress is a critical issue for plant growth in arid sandy soils. Here, we aimed to select bacteria producing polyextremotolerant surface-active compounds capable of improving water retention and humidity uptake in sandy soils.From Tunisian desert and saline systems, we selected eleven isolates able to highly emulsify different organic solvents. The bioemulsifying activities were stable with 30% NaCl, at 4 and 120 °C and in a pH range 4-12. Applications to a sandy soil of the partially purified surface-active compounds improved soil water retention up to 314.3% compared to untreated soil. Similarly, after 36 h of incubation, the humidity uptake rate of treated sandy soil was up to 607.7% higher than untreated controls.Overall, results revealed that polyextremotolerant bioemulsifiers of bacteria from arid and desert soils represent potential sources to develop new natural soil-wetting agents for improving water retention in arid soils.
  • The Arabidopsis homolog of human G3BP1 is a key regulator of stomatal and apoplastic immunity

    Abulfaraj, Aala A.; Mariappan, Kiruthiga; Bigeard, Jean; Manickam, Prabhu; Blilou, Ikram; Guo, Xiujie; Al-Babili, Salim; Pflieger, Delphine; Hirt, Heribert; Rayapuram, Naganand (Life Science Alliance, Life Science Alliance, LLC, 2018-05-31) [Article]
    Mammalian Ras-GTPase–activating protein SH3-domain–binding proteins (G3BPs) are a highly conserved family of RNA-binding proteins that link kinase receptor-mediated signaling to RNA metabolism. Mammalian G3BP1 is a multifunctional protein that functions in viral immunity. Here, we show that the Arabidopsis thaliana homolog of human G3BP1 negatively regulates plant immunity. Arabidopsis g3bp1 mutants showed enhanced resistance to the virulent bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato. Pathogen resistance was mediated in Atg3bp1 mutants by altered stomatal and apoplastic immunity. Atg3bp1 mutants restricted pathogen entry into stomates showing insensitivity to bacterial coronatine–mediated stomatal reopening. AtG3BP1 was identified as a negative regulator of defense responses, which correlated with moderate up-regulation of salicylic acid biosynthesis and signaling without growth penalty.
  • Genetic Determinants Associated With in Vivo Survival of Burkholderia cenocepacia in the Caenorhabditis elegans Model

    Wong, Yee-Chin; Abd El Ghany, Moataz; Ghazzali, Raeece N. M.; Yap, Soon-Joo; Hoh, Chee-Choong; Pain, Arnab; Nathan, Sheila (Frontiers in Microbiology, Frontiers Media SA, 2018-05-29) [Article]
    A Burkholderia cenocepacia infection usually leads to reduced survival and fatal cepacia syndrome in cystic fibrosis patients. The identification of B. cenocepacia essential genes for in vivo survival is key to designing new anti-infectives therapies. We used the Transposon-Directed Insertion Sequencing (TraDIS) approach to identify genes required for B. cenocepacia survival in the model infection host, Caenorhabditis elegans. A B. cenocepacia J2315 transposon pool of ∼500,000 mutants was used to infect C. elegans. We identified 178 genes as crucial for B. cenocepacia survival in the infected nematode. The majority of these genes code for proteins of unknown function, many of which are encoded by the genomic island BcenGI13, while other gene products are involved in nutrient acquisition, general stress responses and LPS O-antigen biosynthesis. Deletion of the glycosyltransferase gene wbxB and a histone-like nucleoid structuring (H-NS) protein-encoding gene (BCAL0154) reduced bacterial accumulation and attenuated virulence in C. elegans. Further analysis using quantitative RT-PCR indicated that BCAL0154 modulates B. cenocepacia pathogenesis via transcriptional regulation of motility-associated genes including fliC, fliG, flhD, and cheB1. This screen has successfully identified genes required for B. cenocepacia survival within the host-associated environment, many of which are potential targets for developing new antimicrobials.
  • PTK2B/Pyk2 overexpression improves a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease

    Giralt, Albert; de Pins, Benoît; Cifuentes-Díaz, Carmen; López-Molina, Laura; Farah, Amel Thamila; Tible, Marion; Deramecourt, Vincent; Arold, Stefan T.; Ginés, Silvia; Hugon, Jacques; Girault, Jean-Antoine (Experimental Neurology, Elsevier BV, 2018-05-24) [Article]
    Pyk2 is a Ca2+-activated non-receptor tyrosine kinase enriched in forebrain neurons and involved in synaptic regulation. Human genetic studies associated PTK2B, the gene coding Pyk2, with risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD). We previously showed that Pyk2 is important for hippocampal function, plasticity, and spine structure. However, its potential role in AD is unknown. To address this question we used human brain samples and 5XFAD mice, an amyloid mouse model of AD expressing mutated human amyloid precursor protein and presenilin1. In the hippocampus of 5XFAD mice and in human AD patients' cortex and hippocampus, Pyk2 total levels were normal. However, Pyk2 Tyr-402 phosphorylation levels, reflecting its autophosphorylation-dependent activity, were reduced in 5XFAD mice at 8 months of age but at 3 months. We crossed these mice with Pyk2−/− mice to generate 5XFAD animals devoid of Pyk2. At 8 months the phenotype of 5XFAD x Pyk2−/− double mutant mice was not different from that of 5XFAD. In contrast, overexpression of Pyk2 in the hippocampus of 5XFAD mice, using adeno-associated virus, rescued autophosphorylated Pyk2 levels and improved synaptic markers and performance in several behavioral tasks. Both Pyk2−/− and 5XFAD mice showed an increase of potentially neurotoxic Src cleavage product, which was rescued by Pyk2 overexpression. Manipulating Pyk2 levels had only minor effects on Aβ plaques, which were slightly decreased in hippocampus CA3 region of double mutant mice and increased following overexpression. Our results show that Pyk2 is not essential for the pathogenic effect of human amyloidogenic mutations in the 5XFAD mouse model. However, the slight decrease in plaque number observed in these mice in the absence of Pyk2 and their increase following Pyk2 overexpression suggest a contribution of this kinase in plaque formation. Importantly, a decreased function of Pyk2 was observed in 5XFAD mice, indicated by its decreased autophosphorylation and associated Src alterations. Overcoming this deficit by Pyk2 overexpression improved the behavioral and molecular phenotype of 5XFAD mice. Thus, our results in a mouse model of AD suggest that Pyk2 impairment may play a role in the symptoms of the disease.
  • In silico exploration of Red Sea Bacillus genomes for natural product biosynthetic gene clusters

    Othoum, Ghofran K.; Bougouffa, Salim; Mohamad Razali, Rozaimi; Bokhari, Ameerah; Alamoudi, Soha; Antunes, André; Gao, Xin; Hoehndorf, Robert; Arold, Stefan T.; Gojobori, Takashi; Hirt, Heribert; Mijakovic, Ivan; Bajic, Vladimir B.; Lafi, Feras Fawzi; Essack, Magbubah (BMC Genomics, Springer Nature, 2018-05-22) [Article]
    BackgroundThe increasing spectrum of multidrug-resistant bacteria is a major global public health concern, necessitating discovery of novel antimicrobial agents. Here, members of the genus Bacillus are investigated as a potentially attractive source of novel antibiotics due to their broad spectrum of antimicrobial activities. We specifically focus on a computational analysis of the distinctive biosynthetic potential of Bacillus paralicheniformis strains isolated from the Red Sea, an ecosystem exposed to adverse, highly saline and hot conditions.ResultsWe report the complete circular and annotated genomes of two Red Sea strains, B. paralicheniformis Bac48 isolated from mangrove mud and B. paralicheniformis Bac84 isolated from microbial mat collected from Rabigh Harbor Lagoon in Saudi Arabia. Comparing the genomes of B. paralicheniformis Bac48 and B. paralicheniformis Bac84 with nine publicly available complete genomes of B. licheniformis and three genomes of B. paralicheniformis, revealed that all of the B. paralicheniformis strains in this study are more enriched in nonribosomal peptides (NRPs). We further report the first computationally identified trans-acyltransferase (trans-AT) nonribosomal peptide synthetase/polyketide synthase (PKS/ NRPS) cluster in strains of this species.ConclusionsB. paralicheniformis species have more genes associated with biosynthesis of antimicrobial bioactive compounds than other previously characterized species of B. licheniformis, which suggests that these species are better potential sources for novel antibiotics. Moreover, the genome of the Red Sea strain B. paralicheniformis Bac48 is more enriched in modular PKS genes compared to B. licheniformis strains and other B. paralicheniformis strains. This may be linked to adaptations that strains surviving in the Red Sea underwent to survive in the relatively hot and saline ecosystems.
  • Root bacterial endophytes confer drought resistance and enhance expression and activity of a vacuolar H+ -pumping pyrophosphatase in pepper plants

    Vigani, Gianpiero; Rolli, Eleonora; Marasco, Ramona; Dell'Orto, Marta; Michoud, Gregoire; Soussi, Asma; Raddadi, Noura; Borin, Sara; Sorlini, Claudia; Zocchi, Graziano; Daffonchio, Daniele (Environmental Microbiology, Wiley, 2018-05-22) [Article]
    It has been previously shown that the transgenic overexpression of the plant root vacuolar proton pumps H+ -ATPase (V-ATPase) and H+ -PPase (V-PPase) confer tolerance to drought. Since plant-root endophytic bacteria can also promote drought tolerance, we hypothesize that such promotion can be associated to the enhancement of the host vacuolar proton pumps expression and activity. To test this hypothesis, we selected two endophytic bacteria endowed with an array of in vitro plant growth promoting traits. Their genome sequences confirmed the presence of traits previously shown to confer drought resistance to plants, such as the synthesis of nitric oxide and of organic volatile organic compounds. We used the two strains on pepper (Capsicuum annuum L.) because of its high sensitivity to drought. Under drought conditions, both strains stimulated a larger root system and enhanced the leaves' photosynthetic activity. By testing the expression and activity of the vacuolar proton pumps, H+ -ATPase (V-ATPase) and H+ -PPase (V-PPase), we found that bacterial colonization enhanced V-PPase only. We conclude that the enhanced expression and activity of V-PPase can be favoured by the colonization of drought-tolerance-inducing bacterial endophytes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
  • GLAM: Glycogen-derived Lactate Absorption Map for visual analysis of dense and sparse surface reconstructions of rodent brain structures on desktop systems and virtual environments

    Agus, Marco; Boges, Daniya; Gagnon, Nicolas; Magistretti, Pierre J.; Hadwiger, Markus; Cali, Corrado (Computers & Graphics, Elsevier BV, 2018-05-21) [Article]
    Human brain accounts for about one hundred billion neurons, but they cannot work properly without ultrastructural and metabolic support. For this reason, mammalian brains host another type of cells called “glial cells”, whose role is to maintain proper conditions for efficient neuronal function. One type of glial cell, astrocytes, are involved in particular in the metabolic support of neurons, by feeding them with lactate, one byproduct of glucose metabolism that they can take up from blood vessels, and store it under another form, glycogen granules. These energy-storage molecules, whose morphology resembles to spheres with a diameter ranging 10–80 nanometers roughly, can be easily recognized using electron microscopy, the only technique whose resolution is high enough to resolve them. Understanding and quantifying their distribution is of particular relevance for neuroscientists, in order to understand where and when neurons use energy under this form. To answer this question, we developed a visualization technique, dubbed GLAM (Glycogen-derived Lactate Absorption Map), and customized for the analysis of the interaction of astrocytic glycogen on surrounding neurites in order to formulate hypotheses on the energy absorption mechanisms. The method integrates high-resolution surface reconstruction of neurites, astrocytes, and the energy sources in form of glycogen granules from different automated serial electron microscopy methods, like focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) or serial block face electron microscopy (SBEM), together with an absorption map computed as a radiance transfer mechanism. The resulting visual representation provides an immediate and comprehensible illustration of the areas in which the probability of lactate shuttling is higher. The computed dataset can be then explored and quantified in a 3D space, either using 3D modeling software or virtual reality environments. Domain scientists have evaluated the technique by either using the computed maps for formulating functional hypotheses or for planning sparse reconstructions to avoid excessive occlusion. Furthermore, we conducted a pioneering user study showing that immersive VR setups can ease the investigation of the areas of interest and the analysis of the absorption patterns in the cellular structures.
  • Effective Interfacially Polymerized Polyester Solvent Resistant Nanofiltration Membrane from Bioderived Materials

    Abdellah, Mohamed H.; Perez Manriquez, Liliana; Puspasari, Tiara; Scholes, Colin A.; Kentish, Sandra E.; Peinemann, Klaus-Viktor (Advanced Sustainable Systems, Wiley, 2018-05-18) [Article]
    Utilization of sustainable and environmentally friendly solvents for the preparation of membranes has attracted growing interest in recent years. In this work, a polyester thin film composite solvent resistant nanofiltration (SRNF) membrane is prepared by interfacial polymerization on a cellulose support. The cellulose support is prepared by nonsolvent-induced phase separation from a dope solution containing an ionic liquid as an environmentally friendly solvent (negligible vapor pressure). The polyester film is formed via the interfacial reaction between quercetin, a plant-derived polyphenol, and terephthaloyl chloride. Alpha-pinene is used as a green alternative solvent to dissolve terephthaloyl chloride (TPC) while quercetin is dissolved in a 0.2 m NaOH solution. The interfacial polymerization reaction is successfully confirmed by Fourier transform infrared and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy while scanning electron and atomic force microscopy are used to characterize the membrane structure. The composite membrane shows an outstanding performance with a molecular weight cut-off around 330 Da combined with a dimethylformamide (DMF) permeance up to 2.8 L m−2 bar−1 h−1. The membrane is stable in strong aprotic solvents such as DMF offering potential application in the pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries.
  • Impact of Pore–Walls Ligand Assembly on the Biodegradation of Mesoporous Organosilica Nanoparticles for Controlled Drug Delivery

    Omar, Haneen; Moosa, Basem; Alamoudi, Kholod; Anjum, Dalaver H.; Emwas, Abdul-Hamid M.; El Tall, Omar; Vu, Binh; Tamanoi, Fuyu; AlMalik, Abdulaziz; Khashab, Niveen M. (ACS Omega, American Chemical Society (ACS), 2018-05-14) [Article]
    Porous materials with molecular-scale ordering have attracted major attention mainly because of the possibility to engineer their pores for selective applications. Periodic mesoporous organosilica is a class of hybrid materials where self-assembly of the organic linkers provides a crystal-like pore wall. However, unlike metal coordination, specific geometries cannot be predicted because of the competitive and dynamic nature of noncovalent interactions. Herein, we study the influence of competing noncovalent interactions in the pore walls on the biodegradation of organosilica frameworks for drug delivery application. These results support the importance of studying self-assembly patterns in hybrid frameworks to better engineer the next generation of dynamic or “soft” porous materials.
  • Microbial ecology of deep-sea hypersaline anoxic basins

    Merlino, Giuseppe; Barozzi, Alan; Michoud, Gregoire; Ngugi, David; Daffonchio, Daniele (FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2018-05-09) [Article]
    Deep hypersaline anoxic basins (DHABs) are unique water bodies occurring within fractures at the bottom of the sea, where the dissolution of anciently buried evaporites created dense anoxic brines that are separated by a chemocline/pycnocline from the overlying oxygenated deep-seawater column. DHABs have been described in the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the Red Sea. They are characterized by prolonged historical separation of the brines from the upper water column due to lack of mixing and by extreme conditions of salinity, anoxia, and relatively high hydrostatic pressure and temperatures. Due to these combined selection factors, unique microbial assemblages thrive in these polyextreme ecosystems. The topological localization of the different taxa in the brine-seawater transition zone coupled with the metabolic interactions and niche adaptations determine the metabolic functioning and biogeochemistry of DHABs. In particular, inherent metabolic strategies accompanied by genetic adaptations have provided insights on how prokaryotic communities can adapt to salt-saturated condition. Here, we review the current knowledge on the diversity, genomics, metabolisms and ecology of prokaryotes in DHABs.
  • Impact of MCT1 Haploinsufficiency on the Mouse Retina

    Peachey, Neal S.; Yu, Minzhong; Han, John Y. S.; Lengacher, Sylvain; Magistretti, Pierre J.; Pellerin, Luc; Philp, Nancy J. (Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, Springer International Publishing, 2018-05-02) [Book Chapter]
    The monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1) is highly expressed in the outer retina, suggesting that it plays a critical role in photoreceptors. We examined MCT1+/− heterozygotes, which express half of the normal complement of MCT1. The MCT1+/− retina developed normally and retained normal function, indicating that MCT1 is expressed at sufficient levels to support outer retinal metabolism.
  • Conformational Regulation of the Essential Epigenetic Regulator UHRF1

    Pantoja Angles, Aaron (2018-05) [Thesis]
    Advisor: Fischle, Wolfgang
    Committee members: Adamo, Antonio; Mahfouz, Magdy M.; Jaremko, Lukasz
    UHRF1 is an essential epigenetic regulator implicated in the maintenance of DNA methylation. While its functional state has been suggested to be allosterically regulated by phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphate and dependent on purification conditions and tags coupled to the protein, the expression system might have a broader impact on UHRF1s interaction properties. We hypothesized that the translation kinetics defined by the expression host has an impact on the folding process of the protein, which ultimately affects its structure and function. To test this idea, the cDNA of UHRF1 was recoded in order to generate optimized and harmonized sequences that were expected to alter the overall translation speed. Both proteins were expressed in Escherichia coli BL21-DE3 and their interaction profiles with H3K9me3 and unmodified H3 peptides were determined by microscale thermophoresis assays. The dissociation constants were compared by ttests in order to evaluate a possible change in the interaction properties of the optimized and harmonized proteins, compared to non-optimized UHRF1 expressed in E. coli BL21-DE3. While no difference was found for the interaction of optimized UHRF1 with the H3K9me3 peptide, a significant difference was found for its interaction with the unmodified H3 peptide. Moreover, both the interactions of harmonized UHRF1 with H3K9me3 and unmodified H3 peptides were determined to change. For this reason, we concluded that translation kinetics dependent on the expression system impacts the functional state of UHRF1. To further study this phenomenon, we expressed the consensus sequence of UHRF1 in Escherichia coli BL21-Codon Plus-(DE3)-RIL, a bacterial strain that is enriched with arginine, isoleucine, and leucine tRNA isoacceptors. Differences in its interaction profile with histone peptides were found when compared with UHRF1 expressed in Escherichia coli BL21-DE3. Since the major difference between these strains is the abundance of tRNAs, we obtained further findings that support our initial hypothesis. Additionally, the interaction profiles from the consensus UHRF1 protein were determined in the presence of PI5P to get an insight into how this phosphoinositide might impact the final structure and function of UHRF1. MST measurements and limited proteolysis assays led us to the idea of a partially open conformation for the UHRF1 expressed in E. coli BL21-DE3 and E.coli Codon Plus-(DE3)-RIL.
  • Genetic Characterization of the Gut Microbiome of Hajj Pilgrims

    Beaudoin, Christopher (2018-05) [Thesis]
    Advisor: Pain, Arnab
    Committee members: Daffonchio, Daniele; Khashab, Niveen M.
    Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, is a unique mass gathering event that brings more than 2 million individuals from around the world. Several public health considerations, such as the spread of infectious diseases, must be taken into account with this large temporary influx of people. Gastrointestinal diseases, such as diarrhea, are common at Hajj, yet little is known about the etiology. The human gut microbiome, collection of organisms residing within the intestinal tract, has been under intense study recently, since next generation DNA sequencing technologies allow for extensive surveying of genetic material found in complex biological samples, such as those containing many different organisms. Thus, using 16S rRNA and metagenomic shotgun sequencing, we have characterized the gut microbiome of over 612 pilgrims with and without diarrhea. Several metadata factors, such as hospitalization and different comorbidities, were found to have significant effects on the overall gut microbiome composition. Metagenomic shotgun sequencing efforts revealed the presence of antimicrobial resistance genes originating from disparate regions from around the world. This study provides a snapshot of information concerning the health status of the gut microbiome of Hajj pilgrims and provides more context to the investigation of how to best prepare for mass gathering events.
  • Molecular Characterization of the Plant Growth Promoting Bacterium Enterobacter sp. SA187 upon Contact with Arabidopsis thaliana

    Alsharif, Wiam (2018-05) [Thesis]
    Advisor: Hirt, Heribert
    Committee members: Arold, Stefan T.; Blilou, Ikram
    Salt stress is a severe environmental challenge in agriculture, limiting the quality and productivity of the crops around the globe. Plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) is proposed as a friendly solution to overcome those challenges. The desert plant endophytic bacterium, Enterobacter sp. SA187 has shown plant growth promotion and salt stress tolerance beneficial effect on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana in vitro as well as under the field conditions on different crops. SA187 has a distinguished morphology of yellow colonies (SA187Y) that could be due to carotenoid biosynthesis. However, the bacteria tend to lose the yellow color upon incubation with the plants and the colonies turn to white (SA187W). In comparison to SA187Y, SA187W shows 50% reduction on the beneficial impact on A. thaliana fresh and dry weight of root and shoot system. By counting the CFU/plant, we showed that SA187Y and SA187W both have similar colonization rate in both shoots and roots. Under non-salt conditions, optimal bacterial colonization was observed on day 8 after inocubation, however, under the salt stress condition, the optimal colonization was observed at day 4. Moreover, during the time period of the incubation of the SA187Y with the plants, there was a consistent noticeable loss of the yellow color of the colonies. This change in color is only observed eight days after transfer and the number of white colonies increases with the increase of the incubation time. In addition, SA187W was GFP-tagged by Tn7 transposon system and visualized by confocal laser scanning microscopy. The SA187W-GFP colonies have shown a similar colonization pattern as SA187Y-GFP, bacteria were colonizing the differentiation zone and cell elongation zone in the roots. Finally, the gene expression of the carotenoid biosynthesis pathways genes in SA187Y showed an overall higher gene expression compared to SA187W. In conclusion, the color loss seems to affect the beneficial impact of the bacteria on plants. However, the reduced beneficial impact is not due to the colonization efficiency of bacteria on the plant roots but could be due to a regulation of gene expression of carotenoid biosynthesis.
  • Distinct Bacterial Composition Associated with Different Laboratory-cultured Aiptasia Strains Across Two Thermal Conditions

    Ahmed, Hanin (2018-05) [Thesis]
    Advisor: Aranda, Manuel
    Committee members: Moran, Xose Anxelu G.; Voolstra, Christian R.
    Coral reefs are crucial for the ecological sustainability of the oceans, yet, increasing sea surface temperature is threatening these ecosystems globally. Microbial communities associated with corals have become a recent research focus, as the associated microbiome may contribute to coral resilience to environmental stressors, e.g., heat stress. However, research in this area is hampered by the difficulty of working with corals. This study aims to use Aiptasia, a sea anemone, as a tractable laboratory model system to study the role of the coral microbiome. Analyses of the bacterial compositions associated with different Aiptasia strains across two temperatures (25 °C and 32 °C), based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing. This study aims also to identify a “core” microbiome associated with heat stress acclimation, as well as host-specific differences. In general, results showed that bacterial composition associated with Aiptasia strains differs significantly with temperature. Higher bacterial diversity and richness were observed when all Aiptasia strains were placed under heat stress. Moreover, results showed an increase in beta diversity and dispersion of bacterial communities in response to heat stress. These changes in the bacterial composition are in line with the recently described “Anna Karenina principle” for animal microbiomes, which suggests that the microbiomes of unhealthy individuals vary more than healthy and stable individuals. This study further shows that while temperature had the greatest effect on structuring the bacterial compositions, there were some variations better attributed to batch and host effects. This suggests that technical aspects have to be carefully addressed in the framework of microbiome studies. Members of a putative “core” microbiome associated with 32 °C Aiptasia have been identified as indicator species of heat stress (i.e., Francisella sp.,). Previous reports have shown that these indicator taxa are associated with saline environments and can tolerate high temperatures. Putative functional profiles based on taxonomic inference of associated bacterial taxa (i.e., enrichment and depletion of various metabolic processes) were also identified, implying functional differences of the microbiomes associated with Aiptasia strains in response to heat stress. Future studies should more specifically examine how the microbiome influences the animal ability to respond to environmental changes.
  • Generation of Hybrid Peptide-Silver Nanoparticles for Antibacterial and Antifouling Applications

    Seferji, Kholoud (2018-05) [Thesis]
    Advisor: Hauser, Charlotte
    Committee members: Pain, Arnab; Di Fabrizio, Enzo M.
    An alarming increase of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains has made the demand for novel antibacterial agents, for example, more effective antibiotics, highly crucial. One of the oldest antimicrobial agents is elementary silver which has been used for thousands of years. Even in our days, elementary silver is used for medical purposes, such as for burns, wounds, and microbial infections. We have taken the effectiveness of elementary silver into consideration to generate novel antibacterial and antifouling agents. Our innovative antibacterial agents are hybrid peptide silver nanoparticles (CH-01-AgNPs) that are created de novo and in situ from a silver nitrate solution (AgNO3) in the presence of ultrashort self-assembling peptides compounds. The nucleation of CH-01-AgNPs is initiated by irradiating the peptide solution mixed with the AgNO3 solution using ultraviolet (UV) light at a wavelength of 254 nm, in the absence of any reducing or capping agents. Obviously, the peptide itself serves as the reducing agent. The ultrashort peptides are four amino acids in length with an innate ability to self-assemble into nanofibrous scaffolds. Using these ultrashort peptides CH-01 we were able to create hybrid peptide silver nanoparticles CH-01-AgNPs with a diameter of 4-6 nm. The synthesized CH-01-AgNPs were further characterized using ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The antibacterial and antifouling activity of CH-01-AgNPs were then investigated using either gram-negative bacteria, such as antibiotic-resistant Top10 Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa PDO300, or gram-positive bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus CECT 976. The hybrid nanoparticles demonstrated very promising antibacterial and antifouling activity with higher antibacterial and antifouling activity as commercial silver nanoparticles. Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) results showed upregulation of stress-related genes, e.g. osmB and bdm. Biocompatibility studies of CH-01-AgNPs, using concentrations of 0.06 mM and 0.125 mM, testing for the viability of human dermal fibroblast neonatal (HDFn) cells, showed no significant influence on cell viability. In summary, we consider hybrid peptide silver nanoparticles CH-01-AgNPs as promising biomaterials that can be utilized in various biomedical applications, in particular for wound healing and biofilm inhibition, but also for other applications, such as tissue engineering, drug delivery, regenerative medicine, and biosensing.
  • Ectopic expression and knocking-down of LINE-1 mRNA in human mesenchymal stem cells: impact on in vitro osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation

    Atinbayeva, Nazerke (2018-05) [Thesis]
    Advisor: Orlando, Valerio
    Committee members: Merzaban, Jasmeen; Mahfouz, Magdy M.
    There are two classes of transposable elements: DNA transposons and retrotransposons. DNA transposons spread in the genome by “cut and paste” mechanism. In contrast, retrotransposons use copy and paste strategy involving RNA and retrotranscriptase mediated mechanism; these include long interspersed nuclear elements-1 (LINE-1, L1) and short interspersed nuclear elements (SINE). In mammals, in order to maintain genome integrity both types of transposons are tightly repressed. However, some copies of retrotransposons are still active in germ cells contributing to natural variation. Surprisingly, recent reports indicate that also somatic cells support L1 reactivation in early development, in particular in the brain leading to mosaicism. However, whether L1 retrotransposition is a part of other cell lineage developmental programs and its functional significance in the context of cell differentiation remain to be elucidated. To address this question, I investigated whether L1 retrotransposition was occurring during in vitro osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation of bone marrow derived human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). Interestingly, clinical observations have revealed loss of bone density in HIV-infected individuals treated with nucleoside analogs that inhibit HIV retrotranscriptase, as well as the endogenous one encoded by L1s. This observation made us to hypothesize that transposable elements played a positive role in post-natal bone homeostasis. I found that while adipogenesis is “retrotransposition free”, osteogenic differentiation is a “retrotransposition-prone” process and its inhibition blocks its genetic program. Indeed, L1 DNA content does not change during adipogenic differentiation and that of retrotranscriptase does not have any effect on the acquisition of a terminally differentiated phenotype. In contrast, soon after MSCs commitment into pre-osteoblasts, L1 retrotransposable elements increase their expression and actively transpose. Inhibition of retrotransposition and knock down of L1 mRNA strongly impairs matrix deposition. Moreover, I forced L1 expression in in vitro adipogenesis, by directly delivering L1 mRNA to the cells. Interestingly, overexpression of L1 elements was detrimental for in vitro adipogenesis. Then, I performed loss of function experiments in osteogenesis by directly targeting and degrading the L1 endogenous transcript. This experiment confirmed the positive role of L1 reactivation in the osteogenic context, suggesting also a possible role for L1 RNA, distinct from retrotransposition.
  • Engineering of kinase-based protein interacting devices: active expression of tyrosine kinase domains

    Diaz Galicia, Miriam Escarlet (2018-05) [Thesis]
    Advisor: Arold, Stefan T.
    Committee members: Mahfouz, Magdy M.; Jaremko, Lukasz
    Protein-protein interactions modulate cellular processes in health and disease. However, tracing weak or rare associations or dissociations of proteins is not a trivial task. Kinases are often regulated through interaction partners and, at the same time, themselves regulate cellular interaction networks. The use of kinase domains for creating a synthetic sensor device that reads low concentration protein-protein interactions and amplifies them to a higher concentration interaction which is then translated into a FRET (Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer) signal is here proposed. To this end, DNA constructs for interaction amplification (split kinases), positive controls (intact kinase domains), scaffolding proteins and phosphopeptide - SH2-domain modules for the reading of kinase activity were assembled and expression protocols for fusion proteins containing Lyn, Src, and Fak kinase domains in bacterial and in cell-free systems were optimized. Also, two non-overlapping methods for measuring the kinase activity of these proteins were stablished and, finally, a protein-fragment complementation assay with the split-kinase constructs was tested. In conclusion, it has been demonstrated that features such as codon optimization, vector design and expression conditions have an impact on the expression yield and activity of kinase-based proteins. Furthermore, it has been found that the defined PURE cell-free system is insufficient for the active expression of catalytic kinase domains. In contrast, the bacterial co-expression with phosphatases produced active kinase fusion proteins for two out of the three tested Tyrosine kinase domains.
  • Identification and Characterization of Novel Plant Adenylate Cyclases – The Arabidopsis Thaliana Potassium Uptake Permeases

    Al-Younis, Inas (2018-05) [Dissertation]
    Advisor: Tester, Mark A.
    Committee members: Gehring, Christoph A; Magistretti, Pierre J.; Voolstra, Christian R.; Irving, Helen
    Adenylyl Cyclases (ACs) catalyze the formation of the key universal second messenger adenosine 3’, 5’-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) from adenosine 5’- triphosphate. Cyclic AMP participates in several signal transduction pathways and is present in bacteria and higher and lower eukaryotes including higher plants. Previous studies in plants have shown a role for cAMP in signal transduction during e.g. the cell cycle, elongation of the pollen tube and stimulation of protein kinase activity. More recently cAMP has been shown to play a role in stress responses. Interestingly, cAMP has also been shown to regulate ion transport in plant cells. Here we used a similar strategy that led to the discovery of the first guanylyl cyclase in plants that was based on the alignment of conserved and functionally assigned amino acids in the catalytic centre of annotated nucleotide cyclases from lower and higher eukaryotes, to identify a novel candidate ACs in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana K+ Uptake 5 and 7). ATKUP5 and 7 are homologous to K+ uptake permeases (KUPs) from bacteria and high-affinity K+ transporters (HAKs) from fungi. The AC activity was investigated by recombinantly expressing the ATKUP5 and 7 AC domain in vitro and by complementation of an E. coli AC mutant (cyaA). Furthermore, ATKUP5 was tested for its ability to functionally complement a yeast mutant deficient in Trk1 and Trk2 high affinity potassium uptake transporters. Site-mutagenesis in the AC domain was used to test the effect of both functions in each other. Furthermore, ATKUP5 was characterized electrophysiologically in HEK-293 cells to characterize the nature of this transporter. The localization of the ATKUP5 in Arabidopsis was examined using a Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) fusion with the ATKUP5 to determine whether ATKUP5 is expressed at the plasma or tonoplast membrane. Arabiodpsis thaliana of the wild type, overexpressing ATKUP5 and atkup5 mutant lines were used to examine phenotypic differences.
  • Metagenome-based diversity analyses suggest a strong locality signal for bacterial communities associated with oyster aquaculture farms in Ofunato Bay

    Kobiyama, Atsushi; Ikeo, Kazuho; Reza, Md. Shaheed; Rashid, Jonaira; Yamada, Yuichiro; Ikeda, Yuri; Ikeda, Daisuke; Mizusawa, Nanami; Sato, Shigeru; Ogata, Takehiko; Jimbo, Mitsuru; Kudo, Toshiaki; Kaga, Shinnosuke; Watanabe, Shiho; Naiki, Kimiaki; Kaga, Yoshimasa; Mineta, Katsuhiko; Bajic, Vladimir B.; Gojobori, Takashi; Watabe, Shugo (Gene, Elsevier BV, 2018-04-30) [Article]
    Ofunato Bay, in Japan, is the home of buoy-and-rope-type oyster aquaculture activities. Since the oysters filter suspended materials and excrete organic matter into the seawater, bacterial communities residing in its vicinity may show dynamic changes depending on the oyster culture activities. We employed a shotgun metagenomic technique to study bacterial communities near oyster aquaculture facilities at the center of the bay (KSt. 2) and compared the results with those of two other localities far from the station, one to the northeast (innermost bay, KSt. 1) and the other to the southwest (bay entrance, KSt. 3). Seawater samples were collected every month from January to December 2015 from the surface (1 m) and deeper (8 or 10 m) layers of the three locations, and the sequentially filtered fraction on 0.2-μm membranes was sequenced on an Illumina MiSeq system. The acquired reads were uploaded to MG-RAST for KEGG functional abundance analysis, while taxonomic analyses at the phylum and genus levels were performed using MEGAN after parsing the BLAST output. Discrimination analyses were then performed using the ROC-AUC value of the cross validation, targeting the depth (shallow or deep), locality [(KSt. 1 + KSt. 2) vs. KSt 3; (KSt. 1 + KSt. 3) vs. KSt. 2 or the (KSt. 2 + KSt. 3) vs. KSt. 1] and seasonality (12 months). The matrix discrimination analysis on the adjacent 2 continuous seasons by ROC-AUC, which was based on the datasets that originated from different depths, localities and months, showed the strongest discrimination signal on the taxonomy matrix at the phylum level for the datasets from July to August compared with those from September to June, while the KEGG matrix showed the strongest signal for the datasets from March to June compared with those from July to February. Then, the locality combination was subjected to the same ROC-AUC discrimination analysis, resulting in significant differences between KSt. 2 and KSt. 1 + KSt. 3 on the KEGG matrix. These results suggest that aquaculture activities markedly affect bacterial functions.

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