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Concept: Phosphorylation


Identification of a systemically acting and universal small molecule therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy would be an enormous advance for this condition. Based on evidence gained from studies on mouse genetic models we have identified tyrosine phosphorylation and degradation of β-dystroglycan as a key event in the aetiology of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Thus preventing tyrosine phosphorylation and degradation of β-dystroglycan presents itself as a potential therapeutic strategy. Using the dystrophic sapje zebrafish we have investigated the use of tyrosine kinase and other inhibitors to treat the dystrophic symptoms in this model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Dasatinib, a potent and specific Src tyrosine kinase inhibitor was found to decrease the levels of β-dystroglycan phosphorylation on tyrosine and increase the relative levels of non-phosphorylated β-dystroglycan in sapje zebrafish. Furthermore, dasatinib treatment resulted in the improved physical appearance of the sapje zebrafish musculature and increased swimming ability as measured by both duration and distance of swimming dasatinib treated fish compared to control animals. These data suggest great promise for pharmacological agents that prevent the phosphorylation of β-dystroglycan on tyrosine and subsequent steps in the degradation pathway as therapeutic targets for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Protein kinase, Phosphorylation, Enzyme inhibitor, Electromyography, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Morpholino


BACKGROUND: For shotgun mass spectrometry based proteomics the most computationally expensive step is in matching the spectra against an increasingly large database of sequences and their post-translational modifications with known masses. Each mass spectrometer can generate data at an astonishingly high rate, and the scope of what is searched for is continually increasing. Therefore solutions for improving our ability to perform these searches are needed. RESULTS: We present a sequence database search engine that is specifically designed to run efficiently on the Hadoop MapReduce distributed computing framework. The search engine implements the K-score algorithm, generating comparable output for the same input files as the original implementation. The scalability of the system is shown, and the architecture required for the development of such distributed processing is discussed. CONCLUSION: The software is scalable in its ability to handle a large peptide database, numerous modifications and large numbers of spectra. Performance scales with the number of processors in the cluster, allowing throughput to expand with the available resources.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Phosphorylation, Search engine optimization, Computer science, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Peer-to-peer, Hadoop, Distributed computing


BACKGROUND: Signal transduction plays a fundamental role in the understanding of cellular physiology. The bacterialphosphotransferase system (PTS) together with the PEP/pyruvate node in central metabolism represents asignaling unit that acts as a sensory element and measures the activity of the central metabolism.Pseudomonas putida possesses two PTS branches, the C-branch (PTSFru) and a second branch (PTSNtr),which communicate with each other by phosphate exchange. Recent experimental results showed a cross talkbetween the two branches. However, the functional role of the crosstalk remains open. RESULTS: A mathematical model was set up to describe the available data of the state of phosphorylation of PtsN, one ofthe PTS proteins, for different environmental conditions and different strain variants. Additionally, data fromflux balance analysis was used to determine some of the kinetic parameters of the involved reactions. Based onthe calculated and estimated parameters, the flux distribution during growth of the wild type strain on fructosecould be determined. CONCLUSION: Our calculations show that during growth of the wild type strain on the PTS substrate fructose, the major partof the phosphoryl groups is provided by the second branch of the PTS. This theoretical finding indicates a newrole of the second branch of the PTS and will serve as a basis for further experimental studies.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Mathematics, Phosphate, Cell signaling, Phosphorylation, Pseudomonas putida


Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE)-based proteomics approach was applied to extensively explore the molecular basis of plant development and environmental adaptation. These proteomics analyses revealed thousands of differentially expressed proteins (DEPs) closely related to different biological processes. However, little attention has been paid to how peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) data generated by the approach can be directly utilized for the determination of protein phosphorylation. Here, we used the software tool FindMod to predict the peptides that might carry the phosphorylation modification by examining their PMF data for mass differences between the empirical and theoretical peptides and then identified phosphorylation sites using MALDI TOF/TOF according to predicted peptide data from these DEP spots in the 2-D gels. As a result, a total of 48 phosphorylation sites of 40 DEPs were successfully identified among 235 known DEPs previously revealed in the 2-D gels of elongating cotton fiber cells. The 40 phosphorylated DEPs, including important enzymes such as enolase, transketolase and UDP-L-rhamnose synthase, are presumed to participate in the functional regulation of numerous metabolic pathways, suggesting the reverse phosphorylation of these proteins might play important roles in elongating cotton fibers. The results also indicated that some different isoforms of the identical DEP revealed in our 2-DE-based proteomics analysis could be annotated by phosphorylation events. Taken together, as the first report of large-scale identification of phosphorylation sites in elongating cotton fiber cells, our study provides not only an excellent example of directly identifying phosphorylation sites from known DEPs on 2-D gels but also provides a valuable resource for future functional studies of phosphorylated proteins in this field.

Concepts: Protein, Molecular biology, Adenosine triphosphate, Mass spectrometry, Gel electrophoresis, Phosphorylation, Proteomics, Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis


Exercise is essential in regulating energy metabolism and whole-body insulin sensitivity. To explore the exercise signaling network, we undertook a global analysis of protein phosphorylation in human skeletal muscle biopsies from untrained healthy males before and after a single high-intensity exercise bout, revealing 1,004 unique exercise-regulated phosphosites on 562 proteins. These included substrates of known exercise-regulated kinases (AMPK, PKA, CaMK, MAPK, mTOR), yet the majority of kinases and substrate phosphosites have not previously been implicated in exercise signaling. Given the importance of AMPK in exercise-regulated metabolism, we performed a targeted in vitro AMPK screen and employed machine learning to predict exercise-regulated AMPK substrates. We validated eight predicted AMPK substrates, including AKAP1, using targeted phosphoproteomics. Functional characterization revealed an undescribed role for AMPK-dependent phosphorylation of AKAP1 in mitochondrial respiration. These data expose the unexplored complexity of acute exercise signaling and provide insights into the role of AMPK in mitochondrial biochemistry.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Oxidative phosphorylation, Cellular respiration, Phosphorylation


Mutations in Park8, encoding for the multidomain Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) protein, comprise the predominant genetic cause of Parkinson’s disease (PD). G2019S, the most common amino acid substitution activates the kinase two to three-fold. This has motivated the development of LRRK2 kinase inhibitors; however, poor consensus on physiological LRRK2 substrates has hampered clinical development of such therapeutics. We employ a combination of phosphoproteomics, genetics and pharmacology to unambiguously identify a subset of Rab GTPases as key LRRK2 substrates. LRRK2 directly phosphorylates these both in vivo and in vitro on an evolutionary conserved residue in the switch II domain. Pathogenic LRRK2 variants mapping to different functional domains increase phosphorylation of Rabs and this strongly decreases their affinity to regulatory proteins including Rab GDP dissociation inhibitors (GDIs). Our findings uncover a key class of bona-fide LRRK2 substrates and a novel regulatory mechanism of Rabs that connects them to PD.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Amino acid, Acid, Phosphorylation, Parkinson's disease, Proteomics, LRRK2


The purpose of this project was to further elucidate the effects post-exercise alcohol ingestion. This project had many novel aspects including using a resistance exercise (RE) only exercise design and the inclusion of women. Ten resistance trained men and nine resistance trained women completed two identical acute heavy resistance exercise trials (six sets of Smith machine squats) followed by ingestion of either alcohol or placebo. All participants completed both conditions. Prior to exercise (PRE) and three (+3h) and five (+5h) hours post exercise, muscle tissue samples were obtained from the vastus lateralis by biopsies. Muscle samples were analyzed for phosphorylated mTORC1, S6K1, and 4E-BP1. For men, there was a significant interaction effect for mTORC1 and S6K1 phosphorylation. At +3h, mTORC1 and S6K1 phosphorylation was higher for placebo than for alcohol. For women, there was a significant main effect for time. mTORC1 phosphorylation was higher at +3h than at PRE and at +5h. There were no significant effects found for 4E-BP1 phosphorylation in men or women. The major findings of this study was that although RE elicited similar mTORC1 signaling both in men and in women, alcohol ingestion appeared to only attenuate RE-induced phosphorylation of the mTORC1 signaling pathway in men. The present study provides evidence that alcohol should not be ingested following RE as this ingestion could potentially hamper the desired muscular adaptations to resistance exercise by reducing anabolic signaling, at least in men.

Concepts: Metabolism, Muscle, Physical exercise, Cell signaling, Phosphorylation, Muscular system, Weight training, Vastus lateralis muscle


An Abl label: The design of sensors to monitor the activity state of specific protein kinases is challenging due to the complexity of eukaryotic kinomes. Here we describe a peptide-based photoaffinity probe that specifically labels the active conformation of the Abl tyrosine kinase.

Concepts: Amino acid, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Kinase, Protein kinase, Phosphorylation, Label


With the aim of elucidating the neural mechanisms of early learning, we studied the role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in visual imprinting in birds. The telencephalic neural circuit connecting the visual Wulst and intermediate medial mesopallium is critical for imprinting, and the core region of the hyperpallium densocellulare (HDCo), situated at the center of this circuit, has a key role in regulating the activity of the circuit. We found that the number of BDNF mRNA-positive cells in the HDCo was elevated during the critical period, particularly at its onset, on the day of hatching (P0). After imprinting training on P1, BDNF mRNA-positive cells in the HDCo increased in number, and tyrosine phosphorylation of TrkB was observed. BDNF infusion into the HDCo at P1 induced imprinting, even with a weak training protocol that does not normally induce imprinting. In contrast, K252a, an antagonist of Trk, inhibited imprinting. Injection of BDNF at P7, after the critical period, did not elicit imprinting. These results suggest that BDNF promotes the induction of imprinting through TrkB exclusively during the critical period.

Concepts: Nervous system, Phosphorylation, Neurotrophin, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, Nerve growth factor, Neurotrophins, Critical period, Imprinting


The c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway forms part of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways comprising a sequential three-tiered kinase cascade. Here, an upstream MAP3K (MEKK1) phosphorylates and activates a MAP2K (MKK4 and MKK7), which in turn phosphorylates and activates the MAPK, JNK. The C-terminal kinase domain of MEKK1 (MEKK-C) is constitutively active, while MKK4/7 and JNK are both activated by dual phosphorylation of S/Y, and T/Y residues within their activation loops, respectively. While improvements in the purification of large quantities of active JNKs have recently been made, inadequacies in their yield, purity, and the efficiency of their phosphorylation still exist. We describe a novel and robust method that further improves upon the purification of large yields of highly pure, phosphorylated JNK1β1, which is most suitable for biochemical and biophysical characterization. Codon harmonization of the JNK1β1 gene was used as a precautionary measure toward increasing the soluble overexpression of the kinase. While JNK1β1 and its substrate ATF2 were both purified to >99% purity as GST fusion proteins using GSH-agarose affinity chromatography and each cleaved from GST using thrombin, constitutively-active MEKK-C and inactive MKK4 were separately expressed in E. coli as thioredoxin-His(6)-tagged proteins and purified using urea refolding and Ni(2+)-IMAC, respectively. Activation of JNK1β1 was then achieved by successfully reconstituting the JNK MAPK activation cascade in vitro; MEKK-C was used to activate MKK4, which in turn was used to efficiently phosphorylate and activate large quantities of JNK1β1. Activated JNK1β1 was thereafter able to phosphorylate ATF2 with high catalytic efficiency.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Posttranslational modification, Phosphorylation, Mitogen-activated protein kinase, C-Jun N-terminal kinases, MAPK8