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In an effort to begin validating the large number of discovered candidate biomarkers, proteomics is beginning to shift from shotgun proteomic experiments towards targeted proteomic approaches that provide solutions to automation and economic concerns. Such approaches to validate biomarkers necessitate the mass spectrometric analysis of hundreds to thousands of human samples. As this takes place, a serendipitous opportunity has become evident. By the virtue that as one narrows the focus towards "single" protein targets (instead of entire proteomes) using pan-antibody-based enrichment techniques, a discovery science has emerged, so to speak. This is due to the largely unknown context in which "single" proteins exist in blood (i.e. polymorphisms, transcript variants, and posttranslational modifications) and hence, targeted proteomics has applications for established biomarkers. Furthermore, besides protein heterogeneity accounting for interferences with conventional immunometric platforms, it is becoming evident that this formerly hidden dimension of structural information also contains rich-pathobiological information. Consequently, targeted proteomics studies that aim to ascertain a protein's genuine presentation within disease- stratified populations and serve as a stepping-stone within a biomarker translational pipeline are of clinical interest. Roughly 128 million Americans are pre-diabetic, diabetic, and/or have kidney disease and public and private spending for treating these diseases is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. In an effort to create new solutions for the early detection and management of these conditions, described herein is the design, development, and translation of mass spectrometric immunoassays targeted towards diabetes and kidney disease. Population proteomics experiments were performed for the following clinically relevant proteins: insulin, C-peptide, RANTES, and parathyroid hormone. At least thirty-eight protein isoforms were detected. Besides the numerous disease correlations confronted within the disease-stratified cohorts, certain isoforms also appeared to be causally related to the underlying pathophysiology and/or have therapeutic implications. Technical advancements include multiplexed isoform quantification as well a "dual- extraction" methodology for eliminating non-specific proteins while simultaneously validating isoforms. Industrial efforts towards widespread clinical adoption are also described. Consequently, this work lays a foundation for the translation of mass spectrometric immunoassays into the clinical arena and simultaneously presents the most recent advancements concerning the mass spectrometric immunoassay approach.
Measurements of different molecular species from single cells have the potential to reveal cell-to-cell variations, which are precluded by population-based measurements. An increasing percentage of researches have been focused on proteins, for its central roles in biological processes. Immunofluorescence (IF) has been a well-established protein analysis platform. To gain comprehensive insights into cell biology and diagnostic pathology, a crucial direction would be to increase the multiplexity of current single cell protein analysis technologies.
An azide-based chemical cleavable linker has been introduced to design and synthesis novel fluorescent probes. These probes allow cyclic immunofluorescence staining which leads to the feasibility of highly multiplexed single cell in situ protein profiling. These highly multiplexed imaging-based platforms have the potential to quantify more than 100 protein targets in cultured cells and more than 50 protein targets in single cells in tissues.
This approach has been successfully applied in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) brain tissues. Multiplexed protein expression level results reveal neuronal heterogeneity in the human hippocampus.
Single-cell proteomics and transcriptomics analysis are crucial to gain insights of
healthy physiology and disease pathogenesis. The comprehensive profiling of biomolecules in individual cells of a heterogeneous system can provide deep insights into many important biological questions, such as the distinct cellular compositions or regulation of inter- and intracellular signaling pathways of healthy and diseased tissues. With multidimensional molecular imaging of many different biomarkers in patient biopsies, diseases can be accurately diagnosed to guide the selection of the ideal treatment.
As an urgent need to advance single-cell analysis, imaging-based technologies have been developed to detect and quantify multiple DNA, RNA and protein molecules in single cell in situ. Novel fluorescent probes have been designed and synthesized, which targets specifically either their nucleic acid counterpart or protein epitopes. These highly multiplexed imaging-based platforms have the potential to detect and quantify 100 different protein molecules and 1000 different nucleic acids in a single cell.
Using novel fluorescent probes, a large number of biomolecules have been detected and quantified in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) brain tissue at single-cell resolution. By studying protein expression levels, neuronal heterogeneity has been revealed in distinct subregions of human hippocampus.
Post Translational Modifications (PTMs) are a series of chemical modifications with the capacity to expand the structural and functional repertoire of proteins. PTMs can regulate protein-protein interaction, localization, protein turn-over, the active state of the protein, and much more. This can dramatically affect cell processes as relevant as gene expression, cell-cell recognition, and cell signaling. Along these lines, this Ph.D. thesis examines the role of two of the most important PTMs: glycosylation and phosphorylation.
In chapters 2, 3 and 4, a 10,000 peptide microarray is used to analyze the glycan variations in a series lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from Gram negative bacteria. This research was the first to demonstrate that using a small subset of random sequence peptides, it was possible to identify a small subset with the capacity to bind to the LPS of bacteria. These peptides bound to LPS not only in the solid surface of the array but also in solution as demonstrated with surface plasmon resonance (SPR), isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and flow cytometry. Interestingly, some of the LPS binding peptides also exhibit antimicrobial activity, a property that is also analyzed in this work.
In chapters 5 and 6, the role of protein phosphorylation, another PTM, is analyzed in the context of human cancer. High risk neuroblastoma, a very aggressive pediatric cancer, was studied with emphasis on the phosphorylations of two selected oncoproteins: the transcription factor NMYC and the adaptor protein ShcC. Both proteins were isolated from high risk neuroblastoma cells, and a targeted-directed tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) methodology was used to identify the phosphorylation sites in each protein. Using this method dramatically improved the phosphorylation site detection and increased the number of sites detected up to 250% in comparison with previous studies. Several of the novel identified sites were located in functional domain of the proteins and that some of them are homologous to known active sites in other proteins of the same family. The chapter concludes with a computational prediction of the kinases that potentially phosphorylate those sites and a series of assays to show this phosphorylation occurred in vitro.
The goal of this thesis is to test whether Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with distinctive humoral immune changes that can be detected in plasma and tracked across time. This is relevant because AD is the principal cause of dementia, and yet, no specific diagnostic tests are universally employed in clinical practice to predict, diagnose or monitor disease progression. In particular, I describe herein a proteomic platform developed at the Center for Innovations in Medicine (CIM) consisting of a slide with 10.000 random-sequence peptides printed on its surface, which is used as the solid phase of an immunoassay where antibodies of interest are allowed to react and subsequently detected with a labeled secondary antibody. The pattern of antibody binding to the microarray is unique for each individual animal or person. This thesis will evaluate the versatility of the microarray platform and how it can be used to detect and characterize the binding patterns of antibodies relevant to the pathophysiology of AD as well as the plasma samples of animal models of AD and elderly humans with or without dementia. My specific aims were to evaluate the emergence and stability of immunosignature in mice with cerebral amyloidosis, and characterize the immunosignature of humans with AD. Plasma samples from APPswe/PSEN1-dE9 transgenic mice were evaluated longitudinally from 2 to 15 months of age to compare the evolving immunosignature with non-transgenic control mice. Immunological variation across different time-points was assessed, with particular emphasis on time of emergence of a characteristic pattern. In addition, plasma samples from AD patients and age-matched individuals without dementia were assayed on the peptide microarray and binding patterns were compared. It is hoped that these experiments will be the basis for a larger study of the diagnostic merits of the microarray-based immunoassay in dementia clinics.
While the entire human genome has been sequenced, the understanding of its functional elements remains unclear. The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project analyzed 1% of the human genome and found that the majority of the human genome is transcribed, including non-protein coding regions. The hypothesis is that some of the "non-coding" sequences are translated into peptides and small proteins. Using mass spectrometry numerous peptides derived from the ENCODE transcriptome were identified. Peptides and small proteins were also found from non-coding regions of the 1% of the human genome that the ENCODE did not find transcripts for. A large portion of these peptides mapped to the intronic regions of known genes, thus it is suspected that they may be undiscovered exons present in alternative spliceoforms of certain genes. Further studies proved the existence of polyadenylated RNAs coding for these peptides. Although their functional significance has not been determined, I anticipate the findings will lead to the discovery of new splice variants of known genes and possibly new transcriptional and translational mechanisms.
Infertility has become an increasing problem in developed countries and in many cases can be attributed to compromised sperm quality. Assessment of male fertility typically utilizes semen analysis which mainly examines sperm morphology, however many males whose sperm appear normal are sub- or infertile, suggesting that sperm from these males may be deficient in a protein or suite of proteins. To date, very little is known about the composition of sperm or the complex maturation process that confers motility and fertilization competency to sperm. Chapter 1 discusses the use of whole cell mass spectrometry to identify 1247 proteins comprising the Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) sperm proteome, a commonly used model of human reproduction. This study provides a more robust proxy of human sperm composition than was previously available and facilitates studies of sperm using the rhesus macaque as a model. Chapters 2 & 3 provide a systems level overview of changes in sperm proteome composition that occurs during epididymal transit. Chapter 2 reports the proteomes of sperm collected from the caput, corpus and cauda segments of the mouse epididymis, identifying 1536, 1720 and 1234 proteins respectively. Chapter 3 reports the sperm proteome from four distinct segments of the Rhesus macaque epididymis, including the caput, proximal corpus, distal corpus and cauda, identifying 1951, 2014, 1764 and 1423 proteins respectively. These studies identify a number of proteins that are added and removed from sperm during epididymal transit which likely play an important role in the sperm maturation process. To date no comparative evolutionary studies of sperm proteomes have been undertaken. Chapter 4 compares four mammalian sperm proteomes including the human, macaque, mouse and rat. This study identified 98 proteins common to all four sperm proteomes, 82 primate and 90 rodent lineage-specific proteins and 494, 467, 566, and 193 species specific proteins in the human, macaque, mouse and rat sperm proteomes respectively and discusses how differences in sperm composition may ultimately lead to functional differences across species. Finally, chapter 5 uses sperm proteome data to inform the preliminary design of a rodent contraceptive vaccine delivered orally using recombinant attenuated Salmonella vaccine vectors.
Pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria employ a variety of molecular mechanisms to combat host defenses. Two-component regulatory systems (TCR systems) are the most ubiquitous signal transduction systems which regulate many genes required for virulence and survival of bacteria. In this study, I analyzed different TCR systems in two clinically-relevant Gram-negative bacteria, i.e., oral pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis and enterobacterial Escherichia coli. P. gingivalis is a major causative agent of periodontal disease as well as systemic illnesses, like cardiovascular disease. A microarray study found that the putative PorY-PorX TCR system controls the secretion and maturation of virulence factors, as well as loci involved in the PorSS secretion system, which secretes proteinases, i.e., gingipains, responsible for periodontal disease. Proteomic analysis (SILAC) was used to improve the microarray data, reverse-transcription PCR to verify the proteomic data, and primer extension assay to determine the promoter regions of specific PorX regulated loci. I was able to characterize multiple genetic loci regulated by this TCR system, many of which play an essential role in hemagglutination and host-cell adhesion, and likely contribute to virulence in this bacterium. Enteric Gram-negative bacteria must withstand many host defenses such as digestive enzymes, low pH, and antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). The CpxR-CpxA TCR system of E. coli has been extensively characterized and shown to be required for protection against AMPs. Most recently, this TCR system has been shown to up-regulate the rfe-rff operon which encodes genes involved in the production of enterobacterial common antigen (ECA), and confers protection against a variety of AMPs. In this study, I utilized primer extension and DNase I footprinting to determine how CpxR regulates the ECA operon. My findings suggest that CpxR modulates transcription by directly binding to the rfe promoter. Multiple genetic and biochemical approaches were used to demonstrate that specific TCR systems contribute to regulation of virulence factors and resistance to host defenses in P. gingivalis and E. coli, respectively. Understanding these genetic circuits provides insight into strategies for pathogenesis and resistance to host defenses in Gram negative bacterial pathogens. Finally, these data provide compelling potential molecular targets for therapeutics to treat P. gingivalis and E. coli infections.
The stress response facilitates our ability to deal effectively with threatening situations, but exposure to severe or chronic stressors can lead to undesirable neural, physiological, and behavioral outcomes. Chronic stress is associated with structural changes in the rat hippocampus, with corresponding deficits in learning and memory. Recent studies have uncovered an inherent neuroplasticity that allows the hippocampus to recover from these stress-induced neural changes. Underlying mechanisms likely involve several different cellular and molecular pathways. In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of these pathways, we investigated differences in protein expression throughout the timeline of chronic stress and recovery. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to chronic restraint stress for 6hr/d/10d or 6hr/d/21d, stress for 6hr/d/21d followed by a recovery period of no stress for 10 or 21 days, or a control group. The proteome from the hippocampus of these rats was sequenced using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and analyzed. We hypothesized that chronic stress alters interneuronal signaling in the hippocampus by enhancing or attenuating the expression of proteins responsible for synaptic plasticity (functional) and neuronal structure (morphology). So far we have found that structural proteins, such as alpha-internexin, homer protein homolog 3, neurofilament light, and vimentin were significantly altered by chronic stress and recovery. In contrast, proteins necessary for or associated with myelination such as 2',3'-cyclic-nucleotide 3'-phosphodiesterase, myelin-associated glycoprotein, myelin basic protein S, and myelin proteolipid protein were significantly downregulated by chronic stress. Collectively, these results will provide a resource for further investigations into the mechanisms of the brain's recovery from chronic stress.
Oceanic life is facing the deleterious aftermath of coral bleaching. To reverse the damages introduced by anthropological means, it is imperative to study fundamental properties of corals. One way to do so is to understand the metabolic pathways and protein functions of corals that contribute to the resilience of coral reefs. Although genomic sequencing and structural modeling has yielded significant insights for well-studied organisms, more investigation must be conducted for corals. Better yet, quantifiable experiments are far more crucial to the understanding of corals. The objective is to clone, purify, and assess coral proteins from the cauliflower coral species known as Pocillopora damicornis. Presented here is the pipeline for how 3-D structural modeling can help support the experimental data from studying soluble proteins in corals. Using a multi-step selection approach, 25 coral genes were selected and retrieved from the genomic database. Using Escherischia coli and Homo sapiens homologues for sequence alignment, functional properties of each protein were predicted to aid in the production of structural models. Using D-SCRIPT, potential pairwise protein-protein interactions (PPI) were predicted amongst these 25 proteins, and further studied for identifying putative interfaces using the ClusPro server. 10 binding pockets were inferred for each pair of proteins. Standard cloning strategies were applied to express 4 coral proteins for purification and functional assays. 2 of the 4 proteins had visible bands on the Coomassie stained gel and were able to advance to the purification step. Both proteins exhibited a faint band at the expected migration distance for at least one of the elutions. Finally, PPI was carried out by mixing protein samples and running in a native gel, resulting in one potential pair of PPI.