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Specific amino acid substitutions improve the activity and specificity of an antimicrobial peptide & serodiagnosis by immunosignature: a multiplexing tool for monitoring the humoral immune response to dengue

Description

Random peptide microarrays are a powerful tool for both the treatment and diagnostics of infectious diseases. On the treatment side, selected random peptides on the microarray have either binding or lytic potency against certain pathogens cells, thus they can be

Random peptide microarrays are a powerful tool for both the treatment and diagnostics of infectious diseases. On the treatment side, selected random peptides on the microarray have either binding or lytic potency against certain pathogens cells, thus they can be synthesized into new antimicrobial agents, denoted as synbodies (synthetic antibodies). On the diagnostic side, serum containing specific infection-related antibodies create unique and distinct "pathogen-immunosignatures" on the random peptide microarray distinct from the healthy control serum, and this different mode of binding can be used as a more precise measurement than traditional ELISA tests. My thesis project is separated into these two parts: the first part falls into the treatment side and the second one focuses on the diagnostic side. My first chapter shows that a substitution amino acid peptide library helps to improve the activity of a recently reported synthetic antimicrobial peptide selected by the random peptide microarray. By substituting one or two amino acids of the original lead peptide, the new substitutes show changed hemolytic effects against mouse red blood cells and changed potency against two pathogens: Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Two new substitutes are then combined together to form the synbody, which shows a significantly antimicrobial potency against Staphylococcus aureus (<0.5uM). In the second chapter, I explore the possibility of using the 10K Ver.2 random peptide microarray to monitor the humoral immune response of dengue. Over 2.5 billion people (40% of the world's population) live in dengue transmitting areas. However, currently there is no efficient dengue treatment or vaccine. Here, with limited dengue patient serum samples, we show that the immunosignature has the potential to not only distinguish the dengue infection from non-infected people, but also the primary dengue infection from the secondary dengue infections, dengue infection from West Nile Virus (WNV) infection, and even between different dengue serotypes. By further bioinformatic analysis, we demonstrate that the significant peptides selected to distinguish dengue infected and normal samples may indicate the epitopes responsible for the immune response.

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Date Created
2013

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Topological analysis of biological pathways : genes, microRNAs and pathways involved in hepatocellular carcinoma

Description

Rewired biological pathways and/or rewired microRNA (miRNA)-mRNA interactions might also influence the activity of biological pathways. Here, rewired biological pathways is defined as differential (rewiring) effect of genes on the topology of biological pathways between controls and cases. Similarly, rewired

Rewired biological pathways and/or rewired microRNA (miRNA)-mRNA interactions might also influence the activity of biological pathways. Here, rewired biological pathways is defined as differential (rewiring) effect of genes on the topology of biological pathways between controls and cases. Similarly, rewired miRNA-mRNA interactions are defined as the differential (rewiring) effects of miRNAs on the topology of biological pathways between controls and cases. In the dissertation, it is discussed that how rewired biological pathways (Chapter 1) and/or rewired miRNA-mRNA interactions (Chapter 2) aberrantly influence the activity of biological pathways and their association with disease.

This dissertation proposes two PageRank-based analytical methods, Pathways of Topological Rank Analysis (PoTRA) and miR2Pathway, discussed in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, respectively. PoTRA focuses on detecting pathways with an altered number of hub genes in corresponding pathways between two phenotypes. The basis for PoTRA is that the loss of connectivity is a common topological trait of cancer networks, as well as the prior knowledge that a normal biological network is a scale-free network whose degree distribution follows a power law where a small number of nodes are hubs and a large number of nodes are non-hubs. However, from normal to cancer, the process of the network losing connectivity might be the process of disrupting the scale-free structure of the network, namely, the number of hub genes might be altered in cancer compared to that in normal samples. Hence, it is hypothesized that if the number of hub genes is different in a pathway between normal and cancer, this pathway might be involved in cancer. MiR2Pathway focuses on quantifying the differential effects of miRNAs on the activity of a biological pathway when miRNA-mRNA connections are altered from normal to disease and rank disease risk of rewired miRNA-mediated biological pathways. This dissertation explores how rewired gene-gene interactions and rewired miRNA-mRNA interactions lead to aberrant activity of biological pathways, and rank pathways for their disease risk. The two methods proposed here can be used to complement existing genomics analysis methods to facilitate the study of biological mechanisms behind disease at the systems-level.

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2017

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Controlled Epigenetic Silencing and Tandem Histone-Binding Transcriptional Activation

Description

Fusion proteins that specifically interact with biochemical marks on chromosomes represent a new class of synthetic transcriptional regulators that decode cell state information rather than deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) sequences. In multicellular organisms, information relevant to cell state, tissue identity,

Fusion proteins that specifically interact with biochemical marks on chromosomes represent a new class of synthetic transcriptional regulators that decode cell state information rather than deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) sequences. In multicellular organisms, information relevant to cell state, tissue identity, and oncogenesis is often encoded as biochemical modifications of histones, which are bound to DNA in eukaryotic nuclei and regulate gene expression states. In 2011, Haynes et al. showed that a synthetic regulator called the Polycomb chromatin Transcription Factor (PcTF), a fusion protein that binds methylated histones, reactivated an artificially-silenced luciferase reporter gene. These synthetic transcription activators are derived from the polycomb repressive complex (PRC) and associate with the epigenetic silencing mark H3K27me3 to reactivate the expression of silenced genes. It is demonstrated here that the duration of epigenetic silencing does not perturb reactivation via PcTF fusion proteins. After 96 hours PcTF shows the strongest reactivation activity. A variant called Pc2TF, which has roughly double the affinity for H3K27me3 in vitro, reactivated the silenced luciferase gene by at least 2-fold in living cells.

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Date Created
2019

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A Robust scRNA-seq Data Analysis Pipeline for Measuring Gene Expression Noise

Description

The past decade has seen a drastic increase in collaboration between Computer Science (CS) and Molecular Biology (MB). Current foci in CS such as deep learning require very large amounts of data, and MB research can often be rapidly advanced

The past decade has seen a drastic increase in collaboration between Computer Science (CS) and Molecular Biology (MB). Current foci in CS such as deep learning require very large amounts of data, and MB research can often be rapidly advanced by analysis and models from CS. One of the places where CS could aid MB is during analysis of sequences to find binding sites, prediction of folding patterns of proteins. Maintenance and replication of stem-like cells is possible for long terms as well as differentiation of these cells into various tissue types. These behaviors are possible by controlling the expression of specific genes. These genes then cascade into a network effect by either promoting or repressing downstream gene expression. The expression level of all gene transcripts within a single cell can be analyzed using single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). A significant portion of noise in scRNA-seq data are results of extrinsic factors and could only be removed by customized scRNA-seq analysis pipeline. scRNA-seq experiments utilize next-gen sequencing to measure genome scale gene expression levels with single cell resolution.

Almost every step during analysis and quantification requires the use of an often empirically determined threshold, which makes quantification of noise less accurate. In addition, each research group often develops their own data analysis pipeline making it impossible to compare data from different groups. To remedy this problem a streamlined and standardized scRNA-seq data analysis and normalization protocol was designed and developed. After analyzing multiple experiments we identified the possible pipeline stages, and tools needed. Our pipeline is capable of handling data with adapters and barcodes, which was not the case with pipelines from some experiments. Our pipeline can be used to analyze single experiment scRNA-seq data and also to compare scRNA-seq data across experiments. Various processes like data gathering, file conversion, and data merging were automated in the pipeline. The main focus was to standardize and normalize single-cell RNA-seq data to minimize technical noise introduced by disparate platforms.

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Date Created
2017

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Comparative genomics and novel bioinformatics methodology applied to the green anole reveal unique sex chromosome evolution

Description

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage compensation is a process whereby genes on the sex chromosomes achieve equal gene expression which prevents deleterious side effects from having too much or too little expression of genes on sex chromsomes. The green anole is part of a group of species that recently underwent an adaptive radiation. The green anole has XX/XY sex determination, but the content of the X chromosome and its evolution have not been described. Given its status as a model species, better understanding the green anole genome could reveal insights into other species. Genomic analyses are crucial for a comprehensive picture of sex chromosome differentiation and dosage compensation, in addition to understanding speciation.

In order to address this, multiple comparative genomics and bioinformatics analyses were conducted to elucidate patterns of evolution in the green anole and across multiple anole species. Comparative genomics analyses were used to infer additional X-linked loci in the green anole, RNAseq data from male and female samples were anayzed to quantify patterns of sex-biased gene expression across the genome, and the extent of dosage compensation on the anole X chromosome was characterized, providing evidence that the sex chromosomes in the green anole are dosage compensated.

In addition, X-linked genes have a lower ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution rates than the autosomes when compared to other Anolis species, and pairwise rates of evolution in genes across the anole genome were analyzed. To conduct this analysis a new pipeline was created for filtering alignments and performing batch calculations for whole genome coding sequences. This pipeline has been made publicly available.

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Date Created
2016

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Landscape of Gene Regulatory Network Motifs

Description

The human transcriptional regulatory machine utilizes hundreds of transcription factors which bind to specific genic sites resulting in either activation or repression of targeted genes. Networks comprised of nodes and edges can be constructed to model the relationships of regulators

The human transcriptional regulatory machine utilizes hundreds of transcription factors which bind to specific genic sites resulting in either activation or repression of targeted genes. Networks comprised of nodes and edges can be constructed to model the relationships of regulators and their targets. Within these biological networks small enriched structural patterns containing at least three nodes can be identified as potential building blocks from which a network is organized. A first iteration computational pipeline was designed to generate a disease specific gene regulatory network for motif detection using established computational tools. The first goal was to identify motifs that can express themselves in a state that results in differential patient survival in one of the 32 different cancer types studied. This study identified issues for detecting strongly correlated motifs that also effect patient survival, yielding preliminary results for possible driving cancer etiology. Second, a comparison was performed for the topology of network motifs across multiple different data types to identify possible divergence from a conserved enrichment pattern in network perturbing diseases. The topology of enriched motifs across all the datasets converged upon a single conserved pattern reported in a previous study which did not appear to diverge dependent upon the type of disease. This report highlights possible methods to improve detection of disease driving motifs that can aid in identifying possible treatment targets in cancer. Finally, networks where only minimally perturbed, suggesting that regulatory programs were run from evolved circuits into a cancer context.

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Date Created
2020

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Investigating the Mechanism of a Multi-State Model of WNT Signaling

Description

The WNT signaling pathway plays numerous roles in development and maintenance of adult homeostasis. In concordance with it’s numerous roles, dysfunction of WNT signaling leads to a variety of human diseases ranging from developmental disorders to cancer. WNT signaling is

The WNT signaling pathway plays numerous roles in development and maintenance of adult homeostasis. In concordance with it’s numerous roles, dysfunction of WNT signaling leads to a variety of human diseases ranging from developmental disorders to cancer. WNT signaling is composed of a family of 19 WNT soluble secreted glycoproteins, which are evolutionarily conserved across all phyla of the animal kingdom. WNT ligands interact most commonly with a family of receptors known as frizzled (FZ) receptors, composed of 10 independent genes. Specific interactions between WNT proteins and FZ receptors are not well characterized and are known to be promiscuous, Traditionally canonical WNT signaling is described as a binary system in which WNT signaling is either off or on. In the ‘off’ state, in the absence of a WNT ligand, cytoplasmic β-catenin is continuously degraded by the action of the APC/Axin/GSK-3β destruction complex. In the ‘on’ state, when WNT binds to its Frizzled (Fz) receptor and LRP coreceptor, this protein destruction complex is disrupted, allowing β-catenin to translocate into the nucleus where it interacts with the DNA-bound T cell factor/lymphoid factor (TCF/LEF) family of proteins to regulate target gene expression. However in a variety of systems in development and disease canonical WNT signaling acts in a gradient fashion, suggesting more complex regulation of β-catenin transcriptional activity. As such, the traditional ‘binary’ view of WNT signaling does not clearly explain how this graded signal is transmitted intracellularly to control concentration-dependent changes in gene expression and cell identity. I have developed an in vitro human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-based model that recapitulates the same in vivo developmental effects of the WNT signaling gradient on the anterior-posterior (A/P) patterning of the neural tube observed during early development. Using RNA-seq and ChIP-seq I have characterized β-catenin binding at different levels of WNT signaling and identified different classes of β-catenin peaks that bind cis-regulatory elements to influence neural cell fate. This work expands the traditional binary view of canonical WNT signaling and illuminates WNT/β-catenin activity in other developmental and diseased contexts.

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Date Created
2019