450 Publications

Mapping disease regulatory circuits at cell-type resolution from single-cell multiomics data

Resolving chromatin remodeling-linked gene expression changes at cell type resolution is important for understanding disease states. We describe MAGICAL, a hierarchical Bayesian approach that leverages paired scRNA-seq and scATAC-seq data from different conditions to map disease-associated transcription factors, chromatin sites, and genes as regulatory circuits. By simultaneously modeling signal variation across cells and conditions in both omics data types, MAGICAL achieved high accuracy on circuit inference. We applied MAGICAL to study Staphylococcus aureus sepsis from peripheral blood mononuclear single-cell data that we generated from infected subjects with bloodstream infection and from uninfected controls. MAGICAL identified sepsis-associated regulatory circuits predominantly in CD14 monocytes, known to be activated by bacterial sepsis. We addressed the challenging problem of distinguishing host regulatory circuit responses to methicillin-resistant-(MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) infections. While differential expression analysis failed to show predictive value, MAGICAL identified epigenetic circuit biomarkers that distinguished MRSA from MSSA.

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June 6, 2023

Cultured Renal Proximal Tubular Epithelial Cells Resemble a Stressed/Damaged Kidney While Supporting BK Virus Infection

Ping An, Maria Teresa Sáenz Robles, R. Sealfon, et al

BK virus (BKV; human polyomavirus 1) infections are asymptomatic in most individuals, and the virus persists throughout life without harm. However, BKV is a threat to transplant patients and those with immunosuppressive disorders. Under these circumstances, the virus can replicate robustly in proximal tubule epithelial cells (PT). Cultured renal proximal tubule epithelial cells (RPTE) are permissive to BKV and have been used extensively to characterize different aspects of BKV infection. Recently, lines of hTERT-immortalized RPTE have become available, and preliminary studies indicate they support BKV infection as well. Our results indicate that BKV infection leads to a similar response in primary and immortalized RPTE. In addition, we examined the patterns of global gene expression of primary and immortalized RPTE and compared them with uncultured PT freshly dissociated from human kidney. As expected, PT isolated from the healthy kidney express a number of differentiation-specific genes that are associated with kidney function. However, the expression of most of these genes is absent or repressed in cultured RPTE. Rather, cultured RPTE exhibit a gene expression profile indicative of a stressed or injured kidney. Inoculation of cultured RPTE with BKV results in the suppression of many genes associated with kidney stress. In summary, this study demonstrated similar global gene expression patterns and responses to BKV infection between primary and immortalized RPTE. Moreover, results from bulk transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) and SCT experiments revealed distinct transcriptomic signatures representing cell injury and stress in primary RPTE in contrast to the uncultured, freshly dissociated PT from human kidney.

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A methylation clock model of mild SARS-CoV-2 infection provides insight into immune dysregulation

DNA methylation comprises a cumulative record of lifetime exposures superimposed on genetically determined markers. Little is known about methylation dynamics in humans following an acute perturbation, such as infection. We characterized the temporal trajectory of blood epigenetic remodeling in 133 participants in a prospective study of young adults before, during, and after asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. The differential methylation caused by asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infections was indistinguishable. While differential gene expression largely returned to baseline levels after the virus became undetectable, some differentially methylated sites persisted for months of follow-up, with a pattern resembling autoimmune or inflammatory disease. We leveraged these responses to construct methylation-based machine learning models that distinguished samples from pre-, during-, and postinfection time periods, and quantitatively predicted the time since infection. The clinical trajectory in the young adults and in a diverse cohort with more severe outcomes was predicted by the similarity of methylation before or early after SARS-CoV-2 infection to the model-defined postinfection state. Unlike the phenomenon of trained immunity, the postacute SARS-CoV-2 epigenetic landscape we identify is antiprotective.

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Dissipation and energy propagation across scales in an active cytoskeletal material

Peter J. Foster , and Jinhye Bae, D. Needleman

Living systems are intrinsically nonequilibrium: They use metabolically derived chemical energy to power their emergent dynamics and self-organization. A crucial driver of these dynamics is the cellular cytoskeleton, a defining example of an active material where the energy injected by molecular motors cascades across length scales, allowing the material to break the constraints of thermodynamic equilibrium and display emergent nonequilibrium dynamics only possible due to the constant influx of energy. Notwithstanding recent experimental advances in the use of local probes to quantify entropy production and the breaking of detailed balance, little is known about the energetics of active materials or how energy propagates from the molecular to emergent length scales. Here, we use a recently developed picowatt calorimeter to experimentally measure the energetics of an active microtubule gel that displays emergent large-scale flows. We find that only approximately one-billionth of the system’s total energy consumption contributes to these emergent flows. We develop a chemical kinetics model that quantitatively captures how the system’s total thermal dissipation varies with ATP and microtubule concentrations but that breaks down at high motor concentration, signaling an interference between motors. Finally, we estimate how energy losses accumulate across scales. Taken together, these results highlight energetic efficiency as a key consideration for the engineering of active materials and are a powerful step toward developing a nonequilibrium thermodynamics of living systems.

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Folding and modulation of the helical conformation of Glycophorin A by point mutations

Pei-Yin Lee, A. Sahoo, Silvina Matysiak

Transmembrane helix folding and self-association play important roles in biological signaling and transportation pathways across biomembranes. With molecular simulations, studies to explore the structural biochemistry of this process have been limited to focusing on individual fragments of this process – either helix formation or dimerization. While at an atomistic resolution, it can be prohibitive to access long spatio-temporal scales, at the coarse grained (CG) level, current methods either employ additional constraints to prevent spontaneous unfolding or have a low resolution on sidechain beads that restricts the study of dimer disruption caused by mutations. To address these research gaps, in this work, we apply our recent, in-house developed CG model (ProMPT) to study the folding and dimerization of Glycophorin A (GpA) and its mutants in the presence of Dodecyl-phosphocholine (DPC) micelles. Our results first validate the two-stage model that folding and dimerization are independent events for transmembrane helices and found a positive correlation between helix folding and DPC-peptide contacts. The wild type (WT) GpA is observed to be a right-handed dimer with specific GxxxG contacts, which agrees with experimental findings. Specific point mutations reveal several features responsible for the structural stability of GpA. While the T87L mutant forms anti-parallel dimers due to an absence of T87 interhelical hydrogen bonds, a slight loss in helicity and a hinge-like feature at the GxxxG region develops for the G79L mutant. We note that the local changes in the hydrophobic environment, affected by the point mutation, contribute to the development of this helical bend. This work presents a holistic overview of the structural stability of GpA in a micellar environment, while taking secondary structural fluctuations into account. Moreover, it presents opportunities for applications of computationally efficient CG models to study conformational alterations of transmembrane proteins that have physiological relevance.

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Docking cholesterol to integral membrane proteins with Rosetta

Brennica Marlow, Georg Kuenze, Jens Meiler, J. Koehler

Lipid molecules such as cholesterol interact with the surface of integral membrane proteins (IMP) in a mode different from drug-like molecules in a protein binding pocket. These differences are due to the lipid molecule’s shape, the membrane’s hydrophobic environment, and the lipid’s orientation in the membrane. We can use the recent increase in experimental structures in complex with cholesterol to understand protein-cholesterol interactions. We developed the RosettaCholesterol protocol consisting of (1) a prediction phase using an energy grid to sample and score native-like binding poses and (2) a specificity filter to calculate the likelihood that a cholesterol interaction site may be specific. We used a multi-pronged benchmark (self-dock, flip-dock, cross-dock, and global-dock) of protein-cholesterol complexes to validate our method. RosettaCholesterol improved sampling and scoring of native poses over the standard RosettaLigand baseline method in 91% of cases and performs better regardless of benchmark complexity. On the β2AR, our method found one likely-specific site, which is described in the literature. The RosettaCholesterol protocol quantifies cholesterol binding site specificity. Our approach provides a starting point for high-throughput modeling and prediction of cholesterol binding sites for further experimental validation.

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Collective Motion and Pattern Formation in Phase-Synchronizing Active Fluids

B. Chakrabarti, M. Shelley, S. Fürthauer

Many active particles, such as swimming micro-organisms or motor proteins, do work on their environment by going though a periodic sequence of shapes. Interactions between particles can lead to synchronization of their duty cycles. Here, we study the collective dynamics of a suspension of active particles coupled through hydrodynamics. We find that at high enough density the system transitions to a state of collective motion by a mechanism that is distinct from other instabilities in active matter systems. Second, we demonstrate that the emergent nonequilibrium states feature stationary chimera patterns in which synchronized and phase-isotropic regions coexist. Third, we show that in confinement, oscillatory flows and robust unidirectional pumping states exist, and can be selected by choice of alignment boundary conditions. These results point toward a new route to collective motion and pattern formation and could guide the design of new active materials.

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Stochastic phenotypes in RAS-dependent developmental diseases

Robert A. Marmion, Alison G. Simpkins , S. Shvartsman, et al.

Germline mutations upregulating RAS signaling are associated with multiple developmental disorders. A hallmark of these conditions is that the same mutation may present vastly different phenotypes in different individuals, even in monozygotic twins. Here, we demonstrate how the origins of such largely unexplained phenotypic variations may be dissected using highly controlled studies in Drosophila that have been gene edited to carry activating variants of MEK, a core enzyme in the RAS pathway. This allowed us to measure the small but consistent increase in signaling output of such alleles in vivo. The fraction of mutation carriers reaching adulthood was strongly reduced, but most surviving animals had normal RAS-dependent structures. We rationalize these results using a stochastic signaling model and support it by quantifying cell fate specification errors in bilaterally symmetric larval trachea, a RAS-dependent structure that allows us to isolate the effects of mutations from potential contributions of genetic modifiers and environmental differences. We propose that the small increase in signaling output shifts the distribution of phenotypes into a regime, where stochastic variation causes defects in some individuals, but not in others. Our findings shed light on phenotypic heterogeneity of developmental disorders caused by deregulated RAS signaling and offer a framework for investigating causal effects of other pathogenic alleles and mild mutations in general.

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Blood RNA alternative splicing events as diagnostic biomarkers for infectious disease

Assays detecting blood transcriptome changes are studied for infectious disease diagnosis. Blood-based RNA alternative splicing (AS) events, which have not been well characterized in pathogen infection, have potential normalization and assay platform stability advantages over gene expression for diagnosis. Here, we present a computational framework for developing AS diagnostic biomarkers. Leveraging a large prospective cohort of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and whole-blood RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data, we identify a major functional AS program switch upon viral infection. Using an independent cohort, we demonstrate the improved accuracy of AS biomarkers for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis compared with six reported transcriptome signatures. We then optimize a subset of AS-based biomarkers to develop microfluidic PCR diagnostic assays. This assay achieves nearly perfect test accuracy (61/62 = 98.4 percent) using a naive principal component classifier, significantly more accurate than a gene expression PCR assay in the same cohort. Therefore, our RNA splicing computational framework enables a promising avenue for host-response diagnosis of infection.

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Oral mucosal breaks trigger anti-citrullinated bacterial and human protein antibody responses in rheumatoid arthritis

R. CAMILLE BREWER , TOBIAS V. LANZ , O. Troyanskaya, et al

Periodontal disease is more common in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who have detectable anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs), implicating oral mucosal inflammation in RA pathogenesis. Here, we performed paired analysis of human and bacterial transcriptomics in longitudinal blood samples from RA patients. We found that patients with RA and periodontal disease experienced repeated oral bacteremias associated with transcriptional signatures of ISG15+HLADRhi and CD48highS100A2pos monocytes, recently identified in inflamed RA synovia and blood of those with RA flares. The oral bacteria observed transiently in blood were broadly citrullinated in the mouth, and their in situ citrullinated epitopes were targeted by extensively somatically hypermutated ACPAs encoded by RA blood plasmablasts. Together, these results suggest that (i) periodontal disease results in repeated breaches of the oral mucosa that release citrullinated oral bacteria into circulation, which (ii) activate inflammatory monocyte subsets that are observed in inflamed RA synovia and blood of RA patients with flares and (iii) activate ACPA B cells, thereby promoting affinity maturation and epitope spreading to citrullinated human antigens.

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