Publications 2023

Shank2 identifies a subset of glycinergic neurons involved in altered nociception in an autism model

Florian Olde Heuvel, Najwa Ouali Alami, Oumayma Aousji, Esther Pogatzki-Zahn, Peter K. Zahn, Hanna Wilhelm, Dhruva Deshpande, Elmira Khatamsaz, Alberto Catanese,
Sarah Woelfle, Michael Schön, Sanjay Jain, Stefanie Grabrucker, Albert C. Ludolph, Chiara Verpelli, Jens Michaelis, Tobias M. Boeckers and Francesco Roselli

Background Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) patients experience disturbed nociception in the form of either hyposensitivity to pain or allodynia. A substantial amount of processing of somatosensory and nociceptive stimulus takes place in the dorsal spinal cord. However, many of these circuits are not very well understood in the context of nociceptive processing in ASD.
Methods We have used a Shank2−/− mouse model, which displays a set of phenotypes reminiscent of ASD, and performed behavioural and microscopic analysis to investigate the role of dorsal horn circuitry in nociceptive processing of ASD.
Results We determined that Shank2−/− mice display increased sensitivity to formalin pain and thermal preference, but a sensory specific mechanical allodynia. We demonstrate that high levels of Shank2 expression identifies a subpopulation of neurons in murine and human dorsal spinal cord, composed mainly by glycinergic interneurons and that loss of Shank2 causes the decrease in NMDAR in excitatory synapses on these inhibitory interneurons. In fact, in the subacute phase of the formalin test, glycinergic interneurons are strongly activated in wild type (WT) mice but not in Shank2−/− mice. Consequently, nociception projection neurons in laminae I are activated in larger numbers in Shank2−/− mice.
Limitations Our investigation is limited to male mice, in agreement with the higher representation of ASD in males; therefore, caution should be applied to extrapolate the findings to females. Furthermore, ASD is characterized by extensive genetic diversity and therefore the findings related to Shank2 mutant mice may not necessarily apply to patients with different gene mutations. Since nociceptive phenotypes in ASD range between hyper- and hypo-sensitivity, diverse mutations may affect the circuit in opposite ways.

The Clostridium botulinum C2 Toxin Subunit C2IIa Delivers Enzymes with Positively Charged N-Termini into the Cytosol of Target Cells

Sebastian Heber, Joscha Borho, Nicole Stadler, Fanny Wondany, Irina König, Jens Michaelis, Panagiotis Papatheodorou, Holger Barth and Maximilian Fellermann

The binary Clostridium (C.) botulinum C2 toxin consists of two non-linked proteins. The proteolytically activated binding/transport subunit C2IIa forms barrel-shaped homoheptamers, which bind to cell surface receptors, mediate endocytosis, and translocate the enzyme subunit C2I into the cytosol of target cells. Here, we investigate whether C2IIa can be harnessed as a transporter for proteins/enzymes fused to polycationic tags, as earlier demonstrated for the related anthrax toxin transport subunit PA63. To test C2IIa-mediated transport in cultured cells, reporter enzymes are generated by fusing different polycationic tags to the N- or C-terminus of other bacterial toxins’ catalytic A subunits. C2IIa as well as PA63 deliver N-terminally polyhistidine-tagged proteins more efficiently compared to C-terminally tagged ones. However, in contrast to PA63, C2IIa does not efficiently deliver polylysine-tagged proteins into the cytosol of target cells. Moreover, untagged enzymes with a native cationic N-terminus are efficiently transported by both C2IIa and PA63. In conclusion, the C2IIa-transporter serves as a transport system for enzymes that harbor positively charged amino acids at their N-terminus. The charge distribution at the N-terminus of cargo proteins and their ability to unfold in the endosome and subsequently refold in the cytosol determine transport feasibility and efficiency.

Reliability and accuracy of single-molecule FRET studies for characterization of structural dynamics and distances in proteins

Ganesh Agam, Christian Gebhardt, Milana Popara,..., Jens Michaelis,..., Anna Sefer,..., et al.

Single-molecule Förster-resonance energy transfer (smFRET) experiments allow the study of biomolecular structure and dynamics in vitro and in vivo. We performed an international blind study involving 19 laboratories to assess the uncertainty of FRET experiments for proteins with respect to the measured FRET efficiency histograms, determination of distances, and the detection and quantification of structural dynamics. Using two protein systems with distinct conformational changes and dynamics, we obtained an uncertainty of the FRET efficiency ≤0.06, corresponding to an interdye distance precision of ≤2 Å and accuracy of ≤5 Å. We further discuss the limits for detecting fluctuations in this distance range and how to identify dye perturbations. Our work demonstrates the ability of smFRET experiments to simultaneously measure distances and avoid the averaging of conformational dynamics for realistic protein systems, highlighting its importance in the expanding toolbox of integrative structural biology.

A multimorphic mutation in IRF4 causes human autosomal dominant combined immunodeficiency

Christof M. Gebhardt and IRF4 International Consortium authors and contributions

Interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) is a transcription factor (TF) and key regulator of immune cell development and function. We report a recurrent heterozygous mutation in IRF4, p.T95R, causing an autosomal dominant combined immunodeficiency (CID) in seven patients from six unrelated families. The patients exhibited profound susceptibility to opportunistic infections, notably Pneumocystis jirovecii, and presented with agammaglobulinemia. Patients’ B cells showed impaired maturation, decreased immunoglobulin isotype switching, and defective plasma cell differentiation, whereas their T cells contained reduced TH17 and TFH populations and exhibited decreased cytokine production. A knock-in mouse model of heterozygous T95R showed a severe defect in antibody production both at the steady state and after immunization with different types of antigens, consistent with the CID observed in these patients. The IRF4T95R variant maps to the TF’s DNA binding domain, alters its canonical DNA binding specificities, and results in a simultaneous multimorphic combination of loss, gain, and new functions for IRF4. IRF4T95R behaved as a gain-of-function hypermorph by binding to DNA with higher affinity than IRF4WT. Despite this increased affinity for DNA, the transcriptional activity on IRF4 canonical genes was reduced, showcasing a hypomorphic activity of IRF4T95R. Simultaneously, IRF4T95R functions as a neomorph by binding to noncanonical DNA sites to alter the gene expression profile, including the transcription of genes exclusively induced by IRF4T95R but not by IRF4WT. This previously undescribed multimorphic IRF4 pathophysiology disrupts normal lymphocyte biology, causing human disease.

Publications 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | bis 2012