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Publications in peer reviewed journals
Development of a human vasopressin V1a-receptor antagonist from an evolutionary-related insect neuropeptide.2017 - Sci Rep, 41002
Characterisation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) relies on the availability of a toolbox of ligands that selectively modulate different functional states of the receptors. To uncover such molecules, we explored a unique strategy for ligand discovery that takes advantage of the evolutionary conservation of the 600-million-year-old oxytocin/vasopressin signalling system. We isolated the insect oxytocin/vasopressin orthologue inotocin from the black garden ant (Lasius niger), identified and cloned its cognate receptor and determined its pharmacological properties on the insect and human oxytocin/vasopressin receptors. Subsequently, we identified a functional dichotomy: inotocin activated the insect inotocin and the human vasopressin V1b receptors, but inhibited the human V1aR. Replacement of Arg8 of inotocin by D-Arg8 led to a potent, stable and competitive V1aR-antagonist ([D-Arg8]-inotocin) with a 3,000-fold binding selectivity for the human V1aR over the other three subtypes, OTR, V1bR and V2R. The Arg8/D-Arg8 ligand-pair was further investigated to gain novel insights into the oxytocin/vasopressin peptide-receptor interaction, which led to the identification of key residues of the receptors that are important for ligand functionality and selectivity. These observations could play an important role for development of oxytocin/vasopressin receptor modulators that would enable clear distinction of the physiological and pathological responses of the individual receptor subtypes.
Unraveling the microbial processes of black band disease in corals through integrated genomics.2017 - Sci Rep, 40455
Coral disease outbreaks contribute to the ongoing degradation of reef ecosystems, however, microbial mechanisms underlying the onset and progression of most coral diseases are poorly understood. Black band disease (BBD) manifests as a cyanobacterial-dominated microbial mat that destroys coral tissues as it rapidly spreads over coral colonies. To elucidate BBD pathogenesis, we apply a comparative metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approach to identify taxonomic and functional changes within microbial lesions during in-situ development of BBD from a comparatively benign stage termed cyanobacterial patches. Results suggest that photosynthetic CO2-fixation in Cyanobacteria substantially enhances productivity of organic matter within the lesion during disease development. Photosynthates appear to subsequently promote sulfide-production by Deltaproteobacteria, facilitating the major virulence factor of BBD. Interestingly, our metagenome-enabled transcriptomic analysis reveals that BBD-associated cyanobacteria have a putative mechanism that enables them to adapt to higher levels of hydrogen sulfide within lesions, underpinning the pivotal roles of the dominant cyanobacterium within the polymicrobial lesions during the onset of BBD. The current study presents sequence-based evidence derived from whole microbial communities that unravel the mechanism of development and progression of BBD.