Recent Submissions

  • Pattern discovery in time series using autoencoder in comparison to nonlearning approaches

    Noering, Fabian Kai Dietrich; Schroeder, Yannik; Jonas, Konstantin; Klawonn, Frank; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (IOS Press, 2021-01-01)
    In technical systems the analysis of similar situations is a promising technique to gain information about the system's state, its health or wearing. Very often, situations cannot be defined but need to be discovered as recurrent patterns within time series data of the system under consideration. This paper addresses the assessment of different approaches to discover frequent variable-length patterns in time series. Because of the success of artificial neural networks (NN) in various research fields, a special issue of this work is the applicability of NNs to the problem of pattern discovery in time series. Therefore we applied and adapted a Convolutional Autoencoder and compared it to classical nonlearning approaches based on Dynamic Time Warping, based on time series discretization as well as based on the Matrix Profile. These nonlearning approaches have also been adapted, to fulfill our requirements like the discovery of potentially time scaled patterns from noisy time series. We showed the performance (quality, computing time, effort of parametrization) of those approaches in an extensive test with synthetic data sets. Additionally the transferability to other data sets is tested by using real life vehicle data. We demonstrated the ability of Convolutional Autoencoders to discover patterns in an unsupervised way. Furthermore the tests showed, that the Autoencoder is able to discover patterns with a similar quality like classical nonlearning approaches. © 2021 - IOS Press. All rights reserved.
  • NAD(H)-mediated tetramerization controls the activity of phospholipase PlaB.

    Diwo, Maurice; Michel, Wiebke; Aurass, Philipp; Kuhle-Keindorf, Katja; Pippel, Jan; Krausze, Joern; Wamp, Sabrina; Lang, Christina; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Flieger, Antje; et al. (National Academy of Sciences, 2021-06-01)
    The virulence factor PlaB promotes lung colonization, tissue destruction, and intracellular replication of Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease. It is a highly active phospholipase exposed at the bacterial surface and shows an extraordinary activation mechanism by tetramer deoligomerization. To unravel the molecular basis for enzyme activation and localization, we determined the crystal structure of PlaB in its tetrameric form. We found that the tetramer is a dimer of identical dimers, and a monomer consists of an N-terminal α/β-hydrolase domain expanded by two noncanonical two-stranded β-sheets, β-6/β-7 and β-9/β-10. The C-terminal domain reveals a fold displaying a bilobed β-sandwich with a hook structure required for dimer formation and structural complementation of the enzymatic domain in the neighboring monomer. This highlights the dimer as the active form. Δβ-9/β-10 mutants showed a decrease in the tetrameric fraction and altered activity profiles. The variant also revealed restricted binding to membranes resulting in mislocalization and bacterial lysis. Unexpectedly, we observed eight NAD(H) molecules at the dimer/dimer interface, suggesting that these molecules stabilize the tetramer and hence lead to enzyme inactivation. Indeed, addition of NAD(H) increased the fraction of the tetramer and concomitantly reduced activity. Together, these data reveal structural elements and an unprecedented NAD(H)-mediated tetramerization mechanism required for spatial and enzymatic control of a phospholipase virulence factor. The allosteric regulatory process identified here is suited to fine tune PlaB in a way that protects Legionella pneumophila from self-inflicted lysis while ensuring its activity at the pathogen-host interface.
  • Elevated Free Phosphatidylcholine Levels in Cerebrospinal Fluid Distinguish Bacterial from Viral CNS Infections.

    Al-Mekhlafi, Amani; Sühs, Kurt-Wolfram; Schuchardt, Sven; Kuhn, Maike; Müller-Vahl, Kirsten; Trebst, Corinna; Skripuletz, Thomas; Klawonn, Frank; Stangel, Martin; Pessler, Frank; et al. (MDPI, 2021-05-06)
    The identification of CSF biomarkers for bacterial meningitis can potentially improve diagnosis and understanding of pathogenesis, and the differentiation from viral CNS infections is of particular clinical importance. Considering that substantial changes in CSF metabolites in CNS infections have recently been demonstrated, we compared concentrations of 188 metabolites in CSF samples from patients with bacterial meningitis (n = 32), viral meningitis/encephalitis (n = 34), and noninflamed controls (n = 66). Metabolite reprogramming in bacterial meningitis was greatest among phosphatidylcholines, and concentrations of all 54 phosphatidylcholines were significantly (p = 1.2 × 10-25-1.5 × 10-4) higher than in controls. Indeed, all biomarkers for bacterial meningitis vs. viral meningitis/encephalitis with an AUC ≥ 0.86 (ROC curve analysis) were phosphatidylcholines. Four of the five most accurate (AUC ≥ 0.9) phosphatidylcholine biomarkers had higher sensitivity and negative predictive values than CSF lactate or cell count. Concentrations of the 10 most accurate phosphatidylcholine biomarkers were lower in meningitis due to opportunistic pathogens than in meningitis due to typical meningitis pathogens, and they correlated most strongly with parameters reflecting blood-CSF barrier dysfunction and CSF lactate (r = 0.73-0.82), less so with CSF cell count, and not with blood CRP. In contrast to the elevated phosphatidylcholine concentrations in CSF, serum concentrations remained relatively unchanged. Taken together, these results suggest that increased free CSF phosphatidylcholines are sensitive biomarkers for bacterial meningitis and do not merely reflect inflammation but are associated with local disease and a shift in CNS metabolism.
  • Towards the characterization of the hidden world of small proteins in Staphylococcus aureus, a proteogenomics approach.

    Fuchs, Stephan; Kucklick, Martin; Lehmann, Erik; Beckmann, Alexander; Wilkens, Maya; Kolte, Baban; Mustafayeva, Ayten; Ludwig, Tobias; Diwo, Maurice; Wissing, Josef; et al. (PLOS, 2021-06-01)
    Small proteins play essential roles in bacterial physiology and virulence, however, automated algorithms for genome annotation are often not yet able to accurately predict the corresponding genes. The accuracy and reliability of genome annotations, particularly for small open reading frames (sORFs), can be significantly improved by integrating protein evidence from experimental approaches. Here we present a highly optimized and flexible bioinformatics workflow for bacterial proteogenomics covering all steps from (i) generation of protein databases, (ii) database searches and (iii) peptide-to-genome mapping to (iv) visualization of results. We used the workflow to identify high quality peptide spectrum matches (PSMs) for small proteins (≤ 100 aa, SP100) in Staphylococcus aureus Newman. Protein extracts from S. aureus were subjected to different experimental workflows for protein digestion and prefractionation and measured with highly sensitive mass spectrometers. In total, 175 proteins with up to 100 aa (SP100) were identified. Out of these 24 (ranging from 9 to 99 aa) were novel and not contained in the used genome annotation.144 SP100 are highly conserved and were found in at least 50% of the publicly available S. aureus genomes, while 127 are additionally conserved in other staphylococci. Almost half of the identified SP100 were basic, suggesting a role in binding to more acidic molecules such as nucleic acids or phospholipids.
  • Large-Scale Recombinant Production of the SARS-CoV-2 Proteome for High-Throughput and Structural Biology Applications.

    Altincekic, Nadide; Korn, Sophie Marianne; Qureshi, Nusrat Shahin; Dujardin, Marie; Ninot-Pedrosa, Martí; Abele, Rupert; Abi Saad, Marie Jose; Alfano, Caterina; Almeida, Fabio C L; Alshamleh, Islam; et al. (Frontiers, 2021-05-10)
    The highly infectious disease COVID-19 caused by the Betacoronavirus SARS-CoV-2 poses a severe threat to humanity and demands the redirection of scientific efforts and criteria to organized research projects. The international COVID19-NMR consortium seeks to provide such new approaches by gathering scientific expertise worldwide. In particular, making available viral proteins and RNAs will pave the way to understanding the SARS-CoV-2 molecular components in detail. The research in COVID19-NMR and the resources provided through the consortium are fully disclosed to accelerate access and exploitation. NMR investigations of the viral molecular components are designated to provide the essential basis for further work, including macromolecular interaction studies and high-throughput drug screening. Here, we present the extensive catalog of a holistic SARS-CoV-2 protein preparation approach based on the consortium's collective efforts. We provide protocols for the large-scale production of more than 80% of all SARS-CoV-2 proteins or essential parts of them. Several of the proteins were produced in more than one laboratory, demonstrating the high interoperability between NMR groups worldwide. For the majority of proteins, we can produce isotope-labeled samples of HSQC-grade. Together with several NMR chemical shift assignments made publicly available on, we here provide highly valuable resources for the production of SARS-CoV-2 proteins in isotope-labeled form.
  • High-resolution structure of eukaryotic Fibrillarin interacting with Nop56 amino-terminal domain.

    Höfler, Simone; Lukat, Peer; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Carlomagno, Teresa; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory Press, 2021-01-22)
    Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) carries extensive 2'-O-methyl marks at functionally important sites. This simple chemical modification is thought to confer stability, promote RNA folding, and contribute to generate a heterogenous ribosome population with a yet-uncharacterized function. 2'-O-methylation occurs both in archaea and eukaryotes and is accomplished by the Box C/D RNP enzyme in an RNA-guided manner. Extensive and partially conflicting structural information exists for the archaeal enzyme, while no structural data is available for the eukaryotic enzyme. The yeast Box C/D RNP consists of a guide RNA, the RNA-primary binding protein Snu13, the two scaffold proteins Nop56 and Nop58, and the enzymatic module Nop1. Here we present the high-resolution structure of the eukaryotic Box C/D methyltransferase Nop1 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae bound to the amino-terminal domain of Nop56. We discuss similarities and differences between the interaction modes of the two proteins in archaea and eukaryotes and demonstrate that eukaryotic Nop56 recruits the methyltransferase to the Box C/D RNP through a protein-protein interface that differs substantially from the archaeal orthologs. This study represents a first achievement in understanding the evolution of the structure and function of these proteins from archaea to eukaryotes.
  • Specificity and regulation of phosphotyrosine signaling through SH2 domains.

    Marasco, Michelangelo; Carlomagno, Teresa; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-05-27)
    Phosphotyrosine (pY) signaling is instrumental to numerous cellular processes. pY recognition occurs through specialized protein modules, among which the Src-homology 2 (SH2) domain is the most common. SH2 domains are small protein modules with an invariant fold, and are present in more than a hundred proteins with different function. Here we ask the question of how such a structurally conserved, small protein domain can recognize distinct phosphopeptides with the breath of binding affinity, specificity and kinetic parameters necessary for proper control of pY-dependent signaling and rapid cellular response. We review the current knowledge on structure, thermodynamics and kinetics of SH2-phosphopeptide complexes and conclude that selective phosphopeptide recognition is governed by both structure and dynamics of the SH2 domain, as well as by the kinetics of the binding events. Further studies on the thermodynamic and kinetic properties of SH2-phosphopeptide complexes, beyond their structure, are required to understand signaling regulation.
  • 1H, 13C, and 15N backbone chemical-shift assignments of SARS-CoV-2 non-structural protein 1 (leader protein)

    Wang, Ying; Kirkpatrick, John; Zur Lage, Susanne; Korn, Sophie M; Neißner, Konstantin; Schwalbe, Harald; Schlundt, Andreas; Carlomagno, Teresa; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (SPringer, 2021-03-26)
    The current COVID-19 pandemic caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has become a worldwide health crisis, necessitating coordinated scientific research and urgent identification of new drug targets for treatment of COVID-19 lung disease. The covid19-nmr consortium seeks to support drug development by providing publicly accessible NMR data on the viral RNA elements and proteins. The SARS-CoV-2 genome comprises a single RNA of about 30 kb in length, in which 14 open reading frames (ORFs) have been annotated, and encodes approximately 30 proteins. The first two-thirds of the SARS-CoV-2 genome is made up of two large overlapping open-reading-frames (ORF1a and ORF1b) encoding a replicase polyprotein, which is subsequently cleaved to yield 16 so-called non-structural proteins. The non-structural protein 1 (Nsp1), which is considered to be a major virulence factor, suppresses host immune functions by associating with host ribosomal complexes at the very end of its C-terminus. Furthermore, Nsp1 facilitates initiation of viral RNA translation via an interaction of its N-terminal domain with the 5' untranslated region (UTR) of the viral RNA. Here, we report the near-complete backbone chemical-shift assignments of full-length SARS-CoV-2 Nsp1 (19.8 kDa), which reveal the domain organization, secondary structure and backbone dynamics of Nsp1, and which will be of value to further NMR-based investigations of both the biochemical and physiological functions of Nsp1.
  • Reproducible and Easy Production of Mammalian Proteins by Transient Gene Expression in High Five Insect Cells.

    Schubert, Maren; Nimtz, Manfred; Bertoglio, Federico; Schmelz, Stefan; Lukat, Peer; van den Heuvel, Joop; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Springer, 2021-05-21)
    he expression of mammalian recombinant proteins in insect cell lines using transient-plasmid-based gene expression enables the production of high-quality protein samples. Here, the procedure for virus-free transient gene expression (TGE) in High Five insect cells is described in detail. The parameters that determine the efficiency and reproducibility of the method are presented in a robust protocol for easy implementation and set-up of the method. The applicability of the TGE method in High Five cells for proteomic, structural, and functional analysis of the expressed proteins is shown.
  • Antimicrobial resistance dynamics and the one-health strategy: a review

    Singh, Kumar Siddharth; Anand, Santosh; Dholpuria, Sunny; Sharma, Jitendra Kumar; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Shouche, Yogesh; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2021-04-15)
    Antimicrobial resistance is a global threat that kills at least 75,000 people every year worldwide and causes extended hospital stays. In the coming 10 years, antimicrobial resistance is projected to have huge health and economic burden on countries, and the scarcity of available antibiotics further worsens the situation. Antimicrobial resistance results mainly from indiscriminate antibiotic usage in humans, animals and agriculture, and from the rapid emergence and dissemination of resistant pathogens. This issue is challenging for antibiotic stewardship, strict regulations on antibiotics usage, large-scale surveillance and responsible public behavior. This demands international cooperation and integrated efforts under the ‘one-health’ strategy. Here, we review antimicrobial resistance and the one-health strategy. We discuss the historical issue of using antibiotics. We highlight the effectiveness of hygiene in livestock rearing, careful antibiotic usage and large-scale surveillance of animals, humans and environment domains. We present strategies for mitigation of antimicrobial resistance, exemplified by the successful ban of triclosan which induced a significant decline of resistant pathogens. We emphasize the benefits of the global antibiotic resistance partnership and of the one-health participation of stakeholders from public, healthcare professionals and government to mitigate antimicrobial resistance.
  • Adaptation of Dinoroseobacter shibae to oxidative stress and the specific role of RirA.

    Beier, Nicole; Kucklick, Martin; Fuchs, Stephan; Mustafayeva, Ayten; Behringer, Maren; Härtig, Elisabeth; Jahn, Dieter; Engelmann, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (PLOS, 2021-03-29)
    Dinoroseobacter shibae living in the photic zone of marine ecosystems is frequently exposed to oxygen that forms highly reactive species. Here, we analysed the adaptation of D. shibae to different kinds of oxidative stress using a GeLC-MS/MS approach. D. shibae was grown in artificial seawater medium in the dark with succinate as sole carbon source and exposed to hydrogen peroxide, paraquat or diamide. We quantified 2580 D. shibae proteins. 75 proteins changed significantly in response to peroxide stress, while 220 and 207 proteins were differently regulated by superoxide stress and thiol stress. As expected, proteins like thioredoxin and peroxiredoxin were among these proteins. In addition, proteins involved in bacteriochlophyll biosynthesis were repressed under disulfide and superoxide stress but not under peroxide stress. In contrast, proteins associated with iron transport accumulated in response to peroxide and superoxide stress. Interestingly, the iron-responsive regulator RirA in D. shibae was downregulated by all stressors. A rirA deletion mutant showed an improved adaptation to peroxide stress suggesting that RirA dependent proteins are associated with oxidative stress resistance. Altogether, 139 proteins were upregulated in the mutant strain. Among them are proteins associated with protection and repair of DNA and proteins (e. g. ClpB, Hsp20, RecA, and a thioredoxin like protein). Strikingly, most of the proteins involved in iron metabolism such as iron binding proteins and transporters were not part of the upregulated proteins. In fact, rirA deficient cells were lacking a peroxide dependent induction of these proteins that may also contribute to a higher cell viability under these conditions.
  • Proteogenomic Characterization of the Cement and Adhesive Gland of the Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacle .

    Domínguez-Pérez, Dany; Almeida, Daniela; Wissing, Josef; Machado, André M; Jänsch, Lothar; Antunes, Agostinho; Castro, Luís Filipe; Vasconcelos, Vitor; Campos, Alexandre; Cunha, Isabel; et al. (MDPI, 2021-03-25)
    We focus on the stalked goose barnacle L. anatifera adhesive system, an opportunistic less selective species for the substrate, found attached to a variety of floating objects at seas. Adhesion is an adaptative character in barnacles, ensuring adequate positioning in the habitat for feeding and reproduction. The protein composition of the cement multicomplex and adhesive gland was quantitatively studied using shotgun proteomic analysis. Overall, 11,795 peptide sequences were identified in the gland and 2206 in the cement, clustered in 1689 and 217 proteinGroups, respectively. Cement specific adhesive proteins (CPs), proteases, protease inhibitors, cuticular and structural proteins, chemical cues, and many unannotated proteins were found, among others. In the cement, CPs were the most abundant (80.5%), being the bulk proteins CP100k and -52k the most expressed of all, and CP43k-like the most expressed interfacial protein. Unannotated proteins comprised 4.7% of the cement proteome, ranking several of them among the most highly expressed. Eight of these proteins showed similar physicochemical properties and amino acid composition to known CPs and classified through Principal Components Analysis (PCA) as new CPs. The importance of PCA on the identification of unannotated non-conserved adhesive proteins, whose selective pressure is on their relative amino acid abundance, was demonstrated.
  • A New PqsR Inverse Agonist Potentiates Tobramycin Efficacy to Eradicate Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilms

    Schütz, Christian; Ho, Duy‐Khiet; Hamed, Mostafa Mohamed; Abdelsamie, Ahmed Saad; Röhrig, Teresa; Herr, Christian; Kany, Andreas Martin; Rox, Katharina; Schmelz, Stefan; Siebenbürger, Lorenz; et al. (Wiley and Sons Inc., 2021-03-18)
    Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) infections can be notoriously difficult to treat and are often accompanied by the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Quorum sensing inhibitors (QSI) acting on PqsR (MvfR) – a crucial transcriptional regulator serving major functions in PA virulence – can enhance antibiotic efficacy and eventually prevent the AMR. An integrated drug discovery campaign including design, medicinal chemistry‐driven hit‐to‐lead optimization and in‐depth biological profiling of a new QSI generation is reported. The QSI possess excellent activity in inhibiting pyocyanin production and PqsR reporter‐gene with IC50 values as low as 200 and 11 × 10−9 m, respectively. Drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK) as well as safety pharmacology studies especially highlight the promising translational properties of the lead QSI for pulmonary applications. Moreover, target engagement of the lead QSI is shown in a PA mucoid lung infection mouse model. Beyond that, a significant synergistic effect of a QSI‐tobramycin (Tob) combination against PA biofilms using a tailor‐made squalene‐derived nanoparticle (NP) formulation, which enhance the minimum biofilm eradicating concentration (MBEC) of Tob more than 32‐fold is demonstrated. The novel lead QSI and the accompanying NP formulation highlight the potential of adjunctive pathoblocker‐mediated therapy against PA infections opening up avenues for preclinical development.
  • A Point Mutation in the Transcriptional Repressor PerR Results in a Constitutive Oxidative Stress Response in Clostridioides difficile 630Δ.erm

    Troitzsch, Daniel; Zhang, Hao; Dittmann, Silvia; Düsterhöft, Dorothee; Möller, Timon Alexander; Michel, Annika-Marisa; Jänsch, Lothar; Riedel, Katharina; Borrero-de Acuña, José Manuel; Jahn, Dieter; et al. (ASM, 2021-03-03)
    The human pathogen Clostridioides difficile has evolved into the leading cause of nosocomial diarrhea. The bacterium is capable of spore formation, which even allows survival of antibiotic treatment. Although C. difficile features an anaerobic lifestyle, we determined a remarkably high oxygen tolerance of the laboratory reference strain 630Δerm A mutation of a single nucleotide (single nucleotide polymorphism [SNP]) in the DNA sequence (A to G) of the gene encoding the regulatory protein PerR results in an amino acid substitution (Thr to Ala) in one of the helices of the helix-turn-helix DNA binding domain of this transcriptional repressor in C. difficile 630Δerm PerR is a sensor protein for hydrogen peroxide and controls the expression of genes involved in the oxidative stress response. We show that PerR of C. difficile 630Δerm has lost its ability to bind the promoter region of PerR-controlled genes. This results in a constitutive derepression of genes encoding oxidative stress proteins such as a rubrerythrin (rbr1) whose mRNA abundance under anaerobic conditions was increased by a factor of about 7 compared to its parental strain C. difficile 630. Rubrerythrin repression in strain 630Δerm could be restored by the introduction of PerR from strain 630. The permanent oxidative stress response of C. difficile 630Δerm observed here should be considered in physiological and pathophysiological investigations based on this widely used model strain.IMPORTANCE The intestinal pathogen Clostridioides difficile is one of the major challenges in medical facilities nowadays. In order to better combat the bacterium, detailed knowledge of its physiology is mandatory. C. difficile strain 630Δerm was generated in a laboratory from the patient-isolated strain C. difficile 630 and represents a reference strain for many researchers in the field, serving as the basis for the construction of insertional gene knockout mutants. In our work, we demonstrate that this strain is characterized by an uncontrolled oxidative stress response as a result of a single-base-pair substitution in the sequence of a transcriptional regulator. C. difficile researchers working with model strain 630Δerm should be aware of this permanent stress response.
  • Chemical Conjugation of a Purified DEC-205-Directed Antibody with Full-Length Protein for Targeting Mouse Dendritic Cells In Vitro and In Vivo.

    Volckmar, Julia; Knop, Laura; Hirsch, Tatjana; Frentzel, Sarah; Erck, Christian; van Ham, Marco; Stegemann-Koniszewski, Sabine; Bruder, Dunja; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MyJove Corporation, 2021-02-05)
    Targeted antigen delivery to cross-presenting dendritic cells (DC) in vivo efficiently induces T effector cell responses and displays a valuable approach in vaccine design. Antigen is delivered to DC via antibodies specific for endocytosis receptors such as DEC-205 that induce uptake, processing, and MHC class I- and II-presentation. Efficient and reliable conjugation of the desired antigen to a suitable antibody is a critical step in DC targeting and among other factors depends on the format of the antigen. Chemical conjugation of full-length protein to purified antibodies is one possible strategy. In the past, we have successfully established cross-linking of the model antigen ovalbumin (OVA) and a DEC-205-specific IgG2a antibody (αDEC-205) for in vivo DC targeting studies in mice. The first step of the protocol is the purification of the antibody from the supernatant of the NLDC (non-lymphoid dendritic cells)-145 hybridoma by affinity chromatography. The purified antibody is activated for chemical conjugation by sulfo-SMCC (sulfosuccinimidyl 4-[N-maleimidomethyl] cyclohexane-1-carboxylate) while at the same time the sulfhydryl-groups of the OVA protein are exposed through incubation with TCEP-HCl (tris (2-carboxyethyl) phosphine hydrochloride). Excess TCEP-HCl and sulfo-SMCC are removed and the antigen is mixed with the activated antibody for overnight coupling. The resulting αDEC-205/OVA conjugate is concentrated and freed from unbound OVA. Successful conjugation of OVA to αDEC-205 is verified by western blot analysis and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). We have successfully used chemically crosslinked αDEC-205/OVA to induce cytotoxic T cell responses in the liver and to compare different adjuvants for their potential in inducing humoral and cellular immunity following in vivo targeting of DEC-205+ DC. Beyond that, such chemically coupled antibody/antigen conjugates offer valuable tools for the efficient induction of vaccine responses to tumor antigens and have been proven to be superior to classical immunization approaches regarding the prevention and therapy of various types of tumors.
  • Data Analysis Strategies for Microbiome Studies in Human Populations-a Systematic Review of Current Practice.

    Kleine Bardenhorst, Sven; Berger, Tom; Klawonn, Frank; Vital, Marius; Karch, André; Rübsamen, Nicole; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (ASM, 2021-02-23)
    Reproducibility is a major issue in microbiome studies, which is partly caused by missing consensus about data analysis strategies. The complex nature of microbiome data, which are high-dimensional, zero-inflated, and compositional, makes them challenging to analyze, as they often violate assumptions of classic statistical methods. With advances in human microbiome research, research questions and study designs increase in complexity so that more sophisticated data analysis concepts are applied. To improve current practice of the analysis of microbiome studies, it is important to understand what kind of research questions are asked and which tools are used to answer these questions. We conducted a systematic literature review considering all publications focusing on the analysis of human microbiome data from June 2018 to June 2019. Of 1,444 studies screened, 419 fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Information about research questions, study designs, and analysis strategies were extracted. The results confirmed the expected shift to more advanced research questions, as one-third of the studies analyzed clustered data. Although heterogeneity in the methods used was found at any stage of the analysis process, it was largest for differential abundance testing. Especially if the underlying data structure was clustered, we identified a lack of use of methods that appropriately addressed the underlying data structure while taking into account additional dependencies in the data. Our results confirm considerable heterogeneity in analysis strategies among microbiome studies; increasingly complex research questions require better guidance for analysis strategies.IMPORTANCE The human microbiome has emerged as an important factor in the development of health and disease. Growing interest in this topic has led to an increasing number of studies investigating the human microbiome using high-throughput sequencing methods. However, the development of suitable analytical methods for analyzing microbiome data has not kept pace with the rapid progression in the field. It is crucial to understand current practice to identify the scope for development. Our results highlight the need for an extensive evaluation of the strengths and shortcomings of existing methods in order to guide the choice of proper analysis strategies. We have identified where new methods could be designed to address more advanced research questions while taking into account the complex structure of the data.
  • Quantitative laboratory results: Normal or lognormal distribution?

    Klawonn, Frank; Hoffmann, Georg; Orth, Matthias; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Walter De Gruyter GmbH, 2020-06-01)
    The identification of a suitable distribution model is a prerequisite for the parametric estimation of reference intervals and other statistical laboratory tasks. Classification of normal vs. lognormal distributions from healthy populations is easy, but from mixed populations, containing unknown proportions of abnormal results, it is challenging. We demonstrate that Bowley’s skewness coefficient differentiates between normal and lognormal distributions. This classifier is robust and easy to calculate from the quartiles Q1–Q3 according to the formula (Q1 − 2 · Q2 + Q3)/(Q3 − Q1). We validate our algorithm with a more complex procedure, which optimizes the exponent λ of a power transformation. As a practical application, we show that Bowley’s skewness coefficient is suited selecting the adequate distribution model for the estimation of reference limits according to a recent International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) recommendation, especially if the data is right-skewed.
  • Immunotherapy with antibodies: Tumor development, immune defense and therapeutic antibodies

    Böldicke, Thomas; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), 2021-01-01)
    Tumor development is based on mutations of genes involved in cell growth (e.g. transcription factors, growth receptors or intracellular signal molecules) or in suppressor genes (e.g. p53). During tumor growth cell clones are selected, which contain driver genes, leading to uncontrolled growth of these cell clones. During all phases of tumor development (immunosurveillance, equilibrium phase, escape of the tumor from the immune system) the interaction between the immune system and the tumor cells and the development of a chronic inflammation in the tumor microenvironment play a crucial role. The aim of cancer immunotherapy is to activate the immune system. A promising immunotherapy is based on antibodies that activate immune cells, inhibit tumor growth or lead to destruction of tumor cells. Applied are recombinant IgG antibodies or genetically engineered antibody fragments against tumor-associated antigens (TAA’s). They are applied singularly or in combination with chemo- or radiotherapy. Promising are checkpoint antibodies, which abrogate blocking of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells and CD4+ T cells by tumor cells and/or dendritic cells. Other successfully applied antibodies are bispecific antibodies (recognize T‑cell and tumor cell), chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) for T cell therapy, immunocytokines (cytokines fused to antibodies) and immunotoxins (toxins fused to antibodies). In addition intracellular antibodies successfully tested in xenograft tumor mouse models have promising therapeutic potential.
  • Zinc metalloprotease ProA of Legionella pneumophila increases alveolar septal thickness in human lung tissue explants by collagen IV degradation.

    Scheithauer, Lina; Thiem, Stefanie; Schmelz, Stefan; Dellmann, Ansgar; Büssow, Konrad; Brouwer, René M H J; Ünal, Can M; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Steinert, Michael; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Wiley, 2021-01-24)
    ProA is a secreted zinc metalloprotease of Legionella pneumophila causing lung damage in animal models of Legionnaires' disease. Here we demonstrate that ProA promotes infection of human lung tissue explants (HLTEs) and dissect the contribution to cell type specific replication and extracellular virulence mechanisms. For the first time, we reveal that co-incubation of HLTEs with purified ProA causes a significant increase of the alveolar septal thickness. This destruction of connective tissue fibres was further substantiated by collagen IV degradation assays. The moderate attenuation of a proA-negative mutant in A549 epithelial cells and THP-1 macrophages suggests that effects of ProA in tissue mainly result from extracellular activity. Correspondingly, ProA contributes to dissemination and serum resistance of the pathogen, which further expands the versatile substrate spectrum of this thermolysin-like protease. The crystal structure of ProA at 1.48 Å resolution showed high congruence to pseudolysin of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but revealed deviations in flexible loops, the substrate binding pocket S1 ' and the repertoire of cofactors, by which ProA can be distinguished from respective homologues. In sum, this work specified virulence features of ProA at different organisational levels by zooming in from histopathological effects in human lung tissue to atomic details of the protease substrate determination.
  • Replicability, Repeatability, and Long-term Reproducibility of Cerebellar Morphometry.

    Sörös, Peter; Wölk, Louise; Bantel, Carsten; Bräuer, Anja; Klawonn, Frank; Witt, Karsten; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Springer, 2021-01-09)
    To identify robust and reproducible methods of cerebellar morphometry that can be used in future large-scale structural MRI studies, we investigated the replicability, repeatability, and long-term reproducibility of three fully automated software tools: FreeSurfer, CEREbellum Segmentation (CERES), and automatic cerebellum anatomical parcellation using U-Net with locally constrained optimization (ACAPULCO). Replicability was defined as computational replicability, determined by comparing two analyses of the same high-resolution MRI data set performed with identical analysis software and computer hardware. Repeatability was determined by comparing the analyses of two MRI scans of the same participant taken during two independent MRI sessions on the same day for the Kirby-21 study. Long-term reproducibility was assessed by analyzing two MRI scans of the same participant in the longitudinal OASIS-2 study. We determined percent difference, the image intraclass correlation coefficient, the coefficient of variation, and the intraclass correlation coefficient between two analyses. Our results show that CERES and ACAPULCO use stochastic algorithms that result in surprisingly high differences between identical analyses for ACAPULCO and small differences for CERES. Changes between two consecutive scans from the Kirby-21 study were less than ± 5% in most cases for FreeSurfer and CERES (i.e., demonstrating high repeatability). As expected, long-term reproducibility was lower than repeatability for all software tools. In summary, CERES is an accurate, as demonstrated before, and reproducible tool for fully automated segmentation and parcellation of the cerebellum. We conclude with recommendations for the assessment of replicability, repeatability, and long-term reproducibility in future studies on cerebellar structure.

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