Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hot off the presses! Dec 21 PLoS Biol

The Dec 21 issue of the PLoS Biol is now up on Pubget (About PLoS Biol): if you're at a subscribing institution, just click the link in the latest link at the home page. (Note you'll only be able to get all the PDFs in the issue if your institution subscribes to Pubget.)

Latest Articles Include:

  • Cancer Courts Immune Response to Aid Growth
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1001004 (2010)
  • Stress Brings Memories to the Fore
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1001007 (2010)
  • Melanopsin Ganglion Cells: A Different Way of Seeing Things
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1001003 (2010)
  • Protein Keeps Adjacent Tissues Growing in Synchrony
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1001006 (2010)
  • How Can Vaccines Against Influenza and Other Viral Diseases Be Made More Effective?
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000571 (2010)
  • Neuro Nonsense
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1001005 (2010)
  • Genomic DNA Sequences from Mastodon and Woolly Mammoth Reveal Deep Speciation of Forest and Savanna Elephants
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000564 (2010)
    To elucidate the history of living and extinct elephantids, we generated 39,763 bp of aligned nuclear DNA sequence across 375 loci for African savanna elephant, African forest elephant, Asian elephant, the extinct American mastodon, and the woolly mammoth. Our data establish that the Asian elephant is the closest living relative of the extinct mammoth in the nuclear genome, extending previous findings from mitochondrial DNA analyses. We also find that savanna and forest elephants, which some have argued are the same species, are as or more divergent in the nuclear genome as mammoths and Asian elephants, which are considered to be distinct genera, thus resolving a long-standing debate about the appropriate taxonomic classification of the African elephants. Finally, we document a much larger effective population size in forest elephants compared with the other elephantid taxa, likely reflecting species differences in ancient geographic structure and range and differences! in life history traits such as variance in male reproductive success.
  • A Mitochondrial Superoxide Signal Triggers Increased Longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000556 (2010)
    The nuo-6 and isp-1 genes of C. elegans encode, respectively, subunits of complex I and III of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Partial loss-of-function mutations in these genes decrease electron transport and greatly increase the longevity of C. elegans by a mechanism that is distinct from that induced by reducing their level of expression by RNAi. Electron transport is a major source of the superoxide anion (O⋅–), which in turn generates several types of toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS), and aging is accompanied by increased oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the generation and detoxification of ROS. These observations have suggested that the longevity of such mitochondrial mutants might result from a reduction in ROS generation, which would be consistent with the mitochondrial oxidative stress theory of aging. It is difficult to measure ROS directly in living animals, and this has held back progress in determining their function in aging. Her! e we have adapted a technique of flow cytometry to directly measure ROS levels in isolated mitochondria to show that the generation of superoxide is elevated in the nuo-6 and isp-1 mitochondrial mutants, although overall ROS levels are not, and oxidative stress is low. Furthermore, we show that this elevation is necessary and sufficient to increase longevity, as it is abolished by the antioxidants NAC and vitamin C, and phenocopied by mild treatment with the prooxidant paraquat. Furthermore, the absence of effect of NAC and the additivity of the effect of paraquat on a variety of long- and short-lived mutants suggest that the pathway triggered by mitochondrial superoxide is distinct from previously studied mechanisms, including insulin signaling, dietary restriction, ubiquinone deficiency, the hypoxic response, and hormesis. These findings are not consistent with the mitochondrial oxidative stress theory of aging. Instead they show that increased superoxide generation acts ! as a signal in young mutant animals to trigger changes of gene! expression that prevent or attenuate the effects of subsequent aging. We propose that superoxide is generated as a protective signal in response to molecular damage sustained during wild-type aging as well. This model provides a new explanation for the well-documented correlation between ROS and the aged phenotype as a gradual increase of molecular damage during aging would trigger a gradually stronger ROS response.
  • Live Imaging of Innate Immune Cell Sensing of Transformed Cells in Zebrafish Larvae: Parallels between Tumor Initiation and Wound Inflammation
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000562 (2010)
    It has not previously been possible to live image the earliest interactions between the host environment and oncogene-transformed cells as they initiate formation of cancers within an organism. Here we take advantage of the translucency of zebrafish larvae to observe the host innate immune cell response as oncogene-transformed melanoblasts and goblet cells multiply within the larval skin. Our studies indicate activation of leukocytes at very early stages in larvae carrying a transformed cell burden. Locally, we see recruitment of neutrophils and macrophages by 48 h post-fertilization, when transformed cells are still only singletons or doublets, and soon after this we see intimate associations between immune and transformed cells and frequent examples of cytoplasmic tethers linking the two cell types, as well as engulfment of transformed cells by both neutrophils and macrophages. We show that a major component of the signal drawing inflammatory cells to oncogenic HRASG! 12V-transformed cells is H2O2, which is also a key damage cue responsible for recruiting neutrophils to a wound. Our short-term blocking experiments show that preventing recruitment of immune cells at these early stages results in reduced growth of transformed cell clones and suggests that immune cells may provide a source of trophic support to the transformed cells just as they do at a site of tissue repair. These parallels between the inflammatory responses to transformed cells and to wounds reinforce the suggestion by others that cancers resemble non-healing wounds.
  • High-Throughput Chemical Screen Identifies a Novel Potent Modulator of Cellular Circadian Rhythms and Reveals CKIα as a Clock Regulatory Kinase
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000559 (2010)
    The circadian clock underlies daily rhythms of diverse physiological processes, and alterations in clock function have been linked to numerous pathologies. To apply chemical biology methods to modulate and dissect the clock mechanism with new chemical probes, we performed a circadian screen of ∼120,000 uncharacterized compounds on human cells containing a circadian reporter. The analysis identified a small molecule that potently lengthens the circadian period in a dose-dependent manner. Subsequent analysis showed that the compound also lengthened the period in a variety of cells from different tissues including the mouse suprachiasmatic nucleus, the central clock controlling behavioral rhythms. Based on the prominent period lengthening effect, we named the compound longdaysin. Longdaysin was amenable for chemical modification to perform affinity chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry analysis to identify target proteins. Combined with siRNA-mediated gene knock! down, we identified the protein kinases CKIδ, CKIα, and ERK2 as targets of longdaysin responsible for the observed effect on circadian period. Although individual knockdown of CKIδ, CKIα, and ERK2 had small period effects, their combinatorial knockdown dramatically lengthened the period similar to longdaysin treatment. We characterized the role of CKIα in the clock mechanism and found that CKIα-mediated phosphorylation stimulated degradation of a clock protein PER1, similar to the function of CKIδ. Longdaysin treatment inhibited PER1 degradation, providing insight into the mechanism of longdaysin-dependent period lengthening. Using larval zebrafish, we further demonstrated that longdaysin drastically lengthened circadian period in vivo. Taken together, the chemical biology approach not only revealed CKIα as a clock regulatory kinase but also identified a multiple kinase network conferring robustness to the clock. Longdaysin provides novel possibilities in manipulati! ng clock function due to its ability to simultaneously inhibit! several key components of this conserved network across species.
  • Stress-Induced Out-of-Context Activation of Memory
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000570 (2010)
    Inappropriate recollections and responses in stressful conditions are hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety and mood disorders, but how stress contributes to the disorders is unclear. Here we show that stress itself reactivates memories even if the memory is unrelated to the stressful experience. Forced-swim stress one day after learning enhanced memory recall. One-day post-learning amnestic treatments were ineffective unless administered soon after the swim, indicating that a stressful experience itself can reactivate unrelated consolidated memories. The swim also triggered inter-hemispheric transfer of a lateralized memory, confirming stress reactivates stable memories. These novel effects of stress on memory required the hippocampus although the memories themselves did not, indicating hippocampus-dependent modulation of extrahippocampal memories. These findings that a stressful experience itself can activate memory suggest the novel hypothesi! s that traumatic stress reactivates pre-trauma memories, linking them to memory for the trauma and pathological facilitation of post-traumatic recall.
  • Melanopsin Contributions to Irradiance Coding in the Thalamo-Cortical Visual System
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000558 (2010)
    Photoreception in the mammalian retina is not restricted to rods and cones but extends to a subset of retinal ganglion cells expressing the photopigment melanopsin (mRGCs). These mRGCs are known to drive such reflex light responses as circadian photoentrainment and pupillomotor movements. By contrast, until now there has been no direct assessment of their contribution to conventional visual pathways. Here, we address this deficit. Using new reporter lines, we show that mRGC projections are much more extensive than previously thought and extend across the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN), origin of thalamo-cortical projection neurons. We continue to show that this input supports extensive physiological light responses in the dLGN and visual cortex in mice lacking rods+cones (a model of advanced retinal degeneration). Moreover, using chromatic stimuli to isolate melanopsin-derived responses in mice with an intact visual system, we reveal strong melanopsin input t! o the ∼40% of neurons in the LGN that show sustained activation to a light step. We demonstrate that this melanopsin input supports irradiance-dependent increases in the firing rate of these neurons. The implication that melanopsin is required to accurately encode stimulus irradiance is confirmed using melanopsin knockout mice. Our data establish melanopsin-based photoreception as a significant source of sensory input to the thalamo-cortical visual system, providing unique irradiance information and allowing visual responses to be retained even in the absence of rods+cones. These findings identify mRGCs as a potential origin for aspects of visual perception and indicate that they may support vision in people suffering retinal degeneration.
  • A Novel Neural Substrate for the Transformation of Olfactory Inputs into Motor Output
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000567 (2010)
    It is widely recognized that animals respond to odors by generating or modulating specific motor behaviors. These reactions are important for daily activities, reproduction, and survival. In the sea lamprey, mating occurs after ovulated females are attracted to spawning sites by male sex pheromones. The ubiquity and reliability of olfactory-motor behavioral responses in vertebrates suggest tight coupling between the olfactory system and brain areas controlling movements. However, the circuitry and the underlying cellular neural mechanisms remain largely unknown. Using lamprey brain preparations, and electrophysiology, calcium imaging, and tract tracing experiments, we describe the neural substrate responsible for transforming an olfactory input into a locomotor output. We found that olfactory stimulation with naturally occurring odors and pheromones induced large excitatory responses in reticulospinal cells, the command neurons for locomotion. We have also identified t! he anatomy and physiology of this circuit. The olfactory input was relayed in the medial part of the olfactory bulb, in the posterior tuberculum, in the mesencephalic locomotor region, to finally reach reticulospinal cells in the hindbrain. Activation of this olfactory-motor pathway generated rhythmic ventral root discharges and swimming movements. Our study bridges the gap between behavior and cellular neural mechanisms in vertebrates, identifying a specific subsystem within the CNS, dedicated to producing motor responses to olfactory inputs.
  • A Genetic and Functional Relationship between T Cells and Cellular Proliferation in the Adult Hippocampus
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000561 (2010)
    Neurogenesis continues through the adult life of mice in the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus in the hippocampus, but its function remains unclear. Measuring cellular proliferation in the hippocampus of 719 outbred heterogeneous stock mice revealed a highly significant correlation with the proportions of CD8+ versus CD4+ T lymphocyte subsets. This correlation reflected shared genetic loci, with the exception of the H-2Ea locus that had a dominant influence on T cell subsets but no impact on neurogenesis. Analysis of knockouts and repopulation of TCRα-deficient mice by subsets of T cells confirmed the influence of T cells on adult neurogenesis, indicating that CD4+ T cells or subpopulations thereof mediate the effect. Our results reveal an organismal impact, broader than hitherto suspected, of the natural genetic variation that controls T cell development and homeostasis.
  • Guidance Receptor Degradation Is Required for Neuronal Connectivity in the Drosophila Nervous System
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000553 (2010)
    Axon pathfinding and synapse formation rely on precise spatiotemporal localization of guidance receptors. However, little is known about the neuron-specific intracellular trafficking mechanisms that underlie the sorting and activity of these receptors. Here we show that loss of the neuron-specific v-ATPase subunit a1 leads to progressive endosomal guidance receptor accumulations after neuronal differentiation. In the embryo and in adult photoreceptors, these accumulations occur after axon pathfinding and synapse formation is complete. In contrast, receptor missorting occurs sufficiently early in neurons of the adult central nervous system to cause connectivity defects. An increase of guidance receptors, but not of membrane proteins without signaling function, causes specific gain-of-function phenotypes. A point mutant that promotes sorting but prevents degradation reveals spatiotemporally specific guidance receptor turnover and accelerates developmental defects in phot! oreceptors and embryonic motor neurons. Our findings indicate that a neuron-specific endolysosomal degradation mechanism is part of the cell biological machinery that regulates guidance receptor turnover and signaling.
  • Prox1 Regulates the Notch1-Mediated Inhibition of Neurogenesis
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000565 (2010)
    Activation of Notch1 signaling in neural progenitor cells (NPCs) induces self-renewal and inhibits neurogenesis. Upon neuronal differentiation, NPCs overcome this inhibition, express proneural genes to induce Notch ligands, and activate Notch1 in neighboring NPCs. The molecular mechanism that coordinates Notch1 inactivation with initiation of neurogenesis remains elusive. Here, we provide evidence that Prox1, a transcription repressor and downstream target of proneural genes, counteracts Notch1 signaling via direct suppression of Notch1 gene expression. By expression studies in the developing spinal cord of chick and mouse embryo, we showed that Prox1 is limited to neuronal precursors residing between the Notch1+ NPCs and post-mitotic neurons. Physiological levels of Prox1 in this tissue are sufficient to allow binding at Notch1 promoter and they are critical for proper Notch1 transcriptional regulation in vivo. Gain-of-function studies in the chick neural tube and mou! se NPCs suggest that Prox1-mediated suppression of Notch1 relieves its inhibition on neurogenesis and allows NPCs to exit the cell cycle and differentiate. Moreover, loss-of-function in the chick neural tube shows that Prox1 is necessary for suppression of Notch1 outside the ventricular zone, inhibition of active Notch signaling, down-regulation of NPC markers, and completion of neuronal differentiation program. Together these data suggest that Prox1 inhibits Notch1 gene expression to control the balance between NPC self-renewal and neuronal differentiation.
  • A dp53-Dependent Mechanism Involved in Coordinating Tissue Growth in Drosophila
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000566 (2010)
    Coordination of growth between and within organs contributes to the generation of well-proportioned organs and functionally integrated adults. The mechanisms that help to coordinate the growth between different organs start to be unravelled. However, whether an organ is able to respond in a coordinated manner to local variations in growth caused by developmental or environmental stress and the nature of the underlying molecular mechanisms that contribute to generating well-proportioned adult organs under these circumstances remain largely unknown. By reducing the growth rates of defined territories in the developing wing primordium of Drosophila, we present evidence that the tissue responds as a whole and the adjacent cell populations decrease their growth and proliferation rates. This non-autonomous response occurs independently of where growth is affected, and it is functional all throughout development and contributes to generate well-proportioned adult structures. ! Strikingly, we underscore a central role of Drosophila p53 (dp53) and the apoptotic machinery in these processes. While activation of dp53 in the growth-depleted territory mediates the non-autonomous regulation of growth and proliferation rates, effector caspases have a unique role, downstream of dp53, in reducing proliferation rates in adjacent cell populations. These new findings indicate the existence of a stress response mechanism involved in the coordination of tissue growth between adjacent cell populations and that tissue size and cell cycle proliferation can be uncoupled and are independently and non-autonomously regulated by dp53.
  • Phosphorylation of Mouse Immunity-Related GTPase (IRG) Resistance Proteins Is an Evasion Strategy for Virulent Toxoplasma gondii
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000576 (2010)
    Virulence of complex pathogens in mammals is generally determined by multiple components of the pathogen interacting with the functional complexity and multiple layering of the mammalian immune system. It is most unusual for the resistance of a mammalian host to be overcome by the defeat of a single defence mechanism. In this study we uncover and analyse just such a case at the molecular level, involving the widespread intracellular protozoan pathogen Toxoplasma gondii and one of its most important natural hosts, the house mouse (Mus musculus). Natural polymorphism in virulence of Eurasian T. gondii strains for mice has been correlated in genetic screens with the expression of polymorphic rhoptry kinases (ROP kinases) secreted into the host cell during infection. We show that the molecular targets of the virulent allelic form of ROP18 kinase are members of a family of cellular GTPases, the interferon-inducible IRG (immunity-related GTPase) proteins, known from earlier ! work to be essential resistance factors in mice against avirulent strains of T. gondii. Virulent T. gondii strain ROP18 kinase phosphorylates several mouse IRG proteins. We show that the parasite kinase phosphorylates host Irga6 at two threonines in the nucleotide-binding domain, biochemically inactivating the GTPase and inhibiting its accumulation and action at the T. gondii parasitophorous vacuole membrane. Our analysis identifies the conformationally active switch I region of the GTP-binding site as an Achilles' heel of the IRG protein pathogen-resistance mechanism. The polymorphism of ROP18 in natural T. gondii populations indicates the existence of a dynamic, rapidly evolving ecological relationship between parasite virulence factors and host resistance factors. This system should be unusually fruitful for analysis at both ecological and molecular levels since both T. gondii and the mouse are widespread and abundant in the wild and are well-established model species wi! th excellent analytical tools available.
  • HER2 Phosphorylation Is Maintained by a PKB Negative Feedback Loop in Response to Anti-HER2 Herceptin in Breast Cancer
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000563 (2010)
    Herceptin (trastuzumab) is used in patients with breast cancer who have HER2 (ErbB2)–positive tumours. However, its mechanisms of action and how acquired resistance to Herceptin occurs are still poorly understood. It was previously thought that the anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody Herceptin inhibits HER2 signalling, but recent studies have shown that Herceptin does not decrease HER2 phosphorylation. Its failure to abolish HER2 phosphorylation may be a key to why acquired resistance inevitably occurs for all responders if Herceptin is given as monotherapy. To date, no studies have explained why Herceptin does not abolish HER2 phosphorylation. The objective of this study was to investigate why Herceptin did not decrease HER2 phosphorylation despite being an anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody. We also investigated the effects of acute and chronic Herceptin treatment on HER3 and PKB phosphorylation in HER2-positive breast cancer cells. Using both Förster resonance energy transf! er (FRET) methodology and conventional Western blot, we have found the molecular mechanisms whereby Herceptin fails to abolish HER2 phosphorylation. HER2 phosphorylation is maintained by ligand-mediated activation of EGFR, HER3, and HER4 receptors, resulting in their dimerisation with HER2. The release of HER ligands was mediated by ADAM17 through a PKB negative feedback loop. The feedback loop was activated because of the inhibition of PKB by Herceptin treatment since up-regulation of HER ligands and ADAM17 also occurred when PKB phosphorylation was inhibited by a PKB inhibitor (Akt inhibitor VIII, Akti-1/2). The combination of Herceptin with ADAM17 inhibitors or the panHER inhibitor JNJ-26483327 was able to abrogate the feedback loop and decrease HER2 phosphorylation. Furthermore, the combination of Herceptin with JNJ-26483327 was synergistic in tumour inhibition in a BT474 xenograft model. We have determined that a PKB negative feedback loop links ADAM17 and HER ligands ! in maintaining HER2 phosphorylation during Herceptin treatment! . The activation of other HER receptors via ADAM17 may mediate acquired resistance to Herceptin in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. This finding offers treatment opportunities for overcoming resistance in these patients. We propose that Herceptin should be combined with a panHER inhibitor or an ADAM inhibitor to overcome the acquired drug resistance for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer. Our results may also have implications for resistance to other therapies targeting HER receptors.
  • Connecting Variability in Global Transcription Rate to Mitochondrial Variability
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000560 (2010)
    Populations of genetically identical eukaryotic cells show significant cell-to-cell variability in gene expression. However, we lack a good understanding of the origins of this variation. We have found marked cell-to-cell variability in average cellular rates of transcription. We also found marked cell-to-cell variability in the amount of cellular mitochondrial mass. We undertook fusion studies that suggested that variability in transcription rate depends on small diffusible factors. Following this, in vitro studies showed that transcription rate has a sensitive dependence on [ATP] but not on the concentration of other nucleotide triphosphates (NTPs). Further experiments that perturbed populations by changing nutrient levels and available [ATP] suggested this connection holds in vivo. We found evidence that cells with higher mitochondrial mass, or higher total membrane potential, have a faster rate of transcription per unit volume of nuclear material. We also found evi! dence that transcription rate variability is substantially modulated by the presence of anti- or prooxidants. Daughter studies showed that a cause of variability in mitochondrial content is apparently stochastic segregation of mitochondria at division. We conclude by noting that daughters that stochastically inherit a lower mitochondrial mass than their sisters have relatively longer cell cycles. Our findings reveal a link between variability in energy metabolism and variability in transcription rate.
  • Domain Swapping in Allosteric Modulation of DNA Specificity
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000554 (2010)
    SgrAI is a type IIF restriction endonuclease that cuts an unusually long recognition sequence and exhibits allosteric self-modulation of cleavage activity and sequence specificity. Previous studies have shown that DNA bound dimers of SgrAI oligomerize into an activated form with higher DNA cleavage rates, although previously determined crystal structures of SgrAI bound to DNA show only the DNA bound dimer. A new crystal structure of the type II restriction endonuclease SgrAI bound to DNA and Ca2+ is now presented, which shows the close association of two DNA bound SgrAI dimers. This tetrameric form is unlike those of the homologous enzymes Cfr10I and NgoMIV and is formed by the swapping of the amino-terminal 24 amino acid residues. Two mutations predicted to destabilize the swapped form of SgrAI, P27W and P27G, have been made and shown to eliminate both the oligomerization of the DNA bound SgrAI dimers as well as the allosteric stimulation of DNA cleavage by SgrAI. A m! echanism involving domain swapping is proposed to explain the unusual allosteric properties of SgrAI via association of the domain swapped tetramer of SgrAI bound to DNA into higher order oligomers.
  • S. aureus MscL Is a Pentamer In Vivo but of Variable Stoichiometries In Vitro: Implications for Detergent-Solubilized Membrane Proteins
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000555 (2010)
    While the bacterial mechanosensitive channel of large conductance (MscL) is the best studied biological mechanosensor and serves as a paradigm for how a protein can sense and respond to membrane tension, the simple matter of its oligomeric state has led to debate, with models ranging from tetramers to hexamers. Indeed, two different oligomeric states of the bacterial mechanosensitive channel MscL have been resolved by X-ray crystallography: The M. tuberculosis channel (MtMscL) is a pentamer, while the S. aureus protein (SaMscL) forms a tetramer. Because several studies suggest that, like MtMscL, the E. coli MscL (EcoMscL) is a pentamer, we re-investigated the oligomeric state of SaMscL. To determine the structural organization of MscL in the cell membrane we developed a disulfide-trapping approach. Surprisingly, we found that virtually all SaMscL channels in vivo are pentameric, indicating this as the physiologically relevant and functional oligomeric state. Complement! ing our in vivo results, we purified SaMscL and assessed its oligomeric state using three independent approaches (sedimentation equilibrium centrifugation, crosslinking, and light scattering) and established that SaMscL is a pentamer when solubilized in Triton X-100 and C8E5 detergents. However, performing similar experiments on SaMscL solubilized in LDAO, the detergent used in the crystallographic study, confirmed the tetrameric oligomerization resolved by X-ray crystallography. We further demonstrate that this stoichiometric shift is reversible by conventional detergent exchange experiments. Our results firmly establish the pentameric organization of SaMscL in vivo. Furthermore they demonstrate that detergents can alter the subunit stoichiometry of membrane protein complexes in vitro; thus, in vivo assays are necessary to firmly establish a membrane protein's true functionally relevant oligomeric state.
  • Structure of a Classical MHC Class I Molecule That Binds "Non-Classical" Ligands
    - PLoS Biol 8(12):e1000557 (2010)
    Chicken YF1 genes share a close sequence relationship with classical MHC class I loci but map outside of the core MHC region. To obtain insights into their function, we determined the structure of the YF1*7.1/β2-microgloblin complex by X-ray crystallography at 1.3 Å resolution. It exhibits the architecture typical of classical MHC class I molecules but possesses a hydrophobic binding groove that contains a non-peptidic ligand. This finding prompted us to reconstitute YF1*7.1 also with various self-lipids. Seven additional YF1*7.1 structures were solved, but only polyethyleneglycol molecules could be modeled into the electron density within the binding groove. However, an assessment of YF1*7.1 by native isoelectric focusing indicated that the molecules were also able to bind nonself-lipids. The ability of YF1*7.1 to interact with hydrophobic ligands is unprecedented among classical MHC class I proteins and might aid the chicken immune system to recognize a diverse lig! and repertoire with a minimal number of MHC class I molecules.

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