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Student Publications

Note to Systems Biology students:

The list below contains a list of most Systems Biology DTC publications. If you notice one is missing please send the reference to with a request to add it.

Please also make sure you're familiar with the University of Warwick's open access policy, and publication protocol  (PDF Document) (pay particular attention to points 1,4, and annexe A).

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Discovery of novel adenosine receptor agonists that exhibit subtype selectivity

Knight A, Hemmings JL, Winfield I, Leuenberger M, Frattini E, Frenguelli BG, Dowell SJ, Lochner M, Ladds G.

J Med Chem (2016) [Epub ahead of print]

A series of N6-bicyclic and N6-(2-hydroxy)cyclopentyl derivatives of adenosine were synthesized as novel A1R agonists and their A1R/A2R selectivity assessed using a simple yeast screening platform. We observed that the most selective, high potency ligands were achieved through N6-adamantyl substitution in combination with 5’-N-ethylcarboxamido or 5’-hydroxymethyl groups. In addition, we determined that 5’-(2-fluoro)thiophenyl derivatives all failed to generate a signaling response despite showing an interaction with the A1R. Some selected compounds were also tested on A1R and A3R in mammalian cells revealing that four of them are entirely A1R-selective agonists. By using in silico homology modeling and ligand docking, we provide insight into their mechanisms of recognition and activation of the A1R. We believe that given the broad tissue distribution, but contrasting signaling profiles, of adenosine receptor subtypes these compounds might have therapeutic potential.

Thu 14 Jan 2016, 09:41 | Tags: Student publications

Detection of diffusion heterogeneity in single particle tracking trajectories using a hidden Markov model with measurement noise propagation

Slator PJ, Cairo CW, Burroughs NJ

PLoS ONE (2015) 10 (10): e0140759. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140759. eCollection 2015

We develop a Bayesian analysis framework to detect heterogeneity in the diffusive behaviour of single particle trajectories on cells, implementing model selection to classify trajectories as either consistent with Brownian motion or with a two-state (diffusion coefficient) switching model. The incorporation of localisation accuracy is essential, as otherwise false detection of switching within a trajectory was observed and diffusion coefficient estimates were inflated. Since our analysis is on a single trajectory basis, we are able to examine heterogeneity between trajectories in a quantitative manner. Applying our method to the lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1) receptor tagged with latex beads (4 s trajectories at 1000 frames s(-1)), both intra- and inter-trajectory heterogeneity were detected; 12-26% of trajectories display clear switching between diffusive states dependent on condition, whilst the inter-trajectory variability is highly structured with the diffusion coefficients being related by D1 = 0.68D0 - 1.5 × 10(4) nm2 s(-1), suggestive that on these time scales we are detecting switching due to a single process. Further, the inter-trajectory variability of the diffusion coefficient estimates (1.6 × 10(2) - 2.6 × 10(5) nm2 s(-1)) is very much larger than the measurement uncertainty within trajectories, suggesting that LFA-1 aggregation and cytoskeletal interactions are significantly affecting mobility, whilst the timescales of these processes are distinctly different giving rise to inter- and intra-trajectory variability. There is also an 'immobile' state (defined as D < 3.0 × 103 nm2 s-1) that is rarely involved in switching, immobility occurring with the highest frequency (47%) under T cell activation (phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA) treatment) with enhanced cytoskeletal attachment (calpain inhibition). Such 'immobile' states frequently display slow linear drift, potentially reflecting binding to a dynamic actin cortex. Our methods allow significantly more information to be extracted from individual trajectories (ultimately limited by time resolution and time-series length), and allow statistical comparisons between trajectories thereby quantifying inter-trajectory heterogeneity. Such methods will be highly informative for the construction and fitting of molecule mobility models within membranes incorporating aggregation, binding to the cytoskeleton, or traversing membrane microdomains.

Mon 18 Jan 2016, 15:12 | Tags: Student publications

Regulation of the expression and activity of Unr in mammalian cells

Anderson EC, Catnaigh PÓ

Biochem Soc Trans (2015) 43 (6): 1241-6. doi: 10.1042/BST20150165

Unr (upstream of N-ras) is a post-transcriptional regulator of gene expression, essential for mammalian development and mutated in many human cancers. The expression of unr is itself regulated at many levels; transcription of unr, which also affects expression of the downstream N-ras gene, is tissue and developmental stage-dependent and is repressed by c-Myc and Max (Myc associated factor X). Alternative splicing gives rise to six transcript variants, which include three different 5'-UTRs. The transcripts are further diversified by the use of three alternative polyadenylation signals, which governs whether AU-rich instability elements are present in the 3'-UTR or not. Translation of at least some unr transcripts can occur by internal initiation and is regulated in a cell-cycle-dependent manner; binding of PTB (polypyrimidine tract-binding protein) and Unr to the 5'-UTR inhibits translation, but these are displaced by heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins C1/C2 (hnRNPC1/C2) during mitosis to stimulate translation. Finally, Unr is post-translationally modified by phosphorylation and lysine acetylation, although it is not yet known how these modifications affect Unr activity.

Mon 18 Jan 2016, 15:04 | Tags: Student publications

Single-cell mechanics and calcium signalling in organotypic slices of human myometrium

Loftus FC, Richardson MJ, Shmygol A

J Biomech (2015) 48 (9): 1620-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2015.01.046. Epub 2015 Feb 8.

Elucidation of cellular mechanisms regulating myometrial contractility is crucial for improvement in management of many obstetric abnormalities, such as premature delivery, uterine dystocia and post-partum haemorrhage. Myometrial contractions are triggered by periodic synchronous rises in intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca(2+)]i) elicited by spontaneously generated action potentials propagating throughout the entire myometrium. During labour, hormones like oxytocin and prostaglandins potentiate uterine contractions by increasing their duration, strength and frequency. The most informative approach to studying the mechanisms underlying hormonal modulation of uterine contractility is to record [Ca(2+)]i responses to hormones in intact myometrial samples that have not been subjected to enzymatic treatment for cell isolation or cell culture conditions. However, the spatio-temporal resolution of such recording is limited due to the motion artifacts occurring in contracting tissue. Here we describe the application of our newly developed motion correction algorithm to investigate the [Ca(2+)]i dynamics in control and oxytocin stimulated slices of human myometrium on a cellular level. We present evidence that oxytocin induces asynchronous [Ca(2+)]i oscillations in individual myocytes within intact myometrium which are similar to those observed in cultured cells. The oscillations occur between synchronous action potential-driven [Ca(2+)]i transients but appear to be unrelated to contractions. Furthermore, the oxytocin-triggered [Ca(2+)]i oscillations wane within 30-50min of hormone application, while the action potential induced [Ca(2+)]i transients remain augmented. We conclude that oxytocin-induced [Ca(2+)]i oscillations are not relevant to the acute regulation of myometrial contractility but may play a role in longer-term regulatory processes, for example, by triggering gene expression.

Mon 18 Jan 2016, 14:57 | Tags: Student publications

Long-term plasticity determines the postsynaptic response to correlated afferents with multivesicular short-term synaptic depression

Bird AD, Richardson MJ

Front Comput Neurosci (2014) 8: 2. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2014.00002. eCollection 2014.

Synchrony in a presynaptic population leads to correlations in vesicle occupancy at the active sites for neurotransmitter release. The number of independent release sites per presynaptic neuron, a synaptic parameter recently shown to be modified during long-term plasticity, will modulate these correlations and therefore have a significant effect on the firing rate of the postsynaptic neuron. To understand how correlations from synaptic dynamics and from presynaptic synchrony shape the postsynaptic response, we study a model of multiple release site short-term plasticity and derive exact results for the crosscorrelation function of vesicle occupancy and neurotransmitter release, as well as the postsynaptic voltage variance. Using approximate forms for the postsynaptic firing rate in the limits of low and high correlations, we demonstrate that short-term depression leads to a maximum response for an intermediate number of presynaptic release sites, and that this leads to a tuning-curve response peaked at an optimal presynaptic synchrony set by the number of neurotransmitter release sites per presynaptic neuron. These effects arise because, above a certain level of correlation, activity in the presynaptic population is overly strong resulting in wastage of the pool of releasable neurotransmitter. As the nervous system operates under constraints of efficient metabolism it is likely that this phenomenon provides an activity-dependent constraint on network architecture.

Mon 18 Jan 2016, 14:46 | Tags: Student publications

Spatial dissection of the Arabidopsis thaliana transcriptional response to downy mildew using Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting

Coker TL, Cevik V, Beynon JL, Gifford ML

Front Plant Sci (2015) 6: 527. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2015.00527. eCollection 2015

Changes in gene expression form a crucial part of the plant response to infection. In the last decade, whole-leaf expression profiling has played a valuable role in identifying genes and processes that contribute to the interactions between the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and a diverse range of pathogens. However, with some pathogens such as downy mildew caused by the biotrophic oomycete pathogen Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis (Hpa), whole-leaf profiling may fail to capture the complete Arabidopsis response encompassing responses of non-infected as well as infected cells within the leaf. Highly localized expression changes that occur in infected cells may be diluted by the comparative abundance of non-infected cells. Furthermore, local and systemic Hpa responses of a differing nature may become conflated. To address this we applied the technique of Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS), typically used for analyzing plant abiotic responses, to the study of plant-pathogen interactions. We isolated haustoriated (Hpa-proximal) and non-haustoriated (Hpa-distal) cells from infected seedling samples using FACS, and measured global gene expression. When compared with an uninfected control, 278 transcripts were identified as significantly differentially expressed, the vast majority of which were differentially expressed specifically in Hpa-proximal cells. By comparing our data to previous, whole organ studies, we discovered many highly locally regulated genes that can be implicated as novel in the Hpa response, and that were uncovered for the first time using our sensitive FACS technique.

Mon 18 Jan 2016, 14:40 | Tags: Student publications

Mass spectrometric evaluation of mephedrone in vivo human metabolism: identification of phase I and phase II metabolites, including a novel succinyl conjugate.

Pozo ÓJ, Ibáñez M, Sancho JV, Lahoz-Beneytez J, Farré M, Papaseit E, de la Torre R, Hernández F

Drug Metab Dispos (2015) 43(2): 248-57. doi: 10.1124/dmd.114.061416. Epub 2014 Dec 2.

Mon 22 Jun 2015, 17:29 | Tags: Student publications

Fine spatiotemporal activity in contracting myometrium revealed by motion-corrected calcium imaging

Fiona Loftus, Anatoly Shmygol and Magnus Richardson
Journal of Physiology (2014) 592: 4447-4463

Wed 04 Feb 2015, 14:15 | Tags: Student publications

Image based validation of dynamical models for cell reorientation

Robert Lockley, Graham Ladds and Till Bretschneider

Cytometry Part A (2015) 87(6): 471-80. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.22600. Epub 2014 Dec 9

A key feature of directed cell movement is the ability of cells to reorient quickly in response to changes in the direction of an extracellular stimulus. Mathematical models have suggested quite different regulatory mechanisms to explain reorientation, raising the question of how we can validate these models in a rigorous way. In this study, we fit three reaction–diffusion models to experimental data of Dictyostelium amoebae reorienting in response to alternating gradients of mechanical shear flow. The experimental readouts we use to fit are spatio-temporal distributions of a fluorescent reporter for cortical F-actin labeling the cell front. Experiments performed under different conditions are fitted simultaneously to challenge the models with different types of cellular dynamics. Although the model proposed by Otsuji is unable to provide a satisfactory fit, those suggested by Meinhardt and Levchenko fit equally well. Further, we show that reduction of the three-variable Meinhardt model to a two-variable model also provides an excellent fit, but has the advantage of all parameters being uniquely identifiable. Our work demonstrates that model selection and identifiability analysis, commonly applied to temporal dynamics problems in systems biology, can be a powerful tool when extended to spatio-temporal imaging data

Wed 07 Jan 2015, 12:26 | Tags: Student publications

Dissecting the organ specificity of insecticide resistance candidate genes in Anopheles gambiae: known and novel candidate genes.

Ingham VA, Jones CM, Pignatelli P, Balabanidou V, Vontas J, Wagstaff SC, Moore JD, Ranson H.

BMC Genomics (2014) 15: 1018.

Mon 01 Dec 2014, 11:26 | Tags: Student publications

The proliferating cell hypothesis: a metabolic framework for Plasmodium growth and development

J. Enrique Salcedo-Sora, Eva Caamano-Gutierrez, Stephen A. Ward, Giancarlo A. Biagini

Trends in Parasitology (April 2014) 30 (4): 170–175
  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Pembroke Place, Liverpool , L3 5QA, UK
  • Warwick Systems Biology Centre, Senate House, University of Warwick, Coventry , CV4 7AL, UK
Wed 28 May 2014, 11:08 | Tags: Student publications

Discovery of a family of gamma-aminobutyrate ureas via rational derepression of a silent bacterial gene cluster

Sidda JD, Song L, Poon V, Al-Bassam M, Lazos O, Buttner MJ, Challis GL, Corre C

Chem. Sci. (2014) 5 (1): 86-89.

Fri 20 Dec 2013, 11:52 | Tags: Student publications

DiSWOP: A Novel Measure for Cell-Level Protein Network Analysis in Localised Proteomics Image Data

Wed 27 Nov 2013, 13:37 | Tags: Student publications

Quantitative analysis of human ras localization and function in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe.


Division of Clinical Sciences, Warwick Medical School, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK; Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK.


Ras signalling is central to fundamental and diverse cellular processes. In higher eukaryotes ras signalling is highly complex, involving multiple isoforms, regulatory proteins and effectors. As a consequence, the study of ras activity in mammalian systems presents a number of technical challenges. The model organism Schizosaccharomyces pombe has previously proved a key system for the study of human signalling components and provides an ideal model for the study of ras, as it contains just one ras protein (Ras1p), which is non-essential and controls a number of downstream processes. Here we present data demonstrating the quantitative analysis of three distinct Ras1-related signalling outputs, utilizing the three most abundant human ras isoforms, H-Ras, N-Ras and K-Ras4B, in Sz. pombe. Further, we have characterized the localization of these three human ras isoforms in Sz. pombe, utilizing quantitative image analysis techniques. These data indicate that all three human ras isoforms are functional in fission yeast, displaying differing localization patterns which correlate strongly with function in the regulation of pheromone response and cell shape. These data demonstrate that such yeast strains could provide powerful tools for the investigation of ras biology, and potentially in the development of cancer therapies.

[PubMed - in process]
Mon 15 Jul 2013, 12:35 | Tags: Student publications

Adenosine A1-receptor activation mediates the developmental shift at layer-5 pyramidal-cell synapses and is a determinant of mature synaptic strength

The Journal of Physiology, Volume 591, Issue 13, pages 3371–3380, July 2013

Kerr MI, Wall MJ, Richardson MJ.


During the first postnatal month glutamatergic synapses between layer-5 pyramidal cells in the rodent neocortex switch from an immature state exhibiting high probability of neurotransmitter release, large unitary amplitude and synaptic depression to a mature state with decreased probability of release, smaller unitary amplitude and synaptic facilitation. Using paired recordings, we demonstrate that the developmental shift in release probability at synapses between rat somatosensory layer-5 thick-tufted pyramidal cells is due to a higher and more heterogeneous activation of presynaptic adenosine A1 receptors. Immature synapses under control conditions exhibited distributions of CV, failure rate and release probability that were almost coincident with the A1-receptor blocked condition; however, mature synapses under control conditions exhibited much broader distributions that spanned those of both the A1-receptor agonised and antagonised conditions. Immature and mature synapses expressed A1 receptors with no observable difference in functional efficacy and therefore the heterogeneous A1-receptor activation seen in the mature neocortex is due to increased adenosine concentrations that vary between synapses. Given the central role demonstrated for A1-receptor activation in determining synaptic amplitude and the statistics of transmission between mature layer-5 pyramidal cells, the emplacement of adenosine sources and sinks near the synaptic terminal could constitute a novel form of long-term synaptic plasticity.

Thu 20 Jun 2013, 11:23 | Tags: Student publications

The Role of the RACK1 Ortholog Cpc2p in Modulating Pheromone-Induced Cell Cycle Arrest in Fission Yeast

PLoS ONE 8 (7): e65927, July 2013

Magdalena Mos, Manuel A. Esparza-Franco, Emma L. Godfrey, Kathryn Richardson, John Davey, Graham Ladds

The detection and amplification of extracellular signals requires the involvement of multiple protein components. In mammalian cells the receptor of activated C kinase (RACK1) is an important scaffolding protein for signal transduction networks. Further, it also preforms a critical function in regulating the cell cycle by modulating the G1/S transition. Many eukaryotic cells express RACK1 orthologs, with one example being Cpc2p in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. In contrast to RACK1, Cpc2p has been described to positively regulate, at the ribosomal level, cells entry into M phase. In addition, Cpc2p controls the stress response pathways through an interaction with Msa2p, and sexual development by modulating Ran1p/Pat1p. Here we describe investigations into the role, which Cpc2p performs in controlling the G protein-mediated mating response pathway. Despite structural similarity to Gβ-like subunits, Cpc2p appears not to function at the G protein level. However, upon pheromone stimulation, cells overexpressing Cpc2p display substantial cell morphology defects, disorientation of septum formation and a significantly protracted G1 arrest. We provide a mechanistic interpretation of this novel data by linking Cpc2p function, during the mating response, with its previous described interactions with Ran1p/Pat1p. We suggest that Cpc2p regulates pheromone-induced cell cycle arrest in fission yeast by delaying cells entry into S phase.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 15:01 | Tags: Student publications

Gold Nanoparticle- Linked Analysis of Carbohydrate-Protein Interactions, and Polymeric Inhibitors, using Unlabelled Proteins; Easy Measurements Using a ‘Simple’ Digital Camera

Otten L, Richards SJ, Fullam E, Besra GS, Gibson MI.

J. Mater. Chem. B, 2013,1, 2665-2672


Traditional methods of measuring the affinity of lectins (or other carbohydrate-binding proteins) to their target carbohydrate ligand rely on the use of chemically/recombinantly modified proteins in sorbent assays, microarrays or the use of expensive label-free methods such as surface plasmon resonance spectrometry. In this work we exploit the extremely high extinction coefficient (i.e. colour) of gold nanoparticles as resolving agents in sorbent assays. The anionic nanoparticles adhere strongly to immobilized proteins, but not to the carbohydrate-surfaces allowing investigation of protein binding and screening of novel multivalent inhibitors. Furthermore, the use of a simple digital camera (or mobile phone) to obtain the data is shown, providing a simple ultra-low cost route to the detection of unmodified, carbohydrate-binding proteins.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:52 | Tags: Student publications

Age-matched dendritic cell subpopulations reference values in childhood.

Scand J Immunol. 2013 Mar;77(3):213-20.

Heinze A, Elze MC, Kloess S, Ciocarlie O, Königs C, Betz S, Bremm M, Esser R, Klingebiel T, Serban M, Hutton JL, Koehl U.


Dendritic cells (DCs) are the most potent antigen-presenting cells and are the key link between the innate and adaptive immune response. Only a few reports with study populations of up to 50 individuals have been published with age-based reference values for DC subpopulations in healthy children. Therefore, we aimed to establish reference ranges in a larger study population of 100 healthy children, which allowed age-matched subgroups. Most previous studies were performed using a dual-platform approach. In this study, a single-platform approach in a lyse no-wash procedure was used. DC subpopulations were defined as follows: CD45(+) CD85k(+) HLA-DR(+) CD14(-) CD16(-) CD33(+) cells as myeloid DCs (mDCs) and CD45(+) CD85k(+) HLA-DR(+) CD14(-) CD16(-) CD123(+) cells as plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). Reference ranges were established using a semi-parametric regression of age-matched absolute and relative DC counts. We found a significant decline with increasing age in the medians of mDCs (P = 0.0003) and pDCs per μl peripheral blood (PB) (P = 0.004) and in the 50%, 90% and 95% reference ranges. We also identified significantly lower absolute cell counts of mDCs per μl PB in girls than in boys for all age groups (P = 0.0015). Due to the larger paediatric study population and single-platform approach, this study may give a more precise overview of the normal age-matched development of DC subpopulations and may provide a basis for analyzing abnormal DC counts in different illnesses or therapies such as post stem cell transplantation.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:49 | Tags: Student publications

A local regulatory network around three NAC transcription factors in stress responses and senescence in Arabidopsis leaves.

Plant J. 2013 Apr 12. doi: 10.1111/tpj.12194. [Epub ahead of print]

Hickman R, Hill C, Penfold CA, Breeze E, Bowden L, Moore JD, Zhang P, Jackson A, Cooke E, Bewicke-Copley F, Mead A, Beynon J, Wild DL, Denby KJ, Ott S, Buchanan-Wollaston V.


A model is presented describing the gene regulatory network surrounding three similar NAC transcription factors that have roles in Arabidopsis leaf senescence and stress responses. ANAC019, ANAC055 and ANAC072 belong to the same clade of NAC domain genes and have overlapping expression patterns. A combination of promoter DNA/protein interactions identified using yeast 1-hybrid analysis and modelling using gene expression time course data has been applied to predict the regulatory network upstream of these genes. Similarities and divergence in regulation during a variety of stress responses are predicted by different combinations of upstream transcription factors binding and also by the modelling. Mutant analysis with potential upstream genes was used to test and confirm some of the predicted interactions. Gene expression analysis in mutants of ANAC019 and ANAC055 at different times during leaf senescence has revealed a distinctly different role for each of these genes. Yeast 1-hybrid analysis is shown to be a valuable tool that can distinguish clades of binding proteins and be used to test and quantify protein binding to predicted promoter motifs.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:48 | Tags: Student publications

MEME-LaB: motif analysis in clusters.

Bioinformatics. 2013 May 24. [Epub ahead of print]

Brown P, Baxter L, Hickman R, Beynon J, Moore JD, Ott S.


SUMMARY: Genome-wide expression analysis can result in large numbers of clusters of co-expressed genes. Although there are tools for ab initio discovery of transcription factor-binding sites, most do not provide a quick and easy way to study large numbers of clusters. To address this, we introduce a web tool called MEME-LaB. The tool wraps MEME (an ab initio motif finder), providing an interface for users to input multiple gene clusters, retrieve promoter sequences, run motif finding and then easily browse and condense the results, facilitating better interpretation of the results from large-scale datasets.

AVAILABILITY: MEME-LaB is freely accessible at:

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:46 | Tags: Student publications

FKF1 conveys timing information for CONSTANS stabilization in photoperiodic flowering.

Science. 2012 May 25;336(6084):1045-9.

Song YH, Smith RW, To BJ, Millar AJ, Imaizumi T.


Plants use day-length information to coordinate flowering time with the appropriate season to maximize reproduction. In Arabidopsis, the long day-specific expression of CONSTANS (CO) protein is crucial for flowering induction. Although light signaling regulates CO protein stability, the mechanism by which CO is stabilized in the long-day afternoon has remained elusive. Here, we demonstrate that FLAVIN-BINDING, KELCH REPEAT, F-BOX 1 (FKF1) protein stabilizes CO protein in the afternoon in long days. FKF1 interacts with CO through its LOV domain, and blue light enhances this interaction. In addition, FKF1 simultaneously removes CYCLING DOF FACTOR 1 (CDF1), which represses CO and FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) transcription. Together with CO transcriptional regulation, FKF1 protein controls robust FT mRNA induction through multiple feedforward mechanisms that accurately control flowering timing.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:40 | Tags: Student publications

Novel cis-regulatory modules control expression of the Hairy and Enhancer of Split-1 (HES1) transcription factor in myoblasts.

J Biol Chem. 2012 Feb 17;287(8):5687-97.

Jeziorska DM, Koentges G, Vance KW.


The expression profile of a gene is controlled by DNA sequences called cis-regulatory modules (CRMs). CRMs can function over large genomic distances and can be located many kilobases away from their target promoters. hes1 is a key developmental gene that is overexpressed in certain cancers and is a primary target of NOTCH signaling. Despite this, analysis of hes1 transcriptional control has been limited solely to its promoter. Here, we identify seven conserved DNA sequence blocks, representing the hes1 promoter and six novel CRMs, within 57 kb upstream of the mouse hes1 gene. We identify 12 binding sites for the RBP-Jκ NOTCH effector and a single M-CAT motif within these regions. We validate RBP-Jκ and TEAD family occupancy in cells in culture and test the response of each of these CRMs to active NOTCH. We show that two regions, CRM5 and CRM7, function as enhancers, and four can repress transcription. A pair of RBP-Jκ motifs arranged in a tail-tail configuration in CRM5 and the M-CAT motif in CRM7 are necessary for enhancer function. Furthermore, these enhancers are occupied by transcriptional co-activators and loop onto the hes1 promoter within the endogenous hes1 locus. This work demonstrates the power of combining computational genomics and experimental methodologies to identify novel CRMs and characterize their function.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:36 | Tags: Student publications

MEDIATOR25 acts as an integrative hub for the regulation of jasmonate-responsive gene expression in Arabidopsis.

Plant Physiol. 2012 Sep;160(1):541-55.

Çevik V, Kidd BN, Zhang P, Hill C, Kiddle S, Denby KJ, Holub EB, Cahill DM, Manners JM, Schenk PM, Beynon J, Kazan K.


The PHYTOCHROME AND FLOWERING TIME1 gene encoding the MEDIATOR25 (MED25) subunit of the eukaryotic Mediator complex is a positive regulator of jasmonate (JA)-responsive gene expression in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). Based on the function of the Mediator complex as a bridge between DNA-bound transcriptional activators and the RNA polymerase II complex, MED25 has been hypothesized to function in association with transcriptional regulators of the JA pathway. However, it is currently not known mechanistically how MED25 functions to regulate JA-responsive gene expression. In this study, we show that MED25 physically interacts with several key transcriptional regulators of the JA signaling pathway, including the APETALA2 (AP2)/ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR (ERF) transcription factors OCTADECANOID-RESPONSIVE ARABIDOPSIS AP2/ERF59 and ERF1 as well as the master regulator MYC2. Physical interaction detected between MED25 and four group IX AP2/ERF transcription factors was shown to require the activator interaction domain of MED25 as well as the recently discovered Conserved Motif IX-1/EDLL transcription activation motif of MED25-interacting AP2/ERFs. Using transcriptional activation experiments, we also show that OCTADECANOID-RESPONSIVE ARABIDOPSIS AP2/ERF59- and ERF1-dependent activation of PLANT DEFENSIN1.2 as well as MYC2-dependent activation of VEGETATIVE STORAGE PROTEIN1 requires a functional MED25. In addition, MED25 is required for MYC2-dependent repression of pathogen defense genes. These results suggest an important role for MED25 as an integrative hub within the Mediator complex during the regulation of JA-associated gene expression.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:35 | Tags: Student publications

Arabidopsis defense against Botrytis cinerea: chronology and regulation deciphered by high-resolution temporal transcriptomic analysis.

Plant Cell. 2012 Sep;24(9):3530-57.

Windram O, Madhou P, McHattie S, Hill C, Hickman R, Cooke E, Jenkins DJ, Penfold CA, Baxter L, Breeze E, Kiddle SJ, Rhodes J, Atwell S, Kliebenstein DJ, Kim YS, Stegle O, Borgwardt K, Zhang C, Tabrett A, Legaie R, Moore J, Finkenstadt B, Wild DL, Mead A, Rand D, Beynon J, Ott S, Buchanan-Wollaston V, Denby KJ.


Transcriptional reprogramming forms a major part of a plant's response to pathogen infection. Many individual components and pathways operating during plant defense have been identified, but our knowledge of how these different components interact is still rudimentary. We generated a high-resolution time series of gene expression profiles from a single Arabidopsis thaliana leaf during infection by the necrotrophic fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea. Approximately one-third of the Arabidopsis genome is differentially expressed during the first 48 h after infection, with the majority of changes in gene expression occurring before significant lesion development. We used computational tools to obtain a detailed chronology of the defense response against B. cinerea, highlighting the times at which signaling and metabolic processes change, and identify transcription factor families operating at different times after infection. Motif enrichment and network inference predicted regulatory interactions, and testing of one such prediction identified a role for TGA3 in defense against necrotrophic pathogens. These data provide an unprecedented level of detail about transcriptional changes during a defense response and are suited to systems biology analyses to generate predictive models of the gene regulatory networks mediating the Arabidopsis response to B. cinerea.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:32 | Tags: Student publications

Conserved noncoding sequences highlight shared components of regulatory networks in dicotyledonous plants.

Plant Cell. 2012 Oct;24(10):3949-65.

Baxter L, Jironkin A, Hickman R, Moore J, Barrington C, Krusche P, Dyer NP, Buchanan-Wollaston V, Tiskin A, Beynon J, Denby K, Ott S.


Conserved noncoding sequences (CNSs) in DNA are reliable pointers to regulatory elements controlling gene expression. Using a comparative genomics approach with four dicotyledonous plant species (Arabidopsis thaliana, papaya [Carica papaya], poplar [Populus trichocarpa], and grape [Vitis vinifera]), we detected hundreds of CNSs upstream of Arabidopsis genes. Distinct positioning, length, and enrichment for transcription factor binding sites suggest these CNSs play a functional role in transcriptional regulation. The enrichment of transcription factors within the set of genes associated with CNS is consistent with the hypothesis that together they form part of a conserved transcriptional network whose function is to regulate other transcription factors and control development. We identified a set of promoters where regulatory mechanisms are likely to be shared between the model organism Arabidopsis and other dicots, providing areas of focus for further research.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:29 | Tags: Student publications

The ubiquitin-proteasome system: central modifier of plant signalling.

New Phytol. 2012 Oct;196(1):13-28.

Sadanandom A, Bailey M, Ewan R, Lee J, Nelis S.


Ubiquitin is well established as a major modifier of signalling in eukaryotes. However, the extent to which plants rely on ubiquitin for regulating their lifecycle is only recently becoming apparent. This is underlined by the over-representation of genes encoding ubiquitin-metabolizing enzymes in Arabidopsis when compared with other model eukaryotes. The main characteristic of ubiquitination is the conjugation of ubiquitin onto lysine residues of acceptor proteins. In most cases the targeted protein is rapidly degraded by the 26S proteasome, the major proteolysis machinery in eukaryotic cells. The ubiquitin-proteasome system is responsible for removing most abnormal peptides and short-lived cellular regulators, which, in turn, control many processes. This allows cells to respond rapidly to intracellular signals and changing environmental conditions. This review maps out the roles of the components of the ubiquitin-proteasome system with emphasis on areas where future research is urgently needed. We provide a flavour of the diverse aspects of plant lifecycle where the ubiquitin-proteasome system is implicated. We aim to highlight common themes using key examples that reiterate the importance of the ubiquitin-proteasome system to plants. The future challenge in plant biology is to define the targets for ubiquitination, their interactors and their molecular function within the regulatory context.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:26 | Tags: Student publications

Extracting fluorescent reporter time courses of cell lineages from high-throughput microscopy at low temporal resolution.

PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e27886.

Downey MJ, Jeziorska DM, Ott S, Tamai TK, Koentges G, Vance KW, Bretschneider T.


The extraction of fluorescence time course data is a major bottleneck in high-throughput live-cell microscopy. Here we present an extendible framework based on the open-source image analysis software ImageJ, which aims in particular at analyzing the expression of fluorescent reporters through cell divisions. The ability to track individual cell lineages is essential for the analysis of gene regulatory factors involved in the control of cell fate and identity decisions. In our approach, cell nuclei are identified using Hoechst, and a characteristic drop in Hoechst fluorescence helps to detect dividing cells. We first compare the efficiency and accuracy of different segmentation methods and then present a statistical scoring algorithm for cell tracking, which draws on the combination of various features, such as nuclear intensity, area or shape, and importantly, dynamic changes thereof. Principal component analysis is used to determine the most significant features, and a global parameter search is performed to determine the weighting of individual features. Our algorithm has been optimized to cope with large cell movements, and we were able to semi-automatically extract cell trajectories across three cell generations. Based on the MTrackJ plugin for ImageJ, we have developed tools to efficiently validate tracks and manually correct them by connecting broken trajectories and reassigning falsely connected cell positions. A gold standard consisting of two time-series with 15,000 validated positions will be released as a valuable resource for benchmarking. We demonstrate how our method can be applied to analyze fluorescence distributions generated from mouse stem cells transfected with reporter constructs containing transcriptional control elements of the Msx1 gene, a regulator of pluripotency, in mother and daughter cells. Furthermore, we show by tracking zebrafish PAC2 cells expressing FUCCI cell cycle markers, our framework can be easily adapted to different cell types and fluorescent markers.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:22 | Tags: Student publications

Inferring the time-invariant topology of a nonlinear sparse gene regulatory network using fully Bayesian spline autoregression.

Biostatistics. 2011 Oct;12(4):682-94.

Morrissey ER, Juárez MA, Denby KJ, Burroughs NJ.


We propose a semiparametric Bayesian model, based on penalized splines, for the recovery of the time-invariant topology of a causal interaction network from longitudinal data. Our motivation is inference of gene regulatory networks from low-resolution microarray time series, where existence of nonlinear interactions is well known. Parenthood relations are mapped by augmenting the model with kinship indicators and providing these with either an overall or gene-wise hierarchical structure. Appropriate specification of the prior is crucial to control the flexibility of the splines, especially under circumstances of scarce data; thus, we provide an informative, proper prior. Substantive improvement in network inference over a linear model is demonstrated using synthetic data drawn from ordinary differential equation models and gene expression from an experimental data set of the Arabidopsis thaliana circadian rhythm.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:20 | Tags: Student publications

The role of nitrogen oxides in human adaptation to hypoxia.

Sci Rep. 2011;1:109.

Levett DZ, Fernandez BO, Riley HL, Martin DS, Mitchell K, Leckstrom CA, Ince C, Whipp BJ, Mythen MG, Montgomery HE, Grocott MP, Feelisch M; Caudwell Extreme Everest Research Group.


Lowland residents adapt to the reduced oxygen availability at high altitude through a process known as acclimatisation, but the molecular changes underpinning these functional alterations are not well understood. Using an integrated biochemical/whole-body physiology approach we here show that plasma biomarkers of NO production (nitrite, nitrate) and activity (cGMP) are elevated on acclimatisation to high altitude while S-nitrosothiols are initially consumed, suggesting multiple nitrogen oxides contribute to improve hypoxia tolerance by enhancing NO availability. Unexpectedly, oxygen cost of exercise and mechanical efficiency remain unchanged with ascent while microvascular blood flow correlates inversely with nitrite. Our results suggest that NO is an integral part of the human physiological response to hypoxia. These findings may be of relevance not only to healthy subjects exposed to high altitude but also to patients in whom oxygen availability is limited through disease affecting the heart, lung or vasculature, and to the field of developmental biology.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:18 | Tags: Student publications

Structure-activity relationships for organometallic osmium arene phenylazopyridine complexes with potent anticancer activity.

Dalton Trans. 2011 Oct 28;40(40):10553-62.

Fu Y, Habtemariam A, Basri AM, Braddick D, Clarkson GJ, Sadler PJ.


We report the synthesis and characterisation of 32 half sandwich phenylazopyridine Os(II) arene complexes [Os(η(6)-arene)(phenylazopyridine)X](+) in which X is chloride or iodide, the arene is p-cymene or biphenyl and the pyridine and phenyl rings contain a variety of substituents (F, Cl, Br, I, CF(3), OH or NO(2)). Ten X-ray crystal structures have been determined. Cytotoxicity towards A2780 human ovarian cancer cells ranges from high potency at nanomolar concentrations to inactivity. In general the introduction of an electron-withdrawing group (e.g. F, Cl, Br or I) at specific positions on the pyridine ring significantly increases cytotoxic activity and aqueous solubility. Changing the arene from p-cymene to biphenyl and the monodentate ligand X from chloride to iodide also increases the activity significantly. Activation by hydrolysis and DNA binding appears not to be the major mechanism of action since both the highly active complex [Os(η(6)-bip)(2-F-azpy)I]PF(6) (9) and the moderately active complex [Os(η(6)-bip)(3-Cl-azpy)I]PF(6) (23) are very stable and inert towards aquation. Studies of octanol-water partition coefficients (log P) and subcellular distributions of osmium in A2780 human ovarian cancer cells suggested that cell uptake and targeting to cellular organelles play important roles in determining activity. Although complex 9 induced the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in A2780 cells, the ROS level did not appear to play a role in the mechanism of anticancer activity. This class of organometallic osmium complexes has new and unusual features worthy of further exploration for the design of novel anticancer drugs.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:14 | Tags: Student publications

Bacterial cell wall assembly: still an attractive antibacterial target.

Trends Biotechnol. 2011 Apr;29(4):167-73.

Bugg TD, Braddick D, Dowson CG, Roper DI.


The development of new antibacterial agents to combat worsening antibiotic resistance is still a priority area in anti-infectives research, but in the post-genomic era it has been more difficult than expected to identify new lead compounds from high-throughput screening, and very challenging to obtain antibacterial activity for lead compounds. Bacterial cell-wall peptidoglycan biosynthesis is a well-established target for antibacterial chemotherapy, and recent developments enable the entire biosynthetic pathway to be reconstituted for detailed biochemical study and high-throughput inhibitor screening. This review article discusses recent developments in the availability of peptidoglycan biosynthetic intermediates, the identification of lead compounds for both the earlier cytoplasmic steps and the later lipid-linked steps, and the application of new methods such as structure-based drug design, phage display and surface science.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 14:12 | Tags: Student publications

High-resolution temporal profiling of transcripts during Arabidopsis leaf senescence reveals a distinct chronology of processes and regulation.

Plant Cell. 2011 Mar;23(3):873-94.

Breeze E, Harrison E, McHattie S, Hughes L, Hickman R, Hill C, Kiddle S, Kim YS, Penfold CA, Jenkins D, Zhang C, Morris K, Jenner C, Jackson S, Thomas B, Tabrett A, Legaie R, Moore JD, Wild DL, Ott S, Rand D, Beynon J, Denby K, Mead A, Buchanan-Wollaston V.


Leaf senescence is an essential developmental process that impacts dramatically on crop yields and involves altered regulation of thousands of genes and many metabolic and signaling pathways, resulting in major changes in the leaf. The regulation of senescence is complex, and although senescence regulatory genes have been characterized, there is little information on how these function in the global control of the process. We used microarray analysis to obtain a high-resolution time-course profile of gene expression during development of a single leaf over a 3-week period to senescence. A complex experimental design approach and a combination of methods were used to extract high-quality replicated data and to identify differentially expressed genes. The multiple time points enable the use of highly informative clustering to reveal distinct time points at which signaling and metabolic pathways change. Analysis of motif enrichment, as well as comparison of transcription factor (TF) families showing altered expression over the time course, identify clear groups of TFs active at different stages of leaf development and senescence. These data enable connection of metabolic processes, signaling pathways, and specific TF activity, which will underpin the development of network models to elucidate the process of senescence.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:59 | Tags: Student publications

Recombinants between Deformed wing virus and Varroa destructor virus-1 may prevail in Varroa destructor-infested honeybee colonies.

J Gen Virol. 2011 Jan;92(Pt 1):156-61. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.025965-0. Epub 2010 Oct 6.

Moore J, Jironkin A, Chandler D, Burroughs N, Evans DJ, Ryabov EV.


We have used high-throughput Illumina sequencing to identify novel recombinants between Deformed wing virus (DWV) and Varroa destructor virus-1 (VDV-1), which accumulate to higher levels than DWV in both honeybees and Varroa destructor mites. The recombinants, VDV-1(VVD) and VDV-1(DVD), exhibit crossovers between the 5'-UTR and the regions encoding the structural (capsid) and non-structural viral proteins. This implies that the genomes are modular and that each region may evolve independently, as demonstrated in human enteroviruses. Individual honeybee pupae were infected with a mixture of observed recombinants and DWV. A strong correlation was observed between VDV-1(DVD) levels in honeybee pupae and associated mites, suggesting that this recombinant, with a DWV-derived 5'-UTR and non-structural protein region flanking a VDV-1-derived capsid-encoding region, is better adapted to transmission between V. destructor and honeybees than the parental DWV or a recombinant bearing the VDV-1-derived 5'-UTR (VDV-1(VVD)).

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:57 | Tags: Student publications

Selective phenotyping, entropy reduction, and the mastermind game.

BMC Bioinformatics. 2011 Oct 20;12:406.

Gagneur J, Elze MC, Tresch A.


BACKGROUND: With the advance of genome sequencing technologies, phenotyping, rather than genotyping, is becoming the most expensive task when mapping genetic traits. The need for efficient selective phenotyping strategies, i.e. methods to select a subset of genotyped individuals for phenotyping, therefore increases. Current methods have focused either on improving the detection of causative genetic variants or their precise genomic location separately.

RESULTS: Here we recognize selective phenotyping as a Bayesian model discrimination problem and introduce SPARE (Selective Phenotyping Approach by Reduction of Entropy). Unlike previous methods, SPARE can integrate the information of previously phenotyped individuals, thereby enabling an efficient incremental strategy. The effective performance of SPARE is demonstrated on simulated data as well as on an experimental yeast dataset.

CONCLUSIONS: Using entropy reduction as an objective criterion gives a natural way to tackle both issues of detection and localization simultaneously and to integrate intermediate phenotypic data. We foresee entropy-based strategies as a fruitful research direction for selective phenotyping.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:54 | Tags: Student publications

On reverse engineering of gene interaction networks using time course data with repeated measurements.

Bioinformatics. 2010 Sep 15;26(18):2305-12.

Morrissey ER, Juárez MA, Denby KJ, Burroughs NJ.


MOTIVATION: Gene expression measurements are the most common data source for reverse engineering gene interaction networks. When dealing with destructive sampling in time course experiments, it is common to average any available measurements for each time point and to treat this as the actual time series data for fitting the network, neglecting the variability contained in the repeated measurements. Proceeding in such a way can affect the retrieved network topology.

RESULTS: We propose a fully Bayesian method for reverse engineering a gene interaction network, based on time course data with repeated measurements. The observations are treated as surrogate measurements of the underlying gene expression. As these measurements often contain outliers, we use a non-Gaussian specification for dealing with measurement error. The network interactions are assumed linear and an autoregressive model is specified, augmented with indicator variables that allow inference on the topology of the network. We analyse two in silico and one in vivo experiments, the latter dealing with the circadian clock in Arabidopsis thaliana. A systematic attenuation of the estimated regulation strengths and a concomitant overestimation of their precision is demonstrated when measurement error is disregarded. Thus, a clear improvement in the inferred topology for the synthetic datasets is demonstrated when this is included. Also, the influence of outliers in the retrieved network is demonstrated when using the in vivo data.

AVAILABILITY: Matlab code and data used in the article are available from

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:52 | Tags: Student publications

The dynamic architecture of the metabolic switch in Streptomyces coelicolor.

BMC Genomics. 2010 Jan 6;11:10.

Nieselt K, Battke F, Herbig A, Bruheim P, Wentzel A, Jakobsen ØM, Sletta H, Alam MT, Merlo ME, Moore J, Omara WA, Morrissey ER, Juarez-Hermosillo MA, Rodríguez-García A, Nentwich M, Thomas L, Iqbal M, Legaie R, Gaze WH, Challis GL, Jansen RC, Dijkhuizen L, Rand DA, Wild DL, Bonin M, Reuther J, Wohlleben W, Smith MC, Burroughs NJ, Martín JF, Hodgson DA, Takano E, Breitling R, Ellingsen TE, Wellington EM.


BACKGROUND: During the lifetime of a fermenter culture, the soil bacterium S. coelicolor undergoes a major metabolic switch from exponential growth to antibiotic production. We have studied gene expression patterns during this switch, using a specifically designed Affymetrix genechip and a high-resolution time-series of fermenter-grown samples.

RESULTS: Surprisingly, we find that the metabolic switch actually consists of multiple finely orchestrated switching events. Strongly coherent clusters of genes show drastic changes in gene expression already many hours before the classically defined transition phase where the switch from primary to secondary metabolism was expected. The main switch in gene expression takes only 2 hours, and changes in antibiotic biosynthesis genes are delayed relative to the metabolic rearrangements. Furthermore, global variation in morphogenesis genes indicates an involvement of cell differentiation pathways in the decision phase leading up to the commitment to antibiotic biosynthesis.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides the first detailed insights into the complex sequence of early regulatory events during and preceding the major metabolic switch in S. coelicolor, which will form the starting point for future attempts at engineering antibiotic production in a biotechnological setting.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:49 | Tags: Student publications

Temporal clustering by affinity propagation reveals transcriptional modules in Arabidopsis thaliana.

Bioinformatics. 2010 Feb 1;26(3):355-62. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btp673. Epub 2009 Dec 8.

Kiddle SJ, Windram OP, McHattie S, Mead A, Beynon J, Buchanan-Wollaston V, Denby KJ, Mukherjee S.


MOTIVATION: Identifying regulatory modules is an important task in the exploratory analysis of gene expression time series data. Clustering algorithms are often used for this purpose. However, gene regulatory events may induce complex temporal features in a gene expression profile, including time delays, inversions and transient correlations, which are not well accounted for by current clustering methods. As the cost of microarray experiments continues to fall, the temporal resolution of time course studies is increasing. This has led to a need to take account of detailed temporal features of this kind. Thus, while standard clustering methods are both widely used and much studied, their shared shortcomings with respect to such temporal features motivates the work presented here.

RESULTS: Here, we introduce a temporal clustering approach for high-dimensional gene expression data which takes account of time delays, inversions and transient correlations. We do so by exploiting a recently introduced, message-passing-based algorithm called Affinity Propagation (AP). We take account of temporal features of interest following an approximate but efficient dynamic programming approach due to Qian et al. The resulting approach is demonstrably effective in its ability to discern non-obvious temporal features, yet efficient and robust enough for routine use as an exploratory tool. We show results on validated transcription factor-target pairs in yeast and on gene expression data from a study of Arabidopsis thaliana under pathogen infection. The latter reveals a number of biologically striking findings.

AVAILABILITY: Matlab code for our method is available at

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:46 | Tags: Student publications

Signatures of adaptation to obligate biotrophy in the Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis genome.

Science. 2010 Dec 10;330(6010):1549-51.

Baxter L, Tripathy S, Ishaque N, Boot N, Cabral A, Kemen E, Thines M, Ah-Fong A, Anderson R, Badejoko W, Bittner-Eddy P, Boore JL, Chibucos MC, Coates M, Dehal P, Delehaunty K, Dong S, Downton P, Dumas B, Fabro G, Fronick C, Fuerstenberg SI, Fulton L, Gaulin E, Govers F, Hughes L, Humphray S, Jiang RH, Judelson H, Kamoun S, Kyung K, Meijer H, Minx P, Morris P, Nelson J, Phuntumart V, Qutob D, Rehmany A, Rougon-Cardoso A, Ryden P, Torto-Alalibo T, Studholme D, Wang Y, Win J, Wood J, Clifton SW, Rogers J, Van den Ackerveken G, Jones JD, McDowell JM, Beynon J, Tyler BM.


Many oomycete and fungal plant pathogens are obligate biotrophs, which extract nutrients only from living plant tissue and cannot grow apart from their hosts. Although these pathogens cause substantial crop losses, little is known about the molecular basis or evolution of obligate biotrophy. Here, we report the genome sequence of the oomycete Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis (Hpa), an obligate biotroph and natural pathogen of Arabidopsis thaliana. In comparison with genomes of related, hemibiotrophic Phytophthora species, the Hpa genome exhibits dramatic reductions in genes encoding (i) RXLR effectors and other secreted pathogenicity proteins, (ii) enzymes for assimilation of inorganic nitrogen and sulfur, and (iii) proteins associated with zoospore formation and motility. These attributes comprise a genomic signature of evolution toward obligate biotrophy.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:44 | Tags: Student publications

High Resolution Tracking of Cell Membrane Dynamics in Moving Cells: an Electrifying Approach

Math Model Nat Phenom 5(1):34-55 (2010)

Tyson RA, Epstein DB, Anderson KI, Bretschneider T.


Cell motility is an integral part of a diverse set of biological processes. The quest for mathematical models of cell motility has prompted the development of automated approaches for gathering quantitative data on cell morphology, and the distribution of molecular players involved in cell motility. Here we review recent approaches for quantifying cell motility, including automated cell segmentation and tracking. Secondly, we present our own novel method for tracking cell boundaries of moving cells, the Electrostatic Contour Migration Method (ECMM), as an alternative to the generally accepted level set method (LSM). ECMM smoothly tracks regions of the cell boundary over time to compute local membrane displacements using the simple underlying concept of electrostatics. It offers substantial speed increases and reduced computational overheads in comparison to the LSM. We conclude with general considerations regarding boundary tracking in the context of mathematical modelling.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:40 | Tags: Student publications

In vitro biosynthesis of bacterial peptidoglycan using D-Cys-containing precursors: fluorescent detection of transglycosylation and transpeptidation.

Chem Commun (Camb). 2009 Jul 21;(27):4037-9. doi: 10.1039/b819869a. Epub 2009 Jun 10.

Vinatier V, Blakey CB, Braddick D, Johnson BR, Evans SD, Bugg TD.


Peptidoglycan precursors containing D-Cys at position 4 were polymerised to form a synthetic peptidoglycan layer, which could be fluorescently labelled, providing a new method to monitor peptidoglycan transglycosylation and transpeptidation.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:28 | Tags: Student publications

A systems biology approach to understanding cis-regulatory module function.

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2009 Sep;20(7):856-62.

Jeziorska DM, Jordan KW, Vance KW.


The genomic instructions used to regulate development are encoded within a set of functional DNA elements called cis-regulatory modules (CRMs). These elements determine the precise patterns of temporal and spatial gene expression. Here we summarize recent progress made towards cataloguing and characterizing the complete repertoire of CRMs. We describe CRMs as genomic information processing devices containing clusters of transcription factor binding sites and we position CRMs as nodes within large gene regulatory networks. We define CRM architecture and describe how these genomic elements process the information they encode to their target genes. Furthermore, we present an overview describing high-throughput techniques to identify CRMs genome wide and experimental methodologies to validate their function on a large scale. This review emphasizes the advantages and power of a systems biology approach which integrates computational and experimental technologies to further our understanding of CRM function.

Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:23 | Tags: Student publications

Evolutionary Analysis of Regulatory Sequences (EARS) in Plants

Plant J. 2010 Oct;64(1):165-76.

Picot E, Krusche P, Tiskin A, Carré I, Ott S.


Identification of regulatory sequences within non-coding regions of DNA is an essential step towards elucidation of gene networks. This constitutes a major challenge, however, as only a very small fraction of non-coding DNA is thought to contribute to gene regulation. The mapping of regulatory regions traditionally involves the laborious construction of deletion series which are then fused to reporter genes and assayed in transgenic organisms. Bioinformatic methods can be used to scan sequences for matches for known regulatory motifs, however these methods are currently hampered by the relatively small amount of such motifs and by a high false-discovery rate. Here, we demonstrate a robust and highly sensitive, in silico method to identify evolutionarily conserved regions within non-coding DNA. Sequence conservation within these regions is taken as evidence for evolutionary pressure against mutations, which is suggestive of functional importance. We test this method on a small set of well-characterised promoters, and show that it successfully identifies known regulatory regions. We further show that these evolutionarily conserved sequences contain clusters of transcription binding sites, often described as regulatory modules. A version of the tool optimised for the analysis of plant promoters is available online at

Thu 19 Aug 2010, 12:31 | Tags: Student publications