Rohit Manchanda, Ph.D.
Professor, Biomedical Engineering Group, IIT-Bombay, India
Modelling the syncytial organization and neural control of smooth muscle: insights into autonomic physiology and pharmacology
We have been studying computationally the syncytial organization and neural control of smooth muscle in order to help explain certain puzzling findings thrown up by experimental work. This relates in particular to electrical signals generated in smooth muscles, such as synaptic potentials and spikes, and how these are explicable only if three-dimensional syncytial biophysics are taken fully into account. In this talk, I shall provide an illustration of outcomes and insights gleaned from such an approach. I shall first describe our work on the mammalian vas deferens, in which an analysis of the effects of syncytial coupling led us to conclude that the experimental effects of a presumptive gap junction uncoupler, heptanol, on synaptic potentials were incompatible with gap junctional block and could best be explained by a heptanol-induced inhibition of neurotransmitter release, thus compelling a reinterpretation of the mechanism of action of this agent. I shall outline the various lines of evidence, based on indices of syncytial function, that we adduced in order to reach this conclusion. We have now moved on to our current focus on urinary bladder biophysics, where the questions we aim to address are to do with mechanisms of spike generation. Smooth muscle cells in the bladder exhibit spontaneous spiking and spikes occur in a variety of distinct shapes, making their generation problematic to explain. We believe that the variety in shapes may owe less to intrinsic differences in spike mechanism (i.e., in the complement of ion channels participating in spike production) and more to features imposed by syncytial biophysics. We focus especially on the modulation of spike shape in a 3-D coupled network by such factors as innervation pattern, propagation in a syncytium, electrically finite bundles within and between which the spikes spread, and some degree of pacemaker activity by a sub-population of the cells. I shall report two streams of work that we have done, and the tentative conclusions these have enabled us to reach: (a) using the NEURON environment, to construct the smooth muscle syncytium and endow it with synaptic drive, and (b) using signal-processing approaches, towards sorting and classifying the experimentally recorded spikes.
Kal Ramnarayan, Ph.D.
Co-founder President & Chief Scientific Officer, Sapient Discovery, San Diego, CA, USA
A cost-effective approach to Protein Structure-guided Drug Discovery: Aided by Bioinformatics, Chemoinformatics and computational chemistry
With the mapping of the human genome completed almost a decade ago, efforts are still underway to understand the gene products (i.e., proteins) in the human biological and disease pathways. Deciphering such information is very important for the discovery and development of small molecule drugs as well as protein therapeutics for various human diseases for which no cure exists. As an example, with more than 500 members, the kinase family of protein targets continues to be an important and attractive class for drug discovery. While how many of the members in this family are actually druggable is still to be established, there are several ongoing efforts on this class of proteins across a broad spectrum of disease categories. Even though in general the protein structural topology might looks similar, there are issues with respect selectivity of identified small molecule inhibitors when, the lead molecule discovery is carried out at the ATP binding site. As an added complexity, allosteric modulators are needed for some of the members, but the actual site for such modulation on the protein target can not resolved with uncertainty. In this presentation we will describe a bioinformatics and computational based platform for small molecule discovery for protein targets that are involved in protein-protein interactions as well as targets like kinases and phosphatases. We will describe a computational approach in which we have used an informatics based platform with several hundred kinases to sort through in silico and identify inhibitors that are likely to be highly selective in the lead generation phase. We will discuss the implication of this approach on the drug discovery of the kinase and phosphatase classes in general and independent of the disease category.
V. Nagaraja Ph.D.
Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, India
Perturbation of DNA topology in mycobacteria
To maintain the topological homeostasis of the genome in the cell, DNA topoisomerases catalyse DNA cleavage, strand passage and rejoining of the ends. Thus, although they are essential house- keeping enzymes, they are the most vulnerable targets; arrest of the reaction after the first trans-esterification step leads to breaks in DNA and cell death. Some of the successful antibacterial or anticancer drugs target the step ie arrest the reaction or stabilize the topo -DNA covalent complex. I will describe our efforts in this direction – to target DNA gyrase and also topoisomerase1 from mycobacteria. The latter, although essential, has no inhibitors described so far. The new inhibitors being characterized are also used to probe topoisomerase control of gene expression.
In the biological warfare between the organisms, a diverse set of molecules encoded by invading genomes target the above mentioned most vulnerable step of topoisomerase reaction, leading to the accumulation of double strand breaks. Bacteria, on their part appear to have developed defense strategies to protect the cells from genomic double strand breaks. I will describe a mechanism involving three distinct gyrase interacting proteins which inhibit the enzyme in vitro. However, in vivo all these topology modulators protect DNA gyrase from poisoning effect by sequestering the enzyme away from DNA.
Next, we have targeted a topology modulator protein, a nucleoid associated protein(NAP) from Mycobacterium tuberculosis to develop small molecule inhibitors by structure based design. Over expression of HU leads to alteration in the nucleoid architecture. The crystal structure of the N-terminal half of HU reveals a cleft that accommodates duplex DNA. Based on the structural feature, we have designed inhibitors which bind to the protein and affect its interaction with DNA, de-compact the nucleoid and inhibit cell growth. Chemical probing with the inhibitors reveal the importance of HU regulon in M.tuberculosis.
Sukhithasri V, Nisha N, Vivek V and Raja Biswas
The host innate immune system acts as the first line of defense against invading pathogens. During an infection, the host innate immune cells recognize unique conserved molecules on the pathogen known as Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs). This recognition of PAMPs helps the host mount an innate immune response leading to the production of cytokines (Akira et al. 2006). Peptidoglycan, one of the most conserved and essential component of the bacterial cell wall is one such PAMP. Peptidoglycan is known to have potent proinflammatory properties (Gust et al. 2007). Host recognize peptidoglycan using Nucleotide oligomerization domain proteins (NODs). This recognition of peptidoglycan activates the NODs and triggers downstream signaling leading to the nuclear translocation of NF-ÎºB and production of cytokines (McDonald et al. 2005). Pathogenic bacteria modify their peptidoglycan as a strategy to evade innate immune recognition, which helps it to establish infection in the host. These peptidoglycan modifications include O-acetylation and N-glycolylation of muramic acid and N-deacetylation of N-acetylglucosamine (Davis et al. 2011). Modification of mycobacterial peptidoglycan by N-glycolylation prevents the catalytic activity of lysozyme (Raymond et al. 2005). Additionally, mycobacterial peptidoglycan is modified by amidation for unknown reasons.
Here, we have investigated the role of amidated peptidoglycan in Mycobacterium sp in modulating the innate immune response. We isolated amidated peptidoglycan from Mycobacterium sp and non-amidated peptidoglycan from Escherichia coli. We made a comparative analysis of the cytokine response produced on stimulation of innate immune cells by peptidoglycan from E. Coli and Mycobacterium sp. Macrophages and whole blood were treated with peptidoglycan and the cytokines secreted into spent medium and plasma respectively were analyzed using ELISA. Our results show that peptidoglycan from Mycobacterium sp is less effective in stimulating innate immune cells to produce cytokines. This intrinsic modulation of the cytokine response suggests that mycobacteria modify their peptidoglycan by amidation to evade innate immune response.