Plenary Talk: Modeling strategy based on Petri-nets @ Sathyam Hall
Aug 13 @ 9:20 am – 10:00 am

jaapJaap Heringa, Ph.D.
Director & Professor of Bioinformatics, IBIVU VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Modeling strategy based on Petri-nets

In my talk I will introduce a formal modeling strategy based on Petri-nets, which are a convenient means of modeling biological processes. I will illustrate the capabilities of Petri-nets as reasoning vehicles using two examples: Haematopoietic stem cell differentiation in mice, and vulval development in C. elegance. The first system was modeled using a Boolean implementation, and the second using a coarse-grained multi-cellular Petri-net model. Concepts such as the model state space,  attractor states, and reasoning to adapt the model to the biological reality will be discussed.

Plenary Talk: Biosensor and Single Cell Manipulation using Nanopipettes @ Amriteshwari Hall
Aug 13 @ 10:06 am – 10:49 am

NaderNader Pourmand, Ph.D.
Director, UCSC Genome Technology Center,University of California, Santa Cruz

Biosensor and Single Cell Manipulation using Nanopipettes

Approaching sub-cellular biological problems from an engineering perspective begs for the incorporation of electronic readouts. With their high sensitivity and low invasiveness, nanotechnology-based tools hold great promise for biochemical sensing and single-cell manipulation. During my talk I will discuss the incorporation of electrical measurements into nanopipette technology and present results showing the rapid and reversible response of these subcellular sensors  to different analytes such as antigens, ions and carbohydrates. In addition, I will present the development of a single-cell manipulation platform that uses a nanopipette in a scanning ion-conductive microscopy technique. We use this newly developed technology to position the nanopipette with nanoscale precision, and to inject and/or aspirate a minute amount of material to and from individual cells or organelle without comprising cell viability. Furthermore, if time permits, I will show our strategy for a new, single-cell DNA/ RNA sequencing technology that will potentially use nanopipette technology to analyze the minute amount of aspirated cellular material.

Invited Talk: Regulation of the MHC complex and HLA solubilisation by the Flavivirus, Japanese Encephalitis Virus @ Acharya Hall
Aug 13 @ 12:13 pm – 12:40 pm

ManjunathR. Manjunath, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, India


Viral encephalitis caused by Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease that is prevalent in different parts of India and other parts of South East Asia. JEV is a positive single stranded RNA virus that belongs to the Flavivirus genus of the family Flaviviridae. The genome of JEV is about 11 kb long and codes for a polyprotein which is cleaved by both host and viral encoded proteases to form 3 structural and 7 non-structural proteins. It is a neurotropic virus which infects the central nervous system (CNS) and causes death predominantly in newborn children and young adults. JEV follows a zoonotic life-cycle involving mosquitoes and vertebrate, chiefly pigs and ardeid birds, as amplifying hosts. Humans are infected when bitten by an infected mosquito and are dead end hosts. Its structural, pathological, immunological and epidemiological aspects have been well studied. After entry into the host following a mosquito bite, JEV infection leads to acute peripheral neutrophil leucocytosis in the brain and leads to elevated levels of type I interferon, macrophage-derived chemotactic factor, RANTES,TNF-α and IL-8 in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid.

Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules play a very important role in adaptive immune responses. Along with various classical MHC class I molecules, other non-classical MHC class I molecules play an important role in modulating innate immune responses. Our lab has shown the activation of cytotoxic T-cells (CTLs) during JEV infection and CTLs recognize non-self peptides presented on MHC molecules and provide protection by eliminating infected cells. However, along with proinflammatory cytokines such as TNFα, they may also cause immunopathology within the JEV infected brain. Both JEV and WNV, another related flavivirus have been shown to increase MHC class I expression. Infection of human foreskin fibroblast cells (HFF) by WNV results in upregulation of HLA expression. Data from our lab has also shown that JEV infection upregulates classical as well as nonclassical (class Ib) MHC antigen expression on the surface of primary mouse brain astrocytes and mouse embryonic fibroblasts.

There are no reports that have discussed the expression of these molecules on other cells like endothelial and astrocyte that play an important role in viral invasion in humans. We have studied the expression of human classical class I molecules HLA-A, -B, -C and the non-classical HLA molecules, HLA-E as well as HLA-F in immortalized human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC), human endothelial cell line (ECV304), human glioblastoma cell line (U87MG) and human foreskin fibroblast cells (HFF). Nonclassical MHC molecules such as mouse Qa-1b and its human homologue, HLA-E have been shown to be the ligand for the inhibitory NK receptor, NKG2A/CD94 and may bridge innate and adaptive immune responses. We show that JEV infection of HBMEC and ECV 304 cells upregulates the expression of HLA-A, and –B antigens as well as HLA-E and HLA-F. Increased expression of total HLA-E upon JEV infection was also observed in other human cell lines as well like, human amniotic epithelial cells, AV-3, FL and WISH cells. Further, we show for the first time that soluble HLA-E (sHLA-E) was released from infected ECV and HBMECs. In contrast, HFF cells showed only upregulation of cell-surface HLA-E expression while U87MG, a human glioblastoma cell line neither showed any cell-surface induction nor its solubilization. This shedding of sHLA-E was found to be dependent on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) and an important MMP, MMP-9 was upregulated during JEV infection. Treatment with IFNγ resulted in the shedding of sHLA-E from ECV as well as U87MG but not from HFF cells. Also, sHLA-E was shed upon treatment with IFNβ and both IFNβ and TNFα, when present together caused an additive increase in the shedding of sHLA-E. HLA-E is an inhibitory ligand for CD94/NKG2A receptor of Natural Killer cells. Thus, MMP mediated solubilization of HLA-E from infected endothelial cells may have important implications in JEV pathogenesis including its ability to compromise the blood brain barrier.

Manjunath (2)

Invited Talk: Targeting aberrant cancer kinome using rationally designed nano-polypharmaceutics @ Acharya Hall
Aug 13 @ 2:05 pm – 2:29 pm

ManzoorManzoor K, Ph.D.
Professor, Centre for Nanoscience & Molecular Medicine, Amrita University

Targeting aberrant cancer kinome using rationally designed nano-polypharmaceutics

Manzoor Koyakutty, Archana Ratnakumary, Parwathy Chandran, Anusha Ashokan, and Shanti Nair

`War on Cancer’ was declared nearly 40 years ago. Since then, we made significant progress on fundamental understanding of cancer and developed novel therapeutics to deal with the most complex disease human race ever faced with. However, even today, cancer remains to be the unconquered `emperor of all maladies’. It is well accepted that meaningful progress in the fight against cancer is possible only with in-depth understanding on the molecular mechanisms that drives its swift and dynamic progression. During the last decade, emerging new technologies such as nanomedicine could offer refreshing life to the `war on cancer’ by way of providing novel methods for molecular diagnosis and therapy.

In the present talk, we discuss our approaches to target critically aberrant cancer kinases using rationally designed polymer-protein and protein-protein core-shell nanomedicines. We have used both genomic and proteomic approaches to identify many intimately cross-linked and complex aberrant protein kinases behind the drug resistance and uncontrolled proliferation of refractory leukemic cells derived from patients. Small molecule inhibitors targeted against oncogenic pathways in these cells were found ineffective due to the involvement of alternative survival pathways. This demands simultaneous inhibition more than one oncogenic kinases using poly-pharmaceutics approach. For this, we have rationally designed core-shell nanomedicines that can deliver several small molecules together for targeting multiple cancer signalling. We have also used combination of small molecules and siRNA for combined gene silencing together with protein kinase inhibition in refractory cancer cells. Optimized nanomedicines were successfully tested in patient samples and found enhanced cytotoxicity and molecular specificity in drug resistant cases.

Nano-polypharmaceutics represents a new generation of nanomedicines that can tackle multiple cancer mechanisms simultaneously. Considering the complexity of the disease, such therapeutic approaches are not simply an advantage, but indispensable.

We thank Dept. of Biotechnology and Dept. Of Science and Technology,Govt. of India for the financial support through `Thematic unit of Excellence in Medical NanoBiotechnology’ and `Nanomedicine- RNAi programs’.


Invited Talk: Probing Estrogen Receptor – Tumor Suppressor p53 Interaction in Cancer: From Basic Research to Clinical Trial @ Acharya Hall
Aug 13 @ 3:26 pm – 3:57 pm

gokuldasGokul Das, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Breast Disease Site Research Group, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Probing Estrogen Receptor−Tumor Suppressor p53 Interaction in Cancer: From Basic Research to Clinical Trial

Tumor suppressor p53 and estrogen receptor have opposite roles in the onset and progression of breast cancer. p53 responds to a variety of cellular of stresses by restricting the proliferation and survival of abnormal cells. Estrogen receptor plays an important role in normal mammary gland development and the preservation of adult mammary gland function; however, when deregulated it becomes abnormally pro-proliferative and greatly contributes to breast tumorigenesis. The biological actions of estrogens are mediated by two genetically distinct estrogen receptors (ERs): ER alpha and ER beta. In addition to its expression in several ER alpha-positive breast cancers and normal mammary cells, ER beta is usually present in ER alpha-negative cancers including triple-negative breast cancer. In spite of genetically being wild type, why p53 is functionally debilitated in breast cancer has remained unclear. Our recent finding that ER alpha binds directly to p53 and inhibits its function has provided a novel mechanism for inactivating genetically wild type p53 in human cancer. Using a combination of proliferation and apoptosis assays, RNAi technology, quantitative chromatin immunoprecipitation (qChIP), and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR), in situ proximity ligation assay (PLA), and protein expression analysis in patient tissue micro array (TMA), we have demonstrated binding of ER alpha to p53 and have delineated the domains on both the proteins necessary for the interaction. Importantly, ionizing radiation inhibits the ER-p53 interaction in vivo both in human cancer cells and human breast tumor xenografts in mice. In addition, antiestrogenstamoxifen and faslodex/fulvestrant (ICI 182780) disrupt the ER-p53 interaction and counteract the repressive effect of ER alpha on p53, whereas 17β-estradiol (E2) enhances the interaction. Intriguingly, E2 has diametrically opposite effects on corepressor recruitment to a p53-target gene promoter versus a prototypic ERE-containing promoter. Thus, we have uncovered a novel mechanism by which estrogen could be providing a strong proliferative advantage to cells by dual mechanisms: enhancing expression of ERE-containing pro-proliferative genes while at the same time inhibiting transcription of p53-dependent anti-proliferative genes. Consistently, ER alpha enhances cell cycle progression and inhibits apoptosis of breast cancer cells. Correlating with these observations, our retrospective clinical study shows that presence of wild type p53 in ER-positive breast tumors is associated with better response to tamoxifen therapy. These data suggest ER alpha-p53 interaction could be one of the mechanisms underlying resistance to tamoxifen therapy, a major clinical challenge encountered in breast cancer patients. We have launched a prospective clinical trial to analyze ER-p53 interaction in breast cancer patient tumors at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Our more recent finding that ER beta has opposite functions depending on the mutational status of p53 in breast cancer cells is significant in understanding the hard-to-treat triple-negative breast cancer and in developing novel therapeutic strategies against it. Our integrated approach to analyze ER-p53 interaction at the basic, translational, and clinical research levels has major implications in the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of breast cancer.