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    ABSTRACT: The fields of metallic nanoparticle study and synthetic biology have a great deal to offer one another. Metallic nanoparticles as a class of material have many useful properties. Their small size allows for more points of contact than would be the case with a similar bulk compound, making nanoparticles excellent candidates for catalysts or for when increased levels of binding are required. Some nanoparticles have unique optical qualities, making them well suited as sensors, while others display para-magnetism, useful in medical imaging, especially by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Many of these metallic nanoparticles could be used in creating tools for synthetic biology, and conversely the use of synthetic biology could itself be utilised to create nanoparticle tools. Examples given here include the potential use of quantum dots (QDs) and gold nanoparticles as sensing mechanisms in synthetic biology, as well as ways of using synthetic biology to create ways of sensing metal nanoparticles based on current methods of detecting metals and metalloids such as arsenate. There are a number of organisms which are able to produce a range of metallic nanoparticles naturally, such as species of the fungus Phoma which produces anti-microbial silver nanoparticles. The Biological synthesis of nanoparticles may have many advantages over their more traditional industrial synthesis. If the proteins involved in biological nanoparticle synthesis can be put into a suitable bacterial chassis then they might be manipulated and the pathways engineered in order to produce more valuable nanoparticles.
    New Biotechnology 12/2014; 31(6). DOI:10.1016/j.nbt.2014.03.004
  • New Biotechnology 07/2014; 31:S15. DOI:10.1016/j.nbt.2014.05.1646
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    ABSTRACT: Thymic involution is central to the decline in immune system function that occurs with age. By regenerating the thymus, it may therefore be possible to improve the ability of the aged immune system to respond to novel antigens. Recently, diminished expression of the thymic epithelial cell (TEC)-specific transcription factor Forkhead box N1 (FOXN1) has been implicated as a component of the mechanism regulating age-related involution. The effects of upregulating FOXN1 function in the aged thymus are, however, unknown. Here, we show that forced, TEC-specific upregulation of FOXN1 in the fully involuted thymus of aged mice results in robust thymus regeneration characterized by increased thymopoiesis and increased naive T cell output. We demonstrate that the regenerated organ closely resembles the juvenile thymus in terms of architecture and gene expression profile, and further show that this FOXN1-mediated regeneration stems from an enlarged TEC compartment, rebuilt from progenitor TECs. Collectively, our data establish that upregulation of a single transcription factor can substantially reverse age-related thymic involution, identifying FOXN1 as a specific target for improving thymus function and, thus, immune competence in patients. More widely, they demonstrate that organ regeneration in an aged mammal can be directed by manipulation of a single transcription factor, providing a provocative paradigm that may be of broad impact for regenerative biology.
    Development 04/2014; 141(8):1627-37. DOI:10.1242/dev.103614
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    ABSTRACT: In the past one hundred years, deterministic rate equations have been successfully used to infer enzyme-catalysed reaction mechanisms and to estimate rate constants from reaction kinetics experiments conducted in vitro. In recent years, sophisticated experimental techniques have been developed that allow the measurement of enzyme- catalysed and other biopolymer-mediated reactions inside single cells at the single molecule level. Time course data obtained by these methods are considerably noisy because molecule numbers within cells are typically quite small. As a consequence, the interpretation and analysis of single cell data requires stochastic methods, rather than deterministic rate equations. Here we concisely review both experimental and theoretical techniques which enable single molecule analysis with particular emphasis on the major developments in the field of theoretical stochastic enzyme kinetics, from its inception in the mid-twentieth century to its modern day status. We discuss the differences between stochastic and deterministic rate equation models, how these depend on enzyme molecule numbers and substrate inflow into the reaction compartment and how estimation of rate constants from single cell data is possible using recently developed stochastic approaches.
    FEBS Journal 01/2014; 281:518. DOI:10.1111/febs.12663
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    ABSTRACT: To characterise carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) isolated in Singapore. Carbapenemase genes and their flanking regions were amplified and sequenced by PCR. Isolates were typed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multi-locus sequence typing. Plasmids bearing carbapenemase genes were sized by S1 nuclease digestion, Southern blotting, and DNA hybridisation with appropriate probes. Transfer of these plasmids was attempted by conjugation and transformation. Successfully transferred plasmids were characterised by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) replicon typing and restriction digestion. Isolates of Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Enterobacter cloacae and Citrobacter species carried a variety of carbapenemase genes including blaIMP-1, blaIMP-4, blaNDM-1, blaNDM-7, blaOXA-181, blaOXA-48 and blaKPC-2. Apart from K. pneumoniae with blaOXA-181, and some K. pneumoniae with blaNDM-1, the other isolates were not clonal. However there appears to be some spread of plasmids with blaIMP-1, blaNDM-1,blaKPC-2, and blaOXA-48. The number of isolates of CRE has increased in Singapore, especially since 2010. There is a diversity of carbapenemase types that reflects the geographical proximity of other countries with CRE.
    Pathology 09/2013; 45. DOI:10.1097/PAT.0b013e3283650b1e
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    ABSTRACT: Viability of the tsetse fly-transmitted African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei depends on maintenance and expression of its kinetoplast (kDNA), the mitochondrial genome of this parasite and a putative target for veterinary and human antitrypanosomatid drugs. However, the closely related animal pathogens T. evansi and T. equiperdum are transmitted independently of tsetse flies and survive without a functional kinetoplast for reasons that have remained unclear. Here, we provide definitive evidence that single amino acid changes in the nuclearly encoded F1FO-ATPase subunit γ can compensate for complete physical loss of kDNA in these parasites. Our results provide insight into the molecular mechanism of compensation for kDNA loss by showing FO-independent generation of the mitochondrial membrane potential with increased dependence on the ADP/ATP carrier. Our findings also suggest that, in the pathogenic bloodstream stage of T. brucei, the huge and energetically demanding apparatus required for kDNA maintenance and expression serves the production of a single F1FO-ATPase subunit. These results have important implications for drug discovery and our understanding of the evolution of these parasites.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2013; 110(36). DOI:10.1073/pnas.1305404110
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    ABSTRACT: Experiments show that proteins are translated in sharp bursts; similar bursty phenomena have been observed for protein import into compartments. Here we investigate the effect of burstiness in protein expression and import on the stochastic properties of downstream pathways. We consider two identical pathways with equal mean input rates, except in one pathway proteins are input one at a time and in the other proteins are input in bursts. Deterministically the dynamics of these two pathways are indistinguishable. However the stochastic behavior falls in three categories: (i) both pathways display or do not display noise-induced oscillations; (ii) the non-bursty input pathway displays noise-induced oscillations whereas the bursty one does not; (iii) the reverse of (ii). We derive necessary conditions for these three cases to classify systems involving autocatalysis, trimerization and genetic feedback loops. Our results suggest that single cell rhythms can be controlled by regulation of burstiness in protein production.
    Scientific Reports 08/2013; 3:2438. DOI:10.1038/srep02438
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding why pathogen populations are genetically variable is vital because genetic variation fuels evolution, which often hampers disease control efforts. Here I argue that classical models of evolution in spatially variable environments - specifically, models of hard and soft selection - provide a useful framework to understand the maintenance of pathogen polymorphism and the evolution of virulence. First, the similarities between models of hard and soft selection and pathogen life cycles are described, highlighting how the type and timing of pathogen control measures impose density regulation that may affect both the level of pathogen polymorphism and virulence. The article concludes with an outline of potential lines of future theoretical and experimental work.
    Trends in Parasitology 08/2013; 29(9). DOI:10.1016/j.pt.2013.07.002
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    ABSTRACT: A class of theoretical models seeks to explain rhythmic single cell data by postulating that they are generated by intrinsic noise in biochemical systems whose deterministic models exhibit only damped oscillations. The main features of such noise-induced oscillations are quantified by the power spectrum which measures the dependence of the oscillatory signal's power with frequency. In this paper we derive an approximate closed-form expression for the power spectrum of any monostable biochemical system close to a Hopf bifurcation, where noise-induced oscillations are most pronounced. Unlike the commonly used linear noise approximation which is valid in the macroscopic limit of large volumes, our theory is valid over a wide range of volumes and hence affords a more suitable description of single cell noise-induced oscillations. Our theory predicts that the spectra have three universal features: (i) a dominant peak at some frequency, (ii) a smaller peak at twice the frequency of the dominant peak and (iii) a peak at zero frequency. Of these, the linear noise approximation predicts only the first feature while the remaining two stem from the combination of intrinsic noise and nonlinearity in the law of mass action. The theoretical expressions are shown to accurately match the power spectra determined from stochastic simulations of mitotic and circadian oscillators. Furthermore it is shown how recently acquired single cell rhythmic fibroblast data displays all the features predicted by our theory and that the experimental spectrum is well described by our theory but not by the conventional linear noise approximation.
    Journal of Theoretical Biology 07/2013; 335. DOI:10.1016/j.jtbi.2013.06.021
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    ABSTRACT: It is well known that internal or molecular noise induces concentration oscillations in chemical systems whose deterministic models exhibit damped oscillations. In this article we show, using the linear-noise approximation of the chemical master equation, that noise can also induce oscillations in systems whose deterministic descriptions admit no damped oscillations, i.e., systems with a stable node. This non-intuitive phenomenon is remarkable since, unlike noise-induced oscillations in systems with damped deterministic oscillations, it cannot be explained by noise excitation of the deterministic resonant frequency of the system. We here prove the following general properties of stable-node noise-induced oscillations for systems with two species: (i) the upper bound of their frequency is given by the geometric mean of the real eigenvalues of the Jacobian of the system, (ii) the upper bound of the Q-factor of the oscillations is inversely proportional to the distance between the real eigenvalues of the Jacobian, and (iii) these oscillations are not necessarily exhibited by all interacting chemical species in the system. The existence and properties of stable-node oscillations are verified by stochastic simulations of the Brusselator, a cascade Brusselator reaction system, and two other simple chemical systems involving auto-catalysis and trimerization. It is also shown how external noise induces stable node oscillations with different properties than those stimulated by internal noise.
    The Journal of Chemical Physics 02/2013; 138(5):055101. DOI:10.1063/1.4788979
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