D F Cully

Merck, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, United States

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Publications (26)202.4 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Emergence of bacterial resistance is a major issue for all classes of antibiotics; therefore, the identification of new classes is critically needed. Recently we reported the discovery of platensimycin by screening natural product extracts using a target-based whole-cell strategy with antisense silencing technology in concert with cell free biochemical validations. Continued screening efforts led to the discovery of platencin, a novel natural product that is chemically and biologically related but different from platensimycin. Platencin exhibits a broad-spectrum Gram-positive antibacterial activity through inhibition of fatty acid biosynthesis. It does not exhibit cross-resistance to key antibiotic resistant strains tested, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-intermediate S. aureus, and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci. Platencin shows potent in vivo efficacy without any observed toxicity. It targets two essential proteins, beta-ketoacyl-[acyl carrier protein (ACP)] synthase II (FabF) and III (FabH) with IC50 values of 1.95 and 3.91 microg/ml, respectively, whereas platensimycin targets only FabF (IC50 = 0.13 microg/ml) in S. aureus, emphasizing the fact that more antibiotics with novel structures and new modes of action can be discovered by using this antisense differential sensitivity whole-cell screening paradigm.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2007; 104(18):7612-6. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bacterial infection remains a serious threat to human lives because of emerging resistance to existing antibiotics. Although the scientific community has avidly pursued the discovery of new antibiotics that interact with new targets, these efforts have met with limited success since the early 1960s. Here we report the discovery of platensimycin, a previously unknown class of antibiotics produced by Streptomyces platensis. Platensimycin demonstrates strong, broad-spectrum Gram-positive antibacterial activity by selectively inhibiting cellular lipid biosynthesis. We show that this anti-bacterial effect is exerted through the selective targeting of beta-ketoacyl-(acyl-carrier-protein (ACP)) synthase I/II (FabF/B) in the synthetic pathway of fatty acids. Direct binding assays show that platensimycin interacts specifically with the acyl-enzyme intermediate of the target protein, and X-ray crystallographic studies reveal that a specific conformational change that occurs on acylation must take place before the inhibitor can bind. Treatment with platensimycin eradicates Staphylococcus aureus infection in mice. Because of its unique mode of action, platensimycin shows no cross-resistance to other key antibiotic-resistant strains tested, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus, vancomycin-intermediate S. aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci. Platensimycin is the most potent inhibitor reported for the FabF/B condensing enzymes, and is the only inhibitor of these targets that shows broad-spectrum activity, in vivo efficacy and no observed toxicity.
    Nature 06/2006; 441(7091):358-61. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Condensing enzymes are essential in type II fatty acid synthesis and are promising targets for antibacterial drug discovery. Recently, a new approach using a xylose-inducible plasmid to express antisense RNA in Staphylococcus aureus has been described; however, the actual mechanism was not delineated. In this paper, the mechanism of decreased target protein production by expression of antisense RNA was investigated using Northern blotting. This revealed that the antisense RNA acts posttranscriptionally by targeting mRNA, leading to 5' mRNA degradation. Using this technology, a two-plate assay was developed in order to identify FabF/FabH target-specific cell-permeable inhibitors by screening of natural product extracts. Over 250,000 natural product fermentation broths were screened and then confirmed in biochemical assays, yielding a hit rate of 0.1%. All known natural product FabH and FabF inhibitors, including cerulenin, thiolactomycin, thiotetromycin, and Tü3010, were discovered using this whole-cell mechanism-based screening approach. Phomallenic acids, which are new inhibitors of FabF, were also discovered. These new inhibitors exhibited target selectivity in the gel elongation assay and in the whole-cell-based two-plate assay. Phomallenic acid C showed good antibacterial activity, about 20-fold better than that of thiolactomycin and cerulenin, against S. aureus. It exhibited a spectrum of antibacterial activity against clinically important pathogens including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and Haemophilus influenzae.
    Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 03/2006; 50(2):519-26. · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Invertebrate glutamate-gated chloride channels (GluCls) are important targets for anthelmintics and insecticides such as ivermectin. To facilitate screening for novel GluCl modulators, the Caenorhabditis elegans GluCl alpha2beta channel was chosen as a surrogate for parasite channels not yet cloned, and an inducible stable human embryonic kidney cell line was generated. Functional expression of the alpha2 and beta subunits was confirmed by whole-cell voltage clamp assays. Using this cell line, a high-throughput assay was developed that detects membrane potential changes associated with the activation of GluCls. In this assay, membrane depolarization was quantified via changes in fluorescence resonance energy transfer between two membrane-associated dyes. Robust and reproducible signals were detected in response to addition of glutamate or ivermectin. This assay was used for the screening of over 180,000 samples from natural and synthetic sources.
    Assay and Drug Development Technologies 03/2005; 3(1):59-64. · 1.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Type II fatty acid synthesis (FASII) is essential to bacterial cell viability and is a promising target for the development of novel antibiotics. In the past decade, a few inhibitors have been identified for this pathway, but none of them lend themselves to drug development. To find better inhibitors that are potential drug candidates, we developed a high throughput assay that identifies inhibitors simultaneously against multiple targets within the FASII pathway of most bacterial pathogens. We demonstrated that the inverse t(1/2) value of the FASII enzyme-catalyzed reaction gives a measure of FASII activity. The Km values of octanoyl-CoA and lauroyl-CoA were determined to be 1.1 +/- 0.3 and 10 +/- 2.7 microM in Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis, respectively. The effects of free metals and reducing agents on enzyme activity showed an inhibition hierarchy of Zn2+ > Ca2+ > Mn2+ > Mg2+; no inhibition was found with beta-mercaptoethanol or dithiothreitol. We used this assay to screen the natural product libraries and isolated an inhibitor, bischloroanthrabenzoxocinone (BABX) with a new structure. BABX showed IC50 values of 11.4 and 35.3 microg/ml in the S. aureus and Escherichia coli FASII assays, respectively, and good antibacterial activities against S. aureus and permeable E. coli strains with minimum inhibitory concentrations ranging from 0.2 to 0.4 microg/ml. Furthermore, the effectiveness, selectivity, and the in vitro and in vivo correlations of BABX as well as other fatty acid inhibitors were elucidated, which will aid in future drug discovery.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 02/2005; 280(2):1669-77. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The emergence of bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a major health problem and, therefore, it is critical to develop new antibiotics with novel modes of action. FtsZ, a tubulin-like GTPase, plays an essential role in bacterial cell division, and its homologs are present in almost all eubacteria and archaea. During cell division, FtsZ forms polymers in the presence of GTP that recruit other division proteins to make the cell division apparatus. Therefore, inhibition of FtsZ polymerization will prevent cells from dividing, leading to cell death. Using a fluorescent FtsZ polymerization assay, the screening of >100,000 extracts of microbial fermentation broths and plants followed by fractionation led to the identification of viriditoxin, which blocked FtsZ polymerization with an IC50 of 8.2 microg/ml and concomitant GTPase inhibition with an IC50 of 7.0 microg/ml. That the mode of antibacterial action of viriditoxin is via inhibition of FtsZ was confirmed by the observation of its effects on cell morphology, macromolecular synthesis, DNA-damage response, and increased minimum inhibitory concentration as a result of an increase in the expression of the FtsZ protein. Viriditoxin exhibited broad-spectrum antibacterial activity against clinically relevant Gram-positive pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci, without affecting the viability of eukaryotic cells.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 11/2003; 278(45):44424-8. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The American dog tick Dermacentor variabilis is a major transmitter of bacterial and viral pathogens in human and animal populations, and compounds active against this species would benefit both human and animal health. Invertebrate GABA-gated chloride channels are validated targets of commonly used insecticides and acaricides. We cloned a novel member of the invertebrate GABA-gated chloride channel gene family from Dermacentor variabilis, RdlDv. The closest homologue of the predicted gene product of RdlDv is the RDL protein encoded by the GABA-gated chloride channel gene Drosophila Rdl (Resistance to Dieldrin), with which it shares 64% amino acid identity. When expressed in Xenopus oocytes, RdlDv produces GABA-activated currents blocked by the known insecticides and RDL antagonists fipronil and picrotoxinin. These results suggest that RdlDv encodes a GABA-gated chloride channel subunit, making it a potential target for compounds active against the tick D. variabilis.
    Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 07/2003; 33(6):595-9. · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: 35S-labeled derivatives of the insecticides nodulisporic acid and ivermectin were synthesized and demonstrated to bind with high affinity to a population of receptors in Drosophila head membranes that were previously shown to be associated with a glutamate-gated chloride channel. Nodulisporic acid binding was modeled as binding to a single population of receptors. Ivermectin binding was composed of at least two kinetically distinct receptor populations, only one of which was associated with nodulisporic acid binding. The binding of these two ligands was modulated by glutamate, ivermectin, and antagonists of invertebrate gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic receptors. Because solubilized nodulisporic acid and ivermectin receptors comigrated as 230-kDa complexes by gel filtration, antisera specific for both the Drosophila glutamate-gated chloride channel subunit GluCl alpha (DmGluCl alpha) and the GABA-gated chloride channel subunit Rdl (DmRdl) proteins were generated and used to examine the possible coassembly of these two subunits within a single receptor complex. DmGluCl alpha antibodies immunoprecipitated all of the ivermectin and nodulisporic acid receptors solubilized by detergent from Drosophila head membranes. DmRdl antibodies also immunoprecipitated all solubilized nodulisporic receptors, but only approximately 70% of the ivermectin receptors. These data suggest that both DmGluCl alpha and DmRdl are components of nodulisporic acid and ivermectin receptors, and that there also exists a distinct class of ivermectin receptors that contains the DmGluCl alpha subunit but not the DmRdl subunit. This co-association of DmGluCl alpha and DmRdl represents the first biochemical and immunological evidence of coassembly of subunits from two different subclasses of ligand-gated ion channel subunits.
    Biochemistry 06/2002; 41(20):6548-60. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Histamine has been shown to play a role in arthropod vision; it is the major neurotransmitter of arthropod photoreceptors. Histamine-gated chloride channels have been identified in insect optic lobes. We report the first isolation of cDNA clones encoding histamine-gated chloride channel subunits from the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The encoded proteins, HisCl1 and HisCl2, share 60% amino acid identity with each other. The closest structural homologue is the human glycine alpha3 receptor, which shares 45 and 43% amino acid identity respectively. Northern hybridization analysis suggested that hisCl1 and hisCl2 mRNAs are predominantly expressed in the insect eye. Oocytes injected with in vitro transcribed RNA, encoding either HisCl1 or HisCl2, produced substantial chloride currents in response to histamine but not in response to GABA, glycine, and glutamate. The histamine sensitivity was similar to that observed in insect laminar neurons. Histamine-activated currents were not blocked by picrotoxinin, fipronil, strychnine, or the H2 antagonist cimetidine. Co-injection of both hisCl1 and hisCl2 RNAs resulted in expression of a histamine-gated chloride channel with increased sensitivity to histamine, demonstrating coassembly of the subunits. The insecticide ivermectin reversibly activated homomeric HisCl1 channels and, more potently, HisCl1 and HisCl2 heteromeric channels.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 02/2002; 277(3):2000-5. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster was used to examine the mode of action of the novel insecticide and acaricide nodulisporic acid. Flies resistant to nodulisporic acid were selected by stepwise increasing the dose of drug in the culture media. The resistant strain, glc(1), is at least 20-fold resistant to nodulisporic acid and 3-fold cross-resistant to the parasiticide ivermectin, and exhibited decreased brood size, decreased locomotion, and bang sensitivity. Binding assays using glc(1) head membranes showed a marked decrease in the affinity for nodulisporic acid and ivermectin. A combination of genetics and sequencing identified a proline to serine mutation (P299S) in the gene coding for the glutamate-gated chloride channel subunit DmGluClalpha. To examine the effect of this mutation on the biophysical properties of DmGluClalpha channels, it was introduced into a recombinant DmGluClalpha, and RNA encoding wild-type and mutant subunits was injected into Xenopus oocytes. Nodulisporic acid directly activated wild-type and mutant DmGluClalpha channels. However, mutant channels were approximately 10-fold less sensitive to activation by nodulisporic acid, as well as ivermectin and the endogenous ligand glutamate, providing direct evidence that nodulisporic acid and ivermectin act on DmGluClalpha channels.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 01/2001; 97(25):13949-54. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A glow-type aequorin luminescence assay for measuring receptor-mediated stimulation of intracellular calcium levels is described and characterized. The human 5-hydroxytryptamine(2A) receptor stably coexpressed in human embryonic kidney cells with apoaequorin was used to characterize the system and showed that following the flash reaction, a stable luminescence signal could be measured using a microplate scintillation counter for between 3 and 7 h after the addition of receptor agonist. Furthermore, this luminescence was dependent on the concentration of agonist used and gave potency values that were stable over this time period. Testing a range of 5-hydroxytryptamine(2A) receptor agonists gave the expected rank order of potency for this receptor. The glow luminescence could also be inhibited by 5-hydroxytryptamine(2A) receptor antagonists, generating affinity values that directly correlated with those determined for inhibition of the flash reaction carried out under the same buffer conditions. The assay therefore gave pharmacologically relevant data and allows a significant improvement of throughput over the traditional flash-type measurements made using an injecting luminometer.
    Analytical Biochemistry 12/2000; 286(2):231-7. · 2.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A convenient functional assay for 5HT2a and 5HT2c receptors is reported utilizing the bioluminescent aequorin to detect intracellular calcium changes. Using this assay, the pharmacological properties of many 5HT ligands can be determined in a 96-well format. The data indicate that the aequorin detection method is superior to the inositol phosphate assay with regard to speed and scope. This system is also appropriate for kinetic studies of receptor desensitization. We showed that the human 5HT2c receptor desensitizes in a biphasic manner, with a fast desensitization of approximately 90% of the total response occurring within 15 minutes while the remaining 10% response remains for at least 3 hours.
    Journal of Receptor and Signal Transduction Research 12/1999; 19(6):927-38. · 1.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Glutamate-gated chloride channels have been described in nematodes, insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. Subunits from the nematode and insect channels have been cloned and are phylogenetically related to the GABA and glycine ligand-gated chloride channels. Ligand-gated chloride channels are blocked with variable potency by the nonselective blocker picrotoxin. The first two subunits of the glutamate-gated chloride channel family, GluClalpha and GluClbeta, were cloned from the free living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In this study, we analyze the blockade of these novel channels by picrotoxin. In vitro synthesized GluClalpha and GluClbeta RNAs were injected individually or coinjected into Xenopus oocytes. The EC50 values for picrotoxin block of homomeric GluClalpha and GluClbeta were 59 microM and 77 nM, respectively. Picrotoxin block of homomeric GluClbeta channels was promoted during activation of membrane current with glutamate. In addition, recovery from picrotoxin block was faster during current activation by glutamate. A chimeric channel between the N-terminal extracellular domain of GluClalpha and the C-terminal membrane-spanning domain of GluClbeta localized the higher affinity picrotoxin binding site to the membrane-spanning domains of GluClbeta. A point mutation within the M2 membrane-spanning domain of GluClbeta reduced picrotoxin sensitivity >10,000-fold. We conclude that picrotoxin blocks GluCl channels by binding to a site accessible when the channel is open.
    Journal of Neurochemistry 01/1999; 72(1):318-26. · 3.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: At present, leptin is quantitated using immuno-assays that measure leptin mass. Leptin biological activity is determined using protocols that measure feed consumption and weight reduction. These in vivo protocols are semi-quantitative and require large quantities of leptin. We describe a rapid, sensitive and quantitative in vitro assay for leptin using HEK-293 cells stably co-transfected with the leptin receptor Ob-Rb isoform and a STAT-inducible promoter regulating the firefly luciferase cDNA. The assay, performed in a 96-well format, has an EC50 of 150 pM and is linear from 3 to 700 pM of leptin. We demonstrate that the assay is capable of measuring leptin in plasma samples. We demonstrate that bacterially-expressed, recombinant leptin and in vivo expressed leptin are equipotent. Furthermore, we demonstrate that a leptin-derived peptide, leptin fragment 22-56, previously shown to be capable of reducing feed intake following ICV injection does not act directly through the leptin receptor.
    Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 09/1998; 143(1-2):117-23. · 4.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Avermectins are a class of macrocyclic lactones that is widely used in crop protection and to treat helminth infections in man and animals. Two complementary DNAs (GluClalpha and GluClbeta) encoding chloride channels that are gated by avermectin and glutamate, respectively, were isolated from Caenorhabditis elegans. To study the role of these subunits in conferring avermectin sensitivity we isolated a mutant C. elegans strain with a Tc1 transposable element insertion that functionally inactivated the GluClalpha gene (GluClalpha::Tc1). GluClalpha::Tc1 animals exhibit a normal phenotype including typical avermectin sensitivity. Xenopus oocytes expressing GluClalpha::Tc1 strain mRNA elicited reduced amplitude avermectin and glutamate-dependent chloride currents. Avermectin binding assays in GluClalpha::Tc1 strain membranes showed the presence of high affinity binding sites, with a reduced Bmax. These experiments suggest that GluClalpha is a target for avermectin and that additional glutamate-gated and avermectin-sensitive chloride channel subunits exist in C. elegans. We isolated a cDNA (GluClalpha2) encoding a chloride channel that shares 75% amino acid identity with GluClalpha. This subunit forms homomeric channels that are gated irreversibly by avermectin and reversibly by glutamate. GluClalpha2 coassembles with GluClbeta to form heteromeric channels that are gated by both ligands. The presence of subunits related to GluClalpha may explain the low level and rarity of target site involvement in resistance to the avermectin class of compounds.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 01/1998; 272(52):33167-74. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Two cDNAs, GluClalpha and GluClbeta, encoding glutamate-gated chloride channel subunits that represent targets of the avermectin class of antiparasitic compounds, have recently been cloned from Caenorhabditis elegans (Cully et al., Nature, 371, 707-711, 1994). Expression studies in Xenopus oocytes showed that GluClalpha and GluClbeta have pharmacological profiles distinct from the glutamate-gated cation channels as well as the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)- and glycine-gated chloride channels. Establishing the evolutionary relationship of related proteins can clarify properties and lead to predictions about their structure and function. We have cloned and determined the nucleotide sequence of the GluClalpha and GluClbeta genes. In an attempt to understand the evolutionary relationship of these channels with the members of the ligand-gated ion channel superfamily, we have performed gene structure comparisons and phylogenetic analyses of their nucleotide and predicted amino acid sequences. Gene structure comparisons reveal the presence of several intron positions that are not found in the ligand-gated ion channel superfamily, outlining their distinct evolutionary position. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that GluClalpha and GluClbeta form a monophyletic subbranch in the ligand-gated ion channel superfamily and are related to vertebrate glycine channels/receptors. Glutamate-gated chloride channels, with electrophysiological properties similar to GluClalpha and GluClbeta, have been described in insects and crustaceans, suggesting that the glutamate-gated chloride channel family may be conserved in other invertebrate species. The gene structure and phylogenetic analyses in combination with the distinct pharmacological properties demonstrate that GluClalpha and GluClbeta belong to a discrete ligand-gated ion channel family that may represent genes orthologous to the vertebrate glycine channels.
    Journal of Molecular Evolution 06/1997; 44(5):501-8. · 2.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The leptin receptor (OB-R) bears homology to members of the class I cytokine receptor family. We demonstrate that leptin binding to OB-R stimulates formation of STAT-1 and STAT-3 complexes, thereby defining transcriptional motifs for genes that are under leptin control. Transfected fa OB-R bound leptin with equal affinity to that of wild type OB-R. fa OB-R abundance was about 7 fold reduced compared to control cells. Surprisingly, the low level of fa OB-R is fully capable of activating the STAT signal transduction pathway. We discuss plausible explanations for the obese phenotype in Zucker fatty rats.
    Endocrinology 12/1996; 137(11):5178-81. · 4.72 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Glutamate-gated chloride channels, members of the ligand-gated ion channel superfamily, have been shown in nematodes and in insects to be a target of the antiparasitic agent avermectin. Two subunits of the Caenorhabditis elegans glutamate-gated chloride channel have been cloned: GluCl-alpha and GluCl-beta. We report the cloning of a Drosophila melanogaster glutamate-gated chloride channel, DrosGluCl-alpha, which shares 48% amino acid and 60% nucleotide identity with the C. elegans GluCl channels. Expression of DrosGluCl-alpha in Xenopus oocytes produces a homomeric chloride channel that is gated by both glutamate and avermectin. The DrosGluCl-alpha channel has several unique characteristics not observed in C. elegans GluCl: dual gating by avermectin and glutamate, a rapidly desensitizing glutamate response, and a lack of potentiation of the glutamate response by avermectin. The pharmacological data support the hypothesis that the DrosGluCl-alpha channel represents the arthropod H-receptor and an important target for the avermectin class of insecticides.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 09/1996; 271(33):20187-91. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Small synthetic molecules termed growth hormone secretagogues (GHSs) act on the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus to stimulate and amplify pulsatile growth hormone (GH) release. A heterotrimeric GTP-binding protein (G protein)-coupled receptor (GPC-R) of the pituitary and arcuate ventro-medial and infundibular hypothalamus of swine and humans was cloned and was shown to be the target of the GHSs. On the basis of its pharmacological and molecular characterization, this GPC-R defines a neuroendocrine pathway for the control of pulsatile GH release and supports the notion that the GHSs mimic an undiscovered hormone.
    Science 09/1996; 273(5277):974-7. · 31.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Many of the subunits of ligand-gated ion channels respond poorly, if at all, when expressed as homomeric channels in Xenopus oocytes. This lack of a ligand response has been thought to result from poor surface expression, poor assembly, or lack of an agonist binding domain. The Caenorhabditis elegans glutamate-gated chloride channel subunit GluClbeta responds to glutamate as a homomeric channel while the GluClalpha subunit is insensitive. A chimera between GluClalpha and GluClbeta was used to suggest that major determinants for glutamate binding are present on the GluClalpha N terminus. Amino acid substitutions in the presumed pore of GluClalpha conferred direct glutamate gating indicating that GluClalpha is deficient in coupling of ligand binding to channel gating. Heteromeric channels of GluClalpha+beta may differ from the prototypic muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in that they have the potential to bind ligand to all of the subunits forming the channel.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 08/1996; 271(27):16035-9. · 4.65 Impact Factor