Chemical fingerprinting by RP-RRLC-DAD and principal component analysis of Ziziphora clinopodioides from different locations.

Tiana S, Yu Q, Xin L, Zhou ZS, Upur H.

Nat Prod Commun. 2012 Sep;7(9):1181-4.


An efficient and accurate fingerprinting method using reversed-phase rapid-resolution liquid-chromatography coupled with photodiode array detection has been developed and optimized to examine the variance in active compounds among Ziziphora clinopodioides Lam from different locations. Three active components, diosmin, linarin and pulegone, were identified by matching their retention times and UV spectra with the corresponding reference compounds. Our results indicated that chromatographic fingerprints, in combination with principal component analysis (PCA) and hierarchical clustering analysis (HCA), could efficiently identify and distinguish Z. clinopodioides from different sources. Our fingerprinting methods and data will be useful for quality control, and thus, more effective dosing in clinical application of Z. clinopodioides.


Protein isoaspartate methyltransferase-mediated 18O-labeling of isoaspartic acid for mass spectrometry analysis.

Liu M, Cheetham J, Cauchon N, Ostovic J, Ni W, Ren D, Zhou ZS.

Anal Chem. 2012 Jan 17;84(2):1056-62. Epub 2011 Dec 27.


Arising from spontaneous aspartic acid (Asp) isomerization or asparagine (Asn) deamidation, isoaspartic acid (isoAsp, isoD, or beta-Asp) is a ubiquitous nonenzymatic modification of proteins and peptides. Because there is no mass difference between isoaspartyl and aspartyl species, sensitive and specific detection of isoAsp, particularly in complex samples, remains challenging. Here we report a novel assay for Asp isomerization by isotopic labeling with (18)O via a two-step process: the isoAsp peptide is first specifically methylated by protein isoaspartate methyltransferase (PIMT, EC to the corresponding methyl ester, which is subsequently hydrolyzed in (18)O-water to regenerate isoAsp. The specific replacement of (16)O with (18)O at isoAsp leads to a mass shift of 2 Da, which can be automatically and unambiguously recognized using standard mass spectrometry, such as collision-induced dissociation (CID), and data analysis algorithms. Detection and site identification of several isoAsp peptides in a monoclonal antibody and the β-delta sleep-inducing peptide (DSIP) are demonstrated.


Zoospore interspecific signaling promotes plant infection by Phytophthora

Kong P, Tyler BM, Richardson PA, Lee BW, Zhou ZS, Hong C.

BMC Microbiol. 2010 Dec 7;10:313. doi: 10.1186/1471-2180-10-313.


BACKGROUND: Oomycetes attack a huge variety of economically and ecologically important plants. These pathogens release, detect and respond to signal molecules to coordinate their communal behaviors including the infection process. When signal molecules are present at or above threshold level, single zoospores can infect plants. However, at the beginning of a growing season population densities of individual species are likely below those required to reach a quorum and produce threshold levels of signal molecules to trigger infection. It is unclear whether these molecules are shared among related species and what their chemistries are.

RESULTS: Zoospore-free fluids (ZFF) from Phytophthora capsici, P. hydropathica, P. nicotianae (ZFFnic), P. sojae (ZFFsoj) and Pythium aphanidermatum were cross tested for stimulating plant infection in three pathosystems. All ZFFs tested significantly increased infection of Catharanthus roseus by P. nicotianae. Similar cross activities were observed in infection of Lupinus polyphyllus and Glycine max by P. sojae. Only ZFFnic and ZFFsoj cross induced zoospore aggregation at a density of 2 × 10³ ml⁻¹. Pure autoinducer-2 (AI-2), a component in ZFF, caused zoospore lysis of P. nicotianae before encystment and did not stimulate plant infection at concentrations from 0.01 to 1000 μM. P. capsici transformants with a transiently silenced AI-2 synthase gene, ribose phosphate isomerase (RPI), infected Capsicum annuum seedlings at the same inoculum concentration as the wild type. Acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs) were not detected in any ZFFs. After freeze-thaw treatments, ZFF remained active in promoting plant infection but not zoospore aggregation. Heat treatment by boiling for 5 min also did not affect the infection-stimulating property of ZFFnic.

CONCLUSION: Oomycetes produce and use different molecules to regulate zoospore aggregation and plant infection. We found that some of these signal molecules could act in an inter-specific manner, though signals for zoospore aggregation were somewhat restricted. This self-interested cooperation among related species gives individual pathogens of the same group a competitive advantage over pathogens and microbes from other groups for limited resources. These findings help to understand why these pathogens often are individually undetectable until severe disease epidemics have developed. The signal molecules for both zoospore aggregation and plant infection are distinct from AI-2 and AHL.


Substrates of the Arabidopsis thaliana protein isoaspartyl methyltransferase 1 identified using phage display and biopanning.

Chen T, Nayak N, Majee SM, Lowenson J, Schäfermeyer KR, Eliopoulos AC, Lloyd TD, Dinkins R, Perry SE, Forsthoefel NR, Clarke SG, Vernon DM, Zhou ZS, Rejtar T, Downie AB.

J Biol Chem. 2010 Nov 26;285(48):37281-92. Epub 2010 Sep 24.


The role of protein isoaspartyl methyltransferase (PIMT) in repairing a wide assortment of damaged proteins in a host of organisms has been inferred from the affinity of the enzyme for isoaspartyl residues in a plethora of amino acid contexts. The identification of PIMT target proteins in plant seeds, where the enzyme is highly active and proteome long-lived, has been hindered by large amounts of isoaspartate-containing storage proteins. Mature seed phage display libraries circumvented this problem. Inclusion of the PIMT co-substrate, S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet), during panning permitted PIMT to retain aged phage in greater numbers than controls lacking co-substrate or when PIMT protein binding was poisoned with S-adenosyl homocysteine. After four rounds, phage titer plateaued in AdoMet-containing pans, whereas titer declined in both controls. This strategy identified 17 in-frame PIMT target proteins, including a cupin-family protein similar to those identified previously using on-blot methylation. All recovered phage had at least one susceptible Asp or Asn residue. Five targets were recovered independently. Two in-frame targets were produced in Escherichia coli as recombinant proteins and shown by on-blot methylation to acquire isoAsp, becoming a PIMT target. Both gained isoAsp rapidly in solution upon thermal insult. Mutant analysis of plants deficient in any of three in-frame PIMT targets resulted in demonstrable phenotypes. An over-representation of clones encoding proteins involved in protein production suggests that the translational apparatus comprises a subgroup for which PIMT-mediated repair is vital for orthodox seed longevity. Impaired PIMT activity would hinder protein function in these targets, possibly resulting in poor seed performance.


Analysis of isoaspartic Acid by selective proteolysis with Asp-N and electron transfer dissociation mass spectrometry.

Ni W, Dai S, Karger BL, Zhou ZS.

Anal Chem. 2010 Sep 1;82(17):7485-91.


A ubiquitous yet underappreciated protein post-translational modification, isoaspartic acid (isoAsp, isoD, or beta-Asp), generated via the deamidation of asparagine or isomerization of aspartic acid in proteins, plays a diverse and crucial role in aging, as well as autoimmune, cancer, neurodegeneration, and other diseases. In addition, formation of isoAsp is a major concern in protein pharmaceuticals, as it may lead to aggregation or activity loss. The scope and significance of isoAsp have, up to now, not been fully explored, as an unbiased screening of isoAsp at low abundance remains challenging. This difficulty is due to the subtle difference in the physicochemical properties between isoAsp and Asp, e.g., identical mass. In contrast, endoprotease Asp-N (EC selectively cleaves aspartyl peptides but not the isoaspartyl counterparts. As a consequence, isoaspartyl peptides can be differentiated from those containing Asp and also enriched by Asp-N digestion. Subsequently, the existence and site of isoaspartate can be confirmed by electron transfer dissociation (ETD) mass spectrometry. As little as 0.5% of isoAsp was detected in synthetic beta-amyloid and cytochrome c peptides, even though both were initially assumed to be free of isoAsp. Taken together, our approach should expedite the unbiased discovery of isoAsp.


Structure elucidation of highly polar basic degradants by on-line hydrogen/deuterium exchange hydrophilic interaction chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry.

Liu M, Ronk M, Ren D, Ostovic J, Cauchon N, Zhou ZS, Cheetham J.

J Chromatogr A. 2010 May 28;1217(22):3598-611. Epub 2010 Mar 27.


A hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) method was used to separate a commonly used pharmaceutical starting material, 4-aminomethylpyridine (4-AMP), and its degradants. The structures of the major degradants were characterized and elucidated without prior isolation by accurate mass measurement, MS/MS analysis and on-line hydrogen/deuterium (H/D) exchange experiments. The mass spectra obtained from H/D exchange experiments are particularly useful to differentiate structural isomers, to elucidate the fragmentation pathways, and to aid in structure elucidation in the absence of MS/MS fragmentation information. The impact of deuterium oxide and temperature on HILIC separation has also been explored here. The integration of H/D exchange with HILIC has been described here for the first time and has been demonstrated to be a powerful structure elucidation tool via the study of degradants in 4-AMP.


Enzyme-catalyzed transfer of a ketone group from an S-adenosylmethionine analogue: a tool for the functional analysis of methyltransferases.

Lee BW, Sun HG, Zang T, Kim BJ, Alfaro JF, Zhou ZS.

J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Mar 24;132(11):3642-3.


S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet or SAM)-dependent methyltransferases belong to a large and diverse family of group-transfer enzymes that perform vital biological functions on a host of substrates. Despite the progress in genomics, structural proteomics, and computational biology, functional annotation of methyltransferases remains a challenge. Herein, we report the synthesis and activity of a new AdoMet analogue functionalized with a ketone group. Using catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT, EC and thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT, EC as model enzymes, this robust and readily accessible analogue displays kinetic parameters that are comparable to AdoMet and exhibits multiple turnovers with enzyme. More importantly, this AdoMet surrogate displays the same substrate specificity as the natural methyl donor. Incorporation of the ketone group allows for subsequent modification via bio-orthogonal labeling strategies and sensitive detection of the tagged ketone products. Hence, this AdoMet analogue expands the toolbox available to interrogate the biochemical functions of methyltransferases.


Desulfurization of cysteine-containing peptides resulting from sample preparation for protein characterization by mass spectrometry.

Wang Z, Rejtar T, Zhou ZS, Karger BL.

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2010 Feb;24(3):267-75.


In this study, we have examined two cysteine modifications resulting from sample preparation for protein characterization by mass spectrometry (MS): (1) a previously observed conversion of cysteine into dehydroalanine, now found in the case of disulfide mapping and (2) a novel modification corresponding to conversion of cysteine into alanine. Using model peptides, the conversion of cysteine into dehydroalanine via beta-elimination of a disulfide bond was seen to result from the conditions of typical tryptic digestion (37 degrees C, pH 7.0-9.0) without disulfide reduction and alkylation. Furthermore, the surprising conversion of cysteine into alanine was shown to occur by heating cysteine-containing peptides in the presence of a phosphine (tris(2-carboxyethyl)phosphine hydrochloride (TCEP)). The formation of alanine from cysteine, investigated by performing experiments in H(2)O or D(2)O, suggested a radical-based desulfurization mechanism unrelated to beta-elimination. Importantly, an understanding of the mechanism and conditions favorable for cysteine desulfurization provides insight for the establishment of improved sample preparation procedures of protein analysis.


Zoosporic plant pathogens produce bacterial autoinducer-2 that affects Vibrio harveyi quorum sensing.

Kong P, Lee BW, Zhou ZS, Hong C.

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2010 Feb;303(1):55-60. Epub 2009 Nov 23.


The frequent coisolation of bacteria with Phytophthora and Pythium species suggests possible interspecies communication. Zoospore-free fluids (ZFF) from bacteria-free and nutrient-depleted zoospore suspensions were examined to investigate the production of autoinducer-2 (AI-2), a bacterial interspecies signal molecule, by zoosporic oomycetes. ZFF from Phytophthora nicotianae, Phytophthora sojae, and Pythium aphanidermatum triggered luminescence of the Vibrio harve7yi AI-2 reporter, indicating the presence of AI-2 in zoospore extracellular products and the potential of cross-kingdom communication between oomycetes and bacteria. The production of AI-2 by zoospores was confirmed by chemical assays. These results provide a new insight into the physiology and ecology of oomycetes.


Chemical methods for the detection of protein N-homocysteinylation via selective reactions with aldehydes.

Zang T, Dai S, Chen D, Lee BW, Liu S, Karger BL, Zhou ZS.

Anal Chem. 2009 Nov 1;81(21):9065-71.


Elevated blood levels of homocysteine (Hcy), hyperhomocysteinemia or homocystinuria, have been associated with various diseases and conditions. Homocysteine thiolactone (Hcy TL) is a metabolite of Hcy and reacts with amine groups in proteins to form stable amides, homocystamides, or N-homocysteinylated proteins. It has been proposed that protein N-homocysteinylation contributes to the cytotoxicity of elevated Hcy. Due to its heterogeneity and relatively low abundance, detection of this posttranslational modification remains challenging. On the other hand, the gamma-aminothiol group in homocystamides imparts different chemical reactivities than the native proteins. Under mildly acidic conditions, gamma-aminothiols irreversibly and stoichiometrically react with aldehydes to form stable 1,3-thiazines, whereas the reversible Schiff base formation between aldehydes and amino groups in native proteins is markedly disfavored due to protonation of amines. As such, we have developed highly selective chemical methods to derivatize N-homocysteinylated proteins with various aldehyde tags, thereby facilitating the subsequent analyses. For instance, fluorescent or biotin tagging coupled with gel electrophoresis permits quantification and global profiling of complex biological samples, such as hemoglobin and plasma from rat, mouse and human; affinity enrichment with aldehyde resins drastically reduces sample complexity. In addition, different reactivities of lysine residues in hemoglobin toward Hcy TL were observed.


A naturally occurring brominated furanone covalently modifies and inactivates LuxS.

Zang T, Lee BW, Cannon LM, Ritter KA, Dai S, Ren D, Wood TK, Zhou ZS.

Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2009 Nov 1;19(21):6200-4. Epub 2009 Sep 3.


Halogenated furanones, a group of natural products initially isolated from marine red algae, are known to inhibit bacterial biofilm formation, swarming, and quorum sensing. However, their molecular targets and the precise mode of action remain elusive. Herein, we show that a naturally occurring brominated furanone covalently modifies and inactivates LuxS (S-ribosylhomocysteine lyase, EC, the enzyme which produces autoinducer-2 (AI-2).


Synthetic strategies toward carbocyclic purine-pyrimidine hybrid nucleosides.

Sadler JM, Mosley SL, Dorgan KM, Zhou ZS, Seley-Radtke KL.

Bioorg Med Chem. 2009 Aug 1;17(15):5520-5. Epub 2009 Jun 23.


The blending of key structural features from the purine and pyrimidine nucleobase scaffolds gives rise to a new class of hybrid nucleosides. The purine-pyrimidine hybrid nucleosides can be viewed as either N-3 ribosylated purines or 5,6-disubstituted pyrimidines, thus recognition by both purine- and pyrimidine-metabolizing enzymes is possible. Given the increasing reports of the development of resistance in many enzymatic systems, a drug that could be recognized by more than one enzyme could prove highly advantageous in overcoming resistance mechanisms related to binding site mutations. In that regard, the design, synthesis and results of preliminary biological activity for a series of carbocyclic uracil derivatives with either a fused imidazole or thiazole ring are presented herein.


Assays for S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet/SAM)-dependent methyltransferases.

Wooderchak WL, Zhou ZS, Hevel J.

Curr Protoc Toxicol. 2008 Nov;Chapter 4:Unit4.26. doi: 10.1002/0471140856.tx0426s38.


Modification of small molecules and proteins by methyltransferases impacts a wide range of biological processes. Here we report two methods for measuring methyltransferase activity. First we describe an enzyme-coupled continuous spectrophotometric assay used to quantitatively characterize S-adenosyl-L-methionine (AdoMet or SAM)-dependent methyltransferase activity. In this assay, S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine (AdoHcy or SAH), the transmethylation product of AdoMet-dependent methyltransferase, is hydrolyzed to S-ribohomocysteine and adenine by recombinant AdoHcy nucleosidase. Subsequently, the adenine generated from AdoHcy is further hydrolyzed to homoxanthine and ammonia by recombinant adenine deaminase. This deamination is associated with a decrease in absorbance at 265 nm that can be monitored continuously. Secondly, we describe a discontinuous assay that follows radiolabel incorporation into the methyl receptor. An advantage of both assays is the destruction of AdoHcy by AdoHcy nucleosidase, which alleviates AdoHcy product feedback inhibition of S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferases. Importantly both methods are inexpensive, robust, and amenable to high throughput.


Substrate profiling of PRMT1 reveals amino acid sequences that extend beyond the "RGG" paradigm.

Wooderchak WL, Zang T, Zhou ZS, Acuña M, Tahara SM, Hevel JM.

Biochemistry. 2008 Sep 9;47(36):9456-66. Epub 2008 Aug 13.


Protein arginine methyltransferase 1 (PRMT1) catalyzes the mono- and dimethylation of certain protein arginine residues. Although this posttranslational modification has been implicated in many physiological processes, the molecular basis for PRMT1 substrate recognition is poorly understood. Most modified arginine residues in known PRMT1 substrates reside in repeating "RGG" sequences. However, PRMT1 also specifically methylates Arg3 of histone H4 in a region that is not glycine-arginine rich, suggesting that PRMT1 substrates are not limited to proteins bearing "RGG" sequences. Because a systematic evaluation of PRMT1 substrate specificity has not been performed, it is unclear if the "RGG" sequence accurately represents the consensus target for PRMT1. Using a focused peptide library based on a sequence derived from the in vivo substrate fibrillarin we observed that PRMT1 methylated substrates that had amino acid residues other than glycine in the "RX (1)" and "RX (1)X (2)" positions. Importantly, eleven additional PRMT1 substrate sequences were identified. Our results also illustrate that the two residues on the N-terminal side of the modification site are important and need not both be glycine. PRMT1 methylated the eukaryotic initiation factor 4A1 (eIF4A1) protein, which has a single "RGG" sequence. Methylation of eIF4A1 and the similar eIF4A3 could be affected using single site mutations adjacent to the modification site, demonstrating the importance of amino acid sequence in PRMT1 protein substrates. Dimethylation of the parent library peptide was shown to occur through a dissociative mechanism. In summary, PRMT1 selectively recognizes a set of amino acid sequences in substrates that extend beyond the "RGG" paradigm.


Chemo-enzymatic detection of protein isoaspartate using protein isoaspartate methyltransferase and hydrazine trapping.

Alfaro JF, Gillies LA, Sun HG, Dai S, Zang T, Klaene JJ, Kim BJ, Lowenson JD, Clarke SG, Karger BL, Zhou ZS.

Anal Chem. 2008 May 15;80(10):3882-9. Epub 2008 Apr 18.


Isoaspartate formation is a ubiquitous post-translation modification arising from spontaneous asparagine deamidation or aspartate isomerization. The formation of isoaspartate inserts a methylene group into the protein backbone, generating a "kink", and may drastically alter protein structure and function, thereby playing critical roles in a myriad of biological processes, human diseases, and protein pharmaceutical development. Herein, we report a chemo-enzymatic detection method for the isoaspartate protein, which in particular allows the affinity enrichment of isoaspartate-containing proteins. In the initial step, protein isoaspartate methyltransferase selectively converts isoaspartates into the corresponding methyl esters. Subsequently, the labile methyl ester is trapped by strong nucleophiles in aqueous solutions, such as hydrazines to form hydrazides. The stable hydrazide products can be analyzed by standard proteomic techniques, such as matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Furthermore, the chemical trapping step allows us to introduce several tagging strategies for product identification and quantification, such as UV-vis and fluorescence detection through a dansyl derivative. Most significantly, the hydrazide product can be enriched by affinity chromatography using aldehyde resins, thus drastically reducing sample complexity. Our method hence represents the first technique for the affinity enrichment of isoaspartyl proteins and should be amendable to the systematic and comprehensive characterization of isoaspartate, particularly in complex systems.