Publications by authors named "Alexander Agrotis"

8 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Higher throughput drug screening for rare respiratory diseases: Readthrough therapy in primary ciliary dyskinesia.

Eur Respir J 2021 Apr 1. Epub 2021 Apr 1.

Respiratory, Critical Care & Anesthesia, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London, UK

Development of therapeutic approaches for rare respiratory diseases is hampered by the lack of systems that allow medium-to-high-throughput screening of fully differentiated respiratory epithelium from affected patients. This is a particular problem for primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), a rare genetic disease caused by mutations in genes that adversely affect ciliary movement and consequently mucociliary transport. Primary cell culture of basal epithelial cells from nasal brush biopsies, followed by ciliated differentiation at air-liquid interface (ALI) has proven to be a useful tool in PCD diagnostics but the technique's broader utility, including in pre-clinical PCD research, has been restricted by the limited number of basal cells that it is possible to expand from such biopsies. Here, we describe an immunofluorescence screening method, enabled by extensive expansion of PCD patient basal cells and their culture into differentiated respiratory epithelium in miniaturised 96-well transwell format ALI cultures. Analyses of ciliary ultrastructure, beat pattern and beat frequency indicate that a range of different PCD defects can be retained in these cultures. As proof-of-principle, we performed a personalised investigation in a patient with a rare and severe form of PCD (reduced generation of motile cilia, RGMC), in this case caused by a homozygous nonsense mutation in the gene. The screening system allowed drugs that induce translational readthrough to be evaluated alone or in combination with nonsense-mediated decay inhibitors. Restoration of basal body formation in the patient's nasal epithelial cells was seen , suggesting a novel avenue for drug evaluation and development in PCD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1183/13993003.00455-2020DOI Listing
April 2021

Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy (4th edition).

Autophagy 2021 Jan 8;17(1):1-382. Epub 2021 Feb 8.

University of Crete, School of Medicine, Laboratory of Clinical Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, Voutes, Heraklion, Crete, Greece; Foundation for Research and Technology, Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB), Heraklion, Crete, Greece.

In 2008, we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, this topic has received increasing attention, and many scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Thus, it is important to formulate on a regular basis updated guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Despite numerous reviews, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to evaluate autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. Here, we present a set of guidelines for investigators to select and interpret methods to examine autophagy and related processes, and for reviewers to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of reports that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a dogmatic set of rules, because the appropriateness of any assay largely depends on the question being asked and the system being used. Moreover, no individual assay is perfect for every situation, calling for the use of multiple techniques to properly monitor autophagy in each experimental setting. Finally, several core components of the autophagy machinery have been implicated in distinct autophagic processes (canonical and noncanonical autophagy), implying that genetic approaches to block autophagy should rely on targeting two or more autophagy-related genes that ideally participate in distinct steps of the pathway. Along similar lines, because multiple proteins involved in autophagy also regulate other cellular pathways including apoptosis, not all of them can be used as a specific marker for autophagic responses. Here, we critically discuss current methods of assessing autophagy and the information they can, or cannot, provide. Our ultimate goal is to encourage intellectual and technical innovation in the field.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15548627.2020.1797280DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7996087PMC
January 2021

On ATG4B as Drug Target for Treatment of Solid Tumours-The Knowns and the Unknowns.

Cells 2019 Dec 24;9(1). Epub 2019 Dec 24.

MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK.

Autophagy is an evolutionary conserved stress survival pathway that has been shown to play an important role in the initiation, progression, and metastasis of multiple cancers; however, little progress has been made to date in translation of basic research to clinical application. This is partially due to an incomplete understanding of the role of autophagy in the different stages of cancer, and also to an incomplete assessment of potential drug targets in the autophagy pathway. While drug discovery efforts are on-going to target enzymes involved in the initiation phase of the autophagosome, e.g., unc51-like autophagy activating kinase (ULK)1/2, vacuolar protein sorting 34 (Vps34), and autophagy-related (ATG)7, we propose that the cysteine protease ATG4B is a bona fide drug target for the development of anti-cancer treatments. In this review, we highlight some of the recent advances in our understanding of the role of ATG4B in autophagy and its relevance to cancer, and perform a critical evaluation of ATG4B as a druggable cancer target.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells9010053DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7016753PMC
December 2019

Human ATG4 autophagy proteases counteract attachment of ubiquitin-like LC3/GABARAP proteins to other cellular proteins.

J Biol Chem 2019 08 17;294(34):12610-12621. Epub 2019 Jul 17.

MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom

Microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 α (LC3)/GABA type A receptor-associated protein (GABARAP) comprises a family of ubiquitin-like proteins involved in (macro)autophagy, an important intracellular degradation pathway that delivers cytoplasmic material to lysosomes via double-membrane vesicles called autophagosomes. The only currently known cellular molecules covalently modified by LC3/GABARAP are membrane phospholipids such as phosphatidylethanolamine in the autophagosome membrane. Autophagy-related 4 cysteine peptidase (ATG4) proteases process inactive pro-LC3/GABARAP before lipidation, and the same proteases can also deconjugate LC3/GABARAP from lipids. To determine whether LC3/GABARAP has other molecular targets, here we generated a pre-processed LC3B mutant (Q116P) that is resistant to ATG4-mediated deconjugation. Upon expression in human cells and when assessed by immunoblotting under reducing and denaturing conditions, deconjugation-resistant LC3B accumulated in multiple forms and at much higher molecular weights than free LC3B. We observed a similar accumulation when pre-processed versions of all mammalian LC3/GABARAP isoforms were expressed in ATG4-deficient cell lines, suggesting that LC3/GABARAP can attach also to other larger molecules. We identified ATG3, the E2-like enzyme involved in LC3/GABARAP lipidation, as one target of conjugation with multiple copies of LC3/GABARAP. We show that LC3B-ATG3 conjugates are distinct from the LC3B-ATG3 thioester intermediate formed before lipidation, and we biochemically demonstrate that ATG4B can cleave LC3B-ATG3 conjugates. Finally, we determined ATG3 residue Lys-243 as an LC3B modification site. Overall, we provide the first cellular evidence that mammalian LC3/GABARAP post-translationally modifies proteins akin to ubiquitination ("LC3ylation"), with ATG4 proteases acting like deubiquitinating enzymes to counteract this modification ("deLC3ylation").
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.AC119.009977DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6709618PMC
August 2019

Redundancy of human ATG4 protease isoforms in autophagy and LC3/GABARAP processing revealed in cells.

Autophagy 2019 06 1;15(6):976-997. Epub 2019 Feb 1.

a MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology , University College London , London , UK.

Macroautophagy/autophagy is a cellular degradation pathway that delivers cytoplasmic material to lysosomes via double-membrane organelles called autophagosomes. Lipidation of ubiquitin-like LC3/GABARAP proteins on the autophagosome membrane is important for autophagy. The cysteine protease ATG4 executes 2 LC3/GABARAP processing events: priming of newly synthesized pro-LC3/GABARAP to enable subsequent lipidation, and delipidation/deconjugation of lipidated LC3/GABARAP (the exact purpose of which is unclear in mammals). Four ATG4 isoforms (ATG4A to ATG4D) exist in mammals; however, the functional redundancy of these proteins in cells is poorly understood. Here we show that human HAP1 and HeLa cells lacking ATG4B exhibit a severe but incomplete defect in LC3/GABARAP processing and autophagy. By further genetic depletion of ATG4 isoforms using CRISPR-Cas9 and siRNA we uncover that ATG4A, ATG4C and ATGD all contribute to residual priming activity, which is sufficient to enable lipidation of endogenous GABARAPL1 on autophagic structures. We also demonstrate that expressing high levels of pre-primed LC3B in ATG4-deficient cells can rescue a defect in autophagic degradation of the cargo receptor SQSTM1/p62, suggesting that delipidation by human ATG4 is not essential for autophagosome formation and fusion with lysosomes. Overall, our study provides a comprehensive characterization of ATG4 isoform function during autophagy in human cells. Abbreviations: Atg: autophagy-related; baf A1: bafilomycin A CASP3: caspase 3; CLEM: correlative light and electron microscopy; CMV: cytomegalovirus; CRISPR: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats; DKO: double knockout; EGFP: enhanced green fluorescent protein; GABARAP: GABA type A receptor-associated protein; GABARAPL1: GABA type A receptor-associated protein like 1; GABARAPL2: GABA type A receptor-associated protein like 2; GFP: green fluorescent protein; HB: homogenization buffer; KO: knockout; LAMP1: lysosomal associated membrane protein 1; LIR: LC3 interacting region; MAP1LC3/LC3: microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3; MFN2: mitofusin 2; N.A.: numerical aperture; NEM: N-ethylmaleimide; PDHA1: pyruvate dehydrogenase E1 alpha 1 subunit; PLD: phospholipase D; PE: phosphatidylethanolamine; RLUC: Renilla luciferase; SQSTM1: sequestosome 1; TEM: transmission electron microscopy; TKO: triple knockout; ULK1: unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1; VCL: vinculin; WT: wild-type.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15548627.2019.1569925DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6526816PMC
June 2019

Identification of Kinases and Phosphatases That Regulate ATG4B Activity by siRNA and Small Molecule Screening in Cells.

Front Cell Dev Biol 2018 1;6:148. Epub 2018 Nov 1.

MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.

Autophagy protease ATG4B is a key regulator of the LC3/GABARAP conjugation system required for autophagosome formation, maturation and closure. Members of the ATG4 and the LC3/GABARAP family have been implicated in various diseases including cancer, and targeting the ATG4B protease has been suggested as a potential therapeutic anti-cancer strategy. Recently, it has been demonstrated that ATG4B is regulated by multiple post-translational modifications, including phosphorylation and de-phosphorylation. In order to identify regulators of ATG4B activity, we optimized a cell-based luciferase assay based on ATG4B-dependent release of Gaussia luciferase. We applied this assay in a proof-of-concept small molecule compound screen and identified activating compounds that increase cellular ATG4B activity. Next, we performed a high-throughput screen to identify kinases and phosphatases that regulate cellular ATG4B activity using siRNA mediated knockdown and cDNA overexpression. Of these, we provide preliminary evidence that the kinase AKT2 enhances ATG4B activity in cells. We provide all raw and processed data from the screens as a resource for further analysis. Overall, our findings provide novel insights into the regulation of ATG4B and highlight the importance of post-translational modifications of ATG4B.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fcell.2018.00148DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6221980PMC
November 2018

A new age in functional genomics using CRISPR/Cas9 in arrayed library screening.

Front Genet 2015 24;6:300. Epub 2015 Sep 24.

MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London, London UK.

CRISPR technology has rapidly changed the face of biological research, such that precise genome editing has now become routine for many labs within several years of its initial development. What makes CRISPR/Cas9 so revolutionary is the ability to target a protein (Cas9) to an exact genomic locus, through designing a specific short complementary nucleotide sequence, that together with a common scaffold sequence, constitute the guide RNA bridging the protein and the DNA. Wild-type Cas9 cleaves both DNA strands at its target sequence, but this protein can also be modified to exert many other functions. For instance, by attaching an activation domain to catalytically inactive Cas9 and targeting a promoter region, it is possible to stimulate the expression of a specific endogenous gene. In principle, any genomic region can be targeted, and recent efforts have successfully generated pooled guide RNA libraries for coding and regulatory regions of human, mouse and Drosophila genomes with high coverage, thus facilitating functional phenotypic screening. In this review, we will highlight recent developments in the area of CRISPR-based functional genomics and discuss potential future directions, with a special focus on mammalian cell systems and arrayed library screening.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2015.00300DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4585242PMC
October 2015

Successful in vitro expansion and differentiation of cord blood derived CD34+ cells into early endothelial progenitor cells reveals highly differential gene expression.

PLoS One 2011 12;6(8):e23210. Epub 2011 Aug 12.

Department of Cardiology and Angiology, University Hospital Medical Centre, Freiburg, Germany.

Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) can be purified from peripheral blood, bone marrow or cord blood and are typically defined by a limited number of cell surface markers and a few functional tests. A detailed in vitro characterization is often restricted by the low cell numbers of circulating EPCs. Therefore in vitro culturing and expansion methods are applied, which allow at least distinguishing two different types of EPCs, early and late EPCs. Herein, we describe an in vitro culture technique with the aim to generate high numbers of phenotypically, functionally and genetically defined early EPCs from human cord blood. Characterization of EPCs was done by flow cytometry, immunofluorescence microscopy, colony forming unit (CFU) assay and endothelial tube formation assay. There was an average 48-fold increase in EPC numbers. EPCs expressed VEGFR-2, CD144, CD18, and CD61, and were positive for acetylated LDL uptake and ulex lectin binding. The cells stimulated endothelial tube formation only in co-cultures with mature endothelial cells and formed CFUs. Microarray analysis revealed highly up-regulated genes, including LL-37 (CAMP), PDK4, and alpha-2-macroglobulin. In addition, genes known to be associated with cardioprotective (GDF15) or pro-angiogenic (galectin-3) properties were also significantly up-regulated after a 72 h differentiation period on fibronectin. We present a novel method that allows to generate high numbers of phenotypically, functionally and genetically characterized early EPCs. Furthermore, we identified several genes newly linked to EPC differentiation, among them LL-37 (CAMP) was the most up-regulated gene.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0023210PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3155543PMC
February 2012
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