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Citrullination was introduced into animals by horizontal gene transfer from cyanobacteria.
Cummings TFM, Gori K, Sanchez-Pulido L, Gavriilidis G, Moi D, Wilson AR, Murchison E, Dessimoz C, Ponting CP, Christophorou MA

Protein post-translational modifications (PTMs) add great sophistication to biological systems. Citrullination, a key regulatory mechanism in human physiology and pathophysiology, is enigmatic from an evolutionary perspective. Although the citrullinating enzymes peptidylarginine deiminases (PADIs) are ubiquitous across vertebrates, they are absent from yeast, worms and flies. Based on this distribution PADIs were proposed to have been horizontally transferred, but this has been contested. Here, we map the evolutionary trajectory of PADIs into the animal lineage. We present strong phylogenetic support for a clade encompassing animal and cyanobacterial PADIs that excludes fungal and other bacterial homologues. The animal and cyanobacterial PADI proteins share functionally relevant primary and tertiary synapomorphic sequences that are distinct from a second PADI type present in fungi and actinobacteria. Molecular clock calculations and sequence divergence analyses using the fossil record estimate the last common ancestor of the cyanobacterial and animal PADIs to be less than one billion years old. Additionally, under an assumption of vertical descent, PADI sequence change during this evolutionary time frame is anachronistically low, even when compared to products of likely endosymbiont gene transfer, mitochondrial proteins and some of the most highly conserved sequences in life. The consilience of evidence indicates that PADIs were introduced from cyanobacteria into animals by horizontal gene transfer (HGT). The ancestral cyanobacterial PADI is enzymatically active and can citrullinate eukaryotic proteins, suggesting that the PADI HGT event introduced a new catalytic capability into the regulatory repertoire of animals. This study reveals the unusual evolution of a pleiotropic protein modification.

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Molecular biology and evolution, 1, 1, , 03 Nov 2021


Citrullination Alters the Antiviral and Immunomodulatory Activities of the Human Cathelicidin LL-37 During Rhinovirus Infection.
Casanova V, Sousa FH, Shakamuri P, Svoboda P, Buch C, D'Acremont M, Christophorou MA, Pohl J, Stevens C, Barlow PG

Human rhinoviruses (HRV) are the most common cause of viral respiratory tract infections. While normally mild and self-limiting in healthy adults, HRV infections are associated with bronchiolitis in infants, pneumonia in immunocompromised patients, and exacerbations of asthma and COPD. The human cathelicidin LL-37 is a host defense peptide (HDP) with broad immunomodulatory and antimicrobial activities that has direct antiviral effects against HRV. However, LL-37 is known to be susceptible to the enzymatic activity of peptidyl arginine deiminases (PAD), and exposure of the peptide to these enzymes results in the conversion of positively charged arginines to neutral citrullines (citrullination). Here, we demonstrate that citrullination of LL-37 reduced its direct antiviral activity against HRV. Furthermore, while the anti-rhinovirus activity of LL-37 results in dampened epithelial cell inflammatory responses, citrullination of the peptide, and a loss in antiviral activity, ameliorates this effect. This study also demonstrates that HRV infection upregulates PAD2 protein expression, and increases levels of protein citrullination, including histone H3, in human bronchial epithelial cells. Increased gene expression and HDP citrullination during infection may represent a novel viral evasion mechanism, likely applicable to a wide range of pathogens, and should therefore be considered in the design of therapeutic peptide derivatives.

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Frontiers in immunology, 11, 1, , 2020


Open Access

Citrullination of HP1γ chromodomain affects association with chromatin.
Wiese M, Bannister AJ, Basu S, Boucher W, Wohlfahrt K, Christophorou MA, Nielsen ML, Klenerman D, Laue ED, Kouzarides T

Stem cell differentiation involves major chromatin reorganisation, heterochromatin formation and genomic relocalisation of structural proteins, including heterochromatin protein 1 gamma (HP1γ). As the principal reader of the repressive histone marks H3K9me2/3, HP1 plays a key role in numerous processes including heterochromatin formation and maintenance.

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Epigenetics & chromatin, 12, 1, , 2019

DOI: 10.1186/s13072-019-0265-x

Open Access

Citrullination regulates pluripotency and histone H1 binding to chromatin.
Christophorou MA, Castelo-Branco G, Halley-Stott RP, Oliveira CS, Loos R, Radzisheuskaya A, Mowen KA, Bertone P, Silva JC, Zernicka-Goetz M, Nielsen ML, Gurdon JB, Kouzarides T

Citrullination is the post-translational conversion of an arginine residue within a protein to the non-coded amino acid citrulline. This modification leads to the loss of a positive charge and reduction in hydrogen-bonding ability. It is carried out by a small family of tissue-specific vertebrate enzymes called peptidylarginine deiminases (PADIs) and is associated with the development of diverse pathological states such as autoimmunity, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, prion diseases and thrombosis. Nevertheless, the physiological functions of citrullination remain ill-defined, although citrullination of core histones has been linked to transcriptional regulation and the DNA damage response. PADI4 (also called PAD4 or PADV), the only PADI with a nuclear localization signal, was previously shown to act in myeloid cells where it mediates profound chromatin decondensation during the innate immune response to infection. Here we show that the expression and enzymatic activity of Padi4 are also induced under conditions of ground-state pluripotency and during reprogramming in mouse. Padi4 is part of the pluripotency transcriptional network, binding to regulatory elements of key stem-cell genes and activating their expression. Its inhibition lowers the percentage of pluripotent cells in the early mouse embryo and significantly reduces reprogramming efficiency. Using an unbiased proteomic approach we identify linker histone H1 variants, which are involved in the generation of compact chromatin, as novel PADI4 substrates. Citrullination of a single arginine residue within the DNA-binding site of H1 results in its displacement from chromatin and global chromatin decondensation. Together, these results uncover a role for citrullination in the regulation of pluripotency and provide new mechanistic insights into how citrullination regulates chromatin compaction.

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Nature, 507, 7490, , 2014

DOI: 10.1038/nature12942

Open Access

Autophagy inhibition enhances therapy-induced apoptosis in a Myc-induced model of lymphoma.
Amaravadi RK, Yu D, Lum JJ, Bui T, Christophorou MA, Evan GI, Thomas-Tikhonenko A, Thompson CB

Autophagy is a lysosome-dependent degradative pathway frequently activated in tumor cells treated with chemotherapy or radiation. Whether autophagy observed in treated cancer cells represents a mechanism that allows tumor cells to survive therapy or a mechanism for initiating a nonapoptotic form of programmed cell death remains controversial. To address this issue, the role of autophagy in a Myc-induced model of lymphoma generated from cells derived from p53ER(TAM)/p53ER(TAM) mice (with ER denoting estrogen receptor) was examined. Such tumors are resistant to apoptosis due to a lack of nuclear p53. Systemic administration of tamoxifen led to p53 activation and tumor regression followed by tumor recurrence. Activation of p53 was associated with the rapid appearance of apoptotic cells and the induction of autophagy in surviving cells. Inhibition of autophagy with either chloroquine or ATG5 short hairpin RNA (shRNA) enhanced the ability of either p53 activation or alkylating drug therapy to induce tumor cell death. These studies provide evidence that autophagy serves as a survival pathway in tumor cells treated with apoptosis activators and a rationale for the use of autophagy inhibitors such as chloroquine in combination with therapies designed to induce apoptosis in human cancers.

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The Journal of clinical investigation, 117, 2, , 2007

DOI: 10.1172/JCI28833

Open Access

The pathological response to DNA damage does not contribute to p53-mediated tumour suppression.
Christophorou MA, Ringshausen I, Finch AJ, Swigart LB, Evan GI

The p53 protein has a highly evolutionarily conserved role in metazoans as 'guardian of the genome', mediating cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis in response to genotoxic injury. In large, long-lived animals with substantial somatic regenerative capacity, such as vertebrates, p53 is an important tumour suppressor--an attribute thought to stem directly from its induction of death or arrest in mutant cells with damaged or unstable genomes. Chemotherapy and radiation exposure both induce widespread p53-dependent DNA damage. This triggers potentially lethal pathologies that are generally deemed an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of the role p53 has in tumour suppression. Here we show, using a mouse model in which p53 status can be reversibly switched in vivo between functional and inactive states, that the p53-mediated pathological response to whole-body irradiation, a prototypical genotoxic carcinogen, is irrelevant for suppression of radiation-induced lymphoma. In contrast, delaying the restoration of p53 function until the acute radiation response has subsided abrogates all of the radiation-induced pathology yet preserves much of the protection from lymphoma. Such protection is absolutely dependent on p19(ARF)--a tumour suppressor induced not by DNA damage, but by oncogenic disruption of the cell cycle.

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Nature, 443, 7108, , 2006

DOI: 10.1038/nature05077

Temporal dissection of p53 function in vitro and in vivo.
Christophorou MA, Martin-Zanca D, Soucek L, Lawlor ER, Brown-Swigart L, Verschuren EW, Evan GI

To investigate the functions of the p53 tumor suppressor, we created a new knock-in gene replacement mouse model in which the endogenous Trp53 gene is substituted by one encoding p53ER(TAM), a p53 fusion protein whose function is completely dependent on ectopic provision of 4-hydroxytamoxifen. We show here that both tissues in vivo and cells in vitro derived from such mice can be rapidly toggled between wild-type and p53 knockout states. Using this rapid perturbation model, we define the kinetics, dependence, persistence and reversibility of p53-mediated responses to DNA damage in tissues in vivo and to activation of the Ras oncoprotein and stress in vitro. This is the first example to our knowledge of a new class of genetic model that allows the specific, rapid and reversible perturbation of the function of a single endogenous gene in vivo.

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Nature genetics, 37, 7, , 2005

DOI: 10.1038/ng1572