Doctor of Philosophy, Duke University (2016)
Bachelor of Science, Tsinghua University (2010)
Christopher Garcia, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Surrogate R-spondins for tissue-specific potentiation of Wnt Signaling.
2020; 15 (1): e0226928
Secreted R-spondin1-4 proteins (RSPO1-4) orchestrate stem cell renewal and tissue homeostasis by potentiating Wnt/β-catenin signaling. RSPOs induce the turnover of negative Wnt regulators RNF43 and ZNRF3 through a process that requires RSPO interactions with Leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein coupled receptors (LGRs), or through an LGR-independent mechanism that is enhanced by RSPO binding to heparin sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs). Here, we describe the engineering of 'surrogate RSPOs' that function independently of LGRs to potentiate Wnt signaling on cell types expressing a target surface marker. These bispecific proteins were generated by fusing an RNF43- or ZNRF3-specific single chain antibody variable fragment (scFv) to the immune cytokine IL-2. Surrogate RSPOs mimic the function of natural RSPOs by crosslinking the extracellular domain (ECD) of RNF43 or ZNRF3 to the ECD of the IL-2 receptor CD25, which sequesters the complex and results in highly selective amplification of Wnt signaling on CD25+ cells. Furthermore, surrogate RSPOs were able substitute for wild type RSPO in a colon organoid growth assay when intestinal stem cells were transduced to express CD25. Our results provide proof-of-concept for a technology that may be adapted for use on a broad range of cell- or tissue-types and will open new avenues for the development of Wnt-based therapeutics for regenerative medicine.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0226928
View details for PubMedID 31914456
Structure of human Frizzled5 by fiducial-assisted cryo-EM supports a heterodimeric mechanism of canonical Wnt signaling.
Frizzleds (Fzd) are the primary receptors for Wnt morphogens, which are essential regulators of stem cell biology, yet the structural basis of Wnt signaling through Fzd remains poorly understood. Here we report the structure of an unliganded human Fzd5 determined by single-particle cryo-EM at 3.7 Å resolution, with the aid of an antibody chaperone acting as a fiducial marker. We also analyzed the topology of low-resolution XWnt8/Fzd5 complex particles, which revealed extreme flexibility between the Wnt/Fzd-CRD and the Fzd-TM regions. Analysis of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in response to Wnt3a versus a 'surrogate agonist' that cross-links Fzd to LRP6, revealed identical structure-activity relationships. Thus, canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling appears to be principally reliant on ligand-induced Fzd/LRP6 heterodimerization, versus the allosteric mechanisms seen in structurally analogous class A G protein-coupled receptors, and Smoothened. These findings deepen our mechanistic understanding of Wnt signal transduction, and have implications for harnessing Wnt agonism in regenerative medicine.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.58464
View details for PubMedID 32762848
Mutational signature in colorectal cancer caused by genotoxic pks+ E. coli.
Various species of the intestinal microbiota have been associated with the development of colorectal cancer (CRC)1,2, but it has not been demonstrated that bacteria have a direct role in the occurrence of oncogenic mutations. Escherichia coli can carry the pathogenicity island pks, which encodes a set of enzymes that synthesize colibactin3. This compound is believed to alkylate DNA on adenine residues4,5 and induces double-strand breaks in cultured cells3. Here we expose human intestinal organoids to genotoxic pks+ E. coli by repeated luminal injection over five months. Whole-genome sequencing of clonal organoids before and after this exposure revealed a distinct mutational signature that was absent from organoids injected with isogenic pks-mutant bacteria. The same mutational signature was detected in a subset of 5,876 human cancer genomes from two independent cohorts, predominantly in CRC. Our study describes a distinct mutational signature in CRC and implies that the underlying mutational process results directly from past exposure to bacteria carrying the colibactin-producing pks pathogenicity island.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-020-2080-8
View details for PubMedID 32106218
Next-Generation Surrogate Wnts Support Organoid Growth and Deconvolute Frizzled Pleiotropy In Vivo.
Cell stem cell
Modulation of Wnt signaling has untapped potential in regenerative medicine due to its essential functions in stem cell homeostasis. However, Wnt lipidation and Wnt-Frizzled (Fzd) cross-reactivity have hindered translational Wnt applications. Here, we designed and engineered water-soluble, Fzd subtype-specific "next-generation surrogate" (NGS) Wnts that hetero-dimerize Fzd and Lrp6. NGS Wnt supports long-term expansion of multiple different types of organoids, including kidney, colon, hepatocyte, ovarian, and breast. NGS Wnts are superior to Wnt3a conditioned media in organoid expansion and single-cell organoid outgrowth. Administration of Fzd subtype-specific NGS Wnt in vivo reveals that adult intestinal crypt proliferation can be promoted by agonism of Fzd5 and/or Fzd8 receptors, while a broad spectrum of Fzd receptors can induce liver zonation. Thus, NGS Wnts offer a unified organoid expansion protocol and a laboratory "tool kit" for dissecting the functions of Fzd subtypes in stem cell biology.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2020.07.020
View details for PubMedID 32818433
Wnt Activation and Reduced Cell-Cell Contact Synergistically Induce Massive Expansion of Functional Human iPSC-Derived Cardiomyocytes.
Cell stem cell
2020; 27 (1): 50–63.e5
Modulating signaling pathways including Wnt and Hippo can induce cardiomyocyte proliferation in vivo. Applying these signaling modulators to human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) in vitro can expand CMs modestly (<5-fold). Here, we demonstrate massive expansion of hiPSC-CMs in vitro (i.e., 100- to 250-fold) by glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) inhibition using CHIR99021 and concurrent removal of cell-cell contact. We show that GSK-3β inhibition suppresses CM maturation, while contact removal prevents CMs from cell cycle exit. Remarkably, contact removal enabled 10 to 25 times greater expansion beyond GSK-3β inhibition alone. Mechanistically, persistent CM proliferation required both LEF/TCF activity and AKT phosphorylation but was independent from yes-associated protein (YAP) signaling. Engineered heart tissues from expanded hiPSC-CMs showed comparable contractility to those from unexpanded hiPSC-CMs, demonstrating uncompromised cellular functionality after expansion. In summary, we uncovered a molecular interplay that enables massive hiPSC-CM expansion for large-scale drug screening and tissue engineering applications.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2020.06.001
View details for PubMedID 32619518
- Receptor subtype discrimination using extensive shape complementary designed interfaces NATURE STRUCTURAL & MOLECULAR BIOLOGY 2019; 26 (6): 407-+
Topological control of cytokine receptor signaling induces differential effects in hematopoiesis.
Science (New York, N.Y.)
2019; 364 (6442)
Although tunable signaling by G protein-coupled receptors can be exploited through medicinal chemistry, a comparable pharmacological approach has been lacking for the modulation of signaling through dimeric receptors, such as those for cytokines. We present a strategy to modulate cytokine receptor signaling output by use of a series of designed C2-symmetric cytokine mimetics, based on the designed ankyrin repeat protein (DARPin) scaffold, that can systematically control erythropoietin receptor (EpoR) dimerization orientation and distance between monomers. We sampled a range of EpoR geometries by varying intermonomer angle and distance, corroborated by several ligand-EpoR complex crystal structures. Across the range, we observed full, partial, and biased agonism as well as stage-selective effects on hematopoiesis. This surrogate ligand strategy opens access to pharmacological modulation of therapeutically important cytokine and growth factor receptor systems.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aav7532
View details for PubMedID 31123111
RasGRP1 is a potential biomarker to stratify anti-EGFR therapy response in colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most frequent neoplastic disorder and is a main cause of tumor-related mortality as many patients progress to stage IV metastatic CRC. Standard care consists of combination chemotherapy (FOLFIRI or FOLFOX). Patients with WT KRAS typing are eligible to receive anti-EGFR therapy combined with chemotherapy. Unfortunately, predicting efficacy of CRC anti-EGFR therapy has remained challenging. Here we uncover that the EGFR-pathway component RasGRP1 acts as CRC tumor suppressor in the context of aberrant Wnt signaling. We find that RasGRP1 suppresses EGF-driven proliferation of colonic epithelial organoids. Having established that RasGRP1 dosage levels impacts biology, we focused on CRC patients next. Mining five different data platforms, we establish that RasGRP1 expression levels decrease with CRC progression and predict poor clinical outcome of patients. Lastly, deletion of one or two Rasgrp1 alleles makes CRC spheroids more susceptible to EGFR inhibition. Retrospective analysis of the CALGB80203 clinical trial shows that addition of anti-EGFR therapy to chemotherapy significantly improves outcome for CRC patients when tumors express low RasGRP1 suppressor levels. In sum, RasGRP1 is a unique biomarker positioned in the EGFR pathway and of potential relevance to anti-EGFR therapy for CRC patients.
View details for DOI 10.1172/jci.insight.127552
View details for PubMedID 31237864
A RECK-WNT7 Receptor-Ligand Interaction Enables Isoform-Specific Regulation of Wnt Bioavailability.
2018; 25 (2): 339
WNT7A and WNT7B control CNS angiogenesis and blood-brain barrier formation by activating endothelial Wnt/beta-catenin signaling. The GPI-anchored protein RECK and adhesion G protein-coupled receptor GPR124 critically regulate WNT7-specific signaling in concert with FZD and LRP co-receptors. Here, we demonstrate that primarily the GPR124 ectodomain, but not its transmembrane and intracellular domains, mediates RECK/WNT7-induced canonical Wnt signaling. Moreover, RECK is the predominant binding partner of GPR124 in rat brain blood vessels in situ. WNT7A and WNT7B, but not WNT3A, directly bind to purified recombinant soluble RECK, full-length cell surface RECK, and the GPR124:RECK complex. Chemical cross-linking indicates that RECK and WNT7A associate with 1:1 stoichiometry, which stabilizes short-lived, active, monomeric, hydrophobic WNT7A. In contrast, free WNT7A rapidly converts into inactive, hydrophilic aggregates. Overall, RECK is a selective WNT7 receptor that mediates GPR124/FZD/LRP-dependent canonical Wnt/beta-catenin signaling by stabilizing active cell surface WNT7, suggesting isoform-specific regulation of Wnt bioavailability.
View details for PubMedID 30304675
Structural and In Vivo Studies on Trehalose-6-Phosphate Synthase from Pathogenic Fungi Provide Insights into Its Catalytic Mechanism, Biological Necessity, and Potential for Novel Antifungal Drug Design
2017; 8 (4)
The disaccharide trehalose is critical to the survival of pathogenic fungi in their human host. Trehalose-6-phosphate synthase (Tps1) catalyzes the first step of trehalose biosynthesis in fungi. Here, we report the first structures of eukaryotic Tps1s in complex with substrates or substrate analogues. The overall structures of Tps1 from Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus are essentially identical and reveal N- and C-terminal Rossmann fold domains that form the glucose-6-phosphate and UDP-glucose substrate binding sites, respectively. These Tps1 structures with substrates or substrate analogues reveal key residues involved in recognition and catalysis. Disruption of these key residues severely impaired Tps1 enzymatic activity. Subsequent cellular analyses also highlight the enzymatic function of Tps1 in thermotolerance, yeast-hypha transition, and biofilm development. These results suggest that Tps1 enzymatic functionality is essential for the fungal stress response and virulence. Furthermore, structures of Tps1 in complex with the nonhydrolyzable inhibitor, validoxylamine A, visualize the transition state and support an internal return-like catalytic mechanism that is generalizable to other GT-B-fold retaining glycosyltransferases. Collectively, our results depict key Tps1-substrate interactions, unveil the enzymatic mechanism of these fungal proteins, and pave the way for high-throughput inhibitor screening buttressed and guided by the current structures and those of high-affinity ligand-Tps1 complexes.IMPORTANCE Invasive fungal diseases have emerged as major threats, resulting in more than 1.5 million deaths annually worldwide. This epidemic has been further complicated by increasing resistance to all major classes of antifungal drugs in the clinic. Trehalose biosynthesis is essential for the fungal stress response and virulence. Critically, this biosynthetic pathway is absent in mammals, and thus, the two enzymes that carry out trehalose biosynthesis, namely, trehalose-6-phosphate synthase (Tps1) and trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase (Tps2), are prominent targets for antifungal intervention. Here, we report the first eukaryotic Tps1 structures from the pathogenic fungi Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus in complex with substrates, substrate analogues, and inhibitors. These structures reveal key protein-substrate interactions, providing atomic-level scaffolds for structure-guided drug design of novel antifungals that target Tps1.
View details for DOI 10.1128/mBio.00643-17
View details for Web of Science ID 000409384300062
View details for PubMedID 28743811
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5527307
Trehalose pathway as an antifungal target
2017; 8 (2): 143-149
With an increasing immunocompromised population which is linked to invasive fungal infections, it is clear that our present 3 classes of antifungal agents may not be sufficient to provide optimal management to these fragile patients. Furthermore, with widespread use of antifungal agents, drug-resistant fungal infections are on the rise. Therefore, there is some urgency to develop the antifungal pipeline with the goal of new antifungal agent discovery. In this review, a simple metabolic pathway, which forms the disaccharide, trehalose, will be characterized and its potential as a focus for antifungal target(s) explained. It possesses several important features for development of antifungal agents. First, it appears to have fungicidal characteristics and second, it is broad spectrum with importance across both ascomycete and basidiomycete species. Finally, this pathway is not found in mammals so theoretically specific inhibitors of the trehalose pathway and its enzymes in fungi should be relatively non-toxic for mammals. The trehalose pathway and its critical enzymes are now in a position to have directed antifungal discovery initiated in order to find a new class of antifungal drugs.
View details for DOI 10.1080/21505594.2016.1195529
View details for Web of Science ID 000395377700005
View details for PubMedID 27248439
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5383216
Structures of trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase from pathogenic fungi reveal the mechanisms of substrate recognition and catalysis
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2016; 113 (26): 7148-7153
Trehalose is a disaccharide essential for the survival and virulence of pathogenic fungi. The biosynthesis of trehalose requires trehalose-6-phosphate synthase, Tps1, and trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase, Tps2. Here, we report the structures of the N-terminal domain of Tps2 (Tps2NTD) from Candida albicans, a transition-state complex of the Tps2 C-terminal trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase domain (Tps2PD) bound to BeF3 and trehalose, and catalytically dead Tps2PD(D24N) from Cryptococcus neoformans bound to trehalose-6-phosphate (T6P). The Tps2NTD closely resembles the structure of Tps1 but lacks any catalytic activity. The Tps2PD-BeF3-trehalose and Tps2PD(D24N)-T6P complex structures reveal a "closed" conformation that is effected by extensive interactions between each trehalose hydroxyl group and residues of the cap and core domains of the protein, thereby providing exquisite substrate specificity. Disruption of any of the direct substrate-protein residue interactions leads to significant or complete loss of phosphatase activity. Notably, the Tps2PD-BeF3-trehalose complex structure captures an aspartyl-BeF3 covalent adduct, which closely mimics the proposed aspartyl-phosphate intermediate of the phosphatase catalytic cycle. Structures of substrate-free Tps2PD reveal an "open" conformation whereby the cap and core domains separate and visualize the striking conformational changes effected by substrate binding and product release and the role of two hinge regions centered at approximately residues 102-103 and 184-188. Significantly, tps2Δ, tps2NTDΔ, and tps2D705N strains are unable to grow at elevated temperatures. Combined, these studies provide a deeper understanding of the substrate recognition and catalytic mechanism of Tps2 and provide a structural basis for the future design of novel antifungal compounds against a target found in three major fungal pathogens.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1601774113
View details for Web of Science ID 000379033400056
View details for PubMedID 27307435
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4932955
Structures of EV71 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase in complex with substrate and analogue provide a drug target against the hand-foot-and-mouth disease pandemic in China
PROTEIN & CELL
2010; 1 (5): 491-500
Enterovirus 71 (EV71), one of the major causative agents for hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD), has caused more than 100 deaths among Chinese children since March 2008. The EV71 genome encodes an RNAdependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), denoted 3D(pol), which is central for viral genome replication and is a key target for the discovery of specific antiviral therapeutics. Here we report the crystal structures of EV71 RdRp (3D(pol)) and in complex with substrate guanosine-5'-triphosphate and analog 5-bromouridine-5'-triphosphate best to 2.4 Å resolution. The structure of EV71 RdRp (3D(pol)) has a wider open thumb domain compared with the most closely related crystal structure of poliovirus RdRp. And the EV71 RdRp (3D(pol)) complex with GTP or Br-UTP bounded shows two distinct movements of the polymerase by substrate or analogue binding. The model of the complex with the template:primer derived by superimposition with foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) 3D/RNA complex reveals the likely recognition and binding of template:primer RNA by the polymerase. These results together provide a molecular basis for EV71 RNA replication and reveal a potential target for anti-EV71 drug discovery.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s13238-010-0061-7
View details for Web of Science ID 000208510900012
View details for PubMedID 21203964
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4875138