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Cantanhede, Portugal

Resende R.,University of Coimbra | Marques S.C.F.,University of Coimbra | Ferreiro E.,University of Coimbra | Simoes I.,University of Coimbra | And 3 more authors.
Neurochemical Research | Year: 2013

Alzheimer's disease, the most prevalent age-related neurodegenerative disease, is characterized by the presence of extracellular senile plaques composed of amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptide and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles. More than 50 % of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients also exhibit abundant accumulation of α-synuclein (α-Syn)-positive Lewy bodies. This Lewy body variant of AD (LBV-AD) is associated with accelerated cognitive dysfunction and progresses more rapidly than pure AD. In addition, it has been suggested that Aβ and α-Syn can directly interact. In this study we investigated the effect of α-Syn on Aβ-induced toxicity in cortical neurons. In order to mimic the intracellular accumulation of α-Syn observed in the brain of LBV-AD patients, we used valproic acid (VPA) to increase its endogenous expression levels. The release of α-Syn from damaged presynaptic terminals that occurs during the course of the disease was simulated by challenging cells with recombinant α-Syn. Our results showed that either VPA-induced α-Syn upregulation or addition of recombinant α-Syn protect primary cortical neurons from soluble Aβ1-42 decreasing the caspase-3-mediated cell death. It was also found that neuroprotection against Aβ-induced toxicity mediated by α-Syn overexpression involves the PI3K/Akt cell survival pathway. Furthermore, recombinant α-Syn was shown to directly interact with Aβ1-42 and to decrease the levels of Aβ1-42 oligomers, which might explain its neuroprotective effect. In conclusion, we demonstrate that either endogenous or exogenous α-Syn can be neuroprotective against Aβ-induced cell death, suggesting a cell defence mechanism during the initial stages of the mixed pathology. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.

Empadinhas N.,University of Coimbra | da Costa M.S.,University of Coimbra | da Costa M.S.,Biotechnology Innovation Center
Environmental Microbiology | Year: 2011

A decade ago the compatible solutes mannosylglycerate (MG) and glucosylglycerate (GG) were considered to be rare in nature. Apart from two species of thermophilic bacteria, Thermus thermophilus and Rhodothermus marinus, and a restricted group of hyperthermophilic archaea, the Thermococcales, MG had only been identified in a few red algae. Glucosylglycerate was considered to be even rarer and had only been detected as an insignificant solute in two halophilic microorganisms, a cyanobacterium, as a component of a polysaccharide and of a glycolipid in two actinobacteria. Unlike the hyper/thermophilic MG-accumulating microorganisms, branching close to the root of the Tree of Life, those harbouring GG shared a mesophilic lifestyle. Exceptionally, the thermophilic bacterium Persephonella marina was reported to accumulate GG. However, and especially owing to the identification of the key-genes for MG and GG synthesis and to the escalating numbers of genomes available, a plethora of new organisms with the resources to synthesize these solutes has been recognized. The accumulation of GG as an 'emergency' compatible solute under combined salt stress and nitrogen-deficient conditions now seems to be a disseminated survival strategy from enterobacteria to marine cyanobacteria. In contrast, the thermophilic and extremely radiation-resistant bacterium Rubrobacter xylanophilus is the only actinobacterium known to accumulate MG, and under all growth conditions tested. This review addresses the environmental factors underlying the accumulation of MG, GG and derivatives in bacteria and archaea and their roles during stress adaptation or as precursors for more elaborated macromolecules. The diversity of pathways for MG and GG synthesis as well as those for some of their derivatives is also discussed. The importance of glycerate-derived organic solutes in the microbial world is only now being recognized. Their stress-dependent accumulation and the molecular aspects of their interactions with biomolecules have already fuelled several emerging applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. © 2010 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Almeida C.M.,Biotechnology Innovation Center | Gomes D.,Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra | Faro C.,Biotechnology Innovation Center | Faro C.,University of Coimbra | And 2 more authors.
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology | Year: 2014

Different sheep and goat cheeses with world-renowned excellence are produced using aqueous extracts of Cynara cardunculus flowers as coagulants. However, the use of this vegetable rennet is mostly limited to artisanal scale production, and no effective solutions to large-scale industrial applications have been reported so far. In this sense, the development of a synthetic rennet based on the most abundant cardoon milk-clotting enzymes (cardosins) would emerge as a solution for scalability of production and for application of these proteases as alternative rennets in dairy industry. In this work, we report the development of a new cardosin B-derived rennet produced in the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) yeast Kluyveromyces lactis. Using a stepwise optimization strategy—consisting of culture media screening, complemented with a protein engineering approach with removal of the plant-specific domain, and a codon optimization step—we successfully improved cardosin B production yield (35×) in K. lactis. We demonstrated that the secreted enzyme displays similar proteolytic properties, such as casein digestion profiles as well as optimum pH (pH 4.5) and temperature (40 °C), with those of native cardosin B. From this optimization process resulted the rennet preparation Vegetable Rennet (VRen), requiring no downstream protein purification steps. The effectiveness of VRen in cheese production was demonstrated by manufacturing sheep, goat, and cow cheeses. Interestingly, the use of VRen resulted in a higher cheese yield for all three types of cheese when compared with synthetic chymosin. Altogether, these results clearly position VRen as an alternative/innovative coagulant for the cheese-making industry. © 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Paulo C.S.O.,University of Coimbra | Paulo C.S.O.,Biotechnology Innovation Center | Vidal M.,Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra | Ferreira L.S.,University of Coimbra | Ferreira L.S.,Biotechnology Innovation Center
Biomacromolecules | Year: 2010

Nosocomial fungal infections, an increasing healthcare concern worldwide, are often associated with medical devices. We have developed antifungal nanoparticle conjugates that can act in suspension or attach to a surface, efficiently killing fungi. For that purpose, we immobilized covalently amphotericin B (AmB), a potent antifungal agent approved by the FDA, widely used in clinical practice and effective against a large spectrum of fungi, into silica nanoparticles. These antifungal nanoparticle conjugates are fungicidal against several strains of Candida sp., mainly by contact. In addition, they can be reused up to 5 cycles without losing their activity. Our results show that the antifungal nanoparticle conjugates are more fungistatic and fungicidal than 10 nm colloidal silver. The antifungal activity of the antifungal nanoparticle conjugates is maintained when they are immobilized on a surface using a chemical adhesive formed by polydopamine. The antifungal nanocoatings have no hemolytic or cytotoxic effect against red blood cells and blood mononuclear cells, respectively. Surfaces coated with these antifungal nanoparticle conjugates can be very useful to render medical devices with antifungal properties. © 2010 American Chemical Society.

Simoes I.,University of Coimbra | Simoes I.,Biotechnology Innovation Center | Faro R.,University of Coimbra | Bur D.,Actelion Pharmaceuticals | And 3 more authors.
FEBS Journal | Year: 2011

The view has been widely held that pepsin-like aspartic proteinases are found only in eukaryotes, and not in bacteria. However, a recent bioinformatics search [Rawlings ND & Bateman A (2009) BMC Genomics10, 437] revealed that, in seven of ∼ 1000 completely sequenced bacterial genomes, genes were present encoding polypeptides that displayed the requisite hallmark sequence motifs of pepsin-like aspartic proteinases. The implications of this theoretical observation prompted us to generate biochemical data to validate this finding experimentally. The aspartic proteinase gene from one of the seven identified bacterial species, Shewanella amazonensis, was expressed in Escherichia coli. The recombinant protein, termed shewasin A, was produced in soluble form, purified to homogeneity, and shown to display properties remarkably similar to those of pepsin-like aspartic proteinases. Shewasin A was maximally active at acidic pH values, cleaving a substrate that has been widely used for assessment of the proteolytic activity of other aspartic proteinases, and displayed a clear preference for cleaving peptide bonds between hydrophobic residues in the P1P1′ positions of the substrate. It was completely inhibited by the general inhibitor of aspartic proteinases, pepstatin, and mutation of one of the catalytic Asp residues (in the Asp-Thr-Gly motif of the N-terminal domain) resulted in complete loss of enzymatic activity. It can thus be concluded unequivocally that this Shewanella gene encodes an active pepsin-like aspartic proteinase. It is now beyond doubt that pepsin-like aspartic proteinases are not confined to eukaryotes, but are encoded within some species of bacteria. The distinctions between the bacterial and eukaryotic polypeptides are discussed and their evolutionary relationships are outlined. © 2011 The Authors Journal compilation.

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