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  1. Abstract Gene duplication is increasingly recognized as an important mechanism for the origination of new genes, as revealed by comparative genomic analysis. However, how new duplicate genes contribute to phenotypic evolution remains largely unknown, especially in plants. Here, we identified the new gene EXOV, derived from a partial gene duplication of its parental gene EXOVL in Arabidopsis thaliana. EXOV is a species-specific gene that originated within the last 3.5 million years and shows strong signals of positive selection. Unexpectedly, RNA-sequencing analyses revealed that, despite its young age, EXOV has acquired many novel direct and indirect interactions in which the parentalmore »gene does not engage. This observation is consistent with the high, selection-driven substitution rate of its encoded protein, in contrast to the slowly evolving EXOVL, suggesting an important role for EXOV in phenotypic evolution. We observed significant differentiation of morphological changes for all phenotypes assessed in genome-edited and T-DNA insertional single mutants and in double T-DNA insertion mutants in EXOV and EXOVL. We discovered a substantial divergence of phenotypic effects by principal component analyses, suggesting neofunctionalization of the new gene. These results reveal a young gene that plays critical roles in biological processes that underlie morphological evolution in A. thaliana.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 7, 2022
  2. Antibody therapeutics and vaccines are among our last resort to end the raging COVID-19 pandemic. They, however, are prone to over 5000 mutations on the spike (S) protein uncovered by a Mutation Tracker based on over 200 000 genome isolates. It is imperative to understand how mutations will impact vaccines and antibodies in development. In this work, we first study the mechanism, frequency, and ratio of mutations on the S protein which is the common target of most COVID-19 vaccines and antibody therapies. Additionally, we build a library of 56 antibody structures and analyze their 2D and 3D characteristics. Moreover, wemore »predict the mutation-induced binding free energy (BFE) changes for the complexes of S protein and antibodies or ACE2. By integrating genetics, biophysics, deep learning, and algebraic topology, we reveal that most of the 462 mutations on the receptor-binding domain (RBD) will weaken the binding of S protein and antibodies and disrupt the efficacy and reliability of antibody therapies and vaccines. A list of 31 antibody disrupting mutants is identified, while many other disruptive mutations are detailed as well. We also unveil that about 65% of the existing RBD mutations, including those variants recently found in the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa, will strengthen the binding between the S protein and human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), resulting in more infectious COVID-19 variants. We discover the disparity between the extreme values of RBD mutation-induced BFE strengthening and weakening of the bindings with antibodies and angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 is at an advanced stage of evolution for human infection, while the human immune system is able to produce optimized antibodies. This discovery, unfortunately, implies the vulnerability of current vaccines and antibody drugs to new mutations. Our predictions were validated by comparison with more than 1400 deep mutations on the S protein RBD. Our results show the urgent need to develop new mutation-resistant vaccines and antibodies and to prepare for seasonal vaccinations.« less
  3. In the global health emergency caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), efficient and specific therapies are urgently needed. Compared with traditional small-molecular drugs, antibody therapies are relatively easy to develop; they are as specific as vaccines in targeting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2); and they have thus attracted much attention in the past few months. This article reviews seven existing antibodies for neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 with 3D structures deposited in the Protein Data Bank (PDB). Five 3D antibody structures associated with the SARS-CoV spike (S) protein are also evaluated for their potential in neutralizing SARS-CoV-2. The interactions of thesemore »antibodies with the S protein receptor-binding domain (RBD) are compared with those between angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and RBD complexes. Due to the orders of magnitude in the discrepancies of experimental binding affinities, we introduce topological data analysis, a variety of network models, and deep learning to analyze the binding strength and therapeutic potential of the 14 antibody–antigen complexes. The current COVID-19 antibody clinical trials, which are not limited to the S protein target, are also reviewed.« less
  4. • To compute protein pKas, a continuum dielectric Poisson-Boltzmann model defined on a molecular domain and a solvent domain is used for computing the related electrostatic free energies (top left). • The PB model in its boundary integral form is accurately solved on the triangulated molecular surface (e.g. BPTI) accelerated by a fast Treecode algorithm (top right). • The method obtains the intrinsic pKa and then computes the protonation probability for a given pH including site-site interactions by going through an energy driven titrating procedure. Comparison with experimental results are provided (bottom left and right).
  5. Abstract

    SARS-CoV-2 has been mutating since it was first sequenced in early January 2020. Here, we analyze 45,494 complete SARS-CoV-2 geneome sequences in the world to understand their mutations. Among them, 12,754 sequences are from the United States. Our analysis suggests the presence of four substrains and eleven top mutations in the United States. These eleven top mutations belong to 3 disconnected groups. The first and second groups consisting of 5 and 8 concurrent mutations are prevailing, while the other group with three concurrent mutations gradually fades out. Moreover, we reveal that female immune systems are more active than thosemore »of males in responding to SARS-CoV-2 infections. One of the top mutations, 27964C > T-(S24L) on ORF8, has an unusually strong gender dependence. Based on the analysis of all mutations on the spike protein, we uncover that two of four SARS-CoV-2 substrains in the United States become potentially more infectious.

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  6. Mitochondrial cristae are dynamic invaginations of the inner membrane and play a key role in its metabolic capacity to produce ATP. Structural alterations caused by either genetic abnormalities or detrimental environmental factors impede mitochondrial metabolic fluxes and lead to a decrease in their ability to meet metabolic energy requirements. While some of the key proteins associated with mitochondrial cristae are known, very little is known about how the inner membrane dynamics are involved in energy metabolism. In this study, we present a computational strategy to understand how cristae are formed using a phase-based separation approach of both the inner membranemore »space and matrix space, which are explicitly modeled using the Cahn–Hilliard equation. We show that cristae are formed as a consequence of minimizing an energy function associated with phase interactions which are subject to geometric boundary constraints. We then extended the model to explore how the presence of calcium phosphate granules, entities that form in calcium overload conditions, exert a devastating inner membrane remodeling response that reduces the capacity for mitochondria to produce ATP. This modeling approach can be extended to include arbitrary geometrical constraints, the spatial heterogeneity of enzymes, and electrostatic effects to mechanize the impact of ultrastructural changes on energy metabolism.« less