Dr. Aravind has an ongoing interest in using computational methods to decipher various aspects of protein structure, function and evolution. During 2012, Dr. Aravind demonstrated exceptional progress and effective planning and execution of several major research projects along these lines. These research projects cover the areas of molecular enzymology, signal transduction and transcriptional regulation mechanisms using computational methods. His group comprising of 1 staff scientist, 3 post-doctoral fellows and one contractor has over 10 publications in peer-reviewed publications in top scientific journals. He also published a comprehensive monograph on signal sensor domains in bacteria, which is recognized as a major work in this field. In this period, Dr. Aravind was also consulted to serve as a referee for several manuscripts submitted to the journals Science, Cell, Genome Research, JMB and Nucleic Acids Research, Genome Biology. He was an invited to speaker at three venues in course of the year. Some highlights of Dr. Aravinds 2012 research program include the following: Dr Aravind and his team provided a portrait of the bacterial transcription apparatus in light of the data emerging from structural studies, sequence analysis and comparative genomics to bring out important but underappreciated features. They described the key structural highlights and evolutionary implications emerging from comparison of the cellular RNA polymerase subunits with the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase involved in RNAi in eukaryotes and their homologs from newly identified bacterial selfish elements. They described some previously unnoticed domains and the possible evolutionary stages leading to the RNA polymerases of extant life forms. They then presented the case for the ancient orthology of the basal transcription factors, the sigma factor and TFIIB, in the bacterial and the archaeo-eukaryotic lineages. They also presented a synopsis of the structural and architectural taxonomy of specific transcription factors and their genome-scale demography. In this context, they presented certain notable deviations from the otherwise invariant proteome-wide trends in transcription factor distribution and used it to predict the presence of an unusual lineage-specifically expanded signaling system in certain firmicutes like Paenibacillus. They then discussed the intersection between functional properties of transcription factors and the organization of transcriptional networks. Finally, they presented some of the interesting evolutionary conundrums posed by the newly gained understanding of the bacterial transcription apparatus and potential areas for future explorations. Human ASXL proteins, orthologs of Drosophila Additional Sex combs, have been implicated in conjunction with TET2 as a major target for mutations and translocations leading to a wide range of myeloid leukemias, related myelodysplastic conditions (ASXL1 and ASXL2) and the Bohring-Opitz syndrome, a developmental disorder (ASXL1). Using sensitive sequence and structure comparison methods, Dr Aravind and his team showed that most animal ASXL proteins contain a novel N-terminal domain that is also found in several other eukaryotic chromatin proteins, diverse restriction endonucleases and DNA glycosylases, the RNA polymerase delta subunit of Gram-positive bacteria and certain bacterial proteins that combine features of the RNA polymerase α-subunit and sigma factors. This domain adopts the winged helix-turn-helix fold and is predicted to bind DNA. Based on its domain architectural contexts, they presented evidence that this domain might play an important role, both in eukaryotes and bacteria, in the recruitment of diverse effector activities, including the Polycomb repressive complexes, to DNA, depending on the state of epigenetic modifications such as 5-methylcytosine and its oxidized derivatives. In other eukaryotic chromatin proteins, this predicted DNA-binding domain is fused to a region with three conserved motifs that are also found in diverse eukaryotic chromatin proteins, such as the animal BAZ/WAL proteins, plant HB1 and MBD9, yeast Itc1p and Ioc3, RSF1, CECR2 and NURF1. Based on the crystal structure of Ioc3, they established that these motifs in conjunction with the DDT motif constitute a structural determinant that is central to nucleosomal repositioning by the ISWI clade of SWI2/SNF2 ATPases. they also showed that the central domain of the ASXL proteins (ASXH domain) is conserved outside of animals in fungi and plants, where it is combined with other domains, suggesting that it might be an ancient module mediating interactions between chromatin-linked protein complexes and transcription factors via its conserved LXLL motif. They presented evidence that the C-terminal PHD finger of ASXL protein has certain peculiar structural modifications that might allow it to recognize internal modified lysines other than those from the N terminus of histone H3, making it the mediator of previously unexpected interactions in chromatin. The deaminase-like fold includes, in addition to nucleic acid/nucleotide deaminases, several catalytic domains such as the JAB domain, and others involved in nucleotide and ADP-ribose metabolism. Using sensitive sequence and structural comparison methods, Dr. Aravind and his team developed a comprehensive natural classification of the deaminase-like fold and show that its ancestral version was likely to operate on nucleotides or nucleic acids. Consequently, they presented evidence that a specific group of JAB domains are likely to possess a DNA repair function, distinct from the previously known deubiquitinating peptidase activity. They also identified numerous previously unknown clades of nucleic acid deaminases. Using inference based on contextual information, they suggested that most of these clades are toxin domains of two distinct classes of bacterial toxin systems, namely polymorphic toxins implicated in bacterial interstrain competition and those that target distantly related cells. Genome context information suggests that these toxins might be delivered via diverse secretory systems, such as Type V, Type VI, PVC and a novel PrsW-like intramembrane peptidase-dependent mechanism. They proposed that certain deaminase toxins might be deployed by diverse extracellular and intracellular pathogens as also endosymbionts as effectors targeting nucleic acids of host cells. Their analysis suggested that these toxin deaminases have been acquired by eukaryotes on several independent occasions and recruited as organellar or nucleo-cytoplasmic RNA modifiers, operating on tRNAs, mRNAs and short non-coding RNAs, and also as mutators of hyper-variable genes, viruses and selfish elements. This scenario potentially explains the origin of mutagenic AID/APOBEC-like deaminases, including novel versions from Caenorhabditis, Nematostella and diverse algae and a large class of fast-evolving fungal deaminases. These observations greatly expand the distribution of possible unidentified mutagenic processes catalyzed by nucleic acid deaminases.

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Iyer, Lakshminarayan M; Zhang, Dapeng; Aravind, L (2016) Adenine methylation in eukaryotes: Apprehending the complex evolutionary history and functional potential of an epigenetic modification. Bioessays 38:27-40
Zhang, Dapeng; Burroughs, A Maxwell; Vidal, Newton D et al. (2016) Transposons to toxins: the provenance, architecture and diversification of a widespread class of eukaryotic effectors. Nucleic Acids Res 44:3513-33
Burroughs, A Maxwell; Aravind, L (2016) RNA damage in biological conflicts and the diversity of responding RNA repair systems. Nucleic Acids Res :
Vidal, Newton M; Grazziotin, Ana Laura; Iyer, Lakshminarayan M et al. (2016) Transcription factors, chromatin proteins and the diversification of Hemiptera. Insect Biochem Mol Biol 69:1-13
Meiering, Elizabeth M; Aravind, L (2016) Editorial overview: Sequences and topology: Protein function - synthesizing information from sequence, structure and disorder. Curr Opin Struct Biol 38:vii-ix
Burroughs, A Maxwell; Zhang, Dapeng; Schäffer, Daniel E et al. (2015) Comparative genomic analyses reveal a vast, novel network of nucleotide-centric systems in biological conflicts, immunity and signaling. Nucleic Acids Res 43:10633-54
Samanovic, Marie I; Tu, Shengjiang; Novák, Ondřej et al. (2015) Proteasomal control of cytokinin synthesis protects Mycobacterium tuberculosis against nitric oxide. Mol Cell 57:984-94
Dambach, Michael; Sandoval, Melissa; Updegrove, Taylor B et al. (2015) The ubiquitous yybP-ykoY riboswitch is a manganese-responsive regulatory element. Mol Cell 57:1099-109
Mesquita, Rafael D; Vionette-Amaral, Raquel J; Lowenberger, Carl et al. (2015) Genome of Rhodnius prolixus, an insect vector of Chagas disease, reveals unique adaptations to hematophagy and parasite infection. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:14936-41
Natarajan, Padmaja; Punta, Marco; Kumar, Abhinav et al. (2015) Structure and sequence analyses of Bacteroides proteins BVU_4064 and BF1687 reveal presence of two novel predominantly-beta domains, predicted to be involved in lipid and cell surface interactions. BMC Bioinformatics 16:7

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