Publications & Prizes

Biochemistry Department Honour Board

Awards given to Department Members

Publications on this page begin in 2012. Some staff have a record of earlier publications on their personal pages.

  • PPARGC1B: insight into the expression of the gouty inflammation phenotype: PPARGC1B and gouty inflammation.
  • Tony Merriman and Robert Terkeltaub., Rheumatology (Oxford) 2016 p. kew453.
  • Published:20 December 2016
  • Genome-wide methylation sequencing of paired primary and metastatic cell lines identifies common DNA methylation changes and a role for EBF3 as a candidate epigenetic driver of melanoma metastasis.
  • Aniruddha Chatterjee, Peter A Stockwell, Antonio Ahn, Euan J Rodger, Anna L Leichter, and Michael R Eccles., Oncotarget 2016.
  • Published:20 December 2016
  • Epigenetic alterations are increasingly implicated in metastasis, whereas very few genetic mutations have been identified as authentic drivers of cancer metastasis. Yet, to date, few studies have identified metastasis-related epigenetic drivers, in part because a framework for identifying driver epigenetic changes in metastasis has not been established. Using reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS), we mapped genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in three cutaneous primary and metastatic melanoma cell line pairs to identify metastasis-related epigenetic drivers. Globally, metastatic melanoma cell lines were hypomethylated compared to the matched primary melanoma cell lines. Using whole genome RRBS we identified 75 shared (10 hyper- and 65 hypomethylated) differentially methylated fragments (DMFs), which were associated with 68 genes showing significant methylation differences. One gene, Early B Cell Factor 3 (EBF3), exhibited promoter hypermethylation in metastatic cell lines, and was validated with bisulfite sequencing and in two publicly available independent melanoma cohorts (n = 40 and 458 melanomas, respectively). We found that hypermethylation of the EBF3 promoter was associated with increased EBF3 mRNA levels in metastatic melanomas and subsequent inhibition of DNA methylation reduced EBF3 expression. RNAi-mediated knockdown of EBF3 mRNA levels decreased proliferation, migration and invasion in primary and metastatic melanoma cell lines. Overall, we have identified numerous epigenetic changes characterising metastatic melanoma cell lines, including EBF3-induced aggressive phenotypic behaviour with elevated EBF3 expression in metastatic melanoma, suggesting that EBF3 promoter hypermethylation may be a candidate epigenetic driver of metastasis.


  • Performance Characteristics of a Multigene Urine Biomarker Test for Monitoring for Recurrent Urothelial Carcinoma in a Multicenter Study.
  • L Kavalieris, P O'Sullivan, C Frampton, P Guilford, D Darling, E Jacobson, J Suttie, J D Raman, S F Shariat, and Y Lotan., J Urol 2016.
  • Published:14 December 2016
  • PURPOSE:Urothelial carcinoma is associated with a high rate of recurrence with guidelines recommending rigorous, regular surveillance programs that are invasive and expensive. This study describes a non-invasive urine test with sufficient sensitivity to 'rule out' recurrent urothelial carcinoma, thereby reducing invasive diagnostic evaluations without compromising patient care.

    METHODS AND MATERIALS:1036 urine samples were prospectively collected from 763 patients undergoing routine surveillance for recurrent urothelial carcinoma of the bladder to develop and validate a test with combined high sensitivity and high negative predictive value. Cxbladder Monitor combines gene expression, clinical and patient data and is designed to rule out the presence of recurrent urothelial carcinoma.

    RESULTS:Cxbladder Monitor offers an internally validated sensitivity of 0.93 with a negative predictive value of 0.97 and a test-negative rate of 0.34. Sensitivity is 0.95 for recurrent disease with a high risk of progression (all high-grade disease and low-grade, stage ≥T1 disease) compared with 0.86 for low-grade Ta disease. Subgroup analyses indicated that diagnostic performance was not significantly different within different age groups, gender or tumor stages. The sensitivity was not affected by adjuvant Bacillus Calmette-Guérin treatment within the last 6 months. False-negatives were reported in <1.5% of all samples collected.

    CONCLUSIONS:The Cxbladder Monitor test offers high sensitivity and high negative predictive value, combined, for ruling out urothelial carcinoma. This test has clinical utility as a confirmatory negative adjunct to cystoscopy, potentially justifying the postponement/avoidance of cystoscopic investigations for monitoring for recurrence patients.

  • A Broad-Spectrum Chemokine-Binding Protein of Bovine Papular Stomatitis Virus Inhibits Neutrophil and Monocyte Infiltration in Inflammatory and Wound Models of Mouse Skin.
  • Saeed Sharif, Yoshio Nakatani, Lyn Wise, Michael Corbett, Nicola C Real, Gabriella S Stuart, Zabeen Lateef, Kurt Krause, Andrew A Mercer, and Stephen B Fleming., PLoS ONE 2016 vol. 11 (12) p. e0168007.
  • Published:9 December 2016
  • Bovine papular stomatitis virus (BPSV) is a Parapoxvirus that induces acute pustular skin lesions in cattle and is transmissible to humans. Previous studies have shown that BPSV encodes a distinctive chemokine-binding protein (CBP). Chemokines are critically involved in the trafficking of immune cells to sites of inflammation and infected tissue, suggesting that the CBP plays a role in immune evasion by preventing immune cells reaching sites of infection. We hypothesised that the BPSV-CBP binds a wide range of inflammatory chemokines particularly those involved in BPSV skin infection, and inhibits the recruitment of immune cells from the blood into inflamed skin. Molecular analysis of the purified protein revealed that the BPSV-CBP is a homodimeric polypeptide with a MW of 82.4 kDa whilst a comprehensive screen of inflammatory chemokines by surface plasmon resonance showed high-affinity binding to a range of chemokines within the CXC, CC and XC subfamilies. Structural analysis of BPSV-CBP, based on the crystal structure of orf virus CBP, provided a probable explanation for these chemokine specificities at a molecular level. Functional analysis of the BPSV-CBP using transwell migration assays demonstrated that it potently inhibited chemotaxis of murine neutrophils and monocytes in response to CXCL1, CXCL2 as well as CCL2, CCL3 and CCL5 chemokines. In order to examine the effects of CBP in vivo, we used murine skin models to determine its impact on inflammatory cell recruitment such as that observed during BPSV infection. Intradermal injection of BPSV-CBP blocked the influx of neutrophils and monocytes in murine skin in which inflammation was induced with lipopolysaccharide. Furthermore, intradermal injection of BPSV-CBP into injured skin, which more closely mimics BPSV lesions, delayed the influx of neutrophils and reduced the recruitment of MHC-II+ immune cells to the wound bed. Our findings suggest that the CBP could be important in pathogenesis of BPSV infections.

  • Doubled Haploid 'CUDH2107' as a Reference for Bulb Onion (Allium cepa L.) Research: Development of a Transcriptome Catalogue and Identification of Transcripts Associated with Male Fertility.
  • Jiffinvir S Khosa, Robyn Lee, Sophia Bräuning, Janice Lord, Meeghan Pither-Joyce, John McCallum, and Richard C Macknight., PLoS ONE 2016 vol. 11 (11) p. e0166568.
  • Published:18 November 2016
  • Researchers working on model plants have derived great benefit from developing genomic and genetic resources using 'reference' genotypes. Onion has a large and highly heterozygous genome making the sharing of germplasm and analysis of sequencing data complicated. To simplify the discovery and analysis of genes underlying important onion traits, we are promoting the use of the homozygous double haploid line 'CUDH2107' by the onion research community. In the present investigation, we performed transcriptome sequencing on vegetative and reproductive tissues of CUDH2107 to develop a multi-organ reference transcriptome catalogue. A total of 396 million 100 base pair paired reads was assembled using the Trinity pipeline, resulting in 271,665 transcript contigs. This dataset was analysed for gene ontology and transcripts were classified on the basis of putative biological processes, molecular function and cellular localization. Significant differences were observed in transcript expression profiles between different tissues. To demonstrate the utility of our CUDH2107 transcriptome catalogue for understanding the genetic and molecular basis of various traits, we identified orthologues of rice genes involved in male fertility and flower development. These genes provide an excellent starting point for studying the molecular regulation, and the engineering of reproductive traits.

  • A retrospective look at clinical biochemistry in 1957.
  • Michael Legge., New Zealand Journal of Medical Laboratory Science 2016 vol. 70 (3) pp. 114-116.
  • Published:17 November 2016


  • A cis-regulatory module in the transcription factor DUO1 promoter.
  • Benjamin Peters, Jonathan Casey, Jack Aidley, Stuart Zohrab, Michael Borg, David Twell, and Lynette Brownfield., Plant Physiol 2016 p. pp.01192.2016.
  • Published:16 November 2016
  • The development of the male germline within pollen relies upon the activation of numerous target genes by the transcription factor DUO POLLEN1 (DUO1). The expression of DUO1 is restricted to the male germline and is first detected shortly after the asymmetric division that segregates the germ cell lineage. Transcriptional regulation is critical in controlling DUO1 expression since transcriptional and translational fusions show similar expression patterns. Here we identify key promoter sequences required for the germline-specific regulation of DUO1 transcription. Combining promoter deletion analyses with phylogenetic footprinting in eudicots and in Arabidopsis accessions, we identify a cis-regulatory module, Regulatory region of DUO1 (ROD1), which replicates the expression pattern of DUO1 in Arabidopsis thaliana. We show that ROD1 from the legume Medicago truncatula directs male germline-specific expression in A. thaliana, demonstrating conservation of DUO1 regulation among eudicots. ROD1 contains several short conserved cis-regulatory elements, including three copies of the motif DNGTGGV, required for germline expression and tandem repeats of the motif YAACYGY, which enhance DUO1 transcription in a positive feedback loop. We conclude that a cis-regulatory module conserved in eudicots, directs the spatial and temporal expression of the transcription factor DUO1 to specify male germline fate and sperm cell differentiation. 

  • Lack of direct evidence for natural selection at the candidate thrifty gene locus, PPARGC1A.
  • Murray Cadzow, Tony R Merriman, James Boocock, Nicola Dalbeth, Lisa K Stamp, Michael A Black, Peter M Visscher, and Phillip L Wilcox., BMC Med Genet 2016 vol. 17 (1) p. 80.
  • Published:14 November 2016
  • BACKGROUND:The gene PPARGC1A, in particular the Gly482Ser variant (rs8192678), had been proposed to be subject to natural selection, particularly in recent progenitors of extant Polynesian populations. Reasons include high levels of population differentiation and increased frequencies of the derived type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk 482Ser allele, and association with body mass index (BMI) in a small Tongan population. However, no direct statistical tests for selection have been applied.

     METHODS:Using a range of Polynesian populations (Tongan, Māori, Samoan) we re-examined evidence for association between Gly482Ser with T2D and BMI as well as gout. Using also Asian, European, and African 1000 Genome Project samples a range of statistical tests for selection (F ST, integrated haplotype score (iHS), cross population extended haplotype homozygosity (XP-EHH), Tajima's D and Fay and Wu's H) were conducted on the PPARGC1A locus.

     RESULTS:No statistically significant evidence for association between Gly482Ser and any of BMI, T2D or gout was found. Population differentiation (F ST) was smallest between Asian and Pacific populations (New Zealand Māori ≤ 0.35, Samoan ≤ 0.20). When compared to European (New Zealand Māori ≤ 0.40, Samoan ≤ 0.25) or African populations (New Zealand Māori ≤ 0.80, Samoan ≤ 0.66) this differentiation was larger. We did not find any strong evidence for departure from neutral evolution at this locus when applying any of the other statistical tests for selection. However, using the same analytical methods, we found evidence for selection in specific populations at previously identified loci, indicating that lack of selection was the most likely explanation for the lack of evidence of selection in PPARGC1A.

     CONCLUSION:We conclude that there is no compelling evidence for selection at this locus, and that this gene should not be considered a candidate thrifty gene locus in Pacific populations. High levels of population differentiation at this locus and the reported absence of the derived 482Ser allele in some Melanesian populations, can alternatively be explained by multiple out-of-Africa migrations by ancestral progenitors, and subsequent genetic drift during colonisation of Polynesia. Intermediate 482Ser allele frequencies in extant Western Polynesian populations could therefore be due to recent admixture with Melanesian progenitors. 

  • Megakaryocytes from CYCS mutation-associated thrombocytopenia release platelets by both proplatelet-dependent and -independent processes.
  • Lily Ong, Ian M Morison, and Elizabeth C Ledgerwood., Br J Haematol 2016.
  • Published:11 November 2016
  • Thrombocytopenia Cargeeg is a rare autosomal dominant disorder and one of three thrombocytopenias caused by mutation of cytochrome c (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man entry THC4). Our previous observations of platelet-like structures in the marrow space and early platelet production in vitro suggested that the low platelet phenotype in Thrombocytopenia Cargeeg subjects is caused by premature release of platelets into non-vascular regions of the bone marrow. We now show that two processes of platelet release occur in Thrombocytopenia Cargeeg subjects. Circulating platelets have a normal marginal microtubule coil, and cultured megakaryocytes derived from peripheral blood cells of Thrombocytopenia Cargeeg subjects form proplatelets normally and release platelets containing a marginal microtubule coil, consistent with effective platelet release via the proplatelet mechanism. In contrast, platelet-like structures within the extravascular bone marrow space have the dimensions of platelets but lack the marginal microtubule coil, suggesting abnormal proplatelet-independent platelet release. The mechanism of extravascular platelet release remains unclear. The failure to recapitulate this mechanism in vitro implies that the phenotype is not simply an intrinsic property of CYCS mutation-carrying megakaryocytes, but is dependent on the interaction between these cells and their environment.

  • Establishing RNAi in a Non-Model Organism: The Antarctic Nematode Panagrolaimus sp. DAW1.
  • Anna C Seybold, David A Wharton, Michael A S Thorne, and Craig J Marshall., PLoS ONE 2016 vol. 11 (11) p. e0166228.
  • Published:10 November 2016
  • The Antarctic nematode Panagrolaimus sp. DAW1 is one of the only organisms known to survive extensive intracellular freezing throughout its tissues. Although the physiological mechanisms of this extreme adaptation are partly understood, the molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. RNAi is a method that allows the examination of gene function in a direct, targeted manner, by knocking out specific mRNAs and revealing the effects on the phenotype. In this study we have explored the viability of RNAi in Panagrolaimus sp. DAW1. In the first trial, nematodes were fed E. coli expressing Panagrolaimus sp. DAW1 dsRNA of the embryonic lethal genes rps-2 and dhc, and the blister gene duox. Pd-rps-2(RNAi)-treated nematodes showed a significant decrease in larval hatching. However, qPCR showed no significant decrease in the amount of rps-2 mRNA in Pd-rps-2(RNAi)-treated animals. Several soaking protocols for dsRNA uptake were investigated using the fluorescent dye FITC. Desiccation-enhanced soaking showed the strongest uptake of FITC and resulted in a significant and consistent decrease of mRNA levels of two of the four tested genes (rps-2 and tps-2a), suggesting effective uptake of dsRNA-containing solution by the nematode. These findings suggest that RNAi by desiccation-enhanced soaking is viable in Panagrolaimus sp. DAW1 and provide the first functional genomic approach to investigate freezing tolerance in this non-model organism. RNAi, in conjunction with qPCR, can be used to screen for candidate genes involved in intracellular freezing tolerance in Panagrolaimus sp. DAW1.