Leila Birolo

Professor of Biochemistry

Name Leila
Surname Birolo
Institution University of Naples – Federico II
E-Mail birolo@unina.it
Address Department of Chemical Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, Naples 80126, Italy
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Leila Birolo


  • Minimally Invasive and Portable Method for the Identification of Proteins in Ancient Paintings.

    Publication Date: 15/08/2018 on Analytical chemistry
    by Cicatiello P, Ntasi G, Rossi M, Marino G, Giardina P, Birolo L
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.8b01718

    A novel method for the analysis of proteinaceous materials present on painted surfaces was developed by taking advantage of the adhesive ability of some fungal proteins which can form a stable and homogeneous layer on flexible transparency sheets able to capture trypsin in a fully active form. We demonstrated that the bioactive sheets were able to efficiently digest proteins, present as such, on surfaces of painted tests and historical samples, releasing peptides that can allow an easy and confident identification of the proteinaceous binders by standard bottom-up proteomic approach. By this method there is no need: (i) to transport the artifacts and (ii) to remove, even at micro level, a sample from the object. The ingenuity of the method lies in the easily accommodated sampling coupled with a minimal invasiveness.

  • Novel use of Evolved Gas Analysis/Mass Spectrometry to identify the earliest organic binder in Aegean style wall paintings from Tel Kabri, Israel, dated to the late 18th C. B.C.E.

    Publication Date: 10/08/2018 on Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)
    by Linn R, Bonaduce I, Ntasi G, Birolo L, Yasur-Landau A, Cline E, Nevin A, Lluveras-Tenorio A
    DOI: 10.1002/anie.201806520

    An organic binder was identified in the painted fragments from the Canaanite palace of Tel Kabri, Israel. Recently dated to the late 18th C. B.C.E. by 14C, Tel Kabri is the most ancient of the Eastern Mediterranean sites in which Aegean style paintings have been found. The application of pigments was suspected to be using an organic binding medium, particularly for the Egyptian Blue pigment. Samples of blue paint were examined using Evolved Gas Analysis/Mass Spectrometry (EGA-MS) in order to overcome the analytical challenge imposed by highly degraded aged proteinaceous materials. Egg was identified as the binder based on the presence of Hexadecanonitrile and octadecanonitrile confirming the use of a secco painting technique. Lysozyme C from Gallus gallus was detected by proteomics analysis, confirming the presence of egg. To the authors' knowledge, this is the earliest use of egg as a binder in Aegean style wall paintings.

  • Structural differences between toxic and nontoxic HypF-N oligomers.

    Publication Date: 18/07/2018 on Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)
    by Capitini C, Patel JR, Natalello A, D'Andrea C, Relini A, Jarvis JA, Birolo L, Peduzzo A, Vendruscolo M, Matteini P, Dobson CM, De Simone A, Chiti F
    DOI: 10.1039/c8cc03446j

    We have studied two misfolded oligomeric forms of the protein HypF-N, which show similar morphologies but very different toxicities. We measured over 80 intermolecular distance-dependent parameters for each oligomer type using FRET, in conjunction with solution- and solid-state NMR and other biophysical techniques. The results indicate that the formation of a highly organised hydrogen bonded core in the toxic oligomers results in the exposure of a larger number of hydrophobic residues than in the nontoxic species, causing the former to form aberrant interactions with cellular components.

  • Identification of novel direct protein-protein interactions by irradiating living cells with femtosecond UV laser pulses.

    Publication Date: 07/10/2017 on Biochemical and biophysical research communications
    by Itri F, Monti DM, Chino M, Vinciguerra R, Altucci C, Lombardi A, Piccoli R, Birolo L, Arciello A
    DOI: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2017.08.037

    The identification of protein-protein interaction networks in living cells is becoming increasingly fundamental to elucidate main biological processes and to understand disease molecular bases on a system-wide level. We recently described a method (LUCK, Laser UV Cross-linKing) to cross-link interacting protein surfaces in living cells by UV laser irradiation. By using this innovative methodology, that does not require any protein modification or cell engineering, here we demonstrate that, upon UV laser irradiation of HeLa cells, a direct interaction between GAPDH and alpha-enolase was "frozen" by a cross-linking event. We validated the occurrence of this direct interaction by co-immunoprecipitation and Immuno-FRET analyses. This represents a proof of principle of the LUCK capability to reveal direct protein interactions in their physiological environment.

  • New lipases by mining of Pleurotus ostreatus genome.

    Publication Date: 25/09/2017 on PloS one
    by Piscitelli A, Tarallo V, Guarino L, Sannia G, Birolo L, Pezzella C
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185377

    The analysis of Pleurotus ostreatus genome reveals the presence of automatically annotated 53 lipase and 34 carboxylesterase putative coding-genes. Since no biochemical or physiological data are available so far, a functional approach was applied to identify lipases from P. ostreatus. In the tested growth conditions, four lipases were found expressed, with different patterns depending on the used C source. Two of the four identified proteins (PleoLip241 and PleoLip369), expressed in both analysed conditions, were chosen for further studies, such as an in silico analysis and their molecular characterization. To overcome limits linked to native production, a recombinant expression approach in the yeast Pichia pastoris was applied. Different expression levels were obtained: PleoLip241 reached a maximum activity of 4000 U/L, whereas PleoLip369 reached a maximum activity of 700 U/L. Despite their sequence similarity, these enzymes exhibited different substrate specificity and diverse stability at pH, temperature, and presence of metals, detergents and organic solvents. The obtained data allowed classifying PleoLip241 as belonging to the "true lipase" family. Indeed, by phylogenetic analysis the two proteins fall in different clusters. PleoLip241 was used to remove the hydrophobic layer from wool surface in order to improve its dyeability. The encouraging results obtained with lipase treated wool led to forecast PleoLip241 applicability in this field.

  • GC/MS and proteomics to unravel the painting history of the lost Giant Buddhas of Bāmiyān (Afghanistan).

    Publication Date: 05/04/2017 on PloS one
    by Lluveras-Tenorio A, Vinciguerra R, Galano E, Blaensdorf C, Emmerling E, Perla Colombini M, Birolo L, Bonaduce I
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172990

    A chemical investigation of the organic paint binders of the Giant Buddhas of Bāmiyān was performed using an analytical approach based on mass spectrometry, combining traditional gas chromatography/mass spectrometry protocols with advanced proteomics methodologies. The research was carried out on a selection of rescued fragments. The data revealed the use of egg proteins as the paint binders of the original layers, in accordance with the traditional use of this proteinaceous medium in antiquity, spanning from the Mediterranean basin to the Far East, and already in the Bronze Age. Egg tempera was thus known to artists of the region in the first centuries AD, probably also due to the position of the Bāmiyān valley, which was connected to the Silk Road. Milk was found in the first historical overpaintings. A new proteomics approach was used, which was able to identify the source of the milk proteins present in the restoration layers, despite their age and degradation. In particular cow's and goat's milk were both found, in agreement with the documented presence of rich pastures in the Bāmiyān valley when the historical restorations were carried out. Investigating the materials of the Giant Buddhas not only enabled us to obtain isolated data on these invaluable works of art, which are now lost, but contributes to understanding the big "puzzle" of our past and the development of our culture, by implementing and supporting written sources, stylistic and anthropological studies with molecular data.

  • Lignocellulose-Adapted Endo-Cellulase Producing Streptomyces Strains for Bioconversion of Cellulose-Based Materials.

    Publication Date: 22/12/2016 on Frontiers in microbiology
    by Ventorino V, Ionata E, Birolo L, Montella S, Marcolongo L, de Chiaro A, Espresso F, Faraco V, Pepe O
    DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.02061

    Twenty-four Actinobacteria strains, isolated from Arundo donax, Eucalyptus camaldulensis and Populus nigra biomass during natural biodegradation and with potential enzymatic activities specific for the degradation of lignocellulosic materials, were identified by a polyphasic approach. All strains belonged to the genus Streptomyces (S.) and in particular, the most highly represented species was Streptomyces argenteolus representing 50% of strains, while 8 strains were identified as Streptomyces flavogriseus (synonym S. flavovirens) and Streptomyces fimicarius (synonyms Streptomyces acrimycini, Streptomyces baarnensis, Streptomyces caviscabies, and Streptomyces flavofuscus), and the other four strains belonged to the species Streptomyces drozdowiczii, Streptomyces rubrogriseus, Streptomyces albolongus, and Streptomyces ambofaciens. Moreover, all Streptomyces strains, tested for endo and exo-cellulase, cellobiase, xylanase, pectinase, ligninase, peroxidase, and laccase activities using qualitative and semi-quantitative methods on solid growth medium, exhibited multiple enzymatic activities (from three to six). The 24 strains were further screened for endo-cellulase activity in liquid growth medium and the four best endo-cellulase producers (S. argenteolus AE58P, S. argenteolus AE710A, S. argenteolus AE82P, and S. argenteolus AP51A) were subjected to partial characterization and their enzymatic crude extracts adopted to perform saccharification experiments on A. donax pretreated biomass. The degree of cellulose and xylan hydrolysis was evaluated by determining the kinetics of glucose and xylose release during 72 h incubation at 50°C from the pretreated biomass in the presence of cellulose degrading enzymes (cellulase and β-glucosidase) and xylan related activities (xylanase and β-xylosidase). The experiments were carried out utilizing the endo-cellulase activities from the selected S. argenteolus strains supplemented with commercial β-gucosidase and xylanase preparations from Genencore (Accellerase BG and Accellerase XY). Cellulose and xylan conversion, when conducted using commercial (hemi)cellulases, gave glucose and xylose yields of 30.17 and 68.9%, respectively. The replacement of the cellulolytic preparation from Genencor (Accellerase 1500), with the endo-cellulase from S. argenteolus AE58P resulted in almost 76% of the glucose yield obtained in the presence of the commercial counterpart. Due to the promising results obtained by using the enzymatic crude extracts from S. argenteolus AE58P in the pretreated A. donax saccharification experiments, the proteins putatively responsible for endo-cellulase activity in this strain were identified by proteomics. Several proteins were confidently identified in different Streptomyces spp., eight of which belong to the class of Carbohydrate active enzymes. Overall results highlighted the biotechnological potential of S. argenteolus AE58P being an interesting candidate biocatalyst-producing bacterium for lignocellulose conversion and production of biochemicals and bioenergy.

  • Regulating levels of the neuromodulator d-serine in human brain: structural insight into pLG72 and d-amino acid oxidase interaction.

    Publication Date: 01/09/2016 on The FEBS journal
    by Birolo L, Sacchi S, Smaldone G, Molla G, Leo G, Caldinelli L, Pirone L, Eliometri P, Di Gaetano S, Orefice I, Pedone E, Pucci P, Pollegioni L
    DOI: 10.1111/febs.13809

    The human flavoenzyme d-amino acid oxidase (hDAAO) degrades the NMDA-receptor modulator d-serine in the brain. Although hDAAO has been extensively characterized, little is known about its main modulator pLG72, a small protein encoded by the primate-specific gene G72 that has been associated with schizophrenia susceptibility. pLG72 interacts with neosynthesized hDAAO, promoting its inactivation and degradation. In this work, we used low-resolution techniques to characterize the surface topology of the hDAAO-pLG72 complex. By using limited proteolysis coupled to mass spectrometry, we could map the exposed regions in the two proteins after complex formation and highlighted an increased sensitivity to proteolysis of hDAAO in complex with pLG72. Cross-linking experiments by using bis(sulfosuccinimidyl)suberate identified the single covalent bond between T182 in hDAAO and K62 in pLG72. In order to validate the designed mode of interaction, three pLG72 variants incrementally truncated at the C terminus, in addition to a form lacking the 71 N-terminal residues, were produced. All variants were dimeric, folded, and interacted with hDAAO. The strongest decrease in affinity for hDAAO (as well as for the hydrophobic drug chlorpromazine) was apparent for the N-terminally deleted pLG72(72-153) form, which lacked K62. On the other hand, eliminating the disordered C-terminal tail yielded a more stable pLG72 protein, improved the binding to hDAAO, although giving lower enzyme inhibition. Elucidation of the mode of hDAAO-pLG72 interaction now makes it possible to design novel molecules that, by targeting the protein complex, can be therapeutically advantageous for diseases related to impairment in d-serine metabolism.

  • Femtosecond UV-laser pulses to unveil protein-protein interactions in living cells.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2016 on Cellular and molecular life sciences : CMLS
    by Itri F, Monti DM, Della Ventura B, Vinciguerra R, Chino M, Gesuele F, Lombardi A, Velotta R, Altucci C, Birolo L, Piccoli R, Arciello A
    DOI: 10.1007/s00018-015-2015-y

    A hallmark to decipher bioprocesses is to characterize protein-protein interactions in living cells. To do this, the development of innovative methodologies, which do not alter proteins and their natural environment, is particularly needed. Here, we report a method (LUCK, Laser UV Cross-linKing) to in vivo cross-link proteins by UV-laser irradiation of living cells. Upon irradiation of HeLa cells under controlled conditions, cross-linked products of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) were detected, whose yield was found to be a linear function of the total irradiation energy. We demonstrated that stable dimers of GAPDH were formed through intersubunit cross-linking, as also observed when the pure protein was irradiated by UV-laser in vitro. We proposed a defined patch of aromatic residues located at the enzyme subunit interface as the cross-linking sites involved in dimer formation. Hence, by this technique, UV-laser is able to photofix protein surfaces that come in direct contact. Due to the ultra-short time scale of UV-laser-induced cross-linking, this technique could be extended to weld even transient protein interactions in their native context.

  • A new hexapeptide from the leader peptide of rMnSOD enters cells through the oestrogen receptor to deliver therapeutic molecules.

    Publication Date: 04/01/2016 on Scientific reports
    by Borrelli A, Schiattarella A, Mancini R, Pica A, Pollio ML, Ruggiero MG, Bonelli P, De Luca V, Tuccillo FM, Capasso C, Gori E, Sanseverino M, Carpentieri A, Birolo L, Pucci P, Rommelaere J, Mancini A
    DOI: 10.1038/srep18691

    A 24-amino acid leader peptide of a new human recombinant manganese superoxide dismutase can enter cells and carry molecules. Here, we demonstrated that six of the 24 amino acids penetrate cells through a particular gate represented by a specific amino acid sequence of the oestrogen receptor (ER). We analysed the internalization of the synthetic hexapeptide and the cytotoxic activity of the hexapeptide conjugated to cisplatin on a cell line panel. In most cell lines, the hexapeptide delivered an amount of cisplatin that was 2 to 8 times greater than that released by cisplatin when the drug was used alone. This increased delivery increases the therapeutic index of cisplatin and reduces side effects caused by a high dosage or long-term treatment times. We may consider this hexapeptide a new molecular carrier to deliver molecules with therapeutic activity into ER(+) cells for diagnostic purposes and clinical or immune therapy.