Pietro Pucci

Professor of Biochemistry

Name Pietro
Surname Pucci
Institution Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli
Telephone +39 081 674 318 (UniNa)
Telephone 2 +39 081 373 7896 (Ceinge)
E-Mail pucci@unina.it
Address Department of Chemical Sciences, Federico II University, Via Cintia 6, 80126, Naples, Italy
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Pietro Pucci


  • Divergent behavior of hydrogen sulfide pools and of the sulfur metabolite lanthionine, a novel uremic toxin, in dialysis patients.

    Publication Date: 01/07/2016 on Biochimie
    by Perna AF, Di Nunzio A, Amoresano A, Pane F, Fontanarosa C, Pucci P, Vigorito C, Cirillo G, Zacchia M, Trepiccione F, Ingrosso D
    DOI: 10.1016/j.biochi.2016.04.018

    Dialysis patients display a high cardiovascular mortality, the causes of which are still not completely explained, but are related to uremic toxicity. Among uremic toxins, homocysteine and cysteine are both substrates of cystathionine β-synthase and cystathionine γ-lyase in hydrogen sulfide biosynthesis, leading to the formation of two sulfur metabolites, lanthionine and homolanthionine, considered stable indirect biomarkers of its production. Hydrogen sulfide is involved in the modulation of multiple pathophysiological responses. In uremia, we have demonstrated low plasma total hydrogen sulfide levels, due to reduced cystathionine γ-lyase expression. Plasma hydrogen sulfide levels were measured in hemodialysis patients and healthy controls with three different techniques in comparison, allowing to discern the different pools of this gas. The protein-bound (the one thought to be the most active) and acid-labile forms are significantly decreased, while homolanthionine, but especially lanthionine, accumulate in the blood of uremic patients. The hemodialysis regimen plays a role in determining sulfur compounds levels, and lanthionine is partially removed by a single dialysis session. Lanthionine inhibits hydrogen sulfide production in cell cultures under conditions comparable to in vivo ones. We therefore propose that lanthionine is a novel uremic toxin. The possible role of high lanthionine as a contributor to the genesis of hyperhomocysteinemia in uremia is discussed.

  • Identification of p38 MAPK and JNK as new targets for correction of Wilson disease-causing ATP7B mutants.

    Publication Date: 01/06/2016 on Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)
    by Chesi G, Hegde RN, Iacobacci S, Concilli M, Parashuraman S, Festa BP, Polishchuk EV, Di Tullio G, Carissimo A, Montefusco S, Canetti D, Monti M, Amoresano A, Pucci P, van de Sluis B, Lutsenko S, Luini A, Polishchuk RS
    DOI: 10.1002/hep.28398

    Wilson disease (WD) is an autosomal recessive disorder that is caused by the toxic accumulation of copper (Cu) in the liver. The ATP7B gene, which is mutated in WD, encodes a multitransmembrane domain adenosine triphosphatase that traffics from the trans-Golgi network to the canalicular area of hepatocytes, where it facilitates excretion of excess Cu into the bile. Several ATP7B mutations, including H1069Q and R778L that are two of the most frequent variants, result in protein products, which, although still functional, remain in the endoplasmic reticulum. Thus, they fail to reach Cu excretion sites, resulting in the toxic buildup of Cu in the liver of WD patients. Therefore, correcting the location of these mutants by leading them to the appropriate functional sites in the cell should restore Cu excretion and would be beneficial to help large cohorts of WD patients. However, molecular targets for correction of endoplasmic reticulum-retained ATP7B mutants remain elusive. Here, we show that expression of the most frequent ATP7B mutant, H1069Q, activates p38 and c-Jun N-terminal kinase signaling pathways, which favor the rapid degradation of the mutant. Suppression of these pathways with RNA interference or specific chemical inhibitors results in the substantial rescue of ATP7B(H1069Q) (as well as that of several other WD-causing mutants) from the endoplasmic reticulum to the trans-Golgi network compartment, in recovery of its Cu-dependent trafficking, and in reduction of intracellular Cu levels.

  • Proteome analysis of human amniotic mesenchymal stem cells (hA-MSCs) reveals impaired antioxidant ability, cytoskeleton and metabolic functionality in maternal obesity.

    Publication Date: 29/04/2016 on Scientific reports
    by Capobianco V, Caterino M, Iaffaldano L, Nardelli C, Sirico A, Del Vecchio L, Martinelli P, Pastore L, Pucci P, Sacchetti L
    DOI: 10.1038/srep25270

    Maternal obesity increases the risk of obesity and/or obesity-related diseases in the offspring of animal models. The aim of this study was to identify metabolic dysfunctions that could represent an enhanced risk for human obesity or obesity-related diseases in newborn or in adult life, similar to what occurs in animal models. To this aim, we studied the proteome of 12 obese (Ob-) and 6 non-obese (Co-) human amniotic mesenchymal stem cells (hA-MSCs) obtained from women at delivery by cesarean section (pre-pregnancy body mass index [mean ± SD]: 42.7 ± 7.7 and 21.3 ± 3.3 kg/m(2), respectively). The proteome, investigated by two-dimensional fluorescence difference gel electrophoresis/mass spectrometry, revealed 62 differently expressed proteins in Ob- vs Co-hA-MSCs (P < 0.05), nine of which were confirmed by western blotting. Bioinformatics analysis showed that these 62 proteins are involved in several statistically significant pathways (P < 0.05), including the stress response, cytoskeleton and metabolic pathways. Oxidative stress was shown to be an early triggering factor of tissue fat accumulation and obesity-related disorders in the offspring of obese animal models. Our finding of a reduced stress response in Ob-hA-MSCs suggests that a similar mechanism could occur also in humans. Long-term follow-up studies of newborns of obese mothers are required to verify this hypothesis.

  • Protein conformational perturbations in hereditary amyloidosis: Differential impact of single point mutations in ApoAI amyloidogenic variants.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2016 on Biochimica et biophysica acta
    by Del Giudice R, Arciello A, Itri F, Merlino A, Monti M, Buonanno M, Penco A, Canetti D, Petruk G, Monti SM, Relini A, Pucci P, Piccoli R, Monti DM
    DOI: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2015.10.019

    Amyloidoses are devastating diseases characterized by accumulation of misfolded proteins which aggregate in fibrils. Specific gene mutations in Apolipoprotein A I (ApoAI) are associated with systemic amyloidoses. Little is known on the effect of mutations on ApoAI structure and amyloid properties. Here we performed a physico-chemical characterization of L75P- and L174S-amyloidogenic ApoAI (AApoAI) variants to shed light on the effects of two single point mutations on protein stability, proteolytic susceptibility and aggregation propensity. Both variants are destabilized in their N-terminal region and generate fibrils with different morphological features. L75P-AApoAI is significantly altered in its conformation and compactness, whereas a more flexible and pronounced aggregation-competent state is associated to L174S-AApoAI. These observations point out how single point mutations in ApoAI gene evocate differences in the physico-chemical and conformational behavior of the corresponding protein variants, with the common feature of diverting ApoAI from its natural role towards a pathogenic pathway.

  • 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.

  • Deglycosylation Step to Improve the Identification of Egg Proteins in Art Samples.

    Publication Date: 20/10/2015 on Analytical chemistry
    by Vinciguerra R, Galano E, Vallone F, Greco G, Vergara A, Bonaduce I, Marino G, Pucci P, Amoresano A, Birolo L
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.5b02423

    A deglycosylation step using Peptide-N-Glycosidase F (PNGaseF) has been introduced in a standard proteomic protocol to more confidently identify egg based binders. The ingenuity of introducing a PNGaseF digestion was aimed at removing the molecular hindrance, made up by the heavily glycosylated egg proteins, before the protease(s) hydrolysis. This novelty in the protocol resulted in obtaining a significant increase of proteolytic egg peptides thus improving the quality and reliability of egg identification in artwork samples. The protocol has been set up on paint replicas and successfully tested on two historical samples of different origin.

  • Serratiopeptidase: a well-known metalloprotease with a new non-proteolytic activity against S. aureus biofilm.

    Publication Date: 09/10/2015 on BMC microbiology
    by Selan L, Papa R, Tilotta M, Vrenna G, Carpentieri A, Amoresano A, Pucci P, Artini M
    DOI: 10.1186/s12866-015-0548-8

    The use of indwelling medical devices is associated with a significant risk of infections by Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) which possesses a variety of virulence factors including many toxins and the ability to invade eukaryotic cells or to form biofilm on biotic and abiotic surfaces. The virulence factors above described are often related to proteins exposed on the bacterial surface. Blocking S. aureus colonization may reduce the incidence of invasive infectious diseases. Previously reports evaluated the anti-infective properties of serratiopeptidase (Spep), an extracellular metalloprotease produced by Serratia marcescens ATCC 21074 (E-15), in impairing virulence-related staphylococcal properties, such as attachment to inert surfaces and adhesion/invasion on eukaryotic cells. However, to date its mechanism of action is unknown.

  • α-Thalassemia associated with hb instability: a tale of two features. the case of Hb Rogliano or α1 Cod 108(G15)Thr→Asn and Hb Policoro or α2 Cod 124(H7)Ser→Pro.

    Publication Date: 02/03/2015 on PloS one
    by Bisconte MG, Caldora M, Musollino G, Cardiero G, Flagiello A, La Porta G, Lagona L, Prezioso R, Qualtieri G, Gaudiano C, Medulla E, Merlino A, Pucci P, Lacerra G
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115738

    We identified two new variants in the third exon of the α-globin gene in families from southern Italy: the Hb Rogliano, α1 cod108 ACC>AAC or α1[α108(G15)Thr→Asn] and the Hb Policoro, α2 cod124 TCC>CCC or α2[α124(H7)Ser→Pro]. The carriers showed mild α-thalassemia phenotype and abnormal hemoglobin stability features. These mutations occurred in the G and H helices of the α-globin both involved in the specific recognition of AHSP and β1 chain. Molecular characterization of mRNA, globin chain analyses and molecular modelling studies were carried out to highlight the mechanisms causing the α-thalassemia phenotype. The results demonstrated that the α-thalassemia defect associated with the two Hb variants originated by different defects. Hb Rogliano showed an intrinsic instability of the tetramer due to anomalous intra- and inter-chain interactions suggesting that the variant chain is normally synthesized and complexed with AHSP but rapidly degraded because it is unable to form the α1β1 dimers. On the contrary in the case of Hb Policoro two different molecular mechanisms were shown: the reduction of the variant mRNA level by an unclear mechanism and the protein instability due to impairment of AHSP interaction. These data highlighted that multiple approaches, including mRNA quantification, are needed to properly identify the mechanisms leading to the α-thalassemia defect. Elucidation of the specific mechanism leads to the definition of a given phenotype providing important guidance for the diagnosis of unstable variants.

  • Xanthomonas campestris lipooligosaccharides trigger innate immunity and oxidative burst in Arabidopsis.

    Publication Date: 01/12/2014 on Plant physiology and biochemistry : PPB
    by Proietti S, Giangrande C, Amoresano A, Pucci P, Molinaro A, Bertini L, Caporale C, Caruso C
    DOI: 10.1016/j.plaphy.2014.10.011

    Plants lack the adaptive immunity mechanisms of jawed vertebrates, so they rely on innate immune responses to defense themselves from pathogens. The plant immune system perceives the presence of pathogens by recognition of molecules known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). PAMPs have several common characteristics, including highly conserved structures, essential for the microorganism but absent in host organisms. Plants can specifically recognize PAMPs using a large set of receptors and can respond with appropriate defenses by activating a multicomponent and multilayered response. Lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) and lipooligosaccharides (LOSs) are major components of the cell surface of Gram-negative bacteria with diverse roles in bacterial pathogenesis of animals and plants that include elicitation of host defenses. Little is known on the mechanisms of perception of these molecules by plants and the associated signal transduction pathways that trigger plant immunity.Here we addressed the question whether the defense signaling pathway in Arabidopsis thaliana was triggered by LOS from Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris (Xcc), using proteomic and transcriptomic approaches. By using affinity capture strategies with immobilized LOS and LC-MS/MS analyses, we identified 8 putative LOS protein ligands. Further investigation of these interactors led to the definition that LOS challenge is able to activate a signal transduction pathway that uses nodal regulators in common with salicylic acid-mediated pathway. Moreover, we proved evidence that Xcc LOS are responsible for oxidative burst in Arabidopsis either in infiltrated or systemic leaves. In addition, gene expression studies highlighted the presence of gene network involved in reactive oxygen species transduction pathway.

  • The role of copper(II) in the aggregation of human amylin.

    Publication Date: 01/10/2014 on Metallomics : integrated biometal science
    by Sinopoli A, Magrì A, Milardi D, Pappalardo M, Pucci P, Flagiello A, Titman JJ, Nicoletti VG, Caruso G, Pappalardo G, Grasso G
    DOI: 10.1039/c4mt00130c

    Amylin is a 37-residue peptide hormone produced by the islet β-cells of pancreas and the formation of amylin aggregates is strongly associated with β-cell degeneration in type 2 diabetes, as demonstrated by more than 95% of patients exhibiting amylin amyloid upon autopsy. It is widely recognized that metal ions such as copper(II) have been implicated in the aggregation process of amyloidogenic peptides such as Aβ and α-synuclein and there is evidence that amylin self-assembly is also largely affected by copper(II). For this reason, in this work, the role of copper(II) in the aggregation of amylin has been investigated by several different experimental approaches. Mass spectrometric investigations show that copper(II) induces significant changes in the amylin structure, which decrease the protein fibrillogenesis as observed by ThT measurements. Accordingly, solid-state NMR experiments together with computational analysis carried out on a model amylin fragment confirmed the non-fibrillogenic nature of the copper(II) induced aggregated structure. Finally, the presence of copper(II) is also shown to have a major influence on amylin proneness to be degraded by proteases and cytotoxicity studies on different cell cultures are reported.