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


  • Intermolecular disulfide bond influences unphosphorylated STAT3 dimerization and function.

    Publication Date: 01/10/2016 on The Biochemical journal
    by Butturini E, Gotte G, Dell'Orco D, Chiavegato G, Marino V, Canetti D, Cozzolino F, Monti M, Pucci P, Mariotto S
    DOI: 10.1042/BCJ20160294

    Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is a transcription factor activated by the phosphorylation of tyrosine 705 in response to many cytokines and growth factors. Recently, the roles for unphosphorylated STAT3 (U-STAT3) have been described in response to cytokine stimulation, in cancers, and in the maintenance of heterochromatin stability. It has been reported that U-STAT3 dimerizes, shuttles between the cytoplasm and nucleus, and binds to DNA, thereby driving genes transcription. Although many reports describe the active role of U-STAT3 in oncogenesis in addition to phosphorylated STAT3, the U-STAT3 functional pathway remains elusive.In this report, we describe the molecular mechanism of U-STAT3 dimerization, and we identify the presence of two intermolecular disulfide bridges between Cys367 and Cys542 and Cys418 and Cys426, respectively. Recently, we reported that the same cysteines contribute to the redox regulation of STAT3 signaling pathway both in vitro and in vivo The presence of these disulfides is here demonstrated to largely contribute to the structure and the stability of U-STAT3 dimer as the dimeric form rapidly dissociates upon reduction in the S-S bonds. In particular, the Cys367-Cys542 disulfide bridge is shown to be critical for U-STAT3 DNA-binding activity. Mutation of the two Cys residues completely abolishes the DNA-binding capability of U-STAT3. Spectroscopic investigations confirm that the noncovalent interactions are sufficient for proper folding and dimer formation, but that the interchain disulfide bonds are crucial to preserve the functional dimer. Finally, we propose a reaction scheme of U-STAT3 dimerization with a first common step followed by stabilization through the formation of interchain disulfide bonds.

  • 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.

  • Identification of major Toxoneuron nigriceps venom proteins using an integrated transcriptomic/proteomic approach.

    Publication Date: 01/09/2016 on Insect biochemistry and molecular biology
    by Laurino S, Grossi G, Pucci P, Flagiello A, Bufo SA, Bianco G, Salvia R, Vinson SB, Vogel H, Falabella P
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2016.07.001

    Endoparasitoids in the order Hymenoptera are natural enemies of several herbivorous insect pest species. During oviposition they inject a mixture of factors, which include venom, into the host, ensuring the successful parasitism and the development of their progeny. Although these parasitoid factors are known to be responsible for host manipulation, such as immune system suppression, little is known about both identity and function of the majority of their venom components. To identify the major proteins of Toxoneuron nigriceps (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) venom, we used an integrated transcriptomic and proteomic approach. The tandem-mass spectrometric (LC-MS/MS) data combined with T. nigriceps venom gland transcriptome used as a reference database resulted in the identification of a total of thirty one different proteins. While some of the identified proteins have been described in venom from several parasitoids, others were identified for the first time. Among the identified proteins, hydrolases constituted the most abundant family followed by transferases, oxidoreductases, ligases, lyases and isomerases. The hydrolases identified in the T. nigriceps venom glands included proteases, peptidases and glycosidases, reported as common components of venom from several parasitoid species. Taken together, the identified proteins included factors that could potentially inhibit the host immune system, manipulate host physiological processes and host development, as well as provide nutrients to the parasitoid progeny, degrading host tissues by specific hydrolytic enzymes. The venom decoding provides us with information about the identity of candidate venom factors which could contribute to the success of parasitism, together with other maternal and embryonic factors.

  • 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.