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


  • Molecular and functional analysis of the large 5' promoter region of CFTR gene revealed pathogenic mutations in CF and CFTR-related disorders.

    Publication Date: 01/05/2013 on The Journal of molecular diagnostics : JMD
    by Giordano S, Amato F, Elce A, Monti M, Iannone C, Pucci P, Seia M, Angioni A, Zarrilli F, Castaldo G, Tomaiuolo R
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jmoldx.2013.01.001

    Patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) manifest a multisystemic disease due to mutations in the gene encoding the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR); despite extensive testing of coding regions, a proportion of CF alleles remains unidentified. We studied 118 patients with CF and CFTR-related disorders, most with one or both unknown mutations after the scanning of CFTR coding regions, and a non-CF control group (n = 75) by sequencing the 6000-bp region at the 5' of the CFTR gene. We identified 23 mutations, of which 9 were novel. We expressed such mutations in vitro using four cell systems to explore their functional effect, relating the data to the clinical expression of each patient. Some mutations reduced expression of the gene reporter firefly luciferase in various cell lines and may act as disease-causing mutations. Other mutations caused an increase in luciferase expression in some cell lines. One mutation had a different effect in different cells. For other mutations, the expression assay excluded a functional role. Gene variants in the large 5' region may cause altered regulation of CFTR gene expression, acting as disease-causing mutations or modifiers of its clinical phenotype. Studies of in vitro expression in different cell systems may help reveal the effect of such mutations.

  • Structural characterization and biological properties of human gastrokine 1.

    Publication Date: 01/03/2013 on Molecular bioSystems
    by Pavone LM, Del Vecchio P, Mallardo P, Altieri F, De Pasquale V, Rea S, Martucci NM, Di Stadio CS, Pucci P, Flagiello A, Masullo M, Arcari P, Rippa E
    DOI: 10.1039/c2mb25308a

    Gastrokine-1 (GKN1), a protein expressed in normal gastric tissue, but absent in gastric cancer tissues and derived cell lines, has recently emerged as a potential biomarker for gastric cancer. To better establish the molecular properties of GKN1, the first protocol for the production of mature human GKN1 in the expression system of Pichia pastoris was settled. The recombinant protein showed anti-proliferative properties specifically on gastric cancer cell lines thus indicating that it was properly folded. Characterization of structural and biochemical properties of recombinant GKN1 was achieved by limited proteolysis analysis, circular dichroism and fluorescence spectroscopy. The analysis of GKN1 primary structure coupled to proteolytic experiments highlighted that GKN1 was essentially resistant to proteolytic enzymes and showed the presence of at least a disulphide bond between Cys61 and one of the other three Cys (Cys122, Cys145 and Cys159) of the molecule. The secondary structure analysis revealed a prevailing β-structure. Spectroscopic and calorimetric investigations on GKN1 thermal denaturation pointed out its high thermal stability and suggested a more complex than a two-state unfolding process. The resulting protein was endowed with a globular structure characterized by domains showing different stabilities toward chemical and physical denaturants. These results are in agreement with the prediction of GKN1 secondary structure and a three-dimensional structure model. Our findings provide the basis for the development of new pharmaceutical compounds of potential use for gastric cancer therapy.

  • Innate immunity probed by lipopolysaccharides affinity strategy and proteomics.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2013 on Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry
    by Giangrande C, Colarusso L, Lanzetta R, Molinaro A, Pucci P, Amoresano A
    DOI: 10.1007/s00216-012-6204-3

    Lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) are ubiquitous and vital components of the cell surface of Gram-negative bacteria that have been shown to play a relevant role in the induction of the immune-system response. In animal and plant cells, innate immune defenses toward microorganisms are triggered by the perception of pathogen associated molecular patterns. These are conserved and generally indispensable microbial structures such as LPSs that are fundamental in the Gram-negative immunity recognition. This paper reports the development of an integrated strategy based on lipopolysaccharide affinity methodology that represents a new starting point to elucidate the molecular mechanisms elicited by bacterial LPS and involved in the different steps of innate immunity response. Biotin-tagged LPS was immobilized on streptavidin column and used as a bait in an affinity capture procedure to identify protein partners from human serum specifically interacting with this effector. The complex proteins/lipopolysaccharide was isolated and the protein partners were fractionated by gel electrophoresis and identified by mass spectrometry. This procedure proved to be very effective in specifically binding proteins functionally correlated with the biological role of LPS. Proteins specifically bound to LPS essentially gathered within two functional groups, regulation of the complement system (factor H, C4b, C4BP, and alpha 2 macroglobulin) and inhibition of LPS-induced inflammation (HRG and Apolipoproteins). The reported strategy might have important applications in the elucidation of biological mechanisms involved in the LPSs-mediated molecular recognition and anti-infection responses.

  • A complex of α6 integrin and E-cadherin drives liver metastasis of colorectal cancer cells through hepatic angiopoietin-like 6.

    Publication Date: 01/11/2012 on EMBO molecular medicine
    by Marchiò S, Soster M, Cardaci S, Muratore A, Bartolini A, Barone V, Ribero D, Monti M, Bovino P, Sun J, Giavazzi R, Asioli S, Cassoni P, Capussotti L, Pucci P, Bugatti A, Rusnati M, Pasqualini R, Arap W, Bussolino F
    DOI: 10.1002/emmm.201101164

    Homing of colorectal cancer (CRC) cells to the liver is a non-random process driven by a crosstalk between tumour cells and components of the host tissue. Here we report the isolation of a liver metastasis-specific peptide ligand (CGIYRLRSC) that binds a complex of E-cadherin and α(6) integrin on the surface of CRC cells. We identify angiopoietin-like 6 protein as a peptide-mimicked natural ligand enriched in hepatic blood vessels of CRC patients. We demonstrate that an interaction between hepatic angiopoietin-like 6 and tumoural α(6) integrin/E-cadherin drives liver homing and colonization by CRC cells, and that CGIYRLRSC inhibits liver metastasis through interference with this ligand/receptor system. Our results indicate a mechanism for metastasis whereby a soluble factor accumulated in normal vessels functions as a specific ligand for circulating cancer cells. Consistently, we show that high amounts of coexpressed α(6) integrin and E-cadherin in primary tumours represent a poor prognostic factor for patients with advanced CRC.

  • Resolution of the effects induced by W → F substitutions on the conformation and dynamics of the amyloid-forming apomyoglobin mutant W7FW14F.

    Publication Date: 01/07/2012 on European biophysics journal : EBJ
    by Infusini G, Iannuzzi C, Vilasi S, Birolo L, Pagnozzi D, Pucci P, Irace G, Sirangelo I
    DOI: 10.1007/s00249-012-0829-1

    Myoglobin is an alpha-helical globular protein containing two highly conserved tryptophanyl residues at positions 7 and 14 in the N-terminal region. The simultaneous substitution of the two residues increases the susceptibility of the polypeptide chain to misfold, causing amyloid aggregation under physiological condition, i.e., neutral pH and room temperature. The role played by tryptophanyl residues in driving the folding process has been investigated by examining three mutated apomyoglobins, i.e., W7F, W14F, and the amyloid-forming mutant W7FW14F, by an integrated approach based on far-ultraviolet (UV) circular dichroism (CD) analysis, fluorescence spectroscopy, and complementary proteolysis. Particular attention has been devoted to examine the conformational and dynamic properties of the equilibrium intermediate formed at pH 4.0, since it represents the early organized structure from which the native fold originates. The results show that the W → F substitutions at position 7 and 14 differently affect the structural organization of the AGH subdomain of apomyoglobin. The combined effect of the two substitutions in the double mutant impairs the formation of native-like contacts and favors interchain interactions, leading to protein aggregation and amyloid formation.

  • Functional amyloids in insect immune response.

    Publication Date: 01/03/2012 on Insect biochemistry and molecular biology
    by Falabella P, Riviello L, Pascale M, Lelio ID, Tettamanti G, Grimaldi A, Iannone C, Monti M, Pucci P, Tamburro AM, Deeguileor M, Gigliotti S, Pennacchio F
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2011.11.011

    The innate immune system of insects consists of humoural and cellular responses that provide protection against invading pathogens and parasites. Defence reactions against these latter include encapsulation by immune cells and targeted melanin deposition, which is usually restricted to the surface of the foreign invader, to prevent systemic damage. Here we show that a protein produced by haemocytes of Heliothis virescens (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae) larvae, belonging to XendoU family, generates amyloid fibrils, which accumulate in large cisternae of the rough endoplasmic reticulum and are released upon immune challenge, to form a layer coating non-self objects entering the haemocoel. This amyloid layer acts as a molecular scaffold that promotes localised melanin synthesis and the adhesion of immune cells around the non-self intruder during encapsulation response. Our results demonstrate a new functional role for these protein aggregates that are commonly associated with severe human diseases. We predict that insects will offer new powerful experimental systems for studying inducible amyloidogenesis, which will likely provide fresh perspectives for its prevention.

  • The E3-ubiquitin ligase TRIM50 interacts with HDAC6 and p62, and promotes the sequestration and clearance of ubiquitinated proteins into the aggresome.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2012 on PloS one
    by Fusco C, Micale L, Egorov M, Monti M, D'Addetta EV, Augello B, Cozzolino F, Calcagnì A, Fontana A, Polishchuk RS, Didelot G, Reymond A, Pucci P, Merla G
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040440

    In this study we report that, in response to proteasome inhibition, the E3-Ubiquitin ligase TRIM50 localizes to and promotes the recruitment and aggregation of polyubiquitinated proteins to the aggresome. Using Hdac6-deficient mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEF) we show that this localization is mediated by the histone deacetylase 6, HDAC6. Whereas Trim50-deficient MEFs allow pinpointing that the TRIM50 ubiquitin-ligase regulates the clearance of polyubiquitinated proteins localized to the aggresome. Finally we demonstrate that TRIM50 colocalizes, interacts with and increases the level of p62, a multifunctional adaptor protein implicated in various cellular processes including the autophagy clearance of polyubiquitinated protein aggregates. We speculate that when the proteasome activity is impaired, TRIM50 fails to drive its substrates to the proteasome-mediated degradation, and promotes their storage in the aggresome for successive clearance.

  • The microRNA 15a/16-1 cluster down-regulates protein repair isoaspartyl methyltransferase in hepatoma cells: implications for apoptosis regulation.

    Publication Date: 23/12/2011 on The Journal of biological chemistry
    by Sambri I, Capasso R, Pucci P, Perna AF, Ingrosso D
    DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M111.290437

    Asparaginyl deamidation, a spontaneous protein post-biosynthetic modification, determines isoaspartyl formation and structure-function impairment. The isoaspartyl protein carboxyl-O-methyltransferase (PCMT1; EC catalyzes the repair of the isopeptide bonds at isoaspartyl sites, preventing deamidation-related functional impairment. Protein deamidation affects key apoptosis mediators, such as BclxL, thus increasing susceptibility to apoptosis, whereas PCMT1 activity may effectively counteract such alterations. The aim of this work was to establish the role of RNAi as a potential mechanism for regulating PCMT1 expression and its possible implications in apoptosis. We investigated the regulatory properties of the microRNA 15a/16-1 cluster on PCMT1 expression on HepG2 cells. MicroRNA 15a or microRNA 16-1 transfection, as well as their relevant antagonists, showed that PCMT1 is effectively regulated by this microRNA cluster. The direct interaction of these two microRNAs with the seed sequence at the 3' UTR of PCMT1 transcripts was demonstrated by the luciferase assay system. The role of PCMT1 down-regulation in conditioning the susceptibility to apoptosis was investigated using various specific siRNA or shRNA approaches, to prevent non-PCMT1-specific pleiotropic effects to take place. We found that PCMT1 silencing is associated with an increase of the BclxL isoform reported to be inactivated by deamidation, thus making cells more susceptible to apoptosis induced by cisplatinum. We conclude that PCMT1 is effectively regulated by the microRNA 15a/16-1 cluster and is involved in apoptosis by preserving the structural stability and biological function of BclxL from deamidation. Control of PCMT1 expression by microRNA 15a/16-1 may thus represent a late checkpoint in apoptosis regulation.

  • A new anti-infective strategy to reduce adhesion-mediated virulence in Staphylococcus aureus affecting surface proteins.

    Publication Date: 01/07/2011 on International journal of immunopathology and pharmacology
    by Artini M, Scoarughi GL, Papa R, Cellini A, Carpentieri A, Pucci P, Amoresano A, Gazzola S, Cocconcelli PS, Selan L
    DOI: 10.1177/039463201102400312

    Staphylococcus aureus is a flexible microbial pathogen frequently isolated from community-acquired and nosocomial infections. The use of indwelling medical devices is associated with a significant risk of infection by this bacterium 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 present study evaluates the anti-infective properties of serratiopeptidase, a secreted protein of Serratia marcescens, in impairing virulence-related staphylococcal properties, such as attachment to inert surfaces and adhesion/invasion on eukaryotic cells. SPEP seems to exert its action by modulating specific proteins. Proteomic studies performed on surface proteins extracted from SPEP-treated S. aureus cultures revealed that a number of proteins are affected by the treatment. Among these we found the adhesin/autolysin Atl, FnBP-A, SecA1, Sbi, EF-Tu, EF-G, and alpha-enolase. EF-Tu, EF-G and alpha-enolase are known to perform a variety of functions, depending on their cytoplasmic or surface localization. All these factors can facilitate bacterial colonization, persistence and invasion of host tissues. Our results suggest that SPEP could be developed as a potential anti-infective agent capable to hinder the entry of S. aureus into human tissues, and also impair the ability of this pathogen to form biofilm on prostheses, catheters and medical devices.

  • Polymerization of hemoglobins in Arctic fish: Lycodes reticulatus and Gadus morhua.

    Publication Date: 01/05/2011 on IUBMB life
    by Riccio A, Mangiapia G, Giordano D, Flagiello A, Tedesco R, Bruno S, Vergara A, Mazzarella L, di Prisco G, Pucci P, Paduano L, Verde C
    DOI: 10.1002/iub.450

    In vitro, and possibly in vivo, hemoglobin polymerization and red blood cell sickling appear to be widespread in codfish. In this article, we show that the hemoglobins of the two Arctic fish Lycodes reticulatus and Gadus morhua also have the tendency to polymerize, as monitored by dynamic light scattering experiments. The elucidation of the primary structure of the single hemoglobin of the zoarcid L. reticulatus shows the presence of a large number of cysteyl residues in α and β chains. Their role in eliciting the ability to produce polymers was also addressed by MALDI-TOF and TOF-TOF mass spectrometry. The G.morhua globins are also rich in Cys, but unlike in L. reticulatus, polymerization does not seem to be disulfide driven. The widespread occurrence of the polymerization phenomenon displayed by hemoglobins of Arctic fish supports the hypothesis that this feature may bea response to stressful environmental conditions.