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


  • 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.

  • A novel ErbB2 epitope targeted by human antitumor immunoagents.

    Publication Date: 01/04/2011 on The FEBS journal
    by Troise F, Monti M, Merlino A, Cozzolino F, Fedele C, Russo Krauss I, Sica F, Pucci P, D'Alessio G, De Lorenzo C
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08041.x

    Two novel human antitumor immunoconjugates, engineered by fusion of a single-chain antibody fragment against human ErbB2 receptor, termed Erbicin, with either a human RNase or the Fc region of a human IgG(1) , are selectively cytotoxic for ErbB2-positive cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. These Erbicin-derived immunoagents (EDIAs) do not show the most negative properties of Herceptin, the only humanized mAb against ErbB2 used in the therapy of breast carcinoma: cardiotoxicity and the inability to act on resistant tumors. These differences are probably attributable to the different ErbB2 epitopes recognized by EDIAs and Herceptin, respectively, as we have previously reported that they induce different signaling mechanisms that control tumor and cardiac cell viability. Thus, to accurately identify the novel epitope recognized by EDIAs, three independent and complementary methodologies were used. They gave coherent results, which are reported here: EDIAs bind to a different ErbB2 epitope than Herceptin and the other human/humanized antibodies against ErbB2 reported so far. The epitope has been successfully located in region 122-195 of extracellular domain I. These findings could lead to the identification of novel epitopes on ErbB2 that could be used as potential therapeutic targets to mitigate anti-ErbB2-associated cardiotoxicity and eventually overcome resistance.

  • Deamidation at asparagine and glutamine as a major modification upon deterioration/aging of proteinaceous binders in mural paintings.

    Publication Date: 15/03/2011 on Analytical chemistry
    by Leo G, Bonaduce I, Andreotti A, Marino G, Pucci P, Colombini MP, Birolo L
    DOI: 10.1021/ac1027275

    Proteomic strategies are herein proved to be a complementary approach to the well established amino acid composition analysis for the characterization of the aging and deterioration phenomena occurring to proteinaceous materials in works-of-art. Amino acid analyses on several samples demonstrated that proteins in the frescoes from the Camposanto Monumentale in Pisa are deteriorated as revealed by the decrease in Met, Lys, and Tyr content and by the presence in all the samples of amino malonic acid as a result of Ser, Phe, and Cys oxidation. Proteomic analysis identified deamidation at Asn and Gln as a further major event occurred. This work paves the way to the exploitation of proteomic strategies for the investigation of the molecular effects of aging and deterioration in historical objects. Results show that proteomic searches for deamidation by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) could constitute a routine analysis for paintings or any artistic and historic objects where proteins are present. Peptides that can be used as molecular markers when casein is present were identified.

  • Plasma nitroproteome of kidney disease patients.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2011 on Amino acids
    by Piroddi M, Palmese A, Pilolli F, Amoresano A, Pucci P, Ronco C, Galli F
    DOI: 10.1007/s00726-010-0693-1

    3'-Nitrotyrosine (3NT) is a post-translational modification (PTM) of body fluids and tissues that is sustained by chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, two main clinical traits of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Despite this background, protein targets and their differential susceptibility to in vivo nitration remain almost completely unexplored in CKD. This study reports a first investigation of plasma nitroproteome in these patients, carried out by both immunorecognition and LC-MS/MS techniques. Plasma proteins of chronic and end-stage KD patients showed a higher burden of nitration than in healthy controls, but main nitration targets appeared to be the same in these populations. Immunoblotting data showed that uremic albumin is largely represented in the uremic nitroproteome together with fibrinogen chains (A, B and C), transferrin, α1-antitrypsin, complement factor D, haptoglobin, and IgG light and heavy chains. However, immunopurification and affinity chromatography experiments demonstrated that the relative content of 3NT on the albumin molecule was very low when compared with that of the remaining plasma proteins. The uremic nitroproteome was investigated using also plasma proteins obtained by in vivo ultrafiltration from patients treated with protein leaking or standard high-flux hemodialyzers. The study of these samples revealed the possibility to selectively remove protein nitration products during hemodialysis. Identification of intramolecular sites of nitration was preliminarily obtained in IgG chains isolated by 2D PAGE and assessed by bidimensional tandem mass spectrometry after chemoselective tagging. Further studies are needed to confirm at the molecular level the presence of nitrated Tyr residues in other proteins tentatively identified as nitration targets in this study and to explore the biological meaning of such a selective modification of plasma proteins by reactive nitrogen species in uremia and dialysis patients.

  • PED interacts with Rac1 and regulates cell migration/invasion processes in human non-small cell lung cancer cells.

    Publication Date: 01/10/2010 on Journal of cellular physiology
    by Zanca C, Cozzolino F, Quintavalle C, Di Costanzo S, Ricci-Vitiani L, Santoriello M, Monti M, Pucci P, Condorelli G
    DOI: 10.1002/jcp.22197

    PED (phosphoprotein enriched in diabetes) is a 15 kDa protein involved in many cellular pathways and human diseases including type II diabetes and cancer. We recently reported that PED is overexpressed in human cancers and mediates resistance to induced apoptosis. To better understand its role in cancer, we investigated on PED interactome in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). By the Tandem Affinity Purification (TAP), we identified and characterized among others, Rac1, a member of mammalian Rho GTPase protein family, as PED-interacting protein. In this study we show that PED coadiuvates Rac1 activation by regulating AKT mediated Rac1-Ser(71) phosphorylation. Furthermore, we show that the expression of a constitutively active Rac, affected PED-Ser(104) phosphorylation, which is important for PED-regulated ERK 1/2 nuclear localization. Through specific Rac1-siRNA or its pharmacological inhibition, we demonstrate that PED augments migration and invasion in a Rac1-dependent manner in NSCLC. In conclusion, we show for the first time that PED and Rac1 interact and that this interaction modulates cell migration/invasion processes in cancer cells through ERK1/2 pathway.

  • Stoichiometry and topology of the complex of the endogenous ATP synthase inhibitor protein IF(1) with calmodulin.

    Publication Date: 07/09/2010 on Biochemistry
    by Pagnozzi D, Birolo L, Leo G, Contessi S, Lippe G, Pucci P, Mavelli I
    DOI: 10.1021/bi100447t

    IF(1), the natural inhibitor protein of F(O)F(1)ATP synthase able to regulate the ATP hydrolytic activity of both mitochondrial and cell surface enzyme, exists in two oligomeric states depending on pH: an inactive, highly helical, tetrameric form above pH 6.7 and an active, inhibitory, dimeric form below pH 6.7 [ Cabezon , E. , Butler , P. J. , Runswick , M. J. , and Walker , J. E. ( 2000 ) J. Biol. Chem. 275 , 25460 -25464 ]. IF(1) is known to interact in vitro with the archetypal EF-hand calcium sensor calmodulin (CaM), as well to colocalize with CaM on the plasma membrane of cultured cells. Low resolution structural data were herein obtained in order to get insights into the molecular interaction between IF(1) and CaM. A combined structural proteomic strategy was used which integrates limited proteolysis and chemical cross-linking with mass spectrometric analysis. Specifically, chemical cross-linking data clearly indicate that the C-terminal lobe of CaM molecule contacts IF(1) within the inhibitory, flexible N-terminal region that is not involved in the dimeric interface in IF(1). Nevertheless, native mass spectrometry analysis demonstrated that in the micromolar range the stoichiometry of the IF(1)-CaM complex is 1:1, thereby indicating that binding to CaM promotes IF(1) dimer dissociation without directly interfering with the intersubunit contacts of the IF(1) dimer. The relevance of the finding that only the C-terminal lobe of CaM is involved in the interaction is two fold: (i) the IF(1)-CaM complex can be included in the category of noncanonical structures of CaM complexes; (ii) it can be inferred that the N-terminal region of CaM might have the opportunity to bind to a second target.

  • Mitochondrial chaperone Trap1 and the calcium binding protein Sorcin interact and protect cells against apoptosis induced by antiblastic agents.

    Publication Date: 15/08/2010 on Cancer research
    by Landriscina M, Laudiero G, Maddalena F, Amoroso MR, Piscazzi A, Cozzolino F, Monti M, Garbi C, Fersini A, Pucci P, Esposito F
    DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-1256

    TRAP1, a mitochondrial chaperone (Hsp75) with antioxidant and antiapoptotic functions, is involved in multidrug resistance in human colorectal carcinoma cells. Through a proteomic analysis of TRAP1 coimmunoprecipitation complexes, the Ca(2+)-binding protein Sorcin was identified as a new TRAP1 interactor. This result prompted us to investigate the presence and role of Sorcin in mitochondria from human colon carcinoma cells. Using fluorescence microscopy and Western blot analysis of purified mitochondria and submitochondrial fractions, we showed the mitochondrial localization of an isoform of Sorcin with an electrophoretic motility lower than 20 kDa that specifically interacts with TRAP1. Furthermore, the effects of overexpressing or downregulating Sorcin and/or TRAP1 allowed us to demonstrate a reciprocal regulation between these two proteins and to show that their interaction is required for Sorcin mitochondrial localization and TRAP1 stability. Indeed, the depletion of TRAP1 by short hairpin RNA in colorectal carcinoma cells lowered Sorcin levels in mitochondria, whereas the depletion of Sorcin by small interfering RNA increased TRAP1 degradation. We also report several lines of evidence suggesting that intramitochondrial Sorcin plays a role in TRAP1 cytoprotection. Finally, preliminary evidence that TRAP1 and Sorcin are both implicated in multidrug resistance and are coupregulated in human colorectal carcinomas is provided. These novel findings highlight a new role for Sorcin, suggesting that some of its previously reported cytoprotective functions may be explained by involvement in mitochondrial metabolism through the TRAP1 pathway.

  • Effects of a lipid environment on the fibrillogenic pathway of the N-terminal polypeptide of human apolipoprotein A-I, responsible for in vivo amyloid fibril formation.

    Publication Date: 01/08/2010 on European biophysics journal : EBJ
    by Monti DM, Guglielmi F, Monti M, Cozzolino F, Torrassa S, Relini A, Pucci P, Arciello A, Piccoli R
    DOI: 10.1007/s00249-010-0582-2

    In amyloidosis associated with apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA-I), heart amyloid deposits are mainly constituted by the 93-residue ApoA-I N-terminal region. A recombinant form of the amyloidogenic polypeptide, named [1-93]ApoA-I, shares conformational properties and aggregation propensity with its natural counterpart. The polypeptide, predominantly in a random coil state at pH 8.0, following acidification to pH 4.0 adopts a helical/molten globule transient state, which leads to formation of aggregates. Here we provide evidence that fibrillogenesis occurs also in physiologic-like conditions. At pH 6.4, [1-93]ApoA-I was found to assume predominantly an alpha-helical state, which undergoes aggregation at 37 degrees C over time at a lower rate than at pH 4.0. After 7 days at pH 6.4, protofibrils were observed by atomic force microscopy (AFM). Using a multidisciplinary approach, including circular dichroism (CD), fluorescence, electrophoretic, and AFM analyses, we investigated the effects of a lipid environment on the conformational state and aggregation propensity of [1-93]ApoA-I. Following addition of the lipid-mimicking detergent Triton X-100, the polypeptide was found to be in a helical state at both pH 8.0 and 6.4, with no conformational transition occurring upon acidification. These helical conformers are stable and do not generate aggregated species, as observed by AFM after 21 days. Similarly, analyses of the effects of cholesterol demonstrated that this natural ApoA-I ligand induces formation of alpha-helix at physiological concentrations at both pH 8.0 and 6.4. Zwitterionic, positively charged, and negatively charged liposomes were found to affect [1-93]ApoA-I conformation, inducing helical species. Our data support the idea that lipids play a key role in [1-93]ApoA-I aggregation in vivo.