Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Madeline A. Shea

First Committee Member

Kris A Demali

Second Committee Member

Adrian Elcock

Third Committee Member

Alexander Sandra

Fourth Committee Member

Subramanian Ramaswamy


Pulmonary surfactant is a critical surface-active substance consisting of dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPtdCho) and key apoproteins that are produced and secreted into the airspace from alveolar type II epithelial cells. Surfactant deficiency leads to severe lung atelectasis, ventilatory impairment, and gas-exchange abnormalities. These are features of the acute lung injury syndrome, characterized by a strong pro-inflammatory component where cytokines or bacteria infections greatly impair surfactant DPPtdCho biosynthesis. The key enzyme needed to produce surfactant DPPtdCho is a rate-limiting enzyme CTP: phosphocholine cytidylyltransferase (CCTalpha).

Calmodulin (CaM), rather than disruption of an NH2-terminal PEST sequence, stabilizes CCTalpha from actions of the proteinase, calpain. Mapping and site-directed mutagenesis of CCTalpha uncovered a motif (LQERVDKVK) harboring a vital recognition site, Q243, whereby CaM directly binds to the enzyme. Mutagenesis of CCTalpha Q243 not only resulted in loss of CaM binding, but also led to complete calpain resistance in vitro and in vivo. These data suggest that CaM, by antagonizing calpain, serves as a novel binding partner for CCTalpha that stabilizes the enzyme under pro-inflammatory stress.

We further show that CCTalpha does not undergo polyubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Rather, the enzyme is monoubiquitinated at a molecular site (K57) juxtaposed near its NLS resulting in disruption of its interaction with importin, nuclear exclusion, and subsequent degradation within the lysosome. Importantly, by using CCTalpha-ubiquitin hybrid constructs that vary in the intermolecular distance between ubiquitin and the NLS, we show that CCTalpha monoubiquitination masks its NLS resulting in cytoplasmic retention. These results unravel a unique molecular mechanism whereby monoubiquitination governs the trafficking of a critical regulatory enzyme in vivo.

Last, we identify FBXL2 as a novel F-box E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets CCTalpha for degradation. Interestingly, FBXL2 also interacts with CaM, and CaM directly disrupts CCTalpha and FBXL2 interaction. This study demonstrates in the first time that adenoviral gene transfer of CaM attenuates the deleterious effects of P. aeruginosa infection by improving several parameters of pulmonary mechanics in animal models of sepsis-induced acute pulmonary injury. Collectively, these studies reveal a novel regulatory mechanism for phosphatidylcholine synthesis that may provide important clues to understanding the pathobiology of acute lung injury.


Calmodulin, cytidylyltransferase, Phosphatidylcholine, Proteolysis, Pseudomonas, Surfactant


xi, 206 pages


Copyright 2008 Beibei Chen

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