Afrasiabi, Ali, Hamid Alinejad-Rokny, Azad Khosh, Mostafa Rahnama, Nigel Lovell, Zhenming Xu, and Diako Ebrahimi. (2022) 2022. “The Low Abundance of CpG in the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Is Not an Evolutionarily Signature of ZAP”. Scientific Reports 12 (1): 2420.

The zinc finger antiviral protein (ZAP) is known to restrict viral replication by binding to the CpG rich regions of viral RNA, and subsequently inducing viral RNA degradation. This enzyme has recently been shown to be capable of restricting SARS-CoV-2. These data have led to the hypothesis that the low abundance of CpG in the SARS-CoV-2 genome is due to an evolutionary pressure exerted by the host ZAP. To investigate this hypothesis, we performed a detailed analysis of many coronavirus sequences and ZAP RNA binding preference data. Our analyses showed neither evidence for an evolutionary pressure acting specifically on CpG dinucleotides, nor a link between the activity of ZAP and the low CpG abundance of the SARS-CoV-2 genome.


Sadeghpour, Shiva, Saeideh Khodaee, Mostafa Rahnama, Hamzeh Rahimi, and Diako Ebrahimi. (2021) 2021. “Human APOBEC3 Variations and Viral Infection”. Viruses 13 (7).

Human APOBEC3 (apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing catalytic polypeptide-like 3) enzymes are capable of inhibiting a wide range of endogenous and exogenous viruses using deaminase and deaminase-independent mechanisms. These enzymes are essential components of our innate immune system, as evidenced by (a) their strong positive selection and expansion in primates, (b) the evolution of viral counter-defense mechanisms, such as proteasomal degradation mediated by HIV Vif, and (c) hypermutation and inactivation of a large number of integrated HIV-1 proviruses. Numerous APOBEC3 single nucleotide polymorphisms, haplotypes, and splice variants have been identified in humans. Several of these variants have been reported to be associated with differential antiviral immunity. This review focuses on the current knowledge in the field about these natural variations and their roles in infectious diseases.

Heidari, Reza, Mostafa Akbariqomi, Yazdan Asgari, Diako Ebrahimi, and Hamid Alinejad-Rokny. (2021) 2021. “A Systematic Review of Long Non-Coding RNAs With a Potential Role in Breast Cancer”. Mutation Research. Reviews in Mutation Research 787: 108375.

The human transcriptome contains many non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), which play important roles in gene regulation. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are an important class of ncRNAs with lengths between 200 and 200,000 bases. Unlike mRNA, lncRNA lacks protein-coding features, specifically, open-reading frames, and start and stop codons. LncRNAs have been reported to play a role in the pathogenesis and progression of many cancers, including breast cancer (BC), acting as tumor suppressors or oncogenes. In this review, we systematically mined the literature to identify 65 BC-related lncRNAs. We then perform an integrative bioinformatics analysis to identify 14 lncRNAs with a potential regulatory role in BC. The biological function of these 14 lncRNAs, their regulatory mechanisms, and roles in the initiation and progression of BC are discussed in this review. Additionally, we elaborate on the current and future applications of lncRNAs as diagnostic and/or therapeutic biomarkers in BC.


Bayati, Masroor, Hamid R Rabiee, Mehrdad Mehrbod, Fatemeh Vafaee, Diako Ebrahimi, Alistair R R Forrest, and Hamid Alinejad-Rokny. (2020) 2020. “CANCERSIGN: A User-Friendly and Robust Tool for Identification and Classification of Mutational Signatures and Patterns in Cancer Genomes”. Scientific Reports 10 (1): 1286.

Analysis of cancer mutational signatures have been instrumental in identification of responsible endogenous and exogenous molecular processes in cancer. The quantitative approach used to deconvolute mutational signatures is becoming an integral part of cancer research. Therefore, development of a stand-alone tool with a user-friendly interface for analysis of cancer mutational signatures is necessary. In this manuscript we introduce CANCERSIGN, which enables users to identify 3-mer and 5-mer mutational signatures within whole genome, whole exome or pooled samples. Additionally, this tool enables users to perform clustering on tumor samples based on the proportion of mutational signatures in each sample. Using CANCERSIGN, we analysed all the whole genome somatic mutation datasets profiled by the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and identified a number of novel signatures. By examining signatures found in exonic and non-exonic regions of the genome using WGS and comparing this to signatures found in WES data we observe that WGS can identify additional non-exonic signatures that are enriched in the non-coding regions of the genome while the deeper sequencing of WES may help identify weak signatures that are otherwise missed in shallower WGS data.


Cheng, Adam Z, Jaime Yockteng-Melgar, Matthew C Jarvis, Natasha Malik-Soni, Ivan Borozan, Michael A Carpenter, Jennifer L McCann, et al. (2019) 2019. “Epstein-Barr Virus BORF2 Inhibits Cellular APOBEC3B to Preserve Viral Genome Integrity”. Nature Microbiology 4 (1): 78-88.

The apolipoprotein B messenger RNA editing enzyme, catalytic polypeptide-like (APOBEC) family of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) cytosine deaminases provides innate immunity against virus and transposon replication1-4. A well-studied mechanism is APOBEC3G restriction of human immunodeficiency virus type 1, which is counteracted by a virus-encoded degradation mechanism1-4. Accordingly, most work has focused on retroviruses with obligate ssDNA replication intermediates and it is unclear whether large double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viruses may be similarly susceptible to restriction. Here, we show that the large dsDNA herpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is the causative agent of infectious mononucleosis and multiple cancers5, utilizes a two-pronged approach to counteract restriction by APOBEC3B. Proteomics studies and immunoprecipitation experiments showed that the ribonucleotide reductase large subunit of EBV, BORF26,7, binds APOBEC3B. Mutagenesis mapped the interaction to the APOBEC3B catalytic domain, and biochemical studies demonstrated that BORF2 stoichiometrically inhibits APOBEC3B DNA cytosine deaminase activity. BORF2 also caused a dramatic relocalization of nuclear APOBEC3B to perinuclear bodies. On lytic reactivation, BORF2-null viruses were susceptible to APOBEC3B-mediated deamination as evidenced by lower viral titres, lower infectivity and hypermutation. The Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus homologue, ORF61, also bound APOBEC3B and mediated relocalization. These data support a model where the genomic integrity of human γ-herpesviruses is maintained by active neutralization of the antiviral enzyme APOBEC3B.


Jarvis, Matthew C, Diako Ebrahimi, Nuri A Temiz, and Reuben S Harris. (2018) 2018. “Mutation Signatures Including APOBEC in Cancer Cell Lines”. JNCI Cancer Spectrum 2 (1).

BACKGROUND: Multiple endogenous and exogenous sources of DNA damage contribute to the overall mutation burden in cancer, with distinct and overlapping combinations contributing to each cancer type. Many mutation sources result in characteristic mutation signatures, which can be deduced from tumor genomic DNA sequences. Examples include spontaneous hydrolytic deamination of methyl-cytosine bases in CG motifs (AGEING signature) and C-to-T and C-to-G mutations in 5'-TC(A/T) motifs (APOBEC signature).

METHODS: The deconstructSigs R package was used to analyze single base substitution mutation signatures in over 1000 cancer cell lines. Two additional approaches were used to analyze the APOBEC mutation signature.

RESULTS: Most cell lines show evidence for multiple mutation signatures. For instance, the AGEING signature, which is the largest source of mutation in most primary tumors, predominates in the majority of cancer cell lines. The APOBEC mutation signature is enriched in cancer cell lines from breast, lung, head/neck, bladder, and cervical cancers, where this signature also comprises a large fraction of all mutations.

CONCLUSIONS: The single base substitution mutation signatures of cancer cell lines often reflect those of the original tumors from which they are derived. Cancer cell lines with enrichments for distinct mutation signatures such as APOBEC have the potential to become model systems for fundamental research on the underlying mechanisms and for advancing clinical strategies to exploit these processes.

Ebrahimi, Diako, Christopher M Richards, Michael A Carpenter, Jiayi Wang, Terumasa Ikeda, Jordan T Becker, Adam Z Cheng, et al. (2018) 2018. “Genetic and Mechanistic Basis for APOBEC3H Alternative Splicing, Retrovirus Restriction, and Counteraction by HIV-1 Protease”. Nature Communications 9 (1): 4137.

Human APOBEC3H (A3H) is a single-stranded DNA cytosine deaminase that inhibits HIV-1. Seven haplotypes (I-VII) and four splice variants (SV154/182/183/200) with differing antiviral activities and geographic distributions have been described, but the genetic and mechanistic basis for variant expression and function remains unclear. Using a combined bioinformatic/experimental analysis, we find that SV200 expression is specific to haplotype II, which is primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa. The underlying genetic mechanism for differential mRNA splicing is an ancient intronic deletion [del(ctc)] within A3H haplotype II sequence. We show that SV200 is at least fourfold more HIV-1 restrictive than other A3H splice variants. To counteract this elevated antiviral activity, HIV-1 protease cleaves SV200 into a shorter, less restrictive isoform. Our analyses indicate that, in addition to Vif-mediated degradation, HIV-1 may use protease as a  counter-defense mechanism against A3H in >80% of sub-Saharan African populations.


Ikeda, Terumasa, Mayuko Shimoda, Diako Ebrahimi, John L VandeBerg, Reuben S Harris, Atsushi Koito, and Kazuhiko Maeda. (2017) 2017. “Opossum APOBEC1 Is a DNA Mutator With Retrovirus and Retroelement Restriction Activity”. Scientific Reports 7: 46719.

APOBEC3s (A3s) are single-stranded DNA cytosine deaminases that provide innate immune defences against retroviruses and mobile elements. A3s are specific to eutherian mammals because no direct homologs exist at the syntenic genomic locus in metatherian (marsupial) or prototherian (monotreme) mammals. However, the A3s in these species have the likely evolutionary precursors, the antibody gene deaminase AID and the RNA/DNA editing enzyme APOBEC1 (A1). Here, we used cell culture-based assays to determine whether opossum A1 restricts the infectivity of retroviruses including human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and the mobility of LTR/non-LTR retrotransposons. Opossum A1 partially inhibited HIV-1, as well as simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), murine leukemia virus (MLV), and the retrotransposon MusD. The mechanism of inhibition required catalytic activity, except for human LINE1 (L1) restriction, which was deamination-independent. These results indicate that opossum A1 functions as an innate barrier to infection by retroviruses such as HIV-1, and controls LTR/non-LTR retrotransposition in marsupials.

Nakano, Yusuke, Naoko Misawa, Guillermo Juarez-Fernandez, Miyu Moriwaki, Shinji Nakaoka, Takaaki Funo, Eri Yamada, et al. (2017) 2017. “Correction: HIV-1 Competition Experiments in Humanized Mice Show That APOBEC3H Imposes Selective Pressure and Promotes Virus Adaptation”. PLoS Pathogens 13 (9): e1006606.

[This corrects the article DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006348.].

Nakano, Yusuke, Naoko Misawa, Guillermo Juarez-Fernandez, Miyu Moriwaki, Shinji Nakaoka, Takaaki Funo, Eri Yamada, et al. (2017) 2017. “HIV-1 Competition Experiments in Humanized Mice Show That APOBEC3H Imposes Selective Pressure and Promotes Virus Adaptation”. PLoS Pathogens 13 (5): e1006348.

APOBEC3 (A3) family proteins are DNA cytosine deaminases recognized for contributing to HIV-1 restriction and mutation. Prior studies have demonstrated that A3D, A3F, and A3G enzymes elicit a robust anti-HIV-1 effect in cell cultures and in humanized mouse models. Human A3H is polymorphic and can be categorized into three phenotypes: stable, intermediate, and unstable. However, the anti-viral effect of endogenous A3H in vivo has yet to be examined. Here we utilize a hematopoietic stem cell-transplanted humanized mouse model and demonstrate that stable A3H robustly affects HIV-1 fitness in vivo. In contrast, the selection pressure mediated by intermediate A3H is relaxed. Intriguingly, viral genomic RNA sequencing reveled that HIV-1 frequently adapts to better counteract stable A3H during replication in humanized mice. Molecular phylogenetic analyses and mathematical modeling suggest that stable A3H may be a critical factor in human-to-human viral transmission. Taken together, this study provides evidence that stable variants of A3H impose selective pressure on HIV-1.