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1.  Transcriptional profiling reveals functional links between RasGrf1 and Pttg1 in pancreatic beta cells 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:1019.
Our prior characterization of RasGrf1 deficient mice uncovered significant defects in pancreatic islet count and size as well as beta cell development and signaling function, raising question about the mechanisms linking RasGrf1 to the generation of those “pancreatic” phenotypes.
Here, we compared the transcriptional profile of highly purified pancreatic islets from RasGrf1 KO mice to that of WT control animals using commercial oligonucleotide microarrays. RasGrf1 elimination resulted in differential gene expression of numerous components of MAPK- and Calcium-signaling pathways, suggesting a relevant contribution of this GEF to modulation of cellular signaling in the cell lineages integrating the pancreatic islets. Whereas the overall transcriptional profile of pancreatic islets was highly specific in comparison to other organs of the same KO mice, a significant specific repression of Pttg1 was a common transcriptional alteration shared with other tissues of neuroectodermal origin. This observation, together with the remarkable pancreatic phenotypic similarities between RasGrf1 KO and Pttg1 KO mice suggested the possibility of proximal functional regulatory links between RasGrf1 and Pttg1 in pancreatic cell lineages expressing these proteins.
Analysis of the mPttg1 promoter region identified specific recognition sites for numerous transcription factors which were also found to be differentially expressed in RasGrf1 KO pancreatic islets and are known to be relevant for Ras-ERK signaling as well as beta cell function. Reporter luciferase assays in BT3 insulinoma cells demonstrated the ability of RasGrf1 to modulate mPttg1 promoter activity through ERK-mediated signals. Analysis of the phenotypic interplay between RasGrf1 and Pttg1 in double knockout RasGrf1/Pttg1 mice showed that combined elimination of the two loci resulted in dramatically reduced values of islet and beta cell count and glucose homeostasis function which neared those measured in single Pttg1 KO mice and were significantly lower than those observed in individual RasGrf1 KO mice.
The specific transcriptional profile and signaling behavior of RasgGrf1 KO pancreatic islets, together with the dominance of Pttg1 over RasGrf1 with regards to the generation of these phenotypes in mouse pancreas, suggest that RasGrf1 is an important upstream component of signal transduction pathways regulating Pttg1 expression and controlling beta cell development and physiological responses.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-1019) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4301450  PMID: 25421944
Ras; ERK; RasGrf1; Beta cells; Pttg1; Pancreatic islets; Transcriptomics; Transcriptional factors
2.  Active synovial matrix metalloproteinase-2 is associated with radiographic erosions in patients with early synovitis 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(2):145-153.
Serum and synovial tissue expression of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and -9 and their molecular regulators, MMP-14 and TIMP-2 was examined in 28 patients with inflammatory early synovitis and 4 healthy volunteers and correlated with the presence of erosions in the patients. Immunohistological staining of MMP-2, MMP-14 and TIMP-2 localized to corresponding areas in the synovial lining layer and was almost absent in normal synovium. Patients with radiographic erosions had significantly higher levels of active MMP-2 than patients with no erosions, suggesting that activated MMP-2 levels in synovial tissue may be a marker for a more aggressive synovial lesion.
In cancer the gelatinases [matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9] have been shown to be associated with tissue invasion and metastatic disease. In patients with inflammatory arthritis the gelatinases are expressed in the synovial membrane, and have been implicated in synovial tissue invasion into adjacent cartilage and bone. It is hypothesized that an imbalance between the activators and inhibitors of the gelatinases results in higher levels of activity, enhanced local proteolysis, and bone erosion.
To determine whether the expression and activity levels of MMP-2 and MMP-9, and their regulators MMP-14 and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP), are associated with early erosion formation in patients with synovitis of recent onset.
Patients and method:
A subset of 66 patients was selected from a larger early synovitis cohort on the basis of tissue availability for the study of synovial tissue and serum gelatinase expression. Patients with peripheral joint synovitis of less than 1 years' duration were evaluated clinically and serologically on four visits over a period of 12 months. At the initial visit, patients underwent a synovial tissue biopsy of one swollen joint, and patients had radiographic evaluation of hands and feet initially and at 1year. Serum MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-9, MMP-14, and TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 levels were determined, and synovial tissue was examined by immunohistology for the expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9, and their molecular regulators. Gelatinolytic activity for MMP-2 and MMP-9 was quantified using a sensitive, tissue-based gel zymography technique. Four healthy individuals underwent closed synovial biopsy and their synovial tissues were similarly analyzed.
Of the 66 patients studied, 45 fulfilled American College of Rheumatology criteria for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with 32 (71%) being rheumatoid factor positive. Of the 21 non-RA patients, seven had a spondylarthropathy and 14 had undifferentiated arthritis. Radiographically, 12 of the RA patients had erosions at multiple sites by 1 year, whereas none of the non-RA patients had developed erosive disease of this extent. In the tissue, latent MMP-2 was widely expressed in the synovial lining layer and in areas of stromal proliferation in the sublining layer and stroma, whereas MMP-9 was expressed more sparsely and focally. MMP-14, TIMP-2, and MMP-2 were all detected in similar areas of the lining layer on consecutive histologic sections. Tissue expression of MMP-14, the activator for pro-MMP-2, was significantly higher in RA than in non-RA patients (8.4 ± 5 versus 3.7 ± 4 cells/high-power field; P = 0.009). In contrast, the expression of TIMP-2, an inhibitor of MMP-2, was lower in the RA than in the non-RA samples (25 ± 12 versus 39 ± 9 cells/high-power field; P = 0.01). Synovial tissue expressions of MMP-2, MMP-14, and TIMP-2 were virtually undetectable in normal synovial tissue samples. The synovial tissue samples of patients with erosive disease had significantly higher levels of active MMP-2 than did those of patients without erosions (Fig. 1). Tissue expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9, however, did not correlate with the serum levels of these enzymes.
With the exception of serum MMP-2, which was not elevated over normal, serum levels of all of the other MMPs and TIMPs were elevated to varying degrees, and were not predictive of erosive disease. Interestingly, MMP-1 and C-reactive protein, both of which were associated with the presence of erosions, were positively correlated with each other (r = 0.42; P < 0.001).
MMP-2 and MMP-9 are thought to play an important role in the evolution of joint erosions in patients with an inflammatory arthritis. Most studies have concentrated on the contribution of MMP-9 to the synovitis, because synovial fluid and serum MMP-9 levels are markedly increased in inflammatory arthropathies. Previously reported serum levels of MMP-9 have varied widely. In the present sample of patients with synovitis of recent onset, serum MMP-9 levels were elevated in only 21%. Moreover, these elevations were not specific for RA, the tissue expression of MMP-9 was focal, and the levels of MMP-9 activity were not well correlated with early erosions. Although serum MMP-2 levels were not of prognostic value, high synovial tissue levels of MMP-2 activity were significantly correlated with the presence of early erosions. This may reflect augmented activation of MMP-2 by the relatively high levels of MMP-14 and low levels of TIMP-2 seen in these tissues. We were able to localize the components of this trimolecular complex to the synovial lining layer in consecutive tissue sections, a finding that is consistent with their colocalization.
In conclusion, we have provided evidence that active MMP-2 complexes are detectable in the inflamed RA synovium and may be involved in the development of early bony erosions. These results suggest that strategies to inhibit the activation of MMP-2 may have the potential for retarding or preventing early erosions in patients with inflammatory arthritis.
PMCID: PMC17808  PMID: 11062605
early synovitis; erosion; metalloproteinase; matrix metalloproteinase-2; rheumatoid arthritis
3.  Structural and Spatial Determinants Regulating TC21 Activation by RasGRF Family Nucleotide Exchange Factors 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(20):4289-4302.
RasGRF family guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) promote guanosine diphosphate (GDP)/guanosine triphosphate (GTP) exchange on several Ras GTPases, including H-Ras and TC21. Although the mechanisms controlling RasGRF function as an H-Ras exchange factor are relatively well characterized, little is known about how TC21 activation is regulated. Here, we have studied the structural and spatial requirements involved in RasGRF 1/2 exchange activity on TC21. We show that RasGRF GEFs can activate TC21 in all of its sublocalizations except at the Golgi complex. We also demonstrate that TC21 susceptibility to activation by RasGRF GEFs depends on its posttranslational modifications: farnesylated TC21 can be activated by both RasGRF1 and RasGRF2, whereas geranylgeranylated TC21 is unresponsive to RasGRF2. Importantly, we show that RasGRF GEFs ability to catalyze exchange on farnesylated TC21 resides in its pleckstrin homology 1 domain, by a mechanism independent of localization and of its ability to associate to membranes. Finally, our data indicate that Cdc42-GDP can inhibit TC21 activation by RasGRF GEFs, demonstrating that Cdc42 negatively affects the functions of RasGRF GEFs irrespective of the GTPase being targeted.
PMCID: PMC2762140  PMID: 19692568
4.  RasGrf1 deficiency delays aging in mice 
Aging (Albany NY)  2011;3(3):262-276.
RasGRF1 is a Ras-guanine nucleotide exchange factor implicated in a variety of physiological processes including learning and memory and glucose homeostasis. To determine the role of RASGRF1 in aging, lifespan and metabolic parameters were analyzed in aged RasGrf1−/− mice. We observed that mice deficient for RasGrf1−/− display an increase in average and most importantly, in maximal lifespan (20% higher than controls). This was not due to the role of Ras in cancer because tumor-free survival was also enhanced in these animals. Aged RasGrf1−/− displayed better motor coordination than control mice. Protection against oxidative stress was similarly preserved in old RasGrf1−/−. IGF-I levels were lower in RasGrf1−/− than in controls. Furthermore, SIRT1 expression was increased in RasGrf1−/− animals. Consistent with this, the blood metabolomic profiles of RasGrf1-deficient mice resembled those observed in calorie-restricted animals. In addition, cardiac glucose consumption as determined PET was not altered by aging in the mutant model, indicating that RasGrf1-deficienct mice display delayed aging. Our observations link Ras signaling to lifespan and suggest that RasGrf1 is an evolutionary conserved gene which could be targeted for the development of therapies to delay age-related processes.
PMCID: PMC3091520  PMID: 21422498
Longevity; Ras; metabolism; GEF; IGF-1; positron emission tomography
5.  RasGRF2, a Guanosine Nucleotide Exchange Factor for Ras GTPases, Participates in T-Cell Signaling Responses▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(23):8127-8142.
The Ras pathway is critical for the development and function of T lymphocytes. The stimulation of this GTPase in T cells occurs primarily through the Vav1- and phospholipase C-γ1-dependent activation of RasGRP1, a diacylglycerol-responsive Ras GDP/GTP exchange factor. Here, we show that a second exchange factor, RasGRF2, also participates in T-cell signaling. RasGRF2 is expressed in T cells, translocates to immune synapses, activates Ras, and stimulates the transcriptional factor NF-AT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) through Ras- and phospholipase C-γ1-dependent routes. T-cell receptor-, Vav1-, and Ca2+-elicited pathways synergize with RasGRF2 for NF-AT stimulation. The analysis of RasGRF2-deficient mice indicates that this protein is required for the induction of bona fide NF-AT targets such as the cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 2, while it plays minor roles in Ras activation itself. The comparison of lymphocytes from Vav1−/−, Rasgrf2−/−, and Vav1−/−; Rasgrf2−/− mice demonstrates that the RasGRF2 pathway cooperates with the Vav1/RasGRP1 route in the blasting transformation and proliferation of mature T cells. These results identify RasGRF2 as an additional component of the signaling machinery involved in T-cell receptor- and NF-AT-mediated immune responses.
PMCID: PMC2169177  PMID: 17923690
6.  The 'RASor's' edge: Ras proteins and matrix destruction in arthritis 
The shared characteristics of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and cancer, particularly their unchecked growth and invasive behaviors, have been apparent for some time. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these similarities are not clear. In a recent issue of Arthritis Research & Therapy, Abreu and colleagues link a well-studied oncogene, Ras, with expression of matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3) in RA. Their study correlates expression of the Ras guanine nucleotide exchange factor RasGRF1 with MMP-3 expression in RA synovium. They elucidate a potential mechanism of regulation of MMP-3 expression in RA, suggesting a potential target for RA treatment.
PMCID: PMC3003537  PMID: 20067598
7.  The effects of 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 on matrix metalloproteinase and prostaglandin E2 production by cells of the rheumatoid lesion 
Arthritis Research  1999;1(1):63-70.
The biologically active metabolite of vitamin D3, 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1α,25(OH)2D3], acts through vitamin D receptors, which were found in rheumatoid tissues in the present study. IL-1β-activated rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts and human articular chondrocytes were shown to respond differently to exposure to 1α,25(OH)2D3, which has different effects on the regulatory pathways of specific matrix metalloproteinases and prostaglandin E2.
1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1α,25(OH)2D3], the biologically active metabolite of vitamin D3, acts through an intracellular vitamin D receptor (VDR) and has several immunostimulatory effects. Animal studies have shown that production of some matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) may be upregulated in rat chondrocytes by administration of 1α,25(OH)2D3; and cell cultures have suggested that 1α,25(OH)2D3 may affect chondrocytic function. Discoordinate regulation by vitamin D of MMP-1 and MMP-9 in human mononuclear phagocytes has also been reported. These data suggest that vitamin D may regulate MMP expression in tissues where VDRs are expressed. Production of 1α,25(OH)2D3 within synovial fluids of arthritic joints has been shown and VDRs have been found in rheumatoid synovial tissues and at sites of cartilage erosion. The physiological function of 1α,25(OH)2D3 at these sites remains obscure. MMPs play a major role in cartilage breakdown in the rheumatoid joint and are produced locally by several cell types under strict control by regulatory factors. As 1α,25(OH)2D3 modulates the production of specific MMPs and is produced within the rheumatoid joint, the present study investigates its effects on MMP and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production in two cell types known to express chondrolytic enzymes.
To investigate VDR expression in rheumatoid tissues and to examine the effects of 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 on cultured rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts (RSFs) and human articular chondrocytes (HACs) with respect to MMP and PGE2 production.
Rheumatoid synovial tissues were obtained from arthroplasty procedures on patients with late-stage rheumatoid arthritis; normal articular cartilage was obtained from lower limb amputations. Samples were embedded in paraffin, and examined for presence of VDRs by immunolocalisation using a biotinylated antibody and alkaline-phosphatase-conjugated avidin-biotin complex system. Cultured synovial fibroblasts and chondrocytes were treated with either 1α,25(OH)2D3, or interleukin (IL)-1β or both. Conditioned medium was assayed for MMP and PGE2 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and the results were normalised relative to control values.
The rheumatoid synovial tissue specimens (n = 18) immunostained for VDRs showed positive staining but at variable distributions and in no observable pattern. VDR-positive cells were also observed in association with some cartilage-pannus junctions (the rheumatoid lesion). MMP production by RSFs in monolayer culture was not affected by treatment with 1α,25(OH)2D3 alone, but when added simultaneously with IL-1β the stimulation by IL-1β was reduced from expected levels by up to 50%. In contrast, 1α,25(OH)2D3 had a slight stimulatory effect on basal production of MMPs 1 and 3 by monolayer cultures of HACs, but stimulation of MMP-1 by IL-1β was not affected by the simultaneous addition of 1α,25(OH)2D3 whilst MMP-3 production was enhanced (Table 1). The production of PGE2 by RSFs was unaffected by 1α,25(OH)2D3 addition, but when added concomitantly with IL-1β the expected IL-1 β-stimulated increase was reduced to almost basal levels. In contrast, IL-1β stimulation of PGE2 in HACs was not affected by the simultaneous addition of 1α,25(OH)2D3 (Table 2). Pretreatment of RSFs with 1α,25(OH)2D3 for 1 h made no significant difference to IL-1β-induced stimulation of PGE2, but incubation for 16 h suppressed the expected increase in PGE2 to control values. This effect was also noted when 1α,25(OH)2D3 was removed after the 16h and the IL-1 added alone. Thus it appears that 1α,25(OH)2D3 does not interfere with the IL-1β receptor, but reduces the capacity of RSFs to elaborate PGE2 after IL-1β induction.
Cells within the rheumatoid lesion which expressed VDR were fibroblasts, macrophages, lymphocytes and endothelial cells. These cells are thought to be involved in the degradative processes associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), thus providing evidence of a functional role of 1α,25(OH)2D3 in RA. MMPs may play important roles in the chondrolytic processes of the rheumatoid lesion and are known to be produced by both fibroblasts and chondrocytes. The 1α,25(OH)2D3 had little effect on basal MMP production by RSFs, although more pronounced differences were noted when IL-1β-stimulated cells were treated with 1α,25(OH)2D3, with the RSF and HAC showing quite disparate responses. These opposite effects may be relevant to the processes of joint destruction, especially cartilage loss, as the ability of 1α,25(OH)2D3 to potentiate MMP-1 and MMP-3 expression by 'activated' chondrocytes might facilitate intrinsic cartilage chondrolysis in vivo. By contrast, the MMP-suppressive effects observed for 1α,25(OH)2D3 treatment of 'activated' synovial fibroblasts might reduce extrinsic chondrolysis and also matrix degradation within the synovial tissue. Prostaglandins have a role in the immune response and inflammatory processes associated with RA. The 1α,25(OH)2D3 had little effect on basal PGE2 production by RSF, but the enhanced PGE2 production observed following IL-1β stimulation of these cells was markedly suppressed by the concomitant addition of 1α,25(OH)2D3. As with MMP production, there are disparate effects of 1α,25(OH)2D3 on IL-1β stimulated PGE2 production by the two cell types; 1α,25(OH)2D3 added concomitantly with IL-1β had no effect on PGE2 production by HACs. In summary, the presence of VDRs in the rheumatoid lesion demonstrates that 1α,25(OH)2D3 may have a functional role in the joint disease process. 1α,25(OH)2D3 does not appear to directly affect MMP or PGE2 production but does modulate cytokine-induced production.
Comparative effects of 1 α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1 α,25D3) on interleukin (IL)-1-stimulated matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1 and MMP-3 production by rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts and human articular chondrocytes in vivo
Data given are normalized relative to control values and are expressed ± SEM for three cultures of each cell type.
Comparative effects of 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1α,25D3) on Interleukin (IL)-1-stimulated prostaglandin E2 production by rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts and human articular chondrocyte in vivo
Data given are normalized relative to control values and are expressed ± SEM for three cultures of each cell type.
PMCID: PMC17774  PMID: 11056661
1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3; matrix metalloproteinase; prostaglandin E2; rheumatoid arthritis
8.  RasGrf1: genomic imprinting, VSELs, and aging 
Aging (Albany NY)  2011;3(7):692-697.
Increase in life span in RasGrf1-deficient mice revealed that RasGrf1 deficiency promotes longevity. Interestingly, RasGrf1 is one of parentally imprinted genes transcribed from paternally-derived chromosome. Erasure of its imprinting results in RasGrf1 downregulation and has been demonstrated in a population of pluripotent adult tissues-derived very small embryonic like stem cells (VSELs), stem cells involved in tissue organ rejuvenation. Furthermore, based on recent observation that RasGrf1 signaling molecule is located downstream from insulin (Ins) and insulin like growth factor-1 (Igf-1) receptors, the extended life-span of RasGrf1−/− mice may support beneficial effect of reduced Ins/Igf-1 signaling on longevity. Similarly, downregulation of RasGrf1 in VSELs renders them resistant to chronic Ins/Igf-1 signaling and protects from premature depletion from adult tissues. Thus, the studies in RasGrf1−/− mice indicate that some of the imprinted genes may play a role in ontogenetic longevity and suggest that there are sex differences in life span that originate at the genome level. All this in toto supports a concept that the sperm genome may have a detrimental effect on longevity in mammals. We will discuss a role of RasGrf1 on life span in context of genomic imprinting and VSELs.
PMCID: PMC3181169  PMID: 21765200
Aging; longevity; IGF-1; RasGrf1; VSEL
9.  RasGRF1 regulates proliferation and metastatic behavior of human alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas 
International Journal of Oncology  2012;41(3):995-1004.
The involvement of the Ras superfamily of GTPases in the pathogenesis of rhabdomysarcoma (RMS) is not well understood. While mutant H-Ras leads to embryonal RMS (ERMS) formation in experimental animals and in Costello syndrome patients, no data exists on the potential role of Ras GTPases in the pathogenesis of alveolar RMS (ARMS). To address this issue better, we focused on the role of the GTP exchange factor RasGRF1 in this process. We observed that, in comparison to normal skeletal muscle cells, RasGRF1 mRNA is upregulated in the majority of human ARMS cell lines and subsequently confirmed its high expression in patient samples. By employing confocal microscopy analysis, we observed RasGRF1 accumulation in cell filopodia, which suggests its involvement in ARMS cell migration. Furthermore, we observed that RasGRF1 becomes phosphorylated in ARMS after stimulation by several pro-metastatic factors, such as SDF-1 and HGF/SF, as well as after exposure to growth-promoting Igf-2 and insulin. More importantly, activation of RasGRF1 expression correlated with activation of p42/44 MAPK and AKT. When the expression of RasGRF1 was down-regulated in ARMS cells by an shRNA strategy, these RasGRF1-kd RMS cells did not respond to stimulation by SDF-1, HGF/SF, Igf-2 or insulin by phosphorylation of p42/44 MAPK and AKT and lost their chemotactic responsiveness; however, their adhesion was not affected. We also observed that RasGRF1-kd ARMS cells proliferated at a very low rate in vitro, and, more importantly, after inoculation into immunodeficient SCID/beige inbred mice they formed significantly smaller tumors. We conclude that RasGRF1 plays an important role in ARMS pathogenesis and is a new potential therapeutic target to inhibit ARMS growth.
PMCID: PMC3582851  PMID: 22752028
rhabdomyosarcoma; Ras; RasGRF1; metastasis
10.  Synchronization of Developmental Processes and Defense Signaling by Growth Regulating Transcription Factors 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e98477.
Growth regulating factors (GRFs) are a conserved class of transcription factor in seed plants. GRFs are involved in various aspects of tissue differentiation and organ development. The implication of GRFs in biotic stress response has also been recently reported, suggesting a role of these transcription factors in coordinating the interaction between developmental processes and defense dynamics. However, the molecular mechanisms by which GRFs mediate the overlaps between defense signaling and developmental pathways are elusive. Here, we report large scale identification of putative target candidates of Arabidopsis GRF1 and GRF3 by comparing mRNA profiles of the grf1/grf2/grf3 triple mutant and those of the transgenic plants overexpressing miR396-resistant version of GRF1 or GRF3. We identified 1,098 and 600 genes as putative targets of GRF1 and GRF3, respectively. Functional classification of the potential target candidates revealed that GRF1 and GRF3 contribute to the regulation of various biological processes associated with defense response and disease resistance. GRF1 and GRF3 participate specifically in the regulation of defense-related transcription factors, cell-wall modifications, cytokinin biosynthesis and signaling, and secondary metabolites accumulation. GRF1 and GRF3 seem to fine-tune the crosstalk between miRNA signaling networks by regulating the expression of several miRNA target genes. In addition, our data suggest that GRF1 and GRF3 may function as negative regulators of gene expression through their association with other transcription factors. Collectively, our data provide new insights into how GRF1 and GRF3 might coordinate the interactions between defense signaling and plant growth and developmental pathways.
PMCID: PMC4038601  PMID: 24875638
11.  Cloning and characterization of Ras-GRF2, a novel guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Ras. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(3):1396-1406.
Conversion of Ras proteins into an activated GTP-bound state able to bind effector proteins is catalyzed by specific guanine nucleotide exchange factors in response to a large number of extracellular stimuli. Here we report the isolation of mouse cDNAs encoding Ras-GRF2, a multidomain 135-kDa protein containing a COOH-terminal Cdc25-related domain that stimulates release of GDP from Ras but not other GTPases in vitro. Ras-GRF2 bound specifically to immobilized Ras lacking bound nucleotides, suggesting stabilization of the nucleotide-free form of Ras as a mechanism of catalyzing nucleotide exchange. The NH2-terminal region of Ras-GRF2 is predicted to contain features common to various signaling proteins including two pleckstrin homology domains and a Dbl homology region. Ras-GRF2 also contains an IQ motif which was required for its apparent constitutive association with calmodulin in epithelial cells ectopically expressing Ras-GRF2. Transient expression of Ras-GRF2 in kidney epithelial cells stimulated GTP binding by Ras and potentiated calcium ionophore-induced activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (ERK1) dependent upon the IQ motif. Calcium influx caused Ras-GRF2 subcellular localization to change from cytosolic to peripheral, suggesting a possible mechanism for controlling Ras-GRF2 interactions with Ras at the plasma membrane. Epithelial cells overexpressing Ras-GRF2 are morphologically transformed and grow in a disorganized manner with minimal intercellular contacts. Northern analysis indicated a 9-kb GRF2 transcript in brain and lung, where p135 Ras-GRF2 is known to be expressed, and RNAs of 12 kb and 2.2 kb were detected in several tissues. Thus, Ras-GRF2 proteins with different domain structures may be widely expressed and couple diverse extracellular signals to Ras activation.
PMCID: PMC231864  PMID: 9032266
12.  Genome-wide identification and analysis of the growth-regulating factor family in Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa L. ssp. pekinensis) 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):807.
Growth regulating factors (GRFs) have been shown to play important roles in plant growth and development. GRF genes represent a large multigene family in plants. Recently, genome-wide structural and evolutionary analyses of the GRF gene families in Arabidopsis, rice, and maize have been reported. Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa L. ssp. pekinensis) is one of the most important vegetables for agricultural production, and a full genome assembly for this plant has recently been released. However, to our knowledge, the GRF gene family from Chinese cabbage has not been characterized in detail.
In this study, genome-wide analysis was carried out to identify all the GRF genes in Chinese cabbage. Based on the complete Chinese cabbage genome sequence, 17 nonredundant GRF genes, named BrGRFs, were identified and classified into six groups. Phylogenetic analysis of the translated GRF protein sequences from Chinese cabbage, Arabidopsis, and rice indicated that the Chinese cabbage GRF proteins were more closely related to the GRF proteins of Arabidopsis than to those of rice. Expression profile analysis showed that the BrGRF genes had uneven transcript levels in different organs or tissues, and the transcription of most BrGRF genes was induced by gibberellic acid (GA3) treatment. Additionally, over-expression of BrGRF8 in transgenic Arabidopsis plants increased the sizes of the leaves and other organs by regulation of cell proliferation.
The data obtained from this investigation will contribute to a better understanding of the characteristics of the GRF gene family in Chinese cabbage, and provide a basis for further studies to investigate GRF protein function during development as well as for Chinese cabbage-breeding programs to improve yield and/or head size.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-807) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4180144  PMID: 25242257
Chinese cabbage; Expression; Gene family; GRF; Transgenic lines
13.  The Use of Knockout Mice Reveals a Synergistic Role of the Vav1 and Rasgrf2 Gene Deficiencies in Lymphomagenesis and Metastasis 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8229.
Vav1 and RasGRF2 are GDP/GTP exchange factors for Ras superfamily GTPases with roles in the development and/or effector functions of T–lymphocytes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Given that the phenotype of Vav1–/–, Rasgrf2–/– and Vav1–/–;Rasgrf2–/– mice has been studied so far in young animals, we decided to explore the long–term consequences of the inactivation of those loci in the immune system. Unexpectedly, our studies revealed that the inactivation of the Vav1 proto–oncogene favors the formation of lymphoblastic lymphoma–like tumors in aging mice. Those tumors, that can be found either localized exclusively inside the thymus or widely disseminated in hematopoietic and non–hematopoietic tissues, are composed of CD3+ lymphoblasts that display heterogeneous combinations of CD4 and CD8 surface markers. Interestingly, the additional deletion of the Rasgrf2 gene induces a shortening in the latency period for the development of those tumors, an increase in the percentage of disseminated tumors outside the thymus and, as a result, higher mortality rates.
These data reveal unexpected negative roles for Vav1 and RasGRF2 in different stages of T–cell lymphoma progression. They also suggest that the inactivation of Vav1 function may represent an inadequate strategy to treat T–cell lymphomas, especially those associated with low levels of Rasgrf2 gene expression.
PMCID: PMC2788417  PMID: 20011522
14.  Activation of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis: lack of expression of the tumour suppressor PTEN at sites of invasive growth and destruction 
Arthritis Research  1999;2(1):59-64.
In the present study, we searched for mutant PTEN transcripts in aggressive rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RA-SF) and studied the expression of PTEN in RA. By automated sequencing, no evidence for the presence of mutant PTEN transcripts was found. However, in situ hybridization on RA synovium revealed a distinct expression pattern of PTEN, with negligible staining in the lining layer but abundant expression in the sublining. Normal synovial tissue exhibited homogeneous staining for PTEN. In cultured RA-SF, only 40% expressed PTEN. Co-implantation of RA-SF and normal human cartilage into severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice showed only limited expression of PTEN, with no staining in those cells aggressively invading the cartilage. Although PTEN is not genetically altered in RA, these findings suggest that a lack of PTEN expression may constitute a characteristic feature of activated RA-SF in the lining, and may thereby contribute to the invasive behaviour of RA-SF by maintaining their aggressive phenotype at sites of cartilage destruction.
PTEN is a novel tumour suppressor which exhibits tyrosine phosphatase activity as well as homology to the cytoskeletal proteins tensin and auxilin. Mutations of PTEN have been described in several human cancers and associated with their invasiveness and metastatic properties. Although not malignant, rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RA-SF) exhibit certain tumour-like features such as attachment to cartilage and invasive growth. In the present study, we analyzed whether mutant transcripts of PTEN were present in RA-SF. In addition, we used in situ hybridization to study the expression of PTEN messenger (m)RNA in tissue samples of RA and normal individuals as well as in cultured RA-SF and in the severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mouse model of RA.
Synovial tissue specimens were obtained from seven patients with RA and from two nonarthritic individuals. Total RNA was isolated from synovial fibroblasts and after first strand complementary (c)DNA synthesis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed to amplify a 1063 base pair PTEN fragment that encompassed the coding sequence of PTEN including the phosphatase domain and all mutation sites described so far. The PCR products were subcloned in Escherichia coli, and up to four clones were picked from each plate for automated sequencing. For in situ hybridization, digoxigenin-labelled PTEN-specific RNA probes were generated by in vitro transcription. For control in situ hybridization, a matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2-specific probe was prepared. To investigate the expression of PTEN in the absence of human macrophage or lymphocyte derived factors, we implanted RA-SF from three patients together with normal human cartilage under the renal capsule of SCID mice. After 60 days, mice were sacrificed, the implants removed and embedded into paraffin.
PCR revealed the presence of the expected 1063 base pair PTEN fragment in all (9/9) cell cultures (Fig. 1). No additional bands that could account for mutant PTEN variants were detected. Sequence analysis revealed 100% homology of all RA-derived PTEN fragments to those from normal SF as well as to the published GenBank sequence (accession number U93051). However, in situ hybridization demonstrated considerable differences in the expression of PTEN mRNA within the lining and the sublining layers of RA synovial membranes. As shown in Figure 2a, no staining was observed within the lining layer which has been demonstrated to mediate degradation of cartilage and bone in RA. In contrast, abundant expression of PTEN mRNA was found in the sublining of all RA synovial tissues (Figs 2a and b). Normal synovial specimens showed homogeneous staining for PTEN within the thin synovial membrane (Fig. 2c). In situ hybridization using the sense probe gave no specific staining (Fig. 2d). We also performed in situ hybridization on four of the seven cultured RA-SF and followed one cell line from the first to the sixth passage. Interestingly, only 40% of cultured RA-SF expressed PTEN mRNA (Fig. 3a), and the proportion of PTEN expressing cells did not change throughout the passages. In contrast, control experiments using a specific RNA probe for MMP-2 revealed mRNA expression by nearly all cultured cells (Fig. 3b). As seen before, implantation of RA-SF into the SCID mice showed considerable cartilage degradation. Interestingly, only negligible PTEN expression was found in those RA-SF aggressively invading the cartilage (Fig. 3c). In situ hybridization for MMP-2 showed abundant staining in these cells (Fig. 3d).
Although this study found no evidence for mutations of PTEN in RA synovium, the observation that PTEN expression is lacking in the lining layer of RA synovium as well as in more than half of cultured RA-SF is of interest. It suggests that loss of PTEN function may not exclusively be caused by genetic alterations, yet at the same time links the low expression of PTEN to a phenotype of cells that have been shown to invade cartilage aggressively.
It has been proposed that the tyrosine phosphatase activity of PTEN is responsible for its tumour suppressor activity by counteracting the actions of protein tyrosine kinases. As some studies have demonstrated an upregulation of tyrosine kinase activity in RA synovial cells, it might be speculated that the lack of PTEN expression in aggressive RA-SF contributes to the imbalance of tyrosine kinases and phosphatases in this disease. However, the extensive amino-terminal homology of the predicted protein to the cytoskeletal proteins tensin and auxilin suggests a complex regulatory function involving cellular adhesion molecules and phosphatase-mediated signalling. The tyrosine phosphatase TEP1 has been shown to be identical to the protein encoded by PTEN, and gene transcription of TEP1 has been demonstrated to be downregulated by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β. Therefore, it could be hypothesized that TGF-β might be responsible for the downregulation of PTEN. However, the expression of TGF-β is not restricted to the lining but found throughout the synovial tissue in RA. Moreover, in our study the percentage of PTEN expressing RA-SF remained stable for six passages in culture, whereas molecules that are cytokine-regulated in vivo frequently change their expression levels when cultured over several passages. Also, cultured RA-SF that were implanted into SCID mice and deeply invaded the cartilage did not show significant expression of PTEN after 60 days. The drop in the percentage of PTEN expressing cells from the original cell cultures to the SCID mouse implants is of interest as this observation goes along with data from previous studies that have shown the prominent expression of activation-related molecules in the SCID mice implants that in vivo are found predominantly in the lining layer. Therefore, our data point to endogenous mechanisms rather than to the influence of exogenous human cytokines or factors in the downregulation of PTEN. Low expression of PTEN may belong to the features that distinguish between the activated phenotype of RA-SF and the sublining, proliferating but nondestructive cells.
PMCID: PMC17804  PMID: 11219390
rheumatoid arthritis; synovial membrane; fibroblasts; PTEN tumour suppressor; severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mouse model; cartilage destruction; in situ hybridization
15.  Spatial control of Cdc42 signalling by a GM130-RasGRF complex regulates polarity and tumorigenesis 
Nature communications  2014;5:4839.
The small GTPase Cdc42 is a key regulator of polarity, but little is known in mammals about its spatial regulation and the relevance of spatial Cdc42 pools for polarity. Here, we report the identification of a GM130-RasGRF complex as a regulator of Cdc42 at the Golgi. Silencing GM130 results in RasGRF-dependent inhibition of the Golgi pool of Cdc42, but does not affect Cdc42 at the cell surface. Furthermore, active Cdc42 at the Golgi is important to sustain asymmetric front-rear Cdc42-GTP distribution in directionally-migrating cells. Concurrently to Cdc42 inhibition, silencing GM130 also results in RasGRF-dependent Ras-ERK pathway activation. Moreover, depletion of GM130 is sufficient to induce E-cadherin down-regulation, indicative of a loss in cell polarity and epithelial identity. Accordingly, GM130 expression is frequently lost in colorectal and breast cancer patients. These findings establish a previously unrecognized role for the GM130-RasGRF-Cdc42 connection in regulating polarity and tumourigenesis.
PMCID: PMC4449154  PMID: 25208761
16.  Targeted Disruption of Ras-Grf2 Shows Its Dispensability for Mouse Growth and Development 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(8):2498-2504.
The mammalian Grf1 and Grf2 proteins are Ras guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) sharing a high degree of structural homology, as well as an elevated expression level in central nervous system tissues. Such similarities raise questions concerning the specificity and/or redundancy at the functional level between the two Grf proteins. grf1-null mutant mice have been recently described which showed phenotypic growth reduction and long-term memory loss. To gain insight into the in vivo function of Grf2, we disrupted its catalytic CDC25-H domain by means of gene targeting. Breeding among grf2+/− animals gave rise to viable grf2−/− adult animals with a normal Mendelian pattern, suggesting that Grf2 is not essential for embryonic and adult mouse development. In contrast to Grf1-null mice, analysis of grf2−/− litters showed similar size and weight as their heterozygous or wild-type grf2 counterparts. Furthermore, adult grf2−/− animals reached sexual maturity at the same age as their wild-type littermates and showed similar fertility levels. No specific pathology was observed in adult Grf2-null animals, and histopathological studies showed no observable differences between null mutant and wild-type Grf2 mice. These results indicate that grf2 is dispensable for mouse growth, development, and fertility. Furthermore, analysis of double grf1/grf2 null animals did not show any observable phenotypic difference with single grf1−/− animals, further indicating a lack of functional overlapping between the two otherwise highly homologous Grf1 and Grf2 proteins.
PMCID: PMC133706  PMID: 11909944
17.  Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) induces migration and invasive mechanisms in rheumatoid arthritis 
This study investigates the role of Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) in the regulation of migratory and invasive mechanisms in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Invasion, migration, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1, -3 and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase-3 (TIMP-3) expression, β-integrin binding, cytoskeletal rearrangement and Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 (Rac1) activation in response to a TLR2-ligand, Pam3CSK4 (1 μg/ml), in ex vivo RA synovial tissue explants, primary RA synovial fibroblasts (RASFC) and microvascular endothelial cells (HMVEC) were assessed by Transwell Matrigel™ invasion chambers, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), multiplex adhesion binding assay, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), F-actin immunofluorescent staining, matrigel synovial outgrowths, Rac1 pull-down assays/Western blot and zymography. β1-integrin expression in RA/control synovial tissue was assessed by immunohistology. The effect of Pam3CSK4 on cell migration, invasion, MMP-3 and Rac1 activation was examined in the presence or absence of anti-β1-integrin (10 μg/ml) or anti-IgG control (10 μg/ml). The effect of an anti-TLR-2 mAb (OPN301)(1 μg/ml) or immunoglobulin G (IgG) control (1 μg/ml) on RASFC migration and RA synovial tissue MMP activity was assessed by wound assays, ELISA and zymography.
Pam3CSK4 significantly induced cell migration, invasion, MMP-1, MMP-3, MMP-2 and MMP-9 expression and induced the MMP-1/TIMP-3 and MMP-3/TIMP-3 ratio in RASFC and explants (p <0.05). β1-integrin expression was significantly higher in RA synovial tissue compared to controls (p <0.05). Pam3CSK4 specifically induced β1-integrin binding in RASFC (p <0.05), with no effect observed for β2-4, β6, αvβ5 or α5β1. Pam3CSK4 increased β1-integrin mRNA expression, Rac1 activation, RASFC outgrowths and altered cytoskeletal dynamic through induction of filopodia formation. Pam3CSK4-regulated cell migration and invasion processes, but not MMP-3, were inhibited in the presence of anti-β1-integrin (p <0.05), with no effect observed for anti-IgG control. Furthermore, anti-β1-integrin inhibited Pam3CSK4-induced Rac1 activation. Finally, blockade of TLR2 with OPN301 significantly decreased spontaneous release of MMP-3, MMP-2 and MMP-9 and increased TIMP-3 secretion from RA synovial explant cultures (p <0.05). Incubation of RASFC with OPN301 RA ex vivo conditioned media inhibited migration and invasion compared to IgG control.
TLR2 activation induces migrational and invasive mechanisms, which are critically involved in the pathogenesis of RA, suggesting TLR2 as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of RA.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0664-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4495696  PMID: 26055925
18.  p75-Ras-GRF1 Is a c-Jun/AP-1 Target Protein: Its Up Regulation Results in Increased Ras Activity and Is Necessary for c-Jun-Induced Nonadherent Growth of Rat1a Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(8):3324-3337.
The c-Jun/AP-1 transcription complex is associated with diverse cellular processes such as differentiation, proliferation, transformation, and apoptosis. These different biological endpoints are likely achieved by the regulation of specific target gene expression. We describe the identification of Ras guanine nucleotide exchange factor 1, Ras-GRF1, by microarray analysis as a c-Jun/AP-1 regulated gene essential for anchorage-independent growth of immortalized rat fibroblasts. Increased Ras-GRF1 expression, in response to inducible c-Jun expression in Rat1a fibroblasts, was confirmed by both real-time PCR and Northern blot analysis. We show that c-Jun/AP-1 can bind and activate the Ras-GRF1 promoter in vivo. A 75-kDa c-Jun/AP-1-inducible protein, p75-Ras-GRF1, was detected, and the inhibition of its expression with antisense oligomers significantly blocked c-Jun-regulated anchorage-independent cell growth. p75-Ras-GRF1 expression occurred with a concomitant increase in activated Ras (GTP bound), and the activation of Ras was significantly inhibited by antisense Ras-GRF1 oligomers. Moreover, p75-Ras-GRF1 could be coprecipitated with a Ras dominant-negative glutathione S-transferase (GST) construct, GST-Ras15A, demonstrating an interaction between p75-Ras-GRF1 and Ras. A downstream target of Ras activation, Elk-1, had increased transcriptional activity in c-Jun-expressing cells, and this activation was inhibited by dominant-negative Ras. In addition, c-Jun overexpression resulted in an increase in phospho-AKT while phosphorylation of ERK1/2 remained largely unaffected. The inhibition of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-AKT signal transduction by Ly294002 and wortmannin significantly blocked c-Jun-regulated morphological transformation, while inhibition of basal MEK-ERK activity with PD98059 and U0126 had little effect. We conclude that c-Jun/AP-1 regulates endogenous p75-Ras-GRF1 expression and that c-Jun/AP-1-regulated anchorage-independent cell growth requires activation of Ras-PI3K-AKT signal transduction.
PMCID: PMC1069594  PMID: 15798216
19.  Matrix metalloproteinases and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases in synovial fluids from patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2000;59(6):455-461.
OBJECTIVE—Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are expressed in joint tissues of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). The objective of this study was to define the steady state levels of seven different MMPs and two tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) as well as the potential metalloproteinase activity in the synovial fluid (SF) to provide more insight into the role of MMPs in cartilage destruction in RA and OA.
METHODS—Levels of MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-3, MMP-7, MMP-8, MMP-9, MMP-13, TIMP-1, and TIMP-2 in SF aspirated from knee joints of 97 patients with RA and 103 patients with OA were measured by the corresponding one step sandwich enzyme immunoassays. Proteolytic activity of MMPs in these SFs was examined in an assay using [3H]carboxymethylated transferrin substrate in the presence of inhibitors of serine and cysteine proteinases after activation with p-aminophenylmercuric acetate (APMA). Destruction of RA knee joints was radiographically evaluated.
RESULTS—Levels of MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-3, MMP-8, and MMP-9 were significantly higher in RA SF than in OA SF. MMP-7 and MMP-13 were detectable in more than 45% of RA SFs and in less than 20% of OA SFs, respectively. Among the MMPs examined, MMP-3 levels were extremely high compared with those of other MMPs. Direct correlations were seen between the levels of MMP-1 and MMP-3 and between those of MMP-8 and MMP-9 in RA SF. Although the levels of MMP-1 and MMP-3 increased even in the early stage of RA, those of MMP-8 and MMP-9 were low in the early stage and increased with the progression of RA. Molar ratios of the total amounts of the MMPs to those of the TIMPs were 5.2-fold higher in patients with RA than in OA, which was significant. APMA-activated metalloproteinase activity in SF showed a similar result, and a direct correlation was seen between the molar ratios and the activity in RA SF.
CONCLUSIONS—Our results show that high levels of MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-3, MMP-8, MMP-9, and TIMP-1 are present in RA SF and suggest that once these MMPs are fully activated, they have an imbalance against TIMPs, which may contribute to the cartilage destruction in RA.

PMCID: PMC1753174  PMID: 10834863
20.  Acute-phase serum amyloid A production by rheumatoid arthritis synovial tissue 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(2):142-144.
Acute-phase serum amyloid A (A-SAA) is a major component of the acute-phase response. A sustained acute-phase response in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with increased joint damage. A-SAA mRNA expression was confirmed in all samples obtained from patients with RA, but not in normal synovium. A-SAA mRNA expression was also demonstrated in cultured RA synoviocytes. A-SAA protein was identified in the supernatants of primary synoviocyte cultures, and its expression colocalized with sites of macrophage accumulation and with some vascular endothelial cells. It is concluded that A-SAA is produced by inflamed RA synovial tissue. The known association between the acute-phase response and progressive joint damage may be the direct result of synovial A-SAA-induced effects on cartilage degradation.
Serum amyloid A (SAA) is the circulating precursor of amyloid A protein, the fibrillar component of amyloid deposits. In humans, four SAA genes have been described. Two genes (SAA1 and SAA2) encode A-SAA and are coordinately induced in response to inflammation. SAA1 and SAA2 are 95% homologous in both coding and noncoding regions. SAA3 is a pseudogene. SAA4 encodes constitutive SAA and is minimally inducible. A-SAA increases dramatically during acute inflammation and may reach levels that are 1000-fold greater than normal. A-SAA is mainly synthesized in the liver, but extrahepatic production has been demonstrated in many species, including humans. A-SAA mRNA is expressed in RA synoviocytes and in monocyte/macrophage cell lines such as THP-1 cells, in endothelial cells and in smooth muscle cells of atherosclerotic lesions. A-SAA has also been localized to a wide range of histologically normal tissues, including breast, stomach, intestine, pancreas, kidney, lung, tonsil, thyroid, pituitary, placenta, skin and brain.
To identify the cell types that produce A-SAA mRNA and protein, and their location in RA synovium.
Materials and methods:
Rheumatoid synovial tissue was obtained from eight patients undergoing arthroscopic biopsy and at joint replacement surgery. Total RNA was analyzed by reverse transcription (RT) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for A-SAA mRNA. PCR products generated were confirmed by Southern blot analysis using human A-SAA cDNA. Localization of A-SAA production was examined by immunohistochemistry using a rabbit antihuman A-SAA polyclonal antibody. PrimaryRA synoviocytes were cultured to examine endogenous A-SAA mRNA expression and protein production.
A-SAA mRNA expression was detected using RT-PCR in all eight synovial tissue samples studied. Figure 1 demonstrates RT-PCR products generated using synovial tissue from three representative RA patients. Analysis of RA synovial tissue revealed differences in A-SAA mRNA levels between individual RA patients.
In order to identify the cells that expressed A-SAA mRNA in RA synovial tissue, we analyzed primary human synoviocytes (n = 2). RT-PCR analysis revealed A-SAA mRNA expression in primary RA synoviocytes (n = 2; Fig. 2). The endogenous A-SAA mRNA levels detected in individual primary RA synoviocytes varied between patients. These findings are consistent with A-SAA expression in RA synovial tissue (Fig. 1). Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) levels were relatively similar in the RA synoviocytes examined (Fig. 2). A-SAA protein in the supernatants of primary synoviocyte cultures from four RA patients was measured using ELISA. Mean values of a control and four RA samples were 77.85, 162.5, 249.8, 321.5 and 339.04 μg/l A-SAA, respectively, confirming the production of A-SAA protein by the primary RA synoviocytes. Immunohistochemical analysis was performed to localize sites of A-SAA production in RA synovial tissue. Positive staining was present in both the lining and sublining layers of all eight RA tissues examined (Fig. 3a). Staining was intense and most prominent in the cells closest to the surface of the synovial lining layer. Positively stained cells were evident in the perivascular areas of the sublining layer. In serial sections stained with anti-CD68 monoclonal antibody, positive staining of macrophages appeared to colocalize with A-SAA-positive cells (Fig. 3b). Immunohistochemical studies of cultured primary RA synoviocytes confirmed specific cytoplasmic A-SAA expression in these cells. The specificity of the staining was confirmed by the absence of staining found on serial sections and synoviocyte cells treated with IgG (Fig. 3c).
This study demonstrates that A-SAA mRNA is expressed in several cell populations infiltrating RA synovial tissue. A-SAA mRNA expression was observed in all eight unseparated RA tissue samples studied. A-SAA mRNA expression and protein production was demonstrated in primary cultures of purified RA synoviocytes. Using immunohistochemical techniques, A-SAA protein appeared to colocalize with both lining layer and sublining layer synoviocytes, macrophages and some endothelial cells. The detection of A-SAA protein in culture media supernatants harvested from unstimulated synoviocytes confirms endogenous A-SAA production, and is consistent with A-SAA mRNA expression and translation by the same cells. Moreover, the demonstration of A-SAA protein in RA synovial tissue, RA cultured synoviocytes, macrophages and endothelial cells is consistent with previous studies that demonstrated A-SAA production by a variety of human cell populations.
The RA synovial lining layer is composed of activated macrophages and fibroblast-like synoviocytes. The macrophage is the predominant cell type and it has been shown to accumulate preferentially in the surface of the lining layer and in the perivascular areas of the sublining layer. Nevertheless, our observations strongly suggest that A-SAA is produced not only by synoviocytes, but also by synovial tissue macrophage populations. Local A-SAA protein production by vascular endothelial cells was detected in some, but not all, of the tissues examined. The reason for the variability in vascular A-SAA staining is unknown, but may be due to differences in endothelial cell activation, events related to angiogenesis or the intensity of local inflammation.
The value of measuring serum A-SAA levels as a reliable surrogate marker of inflammation has been demonstrated for several diseases including RA, juvenile chronic arthritis, psoriatic arthropathy, ankylosing spondylitis, Behçet's disease, reactive arthritis and Crohn's disease. It has been suggested that serum A-SAA levels may represent the most sensitive measurement of the acute-phase reaction. In RA, A-SAA levels provide the strongest correlations with clinical measurements of disease activity, and changes in serum levels best reflect the clinical course.
A number of biologic activities have been described for A-SAA, including several that are relevant to the understanding of inflammatory and tissue-degrading mechanisms in human arthritis. A-SAA induces migration, adhesion and tissue infiltration of circulating monocytes and polymorphonuclear leukocytes. In addition, human A-SAA can induce interleukin-1β, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist and soluble type II tumour necrosis factor receptor production by a monocyte cell line. Moreover, A-SAA can stimulate the production of cartilage-degrading proteases by both human and rabbit synoviocytes. The effects of A-SAA on protease production are interesting, because in RA a sustained acute-phase reaction has been strongly associated with progressive joint damage. The known association between the acute-phase response and progressive joint damage may be the direct result of synovial A-SAA-induced effects on cartilage degradation.
In contrast to noninflamed synovium, A-SAA mRNA expression was identified in all RA tissues examined. A-SAA appeared to be produced by synovial tissue synoviocytes, macrophages and endothelial cells. The observation of A-SAA mRNA expression in cultured RA synoviocytes and human RA synovial tissue confirms and extends recently published findings that demonstrated A-SAA mRNA expression in stimulated RA synoviocytes, but not in unstimulated RA synoviocytes.
PMCID: PMC17807  PMID: 11062604
acute-phase response; rheumatoid arthritis; serum amyloid A; synovial tissue
21.  Tartrate resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) positive cells in rheumatoid synovium may induce the destruction of articular cartilage 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2003;62(3):196-203.
Objective: To examine the role of tartrate resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) positive mononuclear and multinucleated cells in the destruction of articular cartilage in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: The presence of TRAP positive cells in the synovial tissue of patients with RA was examined by enzyme histochemistry and immunohistochemistry. Expression of mRNAs for matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) was assessed by the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and northern blot analysis. Production of MMPs by mononuclear and multinucleated TRAP positive cells was examined by immunocytochemistry, enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) of conditioned medium, and immunohistochemistry of human RA synovial tissue. In addition, a cartilage degradation assay was performed by incubation of 35S prelabelled cartilage discs with TRAP positive cells.
Results: TRAP positive mononuclear cells and multinucleated cells were found in proliferating synovial tissue adjacent to the bone-cartilage interface in patients with RA. Expression of MMP-2 (gelatinase A), MMP-9 (gelatinase B), MMP-12 (macrophage metalloelastase), and MMP-14 (MT1-MMP) mRNA was detected in TRAP positive mononuclear and multinucleated cells by both RT-PCR and northern blot analysis. Immunocytochemistry for these MMPs showed that MMP-2 and MMP-9 were produced by both TRAP positive mononuclear and multinucleated cells, whereas MMP-12 and MMP-14 were produced by TRAP positive multinucleated cells. MMP-2 and MMP-9 were detected in the conditioned medium of TRAP positive mononuclear cells. TRAP positive mononuclear cells also induced the release of 35S from prelabelled cartilage discs.
Conclusion: This study suggests that TRAP positive mononuclear and multinucleated cells located in the synovium at the cartilage-synovial interface produce MMP-2 and MMP-9, and may have an important role in articular cartilage destruction in patients with RA.
PMCID: PMC1754448  PMID: 12594102
22.  Regulation of Neuronal Function by Ras-GRF Exchange Factors 
Genes & Cancer  2011;2(3):306-319.
Ras-GRF1 (GRF1) and Ras-GRF2 (GRF2) constitute a family of guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs). The main isoforms, p140-GRF1 and p135-GRF2, have 2 GEF domains that give them the capacity to activate both Ras and Rac GTPases in response to signals from a variety of neurotransmitter receptors. GRF1 and GRF2 proteins are found predominantly in adult neurons of the central nervous system, although they can also be detected in a limited number of other tissues. p140-GRF1 and p135-GRF2 contain calcium/calmodulin-binding IQ domains that allow them to act as calcium sensors to mediate the actions of NMDA-type and calcium-permeable AMPA-type glutamate receptors. p140-GRF1 also mediates the action of dopamine receptors that signal through cAMP. Although p140-GRF1 and p135-GRF2 have similar functional domains, studies of GRF knockout mice show that they can play strikingly different roles in regulating MAP kinase family members, neuronal synaptic plasticity, specific forms of learning and memory, and behavioral responses to psychoactive drugs. In addition, the function of GRF proteins may vary in different regions of the brain. Alternative splice variants yielding smaller GRF1 gene isoforms with fewer functional domains also exist; however, their distinct roles in neurons have not been revealed. Continuing studies of these proteins should yield important insights into the biochemical basis of brain function as well as novel concepts to explain how complex signal transduction proteins, like Ras-GRFs, integrate multiple upstream signals into specific downstream outputs to control brain function.
PMCID: PMC3128633  PMID: 21779501
Ras-GRF; synaptic plasticity; Ras; neurons
23.  CD147 overexpression on synoviocytes in rheumatoid arthritis enhances matrix metalloproteinase production and invasiveness of synoviocytes 
Macrophage-like synoviocytes and fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) are known as the most active cells of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and are close to the articular cartilage in a position enabling them to invade the cartilage. Macrophage-like synoviocytes and FLS expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their interaction has aroused great interest. The present article studied the expression of CD147, also called extracellular matrix metalloproteinase inducer, on monocytes/macrophages and FLS from RA patients and its potential role in enhancing MMPs and the invasiveness of synoviocytes. Expression of CD147 on FLS derived from RA patients and from osteoarthritis patients, and expression of CD147 on monocytes/macrophages from rheumatic synovial fluid and healthy peripheral blood were analyzed by flow cytometry. The levels of CD147, MMP-2 and MMP-9 mRNA in FLS were detected by RT-PCR. The role of CD147 in MMP production and the cells' invasiveness in vitro were studied by the co-culture of FLS with the human THP-1 cell line or monocytes/macrophages, by gel zymography and by invasion assay. The results showed that the expression of CD147 was higher on RA FLS than on osteoarthritis FLS and was higher on monocytes/macrophages from rheumatic synovial fluid than on monocytes/macrophages from healthy peripheral blood. RT-PCR showed that the expressions of CD147, MMP-2 and MMP-9 mRNA was higher in RA FLS than in osteoarthritis FLS. A significantly elevated secretion and activation of MMP-2 and MMP-9 were observed in RA FLS co-cultured with differentiated THP-1 cells or RA synovial monocytes/macrophages, compared with those co-cultured with undifferentiated THP-1 cells or healthy control peripheral blood monocytes. Invasion assays showed an increased number of invading cells in the co-cultured RA FLS with differentiated THP-1 cells or RA synovial monocytes/macrophages. CD147 antagonistic peptide inhibited the MMP production and the invasive potential. Our studies demonstrated that the CD147 overexpression on monocytes/macrophages and FLS in RA patients may be responsible for the enhanced MMP secretion and activation and for the invasiveness of synoviocytes. These findings suggest that CD147 may be one of the important factors in progressive joint destruction of RA and that CD147 may be a potential therapeutic target in RA treatment.
PMCID: PMC1526600  PMID: 16507143
24.  Macrophage migration inhibitory factor: a mediator of matrix metalloproteinase-2 production in rheumatoid arthritis 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by destruction of bone and cartilage, which is mediated, in part, by synovial fibroblasts. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a large family of proteolytic enzymes responsible for matrix degradation. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a cytokine that induces the production of a large number of proinflammatory molecules and has an important role in the pathogenesis of RA by promoting inflammation and angiogenesis.
In the present study, we determined the role of MIF in RA synovial fibroblast MMP production and the underlying signaling mechanisms. We found that MIF induces RA synovial fibroblast MMP-2 expression in a time-dependent and concentration-dependent manner. To elucidate the role of MIF in MMP-2 production, we produced zymosan-induced arthritis (ZIA) in MIF gene-deficient and wild-type mice. We found that MMP-2 protein levels were significantly decreased in MIF gene-deficient compared with wild-type mice joint homogenates. The expression of MMP-2 in ZIA was evaluated by immunohistochemistry (IHC). IHC revealed that MMP-2 is highly expressed in wild-type compared with MIF gene-deficient mice ZIA joints. Interestingly, synovial lining cells, endothelial cells, and sublining nonlymphoid mononuclear cells expressed MMP-2 in the ZIA synovium. Consistent with these results, in methylated BSA (mBSA) antigen-induced arthritis (AIA), a model of RA, enhanced MMP-2 expression was also observed in wild-type compared with MIF gene-deficient mice joints. To elucidate the signaling mechanisms in MIF-induced MMP-2 upregulation, RA synovial fibroblasts were stimulated with MIF in the presence of signaling inhibitors. We found that MIF-induced RA synovial fibroblast MMP-2 upregulation required the protein kinase C (PKC), c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and Src signaling pathways. We studied the expression of MMP-2 in the presence of PKC isoform-specific inhibitors and found that the PKCδ inhibitor rottlerin inhibits MIF-induced RA synovial fibroblast MMP-2 production. Consistent with these results, MIF induced phosphorylation of JNK, PKCδ, and c-jun. These results indicate a potential novel role for MIF in tissue destruction in RA.
PMCID: PMC1779381  PMID: 16872482
25.  Ras Binding Triggers Ubiquitination of the Ras Exchange Factor Ras-GRF2 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(6):2107-2117.
Ras is a small GTPase that is activated by upstream guanine nucleotide exchange factors, one of which is Ras-GRF2. GRF2 is a widely expressed protein with several recognizable sequence motifs, including a Ras exchanger motif (REM), a PEST region containing a destruction box (DB), and a Cdc25 domain. The Cdc25 domain possesses guanine nucleotide exchange factor activity and interacts with Ras. Herein we examine if the DB motif in GRF2 results in proteolysis via the ubiquitin pathway. Based on the solved structure of the REM and Cdc25 regions of the Son-of-sevenless (Sos) protein, the REM may stabilize the Cdc25 domain during Ras binding. The DB motif of GRF2 is situated between the REM and the Cdc25 domains, tempting speculation that it may be exposed to ubiquitination machinery upon Ras binding. GRF2 protein levels decrease dramatically upon activation of GRF2, and dominant-negative Ras induces degradation of GRF2, demonstrating that signaling downstream of Ras is not required for the destruction of GRF2 and that binding to Ras is important for degradation. GRF2 is ubiquitinated in vivo, and this can be detected using mass spectrometry. In the presence of proteasome inhibitors, Ras-GRF2 accumulates as a high-molecular-weight conjugate, suggesting that GRF2 is destroyed by the 26S proteasome. Deleting the DB reduces the ubiquitination of GRF2. GRF2 lacking the Cdc25 domain is not ubiquitinated, suggesting that a protein that cannot bind Ras cannot be properly targeted for destruction. Point mutations within the Cdc25 domain that eliminate Ras binding also eliminate ubiquitination, demonstrating that binding to Ras is necessary for ubiquitination of GRF2. We conclude that conformational changes induced by GTPase binding expose the DB and thereby target GRF2 for destruction.
PMCID: PMC86827  PMID: 11238945

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