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1.  Estrogen-Dependent Proteolytic Cleavage of Semaphorin 4D and Plexin-B1 Enhances Semaphorin 4D-Induced Apoptosis during Postnatal Vaginal Remodeling in Pubescent Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97909.
Around the fifth week after birth, the vaginal cavity in female mouse pups opens to the overlaying skin. This postnatal tissue remodeling of the genital tract occurs during puberty, and it largely depends upon hormonally induced apoptosis that mainly occurs in the epithelium at the lower part of the mouse vaginal cavity. Previously, we showed that most BALB/c mice lacking the class IV Semaphorin (Sema4D) develop imperforate vagina and hydrometrocolpos; therefore, we reasoned that the absence of Sema4D-induced apoptosis in vaginal epithelial cells may cause the imperforate vagina. Sema4D signals via the Plexin-B1 receptor; nevertheless detailed mechanisms mediating this hormonally triggered apoptosis are not fully documented. To investigate the estrogen-dependent control of Sema4D signaling during the apoptosis responsible for mouse vaginal opening, we examined structural and functional modulation of Sema4D, Plexin-B1, and signaling molecules by analyzing both wild-type and Sema4D−/− mice with or without ovariectomy. Both the release of soluble Sema4D and the conversion of Plexin-B1 by proteolytic processing in vaginal tissue peaked 5 weeks after birth of wild-type BALB/c mice at the time of vaginal opening. Estrogen supplementation of ovariectomized wild-type mice revealed that both the release of soluble Sema4D and the conversion of Plexin-B1 into an active form were estrogen-dependent and concordant with apoptosis. Estrogen supplementation of ovariectomized Sema4D−/− mice did not induce massive vaginal apoptosis in 5-week-old mice; therefore, Sema4D may be an essential apoptosis-inducing ligand that acts downstream of estrogen action in vaginal epithelium during this postnatal tissue remodeling. Analysis of ovariectomized mice also indicated that Sema4D contributed to estrogen-dependent dephosphorylation of Akt and ERK at the time of vaginal opening. Based on our results, we propose that apoptosis in vaginal epithelium during postnatal vaginal opening is induced by enhanced Sema4D signaling that is caused by estrogen-dependent structural changes of Sema4D and Plexin-B1.
PMCID: PMC4026538  PMID: 24841081
2.  Role of Semaphorin 7a signaling in TGF-β1 induced lung fibrosis and scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(8):2484-2494.
Semaphorin (Sema) 7a regulates TGF- β1 induced fibrosis. Using a murine model of pulmonary fibrosis in which an inducible, bioactive form of the human TGF- β1 gene is overexpressed in the lung, we tested the hypothesis that Sema-7a exerts its pro-fibrotic effects in part by promoting the tissue accumulation of CD45+ fibrocytes.
Fibrosis and fibrocytes were evaluated in TGF- β1 transgenic mice in which the Sema-7a locus had been disrupted. The effect of replacement or deletion of Sema-7a on bone marrow derived cells was ascertained using bone marrow transplantation. The role of the Sema-7a receptor β1 integrin was assessed using neutralizing antibodies. The applicability of these findings to TGF-β1-driven fibrosis in humans was examined in patients with scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease.
The appearance of fibrocytes in the lungs in TGF- β1 transgenic mice requires Sema-7a. Replacement of Sema-7a in bone marrow derived cells restores lung fibrosis and fibrocytes. Immunoneutralization of β1 integrin reduces pulmonary fibrocytes and fibrosis. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease show increased mRNA for Sema-7a and the β1 integrin, with Sema-7a located on collagen producing fibrocytes and CD19+ lymphocytes. Peripheral blood fibrocyte outgrowth is enhanced in these patients. Stimulation of normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells with recombinant Sema-7a enhances fibrocyte differentiation; these effects are attenuated by β1 integrin neutralization.
Interventions that reduce Sema-7a expression or prevent the Sema-7a - β1 integrin interaction may be ameliorative in TGF- β1-driven or fibrocyte-associated autoimmune fibroses.
PMCID: PMC3651701  PMID: 21484765
3.  Expression of neuroimmune semaphorins 4A and 4D and their receptors in the lung is enhanced by allergen and vascular endothelial growth factor 
BMC Immunology  2011;12:30.
Semaphorins were originally identified as molecules regulating a functional activity of axons in the nervous system. Sema4A and Sema4D were the first semaphorins found to be expressed on immune cells and were termed "immune semaphorins". It is known that Sema4A and Sema4D bind Tim-2 and CD72 expressed on leukocytes and PlexinD1 and B1 present on non-immune cells. These neuroimmune semaphorins and their receptors have been shown to play critical roles in many physiological and pathological processes including neuronal development, immune response regulation, cancer, autoimmune, cardiovascular, renal, and infectious diseases. However, the expression and regulation of Sema4A, Sema4D, and their receptors in normal and allergic lungs is undefined.
Allergen treatment and lung-specific vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression induced asthma-like pathologies in the murine lungs. These experimental models of allergic airway inflammation were used for the expression analysis of immune semaphorins and their receptors employing immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry techniques. We found that besides accessory-like cells, Sema4A was also detected on bronchial epithelial and smooth muscle cells, whereas Sema4D expression was high on immune cells such as T and B lymphocytes. Surprisingly, under inflammation various cell types including macrophages, lymphocytes, and granulocytes in the lung expressed Tim-2, a previously defined marker for Th2 cells. CD72 was found on lung immune, inflammatory, and epithelial cells. Bronchial epithelial cells were positive for both plexins, whereas some endothelial cells selectively expressed Plexin D1. Plexin B1 expression was also detected on lung DC. Both allergen and VEGF upregulated the expression of neuroimmune semaphorins and their receptors in the lung tissue. However, the lung tissue Sema4A-Tim2 expression was rather weak, whereas Sema4D-CD72 ligand-receptor pair was vastly upregulated by allergen. Soluble Sema4D protein was present in the lung lysates and a whole Sema4A protein plus its dimer were readily detected in the bronchoalveolar (BAL) fluids under inflammation.
This study clearly shows that neuroimmune semaphorins Sema4A and Sema4D and their receptors might serve as potential markers for the allergic airway inflammatory diseases. Our current findings pave the way for further investigations of the role of immune semaphorins in inflammation and their use as potential therapeutic targets for the inflammatory lung conditions.
PMCID: PMC3118960  PMID: 21595947
4.  Semaphorin 3A blocks the formation of pathologic choroidal neovascularization induced by transforming growth factor beta 
Molecular Vision  2014;20:1258-1270.
Choroidal neovascularization (CNV) is a major cause of vision loss in retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Previously, we demonstrated that semaphorin3A (Sema3A), which is a chemorepellent guidance molecule, inhibited the formation of retina neovascularization. In the present study, we investigated the antiangiogenic effects of Sema3A on transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) in vitro and in vivo.
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) were used to measure the TGF-β levels in the vitreous humor of patients with AMD and controls. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were used for the in vitro study, and a laser-induced CNV mouse model was prepared for the in vivo study. The HUVECs were incubated with TGF-β and Sema3A. The proliferation, migration, apoptosis, and tube formation of the cells were then measured using BrdU, Transwell, flow cytometry, and Matrigel assays, respectively, and the SMAD2/3 signaling pathways were analyzed using western blot analysis. The C57BL/6J mouse retina was exposed to a laser to induce choroidal neovascularization (CNV), and Sema3A was injected intravitreously. After 14 days, fundus fluorescein angiography was performed to evaluate the leakage area of the CNV. The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and TGF-β concentrations in the retina-choroid complex were measured with ELISA. Components of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2 (ERK1/2), c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK), and SMAD2/3 signaling pathways in the Sema3A-treated groups were analyzed using western blotting.
In this study, we first verified that the vitreous TGF-β level was higher in patients with neovascular AMD than in the controls. We also showed that Sema3A inhibited TGF-β-induced HUVEC proliferation, migration, and tube formation and inhibited the downstream SMAD2/3 signaling pathway. Sema3A also induced TGF-β-stimulated HUVEC apoptosis and inhibited the response of TGF-β in vitro. In vivo, the TGF-β level was increased in the CNV mouse model. Sema3A not only inhibited laser-induced CNV formation but also inhibited the uptake of VEGF and TGF-β. In the western blot analysis, Sema3A was shown to inhibit the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK, ERK1/2, and JNK and to inhibit the SMAD2/3 signaling pathway after Sema3A treatment in CNV mice.
Sema3A can be applied as a useful, adjunctive therapeutic strategy for preventing CNV formation.
PMCID: PMC4168834  PMID: 25352735
5.  Role of Sema4C in TGF-β1-induced mitogen-activated protein kinase activation and epithelial–mesenchymal transition in renal tubular epithelial cells 
Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation  2010;26(4):1149-1156.
Background. The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK) is an important intracellular signal transduction pathway involved in TGF-β1-induced epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT). Sema4C, a member of the semaphorin family, was found to be essential for the activation of p38 MAPK. However, the role of Sema4C in promoting TGF-β1-induced EMT is unclear.
Methods. Renal fibrosis was induced by 5/6 subtotal nephrectomy rat model. In vitro, Sema4C was induced in human proximal tubular epithelial cells (HKC) by treatment with TGF-β1, or was inhibited by siRNA or was over-expressed by Sema4C transfection. The selective p38 MAPK inhibitor, SB203580, was administered to inhibit the p38 pathway. The expression of Sema4C, the markers of EMT, p38 phosphorylation and fibronectin secretion were measured by western blotting, immunohistochemistry, immunocytochemistry or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results. The expression of Sema4C increased in HKC cells that were treated with TGF-β1. Knockdown of Sema4C potently inhibited phosphorylation of p38 MAPK and reversed TGF-β1-induced EMT. Over-expression of Sema4C via Sema4C transfection elicited p38 MAPK phosphorylation and promoted EMT. The effects of Sema4C during EMT were blocked by a p38-specific inhibitor. In vivo, the expression of Sema4C increased in the tubular epithelia of 5/6-nephrectomized rats and human fibrotic renal tissue, and similar localization of phosphorylated p38 and Sema4C was demonstrated by immunohistochemistry on serial sections.
Conclusions. Our findings suggest that Sema4C plays an important role in TGF-β1-induced EMT through activation of p38 MAPK in proximal tubular epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3070071  PMID: 20959347
epithelial to mesenchymal transition; p38 MAPK; Sema4C; TGF-β1
6.  Plexin-B1 Activates NF-κB and IL-8 to Promote a Pro-Angiogenic Response in Endothelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25826.
The semaphorins and their receptors, the plexins, are proteins related to c-Met and the scatter factors that have been implicated in an expanding signal transduction network involving co-receptors, RhoA and Ras activation and deactivation, and phosphorylation events. Our previous work has demonstrated that Semaphorin 4D (Sema4D) acts through its receptor, Plexin-B1, on endothelial cells to promote angiogenesis in a RhoA and Akt-dependent manner. Since NF-κB has been linked to promotion of angiogenesis and can be activated by Akt in some contexts, we wanted to examine NF-κB in Sema4D treated cells to determine if there was biological significance for the pro-angiogenic phenotype observed in endothelium.
Methods/Principal Findings
Using RNA interference techniques, gel shifts and NF-κB reporter assays, we demonstrated NF-κB translocation to the nucleus in Sema4D treated endothelial cells occurring downstream of Plexin-B1. This response was necessary for endothelial cell migration and capillary tube formation and protected endothelial cells against apoptosis as well, but had no effect on cell proliferation. We dissected Plexin-B1 signaling with chimeric receptor constructs and discovered that the ability to activate NF-κB was dependent upon Plexin-B1 acting through Rho and Akt, but did not involve its role as a Ras inhibitor. Indeed, inhibition of Rho by C3 toxin and Akt by LY294002 blocked Sema4D-mediated endothelial cell migration and tubulogenesis. We also observed that Sema4D treatment of endothelial cells induced production of the NF-κB downstream target IL-8, a response necessary for angiogenesis. Finally, we could show through co-immunofluorescence for p65 and CD31 that Sema4D produced by tumor xenografts in nude mice activated NF-κB in vessels of the tumor stroma.
These findings provide evidence that Sema4D/Plexin-B1-mediated NF-κB activation and IL-8 production is critical in the generation a pro-angiogenic phenotype in endothelial cells and suggests a new therapeutic target for the anti-angiogenic treatment of some cancers.
PMCID: PMC3196529  PMID: 22028792
7.  Semaphorin 4C and 4G are ligands of Plexin-B2 required in cerebellar development 
Semaphorins and Plexins are cognate ligand-receptor families that regulate important steps during nervous system development. The Plexin-B2 receptor is critically involved in neural tube closure and cerebellar granule cell development, however, its specific ligands have only been suggested by in vitro studies. Here, we show by in vivo and in vitro analyses that the two Semaphorin-4 family members Sema4C and Sema4G are likely to be in vivo ligands of Plexin-B2. The Sema4C and Sema4G genes are expressed in the developing cerebellar cortex, and Sema4C and Sema4G proteins specifically bind to Plexin-B2 expressing cerebellar granule cells. To further elucidate their in vivo function, we have generated and analyzed Sema4C and Sema4G knock-out mouse mutants. Like Plexin-B2−/− mutants, Sema4C−/− mutants reveal exencephaly and subsequent neonatal lethality with partial penetrance. Sema4C−/− mutants that bypass exencephaly are viable and fertile, but display distinctive defects of the cerebellar granule cell layer, including gaps in rostral lobules, fusions of caudal lobules, and ectopic granule cells in the molecular layer. In addition to neuronal defects, we observed in Sema4C−/− mutants also ventral skin pigmentation defects that are similar to those found in Plexin-B2−/− mutants. The Sema4G gene deletion causes no overt phenotype by itself, but combined deletion of Sema4C and Sema4G revealed an enhanced cerebellar phenotype. However, Sema4C/Sema4G double mutants showed overall less severe cerebellar phenotypes than Plexin-B2−/− mutants, indicating that further ligands of Plexin-B2 exist. In explant cultures of the developing cerebellar cortex, Sema4C promoted migration of cerebellar granule cell precursors in a Plexin-B2-dependent manner, supporting the model that a reduced migration rate of granule cell precursors is the basis for the cerebellar defects of Sema4C−/− and Sema4C/Sema4G mutants.
PMCID: PMC3030677  PMID: 21122816
Cerebellum; lobule; granule cell migration; Semaphorin; Plexin
8.  Semaphorin 4D induces vaginal epithelial cell apoptosis to control mouse postnatal vaginal tissue remodeling 
Molecular Medicine Reports  2014;11(2):829-836.
The opening of the mouse vaginal cavity to the skin is a postnatal tissue remodeling process that occurs at approximately five weeks of age for the completion of female genital tract maturation at puberty. The tissue remodeling process is primarily composed of a hormonally triggered apoptotic process predominantly occurring in the epithelium of the distal section of the vaginal cavity. However, the detailed mechanism underlying the apoptotic induction remains to be elucidated. In the present study, it was observed that the majority of BALB/c mice lacking the class 4 semaphorin, semaphorin 4D (Sema4D), developed imperforate vagina and hydrometrocolpos resulting in a perpetually unopened vaginal cavity regardless of a normal estrogen level comparable with that in wild-type (WT) mice. Administration of β-estradiol to infant Sema4D-deficient (Sema4D−/−) mice did not induce precocious vaginal opening, which was observed in WT mice subjected to the same β-estradiol administration, excluding the possibility that the closed vaginal phenotype was due to insufficient estrogen secretion at the time of vaginal opening. In order to assess the role of Sema4D in the postnatal vaginal tissue remodeling process, the expression of Sema4D and its receptor, plexin-B1, was examined as well as the level of apoptosis in the vaginal epithelia of five-week-old WT and Sema4D−/− mice. Immunohistochemical analyses confirmed the localization of Sema4D and plexin-B1 in the mouse vaginal epithelia. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling assay and immunohistochemistry detecting activated caspase-3 revealed significantly fewer apoptotic cells in situ in the vaginal mucosa of five-week-old Sema4D−/− mice compared with WT mice. The addition of recombinant Sema4D to Sema4D−/− vaginal epithelial cells in culture significantly enhanced apoptosis of the vaginal epithelial cells, demonstrating the apoptosis-inducing activity of Sema4D. The experimental reduction of plexin-B1 expression in vaginal epithelial cells demonstrated the integral role of plexin-B1 in Sema4D-induced apoptotic cell death. These results suggest a non-redundant role of Sema4D in the postnatal tissue remodeling process in five-week-old BALB/c mice, which involves the induction of vaginal epithelial cell apoptosis through Sema4D binding to plexin-B1.
PMCID: PMC4262505  PMID: 25351707
semaphorin; axon guidance; growth cone collapse; apoptosis
9.  A Class III Semaphorin (Sema3e) Inhibits Mouse Osteoblast Migration and Decreases Osteoclast Formation In Vitro 
Calcified Tissue International  2012;90(2):151-162.
Originally identified as axonal guidance cues, semaphorins are expressed throughout many different tissues and regulate numerous non-neuronal processes. We demonstrate that most class III semaphorins are expressed in mouse osteoblasts and are differentially regulated by cell growth and differentiation: Sema3d expression is increased and Sema3e expression decreased during proliferation in culture, while expression of Sema3a is unaffected by cell density but increases in cultures of mineralizing osteoblasts. Expression of Sema3a, -3e, and -3d is also differentially regulated by osteogenic stimuli; inhibition of GSK3β decreased expression of Sema3a and -3e, while 1,25-(OH)2D3 increased expression of Sema3e. Parathyroid hormone had no effect on expression of Sema3a, -3b, or -3d. Osteoblasts, macrophages, and osteoclasts express the Sema3e receptor PlexinD1, suggesting an autocrine and paracrine role for Sema3e. No effects of recombinant Sema3e on osteoblast proliferation, differentiation, or mineralization were observed; but Sema3e did inhibit the migration of osteoblasts in a wound-healing assay. The formation of multinucleated, tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase–positive osteoclasts was decreased by 81% in cultures of mouse bone marrow macrophages incubated with 200 ng/mL Sema3e. Correspondingly, decreased expression of osteoclast markers (Itgb3, Acp5, Cd51, Nfatc1, CalcR, and Ctsk) was observed by qPCR in macrophage cultures differentiated in the presence of Sema3e. Our results demonstrate that class III semaphorins are expressed by osteoblasts and differentially regulated by differentiation, mineralization, and osteogenic stimuli. Sema3e is a novel inhibitor of osteoclast formation in vitro and may play a role in maintaining local bone homeostasis, potentially acting as a coupling factor between osteoclasts and osteoblasts.
PMCID: PMC3271215  PMID: 22227882
Macrophage; Plexin; Mineralization; Vitamin D3; Migration
10.  Expression patterns of semaphorin7A and plexinC1 during rat neural development suggest roles in axon guidance and neuronal migration 
Although originally identified as embryonic axon guidance cues, semaphorins are now known to regulate multiple, distinct, processes crucial for neuronal network formation including axon growth and branching, dendritic morphology, and neuronal migration. Semaphorin7A (Sema7A), the only glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored semaphorin, promotes axon growth in vitro and is required for the proper growth of the mouse lateral olfactory tract in vivo. Sema7A has been postulated to signal through two unrelated receptors, an RGD-dependent α1β1-integrin and a member of the plexin family, plexinC1. β1-integrins underlie Sema7A-mediated axon growth and Sema7A function in the immune system. Sema7A-plexinC1 interactions have also been implicated in immune system function, but the neuronal role of this ligand-receptor pair remains to be explored. To gain further insight into the function(s) of Sema7A and plexinC1 during neural development, we present here a detailed analysis of Sema7A and plexinC1 expression in the developing rat nervous system.
In situ hybridization revealed select expression of Sema7A and plexinC1 in multiple neuronal systems including: the olfactory system, the hypothalamo-hypophysial system, the hippocampus, the meso-diencephalic dopamine system, and the spinal cord. Within these systems, Sema7A and plexinC1 are often expressed in specific neuronal subsets. In general, Sema7A transcript levels increase significantly towards adulthood, whereas plexinC1 expression decreases as development proceeds.
PlexinC1, but not Sema7A, is strongly expressed by distinct populations of migrating neurons. In addition to neuronal expression, Sema7A and plexinC1 transcripts were detected in oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells, respectively.
Sema7A and plexinC1 expression patterns are consistent with these proteins serving both cooperative and separate functions during neural development. The prominent expression of plexinC1 in several distinct populations of migrating neurons suggests a novel role for this plexin family member in neuronal migration.
PMCID: PMC2008261  PMID: 17727705
11.  The Neuroimmune Guidance Cue Semaphorin 3E is Expressed in Atherosclerotic Plaques and Regulates Macrophage Retention 
The persistence of myeloid-derived cells in the artery wall is a characteristic of advanced atherosclerotic plaques. However, the mechanisms by which these cells are retained are poorly understood. Semaphorins, a class of neuronal guidance molecules, play a critical role in vascular patterning and development, and recent studies suggest that they may also have immunomodulatory functions. The present study evaluates the expression of Semaphorin 3E (Sema3E) in settings relevant to atherosclerosis and its contribution to macrophage accumulation in plaques.
Approach and Results
Immunofluorescence staining of Sema3E, and its receptor PlexinD1, demonstrated their expression in macrophages of advanced atherosclerotic lesions of Apoe–/– mice. Notably, in two different mouse models of atherosclerosis regression, Sema3E mRNA was highly downregulated in plaque macrophages, coincident with a reduction in plaque macrophage content and an enrichment in markers of reparative M2 macrophages. In vitro, Sema3E mRNA was highly expressed in inflammatory “M1” macrophages, and in macrophages treated with physiological drivers of plaque progression and inflammation, such as oxidized LDL and hypoxia. To explore mechanistically how Sema3E affects macrophage behavior, we treated macrophages with recombinant protein in the presence/absence of chemokines, including CCL19, a chemokine implicated in the egress of macrophages from atherosclerotic plaques. Sema3E blocked actin polymerization and macrophage migration stimulated by the chemokines, suggesting that it may immobilize these cells in the plaque.
Sema3E is up-regulated in macrophages of advanced plaques, is dynamically regulated by multiple atherosclerosis-relevant factors, and acts as a negative regulator of macrophage migration, which may promote macrophage retention and chronic inflammation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3647027  PMID: 23430613
Atherosclerosis; Semaphorin 3E; macrophage; migration; regression
12.  Hormonal Regulation and Distinct Functions of Semaphorin-3B and Semaphorin-3F in Ovarian Cancer 
Semaphorins comprise a family of molecules that influence neuronal growth and guidance. Class-3 semaphorins, semaphorin-3B (SEMA3B) and semaphorin-3F (SEMA3F) illustrate their effects by forming a complex with neuropilins (NP-1 or NP-2) and plexins. We examined the status and regulation of semaphorins and their receptors in human ovarian cancer cells. A significantly reduced expression of SEMA3B (83 kD), SEMA3F (90 kD), and plexin-A3 was observed in ovarian cancer (OVCA) cell lines when compared to normal human ovarian surface epithelial (HOSE) cells. The expression of NP-1, NP-2 and plexin-A1 was not altered in HOSE and OVCA cells. The decreased expression of SEMA3B, SEMA3F, and plexin-A3 was confirmed in stage 3 ovarian tumors. Treatment of OVCA cells with luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and estrogen induced a significant upregulation of SEMA3B, whereas SEMA3F was upregulated only by estrogen. Co-treatment of cell lines with a hormone and its specific antagonist blocked the effect of the hormone. Ectopic expression of SEMA3B or SEMA3F reduced soft-agar colony formation, adhesion, and cell invasion of OVCA cell cultures. Forced expression of SEMA3B, but not SEMA3F, inhibited viability of OVCA cells. Overexpression of SEMA3B and SEMA3F reduced focal adhesion kinase (FAK) phosphorylation and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and -9 expression in OVCA cells. Forced expression of SEMA3F, but not SEMA3B in OVCA cells, significantly inhibited endothelial cell tube formation. Collectively, our results suggest loss of SEMA3 expression could be a hallmark of cancer progression. Furthermore, gonadotropin- and/or estrogen-mediated maintenance of SEMA3 expression could control ovarian cancer angiogenesis and metastasis.
PMCID: PMC2820590  PMID: 20124444
Gonadotropins; estrogens; ovarian surface epithelial cells; cell invasion; angiogenesis
13.  Semaphorin3A, Neuropilin-1, and PlexinA1 Are Required for Lymphatic Valve Formation 
Circulation research  2012;111(4):10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.112.269316.
The lymphatic vasculature plays a major role in fluid homeostasis, absorption of dietary lipids, and immune surveillance. Fluid transport depends on the presence of intraluminal valves within lymphatic collectors. Defective formation of lymphatic valves leads to lymphedema, a progressive and debilitating condition for which curative treatments are currently unavailable. How lymphatic valve formation is regulated remains largely unknown.
We investigated if the repulsive axon guidance molecule Semaphorin3A (Sema3A) plays a role in lymphatic valve formation.
Methods and Results
We show that Sema3A mRNA is expressed in lymphatic vessels and that Sema3A protein binds to lymphatic valves expressing the Neuropilin-1 (Nrp1) and PlexinA1 receptors. Using mouse knockout models, we show that Sema3A is selectively required for lymphatic valve formation, via interaction with Nrp1 and PlexinA1. Sema3a−/− mice exhibit defects in lymphatic valve formation, which are not due to abnormal lymphatic patterning or sprouting, and mice carrying a mutation in the Sema3A binding site of Nrp1, or deficient for Plxna1, develop lymphatic valve defects similar to those seen in Sema3a−/− mice.
Our data demonstrate an essential direct function of Sema3A-Nrp1-PlexinA1 signaling in lymphatic valve formation.
PMCID: PMC3861899  PMID: 22723296
valve; guidance; development; lymphatic vessel; vascular biology; vascular smooth muscle
14.  Semaphorin 3A is a marker for disease activity and a potential immunoregulator in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(3):R146.
Semaphorin 3A (sema3A) and neuropilin-1 (NP-1) play a regulatory role in immune responses and have a demonstrated effect on the course of collagen induced arthritis. This study was undertaken to evaluate the role of sema3A and NP-1 in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and the specific effect of sema3A on the auto-reactive properties of B cells in SLE patients.
Thirty two SLE and 24 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients were assessed and compared with 40 normal individuals. Sema3A serum levels were measured and correlated with SLE disease activity. The in vitro effect of sema3A in reducing Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR-9) expression in B cells of SLE patients was evaluated.
Sema3A serum levels in SLE patients were found to be significantly lower than in RA patients (55.04 ± 16.30 ng/ml versus 65.54 ± 14.82 ng/ml, P = 0.018) and lower yet than in normal individuals (55.04 ± 16.30 ng/ml versus 74.41 ± 17.60 ng/ml, P < 0.0001). Altered serum sema3A levels were found to be in inverse correlation with SLE disease activity, mainly with renal damage. The expression of both sema3A and NP-1 on B cells from SLE patients was significantly different in comparison with normal healthy individuals. Finally, when sema3A was co-cultured with cytosine-phosphodiester-guanine oligodeoxynucleotides (CpG-ODN)-stimulated B cells of SLE patients, their TLR-9 expression was significantly reduced, by almost 50% (P = 0.001).
This is the first study in which a reduced serum level of sema3A was found in association with SLE disease activity. It also raises the possibility that sema3A may have a regulatory function in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3446531  PMID: 22697500
15.  ZEB-1, a Repressor of the Semaphorin 3F Tumor Suppressor Gene in Lung Cancer Cells12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2009;11(2):157-166.
SEMA3F is a secreted semaphorin with potent antitumor activity, which is frequently downregulated in lung cancer. In cancer cell lines, SEMA3F overexpression decreases hypoxia-induced factor 1α protein and vascular endothelial growth factor mRNA, and inhibits multiple signaling components. Therefore, understanding how SEMA3F expression is inhibited in cancer cells is important. We previously defined the promoter organization of SEMA3F and found that chromatin remodeling by a histone deacetylase inhibitor was sufficient to activate SEMA3F expression. In lung cancer, we have also shown that ZEB-1, an E-box transcription repressor, is predominantly responsible for loss of E-Cadherin associated with a poor prognosis and resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors. In the present study, we demonstrated that ZEB-1 also inhibits SEMA3F in lung cancer cells. Levels of ZEB-1, but not ZEB-2, Snail or Slug, significantly correlate with SEMA3F inhibition, and overexpression or inhibition of ZEB-1 correspondingly affected SEMA3F expression. Four conserved E-box sites were identified in the SEMA3F gene. Direct ZEB-1 binding was confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation assays for two of these, and ZEB-1 binding was reduced when cells were treated with a histone deacetylase inhibitor. These results demonstrate that ZEB-1 directly inhibits SEMA3F expression in lung cancer cells. SEMA3F loss was associated with changes in cell signaling: increased phospho-AKT in normoxia and increase of hypoxia-induced factor 1α protein in hypoxia. Moreover, exogenous addition of SEMA3F could modulate ZEB-1-induced angiogenesis in a chorioallantoic membrane assay. Together, these data provide further support for the importance of SEMA3F and ZEB-1 in lung cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC2631140  PMID: 19177200
16.  Semaphorin 7a+ Regulatory T Cells Are Associated with Progressive Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Are Implicated in Transforming Growth Factor-β1–induced Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Rationale: Lymphocytes are increasingly associated with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Semaphorin 7a (Sema 7a) participates in lymphocyte activation.
Objectives: To define the relationship between Sema 7a and lymphocytes in IPF.
Methods: We characterized the significance of Sema 7a+ lymphocytes in humans with IPF and in a mouse model of lung fibrosis caused by lung-targeted, transgenic overexpression of TGF-β1. We determined the site of Sema 7a expression in human and murine lungs and circulation and used adoptive transfer approaches to define the relevance of lymphocytes coexpressing Sema7a and the markers CD19, CD4, or CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ in TGF-β1–induced murine lung fibrosis.
Measurements and Main Results: Subjects with IPF show expression of Sema 7a on lung CD4+ cells and circulating CD4+ or CD19+ cells. Sema 7a expression is increased on CD4+ cells and CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells, but not CD19+ cells, in subjects with progressive IPF. Sema 7a is expressed on lymphocytes expressing CD4 but not CD19 in the lungs and spleen of TGF-β1–transgenic mice. Sema 7a expressing bone marrow–derived cells induce lung fibrosis and alter the production of T-cell mediators, including IFN-γ, IL-4, IL-17A, and IL-10. These effects require CD4 but not CD19. In comparison to Sema 7a-CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ cells, Sema7a+CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ cells exhibit reduced expression of regulatory genes such as IL-10, and adoptive transfer of these cells induces fibrosis and remodeling in the TGF-β1–exposed murine lung.
Conclusions: Sema 7a+CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells are associated with disease progression in subjects with IPF and induce fibrosis in the TGF-β1–exposed murine lung.
PMCID: PMC3570653  PMID: 23220917
Semaphorin; lung; fibrosis; TGF-β1; regulatory T cells
17.  Semaphorin 3A Contributes to Distal Pulmonary Epithelial Cell Differentiation and Lung Morphogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27449.
Semaphorin 3A (Sema3A) is a neural guidance cue that also mediates cell migration, proliferation and apoptosis, and inhibits branching morphogenesis. Because we have shown that genetic deletion of neuropilin-1, which encodes an obligatory Sema3A co-receptor, influences airspace remodeling in the smoke-exposed adult lung, we sought to determine whether genetic deletion of Sema3A altered distal lung structure.
To determine whether loss of Sema3A signaling influenced distal lung morphology, we compared pulmonary histology, distal epithelial cell morphology and maturation, and the balance between lung cell proliferation and death, in lungs from mice with a targeted genetic deletion of Sema3A (Sema3A-/-) and wild-type (Sema3A+/+) littermate controls.
Genetic deletion of Sema3A resulted in significant perinatal lethality. At E17.5, lungs from Sema3A-/- mice had thickened septae and reduced airspace size. Distal lung epithelial cells had increased intracellular glycogen pools and small multivesicular and lamellar bodies with atypical ultrastructure, as well as reduced expression of type I alveolar epithelial cell markers. Alveolarization was markedly attenuated in lungs from the rare Sema3A-/- mice that survived the immediate perinatal period. Furthermore, Sema3A deletion was linked with enhanced postnatal alveolar septal cell death.
These data suggest that Sema3A modulates distal pulmonary epithelial cell development and alveolar septation. Defining how Sema3A influences structural plasticity of the developing lung is a critical first step for determining if this pathway can be exploited to develop innovative strategies for repair after acute or chronic lung injury.
PMCID: PMC3214054  PMID: 22096573
18.  The Semaphorin 4D- Plexin-B1- RhoA signaling axis recruits pericytes and regulates vascular permeability through endothelial production of PDGF-B and ANGPTL4 
Angiogenesis  2013;17(1):261-274.
Semaphorin 4D (SEMA4D) is a member of a family of transmembrane and secreted proteins that have been shown to act through its receptor Plexin-B1 to regulate axon growth cone guidance, lymphocyte activation, and bone density. SEMA4D is also overexpressed by some malignancies and plays a role in tumor-induced angiogenesis similar to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that has been targeted as part of some cancer therapies. In an attempt to examine the different effects on tumor growth and vascularity for these two pro-angiogenic factors, we previously noted that while inhibition of both VEGF and SEMA4D restricted tumor vascularity and size, vessels forming under conditions of VEGF blockade retained their association with pericytes while those arising in a background of SEMA4D/ Plexin-B1 deficiency did not, an intriguing finding considering that alteration in pericyte association with endothelial cells is an emerging aspect of anti-angiogenic intervention in the treatment of cancer. Here we show through array analysis, immunoblots, migration and co-culture assays and VE-cadherin immunohistochemistry that SEMA4D production by head and neck carcinoma tumor cells induces expression of platelet-derived growth factor-B (PDGF-B) and angiopoietin-like protein 4 (ANGPTL4) from endothelial cells in a Plexin-B1/ Rho-dependent manner, thereby influencing proliferation and differentiation of pericytes and vascular permeability, whereas VEGF lacks these effects. These results partly explain the differences observed between SEMA4D and VEGF in pathological angiogenesis and suggest that targeting SEMA4D function along with VEGF could represent a novel anti-angiogenic therapeutic strategy for the treatment of solid tumors.
PMCID: PMC3947343  PMID: 24114199
Semaphorin 4D; Plexin-B1; RhoA; Platelet-derived growth factor-B; Angiopoietin-like protein 4; Angiogenesis
19.  Neuroimmune semaphorin 4A as a drug and drug target for asthma 
International immunopharmacology  2013;17(3):10.1016/j.intimp.2013.08.005.
Neuroimmune semaphorin 4A (Sema4A) has been shown to play an important costimulatory role in T cell activation and regulation of Th1-mediated diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), and experimental autoimmune myocarditis (EAM). Sema4A has three functional receptors, Tim-2 expressed on CD4+ T cells, Th2 cells in particular, and Plexin B1 and D1 predominantly expressed on epithelial and endothelial cells, correspondingly. We recently showed that Sema4A has a complex expression pattern in lung tissue in a mouse model of asthma. We and others have shown that corresponding Plexin expression can be found on immune cells as well. Moreover, we demonstrated that Sema4A-deficient mice displayed significantly higher lung local and systemic allergic responses pointing to its critical regulatory role in the disease. To determine the utility of Sema4A as a novel immunotherapeutic, we introduced recombinant Sema4A protein to the allergen-sensitized WT and Sema4A−/− mice before allergen challenge. We observed significant reductions in the allergic inflammatory lung response in Sema4A-treated mice as judged by tissue inflammation including eosinophilia and mucus production. Furthermore, we demonstrated that in vivo administration of anti-Tim2 Ab led to a substantial upregulation of allergic inflammation in WT mouse lungs. These data highlight the potential to develop Sema4A as a new therapeutic for allergic airway disease.
PMCID: PMC3818409  PMID: 23994348
Asthma; mouse model; Sema4A; Tim-2; recombinant protein; in vivo
20.  Autocrine Semaphorin3A stimulates Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 4E-dependent RhoA translation in breast tumor cells 
Experimental cell research  2010;316(17):2825-2832.
Translation of the small G protein RhoA in neurons is regulated by the eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF4E. Here we show that this translation factor also regulates RhoA expression and activity in breast cancer cells. The introduction of eIF4E into breast tumor cells increased RhoA protein levels, while expression of an eIF4E siRNA reduced RhoA expression. Previous studies indicate that the axon repulsion factor Semaphorin3A (Sema3A) stimulates the eIF4E-dependent translation of RhoA in neurons, and breast tumor cells support autocrine Sema3A signaling. Accordingly, we next examined if autocrine Sema3A signaling drives eIF4E-dependent RhoA translation in breast cancer cells. The incubation of breast tumor cells with recombinant Sema3A rapidly increased eIF4E activity, RhoA protein levels, and RhoA activity. This Sema3A activity was blocked in tumor cells expressing an shRNA-specific for the Sema3A receptor, Neuropilin-1 (NP-1), as well as in cells incubated with an eIF4E inhibitor. Importantly, RhoA protein levels were reduced in Sema3A shRNA-expressing compared to control shRNA-expressing breast tumor cells, demonstrating that autocrine Sema3A increases RhoA expression in breast cancer. Considering that Sema3A suppresses axon extension by stimulating RhoA translation, we next examined if the Sema3A/RhoA axis impacts breast tumor cell migration. The incubation of control breast tumor cells, but not RhoA shRNA-expressing cells, with rSema3A significantly reduced their migration. Collectively, these studies indicate that Sema3A impedes breast tumor cell migration in part by stimulating RhoA. These findings identify common signaling pathways that regulate the navigation of neurons and breast cancer cells, thus suggesting novel targets for suppressing breast tumor cell migration.
PMCID: PMC3723326  PMID: 20655307
eIF4E; Neuropilin-1; RhoA; Semaphorin3A; migration; breast tumor
21.  Semaphorin 5A inhibits synaptogenesis in early postnatal- and adult-born hippocampal dentate granule cells 
eLife  2014;3:e04390.
Human SEMAPHORIN 5A (SEMA5A) is an autism susceptibility gene; however, its function in brain development is unknown. In this study, we show that mouse Sema5A negatively regulates synaptogenesis in early, developmentally born, hippocampal dentate granule cells (GCs). Sema5A is strongly expressed by GCs and regulates dendritic spine density in a cell-autonomous manner. In the adult mouse brain, newly born Sema5A−/− GCs show an increase in dendritic spine density and increased AMPA-type synaptic responses. Sema5A signals through PlexinA2 co-expressed by GCs, and the PlexinA2-RasGAP activity is necessary to suppress spinogenesis. Like Sema5A−/− mutants, PlexinA2−/− mice show an increase in GC glutamatergic synapses, and we show that Sema5A and PlexinA2 genetically interact with respect to GC spine phenotypes. Sema5A−/− mice display deficits in social interaction, a hallmark of autism-spectrum-disorders. These experiments identify novel intra-dendritic Sema5A/PlexinA2 interactions that inhibit excitatory synapse formation in developmentally born and adult-born GCs, and they provide support for SEMA5A contributions to autism-spectrum-disorders.
eLife digest
Neurons communicate with one another at specialized junctions called synapses. There are two types of synapses, called excitatory synapses and inhibitory synapses, and the density and strength of both are tightly regulated because small deviations from the normal density and/or strength may lead to illness. For example, an excess of excitatory synapses has been observed in patients who have autism spectrum disorders and exhibit difficulties in social interaction.
The gene that codes for a protein called SEMA5A has been identified as an autism susceptibility gene in humans. SEMA5A is a transmembrane protein that regulates the development of connections between neurons, but it is not known how mutations in the gene for SEMA5A might lead to brain illnesses such as autism spectrum disorders.
Now, Duan et al. report that Sema5A selectively inhibits the formation of excitatory synapses in neurons called dentate granule cells in mice. Moreover, Sema5A reduces the frequency and amplitude of the signals that pass through excitatory synapses in certain granule cells. Sema5A directly binds to the receptor PlexA2, a protein that is involved in controlling the density of synapses. In behavioral studies, Sema5A mutant mice displayed altered patterns of social interaction compared to control animals, being less willing to interact with unfamiliar mice.
The presence of increased numbers of excitatory synapses in the brains of Sema5A mutant mice implies that expression of the Sema5A gene normally prevents the formation of too many excitatory synapses. The fact that these animals also show altered social behavior suggests that an excess of synapses—whether as a result of increased synapse formation and/or reduced synapse elimination—can lead to changes in brain circuitry that give rise to patterns of behavior that are characteristic of autism spectrum disorders.
PMCID: PMC4236683  PMID: 25313870
synaptogenesis; semaphorin; hippocampus; dentate granule cells; plexin; 3D electron microscopy; mouse
22.  Neuroimmune semaphorin 4D is necessary for optimal lung allergic inflammation 
Molecular immunology  2013;56(4):480-487.
Neuroimmune semaphorin 4D (Sema4D) was found to be expressed and function in the nervous and immune systems. In the immune system, Sema4D is constitutively expressed on T cells and regulates T cell priming. In addition, it displays a stimulatory function on macrophages, DC, NK cells, and neutrophils. As all these cells are deeply involved in asthma pathology, we hypothesized that Sema4D plays a critical non-redundant regulatory role in allergic airway response. To test our hypothesis, we exposed Sema4D−/− and WT mice to OVA injections and challenges in the well-defined mouse model of OVA-induced experimental asthma. We observed a significant decrease in eosinophilic airway infiltration in allergen-treated Sema4D−/− mice relative to WT mice. This reduced allergic inflammatory response was associated with decreased BAL IL-5, IL-13, TGFβ1, IL-6, and IL-17A levels. In addition, T cell proliferation in OVA323–339 - restimulated Sema4D−/− cell cultures was downregulated. We also found increased Treg numbers in spleens of Sema4D−/− mice. However, airway hyperreactivity (AHR) to methacholine challenges was not affected by Sema4D deficiency in either acute or chronic experimental disease setting. Surprisingly, lung DC number and activation were not affected by Sema4D deficiency. These data provide a new insight into Sema4D biology and define Sema4D as an important regulator of Th2-driven lung pathophysiology and as a potential target for a combinatory disease immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3783523  PMID: 23911404
23.  Mechanistic Basis for the Potent Anti-angiogenic Activity of Semaphorin 3F 
Biochemistry  2013;52(43):10.1021/bi401034q.
Neuropilin-1 (Nrp1), an essential type I transmembrane receptor, binds two secreted ligand families, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) and class III Semaphorin (Sema3). VEGF-A and Sema3F have opposing roles in regulating Nrp1 vascular function in angiogenesis. VEGF-A functions as one of the most potent pro-angiogenic cytokines while Sema3F is a uniquely potent endogenous angiogenesis inhibitor. Sema3 family members require proteolytic processing by furin to enable competitive binding to Nrp1. We demonstrate that the furin processed C-terminal domain of Sema3F (C-furSema) potently inhibits VEGF-A dependent activation of endothelial cells. We find that this potent activity is due to unique hetero-bivalent engagement of Nrp1 by two distinct sites in the Sema3F C-terminal domain. One of the sites is the C-terminal arginine, liberated by furin cleavage, and the other is a novel upstream helical motif centered on the intermolecular disulfide. Using a novel chimeric C-furSema, we demonstrate that combining a single C-terminal arginine with the helical motif is necessary and sufficient for potent inhibition of VEGF-A binding to Nrp1. We further demonstrate that the multiple furin-processed variants of Sema3A, with altered proximity of the two binding motifs, have dramatically different potencies. This suggests that furin processing not only switches Sema3 into an activated form but, depending on the site processed, can also tune potency. These data establish the basis for potent competitive Sema3 binding to Nrp1 and provide a basis for the design of bivalent Nrp inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3873856  PMID: 24079887
24.  The role of semaphorins and their receptors in vascular development and cancer 
Experimental cell research  2013;319(9):1306-1316.
Semaphorins (Semas) are a large family of traditional axon guidance molecules. Through interactions with their receptors, Plexins and Neuropilins, Semas play critical roles in a continuously growing list of diverse biological systems. In this review, we focus on their function in regulating vascular development. In addition, over the past few years a number of findings have shown the crucial role that Semas and their receptors play in the regulation of cancer progression and tumour angiogenesis. In particular, Semas control tumour progression by directly influencing the behavior of cancer cells or, indirectly, by modulating angiogenesis and the function of other cell types in the tumor microenvironment (i.e., inflammatory cells and fibroblasts). Some Semas can activate or inhibit tumor progression and angiogenesis, while others may have the opposite effect depending on specific post-translational modifications. Here we will also discuss the diverse biological effects of Semas and their receptor complexes on cancer progression as well as their impact on the tumor microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC3648602  PMID: 23422037
25.  Roles of Semaphorin-6B and Plexin-A2 in Lamina-Restricted Projection of Hippocampal Mossy Fibers 
Hippocampal mossy fibers project preferentially to the proximal-most lamina of the suprapyramidal region of CA3, the stratum lucidum, and proximal-most parts of the infrapyrmidal region of CA3c. Molecular mechanisms that govern the lamina-restricted projection of mossy fibers, however, have not been fullly understood. We previously studied functions of a neural repellent Semaphorin-6A (Sema6A), a class 6 transmembrane semaphorin, and its receptors, plexin-A2 (PlxnA2) and plexin-A4 (PlxnA4), in mossy fiber projection, and have proposed that PlxnA4-expressing mossy fibers are principally prevented from entering the Sema6A-expressing supra- and infrapyramidal regions of CA3, but permitted to grow into proximal parts of the regions, where repulsive activity of Sema6A is competitively suppressed by PlxnA2 (Suto et al., 2007). In the present study we demonstrate that Semaphorin-6B (Sema6B), another class 6 transmembrane semaphorin, is expressed in CA3, and repels mossy fibers in a PlxnA4-dependent manner in vitro. In Sema6B-deficient mice several mossy fibers aberrantly project to the stratum radiatum and the stratum oriens. The number of abberant mossy fibers is increased in Sema6A;Sema6B double knockout mice, indicating that Sema6A and Sema6B function additively to regulate proper projection of mossy fibers. PlxnA2 does not suppress the Sema6B response, but itself promotes growth of mossy fibers. Based on these results, we propose that the balance between mossy fiber repulsion by Sema6A and Sema6B and attraction by PlxnA2 and unknown molecule(s) prescribes the areas permissive for mossy fibers to innervate.
PMCID: PMC3046408  PMID: 20484647

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