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1.  Role of breast regression protein 39 (BRP-39)/chitinase 3-like-1 in Th2 and IL-13–induced tissue responses and apoptosis 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2009;206(5):1149-1166.
Mouse breast regression protein 39 (BRP-39; Chi3l1) and its human homologue YKL-40 are chitinase-like proteins that lack chitinase activity. Although YKL-40 is expressed in exaggerated quantities and correlates with disease activity in asthma and many other disorders, the biological properties of BRP-39/YKL-40 have only been rudimentarily defined. We describe the generation and characterization of BRP-39−/− mice, YKL-40 transgenic mice, and mice that lack BRP-39 and produce YKL-40 only in their pulmonary epithelium. Studies of these mice demonstrated that BRP-39−/− animals have markedly diminished antigen-induced Th2 responses and that epithelial YKL-40 rescues the Th2 responses in these animals. The ability of interleukin13 to induce tissue inflammation and fibrosis was also markedly diminished in the absence of BRP-39. Mechanistic investigations demonstrated that BRP-39 and YKL-40 play an essential role in antigen sensitization and immunoglobulin E induction, stimulate dendritic cell accumulation and activation, and induce alternative macrophage activation. These proteins also inhibit inflammatory cell apoptosis/cell death while inhibiting Fas expression, activating protein kinase B/AKT, and inducing Faim 3. These studies establish novel regulatory roles for BRP-39/YKL-40 in the initiation and effector phases of Th2 inflammation and remodeling and suggest that these proteins are therapeutic targets in Th2- and macrophage-mediated disorders.
PMCID: PMC2715037  PMID: 19414556
2.  Role of Breast Regression Protein–39 in the Pathogenesis of Cigarette Smoke–Induced Inflammation and Emphysema 
The exaggerated expression of chitinase-like protein YKL-40, the human homologue of breast regression protein–39 (BRP-39), was reported in a number of diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the in vivo roles of YKL-40 in normal physiology or in the pathogenesis of specific diseases such as COPD remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that BRP-39/YKL-40 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of cigarette smoke (CS)–induced emphysema. To test this hypothesis, 10-week-old wild-type and BRP-39 null mutant mice (BRP-39−/−) were exposed to room air (RA) and CS for up to 10 months. The expression of BRP-39 was significantly induced in macrophages, airway epithelial cells, and alveolar Type II cells in the lungs of CS-exposed mice compared with RA-exposed mice, at least in part via an IL-18 signaling–dependent pathway. The null mutation of BRP-39 significantly reduced CS-induced bronchoalveolar lavage and tissue inflammation. However, CS-induced epithelial cell apoptosis and alveolar destruction were further enhanced in the absence of BRP-39. Consistent with these findings in mice, the tissue expression of YKL-40 was significantly increased in the lungs of current smokers compared with the lungs of ex-smokers or nonsmokers. In addition, serum concentrations of YKL-40 were significantly higher in smokers with COPD than in nonsmokers or smokers without COPD. These studies demonstrate a novel regulatory role of BRP-39/YKL-40 in CS-induced inflammation and emphysematous destruction. These studies also underscore that maintaining physiologic concentrations of YKL-40 in the lung is therapeutically important in preventing excessive inflammatory responses or emphysematous alveolar destruction.
PMCID: PMC3135840  PMID: 20656949
YKL-40/BRP-39; COPD; emphysema; cigarette smoke
3.  Exacerbation of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis in the Absence of Breast Regression Protein-39/Chitinase 3-like-1 
We previously reported that YKL-40, the human analog of mouse breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39; chitinase 3-like 1), is elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with a variety of neuroinflammatory conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury. YKL-40 expression in the CNS was predominantly associated with reactive astrocytes in the vicinity of inflammatory lesions. Because previous studies have shown that reactive astrocytes play a critical role in limiting immune infiltration in the mouse model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), we explored the role of BRP-39 in regulating neuroinflammation in EAE. Using BRP-39-deficient mice (BRP-39−/−), we demonstrate the importance of BRP-39 in modulating the severity of clinical EAE and CNS neuroinflammation. At disease onset, absence of BRP-39 had little effect on clinical disease or lymphocytic infiltrate, but by 14 days post-immunization (dpi), differences in clinical scores were evident. By 28 dpi, BRP-39−/− mice showed more severe and persistent clinical disease than BRP-39+/+ controls. Histopathological evaluation showed that BRP-39−/− mice had more marked lymphocytic and macrophage infiltrates and gliosis vs. BRP-39+/+ mice. These findings support the role of BRP-39 expression in limiting immune cell infiltration into the CNS and offer a new target to modulate neuroinflammation.
PMCID: PMC3481009  PMID: 23041842
BRP-39; Chitinase-like proteins; Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; Multiple sclerosis; Neuroimmunology; YKL-40
4.  Role of breast regression protein-39/YKL-40 in asthma and allergic responses 
BRP-39 and its human homolog YKL-40 have been regarded as a prototype of chitinase-like proteins (CLP) in mammals. Exaggerated levels of YKL-40 protein and/or mRNA have been noted in a number of diseases characterized by inflammation, tissue remodeling, and aberrant cell growth. Asthma is an inflammatory disease characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness and airway remodeling. Recently, the novel regulatory role of BRP-39/YKL-40 in the pathogenesis of asthma has been demonstrated both in human studies and allergic animal models. The levels of YKL-40 are increased in the circulation and lungs from asthmatics where they correlate with disease severity, and CHI3L1 polymorphisms correlate with serum YKL-40 levels, asthma and abnormal lung function. Animal studies using BRP-39 null mutant mice demonstrated that BRP-39 was required for optimal allergen sensitization and Th2 inflammation. These studies suggest the potential use of BRP-39 as a biomarker as well as a therapeutic target for asthma and other allergic diseases. Here, we present an overview of chitin/chitinase biology and summarize recent findings on the role of BRP-39 in the pathogenesis of asthma and allergic responses.
PMCID: PMC2831605  PMID: 20224674
BRP-39; human CHI3L1 protein; asthma; hypersensitivity
5.  The Chitinase-Like Protein YKL-40 Modulates Cystic Fibrosis Lung Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24399.
The chitinase-like protein YKL-40 was found to be increased in patients with severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), two disease conditions featuring neutrophilic infiltrates. Based on these studies and a previous report indicating that neutrophils secrete YKL-40, we hypothesized that YKL-40 plays a key role in cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease, a prototypic neutrophilic disease. The aim of this study was (i) to analyze YKL-40 levels in human and murine CF lung disease and (ii) to investigate whether YKL-40 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) modulate CF lung disease severity. YKL-40 protein levels were quantified in serum and sputum supernatants from CF patients and control individuals. Levels of the murine homologue BRP-39 were analyzed in airway fluids from CF-like βENaC-Tg mice. YKL-40SNPs were analyzed in CF patients. YKL-40 levels were increased in sputum supernatants and in serum from CF patients compared to healthy control individuals. Within CF patients, YKL-40 levels were higher in sputum than in serum. BRP-39 levels were increased in airways fluids from βENaC-Tg mice compared to wild-type littermates. In both CF patients and βENaC-Tg mice, YKL-40/BRP-39 airway levels correlated with the severity of pulmonary obstruction. Two YKL-40 SNPs (rs871799 and rs880633) were found to modulate age-adjusted lung function in CF patients. YKL-40/BRP-39 levelsare increased in human and murine CF airway fluids, correlate with pulmonary function and modulate CF lung disease severity genetically. These findings suggest YKL-40 as a potential biomarker in CF lung disease.
PMCID: PMC3176766  PMID: 21949714
6.  Differential expression and function of breast regression protein 39 (BRP-39) in murine models of subacute cigarette smoke exposure and allergic airway inflammation 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):39.
While the presence of the chitinase-like molecule YKL40 has been reported in COPD and asthma, its relevance to inflammatory processes elicited by cigarette smoke and common environmental allergens, such as house dust mite (HDM), is not well understood. The objective of the current study was to assess expression and function of BRP-39, the murine equivalent of YKL40 in a murine model of cigarette smoke-induced inflammation and contrast expression and function to a model of HDM-induced allergic airway inflammation.
CD1, C57BL/6, and BALB/c mice were room air- or cigarette smoke-exposed for 4 days in a whole-body exposure system. In separate experiments, BALB/c mice were challenged with HDM extract once a day for 10 days. BRP-39 was assessed by ELISA and immunohistochemistry. IL-13, IL-1R1, IL-18, and BRP-39 knock out (KO) mice were utilized to assess the mechanism and relevance of BRP-39 in cigarette smoke- and HDM-induced airway inflammation.
Cigarette smoke exposure elicited a robust induction of BRP-39 but not the catalytically active chitinase, AMCase, in lung epithelial cells and alveolar macrophages of all mouse strains tested. Both BRP-39 and AMCase were increased in lung tissue after HDM exposure. Examining smoke-exposed IL-1R1, IL-18, and IL-13 deficient mice, BRP-39 induction was found to be IL-1 and not IL-18 or IL-13 dependent, while induction of BRP-39 by HDM was independent of IL-1 and IL-13. Despite the importance of BRP-39 in cellular inflammation in HDM-induced airway inflammation, BRP-39 was found to be redundant for cigarette smoke-induced airway inflammation and the adjuvant properties of cigarette smoke.
These data highlight the contrast between the importance of BRP-39 in HDM- and cigarette smoke-induced inflammation. While functionally important in HDM-induced inflammation, BRP-39 is a biomarker of cigarette smoke induced inflammation which is the byproduct of an IL-1 inflammatory pathway.
PMCID: PMC3079621  PMID: 21473774
7.  Bcl-2–related protein A1 is an endogenous and cytokine-stimulated mediator of cytoprotection in hyperoxic acute lung injury 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2005;115(4):1039-1048.
Hyperoxic acute lung injury (HALI) is characterized by a cell death response with features of apoptosis and necrosis that is inhibited by IL-11 and other interventions. We hypothesized that Bfl-1/A1, an antiapoptotic Bcl-2 protein, is a critical regulator of HALI and a mediator of IL-11–induced cytoprotection. To test this, we characterized the expression of A1 and the oxygen susceptibility of WT and IL-11 Tg(+) mice with normal and null A1 loci. In WT mice, 100% O2 caused TUNEL+ cell death, induction and activation of intrinsic and mitochondrial-death pathways, and alveolar protein leak. Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl were also induced as an apparent protective response. A1 was induced in hyperoxia, and in A1-null mice, the toxic effects of hyperoxia were exaggerated, Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl were not induced, and premature death was seen. In contrast, IL-11 stimulated A1, diminished the toxic effects of hyperoxia, stimulated Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl, and enhanced murine survival in 100% O2. In A1-null mice, IL-11–induced protection, survival advantage, and Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl induction were significantly decreased. VEGF also conferred protection via an A1-dependent mechanism. In vitro hyperoxia also stimulated A1, and A1 overexpression inhibited oxidant-induced epithelial cell apoptosis and necrosis. A1 is an important regulator of oxidant-induced lung injury, apoptosis, necrosis, and Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl gene expression and a critical mediator of IL-11– and VEGF-induced cytoprotection.
PMCID: PMC1070412  PMID: 15841185
8.  Increased Hyperoxia-Induced Lung Injury in Nitric Oxide Synthase 2 Null Mice Is Mediated via Angiopoietin 2 
Supplemental oxygen is frequently prescribed. However, prolonged exposure to high concentrations of oxygen causes hyperoxic acute lung injury (HALI), which manifests as acute respiratory distress syndrome in adults and leads to bronchopulmonary dysplasia in newborns (NBs). Nitric oxide (NO), NO synthases (NOSs), and angiopoietin (Ang) 2 have been implicated in the pathogenesis of HALI. However, the mechanisms of the contributions of NOS/NO and the relationship(s) between NOS/NO and Ang2 have not been addressed. In addition, the relevance of these moieties in adults and NBs has not been evaluated. To address these issues, we compared the responses in hyperoxia of wild-type (NOS [+/+]) and NOS null (−/−) young adult and NB mice. When compared with NOS2+/+ adult controls, NOS2−/− animals manifest exaggerated alveolar–capillary protein leak and premature death. These responses were associated with enhanced levels of structural cell death, enhanced expression of proapoptotic regulatory proteins, and Ang2. Importantly, silencing RNA knockdown of Ang2 decreased the levels of cell death and the expression of proapoptotic mediators. These effects were at least partially NOS2 specific, and were development dependent, because survival was similar in adult NOS3+/+ and NOS3−/− mice and NB NOS2+/+ and NOS2−/− mice, respectively. These studies demonstrate that NOS2 plays an important protective role in HALI in adult animals. They also demonstrate that this response is mediated, at least in part, by the ability of NOS2 to inhibit hyperoxia-induced Ang2 production and thereby decrease Ang2-induced tissue injury.
PMCID: PMC3359903  PMID: 22227562
cytokines; hyperoxia; lung
9.  Hyperoxia Exacerbates Postnatal Inflammation-Induced Lung Injury in Neonatal BRP-39 Null Mutant Mice Promoting the M1 Macrophage Phenotype 
Mediators of Inflammation  2013;2013:457189.
Rationale. Hyperoxia exposure to developing lungs—critical in the pathogenesis of bronchopulmonary dysplasia—may augment lung inflammation by inhibiting anti-inflammatory mediators in alveolar macrophages. Objective. We sought to determine the O2-induced effects on the polarization of macrophages and the role of anti-inflammatory BRP-39 in macrophage phenotype and neonatal lung injury. Methods. We used RAW264.7, peritoneal, and bone marrow derived macrophages for polarization (M1/M2) studies. For in vivo studies, wild-type (WT) and BRP-39−/− mice received continuous exposure to 21% O2 (control mice) or 100% O2 from postnatal (PN) 1 to PN7 days, along with intranasal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administered on alternate days (PN2, -4, and -6). Lung histology, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell counts, BAL protein, and cytokines measurements were performed. Measurements and Main Results. Hyperoxia differentially contributed to macrophage polarization by enhancing LPS induced M1 and inhibiting interleukin-4 induced M2 phenotype. BRP-39 absence led to further enhancement of the hyperoxia and LPS induced M1 phenotype. In addition, BRP-39−/− mice were significantly more sensitive to LPS plus hyperoxia induced lung injury and mortality compared to WT mice. Conclusions. These findings collectively indicate that BRP-39 is involved in repressing the M1 proinflammatory phenotype in hyperoxia, thereby deactivating inflammatory responses in macrophages and preventing neonatal lung injury.
PMCID: PMC3855965  PMID: 24347826
10.  Role of Chitin and Chitinase/Chitinase-Like Proteins in Inflammation, Tissue Remodeling, and Injury 
Annual review of physiology  2011;73:10.1146/annurev-physiol-012110-142250.
The 18 glycosyl hydrolase family of chitinases is an ancient gene family that is widely expressed from prokaryotes to eukaryotes. In mammals, despite the absence of endogenous chitin, a number of chitinases and chitinase-like proteins (C/CLPs) have been identified. However, their roles have only recently begun to be elucidated. Acidic mammalian chitinase (AMCase) inhibits chitin-induced innate inflammation; augments chitin-free, allergen-induced Th2 inflammation; and mediates effector functions of IL-13. The CLPs BRP-39/YKL-40 (also termed chitinase 3-like 1) inhibit oxidant-induced lung injury, augments adaptive Th2 immunity, regulates apoptosis, stimulates alternative macrophage activation, and contributes to fibrosis and wound healing. In accord with these findings, levels of YKL-40 in the lung and serum are increased in asthma and other inflammatory and remodeling disorders and often correlate with disease severity. Our understanding of the roles of C/CLPs in inflammation, tissue remodeling, and tissue injury in health and disease is reviewed below.
PMCID: PMC3864643  PMID: 21054166
asthma; fibrosis; BRP-39/YKL-40; AMCase; chitotriosidase
11.  Hyperoxia disrupts pulmonary epithelial barrier in newborn rats via the deterioration of occludin and ZO-1 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):36.
Prolonged exposure to hyperoxia in neonates can cause hyperoxic acute lung injury (HALI), which is characterized by increased pulmonary permeability and diffuse infiltration of various inflammatory cells. Disruption of the epithelial barrier may lead to altered pulmonary permeability and maintenance of barrier properties requires intact epithelial tight junctions (TJs). However, in neonatal animals, relatively little is known about how the TJ proteins are expressed in the pulmonary epithelium, including whether expression of TJ proteins is regulated in response to hyperoxia exposure. This study determines whether changes in tight junctions play an important role in disruption of the pulmonary epithelial barrier during hyperoxic acute lung injury.
Newborn rats, randomly divided into two groups, were exposed to hyperoxia (95% oxygen) or normoxia for 1–7 days, and the severity of lung injury was assessed; location and expression of key tight junction protein occludin and ZO-1 were examined by immunofluorescence staining and immunobloting; messenger RNA in lung tissue was studied by RT-PCR; transmission electron microscopy study was performed for the detection of tight junction morphology.
We found that different durations of hyperoxia exposure caused different degrees of lung injury in newborn rats. Treatment with hyperoxia for prolonged duration contributed to more serious lung injury, which was characterized by increased wet-to-dry ratio, extravascular lung water content, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF):serum FD4 ratio. Transmission electron microscopy study demonstrated that hyperoxia destroyed the structure of tight junctions and prolonged hyperoxia exposure, enhancing the structure destruction. The results were compatible with pathohistologic findings. We found that hyperoxia markedly disrupted the membrane localization and downregulated the cytoplasm expression of the key tight junction proteins occludin and ZO-1 in the alveolar epithelium by immunofluorescence. The changes of messenger RNA and protein expression of occludin and ZO-1 in lung tissue detected by RT-PCR and immunoblotting were consistent with the degree of lung injury.
These data suggest that the disruption of the pulmonary epithelial barrier induced by hyperoxia is, at least in part, due to massive deterioration in the expression and localization of key TJ proteins.
PMCID: PMC3424121  PMID: 22559818
Acute lung injury; Hyperoxia; Newborn; Permeability; Tight Junction
12.  Breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39) promotes dendritic cell maturation in vitro and enhances Th2 inflammation in murine model of asthma 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2012;33(12):1525-1532.
To determine the roles of breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39) in regulating dendritic cell maturation and in pathology of acute asthma.
Mouse bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) were prepared, and infected with adenovirus over-expressing BRP-39. Ovalbumin (OVA)-induced murine model of acute asthma was made in female BALB/c mice by sensitizing and challenging with chicken OVA and Imject Alum. The transfected BMDCs were adoptively transferred into OVA-treated mice via intravenous injection. Airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), inflammation and pulmonary histopathology were characterized.
The expression of BRP-39 mRNA and protein was significantly increased in lung tissues of OVA-treated mice. The BMDCs infected with adenovirus BRP-39 exhibited greater maturation and higher activity in vitro. Adoptive transfer of the cells into OVA-treated mice significantly augmented OVA-induced AHR and eosinophilic inflammation. Meanwhile, BRP-39 further enhanced the production of OVA-induced Th2 cytokines IL-4, IL-5 and IL-13, but significantly attenuated OVA-induced IFN-γ production in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid.
In OVA-induced murine model of acute asthma, BRP-39 is over-expressed in lung tissue and augments Th2 inflammatory response and AHR. BRP-39 promotes dendritic cell maturation in vitro. Therefore, BRP-39 may be a potential therapeutic target of asthma.
PMCID: PMC4001840  PMID: 23178461
asthma; ovalbumin; bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs); breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39); YKL-40; Th2 inflammation; airway hyperresponsiveness; bronchoalveolar lavage fluid
13.  Establishment of a quantitative PCR system for discriminating chitinase-like proteins: catalytically inactive breast regression protein-39 and Ym1 are constitutive genes in mouse lung 
BMC Molecular Biology  2014;15:23.
Mice and humans produce chitinase-like proteins (CLPs), which are highly homologous to chitinases but lack chitinolytic activity. Mice express primarily three CLPs, including breast regression protein-39 (BRP-39) [chitinase 3-like-1 (Chi3l1) or 38-kDa glycoprotein (gp38k)], Ym1 (Chi3l3) and Ym2 (Chi3l4). Recently, CLPs have attracted considerable attention due to their increased expression in a number of pathological conditions, including asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and malignant tumors. Although the exact functions of CLPs are largely unknown, the significance of their increased expression levels during pathophysiological states needs to be determined. The quantification of BRP-39, Ym1 and Ym2 is an important step in gaining insight into the in vivo regulation of the CLPs.
We constructed a standard DNA for quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) by containing three CLPs target fragments and five reference genes cDNA in a one-to-one ratio. We evaluated this system by analyzing the eight target cDNA sequences. Tissue cDNAs obtained by reverse transcription from total RNA from four embryonic stages and eight adult tissues were analyzed using the qPCR system with the standard DNA.
We established a qPCR system detecting CLPs and comparing their expression levels with those of five reference genes using the same scale in mouse tissues. We found that BRP-39 and Ym1 were abundant in the mouse lung, whereas Ym2 mRNA was abundant in the stomach, followed by lung. The expression levels of BRP-39 and Ym1 in the mouse lung were higher than those of two active chitinases and were comparable to glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, a housekeeping gene which is constitutively expressed in all tissues.
Our results indicate that catalytically inactive BRP-39 and Ym1 are constitutive genes in normal mouse lung.
PMCID: PMC4195342  PMID: 25294623
BRP-39; Chitinase; Chitinase-like protein; Gene expression analysis; Quantitative real-time PCR system; Ym1; Ym2
14.  Hyperoxia increases ventilator-induced lung injury via mitogen-activated protein kinases: a prospective, controlled animal experiment 
Critical Care  2007;11(1):R25.
Large-tidal volume (VT) mechanical ventilation and hyperoxia used in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome can damage pulmonary epithelial cells through lung inflammation and apoptotic cell death. Hyperoxia has been shown to increase ventilator-induced lung injury, but the mechanisms regulating interaction between large VT and hyperoxia are unclear. We hypothesized that the addition of hyperoxia to large-VT ventilation would increase neutrophil infiltration by upregulation of the cytokine macrophage inflammatory protein-2 (MIP-2) and would increase apoptosis via the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways.
C57BL/6 mice were exposed to high-VT (30 ml/kg) mechanical ventilation with room air or hyperoxia for one to five hours.
The addition of hyperoxia to high-VT ventilation augmented lung injury, as demonstrated by increased apoptotic cell death, neutrophil migration into the lung, MIP-2 production, MIP-2 mRNA expression, increased DNA binding activity of activator protein-1, increased microvascular permeability, and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 activation. Hyperoxia-induced augmentation of high-VT-induced lung injury was attenuated in JNK-deficient mice and in mice with pharmacologic inhibition of ERK activity by PD98059. However, only JNK-deficient mice, and not mice with ERK activity inhibition by PD98059, were protected from high-VT-induced lung injury without hyperoxia.
We conclude that hyperoxia increased high-VT-induced cytokine production, neutrophil influx, and apoptotic cell death through activation of the JNK and ERK1/2 pathways.
PMCID: PMC2151853  PMID: 17316425
15.  Conditional overexpression of TGFβ1 promotes pulmonary inflammation, apoptosis and mortality via TGFβR2 in the developing mouse lung 
Respiratory Research  2015;16(1):4.
Earlier studies have reported that transforming growth factor beta 1(TGFβ1) is a critical mediator of hyperoxia-induced acute lung injury (HALI) in developing lungs, leading to impaired alveolarization and a pulmonary phenotype of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). However, the mechanisms responsible for the TGFβ1-induced inflammatory signals that lead to cell death and abnormal alveolarization are poorly understood. We hypothesized that TGFβ1 signaling via TGFβR2 is necessary for the pathogenesis of the BPD pulmonary phenotype resulting from HALI.
We utilized lung epithelial cell-specific TGFβ1 overexpressing transgenic and TGFβR2 null mutant mice to evaluate the effects on neonatal mortality as well as pulmonary inflammation and apoptosis in developing lungs. Lung morphometry was performed to determine the impaired alveolarization and multicolor flow cytometry studies were performed to detect inflammatory macrophages and monocytes in lungs. Apoptotic cell death was measured with TUNEL assay, immunohistochemistry and western blotting and protein expression of angiogenic mediators were also analyzed.
Our data reveals that increased TGFβ1 expression in newborn mice lungs leads to increased mortality, macrophage and immature monocyte infiltration, apoptotic cell death specifically in Type II alveolar epithelial cells (AECs), impaired alveolarization, and dysregulated angiogenic molecular markers.
Our study has demonstrated the potential role of inhibition of TGFβ1 signaling via TGFβR2 for improved survival, reduced inflammation and apoptosis that may provide insights for the development of potential therapeutic strategies targeted against HALI and BPD.
PMCID: PMC4307226  PMID: 25591994
Transforming growth factor; Oxygen; Inflammation; Cell death; Angiopoietin; Newborn; Pulmonary; Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
16.  Epithelial Cell Death Is an Important Contributor to Oxidant-mediated Acute Lung Injury 
Rationale: Acute lung injury and the acute respiratory distress syndrome are characterized by increased lung oxidant stress and apoptotic cell death. The contribution of epithelial cell apoptosis to the development of lung injury is unknown.
Objectives: To determine whether oxidant-mediated activation of the intrinsic or extrinsic apoptotic pathway contributes to the development of acute lung injury.
Methods: Exposure of tissue-specific or global knockout mice or cells lacking critical components of the apoptotic pathway to hyperoxia, a well-established mouse model of oxidant-induced lung injury, for measurement of cell death, lung injury, and survival.
Measurements and Main Results: We found that the overexpression of SOD2 prevents hyperoxia-induced BAX activation and cell death in primary alveolar epithelial cells and prolongs the survival of mice exposed to hyperoxia. The conditional loss of BAX and BAK in the lung epithelium prevented hyperoxia-induced cell death in alveolar epithelial cells, ameliorated hyperoxia-induced lung injury, and prolonged survival in mice. By contrast, Cyclophilin D–deficient mice were not protected from hyperoxia, indicating that opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore is dispensable for hyperoxia-induced lung injury. Mice globally deficient in the BH3-only proteins BIM, BID, PUMA, or NOXA, which are proximal upstream regulators of BAX and BAK, were not protected against hyperoxia-induced lung injury suggesting redundancy of these proteins in the activation of BAX or BAK.
Conclusions: Mitochondrial oxidant generation initiates BAX- or BAK-dependent alveolar epithelial cell death, which contributes to hyperoxia-induced lung injury.
PMCID: PMC3086743  PMID: 20959557
cell death; epithelium; Bcl-2 proteins; acute respiratory distress syndrome
17.  The Inflammasome Mediates Hyperoxia-Induced Alveolar Cell Permeability 
A hallmark of hyperoxic acute lung injury is the influx of inflammatory cells to lung tissue and the production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1β; however, the mechanisms connecting hyperoxia and the inflammatory response to lung damage is not clear. The inflammasome protein complex activates caspase-1 to promote the processing and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines. We hypothesized that hyperoxia-induced K+ efflux activates the inflammasome via the purinergic P2X7 receptor to cause inflammation and hyperoxic acute lung injury. To test this hypothesis, we characterized the expression and activation of inflammasome components in primary murine alveolar macrophages exposed to hyperoxia (95% oxygen and 5% CO2) in vitro, and in alveolar macrophages isolated from mice exposed to hyperoxia (100% oxygen). Our results showed that hyperoxia increased K+ efflux, inflammasome formation, release of proinflammatory cytokines, and induction of caspase-1 and IL-1β cleavage both in vitro and in vivo. The P2X7 agonist ATP enhanced hyperoxia-induced inflammasome activation, whereas the P2X7 antagonist, oxidized ATP, inhibited hyperoxia induced inflammasome activation. In addition, when ATP was scavenged with apyrase, hyperoxia-induced inflammasome activation was significantly decreased. Furthermore, short hairpin RNA silencing of inflammasome components abrogated hyperoxia-induced secretion of proinflammatory cytokines in vitro. These results suggest that hyperoxia induces K+ efflux through the P2X7 receptor, leading to inflammasome activation and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines. These events would affect the permeability of the alveolar epithelium and ultimately lead to epithelial barrier dysfunction and cell death.
PMCID: PMC3780794  PMID: 20375306
18.  Airway, but not serum or urinary, levels of YKL-40 reflect inflammation in early cystic fibrosis lung disease 
Cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease begins in early life and is progressive with the major risk factor being an exaggerated inflammatory response. Currently, assessment of neutrophilic inflammation in early cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease relies on bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL). The chitinase-like protein YKL-40 is raised in sputum and serum of adults with CF. We investigated YKL-40 in BAL, serum and urine to determine whether this reflected inflammation and infection in young children with CF.
YKL-40 was measured in matched samples of BAL, serum and urine obtained from 36 infants and young children with CF participating in an early surveillance program. Levels were compared to clinical data and markers of inflammation detected in the lung.
YKL-40 in BAL correlated with pulmonary infection [β=1.30 (SE 0.34), p < 0.001] and BAL markers of inflammation [macrophage number: r2 = 0.34, p < 0.001; neutrophil number: r2 = 0.74, p < 0.001; neutrophil elastase: r2 = 0.47, p < 0.001; CXCL8: r2 = 0.45, p < 0.001; IL-β: r2 = 0.62, p < 0.001]. YKL-40 was detectable in serum but levels did not correlate with BAL levels in the same individuals (r2 = 0.04, p = 0.14) or with inflammatory markers. YKL-40 was below the limit of detection in urine (30 pg/ml).
This study demonstrates that levels of the chitinase-like protein YKL-40 reflect airway inflammation and infection in early CF lung disease. The lack of increased YKL-40 in serum in the absence of systemic inflammation limits the benefit of this potential biomarker in early disease.
PMCID: PMC3946043  PMID: 24576297
Cystic fibrosis; YKL-40; Biomarker; Lung disease
19.  Hyperoxia-Induced LC3B Interacts with the Fas Apoptotic Pathway in Epithelial Cell Death 
Epithelial cell death plays a critical role in hyperoxia-induced lung injury. We investigated the involvement of the autophagic marker microtubule-associated protein-1 light chain-3B (LC3B) in epithelial cell apoptosis after hyperoxia. Prolonged hyperoxia (>95% O2), which causes characteristic lung injury in mice, activated morphological and biochemical markers of autophagy. Hyperoxia induced the time-dependent expression and conversion of LC3B-I to LC3B-II in mouse lung in vivo and in cultured epithelial cells (Beas-2B, human bronchial epithelial cells) in vitro. Hyperoxia increased autophagosome formation in Beas-2B cells, as evidenced by electron microscopy and increased GFP-LC3 puncta. The augmented LC3B level after hyperoxia was transcriptionally regulated and dependent in part on the c-Jun N-terminal kinase pathway. We hypothesized that LC3B plays a regulatory role in hyperoxia-induced epithelial apoptosis. LC3B siRNA promoted hyperoxia-induced cell death in epithelial cells, whereas overexpression of LC3B conferred cytoprotection after hyperoxia. The autophagic protein LC3B cross-regulated the Fas apoptotic pathway by physically interacting with the components of death-inducing signaling complex. This interaction was mediated by caveolin-1 tyrosine 14, which is a known target of phosphorylation induced by hyperoxia. Taken together, hyperoxia-induced LC3B activation regulates the Fas apoptotic pathway and thus confers cytoprotection in lung epithelial cells. The interaction of LC3B and Fas pathways requires cav-1.
PMCID: PMC3359946  PMID: 22095627
apoptosis; autophagy; hyperoxia; lung injury; caveolin-1
20.  IL-6 Cytoprotection in Hyperoxic Acute Lung Injury Occurs via Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling-1–Induced Apoptosis Signal–Regulating Kinase-1 Degradation 
Hyperoxic acute lung injury (HALI) is characterized by a cell death response that is inhibited by IL-6. Suppressor of cytokine signaling-1 (SOCS-1) is an antiapoptotic negative regulator of the IL-6–mediated Janus kinase–signal transducer and activator of transcription signaling pathway. We hypothesized that SOCS-1 is a critical regulator and key mediator of IL-6–induced cytoprotection in HALI. To test this hypothesis, we characterized the expression of SOCS-1 and downstream apoptosis signal–regulating kinase (ASK)-1–Jun N-terminal kinase signaling molecules in small airway epithelial cells in the presence of H2O2, which induces oxidative stress. We also examined these molecules in wild-type and lung-specific IL-6 transgenic (Tg+) mice exposed to 100% oxygen for 72 hours. In control small airway epithelial cells exposed to H2O2 or in wild-type mice exposed to 100% oxygen, a marked induction of ASK-1 and pJun N-terminal kinase was observed. Both IL-6–stimulated endogenous SOCS-1 and SOCS-1 overexpression abolished H2O2-induced ASK-1 activation. In addition, IL-6 Tg+ mice exposed to 100% oxygen exhibited reduced ASK-1 levels and enhanced SOCS-1 expression compared with wild-type mice. Interestingly, no significant changes in activation of the key ASK-1 activator, tumor necrosis factor receptor-1/tumor necrosis factor receptor–associated factor-2 were observed between wild-type and IL-6 Tg+ mice. Furthermore, the interaction between SOCS-1 and ASK-1 promotes ubiquitin-mediated degradation both in vivo and in vitro. These studies demonstrate that SOCS-1 is an important regulator in IL-6–induced cytoprotection against HALI.
PMCID: PMC2645529  PMID: 18776134
IL-6; apoptosis signal–regulating kinase-1; suppressor of cytokine signaling-1; lung injury; tumor necrosis factor receptor-1
21.  Quantitative Real-Time PCR Analysis of YKL-40 and Its Comparison with Mammalian Chitinase mRNAs in Normal Human Tissues Using a Single Standard DNA 
YKL-40 (YKL for the first three N-terminal residues of a 40 kDa protein) belongs to a group of human chitinase-like proteins (CLPs), which are similar to chitinases but lack chitinolytic activity. YKL-40 mRNA and its protein levels have been reported elevated in multiple disorders including asthma, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis and malignant tumors. Here, we quantified the YKL-40 mRNA levels and compared them with chitinases and housekeeping genes in normal human tissues. To establish the quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) system for evaluation of relative YKL-40 mRNA levels, we constructed a human standard DNA molecule by ligating cDNAs of YKL-40, two mammalian chitinases and two housekeeping genes in a one-to-one ratio. We generated cDNAs from various normal human tissues and analyzed the YKL-40 mRNA expression levels using a qPCR system with the standard DNA. We found that YKL-40 mRNA is present widely in human tissues while its expression patterns exhibit clear tissue specificity. Highest YKL-40 mRNA levels were detected in the liver, followed by kidney, trachea and lung. The levels of YKL-40 mRNA in the kidney and liver were more than 100-times higher than those of chitotriosidase mRNA. Our study provides for the first time a comprehensive analysis of the relative expression levels of YKL-40 mRNA versus mammalian chitinases in normal human tissues.
PMCID: PMC4463625  PMID: 25941933
asthma; chitinase; chitinase-like protein; cystic fibrosis; gene expression analysis; malignant tumors; normal human tissues; quantitative real-time PCR system; rheumatoid arthritis; YKL-40
22.  YKL-40 Expression in Traumatic Brain Injury: An Initial Analysis 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2010;27(7):1215-1223.
YKL-40 (chitinase 3-like protein 1) is expressed in a broad spectrum of inflammatory conditions and cancers. We have previously reported that YKL-40 levels are elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of macaques and humans with lentiviral encephalitis, as well as multiple sclerosis (MS). The current study assessed temporal CSF YKL-40 levels in subjects with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI; Glasgow Coma Scale [GCS] score ≤8). We also evaluated temporal expression of YKL-40 after parasagittal controlled cortical impact (CCI) injury over the parietal cortex (2.8 mm deep, 4 m/sec). We demonstrate that CSF YKL-40 levels are elevated after acute TBI, and that YKL-40 levels are higher in patients who died following injury than in patients who survived. YKL-40 levels significantly correlate with CSF levels of inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), as well as the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP). After CCI, in situ hybridization (ISH) showed that YKL-40 transcription is primarily associated with reactive astrocytes in pericontusional cortex. Tissue YKL-40 transcription time course analysis after CCI showed that YKL40 transcription in astrocytes began 1 day after injury, remained elevated for several days, and then declined by day 12. Similarly to our temporal CSF measurements in humans, YKL-40 induction after CCI is coincident with IL-1β expression. Taken together these findings demonstrate that YKL-40 is induced in astrocytes during acute neuroinflammation, is temporally related to inflammatory mediator expression, and may be a useful biomarker for understanding secondary injury and for patient prognosis.
PMCID: PMC2942903  PMID: 20486806
chitinase; controlled cortical impact; cytokine; gliosis; neuroinflammation; traumatic brain injury; YKL-40
23.  Development of Genetic System to Inactivate a Borrelia turicatae Surface Protein Selectively Produced within the Salivary Glands of the Arthropod Vector 
Borrelia turicatae, an agent of tick-borne relapsing fever, is an example of a pathogen that can adapt to disparate conditions found when colonizing the mammalian host and arthropod vector. However, little is known about the genetic factors necessary during the tick-mammalian infectious cycle, therefore we developed a genetic system to transform this species of spirochete. We also identified a plasmid gene that was up-regulated in vitro when B. turicatae was grown in conditions mimicking the tick environment. This 40 kilodalton protein was predicted to be surface localized and designated the Borrelia repeat protein A (brpA) due to the redundancy of the amino acid motif Gln-Gly-Asn-Val-Glu.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction using RNA from B. turicatae infected ticks and mice indicated differential regulation of brpA during the tick-mammalian infectious cycle. The surface localization was determined, and production of the protein within the salivary glands of the tick was demonstrated. We then applied a novel genetic system for B. turicatae to inactivate brpA and examined the role of the gene product for vector colonization and the ability to establish murine infection.
These results demonstrate the complexity of protein production in a population of spirochetes within the tick. Additionally, the development of a genetic system is important for future studies to evaluate the requirement of specific B. turicatae genes for vector colonization and transmission.
Author Summary
Relapsing fever spirochetes are a global yet neglected pathogen causing recurrent febrile episodes, nausea, vomiting, and pregnancy complications including miscarriage. Most species of tick-borne relapsing fever spirochetes are maintained in enzootic cycles, and given an approximately 20 year life span, the arthropod vector for Borrelia turicatae represents a reservoir for the pathogens. While B. turicatae has adapted mechanisms to efficiently colonize and survive within the vector, the genes necessary during the tick-mammalian infectious cycle are unknown. We have identified a gene that was designated the Borrelia repeat protein A (brpA). brpA was up-regulated in a portion of the spirochetes colonizing Ornithodoros turicata, the vector for B. turicatae. Developing a system to delete the gene in B. turicatae enabled the evaluation of the necessity of brpA. With the genetic system established for B. turicatae, a better understanding of the genetic constituents required during the tick-mammalian infectious cycle may be obtained.
PMCID: PMC3814808  PMID: 24205425
24.  Elevated YKL40 is associated with advanced prostate cancer (PCa) and positively regulates invasion and migration of PCa cells 
Endocrine-Related Cancer  2014;21(5):723-737.
Chitinase 3-like 1 (CHI3L1 or YKL40) is a secreted glycoprotein highly expressed in tumours from patients with advanced stage cancers, including prostate cancer (PCa). The exact function of YKL40 is poorly understood, but it has been shown to play an important role in promoting tumour angiogenesis and metastasis. The therapeutic value and biological function of YKL40 are unknown in PCa. The objective of this study was to examine the expression and function of YKL40 in PCa. Gene expression analysis demonstrated that YKL40 was highly expressed in metastatic PCa cells when compared with less invasive and normal prostate epithelial cell lines. In addition, the expression was primarily limited to androgen receptor-positive cell lines. Evaluation of YKL40 tissue expression in PCa patients showed a progressive increase in patients with aggressive disease when compared with those with less aggressive cancers and normal controls. Treatment of LNCaP and C4-2B cells with androgens increased YKL40 expression, whereas treatment with an anti-androgen agent decreased the gene expression of YKL40 in androgen-sensitive LNCaP cells. Furthermore, knockdown of YKL40 significantly decreased invasion and migration of PCa cells, whereas overexpression rendered them more invasive and migratory, which was commensurate with an enhancement in the anchorage-independent growth of cells. To our knowledge, this study characterises the role of YKL40 for the first time in PCa. Together, these results suggest that YKL40 plays an important role in PCa progression and thus inhibition of YKL40 may be a potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of PCa.
PMCID: PMC4134518  PMID: 24981110
YKL40; prostate cancer; cell migration; cell invasion; metastasis; targeted therapy
25.  Deletion of Caveolin-1 Protects against Oxidative Lung Injury via Up-Regulation of Heme Oxygenase-1 
Acute lung injury (ALI) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in critically ill patients. Hyperoxia causes lung injury in animals and humans, and is an established model of ALI. Caveolin-1, a major constituent of caveolae, regulates numerous biological processes, including cell death and proliferation. Here we demonstrate that caveolin-1–null mice (cav-1−/−) were resistant to hyperoxia-induced death and lung injury. Cav-1−/− mice sustained reduced lung injury after hyperoxia as determined by protein levels in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and histologic analysis. Furthermore, cav-1−/− fibroblasts and endothelial cells and cav-1 knockdown epithelial cells resisted hyperoxia-induced cell death in vitro. Basal and inducible expression of the stress protein heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) were markedly elevated in lung tissue or fibroblasts from cav-1−/− mice. Hyperoxia induced the physical interaction between cav-1 and HO-1 in fibroblasts assessed by co-immunoprecipitation studies, which resulted in attenuation of HO activity. Inhibition of HO activity with tin protoporphyrin-IX abolished the survival benefits of cav-1−/− cells and cav-1−/− mice exposed to hyperoxia. The cav-1−/− mice displayed elevated phospho-p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and p38β expression in lung tissue/cells under basal conditions and during hyperoxia. Treatment with SB202190, an inhibitor of p38 MAPK, decreased hyperoxia-inducible HO-1 expression in wild-type and cav-1−/− fibroblasts. Taken together, our data demonstrated that cav-1 deletion protects against hyperoxia-induced lung injury, involving in part the modulation of the HO-1–cav-1 interaction, and the enhanced induction of HO-1 through a p38 MAPK–mediated pathway. These studies identify caveolin-1 as a novel component involved in hyperoxia-induced lung injury.
PMCID: PMC2542454  PMID: 18323531
acute lung injury; acute respiratory distress syndrome; caveolin-1; heme oxygenase-1

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