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1.  No Evidence for a Functional Role of Bi-Directional Notch Signaling during Angiogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e53074.
The Delta-Notch pathway is a signal exchanger between adjacent cells to regulate numerous differentiation steps during embryonic development. Blood vessel formation by sprouting angiogenesis requires high expression of the Notch ligand DLL4 in the leading tip cell, while Notch receptors in the trailing stalk cells are activated by DLL4 to achieve strong Notch signaling activity. Upon ligand binding, Notch receptors are cleaved by ADAM proteases and gamma-secretase. This releases the intracellular Notch domain that acts as a transcription factor. There is evidence that also Notch ligands (DLL1, DLL4, JAG1, JAG2) are processed upon receptor binding to influence transcription in the ligand-expressing cell. Thus, the existence of bi-directional Delta-Notch signaling has been proposed. We report here that the Notch ligands DLL1 and JAG1 are processed in endothelial cells in a gamma-secretase-dependent manner and that the intracellular ligand domains accumulate in the cell nucleus. Overexpression of JAG1 intracellular domain (ICD) as well as DLL1-ICD, DLL4-ICD and NOTCH1-ICD inhibited endothelial proliferation. Whereas NOTCH1-ICD strongly repressed endothelial migration and sprouting angiogenesis, JAG1-ICD, DLL1-ICD and DLL4-ICD had no significant effects. Consistently, global gene expression patterns were only marginally affected by the processed Notch ligands. In addition to its effects as a transcription factor, NOTCH1-ICD promotes cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix in a transcription-independent manner. However, JAG1-ICD, DLL1-ICD and DLL4-ICD did not influence endothelial cell adhesion. In summary, reverse signaling of Notch ligands appears to be dispensable for angiogenesis in cellular systems.
PMCID: PMC3532505  PMID: 23300864
2.  Novel insights into the differential functions of Notch ligands in vascular formation 
The Notch signaling pathway is a critical component of vascular formation and morphogenesis in both development and disease. Compelling evidence indicates that Notch signaling is required for the induction of arterial-cell fate during development and for the selection of endothelial tip and stalk cells during sprouting angiogenesis. In mammals, two of the four Notch receptors (Notch1 and Notch4) and three of the five Notch ligands (Jagged1, Dll1, and Dll4) are predominantly expressed in vascular endothelial cells and are important for many aspects of vascular biology. During arterial cell-fate selection and angiogenesis, the roles of Notch1 and Notch4 are thought to be similar, and the function of Dll4 is well-characterized. However, the molecular mechanisms that determine the functional similarities and differences of Notch ligands in vascular endothelial cells remain largely unknown; consequently, additional research is needed to elucidate the ligand-specific functions and mechanisms associated with Notch activation in the vascular endothelium. Results from recent studies indicate that Dll1 and Dll4 have distinct roles in the specification and maintenance of arterial cell identity, while Dll4 and Jagged1 have opposing functions in tip- and stalk-cell selection during sprouting angiogenesis. This review will focus on the newly discovered, distinct functions of several Notch ligands in the regulation of blood vessel formation and will provide perspectives for future research in the field.
PMCID: PMC2794854  PMID: 20016694
3.  Dll4-containing exosomes induce capillary sprout retraction in a 3D microenvironment 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:4031.
Delta-like 4 (Dll4), a membrane-bound Notch ligand, plays a fundamental role in vascular development and angiogenesis. Dll4 is highly expressed in capillary endothelial tip cells and is involved in suppressing neighboring stalk cells to become tip cells during angiogenesis. Dll4-Notch signaling is mediated either by direct cell-cell contact or by Dll4-containing exosomes from a distance. However, whether Dll4-containing exosomes influence tip cells of existing capillaries is unknown. Using a 3D microfluidic device and time-lapse confocal microscopy, we show here for the first time that Dll4-containing exosomes causes tip cells to lose their filopodia and trigger capillary sprout retraction in collagen matrix. We demonstrate that Dll4 exosomes can freely travel through 3D collagen matrix and transfer Dll4 protein to distant tip cells. Upon reaching endothelial sprout, it causes filopodia and tip cell retraction. Continuous application of Dll4 exosomes from a distance lead to significant reduction of sprout formation. This effect correlates with Notch signaling activation upon Dll4-containing exosome interaction with recipient endothelial cells. Furthermore, we show that Dll4-containing exosomes increase endothelial cell motility while suppressing their proliferation. These data revealed novel functions of Dll4 in angiogenesis through exosomes.
PMCID: PMC3916896  PMID: 24504253
4.  Notch signaling regulates tumor angiogenesis by diverse mechanisms 
Oncogene  2008;27(38):5132-5137.
The Notch signaling pathway is fundamental to proper cardiovascular development and is now recognized as an important player in tumor angiogenesis. Two key Notch ligands have been implicated in tumor angiogenesis, Delta-like 4 and Jagged1. We introduce the proteins and how they work in normal developing vasculature and then discuss differing models describing the action of these Notch ligands in tumor angiogenesis. Endothelial Dll4 expression activates Notch resulting in restriction of new sprout development; for instance, in growing retinal vessels. In agreement with this activity, inhibition of Dll4-mediated Notch signaling in tumors results in hypersprouting of nonfunctional vasculature. This Dll4 inhibition may paradoxically lead to increased angiogenesis but poor tumor growth because the newly growing vessels are not functional. In contrast, Jagged1 has been described as a Notch ligand expressed in tumor cells that can have a positive influence on tumor angiogenesis, possibly by activating Notch on tumor endothelium. A novel Notch inhibitor, the Notch1 decoy, which blocks both Dll4 and Jagged1 has been recently shown to restrict tumor vessel growth. We discuss these models and speculate on therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC3893692  PMID: 18758482
angiogenesis; Notch; Jagged1; Dll4; sprout; VEGFR-2
5.  Intraovarian regulation of gonadotropin-dependent folliculogenesis depends on notch receptor signaling pathways not involving Delta-like ligand 4 (Dll4) 
In-situ hybridisation studies demonstrate that Notch receptors and ligands are expressed in granulosa cells (GCs) and in the theca layer vasculature of growing follicles. Notch signaling involves cell-to-cell interaction mediated by transmembrane receptors and ligands. This signaling pathway may represent a novel intraovarian regulator of gonadotropin-dependent follicular development to the preovulatory stage. We hypothesized that blocking Notch pathways would disrupt follicular maturation in the mouse ovary.
Hypophysectomized CD21 female mice were administered pregnant mare serum gonadotropin (PMSG) for 3 days to stimulate follicular development. In one experiment, a pan-notch inhibitor, compound E, was initiated 2 days prior to and throughout stimulation (n = 10), while in a second experiment, a humanized phage Dll4 blocking antibody, YW152F, was used (n = 5). After sacrifice, ovarian histology, serum estradiol levels and uterine weights were compared to controls. The ovarian morphology was evaluated with hematoxylin/eosin staining and immunohistochemistry was performed for Notch1, Notch2, Notch3, Notch4, Jagged1, Dll4, platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM) and alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) detection.
We localized specific Notch ligands and receptors in the following structures: Dll4 is specific to theca layer endothelial cells (ECs); Notch1/Notch4 and Jagged1 are expressed in theca layer ECs and vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), whereas Notch3 is restricted to VSMCs; Notch2 is expressed mostly on GCs of small follicles. Administration of a pan-Notch inhibitor, compound E, inhibits follicular development to the preovulatory stage (8.5 preovulatory follicles in treatment vs. 3.4 preovulatory follicles in control, p < 0.01; average number per ovary) with significant secondary effects on ovarian and uterine weight and estradiol secretion in a setting of uninhibited vascular proliferation, but disorganized appearance of ECs and VSMCs. Inhibition of endothelial Notch1 function through the inactivation of its ligand Dll4 with the blocking antibody YW152F induces mild disorganisation of follicular vasculature, but has no significant effect on gonadotropin-dependent folliculogenesis.
Our experiments suggest that the complete blockage of the Notch signaling pathway with compound E impairs folliculogenesis and induces disruption of gonadotropin stimulated angiogenesis. It seems the mechanism involves Notch1 and Notch3, specifically, causing the improper assembly of ECs and VSMCs in the theca layer, although the potential role of non-angiogenic Notch signaling, such as Jagged2 to Notch2 in GCs, remains to be elucidated.
PMCID: PMC3662615  PMID: 23675950
Notch; Dll4; Jagged; Folliculogenesis; Ovary; Gamma-secretase inhibitor; YW152F
6.  An Evolutionary-Conserved Function of Mammalian Notch Family Members as Cell Adhesion Molecules 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e108535.
Notch family members were first identified as cell adhesion molecules by cell aggregation assays in Drosophila studies. However, they are generally recognized as signaling molecules, and it was unclear if their adhesion function was restricted to Drosophila. We previously demonstrated that a mouse Notch ligand, Delta-like 1 (Dll1) functioned as a cell adhesion molecule. We here investigated whether this adhesion function was conserved in the diversified mammalian Notch ligands consisted of two families, Delta-like (Dll1, Dll3 and Dll4) and Jagged (Jag1 and Jag2). The forced expression of mouse Dll1, Dll4, Jag1, and Jag2, but not Dll3, on stromal cells induced the rapid and enhanced adhesion of cultured mast cells (MCs). This was attributed to the binding of Notch1 and Notch2 on MCs to each Notch ligand on the stromal cells themselves, and not the activation of Notch signaling. Notch receptor-ligand binding strongly supported the tethering of MCs to stromal cells, the first step of cell adhesion. However, the Jag2-mediated adhesion of MCs was weaker and unlike other ligands appeared to require additional factor(s) in addition to the receptor-ligand binding. Taken together, these results demonstrated that the function of cell adhesion was conserved in mammalian as well as Drosophila Notch family members. Since Notch receptor-ligand interaction plays important roles in a broad spectrum of biological processes ranging from embryogenesis to disorders, our finding will provide a new perspective on these issues from the aspect of cell adhesion.
PMCID: PMC4177923  PMID: 25255288
7.  17β-Estradiol Enhances Signalling Mediated by VEGF-A-Delta-Like Ligand 4-Notch1 Axis in Human Endothelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71440.
Estrogens play a protective role in coronary artery disease. The mechanisms of action are still poorly understood, although a role for estrogens in stimulation of angiogenesis has been suggested. In several cell types, estrogens modulate the Notch pathway, which is involved in controlling angiogenesis downstream of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A). The goal of our study was to establish whether estrogens modulate Notch activity in endothelial cells and the possible consequences on angiogenesis. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were treated with 17β-estradiol (E2) and the effects on Notch signalling were evaluated. E2 increased Notch1 processing as indicated by i) decreased levels of Notch1 transmembrane subunit ii) increased amount of Notch1 in nuclei iii) unaffected level of mRNA. Similarly, E2 increased the levels of the active form of Notch4 without altering Notch4 mRNA. Conversely, protein and mRNA levels of Notch2 were both reduced suggesting transcriptional repression of Notch2 by E2. Under conditions where Notch was activated by upregulation of Delta-like ligand 4 (Dll4) following VEGF-A treatment, E2 caused a further increase of the active form of Notch1, of the number of cells with nuclear Notch1 and of Hey2 mRNA. Estrogen receptor antagonist ICI 182.780 antagonized these effects suggesting that E2 modulation of Notch1 is mediated by estrogen receptors. E2 treatment abolished the increase in endothelial cells sprouting caused by Notch inhibition in a tube formation assay on 3D Matrigel and in mouse aortic ring explants. In conclusion, E2 affects several Notch pathway components in HUVECs, leading to an activation of the VEGF-A-Dll4-Notch1 axis and to a modulation of vascular branching when Notch signalling is inhibited. These results contribute to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular protection exerted by estrogens by uncovering a novel role of E2 in the Notch signalling-mediated modulation of angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3742772  PMID: 23967210
8.  The divergent DSL ligand Dll3 does not activate Notch signaling but cell autonomously attenuates signaling induced by other DSL ligands 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2005;170(6):983-992.
Mutations in the DSL (Delta, Serrate, Lag2) Notch (N) ligand Delta-like (Dll) 3 cause skeletal abnormalities in spondylocostal dysostosis, which is consistent with a critical role for N signaling during somitogenesis. Understanding how Dll3 functions is complicated by reports that DSL ligands both activate and inhibit N signaling. In contrast to other DSL ligands, we show that Dll3 does not activate N signaling in multiple assays. Consistent with these findings, Dll3 does not bind to cells expressing any of the four N receptors, and N1 does not bind Dll3-expressing cells. However, in a cell-autonomous manner, Dll3 suppressed N signaling, as was found for other DSL ligands. Therefore, Dll3 functions not as an activator as previously reported but rather as a dedicated inhibitor of N signaling. As an N antagonist, Dll3 promoted Xenopus laevis neurogenesis and inhibited glial differentiation of mouse neural progenitors. Finally, together with the modulator lunatic fringe, Dll3 altered N signaling levels that were induced by other DSL ligands.
PMCID: PMC2171428  PMID: 16144902
9.  Inhibition of Delta-Like-4–Mediated Signaling Impairs Reparative Angiogenesis After Ischemia 
Circulation research  2010;107(2):283-293.
Notch signaling regulates vascular development. However, the implication of the Notch ligand Delta-like 4 (Dll4) in postischemic angiogenesis remains unclear.
We investigated the role of Dll4/Notch signaling in reparative angiogenesis using a mouse model of ischemia.
Methods and Results
We found Dll4 weakly expressed in microvascular endothelial cells of normoperfused muscles. Conversely, Dll4 is upregulated following ischemia and localized at the forefront of sprouting capillaries. We analyzed the effect of inhibiting endogenous Dll4 by intramuscular injection of an adenovirus encoding the soluble form of Dll4 extracellular domain (Ad-sDll4). Dll4 inhibition caused the formation of a disorganized, low-perfused capillary network in ischemic muscles. This structural abnormality was associated to delayed blood flow recovery and muscle hypoxia and degeneration. Analysis of microvasculature at early stages of repair revealed that Dll4 inhibition enhances capillary sprouting in a chaotic fashion and causes excessive leukocyte infiltration of ischemic muscles. Furthermore, Dll4 inhibition potentiated the elevation of the leukocyte chemoattractant CXCL1 (chemokine [C-X-C motif] ligand 1) following ischemia, without altering peripheral blood levels of stromal cell–derived factor-1 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1. In cultured human monocytes, Dll4 induces the transcription of Notch target gene Hes-1 and inhibits the basal and tumor necrosis factor-α-stimulated production of interleukin-8, the human functional homolog of murine CXCL1. The inhibitory effect of Dll4 on interleukin-8 was abolished by DAPT, a Notch inhibitor, or by coculturing activated human monocytes with Ad-sDll4–infected endothelial cells.
Dll4/Notch interaction is essential for proper reparative angiogenesis. Moreover, Dll4/Notch signaling regulates sprouting angiogenesis and coordinates the interaction between inflammation and angiogenesis under ischemic conditions.
PMCID: PMC2917749  PMID: 20508179
Dll4; Notch signaling; angiogenesis; inflammation; ischemia
10.  KSHV Manipulates Notch Signaling by DLL4 and JAG1 to Alter Cell Cycle Genes in Lymphatic Endothelia 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(10):e1000616.
Increased expression of Notch signaling pathway components is observed in Kaposi sarcoma (KS) but the mechanism underlying the manipulation of the canonical Notch pathway by the causative agent of KS, Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV), has not been fully elucidated. Here, we describe the mechanism through which KSHV directly modulates the expression of the Notch ligands JAG1 and DLL4 in lymphatic endothelial cells. Expression of KSHV-encoded vFLIP induces JAG1 through an NFκB-dependent mechanism, while vGPCR upregulates DLL4 through a mechanism dependent on ERK. Both vFLIP and vGPCR instigate functional Notch signalling through NOTCH4. Gene expression profiling showed that JAG1- or DLL4-stimulated signaling results in the suppression of genes associated with the cell cycle in adjacent lymphatic endothelial cells, indicating a role for Notch signaling in inducing cellular quiescence in these cells. Upregulation of JAG1 and DLL4 by KSHV could therefore alter the expression of cell cycle components in neighbouring uninfected cells during latent and lytic phases of viral infection, influencing cellular quiescence and plasticity. In addition, differences in signaling potency between these ligands suggest a possible complementary role for JAG1 and DLL4 in the context of KS.
Author Summary
Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) is a tumour virus associated with Kaposi sarcoma (KS). Most KS tumor cells are latently infected with the virus, while a small number are lytically infected and produce KSHV. The Notch signaling pathway is highly conserved and important in development and disease. Classical activation of this pathway occurs through direct interaction between ligands and receptors bound to the surface of adjacent cells and influences gene expression in cells receiving the signal. KS tumour cells express Notch pathway components and are sensitive to inhibition of Notch signaling, suggesting this pathway may be important in the development of KS; however, no mechanism behind the classical activation of Notch by KSHV has been established. We describe the molecular mechanisms through which KSHV hijacks the Notch signaling pathway by directly increasing the expression of two Notch ligands (JAG1 and DLL4) through two KSHV genes expressed during latent and lytic infection, respectively. We show the effect of JAG1- and DLL4-stimulated signaling on gene expression in adjacent cells and show that both ligands affect cell cycle-associated genes and may co-operate to permit functional signaling in the context of both latent and lytic infection.
PMCID: PMC2751827  PMID: 19816565
11.  Dll1- and Dll4-mediated Notch signaling is required for homeostasis of intestinal stem cells 
Gastroenterology  2011;140(4):1230-1240.e7.
Background & Aims
Ablation of Notch signaling within the intestinal epithelium results in loss of proliferating crypt progenitors, due to their conversion into post-mitotic secretory cells. We aimed to confirm that Notch was active in stem cells (SC), investigate consequences of loss of Notch signaling within the intestinal SC compartment, and identify the physiological ligands of Notch in mouse intestine. Furthermore, we investigated whether the induction of goblet cell differentiation that results from loss of Notch requires the transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 4 (Klf4).
Trasgenic mice that carried a reporter of Notch1 activation were used for lineage tracing experiments. The in vivo functions of the Notch ligands Jagged1 (Jag1), Delta-like1 (Dll1), Delta-like4 (Dll4), and the transcription factor Klf4 were assessed in mice with inducible, gut-specific gene targeting (Vil-Cre-ERT2).
Notch1 signaling was found to be activated in intestinal SC. Although deletion of Jag1 or Dll4 did not perturb the intestinal epithelium, inactivation of Dll1 resulted in a moderate increase in number of goblet cells without noticeable effects of progenitor proliferation. However, simultaneous inactivation of Dll1 and Dll4 resulted in the complete conversion of proliferating progenitors into post-mitotic goblet cells, concomitant with loss of SC (Olfm4+, Lgr5+ and Ascl2+). Klf4 inactivation did not interfere with goblet cell differentiation in adult wild-type or in Notch pathway-deficient gut.
Notch signaling in SC and progenitors is activated by Dll1 and Dll4 ligands and is required for maintenance of intestinal progenitor and SC. Klf4 is dispensable for goblet cell differentiation in intestines of adult Notch-deficient mice.
PMCID: PMC3066401  PMID: 21238454
GI development; knockout mice; intestinal stem cells; gene regulation
12.  Notching on Cancer’s Door: Notch Signaling in Brain Tumors 
Frontiers in Oncology  2015;4:341.
Notch receptors play an essential role in the regulation of central cellular processes during embryonic and postnatal development. The mammalian genome encodes for four Notch paralogs (Notch 1–4), which are activated by three Delta-like (Dll1/3/4) and two Serrate-like (Jagged1/2) ligands. Further, non-canonical Notch ligands such as epidermal growth factor like protein 7 (EGFL7) have been identified and serve mostly as antagonists of Notch signaling. The Notch pathway prevents neuronal differentiation in the central nervous system by driving neural stem cell maintenance and commitment of neural progenitor cells into the glial lineage. Notch is therefore often implicated in the development of brain tumors, as tumor cells share various characteristics with neural stem and progenitor cells. Notch receptors are overexpressed in gliomas and their oncogenicity has been confirmed by gain- and loss-of-function studies in vitro and in vivo. To this end, special attention is paid to the impact of Notch signaling on stem-like brain tumor-propagating cells as these cells contribute to growth, survival, invasion, and recurrence of brain tumors. Based on the outcome of ongoing studies in vivo, Notch-directed therapies such as γ-secretase inhibitors and blocking antibodies have entered and completed various clinical trials. This review summarizes the current knowledge on Notch signaling in brain tumor formation and therapy.
PMCID: PMC4283135  PMID: 25601901
brain tumor therapy; clinical trials; glioma; medulloblastoma; Notch signaling; stem-like brain tumor-propagating cells
13.  Two Notch Ligands, Dll1 and Jag1, Are Differently Restricted in Their Range of Action to Control Neurogenesis in the Mammalian Spinal Cord 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e15515.
Notch signalling regulates neuronal differentiation in the vertebrate nervous system. In addition to a widespread function in maintaining neural progenitors, Notch signalling has also been involved in specific neuronal fate decisions. These functions are likely mediated by distinct Notch ligands, which show restricted expression patterns in the developing nervous system. Two ligands, in particular, are expressed in non-overlapping complementary domains of the embryonic spinal cord, with Jag1 being restricted to the V1 and dI6 progenitor domains, while Dll1 is expressed in the remaining domains. However, the specific contribution of different ligands to regulate neurogenesis in vertebrate embryos is still poorly understood.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this work, we investigated the role of Jag1 and Dll1 during spinal cord neurogenesis, using conditional knockout mice where the two genes are deleted in the neuroepithelium, singly or in combination. Our analysis showed that Jag1 deletion leads to a modest increase in V1 interneurons, while dI6 neurogenesis was unaltered. This mild Jag1 phenotype contrasts with the strong neurogenic phenotype detected in Dll1 mutants and led us to hypothesize that neighbouring Dll1-expressing cells signal to V1 and dI6 progenitors and restore neurogenesis in the absence of Jag1. Analysis of double Dll1;Jag1 mutant embryos revealed a stronger increase in V1-derived interneurons and overproduction of dI6 interneurons. In the presence of a functional Dll1 allele, V1 neurogenesis is restored to the levels detected in single Jag1 mutants, while dI6 neurogenesis returns to normal, thereby confirming that Dll1-mediated signalling compensates for Jag1 deletion in V1 and dI6 domains.
Our results reveal that Dll1 and Jag1 are functionally equivalent in controlling the rate of neurogenesis within their expression domains. However, Jag1 can only activate Notch signalling within the V1 and dI6 domains, whereas Dll1 can signal to neural progenitors both inside and outside its domains of expression.
PMCID: PMC2991363  PMID: 21124801
14.  Notch Ligand Delta-Like 4-Pretreated Dendritic Cells Alleviate Allergic Airway Responses by Enhancing IL-10 Production 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63613.
The Notch pathway plays a role in the processes of cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis, which affect the development and function of various organs. Dendritic cells (DCs), as professional antigen-presenting cells (APCs), induce T cell activation and promote T cell differentiation by antigen stimulation. Research has shown that Notch ligand delta-like 4 (Dll4) in APCs is associated with stimulation of a Th1-type response. However, the regulatory roles of Dll4 in the activation and function of DCs have yet to be clearly elucidated. In this study, we demonstrated that activation of Dll4-pretreated bone marrow-derived DCs by performing ovalbumin (OVA) stimulation expressed a high level of interleukin (IL)-10 without diminishing IL-12 production. By contrast, the proinflammatory cytokines, IL-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, decreased in Dll4-pretreated DCs by performing either lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or OVA stimulation. Compared to fully mature DCs, lower levels of MHC class II CD40 and higher levels of CD80 and CD86 molecules were expressed in these semi-mature like DCs. Dll4 Notch signaling also enhanced Notch ligand mRNA expression of Dll1, Dll4, and Jagged1 in DCs. Dll4-modified DCs exhibited a reduced capacity to stimulate the proliferation of OVA-specific CD4+ T cells, but actively promoted large amounts of IL-10 production in these activated T cells. Furthermore, immunomodulatory effects of Dll4-modified DCs were examined in an established asthmatic animal model. After adoptive transfer of OVA-pulsed plus Dll4-pretreated DCs in OVA-immunized mice, OVA challenge induced lower OVA-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) and higher IgG2a antibody production, lower eotaxin, keratinocyte-derived chemokine (KC), IL-5, and IL-13 release in bronchial alveolar lavage fluid, attenuated airway hyper-responsiveness, and promoted higher IL-10 and interferon (IFN)-γ production in the spleen. In summary, our findings elucidate the new role of Dll4 in the phenotype and function of DCs and provide a novel approach for manipulating T cell-driven deleterious immune diseases.
PMCID: PMC3656003  PMID: 23696838
15.  OSM-11 Facilitates LIN-12 Notch Signaling during Caenorhabditis elegans Vulval Development  
PLoS Biology  2008;6(8):e196.
Notch signaling is critical for cell fate decisions during development. Caenorhabditis elegans and vertebrate Notch ligands are more diverse than classical Drosophila Notch ligands, suggesting possible functional complexities. Here, we describe a developmental role in Notch signaling for OSM-11, which has been previously implicated in defecation and osmotic resistance in C. elegans. We find that complete loss of OSM-11 causes defects in vulval precursor cell (VPC) fate specification during vulval development consistent with decreased Notch signaling. OSM-11 is a secreted, diffusible protein that, like previously described C. elegans Delta, Serrate, and LAG-2 (DSL) ligands, can interact with the lineage defective-12 (LIN-12) Notch receptor extracellular domain. Additionally, OSM-11 and similar C. elegans proteins share a common motif with Notch ligands from other species in a sequence defined here as the Delta and OSM-11 (DOS) motif. osm-11 loss-of-function defects in vulval development are exacerbated by loss of other DOS-motif genes or by loss of the Notch ligand DSL-1, suggesting that DOS-motif and DSL proteins act together to activate Notch signaling in vivo. The mammalian DOS-motif protein Deltalike1 (DLK1) can substitute for OSM-11 in C. elegans development, suggesting that DOS-motif function is conserved across species. We hypothesize that C. elegans OSM-11 and homologous proteins act as coactivators for Notch receptors, allowing precise regulation of Notch receptor signaling in developmental programs in both vertebrates and invertebrates.
Author Summary
The classic view of Notch receptor activation involves receptor binding to transmembrane Notch ligands that contain a conserved DSL (Delta, Serrate, and LAG-2) domain. Here, we find that the Caenorhabditis elegans OSM-11 protein is a novel ligand of the well-characterized Notch signal transduction pathway and plays a role in cell fate specification during development. OSM-11 is a secreted, diffusible protein whose loss decreases Notch signaling in vivo. OSM-11 and related C. elegans proteins do not contain a DSL domain, but contain a conserved motif we have named DOS (Delta and OSM-11) that is also found in the extracellular domain of known Notch ligands in organisms other than C. elegans. The functional mammalian homolog of OSM-11 is the secreted protein Deltalike1 (Dlk1), also known as Preadipocyte Factor 1 (PREF1), which plays a poorly defined role in Notch signaling regulating obesity and other developmental decisions. This suggests that Notch ligands are split into two complementary coligand families that act together to regulate Notch signaling in developmental contexts. In addition to regulating development, DOS ligands play roles in osmotic stress and C. elegans behavior, suggesting previously unsuspected roles for Notch signaling across species.
The C. elegans OSM-11 protein acts with DSL ligands to activate Notch signaling in cell fate specification and defines a conserved family of potential Notch co-ligands.
PMCID: PMC2504490  PMID: 18700817
16.  Fringe proteins modulate Notch-ligand cis and trans interactions to specify signaling states 
eLife  2014;3:e02950.
The Notch signaling pathway consists of multiple types of receptors and ligands, whose interactions can be tuned by Fringe glycosyltransferases. A major challenge is to determine how these components control the specificity and directionality of Notch signaling in developmental contexts. Here, we analyzed same-cell (cis) Notch-ligand interactions for Notch1, Dll1, and Jag1, and their dependence on Fringe protein expression in mammalian cells. We found that Dll1 and Jag1 can cis-inhibit Notch1, and Fringe proteins modulate these interactions in a way that parallels their effects on trans interactions. Fringe similarly modulated Notch-ligand cis interactions during Drosophila development. Based on these and previously identified interactions, we show how the design of the Notch signaling pathway leads to a restricted repertoire of signaling states that promote heterotypic signaling between distinct cell types, providing insight into the design principles of the Notch signaling system, and the specific developmental process of Drosophila dorsal-ventral boundary formation.
eLife digest
In animals, cells use a process called Notch signaling to communicate with neighboring cells. During this process, a protein known as a DSL ligand from one cell binds to a protein called a Notch receptor on a neighboring cell. This triggers a series of events in the neighboring cell that change how the genes in this cell are expressed. Notch signaling is involved in many processes including the early growth of embryos, the formation of organs and limbs, and the maintenance of stem cells throughout adult life.
Enzymes called Fringe enzymes can control Notch signaling by blocking or promoting the formation of the DSL ligand-Notch receptor pairs. It is also possible for a DSL ligand and a Notch receptor from the same cell to interact. This is thought to be important because it prevents an individual cell from sending and receiving Notch signals at the same time.
There are several different DSL ligands, Notch receptors and Fringe enzymes, so it is difficult to determine which configurations of receptors, ligands and Fringe enzymes can enable Notch signals to be sent or received. To address this problem, LeBon et al. investigated how Fringe enzymes acted on several different DSL-Notch receptor pairs in mammalian cells, and also in fruit flies. They focused in particular on the interactions that occurred within the same cell, as the role of Fringe enzymes in this type of interaction has not been examined previously.
The experiments revealed that Fringe proteins modify specific same-cell interactions in a way that enables a cell to receive one type of Notch signal from a neighboring cell and send a different type of Notch signal to another cell at the same time. More generally, these results show how an unconventional, ‘bottom-up’ approach can reveal the design principles of cell signaling systems, and suggest that it should now be possible to use these principles to try to understand which cell types send signals to which other cell types in many different contexts.
PMCID: PMC4174579  PMID: 25255098
cell signaling; developmental patterning; notch pathway; systems biology; D. melanogaster; other
17.  Cis-interactions between Notch and its ligands block ligand-independent Notch activity 
eLife  null;3:e04415.
The Notch pathway is integrated into numerous developmental processes and therefore is fine-tuned on many levels, including receptor production, endocytosis, and degradation. Notch is further characterized by a twofold relationship with its Delta-Serrate (DSL) ligands, as ligands from opposing cells (trans-ligands) activate Notch, whereas ligands expressed in the same cell (cis-ligands) inhibit signaling. We show that cells without both cis- and trans-ligands can mediate Notch-dependent developmental events during Drosophila oogenesis, indicating ligand-independent Notch activity occurs when the receptor is free of cis- and trans-ligands. Furthermore, cis-ligands can reduce Notch activity in endogenous and genetically induced situations of elevated trans-ligand-independent Notch signaling. We conclude that cis-expressed ligands exert their repressive effect on Notch signaling in cases of trans-ligand-independent activation, and propose a new function of cis-inhibition which buffers cells against accidental Notch activity.
eLife digest
Many biological processes require cells to send messages to one another. Typically, this is achieved when molecules are released from one cell and make contact with companion molecules on another cell. This triggers a chemical or biological reaction in the receiving cell.
One of the most common examples of this is the Notch pathway, which is used throughout the animal kingdom and plays an important role in helping cells and embryos to develop. The Notch protein itself is a ‘receptor’ protein that is embedded in the surface of a cell, and relays signals from outside the cell to activate certain genes inside the cell. In fruit flies, two proteins called Serrate and Delta act as ‘ligands’ for Notch—by binding to Notch, they can change how this receptor works.
If Serrate or Delta are present on the outside of one cell, they can activate Notch (and hence the Notch signaling pathway) in an adjacent cell. However, if the Serrate or Delta ligands are present on the surface of the same cell as Notch they turn the receptor off, rather than activate it. Notch can also work without being activated by Serrate or Delta, but whether the ligands can inhibit this ‘ligand-independent’ Notch activation if they are on the surface of the same cell as the Notch receptor was unknown.
Palmer et al. study Notch signaling in the fruit fly equivalent of the ovary, in cells that are naturally deficient in Serrate and from which Delta was artificially removed. The Notch protein was activated when these ligands were not present. Furthermore, the developmental processes that are activated by Notch were able to proceed as normal when triggered by ligand-independent Notch signaling. In total, Palmer et al. investigated three different types of fruit fly cell, and found that ligand-independent Notch signaling can occur in all of them.
Reintroducing Delta to the same cell as Notch turns the receptor off, suggesting that ligands on the surface of the same cell as the receptor can inhibit ligand-independent Notch activity. Many genetic diseases and cancers have been linked to Notch being activated when it should not be; therefore, understanding how Notch is controlled could help guide the development of new treatments for these conditions.
PMCID: PMC4286723  PMID: 25486593
Notch pathway; signal transduction; oogenesis; D. melanogaster
18.  Delta-like Ligand 4 Identifies a Previously Uncharacterized Population of Inflammatory Dendritic Cells That Plays Important Roles in Eliciting Allogeneic T-cell Responses in Mice1 
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) reflects an exaggerated inflammatory allogeneic T-cell response in hosts receiving allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Inhibition of pan-Notch receptor signaling in donor T cells causes reduction of GVHD. However, which Notch ligand(s) in what antigen-presenting cells are important for priming GVH reaction remains unknown. We demonstrate that δ-like ligand-4 (Dll4) and Dll4-positive (Dll4hi) inflammatory dendritic cells (i-DCs) play important roles in eliciting allogeneic T-cell responses. Host-type Dll4hi i-DCs occurred in the spleen and intestine of HSCT mice during GVHD induction phase. These Dll4hi i-DCs were CD11c+B220+PDCA-1+, resembling plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) of naïve mice. However, as compared to unstimulated pDCs, Dll4hi i-DCs expressed higher levels of costimulatory molecules, Notch ligands Jagged1 and Jagged2 and CD11b and, produced more Ifnb and Il23 but less Il12. In contrast, Dll4-negative (Dll4lo) i-DCs were CD11c+B220−PDCA-1−, and had low levels of Jagged1. In vitro assays showed that Dll4hi i-DCs induced significantly more IFN-γ- and IL-17-producing effector T cells (3- and 10-fold, respectively) than Dll4lo i-DCs. This effect could be blocked by anti-Dll4 antibody. In vivo administration of Dll4 antibody reduced donor alloreactive effector T cells producing IFN-γ and IL-17 in GVHD target organs, leading to reduction of GVHD and improved survival of mice after allogeneic HSCT. Our findings indicate that Dll4hi i-DCs represent a previously uncharacterized i-DC population distinctive from steady state DCs and Dll4lo i-DCs. Furthermore, Dll4 and Dll4hi i-DCs may be beneficial targets for modulating allogeneic T-cell responses, and could facilitate the discovery of human counterparts of mouse Dll4hi i-DCs.
PMCID: PMC3608722  PMID: 23440416
19.  Structural Analysis Uncovers Lipid-Binding Properties of Notch Ligands 
Cell Reports  2013;5(4):861-867.
The Notch pathway is a core cell-cell signaling system in metazoan organisms with key roles in cell-fate determination, stem cell maintenance, immune system activation, and angiogenesis. Signals are initiated by extracellular interactions of the Notch receptor with Delta/Serrate/Lag-2 (DSL) ligands, whose structure is highly conserved throughout evolution. To date, no structure or activity has been associated with the extreme N termini of the ligands, even though numerous mutations in this region of Jagged-1 ligand lead to human disease. Here, we demonstrate that the N terminus of human Jagged-1 is a C2 phospholipid recognition domain that binds phospholipid bilayers in a calcium-dependent fashion. Furthermore, we show that this activity is shared by a member of the other class of Notch ligands, human Delta-like-1, and the evolutionary distant Drosophila Serrate. Targeted mutagenesis of Jagged-1 C2 domain residues implicated in calcium-dependent phospholipid binding leaves Notch interactions intact but can reduce Notch activation. These results reveal an important and previously unsuspected role for phospholipid recognition in control of this key signaling system.
Graphical Abstract
•Notch ligands contain an N-terminal C2 phospholipid recognition domain•Ca2+-dependent lipid binding by Jagged 1 is required for optimal Notch activation•Lipid binding by Notch ligands is calcium dependent•Notch ligands require bound calcium at the N terminus for full activity
Handford, Lea, and colleagues now discover that the N-terminal portion of Notch ligands consists of a functional, calcium-dependent phospholipid recognition domain, the C2 domain. They also show that Notch-driven activation requires C2 domain activity in addition to canonical Notch-ligand binding.
PMCID: PMC3888931  PMID: 24239355
20.  Foxc Transcription Factors Directly Regulate Dll4 and Hey2 Expression by Interacting with the VEGF-Notch Signaling Pathways in Endothelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(6):e2401.
Recent studies have shown that in the developing embryo, arterial and venous identity is established by genetic mechanisms before circulation begins. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling and its downstream Notch pathway play critical roles in arterial cell fate determination. We have recently shown that Foxc1 and Foxc2, two closely related Fox transcription factors, are essential for arterial cell specification during development by directly inducing the transcription of Delta-like 4 (Dll4), a ligand for Notch receptors. However, the basic mechanisms whereby the VEGF and Notch signaling pathways control transcriptional regulation of arterial-specific genes have yet to be elucidated.
Methodologies/Principal Findings
In the current study, we examined whether and how Foxc transcription factors are involved in VEGF and Notch signaling in induction of Dll4 as well as the Notch target gene Hey2 in endothelial cells. We found that Foxc1 and Foxc2 directly activate the Hey2 promoter via Foxc binding elements. Significantly, Foxc2 physically and functionally interacts with a Notch transcriptional activation complex containing Su(H) and Notch intracellular domain to induce Hey2 promoter activity. Moreover, activation of the Dll4 and Hey2 promoters is induced by VEGF in conjunction with either Foxc1 or Foxc2 more than by either component alone. VEGF-activated PI3K and ERK intracellular pathways modulate the transcriptional activity of Foxc proteins in Dll4 and Hey2 induction.
Our new findings demonstrate that Foxc transcriptional factors interact with VEGF and Notch signaling to regulate arterial gene expression in multiple steps of the VEGF-Dll4-Notch-Hey2 signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC2398774  PMID: 18545664
21.  Binding of Delta1, Jagged1, and Jagged2 to Notch2 Rapidly Induces Cleavage, Nuclear Translocation, and Hyperphosphorylation of Notch2 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2000;20(18):6913-6922.
Delta1, Jagged1, and Jagged2, commonly designated Delta/Serrate/LAG-2 (DSL) proteins, are known to be ligands for Notch1. However, it has been less understood whether they are ligands for Notch receptors other than Notch1. Meanwhile, ligand-induced cleavage and nuclear translocation of the Notch protein are considered to be fundamental for Notch signaling, yet direct observation of the behavior of the Notch molecule after ligand binding, including cleavage and nuclear translocation, has been lacking. In this report, we investigated these issues for Notch2. All of the three DSL proteins bound to endogenous Notch2 on the surface of BaF3 cells, although characteristics of Jagged2 for binding to Notch2 apparently differed from that of Delta1 and Jagged1. After binding, the three DSL proteins induced cleavage of the membrane-spanning subunit of Notch2 (Notch2TM), which occurred within 15 min. In a simultaneous time course, the cleaved fragment of Notch2TM was translocated into the nucleus. Interestingly, the cleaved Notch2 fragment was hyperphosphorylated also in a time-dependent manner. Finally, binding of DSL proteins to Notch2 also activated the transcription of reporter genes driven by the RBP-Jκ-responsive promoter. Together, these data indicate that all of these DSL proteins function as ligands for Notch2. Moreover, the findings of rapid cleavage, nuclear translocation, and phosphorylation of Notch2 after ligand binding facilitate the understanding of the Notch signaling.
PMCID: PMC88767  PMID: 10958687
22.  ETS factors regulate Vegf-dependent arterial specification 
Developmental cell  2013;26(1):45-58.
Vegf signaling specifies arterial fate during early vascular development by inducing the transcription of Delta-like 4 (Dll4), the earliest Notch ligand gene expressed in arterial precursor cells (aPCs). Dll4 expression precedes that of Notch receptors in arteries, and factors that direct its arterial-specific expression are not known. To identify the transcriptional program that initiates arterial Dll4 expression we characterized an arterial-specific and Vegf-responsive enhancer of Dll4. Our findings demonstrate that Notch signaling is not required for initiation of Dll4 expression in arteries, and suggest that Notch instead functions as a maintenance factor. Importantly, we find that Vegf signaling activates MAP kinase (MAPK)-dependent ETS factors in the arterial endothelium to drive expression of Dll4, as well as Notch4. These findings identify a Vegf/MAPK-dependent transcriptional pathway that specifies arterial identity by activating Notch signaling components, and illustrate how signaling cascades can modulate broadly expressed transcription factors to achieve tissue-specific transcriptional outputs.
PMCID: PMC3754838  PMID: 23830865
23.  Notch2 Controls Prolactin and Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein-1 Expression in Decidualizing Human Stromal Cells of Early Pregnancy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112723.
Decidualization, the transformation of the human uterine mucosa into the endometrium of pregnancy, is critical for successful implantation and embryonic development. However, key regulatory factors controlling differentiation of uterine stromal cells into hormone-secreting decidual cells have not been fully elucidated. Hence, we herein investigated the role of the Notch signaling pathway in human decidual stromal cells (HDSC) isolated from early pregnancy samples. Immunofluorescence of first trimester decidual tissues revealed expression of Notch2 receptor and its putative, membrane-anchored interaction partners Jagged1, Delta-like (DLL) 1 and DLL4 in stromal cells whereas other Notch receptors and ligands were absent from these cells. During in vitro differentiation with estrogen/progesterone (E2P4) and/or cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) HDSC constitutively expressed Notch2 and weakly downregulated Jagged1 mRNA and protein, measured by quantitative PCR (qPCR) and Western blotting, respectively. However, increased levels of DLL1 and DLL4 were observed in the decidualizing cultures. Transfection of a Notch luciferase reporter and qPCR of the Notch target gene hairy and enhancer of split 1 (HES1) revealed an induction of canonical Notch activity during in vitro differentiation. In contrast, treatment of HDSC with a chemical Notch/γ-secretase inhibitor decreased cAMP/E2P4-stimulated Notch luciferase activity, HES1 transcript levels and mRNA expression of the decidual marker genes prolactin (PRL) and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 1 (IGFBP1). Similarly, siRNA-mediated gene silencing or antibody-mediated blocking of Notch2 diminished HES1, PRL and IGFBP1 mRNA levels as well as secreted PRL protein. In summary, the data suggest that canonical, Notch2-dependent signaling plays a role in human decidualization.
PMCID: PMC4232464  PMID: 25397403
24.  Notch Signaling in Descending Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm and Dissection 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52833.
Descending thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection (DTAAD) is characterized by progressive medial degeneration, which may result from excessive tissue destruction and insufficient repair. Resistance to tissue destruction and aortic self-repair are critical in preventing medial degeneration. The signaling pathways that control these processes in DTAAD are poorly understood. Because Notch signaling is a critical pathway for cell survival, proliferation, and tissue repair, we examined its activation in DTAAD.
We studied descending thoracic aortic tissue from patients with sporadic thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA; n = 14) or chronic thoracic aortic dissection (TAD; n = 16) and from age-matched organ donors (n = 12). Using western blot, real-time RT-PCR, and immunofluorescence staining, we examined aortic tissue samples for the Notch ligands Delta-like 1, Delta-like 4 (DLL1/4), and Jagged1; the Notch receptor 1 (Notch1); the Notch1 intracellular domain (NICD); and Hes1, a downstream target of Notch signaling.
Western blots and RT-PCR showed higher levels of the Notch1 protein and mRNA and the NICD and Hes1 proteins in both TAA and TAD tissues than in control tissue. However, immunofluorescence staining showed a complex pattern of Notch signaling in the diseased tissue. The ligand DLL1/4 and Notch1 were significantly decreased and NICD and Hes1 were rarely detected in medial vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in both TAA and TAD tissues, indicating downregulation of Notch signaling in aortic VSMCs. Interestingly Jagged1, NICD, and Hes1 were highly present in CD34+ stem cells and Stro-1+ stem cells in aortas from TAA and TAD patients. NICD and Hes1 were also detected in most fibroblasts and macrophages that accumulated in the aortic wall of DTAAD patients.
Notch signaling exhibits a complex pattern in DTAAD. The Notch pathway is impaired in medial VSMCs but activated in stem cells, fibroblasts, and macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3530510  PMID: 23300792
25.  SIRT1 Regulates Endothelial Notch Signaling in Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45331.
Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) acts as a key regulator of vascular endothelial homeostasis, angiogenesis, and endothelial dysfunction. However, the underlying mechanism for SIRT1-mediated lung carcinoma angiogenesis remains unknown. Herein, we report that the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide 1 (NAD1)-dependent deacetylase SIRT1 can function as an intrinsic negative modulator of Delta-like ligand 4 (DLL4)/Notch signaling in Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) xenograft-derived vascular endothelial cells (lung cancer-derived ECs).
Principal Findings
SIRT1 negatively regulates Notch1 intracellular domain (N1IC) and Notch1 target genes HEY1 and HEY2 in response to Delta-like ligand 4 (DLL4) stimulation. Furthermore, SIRT1 deacetylated and repressed N1IC expression. Quantitative chromatin immunoprecipitation (qChIP) analysis and gene reporter assay demonstrated that SIRT1 bound to one highly conserved region, which was located at approximately −500 bp upstream of the transcriptional start site of Notch1,and repressed Notch1 transcription. Inhibition of endothelial cell growth and sprouting angiogenesis by DLL4/Notch signaling was enhanced in SIRT1-silenced lung cancer-derived EC and rescued by Notch inhibitor DAPT. In vivo, an increase in proangiogenic activity was observed in Matrigel plugs from endothelial-specific SIRT1 knock-in mice. SIRT1 also enhanced tumor neovascularization and tumor growth of LLC xenografts.
Our results show that SIRT1 facilitates endothelial cell branching and proliferation to increase vessel density and promote lung tumor growth through down-regulation of DLL4/Notch signaling and deacetylation of N1IC. Thus, targeting SIRT1 activity or/and gene expression may represent a novel mechanism in the treatment of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3445453  PMID: 23028940

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