The mammalian olfactory system recognizes a wide range of chemical stimuli. The majority of cells in the main olfactory epithelium (MOE) use a cAMP-mediated signaling system to transduce odor signals. However, a subset of MOE neurons instead expresses components of a cGMP signaling cascade, including the receptor guanylyl cyclase GC-D and the cyclic nucleotide-gated channel subunit CNGA3. We used a combination of molecular biological, physiological and imaging approaches to characterize this neuronal population. Neurons expressing GC-D show excitatory responses to the natriuretic peptide hormones uroguanylin and guanylin, as well as to stimuli present in urine, that are dependent on both GC-D and CNGA3. Though all GC-D-expressing neurons are highly sensitive to these stimuli, individual cells are differentially tuned to either one or both of the peptides. Together, these findings suggest that neurons expressing GC-D are part of a specialized olfactory subsystem that is responsive to semiochemicals.
semiochemical; cGMP; necklace glomeruli; natriuretic peptides; GC-D; PDE2
In women, the corpus luteum is the source of circulating relaxin. No previous studies have addressed whether the corpus luteum is also a relaxin target organ. We determined relaxin receptor LGR7 mRNA expression in human term pregnancy corpora lutea and non-human primate corpora lutea obtained during the menstrual cycle. Real-time RT-PCR demonstrated the expression of LGR 7 mRNA in both human and rhesus monkey corpora lutea. Rhesus monkey corpora lutea were obtained from naturally cycling animals following documented LH surges at early, mid, mid-late and late luteal phases. Luteal expression of LGR7 mRNA did not show temporal variation. Since the primate corpus luteum is LH dependent, we assessed LGR7 mRNA expression in corpora lutea from rhesus monkeys treated with a GnRH antagonist which significantly suppressed pituitary LH levels. GnRH antagonist treatment, which also inhibits both progesterone and relaxin production, resulted in a five fold increase in luteal LGR7 mRNA expression. These data suggest that luteal LGR7 mRNA expression may be regulated by relaxin and/or LH, and that the primate corpus luteum is a target organ for relaxin.
RXFP1; LGR7; rhesus monkey; relaxin; corpus luteum; relaxin receptor
Relaxin has beneficial effects upon the endometrium which are responsible for establishment of pregnancy. We have demonstrated that relaxin stimulates endometrial decidualization, the structural and biochemical changes in endometrial parenchymal cells, and the accompanying angiogenesis, modulation of matrix metalloproteinase activity and increased concentration in local immune cells which are required for implantation Our recent data also demonstrate that either too much or too little relaxin can be detrimental. Elevated circulating maternal relaxin concentrations (hyperrelaxinemia) are associated with premature birth. This is likely due to the effects of relaxin at the level of the cervix, via upsetting the balance in the maintenance of cervical connective tissue architecture. In addition, the absence of circulating relaxin during pregnancy in women may have negative consequences upon glucose metabolism.
relaxin; rhesus monkey; endometrium; human pregnancy; preterm birth
The development of invasive aspergillosis is a feared complication for immunocompromised patients. Despite the use of antifungal agents with excellent bioactivity, the morbidity and mortality rate for invasive aspergillosis remains unacceptably high. Defects within the innate immune response portend the highest risk for patients, but detailed knowledge of molecular pathways in neutrophils and macrophages in response to this fungal pathogen is lacking. Phagocytosis of fungal spores is a key step that places the pathogen into a phagosome, a membrane-delimited compartment that undergoes maturation and ultimately delivers antigenic material to the class II MHC pathway. We review the role of Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) in phagosome maturation of Aspergillus fumigates–containing phagosomes. Advanced imaging modalities and the development of fungal like particles are promising tools that will aid in the dissection of the molecular mechanism to fungal immunity.
innate immunity; Dectin-1; Toll-like receptor; phagosome; macrophage; TLR9
Forkhead box P3 (FOXP3)+ is a transcription factor necessary for the function of regulatory T cells (Treg cells). Treg cells maintain immune homeostasis and self-tolerance, and play an important role in the prevention of autoimmune disease. Here, we discuss the role of Treg cells in the pathogenesis of myasthenia gravis (MG) and review evidence indicating that a significant defect in Treg cell in vitro suppressive function exists in MG patients, without an alteration in circulating frequency. This functional defect is associated with a reduced expression of key functional molecules such as FOXP3 on isolated Treg cells and appears to be more pronounced in immunosuppression-naive MG patients. In vitro administration of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) enhanced the suppressive function of Treg cells and up-regulated FOXP3 expression. These findings indicate a clinically relevant Treg cell–intrinsic defect in immune regulation in MG that may reveal a novel therapeutic target.
myasthenia gravis; regulatory T cells; FOXP3; GM-CSF
The deep sequencing of an mRNA population, RNA-seq, is a very successful application of next-generation sequencing technologies (NGSTs). RNA-seq takes advantage of two key NGST features: (1) samples can be mixtures of different DNA pieces, and (2) sequencing provides both qualitative and quantitative information about each DNA piece analyzed. We recently used RNA-seq to study the transcriptome of Aspergillus fumigatus, a deadly human fungal pathogen. Analysis of the RNA-seq data indicates that there are likely tens of unannotated and hundreds of novel genes in the A. fumigates transcriptome, mostly encoding for small proteins. Inspection of transcriptome-wide variation between two isolates reveals thousands of single nucleotide polymorphisms. Finally, comparison of the transcriptome profiles of one isolate in two different growth conditions identified thousands of differentially-expressed genes. These results demonstrate the utility and potential of RNA-seq for functional genomics studies in A. fumigatus and other fungal human pathogens.
novel genes; annotation; population structure; differential expression; transcriptome profiling
Complement plays an important role in the pathophysiology of experimental autoimmune myasthenia gravis (EAMG). The deposition of IgG at the neuromuscular junction, followed by the activation and observance of C3 at the site, and finally the insertion of the membrane attack complex, which results in the destruction of the plasma membrane at the neuromuscular junction. Animal models’ of complement-deficient components show the importance of the mediated lysisin EAMG. These events have regulators that allow for the limitation in the cascade and the ability of the cell to inhibit complement at many places along the pathway. The complement regulatory proteins have many roles in reducing the activation of the complement cascade and the inflammatory pathways. Mice deficient in complement regulatory proteins, decay accelerating factor and CD59, demonstrate a significant increase in the destruction at the neuromuscular junction. Inhibition of complement-mediated lysis is an attractive therapeutic in MG.
complement; complement regulators; myasthenia gravis; C5; autoimmunity
Presynaptic active zones are synaptic vesicle release sites that playessential roles in the function and pathology of mammalian neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). The molecular mechanisms of active zone organization utilize presynaptic voltage-dependent calcium channels (VDCCs) in NMJs as scaffolding proteins. VDCCs interact extracellularly with the muscle-derived synapse organizer, laminin β2, and interact intracellularly with active zone-specific proteins, such as Bassoon, CAST/Erc2/ELKS2alpha, ELKS, Piccolo, and RIMs. These molecular mechanisms are supported by studies in P/Q- and N-type VDCCs double-knockout mice, and they are consistent with the pathological conditions of Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome and Pierson syndrome, which are caused by autoantibodies against VDCCs or by a laminin β2 mutation. During normal postnatal maturation, NMJs maintain the density of active zones, while NMJs triple their size. However, active zones become impaired during aging. Propitiously, muscle exercise ameliorates the active zone impairment in aged NMJs, which suggests the potential for therapeutic strategies.
Bassoon; calcium channel; exercise; laminin; motor neuron; synapse
In myasthenia gravis (MG) and experimental autoimmune MG (EAMG), many pathologically significant autoantibodies are directed to the main immunogenic region (MIR) of muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs), a conformation-dependent region at the extracellular tip of α1 subunits of AChRs. Human muscle AChR α1 MIR sequences were integrated into Aplesia ACh-binding protein (AChBP). The chimera potently induced EAMG. AChBP induced EAMG much less potently. AChBP is a water-soluble protein resembling the extracellular domain of AChRs, yet rats immunized with chimeras developed autoantibodies to both extracellular and cytoplasmic domains of muscle AChRs. We propose that an initial autoimmune response directed at the MIR leads to an autoimmune response sustained by muscle AChRs. Autoimmune stimulation sustained by endogenous muscle AChR may be a target for specific immunosuppression. These studies show that the α1 MIR is highly myasthenogenic, and that AChR-like proteins distantly related to muscle AChR can induce EAMG and, potentially, MG.
nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; AChR; MG; EAMG; antigenic structure
An appropriate density of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) and Na+ channels (NaChs) in the normal neuromuscular junction (NMJ) determines the magnitude of safety factor (SF) that guarantees fidelity of neuromuscular transmission. In myasthenia gravis (MG), an overall simplification of the postsynaptic folding secondary to NMJ destruction results in AChRs and NaChs depletion. Loss of AChRs and NaChs accounts respectively for 59% and 40% reduction of the SF at the endplate, which manifests as neuromuscular transmission failure. The extraocular muscles (EOM) have physiologically less developed postsynaptic folding, hence a lower baseline SF, which predisposes them to dysfunction in MG and development of fatigue during “high performance” eye movements, such as saccades. However, saccades in MG show stereotyped, conjugate initial components, similar to normal, which might reflect preserved neuromuscular transmission fidelity at the NMJ of the fast, pale global fibers, which have better developed postsynaptic folding than other extraocular fibers.
safety factor; extraocular muscles; saccades; neuromuscular junction
During the past 5 years an increasing number of patients were diagnosed with congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS) and a number of novel syndromes were recognized and investigated. This presentation focuses on the CMS caused by defects in choline acetyltransferase, novel fast-channel syndromes that hinder isomerization of the acetylcholine receptor from the closed to the open state, the consequences of deleterious mutations in the intermediate filament linker plectin, altered neuromuscular transmission in a centronuclear myopathy, and two recently identified CMS caused by congenital defects in glycosylation.
congenital myasthenic syndromes; acetylcholine receptor; fast-channel syndromes; choline acetyltransferase; plectin; centronuclear myopathy; GFPT1; DPAGT1
Biomarkers are defined as characteristics (proteins, RNA, single nucleotide polymorphisms, imaging) that are objectively measured and evaluated as an indicator of pathogenic processes or pharmacologic responses to a therapeutic intervention. Biomarkers are important in clinical trials where the robust biomarker reflects the underlying disease process in a sensitive and reliable manner. For myasthenia gravis (MG), acetylcholine receptor and muscle specific kinase antibodies, as well as single fiber electromyography, serve as excellent biomarkers for diagnosis but do not adequately substitute for clinical evaluations to predict treatment response. New technologies are emerging that enable broad biomarker discovery in biological fluids. Biomarker evaluation is ideally done in the context of longitudinal clinical trials. The MGTX trial has collected plasma and serum for RNA and protein analysis and thymus, which will allow robust biomarker discovery. The ultimate goal will be to identify candidates for a reliable substitute for a clinically meaningful endpoint that is a direct measure of the effectiveness of a therapy in the context of a continuum of disease natural history and a patient's overall well-being.
biomarkers; myasthenia gravis; surrogate endpoint; Prentice criteria
Prednisone is a frequently used treatment for myasthenia gravis (MG) but it has numerous side effects. Methotrexate is a selective inhibitor of dihydrofolate reductase and lymphocyte proliferation and is an effective immuosuppressive medication for autoimmune diseases. Given the negative results of the mycophenolate mofetil study, search for an effective immunosuppressant drug therapy is ongoing. The objective is to determine if oral methotrexate is safe and effective for MG patients who take prednisone. We have initiated a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter trial of methotrexate versus placebo in patients taking at least 10 mg/day of prednisone at enrollment. The methotrexate dose is increased to 20 mg and the prednisone dose is adjusted per protocol during the study. Clinical and laboratory evaluations are performed monthly for 12 months, with the primary efficacy measure being the nine-month prednisone area under the curve (AUC) from months 3 to 12. Secondary outcome measures include MG outcomes, quality of life measures, and a polyglutamation biomarker assay. A total of 18 U.S. sites and 2 Canadian sites are participating, with 48 screened cases, 42 enrolled, with 19 still active in the study.
methotrexate; myasthenia gravis; area under the curve; prednisone
Neocortex is an important part of the mammalian brain that is quite different from its homologue of the dorsal cortex in the reptilian brain. Whereas dorsal cortex is small, thin, and composed of a single layer of neurons, neocortex is thick and has six layers, while being variable across species in size, number of functional areas, and architectonic differentiation. Early mammals had little neocortex, with perhaps 20 areas of poor structural differentiation. Many extant mammals continue to have small brains with little neocortex, but they often have sensory specializations reflected in the organization of sensory areas in neocortex. In primates, neocortex is variously enlarged and characterized by structural and other specializations, including those of cortical networks devoted to vision and visuomotor processing.In humans, neocortex occupies 80% of the volume of the brain, where as many as 200 areas may exist.
primates; reptiles; dorsal cortex; visual cortex; marsupials; monotremes
On occasion, emerging scientific fields intersect and great discoveries result. In the last decade, the discovery of regulatory T cells (Treg) in immunity has revolutionized our understanding of how the immune system is controlled. Intersecting the rapidly emerging field of Treg function, has been the discovery that retinoic acid (RA) controls both the homing and differentiation of Treg. Instantly, the wealth and breadth of knowledge of the molecular basis for RA action, its receptors, and how it controls cellular differentiation can and will be exploited to understand its profound effects on Treg. Historically, vitamin A deprivation and repletion and RA agonists have been shown to profoundly affect immunity. Now these findings can be interpreted in light of the revelations that RA controls leukocyte homing and Treg function.
vitamin A; retinoic acid; immune system; tolerance
Ethanol is a modulator at the N-methyl-d-aspartate class of glutamate receptors in the brain. In animal studies the receptor adapts to sustained ethanol exposure through altered expression of the subunits that make up the receptor complex. We used real-time RT-PCR normalized to GAPDH to assay NR1, NR2A, and NR2B subunit mRNA in superior frontal and primary motor cortex tissue obtained at autopsy from chronic alcoholics with and without co-morbid cirrhosis of the liver, and from matched controls. The expression of all three subunits was significantly lower in both areas of cirrhotic alcoholics than in the corresponding areas in both controls and alcoholics without co-morbid disease, who did not differ significantly from each other. The decrease was area-dependent when cases were partitioned by the 5-HTTLPR allele. Thus, polymorphisms in one gene can have a significant effect on the expression of a second, unrelated, gene. The expression of the N-methyl-d-aspartate glutamate receptor complex is under multifactorial control.
5-HTTLPR; autopsy; glutamate; excitotoxicity; cerebral cortex; genotype–phenotype interactions
Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is classically activated by sympathetic nervous stimulation resulting from exposure to cold. Feeding a high-fat diet also induces development of brown fat, but is decreased by caloric restriction. Blood ketone bodies, which function as alternative energy substrates to glucose, are increased during caloric restriction. Here we discuss the unexpected observation that feeding an ester of ketone bodies to the mouse, which increases blood ketone body concentrations, results in an activation of brown fat. The mechanism of this activation of brown fat is similar to that occurring from cold exposure in that cyclic adenosine monophosphate (AMP) levels are increased as are levels of the transcription factor cyclic AMP–responsive element–binding protein, which is also increased by ketone ester feeding. Other effects of feeding ketone esters, in addition to their ability to induce brown fat, are discussed such as their ability to overcome certain aspects of insulin resistance and to ameliorate the accumulation of amyloid and phosphorylated tau protein in brain, and improve cognitive function, in a triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.
ketones; insulin resistance; mitochondria; Alzheimer’s disease
Synapses between dendrites are at the core of mechanisms for processing odor stimuli, as well as for processing in many other brain systems. A perspective on the development of our understanding of these mechanisms may therefore be of interest. Studies of the olfactory bulb leading to the discovery of dendrodendritic synapses began in 1959. They involved a multidisciplinary approach that included Golgi cell morphology, electrophysiology, a microcircuit wiring diagram, membrane biophysics, theory of field potentials, cable theory, dendritic electrotonus theory, computational models of mitral and granule cells, prediction by the models of dendrodendritic synaptic interactions, confirmation with electron microscopy using single sections and serial sections, and final integration in the reports of feedback and lateral inhibitory interactions in 1966 and 1968. Following the discovery of glomerular odor maps in the 1970s, the functional significance of the dendrodendritic inhibition in processing the maps has been increasingly documented. Recent experimental and computational studies are revealing how these synapses are organized into distributed systems for processing the odor maps. Future studies need to situate dendrodendritic mechanisms in these distributed systems and correlate them with the tight functional loops between olfactory bulb and olfactory cortex. Studies in awake behaving animals will be increasingly important. The relations of dendritic mechanisms to perception, memory, and the pathogenesis of disorders such as Alzheimer’s will be rich fields for study. Dendrites and their synapses should continue to provide ideal models for the study of basic mechanisms of cortical integration and the neural basis of smell.
dendrodendritic synapses; reciprocal synapses; mitral cells; granule cells; dendritic spines; active dendrites; cortical columns; lateral inhibition; olfactory discrimination; cortical microcircuits; computational modeling; multidisciplinary research
Pharmacological imaging provides great potential both for evaluating the efficacy of new candidate compounds in the treatment of gastrointestinal symptom-based disorders, and for furthering our understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of such disorders. By combining evaluation of symptoms, behavior, and brain responses to relevant stimuli, use of neuroimaging is able to move the study of brain-gut disorders away from more subjective outcomes and emphasize the underlying neural networks involved in symptom generation and treatment. This chapter reviews the state of the art in pharmacological imaging studies, both in human subjects and in animal models of brain gut interactions.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Brain-Gut axis; neuroimaging; functional gastrointestinal disorder
Protection of pancreatic β cells is an approach to prevent autoimmune type 1 diabetes (T1D) and to protect transplanted islets. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are important mediators of β cell death during the development of T1D. We have examined the role of elevated ROS dissipation in the prevention of T1D using the ALR mouse strain. The selection of ALR, for resistance against alloxan-induced free radical–mediated diabetes, led to a strain of mice with an elevated systemic as well as pancreatic ROS dissipation. Independent genetic mapping studies have identified ALR-derived diabetes protective loci. Conplastic and congenic mouse as well as cell line studies have confirmed the genetic mapping and demonstrated that the elevated ROS dissipation protects ALR β cells from autoimmune destruction. Our data support the hypothesis that elevated ROS dissipation protects β cells against autoimmune destruction and prevents T1D development.
type 1 diabetes; reactive oxygen species; mitochondria; mouse model; genetics
Rapid advances in our understanding of the immune network have led to treatment modalities for malignancies and autoimmune diseases based on modulation of the immune response. Yet therapeutic modulation has resulted in immune dysregulation and opportunistic autoimmune sequelae, despite prescreening efforts in clinical trials. This review focuses on recent clinical data on opportunistic autoimmune disorders arising from three immunotherapeutic modalities: (1) systemic immunomodulators, including interferon-α (also used to treat hepatitis C patients) and interferon-β; (2) monoclonal antibodies to CTLA-4 and CD52, and (3) hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Uncategorized predisposing factors in these patients include major histocompatibility complex and gender genetics, prevalence of different autoimmune diseases, prior chemotherapy, underlying disorder (e.g., hepatitis C), and preconditioning regimens as part of organ and stem cell transplants. Not unexpectedly, the prevalent autoimmune thyroid disease surfaced frequently. Our combination models to study the balance between thyroid autoimmunity and tumor immunity upon regulatory T-cell perturbation are briefly described.
opportunistic autoimmunity; immunotherapeutic sequelae; immunotherapy; autoimmunity; immune dysregulation
Acute cerebral ischemia elicits an innate immune response that leads to a cascade of events that culminates in necrotic death of neurons and injury to their supportive structures in the neurovascular unit. Indeed, clinical studies have shown a close relationship between elevated levels of inflammatory markers and the risk for ischemic stroke. However, the signaling pathways that link these events are not well understood. A central regulator of inflammatory response is the transcription factor, nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB). The activation of NF-κB is required for the transcriptional induction of many proinflammatory mediators involved in innate immunity, such as cellular adhesion molecules, cytokines, and growth factors. Therefore, factors that modulate the activity of NF-κB could potentially regulate inflammatory processes in ischemic stroke. Here, we review the relationship between NF-κB and ischemic stroke, its role in the neurovascular unit, and discuss some animal models that suggest that this relationship is causal.
NF-kappa B; stroke; innate immunity; inflammation; cerebral ischemia
The G4 motif, G≥3NxG≥3NxG≥3NxG≥3, is enriched in some genomic regions and depleted in others. This motif confers the ability to form an unusual four-stranded DNA structure, G4 DNA. G4 DNA is associated with genomic instability, which may explain depletion of G4 motifs from some genes and genomic regions. Conversely, G4 motifs are enriched downstream of transcription start sites, where they correlate with pausing. The uneven distribution of G4 motifs in the genome strongly suggests that mechanisms of selection act not only on one-dimensional genomic sequence, but also on structures formed by genomic DNA. The biological roles of G4 structures illustrate that, to understand genome function, it is important to consider the dynamic structural potential implicit in the G4 motif.
DNA; G-quadruplex; repeat; replication; transcription