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1.  Naringenin modulates skeletal muscle differentiation via estrogen receptor α and β signal pathway regulation 
Genes & Nutrition  2014;9(5):425.
Several experiments sustain healthful benefits of the flavanone naringenin (Nar) against chronic diseases including its protective effects against estrogen-related cancers. These experiments encourage Nar use in replacing estrogen treatment in post-menopausal women avoiding the serious side effects ascribed to this hormone. However, at the present, scarce data are available on the impact of Nar on E2-regulated cell functions. This study was aimed at determining the impact of Nar on the estrogen receptor (ERα and β)-dependent signals important for 17β-estradiol (E2) effect in muscle cells (rat L6 myoblasts, mouse C2C12 myoblasts, and mouse skeletal muscle satellite cells). Dietary relevant concentration of Nar delays the appearance of skeletal muscle differentiation markers (i.e., GLUT4 translocation, myogenin, and both fetal and slow MHC isoforms) and impairs E2 effects specifically hampering ERα ability to activate AKT. Intriguingly, Nar effects are specific for E2-initiating signals because IGF-I-induced AKT activation, and myoblast differentiation markers were not affected by Nar treatment. Only 7 days after Nar stimulation, early myoblast differentiation markers (i.e., myogenin, and fetal MHC) start to be accumulated in myoblasts. On the other hand, Nar stimulation activates, via ERβ, the phosphorylation of p38/MAPK involved in reducing the reactive oxygen species formation in skeletal muscle cells. As a whole, data reported here strongly sustain that although Nar action mechanisms include the impairment of ERα signals which drive muscle cells to differentiation, the effects triggered by Nar in the presence of ERβ could balance this negative effect avoiding the toxic effects produced by oxidative stress .
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12263-014-0425-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4172642  PMID: 25156241
Estrogen; Estrogen receptors; Naringenin; Signal transduction; Skeletal muscle differentiation
2.  Frequency of Piroplasms Babesia microti and Cytauxzoon felis in Stray Cats from Northern Italy 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:943754.
Emerging diseases caused by piroplasms pose a health risk for man and other animals, and domestic cats have been proposed as potential reservoirs for some piroplasm infections. The aim of this study was to identify the frequency of the piroplasms Babesia microti and Cytauxzoon felis in stray cats from northern Italy and to identify possible risk factors associated with these infections. Blood samples from 260 stray cats enrolled in a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program in northern Italy were examined with conventional PCR for the presence of Babesia microti and Cytauxzoon felis DNA. No sample (0.0%) tested positive for C. felis, whilst B. microti DNA was detected in two samples (0.8%). Both infected cats were in good clinical condition and recovered well from the neutering surgery. One of these two cats had a triple coinfection with Babesia microti, Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Evidence presented in this study indicates that the blood borne protozoans Babesia microti and Cytauxzoon felis are not widely distributed in stray cat populations in Milan, northern Italy, and that the significance of cats as a reservoir host for B. microti in this area is limited.
PMCID: PMC4026954  PMID: 24895629
3.  Prevalence of Haemoplasma Infections in Stray Cats in Northern Italy 
ISRN Microbiology  2014;2014:298352.
This study investigated the prevalence of feline haemoplasma infections in a number of stray cat colonies in Milan, Northern Italy. Blood samples from 260 stray cats were evaluated, with conventional PCR, for the presence of DNA associated with Mycoplasma haemofelis (Mhf) and “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” (CMhm). Odd ratios (OR) were calculated to identify risk factors for haemoplasma infections. PCR was positive in 86 out of 260 subjects (33.1%), with a prevalence of 10.8% (28/260 cats) for Mhf and 22.3% (58/260 cats) for CMhm. No coinfections were registered. There were significant associations between infections and season of sampling, that is, a negative association between winter sampling and a haemoplasma positive status (OR = 0.29, P = 0.001), or CMhm positive status (OR = 0.29, P = 0.01). Haemoplasma infections are common in stray cats in Milan. Thus, domestic cats with outdoor access should be routinely monitored and treated for ectoparasites to minimize risks of disease acquisition. Moreover, as these infections are transmitted via blood, feline blood donors from this area should be screened by PCR and preferably be drawn from a population of indoor cats regularly treated for fleas.
PMCID: PMC3953429  PMID: 24707436
4.  Tuberculosis Epidemiology in Islands: Insularity, Hosts and Trade 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e71074.
Because of their relative simplicity and the barriers to gene flow, islands are ideal systems to study the distribution of biodiversity. However, the knowledge that can be extracted from this peculiar ecosystem regarding epidemiology of economically relevant diseases has not been widely addressed. We used information available in the scientific literature for 10 old world islands or archipelagos and original data on Sicily to gain new insights into the epidemiology of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC). We explored three nonexclusive working hypotheses on the processes modulating bovine tuberculosis (bTB) herd prevalence in cattle and MTC strain diversity: insularity, hosts and trade. Results suggest that bTB herd prevalence was positively correlated with island size, the presence of wild hosts, and the number of imported cattle, but neither with isolation nor with cattle density. MTC strain diversity was positively related with cattle bTB prevalence, presence of wild hosts and the number of imported cattle, but not with island size, isolation, and cattle density. The three most common spoligotype patterns coincided between Sicily and mainland Italy. However in Sicily, these common patterns showed a clearer dominance than on the Italian mainland, and seven of 19 patterns (37%) found in Sicily had not been reported from continental Italy. Strain patterns were not spatially clustered in Sicily. We were able to infer several aspects of MTC epidemiology and control in islands and thus in fragmented host and pathogen populations. Our results point out the relevance of the intensity of the cattle commercial networks in the epidemiology of MTC, and suggest that eradication will prove more difficult with increasing size of the island and its environmental complexity, mainly in terms of the diversity of suitable domestic and wild MTC hosts.
PMCID: PMC3726611  PMID: 23923053
5.  Notch signaling in lung cancer 
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the Western world. Lungs can be affected by a number of histologically diverse malignancies. Nonetheless, the vast majority of lung cancers are classified as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Despite extensive research on different therapeutic regimens, the overall 5-year survival of patients diagnosed with NSCLC (all stages) is a dismal 15%. Although strongly correlated with tobacco smoke, there is an increasing NSCLC morbidity in individuals who have never smoked. The pattern of genetic lesions found in NSCLC derived from smokers and never-smokers appears to be different. This fact led to the hypothesis that different, still unidentified carcinogens are responsible for lung cancer onset in never-smokers. All the above considerations compel the scientific community to find novel therapeutic targets to fight such a deadly disease.
In recent years critical pathways governing embryonic development have been increasingly linked to cancer. Here we will focus on the role of Notch signaling in lung cancer. Notch receptors’ activity can be blocked following different strategies, thus representing a promising alternative/complement to the arsenal of therapeutic strategies currently used to treat lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3380361  PMID: 21504320
lung cancer; cancer progenitor cells; Notch signaling; hypoxia; cancer stem cells; Notch signaling inhibition
6.  Multimodality Approaches to Treat Hypoxic Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) Microenvironment 
Genes & Cancer  2012;3(2):141-151.
We found both in vitro and in vivo that survival of NSCLC cells in a hypoxic microenvironment requires Notch-1 signaling. A hypoxic tumor environment represents a problem for NSCLC treatment because it plays a critical role in cancer resistance to chemotherapy, tumor recurrence, and metastasis. Here we targeted hypoxic tumor tissue in an orthotopic NSCLC model. We inhibited the Notch-1/IGF-1R/Akt-1 axis using 3 agents: a γ-secretase inhibitor or GSI (MRK-003), a fully humanized antibody against the human IGF-1R (MK-0646), and a pan-Akt inhibitor (MK-2206), alone or in various combinations including therapeutics currently in clinical use. All treatments but Akt inhibition significantly prolonged the median survival of mice compared with controls. GSI treatment caused specific cell death of hypoxic tumors. Tumors excised from mice displayed a significant reduction of markers of hypoxia. Moreover, GSI treatment caused reduced metastasis to the liver and brain. MK-0646 was not specific to a hypoxic tumor environment but substantially increased the median survival of treated mice compared with controls. NSCLC cells evaded MK-0646 treatment by specifically overactivating EGF-R both in vivo and in 5 cell lines in vitro. This phenomenon is achieved at the level of protein stability. MK-0646 treatment caused increased erlotinib sensitivity in NSCLC cells poorly responsive to it. Sequential treatment with MK-0646 followed by erlotinib prolonged median survival of mice significantly. When the 2 drugs were administered simultaneously, no survival benefit was observed, and this combination therapy proved less effective than MK-0646 used as single agent. Our data offer novel information that may provide insights for the planning of clinical trials in humans, likely for maintenance therapy of NSCLC patients.
PMCID: PMC3463922  PMID: 23050046
notch signaling; insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor signaling; tumor hypoxia
7.  Estrogen Signaling Multiple Pathways to Impact Gene Transcription 
Current Genomics  2006;7(8):497-508.
Steroid hormones exert profound effects on cell growth, development, differentiation, and homeostasis. Their effects are mediated through specific intracellular steroid receptors that act via multiple mechanisms. Among others, the action mechanism starting upon 17β-estradiol (E2) binds to its receptors (ER) is considered a paradigmatic example of how steroid hormones function. Ligand-activated ER dimerizes and translocates in the nucleus where it recognizes specific hormone response elements located in or near promoter DNA regions of target genes. Behind the classical genomic mechanism shared with other steroid hormones, E2 also modulates gene expression by a second indirect mechanism that involves the interaction of ER with other transcription factors which, in turn, bind their cognate DNA elements. In this case, ER modulates the activities of transcription factors such as the activator protein (AP)-1, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) and stimulating protein-1 (Sp-1), by stabilizing DNA-protein complexes and/or recruiting co-activators. In addition, E2 binding to ER may also exert rapid actions that start with the activation of a variety of signal transduction pathways (e.g. ERK/MAPK, p38/MAPK, PI3K/AKT, PLC/PKC). The debate about the contribution of different ER-mediated signaling pathways to coordinate the expression of specific sets of genes is still open. This review will focus on the recent knowledge about the mechanism by which ERs regulate the expression of target genes and the emerging field of integration of membrane and nuclear receptor signaling, giving examples of the ways by which the genomic and non-genomic actions of ERs on target genes converge.
PMCID: PMC2269003  PMID: 18369406
Estrogen; estrogen receptors; genomic and non-genomic action mechanism; gene transcription
8.  Nutritional flavonoids impact on nuclear and extranuclear estrogen receptor activities 
Genes & Nutrition  2006;1(3-4):161-176.
Flavonoids are a large group of nonnutrient compounds naturally produced from plants as part of their defence mechanisms against stresses of different origins. They emerged from being considered an agricultural oddity only after it was observed that these compounds possess a potential protective function against several human degenerative diseases. This has led to recommending the consumption of food containing high concentrations of flavonoids, which at present, especially as soy isoflavones, are even available as overthecounter nutraceuticals. The increased use of flavonoids has occurred even though their mechanisms are not completely understood, in particular those involving the flavonoid impact on estrogen signals. In fact, most of the human health protective effects of flavonoids are described either as estrogenmimetic, or as antiestrogenic, while others do not involve estrogen signaling at all. Thus, the same molecule is reported as an endocrine disruptor, an estrogen mimetic or as an antioxidant without estrogenic effects. This is due in part to the complexity of the estrogen mechanism, which is conducted by different pathways and involves two different receptor isoforms. These pathways can be modulated by flavonoids and should be considered for a reliable evaluation of flavonoid, both estrogenicity and antiestrogenicity, and for a correct prediction of their effects on human health.
PMCID: PMC3454832  PMID: 18850212
17β-Estradiol; Estrogen Receptor-α; Estrogen Receptor-β; Flavonoids; Gene Transcription; Signal Transduction Cascade

Results 1-8 (8)