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author:("leaf, Edward")
Kidney international  2013;85(2):289-306.
Venous neointimal hyperplasia (VNH) causes hemodialysis vascular access failure. Here we tested whether VNH formation occurs in part due to local vessel hypoxia caused by surgical trauma to the vasa vasorum of the outflow vein at the time of arteriovenous fistula placement. Selective targeting of the adventitia of the outflow vein at the time of fistula creation was performed using a lentivirus-delivered small hairpin RNA that inhibits VEGF-A expression. This resulted in significant increase in mean lumen vessel area, decreased media/adventitia area, and decreased constrictive remodeling with a significant increase in apoptosis (increase in caspase 3 activity and TUNEL staining) accompanied with decreased cellular proliferation and hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha at the outflow vein. There was significant decrease in cells staining positive for α-smooth muscle actin (a myofibroblast marker) and VEGFR-1 expression with a decrease in MMP-2 and MMP-9. These results were confirmed in animals that were treated with humanized monoclonal antibody to VEGF-A with similar results. Since hypoxia can cause fibroblast to differentiate into myofibroblasts, we silenced VEGF-A gene expression in fibroblasts and subjected them to hypoxia. This decreased myofibroblast production, cellular proliferation, cell invasion, MMP-2 activity, and increased caspase 3. Thus, VEGF-A reduction at the time of arteriovenous fistula placement results in increased positive vascular remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3844094  PMID: 23924957
2.  Smad-independent transforming growth factor-ß signaling in fibroblasts via c-Abl and Egr-1: selective modulation by imatinib mesylate 
Oncogene  2009;28(10):1285-1297.
The non-receptor protein tyrosine kinase c-Abl regulates cell proliferation and survival. Recent studies provide evidence that implicate c-Abl as a mediator for fibrotic responses induced by Transforming growth factor-ß (TGF-ß), but the precise mechanisms underlying this novel oncogene function are unknown. Here we report that when expressed in normal fibroblasts, a constitutively active mutant of Abl mutant that causes chronic myelogenous leukemia stimulated the expression and transcriptional activity of the early growth response factor Egr-1. Mouse embryonic fibroblasts lacking c-Abl were resistant to TGF-ß. Sensitivity of these cells to TGF-ß could be rescued by wildtype c-Abl, but not by a kinase-deficient mutant form of c-Abl. Furthermore, Abl kinase activity was necessary for the induction of Egr-1 by TGF-ß in normal fibroblasts, and Egr-1 was required for stimulation of collagen by Bcr-Abl. Lesional skin fibroblasts in mice with bleomycin-induced scleroderma displayed evidence of c-Abl activation in situ, and elevated phospho-c-Abl correlated with increased local expression of Egr-1. Collectively, these results position Egr-1 downstream of c-Abl in the fibrotic response, delineate a novel Egr-1-dependent intracellular signaling mechanism that underlies the involvement of c-Abl in TGF-ß responses, and identify Egr-1 as a target of inhibition by imatinib. Furthermore, the findings demonstrate in situ activation of c-Abl paralleling the up-regulation tissue expression of Egr-1 in fibrosis. Pharmacological targeting of c-Abl and its downstream effector pathways may therefore represent a novel therapeutic approach to blocking TGF-ß-dependent fibrotic processes.
PMCID: PMC4006376  PMID: 19151753
c-Abl; imatinib mesylate; TGF-ß; Egr-1; fibrosis; fibroblast; Type I collagen
3.  TGFβ versatility 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2009;8(12):1813-1814.
PMCID: PMC3886361  PMID: 19471120
TGF; signaling; Smad; non-Smad; PI3K; epithelia; EMT; fibroblasts
4.  Imatinib Mesylate Causes Genome-wide Transcriptional Changes in Systemic Sclerosis Fibroblasts in vitro 
Clinical and experimental rheumatology  2012;30(2 0 71):S86-S96.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a heterogeneous multifactorial disease dominated by progressive skin and internal organ fibrosis that is driven in part by Transforming Growth Factor-beta (TGF-β). An important downstream target of TGF-β is the Abelson (c-Abl) tyrosine kinase, and its inhibition by imatinib mesylate (Gleevec)attenuates fibrosis in mice. Here we examined the effect of c-Abl activation and blockade in explanted healthy control and SSc fibroblasts.
Skin biopsies and explanted fibroblasts from healthy subjects and patients with SSc were studied. Changes in genome-wide expression patterns in imatinib-treated control and SSc fibroblasts were analyzed by DNA microarray.
Treatment of control fibroblasts with TGF-β resulted in activation of c-Abl and stimulation of fibrotic gene expression that was prevented by imatinib. Moreover, imatinib reduced basal collagen gene expression in SSc but not control fibroblasts. No significant differences in tissue levels of c-Abl and phospho-c-Abl were detected between SSc and control skin biopsies. In vitroimatinib induced dramatic changes in the expression of genes involved in fibrosis, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and lipid and cholesterol metabolism. Remarkably, of the 587-imatinib-responsive genes, 91% showed significant change in SSc fibroblasts, but only 12% in control fibroblasts.
c-Abl plays a key role in fibrotic responses. Imatinib treatment results in dramatic changes in gene expression in SSc fibroblasts but has only modest effects in control fibroblasts. These data provide novel insights into the mechanisms underlying the antifibrotic effect of imatinib in SSc.
PMCID: PMC3860597  PMID: 22691216
5.  Retromer maintains basolateral distribution of the type II TGF-β receptor via the recycling endosome 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(14):2285-2298.
After basolateral (BL) cell surface delivery, retromer promotes type II TGF-β receptor exit and recycling to the BL plasma membrane. In the absence of retromer, however, type II receptors aberrantly sort and are mislocalized such that both BL and apical expression is observed independent of the Rab11-positive apical recycling endosome.
Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) is critical for the development and maintenance of epithelial structures. Because receptor localization and trafficking affect the cellular and organismal response to TGF-β, the present study was designed to address how such homeostatic control is regulated. To that end, we identify a new role for the mammalian retromer complex in maintaining basolateral plasma membrane expression of the type II TGF-β receptor (TβRII). Retromer and TβRII associate in the presence or absence of TGF-β ligand. After retromer knockdown, although TβRII internalization and trafficking to a Rab5-positive compartment occur as in wild-type cells, receptor recycling is inhibited. This results in TβRII mislocalization from the basolateral to both the basolateral and apical plasma membranes independent of Golgi transit and the Rab11-positive apical recycling endosome. The data support a model in which, after initial basolateral TβRII delivery, steady-state polarized TβRII expression is maintained by retromer/TβRII binding and delivery to the common recycling endosome.
PMCID: PMC3708733  PMID: 23720763
6.  IQGAP1 suppresses TβRII-mediated myofibroblastic activation and metastatic growth in liver 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(3):1138-1156.
In the tumor microenvironment, TGF-β induces transdifferentiation of quiescent pericytes and related stromal cells into myofibroblasts that promote tumor growth and metastasis. The mechanisms governing myofibroblastic activation remain poorly understood, and its role in the tumor microenvironment has not been explored. Here, we demonstrate that IQ motif containing GTPase activating protein 1 (IQGAP1) binds to TGF-β receptor II (TβRII) and suppresses TβRII-mediated signaling in pericytes to prevent myofibroblastic differentiation in the tumor microenvironment. We found that TGF-β1 recruited IQGAP1 to TβRII in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), the resident liver pericytes. Iqgap1 knockdown inhibited the targeting of the E3 ubiquitin ligase SMAD ubiquitination regulatory factor 1 (SMURF1) to the plasma membrane and TβRII ubiquitination and degradation. Thus, Iqgap1 knockdown stabilized TβRII and potentiated TGF-β1 transdifferentiation of pericytes into myofibroblasts in vitro. Iqgap1 deficiency in HSCs promoted myofibroblast activation, tumor implantation, and metastatic growth in mice via upregulation of paracrine signaling molecules. Additionally, we found that IQGAP1 expression was downregulated in myofibroblasts associated with human colorectal liver metastases. Taken together, our studies demonstrate that IQGAP1 in the tumor microenvironment suppresses TβRII and TGF-β dependent myofibroblastic differentiation to constrain tumor growth.
PMCID: PMC3582119  PMID: 23454766
7.  An association between type Iγ PI4P 5-kinase and Exo70 directs E-cadherin clustering and epithelial polarization 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(1):87-98.
Type Iγ phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate 5-kinase and Exo70 cooperate in the directed targeting of E-cadherin on the plasma membrane to newly formed adherens junctions. This promotes the regional accumulation of E-cadherin, expansion and maturation of adherens junctions, and differentiation of the lateral membrane domain.
E-Cadherin–mediated formation of adherens junctions (AJs) is essential for the morphogenesis of epithelial cells. However, the mechanisms underlying E-cadherin clustering and AJ maturation are not fully understood. Here we report that type Iγ phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate 5-kinase (PIPKIγ) associates with the exocyst via a direct interaction with Exo70, the exocyst subunit that guides the polarized targeting of exocyst to the plasma membrane. By means of this interaction, PIPKIγ mediates the association between E-cadherin and Exo70 and determines the targeting of Exo70 to AJs. Further investigation revealed that Exo70 is necessary for clustering of E-cadherin on the plasma membrane and extension of nascent E-cadherin adhesions, which are critical for the maturation of cohesive AJs. In addition, we observed phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PI4,5P2) accumulation at E-cadherin clusters during the assembly of E-cadherin adhesions. PIPKIγ-generated PI4,5P2 is required for recruiting Exo70 to newly formed E-cadherin junctions and facilitates the assembly and maturation of AJs. These results support a model in which PIPKIγ and PIPKIγ-generated PI4,5P2 pools at nascent E-cadherin contacts cue Exo70 targeting and orient the tethering of exocyst-associated E-cadherin. This could be an important mechanism that regulates E-cadherin clustering and AJ maturation, which is essential for the establishment of solid, polarized epithelial structures.
PMCID: PMC3248907  PMID: 22049025
8.  ERBB Receptor Activation Is Required for Profibrotic Responses to Transforming Growth Factor β 
Cancer research  2010;70(19):7421-7430.
Engagement of the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) receptor complex activates multiple signaling pathways that play crucial roles in both health and disease. TGF-β is a key regulator of fibrogenesis and cancer-associated desmoplasia; however, its exact mode of action in these pathologic processes has remained poorly defined. Here, we report a novel mechanism whereby signaling via members of the ERBB or epidermal growth factor family of receptors serves as a central requirement for the biological responses of fibroblasts to TGF-β. We show that TGF-β triggers upregulation of ERBB ligands and activation of cognate receptors via the canonical SMAD pathway in fibroblasts. Interestingly, activation of ERBB is commonly observed in a subset of fibroblast but not epithelial cells from different species, indicating cell type specificity. Moreover, using genetic and pharmacologic approaches, we show that ERBB activation by TGF-β is essential for the induction of fibroblast cell morphologic transformation and anchorage-independent growth. Together, these results uncover important aspects of TGF-β signaling that highlight the role of ERBB ligands/receptors as critical mediators in fibroblast responses to this pleiotropic cytokine.
PMCID: PMC3093933  PMID: 20841477
9.  Hypoxia induces a phenotypic switch of fibroblasts to myofibroblasts through a MMP-2/TIMP mediated pathway: Implications for venous neointimal hyperplasia in hemodialysis access 
Hemodialysis grafts fail because of venous neointimal hyperplasia formation caused by adventitial fibroblasts which have become myofibroblasts (α-smooth muscle actin positive cells) and migrate to the neointima. There is increased expression of hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α in venous neointimal hyperplasia formation in experimental animal model and clinical samples. We hypothesized that under hypoxic stimulus (HIF-1α fibroblasts will convert to myofibroblasts through a matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) mediated pathway.
Materials and methods
Murine AKR-2B fibroblasts were made hypoxic or normoxic for 24, 48, and 72 hours. Protein expression for HIF-1α, α-smooth muscle actin, MMP-2, MMP-9, TIMP-1, and TIMP-2 was performed to determine the kinetic changes of these proteins. Immunostaining for α-smooth muscle actin, collagen, and fibronectin was performed.
At all time points, there was significantly increased expression of HIF-1α in the hypoxic fibroblasts when compared to normoxic fibroblasts (P<0.05). There was significantly increased expression α-smooth muscle actin at all time points which peaked by 48 hours in hypoxic fibroblasts when compared to normoxic fibroblasts (P<0.05). There was a significant increase in the expression of active MMP-2 by 48-72 hours and a significant increase in tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) by 48-72 hours by hypoxic fibroblasts (P<0.05). By 72 hours, there was significant increase in TIMP-2 expression (P<0.05). Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated increased expression for α-smooth muscle actin, collagen, and fibronectin as the length of hypoxia increased.
Under hypoxia, fibroblasts will convert to myofibroblasts through a MMP-2 mediated pathway which may provide insight into the mechanism of venous neointimal hyperplasia.
PMCID: PMC2920497  PMID: 20434368
10.  Type II Transforming Growth Factor-β Receptor Recycling Is Dependent upon the Clathrin Adaptor Protein Dab2 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(22):4009-4019.
Transforming growth factor-β receptor recycling is regulated by the clathrin adaptor Dab2 protein. In the absence of Dab2, receptors localize in a perinuclear locale because they are unable to transit from the early endosomal antigen 1-positive early endosome to the Rab11-positive endosomal recycling compartment.
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β family proteins form heteromeric complexes with transmembrane serine/threonine kinases referred to as type I and type II receptors. Ligand binding initiates a signaling cascade that generates a variety of cell type-specific phenotypes. Whereas numerous studies have investigated the regulatory activities controlling TGF-β signaling, there is relatively little information addressing the endocytic and trafficking itinerary of TGF-β receptor subunits. In the current study we have investigated the role of the clathrin-associated sorting protein Disabled-2 (Dab2) in TGF-β receptor endocytosis. Although small interfering RNA-mediated Dab2 knockdown had no affect on the internalization of various clathrin-dependent (i.e., TGF-β, low-density lipoprotein, or transferrin) or -independent (i.e., LacCer) cargo, TGF-β receptor recycling was abrogated. Loss of Dab2 resulted in enlarged early endosomal antigen 1-positive endosomes, reflecting the inability of cargo to traffic from the early endosome to the endosomal recycling compartment and, as documented previously, diminished Smad2 phosphorylation. The results support a model whereby Dab2 acts as a multifunctional adaptor in mesenchymal cells required for TGF-β receptor recycling as well as Smad2 phosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC2982134  PMID: 20881059
11.  Neuropilin-1 promotes cirrhosis of the rodent and human liver by enhancing PDGF/TGF-β signaling in hepatic stellate cells 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(7):2379-2394.
PDGF-dependent hepatic stellate cell (HSC) recruitment is an essential step in liver fibrosis and the sinusoidal vascular changes that accompany this process. However, the mechanisms that regulate PDGF signaling remain incompletely defined. Here, we found that in two rat models of liver fibrosis, the axonal guidance molecule neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) was upregulated in activated HSCs, which exhibit the highly motile myofibroblast phenotype. Additionally, NRP-1 colocalized with PDGF-receptor β (PDGFRβ) in HSCs both in the injury models and in human and rat HSC cell lines. In human HSCs, siRNA-mediated knockdown of NRP-1 attenuated PDGF-induced chemotaxis, while NRP-1 overexpression increased cell motility and TGF-β–dependent collagen production. Similarly, mouse HSCs genetically modified to lack NRP-1 displayed reduced motility in response to PDGF treatment. Immunoprecipitation and biochemical binding studies revealed that NRP-1 increased PDGF binding affinity for PDGFRβ-expressing cells and promoted downstream signaling. An NRP-1 neutralizing Ab ameliorated recruitment of HSCs, blocked liver fibrosis in a rat model of liver injury, and also attenuated VEGF responses in cultured liver endothelial cells. In addition, NRP-1 overexpression was observed in human specimens of liver cirrhosis caused by both hepatitis C and steatohepatitis. These studies reveal a role for NRP-1 as a modulator of multiple growth factor targets that regulate liver fibrosis and the vascular changes that accompany it and may have broad implications for liver cirrhosis and myofibroblast biology in a variety of other organ systems and disease conditions.
PMCID: PMC2898590  PMID: 20577048
12.  Erbin and the NF2 Tumor Suppressor Merlin Cooperatively Regulate Cell Type-specific Activation of PAK2 by TGF-β 
Developmental cell  2009;16(3):433-444.
Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) family ligands are pleotropic proteins with diverse cell type-specific effects on growth and differentiation. For example, PAK2 activation is critical for the proliferative/pro-fibrotic action of TGF-β on mesenchymal cells, and yet is not responsive to TGF-β in epithelial cells. We therefore investigated the regulatory constraints that prevent inappropriate PAK2 activation in epithelial cultures. The results show that the epithelial-enriched protein Erbin controls the function of the NF2 tumor suppressor Merlin by determining the output of Merlin's physical interactions with active PAK2. While mesenchymal TGF-β signaling induces PAK2-mediated inhibition of Merlin function in the absence of Erbin, Erbin/Merlin complexes bind and inactivate GTPase-bound PAK2 in epithelia. These results not only identify Erbin as a key determinant of epithelial resistance to TGF-β signaling, but also show that Erbin controls Merlin tumor suppressor function by switching the functional valence of PAK2 binding.
PMCID: PMC2792748  PMID: 19289088
13.  Distinct Roles for Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Complexes in the Fibroblast Response to Transforming Growth Factor-beta 
Cancer research  2009;69(1):84-93.
Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) promotes a multitude of diverse biological processes including growth arrest of epithelial cells and proliferation of fibroblasts. While the TGF-β signaling pathways that promote inhibition of epithelial cell growth are well characterized, less is known regarding the mechanisms mediating the positive response to this growth factor. Given that TGF-β has been demonstrated to promote fibrotic diseases and desmoplasia, identifying the fibroblast-specific TGF-β signaling pathways is critical. Here we investigate the role of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a known effector of PI3K and promoter of cell growth, in the fibroblast response to TGF-β. We show that TGF-β activates mTORC1 in fibroblasts but not epithelial cells via a PI3K-Akt-TSC2 dependent pathway. Rapamycin, the pharmacological inhibitor of mTOR, prevents TGF-β mediated anchorage-independent growth without affecting TGF-β transcriptional responses or extracellular matrix protein induction. In addition to mTORC1, we also examined the role of mTORC2 in TGF-β action. mTORC2 promotes TGF-β induced morphological transformation and is required for TGF-β induced Akt S473 phosphorylation, but not mTORC1 activation. Interestingly, both mTOR complexes are necessary for TGF-β mediated growth in soft agar. These results define distinct and over-lapping roles for mTORC1 and mTORC2 in the fibroblast response to TGF-β and suggest that inhibitors of mTOR signaling may be useful in treating fibrotic processes such as desmoplasia.
PMCID: PMC2656374  PMID: 19117990
TGF-β; mTOR; signaling; fibrosis; desmoplasia
14.  PDGF signaling through ephrin-B2 regulates hepatic vascular structure and function 
Gastroenterology  2008;135(2):671-679.
Background & Aims
Cirrhosis is associated with prominent changes in sinusoidal structure and function. While the resident pericyte in liver, the hepatic stellate cell (HSC), is well characterized in the process of fibrogenesis, signaling pathways that regulate HSC vascular function are less developed. Since pericyte populations outside the liver are increasingly being recognized as a key cell-type for angiogenesis and changes in vascular structure, in this study, we explore new HSC signaling pathways that regulate sinusoidal structure and function.
Real-time video microscopy and quantitative software analysis of vascular tube formation were used to measure HSC angiogenesis in vitro. Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and ephrin signaling pathways were modulated using molecular and pharmacologic techniques. Complementary whole animal studies were performed to correlate in vitro findings with pericyte functions in vivo.
We show that PDGF promotes a phenotype of HSC evidenced by enhanced HSC driven vascular tube formation in vitro, and enhanced HSC coverage of sinusoids in vivo. This angiogenic phenotype modulates specific pericyte vascular functions including permeability and pressure regulation. Furthermore, we identify a key role for ephrin-B2 as a downstream effector of PDGF signaling.
These studies elucidate novel HSC signaling pathways that regulate microvascular structure and function in liver.
PMCID: PMC2639748  PMID: 18570897
Vascular remodeling; angiogenesis; portal hypertension; ephrin; platelet-derived growth factor
15.  A Unique Element in the Cytoplasmic Tail of the Type II Transforming Growth Factor-β Receptor Controls Basolateral Delivery 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(10):3788-3799.
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β receptors stimulate diverse signaling processes that control a wide range of biological responses. In polarized epithelia, the TGFβ type II receptor (T2R) is localized at the basolateral membranes. Sequential cytoplasmic truncations resulted in receptor missorting to apical surfaces, and they indicated an essential targeting element(s) near the receptor's C terminus. Point mutations in the full-length receptor confirmed this prediction, and a unique basolateral-targeting region was elucidated between residues 529 and 538 (LTAxxVAxxR) that was distinct, but colocalized within a clinically significant signaling domain essential for TGFβ-dependent activation of the Smad2/3 cascade. Transfer of a terminal 84 amino-acid fragment, containing the LTAxxVAxxR element, to the apically sorted influenza hemagglutinin (HA) protein was dominant and directed basolateral HA expression. Although delivery to the basolateral surfaces was direct and independent of any detectable transient apical localization, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching demonstrated similar mobility for the wild-type receptor and a missorted mutant lacking the targeting motif. This latter finding excludes the possibility that the domain acts as a cell membrane retention signal, and it supports the hypothesis that T2R sorting occurs from an intracellular compartment.
PMCID: PMC1995729  PMID: 17634290
16.  Phosphorylation of the Cyclic AMP Response Element Binding Protein Mediates Transforming Growth Factor β-Induced Downregulation of Cyclin A in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(9):3489-3498.
Transforming growth factor β (TGFβ), a multifunctional cytokine associated with vascular injury, is a potent inhibitor of cell proliferation. The current results demonstrate that the TGFβ-induced growth arrest of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) is associated with cyclin A downregulation. TGFβ represses the cyclin A gene through a cyclic AMP (cAMP) response element, which complexes with the cAMP response element binding protein (CREB). The CREB-cyclin A promoter interaction is hindered by TGFβ, preceded by a TGFβ receptor-dependent CREB phosphorylation. Induction of CREB phosphorylation with forskolin or 6bnz-cAMP mimics TGFβ's inhibitory effect on cyclin A expression. Conversely, inhibition of CREB phosphorylation with a CREB mutant in which the phosphorylation site at serine 133 was changed to alanine (CREB-S133A) upregulated cyclin A gene expression. Furthermore, the CREB-S133A mutant abolished TGFβ-induced CREB phosphorylation, cyclin A downregulation, and growth inhibition. Since we have previously shown that the novel PKC isoform protein kinase C delta (PKCδ) is activated by TGFβ in VSMCs, we tested the role of this kinase in CREB phosphorylation and cyclin A downregulation. Inhibition of PKCδ by a dominant-negative mutant or by targeted gene deletion blocked TGFβ-induced CREB phosphorylation and cyclin A downregulation. Taken together, our data indicate that phosphorylation of CREB stimulated by TGFβ is a critical step leading to the inhibition of cyclin A expression and, thus, VSMC proliferation.
PMCID: PMC1899963  PMID: 17325033
17.  Ligand-dependent and -independent Transforming Growth Factor-β Receptor Recycling Regulated by Clathrin-mediated Endocytosis and Rab11 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2004;15(9):4166-4178.
Proteins in the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) family recognize transmembrane serine/threonine kinases known as type I and type II receptors. Binding of TGF-β to receptors results in receptor down-regulation and signaling. Whereas previous work has focused on activities controlling TGF-β signaling, more recent studies have begun to address the trafficking properties of TGF-β receptors. In this report, it is shown that receptors undergo recycling both in the presence and absence of ligand activation, with the rates of internalization and recycling being unaffected by ligand binding. Recycling occurs as receptors are most likely internalized through clathrin-coated pits, and then returned to the plasma membrane via a rab11-dependent, rab4-independent mechanism. Together, the results suggest a mechanism wherein activated TGF-β receptors are directed to a distinct endocytic pathway for down-regulation and clathrin-dependent degradation after one or more rounds of recycling.
PMCID: PMC515349  PMID: 15229286
18.  Imatinib mesylate inhibits the profibrogenic activity of TGF-β and prevents bleomycin-mediated lung fibrosis 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2004;114(9):1308-1316.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive and fatal fibrotic disease of the lungs with unclear etiology. Prior efforts to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis that focused on anti-inflammatory therapy have not proven to be effective. Recent insight suggests that the pathogenesis is mediated through foci of dysregulated fibroblasts driven by profibrotic cytokine signaling. TGF-β and PDGF are 2 of the most potent of these cytokines. In the current study, we investigated the role of TGF-β–induced fibrosis mediated by activation of the Abelson (Abl) tyrosine kinase. Our data indicate that fibroblasts respond to TGF-β by stimulating c-Abl kinase activity independently of Smad2/3 phosphorylation or PDGFR activation. Moreover, inhibition of c-Abl by imatinib prevented TGF-β–induced ECM gene expression, morphologic transformation, and cell proliferation independently of any effect on Smad signaling. Further, using a mouse model of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis, we found a significant inhibition of lung fibrosis by imatinib. Thus, Abl family members represent common targets for the modulation of profibrotic cytokine signaling.
PMCID: PMC524221  PMID: 15520863
19.  Cell-Type-Specific Activation of PAK2 by Transforming Growth Factor β Independent of Smad2 and Smad3 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(23):8878-8889.
Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) causes growth arrest in epithelial cells and proliferation and morphological transformation in fibroblasts. Despite the ability of TGF-β to induce various cellular phenotypes, few discernible differences in TGF-β signaling between cell types have been reported, with the only well-characterized pathway (the Smad cascade) seemingly under identical control. We determined that TGF-β receptor signaling activates the STE20 homolog PAK2 in mammalian cells. PAK2 activation occurs in fibroblast but not epithelial cell cultures and is independent of Smad2 and/or Smad3. Furthermore, we show that TGF-β-stimulated PAK2 activity is regulated by Rac1 and Cdc42 and dominant negative PAK2 or morpholino antisense oligonucleotides to PAK2 prevent the morphological alteration observed following TGF-β addition. Thus, PAK2 represents a novel Smad-independent pathway that differentiates TGF-β signaling in fibroblast (growth-stimulated) and epithelial cell (growth-inhibited) cultures.
PMCID: PMC262664  PMID: 14612425
20.  Transforming Growth Factor-β Receptors Interact with AP2 by Direct Binding to β2 Subunit 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2002;13(11):4001-4012.
Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) superfamily members regulate a wide range of biological processes by binding to two transmembrane serine/threonine kinase receptors, type I and type II. We have previously shown that the internalization of these receptors is inhibited by K+ depletion, cytosol acidification, or hypertonic medium, suggesting the involvement of clathrin-coated pits. However, the involvement of the clathrin-associated adaptor complex AP2 and the identity of the AP2 subunit that binds the receptors were not known. Herein, we have studied these issues by combining studies on intact cells with in vitro assays. Using fluorescence photobleaching recovery to measure the lateral mobility of the receptors on live cells (untreated or treated to alter their coated pit structure), we demonstrated that their mobility is restricted by interactions with coated pits. These interactions were transient and mediated through the receptors' cytoplasmic tails. To measure direct binding of the receptors to specific AP2 subunits, we used yeast two-hybrid screens and in vitro biochemical assays. In contrast to most other plasma membrane receptors that bind to AP2 via the μ2 subunit, AP2/TGF-β receptor binding was mediated by a direct interaction between the β2-adaptin N-terminal trunk domain and the cytoplasmic tails of the receptors; no binding was observed to the μ2, α, or ς2 subunits of AP2 or to μ1 of AP1. The data uniquely demonstrate both in vivo and in vitro the ability of β2-adaptin to directly couple TGF-β receptors to AP2 and to clathrin-coated pits, providing the first in vivo evidence for interactions of a transmembrane receptor with β2-adaptin.
PMCID: PMC133610  PMID: 12429842
21.  Internalization-Dependent and -Independent Requirements for Transforming Growth Factor β Receptor Signaling via the Smad Pathway 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(13):4750-4759.
Members of the transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) family of proteins signal through cell surface transmembrane serine/threonine protein kinases known as type I and type II receptors. The TGF-β signal is extended through phosphorylation of receptor-associated Smad proteins by the type I receptor. Although numerous investigations have established the sequence of events in TGF-β receptor (TGF-βR) activation, none have examined the role of the endocytic pathway in initiation and/or maintenance of the signaling response. In this study we investigated whether TGF-βR internalization modulates type I receptor activation, the formation of a functional receptor/Smad/SARA complex, Smad2/3 phosphorylation or nuclear translocation, and TGF-β-dependent reporter gene activity. Our data provide evidence that, whereas type I receptor phosphorylation and association of SARA and Smad2 with the TGF-βR complex take place independently of clathrin lattice formation, Smad2 or Smad3 activation and downstream signaling only occur after endocytic vesicle formation. Thus, TGF-βR endocytosis is not simply a way to dampen the signaling response but instead is required to propagate signaling via the Smad pathway.
PMCID: PMC133902  PMID: 12052882
22.  Analysis of Pneumocystis carinii Introns 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(11):6157-6160.
Pneumocystis carinii is an ascomycete phylogenetically related to Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Little is known about gene regulation in P. carinii. The removal of introns from pre-mRNA requires spliceosomal recognition of the intron-exon boundary. In S. pombe and higher eukaryotes, this boundary and a branch site within the intron are conserved. We recently demonstrated that P. carinii cdc2 cDNA can complement S. pombe containing conditional mutations of cdc2, an essential gene involved in cell cycle regulation. We next tested whether P. carinii genomic cdc2 (with six introns) could also complement S. pombe cdc2 mutants and found genomic sequences incapable of this activity. Reverse transcriptase PCR confirmed the inability of the S. pombe cdc2 mutants to splice the P. carinii genomic cdc2. Analysis of 83 introns from 19 P. carinii protein-encoding genes demonstrated that the sequence GTWWDW functions as a donor consensus in P. carinii, whereas YAG serves as an acceptor consensus. These sequences are similar in S. pombe; however, a branch site sequence was not found in the P. carinii genes studied.
PMCID: PMC97006  PMID: 10531280
23.  Simvastatin reduces venous stenosis formation in a murine hemodialysis vascular access model 
Kidney International  2013;84(2):338-352.
Venous neointimal hyperplasia (VNH) is responsible for hemodialysis vascular access malfunction. Here we tested whether VNH formation occurs, in part, due to vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 gene expression causing adventitial fibroblast transdifferentiation to myofibroblasts (α-SMA-positive cells). These cells have increased proliferative and migratory capacity leading to VNH formation. Simvastatin was used to decrease VEGF-A and MMP-9 gene expression in our murine arteriovenous fistula model created by connecting the right carotid artery to the ipsilateral jugular vein. Compared to fistulae of vehicle-treated mice, the fistulae of simvastatin-treated mice had the expected decrease in VEGF-A and MMP-9 but also showed a significant reduction in MMP-2 expression with a significant decrease in VNH and a significant increase in the mean lumen vessel area. There was an increase in terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) staining, and decreases in α-SMA density, cell proliferation, and HIF-1α and hypoxyprobe staining. This latter result prompted us to determine the effect of simvastatin on fibroblasts subjected to hypoxia in vitro. Simvastatin-treated fibroblasts had a significant decrease in myofibroblast production along with decreased cellular proliferation, migration, and MMP-9 activity but increased caspase 3 activity suggesting increased apoptosis. Thus, simvastatin results in a significant reduction in VNH, with increase in mean lumen vessel area by decreasing VEGF-A/MMP-9 pathway activity.
PMCID: PMC3731558  PMID: 23636169
arteriovenous fistula; chronic kidney disease; murine model; restenosis; veins
24.  Adventitial transduction of lentivirus-shRNA-VEGF-A in arteriovenous fistula reduces venous stenosis formation 
Kidney International  2013;85(2):289-306.
Venous neointimal hyperplasia (VNH) causes hemodialysis vascular access failure. Here we tested whether VNH formation occurs in part due to local vessel hypoxia caused by surgical trauma to the vasa vasorum of the outflow vein at the time of arteriovenous fistula placement. Selective targeting of the adventitia of the outflow vein at the time of fistula creation was performed using a lentivirus-delivered small-hairpin RNA that inhibits VEGF-A expression. This resulted in significant increase in mean lumen vessel area, decreased media/adventitia area, and decreased constrictive remodeling with a significant increase in apoptosis (increase in caspase 3 activity and TUNEL staining) accompanied with decreased cellular proliferation and hypoxia-inducible factor-1α at the outflow vein. There was significant decrease in cells staining positive for α-smooth muscle actin (a myofibroblast marker) and VEGFR-1 expression with a decrease in MMP-2 and MMP-9. These results were confirmed in animals that were treated with humanized monoclonal antibody to VEGF-A with similar results. Since hypoxia can cause fibroblast to differentiate into myofibroblasts, we silenced VEGF-A gene expression in fibroblasts and subjected them to hypoxia. This decreased myofibroblast production, cellular proliferation, cell invasion, MMP-2 activity, and increased caspase 3. Thus, VEGF-A reduction at the time of arteriovenous fistula placement results in increased positive vascular remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3844094  PMID: 23924957
diabetes; vascular access; VEGF
25.  Mechanisms of Transforming Growth Factor-β Receptor Endocytosis and Intracellular Sorting Differ between Fibroblasts and Epithelial Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2001;12(3):675-684.
Transforming growth factor-βs (TGF-β) are multifunctional proteins capable of either stimulating or inhibiting mitosis, depending on the cell type. These diverse cellular responses are caused by stimulating a single receptor complex composed of type I and type II receptors. Using a chimeric receptor model where the granulocyte/monocyte colony-stimulating factor receptor ligand binding domains are fused to the transmembrane and cytoplasmic signaling domains of the TGF-β type I and II receptors, we wished to describe the role(s) of specific amino acid residues in regulating ligand-mediated endocytosis and signaling in fibroblasts and epithelial cells. Specific point mutations were introduced at Y182, T200, and Y249 of the type I receptor and K277 and P525 of the type II receptor. Mutation of either Y182 or Y249, residues within two putative consensus tyrosine-based internalization motifs, had no effect on endocytosis or signaling. This is in contrast to mutation of T200 to valine, which resulted in ablation of signaling in both cell types, while only abolishing receptor down-regulation in fibroblasts. Moreover, in the absence of ligand, both fibroblasts and epithelial cells constitutively internalize and recycle the TGF-β receptor complex back to the plasma membrane. The data indicate fundamental differences between mesenchymal and epithelial cells in endocytic sorting and suggest that ligand binding diverts heteromeric receptors from the default recycling pool to a pathway mediating receptor down-regulation and signaling.
PMCID: PMC30972  PMID: 11251079

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