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1.  Hemogenic endocardium contributes to transient definitive hematopoiesis 
Nature communications  2013;4:1564.
Hematopoietic cells arise from spatiotemporally restricted domains in the developing embryo. Although studies of non-mammalian animal and in vitro embryonic stem cell models suggest a close relationship among cardiac, endocardial, and hematopoietic lineages, it remains unknown whether the mammalian heart tube serves as a hemogenic organ akin to the dorsal aorta. Here we examine the hemogenic activity of the developing endocardium. Mouse heart explants generate myeloid and erythroid colonies in the absence of circulation. Hemogenic activity arises from a subset of endocardial cells in the outflow cushion and atria earlier than in the aorta-gonad-mesonephros region, and is transient and definitive in nature. Interestingly, key cardiac transcription factors, Nkx2-5 and Isl1, are expressed in and required for the hemogenic population of the endocardium. Together, these data suggest that a subset of endocardial/endothelial cells expressing cardiac markers serve as a de novo source for transient definitive hematopoietic progenitors.
PMCID: PMC3612528  PMID: 23463007
2.  Mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake by the voltage-dependent anion channel 2 regulates cardiac rhythmicity 
eLife  null;4:e04801.
Tightly regulated Ca2+ homeostasis is a prerequisite for proper cardiac function. To dissect the regulatory network of cardiac Ca2+ handling, we performed a chemical suppressor screen on zebrafish tremblor embryos, which suffer from Ca2+ extrusion defects. Efsevin was identified based on its potent activity to restore coordinated contractions in tremblor. We show that efsevin binds to VDAC2, potentiates mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake and accelerates the transfer of Ca2+ from intracellular stores into mitochondria. In cardiomyocytes, efsevin restricts the temporal and spatial boundaries of Ca2+ sparks and thereby inhibits Ca2+ overload-induced erratic Ca2+ waves and irregular contractions. We further show that overexpression of VDAC2 recapitulates the suppressive effect of efsevin on tremblor embryos whereas VDAC2 deficiency attenuates efsevin's rescue effect and that VDAC2 functions synergistically with MCU to suppress cardiac fibrillation in tremblor. Together, these findings demonstrate a critical modulatory role for VDAC2-dependent mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake in the regulation of cardiac rhythmicity.
eLife digest
The heart is a large muscle that pumps blood around the body by maintaining a regular rhythm of contraction and relaxation. If the heart loses this regular rhythm it works less efficiently, which can lead to life-threatening conditions.
Regular heart rhythms are maintained by changes in the concentration of calcium ions in the cytoplasm of the heart muscle cells. These changes are synchronised so that the heart cells contract in a controlled manner. In each cell, a contraction begins when calcium ions from outside the cell enter the cytoplasm by passing through a channel protein in the membrane that surrounds the cell. This triggers the release of even more calcium ions into the cytoplasm from stores within the cell. For the cells to relax, the calcium ions must then be pumped out of the cytoplasm to lower the calcium ion concentration back to the original level.
Shimizu et al. studied a zebrafish mutant—called tremblor—that has irregular heart rhythms because its heart muscle cells are unable to efficiently remove calcium ions from the cytoplasm. Embryos of the tremblor mutant were treated with a wide variety of chemical compounds with the aim of finding some that could correct the heart defect.
A compound called efsevin restores regular heart rhythms in tremblor mutants. Efsevin binds to a pump protein called VDAC2, which is found in compartments called mitochondria within the cell. Although mitochondria are best known for their role in supplying energy for the cell, they also act as internal stores for calcium. By binding to VDAC2, efsevin increases the rate at which calcium ions are pumped from the cytoplasm into the mitochondria. This restores rhythmic calcium ion cycling in the cytoplasm and enables the heart muscle cells to develop regular rhythms of contraction and relaxation. Increasing the levels of VDAC2 or another similar calcium ion pump protein in the heart cells can also restore a regular heart rhythm.
Efsevin can also correct irregular heart rhythms in human and mouse heart muscle cells, therefore the new role for mitochondria in controlling heart rhythms found by Shimizu et al. appears to be shared in other animals. The experiments have also identified the VDAC family of proteins as potential new targets for drug therapies to treat people with irregular heart rhythms.
PMCID: PMC4293673  PMID: 25588501
mitochondria; arrhythmia; calcium handling; heart; VDAC; fibrillation; human; mouse; zebrafish
3.  EZH2 Protects Glioma Stem Cells from Radiation-Induced Cell Death in a MELK/FOXM1-Dependent Manner 
Stem Cell Reports  2015;4(2):226-238.
Glioblastoma (GBM)-derived tumorigenic stem-like cells (GSCs) may play a key role in therapy resistance. Previously, we reported that the mitotic kinase MELK binds and phosphorylates the oncogenic transcription factor FOXM1 in GSCs. Here, we demonstrate that the catalytic subunit of Polycomb repressive complex 2, EZH2, is targeted by the MELK-FOXM1 complex, which in turn promotes resistance to radiation in GSCs. Clinically, EZH2 and MELK are coexpressed in GBM and significantly induced in postirradiation recurrent tumors whose expression is inversely correlated with patient prognosis. Through a gain-and loss-of-function study, we show that MELK or FOXM1 contributes to GSC radioresistance by regulation of EZH2. We further demonstrate that the MELK-EZH2 axis is evolutionarily conserved in Caenorhabditis elegans. Collectively, these data suggest that the MELK-FOXM1-EZH2 signaling axis is essential for GSC radioresistance and therefore raise the possibility that MELK-FOXM1-driven EZH2 signaling can serve as a therapeutic target in irradiation-resistant GBM tumors.
•EZH2 and MELK are coexpressed in GBM and post-IR recurrent tumors•MELK-mediated EZH2 is required for GSC radioresistance•MELK/EZH2 functions in radioresistance are evolutionarily conserved
In this article, Nakano and colleagues show that the catalytic subunit of Polycomb repressive complex 2, EZH2, is targeted by the MELK-FOXM1 complex, which in turn promotes resistance to radiation in GSCs. Additionally, they demonstrate that the MELK-EZH2 axis is evolutionarily conserved in Caenorhabditis elegans.
PMCID: PMC4325196  PMID: 25601206
4.  Identification and Functional Analysis of an Ammonium Transporter in Streptococcus mutans 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107569.
Streptococcus mutans, a Gram-positive bacterium, is considered to be a major etiologic agent of human dental caries and reported to form biofilms known as dental plaque on tooth surfaces. This organism is also known to possess a large number of transport proteins in the cell membrane for export and import of molecules. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for Gram-positive bacteria, though alternative sources such as ammonium can also be utilized. In order to obtain nitrogen for macromolecular synthesis, nitrogen-containing compounds must be transported into the cell. However, the ammonium transporter in S. mutans remains to be characterized. The present study focused on characterizing the ammonium transporter gene of S. mutans and its operon, while related regulatory genes were also analyzed. The SMU.1658 gene corresponding to nrgA in S. mutans is homologous to the ammonium transporter gene in Bacillus subtilis and SMU.1657, located upstream of the nrgA gene and predicted to be glnB, is a member of the PII protein family. Using a nrgA-deficient mutant strain (NRGD), we examined bacterial growth in the presence of ammonium, calcium chloride, and manganese sulfate. Fluorescent efflux assays were also performed to reveal export molecules associated with the ammonium transporter. The growth rate of NRGD was lower, while its fluorescent intensity was much higher as compared to the parental strain. In addition, confocal laser scanning microscopy revealed that the structure of biofilms formed by NRGD was drastically different than that of the parental strain. Furthermore, transcriptional analysis showed that the nrgA gene was co-transcribed with the glnB gene. These results suggest that the nrgA gene in S. mutans is essential for export of molecules and biofilm formation.
PMCID: PMC4167856  PMID: 25229891
5.  Rigid microenvironments promote cardiac differentiation of mouse and human embryonic stem cells 
While adult heart muscle is the least regenerative of tissues, embryonic cardiomyocytes are proliferative, with embryonic stem (ES) cells providing an endless reservoir. In addition to secreted factors and cell-cell interactions, the extracellular microenvironment has been shown to play an important role in stem cell lineage specification, and understanding how scaffold elasticity influences cardiac differentiation is crucial to cardiac tissue engineering. Though previous studies have analyzed the role of the matrix elasticity on the function of differentiated cardiomyocytes, whether it affects the induction of cardiomyocytes from pluripotent stem cells is poorly understood. Here, we examined the role of matrix rigidity on the cardiac differentiation using mouse and human ES cells. Culture on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrates of varied monomer-to-crosslinker ratios revealed that rigid extracellular matrices promote a higher yield of de novo cardiomyocytes from undifferentiated ES cells. Using an genetically modified ES system that allows us to purify differentiated cardiomyocytes by drug selection, we demonstrate that rigid environments induce higher cardiac troponin T expression, beating rate of foci, and expression ratio of adult α- to fetal β- myosin heavy chain in a purified cardiac population. M-mode and mechanical interferometry image analyses demonstrate that these ES-derived cardiomyocytes display functional maturity and synchronization of beating when co-cultured with neonatal cardiomyocytes harvested from a developing embryo. Together, these data identify matrix stiffness as an independent factor that instructs not only the maturation of the already differentiated cardiomyocytes but also the induction and proliferation of cardiomyocytes from undifferentiated progenitors. Manipulation of the stiffness will help direct the production of functional cardiomyocytes en masse from stem cells for regenerative medicine purposes.
PMCID: PMC3845966  PMID: 24311969
Cardiac Differentiation; Pluripotent Embryonic Stem Cell; Matrix elasticity; Drug-selected cardiomyocyte; Synchronization; Mechanical interferometry
6.  Ethics of iPSC-Based Clinical Research for Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Patient-Centered Risk-Benefit Analysis 
Stem Cell Reviews  2014;10(6):743-752.
The opportunity to undergo an induced pluripotent stem cell-based autologous transplant can strike patients as a chance for a cure from a debilitating condition with few options for respite. However, when clinical studies of this caliber present themselves, patients and researchers, each with their own set of motives, may find it difficult to take a balanced approach to evaluating them. We present a patient-centered risk-benefit analysis of the iPSC-based clinical research currently underway in Japan, including a survey of in vitro and in vivo tests that support this project, an in-depth discussion of risks, and further elucidation of considerations patients may wish to consider. The arguments presented will assist patients in undertaking a more informed decision-making process.
PMCID: PMC4225048  PMID: 24974102
Human subject research; Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs); Age-related macular degeneration (AMD); Patient-centered risk-benefit analysis; Tumorigenicity; Therapeutic misconception/misestimation
7.  Multi-Kinase Inhibitor C1 Triggers Mitotic Catastrophe of Glioma Stem Cells Mainly through MELK Kinase Inhibition 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e92546.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a highly lethal brain tumor. Due to resistance to current therapies, patient prognosis remains poor and development of novel and effective GBM therapy is crucial. Glioma stem cells (GSCs) have gained attention as a therapeutic target in GBM due to their relative resistance to current therapies and potent tumor-initiating ability. Previously, we identified that the mitotic kinase maternal embryonic leucine-zipper kinase (MELK) is highly expressed in GBM tissues, specifically in GSCs, and its expression is inversely correlated with the post-surgical survival period of GBM patients. In addition, patient-derived GSCs depend on MELK for their survival and growth both in vitro and in vivo. Here, we demonstrate evidence that the role of MELK in the GSC survival is specifically dependent on its kinase activity. With in silico structure-based analysis for protein-compound interaction, we identified the small molecule Compound 1 (C1) is predicted to bind to the kinase-active site of MELK protein. Elimination of MELK kinase activity was confirmed by in vitro kinase assay in nano-molar concentrations. When patient-derived GSCs were treated with C1, they underwent mitotic arrest and subsequent cellular apoptosis in vitro, a phenotype identical to that observed with shRNA-mediated MELK knockdown. In addition, C1 treatment strongly induced tumor cell apoptosis in slice cultures of GBM surgical specimens and attenuated growth of mouse intracranial tumors derived from GSCs in a dose-dependent manner. Lastly, C1 treatment sensitizes GSCs to radiation treatment. Collectively, these data indicate that targeting MELK kinase activity is a promising approach to attenuate GBM growth by eliminating GSCs in tumors.
PMCID: PMC3989164  PMID: 24739874
8.  Complete Atrial-Specific Knockout of Sodium-Calcium Exchange Eliminates Sinoatrial Node Pacemaker Activity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e81633.
The origin of sinoatrial node (SAN) pacemaker activity in the heart is controversial. The leading candidates are diastolic depolarization by “funny” current (If) through HCN4 channels (the “Membrane Clock“ hypothesis), depolarization by cardiac Na-Ca exchange (NCX1) in response to intracellular Ca cycling (the "Calcium Clock" hypothesis), and a combination of the two (“Coupled Clock”). To address this controversy, we used Cre/loxP technology to generate atrial-specific NCX1 KO mice. NCX1 protein was undetectable in KO atrial tissue, including the SAN. Surface ECG and intracardiac electrograms showed no atrial depolarization and a slow junctional escape rhythm in KO that responded appropriately to β-adrenergic and muscarinic stimulation. Although KO atria were quiescent they could be stimulated by external pacing suggesting that electrical coupling between cells remained intact. Despite normal electrophysiological properties of If in isolated patch clamped KO SAN cells, pacemaker activity was absent. Recurring Ca sparks were present in all KO SAN cells, suggesting that Ca cycling persists but is uncoupled from the sarcolemma. We conclude that NCX1 is required for normal pacemaker activity in murine SAN.
PMCID: PMC3836769  PMID: 24278453
9.  Scl represses cardiomyogenesis in prospective hemogenic endothelium and endocardium 
Cell  2012;150(3):590-605.
Endothelium in embryonic hematopoietic tissues generates hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells; however, it is unknown how its unique potential is specified. We show that transcription factor Scl/Tal1 is essential for both establishing the hematopoietic transcriptional program in hemogenic endothelium and preventing its misspecification to a cardiomyogenic fate. Scl−/− embryos activated a cardiac transcriptional program in yolk sac endothelium, leading to the emergence of CD31+Pdgfrα+ cardiogenic precursors that generated spontaneously beating cardiomyocytes. Ectopic cardiogenesis was also observed in Scl−/− hearts, where the disorganized endocardium precociously differentiated into cardiomyocytes. Induction of mosaic deletion of Scl in Sclfl/fl Rosa26Cre-ERT2 embryos revealed a cell-intrinsic, temporal requirement for Scl to prevent cardiomyogenesis from endothelium. Scl−/− endothelium also upregulated the expression of Wnt antagonists, which promoted rapid cardiomyocyte differentiation of ectopic cardiogenic cells. These results reveal unexpected plasticity in embryonic endothelium such that loss of a single master regulator can induce ectopic cardiomyogenesis from endothelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3624753  PMID: 22863011
10.  Migratory properties of pulmonary dendritic cells are determined by their developmental lineage 
Mucosal immunology  2012;6(4):678-691.
The chemokine receptor, CCR7, directs the migration of dendritic cells (DCs) from peripheral tissue to draining lymph nodes (LNs). However, it is unknown whether all pulmonary DCs possess migratory potential. Using novel Ccr7gfp reporter mice, we found that Ccr7 is expressed in CD103+ and a CD14med/lo subset of CD11bhi classical (c) DCs but not in monocyte-derived (mo) DCs, including Ly-6ChiCD11bhi inflammatory DCs and CD14hiCD11bhi DCs. Consequently, cDCs migrated to lung-draining LNs but moDCs did not. Mice lacking the chemokine receptor, CCR2, also lacked inflammatory DCs in the lung after lipopolysaccharide inhalation but retained normal levels of migratory DCs. Conversely, the lungs of fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L)-deficient mice lacked cDCs but retained moDCs, which were functionally mature but did not express Ccr7 and were uniformly non-migratory. Thus, the migratory properties of pulmonary DCs are determined by their developmental lineage.
PMCID: PMC3652913  PMID: 23168837
11.  Pulmonary CD103+ dendritic cells prime Th2 responses to inhaled allergens 
Mucosal immunology  2011;5(1):53-65.
Allergic asthma stems largely from the actions of T helper 2 (Th2) cells, but the pathways that initiate Th2 responses to inhaled allergens are not fully understood. In the lung, there are two major subsets of dendritic cells (DCs), displaying CD11b or CD103. We found that after taking up inhaled ovalbumin in vivo, purified CD103+ DCs from the lung or lung-draining lymph nodes primed Th2 differentiation ex vivo. Th2 induction by CD103+ DCs was also seen when cockroach or house dust mite allergens were used. In contrast, CD11bhi DCs primed Th1 differentiation. Moreover, mice lacking CD103+ DCs displayed diminished Th2 priming to various inhaled allergens and did not develop asthma-like responses following subsequent allergen challenge. Low-level antigen presentation by CD103+ DCs was necessary, but not sufficient for Th2 priming. Together, these findings show that CD103+ DCs have a significant role in priming Th2 responses to inhaled allergens.
PMCID: PMC3697034  PMID: 22012243
12.  Polychlorinated biphenyl (118) activates osteoclasts and induces bone resorption in goldfish 
To analyze the effect of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) 118 on fish bone metabolism, we examined osteoclastic and osteoblastic activities, as well as plasma calcium levels, in the scales of PCB (118)-injected goldfish. In addition, effect of PCB (118) on osteoclasts and osteoblasts was investigated in vitro. Immature goldfish, in which the endogenous effects of sex steroids are negligible, were used. PCB (118) was solubilized in dimethyl sulfoxide at a concentration of 10 ppm. At 1 and 2 days after PCB (118) injection (100 ng/g body weight), both osteoclastic and osteoblastic activities, and plasma calcium levels were measured. In an in vitro study, then, both osteoclastic and osteoblastic activities as well as each marker mRNA expression were examined. At 2 days, scale osteoclastic activity in PCB (118)-injected goldfish increased significantly, while osteoblastic activity did not change significantly. Corresponding to osteoclastic activity, plasma calcium levels increased significantly at 2 days after PCB (118) administration. Osteoclastic activation also occurred in the marker enzyme activities and mRNA expressions in vitro. Thus, we conclude that PCB (118) disrupts bone metabolism in goldfish both in vivo and in vitro experiments.
PMCID: PMC4021165  PMID: 23247518
PCB (118); Bone metabolism; Fish scales; Osteoclasts; Osteoblasts; Plasma calcium
13.  Cardiac origin of smooth muscle cells in the inflow tract 
Multipotent Isl1+ heart progenitors give rise to three major cardiovascular cell types; cardiac, smooth muscle, and endothelial cells, and play a pivotal role in lineage diversification during cardiogenesis. A critical question is pinpointing when this cardiac-vascular lineage decision is made, and how this plasticity serves to coordinate cardiac chamber and vessel growth. The posterior domain of the Isl1-positive second heart field contributes to the SLN-positive atrial myocardium and myocardial sleeves in the cardiac inflow tract, where myocardial and vascular smooth muscle layers form anatomical and functional continuity. Herein, using a new atrial specific SLN-Cre knockin mouse line, we report that an Isl1+/SLN+ transient cell population contributes to cardiac as well as smooth muscle cells at the heart-vessel junction in cardiac inflow tract. The Isl1+/SLN+ cells are capable of giving rise to cardiac and smooth muscle cells until late gestational stages. These data suggest that the cardiac and smooth muscle cells in the cardiac inflow tract share a common developmental origin.
PMCID: PMC3031779  PMID: 20974149
cardiogenesis; myogenic progenitor; smooth muscle; great vessel; plasticity
14.  IL-35 Production by ICOS+ Tregs Reverses Established IL-17-dependent Allergic Airways Disease 
Recent evidence suggests that IL-17 contributes to airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR); however, the mechanisms that suppress the production of this cytokine remain poorly defined.
We sought to understand the cellular and molecular basis for suppression of established, IL-17-dependent allergic airways disease.
Mice were sensitized by airway instillations of ovalbumin (OVA) together with low levels of lipopolysaccharide. Leukocyte recruitment to the lung and AHR were assessed following daily challenges with aerosolized OVA. Flow cytometry and gene targeted mice were used to identify naturally-arising subsets of regulatory T cells (Tregs) and their cytokines required for the suppression of established allergic airway disease.
Allergic sensitization through the airway primed both effector and regulatory responses. Effector responses were initially dominant and led to airway inflammation and IL-17-dependent AHR. However, after multiple daily allergen challenges, IL-17 production and AHR declined, even though pulmonary levels of Th17 cells remained high. This loss of AHR was reversible and required the expansion of a Treg subset expressing both Foxp3 and inducible co-stimulator (ICOS). These Tregs also expressed the regulatory cytokines, IL-10, TGF-beta and IL-35. Whereas IL-10 and TGF-beta were dispensable for suppression of airway hyperresponsiveness, IL-35 was required. Analysis of human ICOS+ Tregs revealed that they also selectively expressed IL-35.
IL-35 production by ICOS+ Tregs can suppress IL-17 production and thereby reverse established, IL-17-dependent AHR in mice. The production of IL-35 by human ICOS+ Tregs suggests that targeting this pathway might be of therapeutic value for treating allergic asthma in humans.
PMCID: PMC3269135  PMID: 21906794
Asthma; airway hyperresponsiveness; AHR; IL-17; Th17; Th2; IL-35; ICOS; ovalbumin
15.  Atypical gaze patterns in children and adults with autism spectrum disorders dissociated from developmental changes in gaze behaviour 
Eye tracking has been used to investigate gaze behaviours in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, traditional analysis has yet to find behavioural characteristics shared by both children and adults with ASD. To distinguish core ASD gaze behaviours from those that change with development, we examined temporo-spatial gaze patterns in children and adults with and without ASD while they viewed video clips. We summarized the gaze patterns of 104 participants using multidimensional scaling so that participants with similar gaze patterns would cluster together in a two-dimensional plane. Control participants clustered in the centre, reflecting a standard gaze behaviour, whereas participants with ASD were distributed around the periphery. Moreover, children and adults were separated on the plane, thereby showing a clear effect of development on gaze behaviours. Post hoc frame-by-frame analyses revealed the following findings: (i) both ASD groups shifted their gaze away from a speaker earlier than the control groups; (ii) both ASD groups showed a particular preference for letters; and (iii) typical infants preferred to watch the mouth rather than the eyes during speech, a preference that reversed with development. These results highlight the importance of taking the effect of development into account when addressing gaze behaviours characteristic of ASD.
PMCID: PMC2982027  PMID: 20484237
eye tracking; eye movements; autism; development; mouth viewing; turn taking
16.  The Nitric Oxide-Responsive Regulator NsrR Controls ResDE-Dependent Gene Expression 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(16):5878-5887.
The ResD-ResE signal transduction system is essential for aerobic and anaerobic respiration in Bacillus subtilis. ResDE-dependent gene expression is induced by oxygen limitation, but full induction under anaerobic conditions requires nitrite or nitric oxide (NO). Here we report that NsrR (formerly YhdE) is responsible for the NO-dependent up-regulation of the ResDE regulon. The null mutation of nsrR led to aerobic derepression of hmp (flavohemoglobin gene) partly in a ResDE-independent manner. In addition to its negative role in aerobic hmp expression, NsrR plays an important role under anaerobic conditions for regulation of ResDE-controlled genes, including hmp. ResDE-dependent gene expression was increased by the nsrR mutation in the absence of NO, but the expression was decreased by the mutation when NO was present. Consequently, B. subtilis cells lacking NsrR no longer sense and respond to NO (and nitrite) to up-regulate the ResDE regulon. Exposure to NO did not significantly change the cellular concentration of NsrR, suggesting that NO likely modulates the activity of NsrR. NsrR is similar to the recently described nitrite- or NO-sensitive transcription repressors present in various bacteria. NsrR likely has an Fe-S cluster, and interaction of NO with the Fe-S center is proposed to modulate NsrR activity.
PMCID: PMC1540067  PMID: 16885456
17.  Liver dysfunction among workers handling 5-nitro-o-toluidine 
Gut  2002;50(2):266-270.
Background: 5-Nitro-o-toluidine is an aromatic nitro amino compound. While other aromatic compounds are known to damage the human liver and are registered as toxic substances, toxicity information concerning 5-nitro-o-toluidine is lacking.
Aims: To investigate the hepatotoxicity of 5-nitro-o-toluidine.
Patients and methods: Of 15 workers in the same factory who handled 5-nitro-o-toluidine, three were hospitalised with symptoms of acute liver dysfunction. Suspecting a link between liver dysfunction and working conditions, we correlated workplace factors with clinical findings in all 15 workers.
Results: Blood biochemistry tests indicated liver damage in seven of 15 study subjects. Workers who handled 5-nitro-o-toluidine and nitrosyl sulphuric acid often loosened their respiratory protective equipment shortly after 5-nitro-o-toluidine powder had been dispersed into the air of the room. No potential hepatotoxins were present except for 5-nitro-o-toluidine. Six of the affected workers had handled 5-nitro-o-toluidine 12 to 20 times; the seventh worker had handled the powder three times; and the other eight workers without liver dysfunction had handled the material once or twice. No other significant differences in background were evident between the affected and unaffected workers, such as age, sex, or protective measures. Histological findings during recovery from liver damage were similar to those of acute viral hepatitis. None of the 15 subjects has demonstrated liver damage since the factory was closed.
Conclusions: A link between liver dysfunction and 5-nitro-o-toluidine exposure is suggested by greater severity of liver dysfunction associated with more episodes of handling.
PMCID: PMC1773104  PMID: 11788571
5-nitro-o-toluidine; liver toxicity; liver function; toxicity
18.  Interferon responsiveness in patients infected with hepatitis C virus 1b differs depending on viral subtype 
Gut  2001;49(2):263-267.
BACKGROUND—Genotype 1b of hepatitis C virus (HCV) comprises mainly three subtypes, each named for its geographic prevalence (worldwide, W; Japan, J; and not in Japan, NJ).
AIM—To characterise the newly identified subtypes of genotype 1b and to review factors associated with response to interferon (IFN) for each subtype.
PATIENTS—Chronic hepatitis patients (80 men and 41 women; mean age 48.5 years, range 20.7-69.3) with HCV genotype 1b (W type, n=41; J type, n=38) or genotype 2a (n=42) were treated according to the same IFN protocol. Forty four patients (36.4%) negative for serum HCV RNA six months after cessation of treatment were considered complete responders.
METHODS—Factors associated with complete response were investigated.
RESULTS—Genotype 2a patients had lower viral loads (odds ratio 0.11 (95% confidence intervals (CI) 0.049-0.256)) and a better IFN response (odds ratio 0.25 (95% CI 0.117-0.552)) than genotype 1b patients whereas W type and J type patients had similar viral loads and responses to IFN. IFN response in W type patients was associated with female sex (odds ratio 0.23 (95% CI 0.055-0.983)) and low viral load (odds ratio 84.00 (95% CI 14.04-502.6)) whereas response in J type patients was related to transfusion history (odds ratio 7.20 (95% CI 1.443-35.91)), low viral load (odds ratio 117.0 (95% CI 17.82-768.3)), and genetic mutation in the interferon sensitivity determining region of the virus (odds ratio 0.08 (95% CI 0.013-0.553)). Multivariate analysis found low viral load (odds ratio 64.19 (95% CI 14.66-281.06)) to be the only significant independent factor associated with IFN response.
CONCLUSIONS—Factors associated with IFN responsiveness in HCV infection differ with viral subtype.

Keywords: hepatitis C virus; genotype 1b; chronic hepatitis; interferon therapy; interferon sensitivity determining region
PMCID: PMC1728417  PMID: 11454804
19.  CFE-1, a Novel Plasmid-Encoded AmpC β-Lactamase with an ampR Gene Originating from Citrobacter freundii 
A clinical isolate of Escherichia coli from a patient in Japan, isolate KU6400, was found to produce a plasmid-encoded β-lactamase that conferred resistance to extended-spectrum cephalosporins and cephamycins. Resistance arising from production of a β-lactamase could be transferred by either conjugation or transformation with plasmid pKU601 into E. coli ML4947. The substrate and inhibition profiles of this enzyme resembled those of the AmpC β-lactamase. The resistance gene of pKU601, which was cloned and expressed in E. coli, proved to contain an open reading frame showing 99.8% DNA sequence identity with the ampC gene of Citrobacter freundii GC3. DNA sequence analysis also identified a gene upstream of ampC whose sequence was 99.0% identical to the ampR gene from C. freundii GC3. In addition, a fumarate operon (frdABCD) and an outer membrane lipoprotein (blc) surrounding the ampR-ampC genes in C. freundii were identified, and insertion sequence (IS26) elements were observed on both sides of the sequences identified (forming an IS26 composite transposon); these results confirm the evidence of the translocation of a β-lactamase-associated gene region from the chromosome to a plasmid. Finally, we describe a novel plasmid-encoded AmpC β-lactamase, CFE-1, with an ampR gene derived from C. freundii.
PMCID: PMC375250  PMID: 15047515
20.  Transcriptional Activation by Bacillus subtilis ResD: Tandem Binding to Target Elements and Phosphorylation-Dependent and -Independent Transcriptional Activation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(7):2028-2037.
The expression of genes involved in nitrate respiration in Bacillus subtilis is regulated by the ResD-ResE two-component signal transduction system. The membrane-bound ResE sensor kinase perceives a redox-related signal(s) and phosphorylates the cognate response regulator ResD, which enables interaction of ResD with ResD-dependent promoters to activate transcription. Hydroxyl radical footprinting analysis revealed that ResD tandemly binds to the −41 to −83 region of hmp and the −46 to −92 region of nasD. In vitro runoff transcription experiments showed that ResD is necessary and sufficient to activate transcription of the ResDE regulon. Although phosphorylation of ResD by ResE kinase greatly stimulated transcription, unphosphorylated ResD, as well as ResD with a phosphorylation site (Asp57) mutation, was able to activate transcription at a low level. The D57A mutant was shown to retain the activity in vivo to induce transcription of the ResDE regulon in response to oxygen limitation, suggesting that ResD itself, in addition to its activation through phosphorylation-mediated conformation change, senses oxygen limitation via an unknown mechanism leading to anaerobic gene activation.
PMCID: PMC374413  PMID: 15028686
21.  Multiple Pathways of Spx (YjbD) Proteolysis in Bacillus subtilis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(13):3664-3670.
ATP-dependent proteases degrade denatured or misfolded proteins and are recruited for the controlled removal of proteins that block activation of regulatory pathways. Among the ATP-dependent proteases, those of the Clp family are particularly important for the growth and development of Bacillus subtilis. Proteolytic subunit ClpP, together with regulatory ATPase subunit ClpC or ClpX, is required for the normal response to stress, for development of genetic competence, and for sporulation. The spx (formally yjbD) gene was previously identified as a site of mutations that suppress defects in competence conferred by clpP and clpX. The level of Spx in wild-type cells grown in competence medium is low, and that in clpP mutants is high. This suggests that the Spx protein is a substrate for ClpP-containing proteases and that accumulation of Spx might be partly responsible for the observed pleiotropic phenotype resulting from the clpP mutation. In this study we examined, both in vivo and in vitro, which ClpP protease is responsible for degradation of Spx. Western blot analysis showed that Spx accumulated in clpX mutant to the same level as that observed in the clpP mutant. In contrast, a very low concentration of Spx was detected in a clpC mutant. An in vitro proteolysis experiment using purified proteins demonstrated that Spx was degraded by ClpCP but only in the presence of one of the ClpC adapter proteins, MecA or YpbH. However, ClpXP, either in the presence or in the absence of MecA and YpbH, was unable to degrade Spx. Transcription of spx, as measured by expression of spx-lacZ, was slightly increased by the clpX mutation. To exclude a possible effect of clpX and clpP on spx transcription, the spx gene was placed under the control of the IPTG (isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactopyranoside)-inducible Pspac promoter. In this strain, Spx accumulated when ClpX or ClpP was absent, suggesting that ClpX and ClpP are required for degradation of Spx. Taken together, these results suggest that Spx is degraded by both ClpCP and ClpXP. The putative proteolysis by ClpXP might require another adapter protein. Spx probably is degraded by ClpCP under as yet unidentified conditions. This study suggests that the level of Spx is tightly controlled by two different ClpP proteases.
PMCID: PMC135134  PMID: 12057962
22.  Passive Immunization with Milk Produced from an Immunized Cow Prevents Oral Recolonization by Streptococcus mutans 
Cell surface protein antigen (PAc) and water-insoluble glucan-synthesizing enzyme (GTF-I) produced by cariogenic Streptococcus mutans are two major factors implicated in the colonization of the human oral cavity by this bacterium. We examined the effect of bovine milk, produced after immunization with a fusion protein of functional domains of these proteins, on the recolonization of S. mutans. To prepare immune milk, a pregnant Holstein cow was immunized with the fusion protein PAcA-GB, a fusion of the saliva-binding alanine-rich region (PAcA) of PAc and the glucan-binding (GB) domain of GTF-I. After eight adult subjects received cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) treatment, one subgroup (n = 4) rinsed their mouths with immune milk and a control group (n = 4) rinsed with nonimmune milk. S. mutans levels in saliva and dental plaque decreased after CPC treatment in both groups. Mouth rinsing with immune milk significantly inhibited recolonization of S. mutans in saliva and plaque. On the other hand, the numbers of S. mutans cells in saliva and plaque in the control group increased immediately after the CPC treatment and surpassed the baseline level 42 and 28 days, respectively, after the CPC treatment. The ratios of S. mutans to total streptococci in saliva and plaque in the group that received immune milk were lower than those in the control group. These results suggest that milk produced from immunized cow may be useful for controlling S. mutans in the human oral cavity.
PMCID: PMC96239  PMID: 11687453
23.  Protection against lethal bacterial infection in mice by monocyte-chemotactic and -activating factor. 
Infection and Immunity  1994;62(2):377-383.
Chemotactic factors regulate the recruitment of neutrophils, lymphocytes, or monocytes-macrophages to infectious and inflammatory sites. The purpose of this study was to determine whether monocyte-chemotactic and -activating factor (MCAF [MCP-1], a JE gene product) also influences the host defense mechanism against microbial infection. We evaluated the effect of recombinant human MCAF on the survival rate of mice systemically infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Salmonella typhimurium. The administration of 2.5 micrograms of MCAF 6 h before infection completely protected the mice from lethal infection. Mice with cyclophosphamide-induced leukopenia exhibiting increased susceptibility to P. aeruginosa were also endowed with resistance by the same dose of MCAF. Administration of MCAF at -6 h was critical, since MCAF given either earlier or later than -6 h failed to rescue mice from lethal infection. The in vivo effect on the survival of mice paralleled the reduced recovery of viable P. aeruginosa or S. typhimurium from the peritoneal cavity, i.e., the number of recovered bacteria from the MCAF (2.5 micrograms per mouse)-treated mice was reduced to less than 2% of control mice for P. aeruginosa and 4% of control mice for S. typhimurium at 24 h. Since MCAF exhibited chemotaxis on murine macrophages as well as enhanced phagocytosis and killing of bacteria in vitro, the activation of macrophages, followed by the recruitment into the peritoneal cavity, is responsible for eliminating bacteria and thus enhancing the survival rate.
PMCID: PMC186118  PMID: 8300198
24.  Neutralization of microcystin shock in mice by tumor necrosis factor alpha antiserum. 
Microcystis aeruginosa is a common cyanobacterium in water blooms that appear widely in nutrient-rich, fresh, and brackish waters, and its toxic blooms cause the death of domestic animals. The administration of a crude toxic cell extract of M. aeruginosa K-139 to mice can produce tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and prompt severe physiological disturbances, especially liver damage, which can lead to death. The in vitro production of TNF-alpha by peritoneal macrophages was observed after stimulation with the cell extract or the purified toxin from K-139 cells. The expression of a TNF-alpha mRNA was also detected in spleen cells and peritoneal macrophages after stimulation with the cell extract. However, a previous injection of rabbit anti-murine TNF-alpha serum could prevent the liver damage to some extent and protect the mice from death. These findings indicate the involvement of TNF in microcystin shock.
PMCID: PMC182708  PMID: 2036020
25.  Pertussis outbreak in university students and evaluation of acellular pertussis vaccine effectiveness in Japan 
Recent studies worldwide have reported increasing numbers of adults diagnosed with Bordetella pertussis despite receiving childhood vaccinations. This study describes a pertussis outbreak at a university medical faculty campus and examines the effectiveness of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccination completed during infancy in Japan.
After the outbreak, self-administered questionnaires and serum samples were collected from students on campus to determine the incidence of pertussis and underlying diseases. Pertussis was diagnosed on the basis of clinical criteria and serum anti-pertussis toxin antibody levels. Using data collected from 248 first and second grade students who had submitted copies of their vaccination records, we evaluated the effectiveness of DTaP vaccination in infancy against adult pertussis.
Questionnaire responses were obtained from 636 students (of 671 registered students; 95% response rate). Of 245 students who reported a continuous cough during the outbreak period, 84 (attack rate: 13.2%) were considered “probable” pertussis cases that met clinical criteria. The outbreak occurred mainly in first and second grade students in the Faculty of Medicine. Of 248 students who provided vaccination records, 225 had received 4 DTaP doses (coverage: 90.7%); the relative risk of the complete vaccination series compared to those with fewer than 4 doses or no doses for probable cases was 0.48 (95% confidence interval: 0.24-0.97).
Waning protection was suspected due to over time. Booster vaccination for teenagers and development of highly efficacious pertussis vaccines are needed.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12879-015-0777-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4323135  PMID: 25656486
Pertussis; Outbreak; Vaccine effectiveness

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