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2.  Differential topical susceptibility to TGFβ in intact and injured regions of the epithelium: key role in myofibroblast transition 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(21):3326-3336.
Intact and cell contact–deprived regions of an epithelial monolayer are differentially sensitive to the transforming effect of TGFβ. This topical susceptibility is mediated by the interplay between TGFβ- and cell contact–dependent transcription factors and might play a key role in the cell biology of wound healing and fibrosis.
Induction of epithelial–myofibroblast transition (EMyT), a robust fibrogenic phenotype change hallmarked by α-smooth muscle actin (SMA) expression, requires transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFβ) and the absence/uncoupling of intracellular contacts. This suggests that an “injured” epithelium may be topically susceptible to TGFβ. To explore this concept, we use an epithelial wound model in which intact and contact-deprived regions of the same monolayer can be analyzed simultaneously. We show that TGFβ elicits dramatically different responses at these two loci. SMA expression and initially enhanced nuclear Smad3 accumulation followed by Smad3 mRNA and protein down-regulation occur exclusively at the wound. Mechanistically, three transcriptional coactivators whose localization is regulated by cell contact integrity are critical for these local effects. These are myocardin-related transcription factor (MRTF), the driver of the SMA promoter; β-catenin, which counteracts the known inhibitory effect of Smad3 on MRTF and maintains MRTF protein stability and mRNA expression in the wound; and TAZ, a Hippo effector and Smad3 retention factor. Remarkably, active TAZ stimulates the SMA and suppresses the Smad3 promoter, whereas TAZ silencing prevents wound-restricted expression of SMA and loss of Smad3. Such locus-specific reprogramming might play key roles in wound healing and the susceptibility of the injured epithelium to fibrogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3814143  PMID: 24006486
3.  srGAP1 regulates lamellipodial dynamics and cell migratory behavior by modulating Rac1 activity 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(21):3393-3405.
srGAP1 limits Rac1 activity at lamellipodia in a negative feedback manner, allowing concomitant activation of Rac1 and RhoA at lamellipodia. Rho signaling causes membrane ruffling through actomyosin contractility and removes the protrusive structures. Such coordination of Rac and Rho determines migratory behavior through lamellipodial dynamics.
The distinct levels of Rac activity differentially regulate the pattern of intrinsic cell migration. However, it remains unknown how Rac activity is modulated and how the level of Rac activity controls cell migratory behavior. Here we show that Slit-Robo GAP 1 (srGAP1) is a modulator of Rac activity in locomotive cells. srGAP1 possesses a GAP activity specific to Rac1 and is recruited to lamellipodia in a Rac1-dependent manner. srGAP1 limits Rac1 activity and allows concomitant activation of Rac1 and RhoA, which are mutually inhibitory. When both GTPases are activated, the protrusive structures caused by Rac1-dependent actin reorganization are spatially restricted and periodically destabilized, causing ruffling by RhoA-induced actomyosin contractility. Depletion of srGAP1 overactivates Rac1 and inactivates RhoA, resulting in continuous spatiotemporal spreading of lamellipodia and a modal shift of intrinsic cell motility from random to directionally persistent. Thus srGAP1 is a key determinant of lamellipodial dynamics and cell migratory behavior.
PMCID: PMC3814155  PMID: 24006490
4.  Epithelial adhesive junctions 
F1000Prime Reports  2014;6:1.
Epithelial adhesive cell-to-cell contacts contain large, plasma membrane-spanning multiprotein aggregates that perform vital structural and signaling functions. Three prominent adhesive contacts are the tight junction, adherens junction, and the desmosome. Each junction type has unique cellular functions and a complex molecular composition. In this review, we comment on recent and exciting advances in our understanding of junction composition and function.
PMCID: PMC3883420  PMID: 24592313
5.  Epithelial Permeability Alterations in an In Vitro Air-Liquid Interface Model of Allergic Fungal Rhinosinusitis 
Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is an inflammatory upper-airway disease with numerous etiologies. Patients with a characteristic subtype of CRS, allergic fungal rhinosinusitis (AFRS), display increased expression of Th2 cytokines and antigen-specific IgE. Various sinonasal inflammatory conditions are associated with alterations in epithelial barrier function. The aim of this study was to compare epithelial permeability and intercellular junctional protein expression amongst cultured primary sinonasal cells from AFRS patients versus non-inflammatory controls.
Epithelial cells isolated from paranasal sinus mucosa of AFRS and non-inflammatory control patients were grown to confluence on permeable supports and transitioned to air-liquid interface (ALI). Trans-epithelial resistance (TER) was measured with a horizontal Ussing chamber to characterize the functional permeability of each cell type. After TER recordings were complete, a panel of intercellular junctional proteins was assessed by Western blot and immunofluorescence labeling followed by confocal microscopy.
After 12 samples were measured from each group, we observed a 41% mean decrease in TER in AFRS cells (296±89 ohms × cm2) compared to control (503±134 ohms × cm2, P=0.006). TER deficits observed in AFRS were associated with decreased expression of the tight junction proteins occludin and Junctional Adhesion Molecule-A (JAM-A), and increased expression of a leaky tight junction protein claudin-2.
Cultured sinonasal epithelium from AFRS patients displayed increased epithelial permeability and altered expression of intercellular junctional proteins. Given that these cells were not incubated with inflammatory cytokines in vitro, the cultured AFRS epithelial alterations may represent a retained modification in protein expression from the in vivo phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3511593  PMID: 22927233
Adherens junction; allergic fungal rhinosinusitis; allergic rhinitis; claudin-2; E-cadherin; epithelial permeability; junction adhesion molecule-A; occludin; sinonasal epithelium; tight junction
6.  Two tyrosine-based sorting signals in the Cx43 C-terminus cooperate to mediate gap junction endocytosis 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(18):2834-2848.
Three tyrosine-based sorting signals in the gap junction protein connexin 43 were identified, two of which function cooperatively as adaptor protein complex-2 binding sites. The analyses provide a molecular model for clathrin to efficiently internalize large plasma membrane structures and suggest a mechanism for regulating constitutive versus acute gap junction internalization.
Gap junction (GJ) channels that electrically and chemically couple neighboring cells are formed when two hemichannels (connexons) of apposed cells dock head-on in the extracellular space. Remarkably, docked connexons are inseparable under physiological conditions, and we and others have shown that GJs are internalized in whole, utilizing the endocytic clathrin machinery. Endocytosis generates double-membrane vesicles (annular GJs or connexosomes) in the cytoplasm of one of the apposed cells that are degraded by autophagosomal and, potentially, endo/lysosomal pathways. In this study, we investigated the structural motifs that mediate Cx43 GJ endocytosis. We identified three canonical tyrosine-based sorting signals of the type “YXXΦ” in the Cx43 C-terminus, two of which function cooperatively as AP-2 binding sites. We generated a set of green fluorescent protein–tagged and untagged Cx43 mutants that targeted these two sites either individually or together. Mutating both sites completely abolished Cx43-AP-2/Dab2/clathrin interaction and resulted in increased GJ plaque size, longer Cx43 protein half-lives, and impaired GJ internalization. Interestingly, Dab2, an accessory clathrin adaptor found earlier to be important for GJ endocytosis, interacts indirectly with Cx43 via AP-2, permitting the recruitment of up to four clathrin complexes per Cx43 protein. Our analyses provide a mechanistic model for clathrin's efficient internalization of large plasma membrane structures, such as GJs.
PMCID: PMC3771946  PMID: 23885125
7.  JAM-A associates with ZO-2, afadin, and PDZ-GEF1 to activate Rap2c and regulate epithelial barrier function 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(18):2849-2860.
Intestinal barrier function is regulated by epithelial tight junctions, structures that control paracellular permeability. JAM-A regulates epithelial permeability through association with ZO-2, afadin, and PDZ-GEF1 to activate Rap2c and control contraction of the apical cytoskeleton.
Intestinal barrier function is regulated by epithelial tight junctions (TJs), structures that control paracellular permeability. Junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A) is a TJ-associated protein that regulates barrier; however, mechanisms linking JAM-A to epithelial permeability are poorly understood. Here we report that JAM-A associates directly with ZO-2 and indirectly with afadin, and this complex, along with PDZ-GEF1, activates the small GTPase Rap2c. Supporting a functional link, small interfering RNA–mediated down-regulation of the foregoing regulatory proteins results in enhanced permeability similar to that observed after JAM-A loss. JAM-A–deficient mice and cultured epithelial cells demonstrate enhanced paracellular permeability to large molecules, revealing a potential role of JAM-A in controlling perijunctional actin cytoskeleton in addition to its previously reported role in regulating claudin proteins and small-molecule permeability. Further experiments suggest that JAM-A does not regulate actin turnover but modulates activity of RhoA and phosphorylation of nonmuscle myosin, both implicated in actomyosin contraction. These results suggest that JAM-A regulates epithelial permeability via association with ZO-2, afadin, and PDZ-GEF1 to activate Rap2c and control contraction of the apical cytoskeleton.
PMCID: PMC3771947  PMID: 23885123
8.  Distinct Phospholipase C-β Isozymes Mediate Lysophosphatidic Acid Receptor 1 Effects on Intestinal Epithelial Homeostasis and Wound Closure 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(10):2016-2028.
Maintenance of the epithelial barrier in the intestinal tract is necessary to protect the host from the hostile luminal environment. Phospholipase C-β (PLC-β) has been implicated to control myriad signaling cascades. However, the biological effects of selective PLC-β isozymes are poorly understood. We describe novel findings that lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) regulates PLC-β1 and PLC-β2 via two distinct pathways to enhance intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) proliferation and migration that facilitate wound closure and recovery of the intestinal epithelial barrier. LPA acting on the LPA1 receptor promotes IEC migration by facilitating the interaction of Gαq with PLC-β2. LPA-induced cell proliferation is PLC-β1 dependent and involves translocation of Gαq to the nucleus, where it interacts with PLC-β1 to induce cell cycle progression. An in vivo study using LPA1-deficient mice (Lpar1−/−) shows a decreased number of proliferating IECs and migration along the crypt-luminal axis. Additionally, LPA enhances migration and proliferation of IECs in an LPA1-dependent manner, and Lpar1−/− mice display defective mucosal wound repair that requires cell proliferation and migration. These findings delineate novel LPA1-dependent lipid signaling that facilitates mucosal wound repair via spatial targeting of distinct PLC-βs within the cell.
PMCID: PMC3647975  PMID: 23478264
9.  The intracellular fate of zonula occludens 2 is regulated by the phosphorylation of SR repeats and the phosphorylation/O-GlcNAcylation of S257 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(16):2528-2543.
ZO-2 nuclear import and accumulation in speckles is regulated by phosphorylation of its SR repeats by SRPK1 in a process initiated by EGF activation of AKT. ZO-2 nuclear exportation is favored by O-GlcNAc of S257 at the nucleus, whereas maturation of tight junctions is accompanied by ZO-2 phosphorylation at S257 by PKCζ.
Zona occludens 2 (ZO-2) has a dual localization. In confluent epithelia, ZO-2 is present at tight junctions (TJs), whereas in sparse proliferating cells it is also found at the nucleus. Previously we demonstrated that in sparse cultures, newly synthesized ZO-2 travels to the nucleus before reaching the plasma membrane. Now we find that in confluent cultures newly synthesized ZO-2 goes directly to the plasma membrane. Epidermal growth factor induces through AKT activation the phosphorylation of the kinase for SR repeats, serine arginine protein kinase 1, which in turn phosphorylates ZO-2, which contains 16 SR repeats. This phosphorylation induces ZO-2 entry into the nucleus and accumulation in speckles. ZO-2 departure from the nucleus requires intact S257, and stabilizing the β-O-linked N-acetylglucosylation (O-GlcNAc) of S257 with O-(2-acetamido-2-deoxy-d-glucopyranosylidene)amino-N-phenylcarbamate, an inhibitor of O-GlcNAcase, triggers nuclear exportation and proteosomal degradation of ZO-2. At the plasma membrane ZO-2 is not O-GlcNAc, and instead, as TJs mature, it becomes phosphorylated at S257 by protein kinase Cζ. This late phosphorylation of S257 is required for the correct cytoarchitecture to develop, as cells transfected with ZO-2 mutant S257A or S257E form aberrant cysts with multiple lumens. These results reveal novel posttranslational modifications of ZO-2 that regulate the intracellular fate of this protein.
PMCID: PMC3744950  PMID: 23804652
10.  Compromised intestinal epithelial barrier induces adaptive immune compensation that protects from colitis 
Immunity  2012;37(3):563-573.
Mice lacking Junctional Adhesion Molecule A (JAM-A, encoded by F11r) exhibit enhanced intestinal epithelial permeability, bacterial translocation, and elevated colonic lymphocyte numbers, yet do not develop colitis. To investigate the contribution of adaptive immune compensation in response to increased intestinal epithelial permeability, we examined the susceptibility of F11r-/-Rag1-/- mice to acute colitis. Although negligible contributions of adaptive immunity in F11r-/-Rag1-/- mice were observed, F11r-/-Rag1-/- mice exhibited increased microflora-dependent colitis. Elimination of T cell subsets and cytokine analyses revealed a protective role for TGF-β-producing CD4+ T cells in F11r-/- mice. Additionally, loss of JAM-A resulted in elevated mucosal and serum IgA that was dependent upon CD4+ T cells and TGF-β. Absence of IgA in F11r+/+Igha-/- mice did not affect disease whereas F11r-/-Igha-/- mice displayed markedly increased susceptibility to acute injury induced colitis. These data establish a role for adaptive immune mediated protection from acute colitis under conditions of intestinal epithelial barrier compromise.
PMCID: PMC3564580  PMID: 22981539
11.  Galectin-3– and phospho-caveolin-1–dependent outside-in integrin signaling mediates the EGF motogenic response in mammary cancer cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(13):2134-2145.
Galectin-3 binding to N-glycans promotes EGF receptor signaling to integrin in mammary cancer cells. This leads to phospho-caveolin-1–, Src-, and ILK-dependent activation of RhoA, resulting in actin reorganization in circular dorsal ruffles, cell migration, and fibronectin remodeling.
In murine mammary epithelial cancer cells, galectin-3 binding to β1,6-acetylglucosaminyltransferase V (Mgat5)–modified N-glycans restricts epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor mobility in the plasma membrane and acts synergistically with phospho-caveolin-1 to promote integrin-dependent matrix remodeling and cell migration. We show that EGF signaling to RhoA is galectin-3 and phospho-caveolin-1 dependent and promotes the formation of transient, actin-rich, circular dorsal ruffles (CDRs), cell migration, and fibronectin fibrillogenesis via Src- and integrin-linked kinase (ILK)–dependent signaling. ILK, Src, and galectin-3 also mediate EGF stimulation of caveolin-1 phosphorylation. Direct activation of integrin with Mn2+ induces galectin-3, ILK, and Src-dependent RhoA activation and caveolin-1 phosphorylation. This suggests that in response to EGF, galectin-3 enables outside-in integrin signaling stimulating phospho-caveolin-1–dependent RhoA activation, actin reorganization in CDRs, cell migration, and fibronectin remodeling. Similarly, caveolin-1/galectin-3–dependent EGF signaling induces motility, peripheral actin ruffling, and RhoA activation in MDA-MB-231 human breast carcinoma cells, but not HeLa cells. These studies define a galectin-3/phospho-caveolin-1/RhoA signaling module that mediates integrin signaling downstream of growth factor activation, leading to actin and matrix remodeling and tumor cell migration in metastatic cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3694797  PMID: 23657817
12.  Protein kinase CK2 is a critical regulator of epithelial homeostasis in chronic intestinal inflammation 
Mucosal immunology  2012;6(1):136-145.
Molecular mechanisms that restore intestinal epithelial homeostasis during colitis are incompletely understood. Here, we report that during intestinal inflammation, multiple inflammatory cytokines promote the activity of a master regulator of cell proliferation and apoptosis, serine/threonine kinase CK2. Enhanced mucosal CK2 protein expression and activity were observed in animal models of chronic colitis, particularly within intestinal epithelial cells. In-vitro treatment of intestinal epithelial cell lines with cytokines resulted in increased CK2 expression and nuclear translocation of its catalytic α subunit. Similarly, nuclear translocation of CK2α was a prominent feature observed in colonic crypts from individuals with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Further invitro studies revealed that CK2 activity promotes epithelial restitution, and protects normal intestinal epithelial cells from cytokine-induced apoptosis. These observations identify CK2 as a key regulator of homeostatic properties of the intestinal epithelium that serves to promote wound healing, in part through inhibition of apoptosis under conditions of inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3517934  PMID: 22763408
13.  Central role of the exchange factor GEF-H1 in TNF-α–induced sequential activation of Rac, ADAM17/TACE, and RhoA in tubular epithelial cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(7):1068-1082.
Tumor necrosis factor-α activates the enzyme TACE/ADAM17 through the guanine nucleotide exchange factor GEF-H1, Rac, and p38, leading to activation of the epidermal growth factor. GEF-H1 mediates hierarchical activation of Rac and RhoA through differential phosphorylation.
Transactivation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) by tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) is a key step in mediating RhoA activation and cytoskeleton and junction remodeling in the tubular epithelium. In this study we explore the mechanisms underlying TNF-α–induced EGFR activation. We show that TNF-α stimulates the TNF-α convertase enzyme (TACE/a disintegrin and metalloproteinase-17), leading to activation of the EGFR/ERK pathway. TACE activation requires the mitogen-activated protein kinase p38, which is activated through the small GTPase Rac. TNF-α stimulates both Rac and RhoA through the guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF)-H1 but by different mechanisms. EGFR- and ERK-dependent phosphorylation at the T678 site of GEF-H1 is a prerequisite for RhoA activation only, whereas both Rac and RhoA activation require GEF-H1 phosphorylation on S885. Of interest, GEF-H1-mediated Rac activation is upstream from the TACE/EGFR/ERK pathway and regulates T678 phosphorylation. We also show that TNF-α enhances epithelial wound healing through TACE, ERK, and GEF-H1. Taken together, our findings can explain the mechanisms leading to hierarchical activation of Rac and RhoA by TNF-α through a single GEF. This mechanism could coordinate GEF functions and fine-tune Rac and RhoA activation in epithelial cells, thereby promoting complex functions such as sheet migration.
PMCID: PMC3608494  PMID: 23389627
14.  Tetraspanin CD9 links junctional adhesion molecule-A to αvβ3 integrin to mediate basic fibroblast growth factor–specific angiogenic signaling 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(7):933-944.
This paper describes a ternary protein complex consisting of junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A), tetraspanin CD9, and αvβ3 integrin in endothelial cells. In this complex, CD9 links JAM-A to αvβ3 integrin to regulate basic fibroblast growth factor–specific mitogen-activated protein kinase activation, endothelial cell migration, and tube formation. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of the signaling events during angiogenesis.
Junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A) is a member of the immunoglobulin family with diverse functions in epithelial cells, including cell migration, cell contact maturation, and tight junction formation. In endothelial cells, JAM-A has been implicated in basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF)-regulated angiogenesis through incompletely understood mechanisms. In this paper, we identify tetraspanin CD9 as novel binding partner for JAM-A in endothelial cells. CD9 acts as scaffold and assembles a ternary JAM-A-CD9-αvβ3 integrin complex from which JAM-A is released upon bFGF stimulation. CD9 interacts predominantly with monomeric JAM-A, which suggests that bFGF induces signaling by triggering JAM-A dimerization. Among the two vitronectin receptors, αvβ3 and αvβ5 integrin, which have been shown to cooperate during angiogenic signaling with bFGF and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), respectively, CD9 links JAM-A specifically to αvβ3 integrin. In line with this, knockdown of CD9 blocks bFGF- but not VEGF-induced ERK1/2 activation. JAM-A or CD9 knockdown impairs endothelial cell migration and tube formation. Our findings indicate that CD9 incorporates monomeric JAM-A into a complex with αvβ3 integrin, which responds to bFGF stimulation by JAM-A release to regulate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation, endothelial cell migration, and angiogenesis. The data also provide new mechanistic insights into the cooperativity between bFGF and αvβ3 integrin during angiogenic signaling.
PMCID: PMC3608503  PMID: 23389628
15.  Phosphorylation on Ser-279 and Ser-282 of connexin43 regulates endocytosis and gap junction assembly in pancreatic cancer cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(6):715-733.
In tumor cells that coexpress Cx43 and Cx26, the assembly of Cx43 is selectively impaired due to endocytosis. Assembly can be restored upon expressing a Cx43 sorting-motif mutant and mutants that cannot be phosphorylated on Ser-279 or Ser-282.
The molecular mechanisms regulating the assembly of connexins (Cxs) into gap junctions are poorly understood. Using human pancreatic tumor cell lines BxPC3 and Capan-1, which express Cx26 and Cx43, we show that, upon arrival at the cell surface, the assembly of Cx43 is impaired. Connexin43 fails to assemble, because it is internalized by clathrin-mediated endocytosis. Assembly is restored upon expressing a sorting-motif mutant of Cx43, which does not interact with the AP2 complex, and by expressing mutants that cannot be phosphorylated on Ser-279 and Ser-282. The mutants restore assembly by preventing clathrin-mediated endocytosis of Cx43. Our results also document that the sorting-motif mutant is assembled into gap junctions in cells in which the expression of endogenous Cx43 has been knocked down. Remarkably, Cx43 mutants that cannot be phosphorylated on Ser-279 or Ser-282 are assembled into gap junctions only when connexons are composed of Cx43 forms that can be phosphorylated on these serines and forms in which phosphorylation on these serines is abolished. Based on the subcellular fate of Cx43 in single and contacting cells, our results document that the endocytic itinerary of Cx43 is altered upon cell–cell contact, which causes Cx43 to traffic by EEA1-negative endosomes en route to lysosomes. Our results further show that gap-junctional plaques formed of a sorting motif–deficient mutant of Cx43, which is unable to be internalized by the clathrin-mediated pathway, are predominantly endocytosed in the form of annular junctions. Thus the differential phosphorylation of Cx43 on Ser-279 and Ser-282 is fine-tuned to control Cx43’s endocytosis and assembly into gap junctions.
PMCID: PMC3596244  PMID: 23363606
16.  IFN-γ and TNF-α induced GBP-1 inhibits epithelial cell proliferation through suppression of β-catenin/TCF signaling 
Mucosal immunology  2012;5(6):681-690.
Proinflammatory cytokines induce Guanylate Binding Protein 1 (GBP-1) protein expression in intestinal epithelial tissues. GBP-1 has been described as influencing a number of cellular processes important for epithelial homeostasis, including cell proliferation. However, many questions remain as to the role of GBP-1 in intestinal mucosal homeostasis. We therefore sought to investigate the function of proinflammatory cytokine induced GBP-1 during intestinal epithelial cell proliferation. Through the use of complementary GBP-1 overexpression and siRNA-mediated knockdown studies, we now show that GBP-1 acts to inhibit pro-mitogenic β-catenin/T cell factor (TCF) signaling. Interestingly, proinflammatory cytokine induced GBP-1 was found to be a potent suppressor of β-catenin protein levels and β-catenin serine 552 phosphorylation. Neither GSK3-β nor proteasomal inhibition alleviated GBP-1-mediated suppression of cell proliferation or β- catenin/TCF signaling, indicating a non-canonical mechanism of β-catenin inhibition. Together, these data show that cytokine-induced GBP-1 retards cell proliferation by forming a negative feedback loop that suppresses β-catenin/TCF signaling.
PMCID: PMC3481006  PMID: 22692453
17.  Analyzing epithelial and endothelial kisses in Merida 
Tissue Barriers  2013;1(2):e24265.
Last November a group of principal investigators, postdoctoral fellows and PhD students from around the world got together in the city of Merida in Southeastern Mexico in a State of the Art meeting on the “Molecular structure and function of the apical junctional complex in epithelial and endothelia.” They analyzed diverse tissue barriers including those in the gastrointestinal tract, the blood brain barrier, blood neural and blood retinal barriers. The talks revealed exciting new findings in the field, novel technical approaches and unpublished data and highlighted the importance of studying junctional complexes to better understand several pathogenesis and to develop therapeutic approaches that can be utilized for drug delivery. This meeting report has the purpose of highlighting the results and advances discussed by the speakers at the Merida Meeting.
PMCID: PMC3879127
tight junction; occludin; claudins; ZO; blood brain barrier; apical junctional complex
18.  Cleavage of transmembrane junction proteins and their role in regulating epithelial homeostasis 
Tissue Barriers  2013;1(2):e24783.
Epithelial tissues form a selective barrier that separates the external environment from the internal tissue milieu. Single epithelial cells are densely packed and associate via distinct intercellular junctions. Intercellular junction proteins not only control barrier properties of the epithelium but also play an important role in regulating epithelial homeostasis that encompasses cell proliferation, migration, differentiation and regulated shedding. Recent studies have revealed that several proteases target epithelial junction proteins during physiological maturation as well as in pathologic states such as inflammation and cancer. This review discusses mechanisms and biological consequences of transmembrane junction protein cleavage. The influence of junction protein cleavage products on pathogenesis of inflammation and cancer is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3879235  PMID: 24665393
epithelia; intercellular junctions; cleavage of junction proteins; epithelial homeostasis; proteases; soluble junction protein ectodomains; protein shedding; mucosal inflammation; inflammatory bowel disease; cancer
19.  Activation of PKCβII by PMA Facilitates Enhanced Epithelial Wound Repair through Increased Cell Spreading and Migration 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55775.
Rapid repair of epithelial wounds is essential for intestinal homeostasis, and involves cell proliferation and migration, which in turn are mediated by multiple cellular signaling events including PKC activation. PKC isoforms have been implicated in regulating cell proliferation and migration, however, the role of PKCs in intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) wound healing is still not completely understood. In the current work we used phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), a well recognized agonist of classical and non-conventional PKC subfamilies to investigate the effect of PKC activation on IEC wound healing. We found that PMA treatment of wounded IEC monolayers resulted in 5.8±0.7-fold increase in wound closure after 24 hours. The PMA effect was specifically mediated by PKCβII, as its inhibition significantly diminished the PMA-induced increase in wound closure. Furthermore, we show that the PKCβII-mediated increase in IEC wound closure after PMA stimulation was mediated by increased cell spreading/cell migration but not proliferation. Cell migration was mediated by PKCβII dependent actin cytoskeleton reorganization, enhanced formation of lamellipodial extrusions at the leading edge and increased activation of the focal adhesion protein, paxillin. These findings support a role for PKCβII in IEC wound repair and further demonstrate the ability of epithelial cells to migrate as a sheet thereby efficiently covering denuded surfaces to recover the intestinal epithelial barrier.
PMCID: PMC3569445  PMID: 23409039
20.  The Wnt Antagonist Dkk1 Regulates Intestinal Epithelial Homeostasis and Wound Repair 
Gastroenterology  2011;141(1):259-268.e8.
Dkk1 is a secreted antagonist of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. It is induced by inflammatory cytokines during colitis and exacerbates tissue damage by promoting apoptosis of epithelial cells. However, little is known about the physiologic role of Dkk1 in normal intestinal homeostasis and during wound repair following mucosal injury. We investigated whether inhibition of Dkk1 affects the morphology and function of the adult intestine.
We used doubleridge mice (Dkk1d/d), which have reduced expression of Dkk1, and an inhibitory Dkk1 antibody to modulate Wnt/β-catenin signaling in the intestine. Intestinal inflammation was induced with dextran sulfate sodium (DSS), followed by a recovery period in which mice were given regular drinking water. Animals were killed before, during, or after DSS administration; epithelial homeostasis and the activity of major signaling pathways were investigated by morphometric analysis, bromo-2′-deoxyuridine incorporation, and immunostaining.
Reduced expression of Dkk1 increased proliferation of epithelial cells and lengthened crypts in the large intestine, which was associated with increased transcriptional activity of β-catenin. Crypt extension was particularly striking when Dkk1 was inhibited during acute colitis. Dkk1d/d mice recovered significantly faster from intestinal inflammation but exhibited crypt architectural irregularities and epithelial hyperproliferation compared with wild-type mice. Survival signaling pathways were concurrently up-regulated in Dkk1d/d mice, including the AKT/β-catenin, ERK/Elk-1, and c-Jun pathways.
Dkk1, an antagonist of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, regulates intestinal epithelial homeostasis under physiologic conditions and during inflammation. Depletion of Dkk1 induces a strong proliferative response that promotes wound repair after colitis.
PMCID: PMC3551610  PMID: 21440550
IBD; Crohn’s Disease; Mucosa; Intestinal Cell Signaling
21.  Annexin A1, formyl peptide receptor, and NOX1 orchestrate epithelial repair 
N-formyl peptide receptors (FPRs) are critical regulators of host defense in phagocytes and are also expressed in epithelia. FPR signaling and function have been extensively studied in phagocytes, yet their functional biology in epithelia is poorly understood. We describe a novel intestinal epithelial FPR signaling pathway that is activated by an endogenous FPR ligand, annexin A1 (ANXA1), and its cleavage product Ac2-26, which mediate activation of ROS by an epithelial NADPH oxidase, NOX1. We show that epithelial cell migration was regulated by this signaling cascade through oxidative inactivation of the regulatory phosphatases PTEN and PTP-PEST, with consequent activation of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and paxillin. In vivo studies using intestinal epithelial specific Nox1–/–IEC and AnxA1–/– mice demonstrated defects in intestinal mucosal wound repair, while systemic administration of ANXA1 promoted wound recovery in a NOX1-dependent fashion. Additionally, increased ANXA1 expression was observed in the intestinal epithelium and infiltrating leukocytes in the mucosa of ulcerative colitis patients compared with normal intestinal mucosa. Our findings delineate a novel epithelial FPR1/NOX1-dependent redox signaling pathway that promotes mucosal wound repair.
PMCID: PMC3533303  PMID: 23241962
22.  Critical role of the first transmembrane domain of Cx26 in regulating oligomerization and function 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(17):3299-3311.
This study identifies a motif within the first transmembrane domain of Cx26, from amino acids Val-37 through Ala-40, that is critical for oligomerization and function. The impacts of deafness-associated mutations within this motif upon gap junction channel and hemichannel functions correlate with the severity of disease that they cause.
To identify motifs involved in oligomerization of the gap junction protein Cx26, we studied individual transmembrane (TM) domains and the full-length protein. Using the TOXCAT assay for interactions of isolated TM α-helices, we found that TM1, a Cx26 pore domain, had a strong propensity to homodimerize. We identified amino acids Val-37–Ala-40 (VVAA) as the TM1 motif required for homodimerization. Two deafness-associated Cx26 mutations localized in this region, Cx26V37I and Cx26A40G, differentially affected dimerization. TM1-V37I dimerized only weakly, whereas TM1-A40G did not dimerize. When the full-length mutants were expressed in HeLa cells, both Cx26V37I and Cx26A40G formed oligomers less efficiently than wild-type Cx26. A Cx26 cysteine substitution mutant, Cx26V37C formed dithiothreitol-sensitive dimers. Substitution mutants of Val-37 formed intercellular channels with reduced function, while mutants of Ala-40 did not form functional gap junction channels. Unlike wild-type Cx26, neither Cx26V37I nor Cx26A40G formed functional hemichannels in low extracellular calcium. Thus the VVAA motif of Cx26 is critical for TM1 dimerization, hexamer formation, and channel function. The differential effects of VVAA mutants on hemichannels and gap junction channels imply that inter-TM interactions can differ in unapposed and docked hemichannels. Moreover, Cx26 oligomerization appears dependent on transient TM1 dimerization as an intermediate step.
PMCID: PMC3431943  PMID: 22787277
23.  Grainyhead-like 2 regulates epithelial morphogenesis by establishing functional tight junctions through the organization of a molecular network among claudin3, claudin4, and Rab25 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(15):2845-2855.
Grainyhead-like 2 (Grhl2) is a transcription factor that regulates the size of the luminal space surrounded by polarized epithelial cells. Grhl2 promotes epithelial barrier function and the formation of large lumen by up-regulating Cldn3, Cldn4, and Rab25. The results reveal a molecular network regulating epithelial lumen formation.
During development, epithelial progenitors establish intercellular junctions, including tight junctions (TJs), and form three-dimensional (3D) tissue structures, which are often associated with luminal structures. Here we identify grainyhead-like 2 (Grhl2) as a transcription factor that regulates the size of luminal space surrounded by polarized epithelial cells. We show that HPPL, a liver progenitor cell line, transfected with Grhl2 cDNA forms remarkably larger cysts than the control cells in 3D cultures. We find that Grhl2 up-regulates claudin (Cldn) 3 and Cldn4, and their functions are necessary for the formation of large cysts. Overexpression of Cldn3 alone induces the cyst expansion. In contrast, expression of Cldn4 alone does not induce expansion, as it is not localized at TJs. Of interest, Rab25, another Grhl2 target, not only increases the Cldn4 protein, but also enhances its localization at TJs. Taken together, the results indicate that Grhl2 regulates epithelial morphogenesis through transcriptional up-regulation of Cldn3 and Cldn4, as well as of Rab25, which increases the Cldn4 protein and its localization at TJs. The results reveal a molecular network regulating epithelial lumen formation organized by Grhl2.
PMCID: PMC3408412  PMID: 22696678
24.  Krüppel-like Factor 5 is Important for Maintenance of Crypt Architecture and Barrier Function in Mouse Intestine 
Gastroenterology  2011;141(4):1302-1313.e6.
Background & Aims
Krüppel-like factor 5 (KLF5) is transcription factor that is expressed by dividing epithelial cells of the intestinal epithelium. KLF5 promotes proliferation in vitro and in vivo and is induced by mitogens and various stress stimuli. To study the role of KLF5 in intestinal epithelial homeostasis, we examined the phenotype of mice with conditional deletion of Klf5 in the gut.
Mice were generated with intestinal-specific deletion of Klf5 (Vil-Cre;Klf5fl/fl).
Morphological changes in the small intestine and colon were examined by immunohistochemistry, immunoblotting, and real-time PCR.
Klf5 mutant mice were born at a normal Mendelian ratio but had high mortality compared to controls. Complete deletion of Klf5 from the intestinal mucosa resulted in neonatal lethality that corresponded with an absence of epithelial proliferation. Variegated intestinal-specific deletion of Klf5 in adult mice resulted in morphological changes that included a regenerative phenotype, impaired barrier function, and inflammation. Adult mutant mice exhibited defects in epithelial differentiation and migration. These changes were associated with reduced expression of Cdx 1, Cdx2, and Eph and ephrin signaling proteins. Concomitantly, Wnt signaling to β-catenin was reduced. Proliferation in regenerative crypts was associated with increased expression of the progenitor cell marker Sox9.
Deletion of Klf5 in the gut epithelium of mice demonstrated that KLF5 maintains epithelial proliferation, differentiation, and cell positioning along the crypt radial axis. Morphological changes that occur with deletion of Klf5 are associated with disruption of canonical Wnt signaling and increased expression of Sox9.
PMCID: PMC3186863  PMID: 21763241
intestinal homeostasis; gastrointestinal development; genetics; GI tract
25.  Conformational epitopes at cadherin calcium-binding sites and p120-catenin phosphorylation regulate cell adhesion 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(11):2092-2108.
The activity state of E-cadherin is controlled by conformational epitopes at interfaces between different EC domains, which are coupled to p120-catenin phosphorylation. Dephosphorylation activates adhesion, whereas phosphorylation inhibits activation. p120-dependent changes in the physical state of E-cadherin regulate epithelial cell morphogenesis.
We investigated changes in cadherin structure at the cell surface that regulate its adhesive activity. Colo 205 cells are nonadhesive cells with a full but inactive complement of E-cadherin–catenin complexes at the cell surface, but they can be triggered to adhere and form monolayers. We were able to distinguish the inactive and active states of E-cadherin at the cell surface by using a special set of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Another set of mAbs binds E-cadherin and strongly activates adhesion. In other epithelial cell types these activating mAbs inhibit growth factor–induced down-regulation of adhesion and epithelial morphogenesis, indicating that these phenomena are also controlled by E-cadherin activity at the cell surface. Both types of mAbs recognize conformational epitopes at different interfaces between extracellular cadherin repeat domains (ECs), especially near calcium-binding sites. Activation also induces p120-catenin dephosphorylation, as well as changes in the cadherin cytoplasmic domain. Moreover, phospho-site mutations indicate that dephosphorylation of specific Ser/Thr residues in the N-terminal domain of p120-catenin mediate adhesion activation. Thus physiological regulation of the adhesive state of E-cadherin involves physical and/or conformational changes in the EC interface regions of the ectodomain at the cell surface that are mediated by catenin-associated changes across the membrane.
PMCID: PMC3364174  PMID: 22513089

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