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1.  Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) mediates influenza H7N9 virus-induced acute lung injury 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:7027.
Since March 2013, the emergence of an avian-origin influenza A (H7N9) virus has raised concern in China. Although most infections resulted in respiratory illness, some severe cases resulted in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is a severe form of acute lung injury (ALI) that further contributes to morbidity. To date, no effective drugs that improve the clinical outcome of influenza A (H7N9) virus-infected patients have been identified. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and ACE2 are involved in several pathologies such as cardiovascular functions, renal disease, and acute lung injury. In the current study, we report that ACE2 could mediate the severe acute lung injury induced by influenza A (H7N9) virus infection in an experimental mouse model. Moreover, ACE2 deficiency worsened the disease pathogenesis markedly, mainly by targeting the angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1). The current findings demonstrate that ACE2 plays a critical role in influenza A (H7N9) virus-induced acute lung injury, and suggest that might be a useful potential therapeutic target for future influenza A (H7N9) outbreaks.
PMCID: PMC4229671  PMID: 25391767
2.  Forward and reverse mouse genetics through derivation of haploid embryonic stem cells 
Cell stem cell  2011;9(6):563-574.
All somatic mammalian cells carry two copies of chromosomes (diploidy), whereas organisms with a single copy of their genome such as yeast provide a basis for recessive genetics. Here we report the generation of haploid mouse ES cell lines from parthenogenetic embryos. These cells carry 20 chromosomes, express stem cell markers, and develop into all germ-layers in vitro and in vivo. We also developed a reversible mutagenesis protocol that allows saturated genetic recessive screens and results in homozygous alleles. This system allowed us to generate the first knock-out cell line for the microRNA processing enzyme Drosha. In a forward genetic screen, we identified Gpr107 as a molecule essential for killing by ricin, a toxin being used as bioweapon. Our results open the possibility to combine the power of a haploid genome with pluripotency of embryonic stem cells to uncover fundamental biological processes in defined cell types at a genomic scale.
PMCID: PMC4008724  PMID: 22136931
3.  Complete cardiac regeneration in a mouse model of myocardial infarction 
Aging (Albany NY)  2012;4(12):966-977.
Cardiac remodeling and subsequent heart failure remain critical issues after myocardial infarction despite improved treatment and reperfusion strategies. Recently, complete cardiac regeneration has been demonstrated in fish and newborn mice following resection of the cardiac apex. However, it remained entirely unclear whether the mammalian heart can also completely regenerate following a complex cardiac ischemic injury. We established a protocol to induce a severe heart attack in one-day-old mice using left anterior descending artery (LAD) ligation. LAD ligation triggered substantial cardiac injury in the left ventricle defined by Caspase 3 activation and massive cell death. Ischemia-induced cardiomyocyte death was also visible on day 4 after LAD ligation. Remarkably, 7 days after the initial ischemic insult, we observed complete cardiac regeneration without any signs of tissue damage or scarring. This tissue regeneration translated into long-term normal heart functions as assessed by echocardiography. In contrast, LAD ligations in 7-day-old mice resulted in extensive scarring comparable to adult mice, indicating that the regenerative capacity for complete cardiac healing after heart attacks can be traced to the first week after birth. RNAseq analyses of hearts on day 1, day 3, and day 10 and comparing LAD-ligated and sham-operated mice surprisingly revealed a transcriptional programme of major changes in genes mediating mitosis and cell division between days 1, 3 and 10 postnatally and a very limited set of genes, including genes regulating cell cycle and extracellular matrix synthesis, being differentially regulated in the regenerating hearts. We present for the first time a mammalian model of complete cardiac regeneration following a severe ischemic cardiac injury. This novel model system provides the unique opportunity to uncover molecular and cellular pathways that can induce cardiac regeneration after ischemic injury, findings that one day could be translated to human heart attack patients.
PMCID: PMC3615162  PMID: 23425860
Heart regeneration; cell cycle; heart disease
4.  ZPK/DLK and MKK4 Form the Critical Gateway to Axotomy-Induced Motoneuron Death in Neonates 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(32):10729-10742.
Motoneuron death after transection of the axons (axotomy) in neonates is believed to share the same mechanistic bases as naturally occurring programmed cell death during development. The c-Jun N-terminal kinase pathway is activated in both forms of motoneuron death, but it remains unknown to what extent these two forms of motoneuron death depend on this pathway and which upstream kinases are involved. We found that numbers of facial motoneurons are doubled in neonatal mice deficient in either ZPK/DLK (zipper protein kinase, also known as dual leucine zipper kinase), a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase, or in MKK4/MAP2K4, a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase directly downstream of ZPK/DLK, and that the facial motoneurons in those mutant mice are completely resistant to axotomy-induced death. Conditional deletion of MKK4/MAP2K4 in neurons further suggested that ZPK/DLK and MKK4/MAP2K4-dependent mechanisms underlying axotomy-induced death are motoneuron autonomous. Nevertheless, quantitative analysis of facial motoneurons during embryogenesis revealed that both ZPK/DLK and MKK4/MAP2K4-dependent and -independent mechanisms contribute to developmental elimination of excess motoneurons. In contrast to MKK4/MAP2K4, mice lacking MKK7/MAP2K7, another mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase directly downstream of ZPK/DLK, conditionally in neurons did not have excess facial motoneurons. However, some MKK7/MAP2K7-deficient facial motoneurons were resistant to axotomy-induced death, indicating a synergistic effect of MKK7/MAP2K7 on axotomy-induced death of these facial motoneurons. Together, our study provides compelling evidence for the pivotal roles of the ZPK/DLK and MKK4/MAP2K4-dependent mechanism in axotomy-induced motoneuron death in neonates and also demonstrates that axotomy-induced motoneuron death is not identical to developmental motoneuron death with respect to the involvement of ZPK/DLK, MKK4/MAP2K4 and MKK7/MAP2K7.
PMCID: PMC4200111  PMID: 25100604
injury response; mitogen-activated protein kinase; programmed cell death
5.  Adoptive Transfer of siRNA Cblb-Silenced CD8+ T Lymphocytes Augments Tumor Vaccine Efficacy in a B16 Melanoma Model 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44295.
The ubiquitin ligase Cbl-b is an established regulator of T cell immune response thresholds. We recently showed that adoptive cell transfer (ACT) of cblb−/− CD8+ T cells enhances dendritic cell (DC) immunization-mediated anti-tumor effects in immune-competent recipients. However, translation of cblb targeting to clinically applicable concepts requires that inhibition of cblb activity be transient and reversible. Here we provide experimental evidence that inhibition of cblb using chemically synthesized siRNA has such potential. Silencing cblb expression by ex vivo siRNA transfection of polyclonal CD8+ T cells prior to ACT increased T cell tumor infiltration, significantly delayed tumor outgrowth, and increased survival rates of tumor-bearing mice. As shown by ex vivo recall assays, cblb silencing resulted in significant augmentation of intratumoral T cell cytokine response. ACT of cblb-silenced polyclonal CD8+ T cells combined with DC-based tumor vaccines predominantly mediated anti-tumor immune responses, whereas no signs of autoimmunity could be detected. Importantly, CBLB silencing in human CD8+ T cells mirrored the effects observed for cblb-silenced and cblb-deficient murine T cells. Our data validate the concept of enhanced anti-tumor immunity by repetitive ACT of ex vivo cblb siRNA-silenced hyper-reactive CD8+ T cells as add-on adjuvant therapy to augment the efficacy of existing cancer immunotherapy regimens in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3433477  PMID: 22962608
6.  Spontaneous tumor rejection by cbl-b–deficient CD8+ T cells 
The concept of tumor surveillance implies that specific and nonspecific components of the immune system eliminate tumors in the early phase of malignancy. Understanding the biochemical mechanisms of tumor immunosurveillance is of paramount significance because it might allow one to specifically modulate spontaneous antitumor activity. We report that inactivation of the E3 ligase Casitas B cell lymphoma-b (Cbl-b) confers spontaneous in vivo rejection of tumor cells that express human papilloma virus antigens. Moreover, cbl-b−/− mice develop significantly fewer ultraviolet B (UVB)–induced skin malignancies and reject UVB-induced skin tumors. CD8+ T cells were identified as key players in the spontaneous tumor rejection response. Loss of Cbl-b not only enhances antitumor reactivity of CD8+ T cells but also occurs in the absence of CD4+ T cells. Mechanistically, cbl-b−/− CD8+ T cells are resistant to T regulatory cell–mediated suppression and exhibit enhanced activation and rapid tumor infiltration. Importantly, therapeutic transfer of naive cbl-b−/− CD8+ T cells is sufficient to mediate rejection of established tumors. Even up to 1 yr after the first encounter with the tumor cells, cbl-b−/− mice carry an “anticancer memory.” These data identify Cbl-b as a key signaling molecule that controls spontaneous antitumor activity of cytotoxic T cells in different cancer models. Inhibition of Cbl-b is a novel approach to stimulate long-lasting immunity against cancer.
PMCID: PMC2118550  PMID: 17403934
7.  T-bet negatively regulates autoimmune myocarditis by suppressing local production of interleukin 17 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2006;203(8):2009-2019.
Experimental autoimmune myocarditis (EAM) appears after infectious heart disease, the most common cause of dilated cardiomyopathy in humans. Here we report that mice lacking T-bet, a T-box transcription factor required for T helper (Th)1 cell differentiation and interferon (IFN)-γ production, develop severe autoimmune heart disease compared to T-bet−/− control mice. Experiments in T-bet−/− IL-4−/− and T-bet−/− IL-4Rα−/− mice, as well as transfer of heart-specific Th1 and Th2 cell lines, showed that autoimmune heart disease develops independently of Th1 or Th2 polarization. Analysis of T-bet−/− IL-12Rβ1−/− and T-bet−/− IL-12p35−/− mice then identified interleukin (IL)-23 as critical for EAM pathogenesis. In addition, T-bet−/− mice showed a marked increase in production of the IL-23–dependent cytokine IL-17 by heart-infiltrating lymphocytes, and in vivo IL-17 depletion markedly reduced EAM severity in T-bet−/− mice. Heart-infiltrating T-bet−/− CD8+ but not CD8− T cells secrete IFN-γ, which inhibits IL-17 production and protects against severe EAM. In contrast, T-bet−/− CD8+ lymphocytes completely lost their capacity to release IFN-γ within the heart. Collectively, these data show that severe IL-17–mediated EAM can develop in the absence of T-bet, and that T-bet can regulate autoimmunity via the control of nonspecific CD8+ T cell bystander functions in the inflamed target organ.
PMCID: PMC2118365  PMID: 16880257
8.  Muscle-Specific Loss of Apoptosis-Inducing Factor Leads to Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Skeletal Muscle Atrophy, and Dilated Cardiomyopathy 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(23):10261-10272.
Cardiac and skeletal muscle critically depend on mitochondrial energy metabolism for their normal function. Recently, we showed that apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), a mitochondrial protein implicated in programmed cell death, plays a role in mitochondrial respiration. However, the in vivo consequences of AIF-regulated mitochondrial respiration resulting from a loss-of-function mutation in Aif are not known. Here, we report tissue-specific deletion of Aif in the mouse. Mice in which Aif has been inactivated specifically in cardiac and skeletal muscle exhibit impaired activity and protein expression of respiratory chain complex I. Mutant animals develop severe dilated cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and skeletal muscle atrophy accompanied by lactic acidemia consistent with defects in the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Isolated hearts from mutant animals exhibit poor contractile performance in response to a respiratory chain-dependent energy substrate, but not in response to glucose, supporting the notion that impaired heart function in mutant animals results from defective mitochondrial energy metabolism. These data provide genetic proof that the previously defined cell death promoter AIF has a second essential function in mitochondrial respiration and aerobic energy metabolism required for normal heart function and skeletal muscle homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC1291246  PMID: 16287843
9.  The Molecular Adapter Carma1 Controls Entry of IκB Kinase into the Central Immune Synapse 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2004;200(9):1167-1177.
Carma1 (also known as caspase recruitment domain [CARD]11, Bimp3) is a CARD-containing membrane-associated guanylate kinase family protein that plays an essential role in antigen receptor–induced nuclear factor κB activation. We investigated the role of Carma1 in the assembly of signaling molecules at the immune synapse using a peptide-specific system. We report that Carma1 is essential for peptide-induced interleukin 2 and interferon γ production, but dispensable for proliferation in T cells. Recruitment and distribution of T cell receptor, lymphocyte function associated 1, lipid rafts, and protein kinase C (PKC)θ to central and peripheral immune synapse regions occur normally in Carma1−/− T cells. Carma1 controls entry of IκB kinase (IKK) into lipid raft aggregates and the central region of the immune synapse, as well as activation of IKK downstream of PKC. Our data provide the first genetic evidence on a new class of molecular scaffold that controls entry of defined signaling components, IKK, into the central supramolecular activation cluster at T cell–antigen-presenting cell interfaces without having any apparent effect on the overall organization and formation of immune synapses.
PMCID: PMC2211862  PMID: 15520247
Carma1/CARD11/Bimp3; MAGUK; T cell; IKK; immune synapse
10.  The Cyclin-dependent Kinase Cdk2 Regulates Thymocyte Apoptosis  
Aberrant activation of cell cycle molecules has been postulated to play a role in apoptosis (“catastrophic cell cycle”). Here we show that in noncycling developing thymocytes, the cyclin- dependent kinase Cdk2 is activated in response to all specific and nonspecific apoptotic stimuli tested, including peptide-specific thymocyte apoptosis. Cdk2 was found to function upstream of the tumor suppressor p53, transactivation of the death promoter Bax, alterations of mitochondrial permeability, Bcl-2, caspase activation, and caspase-dependent proteolytic cleavage of the retinoblastoma protein. Inhibition of Cdk2 completely protected thymocytes from apoptosis, mitochondrial changes, and caspase activation. These data provide the first evidence that Cdk2 activity is crucial for the induction of thymocyte apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2193040  PMID: 10075979
cyclin-dependent kinase 2; apoptosis; cell cycle; thymocyte
11.  Vav Regulates Peptide-specific Apoptosis in Thymocytes  
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  1998;188(11):2099-2111.
The protooncogene Vav functions as a GDP/GTP exchange factor (GEF) for Rho-like small GTPases involved in cytoskeletal reorganization and cytokine production in T cells. Gene-targeted mice lacking Vav have a severe defect in positive and negative selection of T cell antigen receptor transgenic thymocytes in vivo, and vav−/− thymocytes are completely resistant to peptide-specific and anti-CD3/anti-CD28–mediated apoptosis. Vav acts upstream of mitochondrial pore opening and caspase activation. Biochemically, Vav regulates peptide-specific Ca2+ mobilization and actin polymerization. Peptide-specific cell death was blocked both by cytochalasin D inhibition of actin polymerization and by inhibition of protein kinase C (PKC). Activation of PKC with phorbol ester restored peptide-specific apoptosis in vav−/− thymocytes. Vav was found to bind constitutively to PKC-θ in thymocytes. Our results indicate that peptide-triggered thymocyte apoptosis is mediated via Vav activation, changes in the actin cytoskeleton, and subsequent activation of a PKC isoform.
PMCID: PMC2212394  PMID: 9841924
Vav; negative selection; actin cytoskeleton; signaling transduction; protein kinase C
13.  Cerebral organoids model human brain development and microcephaly 
Nature  2013;501(7467):10.1038/nature12517.
The complexity of the human brain has made it difficult to study many brain disorders in model organisms, and highlights the need for an in vitro model of human brain development. We have developed a human pluripotent stem cell-derived 3D organoid culture system, termed cerebral organoid, which develops various discrete though interdependent brain regions. These include cerebral cortex containing progenitor populations that organize and produce mature cortical neuron subtypes. Furthermore, cerebral organoids recapitulate features of human cortical development, namely characteristic progenitor zone organization with abundant outer radial glial stem cells. Finally, we use RNAi and patient-specific iPS cells to model microcephaly, a disorder that has been difficult to recapitulate in mice. We demonstrate premature neuronal differentiation in patient organoids, a defect that could explain the disease phenotype. Our data demonstrate that 3D organoids can recapitulate development and disease of even this most complex human tissue.
PMCID: PMC3817409  PMID: 23995685
14.  CXCL10-CXCR3 Enhances the Development of Neutrophil-mediated Fulminant Lung Injury of Viral and Nonviral Origin 
Rationale: Patients who developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) after infection with severe respiratory viruses (e.g., severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus, H5N1 avian influenza virus), exhibited unusually high levels of CXCL10, which belongs to the non-ELR (glutamic-leucine-arginine) CXC chemokine superfamily. CXCL10 may not be a bystander to the severe virus infection but may directly contribute to the pathogenesis of neutrophil-mediated, excessive pulmonary inflammation.
Objectives: We investigated the contribution of CXCL10 and its receptor CXCR3 axis to the pathogenesis of ARDS with nonviral and viral origins.
Methods: We induced nonviral ARDS by acid aspiration and viral ARDS by intratracheal influenza virus infection in wild-type mice and mice deficient in CXCL10, CXCR3, IFNAR1 (IFN-α/β receptor 1), or TIR domain-containing adaptor inducing IFN-β (TRIF).
Measurements and Main Results: We found that the mice lacking CXCL10 or CXCR3 demonstrated improved severity and survival of nonviral and viral ARDS, whereas mice that lack IFNAR1 did not control the severity of ARDS in vivo. The increased levels of CXCL10 in lungs with ARDS originate to a large extent from infiltrated pulmonary neutrophils, which express a unique CXCR3 receptor via TRIF. CXCL10-CXCR3 acts in an autocrine fashion on the oxidative burst and chemotaxis in the inflamed neutrophils, leading to fulminant pulmonary inflammation.
Conclusions: CXCL10-CXCR3 signaling appears to be a critical factor for the exacerbation of the pathology of ARDS. Thus, the CXCL10-CXCR3 axis could represent a prime therapeutic target in the treatment of the acute phase of ARDS of nonviral and viral origins.
PMCID: PMC3927876  PMID: 23144331
Background and Purpose
Angiotensin II produces oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction in cerebral arteries, and angiotensin II type I receptors may play a role in longevity and vascular aging. Angiotensin converting enzyme type 2 (ACE2) converts angiotensin II to angiotensin (1–7) and thus may protect against effects of angiotensin II. We hypothesized that ACE2 deficiency increases oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction in cerebral arteries, and examined the role of ACE2 in age-related cerebrovascular dysfunction.
Endothelial function, expression of angiotensin system components, NADPH oxidase subunits, and proinflammatory cytokines were examined in cerebral arteries from adult [12 mo old] and old [24 mo old] ACE2 knockout (KO) and wild type (WT) mice. The superoxide scavenger tempol was used to examine the role of oxidative stress on endothelial function.
Vasodilatation to acetylcholine was impaired in adult ACE2 KO [24±6% (mean +/− SE)] compared to WT mice [52±7%, p<0.05]. In old mice, vasodilatation to acetylcholine was impaired in WT mice [29±6%] and severely impaired in ACE2 KO mice [7±5%]. Tempol improved endothelial function in adult and old ACE2 KO and WT mice. Aging increased mRNA for TNFα in WT mice, and significantly increased mRNA levels of Nox2, p47phox, and Rcan1 in both ACE2 KO and WT mice. mRNA levels of angiotensin system components did not change during aging.
ACE2 deficiency impaired endothelial function in cerebral arteries from adult mice and augmented endothelial dysfunction during aging. Oxidative stress plays a critical role in cerebrovascular dysfunction induced by ACE2 deficiency and aging.
PMCID: PMC3529166  PMID: 23160880
Endothelium; angiotensin converting enzyme 2; aging; cerebral arteries; oxidative stress
16.  Apelin is a positive regulator of ACE2 in failing hearts 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(12):5203-5211.
Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a negative regulator of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS), catalyzing the conversion of Angiotensin II to Angiotensin 1-7. Apelin is a second catalytic substrate for ACE2 and functions as an inotropic and cardioprotective peptide. While an antagonistic relationship between the RAS and apelin has been proposed, such functional interplay remains elusive. Here we found that ACE2 was downregulated in apelin-deficient mice. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1R) rescued the impaired contractility and hypertrophy of apelin mutant mice, which was accompanied by restored ACE2 levels. Importantly, treatment with angiotensin 1-7 rescued hypertrophy and heart dysfunctions of apelin-knockout mice. Moreover, apelin, via activation of its receptor, APJ, increased ACE2 promoter activity in vitro and upregulated ACE2 expression in failing hearts in vivo. Apelin treatment also increased cardiac contractility and ACE2 levels in AT1R-deficient mice. These data demonstrate that ACE2 couples the RAS to the apelin system, adding a conceptual framework for the apelin-ACE2–angiotensin 1-7 axis as a therapeutic target for cardiovascular diseases.
PMCID: PMC3859384  PMID: 24177423
17.  The RNA kinase CLP1 links tRNA metabolism to progressive motor neuron loss 
Nature  2013;495(7442):474-480.
CLP1 is the first discovered mammalian RNA kinase. However, its in vivo function has been entirely elusive. We have generated kinase-dead Clp1 (Clp1K/K) mice which exhibit a progressive loss of spinal motor neurons associated with axonal degeneration in peripheral nerves, denervation of neuromuscular junctions, and results in impaired motor function, muscle weakness, paralysis and fatal respiratory failure. Transgenic rescue experiments show that CLP1 functions in motor neurons. Mechanistically, loss of CLP1 activity results in accumulation of an entirely novel set of small RNA fragments, derived from aberrant processing of tyrosine pre-tRNA. These tRNA fragments sensitize cells to oxidative stress-induced p53 activation and p53-dependent cell death. Genetic inactivation of p53 rescues Clp1K/K mice from the motor neuron loss, muscle denervation and respiratory failure. Our experiments uncover a mechanistic link between tRNA processing, formation of a new RNA species and progressive loss of lower motor neurons regulated by p53.
PMCID: PMC3674495  PMID: 23474986
18.  Cardiac protective effects of irbesartan via the PPAR-gamma signaling pathway in angiotensin-converting enzyme 2-deficient mice 
Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a monocarboxypeptidase which metabolizes angiotensin II (Ang II) to generate Ang-(1–7), has been shown to prevent cardiac hypertrophy and injury but the mechanism remains elusive. Irbesartan has the dual actions of angiotensin receptor blockade and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ) activation. We hypothesized that irbesartan would exert its protective effects on ACE2 deficiency-mediated myocardial fibrosis and cardiac injury via the PPARγ signaling.
10-week-old ACE2 knockout (ACE2KO; Ace2-/y) mice received daily with irbesartan (50 mg/kg) or saline for 2 weeks. The wild-type mice (Ace2+/y) were used to the normal controls. We examined changes in myocardial ultrastructure, fibrosis-related genes and pathological signaling by real-time PCR gene array, Western blotting, Masson trichrome staining and transmission electron microscope analyses, respectively.
Compared with the Ace2+/y mice, cardiac expression of PPARα and PPARγ were reduced in Ace2-/y mice and the myocardial collagen volume fraction (CVF) and expression of fibrosis-related genes were increased, including transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFβ1), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), collagen I and collagen III. Moreover, ACE2 deficiency triggered cardiac hypertrophy, increased myocardial fibrosis and adverse ultrastructure injury in ACE2KO hearts with higher levels of atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) and phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2), without affecting cardiac systolic function. Intriguingly, treatment with irbesartan significantly reversed ACE2 deficiency-mediated pathological hypertrophy and myocardial fibrosis in Ace2-/y mice linked with enhancement of plasma Ang-(1–7) level and downregulation of AT1 receptor in heart. Consistent with attenuation of myocardial fibrosis and ultrastructure injury, the myocardial CVF and levels of ANF, TGFβ1, CTGF, collagen I, collagen III and phosphorylated ERK1/2 were lower, and expression of PPARγ was higher in ACE2KO mice in response to irbesartan treatment, without affecting cardiac expression of PPARα, PPARδ, β-myosin heavy chain, TGFβ2 and fibronectin.
We conclude that irbesartan prevents ACE2 deficiency-mediated pathological hypertrophy and myocardial fibrosis in ACE2 mutant mice via activation of the PPARγ signaling and suppression of the TGFβ−CTGF−ERK signaling, resulting in attenuation of myocardial injury. Drugs targeting ACE2 and PPARγ represent potential candidates to prevent and treat myocardial injury and related cardiac disorders.
PMCID: PMC3850664  PMID: 24067190
Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2; Irbesartan; Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ; Connective tissue growth factor; Myocardial injury
19.  Loss of Apelin Exacerbates Myocardial Infarction Adverse Remodeling and Ischemia‐reperfusion Injury: Therapeutic Potential of Synthetic Apelin Analogues 
Coronary artery disease leading to myocardial ischemia is the most common cause of heart failure. Apelin (APLN), the endogenous peptide ligand of the APJ receptor, has emerged as a novel regulator of the cardiovascular system.
Methods and Results
Here we show a critical role of APLN in myocardial infarction (MI) and ischemia‐reperfusion (IR) injury in patients and animal models. Myocardial APLN levels were reduced in patients with ischemic heart failure. Loss of APLN increased MI‐related mortality, infarct size, and inflammation with drastic reductions in prosurvival pathways resulting in greater systolic dysfunction and heart failure. APLN deficiency decreased vascular sprouting, impaired sprouting of human endothelial progenitor cells, and compromised in vivo myocardial angiogenesis. Lack of APLN enhanced susceptibility to ischemic injury and compromised functional recovery following ex vivo and in vivo IR injury. We designed and synthesized two novel APLN analogues resistant to angiotensin converting enzyme 2 cleavage and identified one analogue, which mimicked the function of APLN, to be markedly protective against ex vivo and in vivo myocardial IR injury linked to greater activation of survival pathways and promotion of angiogenesis.
APLN is a critical regulator of the myocardial response to infarction and ischemia and pharmacologically targeting this pathway is feasible and represents a new class of potential therapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC3828798  PMID: 23817469
angiogenesis; cardiomyopathy; heart failure; ischemia‐reperfusion injury; myocardial infarction
20.  Developmentally Regulated Availability of RANKL and CD40L Reveals Distinct Mechanisms Of Fetal And Adult Crosstalk In The Thymus Medulla1 
T-cell tolerance in the thymus is a key step in shaping the developing T-cell repertoire. Thymic medullary epithelial cells play multiple roles in this process including negative selection of autoreactive thymocytes, influencing thymic dendritic cell positioning, and the generation of FoxP3+ Regulatory T-cells. Previous studies show that mTEC development involves haemopoietic crosstalk, and numerous Tumour Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily members have been implicated in this process. While CD40 and RANK represent key examples, interplay between these receptors, and the individual cell types providing their ligands at both fetal and adult stages of thymus development, remain unclear. Here, by analysis of the cellular sources of RANKL and CD40L during fetal and adult crosstalk in the mouse, we show that innate immune cells system drive initial fetal mTEC development via expression of RANKL but not CD40L. In contrast, crosstalk involving the adaptive immune system involves both RANKL and CD40L, with analysis of distinct subsets of intrathymic CD4+ T-cells revealing a differential contribution of CD40L by conventional, but not FoxP3+ regulatory, T-cells. We also provide evidence for a stepwise involvement of TNF-Receptors in mTEC development, with CD40 up-regulation induced by initial RANK signalling subsequently controlling proliferation within the mTEC compartment. Collectively, our findings show how multiple haemopoietic cell types regulate mTEC development through differential provision of RANKL/CD40L during ontogeny, revealing molecular differences in fetal and adult haemopoietic crosstalk. They also suggest a stepwise process of mTEC development, in which RANK is a master player in controlling the availability of other TNF-Receptor family members.
PMCID: PMC3605790  PMID: 23152561
Thymus; Cell Differentiation; Stromal Cells
21.  Linking cytoarchitecture to metabolism: sarcolemma-associated plectin affects glucose uptake by destabilizing microtubule networks in mdx myofibers 
Skeletal Muscle  2013;3:14.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is one of the most frequent forms of muscular disorders. It is caused by the absence of dystrophin, a core component of the sarcolemma-associated junctional complex that links the cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix. We showed previously that plectin 1f (P1f), one of the major muscle-expressed isoforms of the cytoskeletal linker protein plectin, accumulates at the sarcolemma of DMD patients as well as of mdx mice, a widely studied animal model for DMD.
Based on plectin’s dual role as structural protein and scaffolding platform for signaling molecules, we speculated that the dystrophic phenotype observed after loss of dystrophin was caused, at least to some extent, by excess plectin. Thus, we hypothesized that elimination of plectin expression in mdx skeletal muscle, while probably resulting in an overall more severe phenotype, may lead to a partial phenotype rescue. In particular, we wanted to assess whether excess sarcolemmal plectin contributes to the dysregulation of sugar metabolism in mdx myofibers.
We generated plectin/dystrophin double deficient (dKO) mice by breeding mdx with conditional striated muscle-restricted plectin knockout (cKO) mice. The phenotype of these mice was comparatively analyzed with that of mdx, cKO, and wild-type mice, focusing on structural integrity and dysregulation of glucose metabolism.
We show that the accumulation of plectin at the sarcolemma of mdx muscle fibers hardly compensated for their loss of structural integrity. Instead, it led to an additional metabolic deficit by impairing glucose uptake. While dKO mice suffered from an overall more severe form of muscular dystrophy compared to mdx or plectin-deficient mice, sarcolemmal integrity as well as glucose uptake of their myofibers were restored to normal levels upon ablation of plectin. Furthermore, microtubule (MT) networks in intact dKO myofibers, including subsarcolemmal areas, were found to be more robust than those in mdx mice. Finally, myotubes differentiated from P1f-overexpressing myoblasts showed an impairment of glucose transporter 4 translocation and a destabilization of MT networks.
Based on these results we propose that sarcolemma-associated plectin acts as an antagonist of MT network formation in myofibers, thereby hindering vesicle-mediated (MT-dependent) transport of glucose transporter 4. This novel role of plectin throws a bridge between extra-sarcomeric cytoarchitecture and metabolism of muscle fibers. Our study thus provides new insights into pathomechanisms of plectinopathies and muscular dystrophies in general.
PMCID: PMC3695810  PMID: 23758845
Plectin; Dystrophin; Sarcolemmal integrity; Glucose metabolism; Microtubules
22.  The Role of the E3 Ligase Cbl-B in Murine Dendritic Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65178.
Dendritic cells (DCs) are potent antigen-presenting cells with a promising potential in cancer immunotherapy. Cbl proteins are E3 ubiquitin ligases and have been implicated in regulating the functional activity of various immune cells. As an example, c-Cbl negatively affects DC activation. We here describe that another member of the Cbl-protein family (i.e. Cbl-b) is highly expressed in murine bone-marrow-derived DCs (BMDCs). Differentiation of cblb−/− bone marrow mononuclear cells into classical BMDCs is unaltered, except enhanced induction of DEC-205 (CD205) expression. When tested in mixed-lymphocyte reaction (MLR), cblb−/− BMDCs exhibit increased allo-stimulatory capacity in vitro. BMDCs were next in vitro stimulated by various toll like receptor (TLR)-agonists (LPS, Poly(I:C), CpG) and exposed to FITC-labeled dextran. Upon TLR-stimulation, cblb−/− BMDCs produce higher levels of proinflammatory cytokines (IL-1α, IL-6 and TNF-α) and exhibit a slightly higher level of FITC-dextran uptake. To further characterize the functional significance of cblb−/− BMDCs we tested them in antigen-specific T cell responses against ovalbumin (OVA) protein and peptides, activating either CD8+ OT-I or CD4+ OT-II transgenic T cells. However, cblb−/− BMDCs are equally effective in inducing antigen-specific T cell responses when compared to wildtype BMDCs both in vitro and in vivo. The migratory capacity into lymph nodes during inflammation was similarly not affected by the absence of Cbl-b. In line with these observations, cblb−/− peptide-pulsed BMDCs are equally effective vaccines against OVA-expressing B16 tumors in vivo when compared to wildtype BMDCs. We conclude that in contrast to c-Cbl, Cbl-b plays only a limited role in the induction of Ag-specific T cell responses by murine BMDCs in vitro and in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3675148  PMID: 23762309
24.  Stimulation of Bone Formation in Cortical Bone of Mice Treated with a Receptor Activator of Nuclear Factor-κB Ligand (RANKL)-binding Peptide That Possesses Osteoclastogenesis Inhibitory Activity 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;288(8):5562-5571.
Background: A RANKL-binding peptide WP9QY (W9) is known to inhibit osteoclastogenesis.
Results: W9 showed an anabolic effect on cortical bone in mice. W9 bound RANKL and differentiated osteoblasts with production of autocrine factors like BMP-4.
Conclusion: Signaling through RANKL is involved in part in the W9-induced osteoblast differentiation.
Significance: The RANKL pathway could be a novel mechanism in osteoblast differentiation.
To date, parathyroid hormone is the only clinically available bone anabolic drug. The major difficulty in the development of such drugs is the lack of clarification of the mechanisms regulating osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Here, we report a peptide (W9) known to abrogate osteoclast differentiation in vivo via blocking receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL)-RANK signaling that we surprisingly found exhibits a bone anabolic effect in vivo. Subcutaneous administration of W9 three times/day for 5 days significantly augmented bone mineral density in mouse cortical bone. Histomorphometric analysis showed a decrease in osteoclastogenesis in the distal femoral metaphysis and a significant increase in bone formation in the femoral diaphysis. Our findings suggest that W9 exerts bone anabolic activity. To clarify the mechanisms involved in this activity, we investigated the effects of W9 on osteoblast differentiation/mineralization in MC3T3-E1 (E1) cells. W9 markedly increased alkaline phosphatase (a marker enzyme of osteoblasts) activity and mineralization as shown by alizarin red staining. Gene expression of several osteogenesis-related factors was increased in W9-treated E1 cells. Addition of W9 activated p38 MAPK and Smad1/5/8 in E1 cells, and W9 showed osteogenesis stimulatory activity synergistically with BMP-2 in vitro and ectopic bone formation. Knockdown of RANKL expression in E1 cells reduced the effect of W9. Furthermore, W9 showed a weak effect on RANKL-deficient osteoblasts in alkaline phosphatase assay. Taken together, our findings suggest that this peptide may be useful for the treatment of bone diseases, and W9 achieves its bone anabolic activity through RANKL on osteoblasts accompanied by production of several autocrine factors.
PMCID: PMC3581422  PMID: 23319583
Bone; Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP); Mesenchymal Stem Cells; Osteoblasts; Peptides; Bidirectional Signaling; Coupling; Osteoclasts; RANK; RANKL
25.  Bnip3 and AIF cooperate to induce apoptosis and cavitation during epithelial morphogenesis 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2012;198(1):103-114.
Apoptosis during epithelial lumen formation is mediated by hypoxia-induced expression of the proapoptotic protein Bnip3, which is promoted by AIF-mediated reactive oxygen species production and HIF-2α stabilization.
Apoptosis is an essential step in cavitation during embryonic epithelial morphogenesis, but its mechanisms are largely unknown. In this paper, we used embryonic stem cell–differentiated embryoid bodies (EBs) as a model and found that Bnip3 (Bcl-2/adenovirus E1B 19-kD interacting protein), a BH3-only proapoptotic protein, was highly up-regulated during cavitation in a hypoxia-dependent manner. Short hairpin RNA silencing of Bnip3 inhibited apoptosis of the core cells and delayed cavitation. We show that the Bnip3 up-regulation was mediated mainly by hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)–2. Ablation of HIF-2α or HIF-1β, the common β subunit of HIF-1 and -2, suppressed Bnip3 up-regulation and inhibited apoptosis and cavitation. We further show that apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) cooperated with Bnip3 to promote lumen clearance. Bnip3 silencing in AIF-null EBs nearly blocked apoptosis and cavitation. Moreover, AIF also regulated Bnip3 expression through mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species and consequent HIF-2α stabilization. These results uncover a mechanism of cavitation through hypoxia-induced apoptosis of the core cells mediated by HIFs, Bnip3, and AIF.
PMCID: PMC3392936  PMID: 22753893

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