Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are of great interest in biology and medicine due to their ability to self-renew and differentiate into any adult or fetal cell type. Important efforts have identified biochemical factors, signaling pathways, and transcriptional networks that regulate hPSC biology. However, recent work investigating the effect of biophysical cues on mammalian cells and adult stem cells suggests that the mechanical properties of the microenvironment, such as stiffness, may also regulate hPSC behavior. While several studies have explored this mechanoregulation in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs), it has been challenging to extrapolate these findings and thereby explore their biomedical implications in hPSCs. For example, it remains unclear whether hPSCs can be driven down a given tissue lineage by providing tissue-mimetic stiffness cues. Here we address this open question by investigating the regulation of hPSC neurogenesis by microenvironmental stiffness. We find that increasing extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness in vitro increases hPSC cell and colony spread area but does not alter self-renewal, in contrast to past studies with mESCs. However, softer ECMs with stiffnesses similar to that of neural tissue promote the generation of early neural ectoderm. This mechanosensitive increase in neural ectoderm requires only a short 5-day soft stiffness “pulse,” which translates into downstream increases in both total neurons as well as therapeutically relevant dopaminergic neurons. These findings further highlight important differences between mESCs and hPSCs and have implications for both the design of future biomaterials as well as our understanding of early embryonic development.
Stem cells reside within most tissues throughout the lifetimes of mammalian organisms. To maintain their capacities for division and differentiation and thereby build, maintain, and regenerate organ structure and function, these cells require extensive and precise regulation, and a critical facet of this control is the local environment or niche surrounding the cell. It is well known that soluble biochemical signals play important roles within such niches, and a number of biophysical aspects of the microenvironment, including mechanical cues and spatiotemporally varying biochemical signals, have also been increasingly recognized to contribute to the repertoire of stimuli that regulate various stem cells in various tissues of both vertebrates and invertebrates. For example, biochemical factors immobilized to the extracellular matrix or the surface of neighboring cells can be spatially organized in their placement. Furthermore, the extracellular matrix provides mechanical support and regulatory information, such as its elastic modulus and interfacial topography, which modulate key aspects of stem cell behavior. Numerous examples of each of these modes of regulation indicate that biophysical aspects of the niche must be appreciated and studied in conjunction with its biochemical properties.
Müller glia, the primary glial cell in the retina, provide structural and metabolic support for neurons and are essential for retinal integrity. Müller cells are closely involved in many retinal degenerative diseases, including macular telangiectasia type 2, in which impairment of central vision may be linked to a primary defect in Müller glia. Here, we used an engineered, Müller-specific variant of AAV, called ShH10, to deliver a photo-inducibly toxic protein, KillerRed, to Müller cells in the mouse retina. We characterized the results of specific ablation of these cells on visual function and retinal structure. ShH10-KillerRed expression was obtained following intravitreal injection and eyes were then irradiated with green light to induce toxicity. Induction of KillerRed led to loss of Müller cells and a concomitant decrease of Müller cell markers glutamine synthetase and cellular retinaldehyde-binding protein, reduction of rhodopsin and cone opsin, and upregulation of glial fibrillary acidic protein. Loss of Müller cells also resulted in retinal disorganization, including thinning of the outer nuclear layer and the photoreceptor inner and outer segments. High resolution imaging of thin sections revealed displacement of photoreceptors from the ONL, formation of rosette-like structures and the presence of phagocytic cells. Furthermore, Müller cell ablation resulted in increased area and volume of retinal blood vessels, as well as the formation of tortuous blood vessels and vascular leakage. Electrophysiologic measures demonstrated reduced retinal function, evident in decreased photopic and scotopic electroretinogram amplitudes. These results show that loss of Müller cells can cause progressive retinal degenerative disease, and suggest that AAV delivery of an inducibly toxic protein in Müller cells may be useful to create large animal models of retinal dystrophies.
Higher order chromatin structure in eukaryotes can lead to differential gene expression in response to the same transcription factor; however, how transcription factor inputs integrate with quantitative features of the chromatin environment to regulate gene expression is not clear. In vitro models of HIV gene regulation, in which repressive mechanisms acting locally at an integration site keep proviruses transcriptionally silent until appropriately stimulated, provide a powerful system to study gene expression regulation in different chromatin environments. Here we quantified HIV expression as a function of activating transcription factor nuclear factor-κB RelA/p65 (RelA) levels and chromatin features at a panel of viral integration sites. Variable RelA overexpression demonstrated that the viral genomic location sets a threshold RelA level necessary to induce gene expression. However, once the induction threshold is reached, gene expression increases similarly for all integration sites. Furthermore, we found that higher induction thresholds are associated with repressive histone marks and a decreased sensitivity to nuclease digestion at the LTR promoter. Increasing chromatin accessibility via inhibition of histone deacetylation or DNA methylation lowered the induction threshold, demonstrating that chromatin accessibility sets the level of RelA required to activate gene expression. Finally, a functional relationship between gene expression, RelA level, and chromatin accessibility accurately predicted synergistic HIV activation in response to combinatorial pharmacological perturbations. Different genomic environments thus set a threshold for transcription factor activation of a key viral promoter, which may point toward biological principles that underlie selective gene expression and inform strategies for combinatorial therapies to combat latent HIV.
Most past studies of the biophysical regulation of stem cell differentiation have focused on initial lineage commitment or proximal differentiation events. It would be valuable to understand whether biophysical inputs also influence distal endpoints more closely associated with physiological function, such as subtype specification in neuronal differentiation. To explore this question, we cultured adult neural stem cells (NSCs) on variable stiffness ECMs under conditions that promote neuronal fate commitment for extended time periods to allow neuronal subtype differentiation. We find that ECM stiffness does not modulate the expression of NeuroD1 and TrkA/B/C or the percentages of pan-neuronal, GABAergic, or glutamatergic neuronal subtypes. Interestingly, however, an ECM stiffness of 700 Pa maximizes expression of pan-neuronal markers. These results suggest that a wide range of stiffnesses fully permit pan-neuronal NSC differentiation, that an intermediate stiffness optimizes expression of pan-neuronal genes, and that stiffness does not impact commitment to particular neuronal subtypes.
This work builds upon our findings that proteins secreted by hESCs exhibit pro-regenerative activity, and determines that hESC-conditioned medium robustly enhances the proliferation of both muscle and neural progenitor cells. Importantly, this work establishes that it is the proteins that bind heparin which are responsible for the pro-myogenic effects of hESC-conditioned medium, and indicates that this strategy is suitable for enriching the potentially therapeutic factors. Additionally, this work shows that hESC-secreted proteins act independently of the mitogen FGF-2, and suggests that FGF-2 is unlikely to be a pro-aging molecule in the physiological decline of old muscle repair. Moreover, hESC-secreted factors improve the viability of human cortical neurons in an Alzheimer's disease (AD) model, suggesting that these factors can enhance the maintenance and regeneration of multiple tissues in the aging body.
rejuvenation; embryonic stem cell; myoblast; satellite cell
Neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus involves activation of quiescent neural stem cells (NSCs) to yield transiently amplifying NSCs and progenitors, and ultimately neurons that affect learning and memory. This process is tightly controlled by microenvironmental cues, though few endogenous factors are known to regulate neuronal differentiation. While astrocytes have been implicated, their role in juxtacrine (i.e. cell-cell contact-dependent) signaling within NSC niches has not been investigated. We show that ephrin-B2 presented from rodent hippocampal astrocytes regulates neurogenesis in vivo. Furthermore, clonal analysis in NSC fate-mapping studies reveals a novel role for ephrin-B2 in instructing neuronal differentiation. Additionally, ephrin-B2 signaling, transduced by EphB4 receptors on NSCs, activates β-catenin in vitro and in vivo independent of Wnt signaling and upregulates proneural transcription factors. Ephrin-B2+ astrocytes thus promote neuronal differentiation of adult NSCs through juxtacrine signaling, findings that advance our understanding of adult neurogenesis and may have future regenerative medicine implications.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors are extremely effective gene-delivery vehicles for a broad range of applications. However, the therapeutic efficacy of these and other vectors is currently limited by barriers to safe, efficient gene delivery, including pre-existing antiviral immunity, and infection of off-target cells. Recently, we have implemented directed evolution of AAV, involving the generation of randomly mutagenized viral libraries based on serotype 2 and high-throughput selection, to engineer enhanced viral vectors. Here, we significantly extend this capability by performing high-efficiency in vitro recombination to create a large (107), diverse library of random chimeras of numerous parent AAV serotypes (AAV1, 2, 4–6, 8, and 9). In order to analyze the extent to which such highly chimeric viruses can be viable, we selected the library for efficient viral packaging and infection, and successfully recovered numerous novel chimeras. These new viruses exhibited a broad range of cell tropism both in vitro and in vivo and enhanced resistance to human intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), highlighting numerous functional differences between these chimeras and their parent serotypes. Thus, directed evolution can potentially yield unlimited numbers of new AAV variants with novel gene-delivery properties, and subsequent analysis of these variants can further extend basic knowledge of AAV biology.
Multiple extracellular factors have been shown to modulate adult hippocampal neural progenitor cell (NPC) proliferation and self-renewal, and we have previously shown that Akt is an important mediator of the effects of these extracellular factors on NPC proliferation and differentiation. However, very little work has investigated how and whether Akt is involved in maintaining the multipotency of these cells. Here we demonstrate that Akt promotes expression of Sox2, a core transcription factor important for the self-renewal of NPCs. Retroviral-mediated overexpression of wild-type Akt increased Sox2 protein expression, particularly under conditions that promote cell differentiation, whereas Akt inhibition decreased Sox2. Similarly, quantitative reverse transcription (RT)–PCR in differentiating cultures indicated that Akt rescued Sox2 mRNA to levels present under conditions that promote cell proliferation. Additionally, pharmacological inhibition of Akt did not affect Sox2 protein levels in cells constitutively expressing Sox2 from a retroviral vector, indicating that Akt does not affect Sox2 protein stability. Further, in contrast to Akt overexpression, Sox2 overexpression does not increase NPC viable cell number or proliferation yet does inhibit differentiation. Collectively, these results indicate that Akt promotes cell proliferation and maintenance of a multipotent state via two downstream paths.
We previously used directed evolution in human airway epithelia to create adeno-associated virus 2.5T (AAV2.5T), a highly infectious chimera of AAV2 and AAV5 with one point mutation (A581T). We hypothesized that the mechanism for its increased infection may be a higher binding affinity to the surface of airway epithelia than its parent AAV5. Here, we show that, like AAV5, AAV2.5T, uses 2,3N-linked sialic acid as its primary receptor; however, AAV2.5T binds to the apical surface of human airway epithelia at higher levels and has more receptors than AAV5. Furthermore, its binding affinity is similar to that of AAV5. An alternative hypothesis is that AAV2.5T interaction with 2,3N-linked sialic acid may instead be required for cellular internalization. Consistent with this, AAV2.5T binds but fails to be internalized by CHO cells that lack surface expression of sialic acid. Moreover, whereas AAV2.5T binds similarly to human (rich in 2,3N-linked sialic acid) and pig airway epithelia (2,6N-linked sialic acid), significantly more virus was internalized by human airway. Subsequent transduction correlated with the level of internalized rather than surface-bound virus. We also found that human airway epithelia internalized significantly more AAV2.5T than AAV5. These data suggest that AAV2.5T has evolved to utilize specific 2,3N-linked sialic acid residues on the surface of airway epithelia that mediate rapid internalization and subsequent infection. Thus, sialic acid serves as not just an attachment factor but is also required for AAV2.5T internalization, possibly representing an important rate-limiting step for other viruses that use sialic acids.
Neuronal degeneration and the deterioration of neuronal communication lie at the origin of many neuronal disorders, and there have been major efforts to develop cell replacement therapies for treating such diseases. One challenge, however, is that differentiated cells are challenging to transplant due to their sensitivity both to being uprooted from their cell culture growth support and to shear forces inherent in the implantation process. Here, we describe an approach to address these problems. We demonstrate that rat hippocampal neurons can be grown on colloidal particles or beads, matured and even transfected in vitro, and subsequently transplanted while adhered to the beads into the young adult rat hippocampus. The transplanted cells have a 76% cell survival rate one week post-surgery. At this time, most transplanted neurons have left their beads and elaborated long processes, similar to the host neurons. Additionally, the transplanted cells distribute uniformly across the host hippocampus. Expression of a fluorescent protein and the light-gated glutamate receptor in the transplanted neurons enabled them to be driven to fire by remote optical control. At 1-2 weeks after transplantation, calcium imaging of host brain slice shows that optical excitation of the transplanted neurons elicits activity in nearby host neurons, indicating the formation of functional transplant-host synaptic connections. After 6 months, the transplanted cell survival and overall cell distribution remained unchanged, suggesting that cells are functionally integrated. This approach, which could be extended to other cell classes such as neural stem cells and other regions of the brain, offers promising prospects for neuronal circuit repair via transplantation of in vitro differentiated, genetically engineered neurons.
Peptide-functionalized materials show promise in controlling stem cell behavior by mimicking cell-matrix interactions. Supported lipid bilayers are an excellent platform for displaying peptides due to their ease of fabrication and low non-specific interactions with cells. In this paper, we report on the behavior of adult hippocampal neural stem cells (NSCs) on phospholipid bilayers functionalized with different RGD-containing peptides: either GGGNGEPRGDTYRAY (‘bsp-RGD(15)’) or GRGDSP. Fluid supported bilayers were prepared on glass surfaces by adsorption and fusion of small lipid vesicles incorporating synthetic peptide amphiphiles. NSCs adhered to bilayers with either GRGDSP or bsp-RGD(15) peptide. After 5 days in culture, NSCs formed neurosphere-like aggregates on GRGDSP bilayers, whereas on bsp-RGD(15) bilayers a large fraction of single adhered cells were observed, comparable to monolayer growth seen on laminin controls. NSCs retained their ability to differentiate into neurons and astrocytes on both peptide surfaces. This work illustrates the utility of supported bilayers in displaying peptide ligands and demonstrates that RGD peptides may be useful in synthetic culture systems for stem cells.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are conventionally classified as toxic consequences of aerobic life, and the brain is particularly susceptible to ROS-induced oxidative stress and damage owing to its high energy and oxygen demands. In this context, NAPDH oxidases (Nox) are a widespread source of brain ROS implicated in seizures, stroke, and neurodegeneration. A physiological role for ROS generation in normal brain function has not been established, despite the fact that mice and humans lacking functional Nox proteins exhibit cognitive deficits. Using molecular imaging with Peroxyfluor-6 (PF6), a new selective fluorescent indicator for hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), we show that adult hippocampal stem/progenitor cells (AHPs) generate H2O2 through Nox2 to regulate intracellular growth signaling pathways, which in turn maintains their normal proliferation in vitro and in vivo. Our results challenge the traditional view that brain ROS are solely deleterious by demonstrating that controlled ROS chemistry is needed for maintaining specific cell populations.
Adeno-associated viral vectors, which are undergoing broad exploration in clinical trials, have significant promise for therapeutic gene delivery due to their safety and delivery efficiency. Gene delivery technologies capable of mediating localized gene expression may further enhance AAV’s potential in a variety of therapeutic applications by reducing spread outside of a target region, which may thereby reduce off-target side effects. We have genetically engineered an AAV variant capable of binding to surfaces with high affinity via a hexahistidine-metal binding interaction. This immobilized AAV vector system mediates high efficiency delivery to cells that contact the surface and thus may have promise for localized gene delivery, which may aid numerous applications of AAV delivery to gene therapy.
adeno-associated virus; localized gene delivery; substrate-mediated gene delivery; hexa-histidine
Gene therapies for retinal degeneration have relied on subretinal delivery of viral vectors carrying therapeutic DNA. The subretinal injection is clearly not ideal as it limits the viral transduction profile to a focal region at the injection site and negatively affects the neural retina by detaching it from the supportive retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). We assessed changes in adeno-associated virus (AAV) dispersion and transduction in the degenerating rat retina after intravitreal delivery. We observed a significant increase in AAV-mediated gene transfer in the diseased compared with normal retina, the extent of which depends on the AAV serotype injected. We also identified key structural changes that correspond to increased viral infectivity. Particle diffusion and transgene accumulation in normal and diseased retina were monitored via fluorescent labeling of viral capsids and quantitative PCR. Viral particles were observed to accumulate at the vitreoretinal junction in normal retina, whereas particles spread into the outer retina and RPE in degenerated tissue. Immunohistochemistry illustrates remarkable changes in the architecture of the inner limiting membrane, which are likely to underlie the increased viral transduction in diseased retina. These data highlight the importance of characterizing gene delivery vectors in diseased tissue as structural and biochemical changes can alter viral vector transduction patterns. Furthermore, these results indicate that gene delivery to the outer nuclear layer may be achieved by noninvasive intravitreal AAV administration in the diseased state.
Kolstad et al. evaluate the distribution of vector particles and transduction of AAV administered intravitreally in diseased versus healthy retinas. Whereas healthy retinas are not very receptive to vector penetration and transduction following intravitreal injection, in retinal degenerations the authors show improved and more extensive gene transfer.
Due to the natural tropism of most viral vectors, including adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors, efficient gene delivery within the central nervous system and retina occurs primarily to neurons and epithelia. Despite the clinical relevance of glia for homeostasis in neural tissue, and as causal contributors in genetic disorders such as Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, efforts to develop more efficient gene delivery vectors for glia have met with limited success. Recently, viral vector engineering involving high-throughput random diversification and selection has enabled the rapid creation of novel AAV vectors with valuable new gene delivery properties. We have engineered novel AAV variants capable of efficient glia transduction by employing directed evolution with a panel of four distinct AAV libraries, including a new semi-random peptide replacement strategy. Several novel variants transduced both human and rat astrocytes in vitro up to 15-fold higher than their parent serotypes, and injection into the rat striatum led to astrocyte transduction levels up to 16% of the total transduced cell population. Furthermore, one variant exhibited a substantial shift in tropism towards Müller glia within the retina, further highlighting the general utility of these variants for efficient glia transduction within the CNS and retina.
The eradication of HIV-1 will likely require novel clinical approaches to purge the reservoir of latently infected cells from a patient. We hypothesize that this therapy should target a wide range of latent integration sites, act effectively against viral variants that have acquired mutations in their promoter regions, and function across multiple HIV-1 subtypes. By using primary CD4+ and Jurkat cell-based in vitro HIV-1 latency models, we observe that single-agent latency reactivation therapy is ineffective against most HIV-1 subtypes. However, we demonstrate that the combination of two clinically promising drugs—namely, prostratin and suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA)—overcomes the limitations of single-agent approaches and can act synergistically for many HIV-1 subtypes, including A, B, C, D, and F. Finally, by identifying the proviral integration position of latent Jurkat cell clones, we demonstrate that this drug combination does not significantly enhance the expression of endogenous genes nearest to the proviral integration site, indicating that its effects may be selective.
With an estimated 38 million people worldwide currently infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and an additional 4.1 million people becoming infected each year, it is important to understand how this virus mutates and develops resistance in order to design successful therapies.
We report a novel experimental method for amplifying full-length HIV genomes without the use of sequence-specific primers for high throughput DNA sequencing, followed by assembly of full length viral genome sequences from the resulting large dataset. Illumina was chosen for sequencing due to its ability to provide greater coverage of the HIV genome compared to prior methods, allowing for more comprehensive characterization of the heterogeneity present in the HIV samples analyzed. Our novel amplification method in combination with Illumina sequencing was used to analyze two HIV populations: a homogenous HIV population based on the canonical NL4-3 strain and a heterogeneous viral population obtained from a HIV patient's infected T cells. In addition, the resulting sequence was analyzed using a new computational approach to obtain a consensus sequence and several metrics of diversity.
This study demonstrates how a lower bias amplification method in combination with next generation DNA sequencing provides in-depth, complete coverage of the HIV genome, enabling a stronger characterization of the quasispecies present in a clinically relevant HIV population as well as future study of how HIV mutates in response to a selective pressure.
There has been an increasing interest in understanding how the mechanical properties of the microenvironment influence stem cell fate. We describe studies of the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells (NSCs) encapsulated within three-dimensional scaffolds – alginate hydrogels – whose elastic moduli were varied over two orders of magnitude. The rate of proliferation of neural stem cells decreased with increase in the modulus of the hydrogels. Moreover, we observed the greatest enhancement in expression of the neuronal marker β-tubulin III within the softest hydrogels, which had an elastic modulus comparable to that of brain tissues. To our knowledge, this work represents the first demonstration of the influence of modulus on NSC differentiation in three-dimensional scaffolds. Three-dimensional scaffolds that control stem cell fate would be broadly useful for applications in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.
Gene therapy is an emerging alternative to conventional anti-HIV-1 drugs, and can potentially control the virus while alleviating major limitations of current approaches. Yet, HIV-1's ability to rapidly acquire mutations and escape therapy presents a critical challenge to any novel treatment paradigm. Viral escape is thus a key consideration in the design of any gene-based technique. We develop a computational model of HIV's evolutionary dynamics in vivo in the presence of a genetic therapy to explore the impact of therapy parameters and strategies on the development of resistance. Our model is generic and captures the properties of a broad class of gene-based agents that inhibit early stages of the viral life cycle. We highlight the differences in viral resistance dynamics between gene and standard antiretroviral therapies, and identify key factors that impact long-term viral suppression. In particular, we underscore the importance of mutationally-induced viral fitness losses in cells that are not genetically modified, as these can severely constrain the replication of resistant virus. We also propose and investigate a novel treatment strategy that leverages upon gene therapy's unique capacity to deliver different genes to distinct cell populations, and we find that such a strategy can dramatically improve efficacy when used judiciously within a certain parametric regime. Finally, we revisit a previously-suggested idea of improving clinical outcomes by boosting the proliferation of the genetically-modified cells, but we find that such an approach has mixed effects on resistance dynamics. Our results provide insights into the short- and long-term effects of gene therapy and the role of its key properties in the evolution of resistance, which can serve as guidelines for the choice and optimization of effective therapeutic agents.
A primary obstacle to the success of any anti-HIV treatment is HIV's ability to rapidly resist it by generating new viral strains whose vulnerability to the treatment is reduced. Gene therapies represent a novel class of treatments for HIV infection that may supplement or replace present therapies, as they alleviate some of their major shortcomings. The design of gene therapeutic agents that effectively reduce viral resistance can be aided by a quantitative elucidation of the processes by which resistance is acquired following therapy initiation. We developed a computational model that describes a patient's response to therapy and used it to quantify the influence of therapy parameters and strategies on the development of viral resistance. We find that gene therapy induces different clinical conditions and a much slower viral response than present therapies. These dictate different design principles such as a greater significance to the virus' competence in the absence of therapy. We also show that one can effectively delay emergence of resistance by delivering distinct therapeutic genes into separate cell populations. Our results highlight the differences between traditional and gene therapies and provide a basic understanding of how key controllable parameters and strategies affect resistance development.
Muscle stem (satellite) cells are relatively resistant to cell-autonomous aging. Instead, their endogenous signaling profile and regenerative capacity is strongly influenced by the aged, differentiated niche (Carlson and Conboy, 2007a; Carlson et al., 2008) and by the aged circulation (Brack and Rando, 2007; Carlson and Conboy, 2007a; Conboy et al., 2005). With respect to muscle fibers, we previously established that a shift from active Notch to excessive TGF-β/pSmad3 induces CDK inhibitors in satellite cells, thereby interfering with productive myogenic responses (Carlson et al., 2008; Conboy et al., 2003). In contrast, the systemic inhibitor of muscle repair, elevated in old sera, was suggested to be Wnt (Brack et al., 2007). Here, we examined the age-dependent myogenic activity of sera TGF-β1, and its potential cross-talk with systemic Wnt. We found that sera TGF-β1 becomes elevated within aged humans and mice, while systemic Wnt remained undetectable in these species. Wnt also failed to inhibit satellite cell myogenicity, while TGF-β1 suppressed regenerative potential in a biphasic fashion. Intriguingly, young levels of TGF-β1 were inhibitory and young sera suppressed myogenesis if TGF-β1 was activated. Our data suggest that platelet-derived sera TGF-β1 levels, or endocrine TGF-β1 levels, do not explain the age-dependent inhibition of muscle regeneration by this cytokine. In vivo, TGF-β neutralizing antibody, or a soluble decoy, failed to reduce systemic TGF-β1 and to rescue myogenesis in old mice. However, muscle regeneration was improved by the systemic delivery of a TGF-β receptor kinase inhibitor, which attenuated TGF-β signaling in skeletal muscle. Summarily, these findings argue against the endocrine path of a TGF-β1-dependent block on muscle regeneration, identify physiological modalities of age-imposed changes in TGF-β1, and introduce new therapeutic strategies for the broad restoration of aged organ repair.
Like many viruses, HIV can rapidly evolve when placed under selective pressure, including immune surveillance or the administration of antiretroviral drugs. The virus typically acquires resistance by mutating the targeted proteins. Accordingly, when HIV has been suppressed with RNA interference (RNAi) directed against viral RNAs, it has escaped by acquiring mutations at the target region that circumvent RNAi-mediated inhibition while conserving necessary viral functions. However, when we directed RNAi against a novel target in the viral TAR hairpin, which cannot be altered without severely impairing viral replication, HIV did not mutate the target site. Instead several mutations that indirectly compensated for the antiviral activity through upregulation of viral transcription were isolated. This represents a novel mechanism by which viruses can tune viral transcriptional regulation as an indirect mechanism to compensate for viral suppression.
The pathologies of numerous retinal degenerative diseases can be attributed to a multitude of genetic factors, and individualized treatment options for afflicted patients are limited and cost-inefficient. In light of the shared neurodegenerative phenotype among these disorders, a safe and broad-based neuroprotective approach would be desirable to overcome these obstacles. As a result, gene delivery of secretable-neuroprotective factors to Müller cells, a type of retinal glia that contacts all classes of retinal neurons, represents an ideal approach to mediate protection of the entire retina through a simple and innocuous intraocular, or intravitreal, injection of an efficient vehicle such as an adeno-associated viral vector (AAV). Although several naturally occurring AAV variants have been isolated with a variety of tropisms, or cellular specificities, these vectors inefficiently infect Müller cells via intravitreal injection.
We have previously applied directed evolution to create several novel AAV variants capable of efficient infection of both rat and human astrocytes through iterative selection of a panel of highly diverse AAV libraries. Here, in vivo and in vitro characterization of these isolated variants identifies a previously unreported AAV variant ShH10, closely related to AAV serotype 6 (AAV6), capable of efficient, selective Müller cell infection through intravitreal injection. Importantly, this new variant shows significantly improved transduction relative to AAV2 (>60%) and AAV6.
Our findings demonstrate that AAV is a highly versatile vector capable of powerful shifts in tropism from minor sequence changes. This isolated variant represents a new therapeutic vector to treat retinal degenerative diseases through secretion of neuroprotective factors from Müller cells as well as provides new opportunities to study their biological functions in the retina.
The Notch signaling pathway controls numerous cell fate decisions during development and adulthood through diverse mechanisms. Thus, whereas it functions as an oscillator during somitogenesis, it can mediate an all-or-none cell fate switch to influence pattern formation in various tissues during development. Furthermore, while in some contexts continuous Notch signaling is required, in others a transient Notch signal is sufficient to influence cell fate decisions. However, the signaling mechanisms that underlie these diverse behaviors in different cellular contexts have not been understood. Notch1 along with two downstream transcription factors hes1 and RBP-Jk forms an intricate network of positive and negative feedback loops, and we have implemented a systems biology approach to computationally study this gene regulation network. Our results indicate that the system exhibits bistability and is capable of switching states at a critical level of Notch signaling initiated by its ligand Delta in a particular range of parameter values. In this mode, transient activation of Delta is also capable of inducing prolonged high expression of Hes1, mimicking the “ON” state depending on the intensity and duration of the signal. Furthermore, this system is highly sensitive to certain model parameters and can transition from functioning as a bistable switch to an oscillator by tuning a single parameter value. This parameter, the transcriptional repression constant of hes1, can thus qualitatively govern the behavior of the signaling network. In addition, we find that the system is able to dampen and reduce the effects of biological noise that arise from stochastic effects in gene expression for systems that respond quickly to Notch signaling.
This work thus helps our understanding of an important cell fate control system and begins to elucidate how this context dependent signaling system can be modulated in different cellular settings to exhibit entirely different behaviors.
The Notch signaling pathway is an evolutionarily conserved signaling system that is involved in various cell fate decisions, both during development of an organism and during adulthood. While the same core circuit functions in various different cellular contexts, it has experimentally been shown to elicit varied behaviors and responses. On the one hand, it functions as a cellular oscillator critical for somitogenesis, whereas in other situations, it can function as a cell fate switch to pattern developing tissue, for example in the Drosophila eye. Furthermore, malfunctioning of Notch signaling is implicated in various cancers. To better understand the underlying mechanisms that allow the network to function distinctly in different contexts, we have mathematically modeled the behavior of the Notch network, encompassing the Notch gene along with two of its downstream effector transcription factors, which together form a network of positive and negative feedback loops. Our results indicate that the qualitative and quantitative behavior of the system can readily be tuned based on key parameters to reflect its multiple roles. Furthermore, our results provide insights into alterations in the signaling system that lead to malfunction and hence disease, which could be used to identify potential drug targets for therapy.