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1.  Hearing impairments caused by genetic and environmental factors 
Impairments of hearing and balance are major problems in the field of occupational and environmental health. Such impairments have previously been reported to be caused by genetic and environmental factors. However, their mechanisms have not been fully clarified. On the other hand, the inner ear contains spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) in the organ of Corti, which serve as the primary carriers of auditory information from sensory cells to the auditory cortex in the cerebrum. Inner ears also contain a vestibule in the vicinity of the organ of Corti—one of the organs responsible for balance. Thus, inner ears could be a good target to clarify the pathogeneses of sensorineural hearing losses and impaired balance. In our previous studies with c-Ret knock-in mice and Endothelin receptor B (Ednrb) knock-out mice, it was found that syndromic hearing losses involved postnatal neurodegeneration of SGNs caused by impairments of c-Ret and Ednrb, which play important roles in neuronal development and maintenance of the enteric nervous system. The organ of Corti and the vestibule in inner ears also suffer from degeneration caused by environmental stresses including noise and heavy metals, resulting in impairments of hearing and balance. In this review, we introduce impairments of hearing and balance caused by genetic and environmental factors and focus on impairments of SGNs and the vestibule in inner ears as the pathogeneses caused by these factors.
doi:10.1007/s12199-012-0300-z
PMCID: PMC3541815  PMID: 22899349
Hearing loss; c-Ret; Ednrb; Spiral ganglion neuron; Neurodegeneration; Balance; Noise
2.  Chronic Exposure to Low Frequency Noise at Moderate Levels Causes Impaired Balance in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39807.
We are routinely exposed to low frequency noise (LFN; below 0.5 kHz) at moderate levels of 60–70 dB sound pressure level (SPL) generated from various sources in occupational and daily environments. LFN has been reported to affect balance in humans. However, there is limited information about the influence of chronic exposure to LFN at moderate levels for balance. In this study, we investigated whether chronic exposure to LFN at a moderate level of 70 dB SPL affects the vestibule, which is one of the organs responsible for balance in mice. Wild-type ICR mice were exposed for 1 month to LFN (0.1 kHz) and high frequency noise (HFN; 16 kHz) at 70 dB SPL at a distance of approximately 10–20 cm. Behavior analyses including rotarod, beam-crossing and footprint analyses showed impairments of balance in LFN-exposed mice but not in non-exposed mice or HFN-exposed mice. Immunohistochemical analysis showed a decreased number of vestibular hair cells and increased levels of oxidative stress in LFN-exposed mice compared to those in non-exposed mice. Our results suggest that chronic exposure to LFN at moderate levels causes impaired balance involving morphological impairments of the vestibule with enhanced levels of oxidative stress. Thus, the results of this study indicate the importance of considering the risk of chronic exposure to LFN at a moderate level for imbalance.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039807
PMCID: PMC3387207  PMID: 22768129
3.  c-Ret-mediated hearing losses 
About 120 million people worldwide suffer from congenital (early-onset) hearing loss. Thirty percent of them have syndromic hearing loss and the remaining 70% have non-syndromic hearing loss. In addition, a large number of elderly people worldwide suffer from age-related (late-onset) hearing loss. c-Ret and c-RET have been shown to be essential for the development and maintenance of neurons including the enteric nervous system (ENS) in mice and humans. Impairments of endothelin receptor B (EDNRB) and SOX10 have been shown to cause a significantly increased risk of dominant sensorineural deafness in Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) patients. We have recently shown that impairments of tyrosine 1062 (Y1062) phosphorylation in c-Ret causes syndromic congenital deafness in mice and humans and non-syndromic age-related hearing loss with neurodegeneration of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) in mice. This review focuses on the pathogenesis of hearing loss caused by impairments of c-Ret.
PMCID: PMC3267482  PMID: 22295143
c-Ret; congenital deafness; age-related deafness; tyrosine kinase; spiral ganglion neuron; neurodegeneration
4.  Molecular Network Associated with MITF in Skin Melanoma Development and Progression 
Journal of Skin Cancer  2011;2011:730170.
Various environmental and genetic factors affect the development and progression of skin cancers including melanoma. Melanoma development is initially triggered by environmental factors including ultraviolet (UV) light, and then genetic/epigenetic alterations occur in skin melanocytes. These first triggers alter the conditions of numerous genes and proteins, and they induce and/or reduce gene expression and activate and/or repress protein stability and activity, resulting in melanoma progression. Microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) is a master regulator gene of melanocyte development and differentiation and is also associated with melanoma development and progression. To find better approaches to molecular-based therapies for patients, understanding MITF function in skin melanoma development and progression is important. Here, we review the molecular networks associated with MITF in skin melanoma development and progression.
doi:10.1155/2011/730170
PMCID: PMC3199194  PMID: 22046555
5.  RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK and PI3K/PTEN/AKT Signaling in Malignant Melanoma Progression and Therapy 
Cutaneous malignant melanoma is one of the most serious skin cancers and is highly invasive and markedly resistant to conventional therapy. Melanomagenesis is initially triggered by environmental agents including ultraviolet (UV), which induces genetic/epigenetic alterations in the chromosomes of melanocytes. In human melanomas, the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK (MAPK) and the PI3K/PTEN/AKT (AKT) signaling pathways are two major signaling pathways and are constitutively activated through genetic alterations. Mutations of RAF, RAS, and PTEN contribute to antiapoptosis, abnormal proliferation, angiogenesis, and invasion for melanoma development and progression. To find better approaches to therapies for patients, understanding these MAPK and AKT signaling mechanisms of melanoma development and progression is important. Here, we review MAPK and AKT signaling networks associated with melanoma development and progression.
doi:10.1155/2012/354191
PMCID: PMC3195305  PMID: 22013435
6.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of 2,3-diketo-5-methylthiopentyl-1-phosphate enolase from Bacillus subtilis  
Crystals of the 45.1 kDa functional form of 2,3-diketo-5-methylthiopentyl-1-phosphate enolase from B. subtilis diffracted to 2.30 Å resolution.
2,3-Diketo-5-methylthiopentyl-1-phosphate enolase (DK-MTP-1P enolase) from Bacillus subtilis was crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. Crystals grew using PEG 3350 as the precipitant at 293 K. The crystals diffracted to 2.3 Å resolution at 100 K using synchrotron radiation and were found to belong to the monoclinic space group P21, with unit-cell parameters a = 79.3, b = 91.5, c = 107.0 Å, β = 90.8°. The asymmetric unit contained four molecules of DK-MTP-1P enolase, with a V M value of 2.2 Å3 Da−1 and a solvent content of 43%.
doi:10.1107/S174430910804311X
PMCID: PMC2635871  PMID: 19194007
methionine-salvage pathway; Bacillus subtilis; RuBisCO; RuBisCO-like proteins; 2,3-diketo-5-methylthiopentyl-1-phosphate enolase
7.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of methylthioribose-1-phosphate isomerase from Bacillus subtilis  
Crystals of the 39 kDa functional form of methylthioribose-1-phosphate isomerase from B. subtilis diffracted to 2.50 Å.
Methylthioribose-1-phosphate isomerase (MtnA) from Bacillus subtilis, the first enzyme in the downstream section of the methionine-salvage pathway, was crystallized using the sitting-drop vapour-diffusion method. Crystals grew using ammonium sulfate as the precipitant at 293 K. They diffracted to 2.5 Å at 100 K using synchrotron radiation and were found to belong to the tetragonal space group P41, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 69.2, c = 154.7 Å. The asymmetric unit contains two molecules of MtnA, with a V M value of 2.4 Å3 Da−1 and a solvent content of 48%.
doi:10.1107/S1744309105015757
PMCID: PMC1952323  PMID: 16511105
methylthioribose-1-phosphate; methylthioribulose-1-phosphate; methylthioadenosine

Results 1-7 (7)