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1.  Neonatal inflammatory pain and systemic inflammatory responses as possible environmental factors in the development of autism spectrum disorder of juvenile rats 
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects many children and juveniles. The pathogenesis of ASD is not well understood. Environmental factors may play important roles in the development of ASD. We examined a possible relationship of inflammatory pain in neonates and the development of ASD in juveniles.
Acute inflammation pain was induced by 5 % formalin (5 μl/day) subcutaneous injection into two hindpaws of postnatal day 3 to 5 (P3–P5) rat pups. Western blot, immunohistochemical, and behavioral examinations were performed at different time points after the insult.
Formalin injection caused acute and chronic inflammatory responses including transient local edema, increased levels of inflammatory cytokines, TNF-α, and IL-1β in the blood as well as in the brain, and increased microglia in the brain. One day after the pain insult, there was significant cell death in the cortex and hippocampus. Two weeks later, although the hindpaw local reaction subsided, impaired axonal growth and demyelization were seen in the brain of P21 juvenile rats. The number of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and doublecortin (DCX) double-positive cells in the hippocampal dentate gyrus of P21 rats was significantly lower than that in controls, indicating reduced neurogenesis. In the P21 rat’s brain of the formalin group, the expression of autism-related gene neurexin 1 (NRXN1), fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1), and oxytocin was significantly downregulated, consistent with the gene alteration in ASD. Juvenile rats in the formalin group showed hyperalgesia, repetitive behaviors, abnormal locomotion, sleep disorder, and distinct deficits in social memory and social activities. These alterations in neuroinflammatory reactions, gene expression, and behaviors were more evident in male than in female rats. Importantly, an anti-inflammation treatment using indomethacin (10 mg/kg, i.p.) at the time of formalin injections suppressed inflammatory responses and neuronal cell death and prevented alterations in ASD-related genes and the development of abnormal behaviors.
These novel observations indicate that severe inflammatory pain in neonates and persistent inflammatory reactions may predispose premature infants to development delays and psychiatric disorders including ASD. The prevention of pain stimuli and prompt treatments of inflammation during development appear vitally important in disrupting possible evolution of ASD syndromes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12974-016-0575-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4867541  PMID: 27184741
Inflammatory pain; Social behavior; Cell death; Autism spectrum disorder; NRXN1; FMR1; Oxytocin
2.  Neurodevelopmental Implications of the General Anesthesia in Neonate and Infants 
Experimental neurology  2015;272:50-60.
Each year, about six million children, including 1.5 million infants, in the United States undergo surgery with general anesthesia, often requiring repeated exposures. However, a crucial question remains of whether neonatal anesthetics are safe for the developing central nervous system (CNS). General anesthesia encompasses the administration of agents that induce analgesic, sedative, and muscle relaxant effects. Although the mechanisms of action of general anesthetics are still not completely understood, recent data have suggested that anesthetics primarily modulate two major neurotransmitter receptor groups, either by inhibiting N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors, or conversely by activating γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. Both of these mechanisms result in the same effect of inhibiting excitatory activity of neurons. In developing brains, which are more sensitive to disruptions in activity-dependent plasticity, this transient inhibition may have longterm neurodevelopmental consequences. Accumulating reports from preclinical studies show that anesthetics in neonates cause cellular toxicity including apoptosis and neurodegeneration in the developing brain. Importantly, animal and clinical studies indicate that exposure to general anesthetics may affect CNS development, resulting in long-lasting cognitive and behavioral deficiencies, such as learning and memory deficits, as well as abnormalities in social memory and social activity. While the casual relationship between cellular toxicity and neurological impairments is still not clear, recent reports in animal experiments showed that anesthetics in neonates can affect neurogenesis, which could be a possible mechanism underlying the chronic effect of anesthetics. Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of anesthetic effects will help to define the scope of the problem in humans and may lead to preventive and therapeutic strategies. Therefore, in this review, we summarize the current evidence on neonatal anesthetic effects in the developmental CNS and discuss how factors influencing these processes can be translated into new therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC4598257  PMID: 25862287
Anesthesia; Neonate; Neuroprotection; Cytotoxicity; Cognitive Impairment; Neurogenesis
3.  Improved Therapeutic Benefits by Combining Physical Cooling With Pharmacological Hypothermia After Severe Stroke in Rats 
Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.
Background and Purpose—
Therapeutic hypothermia is a promising strategy for treatment of acute stroke. Clinical translation of therapeutic hypothermia, however, has been hindered because of the lack of efficiency and adverse effects. We sought to enhance the clinical potential of therapeutic hypothermia by combining physical cooling (PC) with pharmacologically induced hypothermia after ischemic stroke.
Wistar rats were subjected to 90-minute middle cerebral artery occlusion by insertion of an intraluminal filament. Mild-to-moderate hypothermia was induced 120 minutes after the onset of stroke by PC alone, a neurotensin receptor 1 (NTR1) agonist HPI-201 (formally ABS-201) alone or the combination of both. The outcomes of stroke were evaluated at 3 and 21 days after stroke.
PC or HPI-201 each showed hypothermic effect and neuroprotection in stroke rats. The combination of PC and HPI-201 exhibited synergistic effects in cooling process, reduced infarct formation, cell death, and blood-brain barrier damages and improved functional recovery after stroke. Importantly, coapplied HPI-201 completely inhibited PC-associated shivering and tachycardia.
The centrally acting hypothermic drug HPI-201 greatly enhanced the efficiency and efficacy of conventional PC; this combined cooling therapy may facilitate clinical translation of hypothermic treatment for stroke.
PMCID: PMC4927220  PMID: 27301934
cell death; hypothermia; middle cerebral artery; neurotensin receptor 1; shivering; stroke
4.  Pharmacologically Induced Hypothermia Attenuates Traumatic Brain Injury in Neonatal Rats 
Experimental neurology  2015;267:135-142.
Neonatal brain trauma is linked to higher risks of mortality and neurological disability. The use of mild to moderate hypothermia has shown promising potential against brain injuries induced by stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in various experimental models and in clinical trials. Conventional methods of physical cooling, however, are difficult to use in acute treatments and in induction of regulated hypothermia. In addition, general anesthesia is usually required to mitigate the negative effects of shivering during physical cooling. Our recent investigations demonstrate the potential therapeutic benefits of pharmacologically induced hypothermia (PIH) using the neurotensin receptor (NTR) agonist HPI201 (formerly known as ABS201) in stroke and TBI models of adult rodents. The present investigation explored the brain protective effects of HPI201 in a P14 rat pediatric model of TBI induced by controlled cortical impact. When administered via intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection, HPI201 induced dose-dependent reduction of body and brain temperature. A six-hour hypothermic treatment, providing an overall 2-3°C reduction of brain and body temperature, showed significant effect of attenuating the contusion volume versus TBI controls. Attenuation occurs whether hypothermia is initiated 15 min or 2 hr after TBI. No shivering response was seen in HPI201-treated animals. HPI201 treatment also reduced TUNEL-positive and TUNEL/NeuN-colabeled cells in the contusion area and peri-injury regions. TBI-induced blood brain barrier damage was attenuated by HPI201 treatment, evaluated using the Evans Blue assay. HPI201 significantly decreased MMP-9 levels and Caspase-3 activation, both of which are pro-apototic, while it increased anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 gene expression in the peri-contusion region. In addition, HPI201 prevented the up-regulation of pro-inflammatory tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and IL-6. In sensorimotor activity assessments, rats in the HPI201 treated group exhibited improved functional recovery after TBI versus controls. These data support that PIH therapy using our NTR agonist is effective in reducing neuronal and BBB damage, attenuating inflammatory response and detrimental cellular signaling, and promoting functional recovery after TBI in the developing brain, supporting its potential for further evaluation towards clinical development.
PMCID: PMC4417081  PMID: 25725354
Drug-induced hypothermia; Neonates; Traumatic brain injury; Cell death; Brain protection; Functional recovery
5.  Intranasal Delivery of Apelin-13 Is Neuroprotective and Promotes Angiogenesis After Ischemic Stroke in Mice 
ASN NEURO  2015;7(5):1759091415605114.
Apelin is a peptide originally isolated from bovine stomach tissue extracts and identified as an endogenous ligand of the APJ receptor; recent work showed that apelin ameliorates the ischemic injury in the heart and the brain. Being an analogue to the angiotensin II receptor, the apelin/APJ signaling may mediate angiogenesis process. We explored the noninvasive intranasal brain delivery method and investigated therapeutic effects of apelin-13 in a focal ischemic stroke model of mice. Intranasal administration of apelin-13 (4 mg/kg) was given 30 min after the onset of stroke and repeated once daily. Three days after stroke, mice received apelin-13 had significantly reduced infarct volume and less neuronal death in the penumbra. Western blot analyses showed upregulated levels of apelin, apelin receptor APLNR, and Bcl-2 and decreased caspase-3 activation in the apelin-13-treated brain. The proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1β, and chemokine monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 mRNA increased in the ischemic brain, which were significantly attenuated by apelin-13. Apelin-13 remarkably reduced microglia recruitment and activation in the penumbra according to morphological features of Iba-1-positive cells 3 days after ischemia. Apelin-13 significantly increased the expression of angiogenic factor vascular endothelial growth factor and matrix metalloproteinase-9 14 days after stroke. Angiogenesis illustrated by collagen IV + /5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridin + colabeled cells was significantly increased by the apelin-13 treatment 21 days after stroke. Finally, apelin-13 promoted the local cerebral blood flow restoration and long-term functional recovery. This study demonstrates a noninvasive intranasal delivery of apelin-13 after stroke, suggesting that the reduced inflammatory activities, decreased cell death, and increased angiogenesis contribute to the therapeutic benefits of apelin-13.
PMCID: PMC4580122  PMID: 26391329
apelin-13; neuroprotection; angiogenesis; inflammation; functional recovery; ischemic stroke
6.  Therapeutic Effects of Pharmacologically Induced Hypothermia against Traumatic Brain Injury in Mice 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2014;31(16):1417-1430.
Preclinical and clinical studies have shown therapeutic potential of mild-to-moderate hypothermia for treatments of stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Physical cooling in humans, however, is usually slow, cumbersome, and necessitates sedation that prevents early application in clinical settings and causes several side effects. Our recent study showed that pharmacologically induced hypothermia (PIH) using a novel neurotensin receptor 1 (NTR1) agonist, HPI-201 (also known as ABS-201), is efficient and effective in inducing therapeutic hypothermia and protecting the brain from ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke in mice. The present investigation tested another second-generation NTR1 agonist, HPI-363, for its hypothermic and protective effect against TBI. Adult male mice were subjected to controlled cortical impact (CCI) (velocity=3 m/sec, depth=1.0 mm, contact time=150 msec) to the exposed cortex. Intraperitoneal administration of HPI-363 (0.3 mg/kg) reduced body temperature by 3–5°C within 30–60 min without triggering a shivering defensive reaction. An additional two injections sustained the hypothermic effect in conscious mice for up to 6 h. This PIH treatment was initiated 15, 60, or 120 min after the onset of TBI, and significantly reduced the contusion volume measured 3 days after TBI. HPI-363 attenuated caspase-3 activation, Bax expression, and TUNEL-positive cells in the pericontusion region. In blood–brain barrier assessments, HPI-363 ameliorated extravasation of Evans blue dye and immunoglobulin G, attenuated the MMP-9 expression, and decreased the number of microglia cells in the post-TBI brain. HPI-363 decreased the mRNA expression of tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β (IL-1β), but increased IL-6 and IL-10 levels. Compared with TBI control mice, HPI-363 treatments improved sensorimotor functional recovery after TBI. These findings suggest that the second generation NTR-1 agonists, such as HPI-363, are efficient hypothermic-inducing compounds that have a strong potential in the management of TBI.
PMCID: PMC4132583  PMID: 24731132
blood–brain barrier; hypothermia; inflammation; neurotensin analogue; sensorimotor function; traumatic brain injury
7.  Acute and Delayed Protective Effects of Pharmacologically Induced Hypothermia in an Intracerebral Hemorrhage Stroke Model of Mice 
Neuroscience  2013;252:489-500.
Hemorrhagic stroke, including intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), is a devastating subtype of stroke; yet, effective clinical treatment is very limited. Accumulating evidence has shown that mild to moderate hypothermia is a promising intervention for ischemic stroke and ICH. Current physical cooling methods, however, are less efficient and often impractical for acute ICH patients. The present investigation tested pharmacologically induced hypothermia (PIH) using the second generation neurotensin receptor (NTR) agonist HPI-201 (formerly known as ABS-201) in an adult mouse model with ICH. Acute or delayed administrations of HPI-201 (2 mg/kg bolus injection followed by 2 injections of 1 mg/kg, i.p.) were initiated at 1 or 24 hrs after ICH. HPI-201 induced mild hypothermia within 30 min and maintained body and brain temperatures at 32.7±0.4°C for at least 6 hrs without causing observable shivering. With the 1 hr delayed treatment, HPI-201-induced PIH significantly reduced ICH-induced cell death and brain edema compared to saline-treated ICH animals. When HPI-201-induced hypothermia was initiated 24 hrs after the onset of ICH, it still significantly attenuated brain edema, cell death and blood brain barrier breakdown. HPI-201 significantly decreased the expression of MMP-9, reduced caspase-3 activation, and increased Bcl-2 expression in the ICH brain. Moreover, ICH mice received 1-hr delayed HPI-201 treatment performed significantly better in the neurological behavior test 48 hrs after ICH. All together, these data suggest that systemic injection of HPI-201 is an effective hypothermic strategy that protects the brain from ICH injury with a wide therapeutic window. The protective effect of this PIH therapy is partially mediated through the alleviation of apoptosis and neurovascular damage. We suggest that pharmacological hypothermia using the newly developed neurotensin analogs is a promising therapeutic treatment for ICH.
PMCID: PMC3961766  PMID: 23912033
Intracerebral hemorrhage; pharmacological hypothermia; PIH; neurotensin receptor; ABS-201; HPI-201
8.  Inhibition of cystathionine β-synthetase suppresses sodium channel activities of dorsal root ganglion neurons of rats with lumbar disc herniation 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:38188.
The pathogenesis of pain in lumbar disc herniation (LDH) remains poorly understood. We have recently demonstrated that voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons were sensitized in a rat model of LDH. However, the detailed molecular mechanism for sensitization of VGSCs remains largely unknown. This study was designed to examine roles of the endogenous hydrogen sulfide synthesizing enzyme cystathionine β-synthetase (CBS) in sensitization of VGSCs in a previously validated rat model of LDH. Here we showed that inhibition of CBS activity by O-(Carboxymethyl) hydroxylamine hemihydrochloride (AOAA) significantly attenuated pain hypersensitivity in LDH rats. Administration of AOAA also reduced neuronal hyperexcitability, suppressed the sodium current density, and right-shifted the V1/2 of the inactivation curve, of hindpaw innervating DRG neurons, which is retrogradely labeled by DiI. In vitro incubation of AOAA did not alter the excitability of acutely isolated DRG neurons. Furthermore, CBS was colocalized with NaV1.7 and NaV1.8 in hindpaw-innervating DRG neurons. Treatment of AOAA markedly suppressed expression of NaV1.7 and NaV1.8 in DRGs of LDH rats. These data suggest that targeting the CBS-H2S signaling at the DRG level might represent a novel therapeutic strategy for chronic pain relief in patients with LDH.
PMCID: PMC5131276  PMID: 27905525
9.  Coordinated Development of Voltage-Gated Na+ and K+ Currents Regulates Functional Maturation of Forebrain Neurons Derived from Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells 
Stem Cells and Development  2012;22(10):1551-1563.
Like embryonic stem (ES) cells, human induced pluripotent stem (hiPS) cells can differentiate into neuronal cells. However, it is unclear how their exquisite neuronal function is electrophysiologically coordinated during differentiation and whether they are functionally identical to human ES cell-derived neurons. In this study, we differentiated hiPS and ES cells into pyramidal-like neurons and conducted electrophysiological characterization over the 4-week terminal differentiation period. The human neuron-like cells express forebrain pyramidal cell markers NeuN, neurofilament, the microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), the paired box protein Pax-6 (PAX6), Tuj1, and the forkhead box protein G1 (FoxG1). The size of developing neurons increased continuously during the 4-week culture, and cell-resting membrane potentials (RMPs) underwent a negative shift from −40 to −70 mV. Expression of the muscarinic receptor-modulated K+ currents (IM) participated in the development of cell RMPs and controlled excitability. Immature neurons at week 1 could only fire abortive action potentials (APs) and the frequency of AP firing progressively increased with neuronal maturation. Interestingly, the developmental change of voltage-gated Na+ current (INa) did not correlate with the change in the AP firing frequency. On the other hand, the transient outward K+ current (IA), but not the delayed rectifier current (IK) contributed to the high frequency firing of APs. Synaptic activities were observed throughout the 4-week development. These morphological and electrophysiological features were almost identical between iPS and ES cell-derived neurons. This is the first systematic investigation showing functional evidence that hiPS cell-derived neurons possess similar neuronal activities as ES cell-derived neurons. These data support that iPS cell-derived neural progenitor cells have the potential for replacing lost neurons in cell-based therapy.
PMCID: PMC3653388  PMID: 23259973
10.  Stem Cells and Ion Channels 
Stem Cells International  2013;2013:238635.
PMCID: PMC3671535  PMID: 23766766
11.  Potential Role of KCNQ/M-Channels in Regulating Neuronal Differentiation in Mouse Hippocampal and Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Neuronal Cultures 
Experimental neurology  2011;229(2):471-483.
Voltage-gated K+ channels are key regulators of neuronal excitability, playing major roles in setting resting membrane potential, repolarizing the cell membrane after action potentials and affecting transmitter release. The M-type channel or M-channel is a unique voltage- and ligand-regulated K+ channel. It is composed of the molecular counterparts KCNQ2 and KCNQ3 (also named Kv7.2 and Kv7.3) channels and expressed in the soma and dendrites of neurons. The present investigation examined the hypothesis that KCNQ2/3 channels played a regulatory role in neuronal differentiation and maturation. In cultured mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells undergoing neuronal differentiation and primary embryonic (E15-17) hippocampal cultures, KCNQ2 and KCNQ3 channels and underlying M-currents were identified. Blocking of KCNQ channels in these cells for 5 days using the specific channel blocker XE991 (10 μM) or linopirdine (30 μM) significantly decreased synaptophysin and syntaxin expression without affecting cell viability. Chronic KCNQ2/3 channel block reduced the expression of vesicular GABA transporter (v-GAT), but not vesicular glutamate transporter (v-GluT). Enhanced ERK1/2 phosphorylation was observed in XE991- and linopirdine-treated neural progenitor cells. In electrophysiological recordings, cells undergoing chronic block of KCNQ2/3 channels showed normal amplitude of mPSCs while the frequency of mPSCs was reduced. On the other hand, KCNQ channel opener N-Ethylmaleimide (NEM, 2 μM) increased mPSC frequency. Fluorescent imaging using fluorescent styryl-dye FM4-64 revealed that chronic blockade of KCNQ2/3 channels decreased endocytosis but facilitated exocytosis. These data indicate that KCNQ2/3 channels participate in regulation of neuronal differentiation and show a tonic regulation on pre-synaptic transmitter release and recycling in developing neuronal cells.
PMCID: PMC3100408  PMID: 21466805
M-current; synaptogenesis; Neuronal differentiation; Mouse ES cells; Hippocampal neurons; KCNQ channels; ERK1/2
12.  Novel Role of KCNQ2/3 channels in Neuronal Cell Viability 
Cell death and differentiation  2010;18(3):493-505.
Over-activation of certain K+ channels can mediate intracellular K+ depletion, which is an early ionic event in apoptotic cascade. The present investigation examined a possible role of the KCNQ2/3 channel or M-channel (also named Kv7.2/7.3 channels) in the pro-apoptotic process. Whole-cell recordings detected significantly greater M-currents (212 ± 31 pA or 10.5 ± 1.5 pA/pF) in cultured hippocampal neurons than in cultured cortical neurons (47 ± 21 pA or 2.4 ± 0.8 pA/pF). KCNQ2/3 channel openers N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) and flupirtine caused dose-dependent K+ efflux, intracellular K+ depletion, and cell death in hippocampal cultures while little cell death was induced by NEM in cortical cultures. The NEM-induced cell death was antagonized by co-applied KCNQ channel inhibitor XE991 (10 μM), or by elevated extracellular potassium. Supporting a mediating role in apoptosis, expression of KCNQ2 or KCNQ2/3 channels in CHO cells initiated caspase-3 activation. Consistently, application of NEM (20 μM) in hippocampal cultures similarly caused caspase-3 activation. NEM increased the expression of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2), induced mitochondrial membrane depolarization, cytochrome c release, formation of apoptosome complex, and AIF translocation into the nucleus. All these events were attenuated by blocking KCNQ2/3 channels. These findings provide novel evidence that KCNQ2/3 channels could be an important regulator in neuronal apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3017650  PMID: 20885443
Apoptosis; Hippocampal neurons; Cortical Neurons; Kv7 channel; M-current; KCNQ channel; ERK1/2
13.  Formation of Kv2.1-FAK Complex as a Mechanism of FAK Activation, Cell Polarization and Enhanced Motility 
Journal of cellular physiology  2008;217(2):544-557.
Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) plays key roles in cell adhesion and migration. We now report that the delayed rectifier Kv2.1 potassium channel, through its LD-like motif in N-terminus, may interact with FAK and enhance phosphorylation of FAK397 and FAK576/577. Overlapping distribution of Kv2.1 and FAK was observed on soma and proximal dendrites of cortical neurons. FAK expression promotes a polarized membrane distribution of the Kv2.1 channel. In Kv2.1-transfected CHO cells, formation of the Kv2.1-FAK complex was stimulated by fibronectin/integrin and inhibited by the K+ channel blocker tetraethylammonium (TEA). FAK phosphorylation was minimized by shRNA knockdown of the Kv2.1 channel, point mutations of the N-terminus, and TEA, respectively. Cell migration morphology was altered by Kv2.1 knockdown or TEA, hindering cell migration activity. In wound healing tests in vitro and a traumatic injury animal model, Kv2.1 expression and co-localization of Kv2.1 and FAK significantly enhanced directional cell migration and wound closure. It is suggested that the Kv2.1 channel may function as a promoting signal for FAK activation and cell motility.
PMCID: PMC2562431  PMID: 18615577
Adhesion; Migration; FAK; Kv2.1 channel; Phosphorylation; Wound healing
14.  Non-genetic Purification of Ventricular Cardiomyocytes from Differentiating Embryonic Stem Cells through Molecular Beacons Targeting IRX-4 
Stem Cell Reports  2015;5(6):1239-1249.
Isolation of ventricular cardiomyocytes (vCMs) has been challenging due to the lack of specific surface markers. Here we show that vCMs can be purified from differentiating mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) using molecular beacons (MBs) targeting specific intracellular mRNAs. We designed MBs (IRX4 MBs) to target mRNA encoding Iroquois homeobox protein 4 (Irx4), a transcription factor specific for vCMs. To purify mESC vCMs, IRX4 MBs were delivered into cardiomyogenically differentiating mESCs, and IRX4 MBs-positive cells were FACS-sorted. We found that, of the cells isolated, ∼98% displayed vCM-like action potentials by electrophysiological analyses. These MB-purified vCMs continuously maintained their CM characteristics as verified by spontaneous beating, Ca2+ transient, and expression of vCM-specific proteins. Our study shows the feasibility of isolating pure vCMs via cell sorting without modifying host genes. The homogeneous and functional ventricular CMs generated via the MB-based method can be useful for disease investigation, drug discovery, and cell-based therapies.
Graphical Abstract
•Molecular beacon (MB)-based method was developed to purify ventricular CMs from ESCs•Ventricular CM-specific MBs targeting Irx4 mRNA were successfully generated•About 98% of the CMs sorted via Irx4-MB displayed ventricular CM-like phenotypes•Irx4-MB-based purified CMs continuously maintained ventricular CM characteristics
In this article, Yoon and colleagues demonstrate that vCMs can be purified from differentiating ESCs using MBs targeting mRNA encoding Irx4, a transcription factor specific for vCMs. Purified IRX4-MB-positive cells displayed vCM-like action potentials and continuously maintained their vCM characteristics. This study shows the feasibility of isolating pure vCMs via cell sorting without modifying host genes.
PMCID: PMC4682289  PMID: 26651608
pluripotent stem cell; ventricular cardiomyocyte; molecular beacons; cell selection; IRX4
15.  Cleavage of tau by asparagine endopeptidase mediates the neurofibrillary pathology in Alzheimer’s disease 
Nature medicine  2014;20(11):1254-1262.
Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), composed of truncated and hyperphosphorylated tau, are a common feature of numerous aging-related neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the molecular mechanisms mediating tau truncation and aggregation during aging remain elusive. Here we show that asparagine endopeptidase (AEP), a lysosomal cysteine proteinase, is activated during aging and proteolytically degrades tau, abolishes its microtubule assembly function, induces tau aggregation, and triggers neurodegeneration. AEP is upregulated and active during aging, and is activated in tau P301S transgenic mice and human AD brain, leading to tau truncation in NFTs. Deletion of AEP from tau P301S transgenic mice substantially reduces tau hyperphosphorylation, alleviates the synapse loss and rescues impaired hippocampal synaptic function and the cognitive deficits. Infection of uncleavable tau N255AN368A mutant rescues tau P301S-induced pathological and behavioral defects. Together, these observations indicate that AEP acts as a crucial mediator of tau-related clinical and neuropathological changes in neurodegenerative diseases. Inhibition of AEP may be therapeutically useful for treating tau-mediated neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC4224595  PMID: 25326800
16.  Purification of Cardiomyocytes from Differentiating Pluripotent Stem Cells using Molecular Beacons Targeting Cardiomyocyte-Specific mRNA 
Circulation  2013;128(17):10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.004228.
While methods for generating cardiomyocytes (CMs) from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) have been reported, current methods produce heterogeneous mixtures of CMs and non-CM cells. Here, we report an entirely novel system in which PSC-derived CMs are purified by CM-specific molecular beacons (MBs). MBs are nano-scale probes that emit a fluorescence signal when hybridized to target mRNAs.
Method and Results
Five MBs targeting mRNAs of either cardiac troponin T or myosin heavy chain 6/7 were generated. Among five MBs, a MB targeting myosin heavy chain 6/7 mRNA (MHC1-MB) identified up to 99% of HL-1 CMs, a mouse CM cell line, but < 3% of four non-CM cell types in flow cytometry analysis, indicating that MHC1-MB is specific for identifying CMs. We delivered MHC1-MB into cardiomyogenically differentiated PSCs through nucleofection. The detection rate of CMs was similar to the percentages of cardiac troponin T (TNNT2) or cardiac troponin I (TNNI3)-positive CMs, supporting the specificity of MBs. Finally, MHC1-MB-positive cells were FACS-sorted from mouse and human PSC differentiating cultures and ~97% cells expressed TNNT2- or TNNI3 determined by flow cytometry. These MB-based sorted cells maintained their CM characteristics verified by spontaneous beating, electrophysiologic studies, and expression of cardiac proteins. When transplanted in a myocardial infarction model, MB-based purified CMs improved cardiac function and demonstrated significant engraftment for 4 weeks without forming tumors.
We developed a novel CM selection system that allows production of highly purified CMs. These purified CMs and this system can be valuable for cell therapy and drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3878656  PMID: 23995537
pluripotent stem cell; cardiomyocyte; molecular beacons; cell selection; cardiac regeneration
17.  Inhibition of Na+/K+-ATPase induces hybrid cell death and enhanced sensitivity to chemotherapy in human glioblastoma cells 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:716.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is very difficult to treat with conventional anti-cancer/anti-apoptotic drugs. We tested the hypothesis that inhibition of Na+/K+-ATPase causes a mixed or hybrid form of concurrent apoptosis and necrosis and therefore should enhance anti-cancer effects of chemotherapy on glioblastoma cells.
In human LN229 and drug-resistant T98G glioblastoma cell cultures, cell death and signal pathways were measured using immunocytochemistry and Western blotting. Fluorescent dyes were applied to measure intracellular Ca2+, Na+ and K+ changes.
The specific Na+/K+-ATPase blocker ouabain (0.1 - 10 μM) induced cell death and disruption of K+ homeostasis in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. Annexin-V translocation and caspase-3 activation indicated an apoptotic component in ouabain cytoxicity, which was accompanied with reduced Bcl-2 expression and mitochondrial membrane potential. Ouabain-induced cell death was partially attenuated by the caspase inhibitor Z-VAD (100 μM). Consistently, the K+ ionophore valinomycin initiated apoptosis in LN229 cells in a K+ efflux-dependent manner. Ouabain caused an initial cell swell, which was followed by a sustained cell volume decrease. Electron microscopy revealed ultrastructural features of both apoptotic and necrotic alterations in the same cells. Finally, human T98G glioblastoma cells that are resistant to the chemotherapy drug temozolomide (TMZ) showed a unique high expression of the Na+/K+-ATPase α2 and α3 subunits compared to the TMZ-sensitive cell line LN229 and normal human astrocytes. At low concentrations, ouabain selectively killed T98G cells. Knocking down the α3 subunit sensitized T98G cells to TMZ and caused more cell death.
This study suggests that inhibition of Na+/K+-ATPase triggers hybrid cell death and serves as an underlying mechanism for an enhanced chemotherapy effect on glioblastoma cells.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-716) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4190379  PMID: 25255962
Na+ pump; Glioblastomas; Apoptosis; Hybrid cell death; K+ homeostasis; Intracellular Ca2+; Temozolomide
18.  Preconditioning of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells by prolyl hydroxylase inhibition enhances cell survival and angiogenesis in vitro and after transplantation into the ischemic heart of rats 
Poor cell survival and limited functional benefits have restricted the efficacy of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) in the treatment of myocardial infarction. We showed recently that hypoxia preconditioning of BMSCs and neural progenitor cells before transplantation can enhance the survival and therapeutic properties of these cells in the ischemic brain and heart. The present investigation explores a novel strategy of preconditioning BMSCs using the Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-α) prolyl hydroxylase inhibitor dimethyloxalylglycine (DMOG) to enhance their survival and therapeutic efficacy after transplantation into infarcted myocardium.
BMSCs from green fluorescent protein transgenic rats were cultured with or without 1 mM DMOG for 24 hours in complete culture medium before transplantation. Survival and angiogenic factors were evaluated in vitro by trypan blue staining, Western blotting, and tube formation test. In an ischemic heart model of rats, BMSCs with and without DMOG preconditioning were intramyocardially transplanted into the peri-infarct region 30 minutes after permanent myocardial ischemia. Cell death was measured 24 hours after engraftment. Heart function, angiogenesis and infarct size were measured 4 weeks later.
In DMOG preconditioned BMSCs (DMOG-BMSCs), the expression of survival and angiogenic factors including HIF-1α, vascular endothelial growth factor, glucose transporter 1 and phospho-Akt were significantly increased. In comparison with control cells, DMOG-BMSCs showed higher viability and enhanced angiogenesis in both in vitro and in vivo assays. Transplantation of DMOG-BMSCs reduced heart infarct size and promoted functional benefits of the cell therapy.
We suggest that DMOG preconditioning enhances the survival capability of BMSCs and paracrine effects with increased differentiation potential. Prolyl hydroxylase inhibition is an effective and feasible strategy to enhance therapeutic efficacy and efficiency of BMSC transplantation therapy after heart ischemia.
PMCID: PMC4535299  PMID: 25257482
19.  Development of a novel two-dimensional directed differentiation system for generation of cardiomyocytes from human pluripotent stem cells 
Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) hold great promise for treating ischemic heart disease. However, current protocols for differentiating hPSCs either result in low yields or require expensive cytokines.
Here we developed a novel two dimensional (2D) stepwise differentiation system that generates a high yield of cardiomyocytes (CMs) from hPSCs without using special cytokines. Initially, undifferentiated hPSCs were transferred onto Matrigel-coated plates without forming embryoid bodies (EBs) for a few days and were cultured in bFGF-depleted human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) medium. When linear cell aggregation appeared in the margins of the hPSC colonies, the medium was changed to DMEM supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum (FBS). Thereafter when cell clusters became visible, the medium was changed to DMEM with 20% FBS.
Results and Conclusions
At about two weeks of culture, contracting clusters began to appear and the number of contracting clusters continuously increased, reaching approximately 70% of all clusters. These clusters were dissociated by two-step enzyme treatment to monolayered CMs, of which ~90% showed CM phenotypes confirmed by an α –myosin heavy chain reporter system. Electrophysiologic studies demonstrated that the hPSC-derived CMs showed three major CM action potential types with 61 to 78% having a ventricular-CM phenotype. This differentiation system showed a clear spatiotemporal role of the surrounding endodermal cells for differentiation of mesodermal cell clusters into CMs. In conclusion, this system provides a novel platform to generate CMs from hPSCs at high yield without using cytokines and to study the development of hPSCs into CMs.
PMCID: PMC3556195  PMID: 23044428
Human embryonic stem cells; Human induced pluripotent stem cells; Cardiomyocytes; Directed differentiation
20.  Cell based therapies for ischemic stroke: From basic science to bedside 
Progress in neurobiology  2013;115:92-115.
Cell therapy is emerging as a viable therapy to restore neurological function after stroke. Many types of stem/progenitor cells from different sources have been explored for their feasibility and efficacy for the treatment of stroke. Transplanted cells not only have the potential to replace the lost circuitry, but also produce growth and trophic factors, or stimulate the release of such factors from host brain cells, thereby enhancing endogenous brain repair processes. Although stem/progenitor cells have shown a promising role in ischemic stroke in experimental studies as well as initial clinical pilot studies, cellular therapy is still at an early stage in humans. Many critical issues need to be addressed including the therapeutic time window, cell type selection, delivery route, and in vivo monitoring of their migration pattern. This review attempts to provide a comprehensive synopsis of preclinical evidence and clinical experience of various donor cell types, their restorative mechanisms, delivery routes, imaging strategies, future prospects and challenges for translating cell therapies as a neurorestorative regimen in clinical applications.
PMCID: PMC4038267  PMID: 24333397
Stem cells; Cell-based therapies; Ischemic stroke; Neurorestoration
21.  Synaptic mutant huntingtin inhibits synapsin-1 phosphorylation and causes neurological symptoms 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2013;202(7):1123-1138.
Polyglutamine-expanded huntingtin specifically targeted to synapses binds to synapsin-1, inhibits its phosphorylation, and causes defects in neurotransmitter release and age-dependent defects in neurological function.
Many genetic mouse models of Huntington’s disease (HD) have established that mutant huntingtin (htt) accumulates in various subcellular regions to affect a variety of cellular functions, but whether and how synaptic mutant htt directly mediates HD neuropathology remains to be determined. We generated transgenic mice that selectively express mutant htt in the presynaptic terminals. Although it was not overexpressed, synaptic mutant htt caused age-dependent neurological symptoms and early death in mice as well as defects in synaptic neurotransmitter release. Mass spectrometry analysis of synaptic fractions and immunoprecipitation of synapsin-1 from HD CAG150 knockin mouse brains revealed that mutant htt binds to synapsin-1, a protein whose phosphorylation is critical for neurotransmitter release. We found that polyglutamine-expanded exon1 htt binds to the C-terminal region of synapsin-1 to reduce synapsin-1 phosphorylation. Our findings point to a critical role for synaptic htt in the neurological symptoms of HD, providing a new therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC3787372  PMID: 24081492
22.  Mobilization of Endogenous Bone Marrow Derived Endothelial Progenitor Cells and Therapeutic Potential of Parathyroid Hormone after Ischemic Stroke in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87284.
Stroke is a major neurovascular disorder threatening human life and health. Very limited clinical treatments are currently available for stroke patients. Stem cell transplantation has shown promising potential as a regenerative treatment after ischemic stroke. The present investigation explores a new concept of mobilizing endogenous stem cells/progenitor cells from the bone marrow using a parathyroid hormone (PTH) therapy after ischemic stroke in adult mice. PTH 1-34 (80 µg/kg, i.p.) was administered 1 hour after focal ischemia and then daily for 6 consecutive days. After 6 days of PTH treatment, there was a significant increase in bone marrow derived CD-34/Fetal liver kinase-1 (Flk-1) positive endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) in the peripheral blood. PTH treatment significantly increased the expression of trophic/regenerative factors including VEGF, SDF-1, BDNF and Tie-1 in the brain peri-infarct region. Angiogenesis, assessed by co-labeled Glut-1 and BrdU vessels, was significantly increased in PTH-treated ischemic brain compared to vehicle controls. PTH treatment also promoted neuroblast migration from the subventricular zone (SVZ) and increased the number of newly formed neurons in the peri-infarct cortex. PTH-treated mice showed significantly better sensorimotor functional recovery compared to stroke controls. Our data suggests that PTH therapy improves endogenous repair mechanisms after ischemic stroke with functional benefits. Mobilizing endogenous bone marrow-derived stem cells/progenitor cells using PTH and other mobilizers appears an effective and feasible regenerative treatment after ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC3913619  PMID: 24503654
23.  Preconditioning Strategy in Stem Cell Transplantation Therapy 
Translational stroke research  2013;4(1):76-88.
Stem cell transplantation therapy has emerged as a promising regenerative medicine for ischemic stroke and other neurodegenerative disorders. However, many issues and problems remain to be resolved before successful clinical applications of the cell-based therapy. To this end, some recent investigations have sought to benefit from well-known mechanisms of ischemic/hypoxic preconditioning. Ischemic/hypoxic preconditioning activates endogenous defense mechanisms that show marked protective effects against multiple insults found in ischemic stroke and other acute attacks. As in many other cell types, a sub-lethal hypoxic exposure significantly increases the tolerance and regenerative properties of stem cells and progenitor cells. So far, a variety of preconditioning triggers have been tested on different stem cells and progenitor cells. Preconditioned stem cells and progenitors generally show much better cell survival, increased neuronal differentiation, enhanced paracrine effects leading to increased trophic support, and improved homing to the lesion site. Transplantation of preconditioned cells helps to suppress inflammatory factors and immune responses, and promote functional recovery. Although the preconditioning strategy in stem cell therapy is still an emerging research area, accumulating information from reports over the last few years already indicates it as an attractive, if not essential, prerequisite for transplanted cells. It is expected that stem cell preconditioning and its clinical applications will attract more attention in both the basic research field of preconditioning as well as in the field of stem cell translational research. This review summarizes the most important findings in this active research area, covering the preconditioning triggers, potential mechanisms, mediators, and functional benefits for stem cell transplant therapy.
PMCID: PMC3728897  PMID: 23914259
Stem cell preconditioning; Stroke; Ischemia; Neurodegenerative disorder; Heart attack
24.  Neuro-Modulating Effects of Honokiol: A Review 
Honokiol is a poly-phenolic compound that exerts neuroprotective properties through a variety of mechanisms. It has therapeutic potential in anxiety, pain, cerebrovascular injury, epilepsy, and cognitive disorders including Alzheimer’s disease. It has been traditionally used in medical practices throughout much of Southeast Asia, but has now become more widely studied due to its pleiotropic effects. Most current research regarding this compound has focused on its chemotherapeutic properties. However, it has the potential to be an effective neuroprotective agent as well. This review summarizes what is currently known regarding the mechanisms involved in the neuroprotective and anesthetic effects of this compound and identifies potential areas for further research.
PMCID: PMC3769637  PMID: 24062717
honokiol; neuroprotection; GABA; stroke; inflammatory pain; amyloid; magnolol; analgesia
25.  Transplantation of Hypoxia Preconditioned Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells Enhances Angiogenesis and Neurogenesis after Cerebral Ischemia in Rats 
Neurobiology of Disease  2012;46(3):635-645.
Hypoxic preconditioning of stem cells and neural progenitor cells has been tested for promoting cell survival after transplantation. The present investigation examined the hypothesis that hypoxic preconditioning of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) could not only enhance their survival but also reinforce regenerative properties of these cells. BMSCs from eGFP engineered rats or pre-labeled with BrdU were pre-treated with normoxia (20% O2, N-BMSCs) or sublethal hypoxia (0.5% O2. H-BMSCs). The hypoxia exposure up-regulated HIF-1α and trophic/growth factors in BMSCs, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptor FIK-1, erythropoietin (EPO) and its receptor EPOR, stromal derived factor-1 (SDF-1) and its CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4). Meanwhile, many pro-inflammatory cytokines/chemokines were downregulated in H-BMSCs. N-BMSCs or H-BMSCs were intravenously injected into adult rats 24 hrs after 90-min middle cerebral artery occlusion. Comparing to N-BMSCs, transplantation of H-BMSCs showed greater effect of suppressing microglia activity in the brain. Significantly more NeuN-positive and Glut1-positive cells were seen in the ischemic core and peri-infarct regions of the animals received H-BMSC transplantation than that received N-BMSCs. Some NeuN-positive and Glut-1-positive cells showed eGFP or BrdU immunoflourescent reactivity, suggesting differentiation from exogenous BMSCs into neuronal and vascular endothelial cells. In Rota-rod test performed 15 days after stroke, animals received H-BMSCs showed better locomotion recovery compared with stroke control and N-BMSC groups. We suggest that hypoxic preconditioning of transplanted cells is an effective means of promoting their regenerative capability and therapeutic potential for the treatment of ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC3353023  PMID: 22426403
hypoxic preconditioning; bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell; transplantation; angiogenesis; neurogenesis

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