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1.  Wide ranging DNA methylation differences of primary trophoblast cell populations and derived-cell lines: implications and opportunities for understanding trophoblast function 
Molecular human reproduction  2011;17(6):344-353.
Difficulties associated with long term culture of primary trophoblasts have proven to be a major hurdle in their functional characterization. In order to circumvent this issue, several model cell lines have been established over many years using a variety of different approaches. These include lines derived from gestational tumors, or transformation/immortalization of primary trophoblast cells. Due to their differing origins, gene expression profiles, and behavior in vitro, different model lines have been utilized to investigate specific aspects of trophoblast biology. However, generally speaking, the molecular mechanisms underlying functional differences remain unclear. In this study, we profiled genome-scale DNA methylation in primary first trimester trophoblast cells and seven commonly used trophoblast-derived cell lines in an attempt to identify functional pathways differentially regulated by epigenetic modification in these cells. We identified a general increase in DNA promoter methylation levels in four choriocarcinoma (CCA)-derived lines and transformed HTR-8/SVneo cells, including hypermethylation of several genes regularly seen in human cancers, while other differences in methylation were noted in genes linked to immune responsiveness, cell morphology, development and migration across the different cell populations. Interestingly, CCA-derived lines show an overall methylation profile more similar to unrelated solid cancers than to untransformed trophoblasts, highlighting the role of aberrant DNA methylation in CCA development and/or long term culturing. Comparison of DNA methylation and gene expression in CCA lines and cytotrophoblasts revealed a significant contribution of DNA methylation to overall expression profile, most likely underlying functional variation between cells of different origin. These data highlight the variability in epigenetic state between primary trophoblasts and cell models in pathways underpinning a wide range of cell functions, providing valuable candidate pathways for future functional investigation in different cell populations. This study also confirms the need for caution in the interpretation of data generated from manipulation of such pathways in vitro.
PMCID: PMC3797416  PMID: 21289002
placenta; trophoblast; cell line; DNA methylation; epigenetics
2.  Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Adult Stem Cells in Sustained Lung Injury: A Comparative Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69299.
Lung diseases are a major cause of global morbidity and mortality that are treated with limited efficacy. Recently stem cell therapies have been shown to effectively treat animal models of lung disease. However, there are limitations to the translation of these cell therapies to clinical disease. Studies have shown that delayed treatment of animal models does not improve outcomes and that the models do not reflect the repeated injury that is present in most lung diseases. We tested the efficacy of amnion mesenchymal stem cells (AM-MSC), bone marrow MSC (BM-MSC) and human amniotic epithelial cells (hAEC) in C57BL/6 mice using a repeat dose bleomycin-induced model of lung injury that better reflects the repeat injury seen in lung diseases. The dual bleomycin dose led to significantly higher levels of inflammation and fibrosis in the mouse lung compared to a single bleomycin dose. Intravenously infused stem cells were present in the lung in similar numbers at days 7 and 21 post cell injection. In addition, stem cell injection resulted in a significant decrease in inflammatory cell infiltrate and a reduction in IL-1 (AM-MSC), IL-6 (AM-MSC, BM-MSC, hAEC) and TNF-α (AM-MSC). The only trophic factor tested that increased following stem cell injection was IL-1RA (AM-MSC). IL-1RA levels may be modulated by GM-CSF produced by AM-MSC. Furthermore, only AM-MSC reduced collagen deposition and increased MMP-9 activity in the lung although there was a reduction of the pro-fibrogenic cytokine TGF-β following BM-MSC, AM-MSC and hAEC treatment. Therefore, AM-MSC may be more effective in reducing injury following delayed injection in the setting of repeated lung injury.
PMCID: PMC3731305  PMID: 23936322
3.  Characterisation of the Xenogeneic Immune Response to Microencapsulated Fetal Pig Islet-Like Cell Clusters Transplanted into Immunocompetent C57BL/6 Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59120.
Xenotransplantation of microencapsulated fetal pig islet-like cell clusters (FP ICCs) offers a potential cellular therapy for type 1 diabetes. Although microcapsules prevent direct contact of the host immune system with the xenografted tissue, poor graft survival is still an issue. This study aimed to characterise the nature of the host immune cells present on the engrafted microcapsules and effects on encapsulated FP ICCs that were transplanted into immunocompetent mice. Encapsulated FP ICCs were transplanted into the peritoneal cavity of C57BL/6 mice. Grafts retrieved at days 1, 3, 7, 14 and 21 post-transplantation were analysed for pericapsular fibrotic overgrowth (PFO), cell viability, intragraft porcine gene expression, macrophages, myofibroblasts and intraperitoneal murine cytokines. Graft function was assessed ex vivo by insulin secretion studies. Xenogeneic immune response to encapsulated FP ICCs was associated with enhanced intragraft mRNA expression of porcine antigens MIP-1α, IL-8, HMGB1 and HSP90 seen within the first two weeks post-transplantation. This was associated with the recruitment of host macrophages, infiltration of myofibroblasts and collagen deposition leading to PFO which was evident from day 7 post-transplantation. This was accompanied by a decrease in cell viability and loss of FP ICC architecture. The only pro-inflammatory cytokine detected in the murine peritoneal flushing was TNF-α with levels peaking at day 7 post transplantation. This correlated with the onset of PFO at day 7 implying activated macrophages as its source. The anti-inflammatory cytokines detected were IL-5 and IL-4 with levels peaking at days 1 and 7, respectively. Porcine C-peptide was undetectable at all time points post-transplantation. PFO was absent and murine intraperitoneal cytokines were undetectable when empty microcapsules were transplanted. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that the macrophages are direct effectors of the xenogeneic immune response to encapsulated FP ICCs leading to PFO mediated by a combination of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines.
PMCID: PMC3598741  PMID: 23554983
4.  Design and Screening of a Glial Cell-Specific, Cell Penetrating Peptide for Therapeutic Applications in Multiple Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45501.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune, neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by demyelination through glial cell loss. Current and proposed therapeutic strategies to arrest demyelination and/or promote further remyelination include: (i) modulation of the host immune system; and/or (ii) transplantation of myelinating/stem or progenitor cells to the circulation or sites of injury. However, significant drawbacks are inherent with both approaches. Cell penetrating peptides (CPP) are short amino acid sequences with an intrinsic ability to translocate across plasma membranes, and theoretically represent an attractive vector for delivery of therapeutic peptides or nanoparticles to glia to promote cell survival or remyelination. The CPPs described to date are commonly non-selective in the cell types they transduce, limiting their therapeutic application in vivo. Here, we describe a theoretical framework for design of a novel CPP sequence that selectively transduces human glial cells (excluding non-glial cell types), and conduct preliminary screens of purified, recombinant CPPs with immature and matured human oligodendrocytes and astrocytes, and two non-glial cell types. A candidate peptide, termed TD2.2, consistently transduced glial cells, was significantly more effective at transducing immature oligodendrocytes than matured progeny, and was virtually incapable of transducing two non-glial cell types: (i) human neural cells and (ii) human dermal fibroblasts. Time-lapse confocal microscopy confirms trafficking of TD2.2 (fused to EGFP) to mature oligodendrocytes 3–6 hours after protein application in vitro. We propose selectivity of TD2.2 for glial cells represents a new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of glial-related disease, such as MS.
PMCID: PMC3458069  PMID: 23049807
5.  Human Amniotic Epithelial Cell Transplantation Induces Markers of Alternative Macrophage Activation and Reduces Established Hepatic Fibrosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38631.
Chronic hepatic inflammation from multiple etiologies leads to a fibrogenic response that can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure. Transplantation of human amniotic epithelial cells (hAEC) from term delivered placenta has been shown to decrease mild to moderate hepatic fibrosis in a murine model. To model advanced human liver disease and assess the efficacy of hAEC therapy, we transplanted hAEC in mice with advanced hepatic fibrosis. Immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice were administered carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) twice weekly resulting in bridging fibrosis by 12 weeks. hAEC (2×106) were infused via the tail vein at week 8 or weeks 8 and 10 (single and double dose, respectively). Human cells were detected in mouse liver four weeks after transplantation showing hAEC engraftment. CCl4 treated mice receiving single or double hAEC doses showed a significant but similar decrease in liver fibrosis area associated with decreased activation of collagen-producing hepatic stellate cells and decreased hepatic protein levels of the pro-fibrogenic cytokine, transforming growth factor-beta1. CCl4 administration caused hepatic T cell infiltration that decreased significantly following hAEC transplantation. Hepatic macrophages play a crucial role in both fibrogenesis and fibrosis resolution. Mice exposed to CCl4 demonstrated increased numbers of hepatic macrophages compared to normal mice; the number of macrophages decreased significantly in CCl4 treated mice given hAEC. These mice had significantly lower hepatic protein levels of the chemokine monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 than mice given CCl4 alone. Alternatively activated M2 macrophages are associated with fibrosis resolution. CCl4 treated mice given hAEC showed increased expression of genes associated with M2 macrophages including YM-1, IL-10 and CD206. We provide novel data showing that hAEC transplantation induces a wound healing M2 macrophage phenotype associated with reduction of established hepatic fibrosis that justifies further investigation of this potential cell-based therapy for advanced hepatic fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3375296  PMID: 22719909
6.  Amniotic Epithelial Cells from the Human Placenta Potently Suppress a Mouse Model of Multiple Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35758.
Human amniotic epithelial cells (hAEC) have stem cell-like features and immunomodulatory properties. Here we show that hAEC significantly suppressed splenocyte proliferation in vitro and potently attenuated a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS). Central nervous system (CNS) CD3+ T cell and F4/80+ monocyte/macrophage infiltration and demyelination were significantly reduced with hAEC treatment. Besides the known secretion of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), we report the novel finding that hAEC utilize transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) for immunosuppression. Neutralization of TGF-β or PGE2 in splenocyte proliferation assays significantly reduced hAEC-induced suppression. Splenocytes from hAEC-treated mice showed a Th2 cytokine shift with significantly elevated IL-5 production. While transferred CFSE-labeled hAEC could be detected in the lung, none were identified in the CNS or in lymphoid organs. This is the first report documenting the therapeutic effect of hAEC in a MS-like model and suggest that hAEC may have potential for use as therapy for MS.
PMCID: PMC3338525  PMID: 22563398
7.  Changes in Culture Expanded Human Amniotic Epithelial Cells: Implications for Potential Therapeutic Applications 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26136.
Human amniotic epithelial cells (hAEC) isolated from term placenta have stem cell-like properties, differentiate into tissue specific cells and reduce lung and liver inflammation and fibrosis following transplantation into disease models established in mice. These features together with their low immunogenicity and immunosuppressive properties make hAEC an attractive source of cells for potential therapeutic applications. However, generation of large cell numbers required for therapies through serial expansion in xenobiotic-free media may be a limiting factor. We investigated if hAEC could be expanded in xenobiotic-free media and if expansion altered their differentiation capacity, immunophenotype, immunosuppressive properties and production of immunomodulatory factors. Serial expansion in xenobiotic-free media was limited with cumulative cell numbers and population doubling times significantly lower than controls maintained in fetal calf serum. The epithelial morphology of primary hAEC changed into mesenchymal-stromal like cells by passage 4–5 (P4–P5) with down regulation of epithelial markers CK7, CD49f, EpCAM and E-cadherin and elevation of mesenchymal-stromal markers CD44, CD105, CD146 and vimentin. The P5 hAEC expanded in xenobiotic-free medium differentiated into osteocyte and alveolar epithelium-like cells, but not chondrocyte, hepatocyte, α- and β-pancreatic-like cells. Expression of HLA Class IA, Class II and co-stimulatory molecules CD80, CD86 and CD40 remained unaltered. The P5 hAEC suppressed mitogen stimulated T cell proliferation, but were less suppressive compared with primary hAEC at higher splenocyte ratios. Primary and P5 hAEC did not secrete the immunosuppressive factors IL-10 and HGF, whereas TGF-β1 and HLA-G were reduced and IL-6 elevated in P5 hAEC. These findings suggest that primary and expanded hAEC may be suitable for different cellular therapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC3206797  PMID: 22073147
8.  DNA Methylation-mediated Down-regulation of DNA Methyltransferase-1 (DNMT1) Is Coincident with, but Not Essential for, Global Hypomethylation in Human Placenta 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2010;285(13):9583-9593.
The genome of extraembryonic tissue, such as the placenta, is hypomethylated relative to that in somatic tissues. However, the origin and role of this hypomethylation remains unclear. The DNA methyltransferases DNMT1, -3A, and -3B are the primary mediators of the establishment and maintenance of DNA methylation in mammals. In this study, we investigated promoter methylation-mediated epigenetic down-regulation of DNMT genes as a potential regulator of global methylation levels in placental tissue. Although DNMT3A and -3B promoters lack methylation in all somatic and extraembryonic tissues tested, we found specific hypermethylation of the maintenance DNA methyltransferase (DNMT1) gene and found hypomethylation of the DNMT3L gene in full term and first trimester placental tissues. Bisulfite DNA sequencing revealed monoallelic methylation of DNMT1, with no evidence of imprinting (parent of origin effect). In vitro reporter experiments confirmed that DNMT1 promoter methylation attenuates transcriptional activity in trophoblast cells. However, global hypomethylation in the absence of DNMT1 down-regulation is apparent in non-primate placentas and in vitro derived human cytotrophoblast stem cells, suggesting that DNMT1 down-regulation is not an absolute requirement for genomic hypomethylation in all instances. These data represent the first demonstration of methylation-mediated regulation of the DNMT1 gene in any system and demonstrate that the unique epigenome of the human placenta includes down-regulation of DNMT1 with concomitant hypomethylation of the DNMT3L gene. This strongly implicates epigenetic regulation of the DNMT gene family in the establishment of the unique epigenetic profile of extraembryonic tissue in humans.
PMCID: PMC2843208  PMID: 20071334
Development Differentiation/Tissue; DNA/Methylation; DNA/Methyltransferase; Epigenetics; Gene Transcription; Extraembryonic Tissue; Placenta; Trophoblast
9.  Interleukin 11 Inhibits Human Trophoblast Invasion Indicating a Likely Role in the Decidual Restraint of Trophoblast Invasion During Placentation1 
Biology of Reproduction  2009;80(2):302-310.
Successful pregnancy depends on the precise regulation of extravillous trophoblast (EVT) invasion into the uterine decidua, primarily by decidua-derived factors. In humans, during early pregnancy interleukin 11 (IL11) is maximally expressed in the decidua, with its receptor, IL11 receptor alpha (IL11RA), also identified on invasive EVTs in vivo. Although a role for IL11 in EVT migration has been established, whether it also plays a role in regulating EVT invasion is unknown. We investigated whether IL11 influences human EVT invasion and the signaling pathways and underlying mechanisms that may be involved, using the HTR-8/SVneo immortalized EVT cell line and primary EVTs as models for EVTs. Interleukin 11 (100 ng/ml) significantly inhibited invasion of EVT cells by 40% to 60% (P < 0.001). This effect was abolished by inhibitors of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) but not of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. Interleukin 11 (100 ng/ml) had no effect on matrix metallopeptidases 2 and 9 (MMP2 and MMP9), tissue inhibitors of MMP (TIMP1, TIMP2, and TIMP3), plasminogen activator urokinase (PLAU), plasminogen activator urokinase receptor (PLAUR), and serpin peptidase inhibitors 1 and 2 (SERPINE1 and SERPINE2) in EVT-conditioned media and/or cell lysates. Interleukin 11 (100 ng/ml) also did not regulate EVT cell adhesion or integrin expression. These data demonstrate that IL11 inhibits human EVT invasion via STAT3, indicating a likely role for IL11 in the decidual restraint of EVT invasion during normal pregnancy.
Interleukin 11 inhibits human trophoblast invasion via signal transducer and activator of transcription 3, indicating a likely important role in regulating the extent of trophoblast invasion during placentation.
PMCID: PMC2848732  PMID: 18987331
cytokines; decidua; extravillous trophoblast; interleukin 11; placenta; pregnancy; STAT3; trophoblast
10.  Placenta-specific Methylation of the Vitamin D 24-Hydroxylase Gene 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(22):14838-14848.
Plasma concentrations of biologically active vitamin D (1,25-(OH)2D) are tightly controlled via feedback regulation of renal 1α-hydroxylase (CYP27B1; positive) and 24-hydroxylase (CYP24A1; catabolic) enzymes. In pregnancy, this regulation is uncoupled, and 1,25-(OH)2D levels are significantly elevated, suggesting a role in pregnancy progression. Epigenetic regulation of CYP27B1 and CYP24A1 has previously been described in cell and animal models, and despite emerging evidence for a critical role of epigenetics in placentation generally, little is known about the regulation of enzymes modulating vitamin D homeostasis at the fetomaternal interface. In this study, we investigated the methylation status of genes regulating vitamin D bioavailability and activity in the placenta. No methylation of the VDR (vitamin D receptor) and CYP27B1 genes was found in any placental tissues. In contrast, the CYP24A1 gene is methylated in human placenta, purified cytotrophoblasts, and primary and cultured chorionic villus sampling tissue. No methylation was detected in any somatic human tissue tested. Methylation was also evident in marmoset and mouse placental tissue. All three genes were hypermethylated in choriocarcinoma cell lines, highlighting the role of vitamin D deregulation in this cancer. Gene expression analysis confirmed a reduced capacity for CYP24A1 induction with promoter methylation in primary cells and in vitro reporter analysis demonstrated that promoter methylation directly down-regulates basal promoter activity and abolishes vitamin D-mediated feedback activation. This study strongly suggests that epigenetic decoupling of vitamin D feedback catabolism plays an important role in maximizing active vitamin D bioavailability at the fetomaternal interface.
PMCID: PMC2685665  PMID: 19237542
11.  Leukemia inhibitory factor promotes human first trimester extravillous trophoblast adhesion to extracellular matrix and secretion of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 and -2 
Human Reproduction (Oxford, England)  2008;23(8):1724-1732.
Leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) is a pleiotropic cytokine that is essential for blastocyst implantation in mice. It has been suggested that LIF may play a role in human first trimester extravillous trophoblast (EVT) invasion. The aim of the present study was to establish whether LIF induces changes in EVT function related to invasiveness.
Primary first trimester human EVT cell cultures were treated with/without LIF and the effects on cell adhesion to fibronectin (FN), vitronectin (VN) and laminin (LN) were assessed. Transcript levels of integrin subunits that mediate cell adhesion to these extracellular matrix (ECM) elements were determined by real-time RT–PCR. Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)2 and MMP9 secretion was assessed by gelatine zymography and tissue inhibitors matrix metalloproteinase (TIMP) -1 and TIMP-2 secretion by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
EVT cells showed increased adhesion to FN, VN and LN ECM elements in response to LIF (20, 20 and 29%, respectively, P < 0.05 FN and VN compared to control; and P < 0.001 LN compared to control). Integrin β4 mRNA levels decreased by 50% following LIF treatment (P < 0.001 versus control). MMP2 and MMP9 secretion was not affected by LIF but LIF did increase secretion of TIMP-1 and -2 (P < 0.001 versus control). LIF stimulated the phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 3 protein while it did not affect STAT3 protein abundance. The addition of a LIF inhibitor attenuated the LIF-induced STAT3 phosphorylation in EVT.
The results suggest that LIF can regulate EVT invasion, suggesting an important role in early placental development.
PMCID: PMC2474668  PMID: 18492704
leukemia inhibitory factor; extravillous trophoblasts; trophoblast invasion; cell adhesion; matrix metalloproteinases

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