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1.  A Vertical Wall Dominated by Acesta excavata and Neopycnodonte zibrowii, Part of an Undersampled Group of Deep-Sea Habitats 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79917.
We describe a novel biotope at 633 to 762 m depth on a vertical wall in the Whittard Canyon, an extensive canyon system reaching from the shelf to the deep sea on Ireland’s continental margin. We explored this wall with an ROV and compiled a photomosaic of the habitat. The assemblage contributing to the biotope was dominated by large limid bivalves, Acesta excavata (mean shell height 10.4 cm), and deep-sea oysters, Neopycnodonte zibrowii, at high densities, particularly at overhangs. Mean density of N. zibrowii increased with depth, with densities of the most closely packed areas of A. excavata also increasing with depth. Other taxa associated with the assemblage included the solitary coral Desmophyllum dianthus, cerianthid anemones, comatulid crinoids, the trochid gastropod Margarites sp., the portunid crab Bathynectes longispina and small fish of the family Bythitidae. The scleractinian coral Madrepora oculata, the pencil urchin Cidaris cidaris and a species of Epizoanthus were also common. Prominent but less abundant species included the flytrap anemone Actinoscyphia saginata, the carrier crab Paramola cuvieri, and the fishes Lepidion eques and Conger conger. Observations of the hydrography of the canyon system identified that the upper 500 m was dominated by Eastern North Atlantic Water, with Mediterranean Outflow Water beneath it. The permanent thermocline is found between 600 and 1000 m depth, i.e., in the depth range of the vertical wall and the dense assemblage of filter feeders. Beam attenuation indicated nepheloid layers present in the canyon system with the greatest amounts of suspended material at the ROV dive site between 500 and 750 m. A cross-canyon CTD transect indicated the presence of internal waves between these depths. We hypothesise that internal waves concentrate suspended sediment at high concentrations at the foot of the vertical wall, possibly explaining the large size and high density of filter-feeding molluscs.
PMCID: PMC3832389  PMID: 24260319
2.  Inhibition of Endothelin-1-Mediated Contraction of Hepatic Stellate Cells by FXR Ligand 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13955.
Activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) plays an important role in the development of cirrhosis through the increased production of collagen and the enhanced contractile response to vasoactive mediators such as endothelin-1 (ET-1). The farnesoid X receptor (FXR) is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily that is highly expressed in liver, kidneys, adrenals, and intestine. FXR is also expressed in HSCs and activation of FXR in HSCs is associated with significant decreases in collagen production. However, little is known about the roles of FXR in the regulation of contraction of HSCs. We report in this study that treatment of quiescent HSCs with GW4064, a synthetic FXR agonist, significantly inhibited the HSC transdifferentiation, which was associated with an inhibition of the upregulation of ET-1 expression. These GW4064-treated cells also showed reduced contractile response to ET-1 in comparison to HSCs without GW4064 treatment. We have further shown that GW4064 treatment inhibited the ET-1-mediated contraction in fully activated HSCs. To elucidate the potential mechanism we showed that GW4064 inhibited ET-1-mediated activation of Rho/ROCK pathway in activated HSCs. Our studies unveiled a new mechanism that might contribute to the anti-cirrhotic effects of FXR ligands.
PMCID: PMC2978707  PMID: 21085652
3.  Mood, nicotine, and dose expectancy effects on acute responses to nicotine spray 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2009;11(5):540-546.
We recently showed effects of nicotine dose and nicotine expectancy on some responses to cigarette smoking, with generally no influence of induced mood on these effects. The present study extended this line of research to Nicotrol nasal spray, to determine whether formulation (spray vs. smoking) alters responses.
Smokers abstained overnight before each of two virtually identical sessions, involving negative or positive mood induction. They were randomized to one of five groups, four comprising the 2 × 2 balanced placebo design, varying actual and expected dose of nicotine in the nasal spray, and the fifth group a no-spray control. Dependent measures included self-reported affect, craving, withdrawal, and spray ratings of “liking” and “how much nicotine.” Analyses were limited to those whose nicotine expectancies were manipulated successfully (N = 48).
The following results matched those from our smoking study: expecting nicotine increased liking; expected, but not actual, nicotine dose increased dose perception; neither actual nor expected nicotine dose had much influence on affect or withdrawal; and mood had no influence on these effects. However, both actual and expected nicotine dose decreased craving in response to spray, contrary to our prior study with smoking.
Formulation made little difference in some effects of nicotine and expectancies, but other effects differed by formulation. Some of these findings, particularly for craving reduction, may have implications for enhancing the acute therapeutic effects of nasal spray and, perhaps, other medications in smokers trying to maintain abstinence after quitting.
PMCID: PMC2671464  PMID: 19351782
4.  Targeted Delivery of Nucleic Acid-Based Therapeutics to the Pulmonary Circulation 
The AAPS Journal  2009;11(1):23-30.
Targeted delivery of functional nucleic acids (genes and oligonucleotides) to pulmonary endothelium may become a novel therapy for the treatment of various types of lung diseases. It may also provide a new research tool to study the functions and regulation of novel genes in pulmonary endothelium. Its success is largely dependent on the development of a vehicle that is capable of efficient pulmonary delivery with minimal toxicity. This review summarizes the recent progress that has been made in our laboratory along these research directions. Factors that affect pulmonary nucleic acids delivery are also discussed.
PMCID: PMC2664874  PMID: 19132538
delivery; endothelial cells; genes; lung; oligonucleotides; pulmonary circulation; siRNA; targeting
Drug and alcohol dependence  2008;99(1-3):47-57.
Initial sensitivity to nicotine’s effects during early exposure to tobacco may relate to dependence vulnerability. We examined the association of initial nicotine sensitivity with individual difference factors of sex, other drug use history (i.e. cross-tolerance or cross-sensitization), and parental smoking status in young adult nonsmokers (N=131). Participants engaged in 4 sessions, the first 3 to assess the dose-response effects of nasal spray nicotine (0, 5, 10 μg/kg) on rewarding, mood, physiological, sensory processing, and performance effects, and the fourth to assess nicotine reinforcement using a choice procedure. Men had greater initial sensitivity than women to some self-reported effects of nicotine related to reward and incentive salience and to impairment in sensory processing, but men and women did not differ on most other effects. Prior marijuana use was associated with greater nicotine reward, nicotine reinforcement was greater in men versus women among those with prior marijuana use, and having parents who smoked was related to increased incentive salience. However, history of other drug use and parental smoking were not otherwise associated with initial nicotine sensitivity. These findings warrant replication with other methods of nicotine administration, especially cigarette smoking, and in more diverse samples of subjects naïve to nicotine. Yet, they suggest that sex differences in initial sensitivity to nicotine reward occur before the onset of dependence. They also suggest that parental smoking may not increase risk of nicotine dependence in offspring by altering initial nicotine sensitivity, and that cross-tolerance between other drugs and nicotine may not be robust in humans.
PMCID: PMC2648532  PMID: 18775605
nicotine; sensitivity; nonsmokers; reward; reinforcement; sex differences; cross-tolerance; parental smoking history
Behavioural pharmacology  2008;19(5-6):630-640.
Genetic variation may influence initial sensitivity to nicotine (i.e. during early tobacco exposure), perhaps helping to explain differential vulnerability to nicotine dependence. This study explored associations of functional candidate gene polymorphisms with initial sensitivity to nicotine in 101 young adult nonsmokers of European ancestry. Nicotine (0, 5, 10 μg/kg) was administered via nasal spray followed by mood, nicotine reward (e.g. “liking”) and perception (e.g. “feel effects”) measures, physiological responses, sensory processing (pre-pulse inhibition of startle), and performance tasks. Nicotine reinforcement was assessed in a separate session using a nicotine vs. placebo spray choice procedure. For the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4 VNTR), presence of the 7 repeat allele was associated with greater aversive responses to nicotine (decreases in “vigor”, positive affect, and rapid information processing; increased cortisol) and reduced nicotine choice. Individuals with at least one DRD4 7-repeat allele also reported increased “feel effects” and greater startle response, but in men only. Also observed in men but not women were other genetic associations, such as greater “feel effects” and anger, and reduced fatigue, in the dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2 C957T SNP) TT versus CT or CC genotypes. Very few or no significant associations were seen for the DRD2/ANKK1 TaqIA polymorphism, the serotonin transporter promoter VNTR or 5HTTLPR (SLC6A4), the dopamine transporter 3’ VNTR (SLC6A3), and the mu opioid receptor A118G SNP (OPRM1). Although these results are preliminary, this study is the first to suggest that genetic polymorphisms related to function in the dopamine D4, and perhaps D2, receptor may modulate initial sensitivity to nicotine prior to the onset of dependence and may do so differentially between men and women.
PMCID: PMC2743299  PMID: 18690117
nicotine; sensitivity; genetics; dopamine; reward; reinforcement
7.  Nitric oxide mediated zinc release contributes to hypoxic regulation of pulmonary vascular tone 
Circulation research  2008;102(12):1575-1583.
The metal binding protein, metallothionein (MT) is a target for NO causing release of bound zinc that affects myogenic reflex in systemic resistance vessels. Here, we investigate a role for NO-induced zinc release in pulmonary vasoregulation. We show that acute hypoxia causes reversible constriction of intra-acinar arteries (<40 μM) in isolated perfused mouse lung (IPL). We further demonstrate that isolated pulmonary (but not aortic) endothelial cells constrict in hypoxia. Hypoxia also causes NO-dependent increases in labile zinc in mouse lung endothelial cells and endothelium of IPL. The latter observation is dependent upon MT as it is not apparent in IPL of MT−/− mice. Data from NO-sensitive fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based reporters support hypoxia-induced NO production in pulmonary endothelium. Furthermore, hypoxic constriction is blunted in IPL of MT−/− mice; and in wild-type mice, or rats, treated with the zinc chelator, N,N,N′,N′-Tetrakis(2-pyridylmethyl)-ethylenediamine (TPEN), suggesting a role for chelatable zinc in modulating HPV. Finally, the NO donor, DETAnonoate causes further vasoconstriction in hypoxic IPL in which NO vasodilatory pathways are inhibited. Collectively, these data suggest that zinc thiolate signaling is a component of the effects of acute hypoxia mediated NO biosynthesis and this pathway may contribute to constriction in the pulmonary vasculature.
PMCID: PMC2735130  PMID: 18483408
hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction; metallothionein; fluorescence microscopy; endothelial cells

Results 1-7 (7)