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1.  Screening with a Novel Cell-Based Assay for TAZ Activators Identifies a Compound That Enhances Myogenesis in C2C12 Cells and Facilitates Muscle Repair in a Muscle Injury Model 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2014;34(9):1607-1621.
The transcriptional coactivator with a PDZ-binding motif (TAZ) cooperates with various transcriptional factors and plays various roles. Immortalized human mammalian epithelial MCF10A cells form spheres when TAZ is overexpressed and activated. We developed a cell-based assay using sphere formation by TAZ-expressing MCF10A cells as a readout to screen 18,458 chemical compounds for TAZ activators. Fifty compounds were obtained, and 47 were confirmed to activate the TAZ-dependent TEAD-responsive reporter activity in HEK293 cells. We used the derived subset of compounds as a TAZ activator candidate minilibrary and searched for compounds that promote myogenesis in mouse C2C12 myoblast cells. In this study, we focused on one compound, IBS008738. IBS008738 stabilizes TAZ, increases the unphosphorylated TAZ level, enhances the association of MyoD with the myogenin promoter, upregulates MyoD-dependent gene transcription, and competes with myostatin in C2C12 cells. TAZ knockdown verifies that the effect of IBS008738 depends on endogenous TAZ in C2C12 cells. IBS008738 facilitates muscle repair in cardiotoxin-induced muscle injury and prevents dexamethasone-induced muscle atrophy. Thus, this cell-based assay is useful to identify TAZ activators with a variety of cellular outputs. Our findings also support the idea that TAZ is a potential therapeutic target for muscle atrophy.
PMCID: PMC3993594  PMID: 24550007
2.  The Hippo Pathway Controls a Switch between Retinal Progenitor Cell Proliferation and Photoreceptor Cell Differentiation in Zebrafish 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97365.
The precise regulation of numbers and types of neurons through control of cell cycle exit and terminal differentiation is an essential aspect of neurogenesis. The Hippo signaling pathway has recently been identified as playing a crucial role in promoting cell cycle exit and terminal differentiation in multiple types of stem cells, including in retinal progenitor cells. When Hippo signaling is activated, the core Mst1/2 kinases activate the Lats1/2 kinases, which in turn phosphorylate and inhibit the transcriptional cofactor Yap. During mouse retinogenesis, overexpression of Yap prolongs progenitor cell proliferation, whereas inhibition of Yap decreases this proliferation and promotes retinal cell differentiation. However, to date, it remains unknown how the Hippo pathway affects the differentiation of distinct neuronal cell types such as photoreceptor cells. In this study, we investigated whether Hippo signaling regulates retinogenesis during early zebrafish development. Knockdown of zebrafish mst2 induced early embryonic defects, including altered retinal pigmentation and morphogenesis. Similar abnormal retinal phenotypes were observed in zebrafish embryos injected with a constitutively active form of yap [(yap (5SA)]. Loss of Yap’s TEAD-binding domain, two WW domains, or transcription activation domain attenuated the retinal abnormalities induced by yap (5SA), indicating that all of these domains contribute to normal retinal development. Remarkably, yap (5SA)-expressing zebrafish embryos displayed decreased expression of transcription factors such as otx5 and crx, which orchestrate photoreceptor cell differentiation by activating the expression of rhodopsin and other photoreceptor cell genes. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments revealed that Rx1 is a novel interacting partner of Yap that regulates photoreceptor cell differentiation. Our results suggest that Yap suppresses the differentiation of photoreceptor cells from retinal progenitor cells by repressing Rx1-mediated transactivation of photoreceptor cell genes during zebrafish retinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4020862  PMID: 24828882
3.  The expanding role of fish models in understanding non-alcoholic fatty liver disease 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2013;6(4):905-914.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which excessive fat accumulates in the liver of an individual who has not consumed excessive alcohol. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a severe form of NAFLD, can progress to hepatic cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). NAFLD is considered to be a hepatic manifestation of metabolic syndrome, and its incidence has risen worldwide in lockstep with the increased global prevalence of obesity. Over the last decade, rodent studies have yielded an impressive list of molecules associated with NAFLD and NASH pathogenesis. However, the identification of currently unknown metabolic factors using mammalian model organisms is inefficient and expensive compared with studies using fish models such as zebrafish (Danio rerio) and medaka (Oryzias latipes). Substantial advances in unraveling the molecular pathogenesis of NAFLD have recently been achieved through unbiased forward genetic screens using small fish models. Furthermore, these easily manipulated organisms have been used to great advantage to evaluate the therapeutic effectiveness of various chemical compounds for the treatment of NAFLD. In this Review, we summarize aspects of NAFLD (specifically focusing on NASH) pathogenesis that have been previously revealed by rodent models, and discuss how small fish are increasingly being used to uncover factors that contribute to normal hepatic lipid metabolism. We describe the various types of fish models in use for this purpose, including those generated by mutation, transgenesis, or dietary or chemical treatment, and contrast them with rodent models. The use of small fish in identifying novel potential therapeutic agents for the treatment of NAFLD and NASH is also addressed.
PMCID: PMC3701210  PMID: 23720231
4.  Cancer susceptibility and embryonic lethality in Mob1a/1b double-mutant mice  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(12):4505-4518.
Mps one binder 1a (MOB1A) and MOB1B are key components of the Hippo signaling pathway and are mutated or inactivated in many human cancers. Here we show that intact Mob1a or Mob1b is essential for murine embryogenesis and that loss of the remaining WT Mob1 allele in Mob1aΔ/Δ1btr/+ or Mob1aΔ/+1btr/tr mice results in tumor development. Because most of these cancers resembled trichilemmal carcinomas, we generated double-mutant mice bearing tamoxifen-inducible, keratinocyte-specific homozygous-null mutations of Mob1a and Mob1b (kDKO mice). kDKO mice showed hyperplastic keratinocyte progenitors and defective keratinocyte terminal differentiation and soon died of malnutrition. kDKO keratinocytes exhibited hyperproliferation, apoptotic resistance, impaired contact inhibition, enhanced progenitor self renewal, and increased centrosomes. Examination of Hippo pathway signaling in kDKO keratinocytes revealed that loss of Mob1a/b altered the activities of the downstream Hippo mediators LATS and YAP1. Similarly, YAP1 was activated in some human trichilemmal carcinomas, and some of these also exhibited MOB1A/1B inactivation. Our results clearly demonstrate that MOB1A and MOB1B have overlapping functions in skin homeostasis, and exert their roles as tumor suppressors by regulating downstream elements of the Hippo pathway.
PMCID: PMC3533542  PMID: 23143302
5.  Diverse Roles of JNK and MKK Pathways in the Brain 
Journal of Signal Transduction  2012;2012:459265.
The c-Jun NH2-terminal protein kinase (JNK) plays important roles in a broad range of physiological processes. JNK is controlled by two upstream regulators, mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MKK) 4 and MKK7, which are activated by various MAPKKKs. Studies employing knockout mice have demonstrated that the JNK signaling pathway is involved in diverse phenomena in the brain, regulating brain development and maintenance as well as animal metabolism and behavior. Furthermore, examination of single or combined knockout mice of Jnk1, Jnk2, and Jnk3 has revealed both functional differences and redundancy among JNK1, JNK2, and JNK3. Phenotypic differences between knockouts of MKK4 and MKK7 have also been observed, suggesting that the JNK signaling pathway in the brain has a complex nature and is intricately regulated. This paper summarizes the functional properties of the major JNK signaling components in the developing and adult brain.
PMCID: PMC3307000  PMID: 22496975
6.  Establishment of Functioning Human Corneal Endothelial Cell Line with High Growth Potential 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29677.
Hexagonal-shaped human corneal endothelial cells (HCEC) form a monolayer by adhering tightly through their intercellular adhesion molecules. Located at the posterior corneal surface, they maintain corneal translucency by dehydrating the corneal stroma, mainly through the Na+- and K+-dependent ATPase (Na+/K+-ATPase). Because HCEC proliferative activity is low in vivo, once HCEC are damaged and their numbers decrease, the cornea begins to show opacity due to overhydration, resulting in loss of vision. HCEC cell cycle arrest occurs at the G1 phase and is partly regulated by cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (CKIs) in the Rb pathway (p16-CDK4/CyclinD1-pRb). In this study, we tried to activate proliferation of HCEC by inhibiting CKIs. Retroviral transduction was used to generate two new HCEC lines: transduced human corneal endothelial cell by human papillomavirus type E6/E7 (THCEC (E6/E7)) and transduced human corneal endothelial cell by Cdk4R24C/CyclinD1 (THCEH (Cyclin)). Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction analysis of gene expression revealed little difference between THCEC (E6/E7), THCEH (Cyclin) and non-transduced HCEC, but cell cycle-related genes were up-regulated in THCEC (E6/E7) and THCEH (Cyclin). THCEH (Cyclin) expressed intercellular molecules including ZO-1 and N-cadherin and showed similar Na+/K+-ATPase pump function to HCEC, which was not demonstrated in THCEC (E6/E7). This study shows that HCEC cell cycle activation can be achieved by inhibiting CKIs even while maintaining critical pump function and morphology.
PMCID: PMC3261867  PMID: 22276123
7.  TNFR1-mediated signaling is important to induce the improvement of liver fibrosis by bone marrow cell infusion 
Cell and Tissue Research  2011;346(1):79-88.
The importance of TNF-α signals mediated by tumor necrosis factor receptor type 1 (TNFR1) in inflammation and fibrosis induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), and in post-injury liver regeneration including a GFP/CCl4 model developed as a liver repair model by bone marrow cell (BMC) infusion, was investigated. In mice in which TNFR1 was suppressed by antagonist administration or by knockout, liver fibrosis induced by CCl4 was significantly decreased. In these mice, intrahepatic macrophage infiltration and TGF-β1 expression were reduced and stellate cell activity was decreased; however, expression of MMP-9 was also decreased. With GFP-positive BMC (TNFR1 wild-type, WT) infusion in these mice, fibrosis proliferation, including host endogenous intrahepatic macrophage infiltration, TGF-β1 expression and stellate cell activity, increased significantly. There was no significant increase of MMP-9 expression. In this study, TNFR1 in hosts had a promoting effect on CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity and fibrosis, whereas BMC infusion in TNFR1 knockout mice enhanced host-derived intrahepatic inflammation and fibrosis proliferation. These findings differed from those in WT recipient mice, in which improvement in inflammation and fibrosis with BMC infusion had previously been reported. TNFR1-mediated signaling might be important to induce the improvement of liver fibrosis by bone marrow cell infusion.
PMCID: PMC3204000  PMID: 21987217
Tumor necrosis factor; CCl4; Bone marrow cell; Liver cirrhosis; Hepatic stellate cell
8.  A global in vivo Drosophila RNAi screen identifies NOT3 as a conserved regulator of heart function 
Cell  2010;141(1):142-153.
Heart diseases are the most common causes of morbidity and death in humans. Using cardiac-specific RNAi-silencing in Drosophila, we knocked-down 7061 evolutionarily conserved genes under conditions of stress. We present a first global road-map of pathways potentially playing conserved roles in the cardiovascular system. One critical pathway identified was the CCR4-Not complex implicated in transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. Silencing of the CCR4-Not components in adult Drosophila resulted in myofibrillar disarray and dilated cardiomyopathy. Heterozygous not3 knockout mice showed spontaneous impairment of cardiac contractility and increased susceptibility to heart failure. These heart defects were reversed via inhibition of HDACs suggesting a mechanistic link to epigenetic chromatin remodeling. In humans, we show that a common NOT3 SNP correlates with altered cardiac QT intervals, a known cause of lethal arrhythmias. Thus, our functional genome-wide screen in Drosophila can identify candidates that directly translate into conserved mammalian genes involved in heart function.
PMCID: PMC2855221  PMID: 20371351
9.  Telmisartan improves nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in medaka (Oryzias latipes) by reducing macrophage infiltration and fat accumulation 
Cell and Tissue Research  2011;344(1):125-134.
We investigated the efficacy of the antihypertensive drug telmisartan (Tel) and the mechanisms underlying the progression from simple steatosis to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in a medaka (Oryzias latipes) NASH model. We used the NASH activity score (NAS) developed in humans to assess the histology of the medaka NASH model and found that NAS increased with time. Further, TUNEL-positive apoptosis hepatocytes were found in the medaka NASH model. Tel administration resulted in the increased expression of liver peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ, carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 and acyl-CoA oxidase 1 and decreased the number of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine-positive hepatocytes and the migration of macrophages positive for diastase-periodic-acid-Schiff. Medaka NAS was improved by Tel administration but fatty acid content was not affected. Tel reduced the infiltration of macrophages into the liver and ameliorated NASH pathology.
PMCID: PMC3063342  PMID: 21327395
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; Telmisartan; Macrophage; Apoptosis; Medaka; Oryzias latipes (Teleostei)
10.  RhoA activation participates in rearrangement of processing bodies and release of nucleated AU-rich mRNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(8):3446-3457.
Cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein granules, known as processing bodies (P-bodies), contain a common set of conserved RNA-processing enzymes, and mRNAs with AU-rich elements (AREs) are delivered to P-bodies for translational silencing. Although the dynamics of P-bodies is physically linked to cytoskeletal network, it is unclear how small GTPases are involved in the P-body regulation and the ARE-mRNA metabolism. We found here that glucose depletion activates RhoA GTPase and alters the P-body dynamics in HeLa cells. These glucose-depleted effects are reproduced by the overexpression of the RhoA-subfamily GTPases and conversely abolished by the inhibition of RhoA activation. Interestingly, both RhoA activation and glucose depletion inhibit the mRNA accumulation and degradation. These findings indicate that RhoA participates in the stress-induced rearrangement of P-bodies and the release of nucleated ARE-mRNAs for their stabilization.
PMCID: PMC3082882  PMID: 21212127
11.  Medaka: a promising model animal for comparative population genomics 
BMC Research Notes  2009;2:88.
Within-species genome diversity has been best studied in humans. The international HapMap project has revealed a tremendous amount of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) among humans, many of which show signals of positive selection during human evolution. In most of the cases, however, functional differences between the alleles remain experimentally unverified due to the inherent difficulty of human genetic studies. It would therefore be highly useful to have a vertebrate model with the following characteristics: (1) high within-species genetic diversity, (2) a variety of gene-manipulation protocols already developed, and (3) a completely sequenced genome. Medaka (Oryzias latipes) and its congeneric species, tiny fresh-water teleosts distributed broadly in East and Southeast Asia, meet these criteria.
Using Oryzias species from 27 local populations, we conducted a simple screening of nonsynonymous SNPs for 11 genes with apparent orthology between medaka and humans. We found medaka SNPs for which the same sites in human orthologs are known to be highly differentiated among the HapMap populations. Importantly, some of these SNPs show signals of positive selection.
These results indicate that medaka is a promising model system for comparative population genomics exploring the functional and adaptive significance of allelic differentiations.
PMCID: PMC2683866  PMID: 19426554
12.  Activation of the c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase Pathway by MST1 Is Essential and Sufficient for the Induction of Chromatin Condensation during Apoptosis▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(15):5514-5522.
Chromatin condensation is the most recognizable nuclear hallmark of apoptosis. Cleavage and activation of MST1 by caspases induce chromatin condensation. It was previously reported that, during apoptosis, activated MST1 induced c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activation and also phosphorylated histone H2B. However, which of these mechanisms underlies MST1's induction of chromatin condensation has yet to be clarified. Here, we report that MST1-mediated activation of JNK is both essential and sufficient for chromatin condensation. MST1 activation did not result in chromatin condensation in mitogen-activate protein kinase kinase 4 (MKK4)/MKK7 double knockout (MKK4/7 DKO) embryonic stem (ES) cells, which genetically lack the ability to activate JNK. On the other hand, constitutively active JNK was able to induce chromatin condensation in MKK4/7 DKO ES cells. In contrast, histone H2B phosphorylation did not correlate with chromatin condensation in wild-type ES cells. Finally, inhibition of JNK as well as inhibitor of caspase-activated DNase blocked chromatin condensation during Fas-mediated apoptosis of Jurkat cells. Taken together, our results indicate that caspase-mediated cleavage of MST1, followed by MST1-mediated activation of the JNK pathway, is the mechanism responsible for inducing chromatin condensation during apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC1952095  PMID: 17548476
13.  Autoamplification of NFATc1 expression determines its essential role in bone homeostasis 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2005;202(9):1261-1269.
NFATc1 and NFATc2 are functionally redundant in the immune system, but it was suggested that NFATc1 is required exclusively for differentiation of osteoclasts in the skeletal system. Here we provide genetic evidence that NFATc1 is essential for osteoclast differentiation in vivo by adoptive transfer of NFATc1−/− hematopoietic stem cells to osteoclast-deficient Fos−/− mice, and by Fos−/− blastocyst complementation, thus avoiding the embryonic lethality of NFATc1−/− mice. However, in vitro osteoclastogenesis in NFATc1-deficient cells was rescued by ectopic expression of NFATc2. The discrepancy between the in vivo essential role of NFATc1 and the in vitro effect of NFATc2 was attributed to selective autoregulation of the NFATc1 gene by NFAT through its promoter region. This suggested that an epigenetic mechanism contributes to the essential function of NFATc1 in cell lineage commitment. Thus, this study establishes that NFATc1 represents a potential therapeutic target for bone disease and reveals a mechanism that underlies the essential role of NFATc1 in bone homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC2213228  PMID: 16275763
14.  The Stress Kinase Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinase (Mkk)7 Is a Negative Regulator of Antigen Receptor and Growth Factor Receptor–Induced Proliferation in Hematopoietic Cells 
The dual specificity kinases mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase (MKK)7 and MKK4 are the only molecules known to directly activate the stress kinases stress-activated protein kinases (SAPKs)/c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) in response to environmental or mitogenic stimuli. To examine the physiological role of MKK7 in hematopoietic cells, we used a gene targeting strategy to mutate MKK7 in murine T and B cells and non-lymphoid mast cells. Loss of MKK7 in thymocytes and mature B cells results in hyperproliferation in response to growth factor and antigen receptor stimulation and increased thymic cellularity. Mutation of mkk7 in mast cells resulted in hyperproliferation in response to the cytokines interleukin (IL)-3 and stem cell factor (SCF). SAPK/JNK activation was completely abolished in the absence of MKK7, even though expression of MKK4 was strongly upregulated in mkk7−/− mast cell lines, and phosphorylation of MKK4 occurred normally in response to multiple stress stimuli. Loss of MKK7 did not affect activation of extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK)1/2 or p38 MAPK. mkk7−/− mast cells display reduced expression of JunB and the cell cycle inhibitor p16INK4a and upregulation of cyclinD1. Reexpression of p16INK4a in mkk7−/− mast cells abrogates the hyperproliferative response. Apoptotic responses to a variety of stimuli were not affected. Thus, MKK7 is an essential and specific regulator of stress-induced SAPK/JNK activation in mast cells and MKK7 negatively regulates growth factor and antigen receptor–driven proliferation in hematopoietic cells. These results indicate that the MKK7-regulated stress signaling pathway can function as negative regulator of cell growth in multiple hematopoietic lineages.
PMCID: PMC2195963  PMID: 11560992
MKK7; SAPK/JNK; proliferation; stress response; hematopoietic cells
15.  Impaired CD28-mediated Interleukin 2 Production and Proliferation in Stress Kinase SAPK/ERK1 Kinase (SEK1)/Mitogen-activated Protein Kinase Kinase 4 (MKK4)-deficient T Lymphocytes  
The dual specific kinase SAPK/ERK1 kinase (SEK1; mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 4/Jun NH2 terminal kinase [ JNK] kinase) is a direct activator of stress-activated protein kinases ([SAPKs]/JNKs) in response to CD28 costimulation, CD40 signaling, or activation of the germinal center kinase. Here we show that SEK1−/− recombination-activating gene (RAG)2−/− chimeric mice have a partial block in B cell maturation. However, peripheral B cells displayed normal responses to IL-4, IgM, and CD40 cross-linking. SEK1−/− peripheral T cells showed decreased proliferation and IL-2 production after CD28 costimulation and PMA/Ca2+ ionophore activation. Although CD28 expression was absolutely crucial to generate vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)-specific germinal centers, SEK1−/−RAG2−/− chimeras mounted a protective antiviral B cell response, exhibited normal IgG class switching, and made germinal centers in response to VSV. Interestingly, PMA/Ca2+ ionophore stimulation, which mimics TCR–CD3 and CD28-mediated signal transduction, induced SAPK/JNK activation in peripheral T cells, but not in thymocytes, from SEK1−/− mice. These results show that signaling pathways for SAPK activation are developmentally regulated in T cells. Although SEK1−/− thymocytes failed to induce SAPK/JNK in response to PMA/Ca2+ ionophore, SEK1−/−RAG2−/− thymocytes proliferated and made IL-2 after PMA/Ca2+ ionophore and CD3/CD28 stimulation, albeit at significantly lower levels compared to SEK1+/+RAG2−/− thymocytes, implying that CD28 costimulation and PMA/Ca2+ ionophore–triggered signaling pathways exist that can mediate proliferation and IL-2 production independently of SAPK activation. Our data provide the first genetic evidence that SEK1 is an important effector molecule that relays CD28 signaling to IL-2 production and T cell proliferation.
PMCID: PMC2199046  PMID: 9294148

Results 1-15 (15)