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1.  Optimized siRNA-PEG Conjugates for Extended Blood Circulation and Reduced Urine Excretion in Mice 
Theranostics  2013;3(3):201-209.
Some of the main concerns with in vivo application of naked small interfering RNA are rapid degradation and urinary excretion resulting in a short plasma half-life. In this study we investigated how conjugation of polyethylene glycol (PEG) with variable chain length affects siRNA pharmacokinetics and biodistribution.
The PEG chains were conjugated to chemically stabilized siRNA at the 5' terminal end of the passenger strand using click chemistry. The siRNA conjugate remained functionally active and showed significantly prolonged circulation in the blood stream after intravenous injection. siRNA conjugated with 20kDa PEG (PEG20k-siRNA) was most persistent, approximately 50% PEG20k-siRNA remained 1h post-injection, while the uncoupled siRNA was rapidly removed >90% at 15min. In vivo fluorescent imaging of the living animal showed increased concentration of siRNA in peripheral tissue and delayed urine excretion when coupled to PEG 20k. Biodistribution studies by northern blotting revealed equal distribution of conjugated siRNA in liver, kidney, spleen and lung without significant degradation 24 h post-injection. Our study demonstrates that PEG conjugated siRNA can be applied as a delivery system to improve siRNA bioavailability in vivo and may potentially increase the efficiency of siRNA in therapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC3590589  PMID: 23471415
siRNA; PEGylation; blood circulation; urine excretion; in vivo imaging.
2.  Bone Formation and Resorption Are Both Increased in Experimental Autoimmune Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e53034.
Arthritic bone loss in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis is the result of a combination of osteoclastic bone resorption and osteoblastic bone formation. This process is not completely understood, and especially the importance of local inflammation needs further investigation. We evaluated how bone formation and bone resorption are altered in experimental autoimmune arthritis.
Twenty-one female SKG mice were randomized to either an arthritis group or a control group. Tetracycline was used to identify mineralizing surfaces. After six weeks the right hind paws were embedded undecalcified in methylmethacrylate. The paws were cut exhaustively according to the principles of vertical sectioning and systematic sampling. 3D design-based methods were used to estimate the total number of osteoclasts, mineralizing surfaces, eroded surfaces, and osteoclast-covered bone surfaces. In addition the presence of adjacent inflammation was ascertained.
The total number of osteoclasts, mineralizing surfaces, eroded surfaces, and osteoclast covered surfaces were elevated in arthritic paws compared to normal paws. Mineralizing surfaces were elevated adjacent to as well as not adjacent to inflammation in arthritic mice compared to normal mice. In arthritic mice, eroded surfaces and osteoclast covered surfaces were larger on bone surfaces adjacent to inflammation than on bone surfaces without adjacent inflammation. However, we found no difference between mineralizing surfaces at bone surfaces with or without inflammation in arthritic mice.
Inflammation induced an increase in resorptive bone surfaces as well as formative bone surfaces. The bone formative response may be more general, since formative bone surfaces were also increased when not associated with inflammation. Thus, the bone loss may be the result of a substantial local bone resorption, which cannot be compensated by the increased local bone formation. These findings may be valuable for the development of new osteoblast targeting drugs in RA.
PMCID: PMC3531401  PMID: 23300855
3.  Generation of minipigs with targeted transgene insertion by recombinase-mediated cassette exchange (RMCE) and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) 
Transgenic Research  2012;22(4):709-723.
Targeted transgenesis using site-specific recombinases is an attractive method to create genetically modified animals as it allows for integration of the transgene in a pre-selected transcriptionally active genomic site. Here we describe the application of recombinase-mediated cassette exchange (RMCE) in cells from a Göttingen minipig with four RMCE acceptor loci, each containing a green fluorescence protein (GFP) marker gene driven by a human UbiC promoter. The four RMCE acceptor loci segregated independent of each other, and expression profiles could be determined in various tissues. Using minicircles in RMCE in fibroblasts with all four acceptor loci and followed by SCNT, we produced piglets with a single copy of a transgene incorporated into one of the transcriptionally active acceptor loci. The transgene, consisting of a cDNA of the Alzheimer’s disease-causing gene PSEN1M146I driven by an enhanced human UbiC promoter, had an expression profile in various tissues similar to that of the GFP marker gene. The results show that RMCE can be done in a pre-selected transcriptionally active acceptor locus for targeted transgenesis in pigs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11248-012-9671-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3712138  PMID: 23111619
RMCE; Sleeping Beauty; SCNT; Targeted transgenesis; Transgenic pigs; Disease models
4.  Targeting the Hemoglobin Scavenger receptor CD163 in Macrophages Highly Increases the Anti-inflammatory Potency of Dexamethasone 
Molecular Therapy  2012;20(8):1550-1558.
Synthetic glucocorticoids are potent anti-inflammatory drugs but serious side effects such as bone mobilization, muscle mass loss, immunosuppression, and metabolic alterations make glucocorticoid therapy a difficult balance. The therapeutic anti-inflammatory effect of glucocorticoids relies largely on the suppressed release of tumor-necrosis factor-α and other cytokines by macrophages at the sites of inflammation. We have now developed a new biodegradable anti-CD163 antibody-drug conjugate that specifically targets the glucocorticoid, dexamethasone to the hemoglobin scavenger receptor CD163 in macrophages. The conjugate, that in average contains four dexamethasone molecules per antibody, exhibits retained high functional affinity for CD163. In vitro studies in rat macrophages and in vivo studies of Lewis rats showed a strong anti-inflammatory effect of the conjugate measured as reduced lipopolysaccharide-induced secretion of tumor-necrosis factor-α. The in vivo potency of conjugated dexamethasone was about 50-fold that of nonconjugated dexamethasone. In contrast to a strong systemic effect of nonconjugated dexamethasone, the equipotent dose of the conjugate had no such effect, measured as thymus lymphocytes apoptosis, body weight loss, and suppression of endogenous cortisol levels. In conclusion, the study shows antibody-drug conjugates as a future approach in anti-inflammatory macrophage-directed therapy. Furthermore, the data demonstrate CD163 as an excellent macrophage target for anti-inflammatory drug delivery.
PMCID: PMC3412497  PMID: 22643864
5.  Development of Transgenic Cloned Pig Models of Skin Inflammation by DNA Transposon-Directed Ectopic Expression of Human β1 and α2 Integrin 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36658.
Integrins constitute a superfamily of transmembrane signaling receptors that play pivotal roles in cutaneous homeostasis by modulating cell growth and differentiation as well as inflammatory responses in the skin. Subrabasal expression of integrins α2 and/or β1 entails hyperproliferation and aberrant differentiation of keratinocytes and leads to dermal and epidermal influx of activated T-cells. The anatomical and physiological similarities between porcine and human skin make the pig a suitable model for human skin diseases. In efforts to generate a porcine model of cutaneous inflammation, we employed the Sleeping Beauty DNA transposon system for production of transgenic cloned Göttingen minipigs expressing human β1 or α2 integrin under the control of a promoter specific for subrabasal keratinocytes. Using pools of transgenic donor fibroblasts, cloning by somatic cell nuclear transfer was utilized to produce reconstructed embryos that were subsequently transferred to surrogate sows. The resulting pigs were all transgenic and harbored from one to six transgene integrants. Molecular analyses on skin biopsies and cultured keratinocytes showed ectopic expression of the human integrins and localization within the keratinocyte plasma membrane. Markers of perturbed skin homeostasis, including activation of the MAPK pathway, increased expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1α, and enhanced expression of the transcription factor c-Fos, were identified in keratinocytes from β1 and α2 integrin-transgenic minipigs, suggesting the induction of a chronic inflammatory phenotype in the skin. Notably, cellular dysregulation obtained by overexpression of either β1 or α2 integrin occurred through different cellular signaling pathways. Our findings mark the creation of the first cloned pig models with molecular markers of skin inflammation. Despite the absence of an overt psoriatic phenotype, these animals may possess increased susceptibility to severe skin damage-induced inflammation and should be of great potential in studies aiming at the development and refinement of topical therapies for cutaneous inflammation including psoriasis.
PMCID: PMC3349713  PMID: 22590584
6.  TLR3 deficiency renders astrocytes permissive to herpes simplex virus infection and facilitates establishment of CNS infection in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(4):1368-1376.
Herpes simplex viruses (HSVs) are highly prevalent neurotropic viruses. While they can replicate lytically in cells of the epithelial lineage, causing lesions on mucocutaneous surfaces, HSVs also establish latent infections in neurons, which act as reservoirs of virus for subsequent reactivation events. Immunological control of HSV involves activation of innate immune pattern-recognition receptors such as TLR3, which detects double-stranded RNA and induces type I IFN expression. Humans with defects in the TLR3/IFN pathway have an elevated susceptibility to HSV infections of the CNS. However, it is not known what cell type mediates the role of TLR3 in the immunological control of HSV, and it is not known whether TLR3 sensing occurs prior to or after CNS entry. Here, we show that in mice TLR3 provides early control of HSV-2 infection immediately after entry into the CNS by mediating type I IFN responses in astrocytes. Tlr3–/– mice were hypersusceptible to HSV-2 infection in the CNS after vaginal inoculation. HSV-2 exhibited broader neurotropism in Tlr3–/– mice than it did in WT mice, with astrocytes being most abundantly infected. Tlr3–/– mice did not exhibit a global defect in innate immune responses to HSV, but astrocytes were defective in HSV-induced type I IFN production. Thus, TLR3 acts in astrocytes to sense HSV-2 infection immediately after entry into the CNS, possibly preventing HSV from spreading beyond the neurons mediating entry into the CNS.
PMCID: PMC3314467  PMID: 22426207
7.  Targeting of human interleukin-12B by small hairpin RNAs in xenografted psoriatic skin 
BMC Dermatology  2011;11:5.
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that shows as erythematous and scaly lesions. The pathogenesis of psoriasis is driven by a dysregulation of the immune system which leads to an altered cytokine production. Proinflammatory cytokines that are up-regulated in psoriasis include tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), interleukin-12 (IL-12), and IL-23 for which monoclonal antibodies have already been approved for clinical use. We have previously documented the therapeutic applicability of targeting TNFα mRNA for RNA interference-mediated down-regulation by anti-TNFα small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) delivered by lentiviral vectors to xenografted psoriatic skin. The present report aims at targeting mRNA encoding the shared p40 subunit (IL-12B) of IL-12 and IL-23 by cellular transduction with lentiviral vectors encoding anti-IL12B shRNAs.
Effective anti-IL12B shRNAs are identified among a panel of shRNAs by potency measurements in cultured cells. The efficiency and persistency of lentiviral gene delivery to xenografted human skin are investigated by bioluminescence analysis of skin treated with lentiviral vectors encoding the luciferase gene. shRNA-expressing lentiviral vectors are intradermally injected in xenografted psoriatic skin and the effects of the treatment evaluated by clinical psoriasis scoring, by measurements of epidermal thickness, and IL-12B mRNA levels.
Potent and persistent transgene expression following a single intradermal injection of lentiviral vectors in xenografted human skin is reported. Stable IL-12B mRNA knockdown and reduced epidermal thickness are achieved three weeks after treatment of xenografted psoriatic skin with lentivirus-encoded anti-IL12B shRNAs. These findings mimick the results obtained with anti-TNFα shRNAs but, in contrast to anti-TNFα treatment, anti-IL12B shRNAs do not ameliorate the psoriatic phenotype as evaluated by semi-quantitative clinical scoring and by immunohistological examination.
Our studies consolidate the properties of lentiviral vectors as a tool for potent gene delivery and for evaluation of mRNA targets for anti-inflammatory therapy. However, in contrast to local anti-TNFα treatment, the therapeutic potential of targeting IL-12B at the RNA level in psoriasis is questioned.
PMCID: PMC3058081  PMID: 21352568
8.  Determination of Odor Detection Threshold in the Göttingen Minipig 
Chemical Senses  2010;35(8):727-734.
The aim of the study was to examine the ability of Göttingen minipigs to acquire an olfaction-based operant conditioning task and to determine the detection threshold for ethyl acetate and ethanol. We used an automated olfactometer developed for rodents to train and test 14 pigs. Odor sampling and reliable responding were obtained after three to fifteen 160-trial sessions. Successful transfer of the task from ethyl acetate to ethanol was achieved in 1–4 sessions. Detection threshold for ethyl acetate varied between 10−2% and 10−6% v/v and for ethanol between 0.1% and 5 × 10−6% v/v. The results provide evidence that minipigs can successfully acquire 2-odorant discrimination using a food-rewarded instrumental conditioning paradigm for testing olfactory function. This olfactory discrimination paradigm provides reliable measures of olfactory sensitivity and thereby enables detection of changes in olfaction in a porcine model of Alzheimer's disease currently being developed.
PMCID: PMC2943411  PMID: 20693277
odor sensitivity; olfaction; operant conditioning; pigs
9.  Resolution of psoriasis upon blockade of IL-15 biological activity in a xenograft mouse model 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2003;112(10):1571-1580.
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin characterized by epidermal hyperplasia, dermal angiogenesis, infiltration of activated T cells, and increased cytokine levels. One of these cytokines, IL-15, triggers inflammatory cell recruitment, angiogenesis, and production of other inflammatory cytokines, including IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-17, which are all upregulated in psoriatic lesions. To investigate the role of IL-15 in psoriasis, we generated mAb’s using human immunoglobulin-transgenic mice. One of the IL-15–specific antibodies we generated, 146B7, did not compete with IL-15 for binding to its receptor but potently interfered with the assembly of the IL-15 receptor α, β, γ complex. This antibody effectively blocked IL-15–induced T cell proliferation and monocyte TNF-α release in vitro. In a human psoriasis xenograft model, antibody 146B7 reduced the severity of psoriasis, as measured by epidermal thickness, grade of parakeratosis, and numbers of inflammatory cells and cycling keratinocytes. These results obtained with this IL-15–specific mAb support an important role for IL-15 in the pathogenesis of psoriasis.
PMCID: PMC259129  PMID: 14617758

Results 1-9 (9)