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1.  The adhesion GPCR Gpr56 regulates oligodendrocyte development via interactions with Gα12/13 and RhoA 
Nature communications  2015;6:6122.
In the vertebrate central nervous system, myelinating oligodendrocytes are postmitotic and derive from proliferative oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs). The molecular mechanisms that govern oligodendrocyte development are incompletely understood, but recent studies implicate the adhesion class of G protein-coupled receptors (aGPCRs) as important regulators of myelination. Here, we use zebrafish and mouse models to dissect the function of the aGPCR Gpr56 in oligodendrocyte development. We show that gpr56 is expressed during early stages of oligodendrocyte development. Additionally, we observe a significant reduction of mature oligodendrocyte number and of myelinated axons in gpr56 zebrafish mutants. This reduction results from decreased OPC proliferation, rather than increased cell death or altered neural precursor differentiation potential. Finally, we show that these functions are mediated by Gα12/13 proteins and Rho activation. Together, our data establish Gpr56 as a regulator of oligodendrocyte development.
PMCID: PMC4302765  PMID: 25607772
2.  Nf2/Merlin Controls Spinal Cord Neural Progenitor Function in a Rac1/ErbB2-Dependent Manner 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97320.
Individuals with the neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) cancer predisposition syndrome develop spinal cord glial tumors (ependymomas) that likely originate from neural progenitor cells. Whereas many spinal ependymomas exhibit indolent behavior, the only treatment option for clinically symptomatic tumors is surgery. In this regard, medical therapies are unfortunately lacking due to an incomplete understanding of the critical growth control pathways that govern the function of spinal cord (SC) neural progenitor cells (NPCs).
To identify potential therapeutic targets for these tumors, we leveraged primary mouse Nf2-deficient spinal cord neural progenitor cells.
We demonstrate that the Nf2 protein, merlin, negatively regulates spinal neural progenitor cell survival and glial differentiation in an ErbB2-dependent manner, and that NF2-associated spinal ependymomas exhibit increased ErbB2 activation. Moreover, we show that Nf2-deficient SC NPC ErbB2 activation results from Rac1-mediated ErbB2 retention at the plasma membrane.
Collectively, these findings establish ErbB2 as a potential rational therapeutic target for NF2-associated spinal ependymoma.
PMCID: PMC4016309  PMID: 24817309
3.  Using a pacifier to decrease sudden infant death syndrome: an emergency department educational intervention 
PeerJ  2014;2:e309.
Background. Pacifier use decreases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). An emergency department (ED) visit may provide an opportunistic ‘teachable moment’ for parents.
Objectives. To test the hypotheses (1) that caregivers were less familiar with the role of pacifiers in sudden infant death (SIDS) prevention than other recommendations, and (2) that an ED educational intervention would increase pacifier use in infants younger than six months, and (3) that otitis media would not occur more frequently in pacifier users.
Methods. We did an intervention-group-only longitudinal study in a county hospital ED. We measured pacifier use infants and baseline knowledge of SIDs prevention recommendations in caregivers. We followed up three months later to determine pacifier use, and 12 months later to determine episodes of otitis media.
Results. We analyzed data for 780 infants. Parents knew of advice against co-sleeping in 469/780 (60%), smoking in 660/776 (85%), and prone sleeping in 613/780 (79%). Only 268/777 (35%) knew the recommendation to offer a pacifier at bedtime. At enrollment 449/780 (58%) did not use a pacifier. Of 210/338 infants aged less than 6 months followed up 41/112 (37%) non-users had started using a pacifier at bedtime (NNT 3). Over the same period, 37/98 (38%) users had discontinued their pacifier. Otitis media did not differ between users and non-users at 12 months.
Conclusion. Caregiver knowledge of the role of pacifiers in SIDS prevention was less than for other recommendations. Our educational intervention appeared to increase pacifier use. Pacifier use was not associated with increased otitis media.
PMCID: PMC3961164  PMID: 24688883
Pacifier; Sudden infant death syndrome; Infant; Emergency department; Education in the emergency department
4.  Using the Neurofibromatosis Tumor Predisposition Syndromes to Understand Normal Nervous System Development 
Scientifica  2014;2014:915725.
Development is a tightly regulated process that involves stem cell self-renewal, differentiation, cell-to-cell communication, apoptosis, and blood vessel formation. These coordinated processes ensure that tissues maintain a size and architecture that is appropriate for normal tissue function. As such, tumors arise when cells acquire genetic mutations that allow them to escape the normal growth constraints. In this regard, the study of tumor predisposition syndromes affords a unique platform to better understand normal development and the process by which normal cells transform into cancers. Herein, we review the processes governing normal brain development, discuss how brain cancer represents a disruption of these normal processes, and highlight insights into both normal development and cancer made possible by the study of tumor predisposition syndromes.
PMCID: PMC4163293  PMID: 25243094
5.  Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Cardiorespiratory Disease in the California Teachers Study Cohort 
Rationale: Several studies have linked long-term exposure to particulate air pollution with increased cardiopulmonary mortality; only two have also examined incident circulatory disease.
Objectives: To examine associations of individualized long-term exposures to particulate and gaseous air pollution with incident myocardial infarction and stroke, as well as all-cause and cause-specific mortality.
Methods: We estimated long-term residential air pollution exposure for more than 100,000 participants in the California Teachers Study, a prospective cohort of female public school professionals. We linked geocoded residential addresses with inverse distance-weighted monthly pollutant surfaces for two measures of particulate matter and for several gaseous pollutants. We examined associations between exposure to these pollutants and risks of incident myocardial infarction and stroke, and of all-cause and cause-specific mortality, using Cox proportional hazards models.
Measurements and Main Results: We found elevated hazard ratios linking long-term exposure to particulate matter less than 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5), scaled to an increment of 10 μg/m3 with mortality from ischemic heart disease (IHD) (1.20; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.02–1.41) and, particularly among postmenopausal women, incident stroke (1.19; 95% CI, 1.02–1.38). Long-term exposure to particulate matter less than 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10) was associated with elevated risks for IHD mortality (1.06; 95% CI, 0.99–1.14) and incident stroke (1.06; 95% CI, 1.00–1.13), while exposure to nitrogen oxides was associated with elevated risks for IHD and all cardiovascular mortality.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence linking long-term exposure to PM2.5 and PM10 with increased risks of incident stroke as well as IHD mortality; exposure to nitrogen oxides was also related to death from cardiovascular diseases.
PMCID: PMC3208653  PMID: 21700913
particulate matter; cardiovascular diseases; air pollutants; epidemiology
6.  The Neurobehavioral Pharmacology of Ketamine: Implications for Drug Abuse, Addiction, and Psychiatric Disorders 
ILAR Journal  2011;52(3):366-378.
Ketamine was developed in the early 1960s as an anesthetic and has been used for medical and veterinary procedures since then. Its unique profile of effects has led to its use at subanesthetic doses for a variety of other purposes: it is an effective analgesic and can prevent certain types of pathological pain; it produces schizophrenia-like effects and so is used in both clinical studies and preclinical animal models to better understand this disorder; it has rapid-acting and long-lasting antidepressant effects; and it is popular as a drug of abuse both among young people at dance parties and raves and among spiritual seekers. In this article we summarize recent research that provides insight into the myriad uses of ketamine. Clinical research is discussed, but the focus is on preclinical animal research, including recent findings from our own laboratory. Of particular note, although ketamine is normally considered a locomotor stimulant at subanesthetic doses, we have found locomotor depressant effects at very low subanesthetic doses. Thus, rather than a monotonic dose-dependent increase in activity, ketamine produces a more complex dose response. Additional work explores the mechanism of action of ketamine, ketamine-induced neuroadaptations, and ketamine reward. The findings described will inform future research on ketamine and lead to a better understanding of both its clinical uses and its abuse.
PMCID: PMC4490189  PMID: 23382150
analgesia; anesthesia; animal model; antidepressant; drug abuse; glutamate; ketamine; reward; schizophrenia
8.  Long-Term Exposure to Constituents of Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Mortality: Results from the California Teachers Study 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2009;118(3):363-369.
Several studies have reported associations between long-term exposure to ambient fine particulate matter (PM) and cardiovascular mortality. However, the health impacts of long-term exposure to specific constituents of PM2.5 (PM with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm) have not been explored.
We used data from the California Teachers Study, a prospective cohort of active and former female public school professionals. We developed estimates of long-term exposures to PM2.5 and several of its constituents, including elemental carbon, organic carbon (OC), sulfates, nitrates, iron, potassium, silicon, and zinc. Monthly averages of exposure were created using pollution data from June 2002 through July 2007. We included participants whose residential addresses were within 8 and 30 km of a monitor collecting PM2.5 constituent data. Hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated for long-term exposure for mortality from all nontraumatic causes, cardiopulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease (IHD), and pulmonary disease.
Approximately 45,000 women with 2,600 deaths lived within 30 km of a monitor. We observed associations of all-cause, cardiopulmonary, and IHD mortality with PM2.5 mass and each of its measured constituents, and between pulmonary mortality and several constituents. For example, for cardiopulmonary mortality, HRs for interquartile ranges of PM2.5, OC, and sulfates were 1.55 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.43–1.69], 1.80 (95% CI, 1.68–1.93), and 1.79 (95% CI, 1.58–2.03), respectively. Subsequent analyses indicated that, of the constituents analyzed, OC and sulfates had the strongest associations with all four outcomes.
Long-term exposures to PM2.5 and several of its constituents were associated with increased risks of all-cause and cardiopulmonary mortality in this cohort. Constituents derived from combustion of fossil fuel (including diesel), as well as those of crustal origin, were associated with some of the greatest risks. These results provide additional evidence that reduction of ambient PM2.5 may provide significant public health benefits.
PMCID: PMC2854764  PMID: 20064787
cardiopulmonary mortality; chronic exposure; cohort study; elemental carbon; fine particles; organic carbon; PM2.5; species; sulfates

Results 1-8 (8)