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1.  The Impact of Autophagy on Cell Death Modalities 
Autophagy represents a homeostatic cellular mechanism for the turnover of organelles and proteins, through a lysosome-dependent degradation pathway. During starvation, autophagy facilitates cell survival through the recycling of metabolic precursors. Additionally, autophagy can modulate other vital processes such as programmed cell death (e.g., apoptosis), inflammation, and adaptive immune mechanisms and thereby influence disease pathogenesis. Selective pathways can target distinct cargoes (e.g., mitochondria and proteins) for autophagic degradation. At present, the causal relationship between autophagy and various forms of regulated or nonregulated cell death remains unclear. Autophagy can occur in association with necrosis-like cell death triggered by caspase inhibition. Autophagy and apoptosis have been shown to be coincident or antagonistic, depending on experimental context, and share cross-talk between signal transduction elements. Autophagy may modulate the outcome of other regulated forms of cell death such as necroptosis. Recent advances suggest that autophagy can dampen inflammatory responses, including inflammasome-dependent caspase-1 activation and maturation of proinflammatory cytokines. Autophagy may also act as regulator of caspase-1 dependent cell death (pyroptosis). Strategies aimed at modulating autophagy may lead to therapeutic interventions for diseases in which apoptosis or other forms of regulated cell death may play a cardinal role.
PMCID: PMC3932252  PMID: 24639873
2.  Autophagy: A Crucial Moderator of Redox Balance, Inflammation, and Apoptosis in Lung Disease 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2014;20(3):474-494.
Significance: Autophagy is a fundamental cellular process that functions in the turnover of subcellular organelles and protein. Activation of autophagy may represent a cellular defense against oxidative stress, or related conditions that cause accumulation of damaged proteins or organelles. Selective forms of autophagy can maintain organelle populations or remove aggregated proteins. Autophagy can increase survival during nutrient deficiency and play a multifunctional role in host defense, by promoting pathogen clearance and modulating innate and adaptive immune responses. Recent Advances: Autophagy has been described as an inducible response to oxidative stress. Once believed to represent a random process, recent studies have defined selective mechanisms for cargo assimilation into autophagosomes. Such mechanisms may provide for protein aggregate detoxification and mitochondrial homeostasis during oxidative stress. Although long studied as a cellular phenomenon, recent advances implicate autophagy as a component of human diseases. Altered autophagy phenotypes have been observed in various human diseases, including lung diseases such as chronic obstructive lung disease, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Critical Issues: Although autophagy can represent a pro-survival process, in particular, during nutrient starvation, its role in disease pathogenesis may be multifunctional and complex. The relationship of autophagy to programmed cell death pathways is incompletely defined and varies with model system. Future Directions: Activation or inhibition of autophagy may be used to alter the progression of human diseases. Further resolution of the mechanisms by which autophagy impacts the initiation and progression of diseases may lead to the development of therapeutics specifically targeting this pathway. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 20, 474–494.
PMCID: PMC3894710  PMID: 23879400
3.  Emerging role of selective autophagy in human diseases 
Autophagy was originally described as a highly conserved system for the degradation of cytosol through a lysosome-dependent pathway. In response to starvation, autophagy degrades organelles and proteins to provide metabolites and energy for its pro-survival effects. Autophagy is recognized as playing a role in the pathogenesis of disease either directly or indirectly, through the regulation of vital processes such as programmed cell death, inflammation, and adaptive immune mechanisms. Recent studies have demonstrated that autophagy is not only a simple metabolite recycling system, but also has the ability to degrade specific cellular targets, such as mitochondria, cilia, and invading bacteria. In addition, selective autophagy has also been implicated in vesicle trafficking pathways, with potential roles in secretion and other intracellular transport processes. Selective autophagy has drawn the attention of researchers because of its potential importance in clinical diseases. Therapeutic strategies to target selective autophagy rather than general autophagy may maximize clinical benefit by enhancing selectivity. In this review, we outline the principle components of selective autophagy processes and their emerging importance in human disease, with an emphasis on pulmonary diseases.
PMCID: PMC4220655  PMID: 25414669
autophagy; mitophagy; lung diseases; ciliophagy; xenophagy
4.  Testing the Rebound Peer Review Concept 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;19(7):639-643.
This invited editorial addresses the rescue of the article by Skrzypek et al. “Interplay between heme oxygenase-1 and miR-378 affects non-small cell lung carcinoma growth, vascularization, and metastasis.” The work was rejected by the standard peer review system and subsequently rescued by the Rebound Peer Review (RPR) mechanism offered by Antioxidants and Redox Signaling (Antioxid Redox Signal 16: 293–296, 2012). The reviewers who openly rescued the article were James F. George, Justin C. Mason, Mahin D. Maines, and Yasufumi Sato. The initial article was a de novo resubmission of a previously rejected article, which was then reviewed by six reviewers. The reviewers raised substantial scientific concerns, including questions pertaining to the specificity of the findings, quality of the presentation, and other technical concerns; the editor returned a decision of reject. The authors voluntarily chose to exercise the option to rescue the article utilizing the RPR system, where the authors found qualified reviewers who were willing to advocate for acceptance with scientific reasoning. The open reviewers felt that the scientific and technical concerns raised by the reviewers were outweighed by the strengths and novelty of the findings to justify acceptance. The RPR, in this case, was a “success” in that it rescued a rejected article. Despite this assessment, we question the necessity of open peer review as a means to overturn a peer review decision, with concerns for the larger-than-usual peer review process, and the voluntary relinquishing of editorial privilege and disclosure of reviewer identity. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 639–643.
PMCID: PMC3739948  PMID: 23725371
5.  Carbon Monoxide in Exhaled Breath Testing and Therapeutics 
Journal of breath research  2013;7(1):017111.
Carbon monoxide (CO), a low molecular weight gas, is a ubiquitous environmental product of organic combustion, which is also produced endogenously in the body, as the byproduct of heme metabolism. CO binds to hemoglobin, resulting in decreased oxygen delivery to bodily tissues at toxicological concentrations. At physiological concentrations, CO may have endogenous roles as a potential signaling mediator in vascular function and cellular homeostasis. Exhaled CO (eCO), similar to exhaled nitric oxide (eNO), has been evaluated as a candidate breath biomarker of pathophysiological states, including smoking status, and inflammatory diseases of the lung and other organs. eCO values have been evaluated as potential indicators of inflammation in asthma, stable COPD and exacerbations, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, or during surgery or critical care. The utility of eCO as a marker of inflammation, and potential diagnostic value remains incompletely characterized. Among other candidate “medicinal gases” with therapeutic potential, (e.g., NO and H2S), CO has been shown to act as an effective anti-inflammatory agent in preclinical animal models of inflammatory disease, acute lung injury, sepsis, ischemia/reperfusion injury and organ graft rejection. Current and future clinical trials will evaluate the clinical applicability of this gas as a biomarker and/or therapeutic in human disease.
PMCID: PMC3651886  PMID: 23446063
Carbon Monoxide; Exhaled Breath; Heme Oxygenase-1
6.  Heme Oxygenase-1 as a Novel Metabolic Player 
PMCID: PMC3871917  PMID: 24381718
7.  Autophagic proteins 
Autophagy  2012;8(3):426-428.
Oxygen (O2), while essential for aerobic life, can also cause metabolic toxicity through the excess generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Pathological changes in ROS production can originate through the partial reduction of O2 during mitochondrial electron transport, as well as from enzymatic sources. This phenomenon, termed the oxygen paradox, has been implicated in aging and disease, and is especially evident in critical care medicine. Whereas high O2 concentrations are utilized as a life-sustaining therapeutic for respiratory insufficiency, they in turn can cause acute lung injury. Alveolar epithelial cells represent a primary target of hyperoxia-induced lung injury. Recent studies have indicated that epithelial cells exposed to high O2 concentrations die by apoptosis, or necrosis, and can also exhibit mixed-phenotypes of cell death (aponecrosis). Autophagy, a cellular homeostatic process responsible for the lysosomal turnover of organelles and proteins, has been implicated as a general response to oxidative stress in cells and tissues. This evolutionarily conserved process is finely regulated by a complex interplay of protein factors. During autophagy, senescent organelles and cellular proteins are sequestered in autophagic vacuoles (autophagosomes) and subsequently targeted to the lysosome, where they are degraded by lysosomal hydrolases, and the breakdown products released for reutilization in anabolic pathways. Autophagy has been implicated as a cell survival mechanism during nutrient-deficiency states, and more generally, as a determinant of cell fate. However, the mechanisms by which autophagy and/or autophagic proteins potentially interact with and/or regulate cell death pathways during high oxygen stress, remain only partially understood.
PMCID: PMC3337844  PMID: 22302001
acute lung injury; Apoptosis; autophagy; caveolin-1; Fas; hyperoxia; LC3B
8.  Carbon monoxide: present and future indications for a medical gas 
Gaseous molecules continue to hold new promise in molecular medicine as experimental and clinical therapeutics. The low molecular weight gas carbon monoxide (CO), and similar gaseous molecules (e.g., H2S, nitric oxide) have been implicated as potential inhalation therapies in inflammatory diseases. At high concentration, CO represents a toxic inhalation hazard, and is a common component of air pollution. CO is also produced endogenously as a product of heme degradation catalyzed by heme oxygenase enzymes. CO binds avidly to hemoglobin, causing hypoxemia and decreased oxygen delivery to tissues at high concentrations. At physiological concentrations, CO may have endogenous roles as a signal transduction molecule in the regulation of neural and vascular function and cellular homeostasis. CO has been demonstrated to act as an effective anti-inflammatory agent in preclinical animal models of inflammation, acute lung injury, sepsis, ischemia/reperfusion injury, and organ transplantation. Additional experimental indications for this gas include pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, metabolic diseases, and preeclampsia. The development of chemical CO releasing compounds constitutes a novel pharmaceutical approach to CO delivery with demonstrated effectiveness in sepsis models. Current and pending clinical evaluation will determine the usefulness of this gas as a therapeutic in human disease.
PMCID: PMC3604600  PMID: 23525151
Acute lung injury; Carbon monoxide; Heme oxygenase (decyclizing); Reperfusion injury; Sepsis
9.  Bile Pigments in Pulmonary and Vascular Disease 
The bile pigments, biliverdin, and bilirubin, are endogenously derived substances generated during enzymatic heme degradation. These compounds have been shown to act as chemical antioxidants in vitro. Bilirubin formed in tissues circulates in the serum, prior to undergoing hepatic conjugation and biliary excretion. The excess production of bilirubin has been associated with neurotoxicity, in particular to the newborn. Nevertheless, clinical evidence suggests that mild states of hyperbilirubinemia may be beneficial in protecting against cardiovascular disease in adults. Pharmacological application of either bilirubin and/or its biological precursor biliverdin, can provide therapeutic benefit in several animal models of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease. Furthermore, biliverdin and bilirubin can confer protection against ischemia/reperfusion injury and graft rejection secondary to organ transplantation in animal models. Several possible mechanisms for these effects have been proposed, including direct antioxidant and scavenging effects, and modulation of signaling pathways regulating inflammation, apoptosis, cell proliferation, and immune responses. The practicality and therapeutic-effectiveness of bile pigment application to humans remains unclear.
PMCID: PMC3296960  PMID: 22408625
antioxidant; biliverdin; bilirubin; cardiovascular disease; pulmonary disease
10.  Therapeutic Potential of Heme Oxygenase-1/Carbon Monoxide in Lung Disease 
Heme oxygenase (HO), a catabolic enzyme, provides the rate-limiting step in the oxidative breakdown of heme, to generate carbon monoxide (CO), iron, and biliverdin-IXα. Induction of the inducible form, HO-1, in tissues is generally regarded as a protective mechanism. Over the last decade, considerable progress has been made in defining the therapeutic potential of HO-1 in a number of preclinical models of lung tissue injury and disease. Likewise, tissue-protective effects of CO, when applied at low concentration, have been observed in many of these models. Recent studies have expanded this concept to include chemical CO-releasing molecules (CORMs). Collectively, salutary effects of the HO-1/CO system have been demonstrated in lung inflammation/acute lung injury, lung and vascular transplantation, sepsis, and pulmonary hypertension models. The beneficial effects of HO-1/CO are conveyed in part through the inhibition or modulation of inflammatory, apoptotic, and proliferative processes. Recent advances, however, suggest that the regulation of autophagy and the preservation of mitochondrial homeostasis may serve as additional candidate mechanisms. Further preclinical and clinical trials are needed to ascertain the therapeutic potential of HO-1/CO in human clinical disease.
PMCID: PMC3296197  PMID: 22518295
11.  Autophagy in Inflammatory Diseases 
Autophagy provides a mechanism for the turnover of cellular organelles and proteins through a lysosome-dependent degradation pathway. During starvation, autophagy exerts a homeostatic function that promotes cell survival by recycling metabolic precursors. Additionally, autophagy can interact with other vital processes such as programmed cell death, inflammation, and adaptive immune mechanisms, and thereby potentially influence disease pathogenesis. Macrophages deficient in autophagic proteins display enhanced caspase-1-dependent proinflammatory cytokine production and the activation of the inflammasome. Autophagy provides a functional role in infectious diseases and sepsis by promoting intracellular bacterial clearance. Mutations in autophagy-related genes, leading to loss of autophagic function, have been implicated in the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease. Furthermore, autophagy-dependent mechanisms have been proposed in the pathogenesis of several pulmonary diseases that involve inflammation, including cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. Strategies aimed at modulating autophagy may lead to therapeutic interventions for diseases associated with inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3235460  PMID: 22190939
12.  Beclin 1 deficiency is associated with increased hypoxia-induced angiogenesis 
Autophagy  2011;7(8):829-839.
Beclin 1, a tumor suppressor protein, acts as an initiator of autophagy in mammals. Heterozygous disruption of Beclin 1 accelerates tumor growth, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We examined the role of Beclin 1 in tumor proliferation and angiogenesis, using a primary mouse melanoma tumor model. Beclin 1 (Becn1+/−) hemizygous mice displayed an aggressive tumor growth phenotype with increased angiogenesis under hypoxia, associated with enhanced levels of circulating erythropoietin but not vascular endothelial growth factor, relative to wild-type mice. Using in vivo and ex vivo assays, we demonstrated increased angiogenic activity in Becn1+/− mice relative to wild-type mice. Endothelial cells from Becn1+/− mice displayed increased proliferation, migration and tube formation in response to hypoxia relative to wild-type cells. Moreover, Becn1+/− cells subjected to hypoxia displayed increased hypoxia-inducible factor-2α (HIF-2α) expression relative to HIF-1α. Genetic interference of HIF-2α but not HIF-1α, dramatically reduced hypoxia-inducible proliferation, migration and tube formation in Becn1+/− endothelial cells. We demonstrated that mice deficient in the autophagic protein Beclin 1 display a pro-angiogenic phenotype associated with the upregulation of HIF-2α and increased erythropoietin production. These results suggest a relationship between Beclin 1 and the regulation of angiogenesis, with implications in tumor growth and development.
PMCID: PMC3149693  PMID: 21685724
angiogenesis; autophagy; beclin 1; hypoxia-inducible factor
13.  Heme Oxygenase-1, a Critical Arbitrator of Cell Death Pathways in Lung Injury and Disease 
Increases in cell death by programmed (ie., apoptosis, autophagy) or non-programmed mechanisms (ie., necrosis) occur during tissue injury, and may contribute to the etiology of several pulmonary or vascular disease states. The low molecular weight stress protein heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) confers cytoprotection against cell death in various models of lung and vascular injury by inhibiting apoptosis, inflammation, and cell proliferation. HO-1 serves a vital metabolic function as the rate-limiting step in the heme degradation pathway and in the maintenance of iron homeostasis. The transcriptional induction of HO-1 occurs in response to multiple forms of chemical and physical cellular stress. The cytoprotective functions of HO-1 may be attributed to heme turnover, as well as to beneficial properties of its enzymatic reaction products: biliverdin-IXα, iron, and carbon monoxide (CO). Recent studies have demonstrated that HO-1 or CO inhibits stress-induced extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways in vitro. A variety of signaling molecules have been implicated in the cytoprotection conferred by HO-1/CO, including autophagic proteins, p38 mitogen activated protein kinase, signal transducer and activator of transcription proteins, nuclear factor-κB, phosphatydylinositol-3-kinase/Akt, and others. Enhanced HO-1 expression or the pharmacological application of HO end-products affords protection in preclinical models of tissue injury, including experimental and transplant-associated ischemia/reperfusion injury, promising potential future therapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC3078523  PMID: 19362144
14.  Autophagy in the Lung 
Autophagy is a cellular process for the disposal of damaged organelles or denatured proteins through a lysosomal degradation pathway. By reducing endogenous macromolecules to their basic components (i.e., amino acids, lipids), autophagy serves a homeostatic function by ensuring cell survival during starvation. Increased autophagy can be found in dying cells, although the relationships between autophagy and programmed cell death remain unclear. To date, few studies have examined the regulation and functional significance of autophagy in human lung disease. The lung, a complex organ that functions primarily in gas exchange, consists of diverse cell types (i.e., endothelial, epithelial, mesenchymal, inflammatory). In lung cells, autophagy may represent a general inducible adaptive response to injury resulting from exposure to stress agents, including hypoxia, oxidants, inflammation, ischemia–reperfusion, endoplasmic reticulum stress, pharmaceuticals, or inhaled xenobiotics (i.e., air pollution, cigarette smoke). In recent studies, we have observed increased autophagy in mouse lungs subjected to chronic cigarette smoke exposure, and in pulmonary epithelial cells exposed to cigarette smoke extract. Knockdown of autophagic proteins inhibited apoptosis in response to cigarette smoke exposure in vitro, suggesting that increased autophagy was associated with epithelial cell death. We have also observed increased morphological and biochemical markers of autophagy in human lung specimens from patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We hypothesize that increased autophagy contributes to COPD pathogenesis by promoting epithelial cell death. Further research will examine whether autophagy plays a homeostatic or maladaptive role in COPD and other human lung diseases.
PMCID: PMC3137145  PMID: 20160144
autophagy; apoptosis; pulmonary disease
15.  Autophagy in Vascular Disease 
Autophagy, or “self eating,” refers to a regulated cellular process for the lysosomal-dependent turnover of organelles and proteins. During starvation or nutrient deficiency, autophagy promotes survival through the replenishment of metabolic precursors derived from the degradation of endogenous cellular components. Autophagy represents a general homeostatic and inducible adaptive response to environmental stress, including endoplasmic reticulum stress, hypoxia, oxidative stress, and exposure to pharmaceuticals and xenobiotics. Whereas elevated autophagy can be observed in dying cells, the functional relationships between autophagy and programmed cell death pathways remain incompletely understood. Preclinical studies have identified autophagy as a process that can be activated during vascular disorders, including ischemia–reperfusion injury of the heart and other organs, cardiomyopathy, myocardial injury, and atherosclerosis. The functional significance of autophagy in human cardiovascular disease pathogenesis remains incompletely understood, and potentially involves both adaptive and maladaptive outcomes, depending on model system. Although relatively few studies have been performed in the lung, our recent studies also implicate a role for autophagy in chronic lung disease. Manipulation of the signaling pathways that regulate autophagy could potentially provide a novel therapeutic strategy in the prevention or treatment of human disease.
PMCID: PMC3137148  PMID: 20160147
autophagy; apoptosis; vascular disease
16.  Resveratrol Induces Hepatic Mitochondrial Biogenesis Through the Sequential Activation of Nitric Oxide and Carbon Monoxide Production 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2014;20(16):2589-2605.
Aims: Nitric oxide (NO) can induce mitochondrial biogenesis in cultured cells, through increased guanosine 3′,5′-monophosphate (cGMP), and activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator-1α (PGC-1α). We sought to determine the role of NO, heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), and its reaction product (carbon monoxide [CO]) in the induction of mitochondrial biogenesis by the natural antioxidant resveratrol. Results: S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (SNAP), an NO donor, induced mitochondrial biogenesis in HepG2 hepatoma cells, and in vivo, through stimulation of PGC-1α. NO-induced mitochondrial biogenesis required cGMP, and was mimicked by the cGMP analogue (8-bromoguanosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate [8-Br-cGMP]). Activation of mitochondrial biogenesis by SNAP required HO-1, as it could be reversed by genetic interference of HO-1; and by treatment with the HO inhibitor tin-protoporphyrin-IX (SnPP) in vitro and in vivo. Cobalt protoporphyrin (CoPP)-IX, an HO-1 inducing agent, stimulated mitochondrial biogenesis in HepG2 cells, which could be reversed by the CO scavenger hemoglobin. Application of CO, using the CO-releasing molecule-3 (CORM-3), stimulated mitochondrial biogenesis in HepG2 cells, in a cGMP-dependent manner. Both CoPP and CORM-3-induced mitochondrial biogenesis required NF-E2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) activation and phosphorylation of Akt. The natural antioxidant resveratrol induced mitochondrial biogenesis in HepG2 cells, in a manner dependent on NO biosynthesis, cGMP synthesis, Nrf2-dependent HO-1 activation, and endogenous CO production. Furthermore, resveratrol preserved mitochondrial biogenesis during lipopolysaccharides-induced hepatic inflammation in vivo. Innovation and Conclusions: The complex interplay between endogenous NO and CO production may underlie the mechanism by which natural antioxidants induce mitochondrial biogenesis. Strategies aimed at improving mitochondrial biogenesis may be used as therapeutics for the treatment of diseases involving mitochondrial dysfunction. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 20, 2589–2605.
PMCID: PMC4024846  PMID: 24041027
17.  Carbon Monoxide and Bilirubin 
Heme oxygenase (HO)-1, an inducible, low–molecular-weight stress protein, confers cellular and tissue protection in multiple models of injury and disease, including oxidative or inflammatory lung injury, ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injuries, and vascular injury/disease. The tissue protection provided by HO-1 potentially relates to the endogenous production of the end products of its enzymatic activity: namely, biliverdin (BV)/bilirubin (BR), carbon monoxide (CO), and iron. Of these, CO and BV/BR show promise as possible therapeutic agents when applied exogenously in models of lung or vascular injury. CO activates intracellular signaling pathways that involve soluble guanylate cyclase and/or p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase. Although toxic at elevated concentrations, low concentrations of CO can confer antiinflammatory, antiapoptotic, antiproliferative, and vasodilatory effects. BV and BR are natural antioxidants that can provide protection against oxidative stress in cell culture and in plasma. Application of BV or BR protects against I/R injury in several organ models. Recent evidence has also demonstrated antiinflammatory and antiproliferative properties of these pigments. To date, evidence has accumulated for salutary effects of CO, BV, and/or BR in lung/vascular injury models, as well as in models of transplant-associated I/R injury. Thus, the exogenous application of HO end products may provide an alternative to pharmacologic or gene therapy approaches to harness the therapeutic potential of HO-1.
PMCID: PMC2176112  PMID: 16980550
bilirubin; carbon monoxide; heme oxygenase-1; inflammation; ischemia/reperfusion
18.  UCP2-induced fatty acid synthase promotes NLRP3 inflammasome activation during sepsis 
Cellular lipid metabolism has been linked to immune responses; however, the precise mechanisms by which de novo fatty acid synthesis can regulate inflammatory responses remain unclear. The NLRP3 inflammasome serves as a platform for caspase-1–dependent maturation and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines. Here, we demonstrated that the mitochondrial uncoupling protein-2 (UCP2) regulates NLRP3-mediated caspase-1 activation through the stimulation of lipid synthesis in macrophages. UCP2-deficient mice displayed improved survival in a mouse model of polymicrobial sepsis. Moreover, UCP2 expression was increased in human sepsis. Consistently, UCP2-deficient mice displayed impaired lipid synthesis and decreased production of IL-1β and IL-18 in response to LPS challenge. In macrophages, UCP2 deficiency suppressed NLRP3-mediated caspase-1 activation and NLRP3 expression associated with inhibition of lipid synthesis. In UCP2-deficient macrophages, inhibition of lipid synthesis resulted from the downregulation of fatty acid synthase (FASN), a key regulator of fatty acid synthesis. FASN inhibition by shRNA and treatment with the chemical inhibitors C75 and cerulenin suppressed NLRP3-mediated caspase-1 activation and inhibited NLRP3 and pro–IL-1β gene expression in macrophages. In conclusion, our results suggest that UCP2 regulates the NLRP3 inflammasome by inducing the lipid synthesis pathway in macrophages. These results identify UCP2 as a potential therapeutic target in inflammatory diseases such as sepsis.
PMCID: PMC4319445  PMID: 25574840
19.  Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress–Induced IRE1α Activation Mediates Cross-Talk of GSK-3β and XBP-1 To Regulate Inflammatory Cytokine Production 
IL-1β and TNF-α are important proinflammatory cytokines that respond to mutated self-antigens of tissue damage and exogenous pathogens. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and unfolded protein responses are related to the induction of proinflammatory cytokines. However, the detailed molecular pathways by which ER stress mediates cytokine gene expression have not been investigated. In this study, we found that ER stress–induced inositol-requiring enzyme (IRE)1α activation differentially regulates proinflammatory cytokine gene expression via activation of glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3β and X-box binding protein (XBP)-1. Surprisingly, IL-1β gene expression was modulated by IRE1α-mediated GSK-3β activation, but not by XBP-1. However, IRE1α-mediated XBP-1 splicing regulated TNF-α gene expression. SB216763, a GSK-3 inhibitor, selectively inhibited IL-1β gene expression, whereas the IRE1α RNase inhibitor STF083010 suppressed only TNF-α production. Additionally, inhibition of GSK-3β greatly increased IRE1α-dependent XBP-1 splicing. Our results identify an unsuspected differential role of downstream mediators GSK-3β and XBP-1 in ER stress–induced IRE1α activation that regulates cytokine production through signaling cross-talk. These results have important implications in the regulation of inflammatory pathways during ER stress, and they suggest novel therapeutic targets for diseases in which meta-inflammation plays a key role.
PMCID: PMC4400814  PMID: 25821218
20.  “Ciliophagy” 
Autophagy  2014;10(3):532-534.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) involves aberrant airway inflammatory responses to cigarette smoke (CS) associated with respiratory epithelial cell cilia shortening and impaired mucociliary clearance (MCC). The underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms for CS-associated cilia shortening have remained incompletely understood. We have previously demonstrated increased autophagy in the lungs of COPD patients; however, whether or not this process is selective for specific autophagic targets in the lung was not elucidated. Based on observations that increased morphological and biochemical indicators of autophagy correlate with cilia shortening in our models, we posited that autophagy might regulate cilia length in response to CS in the lung. We demonstrate that CS-induced cilia shortening occurs through an autophagy-dependent mechanism mediated by the deacetylase HDAC6 (histone deacetylase 6). Autophagy-impaired (Becn1+/−, map1lc3b−/−, or Hdac6-/Y) mice resist CS-induced cilia shortening. Furthermore, cilia components are identified as autophagic substrates during CS exposure. Assessment of airway cilia function using a 3D MCC assay demonstrates that Becn1+/−, map1lc3b−/−, and Hdac6-/Y mice or mice injected with the HDAC6 inhibitor tubastatin A are protected from CS-associated mucociliary dysfunction. We concluded that an autophagy-dependent pathway regulates cilia length during CS exposure, which identifies new pathways and targets in COPD.
PMCID: PMC4077895  PMID: 24401596
cilia; autophagy; lung; COPD; HDAC6
21.  Carbon Monoxide Confers Protection in Sepsis by Enhancing Beclin 1-Dependent Autophagy and Phagocytosis 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2014;20(3):432-442.
Aims: Sepsis, a systemic inflammatory response to infection, represents the leading cause of death in critically ill patients. However, the pathogenesis of sepsis remains incompletely understood. Carbon monoxide (CO), when administered at low physiologic doses, can modulate cell proliferation, apoptosis, and inflammation in pre-clinical tissue injury models, though its mechanism of action in sepsis remains unclear. Results: CO (250 ppm) inhalation increased the survival of C57BL/6J mice injured by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) through the induction of autophagy, the down-regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and by decreasing the levels of bacteria in blood and vital organs, such as the lung and liver. Mice deficient in the autophagic protein, Beclin 1 (Becn1+/−) were more susceptible to CLP-induced sepsis, and unresponsive to CO therapy, relative to their corresponding wild-type (Becn1+/+) littermate mice. In contrast, mice deficient in autophagic protein microtubule-associated protein-1 light chain 3B (LC3B) (Map1lc3b−/−) and their corresponding wild-type (Map1lc3b+/+) mice showed no differences in survival or response to CO, during CLP-induced sepsis. CO enhanced bacterial phagocytosis in Becn1+/+ but not Becn1+/− mice in vivo and in corresponding cultured macrophages. CO also enhanced Beclin 1-dependent induction of macrophage protein signaling lymphocyte-activation molecule, a regulator of phagocytosis. Innovation: Our findings demonstrate a novel protective effect of CO in sepsis, dependent on autophagy protein Beclin 1, in a murine model of CLP-induced polymicrobial sepsis. Conclusion: CO increases the survival of mice injured by CLP through systemic enhancement of autophagy and phagocytosis. Taken together, we suggest that CO gas may represent a novel therapy for patients with sepsis. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 20, 432–442.
PMCID: PMC3894711  PMID: 23971531
22.  Syndecan-2 Exerts Antifibrotic Effects by Promoting Caveolin-1–mediated Transforming Growth Factor-β Receptor I Internalization and Inhibiting Transforming Growth Factor-β1 Signaling 
Rationale: Alveolar transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 signaling and expression of TGF-β1 target genes are increased in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and in animal models of pulmonary fibrosis. Internalization and degradation of TGF-β receptor TβRI inhibits TGF-β signaling and could attenuate development of experimental lung fibrosis.
Objectives: To demonstrate that after experimental lung injury, human syndecan-2 confers antifibrotic effects by inhibiting TGF-β1 signaling in alveolar epithelial cells.
Methods: Microarray assays were performed to identify genes differentially expressed in alveolar macrophages of patients with IPF versus control subjects. Transgenic mice that constitutively overexpress human syndecan-2 in macrophages were developed to test the antifibrotic properties of syndecan-2. In vitro assays were performed to determine syndecan-2–dependent changes in epithelial cell TGF-β1 signaling, TGF-β1, and TβRI internalization and apoptosis. Wild-type mice were treated with recombinant human syndecan-2 during the fibrotic phase of bleomycin-induced lung injury.
Measurements and Main Results: We observed significant increases in alveolar macrophage syndecan-2 levels in patients with IPF. Macrophage-specific overexpression of human syndecan-2 in transgenic mice conferred antifibrotic effects after lung injury by inhibiting TGF-β1 signaling and downstream expression of TGF-β1 target genes, reducing extracellular matrix production and alveolar epithelial cell apoptosis. In vitro, syndecan-2 promoted caveolin-1–dependent internalization of TGF-β1 and TβRI in alveolar epithelial cells, which inhibited TGF-β1 signaling and epithelial cell apoptosis. Therapeutic administration of human syndecan-2 abrogated lung fibrosis in mice.
Conclusions: Alveolar macrophage syndecan-2 exerts antifibrotic effects by promoting caveolin-1–dependent TGF-β1 and TβRI internalization and inhibiting TGF-β1 signaling in alveolar epithelial cells. Hence, molecules that facilitate TβRI degradation via endocytosis represent potential therapies for pulmonary fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3826270  PMID: 23924348
idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; TGF-β1 signaling; syndecan-2; alveolar macrophage
23.  Mitophagy-dependent necroptosis contributes to the pathogenesis of COPD 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(9):3987-4003.
The pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remains unclear, but involves loss of alveolar surface area (emphysema) and airway inflammation (bronchitis) as the consequence of cigarette smoke (CS) exposure. Previously, we demonstrated that autophagy proteins promote lung epithelial cell death, airway dysfunction, and emphysema in response to CS; however, the underlying mechanisms have yet to be elucidated. Here, using cultured pulmonary epithelial cells and murine models, we demonstrated that CS causes mitochondrial dysfunction that is associated with a reduction of mitochondrial membrane potential. CS induced mitophagy, the autophagy-dependent elimination of mitochondria, through stabilization of the mitophagy regulator PINK1. CS caused cell death, which was reduced by administration of necrosis or necroptosis inhibitors. Genetic deficiency of PINK1 and the mitochondrial division/mitophagy inhibitor Mdivi-1 protected against CS-induced cell death and mitochondrial dysfunction in vitro and reduced the phosphorylation of MLKL, a substrate for RIP3 in the necroptosis pathway. Moreover, Pink1–/– mice were protected against mitochondrial dysfunction, airspace enlargement, and mucociliary clearance (MCC) disruption during CS exposure. Mdivi-1 treatment also ameliorated CS-induced MCC disruption in CS-exposed mice. In human COPD, lung epithelial cells displayed increased expression of PINK1 and RIP3. These findings implicate mitophagy-dependent necroptosis in lung emphysematous changes in response to CS exposure, suggesting that this pathway is a therapeutic target for COPD.
PMCID: PMC4151233  PMID: 25083992
24.  Autophagy: A Critical Regulator of Cellular Metabolism and Homeostasis 
Molecules and Cells  2013;36(1):7-16.
Autophagy is a dynamic process by which cytosolic material, including organelles, proteins, and pathogens, are sequestered into membrane vesicles called autophagosomes, and then delivered to the lysosome for degradation. By recycling cellular components, this process provides a mechanism for adaptation to starvation. The regulation of autophagy by nutrient signals involves a complex network of proteins that include mammalian target of rapamycin, the class III phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase/Beclin 1 complex, and two ubiquitin-like conjugation systems. Additionally, autophagy, which can be induced by multiple forms of chemical and physical stress, including endoplasmic reticulum stress, and hypoxia, plays an integral role in the mammalian stress response. Recent studies indicate that, in addition to bulk assimilation of cytosol, autophagy may proceed through selective pathways that target distinct cargoes to autophagosomes. The principle homeostatic functions of autophagy include the selective clearance of aggregated protein to preserve proteostasis, and the selective removal of dysfunctional mitochondria (mitophagy). Additionally, autophagy plays a central role in innate and adaptive immunity, with diverse functions such as regulation of inflammatory responses, antigen presentation, and pathogen clearance. Autophagy can preserve cellular function in a wide variety of tissue injury and disease states, however, maladaptive or pro-pathogenic outcomes have also been described. Among the many diseases where autophagy may play a role include proteopathies which involve aberrant accumulation of proteins (e.g., neurodegenerative disorders), infectious diseases, and metabolic disorders such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Targeting the autophagy pathway and its regulatory components may eventually lead to the development of therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3887921  PMID: 23708729
autophagy; innate immunity; metabolism; mitophagy; neurodegeneration; proteostasis
25.  Inflammasomes: Molecular Regulation and Implications for Metabolic and Cognitive Diseases 
Molecules and Cells  2014;37(6):441-448.
Inflammasomes are specialized signaling platforms critical for the regulation of innate immune and inflammatory responses. Various NLR family members (i.e., NLRP1, NLRP3, and IPAF) as well as the PYHIN family member AIM2 can form inflammasome complexes. These multi-protein complexes activate inflammatory caspases (i.e., caspase-1) which in turn catalyze the maturation of select pro-inflammatory cytokines, including interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-18. Activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome typically requires two initiating signals. Toll-like receptor (TLR) and NOD-like receptor (NLR) agonists activate the transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokine genes through an NF-κB-dependent priming signal. Following exposure to extracellular ATP, stimulation of the P2X purinoreceptor-7 (P2X7R), which results in K+ efflux, is required as a second signal for NLRP3 inflammasome formation. Alternative models for NLRP3 activation involve lysosomal destabilization and phagocytic NADPH oxidase and/or mitochondria-dependent reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. In this review we examine regulatory mechanisms that activate the NLRP3 inflammasome pathway. Furthermore, we discuss the potential roles of NLRP3 in metabolic and cognitive diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, and major depressive disorder. Novel therapeutics involving inflammasome activation may result in possible clinical applications in the near future.
PMCID: PMC4086337  PMID: 24850149
cognitive disease; diabetes; inflammasome; inflammation; metabolism; obesity

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