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1.  Novel Application of Stem Cell-Derived Neurons to Evaluate the Time- and Dose-Dependent Progression of Excitotoxic Injury 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64423.
Glutamate receptor (GluR)-mediated neurotoxicity is implicated in a variety of disorders ranging from ischemia to neural degeneration. Under conditions of elevated glutamate, the excessive activation of GluRs causes internalization of pathologic levels of Ca2+, culminating in bioenergetic failure, organelle degradation, and cell death. Efforts to characterize cellular and molecular aspects of excitotoxicity and conduct therapeutic screening for pharmacologic inhibitors of excitogenic progression have been hindered by limitations associated with primary neuron culture. To address this, we evaluated glutamate-induced neurotoxicity in highly enriched glutamatergic neurons (ESNs) derived from murine embryonic stem cells. As of 18 days in vitro (DIV 18), ESNs were synaptically coupled, exhibited spontaneous network activity with neurotypic mEPSCs and expressed NMDARs and AMPARs with physiological current:voltage behaviors. Addition of 0.78–200 μM glutamate evoked reproducible time- and dose-dependent metabolic failure in 6 h, with a calculated EC50 value of 0.44 μM at 24 h. Using a combination of cell viability assays and electrophysiology, we determined that glutamate-induced toxicity was specifically mediated by NMDARs and could be inhibited by addition of NMDAR antagonists, increased extracellular Mg2+ or substitution of Ba2+ for Ca2+. Glutamate treatment evoked neurite fragmentation and focal swelling by both immunocytochemistry and scanning electron microscopy. Presentation of morphological markers of cell death was dose-dependent, with 0.78–200 μM glutamate resulting in apoptosis and 3000 μM glutamate generating a mixture of necrosis and apoptosis. Addition of neuroprotective small molecules reduced glutamate-induced neurotoxicity in a dose-dependent fashion. These data indicate that ESNs replicate many of the excitogenic mechanisms observed in primary neuron culture, offering a moderate-throughput model of excitotoxicity that combines the verisimilitude of primary neurons with the flexibility and scalability of cultured cells. ESNs therefore offer a physiologically relevant platform that exhibits characteristic NMDAR responses, and appears suitable to evaluate molecular mechanisms of glutamate-induced excitotoxicity and screen for candidate therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3653859  PMID: 23691214
2.  Morphological and functional differentiation in BE(2)-M17 human neuroblastoma cells by treatment with Trans-retinoic acid 
BMC Neuroscience  2013;14:49.
Immortalized neuronal cell lines can be induced to differentiate into more mature neurons by adding specific compounds or growth factors to the culture medium. This property makes neuronal cell lines attractive as in vitro cell models to study neuronal functions and neurotoxicity. The clonal human neuroblastoma BE(2)-M17 cell line is known to differentiate into a more prominent neuronal cell type by treatment with trans-retinoic acid. However, there is a lack of information on the morphological and functional aspects of these differentiated cells.
We studied the effects of trans-retinoic acid treatment on (a) some differentiation marker proteins, (b) types of voltage-gated calcium (Ca2+) channels and (c) Ca2+-dependent neurotransmitter ([3H] glycine) release in cultured BE(2)-M17 cells. Cells treated with 10 μM trans-retinoic acid (RA) for 72 hrs exhibited marked changes in morphology to include neurite extensions; presence of P/Q, N and T-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channels; and expression of neuron specific enolase (NSE), synaptosomal-associated protein 25 (SNAP-25), nicotinic acetylcholine receptor α7 (nAChR-α7) and other neuronal markers. Moreover, retinoic acid treated cells had a significant increase in evoked Ca2+-dependent neurotransmitter release capacity. In toxicity studies of the toxic gas, phosgene (CG), that differentiation of M17 cells with RA was required to see the changes in intracellular free Ca2+ concentrations following exposure to CG.
Taken together, retinoic acid treated cells had improved morphological features as well as neuronal characteristics and functions; thus, these retinoic acid differentiated BE(2)-M17 cells may serve as a better neuronal model to study neurobiology and/or neurotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC3639069  PMID: 23597229
Neurons; M17; Neurotoxicity; Cell maturation; Differentiation; Retinoic acid; Neuroexocytosis; Voltage-gated calcium channels
3.  Longitudinal RNA sequencing of the deep transcriptome during neurogenesis of cortical glutamatergic neurons from murine ESCs 
F1000Research  2013;2:35.
Using paired-end RNA sequencing, we have quantified the deep transcriptional changes that occur during differentiation of murine embryonic stem cells into a highly enriched population of glutamatergic cortical neurons. These data provide a detailed and nuanced account of longitudinal changes in the transcriptome during neurogenesis and neuronal maturation, starting from mouse embryonic stem cells and progressing through neuroepithelial stem cell induction, radial glial cell formation, neurogenesis, neuronal maturation and cortical patterning. Understanding the transcriptional mechanisms underlying the differentiation of stem cells into mature, glutamatergic neurons of cortical identity has myriad applications, including the elucidation of mechanisms of cortical patterning; identification of neurogenic processes; modeling of disease states; detailing of the host cell response to neurotoxic stimuli; and determination of potential therapeutic targets. In future work we anticipate correlating changes in longitudinal gene expression to other cell parameters, including neuronal function as well as characterizations of the proteome and metabolome. In this data article, we describe the methods used to produce the data and present the raw sequence read data in FASTQ files, sequencing run statistics and a summary flatfile of raw counts for 22,164 genes across 31 samples, representing 3-5 biological replicates at each timepoint. We propose that this data will be a valuable contribution to diverse research efforts in bioinformatics, stem cell research and developmental neuroscience studies.
PMCID: PMC3829120  PMID: 24358889
4.  Detection of Burkholderia pseudomallei O-antigen serotypes in near-neighbor species 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:250.
Burkholderia pseudomallei is the etiological agent of melioidosis and a CDC category B select agent with no available effective vaccine. Previous immunizations in mice have utilized the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) as a potential vaccine target because it is known as one of the most important antigenic epitopes in B. pseudomallei. Complicating this strategy are the four different B. pseudomallei LPS O-antigen types: A, B, B2, and rough. Sero-crossreactivity is common among O-antigens of Burkholderia species. Here, we identified the presence of multiple B. pseudomallei O-antigen types and sero-crossreactivity in its near-neighbor species.
PCR screening of O-antigen biosynthesis genes, phenotypic characterization using SDS-PAGE, and immunoblot analysis showed that majority of B. mallei and B. thailandensis strains contained the typical O-antigen type A. In contrast, most of B. ubonensis and B. thailandensis-like strains expressed the atypical O-antigen types B and B2, respectively. Most B. oklahomensis strains expressed a distinct and non-seroreactive O-antigen type, except strain E0147 which expressed O-antigen type A. O-antigen type B2 was also detected in B. thailandensis 82172, B. ubonensis MSMB108, and Burkholderia sp. MSMB175. Interestingly, B. thailandensis-like MSMB43 contained a novel serotype B positive O-antigen.
This study expands the number of species which express B. pseudomallei O-antigen types. Further work is required to elucidate the full structures and how closely these are to the B. pseudomallei O-antigens, which will ultimately determine the efficacy of the near-neighbor B serotypes for vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC3541218  PMID: 23126230
5.  Genomic Comparison of Escherichia coli O104:H4 Isolates from 2009 and 2011 Reveals Plasmid, and Prophage Heterogeneity, Including Shiga Toxin Encoding Phage stx2 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48228.
In May of 2011, an enteroaggregative Escherichia coli O104:H4 strain that had acquired a Shiga toxin 2-converting phage caused a large outbreak of bloody diarrhea in Europe which was notable for its high prevalence of hemolytic uremic syndrome cases. Several studies have described the genomic inventory and phylogenies of strains associated with the outbreak and a collection of historical E. coli O104:H4 isolates using draft genome assemblies. We present the complete, closed genome sequences of an isolate from the 2011 outbreak (2011C–3493) and two isolates from cases of bloody diarrhea that occurred in the Republic of Georgia in 2009 (2009EL–2050 and 2009EL–2071). Comparative genome analysis indicates that, while the Georgian strains are the nearest neighbors to the 2011 outbreak isolates sequenced to date, structural and nucleotide-level differences are evident in the Stx2 phage genomes, the mer/tet antibiotic resistance island, and in the prophage and plasmid profiles of the strains, including a previously undescribed plasmid with homology to the pMT virulence plasmid of Yersinia pestis. In addition, multiphenotype analysis showed that 2009EL–2071 possessed higher resistance to polymyxin and membrane-disrupting agents. Finally, we show evidence by electron microscopy of the presence of a common phage morphotype among the European and Georgian strains and a second phage morphotype among the Georgian strains. The presence of at least two stx2 phage genotypes in host genetic backgrounds that may derive from a recent common ancestor of the 2011 outbreak isolates indicates that the emergence of stx2 phage-containing E. coli O104:H4 strains probably occurred more than once, or that the current outbreak isolates may be the result of a recent transfer of a new stx2 phage element into a pre-existing stx2-positive genetic background.
PMCID: PMC3486847  PMID: 23133618
6.  High yield derivation of enriched glutamatergic neurons from suspension-cultured mouse ESCs for neurotoxicology research 
BMC Neuroscience  2012;13:127.
Recently, there has been a strong emphasis on identifying an in vitro model for neurotoxicity research that combines the biological relevance of primary neurons with the scalability, reproducibility and genetic tractability of continuous cell lines. Derived neurons should be homotypic, exhibit neuron-specific gene expression and morphology, form functioning synapses and consistently respond to neurotoxins in a fashion indistinguishable from primary neurons. However, efficient methods to produce neuronal populations that are suitable alternatives to primary neurons have not been available.
With the objective of developing a more facile, robust and efficient method to generate enriched glutamatergic neuronal cultures, we evaluated the neurogenic capacity of three mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines (R1, C57BL/6 and D3) adapted to feeder-independent suspension culture. Neurogenesis and neuronal maturation were characterized as a function of time in culture using immunological, genomic, morphological and functional metrics. The functional responses of ESNs to neurotropic toxins with distinctly different targets and mechanisms of toxicity, such as glutamate, α-latrotoxin (LTX), and botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT), were also evaluated.
Suspension-adapted ESCs expressed markers of pluripotency through at least 30 passages, and differentiation produced 97×106 neural progenitor cells (NPCs) per 10-cm dish. Greater than 99% of embryonic stem cell-derived neurons (ESNs) expressed neuron-specific markers by 96 h after plating and rapidly developed complex axodendritic arbors and appropriate compartmentalization of neurotypic proteins. Expression profiling demonstrated the presence of transcripts necessary for neuronal function and confirmed that ESN populations were predominantly glutamatergic. Furthermore, ESNs were functionally receptive to all toxins with sensitivities and responses consistent with primary neurons.
These findings demonstrate a cost-effective, scalable and flexible method to produce a highly enriched glutamatergic neuron population. The functional characterization of pathophysiological responses to neurotropic toxins and the compatibility with multi-well plating formats were used to demonstrate the suitability of ESNs as a discovery platform for molecular mechanisms of action, moderate-throughput analytical approaches and diagnostic screening. Furthermore, for the first time we demonstrate a cell-based model that is sensitive to all seven BoNT serotypes with EC50 values comparable to those reported in primary neuron populations. These data providing compelling evidence that ESNs offer a neuromimetic platform suitable for the evaluation of molecular mechanisms of neurotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC3573964  PMID: 23095170
Mouse embryonic stem cells; Neurotoxicity; In vitro modeling; BoNT; LTX; Glutamate
7.  Compatibility of SYTO 13 and Hoechst 33342 for longitudinal imaging of neuron viability and cell death 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:437.
Simultaneous use of cell-permeant and impermeant fluorescent nuclear dyes is a common method to study cell viability and cell death progression. Although these assays are usually conducted as end-point studies, time-lapse imaging offers a powerful technique to distinguish temporal changes in cell viability at single-cell resolution. SYTO 13 and Hoechst 33342 are two commonly used cell-permeant nuclear dyes; however their suitability for live imaging has not been well characterized. We compare end-point assays with time-lapse imaging studies over a 6 h period to evaluate the compatibility of these two dyes with longitudinal imaging, using both control neurons and an apoptotic neuron model.
In longitudinal assays of untreated neurons, SYTO 13 addition caused acute necrosis within 3 h, whereas neurons imaged with Hoechst remained viable for at least 6 h. In a staurosporine-induced apoptotic model of neurotoxicity, determinations of the mode of cell death and measurements of nuclear size were identical between longitudinal studies using Hoechst and end-point assays. Alternatively, longitudinal studies using 500 nM or 5 nM SYTO 13 were not consistent with end-point assays.
SYTO 13 is acutely neurotoxic and when used in longitudinal studies, masked end-stage morphologic evidence of apoptotic cell death. In contrast, a single application of Hoechst evoked no evidence of toxicity over a 6 h period, and was consistent with end-point characterizations of cell viability and nuclear morphology. For longitudinal characterization of acute cell death, Hoechst is a superior option.
PMCID: PMC3599614  PMID: 22892216
Nuclear staining; Pyknosis; Embryonic stem cell-derived neurons; Apoptosis; Necrosis
8.  Suitability of Commercial Transport Media for Biological Pathogens under Nonideal Conditions 
There is extensive data to support the use of commercial transport media as a stabilizer for known clinical samples; however, there is little information to support their use outside of controlled conditions specified by the manufacturer. Furthermore, there is no data to determine the suitability of said media for biological pathogens, specifically those of interest to the US military. This study evaluates commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) transport media based on sample recovery, viability, and quality of nucleic acids and peptides for nonpathogenic strains of Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, in addition to ricin toxin. Samples were stored in COTS, PBST, or no media at various temperatures over an extended test period. The results demonstrate that COTS media, although sufficient for the preservation of nucleic acid and proteinaceous material, are not capable of maintaining an accurate representation of biothreat agents at the time of collection.
PMCID: PMC3206327  PMID: 22121364
9.  Knockdown of TFIIS by RNA silencing inhibits cancer cell proliferation and induces apoptosis 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:133.
A common element among cancer cells is the presence of improperly controlled transcription. In these cells, the degree of specific activation of some genes is abnormal, and altering the aberrant transcription may therefore directly target cancer. TFIIS is a transcription elongation factor, which directly binds the transcription motor, RNA Polymerase II and allows it to read through various transcription arrest sites. We report on RNA interference of TFIIS, a transcription elongation factor, and its affect on proliferation of cancer cells in culture.
RNA interference was performed by transfecting siRNA to specifically knock down TFIIS expression in MCF7, MCF10A, PL45 and A549 cells. Levels of TFIIS expression were determined by the Quantigene method, and relative protein levels of TFIIS, c-myc and p53 were determined by C-ELISA. Induction of apoptosis was determined by an enzymatic Caspase 3/7 assay, as well as a non-enzymatic assay detecting cytoplasmic mono- and oligonucleosomes. A gene array analysis was conducted for effects of TFIIS siRNA on MCF7 and MCF10A cell lines.
Knockdown of TFIIS reduced cancer cell proliferation in breast, lung and pancreatic cancer cell lines. More specifically, TFIIS knockdown in the MCF7 breast cancer cell line induced cancer cell death and increased c-myc and p53 expression whereas TFIIS knockdown in the non-cancerous breast cell line MCF10A was less affected. Differential effects of TFIIS knockdown in MCF7 and MCF10A cells included the estrogenic, c-myc and p53 pathways, as observed by C-ELISA and gene array, and were likely involved in MCF7 cell-death.
Although transcription is a fundamental process, targeting select core transcription factors may provide for a new and potent avenue for cancer therapeutics. In the present study, knockdown of TFIIS inhibited cancer cell proliferation, suggesting that TFIIS could be studied as a potential cancer target within the transcription machinery.
PMCID: PMC2390572  PMID: 18474089

Results 1-9 (9)