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1.  eNOS Activation by HDL Is Impaired in Genetic CETP Deficiency 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95925.
Mutations in the CETP gene resulting in defective CETP activity have been shown to cause remarkable elevations of plasma HDL-C levels, with the accumulation in plasma of large, buoyant HDL particles enriched in apolipoprotein E. Genetic CETP deficiency thus represents a unique tool to evaluate how structural alterations of HDL impact on HDL atheroprotective functions. Aim of the present study was to assess the ability of HDL obtained from CETP-deficient subjects to protect endothelial cells from the development of endothelial dysfunction. HDL isolated from one homozygous and seven heterozygous carriers of CETP null mutations were evaluated for their ability to down-regulate cytokine-induced cell adhesion molecule expression and to promote NO production in cultured endothelial cells. When compared at the same protein concentration, HDL and HDL3 from carriers proved to be as effective as control HDL and HDL3 in down-regulating cytokine-induced VCAM-1, while carrier HDL2 were more effective than control HDL2 in inhibiting VCAM-1 expression. On the other hand, HDL and HDL fractions from carriers of CETP deficiency were significantly less effective than control HDL and HDL fractions in stimulating NO production, due to a reduced eNOS activating capacity, likely because of a reduced S1P content. In conclusion, the present findings support the notion that genetic CETP deficiency, by affecting HDL particle structure, impacts on HDL vasculoprotective functions. Understanding of these effects might be important for predicting the outcomes of pharmacological CETP inhibition.
PMCID: PMC4022511  PMID: 24830642
2.  A Mouse Model of Familial ALS Has Increased CNS Levels of Endogenous Ubiquinol9/10 and Does Not Benefit from Exogenous Administration of Ubiquinol10 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69540.
Oxidative stress and mitochondrial impairment are the main pathogenic mechanisms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a severe neurodegenerative disease still lacking of effective therapy. Recently, the coenzyme-Q (CoQ) complex, a key component of mitochondrial function and redox-state modulator, has raised interest for ALS treatment. However, while the oxidized form ubiquinone10 was ineffective in ALS patients and modestly effective in mouse models of ALS, no evidence was reported on the effect of the reduced form ubiquinol10, which has better bioavailability and antioxidant properties. In this study we compared the effects of ubiquinone10 and a new stabilized formulation of ubiquinol10 on the disease course of SOD1G93A transgenic mice, an experimental model of fALS. Chronic treatments (800 mg/kg/day orally) started from the onset of disease until death, to mimic the clinical trials that only include patients with definite ALS symptoms. Although the plasma levels of CoQ10 were significantly increased by both treatments (from <0.20 to 3.0–3.4 µg/mL), no effect was found on the disease progression and survival of SOD1G93A mice. The levels of CoQ10 in the brain and spinal cord of ubiquinone10- or ubiquinol10-treated mice were only slightly higher (≤10%) than the endogenous levels in vehicle-treated mice, indicating poor CNS availability after oral dosing and possibly explaining the lack of pharmacological effects. To further examine this issue, we measured the oxidized and reduced forms of CoQ9/10 in the plasma, brain and spinal cord of symptomatic SOD1G93A mice, in comparison with age-matched SOD1WT. Levels of ubiquinol9/10, but not ubiquinone9/10, were significantly higher in the CNS, but not in plasma, of SOD1G93A mice, suggesting that CoQ redox system might participate in the mechanisms trying to counteract the pathology progression. Therefore, the very low increases of CoQ10 induced by oral treatments in CNS might be not sufficient to provide significant neuroprotection in SOD1G93A mice.
PMCID: PMC3720666  PMID: 23936040
3.  Mutant Copper-Zinc Superoxide Dismutase (SOD1) Induces Protein Secretion Pathway Alterations and Exosome Release in Astrocytes 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;288(22):15699-15711.
Background: The mechanism by which astrocytes contribute to disease progression in mutant SOD1 mouse models of ALS is not known.
Results: Mutant SOD1 astrocytes release mutant SOD1-containing exosomes that are toxic for motor neurons.
Conclusion: Astrocyte-derived exosomes may have a role in disease spreading and motor neuron pathology.
Significance: New therapeutic approaches should target exosomes to contain disease progression.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is the most common motor neuron disease and is still incurable. The mechanisms leading to the selective motor neuron vulnerability are still not known. The interplay between motor neurons and astrocytes is crucial in the outcome of the disease. We show that mutant copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD1) overexpression in primary astrocyte cultures is associated with decreased levels of proteins involved in secretory pathways. This is linked to a general reduction of total secreted proteins, except for specific enrichment in a number of proteins in the media, such as mutant SOD1 and valosin-containing protein (VCP)/p97. Because there was also an increase in exosome release, we can deduce that astrocytes expressing mutant SOD1 activate unconventional secretory pathways, possibly as a protective mechanism. This may help limit the formation of intracellular aggregates and overcome mutant SOD1 toxicity. We also found that astrocyte-derived exosomes efficiently transfer mutant SOD1 to spinal neurons and induce selective motor neuron death. We conclude that the expression of mutant SOD1 has a substantial impact on astrocyte protein secretion pathways, contributing to motor neuron pathology and disease spread.
PMCID: PMC3668729  PMID: 23592792
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease); Astrocytes; Exosomes; Proteomics; Superoxide Dismutase (SOD); Disease Spreading
4.  Gain-of-function p53 mutants have widespread genomic locations partially overlapping with p63 
Oncotarget  2012;3(2):132-143.
p53 and p63 are transcription factors -TFs- playing master roles in the DNA-damage response and in the development and maintenance of pluristratified epithelia, respectively. p53 mutations are common in epithelial tumors and HaCaT keratinocytes harbor two p53 alleles -H179Y and R282Q- with gain-of-function (GOF) activity. Indeed, functional inactivation of mutp53 affects the growth rate of HaCaT. We investigated the strategy of mutp53, by performing ChIP-Seq experiments of mutp53 and p63 and analyzed the transcriptome after mutp53 inactivation. Mutp53 bind to 7135 locations in vivo, with a robust overlap with p63. De novo motifs discovery recovered a p53/p63RE with high information content in sites bound by p63 and mutp53/p63, but not by mutp53 alone: these sites are rather enriched in elements of other TFs. The HaCaT p63 locations are only partially overlapping with those of normal keratinocytes; importantly, and enriched in mutp53 sites which delineate a functionally different group of target genes. Our data favour a model whereby mutp53 GOF mutants act both by tethering growth-controlling TFs and highjacking p63 to new locations.
PMCID: PMC3326644  PMID: 22361592
mutant p53; p63; keratinocytes
5.  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Multiprotein Biomarkers in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25545.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal progressive motor neuron disease, for which there are still no diagnostic/prognostic test and therapy. Specific molecular biomarkers are urgently needed to facilitate clinical studies and speed up the development of effective treatments.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a two-dimensional difference in gel electrophoresis approach to identify in easily accessible clinical samples, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), a panel of protein biomarkers that are closely associated with ALS. Validations and a longitudinal study were performed by immunoassays on a selected number of proteins. The same proteins were also measured in PBMC and spinal cord of a G93A SOD1 transgenic rat model. We identified combinations of protein biomarkers that can distinguish, with high discriminatory power, ALS patients from healthy controls (98%), and from patients with neurological disorders that may resemble ALS (91%), between two levels of disease severity (90%), and a number of translational biomarkers, that link responses between human and animal model. We demonstrated that TDP-43, cyclophilin A and ERp57 associate with disease progression in a longitudinal study. Moreover, the protein profile changes detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of ALS patients are suggestive of possible intracellular pathogenic mechanisms such as endoplasmic reticulum stress, nitrative stress, disturbances in redox regulation and RNA processing.
Our results indicate that PBMC multiprotein biomarkers could contribute to determine amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, differential diagnosis, disease severity and progression, and may help to elucidate pathogenic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3187793  PMID: 21998667
6.  Transcriptional Network of p63 in Human Keratinocytes 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e5008.
p63 is a transcription factor required for the development and maintenance of ectodermal tissues in general, and skin keratinocytes in particular. The identification of its target genes is fundamental for understanding the complex network of gene regulation governing the development of epithelia. We report a list of almost 1000 targets derived from ChIP on chip analysis on two platforms; all genes analyzed changed in expression during differentiation of human keratinocytes. Functional annotation highlighted unexpected GO terms enrichments and confirmed that genes involved in transcriptional regulation are the most significant. A detailed analysis of these transcriptional regulators in condition of perturbed p63 levels confirmed the role of p63 in the regulatory network. Rather than a rigid master-slave hierarchical model, our data indicate that p63 connects different hubs involved in the multiple specific functions of the skin.
PMCID: PMC2672041  PMID: 19390658
7.  Impaired Retinoic Acid (RA) Signal Leads to RARβ2 Epigenetic Silencing and RA Resistance 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(23):10591-10603.
Resistance to the growth-inhibitory action of retinoic acid (RA), the bioactive derivative of vitamin A, is common in human tumors. One form of RA resistance has been associated with silencing and hypermethylation of the retinoic acid receptor β2 gene (RARβ2), an RA-regulated tumor suppressor gene. The presence of an epigenetically silent RARβ2 correlates with lack of the RA receptor α (RARα). Normally, RARα regulates RARβ2 transcription by mediating dynamic changes of RARβ2 chromatin in the presence and absence of RA. Here we show that interfering with RA signal through RARα (which was achieved by use of a dominant-negative RARα, by downregulation of RARα by RNA interference, and by use of RARα antagonists) induces an exacerbation of the repressed chromatin status of RARβ2 and leads to RARβ2 transcriptional silencing. Further, we demonstrate that RARβ2 silencing causes resistance to the growth-inhibitory effect of RA. Apparently, RARβ2 silencing can also occur in the absence of DNA methylation. Conversely, we demonstrate that restoration of RA signal at a silent RARβ2 through RARα leads to RARβ2 reactivation. This report provides proof of principle that RARβ2 silencing and RA resistance are consequent to an impaired integration of RA signal at RARβ2 chromatin.
PMCID: PMC1291229  PMID: 16287870

Results 1-7 (7)