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2.  Does the kappa opioid receptor system contribute to pain aversion? 
The kappa opioid receptor (KOR) and the endogenous peptide-ligand dynorphin have received significant attention due the involvement in mediating a variety of behavioral and neurophysiological responses, including opposing the rewarding properties of drugs of abuse including opioids. Accumulating evidence indicates this system is involved in regulating states of motivation and emotion. Acute activation of the KOR produces an increase in motivational behavior to escape a threat, however, KOR activation associated with chronic stress leads to the expression of symptoms indicative of mood disorders. It is well accepted that KOR can produce analgesia and is engaged in chronic pain states including neuropathic pain. Spinal studies have revealed KOR-induced analgesia in reversing pain hypersensitivities associated with peripheral nerve injury. While systemic administration of KOR agonists attenuates nociceptive sensory transmission, this effect appears to be a stress-induced effect as anxiolytic agents, including delta opioid receptor agonists, mitigate KOR agonist-induced analgesia. Additionally, while the role of KOR and dynorphin in driving the dysphoric and aversive components of stress and drug withdrawal has been well characterized, how this system mediates the negative emotional states associated with chronic pain is relatively unexplored. This review provides evidence that dynorphin and the KOR system contribute to the negative affective component of pain and that this receptor system likely contributes to the high comorbidity of mood disorders associated with chronic neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC4233910  PMID: 25452729
kappa opioid receptor; pain; aversion; reward system ventral tegmental area; dopamine; negative reinforcement
3.  Opioid self-administration results in cell-type specific adaptations of striatal medium spiny neurons 
Behavioural brain research  2013;256:10.1016/j.bbr.2013.08.009.
Medium-sized spiny neurons (MSNs), the predominant neuronal population of the striatum, are an integral component of the many cortical and limbic pathways associated with reward-related behaviors. A differential role of the D1 receptor-enriched (D1) MSNs of the striatonigral direct pathway, as compared with the D2 receptor-enriched (D2) MSNs of the striatopallidal indirect pathway, in mediating the addictive behaviors associated with cocaine is beginning to emerge. However, whether opioids, well-known analgesics with euphoric properties, similarly induce dissociable signaling adaptations in these neurons remains unclear. Transgenic mice expressing Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP)-labeled D1 or D2 neurons were implanted with intravenous jugular catheters and trained to self-administer the opioid remifentanil. D1- and D2-GFP mice learned to self-administer 0.1 mg/kg/infusion remifentanil during 2hr sessions over 13 contiguous days. Thereafter, the electrophysiological properties of D1 and D2 MSNs in the shell region of the nucleus accumbens (NAc) were assessed. We found that prior opioid exposure did not alter the basic membrane properties nor the kinetics or amplitude of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs). However, when challenged with the mu opioid receptor (µOR) agonist DAMGO, the characteristic inhibitory profile of this receptor was altered. DAMGO inhibited the frequency of mEPSCs in D1-MSNs from control mice receiving saline and in D2-MSNs from mice exposed to remifentanil or saline, but this inhibitory profile was reduced in D1-MSNs from mice receiving remifentanil. Remifentanil exposure also altered the probability of glutamate release onto D1-, but not D2-MSNs. Together these results suggest a D1-pathway specific effect associated with the acquisition of opioid-seeking behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3815993  PMID: 23968589
striatum; medium spiny neurons; intravenous self-administration; mu opioid receptor; electrophysiology; mice
4.  Advances in Regenerative Orthopaedics 
Mayo Clinic proceedings  2013;88(11):1323-1339.
Orthopaedic injuries are very common and a source of much misery and economic stress. Several relevant tissues, such as cartilage, meniscus and intra-articular ligaments, do not heal. And even bone, which normally regenerates spontaneously, can fail to mend. The regeneration of orthopaedic tissues requires four key components: cells, morphogenetic signals, scaffolds and an appropriate mechanical environment. Although differentiated cells from the tissue in question can be used, most cellular research focuses on the use mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These can be retrieved from many different tissues, and one unresolved question is the degree to which the origin of the cells matters. Embryonic and induced, pluripotential stem cells are also under investigation. Morphogenetic signals are most frequently supplied by individual, recombinant growth factors or native mixtures provided by, for instance, platelet-rich plasma; MSCs are also a rich source of trophic factors. Obstacles to the sustained delivery of individual growth factors can be addressed by gene transfer or smart scaffolds, but we still lack detailed, necessary information on which delivery profiles are needed. Scaffolds may be based upon natural products, synthetic materials, or devitalized extracellular matrix. Strategies to combine these components to regenerate tissue can follow traditional tissue engineering practices, but these are costly, cumbersome and not well suited to treating large numbers of individuals. More expeditious approaches make full use of intrinsic biological processes in vivo to avoid the need for ex vivo expansion of autologous cells and multiple procedures. Clinical translation remains a bottleneck.
PMCID: PMC4214280  PMID: 24182709
5.  Preclinical toxicity evaluation of AAV for pain: evidence from human AAV studies and from the pharmacology of analgesic drugs 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:54.
Gene therapy with adeno-associated virus (AAV) has advanced in the last few years from promising results in animal models to >100 clinical trials (reported or under way). While vector availability was a substantial hurdle a decade ago, innovative new production methods now routinely match the scale of AAV doses required for clinical testing. These advances may become relevant to translational research in the chronic pain field. AAV for pain targeting the peripheral nervous system was proven to be efficacious in rodent models several years ago, but has not yet been tested in humans. The present review addresses the steps needed for translation of AAV for pain from the bench to the bedside focusing on pre-clinical toxicology. We break the potential toxicities into three conceptual categories of risk: First, risks related to the delivery procedure used to administer the vector. Second, risks related to AAV biology, i.e., effects of the vector itself that may occur independently of the transgene. Third, risks related to the effects of the therapeutic transgene. To identify potential toxicities, we consulted the existing evidence from AAV gene therapy for other nervous system disorders (animal toxicology and human studies) and from the clinical pharmacology of conventional analgesic drugs. Thereby, we identified required preclinical studies and charted a hypothetical path towards a future phase I/II clinical trial in the oncology-palliative care setting.
PMCID: PMC4237902  PMID: 25183392
Adeno-associated virus; Pain; Gene therapy; Toxicology; Interleukin-10; Beta-endorphin
6.  Inhibition of ABCB1 expression overcomes acquired docetaxel resistance in prostate cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(9):1829-1836.
Docetaxel is the first-line standard treatment for castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). However, relapse eventually occurs due to the development of resistance to docetaxel. In order to unravel the mechanism of acquired docetaxel resistance, we established docetaxel-resistant prostate cancer cells, TaxR, from castration resistant C4-2B prostate cancer cells. The IC50 for docetaxel in TaxR cells was about 70-fold higher than parental C4-2B cells. Global gene expression analysis revealed alteration of expression of a total of 1604 genes with 52% being upregulated and 48% downregulated. ABCB1, which belongs to the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter family, was identified among the top upregulated genes in TaxR cells. The role of ABCB1 in the development of docetaxel resistance was examined. Knockdown of ABCB1 expression by its specific shRNA or inhibitor resensitized docetaxel resistant TaxR cells to docetaxel treatment by enhancing apoptotic cell death. Furthermore, we identified that apigenin, a natural product of the flavone family, inhibits ABCB1 expression and resensitizes docetaxel resistant prostate cancer cells to docetaxel treatment. Collectively, these results suggest that overexpression of ABCB1 mediates acquired docetaxel resistance and targeting ABCB1 expression could be potential approach to resensitize docetaxel resistant prostate cancer cells to docetaxel treatment.
PMCID: PMC3947549  PMID: 23861346
docetaxel; prostate cancer; ABCB1
7.  Molecular pathways and targets in prostate cancer 
Oncotarget  2014;5(17):7217-7259.
Prostate cancer co-opts a unique set of cellular pathways in its initiation and progression. The heterogeneity of prostate cancers is evident at earlier stages, and has led to rigorous efforts to stratify the localized prostate cancers, so that progression to advanced stages could be predicted based upon salient features of the early disease. The deregulated androgen receptor signaling is undeniably most important in the progression of the majority of prostate tumors. It is perhaps because of the primacy of the androgen receptor governed transcriptional program in prostate epithelium cells that once this program is corrupted, the consequences of the ensuing changes in activity are pleotropic and could contribute to malignancy in multiple ways. Following localized surgical and radiation therapies, 20-40% of patients will relapse and progress, and will be treated with androgen deprivation therapies. The successful development of the new agents that inhibit androgen signaling has changed the progression free survival in hormone resistant disease, but this has not changed the almost ubiquitous development of truly resistant phenotypes in advanced prostate cancer. This review summarizes the current understanding of the molecular pathways involved in localized and metastatic prostate cancer, with an emphasis on the clinical implications of the new knowledge.
PMCID: PMC4202120  PMID: 25277175
prostate cancer; molecular targets; CRPC; localized prostate cancer
8.  Targeted Expression of Mu-Opioid Receptors in a Subset of Striatal Direct-Pathway Neurons Restores Opiate Reward 
Nature neuroscience  2014;17(2):254-261.
Mu-Opioid Receptors (MOR) are necessary for the analgesic and addictive effects of opioids such as morphine, but the MOR-expressing neuronal populations that mediate the distinct opiate effects remain elusive. Here we devised a novel conditional BAC rescue strategy to show that mice with targeted MOR expression in a subpopulation of striatal direct-pathway neurons enriched in the striosome and nucleus accumbens, in an otherwise MOR-null background, restore opiate reward, opiate-induced striatal dopamine release, and partially restore motivation to self-administer opiates. However, they lack opiate analgesia or withdrawal. Importantly, we used Cre-mediated deletion of the rescued MOR transgene to establish that striatal, rather than a few extrastriatal sites of MOR transgene expression, is needed for the restoration of opiate reward. Together, our study demonstrates that a subpopulation of striatal direct-pathway neurons is sufficient to support opiate reward-driven behaviors and provides a novel intersectional genetic approach to dissect neurocircuit-specific gene function in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4008330  PMID: 24413699
9.  Muc5b Is Required for Airway Defense 
Nature  2013;505(7483):412-416.
Respiratory surfaces are exposed to billions of particulates and pathogens daily. A protective mucus barrier traps and eliminates them via mucociliary clearance (MCC)1,2. However, excessive mucus contributes to transient respiratory infections and to the pathogenesis of numerous respiratory diseases1. MUC5AC and MUC5B are evolutionarily conserved genes that encode structurally related mucin glycoproteins, the principal macromolecules in airway mucus1,3. Genetic variants are linked to diverse lung diseases4-6, but specific roles for MUC5AC and MUC5B in MCC, and the lasting effects of their inhibition, are unknown. Here we show that Muc5b (but not Muc5ac) is required for MCC, for controlling infections in the airways and middle ear, and for maintaining immune homeostasis in the lungs. Muc5b deficiency caused materials to accumulate in upper and lower airways. This defect led to chronic infection by multiple bacterial species, including Staphylococcus aureus, and to inflammation that failed to resolve normally7. Apoptotic macrophages accumulated, phagocytosis was impaired, and IL-23 production was reduced inMuc5b−/− mice. By contrast, in Muc5b transgenic (Tg) mice, macrophage functions improved. Existing dogma defines mucous phenotypes in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as driven by increased MUC5AC, with MUC5B levels either unaffected or increased in expectorated sputum1,8. However, in many patients, MUC5B production at airway surfaces decreases by as much as 90%9-11. By distinguishing a specific role for Muc5b in MCC, and by determining its impact on bacterial infections and inflammation in mice, our results provide a refined framework for designing targeted therapies to control mucin secretion and restore MCC.
PMCID: PMC4001806  PMID: 24317696
10.  The Ocular Surface Phenotype of Muc5ac and Muc5b Null Mice 
Recent development of mice null for either Muc5ac or Muc5b mucin allows study of their specific roles at the mouse ocular surface. A recent report indicated that Muc5ac null mice show an ocular surface phenotype similar to that seen in dry eye syndrome. The purpose of our study was to determine the effect of lack of Muc5ac or Muc5b on the ocular surface, and to determine if environmental desiccating stress exacerbated a phenotype.
Muc5ac null and Muc5b null mice, and their wild-type controls were examined for ocular surface defects by fluorescein staining. The number of goblet cells per area of conjunctival epithelium was counted, and levels of mucin gene expression and genes associated with epithelial stress, keratinization, and differentiation, known to be altered in dry eye syndrome, were assayed. To determine if the null mice would respond more to desiccating stress than their wild-type controls, they were challenged in a controlled environment chamber (CEC) and assessed for changes in fluorescein staining, tear volume, and inflammatory cells within the conjunctival and corneal epithelia.
Unlike the previous study, we found no ocular surface phenotype in the Muc5ac null mice, even after exposure to desiccating environmental stress. Similarly, no ocular surface phenotype was present in the Muc5b null mice, either before or after exposure to a dry environment in the CEC.
Our results indicate that deleting either the Muc5ac or Muc5b gene is insufficient to create an observable dry eye phenotype on the ocular surface of these mice.
Mice null for either Muc5ac or Muc5b, the major secretory mucins on the ocular surface, were assessed for an ocular surface phenotype. Results indicate that deletion of either the Muc5ac or Muc5b gene is insufficient to create an observable dry eye phenotype on the ocular surface of these mice.
PMCID: PMC3894795  PMID: 24327612
mucins; dry eye; animal models
11.  Role of MARCO in Innate Immune Tolerance 
Macrophages play a key role in host defense against microbes, in part, through phagocytosis. MARCO (macrophage receptor with collagenous structure) is a scavenger receptor on the cell surface of macrophages that mediates opsonin-independent phagocytosis. The goal of our study is to investigate the role of MARCO in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or lipotechoic acid (LTA)-induced macrophage tolerance. While it has been established that expression of MARCO and phagocytosis is increased in tolerant macrophages, the transcriptional regulation and biological role of MARCO in tolerant macrophages has not been investigated. Here, we confirm that tolerized mouse bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDM) selectively increase expression of MARCO (both transcript and cell surface receptor) and increase phagocytosis. We found that H3K4me3 dynamic modification of a promoter site of MARCO was increased in tolerized BMDM. Blocking methylation by treatment with 5-Aza-2′-deoxycytidine (5-AZA) resulted in reduced H3K4me3 binding in the promoter of MARCO, decreased expression of MARCO, and impaired phagocytosis in tolerized BMDM. However, 5-AZA had no effect on the inflammatory component of innate immune tolerance. In aggregate, we found that histone methylation was critical to MARCO expression and phagocytosis in tolerized macrophages but did not affect the inflammatory component of innate immune tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3679202  PMID: 23667110
Phagocytosis; MARCO; Macrophage tolerance; Chromatin modification
12.  An overview of underlying causes and animal models for the study of age-related degenerative disorders of the spine and synovial joints 
As human lifespan increases so does the incidence of age-associated degenerative joint diseases, resulting in significant negative socioeconomic consequences. Osteoarthritis (OA) and intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) are the most common underlying causes of joint-related chronic disability and debilitating pain in the elderly. Current treatment methods are generally not effective and involve either symptomatic relief with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy or surgery when conservative treatments fail. The limitation in treatment options is due to our incomplete knowledge of the molecular mechanism of degeneration of articular cartilage and disc tissue. Basic understanding of the age-related changes in joint tissue is thus needed to combat the adverse effects of aging on joint health. Aging is caused at least in part by time-dependent accumulation of damaged organelles and macromolecules, leading to cell death and senescence and the eventual loss of multipotent stem cells and tissue regenerative capacity. Studies over the past decades have uncovered a number of important molecular and cellular changes in joint tissues with age. However, the precise causes of damage, cellular targets of damage, and cellular responses to damage remain poorly understood. The objectives of this review are (1) to provide an overview of the current knowledge about the sources of endogenous and exogenous damaging agents and how they contribute to age-dependent degenerative joint disease, and (2) highlight animal models of accelerated aging that could potentially be useful for identifying causes of and therapies for degenerative joint diseases.
PMCID: PMC3628921  PMID: 23483579
Synovial joints; intervertebral disc; DNA repair; aging; oxidative damage
13.  LncRNA-Dependent Mechanisms of Androgen Receptor-regulated Gene Activation Programs 
Nature  2013;500(7464):598-602.
While recent studies indicated roles of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in physiologic aspects of cell-type determination and tissue homeostasis1 yet their potential involvement in regulated gene transcription programs remain rather poorly understood. Androgen receptor (AR) regulates a large repertoire of genes central to the identity and behavior of prostate cancer cells2, and functions in a ligand-independent fashion in many prostate cancers when they become hormone refractory after initial androgen deprivation therapy3. Here, we report that two lncRNAs highly overexpressed in aggressive prostate cancer, PRNCR1 and PCGEM1, bind successively to the AR and strongly enhance both ligand-dependent and ligand-independent AR-mediated gene activation programs and proliferation in prostate cancer cells. Binding of PRNCR1 to the C-terminally acetylated AR on enhancers and its association with DOT1L appear to be required for recruitment of the second lncRNA, PCGEM1, to the DOT1L-mediated methylated AR N-terminus. Unexpectedly, recognition of specific protein marks by PCGEM1-recruited Pygopus2 PHD domain proves to enhance selective looping of AR-bound enhancers to target gene promoters in these cells. In “resistant” prostate cancer cells, these overexpressed lncRNAs can interact with, and are required for, the robust activation of both truncated and full length AR, causing ligand-independent activation of the AR transcriptional program and cell proliferation. Conditionally-expressed short hairpin RNA (shRNA) targeting of these lncRNAs in castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) cell lines strongly suppressed tumor xenograft growth in vivo. Together, these results suggest that these overexpressed lncRNAs can potentially serve as a required component of castration-resistance in prostatic tumors.
PMCID: PMC4034386  PMID: 23945587
Nuclear Receptor; Non-coding RNA; Enhancer; Pygopus2; Transcription Activation; Castration-resistant Prostate Cancer
14.  Experimental and Structural Testing Module to Analyze Paralogue-Specificity and Affinity in the Hsp90 Inhibitors Series 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(17):6803-6818.
We here describe the first reported comprehensive analysis of Hsp90 paralogue affinity and selectivity in the clinical Hsp90 inhibitor chemotypes. This has been possible through the development of a versatile experimental assay based on a new FP-probe (16a) that we both describe here. The assay can test rapidly and accurately the binding affinity of all major Hsp90 chemotypes and has a testing range that spans low nanomolar to millimolar binding affinities. We couple this assay with a computational analysis that allows for rationalization of paralogue selectivity and defines not only the major binding modes that relay pan-paralogue binding or, conversely, paralogue selectivity, but also identifies molecular characteristics that impart such features. The methods developed here provide a blueprint for parsing out the contribution of the four Hsp90 paralogues to the perceived biological activity with the current Hsp90 chemotypes and set the ground for the development of paralogue selective inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3985615  PMID: 23965125
15.  RhoGDIα suppresses growth and survival of prostate cancer cells 
The Prostate  2011;72(4):392-398.
Treatment for primary prostate cancer (CaP) is the withdrawal of androgens. However, CaP eventually progresses to grow in a castration-resistant state. The mechanisms involved in the development and progression of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) remain unknown. We have previously generated LNCaP-IL6+ cells by treating LNCaP cells chronically with interleukin-6 (IL-6), which have acquired the ability to grow in androgen-deprived conditions.
We compared the protein expression profile of LNCaP and LNCaP-IL6+ cells using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. The gels were then silver stained in order to visualize proteins and the differentially expressed spots were identified and characterized by micro sequencing using MALDI-PMF mass spectrometry.
In this study, we have identified RhoGDIα (GDIα) as a suppressor of prostate cancer growth. Expression of GDIα was reduced in LNCaP-IL6+ cells and was downregulated in more aggressive prostate cancer cells compared to LNCaP cells. Over expression of GDIα inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells and caused LNCaP-IL6+ cells reversal to androgen-sensitive state, while down regulation of GDIα enhanced growth of androgen-sensitive LNCaP prostate cancer cells in androgen-deprived conditions. In addition, GDIα suppressed the tumorigenic ability of prostate tumor xenografts in vivo.
These results demonstrate that loss of GDIα expression promotes the development and progression of prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3961824  PMID: 21681778
Prostate cancer; RhoGDIα; IL-6
16.  NF-κB2/p52 Induces Resistance to Enzalutamide in Prostate Cancer: Role of Androgen Receptor and Its Variants 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(8):1629-1637.
Resistance of prostate cancer cells to the next-generation antiandrogen enzalutamide may be mediated by a multitude of survival signaling pathways. In this study, we tested whether increased expression of NF-κB2/p52 induces prostate cancer cell resistance to enzalutamide and whether this response is mediated by aberrant androgen receptor (AR) activation and AR splice variant production. LNCaP cells stably expressing NF-κB2/p52 exhibited higher survival rates than controls when treated with enzalutamide. C4-2B and CWR22Rv1 cells chronically treated with enzalutamide were found to express higher levels of NF-κB2/p52. Downregulation of NF-κB2/p52 in CWR22Rv1 cells chronically treated with enzalutamide rendered them more sensitive to cell growth inhibition by enzalutamide. Analysis of the expression levels of AR splice variants by quantitative reverse transcription PCR and Western blotting revealed that LNCaP cells expressing p52 exhibit higher expression of AR splice variants. Downregulation of expression of NF-κB2/p52 in VCaP and CWR22Rv1 cells by short hairpin RNA abolished expression of splice variants. Downregulation of expression of either full-length AR or the splice variant AR-V7 led to an increase in sensitivity of prostate cancer cells to enzalutamide. These results collectively demonstrate that resistance to enzalutamide may be mediated by NF-κB2/p52 via activation of AR and its splice variants.
PMCID: PMC3941973  PMID: 23699654
17.  Inhibition of Stat3 Activation by Sanguinarine Suppresses Prostate Cancer Cell Growth and Invasion 
The Prostate  2011;72(1):82-89.
Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3) is an oncogenic transcriptional factor that plays a critical role in carcinogenesis and cancer progression and is a potential therapeutic target. Sanguinarine, a benzophenanthridine alkaloid derived primarily from the bloodroot plant, was identified previously as a novel inhibitor of survivin that selectively kills prostate cancer cells over “normal” prostate epithelial cells.
DU145, C4-2B, and LNCaP cells were treated with sanguinarine. The phosphorylation status of Stat3 and related proteins were measured with Western blots. Activation of transcription by Stat3 was measured with luciferase reporter assay. The effect of sanguinarine on anchorage-independent growth was examined with soft agar assay, and on cell migration and invasion of DU145 cells were measured with scratch assay and invasion assay, respectively.
In this study, we identified sanguinarine as a potent inhibitor of Stat3 activation which was able to suppress prostate cancer growth, migration, and invasion. Sanguinarine inhibits constitutive as well as IL6-induced phosphorylation of Stat3 at both Tyr705 and Ser727 in prostate cancer cells. The inhibition of Stat3 phosphorylation by sanguinarine correlates with reduction of Janus-activated Kinase 2 (Jak2) and Src phosphorylation. Sanguinarine downregulates the expression of Stat3-mediated genes such as c-myc and survivin and inhibits the Stat3 responsive element luciferase reporter activity. Sanguinarine inhibits the anchorage-independent growth of DU145 and LN-S17 cells expressing constitutively activated Stat3. Migration and invasion abilities of DU145 cells were also inhibited by sanguinarine in a manner similar to the dominant negative form of Stat3.
These data demonstrate that sanguinarine is a potent Stat3 inhibitor and it could be developed as a therapeutic agent for prostate cancer with constitutive activation of Stat3.
PMCID: PMC3938016  PMID: 21538419
prostate cancer; Stat3; sanguinarine; invasion
18.  Effects of Dexamethasone on Mesenchymal Stromal Cell Chondrogenesis and Aggrecanase Activity: Comparison of Agarose and Self-Assembling Peptide Scaffolds 
Cartilage  2012;4(1):63-74.
Dexamethasone (Dex) is a synthetic glucocorticoid that has pro-anabolic and anti-catabolic effects in cartilage tissue engineering systems, though the mechanisms by which these effects are mediated are not well understood. We tested the hypothesis that the addition of Dex to chondrogenic medium would affect matrix production and aggrecanase activity of human and bovine bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) cultured in self-assembling peptide and agarose hydrogels.
We cultured young bovine and adult human BMSCs in (RADA)4 self-assembling peptide and agarose hydrogels in medium containing TGF-β1±Dex and analyzed extracellular matrix composition, aggrecan cleavage products, and the effects of the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU-486 on proteoglycan content, synthesis, and catabolic processing.
Dex improved proteoglycan synthesis and retention in agarose hydrogels seeded with young bovine cells, but decreased proteoglycan accumulation in peptide scaffolds. These effects were mediated by the glucocorticoid receptor. Adult human BMSCs showed minimal matrix accumulation in agarose, but accumulated ~50% as much proteoglycan and collagen as young bovine BMSCs in peptide hydrogels. Dex reduced aggrecanase activity in (RADA)4 and agarose hydrogels, as measured by anti-NITEGE Western blotting, for both bovine and human BMSC-seeded gels.
The effects of Dex on matrix production are dependent on cell source and hydrogel identity. This is the first report of Dex reducing aggrecanase activity in a tissue engineering culture system.
PMCID: PMC3922645  PMID: 24533173
Chondrogenesis; mesenchymal stem cells; degradative enzymes; articular cartilage; extracellular matrix
19.  Select G-protein coupled receptors modulate agonist-induced signaling via a ROCK, LIMK and β-arrestin 1 pathway 
Cell reports  2013;5(4):10.1016/j.celrep.2013.10.015.
G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are typically present in a basal, inactive state, but when bound to agonist they activate downstream signaling cascades. In studying arrestin regulation of opioid receptors in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons, we find that agonists of delta opioid receptors (δORs) activate cofilin through Rho-associated coiled-coiled containing protein kinase (ROCK), LIM domain kinase (LIMK) and β- arrestin 1 (β-arr1), to regulate actin polymerization. This controls receptor function, as assessed by agonist-induced inhibition of voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels in DRGs. Agonists of opioid-receptor like receptors (ORL1) similarly influence the function of this receptor through ROCK, LIMK and β-arr1. Functional evidence of this cascade was demonstrated in vivo where the behavioral effects of δOR or ORL1 agonists were enhanced in the absence of β-arr1 or prevented by inhibiting ROCK. This pathway allows δOR and ORL1 agonists to rapidly regulate receptor function.
PMCID: PMC3870884  PMID: 24239352
20.  Sequestration of the δ Opioid Receptor 
The Journal of biological chemistry  1996;271(46):29279-29285.
The primary structure of the opioid receptors have revealed that many of the structural features that are conserved in other G protein-coupled receptors are also conserved in the opioid receptors. Upon exposure to agonists, some G protein-coupled receptors internalize rapidly, whereas other structurally homologous G protein-coupled receptors do not. It is not known whether opioid receptors are regulated by rapid endocytosis. In transfected Chinese hamster ovary cells expressing the epitope-tagged wild type δ opioid receptor, exposure to 100 nM [D-Ala2,D-Leu5]enkephalin causes internalization of the receptor within 30 min as determined by confocal microscopy. The rate of internalization of the wild type receptor is rapid with a half-maximal reduction by about 10 min, as determined by the reduction in mean surface receptor fluorescence intensity measured using flow cytometry. In contrast, the cells expressing receptors lacking the C-terminal 15 or 37 amino acids exhibit a substantially slower rate of internalization. Furthermore, the cells expressing receptors with point mutations of any of the Ser/Thr between Ser344 and Ser363 in the C-terminal tail exhibit a significant reduction in the rate of receptor internalization. These results suggest that a portion of the C-terminal tail is involved in receptor internalization. Agents that block the formation of clathrin-coated pits considerably reduce the extent of agonist-mediated internalization of the wild type receptor. Taken together, these results suggest that the wild type opioid receptor undergoes rapid agonist-mediated internalization via a classic endocytic pathway and that a portion of the C-terminal tail plays an important role in this internalization process.
PMCID: PMC3856721  PMID: 8910588
21.  Stable-isotope GC-MS/MS determination of aminoethylcysteine ketimine decarboxylated dimer in biological samples 
Analytical biochemistry  2012;430(1):4-15.
Aminoethylcysteine ketimine decarboxylated dimer [AECK-DD; systematic name: 1,2–3,4–5,6–7,8-octahydro-1,8a-diaza-4,6-dithiafluoren-9(8aH)-one] is a previously described metabolite of cysteamine that has been reported to be present in mammalian brain, urine, plasma, cells in culture and vegetables, and to possess potent anti-oxidative properties. Here, we describe a stable-isotope GC-MS/MS method for specific and sensitive determination of AECK-DD in biological samples. 13C2-AECK-DD was synthesized and used as the internal standard. Derivatization was carried out by N-pentafluorobenzylation with pentafluorobenzyl bromide in acetonitrile. Quantification was performed by selected-reaction monitoring of the mass transitions m/z 328 to m/z 268 for AECK-DD and m/z 330 to m/z 270 for 13C2-AECK-DD in the electron-capture negative-ion chemical ionization mode. The procedure was systematically validated for human plasma and urine samples. AECK-DD was not detectable in human plasma above ~ 4 nM, but was present in urine samples of healthy humans at a maximal concentration of 46 nM. AECK-DD was detectable in rat brain at very low levels of about 8 pmol/g wet weight. Higher levels of AECK-DD were detected in mouse brain (~1 nmol/g wet weight). Among nine dietary vegetables evaluated, only shallots were found to contain trace amounts of AECK-DD (~ 6.8 pmol/g fresh tissue).
PMCID: PMC3462305  PMID: 22858756
AECK-DD; Brain; Cysteamine; GC-MS/MS; Organic cation transporters; Validation; Vegetables
23.  Drug-primed reinstatement of cocaine seeking in mice: increased excitability of medium-sized spiny neurons in the nucleus accumbens 
ASN NEURO  2013;5(4):e00122.
To examine the mechanisms of drug relapse, we first established a model for cocaine IVSA (intravenous self-administration) in mice, and subsequently examined electrophysiological alterations of MSNs (medium-sized spiny neurons) in the NAc (nucleus accumbens) before and after acute application of cocaine in slices. Three groups were included: master mice trained by AL (active lever) pressings followed by IV (intravenous) cocaine delivery, yoked mice that received passive IV cocaine administration initiated by paired master mice, and saline controls. MSNs recorded in the NAc shell in master mice exhibited higher membrane input resistances but lower frequencies and smaller amplitudes of sEPSCs (spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents) compared with neurons recorded from saline control mice, whereas cells in the NAc core had higher sEPSCs frequencies and larger amplitudes. Furthermore, sEPSCs in MSNs of the shell compartment displayed longer decay times, suggesting that both pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms were involved. After acute re-exposure to a low-dose of cocaine in vitro, an AP (action potential)-dependent, persistent increase in sEPSC frequency was observed in both NAc shell and core MSNs from master, but not yoked or saline control mice. Furthermore, re-exposure to cocaine induced membrane hyperpolarization, but concomitantly increased excitability of MSNs from master mice, as evidenced by increased membrane input resistance, decreased depolarizing current to generate APs, and a more negative Thr (threshold) for firing. These data demonstrate functional differences in NAc MSNs after chronic contingent versus non-contingent IV cocaine administration in mice, as well as synaptic adaptations of MSNs before and after acute re-exposure to cocaine. Reversing these functional alterations in NAc could represent a rational target for the treatment of some reward-related behaviors, including drug addiction.
PMCID: PMC3789142  PMID: 24000958
intravenous self-administration; nucleus accumbens; relapse; synaptic transmission; AHP, afterhyperpolarization; AL, active lever; BIC, bicuculline; Coc, cocaine; CsMeth, Cs-Methanesulfonate; FR, fixed ratio; GABA, γ-aminobutyric acid; IAL, inactive lever; IC, current clamp; IVSA, intravenous self-administration; KGluc, K-gluconate internal solution; mEPSCs, miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents; MSNs, medium-sized spiny neurons; NAc, nucleus accumbens; Rin, resistance; rm, repeated measure; RMP, resting membrane potential; sEPSCs, spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents; sIPSCs, spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents; Thr, threshold; TTX, tetrodotoxin; VC, voltage clamp
24.  EWS-FLI-1-targeted cytotoxic T-cell killing of multiple tumor types belonging to the Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors* 
The Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors (ESFTs) comprises a group of aggressive, malignant bone and soft tissue tumors that predominantly affect children and young adults. These tumors frequently share expression of the EWS-FLI-1 translocation, which is central to tumor survival but not present in healthy cells. In this study, we examined EWS-FLI-1 antigens for their capacity to induce immunity against a range of ESFT types.
Computer prediction analysis of peptide binding, HLA-A2.1 stabilization assays, and induction of Cytotoxic T-Lymphocytes (CTL) in immunized HLA-A2.1 transgenic mice were used to assess the immunogenicity of native and modified peptides derived from the fusion region of EWS-FLI-1 type 1. CTL-killing of multiple ESFT family members in vitro, and control of established xenografts in vivo, was assessed. We also examined whether these peptides could induce human CTLs in vitro.
EWS-FLI-1 type 1 peptides were unable to stabilize cell surface HLA-A2.1 and induced weak CTL activity against Ewing Sarcoma cells. In contrast, peptides with modified anchor residues induced potent CTL killing of Ewing Sarcoma cells presenting endogenous (native) peptides. The adoptive transfer of CTL specific for the modified peptide YLNPSVDSV resulted in enhanced survival of mice with established Ewing Sarcoma xenografts. YLNPSVDSV-specific CTL displayed potent killing of multiple ESFT types in vitro: Ewing Sarcoma, pPNET, Askin’s Tumor, and Biphenotypic Sarcoma. Stimulation of human Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells with YLNPSVDSV peptide resulted in potent CTL-killing.
These data show that YLNPSVDSV peptide is a promising antigen for ESFT immunotherapy and warrants further clinical development.
PMCID: PMC3463738  PMID: 22879388
Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors; Ewing Sarcoma; pPNET; Askin’s Tumor; Biphenotypic sarcoma; EWS-FLI-1; Immunotherapy; vaccine; cancer; HLA-A2.1; HLA-A*0201
25.  Pharmacological Tuning of Heat Shock Protein 70 Modulates Polyglutamine Toxicity and Aggregation 
ACS chemical biology  2012;7(9):1556-1564.
Nine neurodegenerative disorders are caused by the abnormal expansion of polyglutamine (polyQ) regions within distinct proteins. Genetic and biochemical evidence has documented that the molecular chaperone, heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70), modulates polyQ toxicity and aggregation, yet it remains unclear how Hsp70 might be used as a potential target in polyQ-related diseases. We have utilized a pair of membrane-permeable compounds that tune the activity of Hsp70 by either stimulating or by inhibiting its ATPase functions. Using these two pharmacological agents in both yeast and PC12 cell models of polyQ aggregation and toxicity, we were surprised to find that stimulating Hsp70 solubilized polyQ conformers and simultaneously exacerbated polyQ-mediated toxicity. By contrast, inhibiting Hsp70’s ATPase activity protected against polyQ toxicity and promoted aggregation. These findings clarify Hsp70’s role as a possible drug target in polyQ disorders and suggest that Hsp70 uses ATP hydrolysis to help partition polyQ proteins into structures with varying levels of proteotoxicity. Our results thus support an emerging concept in which certain kinds of polyQ aggregates may be protective, while more soluble polyQ species are toxic.
PMCID: PMC3448832  PMID: 22709427
polyQ; protein misfolding; molecular chaperones; heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70); proteostasis; chemical genetics; chemical probes

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