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1.  Angiotensin 1-7 Reduces Mortality and Rupture of Intracranial Aneurysms in Mice 
Hypertension  2014;64(2):362-368.
Angiotensin II (Ang-II) stimulates vascular inflammation, oxidative stress, and formation and rupture of intracranial aneurysms in mice. Because angiotensin 1-7 (Ang-1-7) acts on Mas receptors and generally counteracts deleterious effects of Ang-II, we tested the hypothesis that Ang-1-7 attenuates formation and rupture of intracranial aneurysms. Intracranial aneurysms were induced in wild type and Mas receptor deficient mice using a combination of Ang-II-induced hypertension and intracranial injection of elastase in the basal cistern. Mice received elastase+Ang-II alone, or a combination of elastase+Ang-II+Ang-1-7. Aneurysm formation, prevalence of subarachnoid hemorrhage, mortality, and expression of molecules involved in vascular injury were assessed. Systolic blood pressure was similar in mice receiving elastase+Ang-II (148±5 mmHg, mean ±SE) or elastase+Ang-II+Ang-1-7 (144±5 mmHg). Aneurysm formation was also similar in mice receiving elastase+Ang-II (89%) or elastase+Ang-II+Ang-1-7 (84%). However, in mice that received elastase and Ang II, Ang-1-7 reduced mortality (from 64 to 36%, p<0.05) and prevalence of subarachnoid hemorrhage (from 75 to 48%, p<0.05). In cerebral arteries, expression of the inflammatory markers, Nox2 and catalase increased similarly in elastase+Ang-II or elastase+Ang-II+Ang-1-7 groups. Ang-1-7 increased expression of cyclooxygenase-2, and decreased expression of metalloproteinase 9 induced by elastase+Ang-II (p<0.05). In Mas receptor deficient mice, systolic blood pressure, mortality, and prevalence of subarachnoid hemorrhage were similar (p>0.05) in groups treated with elastase+Ang-II or elastase+Ang-II+Ang-1-7. Expression of Mas receptor was detected by immunohistochemistry in samples of human intracranial arteries and aneurysms. In conclusion, without attenuating Ang-II-induced hypertension, Ang-1-7 decreased mortality and rupture of intracranial aneurysms in mice, through a Mas receptor-dependent pathway.
PMCID: PMC4096422  PMID: 24799613
Angiotensin-1-7; intracranial aneurysm; subarachnoid hemorrhage; Mas receptor; hypertension
2.  Measurement of plasma, serum, and platelet serotonin in individuals with high bone mass and mutations in LRP5 
It has recently been suggested that the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 5 (LRP5) regulates bone mass by suppressing secretion of serotonin from duodenal enterochromaffin cells. In mice with targeted expression of a high bone mass-causing (HBM-causing) LRP5 mutation and in humans with HBM LRP5 mutations, circulating serotonin levels have been reported to be lower than in controls while individuals with loss-of-function mutations in LRP5 have high blood serotonin. In contrast, others have reported that conditionally activating a knock-in allele of an HBM-causing LRP5 mutation in several tissues, or genetic deletion of LRP5 in mice has no effect on serum serotonin levels. To further explore the possible association between HBM-causing LRP5 mutations and circulating serotonin, levels of the hormone were measured in the platelet poor plasma (PPP), serum, and platelet pellet (PP) of 16 affected individuals from 2 kindreds with HBM-causing LRP5 mutations (G171V and N198S) and 16 age-matched controls. When analyzed by HPLC, there were no differences in levels of serotonin in PPP and PP between affected individuals and age-matched controls. Similarly, when analyzed by ELISA, there were no differences in PPP or PP between these two groups. By ELISA, serum levels of serotonin were higher in the affected individuals when compared to age-matched controls. A subgroup analysis of only the G171V subjects (n=14) demonstrated that there were no differences in PPP and PP serotonin between affected individuals and controls when analyzed by HPLC. PP serotonin was lower in the affected individuals when measured by ELISA but serum serotonin levels were not different. We conclude that there is no change in PPP serotonin in individuals with HBM-causing mutations in LRP5.
PMCID: PMC3935983  PMID: 24038240
Wnt/Beta-catenin/LRPs; Osteoporosis; Other ; Osteoblasts; DXA
3.  Reduced isolation-induced pup ultrasonic communication in mouse pups lacking brain serotonin 
Molecular Autism  2015;6:13.
Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) is a key modulatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS) that plays an important role as a developmental signal. Several lines of evidence associate altered 5-HT signaling with psychopathology in humans, particularly neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). ASD are characterized by persistent social and communication deficits along with stereotyped and repetitive patterns of behavior, with all symptoms emerging early during development.
Here, we employed a mouse model devoid of brain 5-HT due to the lack of the gene encoding tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (Tph2), the initial and rate-limiting enzyme of 5-HT synthesis in the CNS. Tph2 null mutant (Tph2-/-) mice show normal prenatal development; however, they display for yet unknown reasons severe growth retardation during the first postnatal weeks. We investigated, therefore, whether Tph2-/- mice display deficits in isolation-induced ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) as pups during early life. Isolation-induced USV are the most commonly studied behavioral measure to assess developmental delays and communication deficits in rodent models for ASD, particularly as they serve an important communicative function in coordinating mother-pup interactions.
Tph2-/- mouse pups displayed a clear deficit in the emission of isolation-induced USV, as compared to heterozygous and wildtype littermates, exactly during growth retardation onset, including reduced call numbers and deficits in call clustering and temporal organization.
The ultrasonic communication impairment displayed by Tph2-/- mouse pups is likely to result in a deficient mother-infant interaction, presumably contributing to their growth retardation phenotype, and represents a prominent feature relevant to ASD.
PMCID: PMC4404606  PMID: 25901271
Animal models; Serotonin; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Autism; Communication; Ultrasonic vocalizations
4.  Postnatal Growth Defects in Mice with Constitutive Depletion of Central Serotonin 
ACS Chemical Neuroscience  2012;4(1):171-181.
Although the trophic actions of serotonin (5-HT) are well established, only few developmental defects have been reported in mouse strains with constitutive hyposerotonergia. We analyzed postnatal growth and cortical development in three different mutant mouse strains with constitutive reductions in central 5-HT levels. We compared two previously published mouse strains with severe (−95%) depletions of 5-HT, the tryptophan hydroxylase (Tph) 2–/– mouse line and VMAT2sert-cre mice, with a new strain, in which VMAT2 deletion is driven by Pet1 (VMAT2pet1-cre) in 5-HT raphe neurons leading to partial (−75%) reduction in brain 5-HT levels. We find that normal embryonic growth and postnatal growth retardation are common features of all these mouse strains. Postnatal growth retardation varied from mild to severe according to the extent of the brain 5-HT reduction and gender. Normal growth was reinstated in VMAT2sert-cre mice by reconstituting central 5-HT stores. Growth abnormalities could not be linked to altered food intake or temperature control. Morphological study of the cerebral cortex over postnatal development showed a delayed maturation of the upper cortical layers in the VMAT2sert-cre and Tph2–/– mice, but not in the VMAT2pet1-cre mice. No changes in layer-specific gene expression or morphological alterations of barrel cortex development were found. Overall, these observations sustain the notion that central 5-HT signaling is required for the preweaning growth spurt of mouse pups. Brain development appeared to be immune to severe central 5-HT depletion for its overall growth during prenatal life, whereas reduced brain growth and delayed cortical maturation development occurred during postnatal life. Reduced developmental 5-HT signaling during postnatal development might modulate the function and fine structure of neural circuits in ways that affect adult behavior.
PMCID: PMC3547491  PMID: 23336056
Cerebral cortex; development; somatic growth; knockout mice; vesicular monoamine transporter; tryptophan hydroxylase; cux1
5.  Kinin B1 Receptor in Adipocytes Regulates Glucose Tolerance and Predisposition to Obesity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44782.
Kinins participate in the pathophysiology of obesity and type 2 diabetes by mechanisms which are not fully understood. Kinin B1 receptor knockout mice (B1−/−) are leaner and exhibit improved insulin sensitivity.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we show that kinin B1 receptors in adipocytes play a role in controlling whole body insulin action and glucose homeostasis. Adipocytes isolated from mouse white adipose tissue (WAT) constitutively express kinin B1 receptors. In these cells, treatment with the B1 receptor agonist des-Arg9-bradykinin improved insulin signaling, GLUT4 translocation, and glucose uptake. Adipocytes from B1−/− mice showed reduced GLUT4 expression and impaired glucose uptake at both basal and insulin-stimulated states. To investigate the consequences of these phenomena to whole body metabolism, we generated mice where the expression of the kinin B1 receptor was limited to cells of the adipose tissue (aP2-B1/B1−/−). Similarly to B1−/− mice, aP2-B1/B1−/− mice were leaner than wild type controls. However, exclusive expression of the kinin B1 receptor in adipose tissue completely rescued the improved systemic insulin sensitivity phenotype of B1−/− mice. Adipose tissue gene expression analysis also revealed that genes involved in insulin signaling were significantly affected by the presence of the kinin B1 receptor in adipose tissue. In agreement, GLUT4 expression and glucose uptake were increased in fat tissue of aP2-B1/B1−/− when compared to B1−/− mice. When subjected to high fat diet, aP2-B1/B1−/− mice gained more weight than B1−/− littermates, becoming as obese as the wild types.
Thus, kinin B1 receptor participates in the modulation of insulin action in adipocytes, contributing to systemic insulin sensitivity and predisposition to obesity.
PMCID: PMC3443087  PMID: 23024762
6.  Lrp5 functions in bone to regulate bone mass 
Nature medicine  2011;17(6):684-691.
The human skeleton is affected by mutations in Low-density lipoprotein Receptor-related Protein 5 (LRP5). To understand how LRP5 influences bone properties, we generated mice with inducible Lrp5 mutations that cause high bone mass and low bone mass phenotypes in humans. We conditionally-induced Lrp5 mutations in osteocytes and found that bone properties in these mice were comparable to bone properties in mice with inherited mutations. We also conditionally-induced an Lrp5 mutation in cells that contribute to the appendicular skeleton, and not to the axial skeleton, and we observed bone properties were altered in the limbs, and not in the spine. These data indicate that Lrp5 signaling functions locally and suggest increasing LRP5 signaling in mature bone cells as a strategy to treat human low bone mass disorders, such as osteoporosis.
PMCID: PMC3113461  PMID: 21602802
7.  Platelet-derived serotonin links vascular disease and tissue fibrosis 
Blocking 5-HT2B receptor provides a therapeutic target for fibrotic diseases caused by activated platelet release of serotonin during vascular damage.
Vascular damage and platelet activation are associated with tissue remodeling in diseases such as systemic sclerosis, but the molecular mechanisms underlying this association have not been identified. In this study, we show that serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) stored in platelets strongly induces extracellular matrix synthesis in interstitial fibroblasts via activation of 5-HT2B receptors (5-HT2B) in a transforming growth factor β (TGF-β)–dependent manner. Dermal fibrosis was reduced in 5-HT2B−/− mice using both inducible and genetic models of fibrosis. Pharmacologic inactivation of 5-HT2B also effectively prevented the onset of experimental fibrosis and ameliorated established fibrosis. Moreover, inhibition of platelet activation prevented fibrosis in different models of skin fibrosis. Consistently, mice deficient for TPH1, the rate-limiting enzyme for 5-HT production outside the central nervous system, showed reduced experimental skin fibrosis. These findings suggest that 5-HT/5-HT2B signaling links vascular damage and platelet activation to tissue remodeling and identify 5-HT2B as a novel therapeutic target to treat fibrotic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3092343  PMID: 21518801
8.  Derivation, Characterization, and Stable Transfection of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells from Fischer344 Rats 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27345.
The rat represents an important animal model that, in many respects, is superior to the mouse for dissecting behavioral, cardiovascular and other physiological pathologies relevant to humans. Derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells from rats (riPS) opens the opportunity for gene targeting in specific rat strains, as well as for the development of new protocols for the treatment of different degenerative diseases. Here, we report an improved lentivirus-based hit-and-run riPS derivation protocol that makes use of small inhibitors of MEK and GSK3. We demonstrate that the excision of proviruses does not affect either the karyotype or the differentiation ability of these cells. We show that the established riPS cells are readily amenable to genetic manipulations such as stable electroporation. Finally, we propose a genetic tool for an improvement of riPS cell quality in culture. These data may prompt iPS cell-based gene targeting in rat as well as the development of iPS cell-based therapies using disease models established in this species.
PMCID: PMC3208629  PMID: 22076153
9.  An orally active formulation of angiotensin-(1-7) produces an antithrombotic effect 
Clinics  2011;66(5):837-841.
The heptapeptide angiotensin-(1-7) is a component of the renin-angiotensin system, which promotes many beneficial cardiovascular effects, including antithrombotic activity. We have recently shown that the antithrombotic effect of angiotensin-(1-7) involves receptor Mas-mediated NO-release from platelets. Here, we describe an orally active formulation based on angiotensin-(1-7) inclusion in cyclodextrin [Ang-(1-7)- CyD] as an antithrombotic agent. Cyclodextrins are pharmaceutical tools that are used to enhance drug stability, absorption across biological barriers and gastric protection.
To test the antithrombotic effect of Ang-(1-7)-CyD, thrombus formation was induced in the abdominal vena cava of spontaneously hypertensive rats that were pretreated either acutely or chronically with Ang-(1-7)-CyD. Male Mas-knockout and wild-type mice were used to verify the role of the Mas receptor on the effect of Ang-(1-7)-CyD.
Acute or chronic oral treatment with Ang-(1-7)-CyD promoted an antithrombotic effect (measured by thrombus weight; all values are, respectively, untreated vs. treated animals) in spontaneously hypertensive rats (acute: 2.86 ± 0.43 mg vs. 1.14 ± 0.40 mg; chronic: 4.27 ± 1.03 mg vs. 1.39 ± 0.68 mg). This effect was abolished in Mas-knockout mice (thrombus weight in Mas wild-type: 0.76 ± 0.10 mg vs. 0.37 ± 0.02 mg; thrombus weight in Mas-knockout: 0.96 ± 0.11 mg vs. 0.87 ± 0.14 mg). Furthermore, the antithrombotic effect of Ang-(1-7)-CyD was associated with an increase in the plasma level of Angiotensin-(1-7).
These results show for the first time that the oral formulation Ang-(1-7)-CyD has biological activity and produces a Mas-dependent antithrombotic effect.
PMCID: PMC3109384  PMID: 21789389
Angiotensin-(1-7); renin-angiotensin-system; receptor Mas; antithrombotic; cyclodextrin
10.  Importin α7 Is Essential for Zygotic Genome Activation and Early Mouse Development 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e18310.
Importin α is involved in the nuclear import of proteins. It also contributes to spindle assembly and nuclear membrane formation, however, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we studied the function of importin α7 by gene targeting in mice and show that it is essential for early embryonic development. Embryos lacking importin α7 display a reduced ability for the first cleavage and arrest completely at the two-cell stage. We show that the zygotic genome activation is severely disturbed in these embryos. Our findings indicate that importin α7 is a new member of the small group of maternal effect genes.
PMCID: PMC3066239  PMID: 21479251
11.  Altered Gene Expression in Pulmonary Tissue of Tryptophan Hydroxylase-1 Knockout Mice: Implications for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17735.
The use of fenfluramines can increase the risk of developing pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) in humans, but the mechanisms responsible are unresolved. A recent study reported that female mice lacking the gene for tryptophan hydroxylase-1 (Tph1(−/−) mice) were protected from PAH caused by chronic dexfenfluramine, suggesting a pivotal role for peripheral serotonin (5-HT) in the disease process. Here we tested two alternative hypotheses which might explain the lack of dexfenfluramine-induced PAH in Tph1(−/−) mice. We postulated that: 1) Tph1(−/−) mice express lower levels of pulmonary 5-HT transporter (SERT) when compared to wild-type controls, and 2) Tph1(−/−) mice display adaptive changes in the expression of non-serotonergic pulmonary genes which are implicated in PAH. SERT was measured using radioligand binding methods, whereas gene expression was measured using microarrays followed by quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR). Contrary to our first hypothesis, the number of pulmonary SERT sites was modestly up-regulated in female Tph1(−/−) mice. The expression of 51 distinct genes was significantly altered in the lungs of female Tph1(−/−) mice. Consistent with our second hypothesis, qRT-PCR confirmed that at least three genes implicated in the pathogenesis of PAH were markedly up-regulated: Has2, Hapln3 and Retlna. The finding that female Tph1(−/−) mice are protected from dexfenfluramine-induced PAH could be related to compensatory changes in pulmonary gene expression, in addition to reductions in peripheral 5-HT. These observations emphasize the intrinsic limitation of interpreting data from studies conducted in transgenic mice that are not fully characterized.
PMCID: PMC3064573  PMID: 21464983
12.  Characterization of Trophoblast and Extraembryonic Endoderm Cell Lineages Derived from Rat Preimplantation Embryos 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9794.
Previous attempts to isolate pluripotent cell lines from rat preimplantation embryo in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell culture conditions (serum and LIF) were unsuccessful, however the resulting cells exhibited the expression of such traditional pluripotency markers as SSEA-1 and alkaline phosphatase. We addressed the question, which kind of cell lineages are produced from rat preimplantation embryo under “classical” mouse ES conditions.
We characterized two cell lines (C5 and B10) which were obtained from rat blastocysts in medium with serum and LIF. In the B10 cell line we found the expression of genes known to be expressed in trophoblast, Cdx-2, cytokeratin-7, and Hand-1. Also, B10 cells invaded the trophectodermal layer upon injection into rat blastocysts. In contrast to mouse Trophoblast Stem (TS) cells proliferation of B10 cells occurred independently of FGF4. Cells of the C5 line expressed traditional markers of extraembryonic-endoderm (XEN) cells, in particular, GATA-4, but also the pluripotency markers SSEA-1 and Oct-4. C5 cell proliferation exhibited dependence on LIF, which is not known to be required by mouse XEN cells.
Our results confirm and extend previous findings about differences between blastocyst-derived cell lines of rat and mice. Our data show, that the B10 cell line represents a population of FGF4-independent rat TS-like cells. C5 cells show features that have recently become known as characteristic of rat XEN cells. Early passages of C5 and B10 cells contained both, TS and XEN cells. We speculate, that mechanisms maintaining self-renewal of cell lineages in rat preimplantation embryo and their in vitro counterparts, including ES, TS and XEN cells are different than in respective mouse lineages.
PMCID: PMC2848026  PMID: 20369002
14.  Connective Tissue Growth Factor Overexpression in Cardiomyocytes Promotes Cardiac Hypertrophy and Protection against Pressure Overload 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6743.
Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is a secreted protein that is strongly induced in human and experimental heart failure. CTGF is said to be profibrotic; however, the precise function of CTGF is unclear. We generated transgenic mice and rats with cardiomyocyte-specific CTGF overexpression (CTGF-TG). To investigate CTGF as a fibrosis inducer, we performed morphological and gene expression analyses of CTGF-TG mice and rat hearts under basal conditions and after stimulation with angiotensin II (Ang II) or isoproterenol, respectively. Surprisingly, cardiac tissues of both models did not show increased fibrosis or enhanced gene expression of fibrotic markers. In contrast to controls, Ang II treated CTGF-TG mice displayed preserved cardiac function. However, CTGF-TG mice developed age-dependent cardiac dysfunction at the age of 7 months. CTGF related heart failure was associated with Akt and JNK activation, but not with the induction of natriuretic peptides. Furthermore, cardiomyocytes from CTGF-TG mice showed unaffected cellular contractility and an increased Ca2+ reuptake from sarcoplasmatic reticulum. In an ischemia/reperfusion model CTGF-TG hearts did not differ from controls.
Our data suggest that CTGF itself does not induce cardiac fibrosis. Moreover, it is involved in hypertrophy induction and cellular remodeling depending on the cardiac stress stimulus. Our new transgenic animals are valuable models for reconsideration of CTGF's profibrotic function in the heart.
PMCID: PMC2727794  PMID: 19707545
15.  Inducible Transgenic Rat Model for Diabetes Mellitus Based on shRNA-Mediated Gene Knockdown 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5124.
The rat is an important animal model in biomedical research, but gene targeting technology is not established for this species. Therefore, we aimed to produce transgenic knockdown rats using shRNA technology and pronuclear microinjection. To this purpose, we employed a tetracycline-inducible shRNA expression system targeting the insulin receptor (IR). Doxycycline (DOX) treatment of the resulting transgenic rats led to a dose-dependent and reversible increase in blood glucose caused by ubiquitous inhibition of IR expression and signalling. We could neither detect an interferon response nor disturbances in microRNA processing after DOX treatment excluding toxic effects of shRNA expression. Low dose DOX treatment induced a chronic state of diabetes mellitus. In conclusion, we have developed a technology which allows the specific, inducible, and reversible suppression of any gene of interest in the rat. Our first transgenic rat line generated with this method represents an inducible model for diabetes mellitus.
PMCID: PMC2659743  PMID: 19340286
16.  Restricted mobility of Dnmt1 in preimplantation embryos: implications for epigenetic reprogramming 
Mouse preimplantation development is characterized by both active and passive genomic demethylation. A short isoform of the prevalent maintenance DNA methyltransferase (Dnmt1S) is found in the cytoplasm of preimplantation embryos and transiently enters the nucleus only at the 8-cell stage.
Using GFP fusions we show that both the long and short isoforms of Dnmt1 localize to the nucleus of somatic cells and the cytoplasm of preimplantation embryos and that these subcellular localization properties are independent of phosphorylation. Importantly, photobleaching techniques and salt extraction revealed that Dnmt1S has a very restricted mobility in the cytoplasm, while it is highly mobile in the nucleus of preimplantation embryos.
The restricted mobility of Dnmt1S limits its access to DNA and likely contributes to passive demethylation and epigenetic reprogramming during preimplantationdevelopment.
PMCID: PMC1208874  PMID: 16120212

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