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1.  β-catenin is a central mediator of pro-fibrotic Wnt signaling in systemic sclerosis 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;71(5):761-767.
Objectives
Pathologic fibroblast activation drives fibrosis of the skin and internal organs in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc). β-catenin is an integral part of adherens junctions and a central component of canonical Wnt signaling. Here, the authors addressed the role of β-catenin in fibroblasts for the development of SSc dermal fibrosis.
Methods
Nuclear accumulation of β-catenin in fibroblasts was assessed by triple staining for β-catenin, prolyl-4-hydroxylase-β and 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI). The expression of Wnt proteins in the skin was analysed by real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry. Mice with fibroblast-specific stabilisation or fibroblast-specific depletion were used to evaluate the role of β-catenin in fibrosis.
Results
The auhors found significantly increased nuclear levels of β-catenin in fibroblasts in SSc skin compared to fibroblasts in the skin of healthy individuals. The accumulation of β-catenin resulted from increased expression of Wnt-1 and Wnt-10b in SSc. The authors further showed that the nuclear accumulation of β-catenin has direct implications for the development of fibrosis: Mice with fibroblast-specific stabilisation of β-catenin rapidly developed fibrosis within 2 weeks with dermal thickening, accumulation of collagen and differentiation of resting fibroblasts into myofibroblasts. By contrast, fibroblast-specific deletion of β-catenin significantly reduced bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis.
Conclusions
The present study findings identify β-catenin as a key player of fibroblast activation and tissue fibrosis in SSc. Although further translational studies are necessary to test the efficacy and tolerability of β-catenin/Wnt inhibition in SSc, the present findings may have clinical implications, because selective inhibitors of β-catenin/Wnt signaling have recently entered clinical trials.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200568
PMCID: PMC3951949  PMID: 22328737
2.  Low Intensity and Frequency Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields Selectively Impair Breast Cancer Cell Viability 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e72944.
Introduction
A common drawback of many anticancer therapies is non-specificity in action of killing. We investigated the potential of ultra-low intensity and frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) to kill breast cancer cells. Our criteria to accept this technology as a potentially valid therapeutic approach were: 1) cytotoxicity to breast cancer cells and; 2) that the designed fields proved innocuous to healthy cell classes that would be exposed to the PEMFs during clinical treatment.
Methods
MCF7 breast cancer cells and their normal counterparts, MCF10 cells, were exposed to PEMFs and cytotoxic indices measured in order to design PEMF paradigms that best kill breast cancer cells. The PEMF parameters tested were: 1) frequencies ranging from 20 to 50 Hz; 2) intensities ranging from 2 mT to 5 mT and; 3) exposure durations ranging from 30 to 90 minutes per day for up to three days to determine the optimum parameters for selective cancer cell killing.
Results
We observed a discrete window of vulnerability of MCF7 cells to PEMFs of 20 Hz frequency, 3 mT magnitude and exposure duration of 60 minutes per day. The cell damage accrued in response to PEMFs increased with time and gained significance after three days of consecutive daily exposure. By contrast, the PEMFs parameters determined to be most cytotoxic to breast cancer MCF-7 cells were not damaging to normal MCF-10 cells.
Conclusion
Based on our data it appears that PEMF-based anticancer strategies may represent a new therapeutic approach to treat breast cancer without affecting normal tissues in a manner that is non-invasive and can be potentially combined with existing anti-cancer treatments.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072944
PMCID: PMC3770670  PMID: 24039828
3.  The extracellular release of DNA and HMGB1 from Jurkat T cells during in vitro necrotic cell death 
Innate immunity  2012;18(5):727-737.
In innate immunity, dead and dying cells release internal constituents that can serve as DAMPs (damage-associated molecular patterns) or alarmins. This release occurs more abundantly during necrosis than apoptosis and may account for the differences in the immunological properties of these death forms. To elucidate DAMP release in necrosis, we have compared the levels of two nuclear molecules (DNA and HMGB1, a non-histone protein with alarmin activity) in the media following necrosis of Jurkat T cells by freeze-thawing, ethanol, heat or hydrogen peroxide. In our experiments, DNA release was measured by fluorimetry with the dye PicoGreen, while HMGB1 was measured by Western blotting. As results of this study show, each form of necrosis is associated with a distinct pattern of DNA and HMGB1 release with respect to kinetics and amounts. Of these, freeze-thawing produced the highest and most rapid increase in HMGB1 and DNA levels although the released DNA was subject to nuclease digestion; in addition, freeze-thawing led to the production of particles measured by flow cytometry. Together, these results indicate that experimental necrosis leads to diverse patterns of nuclear molecule release which could affect their immunological activity.
doi:10.1177/1753425912437981
PMCID: PMC3724467  PMID: 22344226
alarmin; DNA; HMGB1; immune activation; necrosis
4.  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.
doi:10.1084/jem.20101629
PMCID: PMC3092343  PMID: 21518801
5.  The scientific basis for novel treatments of systemic sclerosis 
In recent years, many potential antifibrotic treatment strategies have emerged from molecular studies of systemic sclerosis. Few biologicals have already entered clinical trials and these may hopefully prove to be effective in this progressive, profibrotic disease.
doi:10.3410/M1-95
PMCID: PMC2948335  PMID: 20948682
6.  Hypoxia. Hypoxia in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis 
Autoimmunity, microangiopathy and tissue fibrosis are hallmarks of systemic sclerosis (SSc). Vascular alterations and reduced capillary density decrease blood flow and impair tissue oxygenation in SSc. Oxygen supply is further reduced by accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM), which increases diffusion distances from blood vessels to cells. Therefore, severe hypoxia is a characteristic feature of SSc and might contribute directly to the progression of the disease. Hypoxia stimulates the production of ECM proteins by SSc fibroblasts in a transforming growth factor-β-dependent manner. The induction of ECM proteins by hypoxia is mediated via hypoxia-inducible factor-1α-dependent and -independent pathways. Hypoxia may also aggravate vascular disease in SSc by perturbing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor signalling. Hypoxia is a potent inducer of VEGF and may cause chronic VEGF over-expression in SSc. Uncontrolled over-expression of VEGF has been shown to have deleterious effects on angiogenesis because it leads to the formation of chaotic vessels with decreased blood flow. Altogether, hypoxia might play a central role in pathogenesis of SSc by augmenting vascular disease and tissue fibrosis.
doi:10.1186/ar2598
PMCID: PMC2688169  PMID: 19473554
7.  SIV escape mutants in rhesus macaques vaccinated with NEF-derived lipopeptides and challenged with pathogenic SIVmac251 
Virology Journal  2006;3:65.
Background
Emergence of viral variants that escape CTL control is a major hurdle in HIV vaccination unless such variants affect gene regions that are essential for virus replication. Vaccine-induced multispecific CTL could also be able to control viral variants replication. To explore these possibilities, we extensively characterized CTL responses following vaccination with an epitope-based lipopeptide vaccine and challenge with pathogenic SIVmac251. The viral sequences corresponding to the epitopes present in the vaccine as well as the viral loads were then determined in every macaque following SIV inoculation.
Results
In most cases, the emergence of several viral variants or mutants within vaccine CTL epitopes after SIV challenge resulted in increased viral loads except for a single macaque, which showed a single escape viral variant within its 6 vaccine-induced CTL epitopes.
Conclusion
These findings provide a better understanding of the evolution of CD8+ epitope variations after vaccination-induced CTL expansion and might provide new insight for the development of an effective HIV vaccine.
doi:10.1186/1743-422X-3-65
PMCID: PMC1613241  PMID: 16945152
8.  Detection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Nef and CD4 Physical Interaction in Living Human Cells by Using Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(13):8629-8636.
CD4 down-regulation by human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Nef protein is a key function for virus virulence. This activity may be mediated by a direct Nef-CD4 interaction. We investigated the formation, in situ, of such a complex between proteins using bioluminescence resonance energy transfer technology and coimmunoprecipitations. Our data clearly demonstrate that Nef and CD4 interact in intact human cells. Moreover, our results clearly indicate that the dileucine motif of the CD4 cytoplasmic domain, critical for the Nef-induced CD4 down-regulation, is not implicated in the Nef/CD4 complex formation in the cellular context.
doi:10.1128/JVI.79.13.8629-8636.2005
PMCID: PMC1143710  PMID: 15956605
9.  Activation of canonical Wnt signalling is required for TGF-β-mediated fibrosis 
Nature Communications  2012;3:735-.
The transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signalling pathway is a key mediator of fibroblast activation that drives the aberrant synthesis of extracellular matrix in fibrotic diseases. Here we demonstrate a novel link between transforming growth factor-β and the canonical Wnt pathway. TGF-β stimulates canonical Wnt signalling in a p38-dependent manner by decreasing the expression of the Wnt antagonist Dickkopf-1. Tissue samples from human fibrotic diseases show enhanced expression of Wnt proteins and decreased expression of Dickkopf-1. Activation of the canonical Wnt pathway stimulates fibroblasts in vitro and induces fibrosis in vivo. Transgenic overexpression of Dickkopf-1 ameliorates skin fibrosis induced by constitutively active TGF-β receptor type I signalling and also prevents fibrosis in other TGF-β-dependent animal models. These findings demonstrate that canonical Wnt signalling is necessary for TGF-β-mediated fibrosis and highlight a key role for the interaction of both pathways in the pathogenesis of fibrotic diseases.
Aberrant activation of the TGF-β pathway leads to fibrotic disease. Distler and colleagues show that TGF-β-mediated fibrosis requires the decrease of Dickkopf-1, an antagonist of canonical Wnt signalling, suggesting that the two pathways interact for the manifestation of this disease.
doi:10.1038/ncomms1734
PMCID: PMC3316881  PMID: 22415826

Results 1-9 (9)