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1.  In vivo endothelial siRNA delivery using polymeric nanoparticles with low molecular weight 
Nature nanotechnology  2014;9(8):648-655.
Dysfunctional endothelium contributes to more disease than any other tissue in the body. Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) have the potential to help study and treat endothelial cells in vivo by durably silencing multiple genes simultaneously, but efficient siRNA delivery has so far remained challenging. Here we show that polymeric nanoparticles made of low molecular weight polyamines and lipids can deliver siRNA to endothelial cells with high efficiency, thereby facilitating the simultaneous silencing of multiple endothelial genes in vivo. Unlike lipid or lipid-like nanoparticles, this formulation does not significantly reduce gene expression in hepatocytes or immune cells even at the dosage necessary for endothelial gene silencing. It mediates the most durable non-liver silencing reported to date, and facilitates the delivery of siRNAs that modify endothelial function in mouse models of vascular permeability, emphysema, primary tumour growth, and metastasis. We believe these nanoparticles improve the ability to study endothelial gene function in vivo, and may be used to treat diseases caused by vascular dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC4207430  PMID: 24813696
2.  Nanoparticle-formulated siRNA targeting integrins inhibits hepatocellular carcinoma progression in mice 
Nature communications  2014;5:3869.
Integrins play an important role during development, regulating cell differentiation, proliferation and survival. Here we show that knockdown of integrin subunits slows down the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Using nanoparticulate delivery of short interfering RNAs targeting β1 and αv integrin subunits we downregulate all integrin receptors in hepatocytes. Short-term integrin knockdown (two weeks) does not cause apparent structural or functional perturbations of normal liver tissue. Alterations in liver morphology accumulate upon sustained integrin downregulation (seven weeks). The integrin knockdown leads to significant retardation of HCC progression, reducing proliferation and increasing tumour cell death. This tumour retardation is accompanied by reduced activation of MET oncogene as well as expression of its mature form on the cell surface. Our data suggest that transformed proliferating cells from HCC are more sensitive to knockdown of integrins than normal quiescent hepatocytes, highlighting the potential of siRNA-mediated inhibition of integrins as an anti-cancer therapeutic approach.
PMCID: PMC4107318  PMID: 24844798
3.  Loss of α-catenin elicits a cholestatic response and impairs liver regeneration 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:6835.
The liver is unique in its capacity to regenerate after injury, during which hepatocytes actively divide and establish cell-cell contacts through cell adhesion complexes. Here, we demonstrate that the loss of α-catenin, a well-established adhesion component, dramatically disrupts liver regeneration. Using a partial hepatectomy model, we show that regenerated livers from α-catenin knockdown mice are grossly larger than control regenerated livers, with an increase in cell size and proliferation. This increased proliferation correlated with increased YAP activation, implicating α-catenin in the Hippo/YAP pathway. Additionally, α-catenin knockdown mice exhibited a phenotype reminiscent of clinical cholestasis, with drastically altered bile canaliculi, elevated levels of bile components and signs of jaundice and inflammation. The disrupted regenerative capacity is a result of actin cytoskeletal disorganisation, leading to a loss of apical microvilli, dilated lumens in the bile canaliculi, and leaky tight junctions. This study illuminates a novel, essential role for α-catenin in liver regeneration.
PMCID: PMC4213774  PMID: 25355493
4.  The Roles of Individual Mammalian Argonautes in RNA Interference In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101749.
Argonaute 2 (Ago2) is the only mammalian Ago protein capable of mRNA cleavage. It has been reported that the activity of the short interfering RNA targeting coding sequence (CDS), but not 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of an mRNA, is solely dependent on Ago2 in vitro. These studies utilized extremely high doses of siRNAs and overexpressed Ago proteins, as well as were directed at various highly expressed reporter transgenes. Here we report the effect of Ago2 in vivo on targeted knockdown of several endogenous genes by siRNAs, targeting both CDS and 3′UTR. We show that siRNAs targeting CDS lose their activity in the absence of Ago2, whereas both Ago1 and Ago3 proteins contribute to residual 3′UTR-targeted siRNA-mediated knockdown observed in the absence of Ago2 in mouse liver. Our results provide mechanistic insight into two components mediating RNAi under physiological conditions: mRNA cleavage dependent and independent. In addition our results contribute a novel consideration for designing most efficacious siRNA molecules with the preference given to 3′UTR targeting as to harness the activity of several Ago proteins.
PMCID: PMC4081796  PMID: 24992693
5.  MICU2, a Paralog of MICU1, Resides within the Mitochondrial Uniporter Complex to Regulate Calcium Handling 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55785.
Mitochondrial calcium uptake is present in nearly all vertebrate tissues and is believed to be critical in shaping calcium signaling, regulating ATP synthesis and controlling cell death. Calcium uptake occurs through a channel called the uniporter that resides in the inner mitochondrial membrane. Recently, we used comparative genomics to identify MICU1 and MCU as the key regulatory and putative pore-forming subunits of this channel, respectively. Using bioinformatics, we now report that the human genome encodes two additional paralogs of MICU1, which we call MICU2 and MICU3, each of which likely arose by gene duplication and exhibits distinct patterns of organ expression. We demonstrate that MICU1 and MICU2 are expressed in HeLa and HEK293T cells, and provide multiple lines of biochemical evidence that MCU, MICU1 and MICU2 reside within a complex and cross-stabilize each other's protein expression in a cell-type dependent manner. Using in vivo RNAi technology to silence MICU1, MICU2 or both proteins in mouse liver, we observe an additive impairment in calcium handling without adversely impacting mitochondrial respiration or membrane potential. The results identify MICU2 as a new component of the uniporter complex that may contribute to the tissue-specific regulation of this channel.
PMCID: PMC3567112  PMID: 23409044
6.  Integrative genomics identifies MCU as an essential component of the mitochondrial calcium uniporter 
Nature  2011;476(7360):341-345.
Mitochondria from diverse organisms are capable of transporting large amounts of Ca2+ via a ruthenium-red-sensitive, membrane-potential-dependent mechanism called the uniporter1–4. Although the uniporter’s biophysical properties have been studied extensively, its molecular composition remains elusive. We recently used comparative proteomics to identify MICU1 (also known as CBARA1), an EF-hand-containing protein that serves as a putative regulator of the uniporter5. Here, we use whole-genome phylogenetic profiling, genome-wide RNA co-expression analysis and organelle-wide protein coexpression analysis to predict proteins functionally related to MICU1. All three methods converge on a novel predicted transmembrane protein, CCDC109A, that we now call ‘mitochondrial calcium uniporter’ (MCU). MCU forms oligomers in the mitochondrial inner membrane, physically interacts with MICU1, and resides within a large molecular weight complex. Silencing MCU in cultured cells or in vivo in mouse liver severely abrogates mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake, whereas mitochondrial respiration and membrane potential remain fully intact. MCU has two predicted transmembrane helices, which are separated by a highly conserved linker facing the intermembrane space. Acidic residues in this linker are required for its full activity. However, an S259A point mutation retains function but confers resistance to Ru360, the most potent inhibitor of the uniporter. Our genomic, physiological, biochemical and pharmacological data firmly establish MCU as an essential component of the mitochondrial Ca2+ uniporter.
PMCID: PMC3486726  PMID: 21685886
7.  Systemic RNAi-mediated Gene Silencing in Nonhuman Primate and Rodent Myeloid Cells 
Leukocytes are central regulators of inflammation and the target cells of therapies for key diseases, including autoimmune, cardiovascular, and malignant disorders. Efficient in vivo delivery of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to immune cells could thus enable novel treatment strategies with broad applicability. In this report, we develop systemic delivery methods of siRNA encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles (LNP) for durable and potent in vivo RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated silencing in myeloid cells. This work provides the first demonstration of siRNA-mediated silencing in myeloid cell types of nonhuman primates (NHPs) and establishes the feasibility of targeting multiple gene targets in rodent myeloid cells. The therapeutic potential of these formulations was demonstrated using siRNA targeting tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) which induced substantial attenuation of disease progression comparable to a potent antibody treatment in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In summary, we demonstrate a broadly applicable and therapeutically relevant platform for silencing disease genes in immune cells.
PMCID: PMC3381593  PMID: 23344621
delivery; immune cell; siRNA

Results 1-7 (7)