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1.  Caspase-2 Maintains Bone Homeostasis by Inducing Apoptosis of Oxidatively-Damaged Osteoclasts 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93696.
Osteoporosis is a silent disease, characterized by a porous bone micro-structure that enhances risk for fractures and associated disabilities. Senile, or age-related osteoporosis (SO), affects both men and women, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality. However, cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying senile osteoporosis are not fully known. Recent studies implicate the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and increased oxidative stress as key factors in SO. Herein, we show that loss of caspase-2, a cysteine aspartate protease involved in oxidative stress-induced apoptosis, results in total body and femoral bone loss in aged mice (20% decrease in bone mineral density), and an increase in bone fragility (30% decrease in fracture strength). Importantly, we demonstrate that genetic ablation or selective inhibition of caspase-2 using zVDVAD-fmk results in increased numbers of bone-resorbing osteoclasts and enhanced tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) activity. Conversely, transfection of osteoclast precursors with wild type caspase-2 but not an enzymatic mutant, results in a decrease in TRAP activity. We demonstrate that caspase-2 expression is induced in osteoclasts treated with oxidants such as hydrogen peroxide and that loss of caspase-2 enhances resistance to oxidants, as measured by TRAP activity, and decreases oxidative stress-induced apoptosis of osteoclasts. Moreover, oxidative stress, quantified by assessment of the lipid peroxidation marker, 4-HNE, is increased in Casp2-/- bone, perhaps due to a decrease in antioxidant enzymes such as SOD2. Taken together, our data point to a critical and novel role for caspase-2 in maintaining bone homeostasis by modulating ROS levels and osteoclast apoptosis during conditions of enhanced oxidative stress that occur during aging.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093696
PMCID: PMC3972236  PMID: 24691516
2.  N348I in HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase Counteracts the Synergy Between Zidovudine and Nevirapine 
The efficacy of regimens that include both zidovudine and nevirapine can be explained by the synergistic interactions between these drugs. N348I in HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) confers decreased susceptibility to zidovudine and nevirapine. Here we demonstrate that N348I reverses the synergistic inhibition of HIV-1 by zidovudine and nevirapine. Also, the efficiency of zidovudine-monophosphate excision in the presence of nevirapine is greater for N348I HIV-1 RT compared to the wild-type enzyme. These data help explain the frequent selection of N348I in regimens that contain zidovudine and nevirapine, and suggest that the selection of N348I should be monitored in resource-limited settings where these drugs are routinely used.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e3182657990
PMCID: PMC3458157  PMID: 22743599
HIV-1 drug resistance; reverse transcriptase inhibitors; antiretroviral therapy; N348I; connection subdomain; C-terminal domain; combination therapy; zidovudine; nevirapine
3.  Loss of caspase-2 accelerates age-dependent alterations in mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species 
Biogerontology  2013;14(2):121-130.
Mitochondria are known to be a major source and target of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress increases during aging and is suggested to underlie in part the aging process. We have previously documented an increase in endogenous caspase-2 (casp2) activity in hepatocytes obtained from old (28 months) vs. young mice (5 months). More recently, we have shown that casp2 is activated by oxidative stress and is critical for mitochondrial oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. Since casp2 appears integral to mitochondrial oxidative stress-induced apoptosis, in this study we determined whether loss of casp2 altered the production of mitochondrial reactive oxygen radicals (mROS) as a function of age in intact living hepatocytes. To stimulate mitochondrial metabolic activity, we added a mixture of pyruvate and glutamate to hepatocytes while continuously monitoring endogenous mROS production in the presence or absence of rotenone and/or antimycin A. Our data demonstrate that mROS production and neutralization are compromised in hepatocytes of old mice. Interestingly, casp2 deficient hepatocytes from middle age mice (12 months) had similar mROS neutralization kinetics to those of hepatocytes from old WT mice. Rotenone had no effect on mROS metabolism, whereas antimycin A significantly altered mROS production and metabolism in an age-dependent fashion. Our results indicate that: (1) hepatocytes from young and old mice respond differently to dysfunction of the mitochondrial electron transport chain; (2) age-dependent alterations in mROS metabolism are likely regulated by complex III; and (3) absence of casp2 accelerates age-dependent changes in terms of pyruvate/glutamate-induced mROS metabolism.
doi:10.1007/s10522-013-9415-x
PMCID: PMC3657345  PMID: 23504374
Caspase-2; Mitochondria; Reactive oxygen species; Hepatocytes; Aging
4.  Loss of caspase-2 accelerates age-dependent alterations in mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species 
Biogerontology  2013;14(2):121-130.
Mitochondria are known to be a major source and target of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress increases during aging and is suggested to underlie in part the aging process. We have previously documented an increase in endogenous caspase-2 (casp2) activity in hepatocytes obtained from old (28 months) vs. young mice (5 months). More recently, we have shown that casp2 is activated by oxidative stress and is critical for mitochondrial oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. Since casp2 appears integral to mitochondrial oxidative stress-induced apoptosis, in this study we determined whether loss of casp2 altered the production of mitochondrial reactive oxygen radicals (mROS) as a function of age in intact living hepatocytes. To stimulate mitochondrial metabolic activity, we added a mixture of pyruvate and glutamate to hepatocytes while continuously monitoring endogenous mROS production in the presence or absence of rotenone and/or antimycin A. Our data demonstrate that mROS production and neutralization are compromised in hepatocytes of old mice. Interestingly, casp2 deficient hepatocytes from middle age mice (12 months) had similar mROS neutralization kinetics to those of hepatocytes from old WT mice. Rotenone had no effect on mROS metabolism, whereas antimycin A significantly altered mROS production and metabolism in an age-dependent fashion. Our results indicate that: (1) hepatocytes from young and old mice respond differently to dysfunction of the mitochondrial electron transport chain; (2) age-dependent alterations in mROS metabolism are likely regulated by complex III; and (3) absence of casp2 accelerates age-dependent changes in terms of pyruvate/glutamate-induced mROS metabolism.
doi:10.1007/s10522-013-9415-x
PMCID: PMC3657345  PMID: 23504374
Caspase-2; Mitochondria; Reactive oxygen species; Hepatocytes; Aging
5.  Synthesis, antiviral activity, cytotoxicity and cellular pharmacology of l-3′-azido-2′,3′-dideoxypurine nucleosides 
Microwave-assisted optimized transglycosylation reactions were used to prepare eleven modified l-3′-azido-2′,3′-dideoxypurine nucleosides. These l-nucleoside analogs were evaluated against HIV and hepatitis B virus. The l-3′-azido-2′,3′-dideoxypurines nucleosides were metabolized to nucleoside 5′-triphosphates in primary human lymphocytes, but exhibited weak or no antiviral activity against HIV-1. The nucleosides were also inactive against HBV in HepG2 cells. Pre-steady-state kinetic experiments demonstrated that the l-3′-azido-2′,3′-dideoxypurine triphosphates could be incorporated by purified HIV-1 reverse transcriptase, although their catalytic efficiency (kpol/Kd) of incorporation was low. Interestingly, a phosphoramidate prodrug of l-3′-azido-2′,3′-dideoxyadenosine exhibited anti-HIV-1 activity without significant toxicity.
doi:10.1016/j.ejmech.2011.05.051
PMCID: PMC3242641  PMID: 21700368
l-nucleoside analogues; antiviral agents; HIV; HBV; 3′-azidopurine nucleosides
6.  A knockout of the caspase 2 gene produces increased resistance of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway to MPTP-induced toxicity 
Experimental neurology  2011;229(2):421-428.
This study investigated the effect of a knockout of the caspase 2 gene on the sensitivity of murine nigral dopaminergic neurons to 1-methyl-4-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-induced toxicity. Female wild type (WT), heterozygous caspase 2 NL (HET) and homozygous caspase 2 null (NL) mice were treated with cumulative dosages of 0, 10, 15 or 20 mg/kg MPTP free base. Without MPTP treatment, one week later dopamine (DA) levels were not significantly different in HET or NL versus WT mice. Twenty mg/kg MPTP reduced striatal DA in WT and HET (p<0.01) but not NL mice. This same MPTP dosage regimen also induced a significantly greater decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase immunopositive (TH+) protein in striata of WT compared to NL mice (p<0.001).
Subsequently, WT and NL mice were treated daily with 20 mg/kg MPTP for 3 days and 25 mg/kg MPTP for 2 additional days, and TH+ neurons in the substantia nigra (SN) were estimated using unbiased stereology. When compared to untreated WT, the numbers of TH+ neurons were significantly lower in the SN of untreated NL mice (p<0.05). Treatment with the MPTP regimen significantly reduced TH+ neurons in WT mice but not NL mice.
In primary mesencephalic cultures both the cell bodies and the neuronal processes of TH immunopositive (TH+) neurons from NL embryos were significantly (p<0.001) more resistant to 10µM MPP+ compared to WT. Following MPP+ treatment, features of apoptotic cell death were also significantly (p<0.001) more prevalent in nuclei of TH+ neurons in cultures prepared from WT versus NL mouse pups.
These results suggest that caspase 2 may play a role in modulating the MPTP-induced damage to the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system.
doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2011.03.009
PMCID: PMC3100423  PMID: 21419766
dopamine; MPTP; Parkinson’s disease; caspase 2; cell death; neurodegeneration; tyrosine hydroxylase
7.  Substrate mimicry: HIV-1 reverse transcriptase recognizes 6-modified-3′-azido-2′,3′-dideoxyguanosine-5′-triphosphates as adenosine analogs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(1):381-390.
β-D-3′-Azido-2′,3′-dideoxyguanosine (3′-azido-ddG) is a potent inhibitor of HIV-1 replication with a superior resistance profile to zidovudine. Recently, we identified five novel 6-modified-3′-azido-ddG analogs that exhibit similar or superior anti-HIV-1 activity compared to 3′-azido-ddG in primary cells. To gain insight into their structure–activity–resistance relationships, we synthesized their triphosphate (TP) forms and assessed their ability to inhibit HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT). Steady-state and pre-steady-state kinetic experiments show that the 6-modified-3′-azido-ddGTP analogs act as adenosine rather than guanosine mimetics in DNA synthesis reactions. The order of potency of the TP analogs against wild-type RT was: 3′-azido-2,6-diaminopurine >3′-azido-6-chloropurine; 3′-azido-6-N-allylaminopurine > 2-amino-6-N,N-dimethylaminopurine; 2-amino-6-methoxypurine. Molecular modeling studies reveal unique hydrogen-bonding interactions between the nucleotide analogs and the template thymine base in the active site of RT. Surprisingly, the structure–activity relationship of the analogs differed in HIV-1 RT ATP-mediated excision assays of their monophosphate forms, suggesting that it may be possible to rationally design a modified base analog that is efficiently incorporated by RT but serves as a poor substrate for ATP-mediated excision reactions. Overall, these studies identify a promising strategy to design novel nucleoside analogs that exert profound antiviral activity against both WT and drug-resistant HIV-1.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr756
PMCID: PMC3245946  PMID: 21914723
8.  Synthesis and Anti-HIV-1 Activity of a Novel Series of Aminoimidazole Analogs 
There is still an urgent need to develop nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors (NNRTI) with a high-genetic barrier to resistance that facilitate patient adherence and allow durable suppression of HIV-1 replication. In this study, we describe the synthesis of a novel series of N-aminoimidazole (NAIM) analogs. Each of the NAIM analogs display potent activity against wild-type recombinant purified HIV-1 RT as well as RTs containing the K103N or Y181C resistance mutations. The analogs, however, do not exhibit significant antiviral activity in cell culture and were, in general, cytotoxic. Nevertheless, these data suggest that the NAIM backbone may provide a suitable scaffold from which inhibitors active against NNRTI-resistant HIV-1 could be developed.
doi:10.2174/157018010791163424
PMCID: PMC2882308  PMID: 20535242
N-aminoimidazole; NNRTI; HIV; reverse transcriptase; synthesis; molecular modeling
9.  The Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor Resistance Mutation I132M Confers Hypersensitivity to Nucleoside Analogs▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(8):3826-3833.
We previously identified a rare mutation in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase (RT), I132M, which confers high-level resistance to the nonnucleoside RT inhibitors (NNRTIs) nevirapine and delavirdine. In this study, we have further characterized the role of this mutation in viral replication capacity and in resistance to other RT inhibitors. Surprisingly, our data show that I132M confers marked hypersusceptibility to the nucleoside analogs lamivudine (3TC) and tenofovir at both the virus and enzyme levels. Subunit-selective mutagenesis studies revealed that the mutation in the p51 subunit of RT was responsible for the increased sensitivity to the drugs, and transient kinetic analyses showed that this hypersusceptibility was due to I132M decreasing the enzyme's affinity for the natural dCTP substrate but increasing its affinity for 3TC-triphosphate. Furthermore, the replication capacity of HIV-1 containing I132M is severely impaired. This decrease in viral replication capacity could be partially or completely compensated for by the A62V or L214I mutation, respectively. Taken together, these results help to explain the infrequent selection of I132M in patients for whom NNRTI regimens are failing and furthermore demonstrate that a single mutation outside of the polymerase active site and inside of the p51 subunit of RT can significantly influence nucleotide selectivity.
doi:10.1128/JVI.01968-08
PMCID: PMC2663283  PMID: 19193782
10.  Caspase-2 Deficiency Enhances Aging-Related Traits in Mice 
Alteration of apoptotic activity has been observed in a number of tissues in aging mammals, but it remains unclear whether and/or how apoptosis may affect aging. Caspase-2 is a member of the cysteine protease family that plays a critical role in apoptosis. To understand the impact of compromised apoptosis function on mammalian aging, we conducted a comparative study on caspase-2 deficient mice and their wild-type littermates with a specific focus on the aging-related traits at advanced ages. We found that caspase-2 deficiency enhanced a number of traits commonly seen in premature aging animals. Loss of caspase-2 was associated with shortened maximum lifespan, impaired hair growth, increased bone loss, and reduced body fat content. In addition, we found that the livers of caspase-2 deficient mice had higher levels of oxidized proteins than those of age-matched wild-type mice, suggesting that caspase-2 deficiency compromised the animal's ability to clear oxidatively damaged cells. Collectively, these results suggest that caspase-2 deficiency affects aging in the mice. This study thus demonstrates for the first time that disruption of a key apoptotic gene has a significant impact on aging.
doi:10.1016/j.mad.2006.11.030
PMCID: PMC1828128  PMID: 17188333
caspase-2; maximum lifespan; bone; hair growth; fat
11.  A Mouse-Adapted SARS-Coronavirus Causes Disease and Mortality in BALB/c Mice 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(1):e5.
No single animal model for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) reproduces all aspects of the human disease. Young inbred mice support SARS-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) replication in the respiratory tract and are available in sufficient numbers for statistical evaluation. They are relatively inexpensive and easily accessible, but their use in SARS research is limited because they do not develop illness following infection. Older (12- to 14-mo-old) BALB/c mice develop clinical illness and pneumonitis, but they can be hard to procure, and immune senescence complicates pathogenesis studies. We adapted the SARS-CoV (Urbani strain) by serial passage in the respiratory tract of young BALB/c mice. Fifteen passages resulted in a virus (MA15) that is lethal for mice following intranasal inoculation. Lethality is preceded by rapid and high titer viral replication in lungs, viremia, and dissemination of virus to extrapulmonary sites accompanied by lymphopenia, neutrophilia, and pathological changes in the lungs. Abundant viral antigen is extensively distributed in bronchial epithelial cells and alveolar pneumocytes, and necrotic cellular debris is present in airways and alveoli, with only mild and focal pneumonitis. These observations suggest that mice infected with MA15 die from an overwhelming viral infection with extensive, virally mediated destruction of pneumocytes and ciliated epithelial cells. The MA15 virus has six coding mutations associated with adaptation and increased virulence; when introduced into a recombinant SARS-CoV, these mutations result in a highly virulent and lethal virus (rMA15), duplicating the phenotype of the biologically derived MA15 virus. Intranasal inoculation with MA15 reproduces many aspects of disease seen in severe human cases of SARS. The availability of the MA15 virus will enhance the use of the mouse model for SARS because infection with MA15 causes morbidity, mortality, and pulmonary pathology. This virus will be of value as a stringent challenge in evaluation of the efficacy of vaccines and antivirals.
Author Summary
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a severe, sometimes fatal respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV). In order to study the disease and evaluate vaccines and antiviral drugs, animal models that mimic the disease are necessary. However, no single animal model for SARS reproduces all aspects of the disease as it affects humans. SARS-CoV replicates in the lungs of young mice, but they do not show signs of illness. Adaptation of SARS-CoV by serial passage in the lungs of mice resulted in a virus (MA15) that is lethal for young mice following intranasal inoculation. Lethality is preceded by rapid and high titer viral replication in lungs, viremia, and dissemination of virus to extrapulmonary sites accompanied by hematological changes and pathological changes in the lungs. Mice infected with MA15 virus die from an overwhelming viral infection with extensive, virally mediated destruction of pneumocytes, and ciliated epithelial cells. The MA15 virus has six coding mutations in its genome, which, when introduced into a recombinant SARS-CoV, confer lethality. The MA15 virus will enhance the use of the mouse model for SARS because infection with this virus in mice reproduces many aspects of severe human disease, including morbidity, mortality, and pulmonary pathology.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.0030005
PMCID: PMC1769406  PMID: 17222058
12.  Protection against Fatal Sindbis Virus Encephalitis by Beclin, a Novel Bcl-2-Interacting Protein 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(11):8586-8596.
bcl-2, the prototypic cellular antiapoptotic gene, decreases Sindbis virus replication and Sindbis virus-induced apoptosis in mouse brains, resulting in protection against lethal encephalitis. To investigate potential mechanisms by which Bcl-2 protects against central nervous system Sindbis virus infection, we performed a yeast two-hybrid screen to identify Bcl-2-interacting gene products in an adult mouse brain library. We identified a novel 60-kDa coiled-coil protein, Beclin, which we confirmed interacts with Bcl-2 in mammalian cells, using fluorescence resonance energy transfer microscopy. To examine the role of Beclin in Sindbis virus pathogenesis, we constructed recombinant Sindbis virus chimeras that express full-length human Beclin (SIN/beclin), Beclin lacking the putative Bcl-2-binding domain (SIN/beclinΔBcl-2BD), or Beclin containing a premature stop codon near the 5′ terminus (SIN/beclinstop). The survival of mice infected with SIN/beclin was significantly higher (71%) than the survival of mice infected with SIN/beclinΔBcl-2BD (9%) or SIN/beclinstop (7%) (P < 0.001). The brains of mice infected with SIN/beclin had fewer Sindbis virus RNA-positive cells, fewer apoptotic cells, and lower viral titers than the brains of mice infected with SIN/beclinΔBcl-2BD or SIN/beclinstop. These findings demonstrate that Beclin is a novel Bcl-2-interacting cellular protein that may play a role in antiviral host defense.
PMCID: PMC110269  PMID: 9765397

Results 1-12 (12)