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1.  Plasma HSPA12B Is a Potential Predictor for Poor Outcome in Severe Sepsis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e101215.
Endothelium-derived molecules may be predictive to organ injury. Heat shock protein (HSP) A12B is mainly located in endothelial cells, which can be detected in the plasma of septic patients. Whether it is correlated with prognosis of sepsis remains unclear.
Extracellular HSPA12B (eHSPA12B) was determined in plasma of septic mice at 6h, 12h, 24h and 48h after cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). It was also detected in plasma of patients with severe sepsis, sepsis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome and healthy volunteers. The predictive value for prognosis of severe sepsis was assessed by receiver operating curve (ROC) and Cox regression analyses.
eHSPA12B was elevated in plasma of CLP mice at 6h and peaked at 24h after surgery. A total of 118 subjects were included in the clinical section, including 66 patients with severe sepsis, 21 patients with sepsis, 16 patients with SIRS and 15 volunteers. Plasma eHSPA12B was significantly higher in patients with severe sepsis than in patients with sepsis, SIRS and volunteers. The level of eHSPA12B was also higher in non-survivals than survivals with severe sepsis. The area under the curve (AUC) of eHSPA12B in predicting death among patients with severe sepsis was 0.782 (0.654–0.909) in ROC analysis, much higher than that of IL-6 and IL-10. Cox regression analysis showed that cardiovascular diseases, IL-6 and eHSPA12B were risk factors for mortality in patients with severe sepsis. Survival curve demonstrated a strikingly significant difference between 28-day survival rates of patients with an eHSPA12B lower or not lower than 1.466ng/ml.
Plasma eHSPA12B is elevated in both septic mice and patients. It may be a good predictor for poor outcome in patients with severe sepsis.
PMCID: PMC4076283  PMID: 24977412
2.  Effects of Novel Isoform-Selective Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase Inhibitors on Natural Killer Cell Function 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99486.
Phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) are promising targets for therapeutic development in cancer. The class I PI3K isoform p110α has received considerable attention in oncology because the gene encoding p110α (PIK3CA) is frequently mutated in human cancer. However, little is known about the function of p110α in lymphocyte populations that modulate tumorigenesis. We used recently developed investigational inhibitors to compare the function of p110α and other isoforms in natural killer (NK) cells, a key cell type for immunosurveillance and tumor immunotherapy. Inhibitors of all class I isoforms (pan-PI3K) significantly impaired NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity against tumor cells, whereas p110α-selective inhibitors had no effect. In NK cells stimulated through NKG2D, p110α inhibition modestly reduced PI3K signaling output as measured by AKT phosphorylation. Production of IFN-γ and NK cell-derived chemokines was blocked by a pan-PI3K inhibitor and partially reduced by a p110δinhibitor, with lesser effects of p110α inhibitors. Oral administration of mice with MLN1117, a p110α inhibitor in oncology clinical trials, had negligible effects on NK subset maturation or terminal subset commitment. Collectively, these results support the targeting of PIK3CA mutant tumors with selective p110α inhibitors to preserve NK cell function.
PMCID: PMC4051752  PMID: 24915189
3.  Guanabenz Interferes with ER Stress and Exerts Protective Effects in Cardiac Myocytes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98893.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress has been implicated in a variety of cardiovascular diseases. During ER stress, disruption of the complex of protein phosphatase 1 regulatory subunit 15A and catalytic subunit of protein phosphatase 1 by the small molecule guanabenz (antihypertensive, α2-adrenoceptor agonist) and subsequent inhibition of stress-induced dephosphorylation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) results in prolonged eIF2α phosphorylation, inhibition of protein synthesis and protection from ER stress. In this study we assessed whether guanabenz protects against ER stress in cardiac myocytes and affects the function of 3 dimensional engineered heart tissue (EHT). We utilized neonatal rat cardiac myocytes for the assessment of cell viability and activation of ER stress-signalling pathways and EHT for functional analysis. (i) Tunicamycin induced ER stress as measured by increased mRNA and protein levels of glucose-regulated protein 78 kDa, P-eIF2α, activating transcription factor 4, C/EBP homologous protein, and cell death. (ii) Guanabenz had no measurable effect alone, but antagonized the effects of tunicamycin on ER stress markers. (iii) Tunicamycin and other known inducers of ER stress (hydrogen peroxide, doxorubicin, thapsigargin) induced cardiac myocyte death, and this was antagonized by guanabenz in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. (iv) ER stressors also induced acute or delayed contractile dysfunction in spontaneously beating EHTs and this was, with the notable exception of relaxation deficits under thapsigargin, not significantly affected by guanabenz. The data confirm that guanabenz interferes with ER stress-signalling and has protective effects on cell survival. Data show for the first time that this concept extends to cardiac myocytes. The modest protection in EHTs points to more complex mechanisms of force regulation in intact functional heart muscle.
PMCID: PMC4044035  PMID: 24892553
4.  Antibody Directed against Human YKL-40 Increases Tumor Volume in a Human Melanoma Xenograft Model in Scid Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95822.
Induced overexpression of the secretory protein YKL-40 promotes tumor growth in xenograft experiments. We investigated if targeting YKL-40 with a monoclonal antibody could inhibit tumor growth. YKL-40 expressing human melanoma cells (LOX) were injected subcutenously in Balb/c scid mice. Animals were treated with intraperitoneal injections of anti-YKL-40, isoptype control or PBS. Non-YKL-40 expressing human pancreatic carcinoma cell line PaCa 5061 served as additional control. MR imaging was used for evaluation of tumor growth. Two days after the first injections of anti-YKL-40, tumor volume had increased significantly compared with controls, whereas no effects were observed for control tumors from PaCa 5061 cells lacking YKL-40 expression. After 18 days, mean tumor size of the mice receiving repeated anti-YKL-40 injections was 1.82 g, >4 times higher than mean tumor size of the controls (0.42 g). The effect of anti-YKL-40 on the increase of tumor volume started within hours after injection and was dose dependent. Intratumoral hemorrhage was observed in the treated animals. The strong effect on tumor size indicates important roles for YKL-40 in melanoma growth and argues for a careful evaluation of antibody therapy directed against YKL-40.
PMCID: PMC3994147  PMID: 24752554
5.  PI3K Class II α Controls Spatially Restricted Endosomal PtdIns3P and Rab11 Activation to Promote Primary Cilium Function 
Developmental Cell  2014;28(6):647-658.
Multiple phosphatidylinositol (PtdIns) 3-kinases (PI3Ks) can produce PtdIns3P to control endocytic trafficking, but whether enzyme specialization occurs in defined subcellular locations is unclear. Here, we report that PI3K-C2α is enriched in the pericentriolar recycling endocytic compartment (PRE) at the base of the primary cilium, where it regulates production of a specific pool of PtdIns3P. Loss of PI3K-C2α-derived PtdIns3P leads to mislocalization of PRE markers such as TfR and Rab11, reduces Rab11 activation, and blocks accumulation of Rab8 at the primary cilium. These changes in turn cause defects in primary cilium elongation, Smo ciliary translocation, and Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) signaling and ultimately impair embryonic development. Selective reconstitution of PtdIns3P levels in cells lacking PI3K-C2α rescues Rab11 activation, primary cilium length, and Shh pathway induction. Thus, PI3K-C2α regulates the formation of a PtdIns3P pool at the PRE required for Rab11 and Shh pathway activation.
Graphical Abstract
•PI3K-C2α specifically produces PtdIns3P at the PRE•PI3K-C2α-dependent PtdIns3P modulates localization and activation of Rab11•PI3K-C2α controls the Rab11/Rab8 axis at the primary cilium base•PI3K-C2α is required for Smo ciliary targeting and Shh signaling
Multiple PI3Ks produce PtdIns3P, but whether enzyme specialization occurs in defined subcellular locations is unclear. Franco et al. report that PI3K-C2α is enriched in the pericentriolar recycling endocytic compartment (PRE) around the primary cilium base and regulates PtdIns3P-dependent membrane traffic required for Rab11 localization/activation, Smo ciliary targeting, and Shh signaling.
PMCID: PMC4042153  PMID: 24697898
6.  NADPH Oxidases in Heart Failure: Poachers or Gamekeepers? 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;18(9):1024-1041.
Significance: Oxidative stress is involved in the pathogenesis of heart failure but clinical antioxidant trials have been unsuccessful. This may be because effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) depend upon their source, location, and concentration. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase (Nox) proteins generate ROS in a highly regulated fashion and modulate several components of the heart failure phenotype. Recent Advances: Two Nox isoforms, Nox2 and Nox4, are expressed in the heart. Studies using gene-modified mice deficient in Nox2 activity indicate that Nox2 activation contributes to angiotensin II–induced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, atrial fibrillation, and the development of interstitial fibrosis but may also positively modulate physiological excitation-contraction coupling. Nox2 contributes to myocyte death under stress situations and plays important roles in postmyocardial infarction remodeling, in part by modulating matrix metalloprotease activity. In contrast to Nox2, Nox4 is constitutively active at a low level and induces protective effects in the heart under chronic stress, for example, by maintaining myocardial capillary density. However, high levels of Nox4 could have detrimental effects. Critical Issues: The effects of Nox proteins during the development of heart failure likely depend upon the isoform, activation level, and cellular distribution, and may include beneficial as well as detrimental effects. More needs to be learnt about the precise regulation of abundance and biochemical activity of these proteins in the heart as well as the downstream signaling pathways that they regulate. Future Directions: The development of specific approaches to target individual Nox isoforms and/or specific cell types may be important for the achievement of therapeutic efficacy in heart failure. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 18, 1024–1041.
PMCID: PMC3567780  PMID: 22747566
7.  Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase γ Protects Against Catecholamine-Induced Ventricular Arrhythmia Through Protein Kinase A–Mediated Regulation of Distinct Phosphodiesterases 
Circulation  2012;126(17):2073-2083.
Phosphoinositide 3-kinase γ (PI3Kγ) signaling engaged by β-adrenergic receptors is pivotal in the regulation of myocardial contractility and remodeling. However, the role of PI3Kγ in catecholamine-induced arrhythmia is currently unknown.
Methods and Results
Mice lacking PI3Kγ (PI3Kγ−/−) showed runs of premature ventricular contractions on adrenergic stimulation that could be rescued by a selective β2-adrenergic receptor blocker and developed sustained ventricular tachycardia after transverse aortic constriction. Consistently, fluorescence resonance energy transfer probes revealed abnormal cAMP accumulation after β2-adrenergic receptor activation in PI3Kγ−/− cardiomyocytes that depended on the loss of the scaffold but not of the catalytic activity of PI3Kγ. Downstream from β-adrenergic receptors, PI3Kγ was found to participate in multiprotein complexes linking protein kinase A to the activation of phosphodiesterase (PDE) 3A, PDE4A, and PDE4B but not of PDE4D. These PI3Kγ-regulated PDEs lowered cAMP and limited protein kinase A–mediated phosphorylation of L-type calcium channel (Cav1.2) and phospholamban. In PI3Kγ−/− cardiomyocytes, Cav1.2 and phospholamban were hyperphosphorylated, leading to increased Ca2+ spark occurrence and amplitude on adrenergic stimulation. Furthermore, PI3Kγ−/− cardiomyocytes showed spontaneous Ca2+ release events and developed arrhythmic calcium transients.
PI3Kγ coordinates the coincident signaling of the major cardiac PDE3 and PDE4 isoforms, thus orchestrating a feedback loop that prevents calcium-dependent ventricular arrhythmia.
PMCID: PMC3913165  PMID: 23008439
arrhythmias, cardiac; class II phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases; 3′,5′-cyclic-AMP phosphodiesterases; cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinases; receptors, adrenergic beta-2
8.  Novel Insights into the Cardio-Protective Effects of FGF21 in Lean and Obese Rat Hearts 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87102.
Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a hepatic metabolic regulator with pleotropic actions. Its plasma concentrations are increased in obesity and diabetes; states associated with an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. We therefore investigated the direct effect of FGF21 on cardio-protection in obese and lean hearts in response to ischemia.
Methods and Results
FGF21, FGF21-receptor 1 (FGFR1) and beta-Klotho (βKlotho) were expressed in rodent, human hearts and primary rat cardiomyocytes. Cardiac FGF21 was expressed and secreted (real time RT-PCR/western blot and ELISA) in an autocrine-paracrine manner, in response to obesity and hypoxia, involving FGFR1-βKlotho components. Cardiac-FGF21 expression and secretion were increased in response to global ischemia. In contrast βKlotho was reduced in obese hearts. In isolated adult rat cardiomyocytes, FGF21 activated PI3K/Akt (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt), ERK1/2(extracellular signal-regulated kinase) and AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase) pathways. In Langendorff perfused rat [adult male wild-type wistar] hearts, FGF21 administration induced significant cardio-protection and restoration of function following global ischemia. Inhibition of PI3K/Akt, AMPK, ERK1/2 and ROR-α (retinoic-acid receptor alpha) pathway led to significant decrease of FGF21 induced cardio-protection and restoration of cardiac function in response to global ischemia. More importantly, this cardio-protective response induced by FGF21 was reduced in obesity, although the cardiac expression profiles and circulating FGF21 levels were increased.
In an ex vivo Langendorff system, we show that FGF21 induced cardiac protection and restoration of cardiac function involving autocrine-paracrine pathways, with reduced effect in obesity. Collectively, our findings provide novel insights into FGF21-induced cardiac effects in obesity and ischemia.
PMCID: PMC3911936  PMID: 24498293
9.  The Correlation between Peripartum Cardiomyopathy and Autoantibodies against Cardiovascular Receptors 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86770.
Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is characterized by left ventricular systolic dysfunction and heart failure. However, its pathogenesis is not clear. Our preliminary study revealed that autoantibodies against β1-adrenergic receptors (β1R-AABs) and M2-muscarinic receptors (M2R-AABs) participated in heart failure regardless of primary heart disease. Whether β1R-AABs and M2R-AABs participate in the pathogenesis of PPCM is still unknown.
Totally 37 diagnosed PPCM patients and 36 normal pregnant women were enrolled in this study. Clinical assessment and 2-dimensional echocardiographic studies as well as the measurement of β1R-AABs or M2R-AABs by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) were performed.
The positive rates for β1R-AABs and M2R-AABs were 59.5% (22/37) and 45.9% (17/37) in PPCM patients, and 19.4% (7/36) (P<0.001) and 16.67% (6/36) (P<0.001) in normal pregnant women, respectively. Both β1R-AABs and M2R-AABs had a positive correlation with serum expression level of NT-proBNP, left ventricular dimension and NYHA FC (rs: 0.496–0.892, P<0.01). In addition, a negative correlation between the activity of β1R-AABs and M2R-AABs and LVEF, LVFS was observed (rs: −0.488–0.568, P<0.01). Moreover, autoantibodies against cardiovascular receptors increased the risk of the onset of PPCM (OR = 18.786, 95% confidence interval 1.926–183.262, P = 0.012).
The β1R-AABs and M2R-AABs reveal a significant elevation and are correlated with the increased left ventricular dimension and worse cardiac contraction function. The autoantibodies of cardiovascular receptors are independent risk factors for the onset of PPCM.
PMCID: PMC3900643  PMID: 24466231
10.  Both α1- and α2-adrenoceptors in the Insular Cortex Are Involved in the Cardiovascular Responses to Acute Restraint Stress in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e83900.
The insular cortex (IC) is a limbic structure involved in cardiovascular responses observed during aversive threats. However, the specific neurotransmitter mediating IC control of cardiovascular adjustments to stress is yet unknown. Therefore, in the present study we investigated the role of local IC adrenoceptors in the cardiovascular responses elicited by acute restraint stress in rats. Bilateral microinjection of different doses (0.3, 5, 10 and 15 nmol/100 nl) of the selective α1-adrenoceptor antagonist WB4101 into the IC reduced both the arterial pressure and heart rate increases elicited by restraint stress. However, local IC treatment with different doses (0.3, 5, 10 and 15 nmol/100 nl) of the selective α2-adrenoceptor antagonist RX821002 reduced restraint-evoked tachycardia without affecting the pressor response. The present findings are the first direct evidence showing the involvement of IC adrenoceptors in cardiovascular adjustments observed during aversive threats. Our findings indicate that IC noradrenergic neurotransmission acting through activation of both α1- and α2-adrenoceptors has a facilitatory influence on pressor response to acute restraint stress. Moreover, IC α1-adrenoceptors also play a facilitatory role on restraint-evoked tachycardiac response.
PMCID: PMC3880272  PMID: 24404141
11.  A Novel Quantitative Kinase Assay Using Bacterial Surface Display and Flow Cytometry 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80474.
The inhibition of tyrosine kinases is a successful approach for the treatment of cancers and the discovery of kinase inhibitor drugs is the focus of numerous academic and pharmaceutical laboratories. With this goal in mind, several strategies have been developed to measure kinase activity and to screen novel tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Nevertheless, a general non-radioactive and inexpensive approach, easy to implement and adapt to a range of applications, is still missing. Herein, using Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase, an oncogenic target and a model protein for cancer studies, we describe a novel cost-effective high-throughput screening kinase assay. In this approach, named the BacKin assay, substrates displayed on a Bacterial cell surface are incubated with Kinase and their phosphorylation is examined and quantified by flow cytometry. This approach has several advantages over existing approaches, as using bacteria (i.e. Escherichia coli) to display peptide substrates provides a self renewing solid support that does not require laborious chemical strategies. Here we show that the BacKin approach can be used for kinetic and mechanistic studies, as well as a platform to characterize and identify small-molecule or peptide-based kinase inhibitors with potential applications in drug development.
PMCID: PMC3829888  PMID: 24260399
12.  Expression of the TEL-Syk Fusion Protein in Hematopoietic Stem Cells Leads to Rapidly Fatal Myelofibrosis in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77542.
The TEL-Syk fusion protein was isolated from a patient with myelodysplasia with megakaryocyte blasts. Expression of TEL-Syk transforms interleukin-3 (IL-3)-dependent Ba/F3 cells in vitro by deregulating STAT5-mediated signal transduction pathways. In vivo, TEL-Syk expression in pre-B cells blocks B cell differentiation, leading to lymphoid leukemia. Here, we demonstrate that TEL-Syk introduced into fetal liver hematopoietic cells, which are then adoptively transferred into lethally irradiated recipients, leads to an aggressive myelodysplasia with myelofibrosis that is lethal in mice by 60–75 days. Expression of TEL-Syk induces a short-lived myeloexpansion that is rapidly followed by bone marrow failure and extreme splenic/hepatic fibrosis accompanied by extensive apoptosis. The disease is dependent on Syk kinase activity. Analysis of serum from TEL-Syk mice reveals an inflammatory cytokine signature reminiscent of that found in the sera from patients and mouse models of myeloproliferative neoplasms. TEL-Syk expressing cells showed constitutive STAT5 phosphorylation, which was resistant to JAK inhibition, consistent with deregulated cytokine signaling. These data indicate that expression of TEL-Syk in fetal liver hematopoietic cells results in JAK-independent STAT5 phosphorylation ultimately leading to a uniquely aggressive and lethal form of myelofibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3792906  PMID: 24116232
13.  Physiological Concentrations of Leptin Do Not Affect Human Neutrophils 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73170.
Leptin is an adipokine that is thought to be important in many inflammatory diseases, and is known to influence the function of several leukocyte types. However, no clear consensus is present regarding the responsiveness of neutrophils for this adipokine. In this study a 2D DIGE proteomics approach was used as an unbiased approach to identify leptin-induced effects on neutrophils. Additionally chemotaxis and survival experiments were performed to reproduce results from literature showing putative effects of leptin on these neutrophil responses. Leptin did not induce any significant changes in the proteome provided leptin was added at physiologically relevant concentrations (250 ng). Our leptin batches were biologically active as they induced proliferation in LeptinR expressing Ba/F3 cells. At high concentrations (25000 ng) leptin induced a change in neutrophil proteome. Seventeen differently regulated spots were identified of which twelve could be characterized by mass spectrometry. Two of these identified proteins, SerpinB1 and p40 phox, were chosen for further analysis but leptin-induced expression analyzed by western blot were highly variable. Additionally leptin also induced neutrophil survival at these high concentrations. No leptin-induced chemotaxis of human neutrophils was detected at any concentration. In conclusion, physiological concentrations of leptin do not affect neutrophils. High leptin concentrations induced survival and changes in the neutrophils proteome, but this was most likely mediated by an indirect effect. However, it cannot be ruled out that the effects were mediated by a yet not-identified leptin receptor on human neutrophils.
PMCID: PMC3774682  PMID: 24066032
14.  PI3K p110γ Deletion Attenuates Murine Atherosclerosis by Reducing Macrophage Proliferation but Not Polarization or Apoptosis in Lesions 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72674.
Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease regulated by infiltrating monocytes and T cells, among other cell types. Macrophage recruitment to atherosclerotic lesions is controlled by monocyte infiltration into plaques. Once in the lesion, macrophage proliferation in situ, apoptosis, and differentiation to an inflammatory (M1) or anti-inflammatory phenotype (M2) are involved in progression to advanced atherosclerotic lesions. We studied the role of phosphoinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) p110γ in the regulation of in situ apoptosis, macrophage proliferation and polarization towards M1 or M2 phenotypes in atherosclerotic lesions. We analyzed atherosclerosis development in LDLR−/−p110γ+/− and LDLR−/−p110γ−/− mice, and performed expression and functional assays in tissues and primary cells from these and from p110γ+/− and p110γ−/− mice. Lack of p110γ in LDLR−/− mice reduces the atherosclerosis burden. Atherosclerotic lesions in fat-fed LDLR−/−p110γ−/− mice were smaller than in LDLR−/−p110γ+/− controls, which coincided with decreased macrophage proliferation in LDLR−/−p110γ−/− mouse lesions. This proliferation defect was also observed in p110γ−/− bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMM) stimulated with macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF), and was associated with higher intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) levels. In contrast, T cell proliferation was unaffected in LDLR−/−p110γ−/− mice. Moreover, p110γ deficiency did not affect macrophage polarization towards the M1 or M2 phenotypes or apoptosis in atherosclerotic plaques, or polarization in cultured BMM. Our results suggest that higher cAMP levels and the ensuing inhibition of macrophage proliferation contribute to atheroprotection in LDLR−/− mice lacking p110γ. Nonetheless, p110γ deletion does not appear to be involved in apoptosis, in macrophage polarization or in T cell proliferation.
PMCID: PMC3750002  PMID: 23991137
15.  ERK Positive Feedback Regulates a Widespread Network of Tyrosine Phosphorylation Sites across Canonical T Cell Signaling and Actin Cytoskeletal Proteins in Jurkat T Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69641.
Competing positive and negative signaling feedback pathways play a critical role in tuning the sensitivity of T cell receptor activation by creating an ultrasensitive, bistable switch to selectively enhance responses to foreign ligands while suppressing signals from self peptides. In response to T cell receptor agonist engagement, ERK is activated to positively regulate T cell receptor signaling through phosphorylation of Ser59 Lck. To obtain a wide-scale view of the role of ERK in propagating T cell receptor signaling, a quantitative phosphoproteomic analysis of 322 tyrosine phosphorylation sites by mass spectrometry was performed on the human Jurkat T cell line in the presence of U0126, an inhibitor of ERK activation. Relative to controls, U0126-treated cells showed constitutive decreases in phosphorylation through a T cell receptor stimulation time course on tyrosine residues found on upstream signaling proteins (CD3 chains, Lck, ZAP-70), as well as downstream signaling proteins (VAV1, PLCγ1, Itk, NCK1). Additional constitutive decreases in phosphorylation were found on the majority of identified proteins implicated in the regulation of actin cytoskeleton pathway. Although the majority of identified sites on T cell receptor signaling proteins showed decreases in phosphorylation, Tyr598 of ZAP-70 showed elevated phosphorylation in response to U0126 treatment, suggesting differential regulation of this site via ERK feedback. These findings shed new light on ERK’s role in positive feedback in T cell receptor signaling and reveal novel signaling events that are regulated by this kinase, which may fine tune T cell receptor activation.
PMCID: PMC3714263  PMID: 23874979
16.  PKCβ Phosphorylates PI3Kγ to Activate It and Release It from GPCR Control 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(6):e1001587.
The GPCR-activated PI3Kγ is also a key enzyme downstream of the IgE high affinity receptor FcεRI. PKCβ-dependent phosphorylation of PI3Kγ on Ser582 is the ‘missing link’ that functions as a molecular switch to divert PI3Kγ from GPCR inputs.
All class I phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) associate tightly with regulatory subunits through interactions that have been thought to be constitutive. PI3Kγ is key to the regulation of immune cell responses activated by G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Remarkably we find that PKCβ phosphorylates Ser582 in the helical domain of the PI3Kγ catalytic subunit p110γ in response to clustering of the high-affinity IgE receptor (FcεRI) and/or store-operated Ca2+- influx in mast cells. Phosphorylation of p110γ correlates with the release of the p84 PI3Kγ adapter subunit from the p84-p110γ complex. Ser582 phospho-mimicking mutants show increased p110γ activity and a reduced binding to the p84 adapter subunit. As functional p84-p110γ is key to GPCR-mediated p110γ signaling, this suggests that PKCβ-mediated p110γ phosphorylation disconnects PI3Kγ from its canonical inputs from trimeric G proteins, and enables p110γ to operate downstream of Ca2+ and PKCβ. Hydrogen deuterium exchange mass spectrometry shows that the p84 adaptor subunit interacts with the p110γ helical domain, and reveals an unexpected mechanism of PI3Kγ regulation. Our data show that the interaction of p110γ with its adapter subunit is vulnerable to phosphorylation, and outline a novel level of PI3K control.
Author Summary
Phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) are involved in most essential cellular processes. Class I PI3Ks are heterodimers: class IA PI3Ks are made up of one of a group of regulatory p85-like subunits and one p110α, p110β, or p110δ catalytic p110 subunit, and are activated via binding of their p85 subunit to phosphorylated tyrosine receptors or their substrates. The only, class IB PI3K member, PI3Kγ, operates downstream of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Recent work suggested that PI3Kγ also operates downstream of IgE-antigen complexes in mast cell activation, but no mechanism was provided. We show that clustering of the high-affinity IgE receptor FcεRI triggers a massive calcium ion influx, which leads to PKCβ activation. In turn, PKCβ phosphorylates Ser582 of the PI3Kγ catalytic p110γ subunit's helical domain. Downstream of GPCRs, p110γ requires a p84 adapter to be functional. Phospho-mimicking mutations at Ser582 disrupt the p84-p110γ interaction, and cellular Ser582 phosphorylation correlates with the loss of p84 from p110γ. Thus our data suggest that PKCβ phosphorylates and activates p110γ downstream of calcium ion influx, while simultaneously disconnecting the phosphorylated p110γ from GPCR signaling. Exploration of the p84-p110γ interaction surface by hydrogen- deuterium exchange mass spectrometry confirmed that the p110γ helical domain forms the main p84-p110γ contact surface. Taken together, the results suggest an unprecedented mechanism of PI3Kγ regulation.
PMCID: PMC3692425  PMID: 23824069
17.  Characterization of a Tumor-Associated Activating Mutation of the p110β PI 3-Kinase 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63833.
The PI3-kinase pathway is commonly activated in tumors, most often by loss of PTEN lipid phosphatase activity or the amplification or mutation of p110α. Oncogenic mutants have commonly been found in p110α, but rarely in any of the other catalytic subunits of class I PI3-kinases. We here characterize a p110β helical domain mutation, E633K, first identified in a Her2-positive breast cancer. The mutation increases basal p110β activity, but does not affect activation of p85/p110β dimers by phosphopeptides or Gβγ. Expression of the mutant causes increases in Akt and S6K1 activation, transformation, chemotaxis, proliferation and survival in low serum. E633 is conserved among class I PI3 Ks, and its mutation in p110β is also activating. Interestingly, the E633K mutant occurs near a region that interacts with membranes in activated PI 3-kinases, and its mutation abrogates the requirement for an intact Ras-binding domain in p110β-mediated transformation. We propose that the E633K mutant activates p110β by enhancing its basal association with membranes. This study presents the first analysis of an activating oncogenic mutation of p110β.
PMCID: PMC3667187  PMID: 23734178
18.  PI3-Kinase γ Promotes Rap1a-Mediated Activation of Myeloid Cell Integrin α4β1, Leading to Tumor Inflammation and Growth 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60226.
Tumor inflammation, the recruitment of myeloid lineage cells into the tumor microenvironment, promotes angiogenesis, immunosuppression and metastasis. CD11b+Gr1lo monocytic lineage cells and CD11b+Gr1hi granulocytic lineage cells are recruited from the circulation by tumor-derived chemoattractants, which stimulate PI3-kinase γ (PI3Kγ)-mediated integrin α4 activation and extravasation. We show here that PI3Kγ activates PLCγ, leading to RasGrp/CalDAG-GEF-I&II mediated, Rap1a-dependent activation of integrin α4β1, extravasation of monocytes and granulocytes, and inflammation-associated tumor progression. Genetic depletion of PLCγ, CalDAG-GEFI or II, Rap1a, or the Rap1 effector RIAM was sufficient to prevent integrin α4 activation by chemoattractants or activated PI3Kγ (p110γCAAX), while activated Rap (RapV12) promoted constitutive integrin activation and cell adhesion that could only be blocked by inhibition of RIAM or integrin α4β1. Similar to blockade of PI3Kγ or integrin α4β1, blockade of Rap1a suppressed both the recruitment of monocytes and granulocytes to tumors and tumor progression. These results demonstrate critical roles for a PI3Kγ-Rap1a-dependent pathway in integrin activation during tumor inflammation and suggest novel avenues for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3614555  PMID: 23565202
19.  Loss of TRAIL-Receptors Is a Recurrent Feature in Pancreatic Cancer and Determines the Prognosis of Patients with No Nodal Metastasis after Surgery 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56760.
Agonistic antibodies targeting TRAIL-receptors 1 and 2 (TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2) are being developed as a novel therapeutic approach in cancer therapy including pancreatic cancer. However, the cellular distribution of these receptors in primary pancreatic cancer samples has not been sufficiently investigated and no study has yet addressed the issue of their prognostic significance in this tumor entity.
Aims and Methods
Applying tissue microarray (TMA) analysis, we performed an immunohistochemical assessment of TRAIL-receptors in surgical samples from 84 consecutive patients affected by pancreatic adenocarcinoma and in 26 additional selected specimens from patients with no lymph nodes metastasis at the time of surgery. The prognostic significance of membrane staining and staining intensity for TRAIL-receptors was evaluated.
The fraction of pancreatic cancer samples with positive membrane staining for TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2 was lower than that of cells from surrounding non-tumor tissues (TRAIL-R1: p<0.001, TRAIL-R2: p = 0.006). In addition, subgroup analyses showed that loss of membrane staining for TRAIL-R2 was associated with poorer prognosis in patients without nodal metastases (multivariate Cox regression analysis, Hazard Ratio: 0.44 [95% confidence interval: 0.22−0.87]; p = 0.019). In contrast, analysis of decoy receptors TRAIL-R3 and -R4 in tumor samples showed an exclusively cytoplasmatic staining pattern and no prognostic relevance.
This is a first report on the prognostic significance of TRAIL-receptors expression in pancreatic cancer showing that TRAIL-R2 might represent a prognostic marker for patients with early stage disease. In addition, our data suggest that loss of membrane-bound TRAIL-receptors could represent a molecular mechanism for therapeutic failure upon administration of TRAIL-receptors-targeting antibodies in pancreatic cancer. This hypothesis should be evaluated in future clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3584093  PMID: 23460812
20.  Rule out of acute aortic dissection with plasma matrix metalloproteinase 8 in the emergency department 
Critical Care  2013;17(1):R33.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are involved in aortic pathophysiology. Preliminary studies have detected increased plasma levels of MMP8 and MMP9 in patients with acute aortic dissection (AAD). However, the performance of plasma MMP8 and MMP9 for the diagnosis of AAD in the emergency department is at present unknown.
The levels of MMP8 and MMP9 were measured by ELISA on plasma samples obtained from 126 consecutive patients evaluated in the emergency department for suspected AAD. All patients were subjected to urgent computed tomography (CT) scan for final diagnosis.
In the study cohort (N = 126), AAD was diagnosed in 52 patients and ruled out in 74 patients. Median plasma MMP8 levels were 36.4 (interquartile range 24.8 to 69.3) ng/ml in patients with AAD and 13.2 (8.1 to 31.8) ng/ml in patients receiving an alternative final diagnosis (P <0.0001). Median plasma MMP9 levels were 169.2 (93.0 to 261.8) ng/ml in patients with AAD and 80.5 (41.8 to 140.6) ng/ml in patients receiving an alternative final diagnosis (P = 0.001). The area under the curve (AUC) on receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) analysis of MMP8 and MMP9 for the diagnosis of AAD was respectively 0.75 and 0.70, as compared to 0.87 of D-dimer. At the cutoff of 3.6 ng/ml, plasma MMP8 had a sensitivity of 100.0% (95% CI, 93.2% to 100.0%) and a specificity of 9.5% (95% CI, 3.9% to 18.5%) and ruled out AAD in 5.6% of patients. Combination of plasma MMP8 with D-dimer increased the AUC on ROC analysis to 0.89. Presence of MMP8 <11.0 ng/ml and D-dimer <1.0 or <2.0 µg/ml provided a negative predictive value of 100% and ruled out AAD in 13.6% and 21.4% of patients respectively.
Low levels of plasma MMP8 can rule out AAD in a minority of patients. Combination of plasma MMP8 and D-dimer at individually suboptimal cutoffs could safely rule out AAD in a substantial proportion of patients evaluated in the emergency department.
PMCID: PMC4057269  PMID: 23442769
21.  Extracellular Regulated Kinase 1/2 Signaling Is a Critical Regulator of Interleukin-1β-Mediated Astrocyte Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-1 Expression 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56891.
Astrocytes are essential for proper central nervous system (CNS) function and are intricately involved in neuroinflammation. Despite evidence that immune-activated astrocytes contribute to many CNS pathologies, little is known about the inflammatory pathways controlling gene expression. Our laboratory identified altered levels of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1 in brain lysates from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 infected patients, compared to age-matched controls, and interleukin (IL)-1β as a key regulator of astrocyte TIMP-1. Additionally, CCAAT enhancer binding protein (C/EBP)β levels are elevated in brain specimens from HIV-1 patients and the transcription factor contributes to astrocyte TIMP-1 expression. In this report we sought to identify key signaling pathways necessary for IL-1β-mediated astrocyte TIMP-1 expression and their interaction with C/EBPβ. Primary human astrocytes were cultured and treated with mitogen activated protein kinase-selective small molecule inhibitors, and IL-1β. TIMP-1 and C/EBPβ mRNA and protein expression were evaluated at 12 and 24 h post-treatment, respectively. TIMP-1 promoter-driven luciferase plasmids were used to evaluate TIMP-1 promoter activity in inhibitor-treated astrocytes. These data show that extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2-selective inhibitors block IL-1β-induced astrocyte TIMP-1 expression, but did not decrease C/EBPβ expression in parallel. The p38 kinase (p38K) inhibitors partially blocked both IL-1β-induced astrocyte TIMP-1 expression and C/EBPβ expression. The ERK1/2-selective inhibitor abrogated IL-1β-mediated increases in TIMP-1 promoter activity. Our data demonstrate that ERK1/2 activation is critical for IL-1β-mediated astrocyte TIMP-1 expression. ERK1/2-selective inhibition may elicit a compensatory response in the form of enhanced IL-1β-mediated astrocyte C/EBPβ expression, or, alternatively, ERK1/2 signaling may function to moderate IL-1β-mediated astrocyte C/EBPβ expression. Furthermore, p38K activation contributes to IL-1β-induced astrocyte TIMP-1 and C/EBPβ expression. These data suggest that ERK1/2 signals downstream of C/EBPβ to facilitate IL-1β-induced astrocyte TIMP-1 expression. Astrocyte ERK1/2 and p38K signaling may serve as therapeutic targets for manipulating CNS TIMP-1 and C/EBPβ levels, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3572966  PMID: 23457635
22.  Identification of the Cancer Cell Proliferation and Survival Functions of proHB-EGF by Using an Anti-HB-EGF Antibody 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54509.
Heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor (HB-EGF) is a member of the epidermal growth factor family. The membrane-bound proHB-EGF is known to be a precursor of the soluble form of HB-EGF (sHB-EGF), which promotes cell proliferation and survival. While the functions of sHB-EGF have been extensively studied, it is not yet fully understood if proHB-EGF is also involved in cellular signaling events. In this study, we utilized the anti-HB-EGF monoclonal antibodies Y-142 and Y-073, which have differential specificities toward proHB-EGF, in order to elucidate proHB-EGF functions in cancer cells.
Experimental Design
The biological activities of proHB-EGF were assessed in cell proliferation, caspase activation, and juxtacrine activity assays by using a 3D spheroid culture of NUGC-3 cells.
Y-142 and Y-073 exhibited similar binding and neutralizing activities for sHB-EGF. However, only Y-142 bound to proHB-EGF. We could detect the function of endogenously expressed proHB-EGF in a 3D spheroid culture. Blocking proHB-EGF with Y-142 reduced spheroid formation, suppressed cell proliferation, and increased caspase activation in the 3D spheroid culture of NUGC-3 cells.
Our results show that proHB-EGF acts as a cell proliferation and cell survival factor in cancer cells. The results suggest that proHB-EGF may play an important role in tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC3549951  PMID: 23349913
23.  Intracellular Function of Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist in Ischemic Cardiomyocytes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53265.
Loss of cardiac myocytes due to apoptosis is a relevant feature of ischemic heart disease. It has been described in infarct and peri-infarct regions of the myocardium in coronary syndromes and in ischemia-linked heart remodeling. Previous studies have provided protection against ischemia-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis by the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 receptor-antagonist (IL-1Ra). Mitochondria triggering of caspases plays a central role in ischemia-induced apoptosis. We examined the production of IL-1Ra in the ischemic heart and, based on dual intra/extracellular function of some other interleukins, we hypothesized that IL-1Ra may also directly inhibit mitochondria-activated caspases and cardiomyocyte apoptosis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Synthesis of IL-1Ra was evidenced in the hearts explanted from patients with ischemic heart disease. In the mouse ischemic heart and in a mouse cardiomyocyte cell line exposed to long-lasting hypoxia, IL-1Ra bound and inhibited mitochondria-activated caspases, whereas inhibition of caspase activation was not observed in the heart of mice lacking IL-1Ra (Il-1ra−/−) or in siRNA to IL-1Ra-interfered cells. An impressive 6-fold increase of hypoxia-induced apoptosis was observed in cells lacking IL-1Ra. IL-1Ra down-regulated cells were not protected against caspase activation and apoptosis by knocking down of the IL-1 receptor, confirming the intracellular, receptor-independent, anti-apoptotic function of IL-1Ra. Notably, the inhibitory effect of IL-1Ra was not influenced by enduring ischemic conditions in which previously described physiologic inhibitors of apoptosis are neutralized.
These observations point to intracellular IL-1Ra as a critical mechanism of the cell self-protection against ischemia-induced apoptosis and suggest that this cytokine plays an important role in the remodeling of heart by promoting survival of cardiomyocytes in the ischemic regions.
PMCID: PMC3540084  PMID: 23308180
24.  Targeting PI3K in Cancer: Any Good News? 
Frontiers in Oncology  2013;3:108.
The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway regulates several cellular processes and it’s one of the most frequently deregulated pathway in human tumors. Given its prominent role in cancer, there is great interest in the development of inhibitors able to target several members of PI3K signaling pathway in clinical trials. These drug candidates include PI3K inhibitors, both pan- and isoform-specific inhibitors, AKT, mTOR, and dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitors. As novel compounds progress into clinical trials, it’s becoming urgent to identify and select patient population that most likely benefit from PI3K inhibition. In this review we will discuss individual PIK3CA mutations as predictors of sensitivity and resistance to targeted therapies, leading to use of novel PI3K/mTOR/AKT inhibitors to a more “personalized” treatment.
PMCID: PMC3647219  PMID: 23658859
PI3K; cancer; therapeutics; genetic determinants; class II phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase
25.  β1-Adrenoceptor Autoantibodies from DCM Patients Enhance the Proliferation of T Lymphocytes through the β1-AR/cAMP/PKA and p38 MAPK Pathways 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52911.
Autoantibodies against the second extracellular loop of the β1-adrenergic receptor (β1-AA) not only contribute to increased susceptibility to heart failure, but also play a causative role in myocardial remodeling through their sympathomimetic-like effects that are induced upon binding to the β1-adrenergic receptor. However, their role in the function of T lymphocytes has never been previously investigated. Our present study was designed to determine whether β1-AA isolated from the sera of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) patients caused the proliferation of T cells and the secretion of cytokines.
Blood samples were collected from 95 DCM patients as well as 95 healthy subjects, and β1-AA was detected using ELISA. The CD3+T lymphocytes were selected separately through flow cytometry and the effect of β1-AA on T lymphocyte proliferation was examined by CCK-8 kits and CFSE assay. Western blotting was used to analyze the expressions of phospho-VASP and phospho-p38 MAPK.
β1-AA enhanced the proliferation of T lymphocytes. This effect could be blocked by the selective β1-adrenergic receptor antagonist metoprolol, PKA inhibitor H89, and p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580. Furthermore, the expression of the phosphorylated forms of phospho-VASP and phospho-p38 MAPK were markedly increased in the presence of β1-AA. β1-AA also inhibited the secretion of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) while promoting an increase in interleukin-4 (IL-4) levels.
These results demonstrate that β1-AA isolated from DCM patients binds to β1-AR on the surface of T cells, causing changes in T-cell proliferation and secretion through the β1-AR/cAMP/PKA and p38 MAPK pathways.
PMCID: PMC3534136  PMID: 23300817

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