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1.  Calpain Genetic Disruption and HSP90 Inhibition Combine To Attenuate Mammary Tumorigenesis 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2016;36(15):2078-2088.
Calpain is an intracellular Ca2+-regulated protease system whose substrates include proteins involved in proliferation, survival, migration, invasion, and sensitivity to therapeutic drugs. Genetic disruption of calpain attenuated the tumorigenic potential of breast cancer cells and hypersensitized cells to 17AAG, an inhibitor of the molecular chaperone HSP90. Calpain-1 or -2 overexpression rendered cells resistant to 17AAG, whereas downregulation or inhibition of calpain-1/2 led to increased cell death in multiple breast cancer cell lines, including models of HER2+ (SKBR3) and triple-negative basal-cell-like (MDA-MB-231) breast cancer. In an MDA-MB-231 orthotopic xenograft model, calpain knockdown or 17AAG treatment independently attenuated tumor growth and metastasis, while the combination was most effective. Calpain knockdown was associated with increased 17AAG-induced degradation of the HSP90 clients cyclin D1 and AKT and multidrug resistance protein 2, which correlated with increased expression of antimitogenic p27KIP1 and proapoptotic BIM proteins. Like other therapeutics, 17AAG can be effluxed by specific ABC transporters. Calpain expression positively correlated with the expression of P glycoprotein in mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Importantly, we show that calpain affects ABC transporter function and efflux of clinically relevant doxorubicin. These observations provide a compelling rationale for exploring the combination of calpain inhibition with new or existing cancer therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4946432  PMID: 27215381
2.  Mitochondrial Calpain-1 Disrupts ATP Synthase and Induces Superoxide Generation in Type 1 Diabetic Hearts: A Novel Mechanism Contributing to Diabetic Cardiomyopathy 
Diabetes  2015;65(1):255-268.
Calpain plays a critical role in cardiomyopathic changes in type 1 diabetes (T1D). This study investigated how calpain regulates mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation in the development of diabetic cardiomyopathy. T1D was induced in transgenic mice overexpressing calpastatin, in mice with cardiomyocyte-specific capn4 deletion, or in their wild-type littermates by injection of streptozotocin. Calpain-1 protein and activity in mitochondria were elevated in diabetic mouse hearts. The increased mitochondrial calpain-1 was associated with an increase in mitochondrial ROS generation and oxidative damage and a reduction in ATP synthase-α (ATP5A1) protein and ATP synthase activity. Genetic inhibition of calpain or upregulation of ATP5A1 increased ATP5A1 and ATP synthase activity, prevented mitochondrial ROS generation and oxidative damage, and reduced cardiomyopathic changes in diabetic mice. High glucose concentration induced ATP synthase disruption, mitochondrial superoxide generation, and cell death in cardiomyocytes, all of which were prevented by overexpression of mitochondria-targeted calpastatin or ATP5A1. Moreover, upregulation of calpain-1 specifically in mitochondria induced the cleavage of ATP5A1, superoxide generation, and apoptosis in cardiomyocytes. In summary, calpain-1 accumulation in mitochondria disrupts ATP synthase and induces ROS generation, which promotes diabetic cardiomyopathy. These findings suggest a novel mechanism for and may have significant implications in diabetic cardiac complications.
PMCID: PMC4686953  PMID: 26470784
3.  Disruption of calpain reduces lipotoxicity-induced cardiac injury by preventing endoplasmic reticulum stress 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2016;1862(11):2023-2033.
Diabetes and obesity are prevalent in westernized countries. In both conditions, excessive fatty acid uptake by cardiomyocytes induces cardiac lipotoxicity, an important mechanism contributing to diabetic cardiomyopathy. This study investigated the effect of calpain disruption on cardiac lipotoxicity. Cardiac-specific capns1 knockout mice and their wild-type littermates (male, age of 4 weeks) were fed a high fat diet (HFD) or normal diet for 20 weeks. HFD increased body weight, altered blood lipid profiles and impaired glucose tolerance comparably in both capns1 knockout mice and their wild-type littermates. Calpain activity, cardiomyocyte cross-sectional areas, collagen deposition and triglyceride were significantly increased in HFD-fed mouse hearts, and these were accompanied by myocardial dysfunction and up-regulation of hypertrophic and fibrotic collagen genes as well as pro-inflammatory cytokines. These effects of HFD were attenuated by disruption of calpain in capns1 knockout mice. Mechanistically, deletion of capns1 in HFD-fed mouse hearts and disruption of calpain with calpain inhibitor-III, silencing of capn1, or deletion of capns1 in palmitate-stimulated cardiomyocytes prevented endoplasmic reticulum stress, apoptosis, cleavage of caspase-12 and junctophilin-2, and pro-inflammatory cytokine expression. Pharmacological inhibition of endoplasmic reticulum stress diminished palmitate-induced apoptosis and pro-inflammatory cytokine expression in cardiomyocytes. In summary, disruption of calpain prevents lipotoxicity-induced apoptosis in cardiomyocytes and cardiac injury in mice fed a HFD. The role of calpain is mediated, at least partially, through endoplasmic reticulum stress. Thus, calpain/endoplasmic reticulum stress may represent a new mechanism and potential therapeutic targets for cardiac lipotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC5066874  PMID: 27523632
Calpain; Cardiomyocytes; Lipotoxicity; Endoplasmic reticulum stress
4.  Deletion of capn4 Protects the Heart Against Endotoxemic Injury by Preventing ATP Synthase Disruption and Inhibiting Mitochondrial Superoxide Generation 
Circulation. Heart failure  2015;8(5):988-996.
Our recent study has demonstrated that inhibition of calpain by transgenic over-expression of calpastatin reduces myocardial pro-inflammatory response and dysfunction in endotoxemia. However, the underlying mechanisms remain to be determined. In this study, we employed cardiomyocyte-specific capn4 knockout mice to investigate whether and how calpain disrupts ATP synthase and induces mitochondrial superoxide generation during endotoxemia.
Method and Results
Cardiomyocyte-specific capn4 knockout mice and their wild-type littermates were injected with lipopolysaccharides (LPS). Four hours later, calpain-1 protein and activity were increased in mitochondria of endotoxemic mouse hearts. Mitochondrial calpain-1 co-localized with and cleaved ATP synthase-α (ATP5A1), leading to ATP synthase disruption and a concomitant increase in mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation during LPS stimulation. Deletion of capn4 or up-regulation of ATP5A1 increased ATP synthase activity, prevented mitochondrial ROS generation, and reduced pro-inflammatory response and myocardial dysfunction in endotoxemic mice. In cultured cardiomyocytes, LPS induced mitochondrial superoxide generation which was prevented by over-expression of mitochondria-targeted calpastatin or ATP5A1. Up-regulation of calpain-1 specifically in mitochondria sufficiently induced superoxide generation and pro-inflammatory response, both of which were attenuated by ATP5A1 over-expression or mitochondria-targeted superoxide dismutase mimetics, mito-TEMPO.
Cardiomyocyte-specific capn4 knockout protects the heart against LPS-induced injury in endotoxemic mice. LPS induces calpain-1 accumulation in mitochondria. Mitochondrial calpain-1 disrupts ATP synthase, leading to mitochondrial ROS generation, which promotes pro-inflammatory response and myocardial dysfunction during endotoxemia. These findings uncover a novel mechanism by which calpain mediates myocardial dysfunction in sepsis.
PMCID: PMC4573911  PMID: 26246018
calpain; superoxide; mitochondria; heart; lipopolysaccharides; ATP synthase; sepsis
5.  Interleukin-4 Expressed By Neoplastic Cells Provokes an Anti-Metastatic Myeloid Immune Response 
Interleukin-4 (IL-4) can induce macrophages to undergo alternative activation and polarize toward an M2-like or wound healing phenotype. Tumor associated macrophages (TAMs) are thought to assume M2-like properties, and it has been suggested they promote tumor growth and metastasis through effects on the tumor stroma, including extracelluar matrix remodeling and angiogenesis. IL-4 also promotes macrophage survival and formation of multinucleated giant cells, which have enhanced phagocytic behavior. This study was designed to explore the effect of cancer cell derived IL-4 on the tumor immune stroma and metastasis.
The metastatic mouse mammary carcinoma cell line AC2M2 was transduced with control or IL-4 encoding retroviruses and employed in orthotopic engraftment models. Tumor growth and metastasis were assessed. The cellular composition and biomarker expression of tumors were examined by immunohistochemical staining and flow cytometry; the transcriptome of the immune stroma was analyzed by nanoString based transcript quantitation; and in vivo and in vitro interactions between cancer cells and macrophages were assessed by flow cytometry and co-culture with video-time lapse microscopy, respectively.
Unexpectedly, tumors from IL-4 expressing AC2M2 engrafted cells grew at reduced rates, and most surprising, they lost all metastatic potential relative to tumors from control AC2M2 cells. Myeloid cell numbers were not increased in IL-4 expressing tumors, but their expression of the M2 marker arginase I was elevated. Transcriptome analysis revealed an immune signature consistent with IL-4 induced M2 polarization of the tumor microenvironment and a generalized increase in myeloid involvement in the tumor stroma. Flow cytometry analysis indicated enhanced cancer cell phagocytosis by TAMs from IL-4 expressing tumors, and co-culture studies showed that IL-4 expressing cancer cells supported the survival and promoted the in vitro phagocytic behavior of macrophages.
Although M2-like TAMs have been linked to enhanced tumorigenesis, this study shows that IL-4 production by cancer cells is associated with suppressed tumor growth and loss of metastatic potential as well as enhanced phagocytic behavior of TAMs.
PMCID: PMC4995104  PMID: 27563494 CAMSID: cams5885
Orthotopic engraftment; Metastasis; Interleukin-4; M2 polarization; Tumor associated macrophages
6.  Investigation of a real-time EPID-based patient dose monitoring safety system using site-specific control limits 
The aim of this study is to investigate the performance and limitations of a real-time transit electronic portal imaging device (EPID) dosimetry system for error detection during dynamic intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) treatment delivery. Sites studied are prostate, head and neck (HN), and rectal cancer treatments.
The system compares measured cumulative transit EPID image frames with predicted cumulative image frames in real-time during treatment using a χ comparison with 4 %, 4 mm criteria. The treatment site-specific thresholds (prostate, HN and rectum IMRT) were determined using initial data collected from 137 patients (274 measured treatment fractions) and a statistical process control methodology. These thresholds were then applied to data from 15 selected patients including 5 prostate, 5 HN, and 5 rectum IMRT treatments for system evaluation and classification of error sources.
Clinical demonstration of real-time transit EPID dosimetry in IMRT was presented. For error simulation, the system could detect gross errors (i.e. wrong patient, wrong plan, wrong gantry angle) immediately after EPID stabilisation; 2 seconds after the start of treatment. The average rate of error detection was 7.0 % (prostate = 5.6 %, HN= 8.7 % and rectum = 6.7 %). The detected errors were classified as either clinical in origin (e.g. patient anatomical changes), or non-clinical in origin (e.g. detection system errors). Classified errors were 3.2 % clinical and 3.9 % non-clinical.
An EPID-based real-time error detection method for treatment verification during dynamic IMRT has been developed and tested for its performance and limitations. The system is able to detect gross errors in real-time, however improvement in system robustness is required to reduce the non-clinical sources of error detection.
PMCID: PMC4983007  PMID: 27520279
Statistical process control; Real-time patient dose monitoring safety system; EPID
7.  Activation of calpain by renin-angiotensin system in pleural mesothelial cells mediates tuberculous pleural fibrosis 
Pleural fibrosis is defined as an excessive deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) components that results in destruction of the normal pleural tissue architecture. It can result from diverse inflammatory conditions, especially tuberculous pleurisy. Pleural mesothelial cells (PMCs) play a pivotal role in pleural fibrosis. Calpain is a family of calcium-dependent endopeptidases, which plays an important role in ECM remodeling. However, the role of calpain in pleural fibrosis remains unknown. In the present study, we found that tuberculous pleural effusion (TPE) induced calpain activation in PMCs and that inhibition of calpain prevented TPE-induced collagen-I synthesis and cell proliferation of PMCs. Moreover, our data revealed that the levels of angiotensin (ANG)-converting enzyme (ACE) were significantly higher in pleural fluid of patients with TPE than those with malignant pleural effusion, and ACE-ANG II in TPE resulted in activation of calpain and subsequent triggering of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/NF-κB signaling pathway in PMCs. Finally, calpain activation in PMCs and collagen depositions were confirmed in pleural biopsy specimens from patients with tuberculous pleurisy. Together, these studies demonstrated that calpain is activated by renin-angiotensin system in pleural fibrosis and mediates TPE-induced collagen-I synthesis and proliferation of PMCs via the PI3K/Akt/NF-κB signaling pathway. Calpain in PMCs might be a novel target for intervention in tuberculous pleural fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC4967195  PMID: 27261452
calpain; pleural mesothelial cell; fibrosis; tuberculosis; pleural effusion
8.  Pathological axonal death through a MAPK cascade that triggers a local energy deficit 
Cell  2015;160(0):161-176.
Axonal death disrupts functional connectivity of neural circuits and is a critical feature of many neurodegenerative disorders. Pathological axon degeneration often occurs independently of known programmed death pathways, but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. Using traumatic injury as a model, we systematically investigate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) families, and delineate a MAPK cascade that represents the early degenerative response to axonal injury. The adaptor protein Sarm1 is required for activation of this MAPK cascade, and this Sarm1-MAPK pathway disrupts axonal energy homeostasis, leading to ATP depletion before physical breakdown of damaged axons. The protective cytoNmnat1/Wlds protein inhibits activation of this MAPK cascade. Further, MKK4, a key component in the Sarm1-MAPK pathway, is antagonized by AKT signaling, which modulates the degenerative response by limiting activation of downstream JNK signaling. Our results reveal a regulatory mechanism that integrates distinct signals to instruct pathological axon degeneration.
PMCID: PMC4306654  PMID: 25594179
9.  Ezrin regulates focal adhesion and invadopodia dynamics by altering calpain activity to promote breast cancer cell invasion 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2015;26(19):3464-3479.
Ezrin regulates proper focal adhesion and invadopodia turnover by regulating calpain-1, in part by directing its proteolytic activity toward key substrates talin, FAK, and cortactin. Ezrin-deficient tumor cells show reduced lung seeding and colonization in vivo but not primary tumor growth, thus implicating ezrin as a metastasis-associated protein.
Up-regulation of the cytoskeleton linker protein ezrin frequently occurs in aggressive cancer types and is closely linked with metastatic progression. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms detailing how ezrin is involved in the invasive and metastatic phenotype remain unclear. Here we report a novel function of ezrin in regulating focal adhesion (FA) and invadopodia dynamics, two key processes required for efficient invasion to occur. We show that depletion of ezrin expression in invasive breast cancer cells impairs both FA and invadopodia turnover. We also demonstrate that ezrin-depleted cells display reduced calpain-mediated cleavage of the FA and invadopodia-associated proteins talin, focal adhesion kinase (FAK), and cortactin and reduced calpain-1–specific membrane localization, suggesting a requirement for ezrin in maintaining proper localization and activity of calpain-1. Furthermore, we show that ezrin is required for cell directionality, early lung seeding, and distant organ colonization but not primary tumor growth. Collectively our results unveil a novel mechanism by which ezrin regulates breast cancer cell invasion and metastasis.
PMCID: PMC4591691  PMID: 26246600
10.  Infections after fiducial marker implantation for prostate radiotherapy: are we underestimating the risks? 
The use of gold fiducial markers (FM) for prostate image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT) is standard practice. Published literature suggests low rates of serious infection following this procedure of 0-1.3%, but this may be an underestimate. We aim to report on the infection incidence and severity associated with the use of transrectally implanted intraprostatic gold FM.
Three hundred and fifty-nine patients who underwent transrectal FM insertion between January 2012 and December 2013 were assessed retrospectively via a self-reported questionnaire. All had standard oral fluoroquinolone antibiotic prophylaxis. The patients were asked about infective symptoms and the treatment received including antibiotics and/or related hospital admissions. Potential infective events were confirmed through medical records.
285 patients (79.4%) completed the questionnaire. 77 (27.0%) patients experienced increased urinary frequency and dysuria, and 33 patients (11.6%) reported episodes of chills and fevers after the procedure. 22 patients (7.7%) reported receiving antibiotics for urinary infection and eight patients (2.8%) reported hospital admission for urosepsis related to the procedure.
The overall rate of symptomatic infection with FM implantation in this study is 7.7%, with one third requiring hospital admission. This exceeds the reported rates in other FM implantation series, but is in keeping with the larger prostate biopsy literature. Given the higher than expected complication rate, a risk-adaptive approach may be helpful. Where higher accuracy is important such as stereotactic prostate radiotherapy, the benefits of FM may still outweigh the risks. For others, a non-invasive approach for prostate IGRT such as cone-beam CT could be considered.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13014-015-0347-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4333155  PMID: 25890179
Gold fiducial markers; Image guided radiotherapy; Infective complications; Prostate radiotherapy; Transrectal ultrasound guided
11.  Calpain 2 Activation of P-TEFb Drives Megakaryocyte Morphogenesis and Is Disrupted by Leukemogenic GATA1 Mutation 
Developmental cell  2013;27(6):607-620.
Megakaryocyte morphogenesis employs a “hypertrophy-like” developmental program, dependent on P-TEFb kinase activation and cytoskeletal remodeling. P-TEFb activation classically occurs by a feedback regulated process of signal-induced, reversible release of active Cdk9-cyclin T modules from large inactive 7SK snRNP complexes. Here we have identified an alternative pathway of irreversible P-TEFb activation in megakaryopoiesis, mediated by dissolution of the 7SK snRNP complex. In this pathway calpain 2 cleavage of the core 7SK snRNP component MePCE promoted P-TEFb release and consequent upregulation of a cohort of cytoskeleton remodeling factors, including α-actinin-1. In a subset of human megakaryocytic leukemias, the transcription factor GATA1 undergoes truncating mutation (GATA1s). Here we linked the GATA1s mutation to defects in megakaryocytic upregulation of calpain 2 and of P-TEFb-dependent cytoskeletal remodeling factors. Restoring calpain 2 expression in GATA1s-mutant megakaryocytes rescued normal development, implicating this morphogenetic pathway as a target in human leukemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3892434  PMID: 24369834
megakaryopoiesis; P-TEFb; 7SK snRNP; calpain 2; GATA1s mutant
12.  Conditional Disruption of Calpain in the CNS Alters Dendrite Morphology, Impairs LTP, and Promotes Neuronal Survival following Injury 
Ubiquitous classical (typical) calpains, calpain-1 and calpain-2, are Ca+2-dependent cysteine proteases, which have been associated with numerous physiological and pathological cellular functions. However, a clear understanding of the role of calpains in the CNS has been hampered by the lack of appropriate deletion paradigms in the brain. In this study, we describe a unique model of conditional deletion of both calpain-1 and calpain-2 activities in mouse brain, which more definitively assesses the role of these ubiquitous proteases in brain development/function and pathology. Surprisingly, we show that these calpains are not critical for gross CNS development. However, calpain-1/calpain-2 loss leads to reduced dendritic branching complexity and spine density deficits associated with major deterioration in hippocampal long-term potentiation and spatial memory. Moreover, calpain-1/calpain-2-deficient neurons were significantly resistant to injury induced by excitotoxic stress or mitochondrial toxicity. Examination of downstream target showed that the conversion of the Cdk5 activator, p35, to pathogenic p25 form, occurred only in the presence of calpain and that it played a major role in calpain-mediated neuronal death. These findings unequivocally establish two central roles of calpain-1/calpain-2 in CNS function in plasticity and neuronal death.
PMCID: PMC4153560  PMID: 23536090
13.  Flavopiridol Synergizes with Sorafenib to Induce Cytotoxicity and Potentiate Antitumorigenic Activity in EGFR/HER-2 and Mutant RAS/RAF Breast Cancer Model Systems12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2013;15(8):939-951.
Oncogenic receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling through the Ras-Raf-Mek-Erk (Ras-MAPK) pathway is implicated in a wide array of carcinomas, including those of the breast. The cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) are implicated in regulating proliferative and survival signaling downstream of this pathway. Here, we show that CDK inhibitors exhibit an order of magnitude greater cytotoxic potency than a suite of inhibitors targeting RTK and Ras-MAPK signaling in cell lines representative of clinically recognized breast cancer (BC) subtypes. Drug combination studies show that the pan-CDK inhibitor, flavopiridol (FPD), synergistically potentiated cytotoxicity induced by the Raf inhibitor, sorafenib (SFN). This synergy was most pronounced at sub-EC50 SFN concentrations in MDA-MB-231 (KRAS-G13D and BRAF-G464V mutations), MDA-MB-468 [epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) overexpression], and SKBR3 [ErbB2/EGFR2 (HER-2) overexpression] cells but not in hormone-dependent MCF-7 and T47D cells. Potentiation of SFN cytotoxicity by FPD correlated with enhanced apoptosis, suppression of retinoblastoma (Rb) signaling, and reduced Mcl-1 expression. SFN and FPD were also tested in an MDA-MB-231 mammary fat pad engraftment model of tumorigenesis. Mice treated with both drugs exhibited reduced primary tumor growth rates and metastatic tumor load in the lungs compared to treatment with either drug alone, and this correlated with greater reductions in Rb signaling and Mcl-1 expression in resected tumors. These findings support the development of CDK and Raf co-targeting strategies in EGFR/HER-2-overexpressing or RAS/RAF mutant BCs.
PMCID: PMC3730045  PMID: 23908594
15.  Fer Kinase Limits Neutrophil Chemotaxis toward End Target Chemoattractants 
Neutrophil recruitment and directional movement toward chemotactic stimuli are important processes in innate immune responses. This study examines the role of Fer kinase in neutrophil recruitment and chemotaxis to various chemoattractants in vitro and in vivo. Mice targeted with a kinase-inactivating mutation (FerDR/DR) or wild type (WT) were studied using time-lapse intravital microscopy to examine leukocyte recruitment and chemotaxis in vivo. In response to keratinocyte-derived cytokine, no difference in leukocyte chemotaxis was observed between WT and FerDR/DR mice. However, in response to the chemotactic peptide WKYMVm, a selective agonist of the formyl peptide receptor, a 2-fold increase in leukocyte emigration was noted in FerDR/DR mice (p < 0.05). To determine whether these defects were due to Fer signaling in the endothelium or other nonhematopoietic cells, bone marrow chimeras were generated. WKYMVm-induced leukocyte recruitment in chimeric mice (WT bone marrow to FerDR/DR recipients or vice versa) was similar to WT mice, suggesting that Fer kinase signaling in both leukocytes and endothelial cells serves to limit chemotaxis. Purified FerDR/DR neutrophils demonstrated enhanced chemotaxis toward end target chemoattractants (WKYMVm and C5a) compared with WT using an under-agarose gel chemotaxis assay. These defects were not observed in response to intermediate chemoattractants (keratinocyte-derived cytokine, MIP-2, or LTB4). Increased WKYMVm-induced chemotaxis of FerDR/DR neutrophils correlated with sustained PI3K activity and reduced reliance on the p38 MAPK pathway compared with WT neutrophils. Together, these data identify Fer as a novel inhibitory kinase for neutrophil chemotaxis toward end target chemoattractants through modulation of PI3K activity.
PMCID: PMC3575564  PMID: 23355730
16.  Targeted Inhibition of Calpain Reduces Myocardial Hypertrophy and Fibrosis in Mouse Models of Type 1 Diabetes 
Diabetes  2011;60(11):2985-2994.
Recently we have shown that calpain-1 activation contributes to cardiomyocyte apoptosis induced by hyperglycemia. This study was undertaken to investigate whether targeted disruption of calpain would reduce myocardial hypertrophy and fibrosis in mouse models of type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes in mice was induced by injection of streptozotocin (STZ), and OVE26 mice were also used as a type 1 diabetic model. The function of calpain was genetically manipulated by cardiomyocyte-specific knockout Capn4 in mice and the use of calpastatin transgenic mice. Myocardial hypertrophy and fibrosis were investigated 2 and 5 months after STZ injection or in OVE26 diabetic mice at the age of 5 months. Cultured isolated adult mouse cardiac fibroblast cells were also investigated under high glucose conditions.
Calpain activity, cardiomyocyte cross-sectional areas, and myocardial collagen deposition were significantly increased in both STZ-induced and OVE26 diabetic hearts, and these were accompanied by elevated expression of hypertrophic and fibrotic collagen genes. Deficiency of Capn4 or overexpression of calpastatin reduced myocardial hypertrophy and fibrosis in both diabetic models, leading to the improvement of myocardial function. These effects were associated with a normalization of the nuclear factor of activated T-cell nuclear factor-κB and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activities in diabetic hearts. In cultured cardiac fibroblasts, high glucose–induced proliferation and MMP activities were prevented by calpain inhibition.
Myocardial hypertrophy and fibrosis in diabetic mice are attenuated by reduction of calpain function. Thus targeted inhibition of calpain represents a potential novel therapeutic strategy for reversing diabetic cardiomyopathy.
PMCID: PMC3198063  PMID: 21911754
17.  Apicomplexan Parasites Co-Opt Host Calpains to Facilitate Their Escape from Infected Cells 
Science (New York, N.y.)  2009;324(5928):794-797.
Apicomplexan parasites, including Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii (the causative agents of malaria and toxoplasmosis, respectively), are responsible for considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide. These pathogenic protozoa replicate within an intracellular vacuole inside of infected host cells, from which they must escape to initiate a new lytic cycle. By integrating cell biological, pharmacological, and genetic approaches, we provide evidence that both Plasmodium and Toxoplasma hijack host cell calpain proteases to facilitate parasite egress. Immunodepletion or inhibition of calpain-1 in hypotonically lysed and resealed erythrocytes prevented the escape of P. falciparum parasites, which was restored by adding purified calpain-1. Similarly, efficient egress of T. gondii from mammalian fibroblasts was blocked by either small interfering RNA–mediated suppression or genetic deletion of calpain activity and could be restored by genetic complementation.
PMCID: PMC3391539  PMID: 19342550
18.  Fes tyrosine kinase expression in the tumor niche correlates with enhanced tumor growth, angiogenesis, circulating tumor cells, metastasis and infiltrating macrophages 
Cancer research  2010;71(4):1465-1473.
Fes is protein tyrosine kinase with cell autonomous oncogenic activities that are well established in cell culture and animal models, but its involvement in human cancer has been unclear. Abundant expression of Fes in vascular endothelial cells and myeloid cell lineages prompted us to explore roles for Fes in the tumor microenvironment. In an orthotopic mouse model of breast cancer, we found that loss of Fes in the host correlated with reductions in engrafted tumor growth rates, metastasis and circulating tumor cells. The tumor microenvironment in Fes-deficient mice also showed reduced vascularity and fewer macrophages. In co-culture with tumor cells, Fes-deficient macrophages also poorly promoted tumor cell invasive behavior. Taken together, our observations argue that Fes inhibition might provide therapeutic benefits in breast cancer, in part by attenuating tumor-associated angiogenesis and the metastasis-promoting functions of tumor-associated macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3041852  PMID: 21159660
Tumor-associated macrophages; Fes tyrosine kinase; metastasis; circulating tumor cells; angiogenesis
19.  Calpain mediates pulmonary vascular remodeling in rodent models of pulmonary hypertension, and its inhibition attenuates pathologic features of disease 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(11):4548-4566.
Pulmonary hypertension is a severe and progressive disease, a key feature of which is pulmonary vascular remodeling. Several growth factors, including EGF, PDGF, and TGF-β1, are involved in pulmonary vascular remodeling during pulmonary hypertension. However, increased knowledge of the downstream signaling cascades is needed if effective clinical interventions are to be developed. In this context, calpain provides an interesting candidate therapeutic target, since it is activated by EGF and PDGF and has been reported to activate TGF-β1. Thus, in this study, we examined the role of calpain in pulmonary vascular remodeling in two rodent models of pulmonary hypertension. These data showed that attenuated calpain activity in calpain-knockout mice or rats treated with a calpain inhibitor resulted in prevention of increased right ventricular systolic pressure, right ventricular hypertrophy, as well as collagen deposition and thickening of pulmonary arterioles in models of hypoxia- and monocrotaline-induced pulmonary hypertension. Additionally, inhibition of calpain in vitro blocked intracellular activation of TGF-β1, which led to attenuated Smad2/3 phosphorylation and collagen synthesis. Finally, smooth muscle cells of pulmonary arterioles from patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension showed higher levels of calpain activation and intracellular active TGF-β. Our data provide evidence that calpain mediates EGF- and PDGF-induced collagen synthesis and proliferation of pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells via an intracrine TGF-β1 pathway in pulmonary hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3204840  PMID: 22005303
20.  The calpain small subunit regulates cell-substrate mechanical interactions during fibroblast migration 
Journal of cell science  2008;121(Pt 21):3581-3588.
Cell migration involves the dynamic formation and release of cell-substrate adhesions, where the exertion and detection of mechanical forces take place. Members of the calpain family of calcium-dependent proteases are believed to have a central role in these processes, possibly through the regulation of focal adhesion dynamics. The ubiquitous calpains, calpain 1 (μ-calpain) and calpain 2 (m-calpain), are heterodimers consisting of large catalytic subunits encoded by the Capn1 and Capn2 genes, respectively, and the small regulatory subunit encoded by Capn4. We have examined the role of the calpain regulatory small subunit in traction force production and mechanosensing during cell migration. Capn4-deficient or rescued cells were plated on flexible polyacrylamide substrates, for both the detection of traction forces and the application of mechanical stimuli. The total force output of Capn4-deficient cells was ~75% lower than that of rescued cells and the forces were more randomly distributed and less dynamic in Capn4-deficient cells than in rescued cells. Furthermore, Capn4-deficient cells were less adhesive than wild-type cells and they also failed to respond to mechanical stimulations by pushing or pulling the flexible substrate, or by engaging dorsal receptors to the extracellular matrix. Surprisingly, fibroblasts deficient in calpain 1 or calpain 2 upon siRNA-mediated knockdown of Capn1 or Capn2, respectively, did not show the same defects in force production or adhesion, although they also failed to respond to mechanical stimulation. Interestingly, stress fibers were aberrant and also contained fewer colocalised vinculin-containing adhesions in Capn4-deficient cells than Capn1- and Capn2-knockdown cells. Together, these results suggest that the calpain small subunit plays an important role in the production of mechanical forces and in mediating mechanosensing during fibroblast migration. Furthermore, the Capn4 gene product might perform functions secondary to, or independent of, its role as a regulatory subunit for calpain 1 and calpain 2.
PMCID: PMC3081789  PMID: 18840650
Calpain; Migration; Focal adhesions; Mechanosensing; Traction force
21.  Calcium-dependent plasma membrane repair requires m- or µ-calpain, but not calpain-3, the proteasome, or caspases 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2009;1793(12):1886-1893.
Mechanically damaged plasma membrane undergoes rapid calcium-dependent resealing that appears to depend, at least in part, on calpain-mediated cortical cytoskeletal remodeling. Cells null for Capns1, the non-catalytic small subunit present in both m- and μ-calpains, do not undergo calcium-mediated resealing. However, it is not known which of these calpains is needed for repair, or whether other major cytosolic proteinases may participate. Utilizing isozyme-selective siRNAs to decrease expression of Capn1 or Capn2, catalytic subunits of μ- and m-calpains, respectively, in a mouse embryonic fibroblast cell line, we now show that substantial loss of both activities is required to compromise calcium-mediated survival after cell scrape-damage. Using skeletal myotubes derived from Capn3–null mice, we were unable to demonstrate loss of sarcolemma resealing after needle scratch or laser damage. Isolated muscle fibers from Capn3 knockout mice also efficiently repaired laser damage. Employing either a cell line expressing a temperature sensitive E1 ubiquitin ligase, or lactacystin, a specific proteasome inhibitor, it was not possible to demonstrate an effect of the proteasome on calcium-mediated survival after injury. Moreover, several cell-permeant caspase inhibitors were incapable of significantly decreasing survival or inhibiting membrane repair. Taken together with previous studies, the results show that m- or μ-calpain can facilitate repair of damaged plasma membrane. While there was no evidence for the involvement of calpain-3, the proteasome or caspases in early events of plasma membrane repair, our studies do not rule out their participation in downstream events that may link plasma membrane repair to adaptive remodeling after injury.
PMCID: PMC2787696  PMID: 19781581
calpain; proteasome; caspase; membrane repair
22.  Targeted Deletion of Capn4 in Cells of the Chondrocyte Lineage Impairs Chondrocyte Proliferation and Differentiation▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(11):2799-2810.
Calpains are calcium-dependent intracellular cysteine proteases, which include ubiquitously expressed μ- and m-calpains. Both calpains are heterodimers consisting of a large catalytic subunit and a small regulatory subunit. The calpain small subunit encoded by the gene Capn4 directly binds to the intracellular C-terminal tail of the receptor for the parathyroid hormone (PTH) and PTH-related peptide and modulates cellular functions in cells of the osteoblast lineage in vitro and in vivo. To investigate a physiological role of the calpain small subunit in cells of the chondrocyte lineage, we generated chondrocyte-specific Capn4 knockout mice. Mutant embryos had reduced chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation in embryonic growth plates compared with control littermates. In vitro analysis further revealed that deletion of Capn4 in cells of the chondrocyte lineage correlated with impaired cell cycle progression at the G1/S transition, reduced cyclin D gene transcription, and accumulated cell cycle proteins known as calpain substrates. Moreover, silencing of p27Kip1 rescued an impaired cell growth phenotype in Capn4 knockdown cells, and reintroducing the calpain small subunit partially normalized cell growth and accumulated cyclin D protein levels in a dose-dependent manner. Collectively, our findings suggest that the calpain small subunit is essential for proper chondrocyte functions in embryonic growth plates.
PMCID: PMC2876508  PMID: 20368361
Journal of neurochemistry  2009;110(2):687-696.
Apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) is critical for poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1)-dependent cell death (parthanatos). The molecular mechanism of mitochondrial AIF release to the nucleus remains obscure, although a possible role of calpain I has been suggested. Here we show that calpain is not required for mitochondrial AIF release in parthanatos. Although calpain I cleaved recombinant AIF in a cell free system, in intact cells under conditions where endogenous calpain was activated by either NMDA or MNNG administration, AIF was not cleaved, and it was released from mitochondria to the nucleus in its 62 kDa uncleaved form. Moreover, NMDA administration under conditions that failed to activate calpain still robustly induced AIF nuclear translocation. Inhibition of calpain with calpastatin or genetic knockout of the regulatory subunit of calpain failed to prevent NMDA- or MNNG-induced AIF nuclear translocation and subsequent cell death, respectively, which was markedly prevented by the PARP-1 inhibitor DPQ. Our study clearly shows that calpain activation is not required for AIF release during parthanatos, suggesting that other mechanisms rather than calpain are involved in mitochondrial AIF release in parthanatos.
PMCID: PMC2819224  PMID: 19457082
Apoptosis-inducing factor; calpain; parthanatos; poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1
24.  Calpain 4 Is Not Necessary for LFA-1-Mediated Function in CD4+ T Cells 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10513.
T cell activation and immune synapse formation require the appropriate activation and clustering of the integrin, LFA-1. Previous work has reported that the calpain family of calcium-dependent proteases are important regulators of integrin activation and modulate T cell adhesion and migration. However, these studies have been limited by the use of calpain inhibitors, which have known off-target effects.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here, we used a LoxP/CRE system to specifically deplete calpain 4, a small regulatory calpain subunit required for expression and activity of ubiquitously expressed calpains 1 and 2, in CD4+ T cells. CD4+ and CD8+ T cells developed normally in Capn4F/F:CD4-CRE mice and had severely diminished expression of Calpain 1 and 2, diminished talin proteolysis and impaired casein degradation. Calpain 4-deficient T cells showed no difference in adhesion or migration on the LFA-1 ligand ICAM-1 compared to control T cells. Moreover, there was no impairment in conjugation between Capn4F/F:CD4-CRE T cells and antigen presenting cells, and the conjugates were still capable of polarizing LFA-1, PKC-theta and actin to the immune synapse. Furthermore, T cells from Capn4F/F:CD4-CRE mice showed normal proliferation in response to either anti-CD3/CD28 coated beads or cognate antigen-loaded splenocytes. Finally, there were no differences in the rates of apoptosis following extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic stimuli.
Our findings demonstrate that calpain 4 is not necessary for LFA-1-mediated adhesion, conjugation or migration. These results challenge previous reports that implicate a central role for calpains in the regulation of T cell LFA-1 function.
PMCID: PMC2866319  PMID: 20479866
25.  Fer-Mediated Cortactin Phosphorylation Is Associated with Efficient Fibroblast Migration and Is Dependent on Reactive Oxygen Species Generation during Integrin-Mediated Cell Adhesion▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(17):6140-6152.
The molecular details linking integrin engagement to downstream cortactin (Ctn) tyrosine phosphorylation are largely unknown. In this report, we show for the first time that Fer and Ctn are potently tyrosine phosphorylated in response to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in a variety of cell types. Working with catalytically inactive fer and src/yes/fyn-deficient murine embryonic fibroblasts (ferDR/DR and syf MEF, respectively), we observed that H2O2-induced Ctn tyrosine phosphorylation is primarily dependent on Fer but not Src family kinase (SFK) activity. We also demonstrated for the first time that Fer is activated by fibronectin engagement and, in concert with SFKs, mediates Ctn tyrosine phosphorylation in integrin signaling pathways. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavengers or the NADPH oxidase inhibitor, diphenylene iodonium, attenuated integrin-induced Fer and Ctn tyrosine phosphorylation. Taken together, these findings provide novel genetic evidence that a ROS-Fer signaling arm contributes to SFK-mediated Ctn tyrosine phosphorylation in integrin signaling. Lastly, a migration defect in ferDR/DR MEF suggests that integrin signaling through the ROS-Fer-Ctn signaling arm may be linked to mechanisms governing cell motility. These data demonstrate for the first time an oxidative link between integrin adhesion and an actin-binding protein involved in actin polymerization.
PMCID: PMC1952165  PMID: 17606629

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