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1.  Analysis of the cartilage proteome from three different mouse models of genetic skeletal diseases reveals common and discrete disease signatures 
Biology Open  2013;2(8):802-811.
Pseudoachondroplasia and multiple epiphyseal dysplasia are genetic skeletal diseases resulting from mutations in cartilage structural proteins. Electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry previously showed that the appearance of the cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM) in targeted mouse models of these diseases is disrupted; however, the precise changes in ECM organization and the pathological consequences remain unknown. Our aim was to determine the effects of matrilin-3 and COMP mutations on the composition and extractability of ECM components to inform how these detrimental changes might influence cartilage organization and degeneration.
Cartilage was sequentially extracted using increasing denaturants and the extraction profiles of specific proteins determined using SDS-PAGE/Western blotting. Furthermore, the relative composition of protein pools was determined using mass spectrometry for a non-biased semi-quantitative analysis.
Western blotting revealed changes in the extraction of matrilins, COMP and collagen IX in mutant cartilage. Mass spectrometry confirmed quantitative changes in the extraction of structural and non-structural ECM proteins, including proteins with roles in cellular processes such as protein folding and trafficking. In particular, genotype-specific differences in the extraction of collagens XII and XIV and tenascins C and X were identified; interestingly, increased expression of several of these genes has recently been implicated in susceptibility and/or progression of murine osteoarthritis.
We demonstrated that mutation of matrilin-3 and COMP caused changes in the extractability of other cartilage proteins and that proteomic analyses of Matn3 V194D, Comp T585M and Comp DelD469 mouse models revealed both common and discrete disease signatures that provide novel insight into skeletal disease mechanisms and cartilage degradation.
PMCID: PMC3744072  PMID: 23951406
Cartilage; Genetic skeletal disease; Proteomics; Pseudoachondroplasia; Multiple epiphyseal dysplasia
2.  Serine Protease(s) Secreted by the Nematode Trichuris muris Degrade the Mucus Barrier 
The polymeric mucin component of the intestinal mucus barrier changes during nematode infection to provide not only physical protection but also to directly affect pathogenic nematodes and aid expulsion. Despite this, the direct interaction of the nematodes with the mucins and the mucus barrier has not previously been addressed. We used the well-established Trichuris muris nematode model to investigate the effect on mucins of the complex mixture of immunogenic proteins secreted by the nematode called excretory/secretory products (ESPs). Different regimes of T. muris infection were used to simulate chronic (low dose) or acute (high dose) infection. Mucus/mucins isolated from mice and from the human intestinal cell line, LS174T, were treated with ESPs. We demonstrate that serine protease(s) secreted by the nematode have the ability to change the properties of the mucus barrier, making it more porous by degrading the mucin component of the mucus gel. Specifically, the serine protease(s) acted on the N-terminal polymerising domain of the major intestinal mucin Muc2, resulting in depolymerisation of Muc2 polymers. Importantly, the respiratory/gastric mucin Muc5ac, which is induced in the intestine and is critical for worm expulsion, was protected from the depolymerising effect exerted by ESPs. Furthermore, serine protease inhibitors (Serpins) which may protect the mucins, in particular Muc2, from depolymerisation, were highly expressed in mice resistant to chronic infection. Thus, we demonstrate that nematodes secrete serine protease(s) to degrade mucins within the mucus barrier, which may modify the niche of the parasite to prevent clearance from the host or facilitate efficient mating and egg laying from the posterior end of the parasite that is in intimate contact with the mucus barrier. However, during a TH2-mediated worm expulsion response, serpins, Muc5ac and increased levels of Muc2 protect the barrier from degradation by the nematode secreted protease(s).
Author Summary
Gastrointestinal parasitic worm infections cause significant morbidity, affecting up to a third of the world's populationand their domestic pets and livestock. Mucus, the gel-like material that blankets the surface of the intestine, forms a protective barrier that is an important part of our innate immune system. The whipworm Trichuris is closely associated with the intestinal mucus barrier. The major structural component of this barrier, large glycoproteins known as mucins play a significant role in the expulsion of these worms in a mouse model. Using mice that get longterm chronic infections and others able to expel the worms from the intestine, we uncover a novel role for products secreted by the worms. Enzymes secreted by whipworms can disrupt the mucin network that gives mucus its viscous properties. Moreover, we unravel that worm products are unable to degrade forms of mucins present in the mucus barrier during worm expulsion, suggesting that these enzymes may be released by the worm as part of its regime to improve its niche and survival in the host. However, the host is capable of producing mucins and other protective molecules that protect the mucus barrier from degradation and are detrimental to the viability of the worm.
PMCID: PMC3469553  PMID: 23071854
3.  Expression and secretion of Aspergillus fumigatus proteases are regulated in response to different protein substrates 
Fungal Biology  2012;116(9):1003-1012.
The ubiquitous filamentous fungus Aspergillus fumigatus secretes a number of allergens with protease activity and has been linked to a variety of allergic conditions such as Severe Asthma with Fungal Sensitization (SAFS) and Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA). However, it is unclear which allergen proteases are being secreted during fungal invasion and whether the local biological environment regulates their expression. Understanding the dynamic expression of allergen proteases during growth of A. fumigatus may lead to further characterisation of the pathogenesis of these disorders as well as improved standardisation in the commercial production of these allergens. Secretion of proteases during germination and early growth of A. fumigatus was investigated in response to various complex protein sources (pig lung homogenate, mucin or casein). Protease inhibitor studies demonstrated that A. fumigatus (AF293 strain) secretes predominately serine proteases during growth in pig lung based medium and mainly metalloproteases during growth in casein based medium but suppressed protease secretion in unmodified Vogel's minimal medium and secreted both types in mucin based medium. Analysis of gene transcription and protein identification by mass spectrometry showed that the matrix metalloprotease, Mep/Asp f 5 and the serine protease, Alp1/Asp f 13, were upregulated and secreted during growth in pig lung medium, whereas Alp1 was predominately expressed and secreted in mucin based medium. In casein medium, the matrix metalloprotease, Lap1, was also upregulated and secreted in addition to Mep and Alp1. These findings suggest that A. fumigatus is able to detect different complex proteins available as substrates in its environment and regulate protease secretion accordingly. There is a requirement for the standardisation of A. fumigatus allergen extracts used both in clinical diagnosis of A. fumigatus allergy and in research studies.
► Aspergillus fumigatus produces allergens with protease activity. ► Growth on protein based substrates induces the secretion of proteases. ► Mainly serine proteases secreted in response pig lung homogenate or mucin media. ► Predominately MMP secreted in response to casein media. ► Aspergillus fumigatus can sense and respond to changes in growth environment.
PMCID: PMC3605576  PMID: 22954343
Allergen; Culture; Fungal; Growth; Proteases; Secretion
4.  Loss of Matrilin 1 Does Not Exacerbate the Skeletal Phenotype in a Mouse Model of Multiple Epiphyseal Dysplasia Caused by a Matn3 V194D Mutation 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(5):1529-1539.
Mutations in matrilin 3 can result in multiple epiphyseal dysplasia (MED), a disease characterized by delayed and irregular bone growth and early-onset osteoarthritis. Although intracellular retention of the majority of mutant matrilin 3 was previously observed in a murine model of MED caused by a Matn3 V194D mutation, some mutant protein was secreted into the extracellular matrix. Thus, it was proposed that secretion of mutant matrilin 3 may be dependent on the formation of hetero-oligomers with matrilin 1. The aim of this study was to investigate the hypothesis that deletion of matrilin 1 would abolish the formation of matrilin 1/matrilin 3 hetero-oligomers, eliminate the secretion of mutant matrilin 3, and influence disease severity.
Mice with a Matn3 V194D mutation were crossed with Matn1-null mice, generating mice that were homozygous for V194D and null for matrilin 1. This novel mouse was used for in-depth phenotyping, while cartilage and chondrocytes were studied both histochemically and biochemically.
Endochondral ossification was not disrupted any further in mice with a double V194D mutation compared with mice with a single mutation. A similar proportion of mutant matrilin 3 was present in the extracellular matrix, and the amount of retained mutant matrilin 3 was not noticeably increased. Retained mutant matrilin 3 formed disulfide-bonded aggregates and caused the co-retention of matrilin 1.
We showed that secretion of matrilin 3 V194D mutant protein is not dependent on hetero-oligomerization with matrilin 1, and that the total ablation of matrilin 1 expression has no impact on disease severity in mice with MED. Mutant matrilin 3 oligomers form non-native disulfide-bonded aggregates through the misfolded A domain.
PMCID: PMC3374853  PMID: 22083516
Fibronectin (FN) is a prototypic adhesive glycoprotein that is widely expressed in extracellular matrices and body fluids. The fibronectin molecule is dimeric, and composed of a series of repeating polypeptide modules. A recombinant fragment of FN incorporating type III repeats 12-15, and including the alternatively-spliced type three connecting segment (IIICS), was found to bind Ni2+, Cu2+ and Zn2+ divalent cations, whereas a similar fragment lacking the IIICS did not. Mutation of two pairs of histidine residues in separate spliced regions of the IIICS reduced cation binding to near the level of the variant lacking the IIICS, suggesting a zinc finger-like mode of cation coordination. Analysis of native FNs purified from plasma or amniotic fluid revealed significant levels of zinc associated with those isoforms that contain the complete IIICS. Taken together, these data demonstrate that the IIICS region of FN is a novel zinc-binding module.
PMCID: PMC3345337  PMID: 17490871
fibronectin; zinc; IIICS region; cation-binding; alternative splicing
6.  Muc5ac: a critical component mediating the rejection of enteric nematodes 
The mucin Muc5ac is essential for the expulsion of Trichuris muris and other gut-dwelling nematodes.
De novo expression of Muc5ac, a mucin not normally expressed in the intestinal tract, is induced in the cecum of mice resistant to Trichuris muris infection. In this study, we investigated the role of Muc5ac, which is detected shortly before worm expulsion and is associated with the production of interleukin-13 (IL-13), in resistance to this nematode. Muc5ac-deficient mice were incapable of expelling T. muris from the intestine and harbored long-term chronic infections, despite developing strong TH2 responses. Muc5ac-deficient mice had elevated levels of IL-13 and, surprisingly, an increase in the TH1 cytokine IFN-γ. Because TH1 inflammation is thought to favor chronic nematode infection, IFN-γ was neutralized in vivo, resulting in an even stronger TH2-type immune response. Nevertheless, despite a more robust TH2 effector response, the Muc5ac-deficient mice remained highly susceptible to chronic T. muris infection. Importantly, human MUC5AC had a direct detrimental effect on nematode vitality. Moreover, the absence of Muc5ac caused a significant delay in the expulsion of two other gut-dwelling nematodes (Trichinella spiralis and Nippostrongylus brasiliensis). Thus, for the first time, we identify a single mucin, Muc5ac, as a direct and critical mediator of resistance during intestinal nematode infection.
PMCID: PMC3092342  PMID: 21502330
7.  Muc5b Is the Major Polymeric Mucin in Mucus from Thoroughbred Horses With and Without Airway Mucus Accumulation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19678.
Mucus accumulation is a feature of inflammatory airway disease in the horse and has been associated with reduced performance in racehorses. In this study, we have analysed the two major airways gel-forming mucins Muc5b and Muc5ac in respect of their site of synthesis, their biochemical properties, and their amounts in mucus from healthy horses and from horses with signs of airway mucus accumulation. Polyclonal antisera directed against equine Muc5b and Muc5ac were raised and characterised. Immunohistochemical staining of normal equine trachea showed that Muc5ac and Muc5b are produced by cells in the submucosal glands, as well as surface epithelial goblet cells. Western blotting after agarose gel electrophoresis of airway mucus from healthy horses, and horses with mucus accumulation, was used to determine the amounts of these two mucins in tracheal wash samples. The results showed that in healthy horses Muc5b was the predominant mucin with small amounts of Muc5ac. The amounts of Muc5b and Muc5ac were both dramatically increased in samples collected from horses with high mucus scores as determined visually at the time of endoscopy and that this increase also correlated with increase number of bacteria present in the sample. The change in amount of Muc5b and Muc5ac indicates that Muc5b remains the most abundant mucin in mucus. In summary, we have developed mucin specific polyclonal antibodies, which have allowed us to show that there is a significant increase in Muc5b and Muc5ac in mucus accumulated in equine airways and these increases correlated with the numbers of bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3094342  PMID: 21602926
8.  Utility of Cystatin C to monitor renal function in Duchenne muscular dystrophy 
Muscle & nerve  2009;40(3):438-442.
Creatinine as a marker of renal function has limited value in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) because of reduced muscle mass. Alternative methods of assessing renal function are sorely needed. Cystatin C, a nonglycosylated protein unaffected by muscle mass, is potentially an ideal biomarker of nephrotoxicity for this population but requires validation.
75 subjects were recruited: 35 DMD (mean age 10.8 ± 5.4 years, corticosteroids n = 19, ambulatory n = 26), 29 healthy controls, 10 with renal disease, and one DMD with renal failure.
Cystatin C levels in DMD were normal irrespective of age, ambulation or corticosteroid treatment. Serum cystatin C was 0.67 ± 0.11 mg/L compared to normal controls 0.69 ± 0.09. mg/L. In these same individuals serum creatinine was severely reduced (0.27 ± 0.12 mg/dL) versus normals (0.75 ± 0.15 mg/dL, p < 0.01). In one DMD subject in renal failure, cystatin C was elevated.
This study demonstrates the potential value of cystatin C as a biomarker for monitoring renal function in DMD. Its applicability extends to other neuromuscular diseases.
PMCID: PMC2740988  PMID: 19623638
Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Cystatin C; serum creatinine; biomarker; renal function
9.  Mucin Gene Deficiency in Mice Impairs Host Resistance to an Enteric Parasitic Infection 
Gastroenterology  2010;138(5-10):1763-1771.e5.
Background & Aims
Hyperplasia of mucin-secreting intestinal goblet cells accompanies a number of enteric infections, including infections by nematode parasites. Nevertheless, the precise role of mucins in host defense in nematode infection is not known. We investigated the role of the mucin (Muc2) in worm expulsion and host immunity in a model of nematode infection.
Resistant (BALB/c, C57BL/6), susceptible (AKR), and Muc2-deficient mouse strains were infected with the nematode, Trichuris muris, and worm expulsion, energy status of the whipworms, changes in mucus/mucins, and inflammatory and immune responses were investigated after infection.
The increase in Muc2 production, observed exclusively in resistant mice, correlated with worm expulsion. Moreover, expulsion of the worms from the intestine was significantly delayed in the Muc2-deficient mice. Although a marked impairment in the development of periodic acid Schiff (PAS)–stained intestinal goblet cells was observed in Muc2-deficient mice, as infection progressed a significant increase in the number of PAS-positive goblet cells was observed in these mice. Surprisingly, an increase in Muc5ac, a mucin normally expressed in the airways and stomach, was observed after infection of only the resistant animals. Overall, the mucus barrier in the resistant mice was less permeable than that of susceptible mice. Furthermore, the worms isolated from the resistant mice had a lower energy status.
Mucins are an important component of innate defense in enteric infection; this is the first demonstration of the important functional contribution of mucins to host protection from nematode infection.
PMCID: PMC3466424  PMID: 20138044
Muc2; Goblet Cell; Enteric Infection; Host Resistance; Innate Immunity; ATP, adenosine triphosphate; BrdU, bromodeoxyuridine; IL-4, interleukin-4; KO, knockout; mMuc2, murine Muc2; PAS, periodic acid Schiff; Relm, resistin-like molecule; RT-PCR, reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction; SCID, severe combined immunodeficient; Tff3, trefoil factor 3; TH, T helper; WT, wild-type
10.  An unfolded protein response is the initial cellular response to the expression of mutant matrilin-3 in a mouse model of multiple epiphyseal dysplasia 
Cell Stress & Chaperones  2010;15(6):835-849.
Multiple epiphyseal dysplasia (MED) can result from mutations in matrilin-3, a structural protein of the cartilage extracellular matrix. We have previously shown that in a mouse model of MED the tibia growth plates were normal at birth but developed a progressive dysplasia characterised by the intracellular retention of mutant matrilin-3 and abnormal chondrocyte morphology. By 3 weeks of age, mutant mice displayed a significant decrease in chondrocyte proliferation and dysregulated apoptosis. The aim of this current study was to identify the initial post-natal stages of the disease. We confirmed that the disease phenotype is seen in rib and xiphoid cartilage and, like tibia growth plate cartilage is characterised by the intracellular retention of mutant matrilin-3. Gene expression profiling showed a significant activation of classical unfolded protein response (UPR) genes in mutant chondrocytes at 5 days of age, which was still maintained by 21 days of age. Interestingly, we also noted the upregulation of arginine-rich, mutated in early stage of tumours (ARMET) and cysteine-rich with EGF-like domain protein 2 (CRELD2) are two genes that have only recently been implicated in the UPR. This endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and UPR did not lead to increased chondrocyte apoptosis in mutant cartilage by 5 days of age. In an attempt to alleviate ER stress, mutant mice were fed with a chemical chaperone, 4-sodium phenylbutyrate (SPB). SPB at the dosage used had no effect on chaperone expression at 5 days of age but modestly decreased levels of chaperone proteins at 3 weeks. However, this did not lead to increased secretion of mutant matrilin-3 and in the long term did not improve the disease phenotype. We performed similar studies with a mouse model of Schmid metaphyseal chondrodysplasia, but again this treatment did not improve the phenotype.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12192-010-0193-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3024081  PMID: 20428984
Matrilin-3; Chondrodysplasia; Mouse model; Unfolded protein response; Chemical chaperones; ARMET; CRELD2
11.  Ex Vivo Sputum Analysis Reveals Impairment of Protease-dependent Mucus Degradation by Plasma Proteins in Acute Asthma 
Rationale: Airway mucus plugs, composed of mucin glycoproteins mixed with plasma proteins, are an important cause of airway obstruction in acute severe asthma, and they are poorly treated with current therapies.
Objectives: To investigate mechanisms of airway mucus clearance in health and in acute severe asthma.
Methods: We collected airway mucus from patients with asthma and nonasthmatic control subjects, using sputum induction or tracheal aspiration. We used rheological methods complemented by centrifugation-based mucin size profiling and immunoblotting to characterize the physical properties of the mucus gel, the size profiles of mucins, and the degradation products of albumin in airway mucus.
Measurements and Main Results: Repeated ex vivo measures of size and entanglement of mucin polymers in airway mucus from nonasthmatic control subjects showed that the mucus gel is normally degraded by proteases and that albumin inhibits this degradation. In airway mucus collected from patients with asthma at various time points during acute asthma exacerbation, protease-driven mucus degradation was inhibited at the height of exacerbation but was restored during recovery. In immunoblots of human serum albumin digested by neutrophil elastase and in immunoblots of airway mucus, we found that albumin was a substrate of neutrophil elastase and that products of albumin degradation were abundant in airway mucus during acute asthma exacerbation.
Conclusions: Rheological methods complemented by centrifugation-based mucin size profiling of airway mucins in health and acute asthma reveal that mucin degradation is inhibited in acute asthma, and that an excess of plasma proteins present in acute asthma inhibits the degradation of mucins in a protease-dependent manner. These findings identify a novel mechanism whereby plasma exudation may impair airway mucus clearance.
PMCID: PMC2724713  PMID: 19423716
airway mucus; rheology; neutrophil elastase; plasma; asthma exacerbation
12.  Tracheobronchial air-liquid interface cell culture: a model for innate mucosal defense of the upper airways? 
Human tracheobronchial epithelial cells grown in air-liquid interface culture have emerged as a powerful tool for the study of airway biology. In this study, we have investigated whether this culture system produces “mucus” with a protein composition similar to that of in vivo, induced airway secretions. Previous compositional studies of mucous secretions have greatly underrepresented the contribution of mucins, which are major structural components of normal mucus. To overcome this limitation, we have used a mass spectrometry-based approach centered on prior separation of the mucins from the majority of the other proteins. Using this approach, we have compared the protein composition of apical secretions (AS) from well-differentiated primary human tracheobronchial cells grown at air-liquid interface and human tracheobronchial normal induced sputum (IS). A total of 186 proteins were identified, 134 from AS and 136 from IS; 84 proteins were common to both secretions, with host defense proteins being predominant. The epithelial mucins MUC1, MUC4, and MUC16 and the gel-forming mucins MUC5B and MUC5AC were identified in both secretions. Refractometry showed that the gel-forming mucins were the major contributors by mass to both secretions. When the composition of the IS was corrected for proteins that were most likely derived from saliva, serum, and migratory cells, there was considerable similarity between the two secretions, in particular, in the category of host defense proteins, which includes the mucins. This shows that the primary cell culture system is an important model for study of aspects of innate defense of the upper airways related specifically to mucus consisting solely of airway cell products.
PMCID: PMC2636953  PMID: 18931053
mucus; mucin; innate immunity; proteomics; human tracheobronchial epithelial cell culture
13.  Targeted Induction of Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Induces Cartilage Pathology 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(10):e1000691.
Pathologies caused by mutations in extracellular matrix proteins are generally considered to result from the synthesis of extracellular matrices that are defective. Mutations in type X collagen cause metaphyseal chondrodysplasia type Schmid (MCDS), a disorder characterised by dwarfism and an expanded growth plate hypertrophic zone. We generated a knock-in mouse model of an MCDS–causing mutation (COL10A1 p.Asn617Lys) to investigate pathogenic mechanisms linking genotype and phenotype. Mice expressing the collagen X mutation had shortened limbs and an expanded hypertrophic zone. Chondrocytes in the hypertrophic zone exhibited endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and a robust unfolded protein response (UPR) due to intracellular retention of mutant protein. Hypertrophic chondrocyte differentiation and osteoclast recruitment were significantly reduced indicating that the hypertrophic zone was expanded due to a decreased rate of VEGF–mediated vascular invasion of the growth plate. To test directly the role of ER stress and UPR in generating the MCDS phenotype, we produced transgenic mouse lines that used the collagen X promoter to drive expression of an ER stress–inducing protein (the cog mutant of thyroglobulin) in hypertrophic chondrocytes. The hypertrophic chondrocytes in this mouse exhibited ER stress with a characteristic UPR response. In addition, the hypertrophic zone was expanded, gene expression patterns were disrupted, osteoclast recruitment to the vascular invasion front was reduced, and long bone growth decreased. Our data demonstrate that triggering ER stress per se in hypertrophic chondrocytes is sufficient to induce the essential features of the cartilage pathology associated with MCDS and confirm that ER stress is a central pathogenic factor in the disease mechanism. These findings support the contention that ER stress may play a direct role in the pathogenesis of many connective tissue disorders associated with the expression of mutant extracellular matrix proteins.
Author Summary
Mutations in genes for extracellular matrix proteins are generally thought to exert their pathogenic effects because of resulting defects in extracellular matrix. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that such mutations can also have significant effects inside the cell due to the induction of ER stress. Mutations in type X collagen cause a dwarfism called metaphyseal chondrodysplasia type Schmid. A gene targeted mouse model expressing mutant type X collagen exhibited an expanded hypertrophic zone of the growth plate and significant increases in cellular ER stress, as noted previously. VEGF expression was disrupted leading to decreases in the rate of vascular invasion. To directly assess the role of elevated ER stress in disease pathogenesis, transgenic mouse lines expressing an exogenous, ER stress–inducing protein (cog mutant of thyroglobulin—Tgcog) targeted to hypertrophic chondrocytes were generated. Mice expressing Tgcog protein showed elevated ER stress, an expanded hypertrophic zone, and reduced bone growth demonstrating that elevated ER stress and the resultant UPR is the principal pathogenic mechanism causing this cartilage pathology. It is possible that therapeutic strategies aimed at alleviating ER stress may be beneficial in this and other connective tissue diseases caused by mutant extracellular matrix genes.
PMCID: PMC2757901  PMID: 19834559
14.  Endothelial Function in HIV-infected Persons 
Several reports have suggested an increased risk of coronary disease in HIV-infected patients on protease inhibitors (PI). Impaired endothelium-dependent vasodilation is a putative surrogate marker of coronary atherosclerotic disease.
This study evaluated the effect of HIV infection and antiretroviral treatment on endothelial vasomotor function using brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD). 75 HIV-infected patients were compared to 223 presumed HIV-uninfected control patients.
HIV-infected subjects had significantly impaired FMD compared to controls (7.3 ± 4.4% versus 11.1 ± 6.4%, p<0.0001). When adjusted for smoking, gender and BMI the difference remained statistically significant between the two groups (p<0.0001). In a cross-sectional analysis of the HIV-infected patients, we found significant associations between FMD and active intravenous drug use, hazardous drinking, HIV viral load and alpha HDL triglyceride levels, but not PI therapy. In multivariate analysis, only current intravenous drug use and lower alpha HDL triglyceride level were significantly associated with FMD.
HIV-infected patients have significant impairment of endothelial function and this impairment is worse among those with elevated levels of HIV replication, particularly intravenous drug users.
PMCID: PMC2737346  PMID: 16586393
15.  Identification of salivary mucin MUC7 binding proteins from Streptococcus gordonii 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:163.
The salivary mucin MUC7 (previously known as MG2) can adhere to various strains of streptococci that are primary colonizers and predominant microorganisms of the oral cavity. Although there is a growing interest in interaction between oral pathogens and salivary mucins, studies reporting the specific binding sites on the bacteria are rather limited. Identification and characterization of the specific interacting proteins on the bacterial cell surface, termed adhesins, are crucial to further understand host-pathogen interactions.
We demonstrate here, using purified MUC7 to overlay blots of SDS-extracts of Streptococcus gordonii cell surface proteins, 4 MUC7-binding bands, with apparent molecular masses of 62, 78, 84 and 133 kDa from the Streptococcus gordonii strain, PK488. Putative adhesins were identified by in-gel digestion and subsequent nanoLC-tandem mass spectrometry analysis of resultant peptides. The 62 kDa and 84 kDa bands were identified as elongation factor (EF) Tu and EF-G respectively. The 78 kDa band was a hppA gene product; the 74 kDa oligopeptide-binding lipoprotein. The 133 kDa band contained two proteins; alpha enolase and DNA-directed RNA polymerase, beta' subunit. Some of these proteins, for example alpha enolase are expected to be intracellular, however, flow cytometric analysis confirmed its location on the bacterial surface.
Our data demonstrated that S. gordonii expressed a number of putative MUC7 recognizing proteins and these contribute to MUC7 mucin binding of this streptococcal strain.
PMCID: PMC2775355  PMID: 19671172
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;282(17):12791-12795.
We have generated an antiserum to the variable domain of mouse collagen XXVII, a recently discovered novel member of the fibrillar collagen family. Collagen XXVII protein is first detectable in the mouse at embryonic day 12.5. By E14.5 days, the protein localises to cartilage, developing dermis, cornea, inner limiting membrane of the retina and major arteries of the heart. However, at E18.5 days, collagen XXVII protein is no longer apparent in most tissues and appears restricted mainly to cartilage where expression continues into adulthood. Type XXVII collagen immunolocalises to 10 nm thick non-striated fibrils that are distinct from fibrils formed by the classical fibrillar collagens. The transient nature of its expression and unusual fibrillar structure suggest that collagen XXVII plays a developmental role distinct from those of the classical fibrillar collagens.
PMCID: PMC2688011  PMID: 17331945
17.  MUC5B Is the Major Mucin in the Gel Phase of Sputum in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Overproduction of mucus is a contributory factor in the progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The polymeric mucins are major macromolecules in the secretion. Therefore, we hypothesized that the polymeric mucin composition or properties may be different in the sputum from individuals with COPD and smokers without airflow obstruction.
Objectives: To determine the major polymeric mucins in COPD sputum and whether these are different in the sputum from individuals with COPD compared with that from smokers without airflow obstruction.
Methods: The polymeric mucin composition of sputum from patients with COPD and smokers without airflow obstruction was analyzed by Western blotting analysis. The tissue localization of the mucins was determined by immunohistochemistry, and their size distribution was analyzed by rate–zonal centrifugation.
Measurements and Main Results: MUC5AC and MUC5B were the major mucins. MUC5AC was the predominant mucin in the smoker group, whereas MUC5B was more abundant from the patients with COPD, with a significant difference in the ratio of MUC5B to MUC5AC (P = 0.004); this ratio was correlated with FEV1 in the COPD group (r = 0.63; P = 0.01). The lower-charged glycosylated form of MUC5B was more predominant in COPD (P = 0.012). No significant associations were observed with respect to sex, age, or pack-year history. In both groups, MUC5AC was produced by surface epithelial cells and MUC5B by submucosal gland cells. Finally, there was a shift toward smaller mucins in the COPD group.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that there are differences in mucin amounts and properties between smokers with and without COPD. Further studies are needed to examine how this may impact disease progression.
PMCID: PMC2643221  PMID: 18776153
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; mucus; mucin; pathophysiology
18.  Reduced cell proliferation and increased apoptosis are significant pathological mechanisms in a murine model of mild pseudoachondroplasia resulting from a mutation in the C-terminal domain of COMP 
Human molecular genetics  2007;16(17):2072-2088.
Pseudoachondroplasia (PSACH) is one of the more common skeletal dysplasias and results from mutations in cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP). Most COMP mutations identified to date cluster in the TSP3 repeat region of COMP and the mutant protein is retained in the rough endoplasmic reticulum (rER) of chondrocytes and may result in increased cell death. In contrast, the pathomolecular mechanism of PSACH resulting from C-terminal domain COMP mutations remain largely unknown. This study describes the generation and analysis of a murine model of mild PSACH resulting from a p.Thr583Met mutation in the C-terminal globular domain (CTD) of COMP. Mutant animals are normal at birth, but grow slower than their wild-type littermates and by 9 weeks of age they have mild short-limb dwarfism. Furthermore, by 16 months of age mutant animals exhibit severe degeneration of articular cartilage, which is consistent with early onset osteoarthritis seen in PSACH patients. In the growth plates of mutant mice the chondrocyte columns are sparser and poorly organized. Mutant COMP is secreted into the extracellular matrix, but its localization is disrupted along with the distribution of several COMP-binding proteins. Although mutant COMP is not retained within the rER there is an unfolded protein/cell stress response and chondrocyte proliferation is significantly reduced, while apoptosis is both increased and spatially dysregulated. Overall, these data suggests a mutation in the CTD of COMP exerts a dominant-negative effect on both intra- and extracellular processes. This ultimately affects the morphology and proliferation of growth plate chondrocytes, eventually leading to chondrodysplasia and reduced long bone growth.
PMCID: PMC2674228  PMID: 17588960
19.  Decreased chondrocyte proliferation and dysregulated apoptosis in the cartilage growth plate are key features of a murine model of epiphyseal dysplasia caused by a matn3 mutation 
Human molecular genetics  2007;16(14):1728-1741.
Disruption to endochondral ossification leads to delayed and irregular bone formation and can result in a heterogeneous group of genetic disorders known as the chondrodysplasias. One such disorder, multiple epiphyseal dysplasia (MED), is characterized by mild dwarfism and early-onset osteoarthritis and can result from mutations in the gene encoding matrilin-3 (MATN3). To determine the disease mechanisms that underpin the pathophysiology of MED we generated a murine model of epiphyseal dysplasia by knocking-in a matn3 mutation. Mice that are homozygous for the mutation develop a progressive dysplasia and have short-limbed dwarfism that is consistent in severity with the relevant human phenotype. Mutant matrilin-3 is retained within the rough endoplasmic reticulum of chondrocytes and is associated with an unfolded protein response. Eventually, there is reduced proliferation and spatially dysregulated apoptosis of chondrocytes in the cartilage growth plate, which is likely to be the cause of disrupted linear bone growth and the resulting short-limbed dwarfism in the mutant mice.
PMCID: PMC2674230  PMID: 17517694
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;282(48):34634-34643.
Mutations in matrilin-3 result in multiple epiphyseal dysplasia (MED), which is characterized by delayed and irregular bone growth and early onset osteoarthritis. The majority of disease-causing mutations are located within the β-sheet of the single A-domain of matrilin-3, suggesting that they disrupt the structure and/or function of this important domain. Indeed, the expression of mutant matrilin-3 results in its intracellular retention within the rER of cells, where it elicits an unfolded protein response.
In order to understand the folding characteristics of the matrilin-3 A-domain we determined its structure using circular dichroism, analytical ultracentrifugation and dual polarization interferometry. This study defined novel structural features of the matrilin-3 A-domain and identified a conformational change induced by the presence or the absence of Zn2+. In the presence of Zn2+ the A-domain adopts a more stable ‘tighter’ conformation. However, after the removal of Zn2+ a potential structural rearrangement of the MIDAS motif occurs, which leads to a more ‘relaxed’ conformation.
Finally, in order to characterize the interactions of the matrilin-3 A-domain we performed binding studies on a BIAcore using type II & IX collagen and COMP. We were able to demonstrate that it binds to type II & IX collagen and COMP in a Zn2+-dependent manner. Furthermore, we have also determined that the matrilin-3 A-domain appears to bind exclusively to the COL3 domain of type IX collagen and that this binding is abolished in the presence of a disease causing mutation in type IX collagen.
PMCID: PMC2673055  PMID: 17881354
Multiple epiphyseal dysplasia; matrilin-3; A-domain; conformational change; type IX collagen; cartilage oligomeric matrix protein
21.  Aberrant Mucin Assembly in Mice Causes Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Spontaneous Inflammation Resembling Ulcerative Colitis 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e54.
MUC2 mucin produced by intestinal goblet cells is the major component of the intestinal mucus barrier. The inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis is characterized by depleted goblet cells and a reduced mucus layer, but the aetiology remains obscure. In this study we used random mutagenesis to produce two murine models of inflammatory bowel disease, characterised the basis and nature of the inflammation in these mice, and compared the pathology with human ulcerative colitis.
Methods and Findings
By murine N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea mutagenesis we identified two distinct noncomplementing missense mutations in Muc2 causing an ulcerative colitis-like phenotype. 100% of mice of both strains developed mild spontaneous distal intestinal inflammation by 6 wk (histological colitis scores versus wild-type mice, p < 0.01) and chronic diarrhoea. Monitoring over 300 mice of each strain demonstrated that 25% and 40% of each strain, respectively, developed severe clinical signs of colitis by age 1 y. Mutant mice showed aberrant Muc2 biosynthesis, less stored mucin in goblet cells, a diminished mucus barrier, and increased susceptibility to colitis induced by a luminal toxin. Enhanced local production of IL-1β, TNF-α, and IFN-γ was seen in the distal colon, and intestinal permeability increased 2-fold. The number of leukocytes within mesenteric lymph nodes increased 5-fold and leukocytes cultured in vitro produced more Th1 and Th2 cytokines (IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-13). This pathology was accompanied by accumulation of the Muc2 precursor and ultrastructural and biochemical evidence of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in goblet cells, activation of the unfolded protein response, and altered intestinal expression of genes involved in ER stress, inflammation, apoptosis, and wound repair. Expression of mutated Muc2 oligomerisation domains in vitro demonstrated that aberrant Muc2 oligomerisation underlies the ER stress. In human ulcerative colitis we demonstrate similar accumulation of nonglycosylated MUC2 precursor in goblet cells together with ultrastructural and biochemical evidence of ER stress even in noninflamed intestinal tissue. Although our study demonstrates that mucin misfolding and ER stress initiate colitis in mice, it does not ascertain the genetic or environmental drivers of ER stress in human colitis.
Characterisation of the mouse models we created and comparison with human disease suggest that ER stress-related mucin depletion could be a fundamental component of the pathogenesis of human colitis and that clinical studies combining genetics, ER stress-related pathology and relevant environmental epidemiology are warranted.
Michael McGuckin and colleagues identify two mutations that cause aberrant mucin oligomerization in mice. The resulting phenotype, including endoplasmic reticulum stress, resembles clinical and pathologic features of human ulcerative colitis.
Editors' Summary
Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are common disorders in which parts of the digestive tract become inflamed. The two main types of IBD are Crohn's disease, which mainly affects the small bowel, and ulcerative colitis (UC), which mainly affects the large bowel (colon). Both types tend to run in families and usually develop between 15 and 35 years old. Their symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and unintentional weight loss. These symptoms can vary in severity, can be chronic (persistent) or intermittent, and may start gradually or suddenly. There is no cure for IBD (except removal of the affected part of the digestive tract), but drugs that modulate the immune system (for example, corticosteroids) or that inhibit “proinflammatory cytokines” (proteins made by the immune system that stimulate inflammation) can sometimes help.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the clinical and pathological (disease-associated) features of Crohn's disease and UC are somewhat different, both disorders are probably caused by an immune system imbalance. Normally, the immune system protects the body from potentially harmful microbes in the gut but does not react to the many harmless bacteria that live there or to the food that passes along the digestive tract. In IBD, the immune system becomes overactive for unknown reasons, and lymphocytes (immune system cells) accumulate in the lining of the bowel and cause inflammation. In this study, the researchers use a technique called random mutagenesis (the random introduction of small changes, called mutations, into the genes of an organism using a chemical that damages DNA) to develop two mouse models that resemble human UC and that throw new light on to how this disorder develops.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers establish two mutant mouse strains—Winnie and Eeyore mice—that develop mild spontaneous inflammation of the colon and chronic diarrhea and that have more proinflammatory cytokines and more lymphocytes in their colons than normal mice. 25% and 40% of the Winnie and Eeyore mice, respectively, have severe clinical signs of colitis by 1 year of age. Both strains have a mutation in the Muc2 gene, which codes for MUC2 mucin, the main protein in mucus. This viscous substance (which coats the inside of the intestine) is produced by and stored in intestinal “goblet” cells. Mucus helps to maintain the intestine's immunological balance but is depleted in UC. The researchers show that the manufacture and assembly of Muc2 molecules is abnormal in Winnie and Eeyore mice, that less mucin is stored in their goblet cells than in normal mice, and that their intestinal mucus barrier is reduced. In addition, an incompletely assembled version of the molecule, called Muc2 precursor, accumulates in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER; the cellular apparatus that prepares newly manufactured proteins for release) of goblet cells, leading to overload with abnormal protein and causing a state of cellular distress known as the “ER stress response.” Finally, the researchers report that MUC2 precursor also accumulates in the goblet cells of people with UC and that even the noninflamed intestinal tissue of these patients shows signs of ER stress.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that mucin abnormalities and ER stress can initiate colitis in mice. Results from animal studies do not always reflect what happens in people, but these findings, together with those from the small study in humans, suggest that ER stress-related mucin depletion could be a component in the development of human colitis. The results do not identify the genetic changes and/or environmental factors that might trigger ER stress in human colitis, but suggest that once initiated, ER stress might interfere with MUC2 production, which would lead to a diminished mucus barrier, expose the lining of the intestine to more toxins and foreign substances, and trigger local mucosal inflammation. The release of inflammatory cytokines would then damage the intestine's lining and exacerbate ER stress, thus setting up a cycle of intestinal damage and inflammation. Clinical studies to look for genetic changes and environmental factors capable of triggering ER stress and for ER-stress related changes in human UC should now be undertaken to test this hypothesis.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on Crohn's disease and on ulcerative colitis (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides information on Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
Information and support for patients with inflammatory bowel disease and their caregivers is provided by the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America and by the UK National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease
Wikipedia has pages on mucins and on mucus (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2270292  PMID: 18318598
22.  Monoclonal Antibody Recognizing a Core Epitope on Mucin 
Disease Markers  2002;14(2):99-112.
Monoclonal antibody TH1 (IgM) was prepared by immunizing mice with deglycosylated (TFMSA-treated) cystic fibrosis mucin. TH1 reacted strongly with TFMSA treated cystic fibrosis mucin but not with the fully glycosylated mucin, indicating reactivity with a core mucin epitope. TH1 showed no reactivity with ovine mucin (98% of glycans as sialyl-Tn) but reacted strongly with desialylated ovine mucin, indicating the epitope for this mab was the Tn-antigen (O-linked GalNAc). However, TH1 showed no reactivity with Tn-positive red blood cells, and the binding of TH1 was not inhibited by GalNAc at 2.5 mg/ml, illustrating the importance of the peptide sequence to which the GalNAc is attached. TH1 stained the majority of cancers of the colon, lung, stomach, ovary, breast, and cervix, and the cellular distribution of this antigen in normal tissue suggested reactivity with immature mucin. This antibody appears to be a useful reagent for the detection of immature mucin.
PMCID: PMC3850846  PMID: 9868597
23.  Loss of matrilin 1 does not exacerbate the skeletal phenotype in a mouse model of multiple epiphyseal dysplasia caused by a Matn3 V194D mutation 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(5):1529-1539.
Mutations in matrilin 3 can result in multiple epiphyseal dysplasia (MED), a disease characterized by delayed and irregular bone growth and early-onset osteoarthritis. Although intracellular retention of the majority of mutant matrilin 3 was previously observed in a murine model of MED caused by a Matn3 V194D mutation, some mutant protein was secreted into the extracellular matrix. Thus, it was proposed that secretion of mutant matrilin 3 may be dependent on the formation of hetero-oligomers with matrilin 1. The aim of this study was to investigate the hypothesis that deletion of matrilin 1 would abolish the formation of matrilin 1/matrilin 3 hetero-oligomers, eliminate the secretion of mutant matrilin 3, and influence disease severity.
Mice with a Matn3 V194D mutation were crossed with Matn1-null mice, generating mice that were homozygous for V194D and null for matrilin 1. This novel mouse was used for in-depth phenotyping, while cartilage and chondrocytes were studied both histochemically and biochemically.
Endochondral ossification was not disrupted any further in mice with a double V194D mutation compared with mice with a single mutation. A similar proportion of mutant matrilin 3 was present in the extracellular matrix, and the amount of retained mutant matrilin 3 was not noticeably increased. Retained mutant matrilin 3 formed disulfide-bonded aggregates and caused the co-retention of matrilin 1.
We showed that secretion of matrilin 3 V194D mutant protein is not dependent on hetero-oligomerization with matrilin 1, and that the total ablation of matrilin 1 expression has no impact on disease severity in mice with MED. Mutant matrilin 3 oligomers form non-native disulfide-bonded aggregates through the misfolded A domain.
PMCID: PMC3374853  PMID: 22083516

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