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1.  TRPA1-Dependent Pruritus in IL-13-Induced Chronic Atopic Dermatitis 
Chronic debilitating pruritus is a cardinal feature of a topic dermatitis (AD). Little is known about the underlying mechanisms. Antihistamines lack efficacy in treating itch in AD, suggesting the existence of histamine-independent itch pathways in AD. Transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) is essential in the signaling pathways that promote histamine-independent itch. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that TRPA1-dependent neural pathways play a key role in chronic itch in AD using an IL-13 transgenic mouse model of AD. In these mice, IL-13 causes chronic AD characterized by intensive chronic itch associated with markedly enhanced growth of dermal neuropeptide-secreting afferent nerve fibers and enhanced expression of TRPA1 in dermal sensory nerve fibers, their dorsal root ganglia, and mast cells. Inhibition of TRPA1 with a specific antagonist in these mice selectively attenuated itch-evoked scratching. Genetic deletion of mast cells in these mice led to significantly diminished itch-scratching behaviors and reduced TRPA1 expression in dermal neuropeptide containing afferents in the AD skin. Interestingly, IL-13 strongly stimulates TRPA1 expression, which is functional in calcium mobilization in mast cells. In accordance with these observations in the AD mice, TRPA1 expression was highly enhanced in the dermal afferent nerves, mast cells, and the epidermis in the lesional skin biopsies from patients with AD, but not in the skin from normal subjects. These studies demonstrate a novel neural mechanism underlying chronic itch in AD and highlight the complex interactions among TRPA1+ dermal afferent nerves and TRPA1+ mast cells in a Th2-dominated inflammatory environment.
PMCID: PMC4175413  PMID: 24140646
2.  Therapeutic detoxification of quercetin against carbon tetrachloride-induced acute liver injury in mice and its mechanism*  
This study observes the therapeutic detoxification of quercetin, a well-known flavonoid, against carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) induced acute liver injury in vivo and explores its mechanism. Quercetin decreased CCl4-increased serum activities of alanine and aspartate aminotransferases (ALT/AST) when orally taken 30 min after CCl4 intoxication. The results of a histological evaluation further evidenced the ability of quercetin to protect against CCl4-induced liver injury. Quercetin decreased the CCl4-increased malondialdehyde (MDA) and reduced the glutathione (GSH) amounts in the liver. It also reduced the enhanced immunohistochemical staining of the 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) in the liver induced by CCl4. Peroxiredoxin (Prx) 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, thioredoxin reductase 1 and 2 (TrxR1/2), thioredoxin 1 and 2 (Trx1/2), nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), and heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) all play critical roles in maintaining cellular redox homeostasis. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results demonstrated that quercetin reversed the decreased mRNA expression of all those genes induced by CCl4. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that quercetin ameliorates CCl4-induced acute liver injury in vivo via alleviating oxidative stress injuries when orally taken after CCl4 intoxication. This protection may be caused by the elevation of the antioxidant capacity induced by quercetin.
PMCID: PMC4265558  PMID: 25471833
Hepatotoxicity; Oxidative stress; Peroxiredoxin (Prx); Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2); TrxR; Trx; HO-1
3.  Controlled release of stromal cell-derived factor-1α from silk fibroin-coated coils accelerates intra-aneurysmal organization and occlusion of neck remnant by recruiting endothelial progenitor cells 
This study is to test the efficacy of stromal cell-derived factor-1α (SDF-1α)-coated coils together with endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) transplantation in occluding aneurysms. Bone marrow-derived EPC surface markers were analyzed using flow cytometry. The migratory function of EPCs in response to SDF-1α was evaluated using a modified Boyden chamber assay. Capillary-like tube formation was assessed using Matrigel gel. Coil morphologies before and after coating with SDF-1α were observed under a scanning electron microscope. The level of SDF-1α in supernatants was measured by ELISA. Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly allocated into five groups. Histological analysis was performed on days 14 and 28 after coil implantation. The bone marrow-EPCs could express CD133, CD34, and VEGFR-2 and form tubule-like structures in vitro. Migratory ability of EPCs in the presence of SDF-1α-coated coils was similar to that in the presence of 5 ng/ml SDF-1α gradient. Sustained release of SDF-1α was achieved using silk fibroin as a carrier. In SDF-1α-coated coils + EPCs transplantation group, a well-organized fibrous tissue bridging the orifice of aneurysms was shown on days 14 and 28. On day 28, tissue organization was greater in the SDF-1α-coated coils group than in the unmodified coils group. Immunofluorescence showed α-smooth muscle actin-positive cells in organized tissue in sacs. Combined treatment with SDF-1α-coated coils and EPCs transplantation is a safe and effective treatment for rat aneurysms. This may provide a new strategy for endovascular therapy following aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage.
PMCID: PMC4314014
Stromal cell-derived factor-1α; endothelial progenitor cells; silk fibroin; cerebral aneurysm; recanalization; endothelialization
4.  The Atopic March: Progression from Atopic Dermatitis to Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma 
The development of atopic dermatitis (AD) in infancy and subsequent allergic rhinitis and asthma in later childhood is known as the atopic march. This progressive atopy is dependent on various underlying factors such as the presence of filaggrin mutations as well as the time of onset and severity of AD. Clinical manifestations vary among individuals. Previously it was thought that atopic disorders may be unrelated with sequential development. Recent studies support the idea of a causal link between AD and later onset atopic disorders. These studies suggest that a dysfunctional skin barrier serves as a site for allergic sensitization to antigens and colonization of bacterial super antigens. This induces systemic Th2 immunity that predisposes patients to allergic nasal responses and promotes airway hyper reactivity. While AD often starts early in life and is a chronic condition, new research signifies that there may be an optimal window of time in which targeting the skin barrier with therapeutic interventions may prevent subsequent atopic disorders. In this review we highlight recent studies describing factors important in the development of atopic disorders and new insights in our understanding of the pathogenesis of the atopic march.
PMCID: PMC4240310  PMID: 25419479
Eczema; Atopic dermatitis; Allergic rhinitis; Asthma; The atopic march
5.  Immune Modulatory Effects of IL-22 on Allergen-Induced Pulmonary Inflammation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107454.
IL-22 is a Th17/Th22 cytokine that is increased in asthma. However, recent animal studies showed controversial findings in the effects of IL-22 in allergic asthma. To determine the role of IL-22 in ovalbumin-induced allergic inflammation we generated inducible lung-specific IL-22 transgenic mice. Transgenic IL-22 expression and signaling activity in the lung were determined. Ovalbumin (OVA)-induced pulmonary inflammation, immune responses, and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) were examined and compared between IL-22 transgenic mice and wild type controls. Following doxycycline (Dox) induction, IL-22 protein was readily detected in the large (CC10 promoter) and small (SPC promoter) airway epithelial cells. IL-22 signaling was evidenced by phosphorylated STAT3. After OVA sensitization and challenge, compared to wild type littermates, IL-22 transgenic mice showed decreased eosinophils in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and in lung tissue, decreased mucus metaplasia in the airways, and reduced AHR. Among the cytokines and chemokines examined, IL-13 levels were reduced in the BAL fluid as well as in lymphocytes from local draining lymph nodes of IL-22 transgenic mice. No effect was seen on the levels of serum total or OVA-specific IgE or IgG. These findings indicate that IL-22 has immune modulatory effects on pulmonary inflammatory responses in allergen-induced asthma.
PMCID: PMC4177833  PMID: 25254361
6.  Astragalosides from Radix Astragali benefits experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in C57BL /6 mice at multiple levels 
Radix Astragali is famous for its beneficial effect on inflammation associated diseases. This study was to assess the efficacy of astragalosides (AST) extracted from Radix Astragali, on the progression of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), and explore its possible underlying molecular mechanisms.
EAE was induced by subcutaneous immunization of MOG35–55. Infiltration of inflammatory cells was examined by HE staining. ROS level was detected by measuring infiltrated hydroethidine. Leakage of blood brain barrier (BBB) was assessed using Evan’s blue dye extravasation method. Levels of inflammatory cytokines were measured using ELISA kits. Activities of total-SOD, GSH-Px, and iNOS and MDA concentration were measured using biochemical analytic kits. Gene expression was detected using real-time PCR method. Protein expression was assayed using western blotting approach.
AST administration attenuated the progression of EAE in mice remarkably. Further studies manifested that AST treatment inhibited infiltration of inflammatory cells, lessened ROS production and decreased BBB leakage. In peripheral immune-systems, AST up-regulated mRNA expression of transcriptional factors T-bet and Foxp3 but decreased that of RORγt to modulate T cell differentiation. In CNS, AST stopped BBB leakage, reduced ROS production by up-regulation of T-SOD, and reduced neuroinflammation by inhibition of iNOS and other inflammatory cytokines. Moreover, AST inhibited production of p53 and phosphorylation of tau by modulation of the Bcl-2/Bax ratio.
AST orchestrated multiple pathways, including immuno-regulation, anti-oxidative stress, anti-neuroinflammation and anti-neuroapoptosis involved in the MS pathogenesis, to prevent the deterioration of EAE, which paves the way for the application of it in clinical prevention/therapy of MS.
PMCID: PMC4155103  PMID: 25150364
Astragalosides; Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; Multiple sclerosis; Neuroinflammation; Oxidative stress; Apoptosis
7.  Regulation of Nasal Airway Homeostasis and Inflammation in Mice by SHP-1 and Th2/Th1 Signaling Pathways 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103685.
Allergic rhinitis is a chronic inflammatory disease orchestrated by Th2 lymphocytes. Src homology 2 domain-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase (SHP)-1 is known to be a negative regulator in the IL-4α/STAT-6 signaling pathway of the lung. However, the role of SHP-1 enzyme and its functional relationship with Th2 and Th1 cytokines are not known in the nasal airway. In this study, we aimed to study the nasal inflammation as a result of SHP-1 deficiency in viable motheaten (mev) mice and to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved. Cytology, histology, and expression of cytokines and chemokines were analyzed to define the nature of the nasal inflammation. Targeted gene depletion of Th1 (IFN-γ) and Th2 (IL-4 and IL-13) cytokines was used to identify the critical pathways involved. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) were studied to demonstrate the clearance mechanism of recruited inflammatory cells into the nasal airway. We showed here that mev mice had a spontaneous allergic rhinitis-like inflammation with eosinophilia, mucus metaplasia, up-regulation of Th2 cytokines (IL-4 and IL-13), chemokines (eotaxin), and MMPs. All of these inflammatory mediators were clearly counter-regulated by Th2 and Th1 cytokines. Deletion of IFN-γ gene induced a strong Th2-skewed inflammation with transepithelial migration of the inflammatory cells. These findings suggest that SHP-1 enzyme and Th2/Th1 paradigm may play a critical role in the maintenance of nasal immune homeostasis and in the regulation of allergic rhinitis.
PMCID: PMC4121172  PMID: 25090641
8.  Microbial Biotransformation of Gentiopicroside by the Endophytic Fungus Penicillium crustosum 2T01Y01 
Endophytic fungi are symbiotic with plants and possess multienzyme systems showing promising metabolite potency with region selectivity and stereoselectivity. The aim of this study was to use these special microorganisms as an in vitro model to mimic the potential mammalian metabolites of a natural iridoid gentiopicroside (GPS, compound 1). The fungi isolated from a medicinal plant, Dendrobium candidum Wall. ex Lindl., were screened for their biotransformation abilities with GPS as the substrate, and one strain with high converting potency was identified as Penicillium crustosum 2T01Y01 on the basis of the sequence of the internal transcribed spacer of the ribosomal DNA region. Upon the optimized incubation of P. crustosum 2T01Y01 with the substrate, seven deglycosylated metabolites were detected by ultraperformance liquid chromatography/quadrupole time of flight mass spectrometry (UPLC/Q-TOF MS). Preparative-scale biotransformation with whole cells of the endophytic fungus resulted in the production of five metabolites, including three novel ones, 5α-(hydroxymethyl)-6β-methyl-3,4,5,6-tetrahydropyrano[3,4-c]pyran-1(8H)-one (compound 2), (Z)-4-(1-hydroxybut-3-en-2-yl)-5,6-dihydropyran-2-one (compound 3), and (E)-4-(1-hydroxybut-3-en-2-yl)-5,6-dihydropyran-2-one (compound 4), along with two known ones, 5α-(hydroxymethyl)-6β-methyl-1H,3H-5,6-dihydropyrano[3,4-c]pyran-1(3H)-one (compound 5) and 5α-(hydroxymethyl)-6α-methyl-5,6-dihydropyrano[3,4-c]pyran-1(3H)-one (compound 6), aided by nuclear magnetic resonance and high-resolution mass spectral analyses. The other two metabolites were tentatively identified by online UPLC/Q-TOF MS as 5-hydroxymethyl-5,6-dihydroisochromen-1-one (compound 7) and 5-hydroxymethyl-3,4,5,6-tetrahydroisochromen-1-one (compound 8), and compound 8 is a new metabolite. To test the metabolic mechanism, the β-glucosidase activity of the fungus P. crustosum 2T01Y01 was assayed with ρ-nitrophenyl-β-d-glucopyranoside as a probe substrate, and the pathway of GPS biotransformation by strain 2T01Y01 is proposed. In addition, the hepatoprotective activities of GPS and metabolite compounds 2, 5, and 6 against human hepatocyte line HL-7702 injury induced by hydrogen peroxide were evaluated.
PMCID: PMC3911023  PMID: 24141132
9.  Comparison and Analysis of Biological Agent Category Lists Based On Biosafety and Biodefense 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e101163.
Biological agents pose a serious threat to human health, economic development, social stability and even national security. The classification of biological agents is a basic requirement for both biosafety and biodefense. We compared and analyzed the Biological Agent Laboratory Biosafety Category list and the defining criteria according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the European Union (EU) and China. We also compared and analyzed the Biological Agent Biodefense Category list and the defining criteria according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, the EU and Russia. The results show some inconsistencies among or between the two types of category lists and criteria. We suggest that the classification of biological agents based on laboratory biosafety should reduce the number of inconsistencies and contradictions. Developing countries should also produce lists of biological agents to direct their development of biodefense capabilities.To develop a suitable biological agent list should also strengthen international collaboration and cooperation.
PMCID: PMC4076228  PMID: 24979754
10.  Ferulic acid prevents liver injury and increases the anti-tumor effect of diosbulbin B in vivo *  
The present study is designed to investigate the protection by ferulic acid against the hepatotoxicity induced by diosbulbin B and its possible mechanism, and further observe whether ferulic acid augments diosbulbin B-induced anti-tumor activity. The results show that ferulic acid decreases diosbulbin B-increased serum alanine transaminase/aspartate transaminase (ALT/AST) levels. Ferulic acid also decreases lipid peroxide (LPO) levels which are elevated in diosbulbin B-treated mice. Histological evaluation of the liver demonstrates hydropic degeneration in diosbulbin B-treated mice, while ferulic acid reverses this injury. Moreover, the activities of copper- and zinc-containing superoxide dismutase (CuZn-SOD) and catalase (CAT) are decreased in the livers of diosbulbin B-treated mice, while ferulic acid reverses these decreases. Further results demonstrate that the mRNA expressions of CuZn-SOD and CAT in diosbulbin B-treated mouse liver are significantly decreased, while ferulic acid prevents this decrease. In addition, ferulic acid also augments diosbulbin B-induced tumor growth inhibition compared with diosbulbin B alone. Taken together, the present study shows that ferulic acid prevents diosbulbin B-induced liver injury via ameliorating diosbulbin B-induced liver oxidative stress injury and augments diosbulbin B-induced anti-tumor activity.
PMCID: PMC4116857  PMID: 24903991
Ferulic acid; Diosbulbin B; Hepatotoxicity; Oxidative stress injury; Anti-tumor activity
11.  Comparative Analysis of the Effectiveness of Three Immunization Strategies in Controlling Disease Outbreaks in Realistic Social Networks 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95911.
The high incidence of emerging infectious diseases has highlighted the importance of effective immunization strategies, especially the stochastic algorithms based on local available network information. Present stochastic strategies are mainly evaluated based on classical network models, such as scale-free networks and small-world networks, and thus are insufficient. Three frequently referred stochastic immunization strategies—acquaintance immunization, community-bridge immunization, and ring vaccination—were analyzed in this work. The optimal immunization ratios for acquaintance immunization and community-bridge immunization strategies were investigated, and the effectiveness of these three strategies in controlling the spreading of epidemics were analyzed based on realistic social contact networks. The results show all the strategies have decreased the coverage of the epidemics compared to baseline scenario (no control measures). However the effectiveness of acquaintance immunization and community-bridge immunization are very limited, with acquaintance immunization slightly outperforming community-bridge immunization. Ring vaccination significantly outperforms acquaintance immunization and community-bridge immunization, and the sensitivity analysis shows it could be applied to controlling the epidemics with a wide infectivity spectrum. The effectiveness of several classical stochastic immunization strategies was evaluated based on realistic contact networks for the first time in this study. These results could have important significance for epidemic control research and practice.
PMCID: PMC4008523  PMID: 24787718
12.  Endogenous Ceramide Contributes to the Transcytosis of oxLDL across Endothelial Cells and Promotes Its Subendothelial Retention in Vascular Wall 
Oxidized low density of lipoprotein (oxLDL) is the major lipid found in atherosclerotic lesion and elevated plasma oxLDL is recognized to be a risk factor of atherosclerosis. Whether plasma oxLDL could be transported across endothelial cells and initiate atherosclerotic changes remains unknown. In an established in vitro cellular transcytosis model, the present study found that oxLDL could traffic across vascular endothelial cells and further that the regulation of endogenous ceramide production by ceramide metabolizing enzyme inhibitors significantly altered the transcytosis of oxLDL across endothelial cells. It was found that acid sphingomyelinase inhibitor, desipramine (DES), and de novo ceramide synthesis inhibitor, myriocin (MYR), both decreasing the endogenous ceramide production, significantly inhibited the transcytosis of oxLDL. Ceramidase inhibitor, N-oleoylethanolamine (NOE), and sphingomyelin synthase inhibitor, O-Tricyclo[,6]dec-9-yl dithiocarbonate potassium salt (D609), both increasing the endogenous ceramide production, significantly upregulated the transcytosis of oxLDL. In vivo, injection of fluorescence labeled oxLDL into mice body also predisposed to the subendothelial retention of these oxidized lipids. The observations provided in the present study demonstrate that endogenous ceramide contributes to the transcytosis of oxLDL across endothelial cells and promotes the initiating step of atherosclerosis—the subendothelial retention of lipids in vascular wall.
PMCID: PMC4003761  PMID: 24817993
13.  Peritumoral ductular reaction: a poor postoperative prognostic factor for hepatocellular carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:65.
The role of ductular reaction (DR) in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains to be elucidated.
In this study, we tried to uncover possible effect by correlating peritumoral DR in a necroinflammatory microenvironment with postoperative prognosis in HCC. The expression of peritumoral DR/CK19 by immunohistochemistry, necroinflammation and fibrosis were assessed from 106 patients receiving curative resection for HCC. Prognostic values for these and other clinicopathologic factors were evaluated.
Peritumoral DR significantly correlated with necroinflammation (r = 0.563, p = 3.4E-10), fibrosis (r = 0.435, p = 3.1E-06), AFP level (p = 0.010), HBsAg (p = 4.9E-4), BCLC stage (p = 0.003), TNM stage (p = 0.002), multiple nodules (p = 0.004), absence of tumor capsule (p = 0.027), severe microscopic vascular invasion (p = 0.031) and early recurrence (p = 0.010). Increased DR was significantly associated with decreased RFS/OS (p = 4.8E-04 and p = 2.6E-05, respectively) in univariate analysis and were identified as an independent prognostic factor (HR = 2.380, 95% CI = 1.250-4.534, p = 0.008 for RFS; HR = 4.294, 95% CI = 2.255-8.177, p = 9.3E-6 for OS) in multivariate analysis.
These results suggested that peritumoral DR in a necroinflammatory microenvironment was a poor prognostic factor for HCC after resection.
PMCID: PMC3916808  PMID: 24495509
Ductular reaction (DR); Hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs); Necroinflammation; Fibrosis; Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); Prognosis
14.  Correction: Optimized Strategy for the Control and Prevention of Newly Emerging Influenza Revealed by the Spread Dynamics Model 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):10.1371/annotation/8254081b-b193-4799-9ddf-d9a71d2007b4.
PMCID: PMC3898965
15.  Short-term Mg deficiency upregulates protein kinase C isoforms in cardiovascular tissues and cells; relation to NF-kB, cytokines, ceramide salvage sphingolipid pathway and PKC-zeta: hypothesis and review 
Numerous recent,epidemiological studies reveal that Western populations are growing more and more deficient in daily Mg intake which have been linked to etiology of cardiovascular (CV) diseases. A growing body of evidence suggests that a major missing link to this dilemma may reside within the sphingolipid-ceramide pathways. For the past 25 years , our labs have been focusing on these pathways in Mg-deficient mammals. The objective of this paper is two-fold: 1) to test various hypotheses and 2) to review the current status of the field and how protein kinase C isoforms may be pivotal to solving some of the CV attributes of Mg deficiency. Below, we test the hypotheses that: 1) short-term dietary deficiency of magnesium (MgD) would result in the upregulation of protein kinase C (PKC) isoforms in left ventricular (LV) and aortic smooth muscle (ASM) and serum; 2) MgD would result in a release of select cytokines and an upregulation of NF-kB in LV and ASM, and in primary cultured aortic smooth muscle cells (PCASMC); 3) MgD would result in an activation of the sphingolipid salvage pathway in LV and ASM, and in PCASMC; 4) MgD would result in a synthesis of sphingosine, but not sphinganine, in PCASMC which could be inhibited by fumonisin B1 (FB) an inhibitor of ceramide synthase (CS), but not scyphostatin an inhibitor of neutral sphingomyelinase (N-SMase); 5) incubation of PCASMC (in low Mg2+) with the PKC-mimic PMA would result in release and synthesis of NF-kB, cytokines, and ceramide but not sphingosine. The new data indicate that short-term MgD (10% normal dietary intake) result in an upregulation of all three classes of PKC isoforms in LV, aortic muscle and in serum coupled to the upregulation of ceramide, NF-kB activation, and cytokines. High degrees of linear correlation were found to exist between upregulation of PKC isoforms, p65 and cytokine release, suggesting cross-talk between these molecules and molecular pathways. Our experiments with PCASMCs demonstrated that MgD caused a pronounced synthesis of sphingosine (but not sphinganine), which could be inhibited with fumonisin B1, but not by scyphostatin; use of PMA stimulation released ceramide but not sphingosine suggesting a role for the “sphingolipid salvage pathway” in MgD vascular muscle. Use of different PKC pharmacological inhibitors suggested that although all three classes of PKC molecules, i.e., classical, novel, and atypical, play roles in MgD-induced synthesis/release of ceramide, sphingosine, and cytokines as well as activation of NF-kB, to varying degrees, PKC-zeta appears to play a greater role in these events than any of the other PKC isoforms; a specific PKC-zeta inhibitory peptide inhibited formation of sphingosine. Even low levels of water-borne Mg (e.g., 15 mg/l/day) either prevented or ameliorated the upregulation of all three classes of PKC isoforms. An attempt is made to integrate our new data with previous information in order to possibly explain many of the cardiovascular effects of MgD.
PMCID: PMC3902236  PMID: 24482684
Cardiac muscle; vascular muscle; p65; sphingosine; ceramide synthase; water-borne magnesium
16.  Long-Distance Travel Behaviours Accelerate and Aggravate the Large-Scale Spatial Spreading of Infectious Diseases 
The study analyses the role of long-distance travel behaviours on the large-scale spatial spreading of directly transmitted infectious diseases, focusing on two different travel types in terms of the travellers travelling to a specific group or not. For this purpose, we have formulated and analysed a metapopulation model in which the individuals in each subpopulation are organised into a scale-free contact network. The long-distance travellers between the subpopulations will temporarily change the network structure of the destination subpopulation through the “merging effects (MEs),” which indicates that the travellers will be regarded as either connected components or isolated nodes in the contact network. The results show that the presence of the MEs has constantly accelerated the transmission of the diseases and aggravated the outbreaks compared to the scenario in which the diversity of the long-distance travel types is arbitrarily discarded. Sensitivity analyses show that these results are relatively constant regarding a wide range variation of several model parameters. Our study has highlighted several important causes which could significantly affect the spatiotemporal disease dynamics neglected by the present studies.
PMCID: PMC3910471  PMID: 24511324
17.  Optimized Strategy for the Control and Prevention of Newly Emerging Influenza Revealed by the Spread Dynamics Model 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84694.
No matching vaccine is immediately available when a novel influenza strain breaks out. Several nonvaccine-related strategies must be employed to control an influenza epidemic, including antiviral treatment, patient isolation, and immigration detection. This paper presents the development and application of two regional dynamic models of influenza with Pontryagin’s Maximum Principle to determine the optimal control strategies for an epidemic and the corresponding minimum antiviral stockpiles. Antiviral treatment was found to be the most effective measure to control new influenza outbreaks. In the case of inadequate antiviral resources, the preferred approach was the centralized use of antiviral resources in the early stage of the epidemic. Immigration detection was the least cost-effective; however, when used in combination with the other measures, it may play a larger role. The reasonable mix of the three control measures could reduce the number of clinical cases substantially, to achieve the optimal control of new influenza.
PMCID: PMC3879330  PMID: 24392151
18.  Insulin Resistance Is an Independent Determinate of ED in Young Adult Men 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83951.
Insulin resistance (IR) triggers endothelial dysfunction, which contributes to erectile dysfunction (ED) and cardiovascular disease.
To evaluate whether IR was related to ED in young adult patients.
A total of 283 consecutive men complaining of ED at least six months were enrolled, with a full medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests collected. Quantitative Insulin Sensitivity Check Index (QUICKI) was used to determine IR. The severity of ED was assessed by IIEF-5 questionnaire. Endothelial function was assessed by ultrasonographic examination of brachial artery flow mediated dilation (FMD).
IR was detected in 52% patients. Subjects with IR had significant higher total cholesterol, triglycerides, low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-c), glycated haemoglobin (HBA1c), high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and body mass index (BMI), but showed significant lower IIEF-5 score, FMD%, high density lipoprotein -cholesterol (HDL-c), testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels than patients without IR. Multiple regression analysis showed QUICKI and testosterone were independent predictors of IIEF-5 score. Furthermore, the incidence of IR was correlated with the severity of ED.
Compared with other CVFs, IR was found as the most prevalent in our subjects. Besides, IR was independently associated with ED and its severity, suggesting an adverse effect of insulin resistance on erectile function.
PMCID: PMC3877124  PMID: 24391852
19.  Magnesium deficiency upregulates sphingomyelinases in cardiovascular tissues and cells: cross-talk among proto-oncogenes, Mg2+, NF-κB and ceramide and their potential relationships to resistant hypertension, atherogenesis and cardiac failure 
The present study tested the hypotheses that 1) short-term (ST) dietary deficiency of magnesium (MgD; 21 days) in rats would result in the upregulation of neutral-, acid-, and alkaline- sphingomyelinases SMases) in cardiac and vascular smooth muscles (VSMCs), 2) ST MgD would result in an upregulation of proto-oncogenes, i.e., c-Fos and c-Jun, as well as the p65 and c-Rel components of NF-κB in cardiac and VSMCs, 3) low levels of Mg2+ added to drinking water would either prevent or greatly reduce the upregulation of the SMases and proto-oncogene expression, 4) exposure of primary cultured VSMCs to low extracellular Mg2+ concentration would lead to release of ceramide in both cerebral and aortic VSMCs, 5) specific inhibitors of neutral- and acid-SMAs would reduce the release of ceramide in cultured VSMCs exposed to low extracellular Mg2+, and 6) specific inhibitors of neutral- and acid-SMases would lead to reductions in the expression of c-fos, c-Jun, and NF-κB components. The data indicate that neutral-, acid-and alkaline-SMases exist in rat cardiac and VSMCs. ST MgD resulted in over 150% increases in SMase activity and proto-oncogene expression in left and right ventricular muscle, atrial muscle, and abdominal aortic smooth muscle; even very low levels of Mg2+ added to drinking water either prevented or ameliorated the activation of all 3-SMases as well as expression of c-Fos and c-Jun; scyphostatin and desipramine reduced the low Mg2+ - induced expression of the proto-oncogenes as well as p65 and c-Rel in VSMCs. Exposure of the VSMCs to low Mg2+ resulted in more than a 100% increase in release of ceramide; scyphostatin and desipramine reduced greatly the release of ceramide from the VSMCs. We believe when the present data are viewed in light of our previous, recent findings on the effects of Mg deficiency on most of the major enzymes in the sphingomyelin-ceramide pathway, that they could provide a rational basis for the treatment and prevention of drug-resistant hypertension, atherogenesis, and difficult-to-treat forms of cardiac failure.
PMCID: PMC3832323  PMID: 24260592
Neutral-sphingomyelinase; acid-sphingomyelinase; alkaline-sphingomyelinase; water-borne magnesium; cardiac muscle; vascular muscle
20.  Overexpression of E2F1 Promotes Tumor Malignancy And Correlates with TNM Stages in Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73436.
Transcription factor E2F1 exerts effects on many types of cancers. As an upstream regulator of a host of genes, E2F1 can trigger diverse aberrant transcription processes that may dominate malignancy. Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) is the most common subtype in renal cell carcinoma which displays high malignancy and has a shortage of biomarkers in clinics. Our study aimed to explore the function of E2F1 in ccRCC and its correlation with clinicopathological parameters.
Methodology/Principle Findings
Transcription factor E2F1 was mainly distributed in cancer cell nucleus and mRNA expression significantly increased in 72 cases of clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) tissues compared with adjacent non-cancerous kidney tissues (p<0.001). The protein expression was consistent with mRNA expression. Further analysis in 92 cases indicated that E2F1 mRNA level expression was associated with the tumor pathologic parameters embracing diameter, Fuhrman tumor grade, pT stage, TNM stage grouping and macrovascular infiltration (MAVI). These surgical specimens had high grade tumors accompanied with an elevated E2F1 expression. Moreover, E2F1 transfection was found to contribute significantly to cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasion in vitro.
Overexpression of E2F1 may be a key event in the local and vascular infiltration of ccRCC indicated by the activation of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) 2 and MMP9. These findings highlighted the implication of E2F1’s function in the metastatic process. Furthermore, the clinical relevance of E2F1 in ccRCC pointed to a potential new therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC3762742  PMID: 24023875
21.  Protective effect of naringenin against experimental colitis via suppression of Toll-like receptor 4/NF-κB signalling 
The British journal of nutrition  2013;110(4):599-608.
Naringenin, one of the most abundant flavonoids in citrus, grapefruits and tomatoes, has been used as a traditional anti-inflammatory agent for centuries. However, the molecular mechanism of naringenin in intestinal inflammation remains unknown so far. The present study investigated a molecular basis for the protective effect of naringenin in dextran sulphate Sodium-induced murine colitis. Pre-administration of naringenin significantly reduced the severity of colitis and resulted in down-regulation of pro-inflammatory mediators (inducible NO synthase (iNOS), intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), cyclo-oxygenase-2 (Cox2), TNF-α and IL-6 mRNA) in the colon mucosa. The decline in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, specifically TNF-α and IL-6, correlated with a decrease in mucosal Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) mRNA and protein. Phospho-NF-κB p65 protein was significantly decreased, which correlated with a similar decrease in phospho-IκBα protein. Consistent with the in vivo results, naringenin exposure blocked lipopolysaccharide-stimulated nuclear translocation of NF-κB p65 in mouse macrophage RAW264.7 cells. In addition, in vitro NF-κB reporter assays performed on human colonic HT-29 cells exposed to naringenin demonstrated a significant inhibition of TNF-α-induced NF-κB luciferase expression. Thus, for the first time, the present study indicates that targeted inhibition of the TLR4/NF-κB signalling pathway might be an important mechanism for naringenin in abrogating experimental colitis.
PMCID: PMC3726555  PMID: 23506745
Dextran sulphate sodium-induced colitis; Toll-like receptor 4; NF-κB; Signalling pathways; Naringenin
22.  Oncological and functional results of extraperitoneal laparoscopic radical prostatectomy 
Oncology Letters  2012;4(2):351-357.
The oncological and functional results of 329 cases in a population treated with extraperitoneal laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (ELRP) were evaluated retrospectively. A total of 329 inconsecutive patients with prostate cancer (PCa) who underwent ELRP were retrospectively analyzed. The median initial prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level was 17.35 ng/ml. The median biopsy Gleason score was 7.77. Patients with a T2 or T3a clinical stage had received preoperative neoadjuvant hormonal therapy (NHT) for 3 to 9 months prior to ELRP. No conversion or re-intervention were observed. The median time for anastomosis, surgery time and postoperative catheterization time were 13.0 min, 90.0 min and 6 days, respectively. The median estimated blood loss was 75 ml. There were 12 temporary urinary leakages requiring prolonged catheterization to 14 days. There was 1 case of deep vein thrombosis, 1 case of alimentary tract hemorrhage and 7 cases of anterior urethral stricture. The median follow-up time was 27 months. A total of 17 patients were lost during the follow-up period. No rectal injury, lymphocele, incision hernia, postoperative persistent urinary leak or anastomotic stricture occurred. Younger patients (≤67 years of age) had a more rapid recovery of continence and a better postoperative potency. The overall positive surgical margin rate was 16.7%, which correlated with the pathological stage and Gleason score, respectively (both P<0.001). A total of 89 (28.6%) patients were diagnosed with biochemical recurrence. The initial PSA value, PSM, pathological stage and Gleason score were identified as independent prognostic factors for biochemical recurrence-free survival using multivariate analysis. Our results demonstrated that preoperative NHT had significant effects on the pathological Gleason score (P<0.001) and surgical margin (P=0.027), but no significant impact on biochemical recurrence (P=0.202). The reproducibility of ELRP has been proven as a reliable curative treatment in Western countries during the last 15 years. Due to the increase in PCa patients, the results of our study may aid surgeons who use ELRP for the first time.
PMCID: PMC3402759  PMID: 22844382
prostate cancer; laparoscopic radical prostatectomy; follow-up; continence; potency; biochemical recurrence
23.  A matched-pair comparison between bilateral intrafascial and interfascial nerve-sparing techniques in extraperitoneal laparoscopic radical prostatectomy 
Asian Journal of Andrology  2013;15(4):513-517.
The aim of this study was to validate the advantages of the intrafascial nerve-sparing technique compared with the interfascial nerve-sparing technique in extraperitoneal laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. From March 2010 to August 2011, 65 patients with localized prostate cancer (PCa) underwent bilateral intrafascial nerve-sparing extraperitoneal laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. These patients were matched in a 1∶2 ratio to 130 patients with localized PCa who had undergone bilateral interfascial nerve-sparing extraperitoneal laparoscopic radical prostatectomy between January 2008 and August 2011. Operative data and oncological and functional results of both groups were compared. There was no difference in operative data, pathological stages and overall rates of positive surgical margins between the groups. There were 9 and 13 patients lost to follow-up in the intrafascial group and interfascial group, respectively. The intrafascial technique provided earlier recovery of continence at both 3 and 6 months than the interfascial technique. Equal results in terms of continence were found in both groups at 12 months. Better rates of potency at 6 months and 12 months were found in younger patients (age ≤65 years) and overall patients who had undergone the intrafascial nerve-sparing extraperitoneal laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. Biochemical progression-free survival rates 1 year postoperatively were similar in both groups. Using strict indications, compared with the interfascial nerve-sparing technique, the intrafascial technique provided similar operative outcomes and short-term oncological results, quicker recovery of continence and better potency. The intrafascial nerve-sparing technique is recommended as a preferred approach for young PCa patients who are clinical stages cT1 to cT2a and have normal preoperative potency.
PMCID: PMC3739221  PMID: 23708458
continence; interfascial nerve-sparing; intrafascial nerve-sparing; laparoscopic radical prostatectomy; potency; prostate cancer (PCa)
24.  Down-Regulated miR-30a in Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma Correlated with Tumor Hematogenous Metastasis by Targeting Angiogenesis-Specific DLL4 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67294.
Endothelial DLL4 plays an important role in controlling of tumor angiogenesis, which is required for tumor invasive growth and metastasis. However, the regulation of DLL4 in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) has not yet been systematically elucidated.
We performed bioinformatical analysis to explore miRNAs targeting DLL4. miR-30a was selected as a representative to validate its functional association in endothelial cell. Then, the expressions of DLL4 and mature miR-30a from 90 cases of ccRCC and 28 cases of nonmatched adjacent non-tumor tissues were measured by quantitative real-time PCR. Finally, the expression of miR-30a was correlated with DLL4 expression, tumor features (metastatic condition and microvessel density), and patient metastasis-free survival. The univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to select the risk factors associated with hematogenous metastasis, respectively.
Principal Findings
miR-30a negatively regulated DLL4 and inhibited the proliferation and migration of endothelial cells. DLL4 was up-regulated in ccRCC and further increased in hematogenous metastatic cases, while miR-30a was down-regulated in tumor tissues and further decreased in hematogenous metastatic ccRCC (student t test, all p<0.05). Additionally, expression of miR-30a was inversely correlated with expression of DLL4 and microvessel density (linear correlation analysis, both p<0.05). Low-level miR-30a also indicated a higher probability of developing metastasis (log-rank test, p = 0.010). Most importantly, miR-30a expression was an independent predictor of ccRCC hematogenous metastasis by the univariate analysis and binary logistic regression model (both p<0.05).
Down-regulated miR-30a in ccRCC was associated with tumor hematogenous metastasis through increasing microvessel density by targeting angiogenesis-specific DLL4.
PMCID: PMC3694928  PMID: 23826258
25.  Electroacupuncture improves thermal and mechanical sensitivities in a rat model of postherpetic neuralgia 
Molecular Pain  2013;9:18.
Electroacupuncture (EA) is effective in relieving pain in patients with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). However, the mechanism underlying the therapeutic effect of EA in PHN is still unclear. Systemic injection of resiniferatoxin (RTX), an ultrapotent analog of TRPV1 agonist, in adult rats can reproduce the clinical symptoms of PHN by ablating TRPV1-expressing sensory neurons. In this study, we determined the beneficial effect of EA and the potential mechanisms in this rat model of PHN.
PHN was induced in rats by a single injection of RTX. Thermal hyperalgesia was tested with a radiant heat stimulus, and mechanical allodynia was quantified with von Frey filaments. TRPV1 receptors were shown by using immunofluorescence labeling. The ultrastructural changes of the sciatic nerve were assessed by electron microscopic examination. The sprouting of myelinated primary afferent terminals into the spinal dorsal horn was mapped by using the transganglionic tracer cholera toxin B-subunit (CTB).
RTX injection diminished thermal sensitivity and gradually induced tactile allodynia within 3 weeks. EA applied to GB30 and GB34 at 2 and 15 Hz, but not 100 Hz, significantly increased the thermal sensitivity 4 weeks after treatment and decreased the tactile allodynia 2 weeks after treatment in RTX-treated rats. EA treatment at 2 and 15 Hz recovered the loss of TRPV1-positive dorsal root ganglion neurons and their central terminals of afferent fibers in the spinal superficial dorsal horn of RTX-treated rats. Moreover, EA significantly reduced the loss of unmyelinated fibers and the damage of the myelinated nerve fibers of RTX-treated rats. Furthermore, EA at 2 and 15 Hz inhibited the sprouting of myelinated primary afferent terminals into the spinal lamina II of RTX-treated rats.
EA treatment improves thermal perception by recovering TRPV1-positive sensory neurons and nerve terminals damaged by RTX. EA Also reduces RTX-induced tactile allodynia by attenuating the damage of myelinated afferent nerves and their abnormal sprouting into the spinal lamina II. Our study provides new information about the mechanisms of the therapeutic actions of EA in the treatment of PHN.
PMCID: PMC3626545  PMID: 23551937
Neuropathic pain; Postherpetic neuralgia; Capsaicin; Acupuncture; Analgesia; Allodynia; TRPV1; Axonal sprouting

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