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1.  Role of Excitatory Amino Acid Transporter-2 (EAAT2) and Glutamate in Neurodegeneration: Opportunities for Developing Novel Therapeutics 
Journal of Cellular Physiology  2011;226(10):2484-2493.
Glutamate is an essential excitatory neurotransmitter regulating brain functions. Excitatory amino acid transporter (EAAT)-2 is one of the major glutamate transporters expressed predominantly in astroglial cells and is responsible for 90% of total glutamate uptake. Glutamate transporters tightly regulate glutamate concentration in the synaptic cleft. Dysfunction of EAAT2 and accumulation of excessive extracellular glutamate has been implicated in the development of several neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Analysis of the 2.5-kb human EAAT2 promoter showed that NF-κB is an important regulator of EAAT2 expression in astrocytes. Screening of approximately 1,040 FDA-approved compounds and nutritionals led to the discovery that many β-lactam antibiotics are transcriptional activators of EAAT2 resulting in increased EAAT2 protein levels. Treatment of animals with ceftriaxone (CEF), a β-lactam antibiotic, led to an increase of EAAT2 expression and glutamate transport activity in the brain. CEF has neuroprotective effects in both in vitro and in vivo models based on its ability to inhibit neuronal cell death by preventing glutamate excitotoxicity. CEF increases EAAT2 transcription in primary human fetal astrocytes (PHFA) through the NF-κB signaling pathway. The NF-κB binding site at −272 position was critical in CEF-mediated EAAT2 protein induction. These studies emphasize the importance of transcriptional regulation in controlling glutamate levels in the brain. They also emphasize the potential utility of the EAAT2 promoter for developing both low and high throughput screening assays to identify novel small molecule regulators of glutamate transport with potential to ameliorate pathological changes occurring during and causing neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC3130100  PMID: 21792905
2.  Functions of the cytoplasmic RNA sensors RIG-I and MDA-5: Key regulators of innate immunity 
Pharmacology & therapeutics  2009;124(2):219-234.
The innate immune system responds within minutes of infection to produce type I interferons and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Interferons induce the synthesis of cell proteins with antiviral activity, and also shape the adaptive immune response by priming T cells. Despite the discovery of interferons over 50 years ago, only recently have we begun to understand how cells sense the presence of a virus infection. Two families of pattern recognition receptors have been shown to distinguish unique molecules present in pathogens, such as bacterial and fungal cell wall components, viral RNA and DNA, and lipoproteins. The first family includes the membrane-bound toll-like receptors (TLRs). Studies of the signaling pathways that lead from pattern recognition to cytokine induction have revealed extensive and overlapping cascades that involve protein-protein interactions and phosphorylation, and culminate in activation of transcription proteins that control the transcription of genes encoding interferons and other cytokines. A second family of pattern recognition receptors has recently been identified, which comprises the cytoplasmic sensors of viral nucleic acids, including MDA-5, RIG-I, and LGP2. In this review we summarize the discovery of these cytoplasmic sensors, how they recognize nucleic acids, the signaling pathways leading to cytokine synthesis, and viral countermeasures that have evolved to antagonize the functions of these proteins. We also consider the function of these cytoplasmic sensors in apoptosis, development and differentiation, and diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3165056  PMID: 19615405
Antiviral innate immunity; MDA-5; RIG-I; domain grafting; cell signaling; apoptosis; viral pathogenesis
3.  RIG-I is cleaved during picornavirus infection 
Virology  2009;391(2):171-176.
The innate immune system senses RNA virus infections through membrane-bound Toll-like receptors or the cytoplasmic proteins RIG-I and MDA-5. RIG-I is believed to recognize the 5′-triphosphate present on many viral RNAs, and hence is important for sensing infections by paramyxoviruses, influenza viruses, rhabdoviruses, and flaviviruses. MDA-5 recognizes dsRNA, and senses infection with picornaviruses, whose RNA 5′-ends are linked to a viral protein, VPg, not a 5′-triphosphate. We previously showed that MDA-5 is degraded in cells infected with different picornaviruses, and suggested that such cleavage might be a mechanism to antagonize production of type I IFN in response to viral infection. Here we examined the state of RIG-I during picornavirus infection. RIG-I is degraded in cells infected with poliovirus, rhinoviruses, echovirus, and encephalomyocarditis virus. In contrast to MDA-5, cleavage of RIG-I is not accomplished by cellular caspases or the proteasome. Rather, the viral proteinase 3Cpro cleaves RIG-I, both in vitro and in cells. Cleavage of RIG-I during picornavirus infection may constitute another mechanism for attenuating the innate response to viral infection.
PMCID: PMC2743091  PMID: 19628239
poliovirus; picornavirus; innate immunity; interferon; pathogenesis
4.  Targeted activation of innate immunity for therapeutic induction of autophagy and apoptosis in melanoma cells 
Cancer cell  2009;16(2):103-114.
Inappropriate drug delivery, secondary toxicities and persistent chemo- and immuno-resistance have traditionally compromised treatment response in melanoma. Using cellular systems and genetically engineered mouse models, we show that melanoma cells retain an innate ability to recognize cytosolic dsRNA and mount persistent stress response programs able to block tumor growth, even in highly immunosuppressed backgrounds. The dsRNA mimic polyinosine-polycytidylic acid (pIC), coadministered with polyethyleneimine (PEI) as a carrier, was identified as an unanticipated inducer of autophagy downstream of an exacerbated endosomal maturation program. A concurrent activity of the dsRNA helicase MDA-5 driving the proapoptotic protein NOXA resulted in an efficient autodigestion of melanoma cells. These results reveal tractable links for therapeutic intervention among dsRNA helicases, endo/lysosomes and apoptotic factors.
PMCID: PMC2851205  PMID: 19647221
5.  Phagocytosis of Picornavirus-Infected Cells Induces an RNA-Dependent Antiviral State in Human Dendritic Cells▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(6):2930-2937.
Dendritic cells (DCs) play a central role in instructing antiviral immune responses. DCs, however, can become targeted by different viruses themselves. We recently demonstrated that human DCs can be productively infected with echoviruses (EVs), but not coxsackie B viruses (CVBs), both of which are RNA viruses belonging to the Enterovirus genus of the Picornaviridae family. We now show that phagocytosis of CVB-infected, type I interferon-deficient cells induces an antiviral state in human DCs. Uptake of infected cells increased the expression of the cytoplasmic RNA helicases retinoic acid-inducible gene I and melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 as well as other interferon-stimulated genes and protected DCs against subsequent infection with EV9. These effects depended on recognition of viral RNA and could be mimicked by exposure to the synthetic double-stranded RNA analogue poly(I:C) but not other Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands. Blocking endosomal acidification abrogated protection, suggesting a role for TLRs in the acquisition of an antiviral state in DCs. In conclusion, recognition of viral RNA rapidly induces an antiviral state in human DCs. This might provide a mechanism by which DCs protect themselves against viruses when attracted to an environment with ongoing infection.
PMCID: PMC2258994  PMID: 18184700
6.  MDA-5 Is Cleaved in Poliovirus-Infected Cells▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(8):3677-3684.
Infections with RNA viruses are sensed by the innate immune system through membrane-bound Toll-like receptors or the cytoplasmic RNA helicases RIG-I and MDA-5. It is believed that MDA-5 is crucial for sensing infections by picornaviruses, but there have been no studies on the role of this protein during infection with poliovirus, the prototypic picornavirus. Beginning at 4 h postinfection, MDA-5 protein is degraded in poliovirus-infected cells. Levels of MDA-5 declined beginning at 6 h after infection with rhinovirus type 1a or encephalomyocarditis virus, but the protein was stable in cells infected with rhinovirus type 16 or echovirus type 1. Cleavage of MDA-5 is not carried out by either poliovirus proteinase 2Apro or 3Cpro. Instead, degradation of MDA-5 in poliovirus-infected cells occurs in a proteasome- and caspase-dependent manner. Degradation of MDA-5 during poliovirus infection correlates with cleavage of poly(ADP) ribose polymerase (PARP), a hallmark of apoptosis. Induction of apoptosis by puromycin leads to cleavage of both PARP and MDA-5. The MDA-5 cleavage product observed in cells treated with puromycin is ∼90 kDa, similar in size to the putative cleavage product observed in poliovirus-infected cells. Poliovirus-induced cleavage of MDA-5 may be a mechanism to antagonize production of type I interferon in response to viral infection.
PMCID: PMC1866155  PMID: 17267501

Results 1-6 (6)