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1.  Applications of Atomic Force Microscopy in Biophysical Chemistry of Cells 
The journal of physical chemistry. B  2010;114(18):5971-5982.
This article addresses the question of what information and new insights atomic force microscopy (AFM) provides that are of importance and relevance to cellular biophysical chemistry research. Three enabling aspects of AFM are discussed: (a) visualization of membrane structural features with nanometer resolution, such as microvilli, ridges, porosomes, lamellapodia, and filopodia; (b) revealing structural evolution associated with cellular signaling pathways by time-dependent and high-resolution imaging of the cellular membrane in correlation with intracellular components from simultaneous optical microscopy; and (c) qualitative and quantitative measurements of single cell mechanics by acquisition of force-deformation profiles and extraction of Young’s moduli for the membrane as well as cytoskeleton. A future prospective of AFM is also presented.
PMCID: PMC3980964  PMID: 20405961
2.  Genetic Structure of Chinese Indigenous Goats and the Special Geographical Structure in the Southwest China as a Geographic Barrier Driving the Fragmentation of a Large Population 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94435.
China has numerous native domestic goat breeds, however, extensive studies are focused on the genetic diversity within the fewer breeds and limited regions, the population demograogic history and origin of Chinese goats are still unclear. The roles of geographical structure have not been analyzed in Chinese goat domestic process. In this study, the genetic relationships of Chinese indigenous goat populations were evaluated using 30 microsatellite markers.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Forty Chinese indigenous populations containing 2078 goats were sampled from different geographic regions of China. Moderate genetic diversity at the population level (HS of 0.644) and high population diversity at the species level (HT value of 0.737) were estimated. Significant moderate population differentiation was detected (FST value of 0.129). Significant excess homozygosity (FIS of 0.105) and recent population bottlenecks were detected in thirty-six populations. Neighbour-joining tree, principal components analysis and Bayesian clusters all revealed that Chinese goat populations could be subdivided into at least four genetic clusters: Southwest China, South China, Northwest China and East China. It was observed that the genetic diversity of Northern China goats was highest among these clusters. The results here suggested that the goat populations in Southwest China might be the earliest domestic goats in China.
Our results suggested that the current genetic structure of Chinese goats were resulted from the special geographical structure, especially in the Western China, and the Western goat populations had been separated by the geographic structure (Hengduan Mountains and Qinling Mountains-Huaihe River Line) into two clusters: the Southwest and Northwest. It also indicated that the current genetic structure was caused by the geographical origin mainly, in close accordance with the human’s migration history throughout China. This study provides a fundamental genetic profile for the conservation of these populations and better to understand the domestication process and origin of Chinese goats.
PMCID: PMC3981790  PMID: 24718092
3.  The Alternative Pathway of Complement Activation May Be Involved in the Renal Damage of Human Anti-Glomerular Basement Membrane Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91250.
Linear deposition of IgG and complement 3 (C3) along glomerular basement membrane (GBM) is generally revealed in the kidneys of human anti-GBM disease. Our recent studies demonstrated the pathogenic role of complement activation in renal damage of this disease. However, the pathways of complement activation were still paradoxical. In this study, renal biopsy tissues from 10 patients with anti-GBM disease were used to investigate the pathways of complement activation by detecting the deposition of various complement components, including C1q, factor B, factor P (properdin), mannose-binding lectin (MBL), C3d, C4d and C5b-9, using immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. We found that C1q, factor B, properdin, C3d, C4d and C5b-9 were detected in all the glomeruli of our patients, along GBM with a linear and/or granular staining pattern. Furthermore, C1q, factor B and properdin co-localized well with C5b-9. The properdin also co-localized well with C3d. However, the deposition of MBL was diffusive in mesangium, GBM, Bowman's capsule and within crescents and was not co-localized with C5b-9 but partially co-localized with C4d. The intensity of factor B deposition (3.3 vs. 1.2, P<0.001) and C5b-9 deposition (3.2 vs. 1.6, P<0.001) was significantly stronger in the glomeruli with crescent formation, compared with the glomeruli without crescents. The complement system is overall activated via both the alternative pathway and classical pathway in the kidneys of human anti-GBM disease. The alternative pathway might play an important role in complement activation induced renal damage.
PMCID: PMC3962356  PMID: 24658070
4.  Participation of the Receptor for Advanced Glycation End-products in Efferocytosis 
Clearance of apoptotic cells by macrophages and other phagocytic cells, called efferocytosis, is a central process in the resolution of inflammation. Although the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) has been shown to participate in a variety of acute and chronic inflammatory processes in the lungs and other organs, a role for RAGE in efferocytosis has not been reported. In the present studies, we examined the potential involvement of RAGE in efferocytosis. Macrophages from transgenic RAGE−/− mice showed a decreased ability to engulf apoptotic neutrophils and thymocytes. Pretreatment of RAGE+/+ macrophages with advanced glycation end products, which competitively bind to RAGE, or Abs against RAGE diminished phagocytosis of apoptotic cells. Overexpression of RAGE in human embryonic kidney 293 cells resulted in an increased ability to engulf apoptotic cells. Furthermore, we found that incubation with soluble RAGE enhances phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by both RAGE+/+ and RAGE−/− macrophages. Direct binding of RAGE to phosphatidylserine (PS), an “eat me” signal highly expressed on apoptotic cells, was shown by using solid-phase ELISA. The ability of RAGE to bind to PS on apoptotic cells was confirmed in an adhesion assay. Decreased uptake of apoptotic neutrophils by macrophages was found under in vivo conditions in the lungs and peritoneal cavity of RAGE−/− mice. These results demonstrate a novel role for RAGE in which it is able to enhance efferocytosis through binding to PS on apoptotic cells.
PMCID: PMC3955180  PMID: 21502377
5.  New Insights into the Pathogenesis and Treatment of IPF: An Update 
Drugs  2011;71(8):981-1001.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is the most common and lethal of the idiopathic interstitial pneumonias. There are currently no effective pharmacological therapies approved for the treatment of IPF. Despite the focus on targeting fibrogenic pathways, recent clinical trials have been largely disappointing. Progress is being made in elucidating key cellular processes and molecular pathways critical to IPF pathogenesis, and this should facilitate the development of more effective therapeutics for this recalcitrant disease. Emerging pathobiological concepts include the role of aging and cellular senescence, oxidative stress, endoplasmic reticulum stress, cellular plasticity, microRNAs, and mechanotransduction. Therapeutic approaches that target molecular pathways to modulate aberrant cellular phenotypes and promote tissue homeostasis in the lung must be developed. Heterogeneity in biological and clinical phenotypes of IPF warrants a personalized medicine approach to diagnosis and treatment of this lung disorder.
PMCID: PMC3955181  PMID: 21668038
6.  High sodium augments angiotensin II-induced vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation through the ERK 1/2-dependent pathway 
Angiotensin II (Ang II)-induced vascular injury is exacerbated by high-salt diets. This study examined the effects of high-sodium level on Ang II-induced cell proliferation in rat vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). The cells were cultured in a standard medium containing 137.5 mmol l−1 of sodium. The high-sodium medium (140 mmol l−1) contained additional sodium chloride. Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 phosphorylation was determined by western blot analysis. Cell proliferation was evaluated by [3H]-thymidine incorporation. Ang II (100 nmol l−1) significantly increased ERK 1/2 phosphorylation and cell proliferation in the both medium containing standard sodium and high sodium. High-sodium level augmented Ang II-induced ERK 1/2 phosphorylation and cell proliferation compared with standard sodium. Pre-treatment with candesartan (1 μmol l−1, Ang II type 1 receptor blocker) or PD98095 (10 μmol l−1, ERK kinase iinhibitor) abolished the proliferative effect induced by high sodium/Ang II. Pre-treatment with 5-N,N-hexamethylene amiloride (30 μmol l−1, Na+/H+ exchanger type 1 (NHE-1) inhibitor), but not SN-6 (10 μmol l−1, Na+/Ca2+ exchanger inhibitor) or ouabain (1 mmol l−1, Na+/K+-ATPase inhibitor) attenuated ERK 1/2 phosphorylation or cell proliferation. Osmotic pressure or chloride had no effect on Ang II-induced proliferative changes. High-sodium level did not affect Ang II receptor expression. Ang II increased intracellular pH via NHE-1 activation, and high-sodium level augmented the pH increase induced by Ang II. These data suggest that high-sodium level directly augments Ang II-induced VSMC proliferation through NHE-1- and ERK 1/2-dependent pathways and may offer new insights into the mechanisms of vascular remodeling by high-sodium/Ang II.
PMCID: PMC3947370  PMID: 24026042
angiotensin II; intracellular pH; NHE-1; sodium; vascular remodeling
7.  Human osteosarcoma CD49f−CD133+ cells: impaired in osteogenic fate while gain of tumorigenicity 
Oncogene  2012;32(36):4252-4263.
The biological relationships among self-renewal, tumorigenicity, and lineage differentiation of human osteosarcoma-initiating cells (OSIC) remain elusive, making it difficult to identify and distinguish OSIC from osteosarcoma-forming cells (OSFC) for developing OSIC-targeted therapies. Using a new inverse lineage tracking strategy coupled with serial human-to-mouse xenotransplantation, we identified a subpopulation of osteosarcoma cells with OSIC-like properties and sought to distinguish them from their progeny, OSFC. We found that serial transplantation of cells from different osteosarcoma cell lines and primary osteosarcoma tissues progressively increased the CD49f+ subpopulation composing the bulk of the osteosarcoma mass. These CD49f+ cells displayed characteristics of OSFC: limited in vivo tumorigenicity, weak lineage differentiation, more differentiated osteogenic feature, and greater chemo-sensitivity. By contrast, their parental CD49f−CD133+ cells had an inhibited osteogenic fate, together with OSIC-like properties of self-renewal, strong tumorigenicity, and differentiation to CD49f+ progeny. Hence, the CD49f−CD133+ phenotype appears to identify OSIC-like cells that possess strong tumorigenicity correlated with an impaired osteogenic fate and the ability to initiate tumor growth through generation of CD49f+ progeny. These findings advance our understanding of OSIC-like properties and, for the first time, provide a much-needed distinction between OSIC and OSFC in this cancer.
PMCID: PMC3947577  PMID: 23045288
Osteosarcoma-initiating cells; self-renewal; tumorigenicity; lineage differentiation; osteosarcoma-forming cells; osteogenic differentiation
8.  Molecular Regulation of Antibiotic Biosynthesis in Streptomyces 
Streptomycetes are the most abundant source of antibiotics. Typically, each species produces several antibiotics, with the profile being species specific. Streptomyces coelicolor, the model species, produces at least five different antibiotics. We review the regulation of antibiotic biosynthesis in S. coelicolor and other, nonmodel streptomycetes in the light of recent studies. The biosynthesis of each antibiotic is specified by a large gene cluster, usually including regulatory genes (cluster-situated regulators [CSRs]). These are the main point of connection with a plethora of generally conserved regulatory systems that monitor the organism's physiology, developmental state, population density, and environment to determine the onset and level of production of each antibiotic. Some CSRs may also be sensitive to the levels of different kinds of ligands, including products of the pathway itself, products of other antibiotic pathways in the same organism, and specialized regulatory small molecules such as gamma-butyrolactones. These interactions can result in self-reinforcing feed-forward circuitry and complex cross talk between pathways. The physiological signals and regulatory mechanisms may be of practical importance for the activation of the many cryptic secondary metabolic gene cluster pathways revealed by recent sequencing of numerous Streptomyces genomes.
PMCID: PMC3591988  PMID: 23471619
9.  Chloride intracellular channel 1 regulates colon cancer cell migration and invasion through ROS/ERK pathway 
AIM: To investigate the mechanisms of chloride intracellular channel 1 (CLIC1) in the metastasis of colon cancer under hypoxia-reoxygenation (H-R) conditions.
METHODS: Fluorescent probes were used to detect reactive oxygen species (ROS) in LOVO cells. Wound healing assay and transwell assay were performed to examine the migration and invasion of LOVO cells. Expression of CLIC1 mRNA and protein, p-ERK, MMP-2 and MMP-9 proteins was analyzed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and Western blot.
METHODS: H-R treatment increased the intracellular ROS level in LOVO cells. The mRNA and protein expression of CLIC1 was elevated under H-R conditions. Functional inhibition of CLIC1 markedly decreased the H-R-enhanced ROS generation, cell migration, invasion and phosphorylation of ERK in treated LOVO cells. Additionally, the expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9 could be regulated by CLIC1-mediated ROS/ERK pathway.
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that CLIC1 protein is involved in the metastasis of colon cancer LOVO cells via regulating the ROS/ERK pathway in the H-R process.
PMCID: PMC3934477  PMID: 24587680
Colon cancer; Intracellular chloride channel 1; Hypoxia-reoxygenation; Reactive oxygen species; Extracellular signal-regulated kinase; Cancer invasion
10.  Targeted Disruption of MCPIP1/Zc3h12a Results in Fatal Inflammatory Disease 
Immunology and cell biology  2013;91(5):368-376.
Previous studies using MCPIP1/Zc3h12a-deficient mice suggest that MCPIP1 is an important regulator of inflammation and immune homeostasis. However, the characterization of the immunological phenotype of MCPIP1-deficient mice has not been detailed. In this study, we performed evaluation through histological, flow cytometric, ELISA and real-time PCR analysis and found that targeted disruption of MCPIP1 gene leads to fatal, highly aggressive, and widespread immune-related lesions. In addition to previously observed growth retardation, splenomegaly, lymphoadenopathy, severe anemia and premature death, MCPIP1-deficient mice showed disorganization of lymphoid organs, including spleen, lymph nodes and thymus, and massive infiltration of lymphocytes, macrophages and neutrophils into many other non-lymphoid organs, primarily in lungs and liver. Flow cytometric analysis found significant increase in activated and differentiated T cells in peripheral blood and spleen of MCPIP1-deficient mice. Moreover, heightened production of inflammatory cytokines from activated macrophages and T cells were observed in MCPIP1-deficient mice. Interestingly, treatment of MCPIP1-deficient mice with antibiotics resulted in significant improvement of life-span and a decrease in inflammatory syndrome. Taken together, these results suggest a prominent role for MCPIP1 in the control of inflammation and immune homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3932977  PMID: 23567898
MCPIP1; autoimmune disease; inflammation; cytokine; lymphocyte
11.  Serum Amino Acids Profile and the Beneficial Effects of L-Arginine or L-Glutamine Supplementation in Dextran Sulfate Sodium Colitis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88335.
This study was conducted to investigate serum amino acids profile in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis, and impacts of graded dose of arginine or glutamine supplementation on the colitis. Using DSS-induced colitis model, which is similar to human ulcerative colitis, we determined serum profile of amino acids at day 3, 7, 10 and 12 (5 days post DSS treatment). Meanwhile, effects of graded dose of arginine (0.4%, 0.8%, and 1.5%) or glutamine (0.5%, 1.0% and 2.0%) supplementation on clinical parameters, serum amino acids, colonic tight junction proteins, colonic anti-oxidative indicators [catalase, total superoxide dismutase (T-SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px)], colonic pro-inflammatory cytokines [interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), IL-6, IL-17 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α)] in DSS-induced colitis were fully analyzed at day 7 and 12. Additionally, the activation of signal transduction pathways, including nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK), phosphoinositide-3-kinases (PI3K)/PI3K-protein kinase B (Akt), and myosin light chain kinase (MLCK)- myosin light chain (MLC20), were analyzed using immunoblotting. Serum amino acids analysis showed that DSS treatment changed the serum contents of amino acids, such as Trp, Glu, and Gln (P<0.05). Dietary arginine or glutamine supplementation had significant (P<0.05) influence on the clinical and biochemical parameters (T-SOD, IL-17 and TNF-α) in colitis model. These results were associated with colonic NF-κB, PI3K-Akt and MLCK signaling pathways. In conclusion, arginine or glutamine could be a potential therapy for intestinal inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3914992  PMID: 24505477
12.  MicroRNAs in immune response and macrophage polarization 
Inflammation is essential to combat invading microbial pathogens. In this process, the involvement of multiple immune cell populations is critical in mounting an optimum immune response. In the past decade, a new class of non-coding small RNAs, called miRNAs, has emerged as important regulators in biological processes. The important role of miRNAs in inflammation and immune response is highlighted by studies in which deregulation of miRNAs was demonstrated to accompany diseases associated with excessive or uncontrolled inflammation. In this brief review, we summarize the roles of miRNAs that have been characterized in innate and adaptive immune responses. We discuss the role of miRNAs in macrophage polarization, a molecular event that has clear impact on inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3549532  PMID: 23325473
microRNA; immune response; macrophage polarization
13.  Glycosylation Network Analysis Toolbox: a MATLAB-based environment for systems glycobiology 
Bioinformatics  2012;29(3):404-406.
Summary: Systems glycobiology studies the interaction of various pathways that regulate glycan biosynthesis and function. Software tools for the construction and analysis of such pathways are not yet available. We present GNAT, a platform-independent, user-extensible MATLAB-based toolbox that provides an integrated computational environment to construct, manipulate and simulate glycans and their networks. It enables integration of XML-based glycan structure data into SBML (Systems Biology Markup Language) files that describe glycosylation reaction networks. Curation and manipulation of networks is facilitated using class definitions and glycomics database query tools. High quality visualization of networks and their steady-state and dynamic simulation are also supported.
Availability: The software package including source code, help documentation and demonstrations are available at
Contact: or
PMCID: PMC3562062  PMID: 23230149
14.  Forkhead Transcription Factor Foxq1 Promotes Epithelial–Mesenchymal Transition and Breast Cancer Metastasis 
Cancer research  2011;71(4):1292-1301.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) promotes cancer invasion and metastasis, but the integrative mechanisms that coordinate these processes are incompletely understood. In this study, we used a cross-species expression profiling strategy in metastatic cell lines of human and mouse origin to identify 22 up-regulated and 12 down-regulated genes that are part of an essential genetic program in metastasis. In particular, we identified a novel function in metastasis that was not previously known for the transcription factor Forkhead Box Q1 (Foxq1). Ectopic expression of Foxq1 increased cell migration and invasion in vitro, enhanced the lung metastatic capabilities of mammary epithelial cells in vivo, and triggered a marked EMT. In contrast, Foxq1 knockdown elicited converse effects on these phenotypes in vitro and in vivo. Neither ectopic expression nor knockdown of Foxq1 significantly affected cell proliferation or colony formation in vitro. Notably, Foxq1 repressed expression of the core EMT regulator E-cadherin by binding to the E-box in its promoter region. Further mechanistic investigation revealed that Foxq1 expression is regulated by TGF-β1, and that Foxq1 knockdown blocked TGF-β1-induced EMT at both morphological and molecular levels. Our findings highlight the feasibility of cross-species expression profiling as a strategy to identify metastasis-related genes, and they reveal that EMT induction is a likely mechanism underlying a novel metastasis-promoting function of Foxq1 defined here in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3906209  PMID: 21285253
15.  Molecular Basis of Asbestos-Induced Lung Disease 
Annual review of pathology  2013;8:161-187.
Asbestos causes asbestosis and malignancies by molecular mechanisms that are not fully understood. The modes of action underlying asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma appear to differ depending on the fiber type, lung clearance, and genetics. After reviewing the key pathologic changes following asbestos exposure, we examine recently identified pathogenic pathways, with a focus on oxidative stress. Alveolar epithelial cell apoptosis, which is an important early event in asbestosis, is mediated by mitochondria- and p53-regulated death pathways and may be modulated by the endoplasmic reticulum. We review mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)-damage and -repair mechanisms, focusing on 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase, as well as cross talk between reactive oxygen species production, mtDNA damage, p53, OGG1, and mitochondrial aconitase. These new insights into the molecular basis of asbestos-induced lung diseases may foster the development of novel therapeutic targets for managing degenerative diseases (e.g., asbestosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis), tumors, and aging, for which effective management is lacking.
PMCID: PMC3900296  PMID: 23347351
asbestosis; epithelium; mitochondria; OGG1; aconitase; p53
16.  A comprehensive microRNA expression profile of the backfat tissue from castrated and intact full-sib pair male pigs 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:47.
It is widely known that castration has a significant effect on the accumulation of adipose tissue. microRNAs (miRNAs) are known to be involved in fat deposition and to be regulated by the androgen-induced androgen receptor (AR). However, there is little understanding of the relationship between miRNAs and fat deposition after castration. In this study, the high-throughput SOLiD sequencing approach was used to identify and characterize miRNA expression in backfat from intact and castrated full-sib male 23-week-old pigs. The patterns of adipogenesis and fat deposition were compared between castrated and intact male pigs.
A total of 366 unique miRNA genes were identified, comprising 174 known pre-miRNAs and 192 novel pre-miRNAs. One hundred and sixty-seven pre-miRNAs were common to both castrated (F3) and intact (F4) male pig small RNA libraries. The novel pre-miRNAs encoded 153 miRNAs/miRNA*s and 141 miRNAs/miRNA*s in the F3 and F4 libraries, respectively. One hundred and seventy-seven miRNAs, including 45 up- and 132 down-regulated, had more than 2-fold differential expression between the castrated and intact male pigs (p-value < 0.001). Thirty-five miRNAs were further selected, based on the expression abundance and differentiation between the two libraries, to predict their targets in KEGG pathways. KEGG pathway analyses suggested that miRNAs differentially expressed between the castrated and intact male pigs are involved in proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation, migration, adipose tissue development and other important biological processes. The expression patterns of eight arbitrarily selected miRNAs were validated by stem-loop reverse-transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction. These data confirmed the expression tendency observed with SOLiD sequencing. miRNA isomiRs and mirtrons were also investigated in this study. Mirtrons are a recently described category of miRNA relying on splicing rather than processing by the microprocessor complex to generate the RNAi pathway. The functions of miRNAs important for regulating fat deposition were also investigated in this study.
This study expands the number of fat-deposition-related miRNAs in pig. The results also indicate that castration can significantly affect the expression patterns of fat-related miRNAs. The differentially expressed miRNAs may play important roles in fat deposition after castration.
PMCID: PMC3901342  PMID: 24443800
Male pig; MicroRNA; Fat deposition; Castration
A new series of organic-high ionic strength aqueous two-phase solvents systems was designed for separation of highly polar compounds by spiral high-speed counter-current chromatography. A total of 21 solvent systems composed of 1-butanol-ethanol-saturated ammonium sulfate-water at various volume ratios are arranged according to an increasing order of polarity. Selection of the two-phase solvent system for a single compound or a multiple sample mixture can be achieved by two steps of partition coefficient measurements using a graphic method. The capability of the method is demonstrated by optimization of partition coefficient for seven highly polar samples including tartrazine (K=0.77), tryptophan (K=1.00), methyl green (K= 0.93), tyrosine (0.81), metanephrine (K=0.89), tyramine (K=0.98), and normetanephrine (K=0.96). Three sulfonic acid components in D&C Green No. 8 were successfully separated by HSCCC using the graphic selection of the two-phase solvent system.
PMCID: PMC3586324  PMID: 23467197
Spiral high-speed counter-current chromatography; Organic-high ionic strength aqueous solvent system series; Graphic optimization of partition coefficient; Sulfonic acids; Catecholamines; Zwitter ions
18.  Highly Efficient Hierarchical Micelles Integrating Photothermal Therapy and Singlet Oxygen-Synergized Chemotherapy for Cancer Eradication 
Theranostics  2014;4(4):399-411.
It is highly desirable to develop theranostic nanoparticles for achieving cancer imaging with enhanced contrast and simultaneously multimodal synergistic therapy. Herein, we report a theranostic micelle system hierarchically assembling cyanine dye (indocyanine green) and chemotherapeutic compound (doxorubicin) (I/D-Micelles) as a novel theranostic platform with high drug loading, good stability and enhanced cellular uptake via clathrin-mediated endocytosis. I/D-Micelles exhibit the multiple functionalities including near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF), hyperthermia and intracellular singlet oxygen from indocyanine green, and simultaneous cytotoxicity from doxorubicin. Upon photoirradiation, I/D-Micelles can induce NIRF imaging, acute photothermal therapy via hyperthermia and simultaneous synergistic chemotherapy via singlet oxygen-triggered disruption of lysosomal membranes, eventually leading to enhanced NIRF imaging and superior tumor eradication without any re-growth. Our results suggest that the hierarchical micelles can act as a superior theranostic platform for cancer imaging and multimodal synergistic therapy.
PMCID: PMC3936292  PMID: 24578723
Hierarchical micelles; Photothermal therapy; Singlet oxygen; Synergistic therapy; Cancer eradication
19.  Protection against Lethal Enterovirus 71 Challenge in Mice by a Recombinant Vaccine Candidate Containing a Broadly Cross-Neutralizing Epitope within the VP2 EF Loop 
Theranostics  2014;4(5):498-513.
Human enterovirus 71 (EV71) is the main causative agent of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) and is associated with several severe neurological complications in the Asia-Pacific region. Here, we evaluated that while passive transfer of neutralizing monoclonal antibody (nMAb) against the VP2 protein protect against lethal EV71 infection in BALB/c mice. Protective nMAb were mapped to residues 141-155 of VP2 by peptide ELISA. High-resolution structural analysis showed that the epitope is part of the VP2 EF loop, which is the “puff” region that forms the “southern rim” of the canyon. Moreover, a three-dimensional structural characterization for the puff region with prior neutralizing epitopes and receptor-binding sites that can serve to inform vaccine strategies. Interestingly, using hepatitis B virus core protein (HBc) as a carrier, we demonstrated that the cross-neutralizing EV71 antibodies were induced, and the VP2 epitope immunized mice serum also conferred 100% in vivo passive protection. The mechanism of in vivo protection conferred by VP2 nMAb is in part attributed to the in vitro neutralizing titer and ability to bind authentic viral particles. Importantly, the anti-VP2(aa141-155) antibodies could inhibit the binding of human serum to EV71 virions showed that the VP2 epitope is immunodominant. Collectively, our results suggest that a broad-spectrum vaccine strategy targeting the high-affinity epitope of VP2 EF loop may elicits effective immune responses against EV71 infection.
PMCID: PMC3964443  PMID: 24669278
Human enterovirus 71; cross-neutralizing linear epitope; VP2 EF loop; therapeutic antibodies; epitope peptide vaccine.
20.  Theranostic Au Cubic Nano-aggregates as Potential Photoacoustic Contrast and Photothermal Therapeutic Agents 
Theranostics  2014;4(5):534-545.
Multifunctional nanostructures combining diagnosis and therapy modalities into one entity have drawn much attention in the biomedical applications. Herein, we report a simple and cost-effective method to synthesize a novel cubic Au nano-aggregates structure with edge-length of 80 nm (Au-80 CNAs), which display strong near-infrared (NIR) absorption, excellent water-solubility, good photothermal stability, and high biocompatibility. Under 808 nm laser irradiation for 5 min, the temperature of the solution containing Au-80 CNAs (100 μg/mL) increased by ~38 °C. The in vitro and in vivo studies demonstrated that Au-80 CNAs could act as both photothermal therapeutic (PTT) agents and photoacoustic imaging (PAI) contrast agents, indicating that the only one nano-entity of Au-80 CNAs shows great potentials for theranostic applications. Moreover, this facile and cost-effective synthetic method provides a new strategy to prepare stable Au nanomaterials with excellent optical properties for biomedical applications.
PMCID: PMC3966056  PMID: 24672584
Au cubic nano-aggregates; near-infrared absorption; theranostics; photothermal therapy; photoacoustic imaging.
21.  PPARγ Agonist Rosiglitazone Suppresses Renal mPGES-1/PGE2 Pathway in db/db Mice 
PPAR Research  2013;2013:612971.
Evidence had shown the detrimental effect of prostaglandin (PG) E2 in diabetic nephropathy (DN) of STZ-induced type-1 diabetes but its role in the development of DN of type-2 diabetes remains uncertain. The present study was undertaken to investigate the regulation of PGE2 synthetic pathway and the interaction between peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)γ and PGE2 synthesis in the kidneys of db/db mice. Strikingly, urinary PGE2 was remarkably elevated in db/db mice paralleled with the increased protein expressions of COX-2 and mPGES-1. In contrast, the protein expressions of COX-1, mPGES-2, cPGES, and 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH) were not altered. Following 1-week rosiglitazone (Rosi) therapy, urinary PGE2, but not other prostanoids, was reduced by 57% in parallel with significant reduction of mPGES-1 protein and EP4 mRNA expressions. By immunohistochemistry, mPGES-1 was significantly induced in the glomeruli of db/db mice, which was almost entirely abolished by Rosi. In line with the reduction of glomerular mPGES-1, the glomerular injury score showed a tendency of improvement after 1 week of Rosi therapy. Collectively, the present study demonstrated an inhibitory effect of PPARγ activation on renal mPGES-1/PGE2/EP4 pathway in type-2 diabetes and suggested that mPGES-1 may potentially serve as a therapeutic target for treating type-2 diabetes-associated DN.
PMCID: PMC3892750  PMID: 24489534
22.  Longitudinal PET Imaging of Doxorubicin Induced Cell Death with 18F-Annexin V 
This study aims to apply longitudinal positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with 18F-Annexin V to visualize and evaluate cell death induced by doxorubicin in a human head and neck squamous cell cancer UM-SCC-22B tumor xenograft model.
In vitro toxicity of doxorubicin to UM-SCC-22B cells was determined by a colorimetric assay. Recombinant human Annexin V protein was expressed and purified. The protein was labeled with fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) for fluorescence staining and 18F for PET imaging. Established UM-SCC-22B tumors in nude mice were treated with two doses of doxorubicin (10 mg/kg each dose) with 1 day interval. Longitudinal 18F-Annexin V PET was performed at 6 h, 24 h, 3 days, and 7 days after the treatment started. Following PET imaging, direct tissue biodistribution study was performed to confirm the accuracy of PET quantification.
Two doses of doxorubicin effectively inhibited the growth of UM-SCC-22B tumors by inducing cell death including apoptosis. The cell death was clearly visualized by 18F-Annexin V PET. The peak tumor uptake, which was observed at day 3 after treatment started, was significantly higher than that in the untreated tumors (1.56 ± 0.23 vs. 0.89 ± 0.31 %ID/g, p < 0.05). Moreover, the tumor uptake could be blocked by co-injection of excess amount of unlabeled Annexin V protein. At day 7 after treatment, the tumor uptake of 18F-Annexin had returned to baseline level.
18F-Annexin V PET imaging is sensitive enough to allow visualization of doxorubicin induced cell death in UM-SCC-22B xenograft model. The longitudinal imaging with 18F-Annexin will be helpful to monitor early response to chemotherapeutic anti-cancer drugs.
PMCID: PMC3387344  PMID: 22392643
18F-Annexin V; doxorubicin; apoptosis; PET; chemotherapy
23.  Hypothalamic Programming of Systemic Aging Involving IKKβ/NF-κB and GnRH 
Nature  2013;497(7448):211-216.
Aging is a result of gradual and overall functional deteriorations across the body; however, it is unknown if an individual tissue works to primarily mediate aging progress and lifespan control. Here we found that the hypothalamus is important for the development of whole-body aging in mice, and the underlying basis involves hypothalamic immunity mediated by IKKβ/NF-κB and related microglia-neuron immune crosstalk. Several interventional models were developed showing that aging retardation and lifespan extension are achieved in mice through preventing against aging-related hypothalamic or brain IKKβ/NF-κB activation. Mechanistic studies further revealed that IKKβ/NF-κB inhibits GnRH to mediate aging-related hypothalamic GnRH decline, and GnRH treatment amends aging-impaired neurogenesis and decelerates aging. In conclusion, the hypothalamus has a programmatic role in aging development via immune-neuroendocrine integration, and immune inhibition or GnRH restoration in the hypothalamus/brain represent two potential strategies for optimizing lifespan and combating aging-related health problems.
PMCID: PMC3756938  PMID: 23636330
Hypothalamus; aging; lifespan; longevity; NF-κ; IKKβ; GnRH; mice
24.  Ferritin Nanocages To Encapsulate and Deliver Photosensitizers for Efficient Photodynamic Therapy against Cancer 
ACS nano  2013;7(8):10.1021/nn402199g.
Photodynamic therapy is an emerging treatment modality that is under intensive preclinical and clinical investigations for many types of disease including cancer. Despite the promise, there is a lack of a reliable drug delivery vehicle that can transport photosensitizers (PSs) to tumors in a site-specific manner. Previous efforts have been focused on polymer- or liposome-based nanocarriers, which are usually associated with a suboptimal PS loading rate and a large particle size. We report herein that a RGD4C-modified ferritin (RFRT), a protein-based nanoparticle, can serve as a safe and efficient PS vehicle. Zinc hexadecafluorophthalocyanine (ZnF16Pc), a potent PS with a high 1O2 quantum yield but poor water solubility, can be encapsulated into RFRTs with a loading rate as high as ~60 wt % (i.e., 1.5 mg of ZnF16Pc can be loaded on 1 mg of RFRTs), which far exceeds those reported previously. Despite the high loading, the ZnF16Pc-loaded RFRTs (P-RFRTs) show an overall particle size of 18.6 ± 2.6 nm, which is significantly smaller than other PS–nanocarrier conjugates. When tested on U87MG subcutaneous tumor models, P-RFRTs showed a high tumor accumulation rate (tumor-to-normal tissue ratio of 26.82 ±4.07 at 24 h), a good tumor inhibition rate (83.64% on day 12), as well as minimal toxicity to the skin and other major organs. This technology can be extended to deliver other metal-containing PSs and holds great clinical translation potential.
PMCID: PMC3819164  PMID: 23829542
photodynamic therapy; photosensitizer; targeted delivery; ferritin; nanoparticle
25.  Real-time monitoring of caspase cascade activation in living cells 
We introduce a simple, versatile and robust one-step technique that enables real-time imaging of multiple intracellular caspase activities in living cells without the need for complicated synthetic protocols. Conventional fluorogenic probes or recently reported activatable probes have been designed to target various proteases but are limited to extracellular molecules. Only a few have been applied to image intracellular proteases in living cells because most of these probes have limited cell-permeability. Our platform does not need complicated synthetic processes; instead it involves a straightforward peptide synthesis and a simple mixing step with a commercial transfection agent. The transfection agent efficiently delivered the highly quenched fluorogenic probes, comprised of distinctive pairs of dyes and quenchers, to the initiator caspase-8 and the effector caspase-3 in MDA-MB-435 cells, allowing dual-imaging of the activities of both caspases during the apoptotic process induced by TNF-related apoptosis induced ligand (TRAIL). With the combination of multiple fluorogenic probes, this simple platform can be applied to multiplexed imaging of selected intracellular proteases to study apoptotic processes in pathologies or for cell-based high throughput screening systems for drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3462246  PMID: 22664474
caspase; activatable probe; fluorescence imaging; peptide; transfection agent

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