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1.  5-HT2B Receptor Antagonists Inhibit Fibrosis and Protect from RV Heart Failure 
BioMed Research International  2015;2015:438403.
Objective. The serotonin (5-HT) pathway was shown to play a role in pulmonary hypertension (PH), but its functions in right ventricular failure (RVF) remain poorly understood. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effects of Terguride (5-HT2A and 2B receptor antagonist) or SB204741 (5-HT2B receptor antagonist) on right heart function and structure upon pulmonary artery banding (PAB) in mice. Methods. Seven days after PAB, mice were treated for 14 days with Terguride (0.2 mg/kg bid) or SB204741 (5 mg/kg day). Right heart function and remodeling were assessed by right heart catheterization, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and histomorphometric methods. Total secreted collagen content was determined in mouse cardiac fibroblasts isolated from RV tissues. Results. Chronic treatment with Terguride or SB204741 reduced right ventricular fibrosis and showed improved heart function in mice after PAB. Moreover, 5-HT2B receptor antagonists diminished TGF-beta1 induced collagen synthesis of RV cardiac fibroblasts in vitro. Conclusion. 5-HT2B receptor antagonists reduce collagen deposition, thereby inhibiting right ventricular fibrosis. Chronic treatment prevented the development and progression of pressure overload-induced RVF in mice. Thus, 5-HT2B receptor antagonists represent a valuable novel therapeutic approach for RVF.
PMCID: PMC4312574  PMID: 25667920
2.  ABCB4 is frequently epigenetically silenced in human cancers and inhibits tumor growth 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:6899.
Epigenetic silencing through promoter hypermethylation is an important hallmark for the inactivation of tumor-related genes in carcinogenesis. Here we identified the ATP-binding cassette sub-family B member 4 (ABCB4) as a novel epigenetically silenced target gene. We investigated the epigenetic regulation of ABCB4 in 26 human lung, breast, skin, liver, head and neck cancer cells lines and in primary cancers by methylation and expression analysis. Hypermethylation of the ABCB4 CpG island promoter occurred in 16 out of 26 (62%) human cancer cell lines. Aberrant methylation of ABCB4 was also revealed in 39% of primary lung cancer and in 20% of head and neck cancer tissues. In 37% of primary lung cancer samples, ABCB4 expression was absent. For breast cancer a significant hypermethylation occurred in tumor tissues (41%) compared to matching normal samples (0%, p = 0.002). Silencing of ABCB4 was reversed by 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine and zebularine treatments leading to its reexpression in cancer cells. Overexpression of ABCB4 significantly suppressed colony formation and proliferation of lung cancer cells. Hypermethylation of Abcb4 occurred also in murine cancer, but was not found in normal tissues. Our findings suggest that ABCB4 is a frequently silenced gene in different cancers and it may act tumor suppressivly in lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC4219162  PMID: 25367630
3.  Interactions between neutrophils and non-small cell lung cancer cells: enhancement of tumor proliferation and inflammatory mediator synthesis 
Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy  2014;63(12):1297-1306.
The inflammatory tumor microenvironment plays a crucial role in tumor progression. In lung cancer, both bacterial infections and neutrophilia are associated with a poor prognosis. In this study, we characterized the effect of isolated human neutrophils on proliferation of the non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell line A549 and analyzed the impact of A549–neutrophil interactions on inflammatory mediator generation in naive and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-exposed cell cultures. Co-incubation of A549 cells with neutrophils induced proliferation of resting and LPS-exposed A549 cells in a dose-dependent manner. In transwell-experiments, this effect was demonstrated to depend on direct cell-to-cell contact. This pro-proliferative effect of neutrophils on A549 cells could be attenuated by inhibition of neutrophil elastase activity, but not by oxygen radical neutralization. Correspondingly, neutrophil elastase secretion, but not respiratory burst, was specifically enhanced in co-cultures of A549 cells and neutrophils. Moreover, interference with COX-2 activity by indomethacin or the specific COX-2 inhibitor NS-398 also blunted the increased A549 proliferation in the presence of neutrophils. In parallel, a massive amplification of COX-2-dependent prostaglandin E2 synthesis was detected in A549–neutrophil co-cultures. These findings suggest that direct cell–cell interactions between neutrophils and tumor cells cause release of inflammatory mediators which, in turn, may enhance tumor growth in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC4255085  PMID: 25186613
Lung cancer; Neutrophils; A549 cells; Inflammation; Elastase; COX-2
4.  Effects of Dimethylarginine Dimethylaminohydrolase–1 Overexpression on the Response of the Pulmonary Vasculature to Hypoxia 
Acute and sustained hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV), as well as chronic pulmonary hypertension (PH), is modulated by nitric oxide (NO). NO synthesis can be decreased by asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), which is degraded by dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase–1 (DDAH1). We investigated the effects of DDAH1 overexpression (DDAH1tg) on HPV and chronic hypoxia–induced PH. HPV was measured during acute (10 min) and sustained (3 h) hypoxia in isolated mouse lungs. Chronic PH was induced by the exposure of mice to 4 weeks of hypoxia. ADMA and cyclic 3′,5′-guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) were determined by ELISA, and NO generation was determined by chemiluminescence. DDAH1 overexpression exerted no effects on acute HPV. However, DDAH1tg mice showed decreased sustained HPV compared with wild-type (WT) mice. Concomitantly, ADMA was decreased, and concentrations of NO and cGMP were significantly increased in DDAH1tg. The administration of either Nω-nitro-l-arginine or 1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo [4,3-a]quinoxalin-1-one potentiated sustained HPV and partly abolished the differences in sustained HPV between WT and DDAH1tg mice. The overexpression of DDAH1 exerted no effect on the development of chronic hypoxia–induced PH. DDAH1 overexpression selectively decreased the sustained phase of HPV, partly via activation of the NO–cGMP pathway. Thus, increased ADMA concentrations modulate sustained HPV, but not acute HPV or chronic hypoxia–induced PH.
PMCID: PMC3824049  PMID: 23642043
asymmetric dimethylarginine; cyclic guanosine monophosphate; hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension; hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction; nitric oxide
5.  MicroRNA-124 Controls the Proliferative, Migratory, and Inflammatory Phenotype of Pulmonary Vascular Fibroblasts 
Circulation research  2013;114(1):67-78.
Pulmonary hypertensive remodeling is characterized by excessive proliferation, migration, and proinflammatory activation of adventitial fibroblasts. In culture, fibroblasts maintain a similar activated phenotype. The mechanisms responsible for generation/maintenance of this phenotype remain unknown.
We hypothesized that aberrant expression of microRNA-124 (miR-124) regulates this activated fibroblast phenotype and sought to determine the signaling pathways through which miR-124 exerts effects.
Methods and Results
We detected significant decreases in miR-124 expression in fibroblasts isolated from calves and humans with severe pulmonary hypertension. Overexpression of miR-124 by mimic transfection significantly attenuated proliferation, migration, and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 expression of hypertensive fibroblasts, whereas anti–miR-124 treatment of control fibroblasts resulted in their increased proliferation, migration, and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 expression. Furthermore, the alternative splicing factor, polypyrimidine tract–binding protein 1, was shown to be a direct target of miR-124 and to be upregulated both in vivo and in vitro in bovine and human pulmonary hypertensive fibroblasts. The effects of miR-124 on fibroblast proliferation were mediated via direct binding to the 3′ untranslated region of polypyrimidine tract–binding protein 1 and subsequent regulation of Notch1/phosphatase and tensin homolog/FOXO3/p21Cip1 and p27Kip1 signaling. We showed that miR-124 directly regulates monocyte chemotactic protein-1 expression in pulmonary hypertension/idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension fibroblasts. Furthermore, we demonstrated that miR-124 expression is suppressed by histone deacetylases and that treatment of hypertensive fibroblasts with histone deacetylase inhibitors increased miR-124 expression and decreased proliferation and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 production.
Stable decreases in miR-124 expression contribute to an epigenetically reprogrammed, highly proliferative, migratory, and inflammatory phenotype of hypertensive pulmonary adventitial fibroblasts. Thus, therapies directed at restoring miR-124 function, including histone deacetylase inhibitors, should be investigated.
PMCID: PMC4117588  PMID: 24122720
anoxia; hypertension; pulmonary; migration; neoplasms; proliferation
6.  Education Against Tobacco (EAT): a quasi-experimental prospective evaluation of a programme for preventing smoking in secondary schools delivered by medical students: a study protocol 
BMJ Open  2014;4(7):e004909.
A survey conducted by the German Federal Centre for Health Education in 2012 showed that 35.2% of all young adults (18–25 years) and 12.0% of all adolescents (12–17 years) in Germany are regular cigarette smokers. Most smoked their first cigarette in early adolescence. We recently reported a significantly positive short-term effect of a physician-delivered school-based smoking prevention programme on the smoking behaviour of schoolchildren in Germany. However, physician-based programmes are usually very expensive. Therefore, we will evaluate and optimise Education against Tobacco (EAT), a widespread, low-cost programme delivered by about 400 medical students from 16 universities in Germany.
Methods and analysis
A prospective quasi-experimental study design with two measurements at baseline (t1) and 6 months post-intervention (t2) to investigate an intervention in 10–15-year-olds in grades 6–8 at German secondary schools. The intervention programme consists of two 60-min school-based medical-student-delivered modules with (module 1) and without the involvement of patients with tobacco-related diseases and control groups (no intervention). The study questionnaire measuring smoking status (water pipe and cigarette smoking), smoking-related cognitions, and gender, social and cultural aspects was designed and pre-tested in advance. The primary end point is the prevalence of smokers and non-smokers in the two study arms at 6 months after the intervention. The percentage of former smokers and new smokers in the two groups and the measures of smoking behaviour will be studied as secondary outcome measures.
Ethics and dissemination
In accordance with Good Epidemiologic Practice (GEP) guidelines, the study protocol was submitted for approval by the responsible ethics committee, which decided that the study does not need ethical approval (Goethe University, Frankfurt-Main, Germany). Findings will be disseminated in peer-reviewed journals, at conferences, within our scientific advisory board and through medical students within the EAT project.
PMCID: PMC4120302  PMID: 25059969
smoking prevention; schools; tobacco prevention; medical students; adolescent smoking; school-based prevention
7.  Phenotypical and ultrastructural features of Oct4-positive cells in the adult mouse lung 
Octamer binding trascription factor 4 (Oct4) is a transcription factor of POU family specifically expressed in embryonic stem cells (ESCs). A role for maintaining pluripotency and self-renewal of ESCs is assigned to Oct4 as a pluripotency marker. Oct4 can also be detected in adult stem cells such as bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. Several studies suggest a role for Oct4 in sustaining self-renewal capacity of adult stem cells. However, Oct4 gene ablation in adult stem cells revealed no abnormalities in tissue turnover or regenerative capacity. In the present study we have conspicuously found pulmonary Oct4-positive cells closely resembling the morphology of telocytes (TCs). These cells were found in the perivascular and peribronchial areas and their presence and location were confirmed by electron microscopy. Moreover, we have used Oct4-GFP transgenic mice which revealed a similar localization of the Oct4-GFP signal. We also found that Oct4 co-localized with several described TC markers such as vimentin, Sca-1, platelet-derived growth factor receptor-beta C-kit and VEGF. By flow cytometry analyses carried out with Oct4-GFP reporter mice, we described a population of EpCAMneg/CD45neg/Oct4-GFPpos that in culture displayed TC features. These results were supported by qRT-PCR with mRNA isolated from lungs by using laser capture microdissection. In addition, Oct4-positive cells were found to express Nanog and Klf4 mRNA. It is concluded for the first time that TCs in adult lung mouse tissue comprise Oct4-positive cells, which express pluripotency-related genes and represent therefore a population of adult stem cells which might contribute to lung regeneration.
PMCID: PMC4124017  PMID: 24889158
Oct4; telocytes; stem cells; adult mouse lung
8.  Electrophysiological Studies in Patients with Pulmonary Hypertension: A Retrospective Investigation 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:617565.
Few studies have investigated patients with pulmonary hypertension and arrhythmias. Data on electrophysiological studies in these patients are rare. In a retrospective dual-centre design, we analysed data from patients with indications for electrophysiological study. Fifty-five patients with pulmonary hypertension were included (Dana Point Classification: group 1: 14, group 2: 23, group 3: 4, group 4: 8, group 5: 2, and 4 patients with exercised-induced pulmonary hypertension). Clinical data, 6-minute walk distance, laboratory values, and echocardiography were collected/performed. Nonsustained ventricular tachycardia was the most frequent indication (n = 15) for an electrophysiological study, followed by atrial flutter (n = 14). In summary 36 ablations were performed and 25 of them were successful (atrial flutter 12 of 14 and atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia 4 of 4). Fluoroscopy time was 16 ± 14.4 minutes. Electrophysiological studies in patients with pulmonary hypertension are feasible and safe. Ablation procedures are as effective in these patients as in non-PAH patients with atrial flutter and atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia and should be performed likewise. The prognostic relevance of ventricular stimulations and inducible ventricular tachycardias in these patients is still unclear and requires further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4058223  PMID: 24977152
9.  Immunomodulation by fish-oil containing lipid emulsions in murine acute respiratory distress syndrome 
Critical Care  2014;18(2):R85.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a major cause of mortality in intensive care units. Patients with ARDS often require parenteral nutrition with lipid emulsions as essential components. Besides being an energy supply, these lipid emulsions might display differential modulatory effects on lung integrity and inflammation.
In a pre-emptive strategy, we investigated the impact of three different intravenously infused lipid emulsions on lung morphology, leukocyte invasion, protein leakage and cytokines in a murine model of ARDS. Mice received an infusion of normal saline solution, a pure long-chain triglycerides (LCT) emulsion, a medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) containing mixed emulsion (LCT/MCT), or a fish oil (FO) containing mixed emulsion (LCT/MCT/FO) before lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge.
Mice pre-infused with fish oil-containing lipid emulsion showed decreased leukocyte invasion, protein leakage, myeloperoxidase activity, and cytokine production in their alveolar space after LPS challenge compared to mice receiving LCT or LCT/MCT. In line with these findings, lung morphology assessed by histological staining after LPS-induced lung injury improved faster in the LCT/MCT/FO group. Concerning the above mentioned parameters, no significant difference was observed between mice infused with LCT or the combination of LCT and MCT.
Fish oil-containing lipid emulsions might exert anti-inflammatory and pro-resolving effects in the murine model of acute lung injury. Partial replacement of n-6 fatty acids with n-3 fatty acids may thus be of benefit for critically ill patients at risk for ARDS which require parenteral nutrition.
PMCID: PMC4229805  PMID: 24780004
10.  Hmga2 is required for canonical WNT signaling during lung development 
BMC Biology  2014;12:21.
The high-mobility-group (HMG) proteins are the most abundant non-histone chromatin-associated proteins. HMG proteins are present at high levels in various undifferentiated tissues during embryonic development and their levels are strongly reduced in the corresponding adult tissues, where they have been implicated in maintaining and activating stem/progenitor cells. Here we deciphered the role of the high-mobility-group AT-hook protein 2 (HMGA2) during lung development by analyzing the lung of Hmga2-deficient mice (Hmga2 −/− ).
We found that Hmga2 is expressed in the mouse embryonic lung at the distal airways. Analysis of Hmga2 −/− mice showed that Hmga2 is required for proper cell proliferation and distal epithelium differentiation during embryonic lung development. Hmga2 knockout led to enhanced canonical WNT signaling due to an increased expression of secreted WNT glycoproteins Wnt2b, Wnt7b and Wnt11 as well as a reduction of the WNT signaling antagonizing proteins GATA-binding protein 6 and frizzled homolog 2. Analysis of siRNA-mediated loss-of-function experiments in embryonic lung explant culture confirmed the role of Hmga2 as a key regulator of distal lung epithelium differentiation and supported the causal involvement of enhanced canonical WNT signaling in mediating the effect of Hmga2-loss-of-fuction. Finally, we found that HMGA2 directly regulates Gata6 and thereby modulates Fzd2 expression.
Our results support that Hmga2 regulates canonical WNT signaling at different points of the pathway. Increased expression of the secreted WNT glycoproteins might explain a paracrine effect by which Hmga2-knockout enhanced cell proliferation in the mesenchyme of the developing lung. In addition, HMGA2-mediated direct regulation of Gata6 is crucial for fine-tuning the activity of WNT signaling in the airway epithelium. Our results are the starting point for future studies investigating the relevance of Hmga2-mediated regulation of WNT signaling in the adult lung within the context of proper balance between differentiation and self-renewal of lung stem/progenitor cells during lung regeneration in both homeostatic turnover and repair after injury.
PMCID: PMC4064517  PMID: 24661562
Branching morphogenesis; HMGA2; GATA6; Lung development; WNT signaling
11.  Histological characterization of mast cell chymase in patients with pulmonary hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Pulmonary Circulation  2014;4(1):128-136.
Our previous findings demonstrated an increase in pulmonary mast cells (MCs) in idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH). Also, literature suggests a potential role for MCs in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, a comprehensive investigation of lungs from patients is still needed. We systematically investigated the presence/expression of MCs/MC chymase in the lungs of IPAH and COPD patients by (immuno)histochemistry and subsequent quantification. We found that total and perivascular chymase-positive MCs were significantly higher in IPAH patients than in donors. In addition, chymase-positive MCs were located in proximity to regions with prominent expression of big-endothelin-1 in the pulmonary vessels of IPAH patients. Total and perivascular MCs around resistant vessels were augmented and a significant majority of them were degranulated (activated) in COPD patients. While the total chymase-positive MC count tended to increase in COPD patients, the perivascular number was significantly enhanced in all vessel sizes analyzed. Surprisingly, MC and chymase-positive MC numbers positively correlated with better lung function in COPD. Our findings suggest that activated MCs, possibly by releasing chymase, may contribute to pulmonary vascular remodeling in IPAH. Pulmonary MCs/chymase may have compartment-specific (vascular vs. airway) functions in COPD. Future studies should elucidate the mechanisms of MC accumulation and the role of MC chymase in pathologies of these severe lung diseases.
PMCID: PMC4070756  PMID: 25006428
idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; mast cells; chymase
12.  Differential Effects of Drugs Targeting Cancer Stem Cell (CSC) and Non-CSC Populations on Lung Primary Tumors and Metastasis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79798.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are thought to be responsible for tumor initiation and recurrence after chemotherapy. Targeting CSCs and non-CSCs with specific compounds may be an effective approach to reduce lung cancer growth and metastasis. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of salinomycin, a selective inhibitor of CSCs, with or without combination with paclitaxel, in a metastatic model. To evaluate the effect of these drugs in metastasis and tumor microenvironment we took advantage of the immunocompetent and highly metastatic LLC mouse model. Aldefluor assays were used to analyze the ALDH+/− populations in murine LLC and human H460 and H1299 lung cancer cells. Salinomycin reduced the proportion of ALDH+ CSCs in LLC cells, whereas paclitaxel increased such population. The same effect was observed for the H460 and H1299 cell lines. Salinomycin reduced the tumorsphere formation capacity of LLC by more than 7-fold, but paclitaxel showed no effect. In in vivo experiments, paclitaxel reduced primary tumor volume but increased the number of metastatic nodules (p<0.05), whereas salinomycin had no effect on primary tumors but reduced lung metastasis (p<0.05). Combination of both drugs did not improve the effect of single therapies. ALDH1A1, SOX2, CXCR4 and SDF-1 mRNA levels were higher in metastatic lesions than in primary tumors, and were significantly elevated in both locations by paclitaxel treatment. On the contrary, such levels were reduced (or in some cases did not change) when mice were administered with salinomycin. The number of F4/80+ and CD11b+ cells was also reduced upon administration of both drugs, but particularly in metastasis. These results show that salinomycin targets ALDH+ lung CSCs, which has important therapeutic effects in vivo by reducing metastatic lesions. In contrast, paclitaxel (although reducing primary tumor growth) promotes the selection of ALDH+ cells that likely modify the lung microenvironment to foster metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3835894  PMID: 24278179
13.  Pivotal Role of Matrix Metalloproteinase 13 in Extracellular Matrix Turnover in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73279.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fatal disease characterized by excessive deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM).
We investigated the regulation of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors (TIMPs) in lung fibrosis.
MMP and TIMP expression, collagenolytic activity and collagen content was assessed in IPF (n=16) versus donor (n=6) lung homogenates and accomplished by in-situ-zymography for gelatinolytic and collagenolytic activities, combined with MMP antigen detection. Role of MMP13 was assessed employing the bleomycin model of lung fibrosis in MMP-13-/- versus wild-type mice.
Measurements and Main Results
In IPF, MMPs-1, 2, 7, 9 and 13, but not MMP-8, were significantly upregulated, whereas none of the TIMPs (1–4) were significantly altered. Collagen content was slightly increased and collagenolytic activity was most prominent in the airways and co-localized with MMP-13. We observed an exaggerated early inflammatory response and an augmented lung fibrosis in bleomycin-challenged MMP-13-/- versus wild-type mice, with elevated lung collagen content 28d after bleomycin challenge in the MMP-13-/- mice.
Our data suggest that i) collagen deposition in IPF lungs is not primarily due to excessive TIMP production, but rather due to overwhelming ECM production in face of an overall increased, but spatially imbalanced collagenolytic activity, ii) preferential distribution of collagenolytic activity, largely MMP-13, in the airways offers an explanation for the development of honeycomb cysts and iii) despite an overall increase in inflammatory cell content the presence of MMP-13 seems to limit the overall extent of ECM deposition in lung fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3759404  PMID: 24023851
14.  Short-term improvement in pulmonary hemodynamics is strongly predictive of long-term survival in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension 
Pulmonary Circulation  2013;3(3):523-532.
Hemodynamic measurements provide important parameters for determining prognosis and therapy in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Current guidelines do not incorporate the possible predictive value of individual changes in hemodynamic variables during the disease time course, and there is no consensus about the time point for hemodynamic reevaluation. We aimed to assess the long-term prognostic value of short-term changes in hemodynamic parameters. The study included 122 patients with PAH from the Giessen Pulmonary Hypertension Registry who underwent hemodynamic evaluation at baseline and at 16 weeks (±2.5 standard deviations [SDs]; range: 4–29 weeks) after initial assessment. At baseline, mean pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) was 1,109 dyn s cm−5, and 82% of patients were in World Health Organization (WHO) functional class III or IV. Fifty patients died, and 2 underwent lung transplantation during long-term observation (≤10 years; mean: 4.7 years). Kaplan-Meier estimates for transplant-free survival were 93.3%, 76.1%, 57.8%, and 53.1% at 1, 3, 5, and 7 years, respectively. When assigned to prognostic groups, improvements in cardiac output of >0.22 L min−1 (hazard ratio [HR]: 2.05; ) and a decrease in PVR of >176 dyn s cm−5 (HR: 1.89; ) at 4–29 weeks were associated with long-term transplant-free survival. Changes in mean pulmonary arterial pressure did not predict long-term prognosis. Of 2 noninvasive parameters assessed in this selected patient group, change in WHO functional class, but not in 6-minute walk distance, predicted long-term prognosis. Short-term assessment of changes in hemodynamic parameters at after initial invasive evaluation is useful to determine long-term prognosis in patients with PAH.
PMCID: PMC4070816  PMID: 24618538
cardiac output; Kaplan-Meier survival estimates; mean pulmonary arterial pressure; prognosis; pulmonary vascular resistance
16.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Oxidative Stress and Cardiovascular Disease: Lessons from Animal Studies 
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular (CV) diseases such as arterial hypertension, heart failure, and stroke. Based on human research, sympathetic activation, inflammation, and oxidative stress are thought to play major roles in the pathophysiology of OSA-related CV diseases. Animal models of OSA have shown that endothelial dysfunction, vascular remodelling, and systemic and pulmonary arterial hypertension as well as heart failure can develop in response to chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH). The available animal data are clearly in favour of oxidative stress playing a key role in the development of all of these CV manifestations of OSA. Presumably, the oxidative stress is due to an activation of NADPH oxidase and other free oxygen radicals producing enzymes within the CV system as evidenced by data from knockout mice and pharmacological interventions. It is hoped that animal models of OSA-related CV disease will continue to contribute to a deeper understanding of their underlying pathophysiology and will foster the way for the development of cardioprotective treatment options other than conventional CPAP therapy.
PMCID: PMC3603718  PMID: 23533685
17.  Macrophage-expressed IFN-β Contributes to Apoptotic Alveolar Epithelial Cell Injury in Severe Influenza Virus Pneumonia 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(2):e1003188.
Influenza viruses (IV) cause pneumonia in humans with progression to lung failure and fatal outcome. Dysregulated release of cytokines including type I interferons (IFNs) has been attributed a crucial role in immune-mediated pulmonary injury during severe IV infection. Using ex vivo and in vivo IV infection models, we demonstrate that alveolar macrophage (AM)-expressed IFN-β significantly contributes to IV-induced alveolar epithelial cell (AEC) injury by autocrine induction of the pro-apoptotic factor TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). Of note, TRAIL was highly upregulated in and released from AM of patients with pandemic H1N1 IV-induced acute lung injury. Elucidating the cell-specific underlying signalling pathways revealed that IV infection induced IFN-β release in AM in a protein kinase R- (PKR-) and NF-κB-dependent way. Bone marrow chimeric mice lacking these signalling mediators in resident and lung-recruited AM and mice subjected to alveolar neutralization of IFN-β and TRAIL displayed reduced alveolar epithelial cell apoptosis and attenuated lung injury during severe IV pneumonia. Together, we demonstrate that macrophage-released type I IFNs, apart from their well-known anti-viral properties, contribute to IV-induced AEC damage and lung injury by autocrine induction of the pro-apoptotic factor TRAIL. Our data suggest that therapeutic targeting of the macrophage IFN-β-TRAIL axis might represent a promising strategy to attenuate IV-induced acute lung injury.
Author Summary
Acute lung injury induced by influenza virus (IV) infection has been linked to an unbalanced release of pro-inflammatory cytokines including type I interferons (IFN) causing immune-mediated organ damage. Using ex vivo and in vivo IV infection models, we demonstrate that alveolar macrophage-expressed IFN-β induces alveolar epithelial cell injury by autocrine induction of the pro-apoptotic TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). Elucidating the cell-specific underlying signalling pathways revealed that IV-induced IFN-β release from alveolar macrophages (AM) strictly depended on protein kinase R- (PKR-) and NF-κB-signalling. Autocrine activation via the macrophage type I IFN receptor (IFNAR) resulted in increased expression and release of TRAIL which caused apoptosis of IV-infected and non-infected alveolar epithelial cells and promoted alveolar barrier dysfunction as demonstrated in ex vivo co-cultures and in bone marrow chimeric mouse models in vivo. Importantly, we found TRAIL highly upregulated in and released from AM of hospitalized patients with pandemic H1N1-induced lung failure. Therapeutic targeting of the macrophage IFN-β-TRAIL axis might therefore represent a promising strategy to attenuate IV-induced acute lung injury.
PMCID: PMC3585175  PMID: 23468627
19.  E-cadherin Controls Bronchiolar Progenitor Cells and Onset of Preneoplastic Lesions in Mice12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2012;14(12):1164-1177.
Although progenitor cells of the conducting airway have been spatially localized and some insights have been gained regarding their molecular phenotype, relatively little is known about the mechanisms regulating their maintenance, activation, and differentiation. This study investigates the potential roles of E-cadherin in mouse Clara cells, as these cells were shown to represent the progenitor/stem cells of the conducting airways and have been implicated as the cell of origin of human non-small cell lung cancer. Postnatal inactivation of E-cadherin affected Clara cell differentiation and compromised airway regeneration under injury conditions. In steady-state adult lung, overexpression of the dominant negative E-cadherin led to an expansion of the bronchiolar stem cells and decreased differentiation concomitant with canonical Wnt signaling activation. Expansion of the bronchiolar stem cell pool was associated with an incessant proliferation of neuroepithelial body.associated Clara cells that ultimately gave rise to bronchiolar hyperplasia. Despite progressive hyperplasia, only a minority of the mice developed pulmonary solid tumors, suggesting that the loss of E-cadherin function leads to tumor formation when additional mutations are sustained. The present study reveals that E-cadherin plays a critical role in the regulation of proliferation and homeostasis of the epithelial cells lining the conducting airways.
PMCID: PMC3540942  PMID: 23308049
20.  Evolutionary Conserved Role of c-Jun-N-Terminal Kinase in CO2-Induced Epithelial Dysfunction 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46696.
Elevated CO2 levels (hypercapnia) occur in patients with respiratory diseases and impair alveolar epithelial integrity, in part, by inhibiting Na,K-ATPase function. Here, we examined the role of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) in CO2 signaling in mammalian alveolar epithelial cells as well as in diptera, nematodes and rodent lungs. In alveolar epithelial cells, elevated CO2 levels rapidly induced activation of JNK leading to downregulation of Na,K-ATPase and alveolar epithelial dysfunction. Hypercapnia-induced activation of JNK required AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and protein kinase C-ζ leading to subsequent phosphorylation of JNK at Ser-129. Importantly, elevated CO2 levels also caused a rapid and prominent activation of JNK in Drosophila S2 cells and in C. elegans. Paralleling the results with mammalian epithelial cells, RNAi against Drosophila JNK fully prevented CO2-induced downregulation of Na,K-ATPase in Drosophila S2 cells. The importance and specificity of JNK CO2 signaling was additionally demonstrated by the ability of mutations in the C. elegans JNK homologs, jnk-1 and kgb-2 to partially rescue the hypercapnia-induced fertility defects but not the pharyngeal pumping defects. Together, these data provide evidence that deleterious effects of hypercapnia are mediated by JNK which plays an evolutionary conserved, specific role in CO2 signaling in mammals, diptera and nematodes.
PMCID: PMC3466313  PMID: 23056407
21.  Smoking: Is it a risk factor for pulmonary vascular diseases? 
Pulmonary Circulation  2012;2(4):395-396.
PMCID: PMC3555409  PMID: 23372923
22.  Alveolar epithelial cells orchestrate DC function in murine viral pneumonia 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(10):3652-3664.
Influenza viruses (IVs) cause pneumonia in humans with progression to lung failure. Pulmonary DCs are key players in the antiviral immune response, which is crucial to restore alveolar barrier function. The mechanisms of expansion and activation of pulmonary DC populations in lung infection remain widely elusive. Using mouse BM chimeric and cell-specific depletion approaches, we demonstrated that alveolar epithelial cell (AEC) GM-CSF mediates recovery from IV-induced injury by affecting lung DC function. Epithelial GM-CSF induced the recruitment of CD11b+ and monocyte-derived DCs. GM-CSF was also required for the presence of CD103+ DCs in the lung parenchyma at baseline and for their sufficient activation and migration to the draining mediastinal lymph nodes (MLNs) during IV infection. These activated CD103+ DCs were indispensable for sufficient clearance of IVs by CD8+ T cells and for recovery from IV-induced lung injury. Moreover, GM-CSF applied intratracheally activated CD103+ DCs, inducing increased migration to MLNs, enhanced viral clearance, and attenuated lung injury. Together, our data reveal that GM-CSF–dependent cross-talk between IV-infected AECs and CD103+ DCs is crucial for effective viral clearance and recovery from injury, which has potential implications for GM-CSF treatment in severe IV pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC3461909  PMID: 22996662
23.  Endotoxin induces proliferation of NSCLC in vitro and in vivo: role of COX-2 and EGFR activation 
Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy  2012;62(2):309-320.
Lung cancer is frequently complicated by pulmonary infections which may impair prognosis of this disease. Therefore, we investigated the effect of bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS) on tumor proliferation in vitro in the non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell line A549, ex vivo in a tissue culture model using human NSCLC specimens and in vivo in the A549 adenocarcinoma mouse model. LPS induced a time- and dose-dependent increase in proliferation of A549 cells as quantified by MTS activity and cell counting. In parallel, an increased expression of the proliferation marker Ki-67 and cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 was detected both in A549 cells and in ex vivo human NSCLC tissue. Large amounts of COX-2-derived prostaglandin (PG)E2 were secreted from LPS-stimulated A549 cells. Pharmacological interventions revealed that the proliferative effect of LPS was dependent on CD14 and Toll-like receptor (TLR)4. Moreover, blocking of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) also decreased LPS-induced proliferation of A549 cells. Inhibition of COX-2 activity in A549 cells severely attenuated both PGE2 release and proliferation in response to LPS. Synthesis of PGE2 was also reduced by inhibiting CD14, TLR4 and EGFR in A549 cells. The proliferative effect of LPS on A549 cells could be reproduced in the A549 adenocarcinoma mouse model with enhancement of tumor growth and Ki-67 expression in implanted tumors. In summary, LPS induces proliferation of NSCLC cells in vitro, ex vivo in human NSCLC specimen and in vivo in a mouse model of NSCLC. Pulmonary infection may thus directly induce tumor progression in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3569588  PMID: 22923191
Lung cancer; Infection; Endotoxin; Tumor proliferation; Inflammation
24.  The Soluble Guanylate Cyclase Stimulator Riociguat Ameliorates Pulmonary Hypertension Induced by Hypoxia and SU5416 in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43433.
The nitric oxide (NO)–soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC)–cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) signal-transduction pathway is impaired in many cardiovascular diseases, including pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Riociguat (BAY 63–2521) is a stimulator of sGC that works both in synergy with and independently of NO to increase levels of cGMP. The aims of this study were to investigate the role of NO–sGC–cGMP signaling in a model of severe PAH and to evaluate the effects of sGC stimulation by riociguat and PDE5 inhibition by sildenafil on pulmonary hemodynamics and vascular remodeling in severe experimental PAH.
Methods and Results
Severe angioproliferative PAH was induced in rats by combined exposure to the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor antagonist SU5416 and hypoxia (SUHx). Twenty-one days thereafter rats were randomized to receive either riociguat (10 mg/kg/day), sildenafil (50 mg/kg/day) or vehicle by oral gavage, for 14 days until the day of the terminal hemodynamic measurements. Administration of riociguat or sildenafil significantly decreased right ventricular systolic pressure (RVSP). Riociguat significantly decreased RV hypertrophy (RVH) (0.55±0.02, p<0.05), increased cardiac output (60.8±.8 mL/minute, p<0.05) and decreased total pulmonary resistance (4.03±0.3 mmHg min−1 ml−1 100 g BW, p<0.05), compared with sildenafil and vehicle. Both compounds significantly decreased the RV collagen content and improved RV function, but the effects of riociguat on tricuspid annular plane systolic excursion and RV myocardial performance were significantly better than those of sildenafil (p<0.05). The proportion of occluded arteries was significantly lower in animals receiving riociguat than in those receiving vehicle (p<0.05); furthermore, the neointima/media ratio was significantly lower in those receiving riociguat than in those receiving sildenafil or vehicle (p<0.05).
Riociguat and sildenafil significantly reduced RVSP and RVH, and improved RV function compared with vehicle. Riociguat had a greater effect on hemodynamics and RVH than sildenafil.
PMCID: PMC3422306  PMID: 22912874
25.  Effects of hypercapnia and NO synthase inhibition in sustained hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):7.
Acute respiratory disorders may lead to sustained alveolar hypoxia with hypercapnia resulting in impaired pulmonary gas exchange. Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV) optimizes gas exchange during local acute (0-30 min), as well as sustained (> 30 min) hypoxia by matching blood perfusion to alveolar ventilation. Hypercapnia with acidosis improves pulmonary gas exchange in repetitive conditions of acute hypoxia by potentiating HPV and preventing pulmonary endothelial dysfunction. This study investigated, if the beneficial effects of hypercapnia with acidosis are preserved during sustained hypoxia as it occurs, e.g in permissive hypercapnic ventilation in intensive care units. Furthermore, the effects of NO synthase inhibitors under such conditions were examined.
We employed isolated perfused and ventilated rabbit lungs to determine the influence of hypercapnia with or without acidosis (pH corrected with sodium bicarbonate), and inhibitors of endothelial as well as inducible NO synthase on acute or sustained HPV (180 min) and endothelial permeability.
In hypercapnic acidosis, HPV was intensified in sustained hypoxia, in contrast to hypercapnia without acidosis when HPV was amplified during both phases. L-NG-Nitroarginine (L-NNA), a non-selective NO synthase inhibitor, enhanced acute as well as sustained HPV under all conditions, however, the amplification of sustained HPV induced by hypercapnia with or without acidosis compared to normocapnia disappeared. In contrast 1400 W, a selective inhibitor of inducible NO synthase (iNOS), decreased HPV in normocapnia and hypercapnia without acidosis at late time points of sustained HPV and selectively reversed the amplification of sustained HPV during hypercapnia without acidosis. Hypoxic hypercapnia without acidosis increased capillary filtration coefficient (Kfc). This increase disappeared after administration of 1400 W.
Hypercapnia with and without acidosis increased HPV during conditions of sustained hypoxia. The increase of sustained HPV and endothelial permeability in hypoxic hypercapnia without acidosis was iNOS dependent.
PMCID: PMC3306743  PMID: 22292558
hypoxia; hypercapnia; acidosis; nitric oxide; hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction

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