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1.  Cytoskeleton Modifications and Autophagy Induction in TCam-2 Seminoma Cells Exposed to Simulated Microgravity 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:904396.
The study of how mechanical forces may influence cell behavior via cytoskeleton remodeling is a relevant challenge of nowadays that may allow us to define the relationship between mechanics and biochemistry and to address the larger problem of biological complexity. An increasing amount of literature data reported that microgravity condition alters cell architecture as a consequence of cytoskeleton structure modifications. Herein, we are reporting the morphological, cytoskeletal, and behavioral modifications due to the exposition of a seminoma cell line (TCam-2) to simulated microgravity. Even if no differences in cell proliferation and apoptosis were observed after 24 hours of exposure to simulated microgravity, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis revealed that the change of gravity vector significantly affects TCam-2 cell surface morphological appearance. Consistent with this observation, we found that microtubule orientation is altered by microgravity. Moreover, the confocal analysis of actin microfilaments revealed an increase in the cell width induced by the low gravitational force. Microtubules and microfilaments have been related to autophagy modulation and, interestingly, we found a significant autophagic induction in TCam-2 cells exposed to simulated microgravity. This observation is of relevant interest because it shows, for the first time, TCam-2 cell autophagy as a biological response induced by a mechanical stimulus instead of a biochemical one.
doi:10.1155/2014/904396
PMCID: PMC4124846  PMID: 25140323
2.  Pleiotropic Activities of HGF/c-Met System in Testicular Physiology: Paracrine and Endocrine Implications 
In the last decades, a growing body of evidence has been reported concerning the expression and functional role of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) on different aspects of testicular physiology. This review has the aim to summarize what is currently known regarding this topic. From early embryonic development to adult age, HGF and its receptor c-Met appeared to be clearly detectable in the testis. These molecules acquire different distribution patterns and roles depending on the developmental stage or the post-natal age considered. HGF acts as a paracrine modulator of testicular functions promoting the epithelium–mesenchyme cross-talk as described even in other organs. Interestingly, it has been reported that testicular HGF acts even as an autocrine factor and that its receptor might be modulated by endocrine signals that change at puberty: HGF receptor expressed by Sertoli cells, in fact, is up-regulated by FSH administration. HGF is in turn able to modify endocrine state of the organism being able to increase testosterone secretion of both fetal and adult Leydig cells. Moreover, c-Met is expressed in mitotic and meiotic male germ cells as well as in spermatozoa. The distribution pattern of c-Met on sperm cell membrane changes in the caput and cauda epididymal sperms and HGF is able to maintain epididymal sperm motility in vitro suggesting a physiological role of this growth factor in the acquisition of sperm motility. Noteworthy changes in HGF concentration in seminal plasma have been reported in different andrological diseases. All together these data indicate that HGF has a role in the control of spermatogenesis and sperm quality either directly, acting on male germ cells, or indirectly acting on tubular and interstitial somatic cells of the testis.
doi:10.3389/fendo.2014.00038
PMCID: PMC3982073  PMID: 24772104
HGF; c-Met receptor; testis; male gonad development; testicular cell differentiation; sex hormones
3.  Microenvironment Promotes Tumor Cell Reprogramming in Human Breast Cancer Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83770.
The microenvironment drives mammary gland development and function, and may influence significantly both malignant behavior and cell growth of mammary cancer cells. By restoring context, and forcing cells to properly interpret native signals from the microenvironment, the cancer cell aberrant behavior can be quelled, and organization re-established. In order to restore functional and morphological differentiation, human mammary MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cancer cells were allowed to grow in a culture medium filled with a 10% of the albumen (EW, Egg White) from unfertilized chicken egg. That unique microenvironment behaves akin a 3D culture and induces MCF-7 cells to produce acini and branching duct-like structures, distinctive of mammary gland differentiation. EW-treated MDA-MB-231 cells developed buds of acini and duct-like structures. Both MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells produced β-casein, a key milk component. Furthermore, E-cadherin expression was reactivated in MDA-MB-231 cells, as a consequence of the increased cdh1 expression; meanwhile β-catenin – a key cytoskeleton component – was displaced behind the inner cell membrane. Such modification hinders the epithelial-mesenchymal transition in MDA-MB-231 cells. This differentiating pathway is supported by the contemporary down-regulation of canonical pluripotency markers (Klf4, Nanog). Given that egg-conditioned medium behaves as a 3D-medium, it is likely that cancer phenotype reversion could be ascribed to the changed interactions between cells and their microenvironment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083770
PMCID: PMC3875474  PMID: 24386275
4.  “I have got something positive out of this situation”: psychological benefits of caregiving in relatives of young people with muscular dystrophy 
Journal of Neurology  2013;261(1):188-195.
This paper focuses on the psychological benefits of caregiving in key relatives of patients with muscular dystrophies (MD), a group of rare diseases characterized by progressive weakness and restriction of the patient’s functional abilities. We describe whether relatives perceived caregiving to be a positive experience and test whether relatives’ perceptions vary in relation to their view of the patient as a valued person, the degree of involvement in care, and the level of support provided by social network and professionals. The study sample included 502 key relatives of patients aged 4–25 years, suffering from Duchenne, Becker, or limb-girdle MD, in treatment for at least 6 months to one of the eight participating centers, living with at least one relative aged 18–80 years. Of key relatives, 88 % stated that they had gotten something positive out of the situation, 96 % considered their patients to be sensitive, and 94 % viewed their patients as talented. Positive aspects of caregiving were more recognized by key relatives who were more convinced that the patient was sensitive and who perceived that they received higher level of professional help and psychological social support. These results suggest that most key relatives consider that their caregiving experience has had a positive impact on their lives, despite the practical difficulties of caring for patients with MD. Professionals should help relatives to identify the benefits of caregiving without denying its difficulties. Clinicians themselves should develop positive attitudes towards family involvement in the care of patients with long-term diseases.
doi:10.1007/s00415-013-7176-8
PMCID: PMC3895206  PMID: 24202786
Muscular dystrophy; Psychological benefits; Caregiving; Social network; Professional support
6.  TCam-2 Seminoma Cells Exposed to Egg-Derived Microenvironment Modify Their Shape, Adhesive Pattern and Migratory Behaviour: A Molecular and Morphometric Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76192.
Seminoma is one of the most common Testicular Germ Cell Tumours that originates during embryonic development due to an alteration of the local niche that in turn results in a delayed or blocked differentiation of Primordial Germ Cells. The block of differentiation is actually a common way to develop cancer disease as postulated by the "embryonic rest theory of cancer". In agreement with this theory different studies have demonstrated that embryonic cues display the capacity of reprogramming aggressive cancer cells towards a less aggressive phenotype. Herein we investigate the ability of a culture medium added with 10% egg albumen (EW, Egg White) to modulate seminoma cell phenotype and behaviour, by ensuring a proper set of morphogenetic signals. We chose to use the TCam-2 seminoma cell line that has been established as the only available cell line, obtained from a primary testicular seminoma. EW is able to: 1) modify TCam-2 cell spreading rate and cell-substrate adhesion without affecting proliferation and survival indexes; 2) modulate TCam-2 actin distribution pattern increasing cortical localization of actin filaments; 3) increase TCam-2 cell-cell junction capability; 4) decrease both chemo-sensitive and collective TCam-2 migratory behaviour. According to these observations morphometric fractal analysis revealed the ability of EW to increase Circularity and Solidity parameters and, consequently, to decrease Fractal dimension. Prompted by these observations we hypothesize that EW treatment could rescue, at least in part, the neoplastic-metastatic behaviour of seminoma cells.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076192
PMCID: PMC3788130  PMID: 24098438
7.  Large scale genotype–phenotype analyses indicate that novel prognostic tools are required for families with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy 
Brain  2013;136(11):3408-3417.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy has been genetically linked to reduced numbers (≤8) of D4Z4 repeats at 4q35 combined with 4A(159/161/168) DUX4 polyadenylation signal haplotype. However, we have recently reported that 1.3% of healthy individuals carry this molecular signature and 19% of subjects affected by facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy do not carry alleles with eight or fewer D4Z4 repeats. Therefore, prognosis for subjects carrying or at risk of carrying D4Z4 reduced alleles has become more complicated. To test for additional prognostic factors, we measured the degree of motor impairment in a large group of patients affected by facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy and their relatives who are carrying D4Z4 reduced alleles. The clinical expression of motor impairment was assessed in 530 subjects, 163 probands and 367 relatives, from 176 unrelated families according to a standardized clinical score. The associations between clinical severity and size of D4Z4 allele, degree of kinship, gender, age and 4q haplotype were evaluated. Overall, 32.2% of relatives did not display any muscle functional impairment. This phenotype was influenced by the degree of relation with proband, because 47.1% of second- through fifth-degree relatives were unaffected, whereas only 27.5% of first-degree family members did not show motor impairment. The estimated risk of developing motor impairment by age 50 for relatives carrying a D4Z4 reduced allele with 1–3 repeats or 4–8 repeats was 88.7% and 55%, respectively. Male relatives had a mean score significantly higher than females (5.4 versus 4.0, P = 0.003). No 4q haplotype was exclusively associated with the presence of disease. In 13% of families in which D4Z4 alleles with 4–8 repeats segregate, the diagnosis of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy was reported only in one generation. In conclusion, this large-scale analysis provides further information that should be taken into account when counselling families in which a reduced allele with 4–8 D4Z4 repeats segregates. In addition, the reduced expression of disease observed in distant relatives suggests that a family’s genetic background plays a role in the occurrence of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. These results indicate that the identification of new susceptibility factors for this disease will require an accurate classification of families.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt226
PMCID: PMC3808686  PMID: 24030947
facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; D4Z4 reduced allele; genotype–phenotype correlations; penetrance; disease expression
8.  Next-Generation Sequencing Identifies Transportin 3 as the Causative Gene for LGMD1F 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63536.
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophies (LGMD) are genetically and clinically heterogeneous conditions. We investigated a large family with autosomal dominant transmission pattern, previously classified as LGMD1F and mapped to chromosome 7q32. Affected members are characterized by muscle weakness affecting earlier the pelvic girdle and the ileopsoas muscles. We sequenced the whole exome of four family members and identified a shared heterozygous frame-shift variant in the Transportin 3 (TNPO3) gene, encoding a member of the importin-β super-family. The TNPO3 gene is mapped within the LGMD1F critical interval and its 923-amino acid human gene product is also expressed in skeletal muscle. In addition, we identified an isolated case of LGMD with a new missense mutation in the same gene. We localized the mutant TNPO3 around the nucleus, but not inside. The involvement of gene related to the nuclear transport suggests a novel disease mechanism leading to muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063536
PMCID: PMC3646821  PMID: 23667635
9.  Effects of aerobic training on exercise-related oxidative stress in mitochondrial myopathies 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2012;22(3-3):S172-S177.
In mitochondrial myopathies with respiratory chain deficiency impairment of energy cell production may lead to in excess reactive oxygen species generation with consequent oxidative stress and cell damage. Aerobic training has been showed to increase muscle performance in patients with mitochondrial myopathies. Aim of this study has been to evaluate, in 7 patients (6F e 1 M, mean age 44.9 ± 12.1 years) affected by mitochondrial disease, concomitantly to lactate exercise curve, the occurrence of oxidative stress, as indicated by circulating levels of lipoperoxides, in rest condition and as effect of exercise, and also, to verify if an aerobic training program is able to modify, in these patients, ox-redox balance efficiency. At rest and before training blood level of lipoperoxides was 382.4 ± 37.8 AU, compared to controls (318.7 ± 63.8; P < 0.05), this corresponding to a moderate oxidative stress degree according to the adopted scale. During incremental exercise blood level of lipoperoxides did not increase, but maintained significantly higher compared to controls. After an aerobic training of 10 weeks the blood level of lipoperoxides decreased by 13.7% at rest (P < 0.01) and 10.4%, 8.6% and 8.5% respectively at the corresponding times during the exercise test (P = 0.06). These data indicate that, in mitochondrial patients, oxidative stress occurs and that an aerobic training is useful in partially reverting this condition.
doi:10.1016/j.nmd.2012.10.005
PMCID: PMC3526792  PMID: 23182634
Mitochondrial diseases; Muscle exercise; Aerobic training; Oxidative stress
10.  Genetic characterization in symptomatic female DMD carriers: lack of relationship between X-inactivation, transcriptional DMD allele balancing and phenotype 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:73.
Background
Although Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies, X-linked recessive myopathies, predominantly affect males, a clinically significant proportion of females manifesting symptoms have also been reported. They represent an heterogeneous group characterized by variable degrees of muscle weakness and/or cardiac involvement. Though preferential inactivation of the normal X chromosome has long been considered the principal mechanism behind disease manifestation in these females, supporting evidence is controversial.
Methods
Eighteen females showing a mosaic pattern of dystrophin expression on muscle biopsy were recruited and classified as symptomatic (7) or asymptomatic (11), based on the presence or absence of muscle weakness. The causative DMD gene mutations were identified in all cases, and the X-inactivation pattern was assessed in muscle DNA. Transcriptional analysis in muscles was performed in all females, and relative quantification of wild-type and mutated transcripts was also performed in 9 carriers. Dystrophin protein was quantified by immunoblotting in 2 females.
Results
The study highlighted a lack of relationship between dystrophic phenotype and X-inactivation pattern in females; skewed X-inactivation was found in 2 out of 6 symptomatic carriers and in 5 out of 11 asymptomatic carriers. All females were characterized by biallelic transcription, but no association was found between X-inactivation pattern and allele transcriptional balancing. Either a prevalence of wild-type transcript or equal proportions of wild-type and mutated RNAs was observed in both symptomatic and asymptomatic females. Moreover, very similar levels of total and wild-type transcripts were identified in the two groups of carriers.
Conclusions
This is the first study deeply exploring the DMD transcriptional behaviour in a cohort of female carriers. Notably, no relationship between X-inactivation pattern and transcriptional behaviour of DMD gene was observed, suggesting that the two mechanisms are regulated independently. Moreover, neither the total DMD transcript level, nor the relative proportion of the wild-type transcript do correlate with the symptomatic phenotype.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-13-73
PMCID: PMC3459813  PMID: 22894145
Dystrophinopathy; Female carriers; X-inactivation; Transcriptional balancing
11.  The empowerment of translational research: lessons from laminopathies 
The need for a collaborative approach to complex inherited diseases collectively referred to as laminopathies, encouraged Italian researchers, geneticists, physicians and patients to join in the Italian Network for Laminopathies, in 2009. Here, we highlight the advantages and added value of such a multidisciplinary effort to understand pathogenesis, clinical aspects and try to find a cure for Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, Mandibuloacral dysplasia, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria and forms of lamin-linked cardiomyopathy, neuropathy and lipodystrophy.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-7-37
PMCID: PMC3458975  PMID: 22691392
Laminopathies; Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy; Dilated Cardiomyopathy with Conduction Defects; Mandibuloacral Dysplasia; Familial Partial Lipodystrophy Type 2; Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome; Rare Diseases; Networking activity; interdisciplinary approach to diseases
12.  Rippling muscle disease and facioscapulohumeral dystrophy-like phenotype in a patient carrying a heterozygous CAV3 T78M mutation and a D4Z4 partial deletion: Further evidence for “double trouble” overlapping syndromes 
Neuromuscular Disorders  2012;22(6):534-540.
We report the first case of a heterozygous T78M mutation in the caveolin-3 gene (CAV3) associated with rippling muscle disease and proximal myopathy. The patient displayed also bilateral winged scapula with limited abduction of upper arms and marked asymmetric atrophy of leg muscles shown by magnetic resonance imaging. Immunohistochemistry on the patient’s muscle biopsy demonstrated a reduction of caveolin-3 staining, compatible with the diagnosis of caveolinopathy. Interestingly, consistent with the possible diagnosis of FSHD, the patient carried a 35 kb D4Z4 allele on chromosome 4q35. We discuss the hypothesis that the two genetic mutations may exert a synergistic effect in determining the phenotype observed in this patient.
doi:10.1016/j.nmd.2011.12.001
PMCID: PMC3359497  PMID: 22245016
Rippling muscle disease; Caveolinopathy; Facioscapulohumeral dystrophy; Limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 1C
13.  Bovine Lactoferrin Counteracts Toll-Like Receptor Mediated Activation Signals in Antigen Presenting Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22504.
Lactoferrin (LF), a key element in mammalian immune system, plays pivotal roles in host defence against infection and excessive inflammation. Its protective effects range from direct antimicrobial activities against a large panel of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, to antinflammatory and anticancer activities. In this study, we show that monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MD-DCs) generated in the presence of bovine LF (bLF) fail to undergo activation by up-modulating CD83, co-stimulatory and major histocompatibility complex molecules, and cytokine/chemokine secretion. Moreover, these cells are weak activators of T cell proliferation and retain antigen uptake activity. Consistent with an impaired maturation, bLF-MD-DC primed T lymphocytes exhibit a functional unresponsiveness characterized by reduced expression of CD154 and impaired expression of IFN-γ and IL-2. The observed imunosuppressive effects correlate with an increased expression of molecules with negative regulatory functions (i.e. immunoglobulin-like transcript 3 and programmed death ligand 1), indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase, and suppressor of cytokine signaling-3. Interestingly, bLF-MD-DCs produce IL-6 and exhibit constitutive signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 activation. Conversely, bLF exposure of already differentiated MD-DCs completely fails to induce IL-6, and partially inhibits Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonist-induced activation. Cell-specific differences in bLF internalization likely account for the distinct response elicited by bLF in monocytes versus immature DCs, providing a mechanistic base for its multiple effects. These results indicate that bLF exerts a potent anti-inflammatory activity by skewing monocyte differentiation into DCs with impaired capacity to undergo activation and to promote Th1 responses. Overall, these bLF-mediated effects may represent a strategy to block excessive DC activation upon TLR-induced inflammation, adding further evidence for a critical role of bLF in directing host immune function.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022504
PMCID: PMC3143167  PMID: 21799877

Results 1-13 (13)