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1.  Developmental Regression, Depression, and Psychosocial Stress in an Adolescent with Down Syndrome 
Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP  2013;34(3):10.1097/DBP.0b013e31828b2b42.
CASE: Kristen is a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome (DS) who was seen urgently with concerns of cognitive and developmental regression including loss of language, social, and toileting skills. The evaluation in the DS clinic focused on potential medical diagnoses including atlantoaxial joint instability, vitamin deficiency, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and seizures. A comprehensive medical evaluation yielded only a finding of moderate OSA. A reactive depression was considered in association with several psychosocial factors including moving homes, entering puberty/onset of menses, and classroom change from an integrated setting to a self-contained classroom comprising unfamiliar peers with behavior challenges.
Urgent referrals for psychological and psychiatric evaluations were initiated. Neuropsychological testing did not suggest true regression in cognitive, language, and academic skills, although decreases in motivation and performance were noted with a reaction to stress and multiple environmental changes as a potential causative factor. Psychiatry consultation supported this finding in that psychosocial stress temporally correlated with Kristen’s regression in skills.
Working collaboratively, the team determined that Kristen’s presentation was consistent with a reactive form of depression (DSM-IV-TR: depressive disorder, not otherwise specified). Kristen’s presentation was exacerbated by salient environmental stress and sleep apnea, rather than a cognitive regression associated with a medical cause. Treatment consisted of an antidepressant medication, continuous positive airway pressure for OSA, and increased psychosocial supports. Her school initiated a change in classroom placement. With this multimodal approach to evaluation and intervention, Kristen steadily improved and she returned to her baseline function.
PMCID: PMC3884753  PMID: 23572173
Down syndrome; developmental regression; depression; obstructive sleep apnea
2.  Flaviviruses Are Sensitive to Inhibition of Thymidine Synthesis Pathways 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(17):9411-9419.
Dengue virus has emerged as a global health threat to over one-third of humankind. As a positive-strand RNA virus, dengue virus relies on the host cell metabolism for its translation, replication, and egress. Therefore, a better understanding of the host cell metabolic pathways required for dengue virus infection offers the opportunity to develop new approaches for therapeutic intervention. In a recently described screen of known drugs and bioactive molecules, we observed that methotrexate and floxuridine inhibited dengue virus infections at low micromolar concentrations. Here, we demonstrate that all serotypes of dengue virus, as well as West Nile virus, are highly sensitive to both methotrexate and floxuridine, whereas other RNA viruses (Sindbis virus and vesicular stomatitis virus) are not. Interestingly, flavivirus replication was restored by folinic acid, a thymidine precursor, in the presence of methotrexate and by thymidine in the presence of floxuridine, suggesting an unexpected role for thymidine in flavivirus replication. Since thymidine is not incorporated into RNA genomes, it is likely that increased thymidine production is indirectly involved in flavivirus replication. A possible mechanism is suggested by the finding that p53 inhibition restored dengue virus replication in the presence of floxuridine, consistent with thymidine-less stress triggering p53-mediated antiflavivirus effects in infected cells. Our data reveal thymidine synthesis pathways as new and unexpected therapeutic targets for antiflaviviral drug development.
PMCID: PMC3754125  PMID: 23824813
3.  Inaugural Christianson Syndrome Association conference: families meeting for the first time 
Christianson syndrome (CS) is an X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder caused by deleterious mutations in SLC9A6. Affected families organized the inaugural Christianson Syndrome Association conference to advance CS knowledge and develop questions that may be prioritized in future research.
PMCID: PMC4038054
Christianson syndrome; Intellectual disability; NHE6; SLC9A6; X-linked developmental disorder
4.  A ventrally localized protease in the Drosophila egg controls embryo dorsoventral polarity 
Current Biology  2012;22(11):1013-1018.
Drosophila embryo dorsoventral (DV) polarity is defined by serine protease activity in the perivitelline space (PVS) between the embryonic membrane and the inner layer of the eggshell [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Gastrulation Defective (GD) cleaves and activates Snake (Snk). Activated Snk cleaves and activates Easter (Ea), exclusively on the ventral side of the embryo [6, 7, 8]. Activated Ea then processes Spätzle (Spz) into the activating ligand for Toll, a transmembrane receptor that is distributed throughout the embryonic plasma membrane [9]. Ventral activation of Toll depends upon the activity of the Pipe sulfotransferase in the ventral region of the follicular epithelium that surrounds the developing oocyte [10]. Pipe transfers sulfate residues to several protein components of the inner vitelline membrane layer of the eggshell [11]. Here we show that GD protein becomes localized in the ventral PVS in a Pipe-dependent process. Moreover, ventrally concentrated GD acts to promote the cleavage of Ea by Snk through an extracatalytic mechanism that is distinct from GD's proteolytic activation of Snk. Together, these observations illuminate the mechanism through which spatially restricted sulfotransferase activity in the developing egg chamber leads to localization of serine protease activity and ultimately to spatially specific activation of the Toll receptor in the Drosophila embryo.
PMCID: PMC3371173  PMID: 22578419
5.  Cognitive Stimulation and Cognitive and Functional Decline in Alzheimer's Disease: The Cache County Dementia Progression Study 
To examine the association of engagement in cognitively stimulating activities with cognitive and functional decline in a population-based sample of incident Alzheimer's disease (AD).
After diagnosis, 187 participants (65% females) were followed semiannually for a mean 2.7 (SD = 0.4) years. Mean age and education were 84.6 (SD = 5.8) and 13.2 (SD = 2.9) years. Caregivers enumerated cognitively stimulating leisure activities via the Lifestyle Activities Questionnaire. Cognition was assessed using the Mini-Mental State Examination and functional ability via the Clinical Dementia Rating sum of boxes. Linear mixed models tested the association between stimulating activities and change over time in each outcome. Covariates were demographic factors, estimated premorbid IQ, presence/absence of the APOE ϵ4 allele, duration of dementia, level of physical activity, and general health.
At initial assessment, 87% of participants were engaged in one or more stimulating activities, with mean (SD) activities = 4.0 (3.0). This number declined to 2.4 (2.0) at the final visit. There was a statistical interaction between dementia duration and number of activities in predicting rate of cognitive decline (p = .02) and overall functional ability (p = .006).
Active involvement in cognitively stimulating pursuits may be beneficial for persons with AD.
PMCID: PMC3132266  PMID: 21441386
Alzheimer's disease; Cognitive activity; Cognitive decline; Dementia
6.  A Rare Case of Myeloid Sarcoma Presenting as an Anorectal Ulcer 
Case Reports in Medicine  2012;2012:537278.
Myeloid Sarcoma is a rare tumor composed of myeloblasts occurring at an extramedullary site like bones, or various soft tissues. Myeloid sarcoma may involve the gastrointestinal tract very rarely either solitarily, or occurring simultaneously with acute myeloid leukemia. Its diagnosis is challenging and needs biopsy and immunohistochemical staining. We are describing a case of myeloid sarcoma which presented as a painful anal ulcer mimicking an atypical fissure. Its appearance resembled crohn's disease on sigmoidoscopy. A biopsy of the ulcer along with histochemical staining led to the diagnosis of myeloid sarcoma. Our case demonstrates the need for aggressive evaluation of any common gastrointestinal complaint with an atypical presentation.
PMCID: PMC3364052  PMID: 22666268
7.  Development of Peptide-Conjugated Morpholino Oligomers as Pan-Arenavirus Inhibitors▿† 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2011;55(10):4631-4638.
Members of the Arenaviridae family are a threat to public health and can cause meningitis and hemorrhagic fever, and yet treatment options remain limited by a lack of effective antivirals. In this study, we found that peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMO) complementary to viral genomic RNA were effective in reducing arenavirus replication in cell cultures and in vivo. PPMO complementary to the Junín virus genome were designed to interfere with viral RNA synthesis or translation or both. However, only PPMO designed to potentially interfere with translation were effective in reducing virus replication. PPMO complementary to sequences that are highly conserved across the arenaviruses and located at the 5′ termini of both genomic segments were effective against Junín virus, Tacaribe virus, Pichinde virus, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV)-infected cell cultures and suppressed viral titers in the livers of LCMV-infected mice. These results suggest that arenavirus 5′ genomic termini represent promising targets for pan-arenavirus antiviral therapeutic development.
PMCID: PMC3186971  PMID: 21825302
8.  Inhibition of Dengue Virus Infections in Cell Cultures and in AG129 Mice by a Small Interfering RNA Targeting a Highly Conserved Sequence ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(19):10154-10166.
The dengue viruses (DENVs) exist as numerous genetic strains that are grouped into four antigenically distinct serotypes. DENV strains from each serotype can cause severe disease and threaten public health in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. No licensed antiviral agent to treat DENV infections is currently available, and there is an acute need for the development of novel therapeutics. We found that a synthetic small interfering RNA (siRNA) (DC-3) targeting the highly conserved 5′ cyclization sequence (5′CS) region of the DENV genome reduced, by more than 100-fold, the titers of representative strains from each DENV serotype in vitro. To determine if DC-3 siRNA could inhibit DENV in vivo, an “in vivo-ready” version of DC-3 was synthesized and tested against DENV-2 by using a mouse model of antibody-dependent enhancement of infection (ADE)-induced disease. Compared with the rapid weight loss and 5-day average survival time of the control groups, mice receiving the DC-3 siRNA had an average survival time of 15 days and showed little weight loss for approximately 12 days. DC-3-treated mice also contained significantly less virus than control groups in several tissues at various time points postinfection. These results suggest that exogenously introduced siRNA combined with the endogenous RNA interference processing machinery has the capacity to prevent severe dengue disease. Overall, the data indicate that DC-3 siRNA represents a useful research reagent and has potential as a novel approach to therapeutic intervention against the genetically diverse dengue viruses.
PMCID: PMC3196423  PMID: 21795337
9.  Pipe-dependent ventral processing of Easter by Snake is the defining step in Drosophila embryo DV axis formation 
Current biology : CB  2010;20(12):1133-1137.
The establishment of Drosophila embryonic dorsal-ventral (DV) polarity relies on serine proteolytic activity in the perivitelline space between the embryonic membrane and the eggshell [1]. Gastrulation Defective cleaves and activates Snake, which processes and activates Easter, which cleaves Spätzle to form the activating ligand for the Toll receptor. Ventral restriction of ligand formation depends on the Pipe sulfotransferase, which is expressed in ventral cells of the follicular epithelium surrounding the developing oocyte [2]. Pipe modifies components of the developing eggshell to produce a ventral cue embedded in the vitelline membrane [3]. This ventral cue is believed to promote one or more of the proteolysis steps in the perivitelline space. By examining the processing of transgenic, tagged versions of the perivitelline proteins during DV patterning we find that the proteolysis of Easter by Snake is the first Pipe-dependent step and therefore the key ventrally-restricted event in the protease cascade. We also find that Snake and Easter associate together in a complex in both wild-type and pipe mutant-derived embryos. This observation suggests a mechanism in which the sulfated target of Pipe promotes a productive interaction between Snake and Easter, perhaps by facilitating conformational changes in a complex containing the two proteins.
PMCID: PMC2902586  PMID: 20605458
10.  Coxsackievirus B3 Infection Activates the Unfolded Protein Response and Induces Apoptosis through Downregulation of p58IPK and Activation of CHOP and SREBP1▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(17):8446-8459.
Cardiomyocyte apoptosis is a hallmark of coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3)-induced myocarditis. We used cardiomyocytes and HeLa cells to explore the cellular response to CVB3 infection, with a focus on pathways leading to apoptosis. CVB3 infection triggered endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and differentially regulated the three arms of the unfolded protein response (UPR) initiated by the proximal ER stress sensors ATF6a (activating transcription factor 6a), IRE1-XBP1 (X box binding protein 1), and PERK (PKR-like ER protein kinase). Upon CVB3 infection, glucose-regulated protein 78 expression was upregulated, and in turn ATF6a and XBP1 were activated via protein cleavage and mRNA splicing, respectively. UPR activity was further confirmed by the enhanced expression of UPR target genes ERdj4 and EDEM1. Surprisingly, another UPR-associated gene, p58IPK, which often is upregulated during infections with other types of viruses, was downregulated at both mRNA and protein levels after CVB3 infection. These findings were observed similarly for uninfected Tet-On HeLa cells induced to overexpress ATF6a or XBP1. In exploring potential connections between the three UPR pathways, we found that the ATF6a-induced downregulation of p58IPK was associated with the activation of PKR (PERK) and the phosphorylation of eIF2α, suggesting that p58IPK, a negative regulator of PERK and PKR, mediates cross-talk between the ATF6a/IRE1-XBP1 and PERK arms. Finally, we found that CVB3 infection eventually produced the induction of the proapoptoic transcription factor CHOP and the activation of SREBP1 and caspase-12. Taken together, these data suggest that CVB3 infection activates UPR pathways and induces ER stress-mediated apoptosis through the suppression of P58IPK and induction/activation of CHOP, SREBP1, and caspase-12.
PMCID: PMC2918999  PMID: 20554776
11.  No requirement for localized Nudel protein expression in Drosophila embryonic axis determination 
Fly  2008;2(4):220-228.
Drosophila embryonic dorsal-ventral polarity is defined by a maternally encoded signal transduction pathway. Gastrulation Defective, Snake and Easter comprise a serine protease cascade that operates in the perivitelline space to generate active ligand for the Toll receptor, which resides in the embryonic membrane. Toll is activated only on the ventral side of the embryo. Spatial regulation of this pathway is initiated by the ventrally restricted expression of the sulfotransferase Pipe in the follicular epithelium that surrounds the developing oocyte. Pipe is thought to modify a target molecule that is secreted and localized within the ventral region of the egg and future embryo, where it influences the activity of the pathway such that active Toll ligand is produced only ventrally. A potential substrate for Pipe is encoded by nudel, which is expressed throughout the follicle cell layer and encodes a large, multi-functional secreted protein that contains a serine protease domain as well as other structural features characteristic of extracellular matrix proteins. A previous mosaic analysis suggested that the protease domain of Nudel is not a target for Pipe activity as its expression is not required in pipe-expressing cells, but failed to rule out such a role for other functional domains of the protein. To investigate this possibility, we carried out a mosaic analysis of additional nudel alleles, including some that affect the entire protein. Our analysis demonstrated that proteolytically processed segments of Nudel are secreted into the perivitelline space and stably localized, as would be expected for the target of Pipe, However, we found no requirement for nudel to be expressed in ventral, pipe-expressing follicle cells, thereby eliminating Nudel as an essential substrate of Pipe sulfotransferase activity.
PMCID: PMC2941771  PMID: 18776742
Drosophila; dorsoventral; dorsal-ventral; dorsal group; pipe; nudel; oogenesis; follicle
12.  Sulfation of Eggshell Proteins by Pipe Defines Dorsal-Ventral Polarity in the Drosophila embryo 
Current biology : CB  2009;19(14):1200-1205.
Drosophila embryonic dorsal-ventral (DV) polarity is controlled by a group of sequentially acting serine proteases located in the fluid-filled perivitelline space between the embryonic membrane and the eggshell, which generate the ligand for the Toll receptor on the ventral side of the embryo [1, 2, 3]. Spatial control of the protease cascade relies on the Pipe sulfotransferase, a fly homologue of vertebrate glycosaminoglycan modifying enzymes [4, 5, 6], which is expressed in ventral cells of the follicular epithelium surrounding the developing oocyte. The identification of the Pipe enzymatic target has remained a major gap in our understanding of the mechanism controlling the perivitelline protease cascade, and hence embryonic DV patterning. Here we show that the protein Vitelline Membrane-Like (VML) [7] undergoes Pipe-dependent sulfation and, consistent with a role in conveying positional information from the egg chamber to the embryo, becomes incorporated into the eggshell at a position corresponding to the location of the follicle cells from which it was secreted. Although VML influences embryonic DV pattern in a sensitized genetic background, VML is not essential for DV axis formation, suggesting that there is redundancy in the composition of the Pipe enzymatic target. Correspondingly, we find that additional structural components of the vitelline membrane undergo Pipe-dependent sulfation. In identifying the elusive targets of Pipe, this ork points to the vitelline membrane as the source of signals that generate the Drosophila DV axis and provides a framework for understanding the mechanism controlling spatially-specific activation of serine protease activity during embryonic pattern formation.
PMCID: PMC2733793  PMID: 19540119
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of lower respiratory tract infection in infants, young children, and high-risk adults. Currently, there is no vaccine for the prevention of RSV infection, and available therapeutics are of limited utility. Peptide conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMO) are a class of antisense agents that can enter cells readily and interfere with viral protein expression through steric blocking of complementary RNA. Two antisense PPMO, designed to target sequence that includes the 5′ terminal- and translation start site-regions of RSV L mRNA, were tested for anti-RSV activity in cultures of two human airway cell lines. Both PPMO showed minimal cytotoxicity, and one of them (AUG-2), reduced viral titers by more than 2.0 log10. Intranasal treatment of BALB/c mice with AUG-2 PPMO prior to RSV inoculation produced a reduction in viral titer of 1.2 log10 in lung tissue at day 5 post-infection, and attenuated pulmonary inflammation at day 7 post-infection. These data show that the AUG-2 PPMO possessed potent anti-RSV activity and is worthy of further investigation as a candidate for therapeutic development.
PMCID: PMC2782410  PMID: 18443602
RSV; morpholino oligomers; antisense; PPMO; antiviral agents
14.  Mis-specified cells die by an active gene-directed process, and inhibition of this death results in cell fate transformation in Drosophila 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2005;132(24):5343-5352.
Incorrectly specified or mis-specified cells often undergo cell death or are transformed to adopt a different cell fate during development. The underlying cause for this distinction is largely unknown. In many developmental mutants in Drosophila, large numbers of mis-specified cells die synchronously, providing a convenient model for analysis of this phenomenon. The maternal mutant bicoid is particularly useful model with which to address this issue because its mutant phenotype is a combination of both transformation of tissue (acron to telson) and cell death in the presumptive head and thorax regions. We show that a subset of these mis-specified cells die through an active gene-directed process involving transcriptional upregulation of the cell death inducer hid. Upregulation of hid also occurs in oskar mutants and other segmentation mutants. In hid bicoid double mutants, mis-specified cells in the presumptive head and thorax survive and continue to develop, but they are transformed to adopt a different cell fate. We provide evidence that the terminal torso signaling pathway protects the mis-specified telson tissue in bicoid mutants from hid-induced cell death, whereas mis-specified cells in the head and thorax die, presumably because equivalent survival signals are lacking. These data support a model whereby mis-specification can be tolerated if a survival pathway is provided, resulting in cellular transformation.
PMCID: PMC2760325  PMID: 16280349
Mis-specification; Cell death; Transformation; Bicoid; Oskar; Hid; Drosophila
15.  Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Triggers Apoptosis via Protein Kinase R but Is Resistant to Its Antiviral Activity▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;83(5):2298-2309.
In this study, infection of 293/ACE2 cells with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) activated several apoptosis-associated events, namely, cleavage of caspase-3, caspase-8, and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP), and chromatin condensation and the phosphorylation and hence inactivation of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α). In addition, two of the three cellular eIF2α kinases known to be virus induced, protein kinase R (PKR) and PKR-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK), were activated by SARS-CoV. The third kinase, general control nonderepressible-2 kinase (GCN2), was not activated, but late in infection the level of GCN2 protein was significantly reduced. Reverse transcription-PCR analyses revealed that the reduction of GCN2 protein was not due to decreased transcription or stability of GCN2 mRNA. The specific reduction of PKR protein expression by antisense peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers strongly reduced cleavage of PARP in infected cells. Surprisingly, the knockdown of PKR neither enhanced SARS-CoV replication nor abrogated SARS-CoV-induced eIF2α phosphorylation. Pretreatment of cells with beta interferon prior to SARS-CoV infection led to a significant decrease in PERK activation, eIF2α phosphorylation, and SARS-CoV replication. The various effects of beta interferon treatment were found to function independently on the expression of PKR. Our results show that SARS-CoV infection activates PKR and PERK, leading to sustained eIF2α phosphorylation. However, virus replication was not impaired by these events, suggesting that SARS-CoV possesses a mechanism to overcome the inhibitory effects of phosphorylated eIF2α on viral mRNA translation. Furthermore, our data suggest that viral activation of PKR can lead to apoptosis via a pathway that is independent of eIF2α phosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC2643707  PMID: 19109397
16.  Inhibition of alphavirus infection in cell culture and in mice with antisense morpholino oligomers 
Virology  2008;376(2):357-370.
The genus Alphavirus contains members that threaten human health, both as natural pathogens and as potential biological weapons. Peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMO) enter cells readily and can inhibit viral replication through sequence-specific steric blockade of viral RNA. Sindbis virus (SINV) has low pathogenicity in humans and is regularly utilized as a model alphavirus. PPMO targeting the 5′-terminal and AUG translation start site-regions of the SINV genome blocked the production of infectious SINV in tissue culture. PPMO designed against corresponding regions in Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) were likewise found to be effective in vitro against several strains of VEEV. Mice treated with PPMO before and after VEEV infection were completely protected from lethal outcome while mice receiving only post-infection PPMO treatment were partially protected. Levels of virus in tissue samples correlated with animal survival. Uninfected mice suffered no apparent ill-effects from PPMO treatment. Thus, PPMO appear promising as candidates for therapeutic development against alphaviruses.
PMCID: PMC2447162  PMID: 18468653
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus; Sindbis virus; pathogenic alphaviruses; antiviral agents; antisense therapy; morpholino oligomers
17.  Vascular Factors and Risk for Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Alzheimer’s Disease: The Cache County Study 
To examine, in an exploratory analysis, the association between vascular conditions and the occurrence of neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) in a population-based sample of incident Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The sample consisted of 254 participants, identified through two waves of assessment. NPS were assessed using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. Prior to the onset of AD, data regarding a history of stroke, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, heart attack or CABG, and diabetes were recorded. Logistic regression procedures were used to examine the relationship of each vascular condition to individual neuropsychiatric symptoms. Covariates considered were age, gender, education, APOE genotype, dementia severity, and overall health status.
One or more NPS were observed in 51.0% of participants. Depression was most common (25.8%), followed by apathy (18.6%), and irritability (17.7%). Least common were elation (0.8%), hallucinations (5.6%), and disinhibition (6.0%). Stroke prior to the onset of AD was associated with increased risk of delusions (OR=4.76, p=0.02), depression (OR=3.87, p=0.03), and apathy (OR=4.48, p=0.02). Hypertension was associated with increased risk of delusions (OR=2.34, p=0.02), anxiety (OR=4.10, p=0.002), and agitation/aggression (OR=2.82, p=0.01). No associations were observed between NPS and diabetes, hyperlipidemia, heart attack or CABG, or overall health.
Results suggest that a history of stroke and hypertension increase the risk of specific NPS in patients with AD. These conditions may disrupt neural circuitry in brain areas involved in NPS. Findings may provide an avenue for reduction in occurrence of NPS through the treatment or prevention of vascular risk conditions.
PMCID: PMC2692675  PMID: 18289451
dementia; Alzheimer; neuropsychiatric; disturbance; risk factors; vascular
18.  Blockade of Viral Interleukin 6 Expression of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2008;7(3):712-720.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), also known as human herpesvirus 8, is associated with several malignant disorders, including Kaposi's sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) and multicentric Castleman's disease. An early lytic gene of KSHV encodes vIL-6, a viral homolog of the pro-inflammatory cytokine and an autocrine/paracrine growth factor human interleukin 6. In this study, we examined the effects of suppressing vIL-6 expression in PEL cells with antisense peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMO). PPMO are single-stranded DNA analogues that have a modified backbone and enter cells readily. Treatment of PEL cells with a PPMO designed against vIL-6 mRNA led to a marked reduction in the proportion of vIL-6-positive cells detected by immunofluorescence assay. Analysis by Western blot confirmed a specific reduction in the vIL-6 protein level, and demonstrated that the reduction was dependent on the dose of vIL-6 PPMO. PEL cells treated with the vIL-6 PPMO exhibited reduced levels of cellular growth, IL-6 expression and KSHV DNA, as well as an elevated level of p21 protein. Treatment of PEL cells with a combination of two vIL-6 PPMO compounds targeting different sequences in the vIL-6 mRNA led to an inhibitory effect that was greater than that achieved with either PPMO alone. These results demonstrate that PPMO targeting vIL-6 mRNA can potently reduce vIL-6 protein translation, and indicate that further exploration of these compounds in an animal model for potential clinical application is warranted.
PMCID: PMC2377409  PMID: 18347156
KSHV; vIL-6; PPMO; Antisense
19.  A Morpholino Oligomer Targeting Highly Conserved Internal Ribosome Entry Site Sequence Is Able To Inhibit Multiple Species of Picornavirus▿  
Members of the genera Enterovirus and Rhinovirus (family Picornaviridae) cause a wide range of human diseases. An established vaccine is available only for poliovirus, and no effective therapy is available for the treatment of infections caused by any pathogenic picornavirus. Peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMO) are single-stranded DNA-like antisense agents that readily enter cells. A panel of PPMO was tested for their antiviral activities against various picornaviruses. PPMO targeting conserved internal ribosome entry site (IRES) sequence were highly active against human rhinovirus type 14, coxsackievirus type B2, and poliovirus type 1 (PV1), reducing PV1 titers by up to 6 log10 in cell cultures. Comparative sequence analysis led us to design a PPMO (EnteroX) targeting 22 nucleotides of IRES sequence that are perfectly conserved across greater than 99% of all human enteroviruses and rhinoviruses. EnteroX reduced PV1 replication in cell culture to an extent similar to that of other IRES-specific PPMO. Resistant PV1 arose in cell cultures after 12 passages in the presence of EnteroX and were found to have two mutations within the EnteroX target sequence. Nevertheless, cPVR transgenic mice treated once daily by intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection with EnteroX before and/or after i.p. infection with 3 × 108 PFU (three times the 50% lethal dose) of PV1 had an approximately 80% higher rate of survival than the controls. The viral titer in tissues taken at day 5 postinfection showed that animals in the EnteroX-treated group averaged over 3, 4, and 5 log10 less virus in the small intestine, spinal cord, and brain, respectively, than the amount in the control animals. These results suggest that EnteroX may have broad therapeutic potential against entero- and rhinoviruses.
PMCID: PMC2415775  PMID: 18347107
20.  Inhibition of Replication and Transcription Activator and Latency-Associated Nuclear Antigen of Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus by Morpholino Oligomers 
Antiviral research  2006;73(1):12-23.
Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma and primary effusion lymphoma (PEL). The KSHV replication and transcription activator (RTA) and latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) play key roles in activating KSHV lytic replication and maintaining KSHV latency, respectively. Phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMO) are similar to short single-stranded DNA oligomers, but possess a modified backbone that confers highly specific binding and resistance to nucleases. In this study, RTA and LANA mRNA in PEL cells were targeted by antisense peptide-conjugated PMO (P-PMO) in an effort to suppress KSHV replication. Highly efficient P-PMO uptake by PEL cells was observed. Treatment of PEL cells with a RTA P-PMO (RP1) reduced RTA expression in a dose-dependent and sequence-specific manner. There was also a significant decrease in several KSHV early and late gene products, including vIL-6, vIRF-1, and ORF-K8.1A. KSHV viral DNA levels were reduced both in cells and culture supernatants of RP1 P-PMO-treated cells, which indicate that KSHV lytic replication was supressed. Treatment of BCBL-1 cells with P-PMO against LANA resulted in a reduction of LANA expression. Cell viability assays detected no cytotoxicity from P-PMO alone, within the concentration range used for the experiments in this study. These results suggest that RP1 P-PMO can specifically block KSHV replication, and further study is warranted.
PMCID: PMC2390898  PMID: 16842866
KSHV; RTA; LANA; Morpholino; antiviral; Antisense
21.  Inhibition of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus Infections in Cell Cultures with Antisense Morpholino Oligomers▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(21):11669-11680.
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease of cloven-hoofed ungulates that can lead to severe losses in the livestock production and export industries. Although vaccines have been extensively used to control FMD, there is no antiviral therapy available to treat ongoing infections with FMD virus (FMDV). Six peptide-conjugated morpholino oligomers (PPMOs) with sequences complementary to various 21-nucleotide segments of the 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions (UTRs) of the FMDV genome (strain A24 Cruzeiro/Brazil/1955 [A24Cru]) were evaluated in cell cultures. Three of the PPMOs, targeting domain 5 of the internal ribosome entry site (5D PPMO), and the two translation start codon regions (AUG1 and AUG2 PPMOs), showed high levels of anti-FMDV activity. A dose-dependent and sequence-specific reduction in viral titers of greater than 5 log10, with a concomitant reduction of viral protein and RNA expression, was achieved at low micromolar concentrations. Under identical conditions, three other PPMOs targeting the 5′-terminal region of the genome, the cis-acting replication element in the 5′ UTR, and the 3′ “ab” stem-loop showed less dramatic titer reductions of 1.5 log10 to 2 log10. Treatment with 5D PPMO reduced the titers of FMDV strains representing five different serotypes by 2 log10 to 4 log10 compared to those of the controls. A24Cru-infected BHK-21 cells treated repeatedly with 5D or AUG2 PPMO generated resistant viruses for which phenotypic and genotypic properties were defined. Notably, three passages with low concentrations of the AUG1 PPMO extinguished all traces of detectable virus. The results indicate that PPMOs have potential for treating FMDV infections and that they also represent useful tools for studying picornaviral translation and evolution.
PMCID: PMC2168802  PMID: 17728223
22.  Local Simvastatin Effects on Mandibular Bone Growth and Inflammation 
Journal of periodontology  2005;76(11):1861-1870.
Background: Simvastatin has been shown to increase bone growth when applied topically to murine bone; however, it caused considerable soft tissue inflammation at high doses (2.2 mg), making future clinical use problematic. This study evaluated the effect of lower simvastatin doses and cyclooxygenase synthase (COX) inhibitors on tissue inflammation and bone growth in rats, and gene expression in mice.
Methods: Adult female rats were untreated or treated with a single dose of 0.1, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, or 2.2 mg simvastatin in methylcellulose gel in a polylactic acid membrane (SIM) on the lateral aspect of the mandible. The contralateral mandible side was implanted with methylcellulose gel/polylactic acid membrane alone (GEL), and 5 rats in each dose pairing were evaluated histomorphometrically after 3, 7 and 24 days. Subsequent rats were similarly treated with 0.5 mg simvastatin (optimal dose) and daily intraperitoneal injections of COX-2 inhibitor (NS-398; 1 mg/kg × 7days; n = 16), general COX inhibitor (indomethacin; 1 mg/kg × 7days; n = 16), or no inhibitor (n = 10) and evaluated histomorphometrically after 7 or 24 days by analysis of variance (ANOVA). Gene arrays also were used to evaluate osteogenic gene expression from 0.5 mg simvastatin in murine calvaria (n = 12).
Results: There was a 45% increase in bone area with 0.5 mg simvastatin vs. gel control (P<0.001; similar to 2.2 mg dose), and clinical swelling was reduced compared to the high simvastatin dose (P<0.05). The 0.1 mg simvastatin dose failed to stimulate significant bone growth. Both NS-398 and indomethacin reduced inflammation and bone growth. Simvastatin significantly upregulated procollagen, fibronectin and matrix metalloproteinase-13 genes.
Conclusions: Reducing simvastatin dose from 2.2 mg to 0.5 mg reduced inflammation to a more clinically-acceptable level without sacrificing bone-growth potential, but COX-associated inflammation appears to be necessary for in vivo bone growth.
PMCID: PMC1350642  PMID: 16274305
mandible; histology; rats; mice; osteogenic genes
23.  In Vitro Resistance Selection and In Vivo Efficacy of Morpholino Oligomers against West Nile Virus▿  
We characterize in vitro resistance to and demonstrate the in vivo efficacy of two antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs) against West Nile virus (WNV). Both PMOs were conjugated with an Arg-rich peptide. One peptide-conjugated PMO (PPMO) binds to the 5′ terminus of the viral genome (5′-end PPMO); the other targets an essential 3′ RNA element required for genome cyclization (3′ conserved sequence I [3′ CSI] PPMO). The 3′ CSI PPMO displayed a broad spectrum of antiflavivirus activity, suppressing WNV, Japanese encephalitis virus, and St. Louis encephalitis virus, as demonstrated by reductions in viral titers of 3 to 5 logs in cell cultures, likely due to the absolute conservation of the 3′ CSI PPMO-targeted sequences among these viruses. The selection and sequencing of PPMO-resistant WNV showed that the 5′-end-PPMO-resistant viruses contained two to three mismatches within the PPMO-binding site whereas the 3′ CSI PPMO-resistant viruses accumulated mutations outside the PPMO-targeted region. The mutagenesis of a WNV infectious clone demonstrated that the mismatches within the PPMO-binding site were responsible for the 5′-end PPMO resistance. In contrast, a U insertion or a G deletion located within the 3′-terminal stem-loop of the viral genome was the determinant of the 3′ CSI PPMO resistance. In a mouse model, both the 5′-end and 3′ CSI PPMOs (administered at 100 or 200 μg/day) partially protected mice from WNV disease, with minimal to no PPMO-mediated toxicity. A higher treatment dose (300 μg/day) caused toxicity. Unconjugated PMOs (3 mg/day) showed neither efficacy nor toxicity, suggesting the importance of the peptide conjugate for efficacy. The results suggest that a modification of the peptide conjugate composition to reduce its toxicity yet maintain its ability to effectively deliver PMO into cells may improve PMO-mediated therapy.
PMCID: PMC1913242  PMID: 17485503
24.  Antiviral Effects of Antisense Morpholino Oligomers in Murine Coronavirus Infection Models▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(11):5637-5648.
The recent emergence of novel pathogenic human and animal coronaviruses has highlighted the need for antiviral therapies that are effective against a spectrum of these viruses. We have used several strains of murine hepatitis virus (MHV) in cell culture and in vivo in mouse models to investigate the antiviral characteristics of peptide-conjugated antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (P-PMOs). Ten P-PMOs directed against various target sites in the viral genome were tested in cell culture, and one of these (5TERM), which was complementary to the 5′ terminus of the genomic RNA, was effective against six strains of MHV. Further studies were carried out with various arginine-rich peptides conjugated to the 5TERM PMO sequence in order to evaluate efficacy and toxicity and thereby select candidates for in vivo testing. In uninfected mice, prolonged P-PMO treatment did not result in weight loss or detectable histopathologic changes. 5TERM P-PMO treatment reduced viral titers in target organs and protected mice against virus-induced tissue damage. Prophylactic 5TERM P-PMO treatment decreased the amount of weight loss associated with infection under most experimental conditions. Treatment also prolonged survival in two lethal challenge models. In some cases of high-dose viral inoculation followed by delayed treatment, 5TERM P-PMO treatment was not protective and increased morbidity in the treated group, suggesting that P-PMO may cause toxic effects in diseased mice that were not apparent in the uninfected animals. However, the strong antiviral effect observed suggests that with further development, P-PMO may provide an effective therapeutic approach against a broad range of coronavirus infections.
PMCID: PMC1900280  PMID: 17344287
25.  Inhibition of Coxsackievirus B3 in Cell Cultures and in Mice by Peptide-Conjugated Morpholino Oligomers Targeting the Internal Ribosome Entry Site▿  
Journal of Virology  2006;80(23):11510-11519.
Coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3) is a primary cause of viral myocarditis, yet no effective therapeutic against CVB3 is available. Nucleic acid-based interventional strategies against various viruses, including CVB3, have shown promise experimentally, but limited stability and inefficient delivery in vivo remain as obstacles to their potential as therapeutics. We employed phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMO) conjugated to a cell-penetrating arginine-rich peptide, P007 (to form PPMO), to address these issues. Eight CVB3-specific PPMO were evaluated with HeLa cells and HL-1 cardiomyocytes in culture and in a murine infection model. One of the PPMO (PPMO-6), designed to target a sequence in the 3′ portion of the CVB3 internal ribosomal entry site, was found to be especially potent against CVB3. Treatment of cells with PPMO-6 prior to CVB3 infection produced an approximately 3-log10 decrease in viral titer and largely protected cells from a virus-induced cytopathic effect. A similar antiviral effect was observed when PPMO-6 treatment began shortly after the virus infection period. A/J mice receiving intravenous administration of PPMO-6 once prior to and once after CVB3 infection showed an ∼2-log10-decreased viral titer in the myocardium at 7 days postinfection and a significantly decreased level of cardiac tissue damage, compared to the controls. Thus, PPMO-6 provided potent inhibition of CVB3 amplification both in cell cultures and in vivo and appears worthy of further evaluation as a candidate for clinical development.
PMCID: PMC1642606  PMID: 16987987

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