Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (42)

Clipboard (0)

Select a Filter Below

Year of Publication
more »
1.  Effects of Chronic Alcohol and Repeated Deprivations on Dopamine D1 and D2 Receptor Levels in the Extended Amygdala of Inbred Alcohol-Preferring Rats 
Dopaminergic (DA) activity in the extended amygdala (EA) has been known to play a pivotal role in mediating drug and alcohol addiction. Alterations of DA activity within the EA after chronic exposure to alcohol or substances of abuse are considered a major mechanism for the development of alcoholism and addiction. To date, it is not clear how different patterns of chronic alcohol drinking affect DA receptor levels. Therefore, the current studies investigated the effects of chronic ethanol consumption, with or without deprivations, on D1 and D2 receptor densities within the EA.
Inbred alcohol-preferring (iP) rats were divided into 3 groups with the following treatments: (1) water for 14 weeks; (2) continuous alcohol (C-Alc) for 14 weeks [24-hour concurrent access to 15 and 30% (v/v) ethanol]; or (3) repeatedly deprived of alcohol (RD-Alc) (24-hour concurrent access to 15 and 30% ethanol for 6 weeks, followed by 2 cycles of 2 weeks of deprivation of and 2 weeks of reexposure to ethanol access). At the end of 14 weeks, the rats were killed for autoradiographic labeling of D1 and D2 receptors.
Compared with the water control group, both the C-Alc and the RD-Alc groups displayed increases in D1 receptor binding density in the anterior region of the Acb core, whereas the RD-Alc group displayed additional increases in D1 receptor binding density in anterior regions of the lateral and intercalated nuclei of the amygdala. Additionally, both C-Alc and RD-Alc rats displayed increases in D2 receptor binding density in anterior regions of the Acb shell and core, whereas RDAlc rats displayed additional increases in D2 receptor binding density in the dorsal striatum.
The results of this study indicate that 14-week extended alcohol drinking with continuous chronic or repeated deprivations increase binding sites of D1 and D2 receptors in specific regions of the EA with greater sensitivity in the anterior regions. The repeated deprivation has greater effect on altering D1 and D2 receptor binding sites in the Acb, dorsal striatum, and subamygdala regions. The current result indicates that the two drinking paradigms may have common as well as differential mechanisms on alteration of dopamine receptor–binding sites in specific regions of the EA.
PMCID: PMC4287423  PMID: 16433731
Nucleus Accumbens; Receptor Autoradiography; SCH23390; Iodosulpiride; Neuroadaption
2.  Environmental Alterations of Epigenetics Prior to the Birth 
The etiology of many brain diseases remains allusive to date after intensive investigation of genomic background and symptomatology from the day of birth. Emerging evidences indicate that a third factor, epigenetics prior to the birth, can exert profound influence on the development and functioning of the brain and over many neurodevelopmental syndromes. This chapter reviews how aversive environmental exposure to parents might predispose or increase vulnerability of offspring to neurodevelopmental deficit through alteration of epigenetics. These epigenetic altering environmental factors will be discussed in the category of addictive agents, nutrition or diet, prescriptive medicine, environmental pollutant, and stress. Epigenetic alterations induced by these aversive environmental factors cover all aspects of epigenetics including DNA methylation, histone modification, non-coding RNA, and chromatin modification. Next, the mechanisms how these environmental inputs influence epigenetics will be discussed. Finally, how environmentally altered epigenetic marks affect neurodevelopment is exemplified by the alcohol-induced fetal alcohol syndrome. It is hoped that a thorough understanding of the nature of prenatal epigenetic inputs will enable researchers with a clear vision to better unravel neurodevelopmental deficit, late onset neuropsychiatric diseases, or idiosyncratic mental disorders.
PMCID: PMC4158947  PMID: 25131541
DNA methylation; Histone modification; Chromatin; Environmental hazards; Epigenetic medicine; Gene and environmental interaction; Fetal alcohol syndrome
3.  Epigenetic regulation of the neural transcriptome and alcohol interference during development 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:285.
Alcohol intoxicated cells broadly alter their metabolites – among them methyl and acetic acid can alter the DNA and histone epigenetic codes. Together with the promiscuous effect of alcohol on enzyme activities (including DNA methyltransferases) and the downstream effect on microRNA and transposable elements, alcohol is well placed to affect intrinsic transcriptional programs of developing cells. Considering that the developmental consequences of early alcohol exposure so profoundly affect neural systems, it is not unfounded to reason that alcohol exploits transcriptional regulators to challenge canonical gene expression and in effect, intrinsic developmental pathways to achieve widespread damage in the developing nervous system. To fully evaluate the role of epigenetic regulation in alcohol-related developmental disease, it is important to first gather the targets of epigenetic players in neurodevelopmental models. Here, we attempt to review the cellular and genomic windows of opportunity for alcohol to act on intrinsic neurodevelopmental programs. We also discuss some established targets of fetal alcohol exposure and propose pathways for future study. Overall, this review hopes to illustrate the known epigenetic program and its alterations in normal neural stem cell development and further, aims to depict how alcohol, through neuroepigenetics, may lead to neurodevelopmental deficits observed in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
PMCID: PMC4144008  PMID: 25206361
neuroepigenetics; neural stem cells; DNA methylation; histone modification; miRNA; epigenomics; neural developmental pathway; gene–environment interaction
4.  Effect of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Bony Craniofacial Development: A Mouse MicroCT Study 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2013;47(5):405-415.
Craniofacial bone dysmorphology is an important but under-explored potential diagnostic feature of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. This study used longitudinal MicroCT 3D imaging to examine the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure on craniofacial bone growth in a mouse model. C57BL/6J dams were divided into 3 groups: alcohol 4.2% v/v in PMI® liquid diet (ALC), 2 weeks prior to and during pregnancy from embryonic (E) days 7-E16; pair-fed controls (PF), isocalorically matched to the ALC group; chow controls (CHOW), given ad libitum chow and water. The MicroCT scans were performed on pups on postnatal days 7 (P7) and P21. The volumes of the neurocranium (volume encased by the frontal, parietal, and occipital bones) and the viscerocranium (volume encased by the mandible and nasal bone), along with total skull bone volume, head size, and head circumference were evaluated using general linear models and discriminant analyses. The pups in the alcohol-treated group, when compared to the chow-fed controls (ALC vs. CHOW) and the isocaloric-fed controls (ALC vs. PF), showed differences in head size and circumference at P7 and P21, the total skull volume and parietal bone volume at P7, and volume of all the tested bones except nasal at P21. There was a growth trend of ALC < CHOW and ALC < PF. While covarying for gender and head size or circumference, the treatment affected the total skull and mandible at P7 (ALC > CHOW), and the total skull, parietal bone, and occipital bone at P21 (ALC < CHOW, ALC < PF). While covarying for the P7 measures, the treatment affected only the 3 neurocranial bones at P21 (ALC < CHOW, ALC < PF). Discriminant analysis sensitively selected between ALC and CHOW (AUC = 0.967), between ALC and PF (AUC = 0.995), and between PF and CHOW (AUC = 0.805). These results supported our hypothesis that craniofacial bones might be a reliable and sensitive indicator for the diagnosis of prenatal alcohol exposure. Significantly, we found that the neurocranium (upper skull) was more sensitive to alcohol than the viscerocranium (face).
PMCID: PMC3732041  PMID: 23809873
prenatal alcohol; craniofacial bone; facial dysmorphology; diagnosis
5.  Commonality in Down and Fetal Alcohol Syndromes 
Down syndrome (DS) and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) are two leading causes of birth defects with phenotypes ranging from craniofacial abnormalities to cognitive impairment. Despite different origins, we report that in addition to sharing many phenotypes, DS and FAS may have common underlying mechanisms of development.
Literature was surveyed for DS and FAS as well as mouse models. Gene expression and apoptosis were compared in embryonic mouse models of DS and FAS by qPCR, immunohistochemical and immunoflurorescence analyses. The craniometry was examined using MicroCT at postnatal day 21.
A literature survey revealed over 20 comparable craniofacial and structural deficits in both humans with DS and FAS and corresponding mouse models. Similar phenotypes were experimentally found in pre- and postnatal craniofacial and neurological tissues of DS and FAS mice. Dysregulation of two genes, Dyrk1a and Rcan1, key to craniofacial and neurological precursors of DS, was shared in craniofacial precursors of DS and FAS embryos. Increased cleaved caspase 3 expression was also discovered in comparable regions of the craniofacial and brain precursors of DS and FAS embryos. Further mechanistic studies suggested overexpression of trisomic Ttc3 in DS embyros may influence nuclear pAkt localization and cell survival.
This first and initial study indicates that DS and FAS share common dysmorphologies in humans and animal models. This work also suggests common mechanisms at cellular and molecular levels that are disrupted by trisomy or alcohol consumption during pregnancy and lead to craniofacial and neurological phenotypes associated with DS or FAS.
PMCID: PMC4096968  PMID: 23554291
Down syndrome; fetal alcohol syndrome; craniofacial; apoptosis; development; mouse models
6.  Implications of genomic signatures in the differential vulnerability to fetal alcohol exposure in C57BL/6 and DBA/2 mice 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:173.
Maternal alcohol consumption inflicts a multitude of phenotypic consequences that range from undetectable changes to severe dysmorphology. Using tightly controlled murine studies that deliver precise amounts of alcohol at discrete developmental stages, our group and other labs demonstrated in prior studies that the C57BL/6 and DBA/2 inbred mouse strains display differential susceptibility to the teratogenic effects of alcohol. Since the phenotypic diversity extends beyond the amount, dosage and timing of alcohol exposure, it is likely that an individual's genetic background contributes to the phenotypic spectrum. To identify the genomic signatures associated with these observed differences in alcohol-induced dysmorphology, we conducted a microarray-based transcriptome study that also interrogated the genomic signatures between these two lines based on genetic background and alcohol exposure. This approach is called a gene x environment (GxE) analysis; one example of a GxE interaction would be a gene whose expression level increases in C57BL/6, but decreases in DBA/2 embryos, following alcohol exposure. We identified 35 candidate genes exhibiting GxE interactions. To identify cis-acting factors that mediated these interactions, we interrogated the proximal promoters of these 35 candidates and found 241 single nucleotide variants (SNVs) in 16 promoters. Further investigation indicated that 186 SNVs (15 promoters) are predicted to alter transcription factor binding. In addition, 62 SNVs created, removed or altered the placement of a CpG dinucleotide in 13 of the proximal promoters, 53 of which overlapped putative transcription factor binding sites. These 53 SNVs are also our top candidates for future studies aimed at examining the effects of alcohol on epigenetic gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC4052096  PMID: 24966868
fetal alcohol syndrome; gene x environment interactions; genomics; gene expression; next generation sequencing; genetic association; epigenetics
7.  MicroRNA-185 regulates chemotherapeutic sensitivity in gastric cancer by targeting apoptosis repressor with caspase recruitment domain 
Cell Death & Disease  2014;5(4):e1197-.
Gastric cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Resistance to chemotherapy is a significant barrier for effective cancer treatment. Here, we identified miR-185 to be a contributor to chemosensitivity in gastric cancer. We observed low levels of miR-185 in gastric cancer cell lines and clinical tissues, compared with gastric epithelium cell line and noncancerous tissues. Furthermore, enforced expression of miR-185 increased the sensitivity of gastric cancer cells to low-dose chemotherapeutic agents, which alone cannot trigger significant apoptosis. Conversely, knockdown of endogenous miR-185 prevented high-dose chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. In elucidating the molecular mechanism by which miR-185 participated in the regulation of chemosensitivity in gastric cancer, we discovered that apoptosis repressor with caspase recruitment domain (ARC) is a direct target of miR-185. The role of miR-185 was confirmed in gastric tumor xenograft model. The growth of established tumors was suppressed by a combination therapy using enforced miR-185 expression and a low dose of anticancer drugs. Finally, we found that RUNX3 (Runt-related transcription factor) was involved in the activation of miR-185 at the transcriptional level. Taken together, our results reveal that RUNX3, miR-185 and ARC regulate the sensitivity of gastric cancer cells to chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC4001303  PMID: 24763054
miR-185; chemosensitivity; gastric cancer; ARC; RUNX3
8.  Diversity of two forms of DNA methylation in the brain 
DNA methylation 5-methylcytosine (5mC) predicts a compacting chromatin inaccessible to transcription. The discovery of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), which is derived from 5mC, adds a new dimension to the mechanism and role of DNA methylation in epigenetics. Genomic evidence indicates that the 5hmC is located in the alternate regions to 5mC. However, the nature of 5hmC, as compared with classical 5mC remains unclear. Observing the mouse brain through embryonic development to the adult, first, we found that 5hmC is not merely an intermediate metabolite of demethylation, but is long lasting, chromatically distinct, and dynamically changing during neurodevelopment. Second, we found that 5hmC distinctly differs from 5mC in its chromatin affiliation during neural stem cell (NSC) development. Thirdly, we found both 5mC and 5hmC to be uniquely polarized and dynamic through the NSC development. 5mC was found to progressively polarize with MBD1 and MeCP2, and recruits H3K9me3 and H3K27me3; while 5hmC progressively co-localizes with MBD3 and recruits H3K4me2. Critical differential binding of 5mC with MBD1, and 5hmC with MBD3 was validated by Resonance Energy Transfer technique FLIM-FRET. This transition and polarization coincides with neuroprogenitor differentiation. Finally, at the time of synaptogenesis, 5mC gradually accumulates in the heterochromatin while 5hmC accumulates in the euchromatin, which is consistent with the co-localization of 5hmC with PolII, which mediates RNA transcription. Our data indicate that 5mC and 5hmC are diverse in their functional interactions with chromatin. This diversity is likely to contribute to the versatile epigenetic control of transcription mediating brain development and functional maintenance of adult brain.
PMCID: PMC3948076  PMID: 24653733
epigenetics; 5-methylcytosine; 5-hydroxymethylcytosine; chromatin remodeling; histone code; confocal microscopy; FLIM-FRET
9.  Physical Weight Loading Induces Expression of Tryptophan Hydroxylase 2 in the Brain Stem 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85095.
Sustaining brain serotonin is essential in mental health. Physical activities can attenuate mental problems by enhancing serotonin signaling. However, such activity is not always possible in disabled individuals or patients with dementia. Knee loading, a form of physical activity, has been found to mimic effects of voluntary exercise. Focusing on serotonergic signaling, we addressed a question: Does local mechanical loading to the skeleton elevate expression of tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (tph2) that is a rate-limiting enzyme for brain serotonin? A 5 min knee loading was applied to mice using 1 N force at 5 Hz for 1,500 cycles. A 5-min treadmill running was used as an exercise (positive) control, and a 90-min tail suspension was used as a stress (negative) control. Expression of tph2 was determined 30 min – 2 h in three brain regions ––frontal cortex (FC), ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH), and brain stem (BS). We demonstrated for the first time that knee loading and treadmill exercise upregulated the mRNA level of tph2 in the BS, while tail suspension downregulated it. The protein level of tph2 in the BS was also upregulated by knee loading and downregulated by tail suspension. Furthermore, the downregulation of tph2 mRNA by tail suspension can be partially suppressed by pre-application of knee loading. The expression of tph2 in the FC and VMH was not significantly altered with knee loading. In this study we provided evidence that peripheral mechanical loading can activate central tph2 expression, suggesting that physical cues may mediate tph2-cathalyzed serotonergic signaling in the brain.
PMCID: PMC3885668  PMID: 24416346
10.  Introduction to the Special Issue “Pharmacotherapies for the Treatment of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence” and a Summary of Patents Targeting other Neurotransmitter Systems 
This paper introduces the Special Section: Pharmacotherapies for the Treatment of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence and provides a summary of patents targeting neurotransmitter systems not covered in the other four chapters. The World Health Organization notes that alcoholic-type drinking results in 2.5 million deaths per year, and these deaths occur to a disproportionately greater extent among adolescents and young adults. Developing a pharmacological treatment targeting alcohol abuse and dependence is complicated by (a) the heterogeneous nature of the disease(s), (b) alcohol affecting multiple neurotransmitter and neuromodulator systems, and (c) alcohol affecting multiple organ systems which in turn influence the function of the central nervous system. Presently, the USA Federal Drug Administration has approved three pharmacotherapies for alcoholism: disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. This chapter provides a summary of the following systems, which are not covered in the accompanying chapters; alcohol and acetaldehyde metabolism, opioid, glycinergic, GABA-A, neurosteroid, dopaminergic, serotonergic, and endocannabinoid, as well as patents targeting these systems for the treatment of alcoholism. Finally, an overview is presented on the use of pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics in tailoring treatments for certain subpopulations of alcoholics, which is expected to continue in the future.
PMCID: PMC3868366  PMID: 22574678
Addiction; alcohol-use disorders; agonist; allosteric modulator; antagonist; hormone; metabolism; neuromodulator
11.  Epigenetic medicine and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders 
Epigenomics  2013;5(1):73-86.
Epigenetic medicine is still in its infancy. To date, only a handful of diseases have documented epigenetic correlates upstream of gene regulation including cancer, developmental syndromes and late-onset diseases. The finding that epigenetic markers are dynamic and heterogeneous at tissue and cellular levels, combined with recent identification of a new form of functionally distinct DNA methylation has opened a wider window for investigators to pry into the epigenetic world. It is anticipated that many diseases will be elucidated through this epigenetic inquiry. In this review, we discuss the normal course of DNA methylation during development, taking alcohol as a demonstrator of the epigenetic impact of environmental factors in disease etiology, particularly the growth retardation and neurodevelopmental deficits of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
PMCID: PMC3632441  PMID: 23414322
5-hydroxymethylcytosine; developmental syndromes; DNA methylation; fetal alcohol syndrome; late-onset disease; transgenerational epigenetics
12.  Implication of transcriptional repression in compound C-induced apoptosis in cancer cells 
Cell Death & Disease  2013;4(10):e883-.
Compound C, a well-known inhibitor of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), has been reported to induce apoptosis in some types of cells. However, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unclear. Using a DNA microarray analysis, we found that the expression of many genes was downregulated upon treatment with compound C. Importantly, compound C caused transcriptional repression with the induction of p53, a well-known marker of transcriptional stress response, in several cancer cell lines. Compound C did not induce the phosphorylation of p53 but dramatically increased the protein level of p53 similar to some other transcriptional inhibitors, including 5,6-dichloro-1-β-D-ribobenzimidazole (DRB). Consistent with previous reports, we found that compound C initiated apoptotic death of cancer cells in an AMPK-independent manner. Similar to DRB and actinomycin D (ActD), two classic transcription inhibitors, compound C not only resulted in the loss of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl protein but also induced the phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor-alpha (eIF2α) on Ser51. Hence, the phosphorylation of eIF2α might be a novel marker of transcriptional inhibition. It is noteworthy that compound C-mediated apoptosis of cancer cells is correlated with decreased expression of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl and the phosphorylation of eIF2α on Ser51. Remarkably, compound C exhibits potent anticancer activities in vivo. Taken together, our data suggest that compound C may be an attractive candidate for anticancer drug development.
PMCID: PMC3920957  PMID: 24157877
compound C; transcriptional inhibition; apoptosis; cancer
13.  Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Associated Neural Defects: Complex Mechanisms and Potential Therapeutic Targets 
Brain Sciences  2013;3(2):964-991.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), caused by prenatal alcohol exposure, can result in craniofacial dysmorphism, cognitive impairment, sensory and motor disabilities among other defects. FASD incidences are as high as 2% to 5 % children born in the US, and prevalence is higher in low socioeconomic populations. Despite various mechanisms being proposed to explain the etiology of FASD, the molecular targets of ethanol toxicity during development are unknown. Proposed mechanisms include cell death, cell signaling defects and gene expression changes. More recently, the involvement of several other molecular pathways was explored, including non-coding RNA, epigenetic changes and specific vitamin deficiencies. These various pathways may interact, producing a wide spectrum of consequences. Detailed understanding of these various pathways and their interactions will facilitate the therapeutic target identification, leading to new clinical intervention, which may reduce the incidence and severity of these highly prevalent preventable birth defects. This review discusses manifestations of alcohol exposure on the developing central nervous system, including the neural crest cells and sensory neural placodes, focusing on molecular neurodevelopmental pathways as possible therapeutic targets for prevention or protection.
PMCID: PMC4061856  PMID: 24961433
fetal alcohol syndrome; fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; ethanol; central nervous system; cranial neural crest cells; vitamin deficiency
14.  DNA methylation program during development 
Frontiers in biology  2012;7(6):485-494.
DNA methylation is a key epigenetic mark when occurring in the promoter and enhancer regions regulates the accessibility of the binding protein and gene transcription. DNA methylation is inheritable and can be de novo-synthesized, erased and reinstated, making it arguably one of the most dynamic upstream regulators for gene expression and the most influential pacer for development. Recent progress has demonstrated that two forms of cytosine methylation and two pathways for demethylation constitute ample complexity for an instructional program for orchestrated gene expression and development. The forum of the current discussion and review are whether there is such a program, if so what the DNA methylation program entails, and what environment can change the DNA methylation program. The translational implication of the DNA methylation program is also proposed.
PMCID: PMC3654156  PMID: 23687512
epigenetics; neural development; 5-hydroxymethylcytosine; epigenome; environmental factors; DNA demethylation
15.  DNA Methylation Program in Developing Hippocampus and Its Alteration by Alcohol 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60503.
During hippocampal development, the Cornus Ammonis (CA) and the dentate gyrus (DG) undergo waves of neurogenesis and neuronal migration and maturation independently. This stage is widely known to be vulnerable to environmental stresses, but its underlying mechanism is unclear. Alcohol exposure has been shown to alter the expression of genes that regulate the fate, survival, migration and differentiation of pyramidal and granule cells. Undermining this process might compromise hippocampal development underlying the learning and memory deficits known in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). We have previously demonstrated that DNA methylation was programmed along with neural tube development. Here, we demonstrated that DNA methylation program (DMP) proceeded along with hippocampal neuronal differentiation and maturation, and how this DMP was affected by fetal alcohol exposure. C57BL/6 mice were treated with 4% v/v ethanol through a liquid diet along with pair-fed and chow-fed controls from gestation day (E) 7 to E16. We found that a characteristic DMP, including 5-methylcytidine (5mC), 5-hydroxylmethylcytidine (5hmC) and their binding proteins, led the hippocampal neuronal differentiation and maturation spatiotemporally as indicated by their phenotypic marks in the CA and DG pre- and post-natally. Alcohol hindered the acquisition and progression of methylation marks, and altered the chromatin translocation of these marks in the nucleus, which was correlated with developmental retardation.
PMCID: PMC3609790  PMID: 23544149
16.  Ethanol Exposure Alters Protein Expression in a Mouse Model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 
Alcohol exposure during development can result in variable growth retardation and facial dysmorphology known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Although the mechanisms underlying the disorder are not fully understood, recent progress has been made that alcohol induces aberrant changes in gene expression and in the epigenome of embryos. To inform the gene and epigenetic changes in alcohol-induced teratology, we used whole-embryo culture to identify the alcohol-signature protein profile of neurulating C6 mice. Alcohol-treated and control cultures were homogenized, isoelectrically focused, and loaded for 2D gel electrophoresis. Stained gels were cross matched with analytical software. We identified 40 differentially expressed protein spots (P < 0.01), and 9 spots were selected for LC/MS-MS identification. Misregulated proteins include serotransferrin, triosephosphate isomerase and ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme E2 N. Misregulation of serotransferrin and triosephosphate isomerase was confirmed with immunologic analysis. Alteration of proteins with roles in cellular function, cell cycle, and the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway was induced by alcohol. Several misregulated proteins interact with effectors of the NF-κB and Myc transcription factor cascades. Using a whole-embryo culture, we have identified misregulated proteins known to be involved in nervous system development and function.
PMCID: PMC3382221  PMID: 22745907
17.  Expression and Functional Analysis of Dkk1 during Early Gonadal Development 
Sexual Development  2011;5(3):124-130.
WNT signalling plays a central role in mammalian sex determination by promoting ovarian development and repressing aspects of testis development in the early gonad. Dickkopf homolog 1 (DKK1) is a WNT signalling antagonist that plays critical roles in multiple developmental systems by modulating WNT activity. Here, we examined the role of DKK1 in mouse sex determination and early gonadal development. Dkk1 mRNA was upregulated sex-specifically during testis differentiation, suggesting that DKK1 could repress WNT signalling in the developing testis. However, we observed overtly normal testis development in Dkk1-null XY gonads, and found no significant upregulation of Axin2 or Sp5 that would indicate increased canonical WNT signalling. Nor did we find significant differences in expression of key markers of testis and ovarian development. We propose that DKK1 may play a protective role that is not unmasked by loss-of-function in the absence of other stressors.
PMCID: PMC3121542  PMID: 21654186
Dkk1; Rspo1; Testis development; Wnt4
18.  Alcohol alters DNA Methylation Patterns and Inhibits Neural Stem Cell Differentiation 
Potential epigenetic mechanisms underlying fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) include alcohol-induced alterations of methyl metabolism, resulting in aberrant patterns of DNA methylation and gene expression during development. Having previously demonstrated an essential role for epigenetics in neural stem cell (NSC) development and that inhibiting DNA methylation prevents NSC differentiation, here we investigated the effect of alcohol exposure on genome-wide DNA methylation patterns and NSC differentiation.
NSCs in culture were treated with or without a 6-hr 88mM (“binge-like”) alcohol exposure and examined at 48 hrs, for migration, growth, and genome-wide DNA methylation. The DNA methylation was examined using DNA-methylation immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) followed by microarray analysis. Further validation was performed using Independent Sequenom analysis.
NSC differentiated in 24 to 48 hrs with migration, neuronal expression, and morphological transformation. Alcohol exposure retarded the migration, neuronal formation, and growth processes of NSC, similar to treatment with the methylation inhibitor 5-aza-cytidine. When NSC departed from the quiescent state, a genome-wide diversification of DNA methylation was observed—that is, many moderately methylated genes altered methylation levels and became hyper- and hypomethylated. Alcohol prevented many genes from such diversification, including genes related to neural development, neuronal receptors, and olfaction, while retarding differentiation. Validation of specific genes by Sequenom analysis demonstrated that alcohol exposure prevented methylation of specific genes associated with neural development [cutl2 (cut-like 2), Igf1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), Efemp1 (epidermal growth factor-containing fibulin-like extracellular matrix protein 1), and Sox 7 (SRY-box containing gene 7)]; eye development, Lim 2 (lens intrinsic membrane protein 2); the epigenetic mark Smarca2 (SWI/SNF related, matrix associated, actin dependent regulator of chromatin, subfamily a, member 2); and developmental disorder [Dgcr2 (DiGeorge syndrome critical region gene 2)]. Specific sites altered by DNA methylation also correlated with transcription factor binding sites known to be critical for regulating neural development.
The data indicate that alcohol prevents normal DNA methylation programming of key neural stem cell genes and retards NSC differentiation. Thus, the role of DNA methylation in FAS warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3076804  PMID: 21223309
Epigenetics; Epigenomics; MeDIP-Chip; Neural development; Fetal alcohol syndrome
19.  Alcohol Induced Facial Dysmorphology in C57BL/6 Mouse Models of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2010;44(7-8):659-671.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which includes a range of developmental deficits. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe form of FASD and can be diagnosed with pathognomonic facial features (smooth philtrum, short palpebral fissure, and thin upper vermilion). However, many children with developmental damage due to prenatal alcohol exposure exhibit no, or only a subset, of the above features, making diagnosis difficult. This study explored novel analyses to quantify the effect of a known dose of alcohol on specific facial measurements in sub-strains C57BL/B6J (B6J) and C57BL/6NHsd (B6N) mice. Mouse dams were provided alcohol (Alc) consisting of 4.8% (v/v) alcohol in a liquid diet for 16 days pre-pregnancy, chow and water diet during mating, and the alcohol liquid diet reinstated on gestational days 7(E7) to E17. Treatment controls included a pair-fed (PF) group given matched volumes of an alcohol-free liquid diet made isocalorically, and a group given ad lib access to lab chow and water (Chow). Maternal diet intake (Alc and PF), blood alcohol concentrations (BACs), embryo weights, and 15 morphometric facial measurements for E17 embryos were analyzed. B6N dams drank more alcohol during pregnancy and generated higher BAC than B6J dams. Both the Alc and PF treatments induced significant reductions in embryo weights relative to Chow in both sub-strains. Alcohol treatments produced significant changes, relative to controls, in four of the 15 facial measures for the B6N sub-strain, but only in two measures for the B6J sub-strain. Discriminant analysis demonstrated successful classification of the B6N alcohol-exposed versus non-alcohol exposed embryos with high sensitivity (86%), and specificity (80%), and overall classification (total correct 83%), while, B6J mice yielded sensitivity of 80%, specificity 78%, and overall correct classification in 79%. In addition, B6N mice showed significantly more effects of pair feeding on these facial measures than did B6J, suggesting that the B6N sub-strain may be more vulnerable to nutritional stress during pregnancy. Overall, these data indicate that B6N and B6J mice were both vulnerable to alcohol but show differences in the severity and location of alcohol-induced dysmorphic facial features and may parallel findings from human studies comparing different ethnic groups. Furthermore these findings suggest that discriminant analysis may be useful in predicting alcohol exposure in either mouse sub-strain.
PMCID: PMC2955190  PMID: 20570474
facial development; genetic variance; morphometrics; anthropometry; diagnosis; craniofacial; translational study
20.  Alteration of gene expression by alcohol exposure at early neurulation 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:124.
We have previously demonstrated that alcohol exposure at early neurulation induces growth retardation, neural tube abnormalities, and alteration of DNA methylation. To explore the global gene expression changes which may underline these developmental defects, microarray analyses were performed in a whole embryo mouse culture model that allows control over alcohol and embryonic variables.
Alcohol caused teratogenesis in brain, heart, forelimb, and optic vesicle; a subset of the embryos also showed cranial neural tube defects. In microarray analysis (accession number GSM9545), adopting hypothesis-driven Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) informatics and intersection analysis of two independent experiments, we found that there was a collective reduction in expression of neural specification genes (neurogenin, Sox5, Bhlhe22), neural growth factor genes [Igf1, Efemp1, Klf10 (Tieg), and Edil3], and alteration of genes involved in cell growth, apoptosis, histone variants, eye and heart development. There was also a reduction of retinol binding protein 1 (Rbp1), and de novo expression of aldehyde dehydrogenase 1B1 (Aldh1B1). Remarkably, four key hematopoiesis genes (glycophorin A, adducin 2, beta-2 microglobulin, and ceruloplasmin) were absent after alcohol treatment, and histone variant genes were reduced. The down-regulation of the neurospecification and the neurotrophic genes were further confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR. Furthermore, the gene expression profile demonstrated distinct subgroups which corresponded with two distinct alcohol-related neural tube phenotypes: an open (ALC-NTO) and a closed neural tube (ALC-NTC). Further, the epidermal growth factor signaling pathway and histone variants were specifically altered in ALC-NTO, and a greater number of neurotrophic/growth factor genes were down-regulated in the ALC-NTO than in the ALC-NTC embryos.
This study revealed a set of genes vulnerable to alcohol exposure and genes that were associated with neural tube defects during early neurulation.
PMCID: PMC3056799  PMID: 21338521
21.  Proceedings of the 2008 annual meeting of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Study Group 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2009;43(4):333-339.
The annual meeting of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Study Group (FASDSG) was held on June 28, 2008 in Washington DC, as a satellite to the Research Society on Alcoholism meeting. The FASDSG membership includes clinical, basic and social scientists, who meet to discuss recent advances and issues in FASD research. The main theme of the meeting was “Factors that Influence Brain and Behavioral Development: Implications for Prevention and Intervention.” Two keynote speakers, Dr. Stephen Suomi and Dr. Carl Keen addressed how early environment and nutrition may influence outcome following prenatal alcohol exposure. The final keynote speaker, Kathy Mitchell, addressed issues regarding the relationship between scientists and the families with children with FASD. Members of the FASDSG provided updates on new findings through brief (FASt) data reports, and national agency representative provided updates of activities and funding priorities. Presentations were also made by recipients of the Student Research Merit award and Rosett award.
PMCID: PMC2709793  PMID: 19560631
fetal alcohol syndrome; fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; teratology; ethanol; prenatal
22.  Cellular Epigenetic Modifications of Neural Stem Cell Differentiation 
Cell transplantation  2009;18(10):1197-1211.
Emerging information indicates that epigenetic modification (i.e. histone code and DNA methylation) may be integral to the maintenance and differentiation of neural stem cells (NSC), but their actual involvements have not yet been illustrated. In this study, we demonstrated the dynamic nature of epigenetic marks during the differentiation of quiescent adult rat NSCs in neurospheres. A subpopulation of OCT4+ NSCs in the neurosphere contained Histone marks, trimethylated Histone 3 on lysine 27 (3me-H3K27), 2me-H3K4, and acetylated H4 (Ac-H4). A major decrease of these marks was found prior to or during differentiation, and was further diminished or reprogrammed in diverse subpopulations of migrated NSCs expressing nestin or β-III-tubulin. The DNA methylation mark 5-methyl-cytosine (5-MeC) and the DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) 1 and 3a expression also correlated to the state of differentiation; they were highly present in undifferentiated NSCs but down-regulated in migrated populations. In contrast, the DNA methyl-CpG-binding protein (MBD1) was low in undifferentiated NSCs in neurospheres, but highly appeared in differentiating NSCs. Furthermore, we found a outward translocation of DNA-methylation marks 5-MeC, DNMT1, DNMT3a, and MBD1 in NSCs as differentiation began and proceeded; the 5-MeC from homogeneous nucleus to peripheral-nucleus, and DMNT1a and 3a from nuclear to cytoplasm, indicating chromatin remodeling. Treatment with DNA a methylation inhibitor, 5-aza-cytidine, altered DNA methylation and disrupted migration as indicated by a reduction of migrated neurons and differentiation. These results indicate that chromatin is dynamically remodeled when NSCs transform from the quiescent state to active growth, and that DNA methylation modification is essential for neural stem cell differentiation.
PMCID: PMC2812652  PMID: 19660178
Neural progenitor cells; DNA methylation; Histone code; DNMT; MBD1; 5-azacytidine
23.  Alcohol exposure alters DNA methylation profiles in mouse embryos at early neurulation 
Alcohol exposure during development can cause variable neurofacial deficit and growth retardation known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). The mechanism underlying FASD is not fully understood. However, alcohol, which is known to affect methyl donor metabolism, may induce aberrant epigenetic changes contributing to FASD. Using a tightly controlled whole-embryo culture, we investigated the effect of alcohol exposure (88 mM) at early embryonic neurulation on genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression in the C57BL/6 mouse. The DNA methylation landscape around promoter CpG islands at early mouse development was analyzed using MeDIP (methylated DNA immunoprecipitation) coupled with microarray (MeDIP-chip). At early neurulation, genes associated with high CpG promoters (HCP) had a lower ratio of methylation but a greater ratio of expression. Alcohol-induced alterations in DNA methylation were observed, particularly in genes on chromosomes 7, 10 and X; remarkably, a >10 fold increase in the number of genes with increased methylation on chromosomes 10 and X was observed in alcohol-exposed embryos with a neural tube defect phenotype compared to embryos without a neural tube defect. Significant changes in methylation were seen in imprinted genes, genes known to play roles in cell cycle, growth, apoptosis, cancer, and in a large number of genes associated with olfaction. Altered methylation was associated with significant (p < 0.01) changes in expression for 84 genes. Sequenom EpiTYPER DNA methylation analysis was used for validation of the MeDIP-chip data. Increased methylation of genes known to play a role in metabolism (Cyp4f13) and decreased methylation of genes associated with development (Nlgn3, Elavl2, Sox21 and Sim1), imprinting (Igf2r) and chromatin (Hist1h3d) was confirmed. In a mouse model for FASD, we show for the first time that alcohol exposure during early neurulation can induce aberrant changes in DNA methylation patterns with associated changes in gene expression, which together may contribute to the observed abnormal fetal development.
PMCID: PMC2805036  PMID: 20009564
fetal alcohol syndrome; epigenetics; MeDIP-chip; sequenom mass array; microarray; neural tube defect
24.  Validation of the simplified Chinese version of EORTC QLQ-C30 from the measurements of five types of inpatients with cancer 
Annals of Oncology  2008;19(12):2053-2060.
Background: European Organization for Research and Treatment quality of life (QOL) questionnaire (QLQ-C30) has been used frequently and many language versions have been developed, including the simplified Chinese version. It is important to study psychometric properties of the simplified Chinese version from the clinical standpoint.
Patients and methods: The simplified Chinese version of the QLQ-C30 was used in a longitudinal study of 600 patients with five types of cancer: lung, breast, head and neck, colorectal, and stomach. The psychometric properties of the scale were evaluated by indicators of validity and reliability coefficients such as Cronbach's α and Pearson's correlation coefficient r, standardized response mean (SRM), correlational analysis, t-tests, and structural equation models.
Results: Correlation and structural equation model analyses confirmed good construct validity with root mean square error of approximation 0.054, standardized root mean square residual 0.037, non-normed fit index 0.972, and comparative fit index 0.980. The α coefficients for all domains are >0.7 except for cognitive functioning (0.49). The test–retest reliability coefficients for most domains are >0.80 except for appetite loss (0.77) and diarrhea (0.75). The QOL score changes after treatments were of statistical significance with higher or moderate SRM in most domains.
Conclusion: The simplified Chinese version of QLQ-C30 has good validity, reliability, and responsiveness and can be used to measure QOL for Chinese cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2733108  PMID: 18653703
quality of life; QLICP-GM; structural equation model; standardized response mean; psychometric properties
25.  Peptidergic Agonists of Activity-Dependent Neurotrophic Factor Protect Against Prenatal Alcohol-Induced Neural Tube Defects and Serotonin Neuron Loss 
Prenatal alcohol exposure via maternal liquid diet consumption by C57BL/6 (B6) mice causes conspicuous midline neural tube deficit (dysraphia) and disruption of genesis and development of serotonin (5-HT) neurons in the raphe nuclei, together with brain growth retardation. The current study tested the hypothesis that concurrent treatment with either an activity-dependent neurotrophic factor (ADNF) agonist peptide [SALLRSIPA, (SAL)] or an activity-dependent neurotrophic protein (ADNP) agonist peptide [NAPVSIPQ, (NAP)] would protect against these alcohol-induced deficits in brain development.
Timed-pregnant B6 dams consumed alcohol from embryonic day 7 (E7, before the onset of neurulation) until E15. Fetuses were obtained on E15 and brain sections processed for 5-HT immunocytochemistry, for evaluation of morphologic development of the brainstem raphe and its 5-HT neurons. Additional groups were treated either with SAL or NAP daily from E7 to E15 to assess the potential protective effects of these peptides. Measures of incomplete occlusion of the ventral canal and the frequency and extent of the openings in the rhombencephalon were obtained to assess fetal dysraphia. Counts of 5-HT-immunostained neurons were also obtained in the rostral and caudal raphe.
Prenatal alcohol exposure resulted in abnormal openings along the midline and delayed closure of ventral canal in the brainstem. This dysraphia was associated with reductions in the number of 5-HT neurons both in the rostral raphe nuclei (that gives rise to ascending 5-HT projections) and in the caudal raphe (that gives rise to the descending 5-HT projections). Concurrent treatment of the alcohol-consuming dams with SAL prevented dysraphia and protected against the alcohol-induced reductions in 5-HT neurons in both the rostral and caudal raphe. NAP was less effective in protecting against dysraphia and did not protect against 5-HT loss in the rostral raphe, but did protect against loss in the caudal raphe.
These findings further support the potential usefulness of these peptides for therapeutic interventions in pregnancies at risk for alcohol-induced developmental deficits. Notably, the ascending 5-HT projections of the rostral raphe have profound effects in regulating forebrain development and function, and the descending 5-HT projections of the caudal raphe are critical for regulating respiration. Protection of the rostral 5-HT-system may help prevent structural and functional deficits linked to abnormal forebrain development, and protection of the caudal systems may also reduce the increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.
PMCID: PMC2758042  PMID: 18565153
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; Dysraphia; Neurotrophic Factor; Neural Tube Defect; Activity-Dependent Neuroprotective Peptide

Results 1-25 (42)