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1.  Forced arm use is superior to voluntary training for motor recovery and brain plasticity after cortical ischemia in rats 
Background and purpose
Both the immobilization of the unaffected arm combined with physical therapy (forced arm use, FAU) and voluntary exercise (VE) as model for enriched environment are promising approaches to enhance recovery after stroke. The genomic mechanisms involved in long-term plasticity changes after different means of rehabilitative training post-stroke are largely unexplored. The present investigation explored the effects of these physical therapies on behavioral recovery and molecular markers of regeneration after experimental ischemia.
Methods
42 Wistar rats were randomly treated with either forced arm use (FAU, 1-sleeve plaster cast onto unaffected limb at 8/10 days), voluntary exercise (VE, connection of a freely accessible running wheel to cage), or controls with no access to a running wheel for 10 days starting at 48 hours after photothrombotic stroke of the sensorimotor cortex. Functional outcome was measured using sensorimotor test before ischemia, after ischemia, after the training period of 10 days, at 3 and 4 weeks after ischemia. Global gene expression changes were assessed from the ipsi- and contralateral cortex and the hippocampus.
Results
FAU-treated animals demonstrated significantly improved functional recovery compared to the VE-treated group. Both were superior to cage control. A large number of genes are altered by both training paradigms in the ipsi- and contralateral cortex and the hippocampus. Overall, the extent of changes observed correlated well with the functional recovery obtained. One category of genes overrepresented in the gene set is linked to neuronal plasticity processes, containing marker genes such as the NMDA 2a receptor, PKC ζ, NTRK2, or MAP 1b.
Conclusions
We show that physical training after photothrombotic stroke significantly and permanently improves functional recovery after stroke, and that forced arm training is clearly superior to voluntary running training. The behavioral outcomes seen correlate with patterns and extent of gene expression changes in all brain areas examined. We propose that physical training induces a fundamental change in plasticity-relevant gene expression in several brain regions that enables recovery processes. These results contribute to the debate on optimal rehabilitation strategies, and provide a valuable source of molecular entry points for future pharmacological enhancement of recovery.
doi:10.1186/2040-7378-6-3
PMCID: PMC3937028  PMID: 24528872
2.  CNVs-microRNAs Interactions Demonstrate Unique Characteristics in the Human Genome. An Interspecies in silico Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81204.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) and copy number variations (CNVs) represent two classes of newly discovered genomic elements that were shown to contribute to genome plasticity and evolution. Recent studies demonstrated that miRNAs and CNVs must have co-evolved and interacted in an attempt to maintain the balance of the dosage sensitive genes and at the same time increase the diversity of dosage non-sensitive genes, contributing to species evolution. It has been previously demonstrated that both the number of miRNAs that target genes found in CNV regions as well as the number of miRNA binding sites are significantly higher than those of genes found in non-CNV regions. These findings raise the possibility that miRNAs may have been created under evolutionary pressure, as a mechanism for increasing the tolerance to genome plasticity. In the current study, we aimed in exploring the differences of miRNAs-CNV functional interactions between human and seven others species. By performing in silico whole genome analysis in eight different species (human, chimpanzee, macaque, mouse, rat, chicken, dog and cow), we demonstrate that miRNAs targeting genes located within CNV regions in humans have special functional characteristics that provide an insight into the differences between humans and other species.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081204
PMCID: PMC3846834  PMID: 24312536
3.  Simultaneous Measurement of Kidney Function by Dynamic Contrast Enhanced MRI and FITC-Sinistrin Clearance in Rats at 3 Tesla: Initial Results 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79992.
Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is an essential parameter of kidney function which can be measured by dynamic contrast enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI-GFR) and transcutaneous approaches based on fluorescent tracer molecules (optical-GFR). In an initial study comparing both techniques in separate measurements on the same animal, the correlation of the obtained GFR was poor. The goal of this study was to investigate if a simultaneous measurement was feasible and if thereby, the discrepancies in MRI-GFR and optical-GFR could be reduced. For the experiments healthy and unilateral nephrectomised (UNX) Sprague Dawley (SD) rats were used. The miniaturized fluorescent sensor was fixed on the depilated back of an anesthetized rat. A bolus of 5 mg/100 g b.w. of FITC-sinistrin was intravenously injected. For dynamic contrast enhanced perfusion imaging (DCE-MRI) a 3D time-resolved angiography with stochastic trajectories (TWIST) sequence was used. By means of a one compartment model the excretion half-life (t1/2) of FITC-sinistrin was calculated and converted into GFR. GFR from DCE-MRI was calculated by fitting pixel-wise a two compartment renal filtration model. Mean cortical GFR and GFR by FITC-sinistrin were compared by Bland-Altman plots and pair-wise t-test. Results show that a simultaneous GFR measurement using both techniques is feasible. Mean optical-GFR was 4.34±2.22 ml/min (healthy SD rats) and 2.34±0.90 ml/min (UNX rats) whereas MRI-GFR was 2.10±0.64 ml/min (SD rats) and 1.17±0.38 ml/min (UNX rats). Differences between healthy and UNX rats were significant (p<0.05) and almost equal percentage difference (46.1% and 44.3%) in mean GFR were assessed with both techniques. Overall mean optical-GFR values were approximately twice as high compared to MRI-GFR values. However, compared to a previous study, our results showed a higher agreement. In conclusion, the possibility to use the transcutaneous method in MRI may have a huge impact in improving and validating MRI methods for GFR assessment in animal models.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079992
PMCID: PMC3832374  PMID: 24260332
4.  In-Silico Algorithms for the Screening of Possible microRNA Binding Sites and Their Interactions 
Current Genomics  2013;14(2):127-136.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) comprise a recently discovered class of small, non-coding RNA molecules of 21-25 nucleotides in length that regulate the gene expression by base-pairing with the transcripts of their targets i.e. protein-coding genes, leading to down-regulation or repression of the target genes. However, target gene activation has also been described. miRNAs are involved in diverse regulatory pathways, including control of developmental timing, apoptosis, cell proliferation, cell differentiation, modulation of immune response to macrophages, and organ development and are associated with many diseases, such as cancer. Computational prediction of miRNA targets is much more challenging in animals than in plants, because animal miRNAs often perform imperfect base-pairing with their target sites, unlike plant miRNAs which almost always bind their targets with near perfect complementarity. In the past years, a large number of target prediction programs and databases on experimentally validated information have been developed for animal miRNAs to fulfil the need of experimental scientists conducting miRNA research. In this review we first succinctly describe the prediction criteria (rules or principles) adapted by prediction algorithms to generate possible miRNA binding site interactions and introduce most relevant algorithms, and databases. We then summarize their applications with the help of some previously published studies. We further provide experimentally validated functional binding sites outside 3’-UTR region of target mRNAs and the resources which offer such predictions. Finally, the issue of experimental validation of miRNA binding sites will be briefly discussed.
doi:10.2174/1389202911314020005
PMCID: PMC3637677  PMID: 24082822
microRNAs; miRWalk; Target prediction; Promoter; CDS; UTR; Prediction algorithm; Database.
5.  Neuronal Expression of Glucosylceramide Synthase in Central Nervous System Regulates Body Weight and Energy Homeostasis 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(3):e1001506.
Body weight and energy homeostasis are regulated by leptin receptor interactions with gangliosides, a class of plasma membrane lipids, in forebrain neurons of mice.
Hypothalamic neurons are main regulators of energy homeostasis. Neuronal function essentially depends on plasma membrane-located gangliosides. The present work demonstrates that hypothalamic integration of metabolic signals requires neuronal expression of glucosylceramide synthase (GCS; UDP-glucose:ceramide glucosyltransferase). As a major mechanism of central nervous system (CNS) metabolic control, we demonstrate that GCS-derived gangliosides interacting with leptin receptors (ObR) in the neuronal membrane modulate leptin-stimulated formation of signaling metabolites in hypothalamic neurons. Furthermore, ganglioside-depleted hypothalamic neurons fail to adapt their activity (c-Fos) in response to alterations in peripheral energy signals. Consequently, mice with inducible forebrain neuron-specific deletion of the UDP-glucose:ceramide glucosyltransferase gene (Ugcg) display obesity, hypothermia, and lower sympathetic activity. Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV)-mediated Ugcg delivery to the arcuate nucleus (Arc) significantly ameliorated obesity, specifying gangliosides as seminal components for hypothalamic regulation of body energy homeostasis.
Author Summary
Obesity is a growing health threat that affects nearly half a billion people worldwide, and its incidence rates in lower income countries are rising dramatically. As obesity is a major risk factor for type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease, significant effort has been put into the exploration of causes, prevention, and potential treatment. Recent research has demonstrated that a region of the brain called the hypothalamus is a major integrator of metabolic and nutrient signals, adapting food intake and energy expenditure to current metabolic needs. Leptin or insulin receptors located in the plasma cell membrane of neurons sense energy signals from the body. They transmit this information inside the cell, which then regulates neuronal function. In this study, we show that leptin receptors interact with gangliosides, a class of plasma membrane lipids. This interaction is a prerequisite for proper receptor activation. Consequently, ganglioside loss in hypothalamic neurons inhibits leptin receptor signal transduction in response to energy metabolites. Furthermore, mice lacking gangliosides in distinct forebrain areas, amongst them the hypothalamus, develop progressive obesity and hypothermia. Our results suggest a previously unknown regulatory mechanism of plasma membrane lipids for hypothalamic control of body weight.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001506
PMCID: PMC3595213  PMID: 23554574
6.  Islet1 is a direct transcriptional target of the homeodomain transcription factor Shox2 and rescues the Shox2-mediated bradycardia 
Basic Research in Cardiology  2013;108(2):339.
The heart’s rhythm is initiated and regulated by a group of specialized cells in the sinoatrial node (SAN), the primary pacemaker of the heart. Abnormalities in the development of the SAN can result in irregular heart rates (arrhythmias). Although several of the critical genes important for SAN formation have been identified, our understanding of the transcriptional network controlling SAN development remains at a relatively early stage. The homeodomain transcription factor Shox2 is involved in the specification and patterning of the SAN. While the Shox2 knockout in mice results in embryonic lethality due to severe cardiac defects including improper SAN development, Shox2 knockdown in zebrafish causes a reduced heart rate (bradycardia). In order to gain deeper insight into molecular pathways involving Shox2, we compared gene expression levels in right atria of wildtype and Shox2−/− hearts using microarray experiments and identified the LIM homeodomain transcription factor Islet1 (Isl1) as one of its putative target genes. The downregulation of Isl1 expression in Shox2−/− hearts was confirmed and the affected region narrowed down to the SAN by whole-mount in situ hybridization. Using luciferase reporter assays and EMSA studies, we identified two specific SHOX2 binding sites within intron 2 of the ISL1 locus. We also provide functional evidence for Isl1 as a transcriptional target of Shox2 by rescuing the Shox2-mediated bradycardia phenotype with Isl1 using zebrafish as a model system. Our findings demonstrate a novel epistatic relationship between Shox2 and Isl1 in the heart with important developmental consequences for SAN formation and heart beat.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00395-013-0339-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00395-013-0339-z
PMCID: PMC3597335  PMID: 23455426
Arrhythmia; Gene regulation; Islet1; Shox2; Sinoatrial node; Transcription factors
7.  TSC22D4 is a molecular output of hepatic wasting metabolism 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;5(2):294-308.
In mammals, proper storage and distribution of lipids in and between tissues is essential for the maintenance of energy homeostasis. Here, we show that tumour growth triggers hepatic metabolic dysfunction as part of the cancer cachectic phenotype, particularly by reduced hepatic very-low-density-lipoprotein (VLDL) secretion and hypobetalipoproteinemia. As a molecular cachexia output pathway, hepatic levels of the transcription factor transforming growth factor beta 1-stimulated clone (TSC) 22 D4 were increased in cancer cachexia. Mimicking high cachectic levels of TSC22D4 in healthy livers led to the inhibition of hepatic VLDL release and lipogenic genes, and diminished systemic VLDL levels under both normal and high fat dietary conditions. Liver-specific ablation of TSC22D4 triggered hypertriglyceridemia through the induction of hepatic VLDL secretion. Furthermore, hepatic TSC22D4 expression levels were correlated with the degree of body weight loss and VLDL hypo-secretion in cancer cachexia, and TSC22D4 deficiency rescued tumour cell-induced metabolic dysfunction in hepatocytes. Therefore, hepatic TSC22D4 activity may represent a molecular rationale for peripheral energy deprivation in subjects with metabolic wasting diseases, including cancer cachexia.
doi:10.1002/emmm.201201869
PMCID: PMC3569644  PMID: 23307490
cancer cachexia; lipid metabolism; liver; transcription; TSC22D4
8.  Parallel Analysis of mRNA and microRNA Microarray Profiles to Explore Functional Regulatory Patterns in Polycystic Kidney Disease: Using PKD/Mhm Rat Model 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53780.
Autosomal polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a frequent monogenic renal disease, characterised by fluid-filled cysts that are thought to result from multiple deregulated pathways such as cell proliferation and apoptosis. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate the expression of many genes associated with such biological processes and human pathologies. To explore the possible regulatory role of miRNAs in PKD, the PKD/Mhm (cy/+) rat, served as a model to study human ADPKD. A parallel microarray-based approach was conducted to profile the expression changes of mRNAs and miRNAs in PKD/Mhm rats. 1,573 up- and 1,760 down-regulated genes were differentially expressed in PKD/Mhm. These genes are associated with 17 pathways (such as focal adhesion, cell cycle, ECM-receptor interaction, DNA replication and metabolic pathways) and 47 (e.g., cell proliferation, Wnt and Tgfβ signaling) Gene Ontologies. Furthermore, we found the similar expression patterns of deregulated genes between PKD/Mhm (cy/+) rat and human ADPKD, PKD1L3/L3, PKD1−/−, Hnf1α-deficient, and Glis2lacZ/lacZ models. Additionally, several differentially regulated genes were noted to be target hubs for miRNAs. We also obtained 8 significantly up-regulated miRNAs (rno-miR-199a-5p, −214, −146b, −21, −34a, −132, −31 and −503) in diseased kidneys of PKD/Mhm rats. Additionally, the binding site overrepresentation and pathway enrichment analyses were accomplished on the putative targets of these 8 miRNAs. 7 out of these 8 miRNAs and their possible interactions have not been previously described in ADPKD. We have shown a strong overlap of functional patterns (pathways) between deregulated miRNAs and mRNAs in the PKD/Mhm (cy/+) rat model. Our findings suggest that several miRNAs may be associated in regulating pathways in ADPKD. We further describe novel miRNAs and their possible targets in ADPKD, which will open new avenues to understand the pathogenesis of human ADPKD. Furthermore they could serve as a useful resource for anti-fibrotic therapeutics.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053780
PMCID: PMC3542345  PMID: 23326503
9.  Fetal Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Differentiating towards Chondrocytes Acquire a Gene Expression Profile Resembling Human Growth Plate Cartilage 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e44561.
We used human fetal bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (hfMSCs) differentiating towards chondrocytes as an alternative model for the human growth plate (GP). Our aims were to study gene expression patterns associated with chondrogenic differentiation to assess whether chondrocytes derived from hfMSCs are a suitable model for studying the development and maturation of the GP. hfMSCs efficiently formed hyaline cartilage in a pellet culture in the presence of TGFβ3 and BMP6. Microarray and principal component analysis were applied to study gene expression profiles during chondrogenic differentiation. A set of 232 genes was found to correlate with in vitro cartilage formation. Several identified genes are known to be involved in cartilage formation and validate the robustness of the differentiating hfMSC model. KEGG pathway analysis using the 232 genes revealed 9 significant signaling pathways correlated with cartilage formation. To determine the progression of growth plate cartilage formation, we compared the gene expression profile of differentiating hfMSCs with previously established expression profiles of epiphyseal GP cartilage. As differentiation towards chondrocytes proceeds, hfMSCs gradually obtain a gene expression profile resembling epiphyseal GP cartilage. We visualized the differences in gene expression profiles as protein interaction clusters and identified many protein clusters that are activated during the early chondrogenic differentiation of hfMSCs showing the potential of this system to study GP development.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044561
PMCID: PMC3489884  PMID: 23144774
10.  Evaluation of the Metabolic Response to Cyclopamine Therapy in Pancreatic Cancer Xenografts Using a Clinical PET-CT System1 
Translational Oncology  2012;5(5):335-343.
OBJECTIVES: We analyzed the effects of anti-hedgehog signaling on the 18F-FDG uptake of pancreatic cancer xenografts (PCXs) using a clinically implemented positron emission tomography (PET)-computer tomography (CT) scanner with high-resolution reconstruction. METHODS: PCXs from two pancreatic cancer cell lines were developed subcutaneously in nude mice and injected intraperitoneally with a low dose of cyclopamine for 1 week. 18F-FDG PET-CT was performed using a new-generation clinical PET-CT scanner with minor modifications of the scanning protocol to adapt for small-animal imaging. The data set was reconstructed and quantified using a three-dimensional workstation. RESULTS: MiaPaCa-2 cells, which respond to cyclopamine, showed decreased 18F-FDG uptake without a change in tumor size. For hip tumors, the maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) was reduced by -24.5 ± 9.2%, the average SUV (SUVavg) by -33.5 ± 7.0%, and the minimum SUV (SUVmin) by -54.4 ± 11.5% (P < .05). For shoulder tumors, SUVmax was reduced by -14.7 ± 7.5%, SUVavg by -12.6 ± 6.3, and SUVmin by -30.3 ± 16.7% (P < .05). Capan-1 cells, which do not respond to cyclopamine, did not show significant SUV changes. CONCLUSIONS: The new generations of clinically implemented PET-CT scanners with high-resolution reconstruction detect a minimal response of PCX to low-dose short-term cyclopamine therapy without changes in tumor size and offer potential for preclinical translational imaging.
PMCID: PMC3468925  PMID: 23066442
11.  Decreased Levels of Active SMAD2 Correlate with Poor Prognosis in Gastric Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35684.
Background
TGF-β plays a dual role in the progression of human cancer. During the early stages of carcinogenesis, TGF-β functions as a tumor suppressor. During the late stages of tumor development, however, TGF-β can promote tumor growth and metastasis. A shift in Smad2/3 phosphorylation from the carboxy terminus to linker sites is a key event determining biological function of TGF-β in colorectal and hepatocellular carcinoma. In the present study, we investigated the potential role of differential Smad2/3 phosphorylation in gastric adenocarcinoma.
Methodology
Immunohistochemical staining with anti-P-Smad2/3C and P-Smad2/3L antibodies was performed on 130 paraffin-embedded gastric adenocarcinoma specimens. The relationship between P-Smad2/3C and P-Smad2/3L immunohistochemical score and clinicopathologic characteristics of patients was analyzed. Real time PCR was used to measure mRNA expression of Smad2 and Smad3 in cancer and surrounding non-tumor tissue.
Principal Findings
No significant P-Smad2L and/or P-Smad3L positive staining was detected in the majority of specimens (positive staining in 18/130 samples). Positive P-Smad2/3L staining was not associated with a decrease in carboxyterminal phosphorylation staining. Loss of P-Smad2C remarkably correlated with depth of tumor infiltration and poor differentiation of cancer cells in patients with gastric cancer. No correlation was detectable between P-Smad3C and clinicopathologic characteristics of gastric adenocarcinoma. However, co-staining analysis revealed that P-Smad3C co-localised with α-SMA and collagen I in gastric cancer cells, indicating a potential link between P-Smad3C and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition of cancer. Real time PCR demonstrated reduced mRNA expression of Smad2 in gastric cancer when compared with surrounding non-tumor tissue in 15/16 patients.
Conclusions
Loss of P-Smad2C tightly correlated with cancer invasion and poor differentiation in gastric cancer. Contrary to colorectal and hepatocellular carcinoma, canonical carboxy-terminal phosphorylation, but not linker phosphorylation, of Smad2 is critical for gastric cancer.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035684
PMCID: PMC3334357  PMID: 22539990
12.  A miR-1207-5p Binding Site Polymorphism Abolishes Regulation of HBEGF and Is Associated with Disease Severity in CFHR5 Nephropathy 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31021.
Heparin binding epidermal growth factor (HBEGF) is expressed in podocytes and was shown to play a role in glomerular physiology. MicroRNA binding sites on the 3′UTR of HBEGF were predicted using miRWalk algorithm and followed by DNA sequencing in 103 patients diagnosed with mild or severe glomerulopathy. A single nucleotide polymorphism, miRSNP C1936T (rs13385), was identified at the 3′UTR of HBEGF that corresponds to the second base of the hsa-miR-1207-5p seed region. When AB8/13 undifferentiated podocytes were transfected with miRNA mimics of hsa-miR-1207-5p, the HBEGF protein levels were reduced by about 50%. A DNA fragment containing the miRSNP allele-1936C was cloned into the pMIR-Report Luciferase vector and co-transfected with miRNA mimics of hsa-miR-1207-5p into AB8/13 podocytes. In agreement with western blot data, this resulted in reduced luciferase expression demonstrating the ability of hsa-miR-1207-5p to directly regulate HBEGF expression. On the contrary, in the presence of the miRSNP 1936T allele, this regulation was abolished. Collectively, these results demonstrate that variant 1936T of this miRSNP prevents hsa-miR-1207-5p from down-regulating HBEGF in podocytes. We hypothesized that this variant has a functional role as a genetic modifier. To this end, we showed that in a cohort of 78 patients diagnosed with CFHR5 nephropathy (also known as C3-glomerulopathy), inheritance of miRSNP 1936T allele was significantly increased in the group demonstrating progression to chronic renal failure on long follow-up. No similar association was detected in a cohort of patients with thin basement membrane nephropathy. This is the first report associating a miRSNP as genetic modifier to a monogenic renal disorder.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031021
PMCID: PMC3271095  PMID: 22319602
13.  Division of labor by dual feedback regulators controls JAK2/STAT5 signaling over broad ligand range 
Quantitative analysis of time-resolved data in primary erythroid progenitor cells reveals that a dual negative transcriptional feedback mechanism underlies the ability of STAT5 to respond to the broad spectrum of physiologically relevant Epo concentrations.
A mathematical dual feedback model of the Epo-induced JAK2/STAT5 signaling pathway was calibrated with extensive time-resolved quantitative data sets from immunoblotting, mass spectrometry and qRT–PCR experiments in primary erythroid progenitor cells.We show that the amount of nuclear phosphorylated STAT5 integrated for 60 min post Epo stimulation directly correlates with the fraction of surviving cells 24 h later.CIS and SOCS3 were identified as the most relevant transcriptional feedback regulators of JAK2/STAT5 signaling in primary erythroid progenitor cells. Applying the model, we revealed that CIS-mediated inhibitory effects are most important at low ligand concentrations, whereas SOCS3 inhibition is more effective at high ligand doses.The distinct modes of inhibition of CIS and SOCS3 at various Epo concentrations provide a strategy for achieving control of JAK2/STAT5 signaling over the entire range of physiological Epo concentrations.
Cells interpret information encoded by extracellular stimuli through the activation of intracellular signaling networks and translate this information into cellular decisions. A prime example for a system that is exposed to extremely variable ligand concentrations is the erythroid lineage. The key regulator Erythropoietin (Epo) facilitates continuous renewal of erythrocytes at low basal levels but also secures compensation in case of, e.g., blood loss through an up to 1000-fold increase in hormone concentration. The Epo receptor (EpoR) is expressed on erythroid progenitor cells at the colony forming unit erythroid (CFU-E) stage. Stimulation of these cells with Epo leads to rapid but transient activation of receptor and JAK2 phosphorylation followed by phosphorylation of the latent transcription factor STAT5. Although STAT5 is known to be an essential regulator of survival and differentiation of erythroid progenitor cells, a quantitative link between the dynamic properties of STAT5 signaling and survival decisions remained unknown. STAT5-mediated responses in CFU-E cells are modulated by multiple attenuation mechanisms that operate on different time scales. Fast-acting mechanisms such as depletion of Epo by rapid receptor turnover and recruitment of the phosphatase SHP-1 control the initial signal amplitude at the receptor level. Transcriptional feedback regulators such as suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) family members CIS and SOCS3 operate at a slower time scale. Despite the ample knowledge of the individual components involved, only little is known about the specific contributions of these regulators in controlling dynamic properties of STAT5 in response to a broad range of input signals. Therefore, dynamic pathway modeling is required to understand the complex regulatory network of feedback regulators.
To address these questions, we established a dual negative feedback model of JAK2/STAT5 signaling in primary erythroid progenitor cells isolated from mouse fetal livers. We provide a large data set of JAK2/STAT5 signaling dynamics employing quantitative immunoblotting, mass spectrometry and quantitative RT–PCR measured under different perturbation conditions to calibrate our model (Figure 3). The structure of our model was constructed to comprise the minimal number of parameters necessary to explain the data. Thereby, we aimed at a model with fully identifiable parameters that are essential to obtain high predictive power. Parameter identifiability was analyzed by the profile likelihood approach. Applying this method, we could establish a dual negative feedback model of JAK2-STAT5 signaling with structurally and in most cases practically identifiable parameters.
A major bottle-neck in combining signal transduction events with cellular phenotypes is the discrepancy in the time scale and stimuli concentrations that are applied in the different experiments. The sensitivity of biochemical assays to determine phosphorylation events within minutes or hours after stimulation is usually lower than the threshold of sensitivity in assays to determine the physiological response after one or more days. Facilitated by the model, we were able to compute the integrated response of JAK2/STAT5 signaling components for experimentally unaddressable Epo concentrations. Our results demonstrate that the integrated response of pSTAT5 in the nucleus accurately correlates with the experimentally determined survival of CFU-E cells. This provides a quantitative link of the dependency of primary CFU-E cells on pSTAT5 activation dynamics. By correlation analysis, we could identify the early signaling phase (⩽1 h) of STAT5 to be the most predictive for the fraction of surviving cells, which was determined ∼24 h later. Thus, we hypothesize that as a general principle in apoptotic decisions, ligand concentrations translated into kinetic-encoded information of early signaling events downstream of receptors can be predictive for survival decisions 24 h later.
After the first hour of stimulation, it is important to constrain signaling to a residual steady-state level. Constitutive phosphorylation of the JAK2/STAT5 pathway has a crucial role in the onset of polycythemia vera (PV), a disease associated with Epo-independent erythroid differentiation. The two identified transcriptional feedback proteins, CIS and SOCS3, are responsible for adjusting the phosphorylation level of STAT5 after 1 h of stimulation. Since the Epo input signal can vary over a broad range of ligand concentrations, we asked how CIS and SOCS3 can facilitate control of STAT5 long-term phosphorylation levels over the entire physiological relevant hormone concentrations. By using model simulations, we revealed that the two feedbacks are most effective at different Epo concentration ranges. Predicted by our mathematical model, the major role of CIS in modulating STAT5 phosphorylation levels is at low, basal Epo concentrations, whereas SOCS3 is essential to control the STAT5 phosphorylation levels at high Epo doses (Figure 6). As a potential molecular mechanism of this dose-dependent inhibitory effect, we could identify the quantity of pJAK2 relative to pEpoR that increases with higher Epo concentrations. Since SOCS3 can inhibit JAK2 directly via its KIR domain to attenuate downstream STAT5 activation, SOCS3 becomes more effective with the relative increase of JAK2 activation. Hence, CIS and SOCS3 act in a concerted manner to ensure tight regulation of STAT5 responses over the broad physiological range of Epo concentrations.
In summary, our mathematical approach provided new insights into the specific function of feedback regulation in STAT5-mediated life or death decisions of primary erythroid cells. We dissected the roles of the transcriptionally induced proteins CIS and SOCS3 that operate as dual feedback with divided function thereby facilitating the control of STAT5 activation levels over the entire range of physiological Epo concentrations. The detailed understanding of the molecular processes and control distribution of Epo-induced JAK/STAT signaling can be further applied to gain insights into alterations promoting malignant hematopoietic diseases.
Cellular signal transduction is governed by multiple feedback mechanisms to elicit robust cellular decisions. The specific contributions of individual feedback regulators, however, remain unclear. Based on extensive time-resolved data sets in primary erythroid progenitor cells, we established a dynamic pathway model to dissect the roles of the two transcriptional negative feedback regulators of the suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) family, CIS and SOCS3, in JAK2/STAT5 signaling. Facilitated by the model, we calculated the STAT5 response for experimentally unobservable Epo concentrations and provide a quantitative link between cell survival and the integrated response of STAT5 in the nucleus. Model predictions show that the two feedbacks CIS and SOCS3 are most effective at different ligand concentration ranges due to their distinct inhibitory mechanisms. This divided function of dual feedback regulation enables control of STAT5 responses for Epo concentrations that can vary 1000-fold in vivo. Our modeling approach reveals dose-dependent feedback control as key property to regulate STAT5-mediated survival decisions over a broad range of ligand concentrations.
doi:10.1038/msb.2011.50
PMCID: PMC3159971  PMID: 21772264
apoptosis; erythropoietin; mathematical modeling; negative feedback; SOCS
14.  Comparative transcriptome profiling of amyloid precursor protein family members in the adult cortex 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:160.
Background
The β-amyloid precursor protein (APP) and the related β-amyloid precursor-like proteins (APLPs) undergo complex proteolytic processing giving rise to several fragments. Whereas it is well established that Aβ accumulation is a central trigger for Alzheimer's disease, the physiological role of APP family members and their diverse proteolytic products is still largely unknown. The secreted APPsα ectodomain has been shown to be involved in neuroprotection and synaptic plasticity. The γ-secretase-generated APP intracellular domain (AICD) functions as a transcriptional regulator in heterologous reporter assays although its role for endogenous gene regulation has remained controversial.
Results
To gain further insight into the molecular changes associated with knockout phenotypes and to elucidate the physiological functions of APP family members including their proposed role as transcriptional regulators, we performed DNA microarray transcriptome profiling of prefrontal cortex of adult wild-type (WT), APP knockout (APP-/-), APLP2 knockout (APLP2-/-) and APPsα knockin mice (APPα/α) expressing solely the secreted APPsα ectodomain. Biological pathways affected by the lack of APP family members included neurogenesis, transcription, and kinase activity. Comparative analysis of transcriptome changes between mutant and wild-type mice, followed by qPCR validation, identified co-regulated gene sets. Interestingly, these included heat shock proteins and plasticity-related genes that were both down-regulated in knockout cortices. In contrast, we failed to detect significant differences in expression of previously proposed AICD target genes including Bace1, Kai1, Gsk3b, p53, Tip60, and Vglut2. Only Egfr was slightly up-regulated in APLP2-/- mice. Comparison of APP-/- and APPα/α with wild-type mice revealed a high proportion of co-regulated genes indicating an important role of the C-terminus for cellular signaling. Finally, comparison of APLP2-/- on different genetic backgrounds revealed that background-related transcriptome changes may dominate over changes due to the knockout of a single gene.
Conclusion
Shared transcriptome profiles corroborated closely related physiological functions of APP family members in the adult central nervous system. As expression of proposed AICD target genes was not altered in adult cortex, this may indicate that these genes are not affected by lack of APP under resting conditions or only in a small subset of cells.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-160
PMCID: PMC3080314  PMID: 21435241
15.  Gene Expression Profiling of Vasoregression in the Retina—Involvement of Microglial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16865.
Vasoregression is a hallmark of vascular eye diseases but the mechanisms involved are still largely unknown. We have recently characterized a rat ciliopathy model which develops primary photoreceptor degeneration and secondary vasoregression. To improve the understanding of secondary vasoregression in retinal neurodegeneration, we used microarray techniques to compare gene expression profiles in this new model before and after retinal vasoregression. Differential gene expression was validated by quantitative RT-PCR, Western blot and immunofluorescence. Of the 157 genes regulated more than twofold, the MHC class II invariant chain CD74 yielded the strongest upregulation, and was allocated to activated microglial cells close to the vessels undergoing vasoregression. Pathway clustering identified genes of the immune system including inflammatory signaling, and components of the complement cascade upregulated during vasoregression. Together, our data suggest that microglial cells involved in retinal immune response participate in the initiation of vasoregression in the retina.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016865
PMCID: PMC3040753  PMID: 21379381
17.  Knowledge-based matrix factorization temporally resolves the cellular responses to IL-6 stimulation 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:585.
Background
External stimulations of cells by hormones, cytokines or growth factors activate signal transduction pathways that subsequently induce a re-arrangement of cellular gene expression. The analysis of such changes is complicated, as they consist of multi-layered temporal responses. While classical analyses based on clustering or gene set enrichment only partly reveal this information, matrix factorization techniques are well suited for a detailed temporal analysis. In signal processing, factorization techniques incorporating data properties like spatial and temporal correlation structure have shown to be robust and computationally efficient. However, such correlation-based methods have so far not be applied in bioinformatics, because large scale biological data rarely imply a natural order that allows the definition of a delayed correlation function.
Results
We therefore develop the concept of graph-decorrelation. We encode prior knowledge like transcriptional regulation, protein interactions or metabolic pathways in a weighted directed graph. By linking features along this underlying graph, we introduce a partial ordering of the features (e.g. genes) and are thus able to define a graph-delayed correlation function. Using this framework as constraint to the matrix factorization task allows us to set up the fast and robust graph-decorrelation algorithm (GraDe). To analyze alterations in the gene response in IL-6 stimulated primary mouse hepatocytes, we performed a time-course microarray experiment and applied GraDe. In contrast to standard techniques, the extracted time-resolved gene expression profiles showed that IL-6 activates genes involved in cell cycle progression and cell division. Genes linked to metabolic and apoptotic processes are down-regulated indicating that IL-6 mediated priming renders hepatocytes more responsive towards cell proliferation and reduces expenditures for the energy metabolism.
Conclusions
GraDe provides a novel framework for the decomposition of large-scale 'omics' data. We were able to show that including prior knowledge into the separation task leads to a much more structured and detailed separation of the time-dependent responses upon IL-6 stimulation compared to standard methods. A Matlab implementation of the GraDe algorithm is freely available at http://cmb.helmholtz-muenchen.de/grade.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-585
PMCID: PMC3009690  PMID: 21118515
18.  The proteoglycan biglycan regulates expression of the B cell chemoattractant CXCL13 and aggravates murine lupus nephritis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(12):4251-4272.
CXCL13 is a key B cell chemoattractant and marker of disease activity in patients with SLE; however, the mechanism of its induction has not been identified yet. Here, we have shown that the proteoglycan biglycan triggers CXCL13 expression via TLR2/4 in macrophages and dendritic cells. In vivo, levels of biglycan were markedly elevated in the plasma and kidneys of human SLE patients and lupus-prone (MRL/lpr) mice. Overexpression of soluble biglycan in MRL/lpr mice raised plasma and renal levels of CXCL13 and caused accumulation of B cells with an enhanced B1/B cell ratio in the kidney, worsening of organ damage, and albuminuria. Importantly, biglycan also triggered CXCL13 expression and B cell infiltration in the healthy kidney. Conversely, biglycan deficiency improved systemic and renal outcome in lupus-prone mice, with lower levels of autoantibodies, less enlargement of the spleen and lymph nodes, and reduction in renal damage and albuminuria. This correlated with a marked decline in circulating and renal CXCL13 and a reduction in the number of B cells in the kidney. Collectively, our results describe what we believe to be a novel mechanism for the regulation of CXCL13 by biglycan, a host-derived ligand for TLR2/4. Blocking biglycan-TLR2/4 interactions might be a promising strategy for the management of SLE and other B cell–mediated inflammatory disease entities.
doi:10.1172/JCI42213
PMCID: PMC2993585  PMID: 21084753
19.  Cyst formation in the PKD2 (1-703) transgenic rat precedes deregulation of proliferation-related pathways 
BMC Nephrology  2010;11:23.
Background
Polycystic Kidney Disease is characterized by the formation of large fluid-filled cysts that eventually destroy the renal parenchyma leading to end-stage renal failure. Although remarkable progress has been made in understanding the pathologic mechanism of the disease, the precise orchestration of the early events leading to cyst formation is still unclear. Abnormal cellular proliferation was traditionally considered to be one of the primary irregularities leading to cyst initiation and growth. Consequently, many therapeutic interventions have focused on targeting this abnormal proliferation, and some have even progressed to clinical trials. However, the role of proliferation in cyst development was primarily examined at stages where cysts are already visible in the kidneys and therefore at later stages of disease development.
Methods
In this study we focused on the cystic phenotype since birth in an attempt to clarify the temporal contribution of cellular proliferation in cyst development. Using a PKD2 transgenic rat model (PKD2 (1-703)) of different ages (0-60 days after birth) we performed gene expression profiling and phenotype analysis by measuring various kidney parameters.
Results
Phenotype analysis demonstrated that renal cysts appear immediately after birth in the PKD2 transgenic rat model (PKD2 (1-703)). On the other hand, abnormal proliferation occurs at later stages of the disease as identified by gene expression profiling. Interestingly, other pathways appear to be deregulated at early stages of the disease in this PKD model. Specifically, gene expression analysis demonstrated that at day 0 the RAS system is involved. This is altered at day 6, when Wnt signaling and focal adhesion pathways are affected. However, at and after 24 days, proliferation, apoptosis, altered ECM signaling and many other factors become involved.
Conclusions
Our data suggest that cystogenesis precedes deregulation of proliferation-related pathways, suggesting that proliferation abnormalities may contribute in cyst growth rather than cyst formation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2369-11-23
PMCID: PMC2936873  PMID: 20813037
20.  Genome-wide comparison between IL-17 and combined TNF-alpha/IL-17 induced genes in primary murine hepatocytes 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:226.
Background
Cytokines such as TNF-alpha and IL-1beta are known for their contribution to inflammatory processes in liver. In contrast, the cytokine IL-17 has not yet been assigned a role in liver diseases. IL-17 can cooperate with TNF-alpha to induce a synergistic response on several target genes in different cell lines, but no data exist for primary hepatocytes. To enhance our knowledge on the impact of IL-17 alone and combined with TNF-alpha in primary murine hepatocytes a comprehensive microarray study was designed. IL-1beta was included as this cytokine is suggested to act in a similar manner as the combination of TNF-alpha and IL-17, especially with respect to its role in mRNA stabilization.
Results
The present microarray analysis demonstrates that primary murine hepatocytes responded to IL-17 stimulation by upregulation of chemokines and genes, which are functionally responsible to increase and sustain inflammation. Cxcl2, Nfkbiz and Zc3h12a were strongly induced, whereas the majority of the genes were only very moderately up-regulated. Promoter analysis revealed involvement of NF-kappaB in the activation of many genes. Combined stimulation of TNF-alpha/IL-17 resulted in enhanced induction of gene expression, but significantly synergistic effects could be applied only to a few genes, such as Nfkbiz, Cxcl2, Zc3h12 and Steap4. Comparison of the gene expression profile obtained after stimulation of TNF-alpha/IL-17 versus IL-1beta proposed an "IL-1beta-like effect" of the latter cytokine combination. Moreover, evidence was provided that modulation of mRNA stability may be a major mechanism by which IL-17 regulates gene expression in primary hepatocytes. This assumption was exemplarily proven for Nfkbiz mRNA for the first time in hepatocytes. Our studies also suggest that RNA stability can partially be correlated to the existence of AU rich elements, but further mechanisms like the RNase activity of the up-regulated Zc3h12a have to be considered.
Conclusions
Our microarray analysis gives new insights in IL-17 induced gene expression in primary hepatocytes highlighting the crosstalk with the NF-kappaB signaling pathway. Gene expression profile suggests IL-17 alone and in concert with TNF-alpha a role in sustaining liver inflammatory processes. IL-17 might exceed this function by RNA stabilization.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-226
PMCID: PMC2858152  PMID: 20374638
21.  Vasoregression Linked to Neuronal Damage in the Rat with Defect of Polycystin-2 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7328.
Background
Neuronal damage is correlated with vascular dysfunction in the diseased retina, but the underlying mechanisms remain controversial because of the lack of suitable models in which vasoregression related to neuronal damage initiates in the mature retinal vasculature. The aim of this study was to assess the temporal link between neuronal damage and vascular patency in a transgenic rat (TGR) with overexpression of a mutant cilia gene polycystin-2.
Methods
Vasoregression, neuroglial changes and expression of neurotrophic factors were assessed in TGR and control rats in a time course. Determination of neuronal changes was performed by quantitative morphometry of paraffin-embedded vertical sections. Vascular cell composition and patency were assessed by quantitative retinal morphometry of digest preparations. Glial activation was assessed by western blot and immunofluorescence. Expression of neurotrophic factors was detected by quantitative PCR.
Findings
At one month, number and thickness of the outer nuclear cell layers (ONL) in TGR rats were reduced by 31% (p<0.001) and 17% (p<0.05), respectively, compared to age-matched control rats. Furthermore, the reduction progressed from 1 to 7 months in TGR rats. Apoptosis was selectively detected in the photoreceptor in the ONL, starting after one month. Nevertheless, TGR and control rats showed normal responses in electroretinogram at one month. From the second month onwards, TGR retinas had significantly increased acellular capillaries (p<0.001), and a reduction of endothelial cells (p<0.01) and pericytes (p<0.01). Upregulation of GFAP was first detected in TGR retinas after 1 month in glial cells, in parallel with an increase of FGF2 (fourfold) and CNTF (60 %), followed by upregulation of NGF (40 %) at 3 months.
Interpretation
Our data suggest that TGR is an appropriate animal model for vasoregression related to neuronal damage. Similarities to experimental diabetic retinopathy render this model suitable to understand general mechanisms of maturity-onset vasoregression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007328
PMCID: PMC2752170  PMID: 19806208
22.  Microarray-based approach identifies microRNAs and their target functional patterns in polycystic kidney disease 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:624.
Background
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play key roles in mammalian gene expression and several cellular processes, including differentiation, development, apoptosis and cancer pathomechanisms. Recently the biological importance of primary cilia has been recognized in a number of human genetic diseases. Numerous disorders are related to cilia dysfunction, including polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Although involvement of certain genes and transcriptional networks in PKD development has been shown, not much is known how they are regulated molecularly.
Results
Given the emerging role of miRNAs in gene expression, we explored the possibilities of miRNA-based regulations in PKD. Here, we analyzed the simultaneous expression changes of miRNAs and mRNAs by microarrays. 935 genes, classified into 24 functional categories, were differentially regulated between PKD and control animals. In parallel, 30 miRNAs were differentially regulated in PKD rats: our results suggest that several miRNAs might be involved in regulating genetic switches in PKD. Furthermore, we describe some newly detected miRNAs, miR-31 and miR-217, in the kidney which have not been reported previously. We determine functionally related gene sets, or pathways to reveal the functional correlation between differentially expressed mRNAs and miRNAs.
Conclusion
We find that the functional patterns of predicted miRNA targets and differentially expressed mRNAs are similar. Our results suggest an important role of miRNAs in specific pathways underlying PKD.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-624
PMCID: PMC2640396  PMID: 19102782
23.  Mutant polycystin-2 induces proliferation in primary rat tubular epithelial cells in a STAT-1/p21-independent fashion accompanied instead by alterations in expression of p57KIP2 and Cdk2 
BMC Nephrology  2008;9:10.
Background
Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD) is characterized by the formation of multiple fluid-filled cysts that destroy the kidney architecture resulting in end-stage renal failure. Mutations in genes PKD1 and PKD2 account for nearly all cases of ADPKD. Increased cell proliferation is one of the key features of the disease. Several studies indicated that polycystin-1 regulates cellular proliferation through various signaling pathways, but little is known about the role played by polycystin-2, the product of PKD2. Recently, it was reported that as with polycystin-1, polycystin-2 can act as a negative regulator of cell growth by modulating the levels of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, p21 and the activity of the cyclin-dependent kinase 2, Cdk2.
Methods
Here we utilized different kidney cell-lines expressing wild-type and mutant PKD2 as well as primary tubular epithelial cells isolated from a PKD transgenic rat to further explore the contribution of the p21/Cdk2 pathway in ADPKD proliferation.
Results
Surprisingly, over-expression of wild-type PKD2 in renal cell lines failed to inactivate Cdk2 and consequently had no effect on cell proliferation. On the other hand, expression of mutated PKD2 augmented proliferation only in the primary tubular epithelial cells of a rat model but this was independent of the STAT-1/p21 pathway. On the contrary, multiple approaches revealed unequivocally that expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, p57KIP2, is downregulated, while p21 remains unchanged. This p57 reduction is accompanied by an increase in Cdk2 levels.
Conclusion
Our results indicate the probable involvement of p57KIP2 on epithelial cell proliferation in ADPKD implicating a new mechanism for mutant polycystin-2 induced proliferation. Most importantly, contrary to previous studies, abnormal proliferation in cells expressing mutant polycystin-2 appears to be independent of STAT-1/p21.
doi:10.1186/1471-2369-9-10
PMCID: PMC2533650  PMID: 18721488
24.  Faster rates of post-puberty kidney deterioration in males is correlated with elevated oxidative stress in males vs females at early puberty 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:221.
Background
Post-puberty deterioration of kidneys is more rapid in males than in females. To reveal the underlying molecular mechanisms for this difference, we analyzed gender-dependent gene expression in kidneys of three groups of 36 day-old rats.
Results
The number of genes exhibiting gender-dependent expression was highly influenced by the genetic background of the rat group examined. 373, 288 and 79 genes showed differential gene expression between males and females (p = 0.001) in US, Mhm and Mhm*BN rats, respectively. Of all gender dependently expressed genes, only 39 genes were differentially expressed in all tested groups and the direction of expression change was the same for those genes for all groups. The gene expression profile suggests higher metabolic and transport activities, enhanced cell proliferation, elevated oxidative stress, and altered vascular biology in males. Furthermore, elevated levels of superoxide anion (two- to three-fold) in males compared to females were detected at early puberty, but neither at pre-puberty nor at late puberty/early adulthood.
Conclusion
Our data suggest that early puberty, with gender-related elevation in oxidative stress in males, is a key compromising factor on kidneys in males.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-221
PMCID: PMC1934371  PMID: 17620128
25.  Argonaute—a database for gene regulation by mammalian microRNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;34(Database issue):D115-D118.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) constitute a recently discovered class of small non-coding RNAs that regulate expression of target genes either by decreasing the stability of the target mRNA or by translational inhibition. They are involved in diverse processes, including cellular differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. Recent evidence also suggests their importance for cancerogenesis. By far the most important model systems in cancer research are mammalian organisms. Thus, we decided to compile comprehensive information on mammalian miRNAs, their origin and regulated target genes in an exhaustive, curated database called Argonaute (). Argonaute collects latest information from both literature and other databases. In contrast to current databases on miRNAs like miRBase::Sequences, NONCODE or RNAdb, Argonaute hosts additional information on the origin of an miRNA, i.e. in which host gene it is encoded, its expression in different tissues and its known or proposed function, its potential target genes including Gene Ontology annotation, as well as miRNA families and proteins known to be involved in miRNA processing. Additionally, target genes are linked to an information retrieval system that provides comprehensive information from sequence databases and a simultaneous search of MEDLINE with all synonyms of a given gene. The web interface allows the user to get information for a single or multiple miRNAs, either selected or uploaded through a text file. Argonaute currently has information on 839 miRNAs from human, mouse and rat.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkj093
PMCID: PMC1347455  PMID: 16381827

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