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1.  Elucidating the principles of the molecular organization of heteropolymeric tight junction strands 
Paracellular barrier properties of tissues are mainly determined by the composition of claudin hetero-polymers. To analyze the molecular organization of tight junctions (TJ), we investigated the ability of claudins (Cld) to form homo- and heteromers. Cld1, -2, -3, -5, and -12 expressed in cerebral barriers were investigated. TJ-strands were reconstituted by claudin-transfection of HEK293-cells. cis-Interactions and/or spatial proximity were analyzed by fluorescence resonance energy transfer inside and outside of strands and ranked: Cld5/Cld5 > Cld5/Cld1 > Cld3/Cld1 > Cld3/Cld3 > Cld3/Cld5, no Cld3/Cld2. Classic Cld1, -3, and -5 but not non-classic Cld12 showed homophilic trans-interaction. Freeze-fracture electron microscopy revealed that, in contrast to classic claudins, YFP-tagged Cld12 does not form homopolymers. Heterophilic trans-interactions were analyzed in cocultures of differently monotransfected cells. trans-Interaction of Cld3/Cld5 was less pronounced than that of Cld3/Cld1, Cld5/Cld1, Cld5/Cld5 or Cld3/Cld3. The barrier function of reconstituted TJ-strands was demonstrated by a novel imaging assay. A model of the molecular organization of TJ was generated.
PMCID: PMC4336547  PMID: 21533891
Claudins; FRET; Protein–protein interaction; Tight junction
2.  Highly Conserved Cysteines Are Involved in the Oligomerization of Occludin—Redox Dependency of the Second Extracellular Loop 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2014;20(6):855-867.
The tight junction (TJ) marker occludin is a 4-transmembrane domain (TMD) protein with unclear physiological and pathological functions, interacting with other TJ proteins. It oligomerizes and is redox sensitive. However, oligomerization sites and mechanisms are unknown. Aims: To identify hypoxia-sensitive binding sites, we investigated the consequences of amino-acid substitutions of highly conserved cysteines in human occludin, under normal and hypoxic incubations. Results: (i) The extracellular loop 2 (ECL2) showed homophilic trans- and cis-association between opposing cells and along the cell membrane, respectively, caused by a loop properly folded via an intraloop disulfide bridge between the shielded C216 and C237. Hypoxia and reductants prevented the associations. (ii) C82 in TMD1 directly cis-associated without disulfide formation. (iii) C76 in TMD1 and C148 in TMD2 limited the trans-interaction; C76 also limited occludin-related paracellular tightness and changed the strand morphology of claudin-1. (iv) The diminished binding strength found after substituting C82, C216, or C237 was accompanied by increased occludin mobility in the cell membrane. Innovation: The data enable the first experimentally proven structural model of occludin and its homophilic interaction sites, in which the ECL2, via intraloop disulfide formation, has a central role in occludin's hypoxia-sensitive oligomerization and to regulate the structure of TJs. Conclusion: Our findings support the new concept that occludin acts as a hypoxiasensor and contributes toward regulating the TJ assembly redox dependently. This is of pathogenic relevance for tissue barrier injury with reducing conditions. The ECL2 disulfide might be a model for four TMD proteins in TJs with two conserved cysteines in an ECL. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 20, 855–867.
PMCID: PMC3924802  PMID: 23923978
3.  Cyclical Appearance of African Trypanosomes in the Cerebrospinal Fluid: New Insights in How Trypanosomes Enter the CNS 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91372.
It is textbook knowledge that human infective forms of Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of sleeping sickness, enter the brain across the blood-brain barrier after an initial phase of weeks (rhodesiense) or months (gambiense) in blood. Based on our results using an animal model, both statements seem questionable. As we and others have shown, the first infection relevant crossing of the blood brain border occurs via the choroid plexus, i.e. via the blood-CSF barrier. In addition, counting trypanosomes in blood-free CSF obtained by an atlanto-occipital access revealed a cyclical infection in CSF that was directly correlated to the trypanosome density in blood infection. We also obtained conclusive evidence of organ infiltration, since parasites were detected in tissues outside the blood vessels in heart, spleen, liver, eye, testis, epididymis, and especially between the cell layers of the pia mater including the Virchow-Robin space. Interestingly, in all organs except pia mater, heart and testis, trypanosomes showed either a more or less degraded appearance of cell integrity by loss of the surface coat (VSG), loss of the microtubular cytoskeleton and loss of the intracellular content, or where taken up by phagocytes and degraded intracellularly within lysosomes. This is also true for trypanosomes placed intrathecally into the brain parenchyma using a stereotactic device. We propose a different model of brain infection that is in accordance with our observations and with well-established facts about the development of sleeping sickness.
PMCID: PMC3950183  PMID: 24618708
4.  Astrocytic autoantibody of neuromyelitis optica (NMO-IgG) binds to aquaporin-4 extracellular loops, monomers, tetramers and high order arrays 
Journal of autoimmunity  2012;40:21-27.
The principal central nervous system (CNS) water channel, aquaporin-4 (AQP4), is confined to astrocytic and ependymal membranes and is the target of a pathogenic autoantibody, neuromyelitis optica (NMO)-IgG. This disease-specific autoantibody unifies a spectrum of relapsing CNS autoimmune inflammatory disorders of which NMO exemplifies the classic phenotype. Multiple sclerosis and other immune-mediated demyelinating disorders of the CNS lack a distinctive biomarker. Two AQP4 isoforms, M1 and M23, exist as homotetrameric and heterotetrameric intramembranous particles (IMPs). Orthogonal arrays of predominantly M23 particles (OAPs) are an ultrastructural characteristic of astrocytic membranes. We used high-titered serum from 32 AQP4-IgG-seropositive patients and 85 controls to investigate the nature and molecular location of AQP4 epitopes that bind NMO-IgG, and the influence of supramolecular structure. NMO-IgG bound to denatured AQP4 monomers (68% of cases), to native tetramers and high order arrays (90% of cases), and to AQP4 in live cell membranes (100% of cases). Disease-specific epitopes reside in extracellular loop C more than in loops A or E. IgG binding to intracellular epitopes lacks disease specificity. These observations predict greater disease specificity and sensitivity for tissue-based and cell-based serological assays employing “native” AQP4 than assays employing denatured AQP4 and fragments. NMO-IgG binds most avidly to plasma membrane surface AQP4 epitopes formed by loop interactions within tetramers and by intermolecular interactions within high order structures. The relative abundance and localization of AQP4 high order arrays in distinct CNS regions may explain the variability in clinical phenotype of NMO spectrum disorders.
PMCID: PMC3509259  PMID: 22906356
autoimmunity; epitopes; freeze fracture electron microscopy
5.  Endothelial SRF/MRTF ablation causes vascular disease phenotypes in murine retinae 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(5):2193-2206.
Retinal vessel homeostasis ensures normal ocular functions. Consequently, retinal hypovascularization and neovascularization, causing a lack and an excess of vessels, respectively, are hallmarks of human retinal pathology. We provide evidence that EC-specific genetic ablation of either the transcription factor SRF or its cofactors MRTF-A and MRTF-B, but not the SRF cofactors ELK1 or ELK4, cause retinal hypovascularization in the postnatal mouse eye. Inducible, EC-specific deficiency of SRF or MRTF-A/MRTF-B during postnatal angiogenesis impaired endothelial tip cell filopodia protrusion, resulting in incomplete formation of the retinal primary vascular plexus, absence of the deep plexi, and persistence of hyaloid vessels. All of these features are typical of human hypovascularization-related vitreoretinopathies, such as familial exudative vitreoretinopathies including Norrie disease. In contrast, conditional EC deletion of Srf in adult murine vessels elicited intraretinal neovascularization that was reminiscent of the age-related human pathologies retinal angiomatous proliferation and macular telangiectasia. These results indicate that angiogenic homeostasis is ensured by differential stage-specific functions of SRF target gene products in the developing versus the mature retinal vasculature and suggest that the actin-directed MRTF-SRF signaling axis could serve as a therapeutic target in the treatment of human vascular retinal diseases.
PMCID: PMC3635718  PMID: 23563308
6.  Cytotoxic effect and tissue penetration of phenol for adjuvant treatment of giant cell tumours 
Oncology Letters  2013;5(5):1595-1598.
Local adjuvant treatment of giant cell tumours (GCTs) of the bone with phenol has led to a significant reduction in recurrence rates. In the current study, the optimal phenol concentration and duration of intralesional exposure were evaluated. Specimens of GCTs were exposed to various concentrations of phenol solution (6, 60 and 80%) for either 1 or 3 min. Following embedding in glutaraldehyde, the tumour cell layers were examined by transmission electron microscopy. Destroyed cell organelles indicated the penetration depth as a sign of denaturation. Incubation of GCT specimens with 6% phenol solution for 3 min resulted in the most tissue damage and the deepest tissue penetration of ∼200 μm. Incubation with 60 and 80% phenol solution reached a penetration depth of only ∼100 μm. Phenol instillation may be used for the treatment of small scattered cellular debris following intralesional curettage; however, it is not suitable for treatment of remaining solid tumour tissue of GCT. The use of high phenol concentrations has no benefit and increases the risk of local or systemic intoxication.
PMCID: PMC3678778  PMID: 23760940
phenol; tissue penetration; giant cell tumour; GCT; cytotoxic; denaturation
7.  Transmigration of polymorphnuclear neutrophils and monocytes through the human blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier after bacterial infection in vitro 
Bacterial invasion through the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier (BCSFB) during bacterial meningitis causes secretion of proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines followed by the recruitment of leukocytes into the CNS. In this study, we analyzed the cellular and molecular mechanisms of polymorphonuclear neutrophil (PMN) and monocyte transepithelial transmigration (TM) across the BCSFB after bacterial infection.
Using an inverted transwell filter system of human choroid plexus papilloma cells (HIBCPP), we studied leukocyte TM rates, the migration route by immunofluorescence, transmission electron microscopy and focused ion beam/scanning electron microscopy, the secretion of cytokines/chemokines by cytokine bead array and posttranslational modification of the signal regulatory protein (SIRP) α via western blot.
PMNs showed a significantly increased TM across HIBCPP after infection with wild-type Neisseria meningitidis (MC58). In contrast, a significantly decreased monocyte transmigration rate after bacterial infection of HIBCPP could be observed. Interestingly, in co-culture experiments with PMNs and monocytes, TM of monocytes was significantly enhanced. Analysis of paracellular permeability and transepithelial electrical resistance confirmed an intact barrier function during leukocyte TM. With the help of the different imaging techniques we could provide evidence for para- as well as for transcellular migrating leukocytes. Further analysis of secreted cytokines/chemokines showed a distinct pattern after stimulation and transmigration of PMNs and monocytes. Moreover, the transmembrane glycoprotein SIRPα was deglycosylated in monocytes, but not in PMNs, after bacterial infection.
Our findings demonstrate that PMNs and monoctyes differentially migrate in a human BCSFB model after bacterial infection. Cytokines and chemokines as well as transmembrane proteins such as SIRPα may be involved in this process.
PMCID: PMC3663685  PMID: 23448224
Blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier; Leukocyte; Transmigration; Meningitis
8.  A Novel Porcine In Vitro Model of the Blood-Cerebrospinal Fluid Barrier with Strong Barrier Function 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39835.
Epithelial cells of the plexus choroideus form the structural basis of the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier (BCSFB). In vitro models of the BCSFB presenting characteristics of a functional barrier are of significant scientific interest as tools for examination of BCSFB function. Due to a lack of suitable cell lines as in vitro models, primary porcine plexus epithelial cells were subjected to a series of selective cultivation steps until a stable continuous subcultivatable epithelial cell line (PCP-R) was established. PCP-R cells grow in a regular polygonal pattern with a doubling time of 28–36 h. At a cell number of 1.5×105 in a 24-well plate confluence is reached in 56–72 h. Cells are cytokeratin positive and chromosomal analysis revealed 56 chromosomes at peak (84th subculture). Employing reverse transcription PCR mRNA expression of several transporters and components of cell junctions could be detected. The latter includes tight junction components like Claudin-1 and -3, ZO-1, and Occludin, and the adherens junction protein E-cadherin. Cellular localization studies of ZO-1, Occludin and Claudin-1 by immunofluorescence and morphological analysis by electron microscopy demonstrated formation of a dense tight junction structure. Importantly, when grown on cell culture inserts PCP-R developed typical characteristics of a functional BCSFB including high transepithelial electrical resistance above 600 Ω×cm2 as well as low permeability for macromolecules. In summary, our data suggest the PCP-R cell line as a suitable in vitro model of the porcine BCSFB.
PMCID: PMC3382175  PMID: 22745832
9.  An Allograft Glioma Model Reveals the Dependence of Aquaporin-4 Expression on the Brain Microenvironment 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36555.
Aquaporin-4 (AQP4), the main water channel of the brain, is highly expressed in animal glioma and human glioblastoma in situ. In contrast, most cultivated glioma cell lines don’t express AQP4, and primary cell cultures of human glioblastoma lose it during the first passages. Accordingly, in C6 cells and RG2 cells, two glioma cell lines of the rat, and in SMA mouse glioma cell lines, we found no AQP4 expression. We confirmed an AQP4 loss in primary human glioblastoma cell cultures after a few passages. RG-2 glioma cells if grafted into the brain developed AQP4 expression. This led us consider the possibility of AQP4 expression depends on brain microenvironment. In previous studies, we observed that the typical morphological conformation of AQP4 as orthogonal arrays of particles (OAP) depended on the extracellular matrix component agrin. In this study, we showed for the first time implanted AQP4 negative glioma cells in animal brain or flank to express AQP4 specifically in the intracerebral gliomas but neither in the extracranial nor in the flank gliomas. AQP4 expression in intracerebral gliomas went along with an OAP loss, compared to normal brain tissue. AQP4 staining in vivo normally is polarized in the astrocytic endfoot membranes at the glia limitans superficialis and perivascularis, but in C6 and RG2 tumors the AQP4 staining is redistributed over the whole glioma cell as in human glioblastoma. In contrast, primary rat or mouse astrocytes in culture did not lose their ability to express AQP4, and they were able to form few OAPs.
PMCID: PMC3348884  PMID: 22590566
10.  Evidence for a role of dystroglycan regulating the membrane architecture of astroglial endfeet 
The European Journal of Neuroscience  2011;33(12):2179-2186.
The dystrophin-dystroglycan complex (DDC) is a molecular array of proteins in muscle and brain cells. The central component of the DDC is dystroglycan which is comprised of α- and β-subunits. α-Dystroglycan (α-DG) binds to extracellular matrix components such as agrin, whereas β-dystroglycan (β-DG) is a membrane-spanning protein linking α-DG to the cytoskeleton and other intracellular components such as α-syntrophin. In astrocytes, α-syntrophin binds to the water channel protein aquaporin-4 (AQP4). Recently, it has been shown that AQP4 expression is unaltered in agrin-knockout mice, but that formation of the orthogonal arrays of particles (OAPs), consisting of AQP4, is abnormal. Since the brain-selective deletion of the dystroglycan gene causes a disorganization of the astroglial endfeet, we asked whether DG deletion has an impact on AQP4. By Western blotting, we found a reduction of AQP4 in the parenchymal, but not in the superficial compartment of the astrocyte-conditioned DG-knockout mouse brain. Accordingly, immunohistochemical stainings of AQP4 revealed a selective loss of AQP4 in perivascular, but not in superficial astroglial endfeet. In both superficial and perivascular endfeet of the DG-knockout brain, we observed a loss of OAPs. We conclude that in the absence of DG the majority of superficial AQP4 molecules did not form OAPs, and that the AQP4 expression in perivascular endfeet is compromised. However, the decreased number of perivascular AQP4 molecules obviously did form a few OAPs, even in the absence of DG.
PMCID: PMC3342013  PMID: 21501259
astrocytes; blood-brain barrier; freeze-fracturing; orthogonal arrays of particles; aquaporin-4
11.  Late Stage Infection in Sleeping Sickness 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34304.
At the turn of the 19th century, trypanosomes were identified as the causative agent of sleeping sickness and their presence within the cerebrospinal fluid of late stage sleeping sickness patients was described. However, no definitive proof of how the parasites reach the brain has been presented so far. Analyzing electron micrographs prepared from rodent brains more than 20 days after infection, we present here conclusive evidence that the parasites first enter the brain via the choroid plexus from where they penetrate the epithelial cell layer to reach the ventricular system. Adversely, no trypanosomes were observed within the parenchyma outside blood vessels. We also show that brain infection depends on the formation of long slender trypanosomes and that the cerebrospinal fluid as well as the stroma of the choroid plexus is a hostile environment for the survival of trypanosomes, which enter the pial space including the Virchow-Robin space via the subarachnoid space to escape degradation. Our data suggest that trypanosomes do not intend to colonize the brain but reside near or within the glia limitans, from where they can re-populate blood vessels and disrupt the sleep wake cycles.
PMCID: PMC3320268  PMID: 22496723
12.  Visualization and Quantitative Analysis of Reconstituted Tight Junctions Using Localization Microscopy 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31128.
Tight Junctions (TJ) regulate paracellular permeability of tissue barriers. Claudins (Cld) form the backbone of TJ-strands. Pore-forming claudins determine the permeability for ions, whereas that for solutes and macromolecules is assumed to be crucially restricted by the strand morphology (i.e., density, branching and continuity). To investigate determinants of the morphology of TJ-strands we established a novel approach using localization microscopy.
TJ-strands were reconstituted by stable transfection of HEK293 cells with the barrier-forming Cld3 or Cld5. Strands were investigated at cell-cell contacts by Spectral Position Determination Microscopy (SPDM), a method of localization microscopy using standard fluorophores. Extended TJ-networks of Cld3-YFP and Cld5-YFP were observed. For each network, 200,000 to 1,100,000 individual molecules were detected with a mean localization accuracy of ∼20 nm, yielding a mean structural resolution of ∼50 nm. Compared to conventional fluorescence microscopy, this strongly improved the visualization of strand networks and enabled quantitative morphometric analysis. Two populations of elliptic meshes (mean diameter <100 nm and 300–600 nm, respectively) were revealed. For Cld5 the two populations were more separated than for Cld3. Discrimination of non-polymeric molecules and molecules within polymeric strands was achieved. For both subtypes of claudins the mean density of detected molecules was similar and estimated to be ∼24 times higher within the strands than outside the strands.
The morphometry and single molecule information provided advances the mechanistic analysis of paracellular barriers. Applying this novel method to different TJ-proteins is expected to significantly improve the understanding of TJ on the molecular level.
PMCID: PMC3271094  PMID: 22319608
13.  Polar Invasion and Translocation of Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus suis in a Novel Human Model of the Blood-Cerebrospinal Fluid Barrier 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30069.
Acute bacterial meningitis is a life-threatening disease in humans. Discussed as entry sites for pathogens into the brain are the blood-brain and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier (BCSFB). Although human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC) constitute a well established human in vitro model for the blood-brain barrier, until now no reliable human system presenting the BCSFB has been developed. Here, we describe for the first time a functional human BCSFB model based on human choroid plexus papilloma cells (HIBCPP), which display typical hallmarks of a BCSFB as the expression of junctional proteins and formation of tight junctions, a high electrical resistance and minimal levels of macromolecular flux when grown on transwell filters. Importantly, when challenged with the zoonotic pathogen Streptococcus suis or the human pathogenic bacterium Neisseria meningitidis the HIBCPP show polar bacterial invasion only from the physiologically relevant basolateral side. Meningococcal invasion is attenuated by the presence of a capsule and translocated N. meningitidis form microcolonies on the apical side of HIBCPP opposite of sites of entry. As a functionally relevant human model of the BCSFB the HIBCPP offer a wide range of options for analysis of disease-related mechanisms at the choroid plexus epithelium, especially involving human pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3256222  PMID: 22253884
14.  Peripherally Applied Aβ-Containing Inoculates Induce Cerebral β-Amyloidosis 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2010;330(6006):980-982.
The intracerebral injection of β-amyloid-containing brain extracts can induce cerebralβ-amyloidosis and associated pathologies in susceptible hosts. We found that intraperitoneal inoculation with β-amyloid-rich extracts inducesβ-amyloidosis in the brains of β-amyloid precursor protein transgenic mice after prolonged incubation times.
PMCID: PMC3233904  PMID: 20966215
15.  Dendritic cell tumor in a salivary gland lymph node: a rare differential diagnosis of salivary gland neoplasms 
Diagnostic Pathology  2011;6:94.
Dendritic cell tumors are extremely rare neoplasms arising from antigen-presenting cells of the immune system. We report a case of a 69-year-old man with an unremarkable medical history who presented with a 2-months history of a gradually enlarging painless, firm, mobile, 2 × 2-cm swelling at the caudal pole of the left parotid gland without systemic symptoms. Histologically, the tumor consisted of a spindle cell proliferation in an intraparotideal lymph node. Based on the histopathologic, immunohistochemical and electron microscopic findings, a dendritic cell tumor, not otherwise specified (NOS) in an intraparotideal lymph node was diagnosed.
The patient underwent complete tumor resection, and is currently free of disease, 2 years after surgery. These extremely rare tumors must be distinguished from other more common tumors in the salivary glands. Awareness that dendritic cell tumors may occur in this localization, careful histologic evaluation and ancillary immunohistochemical and electron microscopical analyses should allow for recognition of this entity.
PMCID: PMC3216896  PMID: 21961558
Dendritic cell tumor; salivary gland lymph node
16.  Transcellular migration of neutrophil granulocytes through the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier after infection with Streptococcus suis 
A critical point during the course of bacterial meningitis is the excessive influx of polymorphnuclear neutrophils (PMNs) from the blood into the brain. Both paracellular and transcellular routes of leukocyte transmigration through the blood-brain barrier have been described in CNS diseases so far. Thus, we investigated the mechanism of PMN transmigration through the blood-CSF barrier under inflammatory conditions.
In an "inverted" Transwell culture model of the blood-CSF barrier, the zoonotic agent Streptococcus suis (S. suis) was used to stimulate porcine choroid plexus epithelial cells (PCPECs) specifically from the physiologically relevant basolateral side. Barrier function was analyzed by measuring TEER and TR-dextran-flux, and tight junction morphology was investigated by immunofluorescence. Route and mechanism of PMN transmigration were determined by immunofluorescence, electron microscopy and FACS analysis. Quantitative real time-PCR was used to determine expression levels of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1.
Here, we show that the transmigration of PMNs through PCPECs was significantly higher after stimulation with TNFα or infection with S. suis strain 10 compared to its non-encapsulated mutant. Barrier function was not significantly affected by PMN migration alone, but in combination with S. suis infection. Tight junction and cytoskeletal actin reorganisation were also observed after stimulation with S. suis or TNFα. Most strikingly, PMNs preferentially migrated across PCPECs via the transcellular route. Extensive sequential analyses of the PMN transmigration process with Apotome®-imaging and electron microscopy revealed that paracellular migrating PMNs stop just before tight junctions. Interestingly, PMNs subsequently appeared to proceed by transcellular migration via funnel-like structures developing from the apical membrane. It is noteworthy that some PMNs contained bacteria during the transmigration process. Flow cytometric and transmigration inhibition studies with integrin-specific antibodies showed that PMN traversal is dependent on CD11b/CD18. Analysis of cell adhesion molecules in PCPECs revealed a significant increase of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 expression after TNFα and S. suis stimulation.
Our data underline the relevance of the blood-CSF barrier as a gate for leukocyte entry into the CNS and suggest a novel transcellular migration step during the pathogenesis of bacterial meningitis.
PMCID: PMC3120695  PMID: 21592385
17.  Characterization of immortalized choroid plexus epithelial cell lines for studies of transport processes across the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier 
Two rodent choroid plexus (CP) epithelial cell lines, Z310 and TR-CSFB, were compared with primary rat CP epithelial cells and intact CP tissue with respect to transport protein expression, function and tight junction (TJ) formation.
For expression profiles of transporters and TJ proteins, qPCR and western blot analysis were used. Uptake assays were performed to study the functional activity of transporters and TJ formation was measured by trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TEER) and visualized by electron microscopy.
The expression of known ATP-binding cassette (Abc) transporter and solute carrier (Slc) genes in CP was confirmed by qPCR. Primary cells and cell lines showed similar, but overall lower expression of Abc transporters and absent Slc expression when compared to intact tissue. Consistent with this Mrp1, Mrp4 and P-gp protein levels were higher in intact CP compared to cell lines. Functionality of P-gp and Mrp1 was confirmed by Calcein-AM and CMFDA uptake assays and studies using [3H]bis-POM-PMEA as a substrate indicated Mrp4 function. Cell lines showed low or absent TJ protein expression. After treatment of cell lines with corticosteroids, RNA expression of claudin1, 2 and 11 and occludin was elevated, as well as claudin1 and occludin protein expression. TJ formation was further investigated by freeze-fracture electron microscopy and only rarely observed. Increases in TJ particles with steroid treatment were not accompanied by an increase in transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER).
Taken together, immortalized cell lines may be a tool to study transport processes mediated by P-gp, Mrp1 or Mrp4, but overall expression of transport proteins and TJ formation do not reflect the situation in intact CP tissue.
PMCID: PMC2927495  PMID: 20704740
18.  Modulation of mitochondrial function and morphology by interaction of Omi/HtrA2 with the mitochondrial fusion factor OPA1 
Experimental Cell Research  2010;316(7):1213-1224.
Loss of Omi/HtrA2 function leads to nerve cell loss in mouse models and has been linked to neurodegeneration in Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. Omi/HtrA2 is a serine protease released as a pro-apoptotic factor from the mitochondrial intermembrane space into the cytosol. Under physiological conditions, Omi/HtrA2 is thought to be involved in protection against cellular stress, but the cytological and molecular mechanisms are not clear. Omi/HtrA2 deficiency caused an accumulation of reactive oxygen species and reduced mitochondrial membrane potential. In Omi/HtrA2 knockout mouse embryonic fibroblasts, as well as in Omi/HtrA2 silenced human HeLa cells and Drosophila S2R+ cells, we found elongated mitochondria by live cell imaging. Electron microscopy confirmed the mitochondrial morphology alterations and showed abnormal cristae structure. Examining the levels of proteins involved in mitochondrial fusion, we found a selective up-regulation of more soluble OPA1 protein. Complementation of knockout cells with wild-type Omi/HtrA2 but not with the protease mutant [S306A]Omi/HtrA2 reversed the mitochondrial elongation phenotype and OPA1 alterations. Finally, co-immunoprecipitation showed direct interaction of Omi/HtrA2 with endogenous OPA1. Thus, we show for the first time a direct effect of loss of Omi/HtrA2 on mitochondrial morphology and demonstrate a novel role of this mitochondrial serine protease in the modulation of OPA1. Our results underscore a critical role of impaired mitochondrial dynamics in neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC3063334  PMID: 20064504
ANT, adenine nucleotide translocator; Drp1, dynamin-related protein 1; Fis1, mitochondrial fission 1 protein; Hsp90, heat shock protein 90; HtrA2, high temperature requirement protein A2; KO, knockout; MEF, mouse embryonic fibroblast; Mfn2, mitofusin 2; MMP, mitochondrial membrane potential; PBS, phosphate-buffered saline; PD, Parkinson's disease; ROS, reactive oxygen species; SD, standard deviation; SEM, standard error of the mean; VDAC1, voltage dependent anion channel 1; WT, wild-type; Omi; HtrA2; Mitochondria; Fusion; OPA1; Parkinson's disease
19.  Functional investigations on human mesenchymal stem cells exposed to magnetic fields and labeled with clinically approved iron nanoparticles 
BMC Cell Biology  2010;11:22.
For clinical applications of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), labeling and tracking is crucial to evaluate cell distribution and homing. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been successfully established detecting MSCs labeled with superparamagnetic particles of iron oxide (SPIO). Despite initial reports that labeling of MSCs with SPIO is safe without affecting the MSC's biology, recent studies report on influences of SPIO-labeling on metabolism and function of MSCs. Exposition of cells and tissues to high magnetic fields is the functional principle of MRI. In this study we established innovative labeling protocols for human MSCs using clinically established SPIO in combination with magnetic fields and investigated on functional effects (migration assays, quantification of colony forming units, analyses of gene and protein expression and analyses on the proliferation capacity, the viability and the differentiation potential) of magnetic fields on unlabeled and labeled human MSCs. To evaluate the imaging properties, quantification of the total iron load per cell (TIL), electron microscopy, and MRI at 3.0 T were performed.
Human MSCs labeled with SPIO permanently exposed to magnetic fields arranged and grew according to the magnetic flux lines. Exposure of MSCs to magnetic fields after labeling with SPIO significantly enhanced the TIL compared to SPIO labeled MSCs without exposure to magnetic fields resulting in optimized imaging properties (detection limit: 1,000 MSCs). Concerning the TIL and the imaging properties, immediate exposition to magnetic fields after labeling was superior to exposition after 24 h. On functional level, exposition to magnetic fields inhibited the ability of colony formation of labeled MSCs and led to an enhanced expression of lipoprotein lipase and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ in labeled MSCs under adipogenic differentiation, and to a reduced expression of alkaline phosphatase in unlabeled MSCs under osteogenic differentiation as detected by qRT-PCR. Moreover, microarray analyses revealed that exposition of labeled MSCs to magnetic fields led to an up regulation of CD93 mRNA and cadherin 7 mRNA and to a down regulation of Zinc finger FYVE domain mRNA. Exposition of unlabeled MSCs to magnetic fields led to an up regulation of CD93 mRNA, lipocalin 6 mRNA, sialic acid acetylesterase mRNA, and olfactory receptor mRNA and to a down regulation of ubiquilin 1 mRNA. No influence of the exposition to magnetic fields could be observed on the migration capacity, the viability, the proliferation rate and the chondrogenic differentiation capacity of labeled or unlabeled MSCs.
In our study an innovative labeling protocol for tracking MSCs by MRI using SPIO in combination with magnetic fields was established. Both, SPIO and the static magnetic field were identified as independent factors which affect the functional biology of human MSCs. Further in vivo investigations are needed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of the interaction of magnetic fields with stem cell biology.
PMCID: PMC2871263  PMID: 20370915
20.  Reduced Basal Autophagy and Impaired Mitochondrial Dynamics Due to Loss of Parkinson's Disease-Associated Protein DJ-1 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9367.
Mitochondrial dysfunction and degradation takes a central role in current paradigms of neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease (PD). Loss of DJ-1 function is a rare cause of familial PD. Although a critical role of DJ-1 in oxidative stress response and mitochondrial function has been recognized, the effects on mitochondrial dynamics and downstream consequences remain to be determined.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using DJ-1 loss of function cellular models from knockout (KO) mice and human carriers of the E64D mutation in the DJ-1 gene we define a novel role of DJ-1 in the integrity of both cellular organelles, mitochondria and lysosomes. We show that loss of DJ-1 caused impaired mitochondrial respiration, increased intramitochondrial reactive oxygen species, reduced mitochondrial membrane potential and characteristic alterations of mitochondrial shape as shown by quantitative morphology. Importantly, ultrastructural imaging and subsequent detailed lysosomal activity analyses revealed reduced basal autophagic degradation and the accumulation of defective mitochondria in DJ-1 KO cells, that was linked with decreased levels of phospho-activated ERK2.
We show that loss of DJ-1 leads to impaired autophagy and accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria that under physiological conditions would be compensated via lysosomal clearance. Our study provides evidence for a critical role of DJ-1 in mitochondrial homeostasis by connecting basal autophagy and mitochondrial integrity in Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC2826413  PMID: 20186336
21.  Vasoregression Linked to Neuronal Damage in the Rat with Defect of Polycystin-2 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7328.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2752170  PMID: 19806208
22.  Wnt/β-catenin signaling controls development of the blood–brain barrier 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;183(3):409-417.
The blood–brain barrier (BBB) is confined to the endothelium of brain capillaries and is indispensable for fluid homeostasis and neuronal function. In this study, we show that endothelial Wnt/β-catenin (β-cat) signaling regulates induction and maintenance of BBB characteristics during embryonic and postnatal development. Endothelial specific stabilization of β-cat in vivo enhances barrier maturation, whereas inactivation of β-cat causes significant down-regulation of claudin3 (Cldn3), up-regulation of plamalemma vesicle-associated protein, and BBB breakdown. Stabilization of β-cat in primary brain endothelial cells (ECs) in vitro by N-terminal truncation or Wnt3a treatment increases Cldn3 expression, BBB-type tight junction formation, and a BBB characteristic gene signature. Loss of β-cat or inhibition of its signaling abrogates this effect. Furthermore, stabilization of β-cat also increased Cldn3 and barrier properties in nonbrain-derived ECs. These findings may open new therapeutic avenues to modulate endothelial barrier function and to limit the devastating effects of BBB breakdown.
PMCID: PMC2575783  PMID: 18955553
23.  Effective Chemokine Secretion by Dendritic Cells and Expansion of Cross-Presenting CD4−/CD8+ Dendritic Cells Define a Protective Phenotype in the Mouse Model of Coxsackievirus Myocarditis▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(16):8149-8160.
Enteroviruses such as coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3) are able to induce lethal acute and chronic myocarditis. In resistant C57BL/6 mice, CVB3 myocarditis is abrogated by T-cell-dependent mechanisms, whereas major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-matched permissive A.BY/SnJ mice develop chronic myocarditis based on virus persistence. To define the role of T-cell-priming dendritic cells (DCs) in the outcome of CVB3 myocarditis, DCs were analyzed in this animal model in the course of CVB3 infection. In both mouse strains, DCs were found to be infectible with CVB3; however, formation of infectious virions was impaired. In DCs derived from C57BL/6 mice, significantly higher quantities of interleukin-10 (IL-10) and the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha were measured compared to those from A.BY/SnJ mice. Additionally, the chemokines interferon-inducible protein 10 (IP-10) and RANTES were secreted by DCs from resistant C57BL/6 mice earlier in infection and at significantly higher levels. The protective role of IP-10 in CVB3 myocarditis was confirmed in IP-10−/− mice, which had increased myocardial injury compared to the immunocompetent control animals. Also, major differences in resistant and permissive mice were found in DC subsets, with C57BL/6 mice harboring more cross-priming CD4− CD8+ DCs. As CD4− CD8+ DCs are known to express 10 times more Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) than other DC subsets, we followed the course of CVB3 infection in TLR3−/− mice. These mice developed a fulminant acute myocarditis and secreted sustained low amounts of type I interferons; secretion of IP-10 and RANTES was nearly abrogated in DCs. We conclude that MHC-independent genetic factors involving DC-related IP-10 secretion and TLR3 expression are beneficial in the prevention of chronic coxsackievirus myocarditis.
PMCID: PMC2519575  PMID: 18550677
24.  The conditional inactivation of the β-catenin gene in endothelial cells causes a defective vascular pattern and increased vascular fragility 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2003;162(6):1111-1122.
Using the Cre/loxP system we conditionally inactivated β-catenin in endothelial cells. We found that early phases of vasculogenesis and angiogenesis were not affected in mutant embryos; however, vascular patterning in the head, vitelline, umbilical vessels, and the placenta was altered. In addition, in many regions, the vascular lumen was irregular with the formation of lacunae at bifurcations, vessels were frequently hemorrhagic, and fluid extravasation in the pericardial cavity was observed. Cultured β-catenin −/− endothelial cells showed a different organization of intercellular junctions with a decrease in α-catenin in favor of desmoplakin and marked changes in actin cytoskeleton. These changes paralleled a decrease in cell–cell adhesion strength and an increase in paracellular permeability. We conclude that in vivo, the absence of β-catenin significantly reduces the capacity of endothelial cells to maintain intercellular contacts. This may become more marked when the vessels are exposed to high or turbulent flow, such as at bifurcations or in the beating heart, leading to fluid leakage or hemorrhages.
PMCID: PMC2172846  PMID: 12975353
desmoplakin; adherens junctions; angiogenesis; vasculogenesis; vascular permeability
25.  Defective Associations between Blood Vessels and Brain Parenchyma Lead to Cerebral Hemorrhage in Mice Lacking αv Integrins 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(21):7667-7677.
Mouse embryos genetically null for the αv integrin subunit develop intracerebral hemorrhages at midgestation and die shortly after birth. A key question is whether the hemorrhage arises from primary defects in vascular endothelial cells or pericytes or from other causes. We have previously reported normal initiation of cerebral vessels comprising branched tubes of endothelial cells. Here we show that the onset of hemorrhage is not due to defects in pericyte recruitment. Additionally, most αv-null vessels display ultrastructurally normal endothelium-pericyte associations and normal interendothelial cell junctions. Thus, endothelial cells and pericytes appear to establish their normal relationships in cerebral microvessels. However, by both light and electron microscopy, we detected defective associations between cerebral microvessels and the surrounding brain parenchyma, composed of neuroepithelial cells, glia, and neuronal precursors. These data suggest a novel role for αv integrins in the association between cerebral microvessels and central nervous system parenchymal cells.
PMCID: PMC135679  PMID: 12370313

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