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1.  Lack of netrin-4 modulates pathologic neovascularization in the eye 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:18828.
Netrins are a family of matrix-binding proteins that function as guidance signals. Netrin-4 displays pathologic roles in tumorigenesis and neovascularization. To answer the question whether netrin-4 acts either pro- or anti-angiogenic, angiogenesis in the retina was assessed in Ntn-4−/− mice with oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) and laser-induced choroidal neovascularization (CNV), mimicking hypoxia-mediated neovascularization and inflammatory mediated angiogenesis. The basement membrane protein netrin-4 was found to be localised to mature retinal blood vessels. Netrin-4, but not netrin-1 mRNA expression, increased in response to relative hypoxia and recovered to normal levels at the end of blood vessel formation. No changes in the retina were found in normoxic Ntn-4−/− mice. In OIR, Ntn-4−/− mice initially displayed larger avascular areas which recovered faster to revascularization. Ganzfeld electroretinography showed faster recovery of retinal function in Ntn-4−/− mice. Expression of netrin receptors, Unc5H2 (Unc-5 homolog B, C. elegans) and DCC (deleted in colorectal carcinoma), was found in Müller cells and astrocytes. Laser-induced neovascularization in Nnt-4−/− mice did not differ to that in the controls. Our results indicate a role for netrin-4 as an angiogenesis modulating factor in O2-dependent vascular homeostasis while being less important during normal retinal developmental angiogenesis or during inflammatory neovascularization.
PMCID: PMC4702134  PMID: 26732856
2.  Molecules in Focus: Collagen XII: Protecting bone and muscle integrity by organizing collagen fibrils 
Collagen XII, largest member of the fibril-associated collagens with interrupted triple helix (FACIT) family, assembles from three identical α-chains encoded by the COL12A1 gene. The molecule consists of three threadlike N-terminal noncollagenous NC3 domains, joined by disulfide bonds and a short interrupted collagen triple helix towards the C-terminus. Splice variants differ considerably in size and properties: "small" collagen XIIB (220 kDa subunit) is similar to collagen XIV, whereas collagen XIIA (350 kDa) has a much larger NC3 domain carrying glycosaminoglycan chains. Collagen XII binds to collagen I-containing fibrils via its collagenous domain, whereas its large noncollagenous arms interact with other matrix proteins such as tenascin-X. In dense connective tissues and bone, collagen XII is thought to regulate organization and mechanical properties of collagen fibril bundles. Accordingly, recent findings show that collagen XII mutations cause Ehlers-Danlos/myopathy overlap syndrome associated with skeletal abnormalities and muscle weakness in mice and humans.
PMCID: PMC4119597  PMID: 24801612
3.  Recessive and dominant mutations in COL12A1 cause a novel EDS/myopathy overlap syndrome in humans and mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(9):2339-2352.
Collagen VI-related myopathies are disorders of connective tissue presenting with an overlap phenotype combining clinical involvement from the muscle and from the connective tissue. Not all patients displaying related overlap phenotypes between muscle and connective tissue have mutations in collagen VI. Here, we report a homozygous recessive loss of function mutation and a de novo dominant mutation in collagen XII (COL12A1) as underlying a novel overlap syndrome involving muscle and connective tissue. Two siblings homozygous for a loss of function mutation showed widespread joint hyperlaxity combined with weakness precluding independent ambulation, while the patient with the de novo missense mutation was more mildly affected, showing improvement including the acquisition of walking. A mouse model with inactivation of the Col12a1 gene showed decreased grip strength, a delay in fiber-type transition and a deficiency in passive force generation while the muscle seems more resistant to eccentric contraction induced force drop, indicating a role for a matrix-based passive force-transducing elastic element in the generation of the weakness. This new muscle connective tissue overlap syndrome expands on the emerging importance of the muscle extracellular matrix in the pathogenesis of muscle disease.
PMCID: PMC3976332  PMID: 24334604
4.  Evidence for a crucial role of a host non-coding RNA in influenza A virus replication 
RNA Biology  2013;11(1):66-75.
A growing body of evidence suggests the non-protein coding human genome is of vital importance for human cell function. Besides small RNAs, the diverse class of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) recently came into focus. However, their relevance for infection, a major evolutionary driving force, remains elusive. Using two commercially available microarray systems, namely NCode™ and Sureprint™ G3, we identified differential expression of 42 ncRNAs during influenza A virus (IAV) infection in human lung epithelial cells. This included several classes of lncRNAs, including large intergenic ncRNAs (lincRNAs). As analyzed by qRT-PCR, expression of one lincRNA, which we termed virus inducible lincRNA (VIN), is induced by several IAV strains (H1N1, H3N2, H7N7) as well as vesicular stomatitis virus. However, we did not observe an induction of VIN by influenza B virus, treatment with RNA mimics, or IFNβ. Thus, VIN expression seems to be a specific response to certain viral infections. RNA fractionation and RNA-FISH experiments revealed that VIN is localized to the host cell nucleus. Most importantly, we show that abolition of VIN by RNA interference restricts IAV replication and viral protein synthesis, highlighting the relevance of this lincRNA for productive IAV infection. Our observations suggest that viral pathogens interfere with the non-coding portion of the human genome, thereby guaranteeing their successful propagation, and that the expression of VIN correlates with their virulence. Consequently, our study provides a novel approach for understanding virus pathogenesis in greater detail, which will enable future design of new antiviral strategies targeting the host’s non-protein coding genome.
PMCID: PMC3929426  PMID: 24440876
lincRNA; non-protein coding genome; host factor; IAV; VIN
5.  Collagen XIV is important for growth and structural integrity of the myocardium 
Collagen XIV is a fibril-associated collagen with an interrupted triple helix (FACIT). Previous studies have shown that this collagen type regulates early stages of fibrillogenesis in connective tissues of high mechanical demand. Mice null for Collagen XIV are viable, however formation of the interstitial collagen network is defective in tendons and skin leading to reduced biomechanical function. The assembly of a tightly regulated collagen network is also required in the heart, not only for structural support but also for controlling cellular processes. Collagen XIV is highly expressed in the embryonic heart, notably within the cardiac interstitium of the developing myocardium, however its role has not been elucidated. To test this, we examined cardiac phenotypes in embryonic and adult mice devoid of Collagen XIV. From as early as E11.5, Col14a1−/− mice exhibit significant perturbations in mRNA levels of many other collagen types and remodeling enzymes (MMPs, TIMPs) within the ventricular myocardium. By post natal stages, collagen fibril organization is in disarray and the adult heart displays defects in ventricular morphogenesis. In addition to the extracellular matrix, Col14a1−/− mice exhibit increased cardiomyocyte proliferation at post natal, but not E11.5 stages, leading to increased cell number, yet cell size is decreased by 3 months of age. In contrast to myocytes, the number of cardiac fibroblasts is reduced after birth associated with increased apoptosis. As a result of these molecular and cellular changes during embryonic development and post natal maturation, cardiac function is diminished in Col14a1−/− mice from 3 months of age; associated with dilation in the absence of hypertrophy, and reduced ejection fraction. Further, Col14a1 deficiency leads to a greater increase in left ventricular wall thickening in response to pathological pressure overload compared to wild type animals. Collectively, these studies identify a new role for type XIV collagen in the formation of the cardiac interstitium during embryonic development, and highlight the importance of the collagen network for myocardial cell survival, and function of the working myocardium after birth.
PMCID: PMC3472103  PMID: 22906538
Collagen XIV; Myocardium; Extracellular Matrix; Cardiomyocytes; Cardiac fibroblasts
6.  Abnormal Corneal Endothelial Maturation in Collagen XII and XIV Null Mice 
Maturation of the endothelium and the adjacent matrix was characterized in wild-type (WT) mice. The influence of FACIT collagen XII and XIV deficiency on the morphology, maturation, and function of the corneal endothelium was examined.
Analysis of the endothelium and Descemet's membrane (DM) was performed using transmission electron microscopy at postnatal day (P)4, P14, and P30 in WT, Col12a1−/−, Col14a1−/−, and Col12a1−/−/Col14a1−/− mice. Endothelial junctions were analyzed using ZO-1. The presence of endothelial–stromal communications was evaluated with phalloidin staining as well as electron microscopy. Finally, corneal thickness was assessed.
A thin DM, clefts between endothelial cells and DM, and large “vacuole-like” structures were present in the endothelial cells of WT mice at P4 but not noted at P30. The endothelia of Col12a1−/−, Col14a1−/−, and compound Col12a1−/−/Col14a1−/− in the P30 cornea maintained the vacuole-like structures seen at P4. A mature endothelial junction pattern was delayed in the null corneas. Expression of ZO-1 in WT endothelia at P14 was diffuse and localized to the basolateral and apical cell membrane. At P30, staining was localized to intercellular junctions. ZO-1 reactivity was patchy in Col12a1−/−, Col14a1−/−, and compound Col12a1−/−/Col14a1−/− corneas at P14 and P30. Stromal thickness was increased in P30 null corneas. Endothelial cell processes were demonstrated penetrating the DM and into the underlying stroma, throughout the entire endothelial layer in the P4 cornea.
Collagen XII and XIV null mice demonstrate delayed endothelial maturation. The structural alterations suggest functional changes in endothelial function resulting in increased corneal thickness. Endothelial–stromal interactions suggest a pathway for signal transduction.
Collagen XII and XIV are essential for the maturation and function of corneal endothelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3648227  PMID: 23599329
FACIT collagens; cornea; corneal endothelium; stroma; collagen XII; collagen XIV; knockout mouse models
7.  Analysis of the cartilage proteome from three different mouse models of genetic skeletal diseases reveals common and discrete disease signatures 
Biology Open  2013;2(8):802-811.
Pseudoachondroplasia and multiple epiphyseal dysplasia are genetic skeletal diseases resulting from mutations in cartilage structural proteins. Electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry previously showed that the appearance of the cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM) in targeted mouse models of these diseases is disrupted; however, the precise changes in ECM organization and the pathological consequences remain unknown. Our aim was to determine the effects of matrilin-3 and COMP mutations on the composition and extractability of ECM components to inform how these detrimental changes might influence cartilage organization and degeneration.
Cartilage was sequentially extracted using increasing denaturants and the extraction profiles of specific proteins determined using SDS-PAGE/Western blotting. Furthermore, the relative composition of protein pools was determined using mass spectrometry for a non-biased semi-quantitative analysis.
Western blotting revealed changes in the extraction of matrilins, COMP and collagen IX in mutant cartilage. Mass spectrometry confirmed quantitative changes in the extraction of structural and non-structural ECM proteins, including proteins with roles in cellular processes such as protein folding and trafficking. In particular, genotype-specific differences in the extraction of collagens XII and XIV and tenascins C and X were identified; interestingly, increased expression of several of these genes has recently been implicated in susceptibility and/or progression of murine osteoarthritis.
We demonstrated that mutation of matrilin-3 and COMP caused changes in the extractability of other cartilage proteins and that proteomic analyses of Matn3 V194D, Comp T585M and Comp DelD469 mouse models revealed both common and discrete disease signatures that provide novel insight into skeletal disease mechanisms and cartilage degradation.
PMCID: PMC3744072  PMID: 23951406
Cartilage; Genetic skeletal disease; Proteomics; Pseudoachondroplasia; Multiple epiphyseal dysplasia
8.  The γ3 Chain of Laminin is Widely But Differentially Expressed in Murine Basement Membranes: Expression and Functional Studies 
Matrix Biology  2011;31(2):120-134.
Laminins are heterotrimeric extracellular glycoproteins found in, but not confined to, basement membranes (BMs). They are important components in formation of the molecular networks of BMs as well as in cell polarity, cell differentiation and tissue morphogenesis. Each laminin is composed by an α, a β and a γ chain. Previous studies have shown that the γ3 chain is partnered with either the β1 chain (in placenta) or β2 chain (in the CNS) (Libby et al., 2000). Several studies, including our own, suggested that the γ3 chain is expressed in both apical and basal compartments (Gersdorff et al., 2005; Koch et al., 1999; Yan and Cheng, 2006). This study investigates the expression pattern of the γ3 chain in mouse. We developed three new γ3-reactive antibodies, and we show that the γ3 chain is present in BMs. The distribution pattern is considerably more restricted than that of the γ1 chain and within any tissue there is differential deposition into BM compartments. This is particularly true in the retina and brain, where γ3 is uniquely expressed in a subset of the vascular basement membranes and the pial surface. We used conventional genetic ablation techniques to remove the γ3 chain in mice; unlike other laminin null mice (α5, β2, γ1 nulls) (Miner et al., 1998; Noakes et al., 1995; Smyth et al., 1999), these mice live a normal lifespan and have only minor abnormalities, the most striking of which are ectopic granule cells in the cerebellum and an apparent increase in capillary branching in the outer retina. These data support the suggestion that the γ3 chain is deposited in BMs and contributes some unique properties to their function, particularly in the nervous system.
PMCID: PMC3288684  PMID: 22222602
Laminin; retina; CNS; cerebellum; angiogenesis; kidney; testis
9.  The Expression And Function Of Netrin-4 In Murine Ocular Tissues 
Experimental Eye Research  2012;96(1):24-35.
Netrin-4, a member of the netrin family, is a potent regulator of embryonic development. It promotes neurite extension and regulates pulmonary airway branching, vasculogenesis patterning, and endothelial proliferation in pathological angiogenesis. The initial characterization of netrin-4 expression was focused on epithelial-derived organs (kidney, lung and salivary gland) and the central nervous system. Ocular development is an ideal system to study netrin-4 expression and function, as it involves both ectodermal (cornea, lens and retina) and mesodermal (sclera and choroid) derivatives and has an extensive and well-characterized angiogenic process. Netrin-4 is expressed in all ocular tissues. It is a prominent component of the basement membranes of the lens and cornea, as well as all three basement membranes of the retina: the inner limiting membrane, vascular basement membranes, and Bruch’s membrane. Netrin-4 is differentially deposited in vascular basement membranes, with more intense anti-netrin-4 reactivity on the arterial side. The retinal microcirculation also expresses netrin-4. In order to test the function of netrin-4 in vivo, we generated a conventional mouse lacking Ntn4 expression. Basement membrane formation in the cornea, lens and retina is undisrupted by netrin-4 deletion, demonstrating that netrin-4 is not a major structural component of these basement membranes. In the Ntn4 homozygous null (Ntn4−/−) cornea, the overall morphology of the cornea, as well as the epithelial, stromal and endothelial stratification are normal; however, epithelial cell proliferation is increased. In the Ntn4−/− retina, neurogenesis appears to proceed normally, as does retinal lamination. In the Ntn4−/− retina, retinal ganglion cell targeting is intact, although there are minor defects in axon fasciculation. In the retinal vasculature of the Ntn4−/− retina, the distribution patterns of astrocytes and the vasculature are largely normal, with the possible exception of increased branching in the deep capillary plexus, suggesting that netrin-4 may act as a negative regulator of angiogenesis. These data, taken together, suggest that netrin-4 is a negative regulator of corneal epithelial cell proliferation and retinal vascular branching in vivo, whereas netrin-4 may be redundant with other members of the netrin family in other ocular tissue development. Ntn4−/− mice may serve as a good model in which to study the role of netrins in vivo of the pathobiologic vascular remodeling in the retina and cornea.
PMCID: PMC3296891  PMID: 22281059
Extracellular matrix; netrin; angiogenesis; cornea; retina; axonal pathfinding
10.  Sensing the enemy 
Virulence  2012;3(6):525-528.
PMCID: PMC3524155  PMID: 23076273
bacterial secretion system; Helicobacter pylori; inflammatory anergy; innate immunity; macrophage; microbe associated molecular pattern; microRNA; miR-155; type IV secretion system; virulence
11.  Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the German Armed Forces: a retrospective study in inpatients of a German army hospital 
In 2006 and 2007, around 0.4 and 0.7% of all German soldiers involved in missions abroad were registered as suffering from PTSD. The frequency of PTSD in the German Armed Forces was assessed from army records. All soldiers admitted to the German Military Hospital in Hamburg, Germany, with PTSD (n = 117) in the years 2006 and 2007 were assessed by using questionnaires and structure interviews. Risk factors associated with PTSD were identified. Of the 117 soldiers with PTSD, 39.3% were in missions abroad, and 18.0% had participated in combat situations. Five (4.3%) were wounded in combat, and 4 of them had a serious irreversible injury. In total, 53.8% of the PTSD cases were related to injuries or physical/sexual abuse, while 46.2% were due to psychological traumatization. Among soldiers with PTSD who were not abroad, sexual or physical abuse were the most common traumas. In 35.9% of the patients, there was evidence for psychiatric disorders existing before the traumatic event. The percentage of women among sufferers from PTSD was significantly higher than the proportion of women in the armed forces (30.8% vs. 5.17%). A careful psychiatric screening before recruitment might help to identify persons at risk of PTSD.
PMCID: PMC3429774  PMID: 22274736
Posttraumatic stress disorder; PTSD; Soldiers; Forces; Combat; Treatment
12.  Type XII collagen regulates osteoblast polarity and communication during bone formation 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;193(6):1115-1130.
Type XII collagen–null mice have fragile bones with disorganized collagen fiber arrangement, decreased bone matrix formation, and delayed osteoblast differentiation.
Differentiated osteoblasts are polarized in regions of bone deposition, demonstrate extensive cell interaction and communication, and are responsible for bone formation and quality. Type XII collagen is a fibril-associated collagen with interrupted triple helices and has been implicated in the osteoblast response to mechanical forces. Type XII collagen is expressed by osteoblasts and localizes to areas of bone formation. A transgenic mouse null for type XII collagen exhibits skeletal abnormalities including shorter, more slender long bones with decreased mechanical strength as well as altered vertebrae structure compared with wild-type mice. Col12a−/− osteoblasts have decreased bone matrix deposition with delayed maturation indicated by decreased bone matrix protein expression. Compared with controls, Col12a−/− osteoblasts are disorganized and less polarized with disrupted cell–cell interactions, decreased connexin43 expression, and impaired gap junction function. The data demonstrate important regulatory roles for type XII collagen in osteoblast differentiation and bone matrix formation.
PMCID: PMC3115787  PMID: 21670218
13.  Probing the functional equivalence of otoferlin and synaptotagmin 1 in exocytosis 
Cochlear inner hair cells (IHCs) use Ca2+-dependent exocytosis of glutamate to signal sound information. Otoferlin, a C2-domain protein essential for IHC exocytosis and hearing, may serve as a Ca2+ sensor in vesicle fusion in IHCs that seem to lack the classical neuronal Ca2+ sensors synaptotagmin 1 (Syt1) and 2. Support for the Ca2+ sensor of fusion hypothesis for otoferlin function comes from biochemical experiments, but additional roles in late exocytosis upstream of fusion have been indicated by physiological studies. Here, we tested the functional equivalence of otoferlin and Syt1 in three neurosecretory model systems: auditory IHCs, adrenal chromaffin cells and hippocampal neurons. Long-term and short-term ectopic expression of Syt1 in IHCs of Otof−/− mice by viral gene transfer in the embryonic inner ear and organotypic culture failed to rescue their Ca2+ influx-triggered exocytosis. On the other hand, virally mediated overexpression of otoferlin did not restore phasic exocytosis in Syt1-deficient chromaffin cells or neurons, but enhanced asynchronous release in the latter. We further tested exocytosis in Otof−/− hippocampal neurons and in Syt1−/− IHCs, but found no deficits in vesicle fusion. Expression analysis of different synaptotagmin isoforms indicated that Syt1 and Syt2 are absent from mature IHCs. Our data argue against a simple functional equivalence of the two C2 domain proteins in exocytosis of IHC ribbon synapses, chromaffin cells and hippocampal synapses.
PMCID: PMC3083821  PMID: 21451027
cochlea; hair cell; hippocampal neuron; synapse; chromaffin cell; in utero gene transfer
14.  Endothelium-Derived Netrin-4 Supports Pancreatic Epithelial Cell Adhesion and Differentiation through Integrins α2β1 and α3β1 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22750.
Netrins have been extensively studied in the developing central nervous system as pathfinding guidance cues, and more recently in non-neural tissues where they mediate cell adhesion, migration and differentiation. Netrin-4, a distant relative of Netrins 1–3, has been proposed to affect cell fate determination in developing epithelia, though receptors mediating these functions have yet to be identified.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using human embryonic pancreatic cells as a model of developing epithelium, here we report that Netrin-4 is abundantly expressed in vascular endothelial cells and pancreatic ductal cells, and supports epithelial cell adhesion through integrins α2β1and α3β1. Interestingly, we find that Netrin-4 recognition by embryonic pancreatic cells through integrins α2β1 and α3β1 promotes insulin and glucagon gene expression. In addition, full genome microarray analysis revealed that fetal pancreatic cell adhesion to Netrin-4 causes a prominent down-regulation of cyclins and up-regulation of negative regulators of the cell cycle. Consistent with these results, a number of other genes whose activities have been linked to developmental decisions and/or cellular differentiation are up-regulated.
Given the recognized function of blood vessels in epithelial tissue morphogenesis, our results provide a mechanism by which endothelial-derived Netrin-4 may function as a pro-differentiation cue for adjacent developing pancreatic cell populations expressing adhesion receptors α2β1 and α3β1 integrins.
PMCID: PMC3146510  PMID: 21829502
15.  Autocrine Transforming Growth Factor-β1 Activation Mediated by Integrin αVβ3 Regulates Transcriptional Expression of Laminin-332 in Madin-Darby Canine Kidney Epithelial Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(21):3654-3668.
The expression of the extracellular matrix protein Laminin-332 is regulated transcriptionally by TGF-β1 as a function of cell confluence in MDCK epithelial cells. Latent TGF-β1 is secreted apically, sequestered from its receptors and activation machinery, dependent on integrin αVβ3, localized on the basolateral side of the epithelial barrier.
Laminin (LM)-332 is an extracellular matrix protein that plays a structural role in normal tissues and is also important in facilitating recovery of epithelia from injury. We have shown that expression of LM-332 is up-regulated during renal epithelial regeneration after ischemic injury, but the molecular signals that control expression are unknown. Here, we demonstrate that in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells LM-332 expression occurs only in subconfluent cultures and is turned-off after a polarized epithelium has formed. Addition of active transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 to confluent MDCK monolayers is sufficient to induce transcription of the LM α3 gene and LM-332 protein expression via the TGF-β type I receptor (TβR-I) and the Smad2–Smad4 complex. Significantly, we show that expression of LM-332 in MDCK cells is an autocrine response to endogenous TGF-β1 secretion and activation mediated by integrin αVβ3 because neutralizing antibodies block LM-332 production in subconfluent cells. In confluent cells, latent TGF-β1 is secreted apically, whereas TβR-I and integrin αVβ3 are localized basolaterally. Disruption of the epithelial barrier by mechanical injury activates TGF-β1, leading to LM-332 expression. Together, our data suggest a novel mechanism for triggering the production of LM-332 after epithelial injury.
PMCID: PMC2965683  PMID: 20844080
16.  The extracellular matrix component WIF-1 is expressed during, and can modulate, retinal development 
We have shown previously that components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) modulate neuronal development. Here, we searched for additional ECM elements that might play roles in retinal histogenesis and identified a secreted glycoprotein that is heavily expressed in the retina. This molecule, named by others Wnt Inhibitory Factor-1 (WIF-1), is expressed during and after the period of rod photoreceptor morphogenesis in the mouse. We show that a potential WIF-1 ligand, Wnt4, as well as a potential Wnt4 receptor, fzd4, and a potential Wnt4 coreceptor, LRP6, are expressed in the region of, and at the time of, rod photoreceptor genesis. WIF-1 and Wnt4 are coexpressed during retinal development and bind to each other; therefore, they are likely to interact during rod production. WIF-1 protein inhibits rod production, and anti-WIF-1 antibodies increase rod production; in contrast, Wnt4 promotes rod production. Together, these data suggest that WIF-1 and Wnt4, both components of the ECM, regulate mammalian photoreceptor development.
PMCID: PMC2935895  PMID: 15555925
17.  Laminin deficits induce alterations in the development of dopaminergic neurons in the mouse retina 
Visual neuroscience  2007;24(4):549-562.
Genetically modified mice lacking the β2 laminin chain (β2null), the γ3 laminin chain (γ3 null), or both β2/γ3 chains (compound null) were produced. The development of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunoreactive neurons in these mouse lines was studied between birth and postnatal day (P) 20. Compared to wild type mice, no alterations were seen in γ3 null mice. In β2 null mice, however, the large, type I TH neurons appeared later in development, were at a lower density and had reduced TH immunoreactivity, although TH process number and size were not altered. In the compound null mouse, the same changes were observed together with reduced TH process outgrowth. Surprisingly, in the smaller, type II TH neurons, TH immunoreactivity was increased in laminin-deficient compared to wild type mice. Other retinal defects we observed were a patchy disruption of the inner limiting retinal basement membrane and a disoriented growth of Müller glial cells. Starburst and AII type amacrine cells were not apparently altered in laminin-deficient relative to wild type mice. We postulate that laminin-dependent developmental signals are conveyed to TH amacrine neurons through intermediate cell types, perhaps the Müller glial cell and/or the retinal ganglion cell.
PMCID: PMC2935900  PMID: 17711601
Extracellular matrix; Inner limiting; Membrane; Amacrine cell; Muller cell
18.  Defective Formation of the Inner Limiting Membrane in Laminin β2- and γ3-Null Mice Produces Retinal Dysplasia 
In this study, the authors demonstrated that two laminin chains, β2 and γ3, are critical for ILM stability and Müller cell attachment. The disruption of these genes causes defects in retinal lamination. These results have implications for diseases of the ILM and Müller cells.
Retinal basement membranes (BMs) serve as attachment sites for retinal pigment epithelial cells on Bruch's membrane and Müller cells (MCs) on the inner limiting membrane (ILM), providing polarity cues to adherent cells. The β2 and γ3 chains of laminin are key components of retinal BMs throughout development, suggesting that they play key roles in retinal histogenesis. This study was conducted to analyze how the absence of both β2- and γ3-containing laminins affects retinal development.
The function of the β2- and γ3-containing laminins was tested by producing a compound deletion of both the β2 and the γ3 laminin genes in the mouse and assaying the effect on postnatal retinal development by using anatomic and electrophysiological techniques.
Despite the widespread expression of β2 and γ3 laminin chains in wild-type (WT) retinal BMs, the development of only one, the ILM, was disrupted. The postnatal consequence of the ILM disruption was an alteration of MC attachment and a resultant disruption in MC apical–basal polarity, which culminated in retinal dysplasia. Of importance, although their density was altered, retinal cell fates were unaffected. The laminin mutants have a markedly decreased visual function, resulting in part from photoreceptor dysgenesis.
These data suggest that β2 and γ3 laminin isoforms are critical for the formation and stability of the ILM. These data also suggest that attachment of the MC to the ILM provides important polarity cues to the MC and for postnatal retinal histogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2868416  PMID: 19907020
19.  A Novel Marker of Tissue Junctions, Collagen XXII* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2004;279(21):22514-22521.
Here we describe a novel specific component of tissue junctions, collagen XXII. It was first identified by screening an EST data base and subsequently expressed as a recombinant protein and characterized as an authentic tissue component. The COL22A1 gene on human chromosome 8q24.2 encodes a collagen that structurally belongs to the FACIT protein family (fibril-associated collagens with interrupted triple helices). Collagen XXII exhibits a striking restricted localization at tissue junctions such as the myotendinous junction in skeletal and heart muscle, the articular cartilage-synovial fluid junction, or the border between the anagen hair follicle and the dermis in the skin. It is deposited in the basement membrane zone of the myotendinous junction and the hair follicle and associated with the extrafibrillar matrix in cartilage. In situ hybridization of myotendinous junctions revealed that muscle cells produce collagen XXII, and functional tests demonstrated that collagen XXII acts as a cell adhesion ligand for skin epithelial cells and fibroblasts. This novel gene product, collagen XXII, is the first specific extracellular matrix protein present only at tissue junctions.
PMCID: PMC2925840  PMID: 15016833
20.  Novel Role for Netrins in Regulating Epithelial Behavior during Lung Branching Morphogenesis 
Current biology : CB  2004;14(10):897-905.
The development of many organs, including the lung, depends upon a process known as branching morphogenesis, in which a simple epithelial bud gives rise to a complex tree-like system of tubes specialized for the transport of gas or fluids. Previous studies on lung development have highlighted a role for fibroblast growth factors (FGFs), made by the mesodermal cells, in promoting the proliferation, budding, and chemotaxis of the epithelial endoderm [1–3]. Here, by using a three-dimensional culture system, we provide evidence for a novel role for Netrins, best known as axonal guidance molecules [4, 5], in modulating the morphogenetic response of lung endoderm to exogenous FGFs. This effect involves inhibition of localized changes in cell shape and phosphorylation of the intracellular mitogen-activated protein kinase(s) (ERK1/2, for extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1 and -2), elicited by exogenous FGFs. The temporal and spatial expression of netrin 1, netrin 4, and Unc5b genes and the localization of Netrin-4 protein in vivo suggest a model in which Netrins in the basal lamina locally modulate and fine-tune the outgrowth and shape of emergent epithelial buds.
PMCID: PMC2925841  PMID: 15186747
21.  Laminin Expression in Adult and Developing Retinae: Evidence of Two Novel CNS Laminins 
Components of the extracellular matrix exert myriad effects on tissues throughout the body. In particular, the laminins, a family of heterotrimeric extracellular glycoproteins, have been shown to affect tissue development and integrity in such diverse organs as the kidney, lung, skin, and nervous system. Of these, we have focused on the roles that laminins play in the differentiation and maintenance of the nervous system. Here, we examine the expression of all known laminin chains within one component of the CNS, the retina. We find seven laminin chains—α3, α4, α5, β2, β3, γ2, and γ3—outside the retinal basement membranes. Anatomically, these chains are coexpressed in one or both of two locations: the matrix surrounding photoreceptors and the first synaptic layer where photoreceptors synapse with retinal interneurons. Biochemically, four of these chains are coisolated from retinal extracts in two independent complexes, confirming that two novel heterotrimers—α4β2γ3 and α5β2γ3—are present in the retinal matrix. During development, all four of these chains, along with components of laminin 5 (the α3, β3, and γ2 chains) are also expressed at sites at which they could exert important effects on photoreceptor development. Together, these data suggest the existence of two novel laminin heterotrimers in the CNS, which we term here laminin 14 (composed of the α4, β2, and γ3 chains) and laminin 15 (composed of the α5, β2, and γ3 chains), and lead us to hypothesize that these laminins, along with laminin 5, may play roles in photoreceptor production, stability, and synaptic organization.
PMCID: PMC2924637  PMID: 10964957
retina; synapse; matrix; photoreceptor; interphoto-receptor matrix; laminin
22.  CD36-mediated activation of endothelial cell apoptosis by an N-terminal recombinant fragment of thrombospondin-2 inhibits breast cancer growth and metastasis in vivo 
Thus far the clinical benefits seen in breast cancer patients treated with drugs targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) pathway are only modest. Consequently, additional antiangiogenic approaches for treatment of breast cancer need to be investigated. Thrombospondin-2 (TSP-2) has been shown to inhibit tumor growth and angiogenesis with a greater potency than the related molecule TSP-1. The systemic effects of TSP-2 on tumor metastasis and the underlying molecular mechanisms of the antiangiogenic activity of TSP-2 have remained poorly understood. We generated a recombinant fusion protein consisting of the N-terminal region of TSP-2 and the IgG-Fc1 fragment (N-TSP2-Fc) and could demonstrate that the antiangiogenic activity of N-TSP2-Fc is dependent on the CD36 receptor. We found that N-TSP2-Fc inhibited VEGF-induced tube formation of human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMEC) on matrigel in vitro and that concurrent incubation of anti-CD36 antibody with N-TSP2-Fc resulted in tube formation that was comparable to untreated control. N-TSP2-Fc potently induced apoptosis of HDMEC in vitro in a CD36-dependent manner. Moreover, we could demonstrate a CD36 receptor-mediated loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and activation of caspase-3 in HDMEC in vitro. Daily intraperitoneal injections of N-TSP2-Fc resulted in a significant inhibition of the growth of human MDA-MB-435 and MDA-MB-231 tumor cells grown in the mammary gland of immunodeficient nude mice and in reduced tumor vascularization. Finally, increased serum concentrations of N-TSP2-Fc significantly inhibited regional metastasis to lymph nodes and distant metastasis to lung as shown by quantitative real-time alu PCR. These results identify N-TSP2-Fc as a potent systemic inhibitor of tumor metastasis and provide strong evidence for an important role of the CD36 receptor in mediating the antiangiogenic activity of TSP-2.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10549-010-1085-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3291836  PMID: 20714802
Breast cancer; Thrombospondin-2; CD36; Metastasis; Angiogenesis
23.  The initiation of embryonic-like collagen fibrillogenesis by adult human tendon fibroblasts when cultured under tension 
Biomaterials  2010;31(18):4889-4897.
Tendon fibroblasts synthesize collagen and form fibrils during embryonic development, but to what extent mature fibroblasts are able to recapitulate embryonic development and develop normal tendon structure is unknown. The present study examined the capability of mature human tendon fibroblasts to initiate collagen fibrillogenesis when cultured in fixed-length fibrin gels. Fibroblasts were dissected from semitendinosus and gracilis tendons from healthy humans and cultured in 3D linear fibrin gels. The fibroblasts synthesized an extracellular matrix of parallel collagen fibrils that were aligned along the axis of tension. The fibrils had a homogeneous narrow diameter that was similar to collagen fibrils occurring in embryonic tendon. Immunostaining showed colocalization of collagen type I with collagen III, XII and XIV. A fibronectin network was formed in parallel with the collagen, and fibroblasts stained positive for integrin α5. Finally, the presence of cell extensions into the extracellular space with membrane-enclosed fibrils in fibripositors indicated characteristics of embryonic tendon. We conclude that mature human tendon fibroblasts retain an intrinsic capability to perform collagen fibrillogenesis similar to that of developing tendon, which implies that the hormonal/mechanical milieu, rather than intrinsic cellular function, inhibits regenerative potential in mature tendon.
PMCID: PMC3485556  PMID: 20356622
Collagen; Extracellular matrix; Fibroblast; Tendon
24.  Helicobacter pylori Induces miR-155 in T Cells in a cAMP-Foxp3-Dependent Manner 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9500.
Amongst the most severe clinical outcomes of life-long infections with Helicobacter pylori is the development of peptic ulcers and gastric adenocarcinoma - diseases often associated with an increase of regulatory T cells. Understanding H. pylori-driven regulation of T cells is therefore of crucial clinical importance. Several studies have defined mammalian microRNAs as key regulators of the immune system and of carcinogenic processes. Hence, we aimed here to identify H. pylori-regulated miRNAs, mainly in human T cells. MicroRNA profiling of non-infected and infected human T cells revealed H. pylori infection triggers miR-155 expression in vitro and in vivo. By using single and double H. pylori mutants and the corresponding purified enzymes, the bacterial vacuolating toxin A (VacA) and γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) plus lipopolysaccharide (LPS) tested positive for their ability to regulate miR-155 and Foxp3 expression in human lymphocytes; the latter being considered as the master regulator and marker of regulatory T cells. RNAi-mediated knockdown (KD) of the Foxp3 transcription factor in T cells abolished miR-155 expression. Using adenylate cyclase inhibitors, the miR-155 induction cascade was shown to be dependent on the second messenger cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). Furthermore, we found that miR-155 directly targets the protein kinase A inhibitor α (PKIα) mRNA in its 3′UTR, indicative of a positive feedback mechanism on the cAMP pathway. Taken together, our study describes, in the context of an H. pylori infection, a direct link between Foxp3 and miR-155 in human T cells and highlights the significance of cAMP in this miR-155 induction cascade.
PMCID: PMC2830477  PMID: 20209161
25.  Evidence for a protein tether involved in somatic touch 
The EMBO Journal  2010;29(4):855-867.
The gating of ion channels by mechanical force underlies the sense of touch and pain. The mode of gating of mechanosensitive ion channels in vertebrate touch receptors is unknown. Here we show that the presence of a protein link is necessary for the gating of mechanosensitive currents in all low-threshold mechanoreceptors and some nociceptors of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Using TEM, we demonstrate that a protein filament with of length ∼100 nm is synthesized by sensory neurons and may link mechanosensitive ion channels in sensory neurons to the extracellular matrix. Brief treatment of sensory neurons with non-specific and site-specific endopeptidases destroys the protein tether and abolishes mechanosensitive currents in sensory neurons without affecting electrical excitability. Protease-sensitive tethers are also required for touch-receptor function in vivo. Thus, unlike the majority of nociceptors, cutaneous mechanoreceptors require a distinct protein tether to transduce mechanical stimuli.
PMCID: PMC2810375  PMID: 20075867
extracellular matrix; ion channels; laminin; mechanotransduction; proteases

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