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1.  Epigenetics: A Promising Paradigm for Better Understanding and Managing Pain 
Epigenetic regulation of gene expression is a rapidly growing area of research. Considering the longevity and plasticity of neurons, the studies on epigenetic pathways in the nervous system should be of special interest for both the epigeneticists and the neuroscientists. Activation or inactivation of different epigenetic pathways becomes more pronounced when the cells experience rapid changes in their environment, and such changes can be easily achieved by injury and inflammation, resulting in pain perception or distortion of pain perception (e.g. hyperalgesia). Therefore, in this regard, field of pain is at advantage to study the epigenetic pathways. More importantly, understanding pain from epigenetics point of view would provide a new paradigm for developing drugs or strategies for pain management. In this review, we introduce basic concepts of epigenetics, including chromatin dynamics, histone modifications, DNA methylation, and RNA induced gene silencing. In addition, we provide evidence from published studies suggesting wide implication of different epigenetic pathways within pain pathways.
PMCID: PMC3672350  PMID: 23602266
Pain; Epigenetic; Chromatin; Histone modification; Transcription factor; DNAmethylation; Opioid receptors
2.  Functional impact of Aurora A-mediated phosphorylation of HP1γ at serine 83 during cell cycle progression 
Previous elegant studies performed in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe have identified a requirement for heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) for spindle pole formation and appropriate cell division. In mammalian cells, HP1γ has been implicated in both somatic and germ cell proliferation. High levels of HP1γ protein associate with enhanced cell proliferation and oncogenesis, while its genetic inactivation results in meiotic and mitotic failure. However, the regulation of HP1γ by kinases, critical for supporting mitotic progression, remains to be fully characterized.
We report for the first time that during mitotic cell division, HP1γ colocalizes and is phosphorylated at serine 83 (Ser83) in G2/M phase by Aurora A. Since Aurora A regulates both cell proliferation and mitotic aberrations, we evaluated the role of HP1γ in the regulation of these phenomena using siRNA-mediated knockdown, as well as phosphomimetic and nonphosphorylatable site-directed mutants. We found that genetic downregulation of HP1γ, which decreases the levels of phosphorylation of HP1γ at Ser83 (P-Ser83-HP1γ), results in mitotic aberrations that can be rescued by reintroducing wild type HP1γ, but not the nonphosphorylatable S83A-HP1γ mutant. In addition, proliferation assays showed that the phosphomimetic S83D-HP1γ increases 5-ethynyl-2´-deoxyuridine (EdU) incorporation, whereas the nonphosphorylatable S83A-HP1γ mutant abrogates this effect. Genome-wide expression profiling revealed that the effects of these mutants on mitotic functions are congruently reflected in G2/M gene expression networks in a manner that mimics the on and off states for P-Ser83-HP1γ.
This is the first description of a mitotic Aurora A-HP1γ pathway, whose integrity is necessary for the execution of proper somatic cell division, providing insight into specific types of posttranslational modifications that associate to distinct functional outcomes of this important chromatin protein.
PMCID: PMC3707784  PMID: 23829974
Heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1); Mitosis; Aurora kinase; Epigenetics; Spindle pole; Centrosome
3.  Sustained Delivery of Dibutyryl Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate to the Transected Spinal Cord Via Oligo [(Polyethylene Glycol) Fumarate] Hydrogels 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2011;17(9-10):1287-1302.
This study describes the use of oligo [(polyethylene glycol) fumarate] (OPF) hydrogel scaffolds as vehicles for sustained delivery of dibutyryl cyclic adenosine monophosphate (dbcAMP) to the transected spinal cord. dbcAMP was encapsulated in poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) microspheres, which were embedded within the scaffolds architecture. Functionality of the released dbcAMP was assessed using neurite outgrowth assays in PC12 cells and by delivery to the transected spinal cord within OPF seven channel scaffolds, which had been loaded with Schwann cells or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Our results showed that encapsulation of dbcAMP in microspheres lead to prolonged release and continued functionality in vitro. These microspheres were then successfully incorporated into OPF scaffolds and implanted in the transected thoracic spinal cord. Sustained delivery of dbcAMP inhibited axonal regeneration in the presence of Schwann cells but rescued MSC-induced inhibition of axonal regeneration. dbcAMP was also shown to reduce capillary formation in the presence of MSCs, which was coupled with significant functional improvements. Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating PLGA microsphere technology for spinal cord transection studies. It represents a novel sustained delivery mechanism within the transected spinal cord and provides a platform for potential delivery of other therapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC3079174  PMID: 21198413
4.  Krüppel-like Factor 11 Differentially Couples to Histone Acetyltransferase and Histone Methyltransferase Chromatin Remodeling Pathways to Transcriptionally Regulate Dopamine D2 Receptor in Neuronal Cells* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(16):12723-12735.
Background: Chromatin-mediated events utilized by Krüppel-Like factors in neurons remain undefined.
Results: Krüppel-Like factor 11 couples to antagonistic chromatin pathways (p300 versus heterochromatin protein 1) to regulate the dopamine D2 receptor gene.
Conclusion: This is the first description of mechanisms underlying Krüppel-like factor-mediated functions in neurons.
Significance: This knowledge expands our understanding of chromatin-mediated mechanisms that influence homeostasis in highly specialized cells.
The importance of Krüppel-like factor (KLF)-mediated transcriptional pathways in the biochemistry of neuronal differentiation has been recognized relatively recently. Elegant studies have revealed that KLF proteins are important regulators of two major molecular and cellular processes critical for neuronal cell differentiation: neurite formation and the expression of neurotransmitter-related genes. However, whether KLF proteins mediate these key processes in a separate or coordinated fashion remains unknown. Moreover, knowledge on the contribution of chromatin dynamics to the biochemical mechanisms utilized by these proteins to perform their function is absent. Here we report the characterization of two antagonistic, chromatin-mediated mechanisms by which KLF11, also known as TIEG2 (transforming growth factor-β-inducible early gene 2) and MODY VII (maturity onset diabetes of the young VII), regulates transcription of the fopamine D2 receptor (Drd2) gene. First, KLF11 activates transcription by binding to a distinct Sp-KLF site within the Drd2 promoter (−98 to −94) and recruiting the p300 histone acetyltransferase. Second, Drd2 transcriptional activation is partially antagonized by heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1), the code reader for histone H3 lysine 9 methylation. Interestingly, KLF11 regulates neurotransmitter receptor gene expression in differentiating neuronal cell populations without affecting neurite formation. Overall, these studies highlight histone methylation and acetylation as key biochemical mechanisms modulating KLF-mediated neurotransmitter gene transcription. These data extend our knowledge of chromatin-mediated biochemical events that maintain key phenotypic features of differentiated neuronal cells.
PMCID: PMC3339994  PMID: 22375010
Dopamine Receptors; Krüppel-like Factor (KLF); Neurotransmitter Receptors; p300; Transcription Regulation; Heterochromatin Protein 1 (HP1)
5.  Sequence-specific Recruitment of Heterochromatin Protein 1 via Interaction with Krüppel-like Factor 11, a Human Transcription Factor Involved in Tumor Suppression and Metabolic Diseases* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(16):13026-13039.
Background: Chromatin remodeling mechanisms utilized by Krüppel-like factor proteins remain poorly defined.
Results: Krüppel-like factor 11 directly recruits heterochromatin protein 1α to promoters in a sequence-specific manner.
Conclusion: Coupling to heterochromatin protein 1 α and its histone methyltransferase underlies Krüppel-like factor-mediated gene expression and tumor suppression.
Significance: This data advances our understanding of how chromatin-mediated mechanisms achieve these functions with increased specificity for target genes.
Heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) proteins are “gatekeepers” of epigenetic gene silencing that is mediated by lysine 9 of histone H3 methylation (H3K9me). Current knowledge supports a paradigm whereby HP1 proteins achieve repression by binding to H3K9me marks and interacting to H3K9 histone methyltransferases (HMTs), such as SUV39H1, which methylate this residue on adjacent nucleosomes thereby compacting chromatin and silencing gene expression. However, the mechanism underlying the recruitment of this epigenetic regulator to target gene promoters remains poorly characterized. In the current study, we reveal for the first time a mechanism whereby HP1 is recruited to promoters by a well characterized Krüppel-like transcription factor (KLF), in a sequence-specific manner, to mediate complex biological phenomena. A PXVXL HP1-interacting domain identified at position 487–491 of KLF11 mediates the binding of HP1α and KLF11 in vitro and in cultured cells. KLF11 also recruits HP1α and its histone methyltransferase, SUV39H1, to promoters to limit KLF11-mediated gene activation. Indeed, a KLF11ΔHP1 mutant derepresses KLF11-regulated cancer genes, by inhibiting HP1-SUV39H1 recruitment, decreasing H3K9me3, while increasing activation-associated marks. Biologically, impairment of KLF11-mediated HP1-HMT recruitment abolishes tumor suppression, providing direct evidence that HP1-HMTs act in a sequence-specific manner to achieve this function rather than its well characterized binding to methylated chromatin without intermediary. Collectively, these studies reveal a novel role for HP1 as a cofactor in tumor suppression, expand our mechanistic understanding of a KLF associated to human disease, and outline cellular and biochemical mechanisms underlying this phenomenon, increasing the specificity of targeting HP1-HMT complexes to gene promoters.
PMCID: PMC3339955  PMID: 22318730
Chromatin; Coregulator Transcription; Cxcr4; Krüppel-like Factor (KLF); Transcription Regulation; Heterochromatin Protein 1 (HP1)
6.  The Positive Allosteric Modulator Morantel Binds at Non-canonical Subunit Interfaces of Neuronal Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors 
We are interested in the positive allosteric modulation of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), and have recently shown that the anthelmintic compound morantel potentiates by enhancing channel gating of the α3β2 subtype. Based on the demonstration that morantel-elicited currents were inhibited by the classic ACh-competitor dihydro-β-erythroidine in a noncompetitive manner and that morantel still potentiates at saturating concentrations of agonist (Wu et al., 2008), we hypothesized that morantel binds at the non-canonical β2(+)/α3(-) subunit interface. In the present study, we created seven cysteine-substituted subunits by site-directed mutagenesis, choosing residues in the putative morantel binding site with the aid of structural homology models. We co-expressed the mutant subunits and their respective wild type partners in Xenopus oocytes and characterized the morantel potentiation of ACh-evoked currents, as well as morantel-evoked currents, before and after treatment with a variety of methanethiosulfonate (MTS)-based compounds, using voltage-clamp recordings. The properties of four of the seven mutants, two residues on each side of the interface, were changed by MTS treatments. Co-application with ACh enhanced the extent of MTS modification for α3A106Cβ2 and α3β2S192C receptors. The activities of two mutants, α3T115Cβ2 and α3β2T150C, were dramatically altered by MTS modification. For α3β2T150C, while peak current amplitudes were reduced, potentiation was enhanced. For α3T115Cβ2, both current amplitudes and potentiation were reduced. MTS modification and morantel were mutually inhibitory: MTS treatment decreased morantel-evoked currents and morantel decreased the rate of MTS modification. We conclude that the four residues showing MTS effects contribute to the morantel binding site.
PMCID: PMC2726771  PMID: 19587280
Nicotinic receptor; positive allosteric modulator; binding site; cysteine substitution; morantel; oocyte

Results 1-6 (6)