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1.  Carotenoid accumulation affects redox status, starch metabolism, and flavonoid/anthocyanin accumulation in citrus 
BMC Plant Biology  2015;15:27.
Carotenoids are indispensable plant secondary metabolites that are involved in photosynthesis, antioxidation, and phytohormone biosynthesis. Carotenoids are likely involved in other biological functions that have yet to be discovered. In this study, we integrated genomic, biochemical, and cellular studies to gain deep insight into carotenoid-related biological processes in citrus calli overexpressing CrtB (phytoene synthase from Pantoea agglomerans). Fortunella hindsii Swingle (a citrus relative) and Malus hupehensis (a wild apple) calli were also utilized as supporting systems to investigate the effect of altered carotenoid accumulation on carotenoid-related biological processes.
Transcriptomic analysis provided deep insight into the carotenoid-related biological processes of redox status, starch metabolism, and flavonoid/anthocyanin accumulation. By applying biochemical and cytological analyses, we determined that the altered redox status was associated with variations in O2- and H2O2 levels. We also ascertained a decline in starch accumulation in carotenoid-rich calli. Furthermore, via an extensive cellular investigation of the newly constructed CrtB overexpressing Fortunella hindsii Swingle, we demonstrated that starch level reducation occurred in parallel with significant carotenoid accumulation. Moreover, studying anthocyanin-rich Malus hupehensis calli showed a negative effect of carotenoids on anthocyanin accumulation.
In citrus, altered carotenoid accumulation resulted in dramatic effects on metabolic processes involved in redox modification, starch degradation, and flavonoid/anthocyanin biosynthesis. These findings provided new perspectives to understand the biological importance of carotenogenesis and of the developmental processes associated with the nutritional and sensory qualities of agricultural products that accumulate carotenoids.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-015-0426-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4323224  PMID: 25644332
Carotenogenesis; Citrus; Redox status; Starch; Chromoplast; Anthocyanin
2.  Novel Strategy for Typing Mycoplasma pneumoniae Isolates by Use of Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization–Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry Coupled with ClinProTools 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;52(8):3038-3043.
The typing of Mycoplasma pneumoniae mainly relies on the detection of nucleic acid, which is limited by the use of a single gene target, complex operation procedures, and a lengthy assay time. Here, matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) coupled to ClinProTools was used to discover MALDI-TOF MS biomarker peaks and to generate a classification model based on a genetic algorithm (GA) to differentiate between type 1 and type 2 M. pneumoniae isolates. Twenty-five M. pneumoniae strains were used to construct an analysis model, and 43 Mycoplasma strains were used for validation. For the GA typing model, the cross-validation values, which reflect the ability of the model to handle variability among the test spectra and the recognition capability value, which reflects the model's ability to correctly identify its component spectra, were all 100%. This model contained 7 biomarker peaks (m/z 3,318.8, 3,215.0, 5,091.8, 5,766.8, 6,337.1, 6,431.1, and 6,979.9) used to correctly identify 31 type 1 and 7 type 2 M. pneumoniae isolates from 43 Mycoplasma strains with a sensitivity and specificity of 100%. The strain distribution map and principle component analysis based on the GA classification model also clearly showed that the type 1 and type 2 M. pneumoniae isolates can be divided into two categories based on their peptide mass fingerprints. With the obvious advantages of being rapid, highly accurate, and highly sensitive and having a low cost and high throughput, MALDI-TOF MS ClinProTools is a powerful and reliable tool for M. pneumoniae typing.
PMCID: PMC4136174  PMID: 24920781
3.  The Adaptive Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Response to Lipotoxicity in Progressive Human Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 
Toxicological Sciences  2013;137(1):26-35.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) may progress from simple steatosis to severe, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in 7%–14% of the U.S. population through a second “hit” in the form of increased oxidative stress and inflammation. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress signaling and the unfolded protein response (UPR) are triggered when high levels of lipids and misfolded proteins alter ER homeostasis creating a lipotoxic environment within NAFLD livers. The objective of this study was to determine the coordinate regulation of ER stress–associated genes in the progressive stages of human NAFLD. Human liver samples categorized as normal, steatosis, NASH (Fatty), and NASH (Not Fatty) were analyzed by individual Affymetrix GeneChip Human 1.0 ST microarrays, immunoblots, and immunohistochemistry. A gene set enrichment analysis was performed on autophagy, apoptosis, lipogenesis, and ER stress/UPR gene categories. An enrichment of downregulated genes in the ER stress–associated lipogenesis and ER stress/UPR gene categories was observed in NASH. Conversely, an enrichment of upregulated ER stress–associated genes for autophagy and apoptosis gene categories was observed in NASH. Protein expression of the adaptive liver response protein STC2 and the transcription factor X-box binding protein 1 spliced (XBP-1s) were significantly elevated among NASH samples, whereas other downstream ER stress proteins including CHOP, ATF4, and phosphorylated JNK and eIF2α were not significantly changed in disease progression. Increased nuclear accumulation of total XBP-1 protein was observed in steatosis and NASH livers. The findings reveal the presence of a coordinated, adaptive transcriptional response to hepatic ER stress in human NAFLD.
PMCID: PMC3871931  PMID: 24097666
nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; lipotoxicity; endoplasmic reticulum stress response mechanisms.
4.  Arsenite-Induced Pseudo-Hypoxia Results in Loss of Anchorage-Dependent Growth in BEAS-2B Pulmonary Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114549.
Epidemiology studies have established a strong link between lung cancer and arsenic exposure. Currently, the role of disturbed cellular energy metabolism in carcinogenesis is a focus of scientific interest. Hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1A) is a key regulator of energy metabolism, and it has been found to accumulate during arsenite exposure under oxygen-replete conditions. We modeled arsenic-exposed human pulmonary epithelial cells in vitro with BEAS-2B, a non-malignant lung epithelial cell line. Constant exposure to 1 µM arsenite (As) resulted in the early loss of anchorage-dependent growth, measured by soft agar colony formation, beginning at 6 weeks of exposure. This arsenite exposure resulted in HIF-1A accumulation and increased glycolysis, similar to the physiologic response to hypoxia, but in this case under oxygen-replete conditions. This “pseudo-hypoxia” response was necessary for the maximal acquisition of anchorage-independent growth in arsenite-exposed BEAS-2B. The HIF-1A accumulation and induction in glycolysis was sustained throughout a 52 week course of arsenite exposure in BEAS-2B. There was a time-dependent increase in anchorage-independent growth during the exposure to arsenite. When HIF-1A expression was stably suppressed, arsenite-induced glycolysis was abrogated, and the anchorage-independent growth was reduced. These findings establish that arsenite exerts a hypoxia-mimetic effect, which plays an important role in the subsequent gain of malignancy-associated phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC4267735  PMID: 25513814
5.  Increased expression of NF-AT3 and NF-AT4 in the atria correlates with procollagen I carboxyl terminal peptide and TGF-β1 levels in serum of patients with atrial fibrillation 
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia in clinical practice. Unfortunately, the precise mechanisms and sensitive serum biomarkers of atrial remodeling in AF remain unclear. The aim of this study was to determine whether the expression of the transcription factors NF-AT3 and NF-AT4 correlate with atrial structural remodeling of atrial fibrillation and serum markers for collagen I and III synthesis.
Right and left atrial specimens were obtained from 90 patients undergoing valve replacement surgery. The patients were divided into sinus rhythm (n = 30), paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (n = 30), and persistent atrial fibrillation (n = 30) groups. NF-AT3, NF-AT4, and collagen I and III mRNA and protein expression in atria were measured. We also tested the levels of the carboxyl-terminal peptide from pro-collagen I, the N-terminal type I procollagen propeptides, the N-terminal type III procollagen propeptides, and TGF-β1 in serum using an enzyme immunosorbent assay.
NF-AT3 and NF-AT4 mRNA and protein expression were increased in the AF groups, especially in the left atrium. NF-AT3 and NF-AT4 expression in the right atrium was increased in the persistent atrial fibrillation group compared the sinus rhythm group with similar valvular disease. In patients with AF, the expression levels of nuclear NF-AT3 and NF-AT4 correlated with those of collagens I and III in the atria and with PICP and TGF-β1 in blood.
These data support the hypothesis that nuclear NF-AT3 and NF-AT4 participates in atrial structural remodeling, and that PICP and TGF-β1 levels may be sensitive serum biomarkers to estimate atrial structural remodeling with atrial fibrillation.
PMCID: PMC4251842  PMID: 25422138
Atrial fibrillation; Atrial fibrosis; Transcription factor; NF-AT3; NF-AT4; Carboxyl terminal peptide from pro-collagen I; N-terminal type I procollagen propeptides; N-terminal type III procollagen propeptides
6.  Regulation of accumulation and function of myeloid derived suppressor cells in different murine models of hepatocellular carcinoma 
Journal of hepatology  2013;59(5):1007-1013.
Background and aims
Myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSC) are immature myeloid cells with immunosuppressive activity. They accumulate in tumor-bearing mice and humans with different types of cancer, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The aim of this study was to examine the biology of MDSC in murine HCC models and to identify a model, which mimics the human disease.
The comparative analysis of MDSC was performed in mice, bearing transplantable, diethylnitrosoamine (DEN)-induced and MYC-expressing HCC at different ages.
An accumulation of MDSC was found in mice with HCC irrespectively of the model tested. Transplantable tumors rapidly induced systemic recruitment of MDSC, in contrast to slow-growing DEN-induced or MYC-expressing HCC, where MDSC numbers only increased intra-hepatically in mice with advanced tumors. MDSC derived from mice with subcutaneous tumors were more suppressive than those from mice with DEN-induced HCC. Enhanced expression of genes associated with MDSC generation (GM-CSF, VEGF, IL-6, IL-1β) and migration (MCP-1, KC, S100A8, S100A9) was observed in mice with subcutaneous tumors. In contrast, only KC levels increased in mice with DEN-induced HCC. Both KC and GM-CSF over-expression or anti-KC and anti-GM-CSF treatment controlled MDSC frequency in mice with HCC. Finally, the frequency of MDSC decreased upon successful anti-tumor treatment with sorafenib.
Our data indicate that MDSC accumulation is a late event during hepatocarcinogenesis and differs significantly depending on the tumor model studied.
PMCID: PMC3805787  PMID: 23796475
7.  Validation and comparison of EuroQoL-5 dimension (EQ-5D) and Short Form-6 dimension (SF-6D) among stable angina patients 
Several preference-based health-related quality of life (HRQoL) instruments have been published and widely used in different populations. However no consensus has emerged regarding the most appropriate instrument in therapeutic area of stable angina. This study compared and validated the psychometric properties of two generic preference-based instruments, the EQ-5D and SF-6D, among Chinese stable angina patients.
Convergent validity of the EQ-5D and SF-6D was examined with eight a priori hypotheses from stable angina patients in conjunction with Seattle Angina Questionnaire (SAQ). Responsiveness was compared using the effect size (ES), relative efficiency (RE) and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. Agreement between the EQ-5D and SF-6D was tested using intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC) and Bland-Altman plot. Factors affecting utility difference were explored with multiple linear regression analysis.
In 411 patients (mean age 68.08 ± 11.35), mean utility scores (SD) were 0.78 (0.15) for the EQ-5D and 0.68 (0.12) for the SF-6D. Validity was demonstrated by the moderate to strong correlation coefficients (Range: 0.368-0.594, P< 0.001) for five of the eight hypotheses in both the EQ-5D and SF-6D. There were no serious floor effects for the EQ-5D and SF-6D, but ceiling effects for the EQ-5D were large. The areas under ROC of them all exceeded 0.5 (0.660-0.814, P< 0.001). The SF-6D showed a better discriminative capacity (ES: 0.573 to 1.179) between groups with different stable-angina-specific health status than the EQ-5D (ES: 0.426 to 1.126). RE suggested that the SF-6D (RE: 44.8 to 177.8%) was more efficient than the EQ-5D except for physical function. Poor agreement between them was observed with ICC (0.448, P< 0.001) and Bland-Altman plot analysis. Multiple liner regression showed that clinical variables significantly (P< 0.05) influenced differences in utility scores between the EQ-5D and SF-6D.
Both EQ-5D and SF-6D are valid and sensitive preference-based HRQoL instruments in Chinese stable angina patients. The SF-6D may be a more effective tool with lower ceiling effect and greater sensitivity. Further study is needed to compare other properties, such as reliability and longitudinal response.
PMCID: PMC4213514  PMID: 25343944
Quality of life; Stable angina; EQ-5D; SF-6D; Utility; China
8.  Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Obesity-Associated Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: The Protective Effects of Pomegranate with Its Active Component Punicalagin 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2014;21(11):1557-1570.
Aims: Punicalagin (PU) is one of the major ellagitannins found in the pomegranate (Punica granatum), which is a popular fruit with several health benefits. So far, no studies have evaluated the effects of PU on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Our work aims at studying the effect of PU-enriched pomegranate extract (PE) on high fat diet (HFD)-induced NAFLD. Results: PE administration at a dosage of 150 mg/kg/day significantly inhibited HFD-induced hyperlipidemia and hepatic lipid deposition. As major contributors to NAFLD, increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukins 1, 4, and 6 as well as augmented oxidative stress in hepatocytes followed by nuclear factor (erythroid-derived-2)-like 2 (Nrf2) activation were normalized through PE supplementation. In addition, PE treatment reduced uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) expression, restored ATP content, suppressed mitochondrial protein oxidation, and improved mitochondrial complex activity in the liver. In contrast, mitochondrial content was not affected despite increased peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor–gamma coactivator-1α (PGC-1α) and elevated expression of genes related to mitochondrial beta-oxidation after PE treatment. Finally, PU was identified as the predominant active component of PE with regard to the lowering of triglyceride and cholesterol content in HepG2 cells, and both PU- and PE-protected cells from palmitate induced mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance. Innovation: Our work presents the beneficial effects of PE on obesity-associated NAFLD and multiple risk factors. PU was proposed to be the major active component. Conclusions: By promoting mitochondrial function, eliminating oxidative stress and inflammation, PU may be a useful nutrient for the treatment of NAFLD. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 21, 1557–1570.
PMCID: PMC4175030  PMID: 24393106
9.  Cloning and characterization of a new β-Glucosidase from a metagenomic library of Rumen of cattle feeding with Miscanthus sinensis 
BMC Biotechnology  2014;14(1):85.
The study on the second generation bio-fuel is a hot area of current research of renewable energy. Among series of key points in this area, the role of β-glucosidase in the degradation of intermediate gluco-oligosaccharides limits the rate of the complete saccharification of lignocellulose.
In this study, a new β-glucosidase gene, unglu135B12, which was isolated from a metagenomic library of rumen of cattle feeding with Miscanthus sinensis by the function-based screening, encodes a 779 amino acid polypeptide that contains a catalytic domain belonging to glycoside hydrolase family 3 (GH3). It was recombinantly expressed, purified and biochemically characterized. The recombinant β-glucosidase, unglu135B12, displayed optimum enzymatic activity at pH 5.0 at 38°C, and showed the highest specific activity of 2.5 × 103 U/mg under this optimal condition to p-nitrophenyl-β-D-glucopyranoside (pNPG), and its Km and Vmax values were 0.309 mmol/L and 7.292 μmol/min, respectively. In addition, the presence of Ca2+, K+, Na+ slightly improved β-glucosidase activity of unglu135B12 by about 5%, while about 10 ~ 85% loss of β-glucosidase activity was induced by addition of Mn2+, Fe3+, Zn2+, Cu2+. Interestingly, unglu135B12 was activated by glucose at the concentration lower than 40 mM.
Our findings indicate that unglu135B12 is a new β-glucosidase derived from rumen of cattle, and it might be a potent candidate for saccharification of lignocellulose in industrial application.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6750-14-85) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4287584  PMID: 25274487
β-glucosidase; Rumen; Miscanthus sinensis; Metagenomic library
10.  Expression of Aquaporin 4 and Breakdown of the Blood-Brain Barrier after Hypoglycemia-Induced Brain Edema in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107022.
Hypoglycemia-induced brain edema is a severe clinical event that often results in death. The mechanisms by which hypoglycemia induces brain edema are unclear.
In a hypoglycemic injury model established in adult rats, brain edema was verified by measuring brain water content and visualizing water accumulation using hematoxylin and eosin staining. Temporal expression of aquaporin 4 (AQP4) and the integrity of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) were evaluated. We assessed the distribution and expression of AQP4 following glucose deprivation in astrocyte cultures.
Brain edema was induced immediately after severe hypoglycemia but continued to progress even after recovery from hypoglycemia. Upregulation of AQP4 expression and moderate breakdown of the BBB were observed 24 h after recovery. In vitro, significant redistribution of AQP4 to the plasma membrane was induced following 6 h glucose deprivation.
Hypoglycemia-induced brain edema is caused by cytotoxic and vasogenic factors. Changes in AQP4 location and expression may play a protective role in edema resolution.
PMCID: PMC4180270  PMID: 25264602
11.  Mechanism of the promotion of steatotic HepG2 cell apoptosis by cholesterol 
The role of cholesterol in the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) remains unclear. It is known that apoptosis of hepatocytes is an important characteristics of NASH. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of cholesterol on steatotic HepG2 cell apoptosis and the possible mechanism in vitro. In this study, HepG2 cells were divided into three groups: (1) normal group, (2) steatosis group and (3) cholesterol group. HepG2 cells were treated with oleic acid to establish a steatosis study model. Steatosis was assessed by Oil Red O staining and triglyceride content assay. Cell apoptosis was measured using an apoptosis kit. The expression levels of apoptosis-related proteins (P53, Bcl-2, Bax, caspase-3, cyclin A, cyclin B1 and cyclin E) were determined by western blot analyses. We found that a hepatocyte steatosis model was successfully established by oleic acid (200 μmol/L) induction. The cholesterol (50 mg/L) group had similar amount of lipid droplets and triglyceride content as steatosis group (P > 0.5). However, the apoptosis rate (P < 0.01) of the cholesterol group was significantly higher than that of the normal group or the steatosis group, and the protein expressions of Bax and caspase-3, but not P53, Bcl-2, cyclin A, cyclin B1 and cyclin E, were also increased in the cholesterol group. Those results suggested that cholesterol markedly promoted apoptosis of steatosis HepG2 cells in vitro, likely through the up-regulation of Bax and caspase-3 expression. This study contributes to explain the effect of cholesterol on NASH pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4230101  PMID: 25400762
Cholesterol; HepG 2 cells; apoptosis; steatosis
12.  The Construction and Evaluation of Reference Spectra for the Identification of Human Pathogenic Microorganisms by MALDI-TOF MS 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106312.
Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) is an emerging technique for the rapid and high-throughput identification of microorganisms. There remains a dearth of studies in which a large number of pathogenic microorganisms from a particular country or region are utilized for systematic analyses. In this study, peptide mass reference spectra (PMRS) were constructed and evaluated from numerous human pathogens (a total of 1019 strains from 94 species), including enteric (46 species), respiratory (21 species), zoonotic (17 species), and nosocomial pathogens (10 species), using a MALDI-TOF MS Biotyper system (MBS). The PMRS for 380 strains of 52 species were new contributions to the original reference database (ORD). Compared with the ORD, the new reference database (NRD) allowed for 28.2% (from 71.5% to 99.7%) and 42.3% (from 51.3% to 93.6%) improvements in identification at the genus and species levels, respectively. Misidentification rates were 91.7% and 57.1% lower with the NRD than with the ORD for genus and species identification, respectively. Eight genera and 25 species were misidentified. For genera and species that are challenging to accurately identify, identification results must be manually determined and adjusted in accordance with the database parameters. Through augmentation, the MBS demonstrated a high identification accuracy and specificity for human pathogenic microorganisms. This study sought to provide theoretical guidance for using PMRS databases in various fields, such as clinical diagnosis and treatment, disease control, quality assurance, and food safety inspection.
PMCID: PMC4152241  PMID: 25181391
13.  Binding Pocket Alterations in Dihydrofolate Synthase Confer Resistance to para-Aminosalicylic Acid in Clinical Isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
The mechanistic basis for the resistance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to para-aminosalicylic acid (PAS), an important agent in the treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, has yet to be fully defined. As a substrate analog of the folate precursor para-aminobenzoic acid, PAS is ultimately bioactivated to hydroxy dihydrofolate, which inhibits dihydrofolate reductase and disrupts the operation of folate-dependent metabolic pathways. As a result, the mutation of dihydrofolate synthase, an enzyme needed for the bioactivation of PAS, causes PAS resistance in M. tuberculosis strain H37Rv. Here, we demonstrate that various missense mutations within the coding sequence of the dihydropteroate (H2Pte) binding pocket of dihydrofolate synthase (FolC) confer PAS resistance in laboratory isolates of M. tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis. From a panel of 85 multidrug-resistant M. tuberculosis clinical isolates, 5 were found to harbor mutations in the folC gene within the H2Pte binding pocket, resulting in PAS resistance. While these alterations in the H2Pte binding pocket resulted in reduced dihydrofolate synthase activity, they also abolished the bioactivation of hydroxy dihydropteroate to hydroxy dihydrofolate. Consistent with this model for abolished bioactivation, the introduction of a wild-type copy of folC fully restored PAS susceptibility in folC mutant strains. Confirmation of this novel PAS resistance mechanism will be beneficial for the development of molecular method-based diagnostics for M. tuberculosis clinical isolates and for further defining the mode of action of this important tuberculosis drug.
PMCID: PMC3957869  PMID: 24366731
Understanding how arsenic exacts its diverse, global disease burden is hampered by a limited understanding of the particular biological pathways that are disrupted by arsenic and underlie pathogenesis. A reductionist view would predict that a small number of basic pathways are generally perturbed by arsenic, and manifest as diverse diseases. Following an initial observation that arsenite-exposed cells in culture acidify their media more rapidly than control cells, the report here shows that low level exposure to arsenite (75 ppb) is sufficient to induce aerobic glycolysis (the Warburg effect) as a generalized phenomenon in cultured human primary cells and cell lines. Expanded studies in one such cell line, the non-malignant pulmonary epithelial line, BEAS-2B, established that the arsenite-induced Warburg effect was associated with increased accumulation of intracellular and extracellular lactate, an increased rate of extracellular acidification, and inhibition by the non-metabolized glucose analog, 2-deoxyglucose. Associated with the induction of aerobic glycolysis was a pathway-wide induction of glycolysis gene expression, as well as protein accumulation of an established glycolysis master-regulator, hypoxia-inducible factor 1α. Arsenite-induced alteration of energy production in human cells represents the type of fundamental perturbation that could extend to many tissue targets and diseases.
PMCID: PMC3714307  PMID: 23648393
Warburg effect; Arsenite; Glycoysis; Hypoxia-inducible factor 1
15.  MiR-124 suppresses tumor growth and metastasis by targeting Foxq1 in nasopharyngeal carcinoma 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13(1):186.
The molecular mechanisms underlying dysregulation of microRNAs have been documented in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Our previous study demonstrated that plasma miR-124 was down-regulated in NPC using microarray analysis and quantitative PCR validation. Though growing studies showed that down-regulated miR-124 was closely related to tumourigenesis in various types of cancers, the role of miR-124 in NPC remains largely unknown.
The expression level of miR-124 was evaluated in NPC cell lines and patient specimens using quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (Real-time qPCR). The clinicopathological significance of the resultant data was later analyzed. Then, we explored the role of miR-124 in NPC tumorigenesis by in vitro and in vivo experiments. Homo sapiens forkhead box Q1 (Foxq1) was confirmed as a novel direct target gene of miR-124 by the dual-luciferase assay and western bolt.
We found that miR-124 was commonly down-regulated in NPC specimens and NPC cell lines. The expression of miR-124 was inversely correlation with clinical stages and marked on T stages. Then, the ectopic expression of miR-124 dramatically inhibited cell proliferation, colony formation, migration and invasion in vitro, as well as tumor growth and metastasis in vivo. Furthermore, we identified Foxq1 as a novel direct target of miR-124. Functional studies showed that knockdown of Foxq1 inhibited cell growth, migration and invasion, whereas Foxq1 overexpression partially rescued the suppressive effect of miR-124 in NPC. In clinical specimens, Foxq1 was commonly up-regulated in NPC, and the level increased with clinical stages and T stages. Additionally, the level of Foxq1 was inversely correlated with miR-124.
Our results demonstrate that miR-124 functions as a tumor-suppressive microRNA in NPC, and that its suppressive effects are mediated chiefly by repressing Foxq1 expression. MiR-124 could serve as an independent biomarker to identify patients with different clinical characteristics. Therefore, our findings provide valuable clues toward the understanding the of mechanisms of NPC pathogenesis and provide an opportunity to develop new effective clinical therapies in the future.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1476-4598-13-186) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4267157  PMID: 25098939
MicroRNA-124; Tumor growth; Metastasis; Nasopharyngeal carcinoma; Foxq1
16.  Broad Gap Junction Blocker Carbenoxolone Disrupts Uterine Preparation for Embryo Implantation in Mice1 
Biology of Reproduction  2013;89(2):31.
Gap junctions have an important role in cell-to-cell communication, a process obviously required for embryo implantation. Uterine luminal epithelium (LE) is the first contact for an implanting embryo and is critical for the establishment of uterine receptivity. Microarray analysis of the LE from peri-implantation mouse uterus showed low-level expression of 19 gap junction proteins in preimplantation LE and upregulation of gap junction protein, beta 2 (GJB2, connexin 26, Cx26) in postimplantation LE. Time course study using in situ hybridization and immunofluorescence revealed upregulation of GJB2 in the LE surrounding the implantation site before decidualization. Similar dynamic expression of GJB2 was observed in the LE of artificially decidualized mice but not pseudopregnant mice. To determine the potential function of uterine gap junctions in embryo implantation, carbenoxolone (CBX), a broad gap junction blocker, was injected i.p. (100 mg/kg) or via local uterine fat pad (10 mg/kg) into pregnant mice on Gestation Day 3 at 1800 h, a few hours before embryo attachment to the LE. These CBX treatments disrupted embryo implantation, suggesting local effects of CBX in the uterus. However, i.p. injection of glycyrrhizic acid (100 mg/kg), which shares similar structure and multiple properties with CBX but is ineffective in blocking gap junctions, did not affect embryo implantation. Carbenoxolone also inhibited oil-induced artificial decidualization, concomitant with suppressed molecular changes and ultrastructural transformations associated with uterine preparation for embryo implantation, underscoring the adverse effect of CBX on uterine preparation for embryo implantation. These data demonstrate that uterine gap junctions are important for embryo implantation.
Broad gap junction blocker carbenoxolone suppresses uterine molecular changes and ultrastructural transformations associated with preparation for embryo implantation and disrupts implantation.
PMCID: PMC4076363  PMID: 23843229
carbenoxolone; embryo implantation; gap junctions; uterine luminal epithelium
17.  Functionalized Graphitic Carbon Nitride for Metal-free, Flexible and Rewritable Nonvolatile Memory Device via Direct Laser-Writing 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:5882.
Graphitic carbon nitride nanosheet (g-C3N4-NS) has layered structure similar with graphene nanosheet and presents unusual physicochemical properties due to the s-triazine fragments. But their electronic and electrochemical applications are limited by the relatively poor conductivity. The current work provides the first example that atomically thick g-C3N4-NSs are the ideal candidate as the active insulator layer with tunable conductivity for achieving the high performance memory devices with electrical bistability. Unlike in conventional memory diodes, the g-C3N4-NSs based devices combined with graphene layer electrodes are flexible, metal-free and low cost. The functionalized g-C3N4-NSs exhibit desirable dispersibility and dielectricity which support the all-solution fabrication and high performance of the memory diodes. Moreover, the flexible memory diodes are conveniently fabricated through the fast laser writing process on graphene oxide/g-C3N4-NSs/graphene oxide thin film. The obtained devices not only have the nonvolatile electrical bistability with great retention and endurance, but also show the rewritable memory effect with a reliable ON/OFF ratio of up to 105, which is the highest among all the metal-free flexible memory diodes reported so far, and even higher than those of metal-containing devices.
PMCID: PMC4115212  PMID: 25073687
18.  An activator of mTOR inhibits oxLDL-induced autophagy and apoptosis in vascular endothelial cells and restricts atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-/- mice 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:5519.
Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) inhibits mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and induces autophagy and apoptosis in vascular endothelial cells (VECs) that play very critical roles for the cardiovascular homostasis. We recently defined 3-benzyl-5-((2-nitrophenoxy) methyl)-dihydrofuran-2(3H)-one (3BDO) as a new activator of mTOR. Therefore, we hypothesized that 3BDO had a protective role in VECs and thus stabilized atherosclerotic lesions in apolipoprotein E-/- (apoE-/-) mice. Our results showed that oxLDL inhibited the activity of mTOR and increased the protein level of autophagy-related 13 (ATG13) and its dephosphorylation, thus inducing autophagy in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). All of these effects were strongly inhibited by 3BDO. In vivo experiments confirmed that 3BDO activated mTOR and decreased the protein level of ATG13 in the plaque endothelium of apoE-/- mice. Importantly, 3BDO did not affect the activity of mTOR and autophagy in macrophage cell line RAW246.7 and vascular smooth muscle cells of apoE-/- mice, but suppressed plaque endothelial cell death and restricted atherosclerosis development in the mice. 3BDO protected VECs by activating mTOR and thus stabilized atherosclerotic lesions in apoE-/- mice.
PMCID: PMC4076681  PMID: 24980430
19.  Analysis of age and gender associated N-glycoproteome in human whole saliva 
Clinical proteomics  2014;11(1):25.
Glycoproteins comprise a large portion of the salivary proteome and have great potential for biomarker discovery and disease diagnosis. However, the rate of production and the concentration of whole saliva change with age, gender and physiological states of the human body. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the salivary glycoproteome of healthy individuals of different ages and genders is a prerequisite for saliva to have clinical utility.
Formerly N-linked glycopeptides were isolated from the pooled whole saliva of six age and gender groups by hydrazide chemistry and hydrophilic affinity methods followed by mass spectrometry identification. Selected physiochemical characteristics of salivary glycoproteins were analyzed, and the salivary glycoproteomes of different age and gender groups were compared based on their glycoprotein components and gene ontology.
Results and discussion
Among 85 N-glycoproteins identified in healthy human saliva, the majority were acidic proteins with low molecular weight. The numbers of salivary N-glycoproteins increased with age. Fifteen salivary glycoproteins were identified as potential age- or gender-associated glycoproteins, and many of them have functions related to innate immunity against microorganisms and oral cavity protection. Moreover, many salivary glycoproteins have been previously reported as disease related glycoproteins. This study reveals the important role of salivary glycoproteins in the maintenance of oral health and homeostasis and the great potential of saliva for biomarker discovery and disease diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC4070402  PMID: 24994967
Saliva; Glycoproteome; Glycoproteins; Age; Gender; Hydrazide chemistry; Hydrophilic affinity; Mass spectrometry
20.  Postweaning Exposure to Dietary Zearalenone, a Mycotoxin, Promotes Premature Onset of Puberty and Disrupts Early Pregnancy Events in Female Mice 
Toxicological Sciences  2013;132(2):431-442.
Zearalenone (ZEA) is a mycotoxin commonly found in contaminated livestock feed and human food with levels in the range of ppb and low ppm. It was hypothesized that ZEA, an endocrine disruptor, could affect puberty and early pregnancy. To test this hypothesis, newly weaned (3 weeks old) C57BL/6J female mice were exposed to 0, 0.002, 4, 10, and 40 ppm ZEA and 0.05 ppm diethylstilbestrol (positive control) in phytoestrogen-free AIN-93G diet. Females exposed to 10 and 40 ppm ZEA diets showed earlier onset of vaginal opening. Those treated with 40 ppm ZEA diet also had earlier first copulation plug and irregular estrous cyclicity. At 8 weeks old, all females were mated with untreated stud males on AIN-93G diet during mating. Treatment resumed upon identification of a vaginal plug on gestation day 0.5 (D0.5). Embryo implantation was assessed on D4.5. Exposure to 40 ppm ZEA diet resulted in reduced percentage of plugged mice with implantation sites, distended uterine appearance, and retained expression of progesterone receptor in D4.5 uterine epithelium. To determine the exposure timing and mechanisms of disrupted embryo implantation, four groups of females were fed with 0 or 40 ppm ZEA diets during premating (weaning to mating) and postmating (D0.5–D4.5), respectively. Premating exposure to 40 ppm ZEA diet reduced fertilization rate, whereas postmating exposure to 40 ppm ZEA diet delayed embryo transport and preimplantation embryo development, which subsequently affected embryo implantation. These data demonstrate that postweaning exposure to dietary ZEA can promote premature onset of puberty and disrupt early pregnancy events.
PMCID: PMC3595522  PMID: 23291560
zearalenone; vaginal opening; fertilization; embryo transport; embryo development; embryo implantation.
21.  The Effect and Mechanism of Tamoxifen-Induced Hepatocyte Steatosis in Vitro 
The aim of this study was to determine the effect and mechanism of tamoxifen (TAM)-induced steatosis in vitro. HepG 2 (Human hepatocellular liver carcinoma cell line) cells were treated with different concentrations of TAM for 72 h. Steatosis of hepatocytes was determined after Oil Red O staining and measurement of triglyceride (TG) concentration. The expressions of genes in the TG homeostasis pathway, including sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1c (SREBP-1c), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ), CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α (C/EBPα), fatty acid synthase (FAS), acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD), carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT1) and microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP), were examined using quantitative real-time PCR and Western blot analysis. Cell proliferation was examined using the cell counting kit-8 (CCK-8) assay. We found that hepatocytes treated with TAM had: (1) induced hepatocyte steatosis and increased hepatocyte TG; (2) upregulation of SREBP-1c, FAS, ACC, SCD and MTP mRNA expressions (300%, 600%, 70%, 130% and 160%, respectively); (3) corresponding upregulation of protein expression; and (4) no difference in HepG 2 cell proliferation. Our results suggest that TAM can induce hepatocyte steatosis in vitro and that the enhancement of fatty acid synthesis through the upregulations of SREBP-1c and its downstream target genes (FAS, ACC and SCD) may be the key mechanism of TAM-induced hepatocyte steatosis.
PMCID: PMC3975381  PMID: 24603540
tamoxifen; HepG 2 cells; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; triglyceride
22.  Xylaria nigripes mitigates spatial memory impairment induced by rapid eye movement sleep deprivation 
We aimed to investigate the effects of Xylaria nigripes (XN) extracts on the rapid eye movement sleep deprivation (REMSD)-induced memory impairment, and explore related mechanism. Male Sprague Dawley rats were randomly divided into 6 groups: cage control (CC)-NaCl group; tank control (TC)-NaCl group; sleep deprivation (SD)-NaCl group; CC-XN group; TC-XN group and SD-XN group. The rats were administered with intragastric XN and 0.9% of sodium chloride. SD group rats were deprived of REM sleep for 72 h. Morris water maze (MWM) was used to assess the effects of XN on spatial learning and memory. The expression of cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB) and p-CREB were also investigated in all groups. Result showed rats in SD-NaCl group had significantly longer mean escape latencies in finding the platform as compared to the control rats (p<0.05) in MWM test. The SD-NaCl group spent significantly less time in goal quadrant compared with the SD-XN group. REMSD and XN did not alter CREB expression in the hippocampus, while sleep deprivation resulted in reduced phosphorylation of CREB in the hippocampus, which was reversed by XN. XN mitigates spatial memory impairment induced by REMSD in rat. Phosphorylation of CREB in hippocampus might be one of the mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3931588  PMID: 24600489
Xylaria nigripes; rapid eye movement sleep deprivation; learning and memory; cAMP response element-binding protein; phospho-cAMP response element-binding protein
23.  CRTC2 enhances HBV transcription and replication by inducing PGC1α expression 
Virology Journal  2014;11:30.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) transcription and replication are essentially restricted to hepatocytes. Based on the HBV enhancer and promoter complex that links hepatic glucose metabolism to its transcription and replication, HBV adopts a regulatory system that is unique to the hepatic gluconeogenic genes. CRTC2, the CREB-regulated transcription coactivator 2, is a critical switch modulating the gluconeogenic program in response to both hormonal and intracellular signals. However, the relationship between CRTC2 and HBV transcription and replication remains unclear.
To analyze the influence of CRTC2 on HBV transcription and replication, CRTC2 expression construct or siRNA was cotransfected with plasmids containing enhancer II/core promoter complex-controlled luciferase or 1.3× wtHBV genome in Huh-7 cells. Luciferase activity, HBV core protein expression, HBV transcripts, and DNA replication intermediates were measured by luciferase assays, western blots, real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and Southern blots, respectively. Forskolin (FSK) or phosphorylation-defective CRTC2 mutants were further utilized to elucidate the potential mechanism. siRNA against peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator 1α (PGC1α) was also used to examine the mediator involved in CRTC2-regulated HBV biosynthesis in Huh-7 cells.
CRTC2 overexpression increased HBV transcription and replication in Huh-7 cells, including levels of core protein expression, mRNA, and DNA replication intermediates. Correspondingly, CRTC2 knock down by siRNA reduced HBV biosynthesis. FSK treatment strongly enhanced the effect of CRTC2 through triggering the dephosphorylation and nuclear entry of CRTC2. The phosphorylation-defective mutant (S171A/S275A) of CRTC2 localized in the nucleus and was constitutively active, which dramatically promoted HBV transcription and replication similar to FSK-treated wild-type CRTC2. Knock down of PGC1α, whose expression was induced by CRTC2, greatly compromised the enhancing effect of CRTC2 on HBV transcription and replication.
Our results clearly indicate that non-phosphorylated CRTC2 strongly enhances HBV biosynthesis through inducing PGC1α expression. Further study of the mechanisms will elucidate the importance of metabolic signals on HBV transcription and replication, and offer insight into potential targets for developing anti-HBV agents.
PMCID: PMC3940274  PMID: 24529027
HBV; CRTC2; Forskolin; Phosphorylation-defective CRTC2 mutant; PGC1α
24.  Identification of Genes Preferentially Expressed by Highly Virulent Piscine Streptococcus agalactiae upon Interaction with Macrophages 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87980.
Streptococcus agalactiae, long recognized as a mammalian pathogen, is an emerging concern with regard to fish. In this study, we used a mouse model and in vitro cell infection to evaluate the pathogenetic characteristics of S. agalactiae GD201008-001, isolated from tilapia in China. This bacterium was found to be highly virulent and capable of inducing brain damage by migrating into the brain by crossing the blood–brain barrier (BBB). The phagocytosis assays indicated that this bacterium could be internalized by murine macrophages and survive intracellularly for more than 24 h, inducing injury to macrophages. Further, selective capture of transcribed sequences (SCOTS) was used to investigate microbial gene expression associated with intracellular survival. This positive cDNA selection technique identified 60 distinct genes that could be characterized into 6 functional categories. More than 50% of the differentially expressed genes were involved in metabolic adaptation. Some genes have previously been described as associated with virulence in other bacteria, and four showed no significant similarities to any other previously described genes. This study constitutes the first step in further gene expression analyses that will lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms used by S. agalactiae to survive in macrophages and to cross the BBB.
PMCID: PMC3912197  PMID: 24498419
25.  Real-ear acoustical characteristics of impulse sound generated by golf drivers and the estimated risk to hearing: a cross-sectional study 
BMJ Open  2014;4(1):e003517.
This study investigated real-ear acoustical characteristics in terms of the sound pressure levels (SPLs) and frequency responses in situ generated from golf club drivers at impact with a golf ball. The risk of hearing loss caused by hitting a basket of golf balls using various drivers was then estimated.
Cross-sectional study.
The three driver clubs were chosen on the basis of reflection of the commonality and modern technology of the clubs. The participants were asked to choose the clubs in a random order and hit six two-piece range golf balls with each club. The experiment was carried out at a golf driving range in South Wales, UK.
19 male amateur golfers volunteered to take part in the study, with an age range of 19–54 years.
Outcome measures
The frequency responses and peak SPLs in situ of the transient sound generated from the club at impact were recorded bilaterally and simultaneously using the GN Otometric Freefit wireless real-ear measurement system. A swing speed radar system was also used to investigate the relationship between noise level and swing speed.
Different clubs generated significantly different real-ear acoustical characteristics in terms of SPL and frequency responses. However, they did not differ significantly between the ears. No significant correlation was found between the swing speed and noise intensity. On the basis of the SPLs measured in the present study, the percentage of daily noise exposure for hitting a basket of golf balls using the drivers described above was less than 2%.
The immediate danger of noise-induced hearing loss for amateur golfers is quite unlikely. However, it may be dangerous to hearing if the noise level generated by the golf clubs exceeded 116 dBA.
PMCID: PMC3902203  PMID: 24448845
Sports Medicine

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