The aim of this article is to educate neonatal caregivers about metagenomics. This scientific field uses novel and ever changing molecular methods to identify how infants become colonized with microbes after birth. Publications using metagenomics appear infrequently in the neonatal literature because clinicians are unaccustomed with the analytical techniques, data interpretation, and illustration of the results. This review covers those areas. After a brief introduction of neonatal citations forthcoming from metagenomic studies, the following topics are covered: 1) the history of metagenomics, 2) a description of current and emerging instruments used to define microbial populations in human organs, and 3) how extensive databases generated by genome analyzers are examined and presented to readers. Clinicians may feel like they are learning a new language; however, they will appreciate this task is essential to understanding and practicing neonatal medicine in the future.
biodiversity; bioinformatics; genome analyzers; pyrosequencing; taxonomy
Ubiquitinated proteins aggregate upon proteasome failure, and the aggregates are transported to the aggresome. In aggresomes, protein aggregates are actively degraded by the autophagy-lysosome pathway, but why targeting the aggresome promotes degradation of aggregated species is currently unknown. Here we report that the important factor in this process is clustering of lysosomes around the aggresome via a novel mechanism. Proteasome inhibition causes formation of a zone around the centrosome where microtubular transport of lysosomes is suppressed, resulting in their entrapment and accumulation. Microtubule-dependent transport of other organelles, including autophagosomes, mitochondria, and endosomes, is also blocked in this entrapment zone (E-zone), while movement of organelles at the cell periphery remains unaffected. Following the whole-genome small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen for proteins involved in aggresome formation, we defined the pathway that regulates formation of the E-zone, including the Stk11 protein kinase, the Usp9x deubiquitinating enzyme, and their substrate kinase MARK4. Therefore, upon proteasome failure, targeting of aggregated proteins of the aggresome is coordinated with lysosome positioning around this body to facilitate degradation of the abnormal species.
The purpose of this study was to prepare dexamethasone-loaded polymeric nanoparticles and evaluate their potential for transport across human placenta. Statistical modeling and factorial design was applied to investigate the influence of process parameters on the following nanoparticle characteristics: particle size, polydispersity index, zeta potential, and drug encapsulation efficiency. Dexamethasone and nanoparticle transport was subsequently investigated using the BeWo b30 cell line, an in vitro model of human placental trophoblast cells, which represent the rate-limiting barrier for maternal-fetal transfer. Encapsulation efficiency and drug transport were determined using a validated high performance liquid chromatography method. Nanoparticle morphology and drug encapsulation were further characterized by cryo-transmission electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction, respectively. Nanoparticles prepared from poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) were spherical, with particle sizes ranging from 140–298 nm, and encapsulation efficiency ranging from 52–89%. Nanoencapsulation enhanced the apparent permeability of dexamethasone from the maternal compartment to the fetal compartment more than 10-fold in this model. Particle size was shown to be inversely correlated with drug and nanoparticle permeability, as confirmed with fluorescently-labeled nanoparticles. These results highlight the feasibility of designing nanoparticles capable of delivering medication to the fetus, in particular, potential dexamethasone therapy for the prenatal treatment of congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
Dexamethasone; nanoparticles; congenital adrenal hyperplasia; BeWo cells; placenta; pregnancy
DNA instability is an important contributor to cancer development. Previously, defects in the chromosome segregation and excessive DNA double strand breaks due to the replication or oxidative stresses were implicated in DNA instability in cancer. Here, we demonstrate that DNA instability can directly result from the oncogene-induced senescence signaling. Expression of the activated form of Her2 oncogene, NeuT, in immortalized breast epithelial cells led to downregulation of the major DNA repair factor histone H2AX and a number of other components of the HR and NHEJ double strand DNA breaks repair pathways. H2AX expression was regulated at the transcriptional level via a senescence pathway involving p21-mediated regulation of CDK and Rb1. The p21-dependent downregulation of H2AX was seen both in cell culture and the MMTV-neu mouse model of Her2-positive breast cancer. Importantly, downregulation of H2AX upon Her2/NeuT expression impaired repair of double strand DNA breaks. This impairment resulted in both increased DNA instability in the form of somatic copy number alterations, and in increased sensitivity to the chemotherapeutic drug doxorubicin. Overall, these findings indicate that the Her2/NeuT oncogene signaling directly potentiates DNA instability and increases sensitivity to DNA damaging treatments.
senescence; oncogenes; DNA Damage Response; Her2
Reduced expression of the p53 family member p63 has been suggested to play a causative role in cancer metastasis. Here we show that ΔNp63α, the predominant p63 isoform, plays a major role in regulation of cell migration, invasion, and cancer metastasis. We identified MAP Kinase Phosphatase 3 (MKP3) as a downstream target of ΔNp63α that is required for mediating these effects. We show that ΔNp63α regulates Extracellular Signal-Regulated Protein Kinase 1 and 2 (Erk1/2) activity via MKP3 in both cancer and non-transformed cells. We further show that exogenous ΔNp63α inhibits cell invasion and is dependent on MKP3 up-regulation for repression. Conversely, endogenous pan-p63 ablation results in increased cell migration and invasion, which can be reverted by reintroducing the ΔNp63α isoform alone, but not by other isoforms. Interestingly, these effects require Erk2, but not Erk1 expression, and can be rescued by enforced MKP3 expression. Moreover, MKP3 expression is reduced in invasive cancers, and reduced p63 expression increases metastatic frequency in vivo. Taken together, these results suggest an important role for ΔNp63α in preventing cancer metastasis by inhibition of Erk2 signaling via MKP3.
p63; MKP3; Erk; metastasis; cancer
Lactoferrin; Necrotizing Enterocolitis; Prophylaxis; Lactoferricin; Intelectin; Toll-like Receptors; Endotoxin Binding; Dendritic Cells; Th1 cells
A unique cryo-electron microscopy facility has been designed and constructed at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) to study the three-dimensional organization of viruses and bacteria classified as select agents at biological safety level (BSL)-3, and their interactions with host cells. A 200 keV high-end cryo-electron microscope was installed inside a BSL-3 containment laboratory and standard operating procedures were developed and implemented to ensure its safe and efficient operation. We also developed a new microscope decontamination protocol based on chlorine dioxide gas with a continuous flow system, which allowed us to expand the facility capabilities to study bacterial agents including spore-forming species. The new unified protocol does not require agent-specific treatment in contrast to the previously used heat decontamination. To optimize the use of the cryo-electron microscope and to improve safety conditions, it can be remotely controlled from a room outside of containment, or through a computer network world-wide. Automated data collection is provided by using JADAS (single particle imaging) and SerialEM (tomography). The facility has successfully operated for more than a year without an incident and was certified as a select agent facility by the Centers for Disease Control.
cryo-electron microscopy; single particle imaging; electron tomography; biological safety containment
Current models of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) propose intraluminal microbes destroy intestinal mucosa and activate an inflammatory cascade that ends in necrosis. We suggest an alternate hypothesis wherein NEC is caused by injury to Paneth cells (PCs) in the intestinal crypts. PCs are specialized epithelia that protect intestinal stem cells from pathogens, stimulate stem cell differentiation, shape the intestinal microbiota, and assist in repairing the gut. Our novel model of NEC uses neonatal mice and ablates Paneth cells followed by enteral infection. We contrast this model with other animal examples of NEC and the clinical disease. Selective destruction of PCs using dithizone likely releases TNF-alpha and other inflammatory mediators. We propose this event produces inflammation in the submucosa, generates platelet activating factor, and induces a coagulopathy. The role of PCs in NEC is consistent with the onset of disease in preterm infants after a period of PC-related maturation, the central role of PCs in crypt-related homeostasis, the anatomic location of pneumatosis intestinalis close to the crypts, and the proximity of Paneth cells to occluded blood vessels that cause coagulation necrosis of the intestinal villi. We offer this hypothesis to promote new thought about how NEC occurs and its potential prevention.
dithizone; alpha-defensins; enteric infection; ileal necrosis; intestinal crypts; Paneth cell ablation; Paneth cell-related gut injury and repair; tumor necrosis factor-alpha
Autophagy plays an important role in neoplastic transformation of cells and in resistance of cancer cells to radio- and chemotherapy. p62 (SQSTM1) is a key component of autophagic machinery which is also involved in signal transduction. Although recent empirical observations demonstrated that p62 is overexpressed in variety of human tumors, a mechanism of p62 overexpression is not known. Here we report that the transformation of normal human mammary epithelial cells with diverse oncogenes (RAS, PIK3CA and Her2) causes marked accumulation of p62. Based on this result, we hypothesized that p62 may be a feasible candidate to be an anti-cancer DNA vaccine. Here we performed a preclinical study of a novel DNA vaccine encoding p62. Intramuscularly administered p62-encoding plasmid induced anti-p62 antibodies and exhibited strong antitumor activity in four models of allogeneic mouse tumors – B16 melanoma, Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC), S37 sarcoma, and Ca755 breast carcinoma. In mice challenged with Ca755 cells, p62 treatment had dual effect: inhibited tumor growth in some mice and prolonged life in those mice which developed tumor size similar to control. P62-encoding plasmid has demonstrated its potency both as a preventive and therapeutic vaccine. Importantly, p62 vaccination drastically suppressed metastasis formation: in B16 melanoma where tumor cells where injected intravenously, and in LLC and S37 sarcoma with spontaneous metastasis. Overall, we conclude that a p62-encoding vector(s) constitute(s) a novel, effective broad-spectrum antitumor and anti-metastatic vaccine feasible for further development and clinical trials.
Heat shock response (HSR) that protects cells from proteotoxic stresses is downregulated in aging, as well as upon replicative senescence of cells in culture. Here we demonstrate that HSR is suppressed in fibroblasts from the patients with segmental progerioid Werner Syndrome, which undergo premature senescence. Similar suppression of HSR was seen in normal fibroblasts, which underwent senescence in response to DNA damaging treatments. The major DNA-damage-induced signaling (DDS) pathways p53–p21 and p38-NF-kB-SASP contributed to the HSR suppression. The HSR suppression was associated with inhibition of both activity and transcription of the heat shock transcription factor Hsf1. This inhibition in large part resulted from the downregulation of SIRT1, which in turn was because of decrease in the expression of the translation regulator HuR. Importantly, we uncovered a positive feedback regulation, where suppression of Hsf1 further activates the p38–NF-κB-SASP pathway, which in turn promotes senescence. Overexpression of Hsf1 inhibited the p38–NFκB-SASP pathway and partially relieved senescence. Therefore, downregulation of Hsf1 plays an important role in the development or in the maintenance of DNA damage signaling-induced cell senescence.
heat shock response; Hsp70; HuR; inflammation; p38; p53; SIRT1
Protein quality control is essential for cellular survival. Failure to eliminate pathogenic proteins leads to their intracellular accumulation in the form of protein aggregates. Autophagy can recognize protein aggregates and degrade them in lysosomes. However, some aggregates escape the autophagic surveillance. Here we analyze the autophagic degradation of different types of aggregates of synphilin-1 (Sph1), a protein often found in pathogenic protein inclusions. We show that small Sph1 aggregates and large aggresomes are differentially targeted by constitutive and inducible autophagy. Furthermore, we identify a region in Sph1 necessary for its own basal and inducible aggrephagy, and sufficient for the degradation of other pro-aggregating proteins. Although the presence of this peptide is sufficient for basal aggrephagy, inducible aggrephagy requires its ubiquitination, which diminishes protein mobility on the surface of the aggregate and favors the recruitment and assembly of the protein complexes required for autophagosome formation. Our study reveals different mechanisms for cells to cope with aggregate proteins via autophagy and supports the idea that autophagic susceptibility of prone-to-aggregate proteins may not depend on the nature of the aggregating proteins per se but on their dynamic properties in the aggregate.
autophagy; protein aggregates; aggresomes; synphilin-1; protein mobility; ubiquitination
Spatial modeling is typically composed of a specification of a mean function and a model for the correlation structure. A common assumption on the spatial correlation is that it is isotropic. This means that the correlation between any two observations depends only on the distance between those sites and not on their relative orientation. The assumption of isotropy is often made due to a simpler interpretation of correlation behavior and to an easier estimation problem under an assumed isotropy. The assumption of isotropy, however, can have serious deleterious effects when not appropriate. In this paper we formulate a test of isotropy for spatial observations located according to a general class of stochastic designs. Distribution theory of our test statistic is derived and we carry out extensive simulations which verify the efficacy of our approach. We apply our methodology to a data set on longleaf pine trees from an oldgrowth forest in the southern United States.
Anisotropy; Covariogram; Isotropy; Spatial bootstrap; Spatial statistics
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a devastating disease of premature infants. Probiotics decrease the risk of NEC in clinical and experimental studies. Antimicrobial peptides protect the gut against noxious microbes and shape the commensal microbiota, but their role in NEC remains unclear. We report that like in human ontogeny, the rat pup has low expression of Paneth cell antimicrobials, which increases rapidly during normal development. To investigate the expression of antimicrobial peptides in experimental NEC and the impact of probiotics on their expression, premature rats were divided into three groups: dam fed (DF), hand fed with formula (FF), or hand fed with formula containing Bifidobacterium bifidum (FF+BIF). All groups were exposed to asphyxia and cold stress. The expression of lysozyme, secretory phospholipase A2, pancreatic-associated proteins 1 and 3 mRNA was elevated in the FF (NEC) group, compared to the DF and FF+BIF groups where disease was attenuated. We conclude that induction of antimicrobial peptides occurs in experimental NEC similar to that reported in human disease and is attenuated when disease is averted by probiotic B. bifidum. The induction of antimicrobial peptides is likely an adaptive mucosal response that is often not sufficient to prevent disease in the premature gut.
Physics-based simulation provides a powerful framework for understanding biological form and function. Simulations can be used by biologists to study macromolecular assemblies and by clinicians to design treatments for diseases. Simulations help biomedical researchers understand the physical constraints on biological systems as they engineer novel drugs, synthetic tissues, medical devices, and surgical interventions. Although individual biomedical investigators make outstanding contributions to physics-based simulation, the field has been fragmented. Applications are typically limited to a single physical scale, and individual investigators usually must create their own software. These conditions created a major barrier to advancing simulation capabilities. In 2004, we established a National Center for Physics-Based Simulation of Biological Structures (Simbios) to help integrate the field and accelerate biomedical research. In 6 years, Simbios has become a vibrant national center, with collaborators in 16 states and eight countries. Simbios focuses on problems at both the molecular scale and the organismal level, with a long-term goal of uniting these in accurate multiscale simulations.
Simulation; dynamics; biomedical computation; physics-based; neuromuscular biomechanics; molecular dynamics; multibody dynamics; domain-specific languages; DSLs; neuroprosthetic dynamics; drug target dynamics; physics-based simulation
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is the mosquito-borne alphavirus that is the etiologic agent of massive outbreaks of arthralgic febrile illness that recently affected millions of people in Africa and Asia. The only CHIKV vaccine that has been tested in humans, strain 181/clone 25, is a live-attenuated derivative of Southeast Asian human isolate strain AF15561. The vaccine was immunogenic in phase I and II clinical trials; however, it induced transient arthralgia in 8% of the vaccinees. There are five amino acid differences between the vaccine and its parent, as well as five synonymous mutations, none of which involves cis-acting genome regions known to be responsible for replication or packaging. To identify the determinants of attenuation, we therefore tested the five nonsynonymous mutations by cloning them individually or in different combinations into infectious clones derived from two wild-type (WT) CHIKV strains, La Reunion and AF15561. Levels of virulence were compared with those of the WT strains and the vaccine strain in two different murine models: infant CD1 and adult A129 mice. An attenuated phenotype indistinguishable from that of the 181/clone 25 vaccine strain was obtained by the simultaneous expression of two E2 glycoprotein substitutions, with intermediate levels of attenuation obtained with the single E2 mutations. The other three amino acid mutations, in nsP1, 6K, and E1, did not have a detectable effect on CHIKV virulence. These results indicate that the attenuation of strain 181/clone 25 is mediated by two point mutations, explaining the phenotypic instability observed in human vaccinees and also in our studies.
The structure of the bacteriophage SPP1 capsid was determined at subnanometer resolution by cryo-electron microscopy and single-particle analysis. The icosahedral capsid is composed of the major capsid protein gp13 and the auxiliary protein gp12, which are organized in a T=7 lattice. DNA is arranged in layers with a distance of ∼24.5 Å. gp12 forms spikes that are anchored at the center of gp13 hexamers. In a gp12-deficient mutant, the centers of hexamers are closed by loops of gp13 coming together to protect the SPP1 genome from the outside environment. The HK97-like fold was used to build a pseudoatomic model of gp13. Its structural organization remains unchanged upon tail binding and following DNA release. gp13 exhibits enhanced thermostability in the DNA-filled capsid. A remarkable convergence between the thermostability of the capsid and those of the other virion components was found, revealing that the overall architecture of the SPP1 infectious particle coevolved toward high robustness.
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) causes a severe and often persistent arthralgic disease that is occasionally fatal. A mosquito-borne virus, CHIKV exists in enzootic, non-human primate cycles in Africa, but occasionally emerges into urban, human cycles to cause major epidemics. Between 1920 and 1950, and again in 2005, CHIKV emerged into India and Southeast Asia, where major urban epidemics ensued. Unlike the early introduction, the 2005 emergence was accompanied by an adaptive mutation that allowed CHIKV to exploit a new epidemic vector, Aedes albopictus, via an A226V substitution in the E1 envelope glycoprotein. However, recent reverse genetic studies indicate that lineage-specific epistatic restrictions can prevent this from exerting its phenotype on mosquito infectivity. Thus, the A. albopictus-adaptive A226V substitution that is facilitating the dramatic geographic spread CHIKV epidemics, was prevented for decades or longer from being selected in most African enzootic strains as well as in the older endemic Asian lineage.
The major heat shock protein Hsp72 is expressed at elevated levels in many human cancers and its expression correlates with tumor progression. Here we investigated the role of Hsp72 in Her2 oncogene-induced neoplastic transformation and tumorigenesis. Expression of Her2 in untransformed MCF10A mammary epithelial cells caused transformation, as judged by foci formation in culture and tumorigenesis in xenografts. However, expression of Her2 in Hsp72-depleted cells failed to induce transformation. The anti-tumorigenic effects of Hsp72 downregulation were associated with cellular senescence due to accumulation of p21 and depletion of survivin. Accordingly, either knockdown of p21 or expression of survivin reversed this senescence process. Further, we developed an animal model of Hsp72-dependent breast cancer associated with expression of Her2. Knockout of Hsp72 almost completely suppressed tumorigenesis in the MMTVneu breast cancer mouse model. In young Hsp72 KO mice, expression of Her2 instead of mammary tissue hyperplasia led to suppression of duct development and blocked alveolar budding. These effects were due to massive cell senescence in mammary tissue, which was associated with upregulation of p21 and downregulation of survivin. Therefore Hsp72 plays an essential role in Her2-induced tumorigenesis by regulating oncogene-induced senescence pathways.
Hsp72; HER2; senescence; p21; survivin
Activation of the Her2 (ErbB2) oncogene is implicated in the development of breast, ovary and other cancers. Here, we show that expression of NeuT, a mutant-activated rodent isoform of Her2, in immortalized breast epithelial cells, while promoting senescence associated morphological changes, up-regulation of senescence associated β-galactosidase activity, and accumulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21, failed to trigger the major senescence end-point, i.e. permanent growth arrest. Similar senescence-associated phenotype with incomplete growth arrest, which we dubbed senescence with incomplezXte growth arrest (SWING), could also be triggered by the expression of the Ras oncogene. SWING phenotype was stable, and persisted in tumor xenografts established from NeuT-transduced cells. Furthermore, a significant population of cells in SWING state was found in tumors in the MMTV/NeuT transgenic mouse model. SWING cells showed downregulation of histone H2AX, critical for repair of double-stranded DNA breaks, and impaired activation of Chk1 kinase. Overall, SWING cells were characterized by increased DNA instability and hypersensitivity to genotoxic stresses. We propose that the SWING state could be a stage in the process of cancer development.
DNA damage response; Her2; oncogenes; senescence
Many types of cancer cells constitutively express major molecular chaperones at high levels. Recent findings demonstrate that specific depletion of individual chaperones, including various members of the Hsp70 family, small heat shock proteins, or VCP/p97, leads to activation of p53 pathway and subsequently triggers cellular senescence. Here we discuss a possibility that in cancer cells high levels of chaperones serve to keep the p53 signaling under control, thus allowing cancer cells to evade the default senescence and form tumors.
Previously we demonstrated that the heat shock transcription factor Hsf1 is indispensable for transformation of mammary epithelial cells by the Her2 oncogene. Since Hsf1 affects oncogene-induced senescence (OIS), these findings suggest that Hsf1 affects tumor initiation when OIS plays a role. Indeed, here we report that Hsf1 knockout suppressed mammary hyperplasia in Her2-expressing mice and reduced tumor emergence. On the other hand, Hsf1 expression increases with advanced breast cancer, indicating that there is an additional role of Hsf1 in tumor progression. We studied rare tumors that developed in Hsf1-knockout mice and found that these tumors grew slower than tumors in control animals and showed suppressed angiogenesis. Similarly, in the xenograft model, knockdown of Hsf1 suppressed angiogenesis, which was associated with suppression of the HIF-1 pathway. Suppression of HIF-1 was at the level of translation due to downregulation of the RNA-binding protein HuR. Importantly, besides HIF-1, HuR controls translation of other major regulators of cancer progression, many of which were suppressed in Hsf1-knockdown cells. Therefore, in addition to OIS, Hsf1 regulates the HuR–HIF-1 pathway, thus affecting both cancer initiation and progression.
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in premature infants. During NEC pathogenesis, bacteria are able to penetrate innate immune defenses and invade the intestinal epithelial layer, causing subsequent inflammation and tissue necrosis. Normally, Paneth cells appear in the intestinal crypts during the first trimester of human pregnancy. Paneth cells constitute a major component of the innate immune system by producing multiple antimicrobial peptides and proinflammatory mediators. To better understand the possible role of Paneth cell disruption in NEC, we quantified the number of Paneth cells present in infants with NEC and found that they were significantly decreased compared with age-matched controls. We were able to model this loss in the intestine of postnatal day (P)14-P16 (immature) mice by treating them with the zinc chelator dithizone. Intestines from dithizone-treated animals retained approximately half the number of Paneth cells compared with controls. Furthermore, by combining dithizone treatment with exposure to Klebsiella pneumoniae, we were able to induce intestinal injury and inflammatory induction that resembles human NEC. Additionally, this novel Paneth cell ablation model produces NEC-like pathology that is consistent with other currently used animal models, but this technique is simpler to use, can be used in older animals that have been dam fed, and represents a novel line of investigation to study NEC pathogenesis and treatment.