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1.  Dietary compound isoliquiritigenin prevents mammary carcinogenesis by inhibiting breast cancer stem cells through WIF1 demethylation 
Oncotarget  2015;6(12):9854-9876.
Breast cancer stem cells (CSCs) are considered as the root of mammary tumorigenesis. Previous studies have demonstrated that ISL efficiently limited the activities of breast CSCs. However, the cancer prevention activities of ISL and its precise molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. Here, we report a novel function of ISL as a natural demethylation agent targeting WIF1 to prevent breast cancer. ISL administration suppressed in vivo breast cancer initiation and progression, accompanied by reduced CSC-like populations. A global gene expression profile assay further identified WIF1 as the main response gene of ISL treatment, accompanied by the simultaneous downregulation of β-catenin signaling and G0/G1 phase arrest in breast CSCs. In addition, WIF1 inhibition significantly relieved the CSC-limiting effects of ISL and methylation analysis further revealed that ISL enhanced WIF1 gene expression via promoting the demethylation of its promoter, which was closely correlated with the inhibition of DNMT1 methyltransferase. Molecular docking analysis finally revealed that ISL could stably dock into the catalytic domain of DNMT1. Taken together, our findings not only provide preclinical evidence to demonstrate the use of ISL as a dietary supplement to inhibit mammary carcinogenesis but also shed novel light on WIF1 as an epigenetic target for breast cancer prevention.
PMCID: PMC4496402  PMID: 25918249
mammary tumorigenesis; cancer stem cells; WIF1 demethylation; DNMT1; Isoliquiritigenin
2.  Site-2 protease responds to oxidative stress and regulates oxidative injury in mammalian cells 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:6268.
Site-2 protease (S2P) is a membrane-embedded protease that site-specifically cleaves intramembrane transcription factors, a necessary step for their maturation. S2P is well known to regulate cholesterol biosynthesis and endoplasmic reticulum stress in mammalian cells. In this study, we hypothesized that S2P could be responsible for the regulation of cellular oxidative injury under oxidative stress. Wild type Chinese hamster ovary (WT CHO) cells and their mutant M19 cells with defective S2P gene were exposed to different oxidative stress conditions. Results showed that oxidative stress significantly up-regulated S2P expression in WT CHO cells. Notably, M19 cells had remarkably higher level of superoxide and elevated rates of cell death than WT CHO cells. The vulnerability to oxidative stress was reversed by the transfection of S2P gene but not rescued by exogenous supplement of cholesterol, oleate, and mevalonate, indicating that lack of S2P gene leads cells to be more vulnerable to oxidative stress. Furthermore, compared with WT CHO cells, M19 cells had higher nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase activity and lower paraoxonase-2 expression. Taken together, these results suggest that S2P can be a protease responding to oxidative stress and has the function of regulating cellular oxidative injury.
PMCID: PMC4152756  PMID: 25183265
3.  Chinese Traditional Medicine and Adult Neurogenesis in the Hippocampus 
Adult neurogenesis is an important therapeutic target in treating neurological disorders. Adult neurogenesis takes place in two regions of the brain: Subventricular zone and dentate gyrus in the hippocampus. The progressive understanding on hippocampal neurogenesis in aging and mood disorders increases the demand to explore powerful and subtle interventions on hippocampal neurogenesis. Traditional Chinese herbal medicine provides an abundant pharmaceutical platform for modulating hippocampal neurogenesis. Recent progress in exploring the effects of Chinese herbal medicine and the related mechanisms opens a new direction for regeneration therapy. The current review gives a thorough summary of the research progress made in traditional Chinese herbal formulas, and the effective compounds in Chinese herbs which are beneficial on hippocampal neurogenesis and the possible mechanisms involved.
PMCID: PMC4003705  PMID: 24860729
Active components; Hippocampal neurogenesis; Neural progenitor cells; Traditional Chinese herb
4.  Targeted over-expression of endothelin-1 in astrocytes leads to more severe brain damage and vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage 
BMC Neuroscience  2013;14:131.
Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is a potent vasoconstrictor, and astrocytic ET-1 is reported to play a role in the pathogenesis of cerebral ischemic injury and cytotoxic edema. However, it is still unknown whether astrocytic ET-1 also contributes to vasogenic edema and vasospasm during subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). In the present study, transgenic mice with astrocytic endothelin-1 over-expression (GET-1 mice) were used to investigate the pathophysiological role of ET-1 in SAH pathogenesis.
The GET-1 mice experienced a higher mortality rate and significantly more severe neurological deficits, blood–brain barrier breakdown and vasogenic edema compared to the non-transgenic (Ntg) mice following SAH. Oral administration of vasopressin V1a receptor antagonist, SR 49059, significantly reduced the cerebral water content in the GET-1 mice. Furthermore, the GET-1 mice showed significantly more pronounced middle cerebral arterial (MCA) constriction after SAH. Immunocytochemical analysis showed that the calcium-activated potassium channels and the phospho-eNOS were significantly downregulated, whereas PKC-α expression was significantly upregulated in the MCA of the GET-1 mice when compared to Ntg mice after SAH. Administration of ABT-627 (ETA receptor antagonist) significantly down-regulated PKC-α expression in the MCA of the GET-1 mice following SAH.
The present study suggests that astrocytic ET-1 involves in SAH-induced cerebral injury, edema and vasospasm, through ETA receptor and PKC-mediated potassium channel dysfunction. Administration of ABT-627 (ETA receptor antagonist) and SR 49059 (vasopressin V1a receptor antagonist) resulted in amelioration of edema and vasospasm in mice following SAH. These data provide a strong rationale to investigate SR 49059 and ABT-627 as therapeutic drugs for the treatment of SAH patients.
PMCID: PMC3815232  PMID: 24156724
Subarachnoid hemorrhage; Vasospasm; Endothelium; Astrocytes; Brain edema
5.  Dietary Compound Isoliquiritigenin Inhibits Breast Cancer Neoangiogenesis via VEGF/VEGFR-2 Signaling Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68566.
Angiogenesis is crucial for cancer initiation, development and metastasis. Identifying natural botanicals targeting angiogenesis has been paid much attention for drug discovery in recent years, with the advantage of increased safety. Isoliquiritigenin (ISL) is a dietary chalcone-type flavonoid with various anti-cancer activities. However, little is known about the anti-angiogenic activity of isoliquiritigenin and its underlying mechanisms. Herein, we found that ISL significantly inhibited the VEGF-induced proliferation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) at non-toxic concentration. A series of angiogenesis processes including tube formation, invasion and migration abilities of HUVECs were also interrupted by ISL in vitro. Furthermore, ISL suppressed sprout formation from VEGF-treated aortic rings in an ex-vivo model. Molecular mechanisms study demonstrated that ISL could significantly inhibit VEGF expression in breast cancer cells via promoting HIF-1α (Hypoxia inducible factor-1α) proteasome degradation and directly interacted with VEGFR-2 to block its kinase activity. In vivo studies further showed that ISL administration could inhibit breast cancer growth and neoangiogenesis accompanying with suppressed VEGF/VEGFR-2 signaling, elevated apoptosis ratio and little toxicity effects. Molecular docking simulation indicated that ISL could stably form hydrogen bonds and aromatic interactions within the ATP-binding region of VEGFR-2. Taken together, our study shed light on the potential application of ISL as a novel natural inhibitor for cancer angiogenesis via the VEGF/VEGFR-2 pathway. Future studies of ISL for chemoprevention or chemosensitization against breast cancer are thus warranted.
PMCID: PMC3702614  PMID: 23861918
6.  Direct Visualization of Mouse Brain Oxygen Distribution by Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Imaging: Application to Focal Cerebral Ischemia 
Electron paramagnetic resonance imaging (EPRI) is a new modality for visualizing O2 distribution in tissues, such as the brain following stroke or after administration of drugs of abuse. We have recently shown that 3-acetoxymethoxycarbonyl-2,2,5,5-tetramethyl-1-pyrrolidinyloxyl [1] is a pro-imaging agent that can cross the blood-brain barrier. After hydrolysis by esterases, the anion of 3-carboxy-2,2,5,5-tetramethyl-1-tetramethyl-1-pyrrolidinyloxyl [2] is trapped in brain tissue. In the present study, we investigated the feasibility of using this to map the changes of O2 concentration in mouse brain following focal ischemia. The decrease in tissue O2 concentration in the ischemic region of mouse brain was clearly visualized by EPRI. The hypoxic zone mapped by EPRI was spatially well-correlated with the infarction area in the brain imaged by diffusion-weighted MRI. Finally, we observed a decrease in the size of the hypoxic region, when the mouse breathed higher levels of O2. This finding suggests that EPRI with specifically designed nitroxides is a promising imaging modality for visualizing O2 distribution in brain tissue, especially in an ischemic brain. We believe that this imaging method can be used for monitoring the effects of therapeutic intervention, aimed at enhancing brain O2 supply, which is crucial in minimizing brain injury following stroke.
PMCID: PMC3633216  PMID: 19675560
electron paramagnetic resonance imaging; oxygen; nitroxides; stroke
7.  Bioactivity-Guided Identification and Cell Signaling Technology to Delineate the Lactate Dehydrogenase A Inhibition Effects of Spatholobus suberectus on Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56631.
Aerobic glycolysis is an important feature of cancer cells. In recent years, lactate dehydrogenase A (LDH-A) is emerging as a novel therapeutic target for cancer treatment. Seeking LDH-A inhibitors from natural resources has been paid much attention for drug discovery. Spatholobus suberectus (SS) is a common herbal medicine used in China for treating blood-stasis related diseases such as cancer. This study aims to explore the potential medicinal application of SS for LDH-A inhibition on breast cancer and to determine its bioactive compounds. We found that SS manifested apoptosis-inducing, cell cycle arresting and anti-LDH-A activities in both estrogen-dependent human MCF-7 cells and estrogen-independent MDA-MB-231 cell. Oral herbal extracts (1 g/kg/d) administration attenuated tumor growth and LDH-A expression in both breast cancer xenografts. Bioactivity-guided fractionation finally identified epigallocatechin as a key compound in SS inhibiting LDH-A activity. Further studies revealed that LDH-A plays a critical role in mediating the apoptosis-induction effects of epigallocatechin. The inhibited LDH-A activities by epigallocatechin is attributed to disassociation of Hsp90 from HIF-1α and subsequent accelerated HIF-1α proteasome degradation. In vivo study also demonstrated that epigallocatechin could significantly inhibit breast cancer growth, HIF-1α/LDH-A expression and trigger apoptosis without bringing toxic effects. The preclinical study thus suggests that the potential medicinal application of SS for inhibiting cancer LDH-A activity and the possibility to consider epigallocatechin as a lead compound to develop LDH-A inhibitors. Future studies of SS for chemoprevention or chemosensitization against breast cancer are thus warranted.
PMCID: PMC3572989  PMID: 23457597
8.  Scalp Acupuncture for Acute Ischemic Stroke: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials 
Scalp acupuncture (SA) is a commonly used therapeutic approach for stroke throughout China and elsewhere in the world. The objective of this study was to assess clinical efficacy and safety of SA for acute ischemic stroke. A systematical literature search of 6 databases was conducted to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of SA for acute ischemic stroke compared with western conventional medicines (WCMs). All statistical analyses were performed by the Rev Man Version 5.0. Eight studies with 538 participants were included in the studies. The studies were deemed to have an unclear risk of bias based on the Cochrane Back Review Group. Compared with the WCM, 6 RCTs showed significant effects of SA for improving neurological deficit scores (P < 0.01); 4 RCTs showed significant effects of SA for favoring the clinical effective rate (P < 0.01) However, the adverse events have not been documented. In conclusion, SA appears to be able to improve neurological deficit score and the clinical effective rate when compared with WCM, though the beneficial effect from SA is possibly overvalued because of generally low methodology of the included trials. No evidence is available for adverse effects. Rigorous well-designed clinical trials are needed.
PMCID: PMC3521491  PMID: 23258988
9.  Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Buyang Huanwu Decoction for Acute Ischemic Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 19 Randomized Controlled Trials 
Buyang Huanwu Decoction (BHD) is a well-known traditional Chinese herbal prescription for treating stroke-induced disability. The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of BHD for acute ischemic stroke. A systematic literature search was performed in 6 databases until February 2012. Randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) that evaluate efficacy and safety of BHD for acute ischemic stroke were included. Nineteen RCTs with 1580 individuals were identified. The studies were generally of low methodological quality. Only one of the trial included death or dependency as a primary outcome measure. Only 4 trials reported adverse events. Meta-analysis showed the clinical effective rate of neurological deficit improvement favoring BHD when compared with western conventional medicines (WCM), P < 0.001. There is significant difference in the neurologic deficit score between the BHD treatment group and the WCM control group, P < 0.001. In Conclusion, BHD appears to improve neurological deficit and seems generally safe in patients with acute ischemic stroke. However, the current evidence is insufficient to support a routine use of BHD for acute ischemic stroke due to the poor methodological quality and lack of adequate safety data of the included studies. Further rigorously designed trials are required.
PMCID: PMC3491750  PMID: 23193426
10.  Emerging Glycolysis Targeting and Drug Discovery from Chinese Medicine in Cancer Therapy 
Molecular-targeted therapy has been developed for cancer chemoprevention and treatment. Cancer cells have different metabolic properties from normal cells. Normal cells mostly rely upon the process of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation to produce energy whereas cancer cells have developed an altered metabolism that allows them to sustain higher proliferation rates. Cancer cells could predominantly produce energy by glycolysis even in the presence of oxygen. This alternative metabolic characteristic is known as the “Warburg Effect.” Although the exact mechanisms underlying the Warburg effect are unclear, recent progress indicates that glycolytic pathway of cancer cells could be a critical target for drug discovery. With a long history in cancer treatment, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is recognized as a valuable source for seeking bioactive anticancer compounds. A great progress has been made to identify active compounds from herbal medicine targeting on glycolysis for cancer treatment. Herein, we provide an overall picture of the current understanding of the molecular targets in the cancer glycolytic pathway and reviewed active compounds from Chinese herbal medicine with the potentials to inhibit the metabolic targets for cancer treatment. Combination of TCM with conventional therapies will provide an attractive strategy for improving clinical outcome in cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3403522  PMID: 22844340
11.  From Rapid to Delayed and Remote Postconditioning: the Evolving Concept of Ischemic Postconditioning in Brain Ischemia 
Current Drug Targets  2012;13(2):173-187.
Ischemic postconditioning is a concept originally defined to contrast with that of ischemic preconditioning. While both preconditioning and postconditioning confer a neuroprotective effect on brain ischemia, preconditioning is a sublethal insult performed in advance of brain ischemia, and postconditioning, which conventionally refers to a series of brief occlusions and reperfusions of the blood vessels, is conducted after ischemia/reperfusion. In this article, we first briefly review the history of preconditioning, including the experimentation that initially uncovered its neuroprotective effects and later revealed its underlying mechanisms-of-action. We then discuss how preconditioning research evolved into that of postconditioning – a concept that now represents a broad range of stimuli or triggers, including delayed postconditioning, pharmacological postconditioning, remote postconditioning – and its underlying protective mechanisms involving the Akt, MAPK, PKC and KATP channel cell-signaling pathways. Because the concept of postconditioning is so closely associated with that of preconditioning, and both share some common protective mechanisms, we also discuss whether a combination of preconditioning and postconditioning offers greater protection than preconditioning or postconditioning alone.
PMCID: PMC3346695  PMID: 22204317
postconditioning; preconditioning; stroke; cerebral ischemia; focal ischemia; neuroprotection
12.  Polysaccharides from Wolfberry Prevents Corticosterone-Induced Inhibition of Sexual Behavior and Increases Neurogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e33374.
Lycium barbarum, commonly known as wolfberry, has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of infertility and sexual dysfunction. However, there is still a scarcity of experimental evidence to support the pro-sexual effect of wolfberry. The aim of this study is to determine the effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP) on male sexual behavior of rats. Here we report that oral feeding of LBP for 21 days significantly improved the male copulatory performance including increase of copulatory efficiency, increase of ejaculation frequency and shortening of ejaculation latency. Furthermore, sexual inhibition caused by chronic corticosterone was prevented by LBP. Simultaneously, corticosterone suppressed neurogenesis in subventricular zone and hippocampus in adult rats, which could be reversed by LBP. The neurogenic effect of LBP was also shown in vitro. Significant correlation was found between neurogenesis and sexual performance, suggesting that the newborn neurons are associated with reproductive successfulness. Blocking neurogenesis in male rats abolished the pro-sexual effect of LBP. Taken together, these results demonstrate the pro-sexual effect of LBP on normal and sexually-inhibited rats, and LBP may modulate sexual behavior by regulating neurogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3327693  PMID: 22523540
13.  Caveolin-1 Plays a Crucial Role in Inhibiting Neuronal Differentiation of Neural Stem/Progenitor Cells via VEGF Signaling-Dependent Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e22901.
In the present study, we aim to elucidate the roles of caveolin-1(Cav-1), a 22 kDa protein in plasma membrane invaginations, in modulating neuronal differentiation of neural progenitor cells (NPCs). In the hippocampal dentate gyrus, we found that Cav-1 knockout mice revealed remarkably higher levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and the more abundant formation of newborn neurons than wild type mice. We then studied the potential mechanisms of Cav-1 in modulating VEGF signaling and neuronal differentiation in isolated cultured NPCs under normoxic and hypoxic conditions. Hypoxic embryonic rat NPCs were exposed to 1% O2 for 24 h and then switched to 21% O2 for 1, 3, 7 and 14 days whereas normoxic NPCs were continuously cultured with 21% O2. Compared with normoxic NPCs, hypoxic NPCs had down-regulated expression of Cav-1 and up-regulated VEGF expression and p44/42MAPK phosphorylation, and enhanced neuronal differentiation. We further studied the roles of Cav-1 in inhibiting neuronal differentiation by using Cav-1 scaffolding domain peptide and Cav-1-specific small interfering RNA. In both normoxic and hypoxic NPCs, Cav-1 peptide markedly down-regulated the expressions of VEGF and flk1, decreased the phosphorylations of p44/42MAPK, Akt and Stat3, and inhibited neuronal differentiation, whereas the knockdown of Cav-1 promoted the expression of VEGF, phosphorylations of p44/42MAPK, Akt and Stat3, and stimulated neuronal differentiation. Moreover, the enhanced phosphorylations of p44/42MAPK, Akt and Stat3, and neuronal differentiation were abolished by co-treatment of VEGF inhibitor V1. These results provide strong evidence to prove that Cav-1 can inhibit neuronal differentiation via down-regulations of VEGF, p44/42MAPK, Akt and Stat3 signaling pathways, and that VEGF signaling is a crucial target of Cav-1. The hypoxia-induced down-regulation of Cav-1 contributes to enhanced neuronal differentiation in NPCs.
PMCID: PMC3149620  PMID: 21826216
14.  Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb761) inhibits mitochondria-dependent caspase pathway and prevents apoptosis in hypoxia-reoxygenated cardiomyocytes 
Chinese Medicine  2011;6:8.
EGb761 is a standard extract from the leaves of Ginkgo biloba (Yinxing) containing ginkgo-flavone glycosides and terpenoid. The flavonoid components of EGb761 scavenge free radicals and protect myocardia from ischemia-reperfusion injury. The present study aims to determine the effects of the active compounds of EGb761 on mitochondria-dependent caspase pathway.
Cardiomyocytes were exposed to 24 hours of hypoxia and four hours of reoxygenation, and pretreated with EGb761, bilobalide and quertcetin. By using immunoblot, immunofluorescent, biochemical and flow cytometry techniques, we compared the effects of EGb761 and its representative constituents including quercetin and bilobalides on regulating mitochondria-dependent caspases signal pathway and apoptotic cell death in the hypoxia-reoxygenated cardiomyocytes.
Pretreatment with EGb761 significantly inhibited the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, the expression of caspase-3, cleavage activities of caspases and attenuated apoptotic cell death. The effects of quercetin on the release of cytochrome c, the cleavage activities of caspases and cell death were similar to those of EGb761 but better than those of bilobalide.
The antioxidant constituents of EGb761 such as quercetin contribute to the cardioprotective effects of EGb761 and inhibit the mitochondria-dependent caspase pathway. It is possible that the mitochondria-dependent caspase pathway may be one of the molecular targets of EGb761 against myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury.
PMCID: PMC3053309  PMID: 21345217
15.  Normobaric hyperoxia attenuates early blood-brain barrier disruption by inhibiting MMP-9-mediated occludin degradation in focal cerebral ischemia 
Journal of neurochemistry  2009;108(3):811-820.
Early blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption, resulting from excessive neurovascular proteolysis by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), is closely associated with hemorrhagic transformation events in ischemic stroke. We have shown that normobaric hyperoxia (NBO) treatment reduces MMP-9 increase in the ischemic brain. The aim of this study was to determine whether NBO could attenuate MMP-9-mediated early BBB disruption following ischemic stroke. Rats were exposed to NBO (95% O2) or normoxia (30% O2) during 90-min middle cerebral artery occlusion, followed by 3-hr reperfusion. NBO-treated rats showed significant reduction in Evan’s blue extravasation in the ischemic hemisphere compared with normoxic rats. Topographically, Evan’s blue leakage was mainly seen in the subcortical regions including striatum, which was accompanied by increased gelatinolytic activity and reduced immunostaining for tight junction protein occludin. Increased gelatinolytic activities and occludin protein loss were also observed in isolated ischemic microvessels. Gel gelatin zymography identified that MMP-9 was the main enzymatic source in the cerebral microvessels. Incubation of brain slices or isolated microvessels with purified MMP-9 revealed specific degradation of occludin. Inhibition of MMP-9 by NBO or MMP-inhibitor BB1101 significantly reduced occludin protein loss in ischemic microvessels. These results suggest that NBO attenuates early BBB disruption, and inhibition of MMP-9-mediated occludin degradation is an important mechanism for this protection.
PMCID: PMC2676213  PMID: 19187098
blood-brain barrier; matrix metalloproteinases; oxygen; stroke

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