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1.  TWEAK-Fn14 Cytokine-Receptor Axis: A New Player of Myocardial Remodeling and Cardiac Failure 
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) has been firmly established as a pathogenic factor in heart failure, a significant socio-economic burden. In this review, we will explore the role of other members of the TNF/TNF receptor superfamily (TNFSF/TNFRSF) in cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) focusing on TWEAK and its receptor Fn14, new players in myocardial remodeling and heart failure. The TWEAK/Fn14 pathway controls a variety of cellular activities such as proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis and has diverse biological functions in pathological mechanisms like inflammation and fibrosis that are associated with CVDs. Furthermore, it has recently been shown that the TWEAK/Fn14 axis is a positive regulator of cardiac hypertrophy and that deletion of Fn14 receptor protects from right heart fibrosis and dysfunction. We discuss the potential use of the TWEAK/Fn14 axis as biomarker for CVDs as well as therapeutic target for future treatment of human heart failure based on supporting data from animal models and in vitro studies. Collectively, existing data strongly suggest the TWEAK/Fn14 axis as a potential new therapeutic target for achieving cardiac protection in patients with CVDs.
PMCID: PMC3920183  PMID: 24611063
cardiovascular disease; fibrosis; proliferation; hypertrophy; extracellular matrix; Toll-like receptors
2.  Gpr126 Functions in Schwann Cells to Control Differentiation and Myelination via G-Protein Activation 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(46):17976-17985.
The myelin sheath surrounding axons ensures that nerve impulses travel quickly and efficiently, allowing for the proper function of the vertebrate nervous system. We previously showed that the adhesion G-protein-coupled receptor (aGPCR) Gpr126 is essential for peripheral nervous system myelination, although the molecular mechanisms by which Gpr126 functions were incompletely understood. aGPCRs are a significantly understudied protein class, and it was unknown whether Gpr126 couples to G-proteins. Here, we analyze DhhCre;Gpr126fl/fl conditional mutants, and show that Gpr126 functions in Schwann cells (SCs) for radial sorting of axons and myelination. Furthermore, we demonstrate that elevation of cAMP levels or protein kinase A activation suppresses myelin defects in Gpr126 mouse mutants and that cAMP levels are reduced in conditional Gpr126 mutant peripheral nerve. Finally, we show that GPR126 directly increases cAMP by coupling to heterotrimeric G-proteins. Together, these data support a model in which Gpr126 functions in SCs for proper development and myelination and provide evidence that these functions are mediated via G-protein-signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3828454  PMID: 24227709
3.  Identification of Chemicals Inducing Cardiomyocyte Proliferation in Developmental Stage-Specific Manner with Pluripotent Stem Cells 
The proliferation of cardiomyocytes is highly restricted after postnatal maturation, limiting heart regeneration. Elucidation of the regulatory machineries for the proliferation and growth arrest of cardiomyocytes is imperative. Chemical biology is efficient to dissect molecular mechanisms of various cellular events and often provide therapeutic potentials. We have been investigating cardiovascular differentiation with pluripotent stem cells (PSCs). The combination of stem cell and chemical biology can provide novel approaches to investigate the molecular mechanisms and manipulation of cardiomyocyte proliferation.
Methods and Results
To identify chemicals that regulate cardiomyocyte proliferation, we performed a screening of a defined chemical library based on proliferation of mouse PSC-derived cardiomyocytes and identified 4 chemical compound groups - inhibitors of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), and activators of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Several appropriate combinations of chemicals synergistically enhanced proliferation of cardiomyocytes derived from both mouse and human PSCs, notably up to a 14-fold increase in mouse cardiomyocytes. We also examined the effects of identified chemicals on cardiomyocytes in various developmental stages and species. Whereas ERK activators and CaMKII inhibitors showed proliferative effects only on cardiomyocytes in early developmental stages, GSK3 and p38 MAPK inhibitors substantially and synergistically induced reentry and progression of cell cycle in not only neonatal but also adult cardiomyocytes.
Our approach successfully uncovered novel molecular targets and mechanisms controlling cardiomyocyte proliferation in distinct developmental stages and offered PSC-derived cardiomyocytes as a potent tool to explore chemical-based cardiac regenerative strategies.
PMCID: PMC3898889  PMID: 24141057
cardiomyocyte; embryonic stem cell; proliferation; small molecules
4.  Dipeptidyl Peptidase IV Inhibition Activates CREB and Improves Islet Vascularization through VEGF-A/VEGFR-2 Signaling Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82639.
Substitution of pancreatic islets is a potential therapy to treat diabetes and it depends on reconstitution of islet’s capillary network. In this study, we addressed the question whether stabilization of Glucagon-Like-Peptide-1 (GLP-1) by inhibiting Dipeptidyl Peptidase-IV (DPP-IV) increases β-cell mass by modulating vascularization. Mouse or porcine donor islets were implanted under kidney capsule of diabetic mice treated with DPP-IV inhibitor sitagliptin. Grafts were analyzed for insulin production, β-cell proliferation and vascularization. In addition, the effect of sitagliptin on sprouting and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)-A expression was examined ex vivo. The cAMP response element-binding (CREB) and VEGF-A/ Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor (VEGFR)-2 signaling pathway leading to islet vascularization was explored. Sitagliptin increased mean insulin content of islet grafts and area of insulin-positive tissue as well as β-cell proliferation. Interestingly, sitagliptin treatment also markedly increased endothelial cell proliferation, microvessel density and blood flow. Finally, GLP-1 (7-36) stimulated sprouting and VEGF expression, which was significantly enhanced by sitagliptin- mediated inhibition of DPP-IV. Our in vivo data demonstrate that sitagliptin treatment phosphorylated CREB and induced islet vascularization through VEGF-A/VEGFR-2 signaling pathway. This study paves a new pathway for improvement of islet transplantation in treating diabetes mellitus.
PMCID: PMC3859629  PMID: 24349326
5.  Deletion of Fn14 receptor protects from right heart fibrosis and dysfunction 
Basic Research in Cardiology  2013;108(2):325.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a fatal disease for which no cure is yet available. The leading cause of death in PAH is right ventricular (RV) failure. Previously, the TNF receptor superfamily member fibroblast growth factor-inducible molecule 14 (Fn14) has been associated with different fibrotic diseases. However, so far there is no study demonstrating a causal role for endogenous Fn14 signaling in RV or LV heart disease. The purpose of this study was to determine whether global ablation of Fn14 prevents RV fibrosis and remodeling improving heart function. Here, we provide evidence for a causative role of Fn14 in pulmonary artery banding (PAB)-induced RV fibrosis and dysfunction in mice. Fn14 expression was increased in the RV after PAB. Mice lacking Fn14 (Fn14−/−) displayed substantially reduced RV fibrosis and dysfunction following PAB compared to wild-type littermates. Cell culture experiments demonstrated that activation of Fn14 induces collagen expression via RhoA-dependent nuclear translocation of myocardin-related transcription factor-A (MRTF-A)/MAL. Furthermore, activation of Fn14 in vitro caused fibroblast proliferation and myofibroblast differentiation, which corresponds to suppression of PAB-induced RV fibrosis in Fn14−/− mice. Moreover, our findings suggest that Fn14 expression is regulated by endothelin-1 (ET-1) in cardiac fibroblasts. We conclude that Fn14 is an endogenous key regulator in cardiac fibrosis and suggest this receptor as potential new target for therapeutic interventions in heart failure.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00395-012-0325-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3597271  PMID: 23325387
Right heart disease; Fibrosis; Fn14; MAL; Cardiac fibroblasts
6.  Inferring cell cycle feedback regulation from gene expression data 
Journal of biomedical informatics  2011;44(4):565-575.
Feedback control is an important regulatory process in biological systems, which confers robustness against external and internal disturbances. Genes involved in feedback structures are therefore likely to have a major role in regulating cellular processes.
Here we rely on a dynamic Bayesian network approach to identify feedback loops in cell cycle regulation. We analyzed the transcriptional profile of the cell cycle in HeLa cancer cells and identified a feedback loop structure composed of 10 genes. In silico analyses showed that these genes hold important roles in system's dynamics. The results of published experimental assays confirmed the central role of 8 of the identified feedback loop genes in cell cycle regulation. In conclusion, we provide a novel approach to identify critical genes for the dynamics of biological processes. This may lead to the identification of therapeutic targets in diseases that involve perturbations of these dynamics.
PMCID: PMC3143236  PMID: 21310265
gene expression; cell cycle; dynamic Bayesian network; feedback
7.  Nephronectin regulates atrioventricular canal differentiation via Bmp4-Has2 signaling in zebrafish 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2011;138(20):4499-4509.
The extracellular matrix is crucial for organogenesis. It is a complex and dynamic component that regulates cell behavior by modulating the activity, bioavailability and presentation of growth factors to cell surface receptors. Here, we determined the role of the extracellular matrix protein Nephronectin (Npnt) in heart development using the zebrafish model system. The vertebrate heart is formed as a linear tube in which myocardium and endocardium are separated by a layer of extracellular matrix termed the cardiac jelly. During heart development, the cardiac jelly swells at the atrioventricular (AV) canal, which precedes valve formation. Here, we show that Npnt expression correlates with this process. Morpholino-mediated knockdown of Npnt prevents proper valve leaflet formation and trabeculation and results in greater than 85% lethality at 7 days post-fertilization. The earliest observed phenotype is an extended tube-like structure at the AV boundary. In addition, the expression of myocardial genes involved in cardiac valve formation (cspg2, fibulin 1, tbx2b, bmp4) is expanded and endocardial cells along the extended tube-like structure exhibit characteristics of AV cells (has2, notch1b and Alcam expression, cuboidal cell shape). Inhibition of has2 in npnt morphants rescues the endocardial, but not the myocardial, expansion. By contrast, reduction of BMP signaling in npnt morphants reduces the ectopic expression of myocardial and endocardial AV markers. Taken together, our results identify Npnt as a novel upstream regulator of Bmp4-Has2 signaling that plays a crucial role in AV canal differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3253110  PMID: 21937601
Nephronectin; Atrioventricular canal; Bmp4; Zebrafish
8.  Cardiac Deletion of Smyd2 Is Dispensable for Mouse Heart Development 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9748.
Chromatin modifying enzymes play a critical role in cardiac differentiation. Previously, it has been shown that the targeted deletion of the histone methyltransferase, Smyd1, the founding member of the SET and MYND domain containing (Smyd) family, interferes with cardiomyocyte maturation and proper formation of the right heart ventricle. The highly related paralogue, Smyd2 is a histone 3 lysine 4- and lysine 36-specific methyltransferase expressed in heart and brain. Here, we report that Smyd2 is differentially expressed during cardiac development with highest expression in the neonatal heart. To elucidate the functional role of Smyd2 in the heart, we generated conditional knockout (cKO) mice harboring a cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of Smyd2 and performed histological, functional and molecular analyses. Unexpectedly, cardiac deletion of Smyd2 was dispensable for proper morphological and functional development of the murine heart and had no effect on global histone 3 lysine 4 or 36 methylation. However, we provide evidence for a potential role of Smyd2 in the transcriptional regulation of genes associated with translation and reveal that Smyd2, similar to Smyd3, interacts with RNA Polymerase II as well as to the RNA helicase, HELZ.
PMCID: PMC2840034  PMID: 20305823
9.  Hypoxia-inducible factor induces local thyroid hormone inactivation during hypoxic-ischemic disease in rats 
Thyroid hormone is a critical determinant of cellular metabolism and differentiation. Precise tissue-specific regulation of the active ligand 3,5,3′-triiodothyronine (T3) is achieved by the sequential removal of iodine groups from the thyroid hormone molecule, with type 3 deiodinase (D3) comprising the major inactivating pathway that terminates the action of T3 and prevents activation of the prohormone thyroxine. Using cells endogenously expressing D3, we found that hypoxia induced expression of the D3 gene DIO3 by a hypoxia-inducible factor–dependent (HIF-dependent) pathway. D3 activity and mRNA were increased both by hypoxia and by hypoxia mimetics that increase HIF-1. Using ChIP, we found that HIF-1α interacted specifically with the DIO3 promoter, indicating that DIO3 may be a direct transcriptional target of HIF-1. Endogenous D3 activity decreased T3-dependent oxygen consumption in both neuronal and hepatocyte cell lines, suggesting that hypoxia-induced D3 may reduce metabolic rate in hypoxic tissues. Using a rat model of cardiac failure due to RV hypertrophy, we found that HIF-1α and D3 proteins were induced specifically in the hypertrophic myocardium of the RV, creating an anatomically specific reduction in local T3 content and action. These results suggest a mechanism of metabolic regulation during hypoxic-ischemic injury in which HIF-1 reduces local thyroid hormone signaling through induction of D3.
PMCID: PMC2230657  PMID: 18259611
10.  p21CIP1 Controls Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen Level in Adult Cardiomyocytes 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(2):555-565.
Cell cycle withdrawal associated with terminal differentiation is responsible for the incapability of many organs to regenerate after injury. Here, we employed a cell-free system to analyze the molecular mechanisms underlying cell cycle arrest in cardiomyocytes. In this assay, incubation of S phase nuclei mixed with cytoplasmic extract of S phase cells and adult primary cardiomyocytes results in a dramatic reduction of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) protein levels. This effect was blocked by the proteasome inhibitors MG132 and lactacystin, whereas actinomycin D and cycloheximide had no effect. Immunodepletion and addback experiments revealed that the effect of cardiomyocyte extract on PCNA protein levels is maintained by p21 but not p27. In serum-stimulated cardiomyocytes PCNA expression was reconstituted, whereas the protein level of p21 but not that of p27 was reduced. Cytoplasmic extract of serum-stimulated cardiomyocytes did not influence the PCNA protein level in S phase nuclei. Moreover, the hypertrophic effect of serum stimulation was blocked by ectopic expression of p21 and the PCNA protein level was found to be upregulated in adult cardiomyocytes derived from p21 knockout mice. Our data provide evidence that p21 regulates the PCNA protein level in adult cardiomyocytes, which has implications for cardiomyocyte growth control.
PMCID: PMC151523  PMID: 12509454

Results 1-10 (10)