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1.  Multispectral Optoacoustic Tomography of Matrix Metalloproteinase Activity in Vulnerable Human Carotid Plaques 
Molecular Imaging and Biology  2011;14(3):277-285.
Aims
Elevated expression of cathepsins, integrins and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) is typically associated with atherosclerotic plaque instability. While fluorescent tagging of such molecules has been amply demonstrated, no imaging method was so far shown capable of resolving these inflammation-associated tags with high fidelity and resolution beyond microscopic depths. This study is aimed at demonstrating a new method with high potential for noninvasive clinical cardiovascular diagnostics of vulnerable plaques using high-resolution deep-tissue multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) technology.
Methods and results
MMP-sensitive activatable fluorescent probe (MMPSense™ 680) was applied to human carotid plaques from symptomatic patients. Atherosclerotic activity was detected by tuning MSOT wavelengths to activation-dependent absorption changes of the molecules, structurally modified in the presence of enzymes. MSOT analysis simultaneously provided morphology along with heterogeneous MMP activity with better than 200 micron resolution throughout the intact plaque tissue. The results corresponded well with epi-fluorescence images made from thin cryosections. Elevated MMP activity was further confirmed by in situ zymography, accompanied by increased macrophage influx.
Conclusions
We demonstrated, for the first time to our knowledge, the ability of MSOT to provide volumetric images of activatable molecular probe distribution deep within optically diffuse tissues. High-resolution mapping of MMP activity was achieved deep in the vulnerable plaque of intact human carotid specimens. This performance directly relates to pre-clinical screening applications in animal models and to clinical decision potential as it might eventually allow for highly specific visualization and staging of plaque vulnerability thus impacting therapeutic clinical decision making.
doi:10.1007/s11307-011-0502-6
PMCID: PMC3346936  PMID: 21720908
Atherosclerosis; Optoacoustic imaging; Carotid arteries; Plaque; Contrast media; Inflammation; Medicine & Public Health; Imaging / Radiology
2.  Long-Term Type 1 Diabetes Enhances In-Stent Restenosis after Aortic Stenting in Diabetes-Prone BB Rats 
Type 1 diabetic patients have increased risk of developing in-stent restenosis following endovascular stenting. Underlying pathogenetic mechanisms are not fully understood partly due to the lack of a relevant animal model to study the effect(s) of long-term autoimmune diabetes on development of in-stent restenosis. We here describe the development of in-stent restenosis in long-term (~7 months) spontaneously diabetic and age-matched, thymectomized, nondiabetic Diabetes Prone BioBreeding (BBDP) rats (n = 6-7 in each group). Diabetes was suboptimally treated with insulin and was characterized by significant hyperglycaemia, polyuria, proteinuria, and increased HbA1c levels. Stented abdominal aortas were harvested 28 days after stenting. Computerized morphometric analysis revealed significantly increased neointima formation in long-term diabetic rats compared with nondiabetic controls. In conclusion, long-term autoimmune diabetes in BBDP rats enhances in-stent restenosis. This model can be used to study the underlying pathogenetic mechanisms of diabetes-enhanced in-stent restenosis as well as to test new therapeutic modalities.
doi:10.1155/2011/396734
PMCID: PMC3038840  PMID: 21331346
3.  Differential Expression of Proteoglycans in Tissue Remodeling and Lymphangiogenesis after Experimental Renal Transplantation in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9095.
Background
Chronic transplant dysfunction explains the majority of late renal allograft loss and is accompanied by extensive tissue remodeling leading to transplant vasculopathy, glomerulosclerosis and interstitial fibrosis. Matrix proteoglycans mediate cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions and play key roles in tissue remodeling. The aim of this study was to characterize differential heparan sulfate proteoglycan and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan expression in transplant vasculopathy, glomerulosclerosis and interstitial fibrosis in renal allografts with chronic transplant dysfunction.
Methods
Renal allografts were transplanted in the Dark Agouti-to-Wistar Furth rat strain combination. Dark Agouti-to-Dark Agouti isografts and non-transplanted Dark Agouti kidneys served as controls. Allograft and isograft recipients were sacrificed 66 and 81 days (mean) after transplantation, respectively. Heparan sulfate proteoglycan (collXVIII, perlecan and agrin) and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (versican) expression, as well as CD31 and LYVE-1 (vascular and lymphatic endothelium, respectively) expression were (semi-) quantitatively analyzed using immunofluorescence.
Findings
Arteries with transplant vasculopathy and sclerotic glomeruli in allografts displayed pronounced neo-expression of collXVIII and perlecan. In contrast, in interstitial fibrosis expression of the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan versican dominated. In the cortical tubular basement membranes in both iso- and allografts, induction of collXVIII was detected. Allografts presented extensive lymphangiogenesis (p<0.01 compared to isografts and non-transplanted controls), which was associated with induced perlecan expression underneath the lymphatic endothelium (p<0.05 and p<0.01 compared to isografts and non-transplanted controls, respectively). Both the magnitude of lymphangiogenesis and perlecan expression correlated with severity of interstitial fibrosis and impaired graft function.
Interpretation
Our results reveal that changes in the extent of expression and the type of proteoglycans being expressed are tightly associated with tissue remodeling after renal transplantation. Therefore, proteoglycans might be potential targets for clinical intervention in renal chronic transplant dysfunction.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009095
PMCID: PMC2816722  PMID: 20140097
4.  Vasoregression Linked to Neuronal Damage in the Rat with Defect of Polycystin-2 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7328.
Background
Neuronal damage is correlated with vascular dysfunction in the diseased retina, but the underlying mechanisms remain controversial because of the lack of suitable models in which vasoregression related to neuronal damage initiates in the mature retinal vasculature. The aim of this study was to assess the temporal link between neuronal damage and vascular patency in a transgenic rat (TGR) with overexpression of a mutant cilia gene polycystin-2.
Methods
Vasoregression, neuroglial changes and expression of neurotrophic factors were assessed in TGR and control rats in a time course. Determination of neuronal changes was performed by quantitative morphometry of paraffin-embedded vertical sections. Vascular cell composition and patency were assessed by quantitative retinal morphometry of digest preparations. Glial activation was assessed by western blot and immunofluorescence. Expression of neurotrophic factors was detected by quantitative PCR.
Findings
At one month, number and thickness of the outer nuclear cell layers (ONL) in TGR rats were reduced by 31% (p<0.001) and 17% (p<0.05), respectively, compared to age-matched control rats. Furthermore, the reduction progressed from 1 to 7 months in TGR rats. Apoptosis was selectively detected in the photoreceptor in the ONL, starting after one month. Nevertheless, TGR and control rats showed normal responses in electroretinogram at one month. From the second month onwards, TGR retinas had significantly increased acellular capillaries (p<0.001), and a reduction of endothelial cells (p<0.01) and pericytes (p<0.01). Upregulation of GFAP was first detected in TGR retinas after 1 month in glial cells, in parallel with an increase of FGF2 (fourfold) and CNTF (60 %), followed by upregulation of NGF (40 %) at 3 months.
Interpretation
Our data suggest that TGR is an appropriate animal model for vasoregression related to neuronal damage. Similarities to experimental diabetic retinopathy render this model suitable to understand general mechanisms of maturity-onset vasoregression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007328
PMCID: PMC2752170  PMID: 19806208
5.  Pericyte Migration 
Diabetes  2008;57(9):2495-2502.
OBJECTIVE— The mechanism underlying pericyte loss during incipient diabetic retinopathy remains controversial. Hyperglycemia induces angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2) transcription, which modulates capillary pericyte coverage. In this study, we assessed loss of pericyte subgroups and the contribution of Ang-2 to pericyte migration.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS— Numbers of total pericytes and their subgroups were quantified in retinal digest preparations of spontaneous diabetic XLacZ mice. Pericytes were divided into subgroups according to their localization, their position relative to adjacent endothelial cells, and the expression of LacZ. The contribution of Ang-2 to pericyte migration was assessed in Ang-2 overexpressing (mOpsinhAng2) and deficient (Ang2LacZ) mice.
RESULTS— Pericyte numbers were reduced by 16% (P < 0.01) in XLacZ mice after 6 months of diabetes. Reduction of pericytes was restricted to pericytes on straight capillaries (relative reduction 27%, P < 0.05) and was predominantly observed in LacZ-positive pericytes (−20%, P < 0.01). Hyperglycemia increased the numbers of migrating pericytes (69%; P < 0.05), of which the relative increase due to diabetes was exclusively in LacZ-negative pericytes, indicating reduced adherence to the capillaries (176%; P < 0.01). Overexpression of Ang-2 in nondiabetic retinas mimicked diabetic pericyte migration of wild-type animals (78%; P < 0.01). Ang-2 deficient mice completely lacked hyperglycemia-induced increase in pericyte migration compared with wild-type littermates.
CONCLUSIONS— Diabetic pericyte loss is the result of pericyte migration, and this process is modulated by the Ang-Tie system.
doi:10.2337/db08-0325
PMCID: PMC2518502  PMID: 18559662
6.  The clinical relevance of assessing advanced glycation endproducts accumulation in diabetes 
Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of morbidity and mortality associated with diabetes. There is increasing evidence that advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) play a pivotal role in atherosclerosis, in particular in diabetes. AGE accumulation is a measure of cumulative metabolic and oxidative stress, and may so represent the "metabolic memory". Furthermore, increased AGE accumulation is closely related to the development of cardiovascular complications in diabetes. This review article will focus on the clinical relevance of measuring AGE accumulation in diabetic patients by focusing on AGE formation, AGEs as predictors of long-term complications, and interventions against AGEs.
doi:10.1186/1475-2840-7-29
PMCID: PMC2569910  PMID: 18840258
7.  Role of Peritoneal Macrophages in Cytomegalovirus-induced Acceleration of Autoimmune Diabetes in BB-rats 
Background: As one of the natural perturbants, infection with cytomegalovirus (CMV) is believed to play a role in the development of Type I diabetes. Using the DP-BB rat model for autoimmune diabetes, we here report about possible mechanisms responsible for R(at)CMV-induced accelerated onset of diabetes.
Methods: Rats were i.p. infected with 2 × 106 plaque forming units (pfu) RCMV and followed for diabetes development. Presence of RCMV antigens and DNA was analyzed by immunohistochemistry and PCR on pancreatic tissue and isolated islets. The effect of viral infection on peritoneal macrophages (pMΦ) and diabetes development was studied by analyzing numbers of pMΦ, virus permissiveness and by depletion of this subset by peritoneal lavage.
Results: RCMV accelerated onset of diabetes without infecting pancreatic islets. Immunohistochemistry and PCR on pancreas and isolated islets indicated that islets are non-permissive for RCMV. Infection results in an influx of pMΦ 1 day p.i. of which ~0.05% showed signs of reproductive infection. Depletion of pMΦ on days 1-3 p.i. completely counteracted the accelerating effect of RCMV.
Interpretation: RCMV accelerates onset of diabetes without infecting pancreatic islets. pMΦ might function as an carriage to disseminate virus to the pancreas where they enhance activation of autoreactive T cells resulting in accelerated onset of diabetes.
doi:10.1080/10446670310001626517
PMCID: PMC2485421  PMID: 14768944
8.  Cytomegalovirus Infection Modulates Cellular Immunity in an Experimental Model for Autoimmune Diabetes 
Background: Viral infections are thought to play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes. In this study we investigated the effect of Rat Cytomegalovirus (RCMV) infection on cellular immunity in a well-defined animal model for diabetes, the Biobreeding (BB) rat.
Methods: Diabetes prone (DP)- and Diabetes resistant (DR)-BB rats were infected with 2 × 106 plaque forming units (pfu) RCMV. Diabetes development was monitored by frequent blood-glucose analysis. Effects of RCMV on CD4+, CD8+ and Vβ-TCR+ T-cell subsets were measured in vivo, and in vitro after restimulation with RCMV-infected fibroblasts. Proliferative capacity was determined by 3H-Thymidine incorporation.
Results: RCMV-infection resulted in a significant acceleration of diabetes onset in DP-BB rats ( p=0.003). Percentages CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells were not affected in vivo. In vitro, RCMV-restimulation resulted in a decreased CD4+/CD8+ blastoid T-cell ratio compared to ConA ( p=0.00028). Furthermore, RCMV-restimulation resulted in a strong RCMV-specific proliferation, which comprises about 50% of the response triggered by ConA. Vβ-TCR percentages did not change upon RCMV-infection or RCMV-restimulation.
Interpretation: RCMV-restimulation of splenic T-cells in vitro resulted in a strong RCMV-specific proliferation, probably also including autoreactive T-cells. In vivo, this polyclonal response might be involved in the observed accelerated diabetes development in DP-BB rats upon RCMV-infection.
doi:10.1080/10446670310001626490
PMCID: PMC2485415  PMID: 14768946
9.  Origin of neointimal endothelium and α-actin–positive smooth muscle cells in transplant arteriosclerosis 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2001;107(11):1411-1422.
The development of transplant arteriosclerosis (TA) is today’s most important problem in clinical organ transplantation. Histologically, TA is characterized by perivascular inflammation and progressive intimal thickening. Current thought on this process of vascular remodeling assumes that neointimal vascular smooth muscle (VSM) cells and endothelium in TA are graft-derived, holding that medial VSM cells proliferate and migrate into the subendothelial space in response to signals from inflammatory cells and damaged graft endothelium. Using MHC class I haplotype-specific immunohistochemical staining and single-cell PCR analyses, we show that the neointimal α-actin–positive VSM cells in rat aortic or cardiac allografts are of recipient and not of donor origin. In aortic but not in cardiac allografts, recipient-derived endothelial cells (ECs) replaced donor endothelium. Cyclosporine treatment prevents neointima formation and preserves the vascular media in aortic allografts. Recipient-derived ECs do not replace graft endothelium after cyclosporine treatment. We propose that, although it progresses beyond the needs of functional repair, TA reflects the activity of a normal healing process that restores vascular wall function following allograft-induced immunological injury.
PMCID: PMC209313  PMID: 11390423
10.  Identification of Novel Genes Associated with Renal Tertiary Lymphoid Organ Formation in Aging Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91850.
A hallmark of aging-related organ deterioration is a dysregulated immune response characterized by pathologic leukocyte infiltration of affected tissues. Mechanisms and genes involved are as yet unknown. To identify genes associated with aging-related renal infiltration, we analyzed kidneys from aged mice (≥20 strains) for infiltrating leukocytes followed by Haplotype Association Mapping (HAM) analysis. Immunohistochemistry revealed CD45+ cell clusters (predominantly T and B cells) in perivascular areas coinciding with PNAd+ high endothelial venules and podoplanin+ lymph vessels indicative of tertiary lymphoid organs. Cumulative cluster size increased with age (analyzed at 6, 12 and 20 months). Based on the presence or absence of clusters in male and female mice at 20 months, HAM analysis revealed significant associations with loci on Chr1, Chr2, Chr8 and Chr14 in male mice, and with loci on Chr4, Chr7, Chr13 and Chr14 in female mice. Wisp2 (Chr2) showed the strongest association (P = 5.00×10−137) in male mice; Ctnnbip1 (P = 6.42×10−267) and Tnfrsf8 (P = 5.42×10−245) (both on Chr4) showed the strongest association in female mice. Both Wisp2 and Ctnnbip1 are part of the Wnt-signaling pathway and the encoded proteins were expressed within the tertiary lymphoid organs. In conclusion, this study revealed differential lymphocytic infiltration and tertiary lymphoid organ formation in aged mouse kidneys across different inbred mouse strains. HAM analysis identified candidate genes involved in the Wnt-signaling pathway that may be causally linked to tertiary lymphoid organ formation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091850
PMCID: PMC3956762  PMID: 24637805
12.  Circulating alpha-klotho levels are not disturbed in patients with type 2 diabetes with and without macrovascular disease in the absence of nephropathy 
Background
Diabetes is associated with a high incidence of macrovascular disease (MVD), including peripheral and coronary artery disease. Circulating soluble-Klotho (sKlotho) is produced in the kidney and is a putative anti-aging and vasculoprotective hormone. Reduced Klotho levels may therefore increase cardiovascular risk in diabetes. We investigated if sKlotho levels are decreased in type 2 diabetes and associate with MVD in the absence of diabetic nephropathy, and whether hyperglycemia affects renal Klotho production in vitro and in vivo.
Methods
sKlotho levels were determined with ELISA in diabetic and non-diabetic patients with and without MVD, and healthy control subjects. Human renal tubular epithelial cells (TECs) were isolated and exposed to high glucose levels (15 and 30 mM) in vitro and Klotho levels were measured with qPCR and quantitative immunofluorescence. Klotho mRNA expression was quantified in kidneys obtained from long term (3 and 8 months) diabetic Ins2Akita mice and normoglycemic control mice.
Results
No significant differences in sKlotho levels were observed between diabetic patients with and without MVD (527 (433–704) pg/mL, n = 35), non-diabetic MVD patients (517 (349–571) pg/mL, n = 27), and healthy control subjects (435 (346–663) pg/mL, n = 15). High glucose (15 and 30 mM) did not alter Klotho expression in TECs. Long-term hyperglycemia in diabetic Ins2Akita mice (characterized by increased HbA1c levels [12.9 ± 0.3% (3 months) and 11.3 ± 2.0% (8 months)], p < 0.05 vs. non-diabetic mice) did not affect renal Klotho mRNA expression.
Conclusions
These data indicate that sKlotho levels are not affected in type 2 diabetes patients with and without MVD. Furthermore, hyperglycemia per se does not affect renal Klotho production. As type 2 diabetes does not alter sKlotho levels, sKlotho does not seem to play a major role in the pathogenesis of MVD in type 2 diabetes.
doi:10.1186/1475-2840-12-116
PMCID: PMC3765553  PMID: 23945089
Atherosclerosis; Coronary artery disease; Klotho; Macrovascular disease; Peripheral artery disease; Type 2 diabetes
13.  Gaseous Hydrogen Sulfide Protects against Myocardial Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury in Mice Partially Independent from Hypometabolism 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63291.
Background
Ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) is a major cause of cardiac damage following various pathological processes. Gaseous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is protective during IRI by inducing a hypometabolic state in mice which is associated with anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. We investigated whether gaseous H2S administration is protective in cardiac IRI and whether non-hypometabolic concentrations of H2S have similar protective properties.
Methods
Male C57BL/6 mice received a 0, 10, or 100 ppm H2S-N2 mixture starting 30 minutes prior to ischemia until 5 minutes pre-reperfusion. IRI was inflicted by temporary ligation of the left coronary artery for 30 minutes. High-resolution respirometry equipment was used to assess CO2-production and blood pressure was measured using internal transmitters. The effects of H2S were assessed by histological and molecular analysis.
Results
Treatment with 100 ppm H2S decreased CO2-production by 72%, blood pressure by 14% and heart rate by 25%, while treatment with 10 ppm H2S had no effects. At day 1 of reperfusion 10 ppm H2S showed no effect on necrosis, while treatment with 100 ppm H2S reduced necrosis by 62% (p<0.05). Seven days post-reperfusion, both 10 ppm (p<0.01) and 100 ppm (p<0.05) H2S showed a reduction in fibrosis compared to IRI animals. Both 10 ppm and 100 ppm H2S reduced granulocyte-influx by 43% (p<0.05) and 60% (p<0.001), respectively. At 7 days post-reperfusion both 10 and 100 ppm H2S reduced expression of fibronectin by 63% (p<0.05) and 67% (p<0.01) and ANP by 84% and 63% (p<0.05), respectively.
Conclusions
Gaseous administration of H2S is protective when administered during a cardiac ischemic insult. Although hypometabolism is restricted to small animals, we now showed that low non-hypometabolic concentrations of H2S also have protective properties in IRI. Since IRI is a frequent cause of myocardial damage during percutaneous coronary intervention and cardiac transplantation, H2S treatment might lead to novel therapeutical modalities.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063291
PMCID: PMC3651205  PMID: 23675473
14.  UMOD as a susceptibility gene for end-stage renal disease 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:78.
Background
In recent genetic association studies, common variants including rs12917707 in the UMOD locus have shown strong evidence of association with eGFR, prevalent and incident chronic kidney disease and uromodulin urinary concentration in general population cohorts. The association of rs12917707 with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in a recent case-control study was only nominally significant.
Methods
To investigate whether rs12917707 associates with ESRD, graft failure (GF) and urinary uromodulin levels in an independent cohort, we genotyped 1142 ESRD patients receiving a renal transplantation and 1184 kidney donors as controls. After transplantation, 1066 renal transplant recipients were followed up for GF. Urinary uromodulin concentration was measured at median [IQR] 4.2 [2.2-6.1] yrs after kidney transplantation.
Results
The rs12917707 minor allele showed association with lower risk of ESRD (OR 0.89 [0.76-1.03], p = 0.04) consistent in effect size and direction with the previous report (Böger et al, PLoS Genet 2011). Meta-analysis of these findings showed significant association of rs12917707 with ESRD (OR 0.91 [0.85-98], p = 0.008). In contrast, rs12917707 was not associated with incidence of GF. Urinary uromodulin concentration was lower in recipients-carriers of the donor rs12917707 minor allele as compared to non-carriers, again consistent with previous observations in general population cohorts.
Conclusions
Our study thus corroborates earlier evidence and independently confirms the association between UMOD and ESRD.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-13-78
PMCID: PMC3495046  PMID: 22947327
UMOD; Uromodulin; Polymorphisms; SNP; End-stage renal disease; Kidney transplantation
15.  CUBN as a Novel Locus for End-Stage Renal Disease: Insights from Renal Transplantation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36512.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a complex disorder. As genome-wide association studies identified cubilin gene CUBN as a locus for albuminuria, and urinary protein loss is a risk factor for progressive CKD, we tested the hypothesis that common genetic variants in CUBN are associated with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and proteinuria. First, a total of 1142 patients with ESRD, admitted for renal transplantation, and 1186 donors were genotyped for SNPs rs7918972 and rs1801239 (case-control study). The rs7918972 minor allele frequency (MAF) was higher in ESRD patients comparing to kidney donors, implicating an increased risk for ESRD (OR 1.39, p = 0.0004) in native kidneys. Second, after transplantation recipients were followed for 5.8 [3.8–9.2] years (longitudinal study) documenting ESRD in transplanted kidneys – graft failure (GF). During post-transplant follow-up 92 (9.6%) cases of death-censored GF occurred. Donor rs7918972 MAF, representing genotype of the transplanted kidney, was 16.3% in GF vs 10.7% in cases with functioning graft. Consistently, a multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that donor rs7918972 is a predictor of GF, although statistical significance was not reached (HR 1.53, p = 0.055). There was no association of recipient rs7918972 with GF. Rs1801239 was not associated with ESRD or GF. In line with an association with the outcome, donor rs7918972 was associated with elevated proteinuria levels cross-sectionally at 1 year after transplantation. Thus, we identified CUBN rs7918972 as a novel risk variant for renal function loss in two independent settings: ESRD in native kidneys and GF in transplanted kidneys.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036512
PMCID: PMC3344899  PMID: 22574174

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