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1.  The Great Divide: Understanding Cloacal Septation, Malformation, and Implications for Surgeons 
Pediatric surgery international  2014;30(11):1089-1095.
The anorectal and urogenital systems arise from a common embryonic structure termed cloaca. Subsequent development leads to the division/septation of the cloaca into the urethra, urinary bladder, vagina, anal canal, and rectum. Defective cloacal development and the resulting anorectal and urogenital malformations are some of the most severe congenital anomalies encountered in children. In the most severe form in females, the rectum, vagina, and urethra fail to develop separately and drain via a single common channel known as a cloaca into the perineum.
In this review, we summarize our current knowledge of embryonic cloaca development and malformation, and compare them to what has already been described in literature. We describe the use of mouse models of cloaca malformation to understand which signaling pathways and cellular mechanisms are involved in the process of normal cloaca development. We also discuss the embryological correlation of the epithelial and stromal histology found in step sections of the common channel in fourteen human cloaca malformations. Finally, we highlight the significance of these findings, compare them to prior studies, and discuss their implications for the pediatric surgeons. Understanding and identifying the molecular basis for cloaca malformation could provide foundation for tissue engineering efforts that in the future would reflect better surgical reconstruction and improved quality of life for patients.
doi:10.1007/s00383-014-3593-8
PMCID: PMC4302733  PMID: 25217828
anorectal malformation; cloaca; common channel
2.  Defining the molecular pathologies in cloaca malformation: similarities between mouse and human 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2014;7(4):483-493.
Anorectal malformations are congenital anomalies that form a spectrum of disorders, from the most benign type with excellent functional prognosis, to very complex, such as cloaca malformation in females in which the rectum, vagina and urethra fail to develop separately and instead drain via a single common channel into the perineum. The severity of this phenotype suggests that the defect occurs in the early stages of embryonic development of the organs derived from the cloaca. Owing to the inability to directly investigate human embryonic cloaca development, current research has relied on the use of mouse models of anorectal malformations. However, even studies of mouse embryos lack analysis of the earliest stages of cloaca patterning and morphogenesis. Here we compared human and mouse cloaca development and retrospectively identified that early mis-patterning of the embryonic cloaca might underlie the most severe forms of anorectal malformation in humans. In mouse, we identified that defective sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling results in early dorsal-ventral epithelial abnormalities prior to the reported defects in septation. This is manifested by the absence of Sox2 and aberrant expression of keratins in the embryonic cloaca of Shh knockout mice. Shh knockout embryos additionally develop a hypervascular stroma, which is defective in BMP signaling. These epithelial and stromal defects persist later, creating an indeterminate epithelium with molecular alterations in the common channel. We then used these animals to perform a broad comparison with patients with mild-to-severe forms of anorectal malformations including cloaca malformation. We found striking parallels with the Shh mouse model, including nearly identical defective molecular identity of the epithelium and surrounding stroma. Our work strongly suggests that early embryonic cloacal epithelial differentiation defects might be the underlying cause of severe forms of anorectal malformations in humans. Moreover, deranged Shh and BMP signaling is correlated with severe anorectal malformations in both mouse and humans.
doi:10.1242/dmm.014530
PMCID: PMC3974458  PMID: 24524909
Anorectal malformation; Cloaca; Patterning; Epithelial differentiation; Sonic hedgehog
3.  Sulfolobus Mutants, Generated via PCR Products, Which Lack Putative Enzymes of UV Photoproduct Repair 
Archaea  2011;2011:864015.
In order to determine the biological relevance of two S. acidocaldarius proteins to the repair of UV photoproducts, the corresponding genes (Saci_1227 and Saci_1096) were disrupted, and the phenotypes of the resulting mutants were examined by various genetic assays. The disruption used integration by homologous recombination of a functional but heterologous pyrE gene, promoted by short sequences attached to both ends via PCR. The phenotypic analyses of the disruptants confirmed that ORF Saci_1227 encodes a DNA photolyase which functions in vivo, but they could not implicate ORF Saci_1096 in repair of UV- or other externally induced DNA damage despite its similarity to genes encoding UV damage endonucleases. The success of the gene-disruption strategy, which used 5′ extensions of PCR primers to target cassette integration, suggests potential advantages for routine construction of Sulfolobus strains.
doi:10.1155/2011/864015
PMCID: PMC3139894  PMID: 21785574
4.  Identification of epithelial label-retaining cells at the transition between the anal canal and the rectum in mice 
Cell Cycle  2010;9(15):3039-3045.
In certain regions of the body, transition zones exist where stratified squamous epithelia directly abut against other types of epithelia. Certain transition zones are especially prone to tumorigenesis an example being the anorectal junction, although the reason for this is not known. One possibility is that the abrupt transition of the simple columnar epithelium of the colon to the stratified squamous epithelium of the proximal portion of the anal canal may contain a unique stem cell niche. We investigated whether the anorectal region contained cells with stem cell properties relative to the adjacent epithelium. We utilized a tetracycline-regulatable histone H2B-GFP transgenic mice model, previously used to identify hair follicle stem cells, to fluorescently label slow-cycling anal epithelial cells (e.g., prospective stem cells) in combination with a panel of putative stem cell markers. We identified a population of long-term GFP label-retaining cells concentrated at the junction between the anal canal and the rectum. These cells are BrdU-retaining cells and expressed the stem cell marker CD34. Moreover, tracking the fate of the anal label-retaining cells in vivo revealed that the slow-cycling cells only gave rise to progeny of the anal epithelium. In conclusion, we identified a unique population of cells at the anorectal junction which can be separated from the other basal anal epithelial cells based upon the expression of the stem cell marker CD34 and integrin α6, and thus represent a putative anal stem cell population.
doi:10.4161/cc.9.15.12437
PMCID: PMC3040928  PMID: 20647777
stem cells; transitional epithelium; keratinocyte; slow-cycling; label retaining cell

Results 1-4 (4)