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1.  Small Molecule Inhibitors of the Host Cell COX/AREG/EGFR/ERK Pathway Attenuate Cytomegalovirus-induced Pathogenesis 
As with other herpesviruses, human cytomegalovirus (hCMV) has the ability to establish lifelong persistence and latent infection following primary exposure, salivary glands (SMGs) being the primary site of both. In the immunocompromised patient, hCMV is a common cause of opportunistic infections, and subsequent morbidity and mortality. Elucidating the molecular pathogenesis of CMV-induced disease is critical to the development of more effective and safer drug therapies. In the present study, we used a novel mouse postnatal SMG organ culture model of mCMV-induced dysplasia to investigate a candidate signaling network suggested by our prior studies (COX-2/AREG/EGFR/ERK). The objective was to employ small molecule inhibitors to target several key steps in the autocrine loop, and in this way ameliorate pathology. Our results indicate that upregulation of ERK phosphorylation is necessary for initial mCMV-induced pathogenesis, and that ErbB receptor family phosphorylation and downstream signaling are highly relevant targets for drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3139723  PMID: 21565184
cytomegalovirus; CMV-induced pathology; COX-2; Amphiregulin; EGF receptor; ERK
2.  CRTC1 Expression during Normal and Abnormal Salivary Gland Development Supports a Precursor Cell Origin for Mucoepidermoid Cancer 
Gene expression patterns : GEP  2010;11(1-2):57-63.
Dysregulation of the transcription factor CRTC1 by a t(11;19) chromosomal rearrangement mediates the formation of mucoepidermoid salivary gland carcinoma (MEC). Although the Crtc1 promoter is consistently active in fusion-positive MEC and low levels of Crtc1 transcripts have been reported in normal adult salivary glands, the distribution of CRTC1 protein in the normal salivary gland is not known. The aim of this study was to determine if CRTC1, like many known oncogenes, is expressed during early submandibular salivary gland (SMG) development and re-expressed in an experimental tumor model. Our results indicate that CRTC1 protein is expressed in SMG epithelia during early stages of morphogenesis, disappears with differentiation, and reappears in initial tumor-like pathology. This stage-dependent expression pattern suggests that CRTC1 may play a role during embryonic SMG branching morphogenesis but not for pro-acinar/acinar differentiation, supporting a precursor cell origin for MEC tumorigenesis. Moreover, the coincident expression of CRTC1 protein and cell proliferation markers in tumor-like histopathology suggests that CRTC1-mediated cell proliferation may contribute, in part, to initial tumor formation.
PMCID: PMC3033996  PMID: 20837164
CREB coactivator; CRTC1; salivary glands; development; tumorigenesis; cell proliferation; mucoepidermoid carcinoma
3.  Cytomegalovirus inhibition of embryonic mouse tooth development: A model of the human amelogenesis imperfecta phenocopy 
Archives of oral biology  2008;53(5):405-415.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is one of the most common causes of major birth defects in humans. Of the approximately 8400 children born each year in the U.S. with CMV-induced birth defects, more than 1/3 of these children exhibit hypoplasia and hypocalcification of tooth enamel. Our objective was to initiate the investigation of the pathogenesis of CMV-induced tooth defects.
Mouse Cap stage mandibular first molars were infected with mouse CMV (mCMV) in vitro in a chemically-defined organ culture system and analysed utilising histological and immunolocalisation methodologies. The antiviral, acyclovir, was used to inhibit mCMV replication and comparisons made between mCMV-infected and acyclovir-treated, mCMV-infected teeth.
Active infection of Cap stage molars for up to 15 days in vitro results in smaller, developmentally-delayed and dysmorphic molars characterised by shallow, broad and misshapen cusps, infected and affected dental papilla mesenchyme, poorly differentiated odontoblasts and ameloblasts, and no dentin matrix. Initial protein localisation studies suggest that the pathogenesis is mediated through NF-κB signaling and that there appears to be an unusual interaction between abnormal mesenchymal cells and surrounding matrix. Rescue with acyclovir indicates that mCMV replication is necessary to initiate and sustain progressive tooth dysmorphogenesis.
Our results indicate that mCMV-induced changes in signaling pathways severely delays, but does not completely interrupt, tooth morphogenesis. Importantly, our results demonstrate that this well-defined embryonic mouse organ culture system can be utilised to delineate the molecular mechanism underlying the CMV-induced tooth defects that characterise the amelogenesis imperfecta phenocopy seen in many CMV-infected children.
PMCID: PMC2279100  PMID: 18201685
Odontogenesis; Cytomegalovirus; Amelogenesis imperfecta; Fibronectin; NF-κB; β-Catenin
4.  Cytomegalovirus induces abnormal chondrogenesis and osteogenesis during embryonic mandibular development 
Human clinical studies and mouse models clearly demonstrate that cytomegalovirus (CMV) disrupts normal organ and tissue development. Although CMV is one of the most common causes of major birth defects in humans, little is presently known about the mechanism(s) underlying CMV-induced congenital malformations. Our prior studies have demonstrated that CMV infection of first branchial arch derivatives (salivary glands and teeth) induced severely abnormal phenotypes and that CMV has a particular tropism for neural crest-derived mesenchyme (NCM). Since early embryos are barely susceptible to CMV infection, and the extant evidence suggests that the differentiation program needs to be well underway for embryonic tissues to be susceptible to viral infection and viral-induced pathology, the aim of this study was to determine if first branchial arch NCM cells are susceptible to mCMV infection prior to differentiation of NCM derivatives.
E11 mouse mandibular processes (MANs) were infected with mouse CMV (mCMV) for up to 16 days in vitro. mCMV infection of undifferentiated embryonic mouse MANs induced micrognathia consequent to decreased Meckel's cartilage chondrogenesis and mandibular osteogenesis. Specifically, mCMV infection resulted in aberrant stromal cellularity, a smaller, misshapen Meckel's cartilage, and mandibular bone and condylar dysmorphogenesis. Analysis of viral distribution indicates that mCMV primarily infects NCM cells and derivatives. Initial localization studies indicate that mCMV infection changed the cell-specific expression of FN, NF-κB2, RelA, RelB, and Shh and Smad7 proteins.
Our results indicate that mCMV dysregulation of key signaling pathways in primarily NCM cells and their derivatives severely disrupts mandibular morphogenesis and skeletogenesis. The pathogenesis appears to be centered around the canonical and noncanonical NF-κB pathways, and there is unusual juxtaposition of abnormal stromal cells and surrounding matrix. Moreover, since it is critically important that signaling molecules are expressed in appropriate cell populations during development, the aberrant localization of components of relevant signaling pathways may reveal the pathogenic mechanism underlying mandibular malformations.
PMCID: PMC2330031  PMID: 18371224
5.  Embryonic salivary gland dysmorphogenesis in Twisted gastrulation deficient mice 
Archives of oral biology  2005;51(5):433-438.
Mouse Twisted gastrulation gene (Twsg1) expression is found throughout embryonic development, including substantial levels in the first branchial arch that gives rise to the submandibular salivary gland (SMG). We addressed the proposition that normal Twsg1 expression is critical to normal SMG ontogenesis.
Utilizing C57BL/6 embryos that were Twsg1−/− homozygotes, as well as wild type and heterozygote littermates, we investigated SMG development from gestational day 13 to newborn.
Twsg1 protein is immunodetected in epithelia throughout SMG development. Twsg1−/− embryos display widely variable craniofacial phenotypes that range from normal to severe holoprosencephaly/agnathia with no mandibular arch or stomodeum. The SMG phenotypes are correlated with the external craniofacial phenotype, ranging from normal to agenesis/aplasia.
It is evident that normal Twsg1 expression is critical for normal mouse SMG ontogenesis. Twsg1 loss of function is ultimately epistatic to the epigenome under normal physiologic conditions, but not always so. The reduced penetrance and variable expressivity seen in the SMGs of Twsg1−/− embryos is a challenging enigma.
PMCID: PMC1440928  PMID: 16289463
Twisted gastrulation gene; Mouse; Salivary glands; Development; Embryonic; BMP, bone morphogenetic protein; BSA, bovine serum albumin; FGF8, fibroblast growth factor 8; Pitx1, paired-like homeodomain transcription factor 1; Shh, sonic hedgehog; SMG, submandibular salivary gland; Tsg, twisted gastrulation; Twsg1, twisted gastrulation gene
6.  Cytomegalovirus-induced embryopathology: mouse submandibular salivary gland epithelial-mesenchymal ontogeny as a model 
Human studies suggest, and mouse models clearly demonstrate, that cytomegalovirus (CMV) is dysmorphic to early organ and tissue development. CMV has a particular tropism for embryonic salivary gland and other head mesenchyme. CMV has evolved to co-opt cell signaling networks so to optimize replication and survival, to the detriment of infected tissues. It has been postulated that mesenchymal infection is the critical step in disrupting organogenesis. If so, organogenesis dependent on epithelial-mesenchymal interactions would be particularly vulnerable. In this study, we chose to model the vulnerability by investigating the cell and molecular pathogenesis of CMV infected mouse embryonic submandibular salivary glands (SMGs).
We infected E15 SMG explants with mouse CMV (mCMV). Active infection for up to 12 days in vitro results in a remarkable cell and molecular pathology characterized by atypical ductal epithelial hyperplasia, apparent epitheliomesenchymal transformation, oncocytic-like stromal metaplasia, β-catenin nuclear localization, and upregulation of Nfkb2, Relb, Il6, Stat3, and Cox2. Rescue with an antiviral nucleoside analogue indicates that mCMV replication is necessary to initiate and maintain SMG dysmorphogenesis.
mCMV infection of embryonic mouse explants results in dysplasia, metaplasia, and, possibly, anaplasia. The molecular pathogenesis appears to center around the activation of canonical and, perhaps more importantly, noncanonical NFκB. Further, COX-2 and IL-6 are important downstream effectors of embryopathology. At the cellular level, there appears to be a consequential interplay between the transformed SMG cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix, resulting in the nuclear translocation of β-catenin. From these studies, a tentative framework has emerged within which additional studies may be planned and performed.
PMCID: PMC1601957  PMID: 16959038
7.  FGF10/FGFR2b signaling plays essential roles during in vivo embryonic submandibular salivary gland morphogenesis 
Analyses of Fgf10 and Fgfr2b mutant mice, as well as human studies, suggest that FGF10/FGFR2b signaling may play an essential, nonredundant role during embryonic SMG development. To address this question, we have analyzed the SMG phenotype in Fgf10 and Fgfr2b heterozygous and null mutant mice. In addition, although previous studies suggest that the FGF10/FGFR2b and FGF8/FGFR2c signaling pathways are functionally interrelated, little is known about the functional relationship between these two pathways during SMG development. We have designed in vivo and in vitro experiments to address this question.
We analyzed Fgf10 and Fgfr2b heterozygous mutant and null mice and demonstrate dose-dependent SMG phenotypic differences. Hypoplastic SMGs are seen in Fgf10 and Fgfr2b heterozygotes whereas SMG aplasia is seen in Fgf10 and Fgfr2b null embryos. Complementary in vitro studies further indicate that FGF10/FGFR2b signaling regulates SMG epithelial branching and cell proliferation. To delineate the functional relationship between the FGF10/FGFR2b and FGF8/FGFR2c pathways, we compared the SMG phenotype in Fgfr2c+/Δ/Fgf10+/- double heterozygous mice to that seen in wildtype, Fgf10+/- (Fgfr2c+/+/Fgf10+/-) and Fgfr2c+/Δ (Fgfr2c+/Δ/Fgf10+/+) single heterozygous mutant littermates and demonstrate genotype-specific SMG phenotypes. In addition, exogenous FGF8 was able to rescue the abnormal SMG phenotype associated with abrogated FGFR2b signaling in vitro and restore branching to normal levels.
Our data indicates that FGF10/FGFR2b signaling is essential for the SMG epithelial branching and histodifferentiation, but not earliest initial bud formation. The functional presence of other endogenous signaling pathways could not prevent complete death of embryonic SMG cells in Fgf10 and Fgfr2b null mice. Though we were able to rescue the abnormal phenotype associated with reduced in vitro FGF10/FGFR2b signaling with exogenous FGF8 supplementation, our results indicate that the FGF10/FGFR2b and FGF8/FGFR2c are nonredundant signaling pathways essential for in vivo embryonic SMG development. What remains to be determined is the in vivo functional relationship between the FGF10/FGFR2b signal transduction pathway and other key signaling pathways, and how these pathways are integrated during embryonic SMG development to compose the functional epigenome.
PMCID: PMC1184065  PMID: 15972105

Results 1-7 (7)