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1.  Caveolin-1 is required for contractile phenotype expression by airway smooth muscle cells 
Airway smooth muscle cells exhibit phenotype plasticity that underpins their ability to contribute both to acute bronchospasm and to the features of airway remodelling in chronic asthma. A feature of mature, contractile smooth muscle cells is the presence of abundant caveolae, plasma membrane invaginations that develop from the association of lipid rafts with caveolin-1, but the functional role of caveolae and caveolin-1 in smooth muscle phenotype plasticity is unknown. Here, we report a key role for caveolin-1 in promoting phenotype maturation of differentiated airway smooth muscle induced by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1. As assessed by Western analysis and laser scanning cytometry, caveolin-1 protein expression was selectively enriched in contractile phenotype airway myocytes. Treatment with TGF-β1 induced profound increases in the contractile phenotype markers sm-α-actin and calponin in cells that also accumulated abundant caveolin-1; however, siRNA or shRNAi inhibition of caveolin-1 expression largely prevented the induction of these contractile phenotype marker proteins by TGF-β1. The failure by TGF-β1 to adequately induce the expression of these smooth muscle specific proteins was accompanied by a strongly impaired induction of eukaryotic initiation factor-4E binding protein(4E-BP)1 phosphorylation with caveolin-1 knockdown, indicating that caveolin-1 expression promotes TGF-β1 signalling associated with myocyte maturation and hypertrophy. Furthermore, we observed increased expression of caveolin-1 within the airway smooth muscle bundle of guinea pigs repeatedly challenged with allergen, which was associated with increased contractile protein expression, thus providing in vivo evidence linking caveolin-1 expression with accumulation of contractile phenotype myocytes. Collectively, we identify a new function for caveolin-1 in controlling smooth muscle phenotype; this mechanism could contribute to allergic asthma.
PMCID: PMC3822954  PMID: 21199324
phenotype plasticity; asthma; airway remodelling; caveolae; TGF-β1
2.  Notch4 is Activated in Endothelial and Smooth Muscle Cells in Human Brain Arteriovenous Malformations 
Journal of cellular and molecular medicine  2013;17(11):10.1111/jcmm.12115.
Upregulation of Notch4 was observed in the endothelial cells in the arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in mice. However, whether Notch4 is also involved in brain AVMs in humans remains unclear. Here, we performed immunohistochemistry on normal brain vascular tissue and surgically-resection brain AVMs and found that Notch4 was upregulated in the subset of abnormal vessels of the brain AVM nidus, compared with control brain vascular tissue. Two-photon confocal images show that Notch4 was expressed not only in the endothelial but also in the smooth muscle cells of the vascular wall in brain AVMs. Western blotting shows that Notch 4 was activated in brain AVMs, but not in middle cerebral artery of normal human brain, which was confirmed by immunostaining. Our findings suggest a possible contribution of Notch4 signaling to the development of brain AVMs in human.
PMCID: PMC3877925  PMID: 24373503
Notch4; AVM; human; brain; signaling
3.  Improving survival and efficacy of pluripotent stem cell–derived cardiac grafts 
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be differentiated into structurally and electrically functional myocardial tissue and have the potential to regenerate large regions of infarcted myocardium. One of the key challenges that needs to be addressed towards full-scale clinical application of hESCs is enhancing survival of the transplanted cells within ischaemic or scarred, avascular host tissue. Shortly after transplantation, most hESCs are lost as a result of multiple mechanical, cellular and host factors, and a large proportion of the remaining cells undergo apoptosis or necrosis shortly thereafter, as a result of loss of adhesion-related signals, ischaemia, inflammation or immunological rejection. Blocking the apoptotic signalling pathways of the cells, using pro-survival cocktails, conditioning hESCs prior to transplant, promoting angiogenesis, immunosuppressing the host and using of bioengineered matrices are among the emerging techniques that have been shown to optimize cell survival. This review presents an overview of the current strategies for optimizing cell and host tissue to improve the survival and efficacy of cardiac cells derived from pluripotent stem cells.
PMCID: PMC4049630  PMID: 24118766
cardiac; cardiomyocyte; myocardium; pluripotent stem cell; human embryonic stem cell; differentiation; apoptosis; homing; tissue engineering; hydrogel
4.  Enhancement of dynein-mediated autophagosome trafficking and autophagy maturation by ROS in mouse coronary arterial myocytes 
Dynein-mediated autophagosome (AP) trafficking was recently demonstrated to contribute to the formation of autophagolysosomes (APLs) and autophagic flux process in coronary arterial myocytes (CAMs). However, it remains unknown how the function of dynein as a motor protein for AP trafficking is regulated under physiological and pathological conditions. The present study tested whether the dynein-mediated autophagy maturation is regulated by a redox signalling associated with lysosomal Ca2+ release machinery. In primary cultures of CAMs, reactive oxygen species (ROS) including H2O2 and O2−. (generated by xanthine/xanthine oxidase) significantly increased dynein ATPase activity and AP movement, which were accompanied by increased lysosomal fusion with AP and APL formation. Inhibition of dynein activity by (erythro-9-(2-hydroxy-3-nonyl)adenine) (EHNA) or disruption of the dynein complex by dynamitin (DCTN2) overexpression blocked ROS-induced dynein activation, AP movement and APL formation, and resulted in an accumulation of AP along with a failed breakdown of AP. Antagonism of nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NAADP)-mediated Ca2+ signalling with NED-19 and PPADS abolished ROS-enhanced lysosomal Ca2+ release and dynein activation in CAMs. In parallel, all these changes were also enhanced by overexpression of NADPH oxidase-1 (Nox1) gene in CAMs. Incubation with high glucose led to a marked O2−. production compared with normoglycaemic CAMs, while Nox1 inhibitor ML117 abrogated this effect. Moreover, ML117 and NED-19 and PPADS significantly suppressed dynein activity and APL formation caused by high glucose. Taken together, these data suggest that ROS function as important players to regulate dynein-dependent AP trafficking leading to efficient autophagic maturation in CAMs.
PMCID: PMC4213304  PMID: 24912985
dynein; autophagy maturation; ROS; NAADP; coronary arterial myocyte; high glucose
5.  Forced IDO1 expression in dendritic cells restores immunoregulatory signalling in autoimmune diabetes 
Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO1), a tryptophan catabolizing enzyme, is recognized as an authentic regulator of immunity in several physiopathologic conditions. We have recently demonstrated that IDO1 does not merely degrade tryptophan and produce immunoregulatory kynurenines, but it also acts as a signal-transducing molecule, independently of its enzymic function. IDO1 signalling activity is triggered in plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) by transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), an event that requires the non-canonical NF-κB pathway and induces long-lasting IDO1 expression and autocrine TGF-β production in a positive feedback loop, thus sustaining a stably regulatory phenotype in pDCs. IDO1 expression and catalytic function are defective in pDCs from non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, a prototypic model of autoimmune diabetes. In the present study, we found that TGF-β failed to activate IDO1 signalling function as well as up-regulate IDO1 expression in NOD pDCs. Moreover, TGF-β-treated pDCs failed to exert immunosuppressive properties in vivo. Nevertheless, transfection of NOD pDCs with Ido1 prior to TGF-β treatment resulted in activation of the Ido1 promoter and induction of non-canonical NF-κB and TGF-β, as well as decreased production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Overexpression of IDO1 in TGF-β-treated NOD pDCs also resulted in pDC ability to suppress the in vivo presentation of a pancreatic β-cell auto-antigen. Thus, our data suggest that a correction of IDO1 expression may restore its dual function and thus represent a proper therapeutic manoeuvre in this autoimmune setting.
PMCID: PMC4193887  PMID: 25215657
IDO1; tryptophan catabolism; autoimmune diabetes; plasmacytoid dendritic cells; immune regulation; non-canonical NF-κB; non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice
6.  Human endometrial stem cells confer enhanced myocardial salvage and regeneration by paracrine mechanisms 
Journal of cellular and molecular medicine  2013;17(10):10.1111/jcmm.12100.
Human endometrial stem cells (EnSCs) have the potential to be “off the shelf” clinical reagents for the treatment of heart failure. Here, using an immunocompetent rat model of myocardial infarction (MI), we provide evidence that the functional benefits of EnSC transplantation is principally and possibly exclusively through a paracrine effect.
Methods and Results
Human EnSCs were delivered by intramyocardial injection into rats 30 min after coronary ligation. EnSC therapy significantly preserved viable myocardium in the infarct zone and improved cardiac function at 28 days. Despite increased viable myocardium and vascular density, there was scant evidence of differentiation of EnSCs into any cardiovascular cell type. Cultured human EnSCs expressed a distinctive profile of cytokines that enhanced the survival, proliferation and function of endothelial cells in vitro. When injected into the peri-infarct zone, human EnSCs activated AKT, ERK1/2 and STAT3 and inhibited the p38 signaling pathway. EnSC therapy decreased apoptosis and promoted cell proliferation and c-kit+ cell recruitment in vivo.
Myocardial protection and enhanced post-infarction regeneration by EnSCs is mediated primarily by paracrine effects conferred by secreted cytokines that activate survival pathways and recruit endogenous progenitor stem cells. Menstrual blood provides a potentially limitless source of biologically competent “off the shelf” EnSCs for allogeneic myocardial regenerative medicine.
PMCID: PMC3843975  PMID: 23837896
endometrial stem cells; myocardial infarction; paracrine; regeneration; apoptosis; angiogenesis
7.  Forced IDO1 expression in dendritic cells restores immunoregulatory signalling in autoimmune diabetes 
Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO1), a tryptophan catabolizing enzyme, is recognized as an authentic regulator of immunity in several physiopathologic conditions. We have recently demonstrated that IDO1 does not merely degrade tryptophan and produce immunoregulatory kynurenines, but it also acts as a signal-transducing molecule, independently of its enzymic function. IDO1 signalling activity is triggered in plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) by transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), an event that requires the non-canonical NF-κB pathway and induces long-lasting IDO1 expression and autocrine TGF-β production in a positive feedback loop, thus sustaining a stably regulatory phenotype in pDCs. IDO1 expression and catalytic function are defective in pDCs from non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, a prototypic model of autoimmune diabetes. In the present study, we found that TGF-β failed to activate IDO1 signalling function as well as up-regulate IDO1 expression in NOD pDCs. Moreover, TGF-β-treated pDCs failed to exert immunosuppressive properties in vivo. Nevertheless, transfection of NOD pDCs with Ido1 prior to TGF-β treatment resulted in activation of the Ido1 promoter and induction of non-canonical NF-κB and TGF-β, as well as decreased production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Overexpression of IDO1 in TGF-β-treated NOD pDCs also resulted in pDC ability to suppress the in vivo presentation of a pancreatic β-cell auto-antigen. Thus, our data suggest that a correction of IDO1 expression may restore its dual function and thus represent a proper therapeutic manoeuvre in this autoimmune setting.
PMCID: PMC4193887  PMID: 25215657
IDO1; tryptophan catabolism; autoimmune diabetes; plasmacytoid dendritic cells; immune regulation; non-canonical NF-κB; non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice
8.  Assessing in vitro stem-cell function and tracking engraftment of stem cells in ischaemic hearts by using novel iRFP gene labelling 
Near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) imaging by using infrared fluorescent protein (iRFP) gene labelling is a novel technology with potential value for in vivo applications. In this study, we expressed iRFP in mouse cardiac progenitor cells (CPC) by lentiviral vector and demonstrated that the iRFP-labelled CPC (CPCiRFP) can be detected by flow cytometry and fluorescent microscopy. We observed a linear correlation in vitro between cell numbers and infrared signal intensity by using the multiSpectral imaging system. CPCiRFP injected into the non-ischaemic mouse hindlimb were also readily detected by whole-animal NIRF imaging. We then compared iRFP against green fluorescent protein (GFP) for tracking survival of engrafted CPC in mouse ischaemic heart tissue. GFP-labelled CPC (CPCGFP) or CPC labelled with both iRFP and GFP (CPCiRFP GFP) were injected intramyocardially into mouse hearts after infarction. Three days after cell transplantation, a strong NIRF signal was detected in hearts into which CPCiRFP GFP, but not CPCGFP, were transplanted. Furthermore, iRFP fluorescence from engrafted CPCiRFP GFP was detected in tissue sections by confocal microscopy. In conclusion, the iRFP-labelling system provides a valuable molecular imaging tool to track the fate of transplanted progenitor cells in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4162818  PMID: 24912616
stem cells; myocardial infarction; cell transplantation; iRFP; GFP
9.  Evidence that the population of quiescent bone marrow-residing very small embryonic/epiblast-like stem cells (VSELs) expands in response to neurotoxic treatment 
The concept that bone marrow (BM)-derived cells may participate in neural regeneration remains controversial, and the identity of the specific cell type(s) involved remains unknown. We recently reported that the adult murine BM contains a highly mobile population of Sca-1+Lin−CD45− cells known as very small embryonic/epiblast-like stem cells (VSELs) that express several markers of pluripotency such as Oct-4. In the BM microenvironment, these cells are kept quiescent because of epigenetic modification of certain paternally imprinted genes. However, as reported, these cells can be mobilized in mice in an experimental model of stroke and express several genes involved in neurogenesis while circulating in peripheral blood (PB). In the current work, we employed a model of toxic brain damage, which is induced by administration of kainic acid, to see not only whether VSELs can be mobilized into PB in response to this neurotoxin, but, more importantly, whether they proliferate and expand in BM tissue. We report here for the first time that brain damage leads to activation and expansion of the BM pool of quiescent VSELs, which precedes their subsequent egress into PB. Harnessing these cells in neural tissue regeneration is currently one of the challenges in regenerative medicine.
PMCID: PMC4162847  PMID: 24895014
kainic acid; neurotoxicity; VSELs; stem cell mobilization
10.  Platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α cells in mouse urinary bladder: a new class of interstitial cells 
Specific classes of interstitial cells exist in visceral organs and have been implicated in several physiological functions including pacemaking and mediators in neurotransmission. In the bladder, Kit+ interstitial cells have been reported to exist and have been suggested to be neuromodulators. More recently a second interstitial cell, which is identified using antibodies against platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α (PDGFR-α) has been described in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and has been implicated in enteric motor neurotransmission. In this study, we examined the distribution of PDGFR-α+ cells in the murine urinary bladder and the relation that these cells may have with nerve fibres and smooth muscle cells. Platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α+ cells had a spindle shape or stellate morphology and often possessed multiple processes that contacted one another forming a loose network. These cells were distributed throughout the bladder wall, being present in the lamina propria as well as throughout the muscularis of the detrusor. These cells surrounded and were located between smooth muscle bundles and often came into close morphological association with intramural nerve fibres. These data describe a new class of interstitial cells that express a specific receptor within the bladder wall and provide morphological evidence for a possible neuromodulatory role in bladder function.
PMCID: PMC3822840  PMID: 22151424
platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α; interstitial cells; interstitial cells of Cajal; urinary bladder; telocyte
11.  A novel role for interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF1) in regulation of bone metabolism 
Increased risk of bone fractures is observed in patients with chronic inflammatory conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Members of the Interferon Response Factor family of transcriptional regulators, IRF1 and IRF8, have been identified as genetic risk factors for several chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. We have investigated a potential role for the Irf1 gene in bone metabolism. Here, we report that Irf1−/−mutant mice show altered bone morphology in association with altered trabecular bone architecture and increased cortical thickness and cellularity. Ex vivo studies on cells derived from bone marrow stimulated with Rank ligand revealed an increase in size and resorptive activity of tartrate-resistant acid-positive cells from Irf1−/− mutant mice compared with wild-type control mice. Irf1 deficiency was also associated with decreased proliferation of bone marrow-derived osteoblast precursors ex vivo, concomitant with increased mineralization activity compared with control cells. We show that Irf1 plays a role in bone metabolism and suggest that Irf1 regulates the maturation and activity of osteoclasts and osteoblasts. The altered bone phenotype of Irf1−/− mutants is strikingly similar to that of Stat1−/− mice, suggesting that the two interacting proteins play a critical enabling role in the common regulation of these two cell lineages.
PMCID: PMC4152406  PMID: 24954358
bone development; mesenchymal cell differentiation; osteoclast differentiation; bone resorption; knockout mouse
12.  Up-regulation of miR-210 by vascular endothelial growth factor in ex vivo expanded CD34+ cells enhances cell-mediated angiogenesis 
Ex vivo culture has been proposed as a means to augment and repair autologous cells in patients with chronic diseases, but the mechanisms governing improvement in cell function are not well understood. Although microRNAs (miRs) are increasingly appreciated as key regulators of cellular function, a role for these factors in CD34+ cell-mediated angiogenesis has not been elucidated. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) was previously shown to induce expression of certain miRs associated with angiogenesis in endothelial cells and promote survival and number of vascular colony forming units of haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). We sought to evaluate the role of VEGF in expansion and angiogenic function of CD34+ cells and to identify specific miRs associated with angiogenic properties of expanded cells. Umbilical cord blood CD34 + cells were effectively expanded (18- to 22-fold) in culture medium containing stem cell factor (SCF), Flt-3 ligand (Flt-3), thrombopoietin (TPO) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) with (postEX/+VEGF) and without VEGF (postEX/noVEGF). Tube formation in matrigel assay and tissue perfusion/capillary density in mice ischaemic hindlimb were significantly improved by postEX/+VEGF cells compared with fresh CD34+ and postEX/noVEGF cells. MiR-210 expression was significantly up-regulated in postEX/+VEGF cells. MiR-210 inhibitor abrogated and 210 mimic recapitulated the pro-angiogenic effects by treatment of postEX/+VEGF and postEX/noVEGF cells respectively. Collectively, these observations highlight a critical role for VEGF in enhancing the angiogenic property of expanded cells, and identify miR-210 as a potential therapeutic target to enhance CD34+ stem cell function for the treatment of ischaemic vascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3823435  PMID: 22360314
CD34+ cells; VEGF; miR-210; angiogenesis
13.  Inhibition of CK2α down-regulates Notch1 signaling in lung cancer cells 
Protein kinase CK2 is frequently elevated in a variety of human cancers. The Notch1 signaling pathway has been implicated in stem cell maintenance and its aberrant activation has been shown in several types of cancer including lung cancer. Here we show, for the first time, that CK2α is a positive regulator of Notch1 signaling in lung cancer cell lines A549 and H1299. We found that Notch1 protein level was reduced after CK2α silencing. Down-regulation of Notch1 transcriptional activity was demonstrated after the silencing of CK2α in lung cancer cells. Furthermore, small-molecule CK2α inhibitor CX-4945 led to a dose-dependent inhibition of Notch1 transcriptional activity. Conversely, forced over-expression of CK2α resulted in an increase in Notch1 transcriptional activity. Finally, the inhibition of CK2α led to a reduced proportion of stem-like CD44+/CD24− cell population. Thus, we report that the inhibition of CK2α down-regulates Notch1 signaling and subsequently reduces a cancer stem-like cell population in human lung cancer cells. Our data suggest that CK2α inhibitors may be beneficial to the lung cancer patients with activated Notch1 signaling.
PMCID: PMC3729857  PMID: 23651443
CK2α; Notch1; CD44+/CD24−; cancer stem cell; lung cancer
14.  Association between a rare novel TP53 variant (rs78378222) and melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma of head and neck and lung cancer susceptibility in non-Hispanic Whites 
Recently, several studies have investigated the association between a newly reported rare functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in TP53 (rs78378222) and cancer risk but generated inconsistent findings. The present study further investigated this association with risk of melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma of head and neck (SCCHN) and lung cancer. Using subjects of non-Hispanic whites recruited for three large case-control studies, we genotyped the TP53 rs78378222 SNP in 1,329 patients with melanoma, 1,096 with SCCHN, 1,013 with lung cancer, and 3000 cancer-free controls. Overall, we did not observe any variant homozygotes in this study population, nor significant associations between the TP53 rs78378222AC genotype or C allele and risk for melanoma (P=0.680 and 0.682, respectively) and lung cancer (P=0.379 and 0.382, respectively) but a protection against SCCHN (P=0.008 and 0.008, respectively), compared with the AA genotype or A allele. An additional meta-analysis including 19,423 cancer patients and 54,050 control subjects did not support such a risk association either. Our studies did not provide statistical evidence of an association between this rare TP53 variant and increased risk of melanoma, nor of lung cancer, but a possible protection against SCCHN.
PMCID: PMC3729608  PMID: 23742673
biomarker; genetic susceptibility; genotype; polymorphism
15.  The sepsis model: An emerging hypothesis for the lethality of inhalation anthrax 
Inhalation anthrax is often described as a toxin-mediated disease. However, the toxemia model does not account for the high mortality of inhalation anthrax relative to other forms of the disease or for the pathology present in inhalation anthrax. Patients with inhalation anthrax consistently show extreme bacteremia and, in contrast to animals challenged with toxin, signs of sepsis. Rather than toxemia, we propose that death in inhalation anthrax results from an overwhelming bacteremia that leads to severe sepsis. According to our model, the central role of anthrax toxin is to permit the vegetative bacteria to escape immune detection. Other forms of B. anthracis infection have lower mortality because their overt symptoms early in the course of disease cause patients to seek medical care at a time when the infection and its sequelae can still be reversed by antibiotics. Thus, the sepsis model explains key features of inhalation anthrax and may offer a more complete understanding of disease pathology for researchers as well as those involved in the care of patients.
PMCID: PMC3729634  PMID: 23742651
Sepsis; anthrax; lethal factor; edema factor; disseminated intravascular coagulation; Gram-positive
16.  Impaired surface expression and conductance of the KCNQ4 channel lead to sensorineural hearing loss 
KCNQ4, a voltage-gated potassium channel, plays an important role in maintaining cochlear ion homeostasis and regulating hair cell membrane potential, both essential for normal auditory function. Mutations in the KCNQ4 gene lead to DFNA2, a subtype of autosomal dominant non-syndromic deafness that is characterized by progressive sensorineural hearing loss across all frequencies. Despite recent advances in the identification of pathogenic KCNQ4 mutations, the molecular etiology of DFNA2 is unknown. We report here that decreased cell surface expression and impaired conductance of the KCNQ4 channel are two mechanisms underlying hearing loss in DFNA2. In HEK293T cells, a dramatic decrease in cell surface expression was detected by immunofluorescent microscopy and confirmed by Western blot for the pathogenic KCNQ4 mutants L274H, W276S, L281S, G285C, G285S, G296S, and G321S, while their overall cellular levels remained normal. In addition, none of these mutations affected tetrameric assembly of KCNQ4 channels. Consistent with these results, all mutants showed strong dominant-negative effects on the wild type channel function. Most importantly, overexpression of HSP90β, a key component of the molecular chaperone network that controls the KCNQ4 biogenesis, significantly increased cell surface expression of the KCNQ4 mutants L281S, G296S, and G321S. KCNQ4 surface expression was restored or considerably improved in HEK293T cells mimicking the heterozygous condition of these mutations in DFNA2 patients. Finally, our electrophysiological studies demonstrated that these mutations directly compromise the conductance of the KCNQ4 channel, since no significant change in KCNQ4 current was observed after KCNQ4 surface expression was restored or improved.
PMCID: PMC3729637  PMID: 23750663
KCNQ4; hearing loss; mutations; potassium channel; surface expression; molecular chaperone; trafficking
17.  Cell Adhesion and Mechanical Stimulation in the Regulation of Mesenchymal Stem Cell Differentiation 
Stem cells have been shown to have the potential to provide a source of cells for applications to tissue engineering and organ repair. The mechanisms that regulate stem cell fate, however, mostly remain unclear. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent progenitor cells that are isolated from bone marrow and other adult tissues, and can be differentiated into multiple cell lineages, such as bone, cartilage, fat, muscles, and neurons. While previous studies have focused intensively on effects of chemical signals that regulate MSC commitment, the effects of physical/mechanical cues of the microenvironment on MSC fate determination have long been neglected. However, several studies provided evidence that mechanical signals, both direct and indirect, played important roles in regulating a stem cell fate. In this review, we summarize a number of recent studies on how cell adhesion and mechanical cues influence the differentiation of MSCs into specific lineages. Understanding how chemical and mechanical cues in the microenvironment orchestrate stem cell differentiation may provide new insights into ways to improve our techniques in cell therapy and organ repair.
PMCID: PMC3741348  PMID: 23672518
microenvironment; cell adhesion; mechanical force; mesenchymal stem cell; differentiation
18.  UNC5B receptor deletion exacerbates DSS-induced colitis in mice by increasing epithelial cell apoptosis 
The netrin-1 administration or overexpression is known to protect colon from acute colitis. However, the receptor that mediates netrin-1 protective activities in the colon during colitis remains unknown. We tested the hypothesis that UNC5B receptor is a critical mediator of protective function of netrin-1 in dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis using mice with partial deletion of UNC5B receptor. DSS colitis was performed in mice with partial genetic UNC5B deficiency (UNC5B+/− mice) or wild-type mice to examine the role of endogenous UNC5B. These studies were supported by in vitro models of DSS-induced apoptosis in human colon epithelial cells. WT mice developed colitis in response to DSS feeding as indicated by reduction in bw, reduction in colon length and increase in colon weight. These changes were exacerbated in heterozygous UNC5B knockout mice treated with DSS. Periodic Acid-Schiff stained section shows damages in colon epithelium and mononuclear cell infiltration in WT mice, which was further increased in UNC5B heterozygous knockout mice. This was associated with large increase in inflammatory mediators such as cytokine and chemokine expression and extensive apoptosis of epithelial cells in heterozygous knockout mice as compared to WT mice. Overexpression of UNC5B human colon epithelial cells suppressed DSS-induced apoptosis and caspase-3 activity. Moreover, DSS induced large amount of netrin-1 and shRNA mediated knockdown of netrin-1 induction exacerbated DSS-induced epithelial cell apoptosis. Our results suggest that UNC5B is a critical mediator of cell survival in response to stress in colon.
PMCID: PMC4117732  PMID: 24720832
DSS colitis; UNC5B; netrin-1; apoptosis; inflammatory bowel disease
Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally and are projected to remain the single leading cause of death. Treatment options abounds, though efficacy is limited. Recent studies attribute discrete and ephemeral benefits to adult stem cell therapies, indicating the urge to improve stem cell based-therapy. In the present study, we show that priming Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) towards cardiomyogenic lineage enhances their beneficial effects in vivo as treatment option for acute phase myocardial infarction. MSC were primed using cardiomyogenic media for 4 days, after which peak expression of key cardiomyogenic genes are reached and protein expression of Cx-43 and sarcomeric α-actinin are observed. MSC and primed MSC (pMSC) were characterized in vitro and used to treat infarcted rats immediately after LAD occlusion. Echocardiography analysis indicated that MSC-treated myocardium presented discrete improvement in function, but it also showed that pMSC treatment lead to superior beneficial results, compared to undifferentiated MSC. Seven days after cell injection, MSC and pMSC could still be detected in myocardium. Connexin-43 expression was quantified through immunoblotting, and was superior in pMSC, indicating that this could be a possible explanation for the superior performance of pMSC therapy.
PMCID: PMC3665703  PMID: 23490190
Adipose tissue stem cells; mesenchymal stem cells; myocardial infarction; cell therapy; connexin-43
20.  Mechanotransduction at Focal Adhesions: from Physiology to Cancer Development 
Living cells are continuously exposed to mechanical cues, and can translate these signals into biochemical information (e.g. mechanotransduction). This process is crucial in many normal cellular functions, e.g. cell adhesion, migration, proliferation, and survival, as well as the progression of diseases such as cancer. Focal adhesions are the major sites of interactions between extracellular mechanical environments and intracellular biochemical signaling molecules/cytoskeleton, and hence focal adhesion proteins have been suggested to play important roles in mechanotransduction. Here, we overview the current molecular understanding in mechanotransduction occurring at focal adhesions. We also introduce recent studies on how extracellular matrix and mechanical microenvironments contribute to the development of cancer.
PMCID: PMC3665742  PMID: 23601032
Mechanotransduction; Focal Adhesions; Extracellular Matrix; Integrin; Cancer; Invadopodia
21.  Inducible hydrogen sulfide synthesis in chondrocytes and mesenchymal progenitor cells: is H2S a novel cytoprotective mediator in the inflamed joint? 
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has recently been proposed as an endogenous mediator of inflammation and is present in human synovial fluid. This study determined whether primary human articular chondrocytes (HACs) and mesenchymal progenitor cells (MPCs) could synthesize H2S in response to pro-inflammatory cytokines relevant to human arthropathies, and to determine the cellular responses to endogenous and pharmacological H2S. HACs and MPCs were exposed to IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α and lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The expression and enzymatic activity of the H2S synthesizing enzymes cystathionine-β-synthase (CBS) and cystathionine-γ-lyase (CSE) were determined by Western blot and zinc-trap spectrophotometry, respectively. Cellular oxidative stress was induced by H2O2, the peroxynitrite donor SIN-1 and 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE). Cell death was assessed by 3-(4,5-dimethyl-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) assays. Mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) was determined in situ by flow cytometry. Endogenous H2S synthesis was inhibited by siRNA-mediated knockdown of CSE and CBS and pharmacological inhibitors D,L-propargylglycine and aminoxyacetate, respectively. Exogenous H2S was generated using GYY4137. Under basal conditions HACs and MPCs expressed CBS and CSE and synthesized H2S in a CBS-dependent manner, whereas CSE expression and activity was induced by treatment of cells with IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6 or LPS. Oxidative stress-induced cell death was significantly inhibited by GYY4137 treatment but increased by pharmacological inhibition of H2S synthesis or by CBS/CSE-siRNA treatment. These data suggest CSE is an inducible source of H2S in cultured HACs and MPCs. H2S may represent a novel endogenous mechanism of cytoprotection in the inflamed joint, suggesting a potential opportunity for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3822858  PMID: 21679296
arthritis; cystathionine-γ-lyase; cystathionine-β-synthase; GYY4137; apoptosis; oxidative stress
22.  The complex effects of the slow-releasing hydrogen sulfide donor GYY4137 in a model of acute joint inflammation and in human cartilage cells 
The role of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in inflammation remains unclear with both pro- and anti-inflammatory actions of this gas described. We have now assessed the effect of GYY4137 (a slow-releasing H2S donor) on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-evoked release of inflammatory mediators from human synoviocytes (HFLS) and articular chondrocytes (HAC) in vitro. We have also examined the effect of GYY4137 in a complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) model of acute joint inflammation in the mouse. GYY4137 (0.1–0.5 mM) decreased LPS-induced production of nitrite (NO2−), PGE2, TNF-α and IL-6 from HFLS and HAC, reduced the levels and catalytic activity of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and reduced LPS-induced NF-κB activation in vitro. Using recombinant human enzymes, GYY4137 inhibited the activity of COX-2, iNOS and TNF-α converting enzyme (TACE). In the CFA-treated mouse, GYY4137 (50 mg/kg, i.p.) injected 1 hr prior to CFA increased knee joint swelling while an anti-inflammatory effect, as demonstrated by reduced synovial fluid myeloperoxidase (MPO) and N-acetyl-β-D-glucosa-minidase (NAG) activity and decreased TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-8 concentration, was apparent when GYY4137 was injected 6 hrs after CFA. GYY4137 was also anti-inflammatory when given 18 hrs after CFA. Thus, although GYY4137 consistently reduced the generation of pro-inflammatory mediators from human joint cells in vitro, its effect on acute joint inflammation in vivo depended on the timing of administration.
PMCID: PMC3823018  PMID: 23356870
hydrogen sulfide; GYY4137; inflammation; synoviocyte; cytokines; myeloperoxidase; lipopolysaccharide; Freund’s adjuvant; COX-2; TNF-alpha converting enzyme
23.  Expression and regulation of α-transducin in the pig gastrointestinal tract 
Taste signaling molecules are found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract suggesting they participate to chemosensing. We tested whether fasting and refeeding affect the expression of the taste signaling molecule, α-transducin (Gαtran), throughout the pig GI tract and the peptide content of Gαtran cells. The highest density of Gαtran-immunoreactive (IR) cells was in the pylorus, followed by the cardiac mucosa, duodenum, rectum, descending colon, jejunum, caecum, ascending colon and ileum. Most Gαtran-IR cells contained chromogranin-A. In the stomach, many Gαtran-IR cells contained ghrelin, whereas in the upper small intestine many were gastrin/cholecystokinin-IR and a few somatostatin-IR. Gαtran-IR and Gαgust-IR colocalized in some cells. Fasting (24h) resulted in a significant decrease in Gαtran-IR cells in the cardiac mucosa (29.3 ± 0.8 vs. 64.8 ± 1.3, P < 0.05), pylorus (98.8 ± 1.7 vs. 190.8 ± 1.9, P < 0.0l), caecum (8 ± 0.01 vs. 15.5 ± 0.5, P < 0.01), descending colon (17.8 ± 0.3 vs. 23 ± 0.6, P < 0.05) and rectum (15.3 ± 0.3 vs. 27.5 ± 0.7, P < 0.05). Refeeding restored the control level of Gαtran-IR cells in the cardiac mucosa. By contrast, in the duodenum and jejunum, Gαtran-IR cells were significantly reduced after refeeding, whereas Gαtran-IR cells density in the ileum was not changed by fasting/refeeding. These findings provide further support to the concept that taste receptors contribute to luminal chemosensing in the GI tract and suggest they are involved in modulation of food intake and GI function induced by feeding and fasting.
PMCID: PMC3640731  PMID: 23414137
α-gustducin; taste receptors; enteroendocrine cells; chemosensing
24.  Crosstalk between AMPK activation and angiotensin II-induced hypertrophy in cardiomyocytes: the role of mitochondria 
AMP-kinase (AMPK) activation reduces cardiac hypertrophy, although underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. In this study, we elucidated the anti-hypertrophic action of metformin, specifically, the role of the AMPK/eNOS/p53 pathway. H9c2 rat cardiomyocytes were treated with angiotensin II (AngII) for 24 hrs in the presence or absence of metformin (AMPK agonist), losartan [AngII type 1 receptor (AT1R) blocker], Nω-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME, pan-NOS inhibitor), splitomicin (SIRT1 inhibitor) or pifithrin-α (p53 inhibitor). Results showed that treatment with metformin significantly attenuated AngII-induced cell hypertrophy and death. Metformin attenuated AngII-induced activation (cleavage) of caspase 3, Bcl-2 down-regulation and p53 up-regulation. It also reduced AngII-induced AT1R up-regulation by 30% (P < 0.05) and enhanced AMPK phosphorylation by 99% (P < 0.01) and P-eNOS levels by 3.3-fold (P < 0.01). Likewise, losartan reduced AT1R up-regulation and enhanced AMPK phosphorylation by 54% (P < 0.05). The AMPK inhibitor, compound C, prevented AT1R down-regulation, indicating that metformin mediated its effects via AMPK activation. Beneficial effects of metformin and losartan converged on mitochondria that demonstrated high membrane potential (Δψm) and low permeability transition pore opening. Thus, this study demonstrates that the anti-hypertrophic effects of metformin are associated with AMPK-induced AT1R down-regulation and prevention of mitochondrial dysfunction through the SIRT1/eNOS/p53 pathway.
PMCID: PMC3981893  PMID: 24444314
AMP kinase; metformin; mitochondria; angiotensin II receptors; hypertrophy
25.  The roles of αV integrins in lens EMT and posterior capsular opacification 
Posterior capsular opacification (PCO) is the major complication arising after cataract treatment. PCO occurs when the lens epithelial cells remaining following surgery (LCs) undergo a wound healing response producing a mixture of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA)-expressing myofibroblasts and lens fibre cells, which impair vision. Prior investigations have proposed that integrins play a central role in PCO and we found that, in a mouse fibre cell removal model of cataract surgery, expression of αV integrin and its interacting β-subunits β1, β5, β6, β8 are up-regulated concomitant with α-SMA in LCs following surgery. To test the hypothesis that αV integrins are functionally important in PCO pathogenesis, we created mice lacking the αV integrin subunit in all lens cells. Adult lenses lacking αV integrins are transparent and show no apparent morphological abnormalities when compared with control lenses. However, following surgical fibre cell removal, the LCs in control eyes increased cell proliferation, and up-regulated the expression of α-SMA, β1-integrin, fibronectin, tenascin-C and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β)–induced protein within 48 hrs, while LCs lacking αV integrins exhibited much less cell proliferation and little to no up-regulation of any of the fibrotic markers tested. This effect appears to result from the known roles of αV integrins in latent TGF-β activation as αV integrin null lenses do not exhibit detectable SMAD-3 phosphorylation after surgery, while this occurs robustly in control lenses, consistent with the known roles for TGF-β in fibrotic PCO. These data suggest that therapeutics antagonizing αV integrin function could be used to prevent fibrotic PCO following cataract surgery.
PMCID: PMC4000117  PMID: 24495224
lens; epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; posterior capsular opacification; integrins; transforming growth factor beta; wound healing response; fibrosis; secondary cataract

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