Tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) is the primary regulator of the tissue factor (TF) coagulation pathway. As such, TFPI may regulate the pro-angiogenic effects of TF. TFPI may also affect angiogenesis independently of TF, through sequences within its polybasic carboxyl terminus (TFPIct). We aimed to determine the effects of TFPI on angiogenesis and the role of TFPIct.
Methods and results
Transgenic overexpression of TFPI attenuated angiogenesis in the murine hind-limb ischemia model and an aortic sprout assay. In vitro, TFPI inhibited endothelial cell (EC) migration. Peptides within the human TFPI carboxyl terminus (hTFPIct) inhibited EC cord formation and migration in response to VEGF165 but not VEGF-121. Furthermore, exposure to hTFPIct inhibited the phosphorylation of VEGFR2 at residue K951, a residue known to be critical for EC migration. Finally, systemic delivery of a murine TFPIct peptide inhibited angiogenesis in the hind-limb model.
These data demonstrate an inhibitory role for TFPI in angiogenesis that is, in part, mediated through peptides within its carboxyl terminus. In addition to its known role as a TF-antagonist, TFPI, via its carboxyl terminus, may regulate angiogenesis by directly blocking VEGFR2 activation and attenuating the migratory capacity of endothelial cells.
angiogenesis; tissue factor; murine model; hemostasis; thrombosis
We demonstrate the use of an X-ray free electron laser synchronized with an optical pump laser to obtain X-ray diffraction snapshots from the photoactivated states of large membrane protein complexes in the form of nanocrystals flowing in a liquid jet. Light-induced changes of Photosystem I-Ferredoxin co-crystals were observed at time delays of 5 to 10 µs after excitation. The result correlates with the microsecond kinetics of electron transfer from Photosystem I to ferredoxin. The undocking process that follows the electron transfer leads to large rearrangements in the crystals that will terminally lead to the disintegration of the crystals. We describe the experimental setup and obtain the first time-resolved femtosecond serial X-ray crystallography results from an irreversible photo-chemical reaction at the Linac Coherent Light Source. This technique opens the door to time-resolved structural studies of reaction dynamics in biological systems.
(170.7160) Ultrafast technology; (170.7440) X-ray imaging; (140.3450) Laser-induced chemistry; (140.7090) Ultrafast lasers; (170.0170) Medical optics and biotechnology
Effective estimation of the salience of environmental stimuli underlies adaptive behavior, while related aberrance is believed to undermine rational thought processes in schizophrenia. A network including bilateral frontoinsular cortex (FIC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) has been observed to respond to salient stimuli using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). To test the hypothesis that activity in this salience network (SN) is less discriminately modulated by contextually-relevant stimuli in schizophrenia than in healthy individuals, fMRI data were collected in 20 individuals with schizophrenia and 13 matched controls during performance of a modified monetary incentive delay (MID) task. After quantitatively identifying spatial components representative of the FIC and dACC features of the SN, two principal analyses were conducted. In the first, modulation of SN activity by salience was assessed by measuring response to trial outcome. First-level general linear models were applied to individual-specific time-courses of SN activity identified using spatial independent component analysis (ICA). This analysis revealed a significant salience-by-performance-by-group interaction on the best-fit FIC component's activity at trial outcome, whereby healthy individuals but not individuals with schizophrenia exhibited greater distinction between the response to hits and misses in high salience trials than in low salience trials. The second analysis aimed to ascertain whether SN component amplitude differed between the study groups over the duration of the experiment. Independent-samples T-tests on back-projected, percent-signal-change scaled SN component images importantly showed that the groups did not differ in the overall amplitude of SN expression over the entire dataset. These findings of dysregulated but not decreased SN activity in schizophrenia provide physiological support for mechanistic conceptual frameworks of delusional thought formation.
schizophrenia; salience; cortical networks; fMRI; reward
The mouse semi-dominant Nm2249 mutation displays variable cataracts in heterozygous mice and smaller lenses with severe cataracts in homozygous mice. This mutation is caused by a Gja8R205G point mutation in the second extracellular loop of the Cx50 (or α8 connexin) protein. Immunohistological data reveal that Cx50-R205G mutant proteins and endogenous wild-type Cx46 (or α3 connexin) proteins form diffuse tiny spots rather than typical punctate signals of normal gap junctions in the lens. The level of phosphorylated Cx46 proteins is decreased in Gja8R205G/R205G mutant lenses. Genetic analysis reveals that the Cx50-R205G mutation needs the presence of wild-type Cx46 to disrupt lens peripheral fibers and epithelial cells. Electrophysiological data in Xenopus oocytes reveal that Cx50-R205G mutant proteins block channel function of gap junctions composed of wild-type Cx50, but only affect the gating of wild-type Cx46 channels. Both genetic and electrophysiological results suggest that Cx50-R205G mutant proteins alone are unable to form functional channels. These findings imply that the Gja8R205G mutation differentially impairs the functions of Cx50 and Cx46 to cause cataracts, small lenses and microphthalmia. The Gja8R205G mutation occurs at the same conserved residue as the human GJA8R198W mutation. This work provides molecular insights to understand the cataract and microphthalmia/microcornea phenotype caused by Gja8 mutations in mice and humans.
X-ray free electron laser (X-feL)-based serial femtosecond crystallography is an emerging method with potential to rapidly advance the challenging field of membrane protein structural biology. here we recorded interpretable diffraction data from micrometer-sized lipidic sponge phase crystals of the Blastochloris viridis photosynthetic reaction center delivered into an X-feL beam using a sponge phase micro-jet.
X-ray crystallography provides the vast majority of macromolecular structures, but the success of the method relies on growing crystals of sufficient size. In conventional measurements, the necessary increase in X-ray dose to record data from crystals that are too small leads to extensive damage before a diffraction signal can be recorded1-3. It is particularly challenging to obtain large, well-diffracting crystals of membrane proteins, for which fewer than 300 unique structures have been determined despite their importance in all living cells. Here we present a method for structure determination where single-crystal X-ray diffraction ‘snapshots’ are collected from a fully hydrated stream of nanocrystals using femtosecond pulses from a hard-X-ray free-electron laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source4. We prove this concept with nanocrystals of photosystem I, one of the largest membrane protein complexes5. More than 3,000,000 diffraction patterns were collected in this study, and a three-dimensional data set was assembled from individual photosystem I nanocrystals (~200 nm to 2 μm in size). We mitigate the problem of radiation damage in crystallography by using pulses briefer than the timescale of most damage processes6. This offers a new approach to structure determination of macromolecules that do not yield crystals of sufficient size for studies using conventional radiation sources or are particularly sensitive to radiation damage.
Protein crystallization in cells has been observed several times in nature. However, owing to their small size these crystals have not yet been used for X-ray crystallographic analysis. We prepared nano-sized in vivo–grown crystals of Trypanosoma brucei enzymes and applied the emerging method of free-electron laser-based serial femtosecond crystallography to record interpretable diffraction data. This combined approach will open new opportunities in structural systems biology.
We demonstrate the use of an X-ray free electron laser synchronized with an optical pump laser to obtain X-ray diffraction snapshots from the photoactivated states of large membrane protein complexes in the form of nanocrystals flowing in a liquid jet. Light-induced changes of Photosystem I-Ferredoxin co-crystals were observed at time delays of 5 to 10 μs after excitation. The result correlates with the microsecond kinetics of electron transfer from Photosystem I to ferredoxin. The undocking process that follows the electron transfer leads to large rearrangements in the crystals that will terminally lead to the disintegration of the crystals. We describe the experimental setup and obtain the first time-resolved femtosecond serial X-ray crystallography results from an irreversible photo-chemical reaction at the Linac Coherent Light Source. This technique opens the door to time-resolved structural studies of reaction dynamics in biological systems.
Tourniquets are compressive devices that occlude venous and arterial blood flow to limbs and are commonly used in upper limb surgery. With the potential risk of complications, there is some debate as to whether tourniquets should continue to be routinely used. In this review, we first look at the different designs, principles, and practical considerations associated with the use of tourniquets in the upper limb. The modern pneumatic tourniquet has many design features that enhance its safety profile. Current literature suggests that the risk of tourniquet-related complications can be significantly reduced by selecting cuff inflation pressures based on the limb occlusion pressure, and by a better understanding of the actual level of pressure within the soft tissue, and the effects of cuff width and contour. The evidence behind tourniquet time, placement, and limb exsanguination is also discussed as well as special considerations in patients with diabetes mellitus, hypertension, vascular calcification, sickle cell disease and obesity. We also provide an evidence-based review of the variety of local and systemic complications that may arise from the use of upper limb tourniquets including pain, leakage, and nerve, muscle, and skin injuries. The evidence in the literature suggests that upper limb tourniquets are beneficial in promoting optimum surgical conditions and modern tourniquet use is associated with a low rate of adverse events. With the improvement in knowledge and technology, the incidence of adverse events should continue to decrease. We recommend the use of tourniquets in upper limb surgery where no contraindications exist.
Tourniquet; Upper limb; Limb occlusion pressure; Complications
A complete set of structure factors has been extracted from hundreds of thousands of femtosecond X-ray diffraction patterns from randomly oriented Photosystem I membrane protein nanocrystals, using the Monte Carlo method of intensity integration. The data, collected at the Linac Coherent Light Source, are compared with conventional single-crystal data collected at a synchrotron source, and the quality of each data set was found to be similar.
A complete set of structure factors has been extracted from hundreds of thousands of femtosecond single-shot X-ray microdiffraction patterns taken from randomly oriented nanocrystals. The method of Monte Carlo integration over crystallite size and orientation was applied to experimental data from Photosystem I nanocrystals. This arrives at structure factors from many partial reflections without prior knowledge of the particle-size distribution. The data were collected at the Linac Coherent Light Source (the first hard-X-ray laser user facility), to which was fitted a hydrated protein nanocrystal injector jet, according to the method of serial crystallography. The data are single ‘still’ diffraction snapshots, each from a different nanocrystal with sizes ranging between 100 nm and 2 µm, so the angular width of Bragg peaks was dominated by crystal-size effects. These results were compared with single-crystal data recorded from large crystals of Photosystem I at the Advanced Light Source and the quality of the data was found to be similar. The implications for improving the efficiency of data collection by allowing the use of very small crystals, for radiation-damage reduction and for time-resolved diffraction studies at room temperature are discussed.
nanocrystals; femtosecond diffraction; free-electron lasers; Monte Carlo methods; protein microdiffraction
Dominant Cx26 mutations that cause keratitis-ichthyosis-deafness syndrome (KIDS) show increased hemichannel activity. Transgenic expression of these mutations recapitulates human skin disease in mice. Excess hemichannel activity persists in diseased epidermis from the transgenic mice. Thus hemichannel activity may be a novel therapeutic target in the treatment of KIDS.
Mutations in the GJB2 gene (Cx26) cause deafness in humans. Most are loss-of-function mutations and cause nonsyndromic deafness. Some mutations produce a gain of function and cause syndromic deafness associated with skin disorders, such as keratitis-ichthyosis-deafness syndrome (KIDS). Cx26-G45E is a lethal mutation linked to KIDS that forms constitutively active connexin hemichannels. The pathomechanism(s) by which mutant Cx26 hemichannels perturb normal epidermal cornification are poorly understood. We created an animal model for KIDS by generating an inducible transgenic mouse expressing Cx26-G45E in keratinocytes. Cx26-G45E mice displayed reduced viability, hyperkeratosis, scaling, skin folds, and hair loss. Histopathology included hyperplasia, acanthosis, papillomatosis, increased cell size, and osteal plugging. These abnormalities correlated with human KIDS pathology and were associated with increased hemichannel currents in transgenic keratinocytes. These results confirm the pathogenic nature of the G45E mutation and provide a new model for studying the role of aberrant connexin hemichannels in epidermal differentiation and inherited connexin disorders.
The simultaneous acquisition and subsequent analysis of EEG and fMRI data is challenging owing to increased noise levels in the EEG data. A common method to integrate data from these two modalities is to use aspects of the EEG data, such as the amplitudes of event-related potentials (ERP) or oscillatory EEG activity, to predict fluctuations in the fMRI data. However, this relies on the acquisition of high quality datasets to ensure that only the correlates of neuronal activity are being studied. In this study, we investigate the effects of head-motion-related artefacts in the EEG signal on the predicted T2*-weighted signal variation. We apply our analyses to two independent datasets: 1) four participants were asked to move their feet in the scanner to generate small head movements, and 2) four participants performed an episodic memory task. We created T2*-weighted signal predictors from indicators of abrupt head motion using derivatives of the realignment parameters, from visually detected artefacts in the EEG as well as from three EEG frequency bands (theta, alpha and beta). In both datasets, we found little correlation between the T2*-weighted signal and EEG predictors that were not convolved with the canonical haemodynamic response function (cHRF). However, all convolved EEG predictors strongly correlated with the T2*-weighted signal variation in various regions including the bilateral superior temporal cortex, supplementary motor area, medial parietal cortex and cerebellum. The finding that movement onset spikes in the EEG predict T2*-weighted signal intensity only when the time course of movements is convolved with the cHRF, suggests that the correlated signal might reflect a BOLD response to neural activity associated with head movement. Furthermore, the observation that broad-spectral EEG spikes tend to occur at the same time as abrupt head movements, together with the finding that abrupt movements and EEG spikes show similar correlations with the T2*-weighted signal, indicates that the EEG spikes are produced by abrupt movement and that continuous regressors of EEG oscillations contain motion-related noise even after stringent correction of the EEG data. If not properly removed, these artefacts complicate the use of EEG data as a predictor of T2*-weighted signal variation.
► We studied the effects of movement artefacts during simultaneous EEG and fMRI. ► Movement artefacts are evident in different EEG frequency bands. ► EEG movement artefacts cause spurious correlations with the T2*-weighted signal. ► Results show the need to develop techniques to detect and remove movement artefacts.
EEG/fMRI; Artefacts; Motion; Attention; Network
We recently modeled fluid flow through gap junction channels coupling the pigmented and nonpigmented layers of the ciliary body. The model suggested the channels could transport the secretion of aqueous humor, but flow would be driven by hydrostatic pressure rather than osmosis. The pressure required to drive fluid through a single layer of gap junctions might be just a few mmHg and difficult to measure. In the lens, however, there is a circulation of Na+ that may be coupled to intracellular fluid flow. Based on this hypothesis, the fluid would cross hundreds of layers of gap junctions, and this might require a large hydrostatic gradient. Therefore, we measured hydrostatic pressure as a function of distance from the center of the lens using an intracellular microelectrode-based pressure-sensing system. In wild-type mouse lenses, intracellular pressure varied from ∼330 mmHg at the center to zero at the surface. We have several knockout/knock-in mouse models with differing levels of expression of gap junction channels coupling lens fiber cells. Intracellular hydrostatic pressure in lenses from these mouse models varied inversely with the number of channels. When the lens’ circulation of Na+ was either blocked or reduced, intracellular hydrostatic pressure in central fiber cells was either eliminated or reduced proportionally. These data are consistent with our hypotheses: fluid circulates through the lens; the intracellular leg of fluid circulation is through gap junction channels and is driven by hydrostatic pressure; and the fluid flow is generated by membrane transport of sodium.
We have identified and characterized a zebrafish connexin, Cx30.3. Sequence similarity analyses suggested that Cx30.3 was orthologous to both mammalian Cx26 and Cx30, known to play important roles in the skin and inner ear of mammals. Analysis of mRNA expression showed that Cx30.3 was present in early embryos, and was highly abundant in skin, but also detected in other tissues including fins, inner ear, heart, and the retina. Injection of Cx30.3 cRNA into Xenopus oocytes elicited robust intercellular coupling with voltage gating sensitivity similar to mammalian Cx26 and Cx30. The similarities in functional properties and expression patterns suggest that Cx30.3, like mammalian Cx26 and Cx30, may play a significant role in skin development, hearing and balance in zebrafish. Thus, zebrafish could potentially serve as an excellent model to study disorders of the skin and deafness that result from human connexin mutations.
connexin; gap junction; zebrafish; embryo; skin; inner ear
Coronary heart disease (CHD) often presents suddenly with little warning. Traditional risk factors are inadequate to identify the asymptomatic high-risk individuals. Early identification of patients with subclinical coronary artery disease using noninvasive imaging modalities would allow the early adoption of aggressive preventative interventions. Currently, it is impractical to screen the entire population with noninvasive coronary imaging tools. The use of relatively simple and inexpensive genetic markers of increased CHD risk can identify a population subgroup in which benefit of atherosclerotic imaging modalities would be increased despite nominal cost and radiation exposure. Additionally, genetic markers are fixed and need only be measured once in a patient’s lifetime, can help guide therapy selection, and may be of utility in family counseling.
Genetic; Risk factor; Imaging; Coronary heart disease; Screening
These results verify the existence of Cx46 hemichannels in isolated lens fiber cells. These channels may serve as a pathway for entry of sodium and calcium in the lens.
To characterize the properties of connexin 46 hemichannels in differentiating fiber cells isolated from mouse lenses.
Differentiating fiber cells were isolated from mouse lenses using collagenase. Cellular localization of connexin 50 (Cx50) and connexin 46 (Cx46) was assessed by immunofluorescence. Membrane currents were recorded using whole cell patch clamping. Dye uptake was measured using time-lapse imaging.
In freshly dissociated fiber cells isolated from knockout Cx50 (KOCx50) mouse lenses, removal of external divalent cations induced a macroscopic current composed of large conductance channels. This current was reduced at a holding potential of −60 mV, activated on depolarization, and had a reversal potential near 0 mV. These properties were very similar to those of Cx46 hemichannel currents recorded in single Xenopus oocytes. If the currents observed in divalent cation-free Ringer's solution were due to Cx46 hemichannel opening, then dye influx by gap junctional/hemichannel permeable dyes should be measurable in the fiber cells. To measure dye influx, the authors used the positively charged dyes, propidium iodide (PrI) and 4′-6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI). In the absence of external calcium, fiber cells took up both dyes. Furthermore, dye influx could be inhibited by hemichannel blockers. To confirm that this current was due to Cx46 hemichannels, the authors studied fiber cells isolated from the lenses of double knockout (Cx46−/−; Cx50−/−) mice and demonstrated that both the calcium-sensitive conductance and dye influx were absent.
These results show that Cx46 can form functional hemichannels in the nonjunctional membrane of fiber cells.
Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a commonly recognized complication of chronic respiratory disease. Enhanced vasoconstriction, pulmonary vascular remodeling, and in situ thrombosis contribute to the increased pulmonary vascular resistance observed in PH associated with hypoxic lung disease. The tissue factor pathway regulates fibrin deposition in response to acute and chronic vascular injury. We hypothesized that inhibition of the tissue factor pathway would result in attenuation of pathophysiologic parameters typically associated with hypoxia-induced PH. We tested this hypothesis using a chronic hypoxia–induced murine model of PH using mice that overexpress tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) via the smooth muscle–specific promoter SM22 (TFPISM22). TFPISM22 mice have increased pulmonary TFPI expression compared with wild-type (WT) mice. In WT mice, exposure to chronic hypoxia (28 d at 10% O2) resulted in increased systolic right ventricular and mean pulmonary arterial pressures, changes that were significantly reduced in TFPISM22 mice. Chronic hypoxia also resulted in significant pulmonary vascular muscularization in WT mice, which was significantly reduced in TFPISM22 mice. Given the pleiotropic effects of TFPI, autocrine and paracrine mechanisms for these hemodynamic effects were considered. TFPISM22 mice had less pulmonary fibrin deposition than WT mice at 3 days after exposure to hypoxia, which is consistent with the antithrombotic effects of TFPI. Additionally, TFPISM22 mice had a significant reduction in the number of proliferating (proliferating cell nuclear antigen positive) pulmonary vascular smooth muscle cells compared with WT mice, which is consistent with in vitro findings. These findings demonstrate that overexpression of TFPI results in improved hemodynamic performance and reduced pulmonary vascular remodeling in a murine model of hypoxia-induced PH. This improvement is in part due to the autocrine and paracrine effects of TFPI overexpression.
pulmonary hypertension; tissue factor; tissue factor pathway inhibitor; hypoxia
Differences among murine strains often lead to differential responses in models of human disease. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether differences exist among strains in models of hemostasis and thrombosis and whether these differences are reflected in differences in the tissue factor (TF) pathway.
We examined baseline hemostatic parameters and the response to FeCl3-induced arterial thrombosis and a tail vein bleeding model in C57BL/6J (C57), 129S1/SvImJ (129S), and Balb/cJ (BalbC) mice. Finally, we examined TF and tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) activities in blood and expression in vascular tissue to determine whether these factors covary with a thrombotic phenotype.
No differences were observed in PT or aPTT among strains. 129S mice had lower platelet counts (p<0.001). BalbC had an increased rate of occlusion (mean occlusion time of 330±45 sec) in a FeCl3-induced model of thrombosis when compared to C57 (1182±349 sec) or 129S (1442±281 sec) (p<0.05). Similarly, BalbC demonstrated reduced blood loss in tail bleeding experiments when compared to C57 and 129S. Vascular expression of TF and TFPI content did not correlate with the thrombotic phenotype of BalbC. However, circulating TFPI activities were lower in BalbC compared to both C57 and 129S mice. When normalized to circulating TF activities, BalbC had lower circulating TFPI activity than C57 and 129S, and there was a significant correlation between tail bleeding and normalized TFPI activity (r= 0.67).
These data suggest that there are significant differences among strains in thrombosis and hemostasis and that circulating TFPI activity correlates with these differences.
mouse; strain; hemostasis; thrombosis; tissue factor; tissue factor pathway inhibitor
Mutations in GJB2, which encodes Cx26, are one of the most common causes of inherited deafness in humans. More than 100 mutations have been identified scattered throughout the Cx26 protein, most of which cause nonsyndromic sensorineural deafness. In a subset of mutations, deafness is accompanied by hyperkeratotic skin disorders, which are typically severe and sometimes fatal. Many of these syndromic deafness mutations localize to the amino-terminal and first extracellular loop (E1) domains. Here, we examined two such mutations, A40V and G45E, which are positioned near the TM1/E1 boundary and are associated with keratitis ichthyosis deafness (KID) syndrome. Both of these mutants have been reported to form hemichannels that open aberrantly, leading to “leaky” cell membranes. Here, we quantified the Ca2+ sensitivities and examined the biophysical properties of these mutants at macroscopic and single-channel levels. We find that A40V hemichannels show significantly impaired regulation by extracellular Ca2+, increasing the likelihood of aberrant hemichannel opening as previously suggested. However, G45E hemichannels show only modest impairment in regulation by Ca2+ and instead exhibit a substantial increase in permeability to Ca2+. Using cysteine substitution and examination of accessibility to thiol-modifying reagents, we demonstrate that G45, but not A40, is a pore-lining residue. Both mutants function as cell–cell channels. The data suggest that G45E and A40V are hemichannel gain-of-function mutants that produce similar phenotypes, but by different underlying mechanisms. A40V produces leaky hemichannels, whereas G45E provides a route for excessive entry of Ca2+. These aberrant properties, alone or in combination, can severely compromise cell integrity and lead to increased cell death.
Balancing selection is potentially an important biological force for maintaining advantageous genetic diversity in populations, including variation that is responsible for long-term adaptation to the environment. By serving as a means to maintain genetic variation, it may be particularly relevant to maintaining phenotypic variation in natural populations. Nevertheless, its prevalence and specific targets in the human genome remain largely unknown. We have analyzed the patterns of diversity and divergence of 13,400 genes in two human populations using an unbiased single-nucleotide polymorphism data set, a genome-wide approach, and a method that incorporates demography in neutrality tests. We identified an unbiased catalog of genes with signatures of long-term balancing selection, which includes immunity genes as well as genes encoding keratins and membrane channels; the catalog also shows enrichment in functional categories involved in cellular structure. Patterns are mostly concordant in the two populations, with a small fraction of genes showing population-specific signatures of selection. Power considerations indicate that our findings represent a subset of all targets in the genome, suggesting that although balancing selection may not have an obvious impact on a large proportion of human genes, it is a key force affecting the evolution of a number of genes in humans.
overdominance; frequency-dependent selection; heterosis; human evolution; population genetics; human diversity
Eosinophils are multifunctional leukocytes implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma and in immunity to certain organisms. Associations between exposure to an environmental fungus, such as Alternaria, and asthma have been recognized clinically. Protease-activated receptors (PARs) are G protein-coupled receptors that are cleaved and activated by serine proteases, but their roles in innate immunity remain unknown. We previously found that human eosinophils respond vigorously to Alternaria organisms and to the secretory product(s) of Alternaria with eosinophils releasing their pro-inflammatory mediators. Herein, we investigated the roles of protease(s) produced by Alternaria and of PARs expressed on eosinophils in their immune responses against fungal organisms. We found that Alternaria alternata produces aspartate protease(s) and that human peripheral blood eosinophils degranulate in response to the cell-free extract of A. alternata. Eosinophils showed an increased intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) in response to Alternaria that was desensitized by peptide and protease ligands for PAR-2 and inhibited by a PAR-2 antagonistic peptide. Alternaria-derived aspartate protease(s) cleaved PAR-2 to expose “neo-ligands”; these neo-ligands activated eosinophil degranulation in the absence of proteases. Finally, treatment of Alternaria extract with aspartate protease inhibitors, which are conventionally used for HIV-1 and other microbes, attenuated the eosinophils’ responses to Alternaria. Thus, fungal aspartate protease and eosinophil PAR-2 appear critical for the eosinophils’ innate immune response to certain fungi, suggesting a novel mechanism for pathologic inflammation in asthma and for host-pathogen interaction.
Cataracts, named for any opacity in the ocular lens, remain the leading cause of vision loss in the world. Non-surgical methods for cataract prevention are still elusive. We have genetically tested whether enhanced lens gap junction communication, provided by increased α3 connexin (Cx46) proteins expressed from α8(Kiα3) knock-in alleles in Gja8tm1(Gja3)Tww mice, could prevent nuclear cataracts caused by the γB-crystallin S11R mutation in CrygbS11R/S11R mice. Remarkably, homozygous knock-in α8(Kiα3/Kiα3) mice fully prevented nuclear cataracts, while single knock-in α8(Kiα3/−) allele mice showed variable suppression of nuclear opacities in CrygbS11R/S11R mutant mice. Cataract prevention was correlated with the suppression of many pathological processes, including crystallin degradation and fiber cell degeneration, as well as preservation of normal calcium levels and stable actin filaments in the lens. This work demonstrates that enhanced intercellular gap junction communication can effectively prevent or delay nuclear cataract formation and suggests that small metabolites transported through gap junction channels protect the stability of crystallin proteins and the cytoskeletal structures in the lens core. Thus, the use of an array of small molecules to promote lens homeostasis may become a feasible non-surgical approach for nuclear cataract prevention in the future.
Quantifying the number of deleterious mutations per diploid human genome is of critical concern to both evolutionary and medical geneticists1–3. Here, we combine genome-wide polymorphism data from PCR-based exon re-sequencing, comparative genomic data across mammalian species, and protein structure predictions to estimate the number of functionally consequential mutations carried by each of 15 African American (AA) and 20 European American (EA) individuals. We find that AAs show significantly higher levels of nucleotide heterozygosity than do EAs for all categories of functional mutations considered including synonymous, nonsynonymous, predicted “benign”, predicted “possibly damaging” and predicted “probably damaging” mutations. This result is wholly consistent with previous work showing higher overall levels of nucleotide variation in African populations as compared to Europeans4. EA individuals, on the other hand, have significantly more genotypes homozygous for the derived allele at synonymous and nonsynonymous SNPs and for the damaging allele at “probably damaging” SNPs than AAs do. Surprisingly, for SNPs segregating only in one population or the other, the proportion of nonsynonymous SNPs is significantly higher in the EA sample (55.4%) than in the AA sample (47.0%; P<2.3 ×10−37). We observe a similar proportional excess of SNPs that are inferred to be “probably damaging” (15.9% EA; 12.1% AA; P<3.3 ×10−11). Using extensive simulations, we show that this excess proportion of segregating damaging alleles in Europeans is likely a consequence of a bottleneck that Europeans experienced around the time of the migration out of Africa.