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1.  Asymmetric Synthesis and Evaluation of Danshensu-Cysteine Conjugates as Novel Potential Anti-Apoptotic Drug Candidates 
We have previously reported that the danshensu-cysteine conjugate N-((R)-3-benzylthio-1-methoxy-1-oxo-2-propanyl)-2-acetoxy-3-(3,4-diacetoxyphenyl) propanamide (DSC) is a potent anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic agent. Herein, we further design and asymmetrically synthesize two diastereoisomers of DSC and explore their potential bioactivities. Our results show that DSC and its two diastereoisomers exert similar protective effects in hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced cellular injury in SH-SY5Y cells, as evidenced by the increase of cell viability, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and reduced glutathione (GSH) activity, and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) expression, and the decrease of cellular morphological changes and nuclear condensation, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release, and malondialdehyde (MDA) production. In H2O2-stimulated human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC), DSC concentration-dependently attenuates H2O2-induced cell death, LDH release, mitochondrial membrane potential collapse, and modulates the expression of apoptosis-related proteins (Bcl-2, Bax, caspase-3, and caspase-9). Our results provide strong evidence that DSC and its two diastereoisomers have similar anti-oxidative activity and that DSC exerts significant vascular-protective effects, at least in part, through inhibition of apoptosis and modulation of endogenous antioxidant enzymes.
PMCID: PMC4307265  PMID: 25551606
Danshensu derivative; apoptosis; asymmetric synthesis; endothelial cells
2.  Gadd45b is a Novel Mediator of Neuronal Apoptosis in Ischemic Stroke 
Apoptosis plays an essential role in ischemic stroke pathogenesis. Research on the process of neuronal apoptosis in models of ischemic brain injury seems promising. The role of growth arrest and DNA-damage-inducible protein 45 beta (Gadd45b) in brain ischemia has not been fully examined to date. This study aims to investigate the function of Gadd45b in ischemia-induced apoptosis. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to brain ischemia by middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). RNA interference (RNAi) system, which is mediated by a lentiviral vector (LV), was stereotaxically injected into the ipsilateral lateral ventricle to knockdown Gadd45b expression. Neurologic scores and infarct volumes were assessed 24 h after reperfusion. Apoptosis-related molecules were studied using immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. We found that Gadd45b-RNAi significantly increased infarct volumes and worsened the outcome of transient focal cerebral ischemia. Gadd45b-RNAi also significantly increased neuronal apoptosis as indicated by increased levels of Bax and active caspase-3, and decreased levels of Bcl-2. These results indicate that Gadd45b is a beneficial mediator of neuronal apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC4323375
MCAO; Gadd45b; BDNF; Apoptosis
3.  Drosophila Syd-1, Liprin-α, and Protein Phosphatase 2A B′ Subunit Wrd Function in a Linear Pathway to Prevent Ectopic Accumulation of Synaptic Materials in Distal Axons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(25):8474-8487.
During synaptic development, presynaptic differentiation occurs as an intrinsic property of axons to form specialized areas of plasma membrane [active zones (AZs)] that regulate exocytosis and endocytosis of synaptic vesicles. Genetic and biochemical studies in vertebrate and invertebrate model systems have identified a number of proteins involved in AZ assembly. However, elucidating the molecular events of AZ assembly in a spatiotemporal manner remains a challenge. Syd-1 (synapse defective-1) and Liprin-α have been identified as two master organizers of AZ assembly. Genetic and imaging analyses in invertebrates show that Syd-1 works upstream of Liprin-α in synaptic assembly through undefined mechanisms. To understand molecular pathways downstream of Liprin-α, we performed a proteomic screen of Liprin-α-interacting proteins in Drosophila brains. We identify Drosophila protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) regulatory subunit B′ [Wrd (Well Rounded)] as a Liprin-α-interacting protein, and we demonstrate that it mediates the interaction of Liprin-α with PP2A holoenzyme and the Liprin-α-dependent synaptic localization of PP2A. Interestingly, loss of function in syd-1, liprin-α, or wrd shares a common defect in which a portion of synaptic vesicles, dense-core vesicles, and presynaptic cytomatrix proteins ectopically accumulate at the distal, but not proximal, region of motoneuron axons. Strong genetic data show that a linear syd-1/liprin-α/wrd pathway in the motoneuron antagonizes glycogen synthase kinase-3β kinase activity to prevent the ectopic accumulation of synaptic materials. Furthermore, we provide data suggesting that the syd-1/liprin-α/wrd pathway stabilizes AZ specification at the nerve terminal and that such a novel function is independent of the roles of syd-1/liprin-α in regulating the morphology of the T-bar structural protein BRP (Bruchpilot).
PMCID: PMC4061390  PMID: 24948803
active zone assembly; Drosophila; Liprin-alpha; PP2A; presynaptic differentiation; Syd-1
4.  Intercropping Enhances Productivity and Maintains the Most Soil Fertility Properties Relative to Sole Cropping 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e113984.
Yield and nutrient acquisition advantages are frequently found in intercropping systems. However, there are few published reports on soil fertility in intercropping relative to monocultures. A field experiment was therefore established in 2009 in Gansu province, northwest China. The treatments comprised maize/faba bean, maize/soybean, maize/chickpea and maize/turnip intercropping, and their correspoding monocropping. In 2011 (the 3rd year) and 2012 (the 4th year) the yields and some soil chemical properties and enzyme activities were examined after all crop species were harvested or at later growth stages. Both grain yields and nutrient acquisition were significantly greater in all four intercropping systems than corresponding monocropping over two years. Generally, soil organic matter (OM) did not differ significantly from monocropping but did increase in maize/chickpea in 2012 and maize/turnip in both years. Soil total N (TN) did not differ between intercropping and monocropping in either year with the sole exception of maize/faba bean intercropping receiving 80 kg P ha−1 in 2011. Intercropping significantly reduced soil Olsen-P only in 2012, soil exchangeable K in both years, soil cation exchangeable capacity (CEC) in 2012, and soil pH in 2012. In the majority of cases soil enzyme activities did not differ across all the cropping systems at different P application rates compared to monocrops, with the exception of soil acid phosphatase activity which was higher in maize/legume intercropping than in the corresponding monocrops at 40 kg ha−1 P in 2011. P fertilization can alleviate the decline in soil Olsen-P and in soil CEC to some extent. In summary, intercropping enhanced productivity and maintained the majority of soil fertility properties for at least three to four years, especially at suitable P application rates. The results indicate that maize-based intercropping may be an efficient cropping system for sustainable agriculture with carefully managed fertilizer inputs.
PMCID: PMC4259307  PMID: 25486249
5.  Population genetic evidence for speciation pattern and gene flow between Picea wilsonii, P. morrisonicola and P. neoveitchii 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(9):1829-1844.
Background and Aims
Genetic drift due to geographical isolation, gene flow and mutation rates together make it difficult to determine the evolutionary relationships of present-day species. In this study, population genetic data were used to model and decipher interspecific relationships, speciation patterns and gene flow between three species of spruce with similar morphology, Picea wilsonii, P. neoveitchii and P. morrisonicola. Picea wilsonii and P. neoveitchii occur from central to north-west China, where they have overlapping distributions. Picea morrisonicola, however, is restricted solely to the island of Taiwan and is isolated from the other two species by a long distance.
Sequence variations were examined in 18 DNA fragments for 22 populations, including three fragments from the chloroplast (cp) genome, two from the mitochondrial (mt) genome and 13 from the nuclear genome.
Key Results
In both the cpDNA and the mtDNA, P. morrisonicola accumulated more species-specific mutations than the other two species. However, most nuclear haplotypes of P. morrisonicola were shared by P. wilsonii, or derived from the dominant haplotypes found in that species. Modelling of population genetic data supported the hypothesis that P. morrisonicola derived from P. wilsonii within the more recent past, most probably indicating progenitor–derivative speciation with a distinct bottleneck, although further gene flow from the progenitor to the derivative continued. In addition, the occurrence was detected of an obvious mtDNA introgression from P. neoveitchii to P. wilsonii despite their early divergence.
The extent of mutation, introgression and lineage sorting taking place during interspecific divergence and demographic changes in the three species had varied greatly between the three genomes. The findings highlight the complex evolutionary histories of these three Asian spruce species.
PMCID: PMC3838563  PMID: 24220103
Gene flow; island speciation; mtDNA introgression; nuclear loci; Picea wilsonii; P. neoveitchii; P. morrisonicola; spruce
6.  Sodium Hydrosulfide Prevents Myocardial Dysfunction through Modulation of Extracellular Matrix Accumulation and Vascular Density 
The aim was to examine the role of exogenous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) on cardiac remodeling in post-myocardial infarction (MI) rats. MI was induced in rats by ligation of coronary artery. After treatment with sodium hydrosulfide (NaHS, an exogenous H2S donor, 56 μM/kg·day) for 42 days, the effects of NaHS on left ventricular morphometric features, echocardiographic parameters, heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), matrix metalloproteinases-9 (MMP-9), type I and type III collagen, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), CD34, and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) in the border zone of infarct area were analyzed to elucidate the protective mechanisms of exogenous H2S on cardiac function and fibrosis. Forty-two days post MI, NaHS-treatment resulted in a decrease in myocardial fibrotic area in association with decreased levels of type I, type III collagen and MMP-9 and improved cardiac function. Meanwhile, NaHS administration significantly increased cystathionine γ-lyase (CSE), HO-1, α-SMA, and VEGF expression. This effect was accompanied by an increase in vascular density in the border zone of infarcted myocardium. Our results provided the strong evidences that exogenous H2S prevented cardiac remodeling, at least in part, through inhibition of extracellular matrix accumulation and increase in vascular density.
PMCID: PMC4284761  PMID: 25514418
cardioprotection; hydrogen sulfide; infarction; neovascularization; remodeling
7.  Effects of Rhodiola on production, health and gut development of broilers reared at high altitude in Tibet 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:7166.
Rhodiola has long been used as a traditional medicine to increase resistance to physical stress in humans in Tibet. The current study was designed to investigate whether Rhodiola crenulata (R. crenulata) could alleviate the negative effects of hypoxia on broiler chickens reared in Tibet Plateau. The effect of supplementing crushed roots of R. crenulata on production performance, health and intestinal morphology in commercial male broilers was investigated. Dietary treatments included CTL (basal diet), Low-R (basal diet + 0.5% R. crenulata) and High-R (basal diet + 1.5% R. crenulata). In comparison with broilers fed the control diet, Low-R had no effect on production performance while High-R significantly decreased average daily feed intake at d14, 28 and 42, body weight at d28 and 42 and gut development. Ascites induced mortality did not differ among treatments. Nevertheless Low-R significantly reduced non-ascites induced mortality and total mortality compared with broilers fed CTL and High-R diets. Broilers fed the High-R diet had significantly increased blood red blood cell counts and hemoglobin levels at 28d compared with other treatments. Our results suggest that supplementation with Rhodiola might reduce the effects of hypoxia on broilers and consequently decrease mortality rate.
PMCID: PMC4241511  PMID: 25418541
8.  Activation of Keap1/Nrf2 signaling pathway by nuclear epidermal growth factor receptor in cancer cells 
Nuclear translocation of EGFR has been shown to be important for tumor cell growth, survival, and therapeutic resistance. Previously, we detected the association of EGFR with Keap1 in the nucleus. Keap1 is a Kelch-like ECH-associated protein, which plays an important role in cellular response to chemical and oxidative stress by regulating Nrf2 protein stability and nuclear translocation. In this study, we investigate the role of EGFR in regulating Keap1/Nrf2 cascade in the nucleus and provide evidence to show that nuclear EGFR interacts with and phosphorylates nuclear Keap1 to reduce its nuclear protein level. The reduction of nuclear Keap1 consequently stabilizes nuclear Nrf2 and increases its transcriptional activity in cancer cells, which contributes to tumor cell resistance to chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC4297334  PMID: 25628777
EGFR; Keap1; Nrf2; cancer; ubiquitination
9.  Skewed T-helper (Th)1/2- and Th17/T regulatory-cell balances in patients with renal cell carcinoma 
Molecular Medicine Reports  2014;11(2):947-953.
The characterization of CD4+ T-cell subsets reflects the immune status and is important in the maintenance of tumorigenesis and homeostasis. To identify changes in the balance of T helper (Th)1, Th2, Th17 and regulatory T cells (Treg) in individuals with renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the present study investigated a total of 131 patients with RCC and 36 healthy volunteers. The number of CD4+ T-bet+ cells, CD4+ GATA binding protein 3+ cells, CD4+ RAR-related orphan receptor γt+ cells, CD4+ CD25hi CD127lo CD45RA− cells and CD4+ CD25hi CD127lo CD45RA+ cells, defined as Th1, Th2, Th17, activated and naïve Treg cells, respectively, were detected in the peripheral blood using flow cytometric analysis. In addition, tumor-infiltrating forkhead box P3 (Foxp3)+ cells were examined using immunohistochemistry. Compared with healthy volunteers, a significant decrease in the peripheral percentages of Th1, activated and naïve Treg cells was observed in patients with RCC, while those of the Th2 and Th17 cells were increased. In particular, as the tumor stage and grade progressed, the levels of Th1, activated and naïve Treg cells in the peripheral blood decreased; however, the levels of Th2 and Th17 cells increased. Furthermore, the number of tumor-infiltrating Foxp3+ cells increased with increasing tumor stage. These results demonstrated that the balance of Th1 and Th2 cells was skewed towards the Th2 profile and the balance of Th17 and Treg cells was skewed towards the Th17 profile in the peripheral blood of patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and Treg cells were recruited to the tumor sites. Therefore, dysfunctional host anti-tumor immunity was observed in patients with RCC, with a skewed Th1/Th2 and Th17/Treg balance.
PMCID: PMC4262517  PMID: 25352158
renal cell carcinoma; T helper cells; regulatory T cells
10.  De Novo Assembly of the Common Bean Transcriptome Using Short Reads for the Discovery of Drought-Responsive Genes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109262.
The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is one of the most important food legumes, far ahead of other legumes. The average grain yield of the common bean worldwide is much lower than its potential yields, primarily due to drought in the field. However, the gene network that mediates plant responses to drought stress remains largely unknown in this species. The major goals of our study are to identify a large scale of genes involved in drought stress using RNA-seq. First, we assembled 270 million high-quality trimmed reads into a non-redundant set of 62,828 unigenes, representing approximately 49 Mb of unique transcriptome sequences. Of these unigenes, 26,501 (42.2%) common bean unigenes had significant similarity with unigenes/predicted proteins from other legumes or sequenced plants. All unigenes were functionally annotated within the GO, COG and KEGG pathways. The strategy for de novo assembly of transcriptome data generated here will be useful in other legume plant transcriptome studies. Second, we identified 10,482 SSRs and 4,099 SNPs in transcripts. The large number of genetic markers provides a resource for gene discovery and development of functional molecular markers. Finally, we found differential expression genes (DEGs) between terminal drought and optimal irrigation treatments and between the two different genotypes Long 22-0579 (drought tolerant) and Naihua (drought sensitive). DEGs were confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR assays, which indicated that these genes are functionally associated with the drought-stress response. These resources will be helpful for basic and applied research for genome analysis and crop drought resistance improvement in the common bean.
PMCID: PMC4183588  PMID: 25275443
11.  Catalase abrogates β-lapachone-induced PARP1 hyperactivation-directed programmed necrosis in NQO1-positive breast cancers 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(10):10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-0962.
Improving patient outcome by personalized therapy involves a thorough understanding of an agent’s mechanism of action. β-Lapachone (clinical forms, Arq501/Arq761) has been developed to exploit dramatic cancer-specific elevations in the phase II detoxifying enzyme, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase (NQO1). NQO1 is dramatically elevated in solid cancers, including primary and metastatic (e.g., triple-negative (ER-, PR-, Her2/Neu-)) breast cancers. To define cellular factors that influence the efficacy of β-lapachone using knowledge of its mechanism of action, we confirmed that NQO1 was required for lethality and mediated a futile redox cycle where ~120 moles of superoxide were formed per mole of β-lapachone in 5 min. β-Lapachone induced reactive oxygen species (ROS), stimulated DNA single strand break-dependent PARP1 hyperactivation, caused dramatic loss of essential nucleotides (NAD+/ATP) and elicited programmed necrosis in breast cancer cells. While PARP1 hyperactivation and NQO1 expression were major determinants of β-lapachone-induced lethality, alterations in catalase expression, including treatment with exogenous enzyme, caused marked cytoprotection. Thus, catalase is an important resistance factor, and highlights H2O2 as an obligate ROS for cell death from this agent. Exogenous superoxide dismutase (SOD) enhanced catalase-induced cytoprotection. β-Lapachone-induced cell death included AIF translocation from mitochondria to nuclei, TUNEL+ staining, atypical PARP1 cleavage, and GAPDH S-nitrosylation, which were abrogated by catalase. We predict that the ratio of NQO1:catalase activities in breast cancer versus associated normal tissue are likely to be the major determinants affecting the therapeutic window of β-lapachone and other NQO1 bioactivatable drugs.
PMCID: PMC3807805  PMID: 23883585
Breast cancer; Catalase; Super Oxide Dismutase, β-Lapachone; NADPH quinone oxidoreductase-1; Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1; Programmed necrosis
12.  Regulatory Variants and Disease: The E-Cadherin −160C/A SNP as an Example 
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) occurring in noncoding sequences have largely been ignored in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Yet, amounting evidence suggests that many noncoding SNPs especially those that are in the vicinity of protein coding genes play important roles in shaping chromatin structure and regulate gene expression and, as such, are implicated in a wide variety of diseases. One of such regulatory SNPs (rSNPs) is the E-cadherin (CDH1) promoter −160C/A SNP (rs16260) which is known to affect E-cadherin promoter transcription by displacing transcription factor binding and has been extensively scrutinized for its association with several diseases especially malignancies. Findings from studying this SNP highlight important clinical relevance of rSNPs and justify their inclusion in future GWAS to identify novel disease causing SNPs.
PMCID: PMC4167656  PMID: 25276428
13.  Rapamycin protects kidney against ischemia reperfusion injury through recruitment of NKT cells 
NKT cells play a protective role in ischemia reperfusion (IR) injury, of which the trafficking in the body and recruitment in injured organs can be influenced by immunosuppressive therapy. Therefore, we investigated the effects of rapamycin on kidneys exposed to IR injury in early stage and on trafficking of NKT cells in a murine model.
Material and methods
Balb/c mice were subjected to kidney 30 min ischemia followed by 24 h reperfusion. Rapamycin (2.5 ml/kg) was administered by gavage daily, starting 1 day before the operation. Renal function and histological changes were assessed. The proportion of NKT cells in peripheral blood, spleen and kidney was detected by flow cytometry. The chemokines and corresponding receptor involved in NKT cell trafficking were determined by RT-PCR and flow cytometry respectively.
Rapamycin significantly improved renal function and ameliorated histological injury. In rapamycin-treated group, the proportion of NKT cells in spleen was significantly decreased but increased in peripheral blood and kidney. In addition, the CXCR3+ NKT cell in the kidney increased remarkably in the rapamycin-treated group. The chemokines, CXCL9 and CXCL10, as the ligands of CXCR3, were also increased in the rapamycin-treated kidney.
Rapamycin may recruit NKT cells from spleen to the IR-induced kidney to ameliorate renal IR injury in the early stage.
PMCID: PMC4145235  PMID: 25134448
Rapamycin; Renal ischemia reperfusion injury; NKT cell; Chemokine
14.  Coagulopathy in a subtype of choledochal cyst and management strategy 
World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG  2014;20(30):10606-10612.
AIM: To evaluated our management algorithm of the coagulopathy. We evaluated our management algorithm of the coagulopathy.
METHODS: Between October 2001 and January 2013, 160 CDC children with coagulopathy (fibrinogen, FIB < 2 g/L) were recruited. FIB ≥ 1 g/L is generally required for safe elective surgery. We used FIB level as an indicator when: (1) patients with FIB levels between 1-2 g/L underwent one-stage definitive operation; and (2) patients with FIB < 1 g/L underwent 3 d of medical treatment. Thereafter, those with FIB ≥ 1 g/L underwent one-stage definitive operation whereas those with FIB < 1 g/L underwent external biliary drainage to allow liver function improvement. Those patients with liver function improvements underwent definitive operation after 7 d of drainage.
RESULTS: After preoperative optimization, 92.5% of CDC children with coagulopathy underwent successful one-stage definitive operation. The remaining 7.5% of CDC children required initial external bile drainage, and underwent definitive operation 11 d after the admission. The mean operative time and postoperative recovery duration were comparable to those with normal coagulations. The median follow-up period was 57 mo. No blood transfusion or other postoperative complications were encountered.
CONCLUSION: Following our management protocol, the majority of CDC children with coagulopathy can be managed with one-stage definitive operation.
PMCID: PMC4130873  PMID: 25132782
Choledochal cysts; Hepatic dysfunction; Coagulopathy; Hepaticojejunostomy; Laparoscopy; Children
15.  A Molecularly Cloned, Live-Attenuated Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine SA14-14-2 Virus: A Conserved Single Amino Acid in the ij Hairpin of the Viral E Glycoprotein Determines Neurovirulence in Mice 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(7):e1004290.
Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), a mosquito-borne flavivirus that causes fatal neurological disease in humans, is one of the most important emerging pathogens of public health significance. JEV represents the JE serogroup, which also includes West Nile, Murray Valley encephalitis, and St. Louis encephalitis viruses. Within this serogroup, JEV is a vaccine-preventable pathogen, but the molecular basis of its neurovirulence remains unknown. Here, we constructed an infectious cDNA of the most widely used live-attenuated JE vaccine, SA14-14-2, and rescued from the cDNA a molecularly cloned virus, SA14-14-2MCV, which displayed in vitro growth properties and in vivo attenuation phenotypes identical to those of its parent, SA14-14-2. To elucidate the molecular mechanism of neurovirulence, we selected three independent, highly neurovirulent variants (LD50, <1.5 PFU) from SA14-14-2MCV (LD50, >1.5×105 PFU) by serial intracerebral passage in mice. Complete genome sequence comparison revealed a total of eight point mutations, with a common single G1708→A substitution replacing a Gly with Glu at position 244 of the viral E glycoprotein. Using our infectious SA14-14-2 cDNA technology, we showed that this single Gly-to-Glu change at E-244 is sufficient to confer lethal neurovirulence in mice, including rapid development of viral spread and tissue inflammation in the central nervous system. Comprehensive site-directed mutagenesis of E-244, coupled with homology-based structure modeling, demonstrated a novel essential regulatory role in JEV neurovirulence for E-244, within the ij hairpin of the E dimerization domain. In both mouse and human neuronal cells, we further showed that the E-244 mutation altered JEV infectivity in vitro, in direct correlation with the level of neurovirulence in vivo, but had no significant impact on viral RNA replication. Our results provide a crucial step toward developing novel therapeutic and preventive strategies against JEV and possibly other encephalitic flaviviruses.
Author Summary
A group of mosquito-borne flaviviruses that cause fatal encephalitis in humans is among the most important of all emerging human pathogens of global significance. This group includes Japanese encephalitis (JE), West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis, and Murray Valley encephalitis viruses. In this work, we have developed a reverse genetics system for SA14-14-2, a live JE vaccine that is most commonly used in JE-endemic areas, by constructing an infectious bacterial artificial chromosome that contains the full-length SA14-14-2 cDNA. Using this infectious SA14-14-2 cDNA, combined with a mouse model for JEV infection, we have identified a key viral neurovirulence factor, a conserved single amino acid in the ij hairpin adjacent to the fusion loop of the viral E glycoprotein, which regulates viral infectivity into neurons within the central nervous system in vivo and neuronal cells of mouse and human in vitro. Thus, our findings elucidate the molecular basis of the neurovirulence caused by JEV and other closely related encephalitic flaviviruses, a major step in understanding their neuropathogenesis. From a clinical perspective, the discovery of the viral neurovirulence factor and its role will have direct application to the design of a novel class of broad-spectrum antivirals to treat and prevent infection of JEV and other taxonomically related neurotropic flaviviruses.
PMCID: PMC4117607  PMID: 25077483
16.  Structural Analysis and Optimization of the Covalent Association between SpyCatcher and a Peptide Tag 
Journal of molecular biology  2013;426(2):309-317.
Peptide tagging is a key strategy for observing and isolating proteins. However, the interactions of proteins with peptides are nearly all rapidly reversible. Proteins tagged with the peptide SpyTag form an irreversible covalent bond to the SpyCatcher protein via a spontaneous isopeptide linkage, thereby offering a genetically-encoded way to create peptide interactions that resist force and harsh conditions. Here, we determined the crystal structure of the reconstituted covalent complex of SpyTag and SpyCatcher at 2.1 Å resolution. The structure showed the expected reformation of the β-sandwich domain seen in the parental streptococcal adhesin, but flanking sequences at both the N- and C-termini of SpyCatcher were disordered. In addition, only 10 out of 13 amino acids of the SpyTag peptide were observed to interact with SpyCatcher, pointing to specific contacts important for rapid split protein reconstitution. Based on these structural insights, we expressed a range of SpyCatcher variants and identified a minimized SpyCatcher, 32 residues shorter, that maintained rapid reaction with SpyTag. Together, these results give insight into split protein β-strand complementation and enhance a distinct approach to ultra-stable molecular interaction.
PMCID: PMC3959856  PMID: 24161952
X-ray crystallography; Bionanotechnology; Synthetic biology; Cross-link; Streptococcus pyogenes
17.  Transcriptional establishment of cell-type identity: dynamics and causal mechanisms of T-cell lineage commitment 
Precursor cell entry into the T-cell developmental pathway can be divided into two phases by the closure of T-lineage commitment. As cells decide against the last alternative options to the T-cell fate, they turn on the transcription factor Bcl11b and silence expression of a group of multipotent progenitor regulatory factors that include hematopoietic transcription factor PU.1. Functional perturbation tests show that Bcl11b is needed for commitment while PU.1 actively participates in keeping open access to alternative fates, until it is silenced; however, PU.1 as well as Bcl11b contributes positively to T-cell development. Our recent work reviewed here sheds light on the transcriptional regulatory network that determines the timing and irreversibility of Bcl11b activation, the ways that Notch signaling from the thymic microenvironment restricts the action of PU.1 to prevent it from diverting cells to non-T fates, and the target genes that PU.1 still regulates under the influence of Notch signaling to contribute to T-cell generation. We argue that T-cell development depends on the sequential operation of two interlaced, but mutually antagonistic, gene regulatory networks, one initially supporting expansion before commitment and the other imposing a “terminal” differentiation process on committed cells.
PMCID: PMC3990665  PMID: 24135716
18.  Celastrol may have an anti-atherosclerosis effect in a rabbit experimental carotid atherosclerosis model 
Background: Celastrol may have an anti-atherosclerosis effect. This study aimed to investigate if celastrol had an anti-AS effect using a rabbit experimental carotid atherosclerosis model. Methods: Forty male Japanese white rabbits were divided into the sham group (normal diet), the model group (high fat diet), the group treated with celastrol (high fat diet) and the group treated with atorvastatin (high fat diet) randomly. The rabbits fed a high fat diet underwent balloon injury of the right common carotid artery and were treated with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) (the model group, 3.5 ml/kg/d), celastrol and its dissolvent DMSO (the celastrol group, 1 mg/kg/d and 3.5 ml/kg/d) and atorvastatin and its dissolvent DMSO (the atorvastatin group, 2.5 mg/kg/d and 3.5 ml/kg/d) for 12 weeks by gavage. Results: The ratio of the plaque area and the arterial wall cross-section area in the celastrol group was significantly less than the model group (P < 0.001), and there was no significant difference compared with the atorvastatin group. The serum level of LDL-C of the celastrol group was significantly lower than the model group (P = 0.014), and there was no significant difference compared with the atorvastatin group. The expression of VEGF in the celastrol group was significantly less compared with the model group (P = 0.014), whereas the expression of VEGF in the atorvastatin group and the model group showed no significant differences. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that celastrol effectively reduced the plaque ratio, decreased the serum levels of LDL and downregulated the expression of VEGF, suggesting an anti-AS effect of celastrol.
PMCID: PMC4132129  PMID: 25126165
Celastrol; carotid artery disease; balloon injury; low-density lipoprotein cholesterol; vascular endothelial growth factor
19.  Baicalin Ameliorates H2O2 Induced Cytotoxicity in HK-2 Cells through the Inhibition of ER Stress and the Activation of Nrf2 Signaling 
Renal ischemia-reperfusion injury plays a key role in renal transplantation and greatly affects the outcome of allograft. Our previous study proved that Baicalin, a flavonoid glycoside isolated from Scutellaria baicalensis, protects kidney from ischemia-reperfusion injury. This study aimed to study the underlying mechanism in vitro. Human renal proximal tubular epithelial cell line HK-2 cells were stimulated by H2O2 with and without Baicalin pretreatment. The cell viability, apoptosis and oxidative stress level were measured. The expression of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress hallmarks, such as binding immunoglobulin protein (BiP) and C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP), were analyzed by western blot and real-time PCR. NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) expression was also measured. In the H2O2 group, cell viability decreased and cell apoptosis increased. Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and Glutathione/Oxidized Glutathione (GSH/GSSG) analysis revealed increased oxidative stress. ER stress and Nrf2 signaling also increased. Baicalin pretreatment ameliorated H2O2-induced cytotoxicity, reduced oxidative stress and ER stress and further activated the anti-oxidative Nrf2 signaling pathway. The inducer of ER stress and the inhibitor of Nrf2 abrogated the protective effects, while the inhibitor of ER stress and the inducer of Nrf2 did not improve the outcome. This study revealed that Baicalin pretreatment serves a protective role against H2O2-induced cytotoxicity in HK-2 cells, where the inhibition of ER stress and the activation of downstream Nrf2 signaling are involved.
PMCID: PMC4139857  PMID: 25029541
Baicalin; kidney; ischemia-reperfusion injury; tubular epithelial cells; ER stress; Nrf2
20.  Antagonistic Effects of Anti-EMMPRIN Antibody When Combined with Chemotherapy Against Hypovascular Pancreatic Cancers 
To examine the antagonistic effects of anti-extracellular matrix metalloprotease inducer (anti-EMMPRIN) antibody when combined with chemotherapy using a hypovascular pancreatic tumor model.
Severely compromised immunodeficient mice bearing orthotopic MIA PaCa-2 tumors were used (five to six animals per group). Dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging was used to examine the relationship between tumor vascularity and size. Therapy was initiated when tumors were hypovascular. Treatments included: (1) gemcitabine alone, (2) anti-EMMPRIN antibody alone, and (3) combination, each for 2 weeks. Additionally, another treatment arm included β-lapachone, an NAD(P)H/quinone 1 (NQO1) bioactivated agent. 18F-fluoro-D-glucose-positron emission tomography/computed tomography imaging was used weekly to monitor therapeutic effects.
Gemcitabine or anti-EMMPRIN monotherapy significantly delayed tumor growth, but the combination therapy showed an antagonistic effect. Similarly, tumor growth was significantly suppressed by β-lapachone alone, and additive effects were noted when combined with gemcitabine, but the therapeutic efficacy was reduced when anti-EMMPRIN antibody was added.
Anti-EMMPRIN antibody with chemotherapy in hypovascular tumors results in antagonistic effects.
PMCID: PMC4062967  PMID: 23836505
Pancreatic cancer; EMMPRIN; β-Lapachone; Gemcitabine; DCE-MRI; FDG-PET/CT
21.  Identifying Protein-Protein Interaction in Drosophila Adult Heads by Tandem Affinity Purification (TAP) 
Genetic screens conducted using Drosophilamelanogaster (fruit fly) have made numerous milestone discoveries in the advance of biological sciences. However, the use of biochemical screens aimed at extending the knowledge gained from genetic analysis was explored only recently. Here we describe a method to purify the protein complex that associates with any protein of interest from adult fly heads. This method takes advantage of the Drosophila GAL4/UAS system to express a bait protein fused with a Tandem Affinity Purification (TAP) tag in fly neurons in vivo, and then implements two rounds of purification using a TAP procedure similar to the one originally established in yeast1 to purify the interacting protein complex. At the end of this procedure, a mixture of multiple protein complexes is obtained whose molecular identities can be determined by mass spectrometry. Validation of the candidate proteins will benefit from the resource and ease of performing loss-of-function studies in flies. Similar approaches can be applied to other fly tissues. We believe that the combination of genetic manipulations and this proteomic approach in the fly model system holds tremendous potential for tackling fundamental problems in the field of neurobiology and beyond.
PMCID: PMC4038007  PMID: 24335807
Drosophila; GAL4/UAS system; transgenic; Tandem Affinity Purification; protein-protein interaction; proteomics
22.  Apoptosis of U937 Cells Induced by Hematoporphyrin Monomethyl Ether-Mediated Sonodynamic Action 
The present study aims to investigate apoptosis of U937 cells induced by hematoporphyrin monomethyl ether (HMME)-mediated sonodynamic therapy (SDT).
HMME concentration was kept constant at 10 μg/mL. Tumor cells suspended in serum-free RPM1640 were exposed to ultrasound at 1.1 MHz for up to 60 seconds with an intensity of 1 W/cm2 in the presence and absence of HMME. The viability of cells was determined by the 3-(4, 5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2, 5-diphenyltertrazolium bromide tetrazolium (MTT) test. Apoptosis was analyzed using a flow cytometer with Annexin V-PE/7-ADD staining as well as fluorescence microscopy with 4′-6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) staining. The DNA damage of U937 cells, intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), and mitochondria membrane potential (MMP) were also analyzed by a flow cytometer after exposures. Western blotting and reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction were used to analyze the protein and mRNA expression level of caspase-3 and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP).
Fluorescent imaging revealed that HMME mainly localized in the mitochondria. MTT assay showed 55.6% of cell survival at 4 hours post-SDT. Flow cytometric analysis displayed a significant increase in the early- and late-apoptotic cell populations (35.6%) of U937 cells by HMME-mediated SDT. Compared with the control, ultrasound-alone, and HMME-alone groups, the intracellular ROS and the MMP loss were greatly increased in the combined SDT group. Obvious nuclear condensation was also found with DAPI staining, and the DNA fragment increased to 33.9% at 2 hours post-SDT treatment. Immunofluorescent staining indicated obvious Bax translocation after SDT. Western blot showed visible enhancement of caspase-3 and PARP cleavage. In addition, caspase-3 and PARP mRNA expression of U937 cells increased remarkably after SDT treatment.
The findings demonstrated that HMME-mediated sonodynamic action (HMME-SDT) significantly induced apoptosis of U937 cells, suggesting that HMME may be a good sonosensitizer, and HMME-SDT might be a potential therapeutic strategy for cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3615696  PMID: 23506428
apoptosis; HMME; leukemia U937 cells; sonodynamic therapy
23.  Durable Expression of Minicircle DNA-Liposome-Delivered Androgen Receptor cDNA in Mice with Hepatocellular Carcinoma 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:156356.
Background. The most common gene-based cancer therapies involve the suppression of oncogenic molecules and enhancement of the expression of tumor-suppressor genes. Studies in noncancer disease animal models have shown that minicircle (MC) DNA vectors are easy to deliver and that the proteins from said MC-carrying DNA vectors are expressed over a long period of time. However, delivery of therapeutic genes via a liposome-mediated, MC DNA complex has never been tested in vascular-rich hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Liposome-mediated DNA delivery exhibits high in vivo transfection efficiency and minimal systemic immune response, thereby allowing for repetitive interventions. In this study, we evaluated the efficacy of delivering an MC-liposome vector containing a 3.2 kb androgen receptor (AR; HCC metastasis suppressor) cDNA into Hepatitis B Virus- (HBV-) induced HCC mouse livers. Results. Protein expression and promoter luciferase assays revealed that liposome-encapsulated MC-AR resulted in abundant functional expression of AR protein (100 kD) for up to two weeks. The AR cDNA was also successfully delivered into normal livers and diseased livers, where it was persistently expressed. In both normal livers and livers with tumors, the expression of AR was detectable for up to 60 days. Conclusion. Our results show that an MC/liposome delivery system might improve the efficacy of gene therapy in patients with HCC.
PMCID: PMC3966419  PMID: 24734226
24.  Increased peripheral and local soluble FGL2 in the recovery of renal ischemia reperfusion injury in a porcine kidney auto-transplantation model 
Regulatory T cells (Treg) protect kidney against ischemia reperfusion (IR) injury via suppressing innate immunity, but the mechanism has not been fully clarified. Soluble fibrinogen-like protein 2 (sFGL2), a novel effector of Treg, may affect apoptosis and inflammation. This study investigated the role of sFGL2 in renal IR injury in a porcine kidney auto-transplantation model.
Materials and methods
The left kidney was retrieved from mini pigs and infused by University of Wisconsin solution into the renal artery with the renal artery and vein clamped for 24-h cold storage. After the right nephrectomy, the left kidney was auto-transplanted into the right for 2 weeks. 3 pigs were sacrificed at day 2, 5, 7, 10 and 14 post-transplantation respectively. Collected renal tissues and daily blood samples were stored for further analyses.
Both serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen were maximized during day 2 to 5 and followed by a gradual recovery over 2 weeks. The similar pattern were showed in histological damage, myeloperoxidase + cells and apoptosis in the kidney, as well as circulating TNF-α and IFN-γ. Serum sFGL2 presented a fluctuating increase and reached a peak at day 10. The expression of sFGL2 and its receptor FcγRIIB as well as Foxp3 and IL-10 in the kidney was notably increased from day 5 to 10.
The increased sFGL2 together with FcγRIIB during renal recovery after IR injury suggested that sFGL2 might be a potential renoprotective mediator involved in the renal self-repairing and remodeling in this 2-week porcine auto-transplantation model.
PMCID: PMC3936847  PMID: 24559374
Soluble FGL2; Ischemia reperfusion injury; Kidney auto-transplantation; Porcine; FcγRIIB
25.  EZH2: novel therapeutic target for human cancer 
Biomedicine  2014;4:1.
Enhancer of Zeste homlog 2 (EZH2) is a catalytic subunit of epigenetic regulator Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), which trimethylates Lys 27 of histone H3, leading to silencing of the target genes that are involved in a variety of biological processes including tumor progression and stem cell maintenance. However, in addition to its canonical PRC2-dependent transcriptional repression function, EZH2 also acts as a gene activator in a noncanonical PRC2-independent manner. Overexpression of EZH2 has been detected in diverse cancers, and is associated with tumor malignancy. Moreover, activating mutations and inactivating mutations of EZH2 are also associated with certain types of cancer. Given EZH2’s multi-faceted function and role in cancer, context-specific strategy for targeting EZH2/EZH2-mediated signaling could serve as future targeted therapy/personalized medicine for human cancer.
PMCID: PMC4264983  PMID: 25520914
EZH2; Polycomb repressive; complex; Chromatin modification; Methylation

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