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2.  Immunopathological Features of Canine Myocarditis Associated with Leishmania infantum Infection 
BioMed Research International  2016;2016:8016186.
Myocarditis associated with infectious diseases may occur in dogs, including those caused by the protozoa Neospora caninum, Trypanosoma cruzi, Babesia canis, and Hepatozoon canis. However, although cardiac disease due to Leishmania infection has also been documented, the immunopathological features of myocarditis have not been reported so far. The aim of this study was to examine the types of cellular infiltrates and expression of MHC classes I and II in myocardial samples obtained at necropsy from 15 dogs with an established intravitam diagnosis of visceral leishmaniasis. Pathological features of myocardium were characterized by hyaline degeneration of cardiomyocytes, necrosis, and infiltration of mononuclear inflammatory cells consisting of lymphocytes and macrophages, sometimes with perivascular pattern; fibrosis was also present in various degrees. Immunophenotyping of inflammatory cells was performed by immunohistochemistry on cryostat sections obtained from the heart of the infected dogs. The predominant leukocyte population was CD8+ with a fewer number of CD4+ cells. Many cardiomyocytes expressed MHC classes I and II on the sarcolemma. Leishmania amastigote forms were not detected within macrophages or any other cell of the examined samples. Our study provided evidence that myocarditis in canine visceral leishmaniasis might be related to immunological alterations associated with Leishmania infection.
PMCID: PMC4930798  PMID: 27413751
3.  AKT1E17K Is Oncogenic in Mouse Lung and Cooperates with Chemical Carcinogens in Inducing Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(2):e0147334.
The hotspot AKT1E17K mutation in the pleckstrin homology domain of AKT1 occurs in approximately 0.6–2% of human lung cancers. Recently, we have demonstrated that AKT1E17K transforms immortalized human bronchial cells. Here by use of a transgenic Cre-inducible murine strain in the wild type Rosa26 (R26) locus (R26-AKT1E17K mice) we demonstrate that AKT1E17K is a bona-fide oncogene and plays a role in the development of lung cancer in vivo. In fact, we report that mutant AKT1E17K induces bronchial and/or bronchiolar hyperplastic lesions in murine lung epithelium, which progress to frank carcinoma at very low frequency, and accelerates tumor formation induced by chemical carcinogens. In conclusion, AKT1E17K induces hyperplasia of mouse lung epithelium in vivo and cooperates with urethane to induce the fully malignant phenotype.
PMCID: PMC4747507  PMID: 26859676
4.  Mincle, an Innate Immune Receptor, Is Expressed in Urothelial Cancer Cells of Papillomavirus-Associated Urothelial Tumors of Cattle 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(10):e0141624.
Mincle, macrophage-inducible C-type lectin, is a member of C-type lectin receptors. It plays an important role in anti-mycobacterial and anti-fungal immunity. Furthermore it senses dead cells through its primary ligand SAP130.
Materials and Findings
We examined ten urothelial tumors of the urinary bladder of cattle. Eight of them expressed E5 cDNA of bovine papillomaviruses type 2 (BPV-2) and type 13 (BPV-13) that belong to Deltapapillomavirus genus. Two of them were not examined for detection of E5 cDNA. Mincle expression appeared to occur in urothelial neoplastic cells only. No mincle expression was detected in urothelial cells from healthy cattle. Mincle expression was characterized by a membranous pattern in papillary urothelial cancers; isolated and/or clustered urothelial cells showing a strong cytoplasmic immunoreactivity were primarily seen in invasive urothelial cancers.
This is the first study about the expression of mincle in veterinary oncology and the first report which describes the expression of functional mincle receptor in neoplastic cells in medical literature. As it has been shown that urothelial cancer cells have the ability to function as antigen-presenting cells (APCs), it is conceivable that mincle expression is involved in the presentation of cancer cell antigens to cells of the immune system. Furthermore, since expression of mincle contributes to the control of Mycobacterium bovis BCG infection, this study has exciting clinical implications in comparative medicine keeping in mind that Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) immunotherapy is currently the most effective treatment of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer in man. Mincle expression in urothelial tumor cells warrants further study to better understand the role, if any, of this receptor in bladder cancer. Future studies will provide insights in the role of mincle receptor of urothelial cancer cells in antitumor immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC4626233  PMID: 26513724
5.  The Murine Model of Mucopolysaccharidosis IIIB Develops Cardiopathies over Time Leading to Heart Failure 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0131662.
Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) IIIB is a lysosomal disease due to the deficiency of the enzyme α-N-acetylglucosaminidase (NAGLU) required for heparan sulfate (HS) degradation. The disease is characterized by mild somatic features and severe neurological disorders. Very little is known on the cardiac dysfunctions in MPS IIIB. In this study, we used the murine model of MPS IIIB (NAGLU knockout mice, NAGLU-/-) in order to investigate the cardiac involvement in the disease. Echocardiographic analysis showed a marked increase in left ventricular (LV) mass, reduced cardiac function and valvular defects in NAGLU-/- mice as compared to wild-type (WT) littermates. The NAGLU-/- mice exhibited a significant increase in aortic and mitral annulus dimension with a progressive elongation and thickening of anterior mitral valve leaflet. A severe mitral regurgitation with reduction in mitral inflow E-wave-to-A-wave ratio was observed in 32-week-old NAGLU-/- mice. Compared to WT mice, NAGLU-/- mice exhibited a significantly lower survival with increased mortality observed in particular after 25 weeks of age. Histopathological analysis revealed a significant increase of myocardial fiber vacuolization, accumulation of HS in the myocardial vacuoles, recruitment of inflammatory cells and collagen deposition within the myocardium, and an increase of LV fibrosis in NAGLU-/- mice compared to WT mice. Biochemical analysis of heart samples from affected mice showed increased expression levels of cardiac failure hallmarks such as calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, connexin43, α-smooth muscle actin, α-actinin, atrial and brain natriuretic peptides, and myosin heavy polypeptide 7. Furthermore, heart samples from NAGLU-/- mice showed enhanced expression of the lysosome-associated membrane protein-2 (LAMP2), and the autophagic markers Beclin1 and LC3 isoform II (LC3-II). Overall, our findings demonstrate that NAGLU-/- mice develop heart disease, valvular abnormalities and cardiac failure associated with an impaired lysosomal autophagic flux.
PMCID: PMC4493027  PMID: 26147524
6.  Ccdc6 knock-in mice develop thyroid hyperplasia associated to an enhanced CREB1 activity 
Oncotarget  2015;6(17):15628-15638.
CCDC6 was originally identified upon rearrangement with RET in human thyroid papillary carcinomas generating the RET/PTC1 oncogene. We have previously reported that CCDC6 interacts with CREB1 and represses its transcriptional activity.
Since the function of at least one allele of CCDC6 is lost following RET/PTC1 rearrangements, we aimed at the generation of mice, carrying a CCDC6 mutant gene. Previous studies suggested that the coiled-coil domain of CCDC6, mainly encoded by human exon 2, is required for the protein function. Therefore, we engineered a murine Ccdc6 construct, carrying a deletion of the exon 2, that was able to exert only a mild repression on CREB1 transcriptional activity, with respect to the wild type Ccdc6. Subsequently, we generated Ccdc6−ex2 knock-in mice. These mice developed thyroid hyperplasia associated with an enhanced CREB1 activity and an increased expression of the CREB-1 regulated genes.
These results strongly support a CCDC6 promoting role, ascribed to its functional impairment, in the development of thyroid papillary carcinomas harboring the RET/PTC1 oncogene
PMCID: PMC4558175  PMID: 25970781
Ccdc6; thyroid; CREB1; knock-in mice
7.  Effects of Sodium Butyrate and Its Synthetic Amide Derivative on Liver Inflammation and Glucose Tolerance in an Animal Model of Steatosis Induced by High Fat Diet 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68626.
Background & Aims
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common form of chronic liver disease. Insulin resistance (IR) appears to be critical in its pathogenesis. We evaluated the effects of sodium butyrate (butyrate) and its synthetic derivative N-(1-carbamoyl-2-phenyl-ethyl) butyramide (FBA) in a rat model of insulin resistance and steatosis induced by high-fat diet (HFD).
After weaning, young male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into 4 groups receiving different diets for 6 weeks: 1. control group (standard diet); 2. HFD; 3. HFD plus butyrate (20 mg/kg/die) and 4. HFD plus FBA (42.5 mg/Kg/die, the equimolecular dose of butyrate). Liver tissues of the rats were analyzed by Western blot and real-time PCR. Insulin resistance, liver inflammation and Toll-like pattern modifications were determined.
Evaluation of these two preparations of butyrate showed a reduction of liver steatosis and inflammation in HFD fed animals. The compounds showed a similar potency in the normalisation of several variables, such as transaminases, homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance index, and glucose tolerance. Both treatments significantly reduced hepatic TNF-α expression and restored GLUTs and PPARs, either in liver or adipose tissue. Finally, FBA showed a higher potency in reducing pro-inflammatory parameters in the liver, via suppression of Toll-like receptors and NF-κB activation.
Our results demonstrated a protective effect of butyrate in limiting molecular events underlying the onset of IR and NAFLD, suggesting a potential clinical relevance for this substance. In particular, its derivative, FBA, could represent an alternative therapeutic option to sodium butyrate, sharing a comparable efficacy, but a better palatability and compliance.
PMCID: PMC3702592  PMID: 23861927
8.  High Fat Diet Induces Liver Steatosis and Early Dysregulation of Iron Metabolism in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66570.
This paper is dedicated to the memory of our wonderful colleague Professor Alfredo Colonna, who passed away the same day of its acceptance. Fatty liver accumulation, inflammatory process and insulin resistance appear to be crucial in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), nevertheless emerging findings pointed an important role also for iron overload. Here, we investigate the molecular mechanisms of hepatic iron metabolism in the onset of steatosis to understand whether its impairment could be an early event of liver inflammatory injury. Rats were fed with control diet or high fat diet (HFD) for 5 or 8 weeks, after which liver morphology, serum lipid profile, transaminases levels and hepatic iron content (HIC), were evaluated. In liver of HFD fed animals an increased time-dependent activity of iron regulatory protein 1 (IRP1) was evidenced, associated with the increase in transferrin receptor-1 (TfR1) expression and ferritin down-regulation. Moreover, ferroportin (FPN-1), the main protein involved in iron export, was down-regulated accordingly with hepcidin increase. These findings were indicative of an increased iron content into hepatocytes, which leads to an increase of harmful free-iron also related to the reduction of hepatic ferritin content. The progressive inflammatory damage was evidenced by the increase of hepatic TNF-α, IL-6 and leptin, in parallel to increased iron content and oxidative stress. The major finding that emerged of this study is the impairment of iron homeostasis in the ongoing and sustaining of liver steatosis, suggesting a strong link between iron metabolism unbalance, inflammatory damage and progression of disease.
PMCID: PMC3689747  PMID: 23805238
9.  Bovine Papillomavirus Type 2 Infection and a Series of Mesenchymal Tumors of the Urinary Bladder in Cattle 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:814635.
This report describes the histopathology of two hundred and fifty-three mesenchymal tumors of the urinary bladder in cattle grazing on lands rich in bracken fern. Approximately 80% were hemangiomas and angiosarcomas. Hemangioma (capillary, cavernous, and large vessels) was the most frequent mesenchymal tumor and was more common than angiosarcoma. Although the appearance of endothelial cells can vary remarkably, epithelioid angiosarcomas, often containing multinucleated cells, were the most frequent malignant vascular tumors. Hemangiopericytoma and tumors of muscle and soft connective tissue origin, alone and/or in association with tumor-like lesions, were less frequently seen. Furthermore, forty-five cases of intravascular papillary endothelial hyperplasia (IPEH), a lesion not previously reported in the urinary bladder of cattle, were also described. Bovine papillomavirus type-2 DNA was amplified in tumor samples. Forty vascular tumors were investigated by dual-labeling immunofluorescence, and, for the first time, a coexpression of E5 and platelet-derived growth factor β receptor (PDGFβR) was shown to occur. The results show that the BPV-2 E5 oncoprotein binds to the activated form of the PDGFβ receptor thus playing an important role in mesenchymal as well as epithelial carcinogenesis of the urinary bladder. Furthermore, these findings demonstrate that BPV-2 infects both epithelial and mesenchymal cells.
PMCID: PMC3687770  PMID: 23862156
10.  Canine Lipomas Treated with Steroid Injections: Clinical Findings 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50234.
Lipomas are common benign tumours of fat cells. In most cases, surgical excision is curative and simple to perform; however, such a procedure requires general anaesthesia and may be associated with delayed wound healing, seroma formation and nerve injury in deep and intramuscular tumours. The objective of this study was to evaluate treatment of subcutaneous, subfascial or intermuscular lipomas using intralesional steroid injections in dogs. Fifteen dogs presenting with lipomas were selected for treatment with ultrasound-guided intralesional injection of triamcinolone acetonide at a dose of 40 mg/mL. Nine subcutaneous and subfascial tumours showed a complete regression. The other lipomas decreased in diameter, achieving, in some cases, remission of discomfort and regression of lameness. Steroid injection was a relatively safe and effective treatment for lipomas in dogs; only six dogs experienced polyuria/polydipsia for about 2 weeks post-treatment.
PMCID: PMC3511498  PMID: 23226250
11.  Improvement of survival in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: retrospective analysis of 835 patients 
Acta Myologica  2012;31(2):121-125.
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is the most common muscle disease in children. Historically, DMD results in loss of ambulation between ages 7 and 13 years and death in the teens or 20s. In order to determine whether survival has improved over the decades and whether the impact of nocturnal ventilation combined with a better management of cardiac involvement has been able to modify the pattern of survival, we reviewed the notes of 835 DMD patients followed at the Naples Centre of Cardiomyology and Medical Genetics from 1961 to 2006. Patients were divided, by decade of birth, into 3 groups: 1) DMD born between 1961 and 1970; 2) DMD born between 1971 and 1980; 3) DMD born between 1981 and 1990; each group was in turn subdivided into 15 two-year classes, from 14 to 40 years of age. Age and causes of death, type of cardiac treatment and use of a mechanical ventilator were carefully analyzed.
The percentage of survivors in the different decades was statistically compared by chi-square test and Kaplan-Meier survival curves analyses. A significant decade on decade improvement in survival rate was observed at both the age of 20, where it passed from 23.3% of patients in group 1 to 54% of patients in group 2 and to 59,8% in patients in group 3 (p < 0.001) and at the age of 25 where the survival rate passed from 13.5% of patients in group 1 to 31.6% of patients in group 2 and to 49.2% in patients in group 3 (p < 0.001).
The causes of death were both cardiac and respiratory, with a prevalence of the respiratory ones till 1980s. The overall mean age for cardiac deaths was 19.6 years (range 13.4-27.5), with an increasing age in the last 15 years. The overall mean age for respiratory deaths was 17.7 years (range 11.6-27.5) in patients without a ventilator support while increased to 27.9 years (range 23-38.6) in patients who could benefit of mechanical ventilation.
This report documents that DMD should be now considered an adulthood disease as well, and as a consequence more public health interventions are needed to support these patients and their families as they pass from childhood into adult age.
PMCID: PMC3476854  PMID: 23097603
Duchenne; survival; cardiomyopathy
12.  Detection of Leishmania parasites in the testis of a dog affected by orchitis: case report 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:216.
Transmission of canine leishmaniasis (CanL), a severe infection caused by L. infantum, usually occurs through the sand fly bite to the vertebrate host. A venereal route of transmission has also been suggested, but this issue is still controversial.
Here, we report a case of a dog affected by orchitis showing a clinical profile of L. infantum infection. By exploiting a real-time PCR assay, we detected a significantly higher DNA load of the parasite in the lymph node and testis than in blood and urine samples collected from the dog.
Our results suggest that: 1) L. infantum infection can be associated with testicular lesions in naturally infected dogs; 2) genital involvement could result in shedding of the parasites in the semen, favoring venereal transmission of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3481428  PMID: 23021706
Dog; Leishmaniasis; Orchitis; Real-time PCR; Testis
13.  Productive Infection of Bovine Papillomavirus Type 2 in the Placenta of Pregnant Cows Affected with Urinary Bladder Tumors 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33569.
Papillomaviruses (PVs) are believed to be highly epitheliotropic as they usually establish productive infections within stratified epithelia. In vitro, various PVs appear to complete their entire life-cycle in different trophoblastic cell lines. In this study, infection by and protein expression of bovine papillomavirus type 2 (BPV-2) in the uterine and chorionic epithelium of the placenta has been described in four cows suffering from naturally occurring papillomavirus-associated urothelial bladder tumors. E5 oncoprotein was detected both by Western blot analysis and immunohistochemically. It appears to be complexed and perfectly co-localized with the activated platelet-derived growth factor ß receptor (PDGFßR) by laser scanning confocal microscopy. The activated PDGFßR might be involved in organogenesis and neo-angiogenesis rather than in cell transformation during pregnancy. The major capsid protein, L1, believed to be only expressed in productive papillomavirus infection has been detected by Western blot analysis. Immunohistochemical investigations confirmed the presence of L1 protein both in the cytoplasm and nuclei of cells of the uterine and chorionic epithelium. Trophoblastic cells appear to be the major target for L1 protein expression. Finally, the early protein E2, required for viral DNA replication and known to be expressed during a productive infection, has been detected by Western blot and immunohistochemically. Electron microscopic investigations detected viral particles in nuclei of uterine and chorionic epithelium. This study shows that both active and productive infections by BPV-2 in the placenta of pregnant cows can occur in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3313941  PMID: 22479413
14.  Calpain3 Is Expressed in a Proteolitically Active Form in Papillomavirus-Associated Urothelial Tumors of the Urinary Bladder in Cattle 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10299.
Calpain 3 (Capn3), also named p94, is a skeletal muscle tissue-specific protein known to be responsible for limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2A (LGMD2A). Recent experimental studies have hypothesized a pro-apoptotic role of Capn3 in some melanoma cell lines. So far the link between calpain3 and tumors comes from in vitro studies. The objective of this study was to describe Capn3 activation in naturally occurring urothelial tumors of the urinary bladder in cattle.
Methods and Findings
Here we describe, for the first time in veterinary and comparative oncology, the activation of Capn3 in twelve urothelial tumor cells of the urinary bladder of cattle. Capn3 protein was initially identified with nanoscale liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (nano LC-MS/MS) in a co-immunoprecipitation experiment on E2F3, known to be a transcription factor playing a crucial role in bladder carcinogenesis in humans. Capn3 expression was then confirmed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Finally, the Ca2+-dependent proteolytic activity of Capn3 was assayed following ion exchange chromatography. Morphologically, Capn3 expression was documented by immunohistochemical methods. In fact numerous tumor cells showed an intracytoplasmic immunoreactivity, which was more rarely evident also at nuclear level. In urothelial tumors, bovine papillomavirus type 2 (BPV-2) DNA was amplified by PCR and the expression of E5 protein, the major oncogenic protein of BVP-2, was detected by western blotting, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence. E2F3 overexpression and pRb protein downregulation were shown by western blotting.
The role of capn3 protein in urothelial cancer of the urinary bladder remains to be elucidated: further studies would be required to determine the precise function of this protease in tumor development and progression. However, we suggest that activated Capn3 may be involved in molecular pathways leading to the overexpression of E2F3, which in turn could be responsible for urothelial tumor cell proliferation also in cattle, though other mechanisms are likely to exist. If further studies corroborate the important role of Capn3 in urothelial tumors of the urinary bladder, cattle with urinary tumors may prove useful as animal model for bladder carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2858658  PMID: 20421977
15.  AβPP overexpression and proteasome inhibition increase αB-crystallin in cultured human muscle: relevance to inclusion-body myositis. 
Neuromuscular disorders : NMD  2006;16(12):839-844.
Amyloid-β precursor protein (AβPP) and its fragment amyloid-β (Aβ) are increased in s-IBM muscle fibers and appear to play an important role in the pathogenic cascade. αB-crystallin (αBC) was shown immunohistochemically to be accumulated in s-IBM muscle fibers, but the stressor(s) influencing αBC accumulation was not identified. We now demonstrate, using our experimental IBM model based on genetic overexpression of AβPP into normal culture human muscle fibers, that: 1) AβPP overexpression increased αBC 3.7-fold (p= 0.025); 2) additional inhibition of proteasome with epoxomicin increased αBC 7-fold (p=0.002); and 3) αBC physically associated with AβPP and Aβ oligomers. We also show that in biopsied s-IBM muscle fibers, αBC was similarly increased 3-fold (p=0.025) and physically associated with AβPP and Aβ oligomers. We propose that increased AβPP is a stressor increasing αBC expression in s-IBM muscle fibers. Determining the consequences of αBC association with Aβ oligomers could have clinical therapeutic relevance.
PMCID: PMC1976411  PMID: 17056255
inclusion-body myositis; αB-crystallin; amyloid-β: amyloid-β precursor protein; cultured human muscle fibers
16.  Characterization of Amyloid-β Deposits in Bovine Brains 
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease  null;51(3):875-887.
Amyloid-β (Aβ) deposits are seen in aged individuals of many mammalian species that possess the same aminoacid sequence as humans. This study describes Aβ deposition in 102 clinically characterized cattle brains from animals aged 0 to 20 years. Extracellular and intracellular Aβ deposition was detected with 4G8 antibody in the cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum. X-34 staining failed to stain Aβ deposits, indicating the non β-pleated nature of these deposits. Western blot analysis and surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (SELDI-TOF) mass spectrometry revealed in Tris, Triton, and formic acid fractions the presence of different Aβ peptides, characterized mainly by C-terminally truncated forms. Exploration of the genetic variability of APOE, PSEN1, and PSEN2 genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis revealed several previously unreported polymorphisms. This study demonstrates certain similarities between Aβ deposition patterns exhibited in cattle brains and those in the human brain in early stages of aging. Furthermore, the identification of the same Aβ peptides reported in humans, but unable to form aggregates, supports the hypothesis that cattle may be protected against amyloid plaque formation.
PMCID: PMC4927890  PMID: 26890772
Aging; amyloid beta-protein; cattle; glial cells

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