Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nano-sized vesicles released by normal and diseased cells as a novel form of intercellular communication, and can serve as an effective therapeutic vehicle for genes and drugs. Yet, much remains unknown about the in vivo properties of EVs such as tissue distribution, and blood levels and urine clearance - important parameters that will define their therapeutic effectiveness and potential toxicity. Here we combined Gaussia luciferase and metabolic biotinylation to create a sensitive EV reporter (EV-GlucB) for multimodal imaging in vivo, as well as monitoring of EV levels in the organs and biofluids ex vivo after administration of EVs. Bioluminescence and fluorescence-mediated tomography imaging on mice displayed a predominant localization of intravenously administered EVs in the spleen followed by the liver. Monitoring EV signal in the organs, blood and urine further revealed that the EVs first undergo a rapid distribution phase followed by a longer elimination phase via hepatic and renal routes within six hours, which are both faster than previously reported using dye-labeled EVs. Moreover, we demonstrate systemically injected EVs can be delivered to tumor sites within an hour following injection. Altogether, we show the EVs are dynamically processed in vivo with accurate spatiotemporal resolution, and target a number of normal organs as well as tumors with implications for disease pathology and therapeutic design.
Exosomes; microvesicles; bioluminescence; fluorescence; biotin; biodistribution; delivery
TorsinA is an AAA+ ATPase located within the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum and nuclear envelope, with a mutant form causing early onset torsion dystonia (DYT1). Here we report a new function for torsinA in endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD). Retro-translocation and proteosomal degradation of a mutant cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTRΔF508) was inhibited by downregulation of torsinA or overexpression of mutant torsinA, and facilitated by increased torsinA. Retro-translocation of cholera toxin was also decreased by downregulation of torsinA. TorsinA associates with proteins implicated in ERAD, including Derlin-1, VIMP, and p97. Further, torsinA reduces endoplasmic reticulum stress in nematodes overexpressing CFTRΔF508, and fibroblasts from DYT1 dystonia patients are more sensitive than controls to endoplasmic reticulum stress and less able to degrade mutant CFTR. Therefore, compromised ERAD function in the cells of DYT1 patients may increase sensitivity to endoplasmic reticulum stress with consequent alterations in neuronal function contributing to the disease state.
dystonia; movement disorder; secretory pathway; retro-translocation; protein degradation; proteosome; cystic fibrosis; cholera toxin
A key step in angiogenesis is the upregulation of growth factor receptors on endothelial cells. Here we demonstrate that a small regulatory microRNA, miR-296 has a major role in this process. Glioma cells and angiogenic growth factors elevate the level of miR-296 in primary human brain microvascular endothelial cells in culture. The miR-296 level is also elevated in primary tumor endothelial cells isolated from human brain tumors compared to normal brain endothelial cells. Growth factor-induced miR-296 contributes significantly to angiogenesis by directly targeting the hepatocyte growth factor-regulated tyrosine kinase substrate (HGS) mRNA, leading to decreased levels of HGS and thereby reducing HGS-mediated degradation of the growth factor receptors VEGFR2 and PDGFR-β. Furthermore, inhibition of miR-296 with antagomirs reduces angiogenesis in tumor xenografts in vivo.
miRNA; angiogenesis; cancer; PDGFR; VEGFR; HGS
Here we describe a novel method for imaging apoptosis in cells using a near-infrared fluorescent (NIRF) probe selective for caspase-1 (interleukin 1β-converting enzyme, ICE). This biocompatible, optically quenched ICE-NIRF probe incorporates a peptide substrate, which can be selectively cleaved by caspase-1, resulting in the release of fluorescence signal. The specificity of this probe for caspase-1 is supported by various lines of evidence: 1) activation by purified caspase-1, but not another caspase in vitro; 2) activation of the probe by infection of cells with a herpes simplex virus amplicon vector (HGC-ICE-lacZ) expressing a catalytically active caspase-1-lacZ fusion protein; 3) inhibition of HGC-ICE-lacZ vector-induced activation of the probe by coincubation with the caspase-1 inhibitor YVAD-cmk, but not with a caspase-3 inhibitor; and 4) activation of the probe following standard methods of inducing apoptosis with staurosporine, ganciclovir, or ionizing radiation in culture. These results indicate that this novel ICE-NIRF probe can be used in monitoring endogenous and vector-expressed caspase-1 activity in cells. Furthermore, tumor implant experiments indicate that this ICE-NIRF probe can be used to detect caspase-1 activity in living animals. This novel ICE-NIRF probe should prove useful in monitoring endogenous and vector-expressed caspase-1 activity, and potentially apoptosis in cell culture and in vivo.
Caspase-1; near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF); apoptosis; brain tumors; HSV
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been implicated in tumorigenesis. Biomolecules which can block EV binding and uptake into recipient cells may be of therapeutic value as well as enhance understanding of EV biology. Here, we show that heparin interacts with uptake of tumor-derived as well as non-tumor-derived EVs into recipient cells. Incubation of glioma cell-derived EVs with heparin resulted in micron-sized structures observed by transmission electron microscopy, with EVs clearly visible within these structures. Inclusion of heparin greatly diminished transfer of labeled EVs from donor to recipient tumor cells. We also show a direct interaction between heparin and EVs using confocal microscopy. We found that the block in EV uptake was at the level of cell binding and not internalization. Finally, incubation of glioma-derived EVs containing EGFRvIII mRNA with heparin reduced transfer of this message to recipient cells. The effect of heparin on EVs uptake may provide a unique tool to study EV function. It may also foster research of heparin or its derivatives as a therapeutic for disease in which EVs play a role.
Extracellular vesicles; Exosomes; Glioblastoma; EGFRvIII; Heparin; Tumor
Schwannomas are tumors formed by proliferation of dedifferentiated Schwann cells. Patients with neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) and schwannomatosis develop multiple schwannomas in peripheral and cranial nerves. Although benign, these tumors can cause extreme pain and compromise sensory/motor functions, including hearing and vision. At present, surgical resection is the main treatment modality, but it can be problematic because of tumor inaccessibility and risk of nerve damage. We have explored gene therapy for schwannomas, using a model in which immortalized human NF2 schwannoma cells expressing a fluorescent protein and luciferase are implanted in the sciatic nerve of nude mice. Direct injection of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotype 1 vector encoding caspase-1 (ICE) under the Schwann-cell specific promoter, P0, leads to regression of these tumors with essentially no vector-mediated neuropathology, and no changes in sensory or motor function. In a related NF2 xenograft model designed to cause measurable pain behavior, the same gene therapy leads to tumor regression and concordant resolution of tumor-associated pain. This AAV1-P0-ICE vector holds promise for clinical treatment of schwannomas by direct intratumoral injection to achieve reduction in tumor size and normalization of neuronal function.
Prabhakar and colleagues demonstrate that direct injection of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotype 1 vector encoding caspase-1 leads to regression of Schwann cell tumors in a mouse model. Importantly, this approach does not cause vector-mediated neuropathology or changes in sensory motor function.
Glioblastoma cells secrete extra-cellular vesicles (EVs) containing microRNAs (miRNAs). Analysis of these EV miRNAs in the bio-fluids of afflicted patients represents a potential platform for biomarker development. However, the analytic algorithm for quantitative assessment of EV miRNA remains under-developed. Here, we demonstrate that the reference transcripts commonly used for quantitative PCR (including GAPDH, 18S rRNA, and hsa-miR-103) were unreliable for assessing EV miRNA. In this context, we quantitated EV miRNA in absolute terms and normalized this value to the input EV number. Using this method, we examined the abundance of miR-21, a highly over-expressed miRNA in glioblastomas, in EVs. In a panel of glioblastoma cell lines, the cellular levels of miR-21 correlated with EV miR-21 levels (p<0.05), suggesting that glioblastoma cells actively secrete EVs containing miR-21. Consistent with this hypothesis, the CSF EV miR-21 levels of glioblastoma patients (n=13) were, on average, ten-fold higher than levels in EVs isolated from the CSF of non-oncologic patients (n=13, p<0.001). Notably, none of the glioblastoma CSF harbored EV miR-21 level below 0.25 copies per EV in this cohort. Using this cut-off value, we were able to prospectively distinguish CSF derived from glioblastoma and non-oncologic patients in an independent cohort of twenty-nine patients (Sensitivity=87%; Specificity=93%; AUC=0.91, p<0.01). Our results suggest that CSF EV miRNA analysis of miR-21 may serve as a platform for glioblastoma biomarker development.
Mutations in the GCH1 gene are associated with childhood onset, dopa-responsive dystonia (DRD). Correct diagnosis of DRD is crucial, given the potential for complete recovery once treated with L-dopa. The majority of DRD associated mutations lie within the coding region of the GCH1 gene, but three additional single nucleotide sequence substitutions have been reported within the 5’ untranslated (5’UTR) region of the mRNA. The biologic significance of these 5’UTR GCH1 sequence substitutions has not been analyzed.
Luciferase reporter assays, quantitative real time PCR and RNA decay assays, combined with bioinformatics, revealed a pathogenic 5’UTR GCH1 substitution. The +142C>T single nucleotide 5’UTR substitution that segregates with affected status in DRD patients, substantially attenuates translation without altering RNA expression levels or stability. The +142C>T substitution disrupts translation most likely by creating an upstream initiation start codon (uAUG) and an upstream open reading frame (uORF).
This is the first GCH1 regulatory substitution reported to act at a post-transcriptional level, increasing the list of genetic diseases caused by abnormal translation and reaffirming the importance of investigating potential regulatory substitutions in genetic diseases.
Brain tumors are heterogeneous tumors composed of differentiated tumor cells that resemble various neural cells and a small number of multipotent cancer stem cells. These tumors modify normal cells in their environment to promote tumor growth, invasion and metastases by various ways. Recent publications show that glioblastoma cells release microvesicles that contain a select subset of cellular proteins and RNAs. These microvesicles are avidly taken up by normal cells in cell culture and can change the translational profile of these cells through delivery of tumor-derived mRNAs, which are translated into functional proteins. In addition to mRNA and proteins, microvesicles have been shown to contain microRNAs, non-coding RNAs and DNA. This commentary explores the recent advances in this novel intercellular communication route and discusses the potential physiological role of microvesicles in brain tumorigenesis.
Microvesicles; Glioblastoma; Biomarkers; Gene transfer; Tumor microenvironment; Non-coding RNAs; Retrotransposons; MicroRNAs
Development of biofluid-based molecular diagnostic tests for cancer is an important step towards tumor characterization and real-time monitoring in a minimally invasive fashion. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are released from tumor cells into body fluids and can provide a powerful platform for tumor biomarkers because they carry tumor proteins and nucleic acids. Detecting rare point mutations in the background of wild-type sequences in biofluids such as blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) remains a major challenge. Techniques such as BEAMing (beads, emulsion, amplification, magnetics) PCR and droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) are substantially more sensitive than many other assays for mutant sequence detection. Here, we describe a novel approach that combines biofluid EV RNA and BEAMing RT-PCR (EV-BEAMing), as well droplet digital PCR to interrogate mutations from glioma tumors. EVs from CSF of patients with glioma were shown to contain mutant IDH1 transcripts, and we were able to reliably detect and quantify mutant and wild-type IDH1 RNA transcripts in CSF of patients with gliomas. EV-BEAMing and EV-ddPCR represent a valuable new strategy for cancer diagnostics, which can be applied to a variety of biofluids and neoplasms.
BEAMing PCR; biomarkers; cancer; extracellular vesicles; droplet digital PCR
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant disorder due to mutations in either TSC1 or TSC2 that affects many organs with hamartomas and tumors. TSC-associated brain lesions include subependymal nodules, subependymal giant cell astrocytomas and tubers. Neurologic manifestations in TSC comprise a high frequency of mental retardation and developmental disorders including autism, as well as epilepsy. Here, we describe a new mouse model of TSC brain lesions in which complete loss of Tsc1 is achieved in multiple brain cell types in a stochastic pattern. Injection of an adeno-associated virus vector encoding Cre recombinase into the cerebral ventricles of mice homozygous for a Tsc1 conditional allele on the day of birth led to reduced survival, and pathologic findings of enlarged neurons, cortical heterotopias, subependymal nodules, and hydrocephalus. The severity of clinical and pathologic findings as well as survival was shown to be dependent upon the dose and serotype of Cre virus injected. Although several other models of TSC brain disease exist, this model is unique in that the pathology reflects a variety of TSC-associated lesions involving different numbers and types of cells. This model provides a valuable and unique addition for therapeutic assessment.
A specific mutation (ΔE) in torsinA underlies most cases of the dominantly inherited movement disorder, early-onset torsion dystonia (DYT1). TorsinA, a member of the AAA+ ATPase superfamily, is located within the lumen of the nuclear envelope (NE) and endoplasmic reticulum (ER). We investigated an association between torsinA and nesprin-3, which spans the outer nuclear membrane (ONM) of the NE and links it to vimentin via plectin in fibroblasts. Mouse nesprin-3α co-immunoprecipitated with torsinA and this involved the C-terminal region of torsinA and the KASH domain of nesprin-3α. This association with human nesprin-3 appeared to be stronger for torsinAΔE than for torsinA. TorsinA also associated with the KASH domains of nesprin-1 and -2 (SYNE1 and 2), which link to actin. In the absence of torsinA, in knockout mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), nesprin-3 was localized predominantly in the ER. Enrichment of yellow fluorescent protein (YFP)-nesprin-3 in the ER was also seen in the fibroblasts of DYT1 patients, with formation of YFP-positive globular structures enriched in torsinA, vimentin and actin. TorsinA-null MEFs had normal NE structure, but nuclear polarization and cell migration were delayed in a wound-healing assay, as compared with wild-type MEFs. These studies support a role for torsinA in dynamic interactions between the KASH domains of nesprins and their protein partners in the lumen of the NE, with torsinA influencing the localization of nesprins and associated cytoskeletal elements and affecting their role in nuclear and cell movement.
Nesprin; Dystonia; Cell migration; Nuclear polarization; DYT1; Vimentin; Actin
Microvesicles (MVs) play an important role in intercellular communication by carrying mRNAs, microRNAs (miRNAs), non-coding RNAs, proteins, and DNA from cell to cell. To our knowledge, this is the first report of delivery of a therapeutic mRNA/protein via MVs for treatment of cancer. We first generated genetically engineered MVs by expressing high levels of the suicide gene mRNA and protein–cytosine deaminase (CD) fused to uracil phosphoribosyltransferase (UPRT) in MV donor cells. MVs were isolated from these cells and used to treat pre-established nerve sheath tumors (schwannomas) in an orthotopic mouse model. We demonstrated that MV-mediated delivery of CD-UPRT mRNA/protein by direct injection into schwannomas led to regression of these tumors upon systemic treatment with the prodrug (5-fluorocytosine (5-FC)), which is converted within tumor cells to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)–an anticancer agent. Taken together, these studies suggest that MVs can serve as novel cell-derived “liposomes” to effectively deliver therapeutic mRNA/proteins to treatment of diseases.
Glioblastomas shed large quantities of small, membrane-bound microvesicles (MVs) into the circulation. While these hold promise as potential biomarkers of therapeutic response, their identification and quantitation remain challenging. Here, we describe a highly sensitive and rapid analytical technique for profiling circulating MVs directly from blood samples of glioblastoma patients. MVs, introduced onto a dedicated microfluidic chip, are labeled with target-specific magnetic nanoparticles and detected by a miniaturized nuclear magnetic resonance system. Compared with current methods, this integrated system has a much higher detection sensitivity, and can differentiate glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) MVs from non-tumor host cell-derived MVs. We also show that circulating GBM MVs can serve as a surrogate for primary tumor mutations and a predictive metric of treatment-induced changes. This platform could provide both an earlier indicator of drug efficacy and a potential molecular stratifier for human clinical trials.
Extracellular vesicles (microvesicles), such as exosomes and shed microvesicles, contain a variety of molecules including proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids. Microvesicles appear mostly to originate from multivesicular bodies or to bud from the plasma membrane. Here, we review the convergence of microvesicle biogenesis and aspects of viral assembly and release pathways. Herpesviruses and retroviruses, amongst others, recruit several elements from the microvesicle biogenesis pathways for functional virus release. In addition, noninfectious pleiotropic virus-like vesicles can be released, containing viral and cellular components. We highlight the heterogeneity of microvesicle function during viral infection, addressing microvesicles that can either block or enhance infection, or cause immune dysregulation through bystander action in the immune system. Finally, endogenous retrovirus and retrotransposon elements deposited in our genomes millions of years ago can be released from cells within microvesicles, suggestive of a viral origin of the microvesicle system or perhaps of an evolutionary conserved system of virus-vesicle codependence. More research is needed to further elucidate the complex function of the various microvesicles produced during viral infection, possibly revealing new therapeutic intervention strategies.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) mediated gene replacement for lysosomal disorders have been spurred by the ability of some serotypes to efficiently transduce neurons in the brain and by the ability of lysosomal enzymes to cross-correct among cells. Here, we explored enzyme replacement therapy in a knock-out mouse model of congenital neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL), the most severe of the NCLs in humans. The missing protease in this disorder, cathepsin D (CathD) has high levels in the central nervous system (CNS). This enzyme has the potential advantage for assessing experimental therapy in that it can be imaged using a near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) probe activated by CathD. Injections of an AAV2/rh8 vector encoding mouse cathepsin D (mCathD) into both cerebral ventricles and peritoneum of newborn knock-out mice resulted in a significant increase in lifespan. Successful delivery of active CathD by the AAV2/rh8-mCathD vector was verified by NIRF imaging of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) from knock-out mice in culture, as well as by ex vivo NIRF imaging of brain and liver after gene transfer. These studies support the potential effectiveness and imaging evaluation of enzyme replacement therapy to the brain and other organs in CathD null mice via AAV-mediated gene delivery in neonatal animals.
near-infrared; fluorescence; lysosomal storage disease; cathepsin D; central nervous system; gene therapy; AAV; neurologic disease
Most cases of early onset DYT1 dystonia in humans are caused by a GAG deletion in the TOR1A gene leading to loss of a glutamic acid (ΔE) in the torsinA protein, which underlies a movement disorder associated with neuronal dysfunction without apparent neurodegeneration. Mutation/deletion of the gene (Dst) encoding dystonin in mice results in a dystonic movement disorder termed dystonia musculorum, which resembles aspects of dystonia in humans. While torsinA and dystonin proteins do not share modular domain architecture, they participate in a similar function by modulating a structural link between the nuclear envelope and the cytoskeleton in neuronal cells. We suggest that through a shared interaction with the nuclear envelope protein nesprin-3α, torsinA and the neuronal dystonin-a2 isoform comprise a bridge complex between the outer nuclear membrane and the cytoskeleton, which is critical for some aspects of neuronal development and function. Elucidation of the overlapping roles of torsinA and dystonin-a2 in nuclear/endoplasmic reticulum dynamics should provide insights into the cellular mechanisms underlying the dystonic phenotype.
The hereditary dystonias comprise a set of diseases defined by a common constellation of motor deficits. These disorders are most likely associated with different molecular etiologies, many of which have yet to be elucidated. Here we discuss recent advances in three forms of hereditary dystonia, DYT1, DYT6 and DYT16, which share a similar clinical picture: onset in childhood or adolescence, progressive spread of symptoms with generalized involvement of body regions and a steady state affliction without treatment. Unlike DYT1, the genes responsible for DYT6 and DYT16 have only recently been identified, with relatively little information about the function of the encoded proteins. Nevertheless, recent data suggest that these proteins may fit together within interacting pathways involved in dopaminergic signaling, transcriptional regulation, and cellular stress responses. This review focuses on these molecular pathways, highlighting potential common themes among these dystonias which may serve as areas for future research.
Dystonia; torsinA; THAP1; PACT; PRKRA; dopamine; endoplasmic reticulum; transcription; stress
Genetic therapy is undergoing a renaissance with expansion of viral and synthetic vectors, use of oligonucleotides (RNA and DNA) and sequence-targeted regulatory molecules, as well as genetically modified cells, including induced pluripotent stem cells from the patients themselves. Several clinical trials for neurologic syndromes appear quite promising. This review covers genetic strategies to ameliorate neurologic syndromes of different etiologies, including lysosomal storage diseases, Alzheimer's disease and other amyloidopathies, Parkinson's disease, spinal muscular atrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and brain tumors. This field has been propelled by genetic technologies, including identifying disease genes and disruptive mutations, design of genomic interacting elements to regulate transcription and splicing of specific precursor mRNAs and use of novel non-coding regulatory RNAs. These versatile new tools for manipulation of genetic elements provide the ability to tailor the mode of genetic intervention to specific aspects of a disease state.