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1.  A MiRNA Signature for Defining Aggressive Phenotype and Prognosis in Gliomas 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e108950.
Gliomas represent a disparate group of tumours for which there are to date no cure. Thus, there is a recognized need for new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches based on increased understanding of their molecular nature. We performed the comparison of the microRNA (miRNA) profile of 8 WHO grade II gliomas and 24 higher grade tumours (2 WHO grade III and 22 glioblastomas) by using the Affymetrix GeneChip miRNA Array v. 1.0. A relative quantification method (RT-qPCR) with standard curve was used to confirm the 22 miRNA signature resulted by array analysis. The prognostic performances of the confirmed miRNAs were estimated on the Tumor Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) datasets. We identified 22 miRNAs distinguishing grade II gliomas from higher grade tumours. RT-qPCR confirmed the differential expression in the two patients' groups for 13 out of the 22 miRNAs. The analysis of the Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) and Lower Grade Glioma (LGG) datasets from TCGA demonstrated the association with prognosis for 6 of those miRNAs. Moreover, in the GBM dataset miR-21 and miR-210 were predictors of worse prognosis in both univariable and multivariable Cox regression analyses (HR 1.19, p = 0.04, and HR 1.18, p = 0.029 respectively). Our results support a direct contribution of miRNAs to glioma cancerogenesis and suggest that miR-21 and miR-210 may play a role in the aggressive clinical behaviour of glioblastomas.
PMCID: PMC4184816  PMID: 25279461
2.  Circulating adiponectin and cardiovascular mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: evidence of sexual dimorphism 
Cardiovascular Diabetology  2014;13(1):130.
The pathogenesis of cardiovascular (CV) mortality, whose rate is increased in type 2 diabetes, is poorly understood.
While high serum adiponectin is associated with increased CV mortality in the general population, no data are available in type 2 diabetes.
We here investigated whether this counterintuitive association was observable also in diabetic patients and whether it was sex-specific.
Three prospective cohorts were analyzed: 1) Gargano Heart Study (GHS; 359 patients, 58 events/1,934 person-years; py); 2) Health Professional Follow-up Study (HPFS; 833 men, 146 events/10,024 py); 3) Nurses’ Health Study (NHS; 902 women, 144 events/15,074 py).
In GHS serum adiponectin predicted CV mortality in men (hazard ratio, HR, and 95% CI per standard deviation, SD, increment = 1.54, 1.19-2.01), but not women (HR = 0.98, 0.48-2.01).
Circulating adiponectin predicted CV mortality in men from HPFS (HR = 1.44, 1.21-1.72), but not in women from NHS (HR = 1.08, 0.86-1.35), used as replication samples. In a pooled analysis, HRs were 1.47 (1.27-1.70) in 1,075 men and 1.07 (0.86-1.33) in 1,019 women (p for HRs heterogeneity across sexes = 0.018).
This is the first report showing that high circulating adiponectin predicts increased CV mortality in men, but not in women with type 2 diabetes. Further studies are necessary to unravel the mechanisms through which adiponectin influences CV mortality in a sex-specific manner.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12933-014-0130-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4172916  PMID: 25200659
Adipokines; Prospective studies; Paradoxical effect; Sex-linked genes
3.  Modeling interactions between Human Equilibrative Nucleoside Transporter-1 and other factors involved in the response to gemcitabine treatment to predict clinical outcomes in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma patients 
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an extremely aggressive malignancy, characterized by largely unsatisfactory responses to the currently available therapeutic strategies. In this study we evaluated the expression of genes involved in gemcitabine uptake in a selected cohort of patients with PDAC, with well-defined clinical-pathological features.
mRNA levels of hENT1, CHOP, MRP1 and DCK were evaluated by means of qRT-PCR in matched pairs of tumor and adjacent normal tissue samples collected from PDAC patients treated with gemcitabine after surgical tumor resection. To detect possible interaction between gene expression levels and to identify subgroups of patients at different mortality/progression risk, the RECursive Partitioning and Amalgamation (RECPAM) method was used.
RECPAM analysis showed that DCK and CHOP were most relevant variables for the identification of patients with different mortality risk, while hENT1 and CHOP were able to identify subgroups of patients with different disease progression risk. Conclusion: hENT1, CHOP, MRP1 and DCK appear correlated to PDAC, and this interaction might influence disease behavior.
PMCID: PMC4172900  PMID: 25199538
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; hENT1; CHOP; MRP1; DCK; RECPAM
4.  Development and Validation of a Predicting Model of All-Cause Mortality in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes 
Diabetes Care  2013;36(9):2830-2835.
To develop and validate a parsimonious model for predicting short-term all-cause mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
Two cohorts of patients with T2DM were investigated. The Gargano Mortality Study (GMS, n = 679 patients) was the training set and the Foggia Mortality Study (FMS, n = 936 patients) represented the validation sample. GMS and FMS cohorts were prospectively followed up for 7.40 ±2.15 and 4.51 ±1.69 years, respectively, and all-cause mortality was registered. A new forward variable selection within a multivariate Cox regression was implemented. Starting from the empty model, each step selected the predictor that, once included into the multivariate Cox model, yielded the maximum continuous net reclassification improvement (cNRI). The selection procedure stopped when no further statistically significant cNRI increase was detected.
Nine variables (age, BMI, diastolic blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio, and antihypertensive and insulin therapy) were included in the final predictive model with a C statistic of 0.88 (95% CI 0.82–0.94) in the GMS and 0.82 (0.76–0.87) in the FMS. Finally, we used a recursive partition and amalgamation algorithm to identify patients at intermediate and high mortality risk (hazard ratio 7.0 and 24.4, respectively, as compared with those at low risk). A web-based risk calculator was also developed.
We developed and validated a parsimonious all-cause mortality equation in T2DM, providing also a user-friendly web-based risk calculator. Our model may help prioritize the use of available resources for targeting aggressive preventive and treatment strategies in a subset of very high-risk individuals.
PMCID: PMC3747924  PMID: 23637348
5.  Cognitive Impairment in Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1 Is Associated with White Matter Damage 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104697.
To investigate grey (GM) and white matter (WM) abnormalities and their effects on cognitive and behavioral deficits in a large, phenotypically and genotypically well-characterized cohort of classic adult (aDM1, age at onset ≥20 years) or juvenile (jDM1, age at onset <20 years) patients with myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1).
A case-control study including 51 DM1 patients (17 jDM1 and 34 aDM1) and 34 controls was conducted at an academic medical center. Clinical, cognitive and structural MRI evaluations were obtained. Quantitative assessments of regional GM volumes, WM hyperintensities (WMHs), and microstructural WM tract damage were performed. The association between structural brain damage and clinical and cognitive findings was assessed.
DM1 patients showed a high prevalence of WMHs, severe regional GM atrophy including the key nodes of the sensorimotor and main cognitive brain networks, and WM microstructural damage of the interhemispheric, corticospinal, limbic and associative pathways. WM tract damage extends well beyond the focal WMHs. While aDM1 patients had severe patterns of GM atrophy and WM tract damage, in jDM1 patients WM abnormalities exceeded GM involvement. In DM1, WMHs and microstructural damage, but not GM atrophy, correlated with cognitive deficits.
WM damage, through a disconnection between GM structures, is likely to be the major contributor to cognitive impairment in DM1. Our MRI findings in aDM1 and jDM1 patients support the hypothesis of a degenerative (premature aging) origin of the GM abnormalities and of developmental changes as the principal substrates of microstructural WM alterations in DM1.
PMCID: PMC4130603  PMID: 25115999
6.  Evaluation of Genome-Wide Expression Profiles of Blood and Sputum Neutrophils in Cystic Fibrosis Patients Before and After Antibiotic Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104080.
In seeking more specific biomarkers of the cystic fibrosis (CF) lung inflammatory disease that would be sensitive to antibiotic therapy, we sought to evaluate the gene expression profiles of neutrophils in CF patients before treatment in comparison with non-CF healthy individuals and after antibiotic treatment. Genes involved in neutrophil-mediated inflammation, i.e. chemotaxis, respiratory burst, apoptosis, and granule exocytosis, were the targets of this study. Microarray analysis was carried out in blood and airway neutrophils from CF patients and in control subjects. A fold change (log) threshold of 1.4 and a cut-off of p<0.05 were utilized to identify significant genes. Community networks and principal component analysis were used to distinguish the groups of controls, pre- and post-therapy patients. Control subjects and CF patients before therapy were readily separated, whereas a clear distinction between patients before and after antibiotic therapy was not possible. Blood neutrophils before therapy presented 269 genes down-regulated and 56 up-regulated as compared with control subjects. Comparison between the same patients before and after therapy showed instead 44 genes down-regulated and 72 up-regulated. Three genes appeared to be sensitive to therapy and returned to “healthy” condition: phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate-induced protein 1 (PMAIP1), hydrogen voltage-gated channel 1 (HVCN1), and β-arrestin 1 (ARRB1). The up-regulation of these genes after therapy were confirmed by real time PCR. In airway neutrophils, 1029 genes were differentially expressed post- vs pre-therapy. Of these, 30 genes were up-regulated and 75 down-regulated following antibiotic treatment. However, biological plausibility determined that only down-regulated genes belonged to the gene classes studied for blood neutrophils. Finally, it was observed that commonly expressed genes showed a greater variability in airway neutrophils than that found in blood neutrophils, both before and after therapy. These results indicate more specific targets for future interventions in CF patients involving respiratory burst, apoptosis, and granule exocytosis.
PMCID: PMC4118979  PMID: 25084273
7.  MRI Predicts Efficacy of Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy in Children With Brain Injury 
Neurotherapeutics  2013;10(3):511-519.
Using resting state (RS) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), we identified the predictors of clinical improvement following constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) in pediatric patients with chronic hemiplegia.From 14 children with congenital or acquired brain injury and 10 sex- and age-matched healthy controls, brain dual-echo, DTI and RS fMRI sequences were acquired before CIMT. The Quality of Upper Extremities Skills Test and the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM) were administered at baseline, at the end of CIMT (10 weeks), and after 6 months. Mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy (FA) were measured in the lesion responsible for the clinical symptomatology, the affected and unaffected corticospinal tract (CST), motor transcallosal fibers, and uncinate fasciculus (as an internal control). Independent component analysis was used to identify the sensorimotor RS network. The ability of baseline MRI variables to predict clinical changes over time was assessed using multivariate linear models. At baseline, patients had increased mean diffusivity in the symptomatic lesion and decreased FA in the symptomatic lesion, affected corticospinal tract, and motor transcallosal fibers. A reduced RS functional connectivity was found in the bilateral cerebellum, left precentral gyrus, and right secondary sensorimotor cortex. At follow up, Quality of Upper Extremities Skills Test and GMFM scales improved significantly. Baseline average lesion FA predicted clinical improvement at week 10, and baseline functional connectivity of the right secondary sensorimotor cortex and cerebellum predicted GMFM improvement at month 6. DTI and RS fMRI offer promising and objective markers to predict clinical outcomes following CIMT in pediatric patients with congenital or acquired hemiplegia.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13311-013-0189-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3701764  PMID: 23605556
MRI; DTI; Tractography; Resting-state functional connectivity; Brain injury; Constraint-induced movement therapy
8.  Evaluation of microRNA-10b prognostic significance in a prospective cohort of breast cancer patients 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:142.
MicroRNA-10b (miR-10b) has a prominent role in regulating tumor invasion and metastasis by targeting the HOXD10 transcriptional repressor and has been found up-regulated in several tumor types.
We evaluated the expression of miR-10b in paired tumor and normal specimens obtained from a prospective cohort of breast cancer patients with at least 36 months follow-up enrolled according to the REMARK guidelines (n = 150). RNA quality was measured and only samples with RNA Integrity Number (RIN) ≥7.0 were analyzed.
The relative expression of miR-10b in tumor as compared to its normal counterpart (RER) was determined by RT-qPCR. miR-10b RERs were higher in the subgroup of patients with synchronous metastases (n = 11, Median 0.25; IQR 0.11-1.02) as compared with patients without metastases (n = 90, Median 0.09; IQR 0.04-0.29) (p = 0.028). In the subgroup of patients without synchronous metastases (n = 90), higher miR-10b RERs were associated with increased risk of disease progression and death in both univariable (HR 1.16, p = 0.021 and HR 1.20, p = 0.015 respectively for 0.10 unitary increase of miR-10b RERs levels) and multivariable (HR1.30, p < 0.001, and HR 1.31, p = 0.003 respectively for 0.10 unitary increase of miR-10b RERs levels) Cox regression models. The addition of miR-10b RERs to the Nottingham Prognostic Index (NPI) provided an improvement in discrimination power and risk reclassification abilities for the clinical outcomes at 36 months. Survival C-indices significantly increased from 0.849 to 0.889 (p = 0.009) for OS and from 0.735 to 0.767 (p = 0.050) for DFS.
Our results provide evidences that the addition of miR-10b RERs to the prognostic factors used in clinical routine could improve the prediction abilities for both overall mortality and disease progression in breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC4055397  PMID: 24897960
Breast cancer; microRNA; Metastasis; RT-qPCR
9.  The EphA2 Receptor Drives Self-Renewal and Tumorigenicity in Stem-Like Tumor-Propagating Cells from Human Glioblastomas 
Cancer cell  2012;22(6):765-780.
In human glioblastomas (hGBMs), tumor-propagating cells with stem-like characteristics (TPCs) represent a key therapeutic target. We found that the EphA2 receptor tyrosine kinase is overexpressed in hGBM TPCs. Cytofluorimetric sorting into EphA2High and EphA2Low populations demonstrated that EphA2 expression correlates with the size and tumor-propagating ability of the TPC pool in hGBMs. Both, ephrinA1-Fc, which caused EphA2 downregulation in TPCs, and siRNA-mediated knockdown of EPHA2 expression suppressed TPCs self-renewal ex vivo and intracranial tumorigenicity, pointing to EphA2 downregulation as a causal event in the loss of TPCs tumorigenicity. Infusion of ephrinA1-Fc into intracranial xenografts elicited strong tumor-suppressing effects, suggestive of therapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC3922047  PMID: 23238013
10.  Joint effect of insulin signalling genes on cardiovascular events and on whole body and endothelial insulin resistance 
Atherosclerosis  2012;226(1):140-145.
Insulin resistance (IR) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) share a common soil. We investigated the combined role of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) affecting insulin signaling (ENPP1 K121Q, rs1044498; IRS1 G972R, rs1801278; TRIB3 Q84R, rs2295490) on CVD, age at myocardial infarction (MI), in vivo insulin sensitivity and in vitro insulin-stimulated nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity.
Design and Setting
1. We first studied, incident cardiovascular events (a composite endpoint comprising myocardial infarction -MI-, stroke and cardiovascular death) in 733 patients (2,186 person-years, 175 events). 2. In a replication attempt, age at MI was tested in 331 individuals. 3. OGTT-derived insulin sensitivity index (ISI) was assessed in 829 individuals with fasting glucose < 126 mg/dl. 4. NOS activity was measured in 40 strains of human vein endothelial cells (HUVECs).
1. Risk variants jointly predicted cardiovascular events (HR=1.181; p=0.0009) and, when added to clinical risk factors, significantly improved survival C-statistics; they also allowed a significantly correct reclassification (by net reclassification index) in the whole sample (135/733 individuals) and, even more, in obese patients (116/204 individuals). 2. Risk variants were jointly associated with age at MI (p=0.006). 3. A significant association was also observed with ISI (p=0.02). 4. Finally, risk variants were jointly associated with insulin-stimulated NOS activity in HUVECs (p=0.009).
Insulin signaling genes variants jointly affect cardiovascular disease, very likely by promoting whole body and endothelium-specific insulin resistance. Further studies are needed to address whether their genotyping help identify very high-risk patients who need specific and/or more aggressive preventive strategies.
PMCID: PMC3529747  PMID: 23107043
genetic susceptibility; non synonymous polymorphism; insulin sensitivity; insulin dependent endothelial function
11.  A variant in the carboxyl-terminus of connexin 40 alters GAP junctions and increases risk for tetralogy of Fallot 
GJA5 gene (MIM no. 121013), localized at 1q21.1, encodes for the cardiac gap junction protein connexin 40. In humans, copy number variants of chromosome 1q21.1 have been associated with variable phenotypes comprising congenital heart disease (CHD), including isolated TOF. In mice, the deletion of Gja5 can cause a variety of complex CHDs, in particular of the cardiac outflow tract, corresponding to TOF in many cases. In the present study, we screened for mutations in the GJA5 gene 178 unrelated probands with isolated TOF. A heterozygous nucleotide change (c.793C>T) in exon 2 of the gene leading to the p.Pro265Ser variant at the carboxyl-terminus of the protein was found in two unrelated sporadic patients, one with classic anatomy and one with pulmonary atresia. This GJA5 missense substitution was not observed in 1568 ethnically-matched control chromosomes. Immunofluorescent staining and confocal microscopy revealed that cells expressing the mutant protein form sparse or no visible gap-junction plaques in the region of cell–cell contact. Moreover, analysis of the transfer of the gap junction permanent tracer lucifer yellow showed that cells expressing the mutant protein have a reduced rate of dye transfer compared with wild-type cells. Finally, use of a zebrafish model revealed that microinjection of the GJA5-p.Pro265Ser mutant disrupts overall morphology of the heart tube in the 37% (22/60) of embryos, compared with the 6% (4/66) of the GJA5 wild-type-injected embryos. These findings implicate GJA5 gene as a novel susceptibility gene for TOF.
PMCID: PMC3533258  PMID: 22713807
congenital heart disease; tetralogy of Fallot; 1q21.1;  GJA5 ; connexin 40
12.  Identification and Functional Characterization of Three NoLS (Nucleolar Localisation Signals) Mutations of the CDC73 Gene 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82292.
Hyperparathyroidism Jaw-Tumour Syndrome (HPT-JT) is characterized by primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT), maxillary/mandible ossifying fibromas and by parathyroid carcinoma in 15% of cases. Inactivating mutations of the tumour suppressor CDC73/HRPT2 gene have been found in HPT-JT patients and also as genetic determinants of sporadic parathyroid carcinoma/atypical adenomas and, rarely, typical adenomas, in familial PHPT. Here we report the genetic and molecular analysis of the CDC73/HRPT2 gene in three patients affected by PHPT due to atypical and typical parathyroid adenomas, in one case belonging to familial PHPT. Flag-tagged WT and mutant CDC73/HRPT2 proteins were transiently transfected in HEK293 cells and functional assays were performed in order to investigate the effect of the variants on the whole protein expression, nuclear localization and cell overgrowth induction. We identified four CDC73/HRPT2 gene mutations, three germline (c.679_680delAG, p.Val85_Val86del and p.Glu81_Pro84del), one somatic (p.Arg77Pro). In three cases the mutation was located within the Nucleolar Localisation Signals (NoLS). The three NoLS variants led to instability either of the corresponding mutated protein or mRNA or both. When transfected in HEK293 cells, NoLS mutated proteins mislocalized with a predeliction for cytoplasmic or nucleo-cytoplasmic localization and, finally, they resulted in overgrowth, consistent with a dominant negative interfering effect in the presence of the endogenous protein.
PMCID: PMC3855386  PMID: 24340015
13.  Klotho locus, metabolic traits, and serum hemoglobin in hospitalized older patients: a genetic association analysis 
Age  2011;34(4):949-968.
Klotho (KL) gene has been involved in severe alterations of physiological biochemical parameters leading to premature aging-like phenotypes and strikingly shortening lifespan. KL participates to the regulation of a number of intracellular biochemical pathways, including lipid profile and glucose metabolism. Aim of this study was to investigate the possible association between KL locus and biological parameters commonly accepted as indicators of the clinical status in hospitalized older patients. We genotyped the single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs9536314, rs1207568, and rs564481 at the KL locus in 594 hospitalized older patients (65–99 years), consecutively attending a geriatric ward, and tested the association of these KL variants with biological quantitative traits using analyses of covariance and genetic risk score models. Significant associations of rs9536314 with serum levels of hemoglobin, albumin, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) as well as significant associations of rs564481 with serum levels of hemoglobin, fasting insulin, and fasting glucose were observed. Gender-segregated analyses confirmed these associations, and suggested that the associations of KL genotypes with HDL-C, fasting glucose and fasting insulin levels may be driven by the female gender, while the association with serum levels of hemoglobin may be driven by the male gender. The association of KL genotypes with creatinine levels was found only in females, while the association with insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and lymphocytes count (LC) was found only in males. The genetic risk score (GRS) models further confirmed significant associations among KL SNPs and hemoglobin, total cholesterol, and HDL-C. Gender-segregated analyses with the GRS-tagged approach confirmed the associations with HDL-C, fasting glucose, and fasting insulin levels in females, and with hemoglobin and LC in males. Our findings suggested that KL locus may influence quantitative traits such as serum levels of lipid, fasting glucose, albumin and hemoglobin in hospitalized older patients, with some gender differences suggested for creatinine, IGF-1 levels, and LC, thus being one of the genetic factors possibly contributing to age-related diseases and longevity.
PMCID: PMC3682056  PMID: 21695423
Klotho; Chromosome 13; High-density lipoprotein cholesterol; Total cholesterol; Fasting glucose; Fasting insulin; Insulin-like growth factor-1; Hemoglobin; Creatinine; Albumin; Lymphocytes
14.  Idiopathic deep venous thrombosis and arterial endothelial dysfunction in the elderly 
Age  2011;34(3):751-760.
Arterial and venous thrombosis have always been regarded as different pathologies and epidemiological studies have examined the association between venous thrombosis and indicators of atherosclerosis and/or arterial thromboembolic events. We measured the flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a well-known marker of arterial endothelial dysfunction, in young–middle-aged and old-aged patients with and without unprovoked deep venous thrombosis (DVT). The aim of this study was to investigate whether DVT was a significant predictor for impaired FMD, considering all the patients and young–middle-aged (age < 65 years) and old-aged (age ≥ 65 years) patients separately. FMD was measured in the brachial artery on a population of 120 subjects with the same atherosclerosis risk factors, 68 male and 52 female, 70 young–middle-aged subjects (mean age ± SD 49.5 ± 10.5 years) and 50 old-aged subjects (76.2 ± 7.7 years). Patients with DVT showed a significant decrease of FMD compared to patients without DVT (6.8 ± 5.5% vs. 10.9 ± 3.5%, p < 0.001). Moreover, old-aged patients showed a significant decrease of FMD compared to the young–middle-aged subjects (7.4 ± 4.1% vs. 9.8 ± 5.3%, p = 0.005). In the whole study population, DVT was strongly associated with FMD (risk factors adjusted β = −4.14, p < 0.001). A significant interaction between age and the presence of DVT on predicting FMD was found (p = 0.003) suggesting a differential behavior of DVT as predictor of FMD. In young–middle-aged group, multivariate model confirmed that DVT was the most significant predictor of continuous FMD (β = −6.06, p < 0.001). On the contrary, DVT was no more a predictor of FMD in the old age group (β = −0.73, p=0.556). Furthermore, old-aged patients without DVT showed a statistically significant decrease of FMD compared to the young–middle-aged subjects without DVT (8.2±2.1% vs. 12.6±2.7%, p<0.001) and old-aged patients with DVT showed a not statistically significant decrease of the FMD compared to the young–middle-aged patients with DVT (6.7±5.3% vs. 6.8±5.7%, p = 0.932). In conclusion, young–middle-aged patients with spontaneous DVT show an impaired FMD, whereas this impairment in old-aged subjects is evident independently from the presence or absence of DVT. Aging per se may be associated with physiologic abnormalities in the systemic arteries and with endothelial dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3337930  PMID: 21598017
Endothelial dysfunction; Venous thrombosis; Atherosclerosis; Flow-mediated dilation; Aging; Life Sciences; Molecular Medicine; Geriatrics/Gerontology; Cell Biology
15.  Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) genotypes and disability in hospitalized older patients 
Age  2010;33(3):409-419.
The association between angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) genotypes and functional decline in older adults remains controversial. To assess if ACE gene variations influences functional abilities at older age, the present study explored the association between the common ACE insertion/deletion (I/D) polymorphism and disability measured with activities of daily living (ADL) in hospitalized older patients. We analyzed the frequency of the ACE genotypes (I/I, I/D, and D/D) in a population of 2,128 hospitalized older patients divided according to presence or absence of ADL disability. Logistic regression analysis adjusted for possible confounding factors, identified an association between the I/I genotype with ADL disability (OR = 1.54, 95% CI 1.04–2.29). This association was significant in men (OR = 2.01, 95% CI 1.07–3.78), but not in women (OR = 1.36, 95% CI 0.82–2.25). These results suggested a possible role of the ACE polymorphism as a genetic marker for ADL disability in hospitalized older patients.
PMCID: PMC3168594  PMID: 21076879
Angiotensin-converting enzyme; Disability; Aging; Hospitalized patients
16.  Correlations among PPARγ, DNMT1, and DNMT3B Expression Levels and Pancreatic Cancer 
PPAR Research  2012;2012:461784.
Emerging evidence indicates that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) and DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) play a role in carcinogenesis. In this study we aimed to evaluate the expression of PPARγ, DNMT1, and DNMT3B and their correlation with clinical-pathological features in patients with pancreatic cancer (PC), and to define the effect of PPARγ activation on DNMTs expression in PC cell lines. qRT-PCR analysis showed that DNMT3B expression was downregulated in tumors compared to normal tissues (P = 0.03), whereas PPARγ and DNMT1 levels did not show significant alterations in PC patients. Expression levels between PPARγ and DNMT1 and between DNMT1 and DNMT3B were highly correlated (P = 0.008 and P = 0.05 resp.). DNMT3B overexpression in tumor tissue was positively correlated with both lymph nodes spreading (P = 0.046) and resection margin status (P = 0.04), and a borderline association with perineural invasion (P = 0.06) was found. Furthermore, high levels of DNMT3B expression were significantly associated with a lower mortality in the whole population (HR = 0.485; 95%CI = 0.262–0.895, P = 0.02) and in the subgroup of patients without perineural invasion (HR = 0.314; 95%CI = 0.130–0.758; P = 0.01), while such association was not observed in patients with tumor invasion into perineural structures (P = 0.70). In conclusion, in vitro and in vivo PPARγ and DNMTs appear interrelated in PC, and this interaction might influence cell phenotype and disease behavior.
PMCID: PMC3423985  PMID: 22919364
17.  The Cortical Signature of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42816.
The aim of this study was to explore the pattern of regional cortical thickness in patients with non-familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and to investigate whether cortical thinning is associated with disease progression rate. Cortical thickness analysis was performed in 44 ALS patients and 26 healthy controls. Group differences in cortical thickness and the age-by-group effects were assessed using vertex-by-vertex and multivariate linear models. The discriminatory ability of MRI variables in distinguishing patients from controls was estimated using the Concordance Statistics (C-statistic) within logistic regression analyses. Correlations between cortical thickness measures and disease progression rate were tested using the Pearson coefficient. Relative to controls, ALS patients showed a bilateral cortical thinning of the primary motor, prefrontal and ventral frontal cortices, cingulate gyrus, insula, superior and inferior temporal and parietal regions, and medial and lateral occipital areas. There was a significant age-by-group effect in the sensorimotor cortices bilaterally, suggesting a stronger association between age and cortical thinning in ALS patients compared to controls. The mean cortical thickness of the sensorimotor cortices distinguished patients with ALS from controls (C-statistic ≥0.74). Cortical thinning of the left sensorimotor cortices was related to a faster clinical progression (r = −0.33, p = 0.03). Cortical thickness measurements allowed the detection and quantification of motor and extramotor involvement in patients with ALS. Cortical thinning of the precentral gyrus might offer a marker of upper motor neuron involvement and disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3412820  PMID: 22880116
18.  Effect of Obesity, Serum Lipoproteins, and Apolipoprotein E Genotypes on Mortality in Hospitalized Elderly Patients 
Rejuvenation Research  2011;14(2):111-118.
The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship among apolipoprotein E (APOE) polymorphism, body mass index (BMI), and dyslipidemia and how these factors modify overall mortality in a cohort of hospitalized elderly patients.
Plasma concentrations of total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), BMI, and APOE genotype were evaluated in 1,012 hospitalized elderly patients, who were stratified into three groups according to their baseline BMI and APOE allele status. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to assess whether APOE genotype, BMI, and dyslipidemia are associated with mortality, adjusting for potential confounders. Interaction analysis was also performed.
Obese patients have significantly higher levels of TC and LDL-C compared to normal-weight and overweight subjects, for both sexes. APOE ε4 carriers have significantly higher levels of TC and LDL-C compared with ε2 and ε3 carrier both in males and females. Interaction analysis showed that women with TC < 180 mg/dL, LDL-C < 100 mg/dL, normal weight, and ε3 carrier (odds ratio [OR] = 3.42, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.36–8.60) and men with LDL-C < 100 mg/dL, HDL-C < 40 mg/dL, and ε3 carrier (OR = 1.97, 95% CI 1.04–3.74) were at highest risk of mortality.
In elderly hospitalized patients, obesity and APOE genotype influence the lipid profile and mortality risk. A significant interaction among BMI, dyslipidemia, and APOE genotype was observed that could identify elderly patients with different risks of mortality.
PMCID: PMC3092981  PMID: 21595502
19.  Mirna Expression Profiles Identify Drivers in Colorectal and Pancreatic Cancers 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33663.
Background and Aim
Altered expression of microRNAs (miRNAs) hallmarks many cancer types. The study of the associations of miRNA expression profile and cancer phenotype could help identify the links between deregulation of miRNA expression and oncogenic pathways.
Expression profiling of 866 human miRNAs in 19 colorectal and 17 pancreatic cancers and in matched adjacent normal tissues was investigated. Classical paired t-test and random forest analyses were applied to identify miRNAs associated with tissue-specific tumors. Network analysis based on a computational approach to mine associations between cancer types and miRNAs was performed.
The merge between the two statistical methods used to intersect the miRNAs differentially expressed in colon and pancreatic cancers allowed the identification of cancer-specific miRNA alterations. By miRNA-network analysis, tissue-specific patterns of miRNA deregulation were traced: the driving miRNAs were miR-195, miR-1280, miR-140-3p and miR-1246 in colorectal tumors, and miR-103, miR-23a and miR-15b in pancreatic cancers.
MiRNA expression profiles may identify cancer-specific signatures and potentially useful biomarkers for the diagnosis of tissue specific cancers. miRNA-network analysis help identify altered miRNA regulatory networks that could play a role in tumor pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3316496  PMID: 22479426
20.  The ENPP1 Q121 Variant Predicts Major Cardiovascular Events in High-Risk Individuals 
Diabetes  2011;60(3):1000-1007.
Insulin resistance (IR) and cardiovascular disease may share a common genetic background. We investigated the role of IR-associated ENPP1 K121Q polymorphism (rs1044498) on cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals.
A prospective study (average follow-up, 37 months) was conducted for major cardiovascular events (myocardial infarction [MI], stroke, cardiovascular death) from the Gargano Heart Study (GHS; n = 330 with type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease), the Tor Vergata Atherosclerosis Study (TVAS; n = 141 who had MI), and the Cardiovascular Risk Extended Evaluation in Dialysis (CREED) database (n = 266 with end-stage renal disease). Age at MI was investigated in cross-sectional studies of 339 type 2 diabetic patients (n = 169 from Italy, n = 170 from the U.S.).
Incidence of cardiovascular events per 100 person--years was 4.2 in GHS, 10.8 in TVAS, and 11.7 in CREED. Hazard ratios (HRs) for KQ+QQ versus individuals carrying the K121/K121 genotype (KK) individuals were 1.47 (95% CI 0.80–2.70) in GHS, 2.31 (95% CI 1.22–4.34) in TVAS, and 1.36 (95% CI 0.88–2.10) in CREED, and 1.56 (95% CI 1.15–2.12) in the three cohorts combined. In the 395 diabetic patients, the Q121 variant predicted cardiovascular events among obese but not among nonobese individuals (HR 5.94 vs. 0.62, P = 0.003 for interaction). A similar synergism was observed in cross-sectional studies, with age at MI being 3 years younger in Q121 carriers than in KK homozygotes among obese but not among nonobese patients (P = 0.035 for interaction).
The ENPP1 K121Q polymorphism is an independent predictor of major cardiovascular events in high-risk individuals. In type 2 diabetes, this effect is exacerbated by obesity. Future larger studies are needed to confirm our finding.
PMCID: PMC3046818  PMID: 21282363
21.  Regulation of KEAP1 expression by promoter methylation in malignant gliomas and association with patient's outcome 
Epigenetics  2011;6(3):317-325.
In light with the view that KEAP1 loss of function may impact tumor behavior and modify response to chemotherapeutical agents, we sought to determine whether KEAP1 gene is epigenetically regulated in malignant gliomas. We developed a Quantitative Methylation Specific PCR (QMSP) assay to analyze 86 malignant gliomas and 20 normal brain tissues. The discriminatory power of the assay was assessed by Receiving Operating Characteristics (ROC) curve analysis. The AUC value of the curve was 0.823 (95% CI: 0.764–0.883) with an optimal cut off value of 0.133 yielding a 74% sensitivity (95% CI: 63–82%) and an 85% specificity (95% CI: 64–95%). Bisulfite sequencing analysis confirmed QMSP results and demonstrated a direct correlation between percentage of methylated CpGs and methylation levels (Spearman's Rho 0.929, p = 0.003). Remarkably, a strong inverse correlation was observed between methylation levels and KEAP1 mRNA transcript in tumor tissue (Spearman's Rho −0.656 p = 0.0001) and in a cell line before and after treatment with 2-deoxy-5-azacytidine (p = 0.003). RECPAM multivariate statistical analysis studying the interaction between MGMT and KEAP1 methylation in subjects treated with radiotherapy and temozolomide (n = 70), identified three prognostic classes of glioma patients at different risk to progress. While simultaneous methylation of MGMT and KEAP1 promoters was associated with the lowest risk to progress, patients showing only MGMT methylation were the subgroup at the higher risk (HR 5.54, 95% CI 1.35–22.74). Our results further suggest that KEAP1 expression is epigenetically regulated. In addition we demonstrated that KEAP1 is frequently methylated in malignant gliomas and a predictor of patient's outcome.
PMCID: PMC3092680  PMID: 21173573
glioma; KEAP1; NRF2; chemotherapy; radiotherapy; prognosis
22.  Addition of the Multidimensional Prognostic Index to the Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate Improves Prediction of Long-Term All-Cause Mortality in Older Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease 
Rejuvenation Research  2012;15(1):82-88.
Current prognostic scores of chronic kidney disease (CKD) are not accurate in older patients. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prognostic accuracy of the Multidimensional Prognostic Index (MPI) in comparison with and in addition to the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) to predict long-term all-cause mortality in hospitalized older patients with CKD. In a prospective cohort study with a mean follow-up of 2 years, we calculated eGFR according to the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease study and collected information on functional, cognitive, nutritional, co-morbidities, drug use, and co-habitation status to calculate the MPI on 1,198 patients aged ≥65 years with a diagnosis of CKD from an hospital-based sample. The all-cause mortality incidence rate for 100 person-years was 18.3 (men 22.7 vs. women 15.3, p<0.0001). Adding the MPI to the eGFR model significantly improved all-cause mortality prediction accuracy: The C-index increased from 0.579 to 0.648 (p<0.0001), with correct reclassification of 25.9% of patients (Net Reclassification Improvement [NRI], 0.259, p<0.0001; Integrated Discrimination Improvement [IDI], 3.8%, p<0.0001). The correct reclassification was higher in patients who did not die (259/741 patients, reclassification rate=34.9%) than in patients who died (62/457 patients, reclassification rate=13.6%). Conversely, adding the eGFR to the MPI model seems to improve prediction accuracy less consistently. In fact, the C-index increased, but not significantly (from 0.639 to 0.648, p=0.444), with correct reclassification of 5.8% of patients (NRI, 0.058, p=0.012; IDI, 0.009, p=0.001), suggesting a small, although significant improvement. Adding MPI information to the eGFR markedly improved the prediction of 2-year all-cause mortality in older patients with CKD. A multidimensional evaluation for all-cause mortality risk prediction should be considered in older patients with CKD.
PMCID: PMC3962642  PMID: 22352434
23.  Apolipoprotein E-related all-cause mortality in hospitalized elderly patients 
Age  2010;32(3):411-420.
The most common apolipoprotein E (APOE) allelic variation is implicated in many age-related diseases and human longevity with controversial findings. We investigated the effect of APOE gene polymorphism on all-cause mortality in elderly patients taking into consideration the functional disability, cognitive impairment, malnutrition, and the occurrence of common age-related diseases. APOE genotypes were determined in 2,124 geriatric hospitalized patients (46.5% men and 53.5% women; mean age, 78.2 ± 7.1 years; range, 65–100 years). At hospital admission, all patients underwent a comprehensive geriatric assessment to evaluate functional disability, cognitive status, nutritional status, and comorbidity. The main and secondary diagnoses at hospital discharge were also recorded. Mortality status was evaluated in all patients after a maximum follow-up of 5 years (range, from 1.26 to 5.23 years; median, 2.86 years). During the study period, 671 patients died (32.0%). At hospital admission, these patients showed a significant higher prevalence of cardiovascular diseases (56.3% vs 53.4%; p = 0.007), neoplasias (32.3% vs 13.7%; p < 0.001), and lower prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases (17.7% vs 20.7%; p < 0.001) than survived patients. Moreover, they also showed an higher prevalence of disability (52.0% vs 25.6%; p < 0.001), cognitive impairment (31.0% vs 18.8%; p < 0.001), and malnutrition (74.0% vs 46.1%; p < 0.001) than survived patients. In the overall study population, the APOE ε2 allele was significantly associated to neurodegenerative diseases (odds ratio = 0.59; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.37–0.94). No significant association between the APOE polymorphism and disability, malnutrition, co-morbidity status, and with all-cause mortality was observed. In patients with cardiovascular diseases, however, a decreased risk of all-cause mortality was found in the ε2 allele carriers (hazard ratio = 0.56; 95% CI, 0.36–0.88). In this population, APOE allele variants might play a role on cardiovascular disease-related mortality.
PMCID: PMC2926860  PMID: 20640544
Apolipoprotein E; Mortality; Cardiovascular aging; Dementia
24.  A new locus on 3p23–p25 for an autosomal-dominant limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, LGMD1H 
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophies (LGMDs) are a genetically heterogeneous group of neuromuscular disorders with a selective or predominant involvement of shoulder and pelvic girdles. We clinically examined 19 members in a four-generation Italian family with autosomal-dominant LGMD. A total of 11 subjects were affected. Clinical findings showed variable expressivity in terms of age at onset and disease severity. Five subjects presented with a slowly progressive proximal muscle weakness, in both upper and lower limbs, with onset during the fourth–fifth decade of life, which fulfilled the consensus diagnostic criteria for LGMD. Earlier onset of the disease was observed in a group of patients presenting with muscle weakness and/or calf hypertrophy, and/or occasionally high CK and lactate serum levels. Two muscle biopsies showed morphological findings compatible with MD associated with subsarcolemmal accumulation of mitochondria and the presence of multiple mitochondrial DNA deletions. A genome-wide scan performed using microsatellite markers mapped the disease on chromosome 3p23–p25.1 locus in a 25-cM region between markers D3S1263 and D3S3685. The highest two-point LOD score was 3.26 (θ=0) at marker D3S1286 and D3S3613, whereas non-parametric analysis reached a P-value=0.0004. Four candidate genes within the refined region were analysed but did not reveal any mutations. Our findings further expand the clinical and genetic heterogeneity of LGMDs.
PMCID: PMC2987336  PMID: 20068593
autosomal-dominant limb-girdle muscular dystrophy; multiple mtDNA deletions; linkage analysis; chromosome 3
25.  High Specificity of Quantitative Methylation-Specific PCR Analysis for MGMT Promoter Hypermethylation Detection in Gliomas 
Normal brain tissue from 28 individuals and 50 glioma samples were analyzed by real-time Quantitative Methylation-Specific PCR (QMSP). Data from this analysis were compared with results obtained on the same samples by MSP. QMSP analysis demonstrated a statistically significant difference in both methylation level (P = .000009 Mann Whitney Test) and frequencies (P = .0000007, Z-test) in tumour samples as compared with normal brain tissues. Although QMSP and MSP showed similar sensitivity, the specificity of QMSP analysis was significantly higher (93%; CI95%: 84%–100%) as compared with MSP (64%; 95%CI: 46%–82%). Our results suggest that QMSP analysis may represent a powerful tool to identify glioma patients that will benefit from alkylating agents chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2688744  PMID: 19503806

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