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1.  Relationships between pulmonary micro-RNA and proteome profiles, systemic cytogenetic damage and lung tumors in cigarette smoke-exposed mice treated with chemopreventive agents 
Carcinogenesis  2013;34(10):2322-2329.
Assessing the correlation between molecular endpoints and cancer induction or prevention aims at validating the use of intermediate biomarkers. We previously developed murine models that are suitable to detect both the carcinogenicity of mainstream cigarette smoke (MCS) and the induction of molecular alterations. In this study, we used 931 Swiss mice in two parallel experiments and in a preliminary toxicity study. The chemopreventive agents included vorinostat, myo-inositol, bexarotene, pioglitazone and a combination of bexarotene and pioglitazone. Pulmonary micro-RNAs and proteins were evaluated by microarray analyses at 10 weeks of age in male and female mice, either unexposed or exposed to MCS since birth, and either untreated or receiving each one of the five chemopreventive regimens with the diet after weaning. At 4 months of age, the frequency of micronucleated normochromatic erythrocytes was evaluated. At 7 months, the lungs were subjected to standard histopathological analysis. The results showed that exposure to MCS significantly downregulated the expression of 79 of 694 lung micro-RNAs (11.4%) and upregulated 66 of 1164 proteins (5.7%). Administration of chemopreventive agents modulated the baseline micro-RNA and proteome profiles and reversed several MCS-induced alterations, with some intergender differences. The stronger protective effects were produced by the combination of bexarotene and pioglitazone, which also inhibited the MCS-induced clastogenic damage and the yield of malignant tumors. Pioglitazone alone increased the yield of lung adenomas. Thus, micro-RNAs, proteins, cytogenetic damage and lung tumors were closely related. The molecular biomarkers contributed to evaluate both protective and adverse effects of chemopreventive agents and highlighted the mechanisms involved.
PMCID: PMC3786376  PMID: 23708261
2.  Oxidative Damage and Autophagy in the Human Trabecular Meshwork as Related with Ageing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98106.
Autophagy is an intracellular lysosomal degradation process induced under stress conditions. Autophagy also plays a major role in ocular patho-physiology. Molecular aging does occur in the trabecular meshwork, the main regulator of aqueous humor outflow, and trabecular meshwork senescence is accompanied by increased oxidative stress. However, the role of autophagy in trabecular meshwork patho-physiology has not yet been examined in vivo in human ocular tissues. The purpose of the herein presented study is to evaluate autophagy occurrence in ex-vivo collected human trabecular meshwork specimens and to evaluate the relationship between autophagy, oxidative stress, and aging in this tissue. Fresh trabecular meshwork specimens were collected from 28 healthy corneal donors devoid of ocular pathologies and oxidative DNA damage, and LC3 and p62 protein expression analyzed. In a subset of 10 subjects, further to trabecular meshwork proteins, the amounts of cathepesin L and ubiquitin was analyzed by antibody microarray in aqueous humor. Obtained results demonstrate that autophagy activation, measured by LC3II/I ratio, is related with. oxidative damage occurrence during aging in human trabecular meshwork. The expression of autophagy marker p62 was lower in subjects older than 60 years as compared to younger subjects. These findings reflect the occurrence of an agedependent increase in the autophagy as occurring in the trabecular meshwork. Furthermore, we showed that aging promotes trabecular-meshwork senescence due to increased oxidative stress paralleled by autophagy increase. Indeed, both oxidative DNA damage and autophagy were more abundant in subjects older than 60 years. These findings shed new light on the role of oxidative damage and autophagy during trabecular-meshwork aging.
PMCID: PMC4063984  PMID: 24945152
3.  Modulation by metformin of molecular and histopathological alterations in the lung of cigarette smoke-exposed mice 
Cancer Medicine  2014;3(3):719-730.
The anti-diabetic drug metformin is endowed with anti-cancer properties. Epidemiological and experimental studies, however, did not provide univocal results regarding its role in pulmonary carcinogenesis. We used Swiss H mice of both genders in order to detect early molecular alterations and tumors induced by mainstream cigarette smoke. Based on a subchronic toxicity study, oral metformin was used at a dose of 800 mg/kg diet, which is 3.2 times higher than the therapeutic dose in humans. Exposure of mice to smoke for 4 months, starting at birth, induced a systemic clastogenic damage, formation of DNA adducts, oxidative DNA damage, and extensive downregulation of microRNAs in lung after 10 weeks. Preneoplastic lesions were detectable after 7.5 months in both lung and urinary tract along with lung tumors, both benign and malignant. Modulation by metformin of 42 of 1281 pulmonary microRNAs in smoke-free mice highlighted a variety of mechanisms, including modulation of AMPK, stress response, inflammation, NFκB, Tlr9, Tgf, p53, cell cycle, apoptosis, antioxidant pathways, Ras, Myc, Dicer, angiogenesis, stem cell recruitment, and angiogenesis. In smoke-exposed mice, metformin considerably decreased DNA adduct levels and oxidative DNA damage, and normalized the expression of several microRNAs. It did not prevent smoke-induced lung tumors but inhibited preneoplastic lesions in both lung and kidney. In conclusion, metformin was able to protect the mouse lung from smoke-induced DNA and microRNA alterations and to inhibit preneoplastic lesions in lung and kidney but failed to prevent lung adenomas and malignant tumors induced by this complex mixture.
PMCID: PMC4101764  PMID: 24683044
Cigarette smoke; DNA damage; lung tumors; metformin; microRNAs
4.  Complex Relationships between Occupation, Environment, DNA Adducts, Genetic Polymorphisms and Bladder Cancer in a Case-Control Study Using a Structural Equation Modeling 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94566.
DNA adducts are considered an integrate measure of carcinogen exposure and the initial step of carcinogenesis. Their levels in more accessible peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) mirror that in the bladder tissue. In this study we explore whether the formation of PBL DNA adducts may be associated with bladder cancer (BC) risk, and how this relationship is modulated by genetic polymorphisms, environmental and occupational risk factors for BC. These complex interrelationships, including direct and indirect effects of each variable, were appraised using the structural equation modeling (SEM) analysis. Within the framework of a hospital-based case/control study, study population included 199 BC cases and 213 non-cancer controls, all Caucasian males. Data were collected on lifetime smoking, coffee drinking, dietary habits and lifetime occupation, with particular reference to exposure to aromatic amines (AAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). No indirect paths were found, disproving hypothesis on association between PBL DNA adducts and BC risk. DNA adducts were instead positively associated with occupational cumulative exposure to AAs (p = 0.028), whereas XRCC1 Arg 399 (p<0.006) was related with a decreased adduct levels, but with no impact on BC risk. Previous findings on increased BC risk by packyears (p<0.001), coffee (p<0.001), cumulative AAs exposure (p = 0.041) and MnSOD (p = 0.009) and a decreased risk by MPO (p<0.008) were also confirmed by SEM analysis. Our results for the first time make evident an association between occupational cumulative exposure to AAs with DNA adducts and BC risk, strengthening the central role of AAs in bladder carcinogenesis. However the lack of an association between PBL DNA adducts and BC risk advises that these snapshot measurements are not representative of relevant exposures. This would envisage new scenarios for biomarker discovery and new challenges such as repeated measurements at different critical life stages.
PMCID: PMC3983188  PMID: 24722645
5.  Accelerated Repair and Reduced Mutagenicity of DNA Damage Induced by Cigarette Smoke in Human Bronchial Cells Transfected with E.coli Formamidopyrimidine DNA Glycosylase 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87984.
Cigarette smoke (CS) is associated to a number of pathologies including lung cancer. Its mutagenic and carcinogenic effects are partially linked to the presence of reactive oxygen species and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) inducing DNA damage. The bacterial DNA repair enzyme formamidopyrimidine DNA glycosylase (FPG) repairs both oxidized bases and different types of bulky DNA adducts. We investigated in vitro whether FPG expression may enhance DNA repair of CS-damaged DNA and counteract the mutagenic effects of CS in human lung cells. NCI-H727 non small cell lung carcinoma cells were transfected with a plasmid vector expressing FPG fused to the Enhanced Green Fluorescent Protein (EGFP). Cells expressing the fusion protein EGFP-FPG displayed accelerated repair of adducts and DNA breaks induced by CS condensate. The mutant frequencies induced by low concentrations of CS condensate to the Na+K+-ATPase locus (ouar) were significantly reduced in cells expressing EGFP-FPG. Hence, expression of the bacterial DNA repair protein FPG stably protects human lung cells from the mutagenic effects of CS by improving cells’ capacity to repair damaged DNA.
PMCID: PMC3909288  PMID: 24498234
6.  MicroRNAs in cancer treatment and prognosis 
Disturbances in microRNA expression by epigenetic alterations and mutations may promote not only tumorigenesis but also tumor aggressiveness, invasion, metastasis, and resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Several studies have profiled microRNA expression in normal and tumorigenic tissues, demonstrating a unique microRNA signature, which can be used as a marker for cancer diagnosis and prognosis. This review discusses the importance of microRNAs as regulatory biomolecules involved in cancer, focusing on microRNAs related to cancer invasion, metastasis, epigenetic alterations, chemoresistance, and radioresistance. The identification of both differentially expressed microRNAs in tumors and their target genes provides new tools for gene therapy; the re-expression of microRNAs silenced by cancer development or the silencing of oncogenic microRNAs can be effective in the blockade of cancer-related cell proliferation.
PMCID: PMC3410578  PMID: 22860232
MicroRNA; epigenetic modifications; metastasis; chemotherapy; radiotherapy
7.  Trabecular Meshwork Gene Expression after Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e20110.
Trabecular meshwork and Schlemm's canal are the tissues appointed to modulate the aqueous humour outflow from the anterior chamber. The impairment of their functions drives to an intraocular pressure increase. The selective laser trabeculoplasty is a laser therapy of the trabecular meshwork able to decrease intraocular pressure. The exact response mechanism to this treatment has not been clearly delineated yet. The herein presented study is aimed at studying the gene expression changes induced in trabecular meshwork cells by selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) in order to better understand the mechanisms subtending its efficacy.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Primary human trabecular meshwork cells cultured in fibroblast medium underwent selective laser trabeculoplasty treatment. RNA was extracted from a pool of cells 30 minutes after treatment while the remaining cells were further cultured and RNA was extracted respectively 2 and 6 hours after treatment. Control cells stored in incubator in absence of SLT treatment were used as reference samples. Gene expression was evaluated by hybridization on miRNA-microarray and laser scanner analysis. Scanning electron microscopic examination was performed on 2 Trabecular meshwork samples after SLT at 4th and 6th hour from treatment. On the whole, selective laser trabeculoplasty modulates in trabecular meshwork the expression of genes involved in cell motility, intercellular connections, extracellular matrix production, protein repair, DNA repair, membrane repair, reactive oxygen species production, glutamate toxicity, antioxidant activities, and inflammation.
SLT did not induce any phenotypic alteration in TM samples. TM is a complex tissue possessing a great variety of function pivotal for the active regulation of aqueous humour outflow from the anterior chamber. SLT is able to modulate these functions at the postgenomic molecular level without inducing damage either at molecular or phenotypic levels.
PMCID: PMC3128580  PMID: 21747927
8.  Modulation of microRNA expression by budesonide, phenethyl isothiocyanate and cigarette smoke in mouse liver and lung 
Carcinogenesis  2010;31(5):894-901.
Although microRNAs (miRNA) have extensively been investigated in cancer research, less attention has been paid to their regulation by carcinogens and/or protective factors in early stages of the carcinogenesis process. The present study was designed to evaluate the modulation of mRNA expression as related to exposure of neonatal mice to environmental cigarette smoke (ECS) and to treatment with chemopreventive agents. Exposure to ECS started immediately after birth and for 2 weeks after weaning. Thereafter, groups of mice received daily either budesonide (BUD) or phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) with the diet. The expression of 576 miRNAs was evaluated by miRNA microarray in liver and lung. In sham-exposed mice, the expression of miRNAs tended to be higher in liver than in lung. ECS downregulated the expression of a number of miRNAs in lung, whereas mixed alterations were observed in liver. PEITC and BUD did not substantially affect the physiological situation in lung, whereas both agents caused intense variations in liver, reflecting the occurrence of damage mechanisms, such as inflammation, DNA and protein damage, cellular stress, proliferation and apoptosis. PEITC and BUD protected the lung from ECS-induced alterations of miRNA expression but exhibited some adverse effects in liver.
PMCID: PMC2864411  PMID: 20145010
9.  Mitochondrial Damage in the Trabecular Meshwork Occurs Only in Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma and in Pseudoexfoliative Glaucoma 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e14567.
Open-angle glaucoma appears to be induced by the malfunction of the trabecular meshwork cells due to injury induced by oxidative damage and mitochondrial impairment. Here, we report that, in fact, we have detected mitochondrial damage only in primary open-angle glaucoma and pseudo-exfoliation glaucoma, among several glaucoma types compared.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Mitochondrial damage was evaluated by analyzing the common mitochondrial DNA deletion by real-time PCR in trabecular meshwork specimens collected at surgery from glaucomatous patients and controls. Glaucomatous patients included 38 patients affected by various glaucoma types: primary open-angle, pigmented, juvenile, congenital, pseudoexfoliative, acute, neovascular, and chronic closed-angle glaucoma. As control samples, we used 16 specimens collected from glaucoma-free corneal donors. Only primary open-angle glaucoma (3.0-fold) and pseudoexfoliative glaucoma (6.3-fold) showed significant increases in the amount of mitochondrial DNA deletion. In all other cases, deletion was similar to controls.
Despite the fact that the trabecular meshwork is the most important tissue in the physiopathology of aqueous humor outflow in all glaucoma types, the present study provides new information regarding basic physiopathology of this tissue: only in primary open-angle and pseudoexfoliative glaucomas oxidative damage arising from mitochondrial failure play a role in the functional decay of trabecular meshwork.
PMCID: PMC3024391  PMID: 21283745
10.  MicroRNAs: Modulators of Cell Identity, and their Applications in Tissue Engineering 
MicroRNAs post-transcriptionally regulate the expression of approximately 60% of the mammalian genes, and have an important role in maintaining the differentiated state of somatic cells through the expression of unique tissue-specific microRNA sets. Likewise, the stemness of pluripotent cells is also sustained by embryonic stem cell-enriched microRNAs, which regulate genes involved in cell cycle, cell signaling and epigenetics, among others. Thus, microRNAs work as modulator molecules that ensure the appropriate expression profile of each cell type. Manipulation of microRNA expression might determine the cell fate. Indeed, microRNA-mediated reprogramming can change the differentiated status of somatic cells towards stemness or, conversely, microRNAs can also transform stem- into differentiated-cells both in vitro and in vivo. In this Review, we outline what is currently known in this field, focusing on the applications of microRNA in tissue engineering.
PMCID: PMC4262937  PMID: 25069512
Cell fate; ESC; iPSC; microRNA; stemness; tissue engineering.

Results 1-10 (10)