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1.  Epigenetic Regulation of miR-17∼92 Contributes to the Pathogenesis of Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Rationale: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a disease of progressive lung fibrosis with a high mortality rate. In organ repair and remodeling, epigenetic events are important. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally and can target epigenetic molecules important in DNA methylation. The miR-17∼92 miRNA cluster is critical for lung development and lung epithelial cell homeostasis and is predicted to target fibrotic genes and DNA methyltransferase (DNMT)-1 expression.
Objectives: We investigated the miR-17∼92 cluster expression and its role in regulating DNA methylation events in IPF lung tissue.
Methods: Expression and DNA methylation patterns of miR-17∼92 were determined in human IPF lung tissue and fibroblasts and fibrotic mouse lung tissue. The relationship between the miR-17∼92 cluster and DNMT-1 expression was examined in vitro. Using a murine model of pulmonary fibrosis, we examined the therapeutic potential of the demethylating agent, 5′-aza-2′-deoxycytidine.
Measurements and Main Results: Compared with control samples, miR-17∼92 expression was reduced in lung biopsies and lung fibroblasts from patients with IPF, whereas DNMT-1 expression and methylation of the miR-17∼92 promoter was increased. Several miRNAs from the miR-17∼92 cluster targeted DNMT-1 expression resulting in a negative feedback loop. Similarly, miR-17∼92 expression was reduced in the lungs of bleomycin-treated mice. Treatment with 5′-aza-2′-deoxycytidine in a murine bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis model reduced fibrotic gene and DNMT-1 expression, enhanced miR-17∼92 cluster expression, and attenuated pulmonary fibrosis.
Conclusions: This study provides insight into the pathobiology of IPF and identifies a novel epigenetic feedback loop between miR-17∼92 and DNMT-1 in lung fibrosis.
doi:10.1164/rccm.201205-0888OC
PMCID: PMC3603596  PMID: 23306545
microRNA; miR-17∼92; pulmonary fibrosis; DNA methylation; DNMT-1
2.  Ets2 in Tumor Fibroblasts Promotes Angiogenesis in Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71533.
Tumor fibroblasts are active partners in tumor progression, but the genes and pathways that mediate this collaboration are ill-defined. Previous work demonstrates that Ets2 function in stromal cells significantly contributes to breast tumor progression. Conditional mouse models were used to study the function of Ets2 in both mammary stromal fibroblasts and epithelial cells. Conditional inactivation of Ets2 in stromal fibroblasts in PyMT and ErbB2 driven tumors significantly reduced tumor growth, however deletion of Ets2 in epithelial cells in the PyMT model had no significant effect. Analysis of gene expression in fibroblasts revealed a tumor- and Ets2-dependent gene signature that was enriched in genes important for ECM remodeling, cell migration, and angiogenesis in both PyMT and ErbB2 driven-tumors. Consistent with these results, PyMT and ErbB2 tumors lacking Ets2 in fibroblasts had fewer functional blood vessels, and Ets2 in fibroblasts elicited changes in gene expression in tumor endothelial cells consistent with this phenotype. An in vivo angiogenesis assay revealed the ability of Ets2 in fibroblasts to promote blood vessel formation in the absence of tumor cells. Importantly, the Ets2-dependent gene expression signatures from both mouse models were able to distinguish human breast tumor stroma from normal stroma, and correlated with patient outcomes in two whole tumor breast cancer data sets. The data reveals a key function for Ets2 in tumor fibroblasts in signaling to endothelial cells to promote tumor angiogenesis. The results highlight the collaborative networks that orchestrate communication between stromal cells and tumor cells, and suggest that targeting tumor fibroblasts may be an effective strategy for developing novel anti-angiogenic therapies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071533
PMCID: PMC3745457  PMID: 23977064
3.  Transcription Factor ets-2 Plays an Important Role in the Pathogenesis of Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Ets-2 is a ubiquitous transcription factor activated after phosphorylation at threonine-72. Previous studies highlighted the importance of phosphorylated ets-2 in lung inflammation and extracellular matrix remodeling, two pathways involved in pulmonary fibrosis. We hypothesized that phosphorylated ets-2 played an important role in pulmonary fibrosis, and we sought to determine the role of ets-2 in its pathogenesis. We challenged ets-2 (A72/A72) transgenic mice (harboring a mutated form of ets-2 at phosphorylation site threonine-72) and ets-2 (wild-type/wild-type [WT/WT]) control mice with sequential intraperitoneal injections of bleomycin, followed by quantitative measurements of lung fibrosis and inflammation and primary cell in vitro assays. Concentrations of phosphorylated ets-2 were detected via the single and dual immunohistochemical staining of murine lungs and lung sections from patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Ets-2 (A72/A72) mice were protected from bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis, compared with ets-2 (WT/WT) mice. This protection was characterized by decreased lung pathological abnormalities and the fibrotic gene expression of Type I collagen, Type III collagen, α–smooth muscle actin, and connective tissue growth factor. Immunohistochemical staining of lung sections from bleomycin-treated ets-2 (WT/WT) mice and from patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis demonstrated increased staining of phosphorylated ets-2 that colocalized with Type I collagen expression and to fibroblastic foci. Lastly, primary lung fibroblasts from ets-2 (A72/A72) mice exhibited decreased expression of Type I collagen in response to stimulation with TGF-β, compared with fibroblasts from ets-2 (WT/WT) mice. These data indicate the importance of phosphorylated ets-2 in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis through the expression of Type I collagen and (myo)fibroblast activation.
doi:10.1165/rcmb.2010-0490OC
PMCID: PMC3262682  PMID: 21562315
ets-2; Type I collagen; pulmonary fibrosis; bleomycin; fibroblast
4.  Pten in Stromal Fibroblasts Suppresses Mammary Epithelial Tumors 
Nature  2009;461(7267):1084-1091.
SUMMARY
The tumor stroma is believed to contribute to some of the most malignant characteristics of epithelial tumors. However, signaling between stromal and tumor cells is complex and remains poorly understood. Here we show that the genetic inactivation of Pten in stromal fibroblasts of mouse mammary glands accelerated the initiation, progression and malignant transformation of mammary epithelial tumors. This was associated with the massive remodeling of the extra-cellular matrix (ECM), innate immune cell infiltration and increased angiogenesis. Loss of Pten in stromal fibroblasts led to increased expression, phosphorylation (T72) and recruitment of Ets2 to target promoters known to be involved in these processes. Remarkably, Ets2 inactivation in Pten stroma-deleted tumors ameliorated disruption of the tumor microenvironment and was sufficient to decrease tumor growth and progression. Global gene expression profiling of mammary stromal cells identified a Pten-specific signature that was highly represented in the tumor stroma of breast cancer patients. These findings identify the Pten-Ets2 axis as a critical stroma-specific signaling pathway that suppresses mammary epithelial tumors.
doi:10.1038/nature08486
PMCID: PMC2767301  PMID: 19847259

Results 1-4 (4)