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1.  First Neuromuscular Contact Correlates with Onset of Primary Myogenesis in Rat and Mouse Limb Muscles 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0133811.
Skeletal muscle development has been the focus of intensive study for many decades. Recent advances in genetic manipulation of the mouse have increased our understanding of the cell signalling involved in the development of muscle progenitors which give rise to adult skeletal muscles and their stem cell populations. However, the influence of a vital tissue type – the peripheral nerve—has largely been ignored since its earliest descriptions. Here we carefully describe the timing in which myogenic progenitors expressing Pax3 and Pax7 (the earliest markers of myogenic cells) enter the limb buds of rat and mouse embryos, as well as the spatiotemporal relationship between these progenitors and the ingrowing peripheral nerve. We show that progenitors expressing Pax3 enter the limb bud one full day ahead of the first neurites and that Pax7-expressing progenitors (associated with secondary myogenesis in the limb) are first seen in the limb bud at the time of nerve entry and in close proximity to the nerve. The initial entry of the nerve also coincides with the first expression of myosin heavy chain showing that the first contact between nerves and myogenic cells correlates with the onset of myogenic differentiation. Furthermore, as the nerve grows into the limb, Pax3 expression is progressively replaced by Pax7 expression in myogenic progenitors. These findings indicate that the ingrowing nerve enters the limb presumptive muscle masses earlier than what was generally described and raises the possibility that nerve may influence the differentiation of muscle progenitors in rodent limbs.
PMCID: PMC4514893  PMID: 26207754
2.  Intraamniotic Lipopolysaccharide Exposure Changes Cell Populations and Structure of the Ovine Fetal Thymus 
Reproductive Sciences  2013;20(8):946-956.
Chorioamnionitis induces preterm delivery and acute involution of the fetal thymus which is associated with postnatal inflammatory disorders. We studied the immune response, cell composition, and architecture of the fetal thymus following intraamniotic lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure.
Time-mated ewes received an intraamniotic injection of LPS 5, 12, or 24 hours or 2, 4, 8, or 15 days before delivery at 125 days gestational age (term = 150 days).
The LPS exposure resulted in decreased blood lymphocytes within 5 hours and decreased thymic corticomedullary ratio within 24 hours. Thymic interleukin 6 (IL6) and IL17 messenger RNA (mRNA) increased 5-fold 24 hours post-LPS exposure. Increased toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) mRNA and nuclear factor κB positive cells at 24 hours after LPS delivery demonstrated acute thymic activation. Both TLR4 and IL1 mRNA increased by 5-fold and the number of Foxp3-positive cells (Foxp3+ cells) decreased 15 days after exposure.
Intraamniotic LPS exposure caused a proinflammatory response, involution, and a persistent depletion of thymic Foxp3+ cells indicating disturbance of the fetal immune homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3702021  PMID: 23314960
fetal inflammatory response syndrome; prematurity; immune modulation; thymic involution
3.  The Axonal Guidance Cue Semaphorin 3C Contributes to Alveolar Growth and Repair 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67225.
Lung diseases characterized by alveolar damage such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in premature infants and emphysema lack efficient treatments. Understanding the mechanisms contributing to normal and impaired alveolar growth and repair may identify new therapeutic targets for these lung diseases. Axonal guidance cues are molecules that guide the outgrowth of axons. Amongst these axonal guidance cues, members of the Semaphorin family, in particular Semaphorin 3C (Sema3C), contribute to early lung branching morphogenesis. The role of Sema3C during alveolar growth and repair is unknown. We hypothesized that Sema3C promotes alveolar development and repair. In vivo Sema3C knock down using intranasal siRNA during the postnatal stage of alveolar development in rats caused significant air space enlargement reminiscent of BPD. Sema3C knock down was associated with increased TLR3 expression and lung inflammatory cells influx. In a model of O2-induced arrested alveolar growth in newborn rats mimicking BPD, air space enlargement was associated with decreased lung Sema3C mRNA expression. In vitro, Sema3C treatment preserved alveolar epithelial cell viability in hyperoxia and accelerated alveolar epithelial cell wound healing. Sema3C preserved lung microvascular endothelial cell vascular network formation in vitro under hyperoxic conditions. In vivo, Sema3C treatment of hyperoxic rats decreased lung neutrophil influx and preserved alveolar and lung vascular growth. Sema3C also preserved lung plexinA2 and Sema3C expression, alveolar epithelial cell proliferation and decreased lung apoptosis. In conclusion, the axonal guidance cue Sema3C promotes normal alveolar growth and may be worthwhile further investigating as a potential therapeutic target for lung repair.
PMCID: PMC3688622  PMID: 23840631
4.  Antenatal Inflammation Reduces Expression of Caveolin-1 and Influences Multiple Signaling Pathways in Preterm Fetal Lungs 
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), associated with chorioamnionitis, results from the simultaneous effects of disrupted lung development, lung injury, and repair superimposed on the developing lung. Caveolins (Cavs) are implicated as major modulators of lung injury and remodeling by multiple signaling pathways, although Cavs have been minimally studied in the injured developing lung. We hypothesized that chorioamnionitis-associated antenatal lung inflammation would decrease the expression of Cav-1 in preterm fetal lungs. We tested whether changes occurred in the transcription factors Smad2/3, Smad1/5, Stat3, and Stat1, and we also studied the activation of acid-sphingomyelinase (a-SMase) with the generation of ceramide, along with changes in the expression of heme oxygenase–1 (HO-1) as indicators of possible Cav-1–mediated effects. Fetal sheep were exposed to 10 mg of intra-amniotic endotoxin or saline for 2, 7, or 2 + 7 days before preterm delivery at 124 days of gestation. The expression of Cav-1 and HO-1 and the phosphorylation of Smad and Stat were evaluated by real-time PCR, Western blotting, and/or immunohistochemistry. The activity of a-SMase and the concentrations of ceramide were measured. Intra-amniotic endotoxin decreased Cav-1 mRNA and protein expression in the lungs, with a maximum reduction of Cav-1 mRNA to 50% ± 7% of the control value (P < 0.05), and of Cav-1 protein expression to 20% ± 5% of the control value (P < 0.05). Decreased concentrations of Cav-1 were associated with the elevated phosphorylation of Smad2/3, Stat3, and Stat1, but not of Smad1/5. The expression of HO-1, a-SMase activity, and ceramide increased. Antenatal inflammation decreased the expression of Cav-1 in the preterm fetal lung. The decreased expression of Cav-1 was associated with the activation of the Smad2/3, Stat, and a-SMase/ceramide pathways, and with the increased expression of HO-1. The decreased concentrations of Cav-1 and changes in other signaling pathways may contribute to BPD.
PMCID: PMC3361364  PMID: 21562314
bronchopulmonary dysplasia; TGF-β; a-SMase; ceramide; chorioamnionitis
5.  New Surfactant with SP-B and C Analogs Gives Survival Benefit after Inactivation in Preterm Lambs 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47631.
Respiratory distress syndrome in preterm babies is caused by a pulmonary surfactant deficiency, but also by its inactivation due to various conditions, including plasma protein leakage. Surfactant replacement therapy is well established, but clinical observations and in vitro experiments suggested that its efficacy may be impaired by inactivation. A new synthetic surfactant (CHF 5633), containing synthetic surfactant protein B and C analogs, has shown comparable effects on oxygenation in ventilated preterm rabbits versus Poractant alfa, but superior resistance against inactivation in vitro. We hypothesized that CHF 5633 is also resistant to inactivation by serum albumin in vivo.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Nineteen preterm lambs of 127 days gestational age (term = 150 days) received CHF 5633 or Poractant alfa and were ventilated for 48 hours. Ninety minutes after birth, the animals received albumin with CHF 5633 or Poractant alfa. Animals received additional surfactant if PaO2 dropped below 100 mmHg. A pressure volume curve was done post mortem and markers of pulmonary inflammation, surfactant content and biophysiology, and lung histology were assessed. CHF 5633 treatment resulted in improved arterial pH, oxygenation and ventilation efficiency index. The survival rate was significantly higher after CHF 5633 treatment (5/7) than after Poractant alfa (1/8) after 48 hours of ventilation. Biophysical examination of the surfactant recovered from bronchoalveolar lavages revealed that films formed by CHF 5633-treated animals reached low surface tensions in a wider range of compression rates than films from Poractant alfa-treated animals.
For the first time a synthetic surfactant containing both surfactant protein B and C analogs showed significant benefit over animal derived surfactant in an in vivo model of surfactant inactivation in premature lambs.
PMCID: PMC3473048  PMID: 23091635
6.  Chronic fetal exposure to Ureaplasma parvum suppresses innate immune responses in sheep 
The chorioamnionitis associated with preterm delivery is often polymicrobial with ureaplasma being the most common isolate. To evaluate interactions between the different pro-inflammatory mediators, we hypothesized that ureaplasma exposure would increase fetal responsiveness to LPS. Fetal sheep were given intra-amniotic injections of media (control) or Ureaplasma parvum serovar 3 either 7d or 70d before preterm delivery. Another group received an intraamniotic injection of E.coli lipo-polysaccharide (LPS) 2d prior to delivery. To test for interactions, intraamniotic U. parvum exposed animals were challenged with intraamniotic LPS and delivered 2d later. All animals were delivered at 124±1d gestation (Term=150d). Compared to the 2d LPS exposure group, the U. parvum 70d+LPS group had: 1) decreased lung pro and anti-inflammatory cytokine expression 2) fewer CD3+ T-lymphocytes, CCL2+, myeloperoxidase+, and PU.1+ cells in the lung. Interestingly, exposure to U. parvum for 7d did not change responses to a subsequent intraamniotic LPS challenge, and exposure to intraamniotic U. parvum alone induced mild lung inflammation. Exposure to U. parvum increased pulmonary TGFβ1 expression but did not change mRNA expression of either the receptor TLR4 or some of the downstream mediators in the lung. Monocytes from fetal blood and lung isolated from U. parvum 70d+LPS but not U. parvum 7d+LPS animals had decreased in vitro responsiveness to LPS. These results are consistent with the novel finding of down-regulation of LPS responses by chronic but not acute fetal exposures to U. parvum. The findings increase our understanding of how chorioamnionitis exposed preterm infants may respond to lung injury and postnatal nosocomial infections.
PMCID: PMC3159703  PMID: 21784974
Prematurity; Chorioamnionitis; Fetal inflammatory response syndrome; endotoxin tolerance; lung inflammation
7.  Ovine Fetal Thymus Response to Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Chorioamnionitis and Antenatal Corticosteroids 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38257.
Chorioamnionitis is associated with preterm delivery and involution of the fetal thymus. Women at risk of preterm delivery receive antenatal corticosteroids which accelerate fetal lung maturation and improve neonatal outcome. However, the effects of antenatal corticosteroids on the fetal thymus in the settings of chorioamnionitis are largely unknown. We hypothesized that intra-amniotic exposure to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) causes involution of the fetal thymus resulting in persistent effects on thymic structure and cell populations. We also hypothesized that antenatal corticosteroids may modulate the effects of LPS on thymic development.
Time-mated ewes with singleton fetuses received an intra-amniotic injection of LPS 7 or 14 days before preterm delivery at 120 days gestational age (term = 150 days). LPS and corticosteroid treatment groups received intra-amniotic LPS either preceding or following maternal intra-muscular betamethasone. Gestation matched controls received intra-amniotic and maternal intra-muscular saline. The fetal intra-thoracic thymus was evaluated.
Intra-amniotic LPS decreased the cortico-medullary (C/M) ratio of the thymus and increased Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 mRNA and CD3 expression indicating involution and activation of the fetal thymus. Increased TLR4 and CD3 expression persisted for 14 days but Foxp3 expression decreased suggesting a change in regulatory T-cells. Sonic hedgehog and bone morphogenetic protein 4 mRNA, which are negative regulators of T-cell development, decreased in response to intra-amniotic LPS. Betamethasone treatment before LPS exposure attenuated some of the LPS-induced thymic responses but increased cleaved caspase-3 expression and decreased the C/M ratio. Betamethasone treatment after LPS exposure did not prevent the LPS-induced thymic changes.
Intra-amniotic exposure to LPS activated the fetal thymus which was accompanied by structural changes. Treatment with antenatal corticosteroids before LPS partially attenuated the LPS-induced effects but increased apoptosis in the fetal thymus. Corticosteroid administration after the inflammatory stimulus did not inhibit the LPS effects on the fetal thymus.
PMCID: PMC3365024  PMID: 22693607

Results 1-7 (7)