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1.  Mouse Protocadherin-1 Gene Expression Is Regulated by Cigarette Smoke Exposure In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e98197.
Protocadherin-1 (PCDH1) is a novel susceptibility gene for airway hyperresponsiveness, first identified in families exposed to cigarette smoke and is expressed in bronchial epithelial cells. Here, we asked how mouse Pcdh1 expression is regulated in lung structural cells in vivo under physiological conditions, and in both short-term cigarette smoke exposure models characterized by airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness and chronic cigarette smoke exposure models. Pcdh1 gene-structure was investigated by Rapid Amplification of cDNA Ends. Pcdh1 mRNA and protein expression was investigated by qRT-PCR, western blotting using isoform-specific antibodies. We observed 87% conservation of the Pcdh1 nucleotide sequence, and 96% conservation of the Pcdh1 protein sequence between men and mice. We identified a novel Pcdh1 isoform encoding only the intracellular signalling motifs. Cigarette smoke exposure for 4 consecutive days markedly reduced Pcdh1 mRNA expression in lung tissue (3 to 4-fold), while neutrophilia and airway hyperresponsiveness was induced. Moreover, Pcdh1 mRNA expression in lung tissue was reduced already 6 hours after an acute cigarette-smoke exposure in mice. Chronic exposure to cigarette smoke induced loss of Pcdh1 protein in lung tissue after 2 months, while Pcdh1 protein levels were no longer reduced after 9 months of cigarette smoke exposure. We conclude that Pcdh1 is highly homologous to human PCDH1, encodes two transmembrane proteins and one intracellular protein, and is regulated by cigarette smoke exposure in vivo.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098197
PMCID: PMC4081120  PMID: 24992194
2.  Susceptibility to Chronic Mucus Hypersecretion, a Genome Wide Association Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e91621.
Background
Chronic mucus hypersecretion (CMH) is associated with an increased frequency of respiratory infections, excess lung function decline, and increased hospitalisation and mortality rates in the general population. It is associated with smoking, but it is unknown why only a minority of smokers develops CMH. A plausible explanation for this phenomenon is a predisposing genetic constitution. Therefore, we performed a genome wide association (GWA) study of CMH in Caucasian populations.
Methods
GWA analysis was performed in the NELSON-study using the Illumina 610 array, followed by replication and meta-analysis in 11 additional cohorts. In total 2,704 subjects with, and 7,624 subjects without CMH were included, all current or former heavy smokers (≥20 pack-years). Additional studies were performed to test the functional relevance of the most significant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP).
Results
A strong association with CMH, consistent across all cohorts, was observed with rs6577641 (p = 4.25×10−6, OR = 1.17), located in intron 9 of the special AT-rich sequence-binding protein 1 locus (SATB1) on chromosome 3. The risk allele (G) was associated with higher mRNA expression of SATB1 (4.3×10−9) in lung tissue. Presence of CMH was associated with increased SATB1 mRNA expression in bronchial biopsies from COPD patients. SATB1 expression was induced during differentiation of primary human bronchial epithelial cells in culture.
Conclusions
Our findings, that SNP rs6577641 is associated with CMH in multiple cohorts and is a cis-eQTL for SATB1, together with our additional observation that SATB1 expression increases during epithelial differentiation provide suggestive evidence that SATB1 is a gene that affects CMH.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091621
PMCID: PMC3979657  PMID: 24714607
3.  Protease-Activated Receptor-2 Activation Contributes to House Dust Mite-Induced IgE Responses in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91206.
Aeroallergens such as house dust mite (HDM), cockroach, and grass or tree pollen are innocuous substances that can induce allergic sensitization upon inhalation. The serine proteases present in these allergens are thought to activate the protease-activated receptor (PAR)-2, on the airway epithelium, thereby potentially inducing allergic sensitization at the expense of inhalation tolerance. We hypothesized that the proteolytic activity of allergens may play an important factor in the allergenicity to house dust mite and is essential to overcome airway tolerance. Here, we aimed to investigate the role of PAR-2 activation in allergic sensitization and HDM-induced allergic airway inflammation. In our study, Par-2 deficient mice were treated with two different HDM extracts containing high and low serine protease activities twice a week for a period of 5 weeks. We determined airway inflammation through quantification of percentages of mononuclear cells, eosinophils and neutrophils in the bronchial alveolar lavage fluid and measured total IgE and HDM-specific IgE and IgG1 levels in serum. Furthermore, Th2 and pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-5, IL-13, Eotaxin-1, IL-17, KC, Chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 17 (CCL17) and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), were measured in lung tissue homogenates. We observed that independent of the serine protease content, HDM was able to induce elevated levels of eosinophils and neutrophils in the airways of both wild-type (WT) and Par-2 deficient mice. Furthermore, we show that induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines by HDM exposure is independent of Par-2 activation. In contrast, serine protease activity of HDM does contribute to enhanced levels of total IgE, but not HDM-specific IgE. We conclude that, while Par-2 activation contributes to the development of IgE responses, it is largely dispensable for the HDM-induced induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines and airway inflammation in an experimental mouse model of HDM-driven allergic airway disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091206
PMCID: PMC3961228  PMID: 24651123
4.  TLR-2 Activation Induces Regulatory T Cells and Long-Term Suppression of Asthma Manifestations in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55307.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable airway obstruction and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). The T regulatory (Treg) cell subset is critically important for the regulation of immune responses. Adoptive transfer of Treg cells has been shown to be sufficient for the suppression of airway inflammation in experimental allergic asthma. Intervention strategies aimed at expanding the Treg cell population locally in the airways of sensitized individuals are therefore of high interest as a potential therapeutic treatment for allergic airway disease. Here, we aim to test whether long-term suppression of asthma manifestations can be achieved by locally expanding the Treg cell subset via intranasal administration of a TLR-2 agonist. To model therapeutic intervention aimed at expanding the endogenous Treg population in a sensitized host, we challenged OVA-sensitized mice by OVA inhalation with concomitant intranasal instillation of the TLR-2 agonist Pam3Cys, followed by an additional series of OVA challenges. Pam3Cys treatment induced an acute but transient aggravation of asthma manifestations, followed by a reduction or loss of AHR to methacholine, depending on the time between Pam3Cys treatment and OVA challenges. In addition, Pam3Cys-treatment induced significant reductions of eosinophils and increased numbers of Treg cells in the lung infiltrates. Our data show that, despite having adverse acute effects, TLR2 agonist treatment as a therapeutic intervention induces an expansion of the Treg cell population in the lungs and results in long-term protection against manifestation of allergic asthma upon subsequent allergen provocation. Our data indicate that local expansion of Tregs in allergic airway disease is an interesting therapeutic approach that warrants further investigation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055307
PMCID: PMC3564817  PMID: 23393567
5.  Identification of the Mhc Region as an Asthma Susceptibility Locus in Recombinant Congenic Mice 
Mouse models of allergic asthma are characterized by airway hyperreactivity (AHR), Th2-driven eosinophilic airway inflammation, high allergen-specific IgE (anti-OVA IgE) levels in serum, and airway remodeling. Because asthma susceptibility has a strong genetic component, we aimed to identify new asthma susceptibility genes in the mouse by analyzing the asthma phenotypes of the Leishmania major resistant (lmr) recombinant congenic (RC) strains. The lmr RC strains are derived from C57BL/6 and BALB/c intercrosses and carry congenic loci on chromosome 17 (lmr1) and 9 (lmr2) in both backgrounds. Whereas the lmr2 locus on chromosome 9 contributes to a small background-specific effect on anti-OVA IgE and AHR, the lmr1 locus on chromosome 17 mediates a strong effect on Th2-driven eosinophilic airway inflammation and background-specific effects on anti-OVA IgE and AHR. The lmr1 locus contains almost 600 polymorphic genes. To narrow down this number of candidate genes, we performed genome-wide transcriptional profiling on lung tissue from C.lmr1 RC mice and BALB/c control mice. We identified a small number of differentially expressed genes located within the congenic fragment, including a number of Mhc genes, polymorphic between BALB/c and C57Bl/6. The analysis of asthma phenotypes in the C.B10-H2b RC strain, carrying the C57Bl/6 haplotype of the Mhc locus in a BALB/c genetic background, reveals a strikingly similar asthma phenotype compared with C.lmr1, indicating that the differentially expressed genes located within the C.B10-H2b congenic fragment are the most likely candidate genes to contribute to the reduced asthma phenotypes associated with the C57Bl/6 allele of lmr1.
doi:10.1165/rcmb.2009-0369OC
PMCID: PMC3266060  PMID: 20971879
allergic asthma; quantitative trait locus; recombinant congenic mice; chromosome 17; mouse model
6.  Pim3 negatively regulates glucose-stimulated insulin secretion 
Islets  2010;2(5):308-317.
Pancreatic β-cell response to glucose stimulation is governed by tightly regulated signaling pathways which have not been fully characterized. A screen for novel signaling intermediates identified Pim3 as a glucose-responsive gene in the β-cell, and here, we characterize its role in the regulation of β-cell function. Pim3 expression in the β-cell was first observed through microarray analysis on glucose-stimulated murine insulinoma (MIN6) cells where expression was strongly and transiently induced. In the pancreas, Pim3 expression exhibited similar dynamics and was restricted to the β-cell. Perturbation of Pim3 function resulted in enhanced glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, both in MIN6 cells and in isolated islets from Pim3-/- mice, where the augmentation was specifically seen in the second phase of secretion. Consequently, Pim3-/- mice displayed an increased glucose tolerance in vivo. Interestingly, Pim3-/- mice also exhibited increased insulin sensitivity. Glucose stimulation of isolated Pim3-/- islets resulted in increased phosphorylation of ERK1/2, a kinase involved in regulating β-cell response to glucose. Pim3 was also found to physically interact with SOCS6 and SOCS6 levels were strongly reduced in Pim3-/- islets. Overexpression of SOCS6 inhibited glucose-induced ERK1/2 activation, strongly suggesting that Pim3 regulates ERK1/2 activity through SOCS6. These data reveal that Pim3 is a novel glucose-responsive gene in the β-cell that negatively regulates insulin secretion by inhibiting the activation of ERK1/2, and through its effect on insulin sensitivity, has potentially a more global function in glucose homeostasis.
doi:10.4161/isl.2.5.13058
PMCID: PMC3025049  PMID: 21099329
insulin secretion; β-cell; signal transduction; Pim3; ERK; SOCS6
7.  Pim3 negatively regulates glucose-stimulated insulin secretion 
Islets  2010;2(5):308-317.
Pancreatic β-cell response to glucose stimulation is governed by tightly regulated signaling pathways which have not been fully characterized. A screen for novel signaling intermediates identified Pim3 as a glucose-responsive gene in the β cell, and here, we characterize its role in the regulation of β cell function. Pim3 expression in the β cell was first observed through microarray analysis on glucose-stimulated murine insulinoma (MIN6) cells where expression was strongly and transiently induced. In the pancreas, Pim3 expression exhibited similar dynamics and was restricted to the β cell. Perturbation of Pim3 function resulted in enhanced glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, both in MIN6 cells and in isolated islets from Pim3−/− mice, where the augmentation was specifically seen in the second phase of secretion. Consequently, Pim3−/− mice displayed an increased glucose tolerance in vivo. Interestingly, Pim3−/− mice also exhibited increased insulin sensitivity. Glucose stimulation of isolated Pim3−/− islets resulted in increased phosphorylation of ERK1/2, a kinase involved in regulating β cell response to glucose. Pim3 was also found to physically interact with SOCS6 and SOCS6 levels were strongly reduced in Pim3−/− islets. Overexpression of SOCS6 inhibited glucose-induced ERK1/2 activation, strongly suggesting that Pim3 regulates ERK1/2 activity through SOCS6. These data reveal that Pim3 is a novel glucose-responsive gene in the β cell that negatively regulates insulin secretion by inhibiting the activation of ERK1/2, and through its effect on insulin sensitivity, has potentially a more global function in glucose homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3025049  PMID: 21099329
insulin secretion; beta cell; signal transduction; Pim3; ERK; SOCS6
8.  GITR signaling potentiates airway hyperresponsiveness by enhancing Th2 cell activity in a mouse model of asthma 
Respiratory Research  2009;10(1):93.
Background
Allergic asthma is characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) and allergic inflammation of the airways, driven by allergen-specific Th2 cells. The asthma phenotypes and especially AHR are sensitive to the presence and activity of regulatory T (Treg) cells in the lung. Glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor receptor (GITR) is known to have a co-stimulatory function on effector CD4+ T cells, rendering these cells insensitive to Treg suppression. However, the effects of GITR signaling on polarized Th1 and Th2 cell effector functions are not well-established. We sought to evaluate the effect of GITR signaling on fully differentiated Th1 and Th2 cells and to determine the effects of GITR activation at the time of allergen provocation on AHR and airway inflammation in a Th2-driven mouse model of asthma.
Methods
CD4+CD25- cells were polarized in vitro into Th1 and Th2 effector cells, and re-stimulated in the presence of GITR agonistic antibodies to assess the effect on IFNγ and IL-4 production. To evaluate the effects of GITR stimulation on AHR and allergic inflammation in a mouse asthma model, BALB/c mice were sensitized to OVA followed by airway challenges in the presence or absence of GITR agonist antibodies.
Results
GITR engagement potentiated cytokine release from CD3/CD28-stimulated Th2 but not Th1 cells in vitro. In the mouse asthma model, GITR triggering at the time of challenge induced enhanced airway hyperresponsiveness, serum IgE and ex vivo Th2 cytokine release, but did not increase BAL eosinophilia.
Conclusion
GITR exerts a differential effect on cytokine release of fully differentiated Th1 and Th2 cells in vitro, potentiating Th2 but not Th1 cytokine production. This effect on Th2 effector functions was also observed in vivo in our mouse model of asthma, resulting in enhanced AHR, serum IgE responses and Th2 cytokine production. This is the first report showing the effects of GITR activation on cytokine production by polarized primary Th1 and Th2 populations and the relevance of this pathway for AHR in mouse models for asthma. Our data provides crucial information on the mode of action of the GITR signaling, a pathway which is currently being considered for therapeutic intervention.
doi:10.1186/1465-9921-10-93
PMCID: PMC2767348  PMID: 19811658

Results 1-8 (8)