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1.  Brown Adipose Tissue Blood Flow and Mass in Obesity: A Contrast Ultrasound Study in Mice 
When activated by the sympathetic nervous system, brown adipose tissue (BAT) increases energy expenditure to produce heat. Augmenting BAT mass or increasing BAT activation could potentially be used to decrease obesity. Noninvasive methods to detect and monitor BAT mass are needed. Contrast ultrasound can estimate BAT blood flow and is able to measure the perfused volume of an organ and thus its mass. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether contrast ultrasound could characterize BAT mass in two mouse models of obesity: wild-type mice fed a high-fat diet and mutant db/db mice.
Contrast ultrasound of BAT (Definity 2 μL/min; 14-MHz linear probe) was performed before and after stimulation of BAT with norepinephrine (NE). BAT replenishment curves were obtained, and blood flow was estimated by the product of the curve’s plateau and slope. Additionally, consecutive two-dimensional images of perfused BAT were acquired at 1-mm intervals after stimulation with NE and used to assess BAT volume and mass.
BAT blood flow increased after NE infusion in all mice studied. Blood flow response to NE was similar in wild-type mice fed either a low-fat diet or a high-fat diet. BAT blood flow was lower in db/db mice than in wild-type mice (P = .02). Contrast ultrasound–derived BAT mass was correlated with BAT mass obtained at necropsy (R2 = 0.83, P < .001). BAT mass was higher in mice fed a high-fat diet than in those fed a low-fat diet.
Contrast ultrasound can be used to estimate BAT mass in mice when BAT vascularization is not significantly impaired. This noninvasive technique may potentially allow the serial evaluation of therapies designed to augment BAT mass.
PMCID: PMC3954535  PMID: 23993691
Brown adipose tissue; Imaging; Obesity; Contrast ultrasound; db/db mice
2.  In Vivo Noninvasive Characterization of Brown Adipose Tissue Blood Flow by Contrast Ultrasound in Mice 
Interventions to increase brown adipose tissue (BAT) volume and activation are being extensively investigated as therapies to decrease the body weight in obese subjects. Noninvasive methods to monitor these therapies in animal models and humans are rare. We investigated whether contrast ultrasound (CU) performed in mice could detect BAT and measure its activation by monitoring BAT blood flow. After validation, CU was used to study the role of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) and nitric oxide synthases in the acute regulation of BAT blood flow.
Methods and Results
Blood flow of interscapular BAT was assessed in mice (n=64) with CU by measuring the signal intensity of continuously infused contrast microbubbles. Blood flow of BAT estimated by CU was 0.5±0.1 (mean±SEM) dB/s at baseline and increased 15-fold during BAT stimulation by norepinephrine (NE, 1 μg·kg−1·min−1). Assessment of BAT blood flow using CU was correlated to that performed with fluorescent microspheres (R2=0.86, p<0.001). To evaluate whether intact BAT activation is required to increase BAT blood flow, CU was performed in UCP1-deficient (UCP1−/−) mice with impaired BAT activation. Norepinephrine infusion induced a smaller increase in BAT blood flow in UCP1−/− mice than in wild-type mice. Finally, we investigated whether NOS played a role in acute NE-induced changes of BAT blood flow. Genetic and pharmacologic inhibition of NOS3 attenuated the NE-induced increase in BAT blood flow.
These results indicate that CU can detect BAT in mice, and estimate BAT blood flow in mice with functional differences in BAT.
PMCID: PMC3471995  PMID: 22776888
brown adipose tissue; imaging; contrast ultrasound; uncoupling protein; nitric oxide synthase
3.  Myocardial Alterations in Senescent Mice and Effect of Exercise Training A Strain Rate Imaging Study 
Aging is accompanied by an alteration in myocardial contractility. However, its noninvasive detection is difficult. The effect of chronic exercise on this decrease is unknown. Murine models of senescence are increasingly used to test therapies in aging. We tested whether strain rate imaging detected left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction in aging mice and was able to assess a potential improvement after exercise.
Methods and Results
Young (3 weeks), adult (2 to 3 months), and old (6 to 18 months) C57BL6 male mice underwent echocardiograms with strain rate imaging, either in sedentary conditions or before, 2 weeks and 4 weeks after chronic swimming. Hemodynamic parameters of LV function including maximal and end-systolic elastance were obtained before euthanizing. LV fibrosis was measured using Sirius red staining. Conventional echocardiography was unable to detect LV systolic dysfunction in old mice, whereas both systolic strain rate and load-independent hemodynamic parameters such as preload recruitable stroke work and end-systolic elastance were significantly decreased. Both strain rate and load-independent hemodynamic parameters normalized after 4 weeks of exercise. Both endocardial and epicardial fibrosis were increased in the LV of aging mice. Endocardial fibrosis decreased in exercised aged mice.
Strain rate noninvasively detects LV systolic dysfunction associated with aging in mice, whereas conventional echocardiography does not. Chronic exercise normalizes LV systolic function and decreases fibrosis in old mice. Strain rate imaging in mice may be a useful tool to monitor the effect of new therapeutic strategies preventing the myocardial dysfunction associated with aging.
PMCID: PMC3754845  PMID: 19808547
aging; echocardiography; exercise
4.  Adiponectin Decreases Pulmonary Arterial Remodeling in Murine Models of Pulmonary Hypertension 
Remodeling of the pulmonary arteries is a common feature among the heterogeneous disorders that cause pulmonary hypertension. In these disorders, the remodeled pulmonary arteries often demonstrate inflammation and an accumulation of pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs) within the vessels. Adipose tissue secretes multiple bioactive mediators (adipokines) that can influence both inflammation and remodeling, suggesting that adipokines may contribute to the development of pulmonary hypertension. We recently reported on a model of pulmonary hypertension induced by vascular inflammation, in which a deficiency of the adipokine adiponectin (APN) was associated with the extensive proliferation of PASMCs and increased pulmonary artery pressures. Based on these data, we hypothesize that APN can suppress pulmonary hypertension by directly inhibiting the proliferation of PASMCs. Here, we tested the effects of APN overexpression on pulmonary arterial remodeling by using APN-overexpressing mice in a model of pulmonary hypertension induced by inflammation. Consistent with our hypothesis, mice that overexpressed APN manfiested reduced pulmonary hypertension and remodeling compared with wild-type mice, despite developing similar levels of pulmonary vascular inflammation in the model. The overexpression of APN was also protective in a hypoxic model of pulmonary hypertension. Furthermore, APN suppressed the proliferation of PASMCs, and reduced the activity of the serum response factor–serum response element pathway, which is a critical signaling pathway for smooth muscle cell proliferation. Overall, these data suggest that APN can regulate pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary arterial remodeling through its direct effects on PASMCs. Hence, the activation of APN-like activity in the pulmonary vasculature may be beneficial in pulmonary hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3175561  PMID: 21075862
pulmonary hypertension; pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells; metabolism; adiponectin
6.  Genetic modifiers of hypertension in soluble guanylate cyclase α1–deficient mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(6):2316-2325.
Nitric oxide (NO) plays an essential role in regulating hypertension and blood flow by inducing relaxation of vascular smooth muscle. Male mice deficient in a NO receptor component, the α1 subunit of soluble guanylate cyclase (sGCα1), are prone to hypertension in some, but not all, mouse strains, suggesting that additional genetic factors contribute to the onset of hypertension. Using linkage analyses, we discovered a quantitative trait locus (QTL) on chromosome 1 that was linked to mean arterial pressure (MAP) in the context of sGCα1 deficiency. This region is syntenic with previously identified blood pressure–related QTLs in the human and rat genome and contains the genes coding for renin. Hypertension was associated with increased activity of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS). Further, we found that RAAS inhibition normalized MAP and improved endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation in sGCα1-deficient mice. These data identify the RAAS as a blood pressure–modifying mechanism in a setting of impaired NO/cGMP signaling.
PMCID: PMC3366402  PMID: 22565307
7.  Validation of non invasive measurements of cardiac output in mice using echocardiography 
Although multiple echocardiographic methods exist to calculate cardiac output (CO), they have not been validated in mice using a reference method. Echocardiographic and flow probe measurements of CO were obtained in mice before and after albumin infusion and inferior vena cava occlusions. Echocardiography was also performed before and after endotoxin injection. Cardiac output was calculated using LV volumes obtained from a M Mode or a 2D view, LV stroke volume calculated using the pulmonary flow, or estimated using pulmonary VTI. Close correlations were demonstrated between flow probe-measured CO and all echocardiographic measurements of CO. All echocardiographic-derived CO overestimated the flow-probe measured CO. 2D images-derived CO was associated with the smallest overestimation of CO. Interobserver variability was lowest for pulmonary VTI derived CO. In mice, CO calculated from 2D parasternal long axis images is most accurate when compared to flow probe measurements, however, pulmonary VTI-derived CO is subject to less variability.
PMCID: PMC3077062  PMID: 21315557
Mice; Doppler echocardiography; cardiac output; flow probe; sepsis
10.  Non-invasive assessment of murine pulmonary arterial pressure: validation and application to models of pulmonary hypertension 
Genetically-modified mice offer the unique opportunity to gain insights into the pathophysiology of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). In mice, right heart catheterization is the only available technique to measure right ventricular systolic pressure (RVSP). However, it is a terminal procedure and does not allow for serial measurements. Our objective was to validate a non-invasive technique to assess RVSP in mice.
Methods and Results
Right ventricle catheterization and echocardiography (30-MHz transducer) were simultaneously performed in mice with pulmonary hypertension induced acutely by infusion of a thromboxane analogue, U-46619, or chronically by lung-specific over-expression of interleukin 6 (IL-6). Pulmonary acceleration time (PAT) and ejection time (ET) were measured in the parasternal short axis view by pulsed-wave Doppler of pulmonary artery flow. Infusion of U-46619 acutely increased RVSP, shortened PAT, and decreased PAT/ET. The pulmonary flow pattern changed from symmetric at baseline to asymmetric at higher RVSPs. In wild-type and IL-6-over-expressing mice, the PAT correlated linearly with RVSP (r2=−0.67; p<0.0001), as did PAT/ET (r2=−0.76; p<0.0001). Sensitivity and specificity for detecting high RVSP (>32 mmHg) were 100% (7/7) and 86% (6/7), respectively, for both indices (cutoff values: PAT <21 ms and PAT/ET <39%). Intra-observer and inter-observer variability of PAT and PAT/ET were less than 6%.
Right ventricular systolic pressure can be estimated non-invasively in mice. Echocardiography is able to detect acute and chronic increases in RVSP with high sensitivity and specificity, as well as to assess the effects of treatment on RVSP. This non-invasive technique may permit the characterization of the evolution of PAH in genetically-modified mice.
PMCID: PMC3075498  PMID: 20044514
Echocardiography; right ventricular systolic pressure; mice
11.  Endothelial dysfunction enhances vasoconstriction due to scavenging of nitric oxide by a hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier 
Anesthesiology  2010;112(3):586-594.
At present, there is no safe and effective hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier (HBOC) to substitute for red blood cell transfusion. It is uncertain whether a deficiency of endothelial nitric oxide bioavailability (endothelial dysfunction) prevents or augments the HBOC-induced vasoconstriction.
Hemodynamic effects of infusion of PolyHeme (1.08 g hemoglobin/kg, Northfield Laboratories, Evanston, IL) or murine tetrameric hemoglobin (0.48 g hemoglobin/kg) were determined in awake healthy lambs, awake mice and anesthetized mice. In vitro, a cumulative dose-tension response was obtained by sequential addition of PolyHeme or tetrameric hemoglobin to phenylephrine-precontracted murine aortic rings.
Infusion of PolyHeme did not cause systemic hypertension in awake lambs, but produced acute systemic and pulmonary vasoconstriction. Infusion of PolyHeme did not cause systemic hypertension in healthy wild-type mice, but induced severe systemic vasoconstriction in mice with endothelial dysfunction (either db/db mice or high-fat fed wild-type mice for 4–6 weeks). The db/db mice were more sensitive to systemic vasoconstriction than wild-type mice after the infusion of either tetrameric hemoglobin or PolyHeme. Murine aortic ring studies confirmed that db/db mice have an impaired response to an endothelial-dependent vasodilator and an enhanced vasoconstrictor response to a HBOC.
Reduction of low molecular weight hemoglobin concentrations to less than 1% is insufficient to abrogate the vasoconstrictor effects of HBOC infusion in healthy awake sheep or in mice with reduced vascular nitric oxide levels associated with endothelial dysfunction. These findings suggest that testing HBOCs in animals with endothelial dysfunction can provide a more sensitive indication of their potential vasoconstrictor effects.
PMCID: PMC2829726  PMID: 20179495
12.  Adiponectin Deficiency Increases Allergic Airway Inflammation and Pulmonary Vascular Remodeling 
Obesity is associated with an increased incidence and severity of asthma, as well as other lung disorders, such as pulmonary hypertension. Adiponectin (APN), an antiinflammatory adipocytokine, circulates at lower levels in the obese, which is thought to contribute to obesity-related inflammatory diseases. We sought to determine the effects of APN deficiency in a murine model of chronic asthma. Allergic airway inflammation was induced in APN-deficient mice (APN−/−) using sensitization without adjuvant followed by airway challenge with ovalbumin. The mice were then analyzed for changes in inflammation and lung remodeling. APN−/− mice in this model develop increased allergic airway inflammation compared with wild-type mice, with greater accumulation of eosinophils and monocytes in the airways associated with elevated lung chemokine levels. Surprisingly, APN−/− mice developed severe pulmonary arterial muscularization and pulmonary arterial hypertension in this model, whereas wild-type mice had only mild vascular remodeling and comparatively less pulmonary arterial hypertension. Our findings demonstrate that APN modulates allergic inflammation and pulmonary vascular remodeling in a model of chronic asthma. These data provide a possible mechanism for the association between obesity and asthma, and suggest a potential novel link between obesity, inflammatory lung disease, and pulmonary hypertension.
PMCID: PMC2746986  PMID: 19168697
asthma; obesity; pulmonary hypertension
13.  Inhaled Nitric Oxide Enables Artificial Blood Transfusion Without Hypertension 
Circulation  2008;117(15):1982-1990.
One of the major obstacles hindering the clinical development of a cell-free, hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier (HBOC) is systemic vasoconstriction.
Methods and results
Experiments were performed in healthy mice and lambs by infusion of either murine tetrameric hemoglobin (0.48 g/kg) or glutaraldehyde-polymerized bovine hemoglobin (HBOC-201, 1.44 g/kg). We observed that intravenous (IV) infusion of either murine tetrameric hemoglobin or HBOC-201 induced prolonged systemic vasoconstriction in wild-type mice, but not in mice congenitally deficient in endothelial nitric oxide (NO) synthase (NOS3). Treatment of wild-type mice by breathing NO at 80 parts per million (ppm) in air for 15 or 60 min, or with 200 ppm NO for 7 min, prevented the systemic hypertension induced by subsequent IV administration of murine tetrameric hemoglobin or HBOC-201 and did not result in conversion of plasma hemoglobin to methemoglobin. IV administration of sodium nitrite (48 nmol) 5 min before infusion of murine tetrameric hemoglobin also prevented the development of systemic hypertension. In awake lambs, breathing NO at 80 ppm for 1 h prevented the systemic hypertension caused by subsequent infusion of HBOC-201.
These findings demonstrate that HBOCs can cause systemic vasoconstriction by scavenging NO produced by NOS3. Moreover, in two species, inhaled NO, administered before the IV infusion of HBOCs, can prevent systemic vasoconstriction without causing methemoglobinemia.
PMCID: PMC2733227  PMID: 18391111
nitric oxide; hemoglobin; hypertension; vasoconstriction

Results 1-14 (14)