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1.  Peptide nucleic acids targeting β-globin mRNAs selectively inhibit hemoglobin production in murine erythroleukemia cells 
In the treatment of hemoglobinopathies, amending altered hemoglobins and/or globins produced in excess is an important part of therapeutic strategies and the selective inhibition of globin production may be clinically beneficial. Therefore the development of drug-based methods for the selective inhibition of globin accumulation is required. In this study, we employed peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) to alter globin gene expression. The main conclusion of the present study was that PNAs designed to target adult murine β-globin mRNA inhibit hemoglobin accumulation and erythroid differentiation of murine erythroleukemia (MEL) cells with high efficiency and fair selectivity. No major effects were observed on cell proliferation. Our study supports the concept that PNAs may be used to target mRNAs that, similar to globin mRNAs, are expressed at very high levels in differentiating erythroid cells. Our data suggest that PNAs inhibit the excess production of globins involved in the pathophysiology of hemoglobinopathies.
PMCID: PMC4249754  PMID: 25405921
peptide nucleic acids; sickle-cell anemia; β-globin; hemoglobin; erythroid differentiation
2.  GBA2-Encoded β-Glucosidase Activity Is Involved in the Inflammatory Response to Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104763.
Current anti-inflammatory strategies for the treatment of pulmonary disease in cystic fibrosis (CF) are limited; thus, there is continued interest in identifying additional molecular targets for therapeutic intervention. Given the emerging role of sphingolipids (SLs) in various respiratory disorders, including CF, drugs that selectively target the enzymes associated with SL metabolism are under development. Miglustat, a well-characterized iminosugar-based inhibitor of β-glucosidase 2 (GBA2), has shown promise in CF treatment because it reduces the inflammatory response to infection by P. aeruginosa and restores F508del-CFTR chloride channel activity. This study aimed to probe the molecular basis for the anti-inflammatory activity of miglustat by examining specifically the role of GBA2 following the infection of CF bronchial epithelial cells by P. aeruginosa. We also report the anti-inflammatory activity of another potent inhibitor of GBA2 activity, namely N-(5-adamantane-1-yl-methoxy)pentyl)-deoxynojirimycin (Genz-529648). In CF bronchial cells, inhibition of GBA2 by miglustat or Genz-529648 significantly reduced the induction of IL-8 mRNA levels and protein release following infection by P. aeruginosa. Hence, the present data demonstrate that the anti-inflammatory effects of miglustat and Genz-529648 are likely exerted through inhibition of GBA2.
PMCID: PMC4139313  PMID: 25141135
3.  Modulation of the Expression of the Proinflammatory IL-8 Gene in Cystic Fibrosis Cells by Extracts Deriving from Olive Mill Waste Water 
A persistent recruitment of neutrophils in the bronchi of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients contributes to aggravate the airway tissue damage, suggesting the importance of modulating the expression of chemokines, including IL-8 during the management of the CF patients. Polyphenols rich extracts derived from waste water from olive mill, obtained by a molecular imprinting approach, have been investigated in order to discover compounds able to reduce IL-8 expression in human bronchial epithelial cells (IB3-1 cells), derived from a CF patient with a ΔF508/W1282X mutant genotype and stimulated with TNF-alpha. Initially, electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) were performed to determine whether the different active principles were able to inhibit the binding between transcription factor (TF) NF-kappaB and DNA consensus sequences. Among different representative active principles present in the extract, three compounds were selected, apigenin, oleuropein, and cyanidin chloride, which displayed remarkable activity in inhibiting NF-kappaB/DNA complexes. Utilizing TNF-alpha-treated IB3-1 cells as experimental model system, we demonstrated that apigenin and cyanidin chloride are able to modulate the expression of the NF-kappaB-regulated IL-8 gene, while oleuropein showed no effect in regulating the expression of the gene IL-8.
PMCID: PMC3723063  PMID: 23935691
4.  Induction of erythroid differentiation and increased globin mRNA production with furocoumarins and their photoproducts 
► Furocoumarins photoinduce erythroid differentiation in K562 cells with UVA. ► Furocoumarins photoinduce high increase in α-, ζ-, ε-, and γ-globin mRNA sequences. ► Furocoumarin erythrodifferentiation is connected with DNA photodamage. ► 5,5′-Dimethylpsoralen photoproducts present differentiating properties.
Differentiation-therapy is an important approach in the treatment of cancer, as in the case of erythroid induction in chronic myelogenous leukemia. Moreover, an important therapeutic strategy for treating beta-thalassemia and sickle-cell anemia could be the use of drugs able to induce erythroid differentiation and fetal hemoglobin (HbF) accumulation: in fact, the increased production of this type of hemoglobin can reduce the clinical symptoms and the frequency of transfusions. An important class of erythroid differentiating compounds and HbF inducers is composed by DNA-binding chemotherapeutics: however, they are not used in most instances considering their possible devastating side effects. In this contest, we approached the study of erythrodifferentiating properties of furocoumarins. In fact, upon UV-A irradiation, they are able to covalently bind DNA. Thus, the erythrodifferentiation activity of some linear and angular furocoumarins was evaluated in the experimental K562 cellular model system. Quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase-chain reaction assay was employed to evaluate the accumulation of different globin mRNAs. The results demonstrated that both linear and angular furocoumarins are strong inducers of erythroid differentiation of K562 cells. From a preliminary screening, we selected the most active compounds and investigated the role of DNA photodamage in their erythroid inducing activity and mechanism of action. Moreover, some cytofluorimetric experiments were carried out to better study cell cycle modifications and the mitochondrial involvement. A further development of the work was carried out studying the erythroid differentiation of photolysis products of these molecules. 5,5′-Dimethylpsoralen photoproducts induced an important increase in γ-globin gene transcription in K562 cells.
PMCID: PMC3625112  PMID: 23518160
Psoralen; Angelicin; Photoproducts; K562 cells; Erythroid differentiation; Fetal hemoglobin
5.  Production of β-globin and adult hemoglobin following G418 treatment of erythroid precursor cells from homozygous β039 thalassemia patients 
American journal of hematology  2009;84(11):720-728.
In several types of thalassemia (including β039-thalassemia), stop codon mutations lead to premature translation termination and to mRNA destabilization through nonsense-mediated decay. Drugs (for instance aminoglycosides) can be designed to suppress premature termination, inducing a ribosomal readthrough. These findings have introduced new hopes for the development of a pharmacologic approach to the cure of this disease. However, the effects of aminoglycosides on globin mRNA carrying β-thalassemia stop mutations have not yet been investigated. In this study, we have used a lentiviral construct containing the β039- thalassemia globin gene under control of the β-globin promoter and a LCR cassette. We demonstrated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis the production of β-globin by K562 cell clones expressing the β039-thalassemia globin gene and treated with G418. More importantly, after FACS and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analyses, erythroid precursor cells from β039-thalassemia patients were demonstrated to be able to produce β-globin and adult hemoglobin after treatment with G418. This study strongly suggests that ribosomal readthrough should be considered a strategy for developing experimental strategies for the treatment of β0-thalassemia caused by stop codon mutations.
PMCID: PMC3572903  PMID: 19810011
6.  Effects of decoy molecules targeting NF-kappaB transcription factors in Cystic fibrosis IB3–1 cells 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2012;3(2):97-296.
One of the clinical features of cystic fibrosis (CF) is a deep inflammatory process, which is characterized by production and release of cytokines and chemokines, among which interleukin 8 (IL-8) represents one of the most important. Accordingly, there is a growing interest in developing therapies against CF to reduce the excessive inflammatory response in the airways of CF patients. Since transcription factor NF-kappaB plays a critical role in IL-8 expression, the transcription factor decoy (TFD) strategy might be of interest. In order to demonstrate that TFD against NF-kappaB interferes with the NF-kappaB pathway we proved, by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) that treatment with TFD oligodeoxyribonucleotides of cystic fibrosis IB3–1 cells infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa leads to a decrease occupancy of the Il-8 gene promoter by NF-kappaB factors. In order to develop more stable therapeutic molecules, peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) based agents were considered. In this respect PNA-DNA-PNA (PDP) chimeras are molecules of great interest from several points of view: (1) they can be complexed with liposomes and microspheres; (2) they are resistant to DNases, serum and cytoplasmic extracts; (3) they are potent decoy molecules. By using electrophoretic mobility shift assay and RT-PCR analysis we have demonstrated that (1) the effects of PDP/PDP NF-kappaB decoy chimera on accumulation of pro-inflammatory mRNAs in P.aeruginosa infected IB3–1 cells reproduce that of decoy oligonucleotides; in particular (2) the PDP/PDP chimera is a strong inhibitor of IL-8 gene expression; (3) the effect of PDP/PDP chimeras, unlike those of ODN-based decoys, are observed even in the absence of protection with lipofectamine. These informations are of great impact, in our opinion, for the development of stable molecules to be used in non-viral gene therapy of cystic fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3429536  PMID: 22772035
NF-kappaB; transcription factor decoy; inflammation; Peptide Nucleic Acids; PNA-DNA chimeras
7.  A combined approach for β-thalassemia based on gene therapy-mediated adult hemoglobin (HbA) production and fetal hemoglobin (HbF) induction 
Annals of Hematology  2012;91(8):1201-1213.
Gene therapy might fall short in achieving a complete reversion of the β-thalassemic phenotype due to current limitations in vector design and myeloablative regimen. Following gene transfer, all or a large proportion of erythroid cells might express suboptimal levels of β-globin, impairing the therapeutic potential of the treatment. Our aim was to evaluate whether, in absence of complete reversion of the β-globin phenotype upon gene transfer, it is possible to use fetal hemoglobin induction to eliminate the residual α-globin aggregates and achieve normal levels of hemoglobin. Transgenic K562 cell lines and erythroid precursor cells from β039-thalassemia patients were employed. Gene therapy was performed with the lentiviral vector T9W. Induction of fetal hemoglobin was obtained using mithramycin. Levels of mRNA and hemoglobins were determined by qRT-PCR and HPLC. First, we analyzed the effect of mithramycin on K562 transgenic cell lines harboring different copies of a lentiviral vector carrying the human β-globin gene, showing that γ-globin mRNA expression and HbF production can be induced in the presence of high levels of β-globin gene expression and HbA accumulation. We then treated erythroid progenitor cells from β-thalassemic patients with T9W, which expresses the human β-globin gene and mithramycin separately or in combination. When transduction with our lentiviral vector is insufficient to completely eliminate the unpaired α-globin chains, combination of β-globin gene transfer therapy together with fetal hemoglobin induction might be very efficacious to remove the excess of α-globin proteins in thalassemic erythroid progenitor cells.
PMCID: PMC3389244  PMID: 22460946
β-thalassemia; Gene therapy; Lentiviral vectors; HbF induction; Erythroid progenitor cells
8.  Mithramycin encapsulated in polymeric micelles by microfluidic technology as novel therapeutic protocol for beta-thalassemia 
This report shows that the DNA-binding drug, mithramycin, can be efficiently encapsulated in polymeric micelles (PM-MTH), based on Pluronic® block copolymers, by a new microfluidic approach. The effect of different production parameters has been investigated for their effect on PM-MTH characteristics. The compared analysis of PM-MTH produced by microfluidic and conventional bulk mixing procedures revealed that microfluidics provides a useful platform for the production of PM-MTH with improved controllability, reproducibility, smaller size, and polydispersity. Finally, an investigation of the effects of PM-MTH, produced by microfluidic and conventional bulk mixing procedures, on the erythroid differentiation of both human erythroleukemia and human erythroid precursor cells is reported. It is demonstrated that PM-MTH exhibited a slightly lower toxicity and more pronounced differentiative activity when compared to the free drug. In addition, PM-MTH were able to upregulate preferentially γ-globin messenger ribonucleic acid production and to increase fetal hemoglobin (HbF) accumulation, the percentage of HbF-containing cells, and their HbF content without stimulating α-globin gene expression, which is responsible for the clinical symptoms of β-thalassemia. These results represent an important first step toward a potential clinical application, since an increase in HbF could alleviate the symptoms underlying β-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia. In conclusion, this report suggests that PM-MTH produced by microfluidic approach warrants further evaluation as a potential therapeutic protocol for β-thalassemia.
PMCID: PMC3265999  PMID: 22287841
microfluidics; lab-on-a-chip; design of experiments; erythroid differentiation; human erythroid precursor cells
9.  C(5) modified uracil derivatives showing antiproliferative and erythroid differentiation inducing activities on human chronic myelogenous leukemia K562 cells 
European Journal of Pharmacology  2011;672(1-3):30-37.
The K562 cell line has been proposed as a useful experimental system to identify anti-tumor compounds acting by inducing terminal erythroid differentiation. K562 cells exhibit a low proportion of hemoglobin-synthesizing cells under standard cell growth conditions, but are able to undergo terminal erythroid differentiation when treated with a variety of anti-tumor compounds. In this paper we report a screening study on a set of different modified C(5) uracil derivatives for the evaluation of their antiproliferative effect in connection with erythroid differentiation pathways, and for defining a new class of drug candidates for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia. Activity of the derivatives tested can be classified in two effect: an antiproliferative effect linked to a high level of erythroid differentiation activity and an antiproliferative effect without activation of gamma globin genes The highest antiproliferative effect and erythroid induction was shown by compound 9, a thymine derivative bearing a n-octyl chain on nitrogen N(1), whereas thymine did not show any effect, suggesting the importance of the linear alkyl chain in position N(1). To our knowledge this compound should be considered among the most efficient inducers of erythroid differentiation of K562 cells. This work is the starting point for the quest of more effective and specific drugs for the induction of terminal erythroid differentiation, for leading new insights in the treatment of neoplastic diseases with molecules acting by inducing differentiation rather than by simply exerting cytotoxic effects.
PMCID: PMC3271358  PMID: 21958870
Erythroid differentiation; Tumor growth; Isoorotic acid derivative; Chronic myelogenous leukemia; Beta-thalassemia
10.  Bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso) fruit extracts and identified components alter expression of interleukin 8 gene in cystic fibrosis bronchial epithelial cell lines 
BMC Biochemistry  2011;12:15.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) airway pathology is a fatal, autosomal, recessive genetic disease characterized by extensive lung inflammation. After induction by TNF-α, elevated concentrations of several pro-inflammatory cytokines (i.e. IL-6, IL-1β) and chemokines (i.e. IL-8) are released from airway epithelial cells. In order to reduce the excessive inflammatory response in the airways of CF patients, new therapies have been developed and in this respect, medicinal plant extracts have been studied. In this article we have investigated the possible use of bergamot extracts (Citrus bergamia Risso) and their identified components to alter the expression of IL-8 associated with the cystic fibrosis airway pathology.
The extracts were chemically characterized by 1H-NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance), GC-FID (gas chromatography-flame ionization detector), GC-MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) and HPLC (high pressure liquid chromatography). Both bergamot extracts and main detected chemical constituents were assayed for their biological activity measuring (a) cytokines and chemokines in culture supernatants released from cystic fibrosis IB3-1 cells treated with TNF-α by Bio-Plex cytokine assay; (b) accumulation of IL-8 mRNA by real-time PCR.
The extracts obtained from bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso) epicarps contain components displaying an inhibitory activity on IL-8. Particularly, the most active molecules were bergapten and citropten. These effects have been confirmed by analyzing mRNA levels and protein release in the CF cellular models IB3-1 and CuFi-1 induced with TNF-α or exposed to heat-inactivated Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
These obtained results clearly indicate that bergapten and citropten are strong inhibitors of IL-8 expression and could be proposed for further studies to verify possible anti-inflammatory properties to reduce lung inflammation in CF patients.
PMCID: PMC3095539  PMID: 21496221
11.  Induction of apoptosis of human primary osteoclasts treated with extracts from the medicinal plant Emblica officinalis 
Osteoclasts (OCs) are involved in rheumatoid arthritis and in several pathologies associated with bone loss. Recent results support the concept that some medicinal plants and derived natural products are of great interest for developing therapeutic strategies against bone disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. In this study we determined whether extracts of Emblica officinalis fruits display activity of possible interest for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis by activating programmed cell death of human primary osteoclasts.
The effects of extracts from Emblica officinalis on differentiation and survival of human primary OCs cultures obtained from peripheral blood were determined by tartrate-acid resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP)-positivity and colorimetric MTT assay. The effects of Emblica officinalis extracts on induction of OCs apoptosis were studied using TUNEL and immunocytochemical analysis of FAS receptor expression. Finally, in vitro effects of Emblica officinalis extracts on NF-kB transcription factor activity were determined by gel shift experiments.
Extracts of Emblica officinalis were able to induce programmed cell death of mature OCs, without altering, at the concentrations employed in our study, the process of osteoclastogenesis. Emblica officinalis increased the expression levels of Fas, a critical member of the apoptotic pathway. Gel shift experiments demonstrated that Emblica officinalis extracts act by interfering with NF-kB activity, a transcription factor involved in osteoclast biology. The data obtained demonstrate that Emblica officinalis extracts selectively compete with the binding of transcription factor NF-kB to its specific target DNA sequences. This effect might explain the observed effects of Emblica officinalis on the expression levels of interleukin-6, a NF-kB specific target gene.
Induction of apoptosis of osteoclasts could be an important strategy both in interfering with rheumatoid arthritis complications of the bone skeleton leading to joint destruction, and preventing and reducing osteoporosis. Accordingly, we suggest the application of Emblica officinalis extracts as an alternative tool for therapy applied to bone diseases.
PMCID: PMC2587459  PMID: 18973662
12.  Docking of molecules identified in bioactive medicinal plants extracts into the p50 NF-kappaB transcription factor: correlation with inhibition of NF-kappaB/DNA interactions and inhibitory effects on IL-8 gene expression 
The transcription factor NF-kappaB is a very interesting target molecule for the design on anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and pro-apoptotic drugs. However, the application of the widely-used molecular docking computational method for the virtual screening of chemical libraries on NF-kappaB is not yet reported in literature. Docking studies on a dataset of 27 molecules from extracts of two different medicinal plants to NF-kappaB-p50 were performed with the purpose of developing a docking protocol fit for the target under study.
We enhanced the simple docking procedure by means of a sort of combined target- and ligand-based drug design approach. Advantages of this combination strategy, based on a similarity parameter for the identification of weak binding chemical entities, are illustrated in this work with the discovery of a new lead compound for NF-kappaB. Further biochemical analyses based on EMSA were performed and biological effects were tested on the compound exhibiting the best docking score. All experimental analysis were in fairly good agreement with molecular modeling findings.
The results obtained sustain the concept that the docking performance is predictive of a biochemical activity. In this respect, this paper represents the first example of successfully individuation through molecular docking simulations of a promising lead compound for the inhibition of NF-kappaB-p50 biological activity and modulation of the expression of the NF-kB regulated IL8 gene.
PMCID: PMC2543017  PMID: 18768082
13.  Inhibitory Effects of Bangladeshi Medicinal Plant Extracts on Interactions between Transcription Factors and Target DNA Sequences 
Several transcription factors (TFs) play crucial roles in governing the expression of different genes involved in the immune response, embryo or cell lineage development, cell apoptosis, cell cycle progression, oncogenesis, repair and fibrosis processes and inflammation. As far as inflammation, TFs playing pivotal roles are nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB), activator protein (AP-1), signal transducer and activator of transcription (STATs), cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) and GATA-1 factors. All these TFs regulate the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and are involved in the pathogenesis of a number of human disorders, particularly those with an inflammatory component. Since several medicinal plants can be employed to produce extracts exhibiting biological effects and because alteration of gene transcription represents a very interesting approach to control the expression of selected genes, this study sought to verify the ability of several extracts derived from Bangladeshi medicinal plants in interfering with molecular interactions between different TFs and specific DNA sequences. We first analyzed the antiproliferative activity of 19 medicinal plants on different human cell lines, including erythroleukemia K562, B lymphoid Raji and T lymphoid Jurkat cell lines. Secondly, we employed the electrophoretic mobility shift assay as a suitable technique for a fast screening of plant extracts altering the binding between NF-kB, AP-1, GATA-1, STAT-3, CREB and the relative target DNA elements.
PMCID: PMC2529391  PMID: 18830455
AP-1; CREB; GATA-1; gene expression; medicinal plants; NF-kB; STAT-3; transcription factors
14.  Fetal Hemoglobin Inducers from the Natural World: A Novel Approach for Identification of Drugs for the Treatment of β-Thalassemia and Sickle-Cell Anemia 
The objective of this review is to present examples of lead compounds identified from biological material (fungi, plant extracts and agro-industry material) and of possible interest in the field of a pharmacological approach to the therapy of β-thalassemia using molecules able to stimulate production of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) in adults. Concerning the employment of HbF inducers as potential drugs for pharmacological treatment of β-thalassemia, the following conclusions can be reached: (i) this therapeutic approach is reasonable, on the basis of the clinical parameters exhibited by hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin patients, (ii) clinical trials (even if still limited) employing HbF inducers were effective in ameliorating the symptoms of β-thalassemia patients, (iii) good correlation of in vivo and in vitro results of HbF synthesis and γ-globin mRNA accumulation indicates that in vitro testing might be predictive of in vivo responses and (iv) combined use of different inducers might be useful to maximize HbF, both in vitro and in vivo. In this review, we present three examples of HbF inducers from the natural world: (i) angelicin and linear psoralens, contained in plant extracts from Angelica arcangelica and Aegle marmelos, (ii) resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grapes and several plant extracts and (iii) rapamycin, isolated from Streptomyces hygroscopicus.
PMCID: PMC2686630  PMID: 18955291
fetal hemoglobin; β-thalassemia; rapamycin; medicinal plants; resveratrol; red wine; psoralens

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