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1.  Opposite Roles of Myocardin and Atrogin-1 in L6 Myoblast Differentiation 
Journal of cellular physiology  2013;228(10):1989-1995.
L6 rat myoblasts undergo differentiation and myotube formation when cultured in medium containing a low-concentration of serum, but the underlying mechanism is not well understood. The role of atrogin-1, an E3 ligase with well-characterized roles in muscle atrophy, has not been defined in muscle differentiation. Myocardin is a coactivator of serum response factor (SRF), which together promotes smooth muscle differentiation. Myocardin is transiently expressed in skeletal muscle progenitor cells with inhibitory effects on the expression of myogenin and muscle differentiation. It remains unknown whether myocardin, which undergoes ubiquitination degradation, plays a role in L6 cell differentiation. The current study aimed to investigate the potential roles of myocardin and atrogin-1 in differentiation of L6 cells. As reported by many others, shifting to medium containing 2% serum induced myotube formation of L6 cells. Differentiation was accompanied by up-regulation of atrogin-1 and down-regulation of myocardin, suggesting that both may be involved in muscle differentiation. As expected, over-expression of atrogin-1 stimulated the expression of troponin T and myogenin and differentiation of the L6 myoblasts. Co-expression of myocardin with atrogin-1 inhibited atrogin-1-induced myogenin expression. Over-expression of atrogin-1 decreased myocardin protein level, albeit without affecting its mRNA level. Small-interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of atrogin-1 increased myocardin protein. Consistently, ectopic expression of myocardin inhibited myogenic differentiation. Unexpectedly, myocardin decreased the expression of atrogin-1 without involving Foxo1. Taken together, our results have demonstrated that atrogin-1 plays a positive role in skeletal muscle differentiation through down-regulation of myocardin.
PMCID: PMC4278347  PMID: 23526547
2.  Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate Attenuates Impairment of Learning and Memory in Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress-Treated Rats by Restoring Hippocampal Autophagic Flux 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112683.
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a major polyphenol in green tea with beneficial effects on the impairment in learning and memory. Autophagy is a cellular process that protects neurons from stressful conditions. The present study was designed to investigate whether EGCG can rescue chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS)-induced cognitive impairment in rats and whether its protective effect involves improvement of autophagic flux. As expected, our results showed that CUMS significantly impaired memory performance and inhibited autophagic flux as indicated by elevated LC3-II and p62 protein levels. At the same time, we observed an increased neuronal loss and activated mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)/p70 ribosomal protein S6 kinase (p70S6k) signaling in the CA1 regions. Interestingly, chronic treatment with EGCG (25 mg/kg, i.p.) significantly improved those behavioral alterations, attenuated histopathological abnormalities in hippocampal CA1 regions, reduced amyloid beta1–42 (Aβ1−42) levels, and restored autophagic flux. However, blocking autophagic flux with chloroquine, an inhibitor of autophagic flux, reversed these effects of EGCG. Taken together, these findings suggest that the impaired autophagy in CA1 regions of CUMS rats may contribute to learning and memory impairment. Therefore, we conclude that EGCG attenuation of CUMS-induced learning and memory impairment may be through rescuing autophagic flux.
PMCID: PMC4231069  PMID: 25393306
3.  Dual Regulation of Myocardin Expression by Tumor Necrosis Factor-α in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112120.
De-differentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) plays a critical role in the development of atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease involving various cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα). Myocardin is a co-factor of serum response factor (SRF) and is considered to be the master regulator of VSMC differentiation. It binds to SRF and regulates the expression of contractile proteins in VSMCs. Myocardin is also known to inhibit VSMC proliferation by inhibiting the NF-κB pathway, whereas TNFα is known to activate the NF-κB pathway in VSMCs. NF-κB activation has also been shown to inhibit myocardin expression and smooth muscle contractile marker genes. However, it is not definitively known whether TNFα regulates the expression and activity of myocardin in VSMCs. The current study aimed to investigate the role of TNFα in regulating myocardin and VSMC function. Our studies showed that TNFα down-regulated myocardin expression and activity in cultured VSMCs by activating the NF-κB pathway, resulting in decreased VSMC contractility and increased VSMC proliferation. Surprisingly, we also found that TNFα prevented myocardin mRNA degradation, and resulted in a further significant increase in myocardin expression and activity in differentiated VSMCs. Both the NF-κB and p44/42 MAPK pathways were involved in TNFα regulation of myocardin, which further increased the contractility of VSMCs. These differential effects of TNFα on myocardin seemingly depended on whether VSMCs were in a differentiated or de-differentiated state. Taken together, our results demonstrate that TNFα differentially regulates myocardin expression and activity, which may play a key role in regulating VSMC functions.
PMCID: PMC4226488  PMID: 25384061
4.  Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Derived Microparticles: A Promising Therapeutic Strategy 
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent stem cells that give rise to various cell types of the mesodermal germ layer. Because of their unique ability to home in on injured and cancerous tissues, MSCs are of great potential in regenerative medicine. MSCs also contribute to reparative processes in different pathological conditions, including cardiovascular diseases and cancer. However, many studies have shown that only a small proportion of transplanted MSCs can actually survive and be incorporated into host tissues. The effects of MSCs cannot be fully explained by their number. Recent discoveries suggest that microparticles (MPs) derived from MSCs may be important for the physiological functions of their parent. Though the physiological role of MSC-MPs is currently not well understood, inspiring results indicate that, in tissue repair and anti-cancer therapy, MSC-MPs have similar pro-regenerative and protective properties as their cellular counterparts. Thus, MSC-MPs represent a promising approach that may overcome the obstacles and risks associated with the use of native or engineered MSCs.
PMCID: PMC4159854  PMID: 25196436
mesenchymal stem cells; microparticles; intercellular communication; clinical therapy
5.  Induction of MicroRNA-1 by Myocardin in Smooth Muscle Cells Inhibits Cell Proliferation 
Myocardin is a cardiac- and smooth muscle-specific transcription factor that potently activates the expression of downstream target genes. Previously, we demonstrated that overexpression of myocardin inhibited the proliferation of smooth muscle cells (SMCs). Recently, myocardin was reported to induce the expression of microRNA-1 (miR-1) in cardiomyocytes. In this study, we investigate whether myocardin induces miR-1 expression to mediate its inhibitory effects on SMC proliferation.
Methods and Results
Using T-REx inducible system expressing myocardin in human vascular SMCs, we found that overexpression of myocardin resulted in significant induction of miR-1 expression and inhibition of SMC proliferation, which was reversed by miR-1 inhibitors. Consistently, introduction of miR-1 into SMCs dramatically inhibited their proliferation. We have isolated spindle-shaped and epithelioid human SMCs and demonstrated that spindle-shaped SMCs were more differentiated and less proliferative. Correspondingly, spindle-shaped SMCs had significantly higher expression levels of both myocardin and miR-1 than epithelioid SMCs. We identified Pim-1, a serine/threonine kinase, as a target gene for miR-1 in SMCs. Western blot and luciferase reporter assays further confirmed that miR-1 targets Pim-1 directly. Furthermore, neointimal lesions of mouse carotid arteries display down-regulation of myocardin and miR-1 with up-regulation of Pim-1.
Our data demonstrate that miR-1 participates myocardin-dependent SMC proliferation inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3207238  PMID: 21051663
microRNA-1; myocardin; Pim-1; proliferation; vascular smooth muscle cells
6.  Dual roles of Atg8−PE deconjugation by Atg4 in autophagy 
Autophagy  2012;8(6):883-892.
Modification of target molecules by ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like (Ubl) proteins is generally reversible. Little is known, however, about the physiological function of the reverse reaction, deconjugation. Atg8 is a unique Ubl protein whose conjugation target is the lipid phosphatidylethanolamine (PE). Atg8 functions in the formation of double-membrane autophagosomes, a central step in the well-conserved intracellular degradation pathway of macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy). Here we show that the deconjugation of Atg8−PE by the cysteine protease Atg4 plays dual roles in the formation of autophagosomes. During the early stage of autophagosome formation, deconjugation releases Atg8 from non-autophagosomal membranes to maintain a proper supply of Atg8. At a later stage, the release of Atg8 from intermediate autophagosomal membranes facilitates the maturation of these structures into fusion-capable autophagosomes. These results provide new insights into the functions of Atg8−PE and its deconjugation.
PMCID: PMC3427254  PMID: 22652539
autophagy; ubiquitin-like proteins; deconjugation; Atg4; Atg8
7.  Globular Adiponectin, Acting via AdipoR1/APPL1, Protects H9c2 Cells from Hypoxia/Reoxygenation-Induced Apoptosis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19143.
Cardiomyocyte apoptosis is an important remodeling event contributing to heart failure and adiponectin may mediate cardioprotective effects at least in part via attenuating apoptosis. Here we used hypoxia-reoxygenation (H/R) induced apoptosis in H9c2 cells to examine the effect of adiponectin and cellular mechanisms of action. We first used TUNEL labeling in combination with laser scanning cytometry to demonstrate that adiponectin prevented H/R-induced DNA fragmentation. The anti-apoptotic effect of adiponectin was also verified via attenuation of H/R-induced phosphatidylserine exposure using annexin V binding. H/R-induced apoptosis via the mitochondrial-mediated intrinsic pathway of apoptosis as assessed by cytochrome c release into cytosol and caspase-3 activation, both of which were attenuated by adiponectin. Mechanistically, we demonstrated that adiponectin enhanced anti-oxidative potential in these cells which led to attenuation of the increase in intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) caused by H/R. To further address the mechanism of adiponctins anti-apoptotic effects we used siRNA to efficiently knockdown adiponectin receptor (AdipoR1) expression and found that this attenuated the protective effects of adiponectin on ROS production and caspase 3 activity. Knockdown of APPL1, an important intracellular binding partner for AdipoR, also significantly reduced the ability of adiponectin to prevent H/R-induced ROS generation and caspase 3 activity. In summary, H/R-induced ROS generation and activation of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway was prevented by adiponectin via AdipoR1/APPL1 signaling and increased anti-oxidant potential.
PMCID: PMC3084258  PMID: 21552570

Results 1-7 (7)