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1.  Circulating MicroRNAs in Plasma of Hepatitis B e Antigen Positive Children Reveal Liver-Specific Target Genes 
Background and Aim. Hepatitis B e antigen positive (HBeAg-positive) children are at high risk of severe complications such as hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis. Liver damage is caused by the host immune response to infected hepatocytes, and we hypothesise that specific microRNAs play a role in this complex interaction between virus and host. The study aimed to identify microRNAs with aberrant plasma expressions in HBeAg-positive children and with liver-specific target genes. Methods. By revisiting our previous screen of microRNA plasma levels in HBeAg-positive and HBeAg-negative children with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) and in healthy controls, candidate microRNAs with aberrant plasma expressions in HBeAg-positive children were identified. MicroRNAs targeting liver-specific genes were selected based on bioinformatics analysis and validated by qRT-PCR using plasma samples from 34 HBeAg-positive, 26 HBeAg-negative, and 60 healthy control children. Results. Thirteen microRNAs showed aberrant plasma expressions in HBeAg-positive children and targeted liver-specific genes. In particular, three microRNAs were upregulated and one was downregulated in HBeAg-positive children compared to HBeAg-negative and healthy control children, which showed equal levels. Conclusion. The identified microRNAs might impact the progression of CHB in children. Functional studies are warranted, however, to elucidate the microRNAs' role in the immunopathogenesis of childhood CHB.
PMCID: PMC4281389  PMID: 25580300
2.  Hepatitis B Surface Antigen Quantity Positively Correlates with Plasma Levels of microRNAs Differentially Expressed in Immunological Phases of Chronic Hepatitis B in Children 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80384.
Background and Aim
Children with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) are at high risk of progressive liver disease. It is suggested that a newly-identified panel of 16 microRNAs is important in the pathogenesis of CHB in children. Subviral hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) particles are produced in large excess over infectious virions. Interestingly, circulating HBsAg particles have been shown to carry microRNAs. A thorough characterisation of the identified microRNAs and HBsAg over time in plasma from children with CHB may provide useful information about the natural course of childhood CHB.
Patients and Methods
A cohort of 42 children with CHB was followed over time. Three to five blood samples were obtained from each child at minimum intervals of half a year; in total 180 blood samples. Plasma levels of the 16 microRNAs previously identified were analysed by quantitative real-time polymerase-chain-reaction. Plasma HBsAg was quantified using ARCHITECT® HBsAg assay.
The presence of 14/16 plasma microRNAs in children with CHB was confirmed. All 14 microRNAs were significantly differentially expressed in different immunological phases of the disease. MicroRNA plasma levels were highest in immune-tolerant children, lower in immune-active children, and reached the lowest values in immune-inactive children, p<0.001. Plasma levels of four microRNAs decreased significantly over time in immune-tolerant and immune-active children whereas the microRNA plasma levels were stable in immune-inactive children, p<0.004. HBsAg quantity was positively correlated with plasma levels of 11/14 microRNAs, p<0.004.
This is the first study to characterise plasma microRNAs and HBsAg over time in children with CHB. Our data suggest that plasma levels of selected microRNAs and HBsAg are inversely correlated with immunological control of CHB in children. Further studies are, however, needed to advance the understanding of microRNAs and HBsAg in the pathogenesis of CHB in children.
PMCID: PMC3823657  PMID: 24244683
3.  Identification of Novel Type 1 Diabetes Candidate Genes by Integrating Genome-Wide Association Data, Protein-Protein Interactions, and Human Pancreatic Islet Gene Expression 
Diabetes  2012;61(4):954-962.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have heralded a new era in susceptibility locus discovery in complex diseases. For type 1 diabetes, >40 susceptibility loci have been discovered. However, GWAS do not inevitably lead to identification of the gene or genes in a given locus associated with disease, and they do not typically inform the broader context in which the disease genes operate. Here, we integrated type 1 diabetes GWAS data with protein-protein interactions to construct biological networks of relevance for disease. A total of 17 networks were identified. To prioritize and substantiate these networks, we performed expressional profiling in human pancreatic islets exposed to proinflammatory cytokines. Three networks were significantly enriched for cytokine-regulated genes and, thus, likely to play an important role for type 1 diabetes in pancreatic islets. Eight of the regulated genes (CD83, IFNGR1, IL17RD, TRAF3IP2, IL27RA, PLCG2, MYO1B, and CXCR7) in these networks also harbored single nucleotide polymorphisms nominally associated with type 1 diabetes. Finally, the expression and cytokine regulation of these new candidate genes were confirmed in insulin-secreting INS-1 β-cells. Our results provide novel insight to the mechanisms behind type 1 diabetes pathogenesis and, thus, may provide the basis for the design of novel treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC3314366  PMID: 22344559
4.  Differential Plasma MicroRNA Profiles in HBeAg Positive and HBeAg Negative Children with Chronic Hepatitis B 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58236.
Background and Aim
Children chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) are at high risk of progressive liver disease. However, no treatment is available that is consistently effective in curing chronic hepatitis B (CHB) in children. Improved understanding of the natural course of disease is warranted. Identification of specific microRNA (miRNA) profiles in children chronically infected with HBV may provide insight into the pathogenesis of CHB and lead to advances in the management of children with CHB.
Patients and Methods
MiRNA PCR panels were employed to screen plasma levels of 739 miRNAs in pooled samples from HBeAg positive, HBeAg negative, and healthy children. The three groups’ plasma miRNA profiles were compared, and aberrantly expressed miRNAs were identified. The identified miRNAs were then validated. Individual RT-qPCRs were performed on plasma from 34 HBeAg positive, 26 HBeAg negative, and 60 healthy children.
A panel of 16 plasma miRNAs were identified as aberrantly expressed in HBeAg positive and HBeAg negative children (p<0.001). Levels of all of the miRNAs were upregulated in HBeAg positive children compared with in HBeAg negative children. A positive correlation was furthermore found between plasma levels of the identified miRNAs and HBV DNA (p<0.001).
We are the first to investigate the plasma miRNA profile of children chronically infected with HBV. Our data indicates the existence of a relationship between abundance of circulating miRNAs and immunological stages in the natural course of disease. Certain miRNAs may contribute to the establishment and maintenance of CHB in children. Further studies are warranted to advance understanding of miRNAs in the pathogenesis of CHB, hopefully leading to the identification of future therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3587589  PMID: 23469271
5.  Zinc transporter gene expression is regulated by pro-inflammatory cytokines: a potential role for zinc transporters in beta-cell apoptosis? 
β-cells are extremely rich in zinc and zinc homeostasis is regulated by zinc transporter proteins. β-cells are sensitive to cytokines, interleukin-1β (IL-1β) has been associated with β-cell dysfunction and -death in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This study explores the regulation of zinc transporters following cytokine exposure.
The effects of cytokines IL-1β, interferon-γ (IFN-γ), and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) on zinc transporter gene expression were measured in INS-1-cells and rat pancreatic islets. Being the more sensitive transporter, we further explored ZnT8 (Slc30A8): the effect of ZnT8 over expression on cytokine induced apoptosis was investigated as well as expression of the insulin gene and two apoptosis associated genes, BAX and BCL2.
Our results showed a dynamic response of genes responsible for β-cell zinc homeostasis to cytokines: IL-1β down regulated a number of zinc-transporters, most strikingly ZnT8 in both islets and INS-1 cells. The effect was even more pronounced when mixing the cytokines. TNF-α had little effect on zinc transporter expression. IFN-γ down regulated a number of zinc transporters. Insulin expression was down regulated by all cytokines. ZnT8 over expressing cells were more sensitive to IL-1β induced apoptosis whereas no differences were observed with IFN-γ, TNF-α, or a mixture of cytokines.
The zinc transporting system in β-cells is influenced by the exposure to cytokines. Particularly ZnT8, which has been associated with the development of diabetes, seems to be cytokine sensitive.
PMCID: PMC2651882  PMID: 19243577

Results 1-5 (5)