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1.  Clinical role of dual bronchodilation with an indacaterol–glycopyrronium combination in the management of COPD: its impact on patient-related outcomes and quality of life 
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the result of persistent and progressive pathologic abnormalities in the small airways, most often associated with alveolar loss. Smoking cessation is the most effective intervention to slow down the progression of COPD. Long-acting inhaled bronchodilators are prescribed for the symptomatic relief at any stage of disease severity. For patients whose COPD cannot be not sufficiently controlled with long-acting bronchodilator monotherapy, international guidelines suggest the possibility of associating a long-acting beta2 agonist (LABA) with a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA), ie, dual bronchodilation. This is not a new concept as the combination of short-acting agents has been popular in the past. In recent years, several fixed-dose combinations containing a LAMA and a LABA in a single inhaler have been approved by regulatory authorities in several countries. Among the new LAMA/LABA combinations, the fixed-dose combination of indacaterol 110 µg/glycopyrronium 50 µg (QVA149) has been shown in a series of clinical trials to be as safe as the single components and placebo, and more effective than placebo and the single components with regard to lung function, symptoms, and patient-oriented outcomes. Furthermore, QVA149 achieved better bronchodilation than salmeterol 50 µg/fluticasone 500 µg twice daily. Compared with tiotropium, a well-recognized treatment for COPD, the percentage of patients that exceed the minimal clinical important difference for dyspnea and health-related quality of life measurements was superior with QVA149. Other patient-oriented outcomes, such as daily symptoms, night-time awakening, and use of rescue medication consistently favored QVA149. Finally, QVA149 was significantly superior to LAMAs for reducing all types of exacerbation. In conclusion, several years after introduction of dual bronchodilation, the fixed-dose combination of indacaterol 110 µg/glycopyrronium 50 µg in a single inhaler for once-daily administration via the Breezhaler® device (QVA149) has been demonstrated to be a safe and effective treatment for COPD patients.
PMCID: PMC4516211
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; long-acting bronchodilators; dual bronchodilation; indacaterol; glycopyrronium; patient-oriented outcomes
2.  Primary Treatment Response Rather than Front Line Stem Cell Transplantation Is Crucial for Long Term Outcome of Peripheral T-Cell Lymphomas 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0121822.
Outcome of systemic peripheral T-cell lymphomas (PTCL) is unsatisfactory and no controlled clinical study guides the therapy. Phase II studies suggest to consolidate response achieved after front-line treatment with stem cell transplant (SCT). We retrospectively evaluate the impact of front-line SCT consolidation in a single Center cohort of 209 patients treated during the last two decades. Median age was 49 years (range 15-85) with a prevalence of male sex (61%), advanced stage (68%) while IPI was >2 in 44%. Primary treatment was MACOP-B (39%) CHO(E)P (39%), intensive regimens (18%) or others (4%). Complete response to primary treatment (i.e. before SCT) was 60% (5% partial remission). Forty-four patients further proceeded to SCT while 92 did not receive consolidation. Outcome of primary responders was good, with a 3-year overall survival of 74% (82% in ALCL ALK+ and 69% for the other histologies). By multivariate analysis a better overall survival was significantly associated with IPI<2 (P=0.001), primary response (P=0.000), and ALCL ALK+ (P=0.012). The multivariate analysis performed on responders, showed that only IPI was predictive of a better survival while ALCL ALK+ and undergoing SCT were not. Response to primary treatment rather than post-remission programs is the crucial determinant of PTCL outcome.
PMCID: PMC4376730  PMID: 25815886
3.  Mutagenesis of the Aquaporin 4 Extracellular Domains Defines Restricted Binding Patterns of Pathogenic Neuromyelitis Optica IgG* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2015;290(19):12123-12134.
Background: Patient-derived aquaporin 4 (AQP4)-specific recombinant monoclonal antibodies (rAbs) cause neuromyelitis optica (NMO)-specific nervous system injury in animal models.
Results: AQP4-specific rAbs bind human AQP4 based on differential sensitivity to loop A and C mutations.
Conclusion: AQP4-specific rAbs derived from NMO patients recognize multiple conformational epitopes within the extracellular domains of human AQP4.
Significance: High resolution mapping of AQP4 autoantibody epitopes identifies target regions for potential blocking therapies.
Neuromyelitis optica-immunoglobulin G (NMO-IgG) binds to aquaporin-4 (AQP4) water channels in the central nervous system leading to immune-mediated injury. We have previously demonstrated that a high proportion of CSF plasma cells of NMO patients produce antibody to the extracellular domains of the AQP4 protein and that recombinant IgG (rAb) derived from these cells recapitulate pathogenic features of disease. We performed a comprehensive mutational analysis of the three extracellular loops of the M23 isoform of human AQP4 using both serial and single point mutations, and we evaluated the effects on binding of NMO AQP4-reactive rAbs by quantitative immunofluorescence. Whereas all NMO rAbs required conserved loop C (137TP138 and Val150) and loop E (230HW231) amino acids for binding, two broad patterns of NMO-IgG recognition could be distinguished based on differential sensitivity to loop A amino acid changes. Pattern 1 NMO rAbs were insensitive to loop A mutations and could be further discriminated by differential sensitivity to amino acid changes in loop C (148TM149 and His151) and loop E (Asn226 and Glu228). Alternatively, pattern 2 NMO rAbs showed significantly reduced binding following amino acid changes in loop A (63EKP65 and Asp69) and loop C (Val141, His151, and Leu154). Amino acid substitutions at 137TP138 altered loop C conformation and abolished the binding of all NMO rAbs and NMO-IgG, indicating the global importance of loop C conformation to the recognition of AQP4 by pathogenic NMO Abs. The generation of human NMO rAbs has allowed the first high resolution mapping of extracellular loop amino acids critical for NMO-IgG binding and identified regions of AQP4 extracellular structure that may represent prime targets for drug therapy.
PMCID: PMC4424347  PMID: 25792738
Aquaporin; Autoimmunity; Epitope Mapping; Monoclonal Antibody; Neuroimmunology; Demyelination; Neuromyelitis Optica
4.  Clinico-radiological and molecular characterization of a child with ring chromosome 2 presenting growth failure, microcephaly, kidney and brain malformations 
Ring chromosome 2 is a rare constitutional abnormality that generally occurs de novo. About 14 cases have been described to date, but the vast majority of papers report exclusively conventional cytogenetic investigations and only two have been characterized by array-CGH.
Here we describe the clinical, neuroradiological, and molecular features of a 5-year-old boy harbouring a ring chromosome 2 presenting with severe growth failure, facial and bone dysmorphisms, microcephaly, and renal malformation. Brain MR with diffusion tensor imaging revealed simplified cortical gyration, pontine hypoplasia, and abnormally thick posterior corpus callosum, suggesting an underlying axonal guidance defect. Cytogenetic investigations showed a karyotype with a ring chromosome 2 and FISH analysis with subtelomeric probes revealed the absence of signals on both arms. These results were confirmed by array-CGH showing terminal deletions on 2p25.3 (~439 kb) and 2q37.3 (~3.4 Mb).
Our report describes a new patient with a ring chromosome 2 completely characterised by array-CGH providing additional information useful not only to study genotype-phenotype correlation but also to validate the role of already reported candidate genes and to suggest novel ones which could improve our understanding of the clinical features associated with ring chromosome 2.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13039-015-0121-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4359793  PMID: 25774222
Array-CGH; 2p25.3 deletion; 2q37.3 deletion; Ring chromosome 2; Brain MRI; Diffusion tensor imaging
5.  Novel dynein DYNC1H1 neck and motor domain mutations link distal SMA and abnormal cortical development 
Human mutation  2014;35(3):298-302.
DYNC1H1 encodes the heavy chain of cytoplasmic dynein 1, a motor protein complex implicated in retrograde axonal transport, neuronal migration, and other intracellular motility functions. Mutations in DYNC1H1 have been described in autosomal dominant Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 2 and in families with distal spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) predominantly affecting the legs (SMA-LED). Recently, defects of cytoplasmic dynein 1 were also associated with a form of mental retardation and neuronal migration disorders. Here we describe two unrelated patients presenting a combined phenotype of congenital motor neuron disease associated with focal areas of cortical malformation. In each patient we identified a novel de novo mutation in DYNC1H1: c.3581A>G (p.Gln1194Arg) in one case and c.9142G>A (p.Glu3048Lys) in the other. The mutations lie in different domains of the dynein heavy chain, and are deleterious to protein function as indicated by assays for Golgi recovery after nocodazole washout in patient fibroblasts. Our results expand the set of pathological mutations in DYNC1H1, reinforce the role of cytoplasmic dynein in disorders of neuronal migration and provide evidence for a syndrome including spinal nerve degeneration and brain developmental problems.
PMCID: PMC4109683  PMID: 24307404
DYNC1H1; distal SMA; SMA-LED; abnormal cortical development
6.  The genotypic and phenotypic spectrum of PIGA deficiency 
Phosphatidylinositol glycan biosynthesis class A protein (PIGA) is one of the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor proteins, which function as enzymes, adhesion molecules, complement regulators and co-receptors in signal transduction pathways. Until recently, only somatic PIGA mutations had been reported in patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), while germline mutations had not been observed, and were suspected to result in lethality. However, in just two years, whole exome sequencing (WES) analyses have identified germline PIGA mutations in male patients with XLIDD (X-linked intellectual developmental disorder) with a wide spectrum of clinical presentations.
Methods and results
Here, we report on a new missense PIGA germline mutation [g.15342986C>T (p.S330N)] identified via WES followed by Sanger sequencing, in a Chinese male infant presenting with developmental arrest, infantile spasms, a pattern of lesion distribution on brain MRI resembling that typical of maple syrup urine disease, contractures, dysmorphism, elevated alkaline phosphatase, mixed hearing loss (a combination of conductive and sensorineural), liver dysfunction, mitochondrial complex I and V deficiency, and therapy-responsive dyslipidemia with confirmed lipoprotein lipase deficiency. X-inactivation studies showed skewing in the clinically unaffected carrier mother, and CD109 surface expression in patient fibroblasts was 57% of that measured in controls; together these data support pathogenicity of this mutation. Furthermore, we review all reported germline PIGA mutations (1 nonsense, 1 frameshift, 1 in-frame deletion, five missense) in 8 unrelated families.
Our case further delineates the heterogeneous phenotype of this condition for which we propose the term ‘PIGA deficiency’. While the phenotypic spectrum is wide, it could be classified into two types (severe and less severe) with shared hallmarks of infantile spasms with hypsarrhythmia on EEG and profound XLIDD. In severe PIGA deficiency, as described in our patient, patients also present with dysmorphic facial features, multiple CNS abnormalities, such as thin corpus callosum and delayed myelination, as well as hypotonia and elevated alkaline phosphatase along with liver, renal, and cardiac involvement; its course is often fatal. The less severe form of PIGA deficiency does not involve facial dysmorphism and multiple CNS abnormalities; instead, patients present with milder IDD, treatable seizures and generally a longer lifespan.
PMCID: PMC4348372  PMID: 25885527
Intellectual disability; Epileptic encephalopathy; Hypotonia; Dysmorphism; Multi-organ involvement; Genomics; Intramyelin edema; Glycosylphosphatidylinositol; Lipoprotein lipase; Alkaline phosphatase; Iron
7.  Does treatment assignment influence the prognosis of patients with symptomatic severe aortic stenosis? 
Aortic valve replacement (AVR) is the standard therapy in patients with symptomatic aortic stenosis (AS). In high surgical risk patients, alternative therapeutic options to medical treatment (MT) such as trans-catheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) or balloon aortic valvuloplasty (BAV) have been proposed. In this study we evaluated whether treatment assignment influences per se the prognosis of these subjects.
Patients and methods
Criteria for treatment assignment were based on patient’s clinical conditions, Logistic EuroSCORE and other co-morbidities ignored by EuroSCORE. Due to baseline clinical differences between patients with diverse treatment assignment, we used propensity score matching to achieve balance.
368 patients were studied: 141 underwent AVR, 127 TAVI, 49 BAV and 51 MT. 84 events (deaths for all causes) occurred during 14 months of follow-up: 11 AVR (8%), 26 TAVI (20%), 18 MT (35%), 29 BAV group (59%). Traditional Cox analysis identified treatment assignment as independent predictor of events (HR 1.82 [CI 1.10-3.25]) together with lower left ventricular ejection fraction, impaired renal function and history of heart failure. Matched Cox analysis by propensity score confirmed treatment assignment as an independent prognosticator of events (HR 1.90 [CI 1.27-2.85]), and showed similar rate events in TAVI and AVR patients, while it was significantly increased in BAV and MT patients.
Treatment assignment may influence outcome of symptomatic patients with AS.
PMCID: PMC4298079  PMID: 25575911
Aortic stenosis; Aortic valve replacement; TAVI; Balloon aortic valvuloplasty; Prognosis
8.  The pathogenetic bases of sarcopenia 
Aging is accompanied by involuntary loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength and function, called sarcopenia. The mechanisms underlying the development of sarcopenia are not completely understood and most likely multi-factorial, but significant progress has been made over the past few years to identify some of the major contributors.
Besides life style-related factors, as diet and physical activity, sarcopenia seems to be also determined by hormonal dysregulation, chronic inflammatory status, ectopic adipose tissue accumulation, neurological and vascular changes associated with aging.
The present mini-review focused on the basic factors that primarily impact muscle homeostasis in older subjects.
A better understanding of cellular mechanism leading to sarcopenia is required to establish evidence-based intervention in order to prevent onset of symptoms associated with sarcopenia and to extend the time free from disability in older adults.
PMCID: PMC4469221  PMID: 26136791
sarcopenia; aging; chronic inflammation; muscle lipotoxicity
10.  Rate of Primary Refractory Disease in B and T-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Correlation with Long-Term Survival 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106745.
Primary refractory disease is a main challenge in the management of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). This survey was performed to define the rate of refractory disease to first-line therapy in B and T-cell NHL subtypes and the long-term survival of primary refractory compared to primary responsive patients.
Medical records were reviewed of 3,106 patients who had undergone primary treatment for NHL between 1982 and 2012, at the Hematology Centers of Torino and Bergamo, Italy. Primary treatment included CHOP or CHOP-like regimens (63.2%), intensive therapy with autograft (16.9%), or other therapies (19.9%). Among B-cell NHL, 1,356 (47.8%) received first-line chemotherapy with rituximab. Refractory disease was defined as stable/progressive disease, or transient response with disease progression within six months.
Overall, 690 (22.2%) patients showed primary refractory disease, with a higher incidence amongst T-cell compared to B-cell NHL (41.9% vs. 20.5%, respectively, p<0.001). Several other clinico-pathological factors at presentation were variably associated with refractory disease, including histological aggressive disease, unfavorable clinical presentation, Bone Marrow involvement, low lymphocyte/monocyte ration and male gender. Amongst B-cell NHL, the addition of rituximab was associated with a marked reduction of refractory disease (13.6% vs. 26.7% for non-supplemented chemotherapy, p<0.001). Overall, primary responsive patients had a median survival of 19.8 years, compared to 1.3 yr. for refractory patients. A prolonged survival was consistently observed in all primary responsive patients regardless of the histology. The long life expectancy of primary responsive patients was documented in both series managed before and after 2.000. Response to first line therapy resulted by far the most predictive factor for long-term outcome (HR for primary refractory disease: 16.52, p<0.001).
Chemosensitivity to primary treatment is crucial for the long-term survival in NHL. This supports the necessity of studies aimed to early identify refractory disease and to develop different treatment strategies for responsive and refractory patients.
PMCID: PMC4177839  PMID: 25255081
11.  Management of COPD in the UK primary-care setting: an analysis of real-life prescribing patterns 
Despite the availability of national and international guidelines, evidence suggests that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) treatment is not always prescribed according to recommendations. This study evaluated the current management of patients with COPD using a large UK primary-care database.
This analysis used electronic patient records and patient-completed questionnaires from the Optimum Patient Care Research Database. Data on current management were analyzed by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) group and presence or absence of a concomitant asthma diagnosis, in patients with a COPD diagnosis at ≥35 years of age and with spirometry results supportive of the COPD diagnosis.
A total of 24,957 patients were analyzed, of whom 13,557 (54.3%) had moderate airflow limitation (GOLD Stage 2 COPD). The proportion of patients not receiving pharmacologic treatment for COPD was 17.0% in the total COPD population and 17.7% in the GOLD Stage 2 subset. Approximately 50% of patients in both cohorts were receiving inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), either in combination with a long-acting β2-agonist (LABA; 26.7% for both cohorts) or a LABA and a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA; 23.2% and 19.9%, respectively). ICS + LABA and ICS + LABA + LAMA were the most frequently used treatments in GOLD Groups A and B. Of patients without concomitant asthma, 53.7% of the total COPD population and 50.2% of the GOLD Stage 2 subset were receiving ICS. Of patients with GOLD Stage 2 COPD and no exacerbations in the previous year, 49% were prescribed ICS. A high proportion of GOLD Stage 2 COPD patients were symptomatic on their current management (36.6% with modified Medical Research Council score ≥2; 76.4% with COPD Assessment Test score ≥10).
COPD is not treated according to GOLD and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommendations in the UK primary-care setting. Some patients receive no treatment despite experiencing symptoms. Among those on treatment, most receive ICS irrespective of severity of airflow limitation, asthma diagnosis, and exacerbation history. Many patients on treatment continue to have symptoms.
PMCID: PMC4154894  PMID: 25210450
COPD; UK primary-care setting; prescribing patterns; inhaled corticosteroids; bronchodilators
12.  Withdrawal of inhaled corticosteroids can be safe in COPD patients at low risk of exacerbation: a real-life study on the appropriateness of treatment in moderate COPD patients (OPTIMO) 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):77.
It has been suggested that withdrawal of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) in COPD patients on maintenance treatment results in deterioration of symptoms, lung function and exacerbations. The aim of this real-life, prospective, multicentric study was to investigate whether withdrawal of ICS in COPD patients at low risk of exacerbation is linked to a deterioration in lung function and symptoms and to a higher frequency of exacerbations.
914 COPD patients, on maintenance therapy with bronchodilators and ICS, FEV1>50% predicted, and <2 exacerbations/year were recruited. Upon decision of the primary physicians, 59% of patients continued their ICS treatment whereas in 41% of patients ICS were withdrawn and regular therapy was continued with long-acting bronchodilators mostly (91% of patients). FEV1, CAT (COPD Assessment Test), and occurrence of exacerbations were measured at the beginning (T0) and at the end (T6) of the 6 months observational period.
816 patients (89.3%) concluded the study. FEV1, CAT and exacerbations history were similar in the two groups (ICS and no ICS) at T0 and at T6. We did not observe any deterioration of lung function symptoms, and exacerbation rate between the two groups at T0 and T6.
We conclude that the withdrawal of ICS, in COPD patients at low risk of exacerbation, can be safe provided that patients are left on maintenance treatment with long-acting bronchodilators.
PMCID: PMC4122053  PMID: 25005873
COPD; Inhaled corticosteroids; Bronchodilators; Exacerbations
13.  The clinical and integrated management of COPD. An official document of AIMAR (Interdisciplinary Association for Research in Lung Disease), AIPO (Italian Association of Hospital Pulmonologists), SIMER (Italian Society of Respiratory Medicine), SIMG (Italian Society of General Medicine) 
COPD is a chronic pathological condition of the respiratory system characterized by persistent and partially reversible airflow obstruction, to which variably contribute remodeling of bronchi (chronic bronchitis), bronchioles (small airway disease) and lung parenchyma (pulmonary emphysema). COPD can cause important systemic effects and be associated with complications and comorbidities. The diagnosis of COPD is based on the presence of respiratory symptoms and/or a history of exposure to risk factors, and the demonstration of airflow obstruction by spirometry. GARD of WHO has defined COPD "a preventable and treatable disease". The integration among general practitioner, chest physician as well as other specialists, whenever required, assures the best management of the COPD person, when specific targets to be achieved are well defined in a diagnostic and therapeutic route, previously designed and shared with appropriateness. The first-line pharmacologic treatment of COPD is represented by inhaled long-acting bronchodilators. In symptomatic patients, with pre-bronchodilator FEV1 < 60% predicted and ≥ 2 exacerbations/year, ICS may be added to LABA. The use of fixed-dose, single-inhaler combination may improve the adherence to treatment. Long term oxygen therapy (LTOT) is indicated in stable patients, at rest while receiving the best possible treatment, and exhibiting a PaO2 ≤ 55 mmHg (SO2 < 88%) or PaO2 values between 56 and 59 mmHg (SO2 < 89%) associated with pulmonary arterial hypertension, cor pulmonale, or edema of the lower limbs or hematocrit > 55%. Respiratory rehabilitation is addressed to patients with chronic respiratory disease in all stages of severity who report symptoms and limitation of their daily activity. It must be integrated in an individual patient tailored treatment as it improves dyspnea, exercise performance, and quality of life. Acute exacerbation of COPD is a sudden worsening of usual symptoms in a person with COPD, over and beyond normal daily variability that requires treatment modification. The pharmacologic therapy can be applied at home and includes the administration of drugs used during the stable phase by increasing the dose or modifying the route, and adding, whenever required, drugs as antibiotics or systemic corticosteroids. In case of patients who because of COPD severity and/or of exacerbations do not respond promptly to treatment at home hospital admission should be considered. Patients with "severe" or "very severe" COPD who experience exacerbations should be carried out in respiratory unit, based on the severity of acute respiratory failure. An integrated system is required in the community in order to ensure adequate treatments also outside acute care hospital settings and rehabilitation centers. This article is being simultaneously published in Sarcoidosis Vasc Diffuse Lung Dis 2014, 31(Suppl. 1);3-21.
PMCID: PMC4107539  PMID: 25057359
COPD; Integrated care; Management
14.  Constitutional chromosomal events at 22q11 and 15q26 in a child with a pilocytic astrocytoma of the spinal cord 
We report on a 9-years-old patient with mild intellectual disability, facial dimorphisms, bilateral semicircular canal dysplasia, periventricular nodular heterotopias, bilateral hippocampal malrotation and abnormal cerebellar foliation, who developed mild motor impairment and gait disorder due to a pilocytic astrocytoma of the spinal cord. Array-CGH analysis revealed two paternal inherited chromosomal events: a 484.3 Kb duplication on chromosome 15q26.3 and a 247 Kb deletion on 22q11.23. Further, a second de novo 1.5 Mb deletion on 22q11.21 occurred. Chromosome 22 at q11.2 and chromosome 15 at q24q26 are considered unstable regions subjected to copy number variations, i.e. structural alterations of genome, mediated by low copy repeat sequences or segmental duplications. The link between some structural CNVs, which compromise fundamental processes controlling DNA stability, and genomic disorders suggest a plausible scenario for cancer predisposition.
Evaluation of the genes at the breakpoints cannot account simultaneously for the phenotype and tumour development in this patient. The two paternal inherited CNVs arguably are not pathogenic and do not contribute to the clinical manifestations. Similarly, although the de novo large deletion at 22q11.21 overlaps with the Di George (DGS) critical region and results in haploinsufficiency of genes compromising critical processes for DNA stability, this case lacks several hallmarks of DGS.
PMCID: PMC4032172  PMID: 24860619
Pilocytic astrocytoma; Spinal cord; Semicircular canal dysplasia; 15q duplication; 22q11.2 deletion
15.  Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Is Associated with Aortic Valve Sclerosis in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88371.
Recent epidemiological data suggest that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is closely associated with aortic valve sclerosis (AVS), an emerging risk factor for adverse cardiovascular outcomes, in nondiabetic and type 2 diabetic individuals. To date, nobody has investigated the association between NAFLD and AVS in people with type 2 diabetes, a group of individuals in which the prevalence of these two diseases is high.
Methods and Results
We recruited 180 consecutive type 2 diabetic patients without ischemic heart disease, valvular heart disease, hepatic diseases or excessive alcohol consumption. NAFLD was diagnosed by liver ultrasonography whereas AVS was determined by conventional echocardiography in all participants. In the whole sample, 120 (66.7%) patients had NAFLD and 53 (29.4%) had AVS. No patients had aortic stenosis. NAFLD was strongly associated with an increased risk of prevalent AVS (odds ratio [OR] 2.79, 95% CI 1.3–6.1, p<0.01). Adjustments for age, sex, duration of diabetes, diabetes treatment, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, hypertension, dyslipidemia, hemoglobin A1c and estimated glomerular filtration rate did not attenuate the strong association between NAFLD and risk of prevalent AVS (adjusted-OR 3.04, 95% CI 1.3–7.3, p = 0.01).
Our results provide the first demonstration of a positive and independent association between NAFLD and AVS in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
PMCID: PMC3914984  PMID: 24505484
16.  A method for integrative structure determination of protein-protein complexes 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(24):3282-3289.
Motivation: Structural characterization of protein interactions is necessary for understanding and modulating biological processes. On one hand, X-ray crystallography or NMR spectroscopy provide atomic resolution structures but the data collection process is typically long and the success rate is low. On the other hand, computational methods for modeling assembly structures from individual components frequently suffer from high false-positive rate, rarely resulting in a unique solution.
Results: Here, we present a combined approach that computationally integrates data from a variety of fast and accessible experimental techniques for rapid and accurate structure determination of protein–protein complexes. The integrative method uses atomistic models of two interacting proteins and one or more datasets from five accessible experimental techniques: a small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) profile, 2D class average images from negative-stain electron microscopy micrographs (EM), a 3D density map from single-particle negative-stain EM, residue type content of the protein–protein interface from NMR spectroscopy and chemical cross-linking detected by mass spectrometry. The method is tested on a docking benchmark consisting of 176 known complex structures and simulated experimental data. The near-native model is the top scoring one for up to 61% of benchmark cases depending on the included experimental datasets; in comparison to 10% for standard computational docking. We also collected SAXS, 2D class average images and 3D density map from negative-stain EM to model the PCSK9 antigen–J16 Fab antibody complex, followed by validation of the model by a subsequently available X-ray crystallographic structure.
Contact: or
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3519461  PMID: 23093611
17.  Neuromyelitis Optica IgG Does Not Alter Aquaporin-4 Water Permeability, Plasma Membrane M1/M23 Isoform Content, or Supramolecular Assembly 
Glia  2012;60(12):2027-2039.
Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is thought to be caused by immunoglobulin G autoantibodies (NMO-IgG) against astrocyte water channel aquaporin-4 (AQP4). A recent study (Hinson et al. (2012) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109:1245- 1250) reported that NMO-IgG inhibits AQP4 water permeability directly and causes rapid cellular internalization of the M1 but not M23 isoform of AQP4, resulting in AQP4 clustering, enhanced complement-dependent cytotoxicity, and tissue swelling. Here, we report evidence challenging this proposed mechanism of NMO-IgG-mediated pathology. We measured osmotic water permeability by stopped-flow light scattering on plasma membrane vesicles isolated from AQP4-expressing CHO cells, an approach that can detect changes in water permeability as small as 5% and is not confounded by internalization effects. We found similar single- molecule water permeability for M1-AQP4 tetramers and M23-AQP4 clusters (orthogonal arrays of particles, OAPs). Exposure of AQP4 to high concentrations of NMOIgG from six seropositive NMO patients, and to high-affinity recombinant monoclonal NMO antibodies, did not reduce AQP4 water permeability. Also, NMO-IgG did not reduce water permeability in AQP4-reconstituted proteoliposomes. In transfected cells expressing M1- or M23-AQP4 individually, NMO-IgG caused more rapid internalization of M23- than M1-AQP4. In cells coexpressing both isoforms, M1- and M23-AQP4 comingled in OAPs that were internalized together in response to NMO-IgG. Super-resolution imaging and native gel electrophoresis showed that the size of AQP4 OAPs was not altered by NMO sera or recombinant NMO antibodies. We conclude that NMO-IgG does not: (i) inhibit AQP4 water permeability, (ii) cause preferential internalization of M1-AQP4, or (iii) cause intramembrane AQP4 clustering.
PMCID: PMC3586219  PMID: 22987455
AQP4; aquaporin; OAP; NMO; astrocyte
18.  A Randomized Study of Interferon α-2b Versus No Treatment as Consolidation After High Dose Therapy and Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation for Patients With Relapsed Lymphoma 
The Oncologist  2013;18(11):1189.
Patients with lymphoma who have experienced a first relapse or progression and have disease deemed sensitive to salvage chemotherapy nevertheless have a high likelihood of having a second relapse. To decrease the likelihood of a second relapse after high-dose therapy (HDT) and autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT), interferon (IFN) α-2b was given in a prospective randomized international trial.
In this trial, 221 patients with varying histologic diagnoses (8 small lymphocytic, 37 follicular, 9 mantle, 90 diffuse large B-cell, 20 peripheral T-cell, 3 high-grade B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and 54 Hodgkin lymphoma) were randomly assigned to receive no further treatment (arm A: 117 patients) or IFNα-2b, 3 MU three times weekly, for 18 months (arm B: 104 patients).
In arm B, 21 patients (20%) did not receive IFNα-2b because of early progression or absence of hematologic recovery, 29 patients (28%) completed the 18 months of treatment, and 54 patients (52%) interrupted treatment because of progression (23%) or toxicity (29%). Event-free survival and overall survival were not different between the two arms on an intent-to-treat analysis and also if analysis was restricted to patients who were alive and had not experienced disease progression three months after transplantation. The study was not sufficiently powered to evaluate effects in histologic subtypes.
In this trial, post-autograft IFNα-2b did not improve outcomes in a heterogeneous group of patients with lymphoma.
PMCID: PMC3825302  PMID: 24105750
19.  Aortic and Mitral Annular Calcifications Are Predictive of All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes 
Diabetes Care  2012;35(8):1781-1786.
To examine the association of aortic valve sclerosis (AVS) and mitral annulus calcification (MAC) with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in type 2 diabetic individuals.
We retrospectively analyzed the data from 902 type 2 diabetic outpatients, who had undergone a transthoracic echocardiography for clinical reasons during the years 1992–2007. AVS and MAC were diagnosed by echocardiography, and a heart valve calcium (HVC) score was calculated by summing up the AVS and MAC variables. The study outcomes were all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.
At baseline, 477 (52.9%) patients had no heart valves affected (HVC-0), 304 (33.7%) had one valve affected (HVC-1), and 121 (13.4%) had both valves affected (HVC-2). During a mean follow-up of 9 years, 137 (15.2%) patients died, 78 of them from cardiovascular causes. Compared with patients with HVC-0, those with HVC-2 had the highest risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, whereas those with HVC-1 had an intermediate risk (P < 0.0001 by the log-rank test). After adjustment for sex, age, BMI, systolic blood pressure, diabetes duration, A1C, LDL cholesterol, estimated glomerular filtration rate, smoking, history of myocardial infarction, and use of antihypertensive and lipid-lowering drugs, the hazard ratio of all-cause mortality was 2.3 (95% CI 1.1–4.9; P < 0.01) for patients with HVC-1 and 9.3 (3.9–17.4; P < 0.001) for those with HVC-2. Similar results were found for cardiovascular mortality.
Our findings indicate that AVS and MAC, singly or in combination, are independently associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in type 2 diabetic patients.
PMCID: PMC3402245  PMID: 22699285
20.  Indacaterol: a comprehensive review 
At present there is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, some nonpharmacologic treatments, such as rehabilitation and lung volume reduction surgery, as well as pharmacologic intervention, can relieve some of the patient’s symptoms and improve quality of life, while also reducing the rate of exacerbations and hospitalizations. There needs to be a paradigm shift away from the unjustified nihilistic approach to COPD towards considering it a preventable and treatable disease. After patients quit smoking and start to lead healthier lifestyles, long-acting bronchodilators, such as long-acting beta-adrenergic agents (LABA) and long-acting antimuscarinic agents (LAMA), are recommended as the cornerstone of treatment for COPD, either as monotherapy or in combination. COPD is characterized by a reduced maximum expiratory flow and slow forced emptying of the lungs, which progress over time and are not completely reversible. In this condition, gas gets trapped in the lungs and pulmonary hyperinflation occurs. LABA and LAMA improve airway patency and deflate the lungs. Indacaterol is the first once-daily LABA approved for treatment of COPD, and is administered by inhalation through the Breezhaler® device. The speed of bronchodilation is similar to that with salbutamol (ie, about five minutes) and longer (ie, 24 hours) than that with traditional LABA, with the same 12-hour effect as salmeterol and formoterol, both of which require twice-daily administration. This is why indacaterol has been called the “ultra-LABA”. On the one hand, the fast onset of action provides immediate relief of symptoms, and on the other, its constant 24-hour bronchodilation provides “pharmacologic stenting” which facilitates lung emptying, thereby decreasing trapped gas and pulmonary hyperinflation. Once-daily administration of a fast and long-acting bronchodilator can improve patient adherence with therapy, which is known to be a major problem for many medical treatments. Dose-finding trials have shown that 75 μg is the minimum dose needed to achieve clinically important improvement. However, indacaterol 150 μg and 300 μg achieve an even greater improvement in lung function and patient-oriented outcomes. Further, these two doses of indacaterol significantly reduce pulmonary hyperinflation, thereby improving exercise tolerance and ability to perform day-to-day activities. It is more effective on lung volumes at the 300 μg dose than formoterol, and better than salmeterol and tiotropium at the 150 μg dose, at least in the acute setting. It is noteworthy that few studies document these results in patients with COPD and moderate airflow obstruction. These are exactly the kind of patients our research should be concentrating on, in view of the accelerated decay in forced expiratory volume in one second at this stage of the disease. Finally, all the relevant studies show that indacaterol is consistently well tolerated by patients with COPD at every stage, and that it has a high safety profile.
PMCID: PMC3728154  PMID: 23922496
indacaterol; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
21.  Fabs enable single particle cryoEM studies of small proteins 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2012;20(4):582-592.
In spite of its recent achievements, the technique of single particle electron cryomicroscopy (cryoEM) has not been widely used to study proteins smaller than 100kDa, although it is a highly desirable application of this technique. One fundamental limitation is that images of small proteins embedded in vitreous ice do not contain adequate features for accurate image alignment. We describe a general strategy to overcome this limitation by selecting a fragment antigen binding (Fab) to form a stable and rigid complex with a target protein, thus providing a defined feature for accurate image alignment. Using this approach, we determined a three-dimensional structure of a ~65 kDa protein by single particle cryoEM. Because Fabs can be readily generated against a wide range of proteins by phage display, this approach is generally applicable to study many small proteins by single particle cryoEM.
PMCID: PMC3322386  PMID: 22483106
22.  Aquaporin-4: orthogonal array assembly, CNS functions, and role in neuromyelitis optica 
Acta pharmacologica Sinica  2011;32(6):702-710.
Aquaporin-4 (AQP4) is a water-selective transporter expressed in astrocytes throughout the central nervous system, as well as in kidney, lung, stomach and skeletal muscle. The two AQP4 isoforms produced by alternative spicing, M1 and M23 AQP4, form heterotetramers that assemble in cell plasma membranes in supramolecular structures called orthogonal arrays of particles (OAPs). Phenotype analysis of AQP4-null mice indicates the involvement of AQP4 in brain and spinal cord water balance, astrocyte migration, neural signal transduction and neuroinflammation. AQP4-null mice manifest reduced brain swelling in cytotoxic cerebral edema, but increased brain swelling in vasogenic edema and hydrocephalus. AQP4 deficiency also increases seizure duration, impairs glial scarring, and reduces the severity of autoimmune neuroinflammation. Each of these phenotypes is likely explicable on the basis of reduced astrocyte water permeability in AQP4 deficiency. AQP4 is also involved in the neuroinflammatory demyelinating disease neuromyelitis optica (NMO), where autoantibodies (NMO-IgG) targeting AQP4 produce astrocyte damage and inflammation. Mice administered NMO-IgG and human complement by intracerebral injection develop characteristic NMO lesions with neuroinflammation, demyelination, perivascular complement deposition and loss of glial fibrillary acidic protein and AQP4 immunoreactivity. Our findings suggest the potential utility of AQP4-based therapeutics, including small-molecule modulators of AQP4 water transport function for therapy of brain swelling, injury and epilepsy, as well as small-molecule or monoclonal antibody blockers of NMO-IgG binding to AQP4 for therapy of NMO.
PMCID: PMC3601948  PMID: 21552296
AQP4; water transport; transgenic mice; brain edema; astrocyte migration; neuroexcitation; neuroinflammation; epilepsy; neuromyelitis optica
23.  Orthogonal array formation by human aquaporin-4: Examination of neuromyelitis optica-associated aquaporin-4 polymorphisms 
Journal of neuroimmunology  2011;236(1-2):93-98.
Pathogenic autoantibodies target aquaporin-4 (AQP4) water channels in individuals with neuromyelitis optica (NMO). Recently, allelic mutations were reported at residue 19 of AQP4 in three cases of NMO, and it was suggested that polymorphisms may influence disease by altering AQP4 supramolecular assembly into orthogonal arrays of particles (OAPs). We analyzed the determinants of OAP formation by human AQP4 to investigate the possible role of polymorphisms in NMO pathogenesis. NMO-associated mutations R19I and R19T in AQP4 did not affect OAP assembly, palmitoylation-dependent regulation of assembly, or NMO autoantibody binding. Residue-19 polymorphisms in AQP4 are thus unlikely to be disease relevant.
PMCID: PMC3582392  PMID: 21621278
NMO; AQP4; Water channel; Neuroinflammation
24.  Live-Cell Imaging of Aquaporin-4 Supramolecular Assembly and Diffusion 
Methods in enzymology  2012;504:341-354.
Aquaporin-4 (AQP4) is a water channel expressed in astrocytes throughout the central nervous system, as well as in epithelial cells in various peripheral organs. AQP4 is involved in brain water balance, neuroexcitation, astrocyte migration, and neuroinflammation and is the target of pathogenic autoantibodies in neuromyelitis optica. Two AQP4 isoforms produced by alternative splicing, M1 and M23 AQP4, form heterotetramers that assemble in cell plasma membranes in supramolecular aggregates called orthogonal arrays of particles (OAPs). OAPs have been studied morphologically, by freeze-fracture electron microscopy, and biochemically, by native gel electrophoresis. We have applied single-molecule and high-resolution fluorescence microscopy methods to visualize AQP4 and OAPs in live cells. Quantum dot single particle tracking of fluorescently labeled AQP4 has quantified AQP4 diffusion in membranes, and has elucidated the molecular determinants and regulation of OAP formation. The composition, structure, and kinetics of OAPs containing fluorescent protein-AQP4 chimeras have been studied utilizing total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, single-molecule photobleaching, and super-resolution imaging methods. The biophysical data afforded by live-cell imaging of AQP4 and OAPs has provided new insights in the roles of AQP4 in organ physiology and neurological disease.
PMCID: PMC3579562  PMID: 22264543
Traffic (Copenhagen, Denmark)  2011;13(1):43-53.
The supramolecular assembly of aquaporin-4 (AQP4) in orthogonal arrays of particles (OAPs) involves N-terminus interactions of the M23-AQP4 isoform. We found AQP4 OAPs in cell plasma membranes but not in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) or Golgi, as shown by: (i) native gel electrophoresis of brain and AQP4-transfected cells; (ii) photobleaching recovery of GFP-AQP4 chimeras in live cells; and (iii) freeze-fracture electron microscopy (FFEM). We found that AQP4 OAP formation in plasma membranes but not Golgi was not related to AQP4 density, pH, membrane lipid composition, C-terminal PDZ-domain interactions or α-syntrophin expression. Remarkably, however, fusion of AQP4-containing Golgi vesicles with (AQP4-free) plasma membrane vesicles produced OAPs, suggesting the involvement of plasma membrane factor(s) in AQP4 OAP formation. In investigating additional possible determinants of OAP assembly we discovered membrane curvature-dependent OAP assembly, in which OAPs were disrupted by extrusion of plasma membrane vesicles to ~110 nm diameter, but not to ~220 nm diameter. We conclude that AQP4 supramolecular assembly in OAPs is a post-Golgi phenomenon involving plasma membrane-specific factor(s). Post-Golgi and membrane curvature-dependent OAP assembly may be important for vesicle transport of AQP4 in the secretory pathway and AQP4-facilitated astrocyte migration, and suggests a novel therapeutic approach for neuromyelitis optica (NMO).
PMCID: PMC3319398  PMID: 21981006
AQP4; OAP; NMO; Golgi

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