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1.  Pre-existing Epithelial Diversity in Normal Human Livers: A Tissue-tethered Cytometric Analysis in Portal/Periportal Epithelial Cells 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2013;57(4):1632-1643.
Routine light microscopy identifies two distinct epithelial cell populations in normal human livers: hepatocytes and biliary epithelial cells (BEC). Considerable epithelial diversity, however, arises during disease states when a variety of hepatocyte-BEC hybrid cells appear. This has been attributed to activation and differentiation of putative hepatic progenitor cells (HPC) residing in the Canals of Hering and/or metaplasia of pre-existing mature epithelial cells. A novel analytic approach consisting of multiplex labeling, high resolution whole slide imaging (WSI), and automated image analysis was used to determine if more complex epithelial cell phenotypes pre-existed in normal adult human livers, which might provide an alternative explanation for disease-induced epithelial diversity. “Virtually digested” WSI enabled quantitative cytometric analyses of individual cells displayed in a variety of formats (e.g. scatter plots) while still tethered to the WSI and tissue structure. We employed biomarkers specifically-associated with mature epithelial forms (HNF4α for hepatocytes, CK19 and HNF1β for BEC) and explored for the presence of cells with hybrid biomarker phenotypes. Results showed abundant hybrid cells in portal bile duct BEC, canals of Hering, and immediate periportal hepatocytes. These bi-potential cells likely serve as a reservoir for the epithelial diversity of ductular reactions, appearance of hepatocytes in bile ducts, and the rapid and fluid transition of BEC to hepatocytes, and vice versa.
Novel imaging and computational tools enable increased information extraction from tissue samples and quantify the considerable pre-existent hybrid epithelial diversity in normal human liver. This computationally-enabled tissue analysis approach offers much broader potential beyond the results presented here.
PMCID: PMC3612393  PMID: 23150208
Digital imaging; progenitor cells; Canals of Hering; hepatocyte nuclear factors; fluorescence microscopy
2.  SPRR2A enhances p53 deacetylation through HDAC1 and down regulates p21 promoter activity 
BMC Molecular Biology  2012;13:20.
Small proline rich protein (SPRR) 2A is one of 14 SPRR genes that encodes for a skin cross-linking protein, which confers structural integrity to the cornified keratinocyte cell envelope. New evidence, however, shows that SPRR2A is also a critical stress and wound repair modulator: it enables a variety of barrier epithelia to transiently acquire mesenchymal characteristics (EMT) and simultaneously quench reactive oxygen species during wound repair responses. p53 is also widely recognized as the node in cellular stress responses that inhibits EMT and triggers cell-cycle arrest, apoptosis, and cellular senescence. Since some p53-directed processes would seem to impede wound repair of barrier epithelia, we hypothesized that SPRR2A up regulation might counteract these effects and enable/promote wound repair under stressful environmental conditions.
Using a well characterized cholangiocarcinoma cell line we show that levels of SPRR2A expression, similar to that seen during stressful biliary wound repair responses, disrupts acetylation and subsequent p53 transcriptional activity. p53 deacetylation is accomplished via two distinct, but possibly related, mechanisms: 1) a reduction of p300 acetylation, thereby interfering with p300-p53 binding and subsequent p300 acetylation of K382 in p53; and 2) an increase in histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) mRNA and protein expression. The p300 CH3 domain is essential for both the autoacetylation of p300 and transference of the acetyl group to p53 and HDAC1 is a component of several non-p300 complexes that enhance p53 deacetylation, ubiquitination, and proteosomal degradation. HDAC1 can also bind the p300-CH3 domain, regulating p300 acetylation and interfering with p300 mediated p53 acetylation. The importance of this pathway is illustrated by showing complete restoration of p53 acetylation and partial restoration of p300 acetylation by treating SPRR2A expressing cells with HDAC1 siRNA.
Up-regulation of SPRR2A, similar to that seen during barrier epithelia wound repair responses reduces p53 acetylation by interfering with p300-p53 interactions and by increasing HDAC1 expression. SPRR2A, therefore, functions as a suppressor of p53-dependent transcriptional activity, which otherwise might impede cellular processes needed for epithelial wound repair responses such as EMT.
PMCID: PMC3495018  PMID: 22731250
3.  Cooperation of p300 and PCAF in the Control of MicroRNA 200c/141 Transcription and Epithelial Characteristics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32449.
Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) not only occurs during embryonic development and in response to injury, but is an important element in cancer progression. EMT and its reverse process, mesenchymal to epithelial transition (MET) is controlled by a network of transcriptional regulators and can be influenced by posttranscriptional and posttranslational modifications. EMT/MET involves many effectors that can activate and repress these transitions, often yielding a spectrum of cell phenotypes. Recent studies have shown that the miR-200 family and the transcriptional suppressor ZEB1 are important contributors to EMT. Our previous data showed that forced expression of SPRR2a was a powerful inducer of EMT and supports the findings by others that SPRR gene members are highly upregulated during epithelial remodeling in a variety of organs. Here, using SPRR2a cells, we characterize the role of acetyltransferases on the microRNA-200c/141 promoter and their effect on the epithelial/mesenchymal status of the cells. We show that the deacetylase inhibitor TSA as well as P300 and PCAF can cause a shift towards epithelial characteristics in HUCCT-1-SPRR2a cells. We demonstrate that both P300 and PCAF act as cofactors for ZEB1, forming a P300/PCAF/ZEB1 complex on the miR200c/141 promoter. This binding results in lysine acetylation of ZEB1 and a release of ZEB1 suppression on miR-200c/141 transcription. Furthermore, disruption of P300 and PCAF interactions dramatically down regulates miR-200c/141 promoter activity, indicating a PCAF/P300 cooperative function in regulating the transcriptional suppressor/activator role of ZEB1. These data demonstrate a novel mechanism of miRNA regulation in mediating cell phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3284570  PMID: 22384255
4.  Production of α1,3-Galactosyltransferase–Deficient Pigs 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2002;299(5605):411-414.
The enzyme α1,3-galactosyltransferase (α1,3GT or GCTA1) synthesizes α1,3-galactose (α1,3Gal) epitopes (Galα1,3Galβ1,4GlcNAc-R), which are the major xenoantigens causing hyperacute rejection in pig-to-human xenotransplantation. Complete removal of α1,3Gal from pig organs is the critical step toward the success of xenotransplantation. We reported earlier the targeted disruption of one allele of the α1,3GT gene in cloned pigs. A selection procedure based on a bacterial toxin was used to select for cells in which the second allele of the gene was knocked out. Sequencing analysis demonstrated that knockout of the second allele of the α1,3GT gene was caused by a T-to-G single point mutation at the second base of exon 9, which resulted in inactivation of the α1,3GT protein. Four healthy α1,3GT double-knockout female piglets were produced by three consecutive rounds of cloning. The piglets carrying a point mutation in the α1,3GT gene hold significant value, as they would allow production of α1,3Gal-deficient pigs free of antibiotic-resistance genes and thus have the potential to make a safer product for human use.
PMCID: PMC3154759  PMID: 12493821
5.  Small Proline Rich Proteins (SPRR) Function as SH3 Domain Ligands, Increase Resistance to Injury and are Associated with Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) in cholangiocytes 
Journal of hepatology  2007;48(2):276-288.
Deficient biliary epithelial cell (BEC) expression of small proline rich protein (SPRR) 2A in IL-6-/- mice is associated with defective biliary barrier function after bile duct ligation. And numerous gene array expression studies show SPRR2A to commonly be among the most highly upregulated genes in many non-squamous, stressed and remodeling barrier epithelia. Since the function of SPRR in these circumstances is unknown, we tested the exploratory hypothesis that BEC SPRR2A expression contributes to BEC barrier function and wound repair.
The effect of SPRR2A expression was studied in primary mouse BEC cultures; in BEC cell line after forced over expression of SPRR2A; and in human livers removed at the time of liver transplantation.
Forced SPRR2A over-expression showed that it functions as a SH3 domain ligand that increases resistance to oxidative injury and promotes wound restitution by enhancing migration and acquisition of mesenchymal characteristics. Low confluency non-neoplastic mouse BEC cultures show a phenotype similar to the stable transfectants, as did spindle-shaped BEC participating in atypical ductular reactions in primary biliary cirrhosis.
These observations suggest that SPRR2A-related BEC barrier modifications represent a novel, but widely utilized and evolutionarily conserved, response to stress that is worthy of further study.
PMCID: PMC2263141  PMID: 18155796
Cholangiocytes; Ductular Reaction; Wound Healing; Oxidative Stress; Repair; SH3 domain; EMT
6.  Biliary wound healing, ductular reactions, and IL-6/gp130 signaling in the development of liver disease 
Basic and translational wound healing research in the biliary tree lag significantly behind similar studies on the skin and gastrointestinal tract. This is at least partly attributable to lack of easy access to the biliary tract for study. But clinical relevance, more interest in biliary epithelial cell (BEC) pathophysiology, and widespread availability of BEC cultures are factors reversing this trend. In the extra-hepatic biliary tree, ineffectual wound healing, scarring and stricture development are pressing issues. In the smallest intra-hepatic bile ducts either impaired BEC proliferation or an exuberant response can contribute to liver disease. Chronic inflammation and persistent wound healing reactions in large and small bile ducts often lead to liver cancer. General concepts of wound healing as they apply to the biliary tract, importance of cellular processes dependent on IL-6/gp130/STAT3 signaling pathways, unanswered questions, and future directions are discussed.
PMCID: PMC4087567  PMID: 16773708
Biliary wound healing; Ductular reactions; IL-6/gp130 signaling

Results 1-6 (6)