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1.  Selective Calcium Sensitivity in Immature Glioma Cancer Stem Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115698.
Tumor-initiating cells are a subpopulation in aggressive cancers that exhibit traits shared with stem cells, including the ability to self-renew and differentiate, commonly referred to as stemness. In addition, such cells are resistant to chemo- and radiation therapy posing a therapeutic challenge. To uncover stemness-associated functions in glioma-initiating cells (GICs), transcriptome profiles were compared to neural stem cells (NSCs) and gene ontology analysis identified an enrichment of Ca2+ signaling genes in NSCs and the more stem-like (NSC-proximal) GICs. Functional analysis in a set of different GIC lines regarding sensitivity to disturbed homeostasis using A23187 and Thapsigargin, revealed that NSC-proximal GICs were more sensitive, corroborating the transcriptome data. Furthermore, Ca2+ drug sensitivity was reduced in GICs after differentiation, with most potent effect in the NSC-proximal GIC, supporting a stemness-associated Ca2+ sensitivity. NSCs and the NSC-proximal GIC line expressed a larger number of ion channels permeable to potassium, sodium and Ca2+. Conversely, a higher number of and higher expression levels of Ca2+ binding genes that may buffer Ca2+, were expressed in NSC-distal GICs. In particular, expression of the AMPA glutamate receptor subunit GRIA1, was found to associate with Ca2+ sensitive NSC-proximal GICs, and decreased as GICs differentiated along with reduced Ca2+ drug sensitivity. The correlation between high expression of Ca2+ channels (such as GRIA1) and sensitivity to Ca2+ drugs was confirmed in an additional nine novel GIC lines. Calcium drug sensitivity also correlated with expression of the NSC markers nestin (NES) and FABP7 (BLBP, brain lipid-binding protein) in this extended analysis. In summary, NSC-associated NES+/FABP7+/GRIA1+ GICs were selectively sensitive to disturbances in Ca2+ homeostasis, providing a potential target mechanism for eradication of an immature population of malignant cells.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115698
PMCID: PMC4274094  PMID: 25531110
2.  Erg Channel Is Critical in Controlling Cell Volume during Cell Cycle in Embryonic Stem Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72409.
Abstract
The cell cycle progression in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) is controlled by ion fluxes that alter cell volume [1]. This suggests that ion fluxes might control dynamic changes in morphology over the cell cycle, such as rounding up of the cell at mitosis. However, specific channels regulating such dynamic changes and the possible interactions with actomyosin complex have not been clearly identified. Following RNAseq transcriptome analysis of cell cycle sorted mESCs, we found that expression of the K+ ion channel Erg1 peaked in G1 cell cycle phase, which was confirmed by immunostaining. Inhibition of Erg channel activity caused loss of G1 phase cells via non-apoptotic cell death. Cells first lost the ability of membrane blebbing, a typical feature of cultured embryonic stem cells. Continued Erg inhibition further increased cell volume and the cell eventually ruptured. In addition, atomic force measurements on live cells revealed a decreased cortical stiffness after treatment, suggesting alterations in actomyosin organization. When the intracellular osmotic pressure was experimentally decreased by hypertonic solution or block of K+ ion import via the Na, K-ATPase, cell viability was restored and cells acquired normal volume and blebbing activity. Our results suggest that Erg channels have a critical function in K+ ion homeostasis of mESCs over the cell cycle, and that cell death following Erg inhibition is a consequence of the inability to regulate cell volume.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072409
PMCID: PMC3732234  PMID: 23936540
3.  Small molecule screening platform for assessment of cardiovascular toxicity on adult zebrafish heart 
BMC Physiology  2012;12:3.
Background
Cardiovascular toxicity is a major limiting factor in drug development and requires multiple cost-effective models to perform toxicological evaluation. Zebrafish is an excellent model for many developmental, toxicological and regenerative studies. Using approaches like morpholino knockdown and electrocardiogram, researchers have demonstrated physiological and functional similarities between zebrafish heart and human heart. The close resemblance of the genetic cascade governing heart development in zebrafish to that of humans has propelled the zebrafish system as a cost-effective model to conduct various genetic and pharmacological screens on developing embryos and larvae. The current report describes a methodology for rapid isolation of adult zebrafish heart, maintenance ex vivo, and a setup to perform quick small molecule throughput screening, including an in-house implemented analysis script.
Results
Adult zebrafish were anesthetized and after rapid decapitation the hearts were isolated. The short time required for isolation of hearts allows dissection of multiple fishes, thereby obtaining a large sample size. The simple protocol for ex vivo culture allowed maintaining the beating heart for several days. The in-house developed script and spectral analyses allowed the readouts to be presented either in time domain or in frequency domain. Taken together, the current report offers an efficient platform for performing cardiac drug testing and pharmacological screens.
Conclusion
The new methodology presents a fast, cost-effective, sensitive and reliable method for performing small molecule screening. The variety of readouts that can be obtained along with the in-house developed analyses script offers a powerful setup for performing cardiac toxicity evaluation by researchers from both academics and industry.
doi:10.1186/1472-6793-12-3
PMCID: PMC3334682  PMID: 22449203
Heart; Screening; Zebrafish; Small molecule; Ex vivo; Ca2+ signaling

Results 1-3 (3)