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1.  Novel pathways in the pathobiology of human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a dilatation of the infrarenal aorta, typically affects males > 65 years. The pathobiological mechanisms of human AAA are poorly understood. The goal of this study was to identify novel pathways involved in the development of AAAs.
A custom-designed “AAA-chip” was used to assay 43 of the differentially expressed genes identified in a previously published microarray study between AAA (n = 15) and control (n = 15) infrarenal abdominal aorta. Protein analyses were performed on selected genes.
Altogether 38 of the 43 genes on the “AAA-chip” showed significantly different expression. Novel validated genes in AAA pathobiology included ADCY7, ARL4C, BLNK, FOSB, GATM, LYZ, MFGE8, PRUNE2, PTPRC, SMTN, TMODI and TPM2. These genes represent a wide range of biological functions, such as calcium signaling, development and differentiation, as well as cell adhesion not previously implicated in AAA pathobiology. Protein analyses for GATM, CD4, CXCR4, BLNK, PLEK, LYZ, FOSB, DUSP6, ITGA5 and PTPRC confirmed the mRNA findings.
The results provide new directions for future research into AAA pathogenesis to study the role of novel genes confirmed here. New treatments and diagnostic tools for AAA could potentially be identified by studying these novel pathways.
PMCID: PMC3782105  PMID: 22797469
gene expression; vascular biology; aorta; abdominal aortic aneurysm
2.  Yes-Associated Protein (YAP) Modulates Oncogenic Features and Radiation Sensitivity in Endometrial Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100974.
Yes-associated protein (YAP) is a transcriptional co-activator and regulates cell proliferation and apoptosis. We investigated the clinical and biological significance of YAP in endometrial cancer (EMCA).
YAP expression in 150 primary tumor tissues from patients with EMCA was evaluated by immunohistochemistry and its association with clinicopathological data was assessed. The biological functions of YAP were determined in EMCA cell lines through knockdown/overexpression of YAP. The role of YAP in modulating radiation sensitivity was also investigated in EMCA cells.
Increased nuclear YAP expression was significantly associated with higher grade, stage, lympho-vascular space invasion, postoperative recurrence/metastasis and overall survival in estrogen mediated EMCA, called type 1 cancer (p = 0.019,  = 0.028,  = 0.0008,  = 0.046 and  = 0.015, respectively). In multivariate analysis, nuclear YAP expression was confirmed as an independent prognostic factor for overall survival in type 1 EMCA. YAP knockdown by siRNA resulted in a significant decrease in cell proliferation (p<0.05), anchorage-dependent growth (p = 0.015) and migration/invasion (p<0.05), and a significant increase in the number of cells in G0/G1 phase (p = 0.002). Conversely, YAP overexpression promoted cell proliferation. Clonogenic assay demonstrated enhanced radiosensitivity by approximately 36% in YAP inhibited cells.
Since YAP functions as a transcriptional co-activator, its differential localization in the nucleus of cancer cells and subsequent impact on cell proliferation could have important consequences with respect to its role as an oncogene in EMCA. Nuclear YAP expression could be useful as a prognostic indicator or therapeutic target and predict radiation sensitivity in patients with EMCA.
PMCID: PMC4074125  PMID: 24972085
3.  Identification, basic characterization and evolutionary analysis of differentially spliced mRNA isoforms of human YAP1 gene 
Gene  2012;509(2):215-222.
The YAP1 gene encodes a potent new oncogene and stem cell factor. However, in some cancers, the YAP1 gene plays a role of tumor suppressor. At present, the gene and its products are intensely studied and its cDNAs are used as transgenes in cellular and animal models. Here, we report 4 new potential mRNA splicing isoforms of the YAP1 gene, bringing the total number of isoforms to 8. We detected all 8 YAP1 isoforms in a panel of human tissues and evaluated the expression of the longest isoform of YAP1 (YAP1-2δ) using Real Time PCR. All YAP1 isoforms are barely detectable in human leukocytes compared to fair levels of expression found in other human tissues. We analyzed the structure of the genomic region that gave rise to alternatively spliced YAP1 transcripts in different metazoans. We found that YAP1 isoforms, which utilize exon 6 emerged in evolution with the appearance of amniotes. Interestingly, 6 YAP1 isoforms, which contain the exon 5 extension, exon 6 or both would have their leucine zipper region disrupted in the predicted protein product, compared to the intact leucine zipper found in two YAP1 (α) isoforms. This observation has direct functional ramifications for YAP1 signaling. We also propose a normalized nomenclature for the mRNA splice variants of YAP1 gene, which should aid in the characterization of signaling differences among the potential protein products of the YAP1 gene.
PMCID: PMC3455135  PMID: 22939869
Alternative splicing; WW domains; Leucine Zipper; Quantitative RT-PCR
4.  Role of Complement Cascade in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms 
The goal of this study was to investigate the role of complement cascade genes in the pathobiology of human abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs).
Methods and Results
Results of a genome-wide microarray expression profiling revealed 3,274 differentially expressed genes between aneurysmal and control aortic tissue. Interestingly, 13 genes in the complement cascade were significantly differentially expressed between AAA and the controls. In silico analysis of the promoters of the 13 complement cascade genes showed enrichment for transcription factor binding sites for STAT5A. Chromatin-immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated binding of transcription factor STAT5A to the promoters of the majority of the complement cascade genes. Immunohistochemical analysis showed strong staining for C2 in AAA tissues.
These results provide strong evidence that the complement cascade plays a role in human AAA. Based on our microarray studies, the pathway is activated in AAA, particularly via the lectin and classical pathways. The overrepresented binding sites of transcription factor STAT5A in the complement cascade gene promoters suggest a role for STAT5A in the coordinated regulation of complement cascade gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3712630  PMID: 21493888
Abdominal aortic aneurysm; complement cascade; genetic association study; STAT5; chromatin immunoprecipitation
5.  Long-Term Weight-Loss in Gastric Bypass Patients Carrying Melanocortin 4 Receptor Variants 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93629.
The melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) critically regulates feeding and satiety. Rare variants in MC4R are predominantly found in obese individuals. Though some rare variants in MC4R discovered in patients have defects in localization, ligand binding and signaling to cAMP, many have no recognized defects.
In our cohort of 1433 obese subjects that underwent Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) surgery, we found fifteen variants of MC4R. We matched rare variant carriers to patients with the MC4R reference alleles for gender, age, starting BMI and T2D to determine the variant effect on weight-loss post-RYGB. In vitro, we determined expression of mutant receptors by ELISA and western blot, and cAMP production by microscopy.
While carrying a rare MC4R allele is associated with obesity, carriers of rare variants exhibited comparable weight-loss after RYGB to non-carriers. However, subjects carrying three of these variants, V95I, I137T or L250Q, lost less weight after surgery. In vitro, the R305Q mutation caused a defect in cell surface expression while only the I137T and C326R mutations showed impaired cAMP signaling. Despite these apparent differences, there was no correlation between in vitro signaling and pre- or post-surgery clinical phenotype.
These data suggest that subtle differences in receptor signaling conferred by rare MC4R variants combined with additional factors predispose carriers to obesity. In the absence of complete MC4R deficiency, these differences can be overcome by the powerful weight-reducing effects of bariatric surgery. In a complex disorder such as obesity, genetic variants that cause subtle defects that have cumulative effects can be overcome after appropriate clinical intervention.
PMCID: PMC3976318  PMID: 24705671
6.  Mechanistic Phenotypes: An Aggregative Phenotyping Strategy to Identify Disease Mechanisms Using GWAS Data 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81503.
A single mutation can alter cellular and global homeostatic mechanisms and give rise to multiple clinical diseases. We hypothesized that these disease mechanisms could be identified using low minor allele frequency (MAF<0.1) non-synonymous SNPs (nsSNPs) associated with “mechanistic phenotypes”, comprised of collections of related diagnoses. We studied two mechanistic phenotypes: (1) thrombosis, evaluated in a population of 1,655 African Americans; and (2) four groupings of cancer diagnoses, evaluated in 3,009 white European Americans. We tested associations between nsSNPs represented on GWAS platforms and mechanistic phenotypes ascertained from electronic medical records (EMRs), and sought enrichment in functional ontologies across the top-ranked associations. We used a two-step analytic approach whereby nsSNPs were first sorted by the strength of their association with a phenotype. We tested associations using two reverse genetic models and standard additive and recessive models. In the second step, we employed a hypothesis-free ontological enrichment analysis using the sorted nsSNPs to identify functional mechanisms underlying the diagnoses comprising the mechanistic phenotypes. The thrombosis phenotype was solely associated with ontologies related to blood coagulation (Fisher's p = 0.0001, FDR p = 0.03), driven by the F5, P2RY12 and F2RL2 genes. For the cancer phenotypes, the reverse genetics models were enriched in DNA repair functions (p = 2×10−5, FDR p = 0.03) (POLG/FANCI, SLX4/FANCP, XRCC1, BRCA1, FANCA, CHD1L) while the additive model showed enrichment related to chromatid segregation (p = 4×10−6, FDR p = 0.005) (KIF25, PINX1). We were able to replicate nsSNP associations for POLG/FANCI, BRCA1, FANCA and CHD1L in independent data sets. Mechanism-oriented phenotyping using collections of EMR-derived diagnoses can elucidate fundamental disease mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3861317  PMID: 24349080
7.  Fibrillin-2 is dispensable for peripheral nerve development, myelination and regeneration 
The extracellular matrix of peripheral nerve is formed from a diverse set of macromolecules, including glycoproteins, collagens and proteoglycans. Recent studies using knockout animal models have demonstrated that individual components of the extracellular matrix play a vital role in peripheral nerve development and regeneration. In this study we identified fibrillin-1 and fibrillin-2, large modular structural glycoproteins, as components of the extracellular matrix of peripheral nerve. Previously it was found that fibrillin-2 null mice display joint contractures, suggesting a possible defect of the peripheral nervous system in these animals. Close examination of the peripheral nerves of fibrillin-2 deficient animals described here revealed some structural abnormalities in the perineurium, while general structure of the nerve and molecular composition of nerve extracellular matrix remained unchanged. We also found that in spite of the obvious motor function impairment, fibrillin-2 null mice failed to display changes of nerve conduction properties or nerve regeneration capacity. Based on the data obtained we can conclude that peripheral neuropathy should be excluded as the cause of the impairment of locomotory function and joint contractures observed in fibrillin-2 deficient animals.
PMCID: PMC2898920  PMID: 20188829
fibrillin; extracellular matrix; peripheral nerve
8.  The Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network: Past, Present and Future 
The Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network is a National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)-funded consortium engaged in the development of methods and best-practices for utilizing the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) as a tool for genomic research. Now in its sixth year, its second funding cycle and comprising nine research groups and a coordinating center, the network has played a major role in validating the concept that clinical data derived from EMRs can be used successfully for genomic research. Current work is advancing knowledge in multiple disciplines at the intersection of genomics and healthcare informatics, particularly electronic phenotyping, genome-wide association studies, genomic medicine implementation and the ethical and regulatory issues associated with genomics research and returning results to study participants. Here we describe the evolution, accomplishments, opportunities and challenges of the network since its inception as a five-group consortium focused on genotype-phenotype associations for genomic discovery to its current form as a nine-group consortium pivoting towards implementation of genomic medicine.
PMCID: PMC3795928  PMID: 23743551
electronic medical records; personalized medicine; genome-wide association studies; genetics and genomics; collaborative research
9.  HECT E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Nedd4-1 Ubiquitinates ACK and Regulates Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)-Induced Degradation of EGF Receptor and ACK ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(6):1541-1554.
ACK (activated Cdc42-associated tyrosine kinase) (also Tnk2) is an ubiquitin-binding protein and plays an important role in ligand-induced and ubiquitination-mediated degradation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Here we report that ACK is ubiquitinated by HECT E3 ubiquitin ligase Nedd4-1 and degraded along with EGFR in response to EGF stimulation. ACK interacts with Nedd4-1 through a conserved PPXY WW-binding motif. The WW3 domain in Nedd4-1 is critical for binding to ACK. Although ACK binds to both Nedd4-1 and Nedd4-2 (also Nedd4L), Nedd4-1 is the E3 ubiquitin ligase for ubiquitination of ACK in cells. Interestingly, deletion of the sterile alpha motif (SAM) domain at the N terminus dramatically reduced the ubiquitination of ACK by Nedd4-1, while deletion of the Uba domain dramatically enhanced the ubiquitination. Use of proteasomal and lysosomal inhibitors demonstrated that EGF-induced ACK degradation is processed by lysosomes, not proteasomes. RNA interference (RNAi) knockdown of Nedd4-1, not Nedd4-2, inhibited degradation of both EGFR and ACK, and overexpression of ACK mutants that are deficient in either binding to or ubiquitination by Nedd4-1 blocked EGF-induced degradation of EGFR. Our findings suggest an essential role of Nedd4-1 in regulation of EGFR degradation through interaction with and ubiquitination of ACK.
PMCID: PMC2832494  PMID: 20086093
10.  Association of chromosome 9p21 SNPs with cardiovascular phenotypes in morbid obesity using electronic health record data 
Genomic Medicine  2008;2(1-2):33-43.
Genomic medicine research requires substantial time and resources to obtain phenotype data. The electronic health record offers potential efficiencies in addressing these temporal and economic challenges, but few studies have explored the feasibility of using such data for genetics research. The main objective of this study was to determine the association of two genetic variants located on chromosome 9p21 conferring susceptibility to coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes with a variety of clinical phenotypes derived from the electronic health record in a population of morbidly obese patients. Data on more than 100 clinical measures including diagnoses, laboratory values, and medications were extracted from the electronic health records of a total of 709 morbidly obese (body mass index (BMI) ≥ 40 kg/m2) patients. Two common single nucleotide polymorphisms located at chromosome 9p21 recently linked to coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes (McPherson et al. Science 316:1488–1491, 2007; Saxena et al. Science 316:1331–1336, 2007; Scott et al. Science 316:1341-1345, 2007) were genotyped to assess statistical association with clinical phenotypes. Neither the type 2 diabetes variant nor the coronary heart disease variant was related to any expected clinical phenotype, although high-risk type 2 diabetes/coronary heart disease compound genotypes were associated with several coronary heart disease phenotypes. Electronic health records may be efficient sources of data for validation studies of genetic associations.
PMCID: PMC2518660  PMID: 18716918
SNP; Morbid obesity; Electronic health record; Cardiovascular disease; Type 2 diabetes
11.  Transcriptional profile of Rous Sarcoma Virus transformed chicken embryo fibroblasts reveals new signaling targets of viral-src 
Virology  2007;364(1):10-20.
Transformation of chicken fibroblasts in vitro by Rous Sarcoma Virus represents a model of cancer in which a single oncogene, viral src, uniformly and rapidly transforms primary cells in culture. We experimentally surveyed the transcriptional program affected by Rous Sarcoma Virus (RSV) in primary culture of chicken embryo fibroblasts. As a control, we used cells infected with non-transforming RSV mutant td106, in which the src gene was deleted. Using Affymetrix GeneChipR Chicken Genome Arrays, we report 811 genes that were modulated more than 2.5 fold in the virus transformed cells. Among these, 409 genes were induced and 402 genes were repressed by viral src. From the repertoire of modulated genes, we selected 20 genes that were robustly changed. We then validated and quantified the transcriptional changes of most of the 20 selected genes by real-time PCR. The set of strongly induced genes contains vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, MAP kinase phosphatase 2 and follistatin, among others. The set of strongly repressed genes contains TGF beta 3, TGF beta-induced gene, and deiodinase. The function of several robustly modulated genes sheds new light on the molecular mechanism of oncogenic transformation.
PMCID: PMC1974879  PMID: 17448514
avian sarcoma; Schmidt-Ruppin strain of RSV; src oncogene; protein-tyrosine kinase; vasoactive intestinal polypeptide; MAP kinase phosphatase 2; follistatin
12.  Phospholemman Overexpression Inhibits Na+-K+-ATPase in Adult Rat Cardiac Myocytes: Relevance to Decreased Na+ pump Activity in Post-Infarction Myocytes 
Messenger RNA levels of phospholemman (PLM), a member of the FXYD family of small single-span membrane proteins with putative ion-transport regulatory properties, were increased in postinfarction (MI) rat myocytes. We tested the hypothesis that the previously observed reduction in Na+-K+-ATPase activity in MI rat myocytes was due to PLM overexpression. In rat hearts harvested 3 and 7 days post-MI, PLM protein expression was increased by 2- and 4-fold, respectively. To simulate increased PLM expression post-MI, PLM was overexpressed in normal adult rat myocytes by adenovirus-mediated gene transfer. PLM overexpression did not affect the relative level of phosphorylation on serine68 of PLM. Na+-K+-ATPase activity was measured as ouabain-sensitive Na+-K+ pump current (Ip). Compared to control myocytes overexpressing green fluorescent protein alone, Ip measured in myocytes overexpressing PLM was significantly (P<0.0001) lower at similar membrane voltages, pipette Na+ ([Na+]pip) and extracellular K+ concentrations ([K+]o). From −70 to +60 mV, neither [Na+]pip nor [K+]o required to attain half-maximal Ip was significantly different between control and PLM myocytes. This phenotype of decreased Vmax without appreciable changes in Km for Na+ and K+ in PLM overexpressed myocytes was similar to that observed in MI rat myocytes. Inhibition of Ip by PLM overexpression was not due to decreased Na+-K+-ATPase expression since there were no changes in either protein or messenger RNA levels of either α1 or α2 isoforms of Na+-K+-ATPase. In native rat cardiac myocytes, PLM co-immunoprecipitated with α-subunits of Na+-K+-ATPase. Inhibition of Na+-K+-ATPase by PLM overexpression, in addition to previously reported decrease in Na+-K+-ATPase expression, may explain altered Vmax but not Km of Na+-K+-ATPase in postinfarction rat myocytes.
PMCID: PMC1351072  PMID: 16195392
primary cardiac myocyte culture; patch clamp; ion transport; Western blots
13.  Cytoplasmic tail of phospholemman interacts with the intracellular loop of the cardiac Na+/Ca2+ exchanger 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2006;281(42):32004-32014.
Phospholemman (PLM), a member of the FXYD family of small ion transport regulators, inhibits cardiac Na+/Ca2+ exchanger (NCX1). NCX1 is made up of N-terminal domain consisting of the 1st five transmembrane segments (residues 1-217), a large intracellular loop (residues 218-764), and a C-terminal domain comprising the last four transmembrane segments (residues 765-938). Using GST pulldown assay, we demonstrated that the intracellular loop, but not the N- or C-terminal transmembrane domains of NCX1, was associated with PLM. Further analysis using protein constructs of GST fused to various segments of the intracellular loop of NCX1 suggest that PLM bound to residues 218-371 and 508-764 but not 371-508. Split Na+/Ca2+ exchangers consisting of N- or C-terminal domains with different lengths of the intracellular loop were co-expressed with PLM in HEK293 cells that are devoid of endogenous PLM and NCX1. While expression of N-terminal but not C-terminal domain alone resulted in correct membrane targeting, co-expression of both N- and C-terminal domains was required for correct membrane targeting and functional exchange activity. NCX1 current measurements indicate that PLM decreased NCX1 current only when the split exchangers contained residues 218-358 of the intracellular loop. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments with PLM and split exchangers suggest that PLM associated with the N-terminal domain of NCX1 when it contained intracellular loop residues 218-358. TM43, a PLM mutant with its cytoplasmic tail truncated, did not co-immunoprecipitate with wild-type NCX1 when co-expressed in HEK293 cells, confirming little to no interaction between the transmembrane domains of PLM and NCX1. We conclude that PLM interacted with the intracellular loop of NCX1, most likely at residues 218-358.
PMCID: PMC1613256  PMID: 16921169
14.  Secreted gliomedin is a perinodal matrix component of peripheral nerves 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2007;177(3):551-562.
The interaction between gliomedin and the axonodal cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) neurofascin and NrCAM induces the clustering of Na+ channels at the nodes of Ranvier. We define new interactions of gliomedin that are essential for its clustering activity. We show that gliomedin exists as both transmembrane and secreted forms that are generated by proteolytic cleavage of the protein, and that only the latter is detected at the nodes of Ranvier. The secreted extracellular domain of gliomedin binds to Schwann cells and is incorporated into the extracellular matrix (ECM) in a heparin-dependent manner, suggesting the involvement of heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs). Furthermore, we show that the N-terminal region of gliomedin serves as an oligomerization domain that mediates self-association of the molecule, which is required for its binding to neurofascin and NrCAM. Our results indicate that the deposition of gliomedin multimers at the nodal gap by binding to HSPGs facilitates the clustering of the axonodal CAMs and Na+ channels.
PMCID: PMC2064815  PMID: 17485493
15.  Synergistic Regulation of Schwann Cell Proliferation by Heregulin and Forskolin 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(11):6245-6252.
A peptide corresponding to the epidermal growth factor homology domain of β-heregulin stimulated autophosphorylation of the heregulin receptors erbB2 and erbB3 in Schwann cells and activation of the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases ERK1 and ERK2. Heregulin-dependent activation of PAK65, a component of the stress-activated signaling pathway, ribosomal S6 kinase, and a cyclic AMP (cAMP) response element binding protein (CREB) kinase, identified as p95RSK2, was also observed. Receptor phosphorylation and activation of these kinases in response to heregulin occurred in the absence of forskolin stimulation and were not augmented in cells treated with forskolin, a direct activator of adenylyl cyclase. Schwann cell proliferation in response to heregulin was observed only when the cells were also exposed to an agent that elevates cAMP levels. In the absence of heregulin, elevation of cAMP levels failed to stimulate Schwann cell proliferation. Forskolin significantly enhanced heregulin-stimulated expression of cyclin D and phosphorylation of the retinoblastoma gene product. In cells treated with both heregulin and forskolin there was a sustained accumulation of phospho-CREB, which was not observed in cells treated with either agent alone. Heregulin and forskolin synergistically activated transcription of a cyclin D promoter construct. These results demonstrate that heregulin-stimulated activation of MAP kinase is not sufficient to induce maximal Schwann cell proliferation. Expression of critical cell cycle regulatory proteins and cell division require activation of both heregulin and cAMP-dependent processes.
PMCID: PMC109211  PMID: 9774641
16.  The Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network: past, present, and future 
Genetics in Medicine  2013;15(10):761-771.
The Electronic Medical Records and Genomics Network is a National Human Genome Research Institute–funded consortium engaged in the development of methods and best practices for using the electronic medical record as a tool for genomic research. Now in its sixth year and second funding cycle, and comprising nine research groups and a coordinating center, the network has played a major role in validating the concept that clinical data derived from electronic medical records can be used successfully for genomic research. Current work is advancing knowledge in multiple disciplines at the intersection of genomics and health-care informatics, particularly for electronic phenotyping, genome-wide association studies, genomic medicine implementation, and the ethical and regulatory issues associated with genomics research and returning results to study participants. Here, we describe the evolution, accomplishments, opportunities, and challenges of the network from its inception as a five-group consortium focused on genotype–phenotype associations for genomic discovery to its current form as a nine-group consortium pivoting toward the implementation of genomic medicine.
Genet Med 15 10, 761–771.
PMCID: PMC3795928  PMID: 23743551
collaborative research; electronic medical records; genetics and genomics; genome-wide association studies; personalized medicine
17.  MicroRNA expression signature in human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
BMC Medical Genomics  2012;5:25.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a dilatation of the aorta affecting most frequently elderly men. Histologically AAAs are characterized by inflammation, vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis, and extracellular matrix degradation. The mechanisms of AAA formation, progression, and rupture are currently poorly understood. A previous mRNA expression study revealed a large number of differentially expressed genes between AAA and non-aneurysmal control aortas. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), small non-coding RNAs that are post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression, could provide a mechanism for the differential expression of genes in AAA.
To determine differences in miRNA levels between AAA (n = 5) and control (n = 5) infrarenal aortic tissues, a microarray study was carried out. Results were adjusted using Benjamini-Hochberg correction (adjusted p < 0.05). Real-time quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) assays with an independent set of 36 AAA and seven control tissues were used for validation. Potential gene targets were retrieved from miRNA target prediction databases Pictar, TargetScan, and MiRTarget2. Networks from the target gene set were generated and examined using the network analysis programs, CytoScape® and Ingenuity Pathway Core Analysis®.
A microarray study identified eight miRNAs with significantly different expression levels between AAA and controls (adjusted p < 0.05). Real-time qRT-PCR assays validated the findings for five of the eight miRNAs. A total of 222 predicted miRNA target genes known to be differentially expressed in AAA based on a prior mRNA microarray study were identified. Bioinformatic analyses revealed that several target genes are involved in apoptosis and activation of T cells.
Our genome-wide approach revealed several differentially expressed miRNAs in human AAA tissue suggesting that miRNAs play a role in AAA pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3507654  PMID: 22704053
Apoptosis; Microarray analysis; Vascular biology; miRNA-mRNA analysis; Network analysis
18.  Regional expression of HOXA4 along the aorta and its potential role in human abdominal aortic aneurysms 
BMC Physiology  2011;11:9.
The infrarenal abdominal aorta exhibits increased disease susceptibility relative to other aortic regions. Allograft studies exchanging thoracic and abdominal segments showed that regional susceptibility is maintained regardless of location, suggesting substantial roles for embryological origin, tissue composition and site-specific gene expression.
We analyzed gene expression with microarrays in baboon aortas, and found that members of the HOX gene family exhibited spatial expression differences. HOXA4 was chosen for further study, since it had decreased expression in the abdominal compared to the thoracic aorta. Western blot analysis from 24 human aortas demonstrated significantly higher HOXA4 protein levels in thoracic compared to abdominal tissues (P < 0.001). Immunohistochemical staining for HOXA4 showed nuclear and perinuclear staining in endothelial and smooth muscle cells in aorta. The HOXA4 transcript levels were significantly decreased in human abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) compared to age-matched non-aneurysmal controls (P < 0.00004). Cultured human aortic endothelial and smooth muscle cells stimulated with INF-γ (an important inflammatory cytokine in AAA pathogenesis) showed decreased levels of HOXA4 protein (P < 0.0007).
Our results demonstrated spatial variation in expression of HOXA4 in human aortas that persisted into adulthood and that downregulation of HOXA4 expression was associated with AAAs, an important aortic disease of the ageing population.
PMCID: PMC3125234  PMID: 21627813

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