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1.  Sex Differences in Constitutive Autophagy 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:652817.
Sex bias has been described nowadays in biomedical research on animal models, although sexual dimorphism has been confirmed widely under pathological and physiological conditions. The main objective of our work was to study the sex differences in constitutive autophagy in spinal cord and skeletal muscle tissue from wild type mice. To examine the influence of sex on autophagy, mRNA and proteins were extracted from male and female mice tissues. The expressions of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) and sequestosome 1 (p62), markers to monitor autophagy, were analyzed at 40, 60, 90, and 120 days of age. We found significant sex differences in the expression of LC3 and p62 in both tissues at these ages. The results indicated that sex and tissue specific differences exist in constitutive autophagy. These data underlined the need to include both sexes in the experimental groups to minimize any sex bias.
doi:10.1155/2014/652817
PMCID: PMC3955681  PMID: 24719882
2.  MicroRNA-206: A Potential Circulating Biomarker Candidate for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89065.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a lethal motor neuron disease that progressively debilitates neuronal cells that control voluntary muscle activity. Biomarkers are urgently needed to facilitate ALS diagnosis and prognosis, and as indicators of therapeutic response in clinical trials. microRNAs (miRNAs), small posttranscriptional modifiers of gene expression, are frequently altered in disease conditions. Besides their important regulatory role in variety of biological processes, miRNAs can also be released into the circulation by pathologically affected tissues and display remarkable stability in body fluids. In a mouse model of ALS that expresses mutated human superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1-G93A) skeletal muscle is one of the tissues affected early by mutant SOD1 toxicity. To find biomarkers for ALS, we studied miRNA alterations from skeletal muscle and plasma of SOD1-G93A mice, and subsequently tested the levels of the affected miRNAs in the serum from human ALS patients. Fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles from symptomatic SOD1-G93A mice (age 90 days) and their control littermates were first studied using miRNA microarrays and then evaluated with quantitative PCR from five age groups from neonatal to the terminal disease stage (10–120 days). Among those miRNA changed in various age/gender/muscle groups (miR-206, -1, -133a, -133b, -145, -21, -24), miR-206 was the only one consistently altered during the course of the disease pathology. In both sexes, mature miR-206 was increased in fast-twitch muscles preferably affected in the SOD1-G93A model, with highest expression towards the most severely affected animals. Importantly, miR-206 was also increased in the circulation of symptomatic animals and in a group of 12 definite ALS patients tested. We conclude that miR-206 is elevated in the circulation of symptomatic SOD1-G93A mice and possibly in human ALS patients. Although larger scale studies on ALS patients are warranted, miR-206 is a promising candidate biomarker for this motor neuron disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089065
PMCID: PMC3930686  PMID: 24586506
3.  Analysis of conservation priorities of Iberoamerican cattle based on autosomal microsatellite markers 
Background
Determining the value of livestock breeds is essential to define conservation priorities, manage genetic diversity and allocate funds. Within- and between-breed genetic diversity need to be assessed to preserve the highest intra-specific variability. Information on genetic diversity and risk status is still lacking for many Creole cattle breeds from the Americas, despite their distinct evolutionary trajectories and adaptation to extreme environmental conditions.
Methods
A comprehensive genetic analysis of 67 Iberoamerican cattle breeds was carried out with 19 FAO-recommended microsatellites to assess conservation priorities. Contributions to global diversity were investigated using alternative methods, with different weights given to the within- and between-breed components of genetic diversity. Information on Iberoamerican plus 15 worldwide cattle breeds was used to investigate the contribution of geographical breed groups to global genetic diversity.
Results
Overall, Creole cattle breeds showed a high level of genetic diversity with the highest level found in breeds admixed with zebu cattle, which were clearly differentiated from all other breeds. Within-breed kinships revealed seven highly inbred Creole breeds for which measures are needed to avoid further genetic erosion. However, if contribution to heterozygosity was the only criterion considered, some of these breeds had the lowest priority for conservation decisions. The Weitzman approach prioritized highly differentiated breeds, such as Guabalá, Romosinuano, Cr. Patagonico, Siboney and Caracú, while kinship-based methods prioritized mainly zebu-related breeds. With the combined approaches, breed ranking depended on the weights given to the within- and between-breed components of diversity. Overall, the Creole groups of breeds were generally assigned a higher priority for conservation than the European groups of breeds.
Conclusions
Conservation priorities differed significantly according to the weight given to within- and between-breed genetic diversity. Thus, when establishing conservation programs, it is necessary to also take into account other features. Creole cattle and local isolated breeds retain a high level of genetic diversity. The development of sustainable breeding and crossbreeding programs for Creole breeds, and the added value resulting from their products should be taken into consideration to ensure their long-term survival.
doi:10.1186/1297-9686-45-35
PMCID: PMC3851275  PMID: 24079454
4.  Prion Protein Gene Variability in Spanish Goats. Inference through Susceptibility to Classical Scrapie Strains and Pathogenic Distribution of Peripheral PrPsc 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61118.
Classical scrapie is a neurological disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by the accumulation of an abnormal, partially protease resistant prion protein (PrPsc) in the CNS and in some peripheral tissues in domestic small ruminants. Whereas the pathological changes and genetic susceptibility of ovine scrapie are well known, caprine scrapie has been less well studied. We report here a pathological study of 13 scrapie-affected goats diagnosed in Spain during the last 9 years. We used immunohistochemical and biochemical techniques to discriminate between classical and atypical scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). All the animals displayed PrPsc distribution patterns and western blot characteristics compatible with classical scrapie. In addition, we determined the complete open reading frame sequence of the PRNP in these scrapie-affected animals. The polymorphisms observed were compared with those of the herd mates (n = 665) and with the frequencies of healthy herds (n = 581) of native Spanish goats (Retinta, Pirenaica and Moncaina) and other worldwide breeds reared in Spain (Saanen, Alpine and crossbreed). In total, sixteen polymorphic sites were identified, including the known amino acid substitutions at codons G37V, G127S, M137I, I142M, H143R, R151H, R154H, R211Q, Q222K, G232W, and P240S, and new polymorphisms at codons G74D, M112T, R139S, L141F and Q215R. In addition, the known 42, 138 and 179 silent mutations were detected, and one new one is reported at codon 122. The genetic differences observed in the population studied have been attributed to breed and most of the novel polymorphic codons show frequencies lower than 5%. This work provides the first basis of polymorphic distribution of PRNP in native and worldwide goat breeds reared in Spain.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061118
PMCID: PMC3620333  PMID: 23580248
5.  Genetic Footprints of Iberian Cattle in America 500 Years after the Arrival of Columbus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49066.
Background
American Creole cattle presumably descend from animals imported from the Iberian Peninsula during the period of colonization and settlement, through different migration routes, and may have also suffered the influence of cattle directly imported from Africa. The introduction of European cattle, which began in the 18th century, and later of Zebu from India, has threatened the survival of Creole populations, some of which have nearly disappeared or were admixed with exotic breeds. Assessment of the genetic status of Creole cattle is essential for the establishment of conservation programs of these historical resources.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We sampled 27 Creole populations, 39 Iberian, 9 European and 6 Zebu breeds. We used microsatellite markers to assess the origins of Creole cattle, and to investigate the influence of different breeds on their genetic make-up. The major ancestral contributions are from breeds of southern Spain and Portugal, in agreement with the historical ports of departure of ships sailing towards the Western Hemisphere. This Iberian contribution to Creoles may also include some African influence, given the influential role that African cattle have had in the development of Iberian breeds, but the possibility of a direct influence on Creoles of African cattle imported to America can not be discarded. In addition to the Iberian influence, the admixture with other European breeds was minor. The Creoles from tropical areas, especially those from the Caribbean, show clear signs of admixture with Zebu.
Conclusions/Significance
Nearly five centuries since cattle were first brought to the Americas, Creoles still show a strong and predominant signature of their Iberian ancestors. Creole breeds differ widely from each other, both in genetic structure and influences from other breeds. Efforts are needed to avoid their extinction or further genetic erosion, which would compromise centuries of selective adaptation to a wide range of environmental conditions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049066
PMCID: PMC3498335  PMID: 23155451
6.  Isolation and characterization of ovine mesenchymal stem cells derived from peripheral blood 
Background
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent stem cells with capacity to differentiate into several mesenchymal lineages. This quality makes MSCs good candidates for use in cell therapy. MSCs can be isolated from a variety of tissues including bone marrow and adipose tissue, which are the most common sources of these cells. However, MSCs can also be isolated from peripheral blood. Sheep has been proposed as an ideal model for biomedical studies including those of orthopaedics and transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The aim of this work was to advance these studies by investigating the possibility of MSC isolation from ovine peripheral blood (oPB-MSCs) and by subsequently characterizing there in vitro properties.
Results
Plastic-adherent fibroblast-like cells were obtained from the mononuclear fraction of blood samples. These cells were analysed for their proliferative and differentiation potential into adipocytes, osteoblasts and chondrocytes, as well as for the gene expression of cell surface markers. The isolated cells expressed transcripts for markers CD29, CD73 and CD90, but failed to express the haematopoietic marker CD45 and expressed only low levels of CD105. The expression of CD34 was variable. The differentiation potential of this cell population was evaluated using specific differentiation media. Although the ability of the cultures derived from different animals to differentiate into adipocytes, osteoblasts and chondrocytes was heterogeneous, we confirmed this feature using specific staining and analysing the gene expression of differentiation markers. Finally, we tested the ability of oPB-MSCs to transdifferentiate into neuronal-like cells. Morphological changes were observed after 24-hour culture in neurogenic media, and the transcript levels of the neurogenic markers increased during the prolonged induction period. Moreover, oPB-MSCs expressed the cellular prion protein gene (PRNP), which was up-regulated during neurogenesis.
Conclusions
This study describes for the first time the isolation and characterization of oPB-MSCs. Albeit some variability was observed between animals, these cells retained their capacity to differentiate into mesenchymal lineages and to transdifferentiate into neuron-like cells in vitro. Therefore, oPB-MSCs could serve as a valuable tool for biomedical research in fields including orthopaedics or prion diseases.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-169
PMCID: PMC3514285  PMID: 22999337
Sheep; Mesenchymal stem cell; Peripheral blood; Neurogenesis
7.  Effect of hypoxia on equine mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow and adipose tissue 
Background
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from bone marrow (BM-MSCs) and adipose tissue (AT-MSCs) are being applied to equine cell therapy. The physiological environment in which MSCs reside is hypoxic and does not resemble the oxygen level typically used in in vitro culture (20% O2). This work compares the growth kinetics, viability, cell cycle, phenotype and expression of pluripotency markers in both equine BM-MSCs and AT-MSCs at 5% and 20% O2.
Results
At the conclusion of culture, fewer BM-MSCs were obtained in hypoxia than in normoxia as a result of significantly reduced cell division. Hypoxic AT-MSCs proliferated less than normoxic AT-MSCs because of a significantly higher presence of non-viable cells during culture. Flow cytometry analysis revealed that the immunophenotype of both MSCs was maintained in both oxygen conditions. Gene expression analysis using RT-qPCR showed that statistically significant differences were only found for CD49d in BM-MSCs and CD44 in AT-MSCs. Similar gene expression patterns were observed at both 5% and 20% O2 for the remaining surface markers. Equine MSCs expressed the embryonic markers NANOG, OCT4 and SOX2 in both oxygen conditions. Additionally, hypoxic cells tended to display higher expression, which might indicate that hypoxia retains equine MSCs in an undifferentiated state.
Conclusions
Hypoxia attenuates the proliferative capacity of equine MSCs, but does not affect the phenotype and seems to keep them more undifferentiated than normoxic MSCs.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-142
PMCID: PMC3483288  PMID: 22913590
Hypoxia; Horse; AT-MSC; BM-MSC; Characterisation
8.  Genetic Biomarkers for ALS Disease in Transgenic SOD1G93A Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32632.
The pathophysiological mechanisms of both familial and sporadic Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) are unknown, although growing evidence suggests that skeletal muscle tissue is a primary target of ALS toxicity. Skeletal muscle biopsies were performed on transgenic SOD1G93A mice, a mouse model of ALS, to determine genetic biomarkers of disease longevity. Mice were anesthetized with isoflurane, and three biopsy samples were obtained per animal at the three main stages of the disease. Transcriptional expression levels of seventeen genes, Ankrd1, Calm1, Col19a1, Fbxo32, Gsr, Impa1, Mef2c, Mt2, Myf5, Myod1, Myog, Nnt, Nogo A, Pax7, Rrad, Sln and Snx10, were tested in each muscle biopsy sample. Total RNA was extracted using TRIzol Reagent according to the manufacturer's protocol, and variations in gene expression were assayed by real-time PCR for all of the samples. The Pearson correlation coefficient was used to determine the linear correlation between transcriptional expression levels throughout disease progression and longevity. Consistent with the results obtained from total skeletal muscle of transgenic SOD1G93A mice and 74-day-old denervated mice, five genes (Mef2c, Gsr, Col19a1, Calm1 and Snx10) could be considered potential genetic biomarkers of longevity in transgenic SOD1G93A mice. These results are important because they may lead to the exploration of previously unexamined tissues in the search for new disease biomarkers and even to the application of these findings in human studies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032632
PMCID: PMC3296719  PMID: 22412900
9.  Gene Expression Profiling and Association with Prion-Related Lesions in the Medulla Oblongata of Symptomatic Natural Scrapie Animals 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19909.
The pathogenesis of natural scrapie and other prion diseases remains unclear. Examining transcriptome variations in infected versus control animals may highlight new genes potentially involved in some of the molecular mechanisms of prion-induced pathology. The aim of this work was to identify disease-associated alterations in the gene expression profiles of the caudal medulla oblongata (MO) in sheep presenting the symptomatic phase of natural scrapie. The gene expression patterns in the MO from 7 sheep that had been naturally infected with scrapie were compared with 6 controls using a Central Veterinary Institute (CVI) custom designed 4×44K microarray. The microarray consisted of a probe set on the previously sequenced ovine tissue library by CVI and was supplemented with all of the Ovis aries transcripts that are currently publicly available. Over 350 probe sets displayed greater than 2-fold changes in expression. We identified 148 genes from these probes, many of which encode proteins that are involved in the immune response, ion transport, cell adhesion, and transcription. Our results confirm previously published gene expression changes that were observed in murine models with induced scrapie. Moreover, we have identified new genes that exhibit differential expression in scrapie and could be involved in prion neuropathology. Finally, we have investigated the relationship between gene expression profiles and the appearance of the main scrapie-related lesions, including prion protein deposition, gliosis and spongiosis. In this context, the potential impacts of these gene expression changes in the MO on scrapie development are discussed.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019909
PMCID: PMC3101219  PMID: 21629698
10.  Lack of a synergistic effect of a non-viral ALS gene therapy based on BDNF and a TTC fusion molecule 
Background
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is one of the most devastating neurodegenerative diseases. Neurotrophic factors have been widely tested to counteract neurodegenerative conditions, despite their unspecific neuronal access. The non-toxic C-terminal fragment of the tetanus toxin (TTC) heavy chain has been studied not only as a carrier molecule to the CNS but also as a neuroprotective agent. Because the neurotrophic effects of BDNF have been demonstrated in vitro and in vivo, the question addressed in this work is whether a fusion molecule of BDNF-TTC may have a synergistic effect and enhance the neuroprotective properties of TTC alone in a mouse model of ALS.
Methods
Recombinant plasmid constructs (pCMV-TTC and pCMV-BDNF-TTC) were injected into the quadriceps femoris and triceps brachialis muscles of SOD1G93A transgenic mice at 8 weeks of age. The hanging wire and rotarod tests were performed to assess motor coordination, strength and balance. Electrophysiological tests, morphological assays of spinal cord sections of L2 and L4 segments, and gene and protein expression analyses were performed. The Kaplan-Meier survival analysis test was used for comparisons of survival. Multiple comparisons of data were analyzed using a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA).
Results
Treatment with the fusion-molecule BDNF-TTC and with TTC alone significantly delayed the onset of symptoms and functional deficits of SOD1G93A mice. Muscle innervation was partially preserved with these treatments, and the number of surviving motoneurons in L2 spinal cord segment was increased particularly by the fusion protein induction. Inhibition of pro-apoptotic protein targets (caspase-3 and Bax) and significant phosphorylation of Akt and ERK were also found in the spinal cord of treated mice.
Conclusions
Significant improvements in behavioral and electrophysiological results, motoneuron survival and anti-apoptotic/survival-activated pathways were observed with BDNF-TTC treatment. However, no synergistic effect was found for this fusion molecule. Although BDNF in the fusion molecule is capable of activating autocrine and neuroprotective pathways, TTC treatment alone yielded similar neuroprotection. Therefore, an accurate study of the neuroprotective effects of TTC fusion molecules should be performed to obtain a better understanding of its effects.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-6-10
PMCID: PMC3072305  PMID: 21418619
11.  Changes in HSP gene and protein expression in natural scrapie with brain damage 
Veterinary Research  2011;42(1):13.
Heat shock proteins (Hsp) perform cytoprotective functions such as apoptosis regulation and inflammatory response control. These proteins can also be secreted to the extracellular medium, acting as inflammatory mediators, and their chaperone activity permits correct folding of proteins and avoids the aggregation of anomalous isoforms. Several studies have proposed the implication of Hsp in prion diseases. We analysed the gene expression and protein distribution of different members of the Hsp27, Hsp70, and Hsp90 families in the central nervous system of sheep naturally infected with scrapie. Different expression profiles were observed in the areas analysed. Whereas changes in transcript levels were not observed in the cerebellum or medulla oblongata, a significant decrease in HSP27 and HSP90 was detected in the prefrontal cortex. In contrast, HSP73 was over-expressed in diencephalons of scrapie animals. Western blotting did not reveal significant differences in Hsp90 and Hsp70 protein expression between scrapie and control animals. Expression rates identified by real-time RT-PCR and western blotting were compared with the extent of classical scrapie lesions using stepwise regression. Changes in Hsp gene and protein expression were associated with prion protein deposition, gliosis and spongiosis rather than with apoptosis. Finally, immunohistochemistry revealed intense Hsp70 and Hsp90 immunolabelling in Purkinje cells of scrapie sheep. In contrast, controls displayed little or no staining in these cells. The observed differences in gene expression and protein distribution suggest that the heat shock proteins analysed play a role in the natural form of the disease.
doi:10.1186/1297-9716-42-13
PMCID: PMC3037893  PMID: 21314976
12.  Distinct spatial activation of intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis pathways in natural scrapie: association with prion-related lesions 
Veterinary Research  2009;40(5):42.
Neurodegeneration and gliosis are the main neuropathological features of prion diseases. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in these processes remain unclear. Several studies have demonstrated changes in the expression of apoptotic factors and inflammatory cytokines in animals with experimental infection. Here we present the expression profiles of 15 genes implicated in the intrinsic and extrinsic apoptotic pathways in the central nervous systems of sheep naturally infected with scrapie. Expression changes obtained by real-time RT-PCR were also compared with the extent of classical scrapie lesions, such as prion deposition, neuronal vacuolisation, spongiosis, and astrogliosis as well as with the activation of caspase-3, using a stepwise regression. The results suggest that the factors assessed participate in apoptotic or inflammatory functions, depending on the affected area. The mitochondrial apoptosis pathway was associated with prion deposition in the prefrontal cortex (the less affected area), and with activation of caspase-3-mediated cell death via over-expression of BAK. In addition to its known association with astroglial activation, the extrinsic apoptosis pathway was also related to cell death and neuronal vacuolisation.
doi:10.1051/vetres/2009024
PMCID: PMC2701179  PMID: 19401142
apoptosis; prion; scrapie; mitochondrial pathway; extrinsic pathway
13.  Geographic distribution of haplotype diversity at the bovine casein locus 
The genetic diversity of the casein locus in cattle was studied on the basis of haplotype analysis. Consideration of recently described genetic variants of the casein genes which to date have not been the subject of diversity studies, allowed the identification of new haplotypes. Genotyping of 30 cattle breeds from four continents revealed a geographically associated distribution of haplotypes, mainly defined by frequencies of alleles at CSN1S1 and CSN3. The genetic diversity within taurine breeds in Europe was found to decrease significantly from the south to the north and from the east to the west. Such geographic patterns of cattle genetic variation at the casein locus may be a result of the domestication process of modern cattle as well as geographically differentiated natural or artificial selection. The comparison of African Bos taurus and Bos indicus breeds allowed the identification of several Bos indicus specific haplotypes (CSN1S1*C-CSN2*A2-CSN3*AI/CSN3*H) that are not found in pure taurine breeds. The occurrence of such haplotypes in southern European breeds also suggests that an introgression of indicine genes into taurine breeds could have contributed to the distribution of the genetic variation observed.
doi:10.1186/1297-9686-36-2-243
PMCID: PMC2697188  PMID: 15040901
casein; haplotype; Bos taurus; Bos indicus; phylogeny

Results 1-13 (13)