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1.  Loss of γ-cytoplasmic actin triggers myofibroblast transition of human epithelial cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2014;25(20):3133-3146.
Loss of γ-cytoplasmic actin induces epithelial-to-myofibroblast transition (EmyT), which depends on activation of SRF and its cofactor, MRTF, formin-mediated actin polymerization, and activated Rho GTPase. This demonstrates a unique role of γ-cytoplasmic actin in regulating the epithelial phenotype and the suppression of EmyT.
Transdifferentiation of epithelial cells into mesenchymal cells and myofibroblasts plays an important role in tumor progression and tissue fibrosis. Such epithelial plasticity is accompanied by dramatic reorganizations of the actin cytoskeleton, although mechanisms underlying cytoskeletal effects on epithelial transdifferentiation remain poorly understood. In the present study, we observed that selective siRNA-mediated knockdown of γ-cytoplasmic actin (γ-CYA), but not β-cytoplasmic actin, induced epithelial-to-myofibroblast transition (EMyT) of different epithelial cells. The EMyT manifested by increased expression of α-smooth muscle actin and other contractile proteins, along with inhibition of genes responsible for cell proliferation. Induction of EMyT in γ-CYA–depleted cells depended on activation of serum response factor and its cofactors, myocardial-related transcriptional factors A and B. Loss of γ-CYA stimulated formin-mediated actin polymerization and activation of Rho GTPase, which appear to be essential for EMyT induction. Our findings demonstrate a previously unanticipated, unique role of γ-CYA in regulating epithelial phenotype and suppression of EMyT that may be essential for cell differentiation and tissue fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC4196865  PMID: 25143399
2.  Loss of a membrane trafficking protein αSNAP induces non-canonical autophagy in human epithelia 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(24):4613-4625.
Autophagy is a catabolic process that sequesters intracellular proteins and organelles within membrane vesicles called autophagosomes with their subsequent delivery to lyzosomes for degradation. This process involves multiple fusions of autophagosomal membranes with different vesicular compartments; however, the role of vesicle fusion in autophagosomal biogenesis remains poorly understood. This study addresses the role of a key vesicle fusion regulator, soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein α (αSNAP), in autophagy. Small interfering RNA-mediated downregulation of αSNAP expression in cultured epithelial cells stimulated the autophagic flux, which was manifested by increased conjugation of microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 (LC3-II) and accumulation of LC3-positive autophagosomes. This enhanced autophagy developed via a non-canonical mechanism that did not require beclin1-p150-dependent nucleation, but involved Atg5 and Atg7-mediated elongation of autophagosomal membranes. Induction of autophagy in αSNAP-depleted cells was accompanied by decreased mTOR signaling but appeared to be independent of αSNAP-binding partners, N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor and BNIP1. Loss of αSNAP caused fragmentation of the Golgi and downregulation of the Golgi-specific GTP exchange factors, GBF1, BIG1 and BIG2. Pharmacological disruption of the Golgi and genetic inhibition of GBF1 recreated the effects of αSNAP depletion on the autophagic flux. Our study revealed a novel role for αSNAP as a negative regulator of autophagy that acts by enhancing mTOR signaling and regulating the integrity of the Golgi complex.
PMCID: PMC3562306  PMID: 23187805
Beclin1; NSF; mTOR; Bif-1; vesicle trafficking; Golgi disruption
3.  Welcome to Tissue Barriers 
Tissue Barriers  2013;1(1):e24240.
PMCID: PMC3879174  PMID: 24665383
4.  Nonredundant roles of cytoplasmic β- and γ-actin isoforms in regulation of epithelial apical junctions 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(18):3542-3553.
The functional effects of cytoplasmic actins on epithelial junctions are examined by using isoform-specific siRNAs and cell-permeable inhibitory peptides. Unique roles of cytoplasmic actin isoforms in regulating structure and remodeling of adherens and tight junctions are revealed.
Association with the actin cytoskeleton is critical for normal architecture and dynamics of epithelial tight junctions (TJs) and adherens junctions (AJs). Epithelial cells express β-cytoplasmic (β-CYA) and γ-cytoplasmic (γ-CYA) actins, which have different cellular localization and functions. This study elucidates the roles of cytoplasmic actins in regulating structure and remodeling of AJs and TJs in model intestinal epithelia. Immunofluorescence labeling and latrunculin B treatment reveal affiliation of dynamic β-CYA filaments with newly assembled and mature AJs, whereas an apical γ-CYA pool is composed of stable perijunctional bundles and rapidly turning-over nonjunctional filaments. The functional effects of cytoplasmic actins on epithelial junctions are examined by using isoform-specific small interfering RNAs and cell-permeable inhibitory peptides. These experiments demonstrate unique roles of β-CYA and γ-CYA in regulating the steady-state integrity of AJs and TJs, respectively. Furthermore, β-CYA is selectively involved in establishment of apicobasal cell polarity. Both actin isoforms are essential for normal barrier function of epithelial monolayers, rapid AJ/TJ reassembly, and formation of three-dimensional cysts. Cytoplasmic actin isoforms play unique roles in regulating structure and permeability of epithelial junctions.
PMCID: PMC3442403  PMID: 22855531
6.  Spectrin-adducin membrane skeleton 
Bioarchitecture  2011;1(4):186-191.
Adherens junctions (AJs) and tight junctions (TJs) represent key adhesive structures that regulate the apico-basal polarity and barrier properties of epithelial layers. AJs and TJs readily undergo disassembly and reassembly during normal tissue remodeling and disruption of epithelial barriers in diseases. Such junctional plasticity depends on the orchestrated dynamics of the plasma membrane with its underlying F-actin cytoskeleton, however the interplay between these cellular structures remains poorly understood. Recent studies highlighted the spectrin-adducin-based membrane skeleton as an emerging regulator of AJ and TJ integrity and remodeling. Here we discuss new evidences implicating adducin, spectrin and other membrane skeleton proteins in stabilization of epithelial junctions and regulation of junctional dynamics. Based on the known ability of the membrane skeleton to link cortical actin filaments to the plasma membrane, we hypothesize that the spectrin-adducin network serves as a critical signal and force transducer from the actomyosin cytoskeleton to junctions during remodeling of AJs and TJs.
PMCID: PMC3210521  PMID: 22069512
adherens junctions; tight junctions; permeability; membrane skeleton; actomyosin; contractility; calcium switch
7.  Adducins Regulate Remodeling of Apical Junctions in Human Epithelial Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(20):3506-3517.
This article identifies membrane skeleton proteins, adducins, as important regulators of epithelial cell–cell adhesions that promote assembly and antagonize stimulus-induced disassembly of adherens and tight junctions.
Epithelial adherens junctions (AJs) and tight junctions (TJs) are dynamic structures that readily undergo disintegration and reassembly. Remodeling of the AJs and TJs depends on the orchestrated dynamics of the plasma membrane with its underlying F-actin cytoskeleton, and the membrane–cytoskeleton interface may play a key role in junctional regulation. Spectrin–adducin–ankyrin complexes link membranes to the actin cytoskeleton where adducins mediate specrtrin–actin interactions. This study elucidates roles of adducins in the remodeling of epithelial junctions in human SK-CO15 colonic and HPAF-II pancreatic epithelial cell monolayers. These cells expressed the α and γ isoforms of adducin that positively regulated each others protein level and colocalized with E-cadherin and β-catenin at mature, internalized and newly assembled AJs. Small interfering RNA-mediated down-regulation of α- or γ-adducin expression significantly attenuated calcium-dependent AJ and TJ assembly and accelerated junctional disassembly triggered by activation of protein kinase C. Two mechanisms were found to mediate the impaired AJ and TJ assembly in adducin-depleted cells. One mechanism involved diminished expression and junctional recruitment of βII-spectrin, and the other mechanism involved the decrease in the amount of cellular F-actin and impaired assembly of perijunctional actin bundles. These findings suggest novel roles for adducins in stabilization of epithelial junctions and regulation of junctional remodeling.
PMCID: PMC2954116  PMID: 20810786
8.  Differential Roles for Actin Polymerization and a Myosin II Motor in Assembly of the Epithelial Apical Junctional Complex 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2005;16(6):2636-2650.
Differentiation and polarization of epithelial cells depends on the formation of the apical junctional complex (AJC), which is composed of the tight junction (TJ) and the adherens junction (AJ). In this study, we investigated mechanisms of actin reorganization that drive the establishment of AJC. Using a calcium switch model, we observed that formation of the AJC in T84 intestinal epithelial cells began with the assembly of adherens-like junctions followed by the formation of TJs. Early adherens-like junctions and TJs readily incorporated exogenous G-actin and were disassembled by latrunculin B, thus indicating dependence on continuous actin polymerization. Both adherens-like junctions and TJs were enriched in actin-related protein 3 and neuronal Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (N-WASP), and their assembly was prevented by the N-WASP inhibitor wiskostatin. In contrast, the formation of TJs, but not adherens-like junctions, was accompanied by recruitment of myosin II and was blocked by inhibition of myosin II with blebbistatin. In addition, blebbistatin inhibited the ability of epithelial cells to establish a columnar phenotype with proper apico-basal polarity. These findings suggest that actin polymerization directly mediates recruitment and maintenance of AJ/TJ proteins at intercellular contacts, whereas myosin II regulates cell polarization and correct positioning of the AJC within the plasma membrane.
PMCID: PMC1142412  PMID: 15800060
9.  Sustained Protein Kinase D Activation Mediates Respiratory Syncytial Virus-Induced Airway Barrier Disruption 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(20):11088-11095.
Understanding the regulation of airway epithelial barrier function is a new frontier in asthma and respiratory viral infections. Despite recent progress, little is known about how respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) acts at mucosal sites, and very little is known about its ability to influence airway epithelial barrier function. Here, we studied the effect of RSV infection on the airway epithelial barrier using model epithelia. 16HBE14o- bronchial epithelial cells were grown on Transwell inserts and infected with RSV strain A2. We analyzed (i) epithelial apical junction complex (AJC) function, measuring transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) and permeability to fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-conjugated dextran, and (ii) AJC structure using immunofluorescent staining. Cells were pretreated or not with protein kinase D (PKD) inhibitors. UV-irradiated RSV served as a negative control. RSV infection led to a significant reduction in TEER and increase in permeability. Additionally it caused disruption of the AJC and remodeling of the apical actin cytoskeleton. Pretreatment with two structurally unrelated PKD inhibitors markedly attenuated RSV-induced effects. RSV induced phosphorylation of the actin binding protein cortactin in a PKD-dependent manner. UV-inactivated RSV had no effect on AJC function or structure. Our results suggest that RSV-induced airway epithelial barrier disruption involves PKD-dependent actin cytoskeletal remodeling, possibly dependent on cortactin activation. Defining the mechanisms by which RSV disrupts epithelial structure and function should enhance our understanding of the association between respiratory viral infections, airway inflammation, and allergen sensitization. Impaired barrier function may open a potential new therapeutic target for RSV-mediated lung diseases.
PMCID: PMC3807305  PMID: 23926335
10.  Activation of epidermal toll-like receptor 2 enhances tight junction function – Implications for atopic dermatitis and skin barrier repair 
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is characterized by epidermal tight junction (TJ) defects and a propensity for Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) skin infections. S. aureus is sensed by many pattern recognition receptors including toll-like receptor (TLR) 2. We hypothesized that an effective innate immune response will include skin barrier repair and that this response is impaired in AD subjects. S. aureus-derived peptidoglycan (PGN) and synthetic TLR2 agonists enhanced TJ barrier and increased expression of TJ proteins, CLDN1, CLDN23, occludin and ZO-1 in primary human keratinocytes. A TLR2 agonist enhanced skin barrier recovery in human epidermis wounded by tape-stripping. Tlr2−/− mice had a delayed and incomplete barrier recovery following tape-stripping. AD subjects had reduced epidermal TLR2 expression as compared to nonatopic (NA) subjects, which inversely correlated (r= 0.654, P= 0.0004) with transepidermal water loss (TEWL). These observations indicate that TLR2 activation enhances skin barrier in murine and human skin and is an important part of a wound repair response. Reduced epidermal TLR2 expression observed in AD patients may play a role in their incompetent skin barrier.
PMCID: PMC3600383  PMID: 23223142
11.  Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Neuronal Activation in the Paraventricular and Dorsomedial Hypothalamus Depends on Ambient Temperature 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75733.
Systemic inflammatory response syndrome is associated with either fever or hypothermia, but the mechanisms responsible for switching from one to the other are unknown. In experimental animals, systemic inflammation is often induced by bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS). To identify the diencephalic and brainstem structures involved in the fever-hypothermia switch, we studied the expression of c-Fos protein, a marker of neuronal activation, in rats treated with the same high dose of LPS (0.5 mg/kg, intravenously) either in a thermoneutral (30°C) or cool (24°C) environment. At 30°C, LPS caused fever; at 24°C, the same dose caused profound hypothermia. Both fever and hypothermia were associated with the induction of c-Fos in many brain areas, including several structures of the anterior preoptic, paraventricular, lateral, and dorsal hypothalamus, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the posterior pretectal nucleus, ventrolateral periaqueductal gray, lateral parabrachial nucleus, area postrema, and nucleus of the solitary tract. Every brain area studied showed a comparable response to LPS at the two different ambient temperatures used, with the exception of two areas: the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus (DMH), which we studied together with the adjacent dorsal hypothalamic area (DA), and the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVH). Both structures had much stronger c-Fos expression during LPS hypothermia than during fever. We propose that PVH and DMH/DA neurons are involved in a circuit, which – depending on the ambient temperature – determines whether the thermoregulatory response to bacterial LPS will be fever or hypothermia.
PMCID: PMC3777970  PMID: 24069444
12.  Novel mechanism of cytokine-induced disruption of epithelial barriers 
Tissue Barriers  2013;1(4):e25231.
The ductal epithelium plays a key role in physiological secretion of pancreatic enzymes into the digestive system. Loss of barrier properties of the pancreatic duct may contribute to the development of pancreatitis and metastatic dissemination of pancreatic tumors. Proinflammatory cytokines are essential mediators of pancreatic inflammation and tumor progression; however, their effects on the integrity and barrier properties of the ductal epithelium have not been previously addressed. In the present study, we investigate mechanisms of cytokine-induced disassembly of tight junctions (TJs) and adherens junctions (AJs) in a model pancreatic epithelium. Exposure of HPAF-II human pancreatic epithelial cell monolayers to interferon (IFN)γ disrupted integrity and function of apical junctions as manifested by increased epithelial permeability and cytosolic translocation of AJ and TJ proteins. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α potentiated the effects of IFNγ on pancreatic epithelial junctions. The cytokine-induced increase in epithelial permeability and AJ/TJ disassembly was attenuated by pharmacological inhibition of Janus kinase (JAK) and protein kinase D (PKD). Loss of apical junctions in IFNγ/TNFα-treated HPAF-II cells was accompanied by JAK and PKD dependent decrease in expression of AJ (E-cadherin, p120 catenin) and TJ (occludin, ZO-1) proteins. Depletion of E-cadherin or p120 catenin recapitulated the effects of cytokines on HPAF-II cell permeability and junctions. Our data suggests that proinflammatory cytokines disrupt pancreatic epithelial barrier via expressional downregulation of key structural components of AJs and TJs. This mechanism is likely to be important for pancreatic inflammatory injury and tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3783224  PMID: 24665409
tight junctions; interferon; tumor necrosis factor; adherens junctions; pancreatitis
13.  Polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid induces protein kinase D–dependent disassembly of apical junctions and barrier dysfunction in airway epithelial cells 
Disruption of the epithelial barrier might be a risk factor for allergen sensitization and asthma. Viral respiratory tract infections are strongly associated with asthma exacerbation, but the effects of respiratory viruses on airway epithelial barrier function are not well understood. Many viruses generate double-stranded RNA, which can lead to airway inflammation and initiate an antiviral immune response.
We investigated the effects of the synthetic double-stranded RNA polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (polyI:C) on the structure and function of the airway epithelial barrier in vitro.
16HBE14o- human bronchial epithelial cells and primary airway epithelial cells at an air-liquid interface were grown to confluence on Transwell inserts and exposed to polyI:C. We studied epithelial barrier function by measuring transepithelial electrical resistance and paracellular flux of fluorescent markers and structure of epithelial apical junctions by means of immunofluorescence microscopy.
PolyI:C induced a profound decrease in transepithelial electrical resistance and increase in paracellular permeability. Immunofluorescence microscopy revealed markedly reduced junctional localization of zonula occludens-1, occludin, E-cadherin, β-catenin, and disorganization of junction-associated actin filaments. PolyI:C induced protein kinase D (PKD) phosphorylation, and a PKD antagonist attenuated polyI:C-induced disassembly of apical junctions and barrier dysfunction.
PolyI:C has a powerful and previously unsuspected disruptive effect on the airway epithelial barrier. PolyI:C-dependent barrier disruption is mediated by disassembly of epithelial apical junctions, which is dependent on PKD signaling. These findings suggest a new mechanism potentially underlying the associations between viral respiratory tract infections, airway inflammation, and allergen sensitization.
PMCID: PMC3273326  PMID: 21996340
Asthma; polyI:C; Toll-like receptor 3; epithelial permeability; protein kinase C; tight junctions; adherens junctions
14.  A Membrane Fusion Protein αSNAP Is a Novel Regulator of Epithelial Apical Junctions 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34320.
Tight junctions (TJs) and adherens junctions (AJs) are key determinants of the structure and permeability of epithelial barriers. Although exocytic delivery to the cell surface is crucial for junctional assembly, little is known about the mechanisms controlling TJ and AJ exocytosis. This study was aimed at investigating whether a key mediator of exocytosis, soluble N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor (NSF) attachment protein alpha (αSNAP), regulates epithelial junctions. αSNAP was enriched at apical junctions in SK-CO15 and T84 colonic epithelial cells and in normal human intestinal mucosa. siRNA-mediated knockdown of αSNAP inhibited AJ/TJ assembly and establishment of the paracellular barrier in SK-CO15 cells, which was accompanied by a significant down-regulation of p120-catenin and E-cadherin expression. A selective depletion of p120 catenin effectively disrupted AJ and TJ structure and compromised the epithelial barrier. However, overexpression of p120 catenin did not rescue the defects of junctional structure and permeability caused by αSNAP knockdown thereby suggesting the involvement of additional mechanisms. Such mechanisms did not depend on NSF functions or induction of cell death, but were associated with disruption of the Golgi complex and down-regulation of a Golgi-associated guanidine nucleotide exchange factor, GBF1. These findings suggest novel roles for αSNAP in promoting the formation of epithelial AJs and TJs by controlling Golgi-dependent expression and trafficking of junctional proteins.
PMCID: PMC3317505  PMID: 22485163
15.  Tight Junction Defects in Atopic Dermatitis 
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is characterized by dry skin and a hyperreactive immune response to allergens, two cardinal features that are caused in part by epidermal barrier defects. Tight junctions (TJ) reside immediately below the stratum corneum and regulate the selective permeability of the paracellular pathway.
We evaluated the expression/function of the TJ protein, claudin-1 in epithelium from AD and nonatopic (NA) subjects and screened two American populations for SNPs in CLDN1.
Expression profiles of nonlesional epithelium from extrinsic AD, NA and psoriasis subjects were generated using Illumina’s BeadChips. Dysregulated intercellular proteins were validated by tissue staining and qPCR. Bioelectric properties of epithelium were measured in Ussing chambers. Functional relevance of claudin-1 was assessed using a knockdown approach in primary human keratinocytes (PHK). Twenty seven haplotype-tagging SNPs in CLDN1 were screened in two independent AD populations.
We observed strikingly reduced expression of the TJ proteins claudin-1 and -23 only in AD, which were validated at the mRNA and protein levels. Claudin-1 expression inversely correlated with Th2 biomarkers. We observed a remarkable impairment of the bioelectric barrier function in AD epidermis. In vitro, we confirmed that silencing claudin-1 expression in human keratinocytes diminishes TJ function while enhancing keratinocyte proliferation. Finally, CLDN1 haplotype-tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms revealed associations with AD in two North American populations.
Taken together, these data suggest that an impaired epidermal TJ is a novel feature of skin barrier dysfunction and immune dysregulation observed in AD, and that CLDN1 may be a new susceptibility gene in this disease.
PMCID: PMC3049863  PMID: 21163515
atopic dermatitis; claudin-1; tight junctions
16.  Coronin 1C negatively regulates cell-matrix adhesion and motility of intestinal epithelial cells 
Coronins, WD-repeat actin-binding proteins, are known to regulate cell motility by coordinating actin filament turnover in lamellipodia of migrating cell. Here we report a novel mechanism of Coronin 1C-mediated cell motility that involves regulation of cell-matrix adhesion. RNAi silencing of Coronin 1C in intestinal epithelial cells enhanced cell migration and modulated lamellipodia dynamics by increasing the persistence of lamellipodial protrusion. Coronin 1C-depleted cells showed increased cell-matrix adhesions and enhanced cell spreading compared to control cells, while overexpression of Coronin 1C antagonized cell adhesion and spreading. Enhanced cell-matrix adhesion of coronin-deficient cells correlated with hyperphosphorylation of Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK) and paxillin, and an increase in number of focal adhesions and their redistribution at the cell periphery. siRNA depletion of FAK in coronin-deficient cells rescued the effects of Coronin 1C depletion on motility, cell-matrix adhesion, and spreading. Thus, our findings provide the first evidence that Coronin 1C negatively regulates epithelial cell migration via FAK-mediated inhibition of cell-matrix adhesion.
PMCID: PMC2812594  PMID: 19913511
Coronin; FAK; motility; adhesion
17.  Flotillin-1 stabilizes caveolin-1 in intestinal epithelial cells 
Flotillins and caveolins represent two types of resident proteins associated with lipid rafts in mammalian cells, however, their possible cross-talk in regulating lipid raft functions remains poorly understood. In this report, we observed that siRNA-mediated down-regulation of flotillin-1 expression which disrupted lipid raft-mediated endocytosis of BODIPY FL C5-lactosylceramide also substantially decreased caveolin-1 level in SK-CO15 human intestinal epithelial cells. The decrease in caveolin-1 expression appeared to be specific for flotillin-1 knock-down and was not observed after down-regulation of flotillin-2. The decrease in caveolin-1 level in flotillin-1-depleted cells was not due to suppression of its mRNA synthesis and was not mimicked by cholesterol depletion of SK-CO15 cells. Furthermore, flotillin-1 dependent down-regulation of caveolin-1 was reversed after cell exposure to lysosomal inhibitor, chloroquine but not proteosomal inhibitor, MG262. Our data suggest that flotillin-1 regulates caveolin-1 level by preventing its lysosomal degradation in intestinal epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC2867594  PMID: 19121286
Epithelial cells; Lipid rafts; Lactosyl ceramide internalization; Lysosomal degradation
18.  Protein kinase C activation disrupts epithelial apical junctions via ROCK-II dependent stimulation of actomyosin contractility 
BMC Cell Biology  2009;10:36.
Disruption of epithelial cell-cell adhesions represents an early and important stage in tumor metastasis. This process can be modeled in vitro by exposing cells to chemical tumor promoters, phorbol esters and octylindolactam-V (OI-V), known to activate protein kinase C (PKC). However, molecular events mediating PKC-dependent disruption of epithelial cell-cell contact remain poorly understood. In the present study we investigate mechanisms by which PKC activation induces disassembly of tight junctions (TJs) and adherens junctions (AJs) in a model pancreatic epithelium.
Exposure of HPAF-II human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell monolayers to either OI-V or 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate caused rapid disruption and internalization of AJs and TJs. Activity of classical PKC isoenzymes was responsible for the loss of cell-cell contacts which was accompanied by cell rounding, phosphorylation and relocalization of the F-actin motor nonmuscle myosin (NM) II. The OI-V-induced disruption of AJs and TJs was prevented by either pharmacological inhibition of NM II with blebbistatin or by siRNA-mediated downregulation of NM IIA. Furthermore, AJ/TJ disassembly was attenuated by inhibition of Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) II, but was insensitive to blockage of MLCK, calmodulin, ERK1/2, caspases and RhoA GTPase.
Our data suggest that stimulation of PKC disrupts epithelial apical junctions via ROCK-II dependent activation of NM II, which increases contractility of perijunctional actin filaments. This mechanism is likely to be important for cancer cell dissociation and tumor metastasis.
PMCID: PMC2685374  PMID: 19422706
19.  Cis-Dimerization Mediates Function of Junctional Adhesion Molecule A 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(5):1862-1872.
Junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A) is a transmembrane component of tight junctions that has been proposed to play a role in regulating epithelial cell adhesion and migration, yet mechanistic structure–function studies are lacking. Although biochemical and structural studies indicate that JAM-A forms cis-homodimers, the functional significance of dimerization is unclear. Here, we report the effects of cis-dimerization–defective JAM-A mutants on epithelial cell migration and adhesion. Overexpression of dimerization-defective JAM-A mutants in 293T cells inhibited cell spreading and migration across permeable filters. Similar inhibition was observed with using dimerization-blocking antibodies. Analyses of cells expressing the JAM-A dimerization-defective mutant proteins revealed diminished β1 integrin protein but not mRNA levels. Further analyses of β1 protein localization and expression after disruption of JAM-A dimerization suggested that internalization of β1 integrin precedes degradation. A functional link between JAM-A and β1 integrin was confirmed by restoration of cell migration to control levels after overexpression of β1 integrin in JAM-A dimerization-defective cells. Last, we show that the functional effects of JAM dimerization require its carboxy-terminal postsynaptic density 95/disc-large/zonula occludins-1 binding motif. These results suggest that dimerization of JAM-A regulates cell migration and adhesion through indirect mechanisms involving posttranscriptional control of β1 integrin levels.
PMCID: PMC2366836  PMID: 18272784
20.  Rho/Rho-associated Kinase-II Signaling Mediates Disassembly of Epithelial Apical Junctions 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(9):3429-3439.
Apical junctional complex (AJC) plays a vital role in regulation of epithelial barrier function. Disassembly of the AJC is observed in diverse physiological and pathological states; however, mechanisms governing this process are not well understood. We previously reported that the AJC disassembly is driven by the formation of apical contractile acto-myosin rings. In the present study, we analyzed the signaling pathways regulating acto-myosin–dependent disruption of AJC by using a model of extracellular calcium depletion. Pharmacological inhibition analysis revealed a critical role of Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) in AJC disassembly in calcium-depleted epithelial cells. Furthermore, small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of ROCK-II, but not ROCK-I, attenuated the disruption of the AJC. Interestingly, AJC disassembly was not dependent on myosin light chain kinase and myosin phosphatase. Calcium depletion resulted in activation of Rho GTPase and transient colocalization of Rho with internalized AJC proteins. Pharmacological inhibition of Rho prevented AJC disassembly. Additionally, Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF)-H1 translocated to contractile F-actin rings after calcium depletion, and siRNA-mediated depletion of GEF-H1 inhibited AJC disassembly. Thus, our findings demonstrate a central role of the GEF-H1/Rho/ROCK-II signaling pathway in the disassembly of AJC in epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC1951751  PMID: 17596509
21.  A Unique Role for Nonmuscle Myosin Heavy Chain IIA in Regulation of Epithelial Apical Junctions 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(8):e658.
The integrity and function of the epithelial barrier is dependent on the apical junctional complex (AJC) composed of tight and adherens junctions and regulated by the underlying actin filaments. A major F-actin motor, myosin II, was previously implicated in regulation of the AJC, however direct evidence of the involvement of myosin II in AJC dynamics are lacking and the molecular identity of the myosin II motor that regulates formation and disassembly of apical junctions in mammalian epithelia is unknown. We investigated the role of nonmuscle myosin II (NMMII) heavy chain isoforms, A, B, and C in regulation of epithelial AJC dynamics and function. Expression of the three NMMII isoforms was observed in model intestinal epithelial cell lines, where all isoforms accumulated within the perijunctional F-actin belt. siRNA-mediated downregulation of NMMIIA, but not NMMIIB or NMMIIC expression in SK-CO15 colonic epithelial cells resulted in profound changes of cell morphology and cell-cell adhesions. These changes included acquisition of a fibroblast-like cell shape, defective paracellular barrier, and substantial attenuation of the assembly and disassembly of both adherens and tight junctions. Impaired assembly of the AJC observed after NMMIIA knock-down involved dramatic disorganization of perijunctional actin filaments. These findings provide the first direct non-pharmacological evidence of myosin II-dependent regulation of AJC dynamics in mammalian epithelia and highlight a unique role of NMMIIA in junctional biogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1920554  PMID: 17668046
22.  Cellular and Molecular Bases of the Initiation of Fever 
PLoS Biology  2006;4(9):e284.
All phases of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced fever are mediated by prostaglandin (PG) E2. It is known that the second febrile phase (which starts at ~1.5 h post-LPS) and subsequent phases are mediated by PGE2 that originated in endotheliocytes and perivascular cells of the brain. However, the location and phenotypes of the cells that produce PGE2 triggering the first febrile phase (which starts at ~0.5 h) remain unknown. By studying PGE2 synthesis at the enzymatic level, we found that it was activated in the lung and liver, but not in the brain, at the onset of the first phase of LPS fever in rats. This activation involved phosphorylation of cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) and transcriptional up-regulation of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2. The number of cells displaying COX-2 immunoreactivity surged in the lung and liver (but not in the brain) at the onset of fever, and the majority of these cells were identified as macrophages. When PGE2 synthesis in the periphery was activated, the concentration of PGE2 increased both in the venous blood (which collects PGE2 from tissues) and arterial blood (which delivers PGE2 to the brain). Most importantly, neutralization of circulating PGE2 with an anti-PGE2 antibody both delayed and attenuated LPS fever. It is concluded that fever is initiated by circulating PGE2 synthesized by macrophages of the LPS-processing organs (lung and liver) via phosphorylation of cPLA2 and transcriptional up-regulation of COX-2. Whether PGE2 produced at the level of the blood–brain barrier also contributes to the development of the first phase remains to be clarified.
The authors show that peripherally-produced COX2 plays an important role in the earliest stages of fever.
PMCID: PMC1551923  PMID: 16933973
23.  Microtubules regulate disassembly of epithelial apical junctions 
BMC Cell Biology  2006;7:12.
Epithelial tight junction (TJ) and adherens junction (AJ) form the apical junctional complex (AJC) which regulates cell-cell adhesion, paracellular permeability and cell polarity. The AJC is anchored on cytoskeletal structures including actin microfilaments and microtubules. Such cytoskeletal interactions are thought to be important for the assembly and remodeling of apical junctions. In the present study, we investigated the role of microtubules in disassembly of the AJC in intestinal epithelial cells using a model of extracellular calcium depletion.
Calcium depletion resulted in disruption and internalization of epithelial TJs and AJs along with reorganization of perijunctional F-actin into contractile rings. Microtubules reorganized into dense plaques positioned inside such F-actin rings. Depolymerization of microtubules with nocodazole prevented junctional disassembly and F-actin ring formation. Stabilization of microtubules with either docetaxel or pacitaxel blocked contraction of F-actin rings and attenuated internalization of junctional proteins into a subapical cytosolic compartment. Likewise, pharmacological inhibition of microtubule motors, kinesins, prevented contraction of F-actin rings and attenuated disassembly of apical junctions. Kinesin-1 was enriched at the AJC in cultured epithelial cells and it also accumulated at epithelial cell-cell contacts in normal human colonic mucosa. Furthermore, immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated association of kinesin-1 with the E-cadherin-catenin complex.
Our data suggest that microtubules play a role in disassembly of the AJC during calcium depletion by regulating formation of contractile F-actin rings and internalization of AJ/TJ proteins.
PMCID: PMC1444913  PMID: 16509970
24.  Mechanism of IFN-γ-induced Endocytosis of Tight Junction Proteins: Myosin II-dependent Vacuolarization of the Apical Plasma Membrane 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2005;16(10):5040-5052.
Disruption of epithelial barrier by proinflammatory cytokines such as IFN-γ represents a major pathophysiological consequence of intestinal inflammation. We have previously shown that IFN-γ increases paracellular permeability in model T84 epithelial cells by inducing endocytosis of tight junction (TJ) proteins occludin, JAM-A, and claudin-1. The present study was designed to dissect mechanisms of IFN-γ-induced endocytosis of epithelial TJ proteins. IFN-γ treatment of T84 cells resulted in internalization of TJ proteins into large actin-coated vacuoles that originated from the apical plasma membrane and resembled the vacuolar apical compartment (VAC) previously observed in epithelial cells that lose cell polarity. The IFN-γ dependent formation of VACs required ATPase activity of a myosin II motor but was not dependent on rapid turnover of F-actin. In addition, activated myosin II was observed to colocalize with VACs after IFN-γ exposure. Pharmacological analyses revealed that formation of VACs and endocytosis of TJ proteins was mediated by Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) but not myosin light chain kinase (MLCK). Furthermore, IFN-γ treatment resulted in activation of Rho GTPase and induced expressional up-regulation of ROCK. These results, for the first time, suggest that IFN-γ induces endocytosis of epithelial TJ proteins via RhoA/ROCK-mediated, myosin II-dependent formation of VACs.
PMCID: PMC1237102  PMID: 16055505
25.  Role for Actin Filament Turnover and a Myosin II Motor in Cytoskeleton-driven Disassembly of the Epithelial Apical Junctional Complex 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2004;15(6):2639-2651.
Disassembly of the epithelial apical junctional complex (AJC), composed of the tight junction (TJ) and adherens junction (AJ), is important for normal tissue remodeling and pathogen-induced disruption of epithelial barriers. Using a calcium depletion model in T84 epithelial cells, we previously found that disassembly of the AJC results in endocytosis of AJ/TJ proteins. In the present study, we investigated the role of the actin cytoskeleton in disassembly and internalization of the AJC. Calcium depletion induced reorganization of apical F-actin into contractile rings. Internalized AJ/TJ proteins colocalized with these rings. Both depolymerization and stabilization of F-actin inhibited ring formation and disassembly of the AJC, suggesting a role for actin filament turnover. Actin reorganization was accompanied by activation (dephosphorylation) of cofilin-1 and its translocation to the F-actin rings. In addition, Arp3 and cortactin colocalized with these rings. F-actin reorganization and disassembly of the AJC were blocked by blebbistatin, an inhibitor of nonmuscle myosin II. Myosin IIA was expressed in T84 cells and colocalized with F-actin rings. We conclude that disassembly of the AJC in calcium-depleted cells is driven by reorganization of apical F-actin. Mechanisms of such reorganization involve cofilin-1-dependent depolymerization and Arp2/3-assisted repolymerization of actin filaments as well as myosin IIA-mediated contraction.
PMCID: PMC420089  PMID: 15047870

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