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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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.  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
8.  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

Results 1-8 (8)