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1.  CircRNA_000203 enhances the expression of fibrosis-associated genes by derepressing targets of miR-26b-5p, Col1a2 and CTGF, in cardiac fibroblasts 
Scientific Reports  2017;7:40342.
Circular RNAs (circRNAs) participate in regulating gene expression in diverse biological and pathological processes. The present study aimed to investigate the mechanism underlying the modulation of circRNA_000203 on expressions of fibrosis-associated genes in cardiac fibroblasts. CircRNA_000203 was shown upregulated in the diabetic mouse myocardium and in Ang-II-induced mouse cardiac fibroblasts. Enforced-expression of circRNA_000203 could increase expressions of Col1a2, Col3a1 and α-SMA in mouse cardiac fibroblasts. RNA pull-down and RT-qPCR assay indicated that circRNA_000203 could specifically sponge miR-26b-5p. Dual luciferase reporter assay revealed that miR-26b-5p interacted with 3′UTRs of Col1a2 and CTGF, and circ_000203 could block the interactions of miR-26b-5p and 3′UTRs of Col1a2 and CTGF. Transfection of miR-26b-5p could post-transcriptionaly inhibit expressions of Col1a2 and CTGF, accompanied with the suppressions of Col3a1 and α-SMA in cardiac fibroblasts. Additionally, over-expression of circRNA_000203 could eliminate the anti-fibrosis effect of miR-26b-5p in cardiac fibroblasts. Together, our results reveal that suppressing the function of miR-26b-5p contributes to the pro-fibrosis effect of circRNA_000203 in cardiac fibroblasts.
PMCID: PMC5228128  PMID: 28079129
2.  Myocyte-specific enhancer factor 2C: a novel target gene of miR-214-3p in suppressing angiotensin II-induced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:36146.
The role of microRNA-214-3p (miR-214-3p) in cardiac hypertrophy was not well illustrated. The present study aimed to investigate the expression and potential target of miR-214-3p in angiotensin II (Ang-II)-induced mouse cardiac hypertrophy. In mice with either Ang-II infusion or transverse aortic constriction (TAC) model, miR-214-3p expression was markedly decreased in the hypertrophic myocardium. Down-regulation of miR-214-3p was observed in the myocardium of patients with cardiac hypertrophy. Expression of miR-214-3p was upregulated in Ang-II-induced hypertrophic neonatal mouse ventricular cardiomyocytes. Cardiac hypertrophy was attenuated in Ang-II-infused mice by tail vein injection of miR-214-3p. Moreover, miR-214-3p inhibited the expression of atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and β-myosin heavy chain (MHC) in Ang-II-treated mouse cardiomyocytes in vitro. Myocyte-specific enhancer factor 2C (MEF2C), which was increased in Ang-II-induced hypertrophic mouse myocardium and cardiomyocytes, was identified as a target gene of miR-214-3p. Functionally, miR-214-3p mimic, consistent with MEF2C siRNA, inhibited cell size increase and protein expression of ANP and β-MHC in Ang-II-treated mouse cardiomyocytes. The NF-κB signal pathway was verified to mediate Ang-II-induced miR-214-3p expression in cardiomyocytes. Taken together, our results revealed that MEF2C is a novel target of miR-214-3p, and attenuation of miR-214-3p expression may contribute to MEF2Cexpressionin cardiac hypertrophy.
PMCID: PMC5087095  PMID: 27796324
3.  Multidetector computed tomography pulmonary angiography in childhood acute pulmonary embolism 
Pediatric radiology  2015;45(10):1431-1439.
Pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening condition affecting people of all ages. Multidetector row CT pulmonary angiography has improved the imaging of pulmonary embolism in both adults and children and is now regarded as the routine modality for detection of pulmonary embolism. Advanced CT pulmonary angiography techniques developed in recent years, such as dual-energy CT, have been applied as a one-stop modality for pulmonary embolism diagnosis in children, as they can simultaneously provide anatomical and functional information. We discuss CT pulmonary angiography techniques, common and uncommon findings of pulmonary embolism in both conventional and dual-energy CT pulmonary angiography, and radiation dose considerations.
PMCID: PMC4553120  PMID: 25846076
Acute pulmonary embolism; Children; CT pulmonary arteriography; Prognosis; Radiation dose
4.  Translocation of PKG1α acts on TRPV4-C1 heteromeric channels to inhibit endothelial Ca2+ entry 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2016;37(9):1199-1207.
TRPV4-C1 heteromeric channels contribute to store-operated Ca2+ entry in vascular endothelial cells. However, the negative regulation of these channels is not fully understood. This study was conducted to investigate the inhibitory effect of PKG1α on TRPV4-C1 heteromeric channels.
Immuno-fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) was used to explore the spatial proximity of PKG1α and TRPC1. Phosphorylation of endogenous TRPC1 was tested by phosphorylation assay. [Ca2+]i transients and cation current in MAECs were assessed with Fura-2 fluorescence and whole-cell recording, respectively. In addition, rat mesenteric arteries segments were prepared, and vascular relaxation was examined with wire myography.
In immuno-FRET experiments, after exposure of these cells to 8-Br-cGMP, more PKG1α was observed in the plasma membrane, and PKG1α and TRPC1 were observed to be in closer proximity. TAT-TRPC1S172 and TAT-TRPC1T313 peptide fragments, which contain the PKG targeted residues Ser172 and Thr313, respectively, were introduced into isolated endothelial cells to abrogate the translocation of PKG1α. Furthermore, a phosphorylation assay demonstrated that PKG directly phosphorylates TRPC1 at Ser172 and Thr313 in endothelial cells. In addition, PKG activator 8-Br-cGMP markedly reduced the magnitude of the 4αPDD-induced and 11,12-EET-induced [Ca2+]i transients, the cation current and vascular relaxation.
This study uncovers a novel mechanism by which PKG negatively regulates endothelial heteromeric TRPV4-C1 channels through increasing the spatial proximity of TRPV4-C1 to PKG1α via translocation and through phosphorylating Ser172 and Thr313 of TRPC1.
PMCID: PMC5022095  PMID: 27397542
vascular endothelial cells; store-operated Ca2+ entry; TRPV4-C1 heteromeric channels; PKG; 8-Br-cGMP; 4αPDD; 11,12-EET; vascular relaxation
5.  Electroacupuncture for patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome or functional diarrhea 
Medicine  2016;95(24):e3884.
Diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D) and functional diarrhea (FD) are highly prevalent, and the effectiveness of acupuncture for managing IBS-D and FD is still unknown.
The aim of this study was to compare the effectiveness of electroacupuncture with loperamide.
It was a prospective, randomized, parallel group controlled trial.
A total of 448 participants were randomly assigned to He electroacupuncture group (n = 113), Shu-Mu electroacupuncture group (n = 111), He-Shu-Mu electroacupuncture group (n = 112), or loperamide group (n = 112). Participants in the 3 acupuncture groups received 16 sessions of electroacupuncture during a 4-week treatment phase, whereas participants in the loperamide group received oral loperamide 2 mg thrice daily. The primary outcome was the change from baseline in stool frequency at the end of the 4-weeks treatment. The secondary outcomes were the Bristol scale, the MOS 36-item short form health survey (SF-36), the weekly average number of days with normal defecations and the proportion of adverse events.
Stool frequency was significantly reduced at the end of the 4-week treatment in the 4 groups (mean change from baseline, 5.35 times/week). No significant difference was found between the 3 electroacupuncture groups and the loperamide group in the primary outcome (He vs. loperamide group [mean difference 0.6, 95% CI, –1.2 to 2.4]; Shu-Mu vs. loperamide group [0.4, 95% CI, –1.4 to 2.3]; He-Shu-Mu vs. loperamide group [0.0, 95% CI, –1.8 to 1.8]). Both electroacupuncture and loperamide significantly improved the mean score of Bristol scale and increased the weekly average number of days with normal defecations and the mean scores of SF-36; they were equivalent in these outcomes. However, the participants in electroacupuncture groups did not report fewer adverse events than those in the loperamide group. Similar results were found in a subgroup analysis of separating patients with IBS-D and FD patients.
Electroacupuncture is equivalent to loperamide for reducing stool frequency in IBS-D and FD patients. Further studies on cost effectiveness of acupuncture are warranted.
PMCID: PMC4998466  PMID: 27310980
diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome; electroacupuncture; functional diarrhea; randomized controlled trial
6.  Single Phase Dual-energy CT Angiography: One-stop-shop Tool for Evaluating Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:26704.
Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhages have extremely high case fatality in clinic. Early and rapid identifications of ruptured intracranial aneurysms seem to be especially important. Here we evaluate clinical value of single phase contrast-enhanced dual-energy CT angiograph (DE-CTA) as a one-stop-shop tool in detecting aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. One hundred and five patients who underwent true non-enhanced CT (TNCT), contrast-enhanced DE-CTA and digital subtraction angiography (DSA) were included. Image quality and detectability of intracranial hemorrhage were evaluated and compared between virtual non-enhanced CT (VNCT) images reconstructed from DE-CTA and TNCT. There was no statistical difference in image quality (P > 0.05) between VNCT and TNCT. The agreement of VNCT and TNCT in detecting intracranial hemorrhage reached 98.1% on a per-patient basis. With DSA as reference standard, sensitivity and specificity on a per-patient were 98.3% and 97.9% for DE-CTA in intracranial aneurysm detection. Effective dose of DE-CTA was reduced by 75.0% compared to conventional digital subtraction CTA. Thus, single phase contrast-enhanced DE-CTA is optimal reliable one-stop-shop tool for detecting intracranial hemorrhage with VNCT and intracranial aneurysms with DE-CTA with substantial radiation dose reduction compared with conventional digital subtraction CTA.
PMCID: PMC4879615  PMID: 27222163
7.  Hemi-methylated DNA opens a closed conformation of UHRF1 to facilitate its histone recognition 
Nature Communications  2016;7:11197.
UHRF1 is an important epigenetic regulator for maintenance DNA methylation. UHRF1 recognizes hemi-methylated DNA (hm-DNA) and trimethylation of histone H3K9 (H3K9me3), but the regulatory mechanism remains unknown. Here we show that UHRF1 adopts a closed conformation, in which a C-terminal region (Spacer) binds to the tandem Tudor domain (TTD) and inhibits H3K9me3 recognition, whereas the SET-and-RING-associated (SRA) domain binds to the plant homeodomain (PHD) and inhibits H3R2 recognition. Hm-DNA impairs the intramolecular interactions and promotes H3K9me3 recognition by TTD–PHD. The Spacer also facilitates UHRF1–DNMT1 interaction and enhances hm-DNA-binding affinity of the SRA. When TTD–PHD binds to H3K9me3, SRA-Spacer may exist in a dynamic equilibrium: either recognizes hm-DNA or recruits DNMT1 to chromatin. Our study reveals the mechanism for regulation of H3K9me3 and hm-DNA recognition by URHF1.
UHRF1 is involved in the maintenance of DNA methylation, but the regulatory mechanism of this epigenetic regulator is unclear. Here, the authors show that it has a closed conformation and are able to make conclusions about the mechanism of recognition of epigenetic marks.
PMCID: PMC4822050  PMID: 27045799
8.  Combined hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma (biphenotypic) tumors: clinical characteristics, imaging features of contrast-enhanced ultrasound and computed tomography 
BMC Cancer  2016;16:158.
Combined hepatocellular-cholangiocarcinoma (cHCC-CC) is an uncommon primary liver malignancy and little known about the clinical and imaging characteristics of cHCC-CC. We aim to define the demographics, imaging features of cHCC-CC on contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) and contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT) in this study.
From January 2005 to December 2014, 45 patients with pathologically proven cHCC-CC who underwent preoperative CEUS and 43 patients who had additional CT scan in our institution were included. A retrospective review of the imaging studies and clinical data in these patients was conducted.
In our series, cHCC-CC accounted for 1.6 % of all primary liver malignancy. Mean age of patient with cHCC-CC was 52.8 year (range: 28–74 year) and 88.9 % (40/45) of patients were male. Thirty of forty five patients (66.7 %) had cirrhosis and 20 % (9/45) of patients had chronic hepatitis B without cirrhosis. Alpha--fetoprotein (AFP) was elevated in 62.2 % (28/45) of patients and carbohydrate antigen 19–9 (CA19-9) elevated in 22.2 % (10/45) of patients). Both AFP and CA19-9 were simultaneously elevated in 15.6 % (7/45) of patients. Enhancement pattern resembling cholangiocarcinoma (CC) was noted in 53.3 % (24/45) of patients (on CEUS and in 30.2 % (13/43) of patients at CT. Enhancement pattern resembling hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was observed in 42.2 % (19/45) of patients on CEUS and in 58.1 % (25/43) of patients at CT. The percentage of tumors showing CC enhancement pattern (27.9 %, 12/43) was comparable with that of tumors showing HCC enhancement pattern (44.2 %, 19/43) on both CEUS and CT (p = 0.116).
Simultaneous elevation of tumor markers (AFP and CA19-9) or tumor marker elevation (AFP or CA19-9) in discordance with enhancement pattern on CEUS was demonstrated in 51.1 % (23/45) of patients and on CT in 53.5 % (23/43) of patients, which was significantly more than simultaneous elevation of tumor markers (AFP and CA19-9) alone (p = 0.000).
The clinical characteristics of cHCC-CC are similar to those of HCC. The cHCC-CC tumors display enhancement patterns resembling CC or HCC in comparable proportion on both CEUS and CT. Combination of simultaneous elevation of tumor makers (AFP and CA19-9) and tumor mark elevation (AFP or CA19-9) in discordance with presumptive imaging findings on CEUS or CT may lead significantly more patients to be suspicious of the diagnosis of cHCC-CC.
PMCID: PMC4768404  PMID: 26917546
Combined hepatocellular-cholangiocarcinoma; Contrast-enhanced ultrasound; Computed tomography; Alpha-fetoprotein; Carbohydrate antigen 19–9
9.  Specific cell surface labeling of GPCRs using split GFP 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:20568.
Specific cell surface labeling is essential for visualizing the internalization processes of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) and for gaining mechanistic insight of GPCR functions. Here we present a rapid, specific, and versatile labeling scheme for GPCRs at living-cell membrane with the use of a split green fluorescent protein (GFP). Demonstrated with two GPCRs, GPR17 and CysLT2R, we show that two β-stands (β-stands 10 and 11) derived from a superfolder GFP (sfGFP) can be engineered to one of the three extracellular loop of a GPCR. The complementary fragment of sfGFP has nine β-strands (β-stands 1-9) that carries the mature fluorophore, and can be proteolytically derived from the full-length sfGFP. Separately the GFP fragments are non-fluorescent, but become fluorescent upon assembly, thus allowing specific labeling of the target proteins. The two GFP fragments rapidly assemble and the resulting complex is extremely tight under non-denaturing conditions, which allows real-time and quantitative assessment of the internalized GPCRs. We envision that this labeling scheme will be of great use for labeling other membrane proteins in various biological and pharmacological applications.
PMCID: PMC4746647  PMID: 26857153
10.  Ensemble structure description of Lys63-linked diubiquitin☆ 
Data in Brief  2016;7:81-88.
The data described herein are related to the article entitled “Lys63-linked ubiquitin chain adopts multiple conformational states for specific target recognition” [1], and to the coordinates for the ensemble structure of Lys63-linked diubiquitin (PDB code 2N2K). A Lys63-linked diubiquitin exists in three conformational states with different orientations for the two subunits, each responsible for binding to a target protein and encoding a specific cell signal. An atomic entry in the ensemble structure file consists multiple lines, representing alternative locations of the atom and recapitulating the dynamics of the protein. Experimental details about obtaining strictly intramolecular paramagnetic restraints and determining the relative occupancies of the conformational states are presented. The experimental design and procedures in this Data article can be useful for characterizing the structure and dynamics of other multi-domain proteins.
PMCID: PMC4761699  PMID: 26955652
11.  A Functional Variant rs6435156C > T in BMPR2 is Associated With Increased Risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Southern Chinese Population 
EBioMedicine  2016;5:167-174.
Bone morphogenetic protein receptor type 2 (BMPR2) signaling is anti-inflammatory. Decreased BMPR2 expression was seen in lung tissue from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients.
The selected single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in BMPR2 were genotyped with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) ligase detection reaction. The effects of SNPs on gene expression were analyzed with luciferase assays. The mRNA and protein expression levels of BMPR2 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from COPD patients were determined by quantitative PCR and western blotting, respectively.
Two SNPs, rs6435156C > T and rs1048829G > T in the 3′-untranslated region (3′UTR) of BMPR2 were selected and genotyped in COPD case and healthy control subjects from southern Chinese population. Both of them were found associated with significantly increased COPD risk (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.58 with 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.14–2.15, P = 0.0056 for rs6435156C > T; adjusted OR = 1.47 and 95% CI = 1.10–1.97, P = 0.0092 for rs1048829G > T). Older age, cigarette smoking, family history of cancer and COPD were all factors that interacted with rs6435156C > T and rs1048829G > T causing increased COPD risk. Cigarette smokers with rs6435156 (CT + TT) or rs1048829 (GT + TT) were more susceptible to COPD than that with the rs6435156CC or rs1048829GG genotypes. In A549 human alveolar epithelial cells, luciferase reporter assays revealed that introduction of 3′UTR of BMPR2 plasmids carrying rs6435156T allele but not rs1048829T led to lower luciferase activity than the wild-type C or G alleles. Comparing to rs6435156CC, treatment with hsa-miR-20a mimics deceased whereas hsa-miR-20a inhibitor restored the luciferase reporter activity in cells transfected with constructs carrying rs6435156TT. BMPR2 mRNA and protein expressions were significantly lower in PBMCs from COPD smokers than that in non-smokers. COPD patients carrying rs6435156T allele had less BMPR2 expression in PBMCs.
This study demonstrated that both rs6435156C > T and rs1048829G > T variants in BMPR2 contributed to increased susceptibility to COPD. The T variants of rs6435156 increased COPD risk likely by binding with hsa-miR-20a, thus leading to downregulated BMPR2 expression in lung epithelial and immune cells.
•The rs6435156 TT was associated with greater risk of COPD in smokers than in non-smokers.•Cigarette smokers with rs6435156 TT were more susceptible to COPD than those with CC genotype.•The T genotype of rs6435156 inhibited BMPR2 expression in PBMCs and lung epithelial cells.•The rs6435156 T is the functional binding site for miR-20a.
COPD is characterized by abnormal inflammation and structural remodeling in the airway. Bone morphogenetic protein receptor type 2 (BMPR2) mediated signaling has been demonstrated to regulate pro-inflammatory responses in vasculature, and decreased expression of BMPR2 was found in COPD lungs; however the relationship of BMPR2 to COPD is unknown. We found that rs6435156 TT was the functional binding site for miR-20a in 3′UTR of BMPR2 and significantly increased risk of COPD in southern Chinese population; rs6435156C > T could modulate the susceptibility to COPD by interacting with cigarette smoking, which down-regulated BMPR2 expression dependent in hsa-miR-20a.
PMCID: PMC4816816  PMID: 27077124
COPD; BMPR2; rs6435156; Cigarette smoking; hsa-miR-20a
12.  Visualizing the Ensemble Structures of Protein Complexes Using Chemical Cross-Linking Coupled with Mass Spectrometry 
Biophysics Reports  2015;1:127-138.
Graphical Abstract
Chemical cross-linking coupled with mass spectrometry (CXMS) identifies protein residues that are close in space, and has been increasingly used for modeling the structures of protein complexes. Here we show that a single structure is usually sufficient to account for the intermolecular cross-links identified for a stable complex with sub-µmol/L binding affinity. In contrast, we show that the distance between two cross-linked residues in the different subunits of a transient or fleeting complex may exceed the maximum length of the cross-linker used, and the cross-links cannot be fully accounted for with a unique complex structure. We further show that the seemingly incompatible cross-links identified with high confidence arise from alternative modes of protein-protein interactions. By converting the intermolecular cross-links to ambiguous distance restraints, we established a rigid-body simulated annealing refinement protocol to seek the minimum set of conformers collectively satisfying the CXMS data. Hence we demonstrate that CXMS allows the depiction of the ensemble structures of protein complexes and elucidates the interaction dynamics for transient and fleeting complexes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s41048-015-0015-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4871902  PMID: 27340691
Protein–protein interaction; Encounter complex; Fleeting complex; Ensemble refinement; Ambiguous distance restraint
13.  Acupuncture for ischemic stroke: cerebellar activation may be a central mechanism following Deqi 
Neural Regeneration Research  2015;10(12):1997-2003.
The needling sensation of Deqi during acupuncture is a key factor of influencing acupuncture outcome. Recent studies have mainly focused on the brain function effects of Deqi in a physiological state. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the effects of acupuncture at Waiguan (SJ5) in pathological and physiological states is controversial. In this study, 12 patients with ischemic stroke received acupuncture at Waiguan (SJ5) and simultaneously underwent fMRI scanning of the brain, with imaging data of the activated areas obtained. Based on the patient's sensation, imaging data were allocated to either the Deqi group or non-Deqi group. In the Deqi group, the activated/deactivated areas were the left superior temporal gyrus (BA39)/right anterior lobe of the cerebellum and left thalamus. In the non-Deqi group, the activated areas included the medial frontal gyrus of the right frontal lobe (BA11), right limbic lobe (BA30, 35), and left frontal lobe (BA47), while the only deactivated area was the right parietal lobe (BA40). Compared with the non-Deqi group, the Deqi group exhibited marked activation of the right anterior lobe of the cerebellum and right limbic lobe (BA30). These findings confirm that the clinical effect of Deqi during acupuncture is based on brain functional changes. Cerebellar activation may be one of the central mechanisms of acupuncture in the treatment of ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC4730825  PMID: 26889189
nerve regeneration; traditional Chinese medicine; acupuncture; functional magnetic resonance imaging; ischemic stroke; Brodmann area; Waiguan (SJ5) acupoint; Deqi; non-Deqi; 973 Program; neural regeneration
14.  NMR Model of PrgI-SipD Interaction and its Implications in the Needle-Tip Assembly of the Salmonella Type III Secretion System 
Journal of molecular biology  2014;426(16):2958-2969.
Salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria use the type III secretion system (T3SS) to inject virulence proteins into human cells to initiate infections. The structural component of the T3SS contains a needle and a needle tip. The needle is assembled from PrgI needle protomers and the needle tip is capped with several copies of the SipD tip protein. How a tip protein docks on the needle is unclear. A crystal structure of a PrgI-SipD fusion protein docked on the PrgI needle results in steric clash of SipD at the needle tip when modeled on the recent atomic structure of the needle. Thus, there is currently no good model of how SipD is docked on the PrgI needle tip. Previously, we showed by NMR paramagnetic relaxation enhancement (PRE) methods that a specific region in the SipD coiled-coil is the binding site for PrgI. Others have hypothesized that a domain of the tip protein – the N-terminal α-helical hairpin, has to swing away during the assembly of the needle apparatus. Here, we show by PRE methods that a truncated form of SipD lacking the α-helical hairpin domain binds more tightly to PrgI. Further, PRE-based structure calculations revealed multiple PrgI binding sites on the SipD coiled-coil. Our PRE results together with the recent NMR-derived atomic structure of the Salmonella needle suggest a possible model of how SipD might dock at the PrgI needle tip. SipD and PrgI are conserved in other bacterial T3SSs, thus our results have wider implication in understanding other needle-tip complexes.
PMCID: PMC4108505  PMID: 24951833
Salmonella; type III secretion; SipD; PrgI; NMR
15.  Diagnosis of Hepatic Angiomyolipoma by Combination of Baseline and Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound—A Prospective Study in Non-Cirrhotic Patients 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0132290.
Hepatic angiomyolipoma (HAML) is a rare, benign mesenchymal tumor of the liver and its diagnosis has been considered challenging. The aim of this study was to investigate prospectively the diagnostic efficacy of the incorporation of both baseline ultrasound (US) and contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) features of HAML in patients without cirrhosis.
Materials and Methods
Consecutive 1748 non-cirrhotic patients with focal liver lesions (FLLs) were prospectively enrolled. Baseline US and CEUS were performed before resection or biopsy. Ultrasound imaging diagnosis of FLLs was compared with the pathological results.
Final diagnoses were established in 41 patients with HAML (2.3%) with normal alpha fetal protein (AFP) level and in 1707 patients with FLL other than HAML. Diagnostic criteria for HAML was based on the combination of baseline US and CEUS appearance of the nodule: (1) Well-defined, marked hyper-echoic nodule without surrounding hypo-echoic halo on baseline US; (2) hyper-enhancement in the arterial phase (exclude initial peripheral nodular enhancement and spoke-wheel arteries) and remains hyper-enhancement or iso-enhancement in the late phase. The diagnostic criteria were fulfilled in 31 HAMLs, 1 hepatocellular adenoma and 1 hemangioma. Ten HAMLs were misdiagnosed as other liver tumors because they did not meet the diagnostic criteria mentioned above and consequently yielded a sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive values, negative predictive values and Youden index of 75.61%, 99.88%, 93.94%, 99.42%, and 0.75 respectively.
The combination of baseline US and CEUS may lead to the correct diagnosis noninvasively in the majority of HAMLs in non-cirrhotic patients with normal AFP level.
PMCID: PMC4492985  PMID: 26147859
16.  Lys63-linked ubiquitin chain adopts multiple conformational states for specific target recognition 
eLife  null;4:e05767.
A polyubiquitin comprises multiple covalently linked ubiquitins and recognizes myriad targets. Free or bound to ligands, polyubiquitins are found in different arrangements of ubiquitin subunits. To understand the structural basis for polyubiquitin quaternary plasticity and to explore the target recognition mechanism, we characterize the conformational space of Lys63-linked diubiquitin (K63-Ub2). Refining against inter-subunit paramagnetic NMR data, we show that free K63-Ub2 exists as a dynamic ensemble comprising multiple closed and open quaternary states. The quaternary dynamics enables K63-Ub2 to be specifically recognized in a variety of signaling pathways. When binding to a target protein, one of the preexisting quaternary states is selected and stabilized. A point mutation that shifts the equilibrium between the different states modulates the binding affinities towards K63-Ub2 ligands. This conformational selection mechanism at the quaternary level may be used by polyubiquitins of different lengths and linkages for target recognition.
eLife digest
Proteins can be tagged with other molecules that indicate what the cell should do with that protein. For example, proteins tagged with a small protein called ubiquitin—which is linked to other ubiquitin molecules to form ‘polyubiquitin’—may be destroyed or relocated within a cell.
Like all proteins, a ubiquitin is made up of chains of amino acids. Specific amino acids form the linkages between individual ubiquitins to form a polyubiquitin, and the nature of these linkages influences the effect that a polyubiquitin has on the tagged protein. One linkage involves a lysine amino acid at position 63 (known as Lys63). This linkage is found in the polyubiquitin that is involved in repairing damaged proteins and relocating target proteins to a part of the cell where they are utilized for immune response. To perform these different roles, the polyubiquitin must be able to distinguish between a variety of target proteins.
The shape that a protein takes on determines how it works, and most proteins constantly and rapidly switch between different shapes. Previous work suggested that the Lys63-linked polyubiquitin could only take on an elongated ‘open’ structure by itself. It was not clear whether the protein could take on a compact ‘closed’ structure without first binding to a target protein.
Liu et al. used a technique known as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to explore the high-resolution structures of the Lys63-linked ubiquitin chain when they are not bound to other proteins. The results showed that a large percentage of the protein was in a closed state, and that there were at least one open shape and two kinds of closed shapes.
Liu et al. suggest that the shape of the unbound Lys63-linked ubiquitin chain determines what other proteins can be bound, and that the binding stabilizes the shape of the ubiquitin. This mechanism of binding is known as conformational selection. Further work is required to analyze whether other polyubiquitin chains recognize their partners in a similar manner.
PMCID: PMC4507786  PMID: 26090905
polyubiquitin; dynamics; ensemble; NMR; paramagnetic; E. coli
17.  Role of Wnt Inhibitory Factor-1 in Inhibition of Bisdemethoxycurcumin Mediated Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in Highly Metastatic Lung Cancer 95D Cells 
Chinese Medical Journal  2015;128(10):1376-1383.
Bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDMC) is an active component of curcumin and a chemotherapeutic agent, which has been suggested to inhibit tumor growth, invasion and metastasis in multiple cancers. But its contribution and mechanism of action in invasion and metastasis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are not very clear. Therefore, we tried to study the effects of BDMC on regulation of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which is closely linked to tumor cell invasion and metastasis.
In this study, we first induced transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) mediated EMT in highly metastatic lung cancer 95D cells. Thereafter, we studied the effects of BDMC on invasion and migration of 95D cells. In addition, EMT markers expressions were also analyzed by western blot and immunofluorescence assays. The contribution of Wnt inhibitory factor-1 (WIF-1) in regulating BDMC effects on TGF-β1 induced EMT were further analyzed by its overexpression and small interfering RNA knockdown studies.
It was observed that BDMC inhibited the TGF-β1 induced EMT in 95D cells. Furthermore, it also inhibited the Wnt signaling pathway by upregulating WIF-1 protein expression. In addition, WIF-1 manipulation studies further revealed that WIF-1 is a central molecule mediating BDMC response towards TGF-β1 induced EMT by regulating cell invasion and migration.
Our study concluded that BDMC effects on TGF-β1 induced EMT in NSCLC are mediated through WIF-1 and elucidated a novel mechanism of EMT regulation by BDMC.
PMCID: PMC4830320  PMID: 25963361
Bisdemethoxycurcumin; Epithelial-to-mesenchymal Transition; Lung Cancer; Wnt Inhibitory Factor-1; Wnt Pathway
18.  2-(3-Benzoylthioureido)-4,5,6,7-tetrahydrobenzo[b]thiophene-3-carboxylic acid ameliorates metabolic disorders in high-fat diet-fed mice 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2015;36(4):483-496.
Sterol-regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs) are major transcription factors that regulate liver lipid biosynthesis. In this article we reported a novel synthetic compound 2-(3-benzoylthioureido)-4,5,6,7-tetrahydrobenzo[b]thiophene-3-carboxylic acid (ZJ001) that inhibited the SREBP-1c pathway, and effectively reduced hepatic lipid accumulation in diet-induced obesity (DIO) mice.
A luciferase reporter driven by an SRE-containing promoter transfected into HepG2 cells was used to discover the compound. Two approaches were used to evaluate the lipid-lowering effects of ZJ001: (1) diet-induced obesity (DIO) mice that were treated with ZJ001 (15 mg·kg−1·d−1, po) for 7 weeks; and (2) HepG2 cells and primary hepatocytes used as in vitro models.
ZJ001 (10, 20 μmol/L) dose-dependently inhibited the activity of SRE-containing promoter. ZJ001 administration ameliorated lipid metabolism and improved glucose tolerance in DIO mice, accompanied by significantly reduced mRNA levels of SREBP-1C and SREBP-2, and their downstream genes. In HepG2 cells and insulin-treated hepatocytes, ZJ001 (10–40 μmol/L) dose-dependently inhibited lipid synthesis, and reduced mRNA levels of SREBP-1C and SREBP-2, and their downstream genes. Furthermore, ZJ001 dose-dependently increased the phosphorylation of AMPK and regulatory-associated protein of mTOR (Raptor), and suppressed the phosphorylation of mTOR in insulin-treated hepatocytes. Moreover, ZJ001 increased the ADP/ATP ratio in insulin-treated hepatocytes.
ZJ001 exerts multiple beneficial effects in diet-induced obesity mice. Its lipid-lowering effects may result from the suppression of mTORC1, which regulates SREBP-1c transcription. The results suggest that the SREBP-1c pathway may be a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of lipid metabolic disorders.
PMCID: PMC4387297  PMID: 25832429
2-(3-benzoylthioureido)-4,5,6,7-tetrahydrobenzo[b]thiophene-3-carboxylic acid; lipogenesis; SREBP-1c; AMPK; mTOR; hepatic lipid accumulation; obesity; metabolic disorders
19.  Conjoined Use of EM and NMR in RNA Structure Refinement 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0120445.
More than 40% of the RNA structures have been determined using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technique. NMR mainly provides local structural information of protons and works most effectively on relatively small biomacromolecules. Hence structural characterization of large RNAs can be difficult for NMR alone. Electron microscopy (EM) provides global shape information of macromolecules at nanometer resolution, which should be complementary to NMR for RNA structure determination. Here we developed a new energy term in Xplor-NIH against the density map obtained by EM. We conjointly used NMR and map restraints for the structure refinement of three RNA systems — U2/U6 small-nuclear RNA, genome-packing motif (ΨCD)2 from Moloney murine leukemia virus, and ribosome-binding element from turnip crinkle virus. In all three systems, we showed that the incorporation of a map restraint, either experimental or generated from known PDB structure, greatly improves structural precision and accuracy. Importantly, our method does not rely on an initial model assembled from RNA duplexes, and allows full torsional freedom for each nucleotide in the torsion angle simulated annealing refinement. As increasing number of macromolecules can be characterized by both NMR and EM, the marriage between the two techniques would enable better characterization of RNA three-dimensional structures.
PMCID: PMC4370883  PMID: 25798848
20.  Successful treatment of severe sepsis and diarrhea after vagotomy utilizing fecal microbiota transplantation: a case report 
Critical Care  2015;19(1):37.
Dysbiosis of intestinal microbiota likely plays an important role in the development of gut-derived infections, making it a potential therapeutic target against sepsis. However, experience with fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in the treatment of sepsis and knowledge of the underlying mechanisms are extremely lacking. In this article, we describe a case of a patient who developed sepsis after a vagotomy and later received an infusion of donor feces microbiota, and we report our findings.
A 44-year-old woman developed septic shock and severe watery diarrhea 4 days after undergoing a vagotomy. Antibiotics, probiotics and supportive treatment strategies were used for about 30 day after surgery, but the patient’s fever, bacteremia and watery diarrhea persisted. Considering the possibility of intestinal dysbiosis, we evaluated the structure and composition of the patient’s fecal microbiota using 16S rDNA-based molecular techniques. As expected, the gut microbiota was extensively disrupted; therefore, a donor fecal suspension was delivered into the patient by nasoduodenal tube. The patient’s clinical outcomes and shifts of the gut microbiota following the treatment were also determined.
Dramatically, the patient’s septic symptoms and severe diarrhea were successfully controlled following FMT. Her stool output markedly declined after 7 days and normalized 16 days after FMT. A significant modification in her microbiota composition was consistently seen, characterized by a profound enrichment of the commensals in Firmicutes and depletion of opportunistic organisms in Proteobacteria. Furthermore, we identified a reconstituted bacterial community enriched in Firmicutes and depleted of Proteobacteria members that was associated with fecal output, plasma markers of inflammation and T helper cells.
In this report, we describe our initial experience with FMT, in which we successfully used it in the treatment of a patient with sepsis and severe diarrhea after a vagotomy. Our data indicate an association between repaired intestinal microbiota barrier and improvement of clinical outcomes. Our patient’s surprising clinical benefits from FMT demonstrate the role of intestinal microbiota in modulating immune equilibrium. It represents a breakthrough in the clinical management of sepsis and suggests new therapeutic avenues to pursue for microbiota-related indications.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13054-015-0738-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4346118  PMID: 25881250
21.  Brain activation and inhibition after acupuncture at Taichong and Taixi: resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging 
Neural Regeneration Research  2015;10(2):292-297.
Acupuncture can induce changes in the brain. However, the majority of studies to date have focused on a single acupoint at a time. In the present study, we observed activity changes in the brains of healthy volunteers before and after acupuncture at Taichong (LR3) and Taixi (KI3) using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Fifteen healthy volunteers underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain 15 minutes before acupuncture, then received acupuncture at Taichong and Taixi using the nail-pressing needle insertion method, after which the needle was retained in place for 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes after withdrawal of the needle, the volunteers underwent a further session of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging, which revealed that the amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation, a measure of spontaneous neuronal activity, increased mainly in the cerebral occipital lobe and middle occipital gyrus (Brodmann area 18/19), inferior occipital gyrus (Brodmann area 18) and cuneus (Brodmann area 18), but decreased mainly in the gyrus rectus of the frontal lobe (Brodmann area 11), inferior frontal gyrus (Brodmann area 44) and the center of the posterior lobe of the cerebellum. The present findings indicate that acupuncture at Taichong and Taixi specifically promote blood flow and activation in the brain areas related to vision, emotion and cognition, and inhibit brain areas related to emotion, attention, phonological and semantic processing, and memory.
PMCID: PMC4392679  PMID: 25883630
nerve regeneration; acupuncture; neuroimaging; resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging; Taichong (LR3); Taixi (KI3); amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation; Brodmann area 11; Brodmann area 18; Brodmann area 19; Brodmann area 44; posterior lobe of the cerebellum; neural regeneration
22.  Double CEBPA mutations are prognostically favorable in non-M3 acute myeloid leukemia patients with wild-type NPM1 and FLT3-ITD  
This study is aimed to investigate the pattern of CEBPA mutations and its clinical significance in Chinese non-M3 acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients. The entire coding region of CEBPA gene was amplified by PCR and then sequenced in samples from 233 non-M3 AML patients. Fifty mutations were identified in 37 (15.8%) patients with eleven (4.7%) double mutated CEBPA (dmCEBPA) and twenty-six (11.1%) single mutated CEBPA (smCEBPA). dmCEBPA was exclusively observed in M1 and M2 subtypes of FAB classification (P = 0.008), whereas smCEBPA occurred in almost all subtypes (P = 0.401). Patients with dmCEBPA had significantly younger age and higher WBC counts than those with wtCEBPA (P = 0.016 and 0.043, respectively). Both dmCEBPA and smCEBPA were mainly present in cytogenetically normal patients. Patients with dmCEBPA achieved higher rate of complete (CR) than wtCEBPA patients (88% vs. 51%, P = 0.037), whereas smCEBPA and wtCEBPA groups are similar (47% vs. 51%, P = 0.810). Patients with dmCEBPA had a superior overall survival (OS) compared with patients with wtCEBPA (P = 0.033), whereas patients with smCEBPA had a similar OS as patients with wtCEBPA (P = 0.976). dmCEBPA but not smCEBPA was also associated with favorable outcome in patients with wild-type NPM1 and FLT3-ITD (NPM1wtFLT3-ITDwt). Our data confirm that dmCEBPA but not smCEBPA is prognostically favorable in NPM1wtFLT3-ITDwt AML, and suggest that the entity AML with mutated CEBPA should be definitely designated as AML with dmCEBPA in WHO classification and smCEBPA should be excluded from the favorable risk of molecular abnormalities.
PMCID: PMC4230151  PMID: 25400766
CEBPA; mutation; prognosis; acute myeloid leukemia
24.  Decreased SFRP2 expression is associated with intermediate and poor karyotypes in de novo acute myeloid leukemia 
Dysregulation of secreted frizzled-related protein 2 (SFRP2) has been found in various cancers. However, it is little known about the pattern of SFRP2 expression in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This study was aimed to analyze the expression status of SFRP2 gene in AML patients and explore its clinical significance using real-time quantitative PCR (RQ-PCR). The level of SFRP2 expression significantly decreased in AML compared to controls (P<0.001). Receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC) analysis revealed that an area under the ROC curve (AUC) of 0.871 (P<0.001) or 0.902 (P<0.001) in discriminating all patients or cytogenetically normal (CN) patients from controls, respectively. Low level of SFRP2 expression was found more frequently in cytogenetically intermediate and poor groups (72% and 62%, respectively) than in favorable group (42%) (P<0.05). However, there was no significant difference in the rate of complete remission (CR) and overall survival between the groups with low SFRP2 and high expression (P>0.05). SFRP2 expression significantly increased after CR compared to initial diagnosis (P<0.05). These findings suggest that decreased SFRP2 expression is associated with intermediate/poor karyotypes in AML patients and detection of SFRP2 expression may be helpful to the diagnosis and disease monitoring in CN-AML.
PMCID: PMC4152031  PMID: 25197341
SFRP2; acute myeloid leukemia; expression
25.  PolyUbiquitin Chain Linkage Topology Selects the Functions from the Underlying Binding Landscape 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(7):e1003691.
Ubiquitin (Ub) can generate versatile molecular signals and lead to different celluar fates. The functional poly-valence of Ub is believed to be resulted from its ability to form distinct polymerized chains with eight linkage types. To provide a full picture of ubiquitin code, we explore the binding landscape of two free Ub monomers and also the functional landscapes of of all eight linkage types by theoretical modeling. Remarkably, we found that most of the compact structures of covalently connected dimeric Ub chains (diUbs) pre-exist on the binding landscape. These compact functional states were subsequently validated by corresponding linkage models. This leads to the proposal that the folding architecture of Ub monomer has encoded all functional states into its binding landscape, which is further selected by different topologies of polymeric Ub chains. Moreover, our results revealed that covalent linkage leads to symmetry breaking of interfacial interactions. We further propose that topological constraint not only limits the conformational space for effective switching between functional states, but also selects the local interactions for realizing the corresponding biological function. Therefore, the topological constraint provides a way for breaking the binding symmetry and reaching the functional specificity. The simulation results also provide several predictions that qualitatively and quantitatively consistent with experiments. Importantly, the K48 linkage model successfully predicted intermediate states. The resulting multi-state energy landscape was further employed to reconcile the seemingly contradictory experimental data on the conformational equilibrium of K48-diUb. Our results further suggest that hydrophobic interactions are dominant in the functional landscapes of K6-, K11-, K33- and K48 diUbs, while electrostatic interactions play a more important role in the functional landscapes of K27, K29, K63 and linear linkages.
Author Summary
Ubiquitination, as an important post-translational modification of proteins, provides a versatile cellular signaling mechanism. This is mostly contributed by the possibility of ubiquitin units to form different polyUb chains through eight different linkages. However, it is still unclear how these linkage types determine the different functions of polyUb chains. In this study, we address this question via the theoretical modeling and molecular dynamics simulation. This allows us to obtain a full picture of topology-function relationship of polyUb chains. The theoretical results led us to propose that topology of polyUb chains selects the functional landscapes from its binding landscape and the topological constraint provides a way for breaking the binding symmetry and reaching the functional specificity.
PMCID: PMC4081019  PMID: 24992446

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