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1.  TLR3 deficiency impairs spinal cord synaptic transmission, central sensitization, and pruritus in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(6):2195-2207.
Itch, also known as pruritus, is a common, intractable symptom of several skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis and xerosis. TLRs mediate innate immunity and regulate neuropathic pain, but their roles in pruritus are elusive. Here, we report that scratching behaviors induced by histamine-dependent and -independent pruritogens are markedly reduced in mice lacking the Tlr3 gene. TLR3 is expressed mainly by small-sized primary sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglions (DRGs) that coexpress the itch signaling pathway components transient receptor potential subtype V1 and gastrin-releasing peptide. Notably, we found that treatment with a TLR3 agonist induces inward currents and action potentials in DRG neurons and elicited scratching in WT mice but not Tlr3–/– mice. Furthermore, excitatory synaptic transmission in spinal cord slices and long-term potentiation in the intact spinal cord were impaired in Tlr3–/– mice but not Tlr7–/– mice. Consequently, central sensitization–driven pain hypersensitivity, but not acute pain, was impaired in Tlr3–/– mice. In addition, TLR3 knockdown in DRGs also attenuated pruritus in WT mice. Finally, chronic itch in a dry skin condition was substantially reduced in Tlr3–/– mice. Our findings demonstrate a critical role of TLR3 in regulating sensory neuronal excitability, spinal cord synaptic transmission, and central sensitization. TLR3 may serve as a new target for developing anti-itch treatment.
doi:10.1172/JCI45414
PMCID: PMC3366391  PMID: 22565312
3.  Kallikrein genes are associated with lupus and glomerular basement membrane–specific antibody–induced nephritis in mice and humans 
Immune-mediated nephritis contributes to disease in systemic lupus erythematosus, Goodpasture syndrome (caused by antibodies specific for glomerular basement membrane [anti-GBM antibodies]), and spontaneous lupus nephritis. Inbred mouse strains differ in susceptibility to anti-GBM antibody–induced and spontaneous lupus nephritis. This study sought to clarify the genetic and molecular factors that may be responsible for enhanced immune-mediated renal disease in these models. When the kidneys of 3 mouse strains sensitive to anti-GBM antibody–induced nephritis were compared with those of 2 control strains using microarray analysis, one-fifth of the underexpressed genes belonged to the kallikrein gene family, which encodes serine esterases. Mouse strains that upregulated renal and urinary kallikreins exhibited less evidence of disease. Antagonizing the kallikrein pathway augmented disease, while agonists dampened the severity of anti-GBM antibody–induced nephritis. In addition, nephritis-sensitive mouse strains had kallikrein haplotypes that were distinct from those of control strains, including several regulatory polymorphisms, some of which were associated with functional consequences. Indeed, increased susceptibility to anti-GBM antibody–induced nephritis and spontaneous lupus nephritis was achieved by breeding mice with a genetic interval harboring the kallikrein genes onto a disease-resistant background. Finally, both human SLE and spontaneous lupus nephritis were found to be associated with kallikrein genes, particularly KLK1 and the KLK3 promoter, when DNA SNPs from independent cohorts of SLE patients and controls were compared. Collectively, these studies suggest that kallikreins are protective disease-associated genes in anti-GBM antibody–induced nephritis and lupus.
doi:10.1172/JCI36728
PMCID: PMC2662554  PMID: 19307730
4.  Plasmacytoid dendritic cells induce NK cell–dependent, tumor antigen–specific T cell cross-priming and tumor regression in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2008;118(3):1165-1175.
A prerequisite for strong adaptive antiviral immunity is the robust initial activation of the innate immune system, which is frequently mediated by TLR-activated plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). Natural antitumor immunity is often comparatively weak, potentially due to the lack of TLR-mediated activation signals within the tumor microenvironment. To assess whether pDCs are capable of directly facilitating effective antitumor immune responses, mice bearing established subcutaneous B16 melanoma tumors were administered TLR9-activated pDCs directly into the tumor. We found that TLR9-activated pDCs induced robust, spontaneous CTL cross-priming against multiple B16 tumor antigens, leading to the regression of both treated tumors and untreated tumors at distant contralateral sites. This T cell cross-priming was mediated by conventional DCs (cDCs) and was completely dependent upon the early recruitment and activation of NK cells at the tumor site. NK cell recruitment was mediated by CCR5 via chemokines secreted by pDCs, and optimal IFN-γ production by NK cells was mediated by OX40L expressed by pDCs. Our data thus demonstrated that activated pDCs are capable of initiating effective and systemic antitumor immunity through the orchestration of an immune cascade involving the sequential activation of NK cells, cDCs, and CD8+ T cells.
doi:10.1172/JCI33583
PMCID: PMC2230660  PMID: 18259609
5.  Curcumin prevents and reverses murine cardiac hypertrophy 
Chromatin remodeling, particularly histone acetylation, plays a critical role in the progression of pathological cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure. We hypothesized that curcumin, a natural polyphenolic compound abundant in the spice turmeric and a known suppressor of histone acetylation, would suppress cardiac hypertrophy through the disruption of p300 histone acetyltransferase–dependent (p300-HAT–dependent) transcriptional activation. We tested this hypothesis using primary cultured rat cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts as well as two well-established mouse models of cardiac hypertrophy. Curcumin blocked phenylephrin-induced (PE-induced) cardiac hypertrophy in vitro in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, curcumin both prevented and reversed mouse cardiac hypertrophy induced by aortic banding (AB) and PE infusion, as assessed by heart weight/BW and lung weight/BW ratios, echocardiographic parameters, and gene expression of hypertrophic markers. Further investigation demonstrated that curcumin abrogated histone acetylation, GATA4 acetylation, and DNA-binding activity through blocking p300-HAT activity. Curcumin also blocked AB-induced inflammation and fibrosis through disrupting p300-HAT–dependent signaling pathways. Our results indicate that curcumin has the potential to protect against cardiac hypertrophy, inflammation, and fibrosis through suppression of p300-HAT activity and downstream GATA4, NF-κB, and TGF-β–Smad signaling pathways.
doi:10.1172/JCI32865
PMCID: PMC2248327  PMID: 18292803
6.  FOXP3 is a novel transcriptional repressor for the breast cancer oncogene SKP2  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(12):3765-3773.
S-phase kinase-associated protein 2 (SKP2) is a component of the E3 ubiquitin ligase SKP1-Cul1-Fbox complex. Overexpression of SKP2 results in cell cycle dysregulation and carcinogenesis; however, the genetic lesions that cause this upregulation are poorly understood. We recently demonstrated that forkhead box P3 (FOXP3) is an X-linked breast cancer suppressor and an important repressor of the oncogene ERBB2/HER2. Since FOXP3 suppresses tumor growth regardless of whether the tumors overexpress ERBB2/HER2, additional FOXP3 targets may be involved in its tumor suppressor activity. Here, we show that mammary carcinomas from mice heterozygous for a Foxp3 mutation exhibited increased Skp2 expression. Ectopic expression of FOXP3 in mouse mammary cancer cells repressed SKP2 expression with a corresponding increase in p27 and polyploidy. Conversely, siRNA silencing of the FOXP3 gene in human mammary epithelial cells increased SKP2 expression. We also show that Foxp3 directly interacted with and repressed the Skp2 promoter. Moreover, the analysis of over 200 primary breast cancer samples revealed an inverse correlation between FOXP3 and SKP2 levels. Finally, we demonstrated that downregulation of SKP2 was critical for FOXP3-mediated growth inhibition in breast cancer cells that do not overexpress ERBB2/HER2. Our data provide genetic, biochemical, and functional evidence that FOXP3 is a novel transcriptional repressor for the oncogene SKP2.
doi:10.1172/JCI32538
PMCID: PMC2075479  PMID: 18008005
8.  Extracellular caspase-6 drives murine inflammatory pain via microglial TNF-α secretion 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(3):1173-1186.
Increasing evidence indicates that the pathogenesis of neuropathic pain is mediated through spinal cord microglia activation. The intracellular protease caspase-6 (CASP6) is known to regulate neuronal apoptosis and axonal degeneration; however, the contribution of microglia and CASP6 in modulating synaptic transmission and pain is unclear. Here, we found that CASP6 is expressed specifically in C-fiber axonal terminals in the superficial spinal cord dorsal horn. Animals exposed to intraplantar formalin or bradykinin injection exhibited CASP6 activation in the dorsal horn. Casp6-null mice had normal baseline pain, but impaired inflammatory pain responses. Furthermore, formalin-induced second-phase pain was suppressed by spinal injection of CASP6 inhibitor or CASP6-neutralizing antibody, as well as perisciatic nerve injection of CASP6 siRNA. Recombinant CASP6 (rCASP6) induced marked TNF-α release in microglial cultures, and most microglia within the spinal cord expressed Tnfa. Spinal injection of rCASP6 elicited TNF-α production and microglia-dependent pain hypersensitivity. Evaluation of excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) revealed that rCASP6 rapidly increased synaptic transmission in spinal cord slices via TNF-α release. Interestingly, the microglial inhibitor minocycline suppressed rCASP6 but not TNF-α–induced synaptic potentiation. Finally, rCASP6-activated microglial culture medium increased EPSCs in spinal cord slices via TNF-α. Together, these data suggest that CASP6 released from axonal terminals regulates microglial TNF-α secretion, synaptic plasticity, and inflammatory pain.
doi:10.1172/JCI72230
PMCID: PMC3934175  PMID: 24531553
9.  Serotonin 2C receptors in pro-opiomelanocortin neurons regulate energy and glucose homeostasis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(12):5061-5070.
Energy and glucose homeostasis are regulated by central serotonin 2C receptors. These receptors are attractive pharmacological targets for the treatment of obesity; however, the identity of the serotonin 2C receptor–expressing neurons that mediate the effects of serotonin and serotonin 2C receptor agonists on energy and glucose homeostasis are unknown. Here, we show that mice lacking serotonin 2C receptors (Htr2c) specifically in pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons had normal body weight but developed glucoregulatory defects including hyperinsulinemia, hyperglucagonemia, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance. Moreover, these mice did not show anorectic responses to serotonergic agents that suppress appetite and developed hyperphagia and obesity when they were fed a high-fat/high-sugar diet. A requirement of serotonin 2C receptors in POMC neurons for the maintenance of normal energy and glucose homeostasis was further demonstrated when Htr2c loss was induced in POMC neurons in adult mice using a tamoxifen-inducible POMC-cre system. These data demonstrate that serotonin 2C receptor–expressing POMC neurons are required to control energy and glucose homeostasis and implicate POMC neurons as the target for the effect of serotonin 2C receptor agonists on weight-loss induction and improved glycemic control.
doi:10.1172/JCI70338
PMCID: PMC3859401  PMID: 24177424
10.  Chronic itch development in sensory neurons requires BRAF signaling pathways 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(11):4769-4780.
Chronic itch, or pruritus, is associated with a wide range of skin abnormalities. The mechanisms responsible for chronic itch induction and persistence remain unclear. We developed a mouse model in which a constitutively active form of the serine/threonine kinase BRAF was expressed in neurons gated by the sodium channel Nav1.8 (BRAFNav1.8 mice). We found that constitutive BRAF pathway activation in BRAFNav1.8 mice results in ectopic and enhanced expression of a cohort of itch-sensing genes, including gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) and MAS-related GPCR member A3 (MRGPRA3), in nociceptors expressing transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). BRAFNav1.8 mice showed de novo neuronal responsiveness to pruritogens, enhanced pruriceptor excitability, and heightened evoked and spontaneous scratching behavior. GRP receptor expression was increased in the spinal cord, indicating augmented coding capacity for itch subsequent to amplified pruriceptive inputs. Enhanced GRP expression and sustained ERK phosphorylation were observed in sensory neurons of mice with allergic contact dermatitis– or dry skin–elicited itch; however, spinal ERK activation was not required for maintaining central sensitization of itch. Inhibition of either BRAF or GRP signaling attenuated itch sensation in chronic itch mouse models. These data uncover RAF/MEK/ERK signaling as a key regulator that confers a subset of nociceptors with pruriceptive properties to initiate and maintain long-lasting itch sensation.
doi:10.1172/JCI70528
PMCID: PMC3809799  PMID: 24216512
11.  Myeloid-derived suppressor cell development is regulated by a STAT/IRF-8 axis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(10):4464-4478.
Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) comprise immature myeloid populations produced in diverse pathologies, including neoplasia. Because MDSCs can impair antitumor immunity, these cells have emerged as a significant barrier to cancer therapy. Although much research has focused on how MDSCs promote tumor progression, it remains unclear how MDSCs develop and why the MDSC response is heavily granulocytic. Given that MDSCs are a manifestation of aberrant myelopoiesis, we hypothesized that MDSCs arise from perturbations in the regulation of interferon regulatory factor–8 (IRF-8), an integral transcriptional component of myeloid differentiation and lineage commitment. Overall, we demonstrated that (a) Irf8-deficient mice generated myeloid populations highly homologous to tumor-induced MDSCs with respect to phenotype, function, and gene expression profiles; (b) IRF-8 overexpression in mice attenuated MDSC accumulation and enhanced immunotherapeutic efficacy; (c) the MDSC-inducing factors G-CSF and GM-CSF facilitated IRF-8 downregulation via STAT3- and STAT5-dependent pathways; and (d) IRF-8 levels in MDSCs of breast cancer patients declined with increasing MDSC frequency, implicating IRF-8 as a negative regulator in human MDSC biology. Together, our results reveal a previously unrecognized role for IRF-8 expression in MDSC subset development, which may provide new avenues to target MDSCs in neoplasia.
doi:10.1172/JCI68189
PMCID: PMC3784535  PMID: 24091328
12.  WNT signaling underlies the pathogenesis of neuropathic pain in rodents 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(5):2268-2286.
Treating neuropathic pain is a major clinical challenge, and the underlying mechanisms of neuropathic pain remain elusive. We hypothesized that neuropathic pain–inducing nerve injury may elicit neuronal alterations that recapitulate events that occur during development. Here, we report that WNT signaling, which is important in developmental processes of the nervous system, plays a critical role in neuropathic pain after sciatic nerve injury and bone cancer in rodents. Nerve injury and bone cancer caused a rapid-onset and long-lasting expression of WNTs, as well as activation of WNT/frizzled/β-catenin signaling in the primary sensory neurons, the spinal dorsal horn neurons, and astrocytes. Spinal blockade of WNT signaling pathways inhibited the production and persistence of neuropathic pain and the accompanying neurochemical alterations without affecting normal pain sensitivity and locomotor activity. WNT signaling activation stimulated production of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-18 and TNF-α and regulated the NR2B glutamate receptor and Ca2+-dependent signals through the β-catenin pathway in the spinal cord. These findings indicate a critical mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of neuropathic pain and suggest that targeting the WNT signaling pathway may be an effective approach for treating neuropathic pain, including bone cancer pain.
doi:10.1172/JCI65364
PMCID: PMC3635721  PMID: 23585476
13.  Formylpeptide receptor-2 contributes to colonic epithelial homeostasis, inflammation, and tumorigenesis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(4):1694-1704.
Commensal bacteria and their products provide beneficial effects to the mammalian gut by stimulating epithelial cell turnover and enhancing wound healing, without activating overt inflammation. We hypothesized that N-formylpeptide receptors, which bind bacterial N-formylpeptides and are expressed by intestinal epithelial cells, may contribute to these processes. Here we report that formylpeptide receptor-2 (FPR2), which we show is expressed on the apical and lateral membranes of colonic crypt epithelial cells, mediates N-formylpeptide–dependent epithelial cell proliferation and renewal. Colonic epithelial cells in FPR2-deficient mice displayed defects in commensal bacterium–dependent homeostasis as shown by the absence of responses to N-formylpeptide stimulation, shortened colonic crypts, reduced acute inflammatory responses to dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) challenge, delayed mucosal restoration after injury, and increased azoxymethane-induced tumorigenesis. These results indicate that FPR2 is critical in mediating homeostasis, inflammation, and epithelial repair processes in the colon.
doi:10.1172/JCI65569
PMCID: PMC3613917  PMID: 23454745
14.  IQGAP1 suppresses TβRII-mediated myofibroblastic activation and metastatic growth in liver 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(3):1138-1156.
In the tumor microenvironment, TGF-β induces transdifferentiation of quiescent pericytes and related stromal cells into myofibroblasts that promote tumor growth and metastasis. The mechanisms governing myofibroblastic activation remain poorly understood, and its role in the tumor microenvironment has not been explored. Here, we demonstrate that IQ motif containing GTPase activating protein 1 (IQGAP1) binds to TGF-β receptor II (TβRII) and suppresses TβRII-mediated signaling in pericytes to prevent myofibroblastic differentiation in the tumor microenvironment. We found that TGF-β1 recruited IQGAP1 to TβRII in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), the resident liver pericytes. Iqgap1 knockdown inhibited the targeting of the E3 ubiquitin ligase SMAD ubiquitination regulatory factor 1 (SMURF1) to the plasma membrane and TβRII ubiquitination and degradation. Thus, Iqgap1 knockdown stabilized TβRII and potentiated TGF-β1 transdifferentiation of pericytes into myofibroblasts in vitro. Iqgap1 deficiency in HSCs promoted myofibroblast activation, tumor implantation, and metastatic growth in mice via upregulation of paracrine signaling molecules. Additionally, we found that IQGAP1 expression was downregulated in myofibroblasts associated with human colorectal liver metastases. Taken together, our studies demonstrate that IQGAP1 in the tumor microenvironment suppresses TβRII and TGF-β dependent myofibroblastic differentiation to constrain tumor growth.
doi:10.1172/JCI63836
PMCID: PMC3582119  PMID: 23454766
15.  The tumorigenic FGFR3-TACC3 gene fusion escapes miR-99a regulation in glioblastoma  
Fusion genes are chromosomal aberrations that are found in many cancers and can be used as prognostic markers and drug targets in clinical practice. Fusions can lead to production of oncogenic fusion proteins or to enhanced expression of oncogenes. Several recent studies have reported that some fusion genes can escape microRNA regulation via 3′–untranslated region (3′-UTR) deletion. We performed whole transcriptome sequencing to identify fusion genes in glioma and discovered FGFR3-TACC3 fusions in 4 of 48 glioblastoma samples from patients both of mixed European and of Asian descent, but not in any of 43 low-grade glioma samples tested. The fusion, caused by tandem duplication on 4p16.3, led to the loss of the 3′-UTR of FGFR3, blocking gene regulation of miR-99a and enhancing expression of the fusion gene. The fusion gene was mutually exclusive with EGFR, PDGFR, or MET amplification. Using cultured glioblastoma cells and a mouse xenograft model, we found that fusion protein expression promoted cell proliferation and tumor progression, while WT FGFR3 protein was not tumorigenic, even under forced overexpression. These results demonstrated that the FGFR3-TACC3 gene fusion is expressed in human cancer and generates an oncogenic protein that promotes tumorigenesis in glioblastoma.
doi:10.1172/JCI67144
PMCID: PMC3561838  PMID: 23298836
16.  Cerebrospinal fluid–based kinetic biomarkers of axonal transport in monitoring neurodegeneration 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(9):3159-3169.
Progress in neurodegenerative disease research is hampered by the lack of biomarkers of neuronal dysfunction. We here identified a class of cerebrospinal fluid–based (CSF-based) kinetic biomarkers that reflect altered neuronal transport of protein cargo, a common feature of neurodegeneration. After a pulse administration of heavy water (2H2O), distinct, newly synthesized 2H-labeled neuronal proteins were transported to nerve terminals and secreted, and then appeared in CSF. In 3 mouse models of neurodegeneration, distinct 2H-cargo proteins displayed delayed appearance and disappearance kinetics in the CSF, suggestive of aberrant transport kinetics. Microtubule-modulating pharmacotherapy normalized CSF-based kinetics of affected 2H-cargo proteins and ameliorated neurodegenerative symptoms in mice. After 2H2O labeling, similar neuronal transport deficits were observed in CSF of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) compared with non-PD control subjects, which indicates that these biomarkers are translatable and relevant to human disease. Measurement of transport kinetics may provide a sensitive method to monitor progression of neurodegeneration and treatment effects.
doi:10.1172/JCI64575
PMCID: PMC3428100  PMID: 22922254
17.  The histone trimethyllysine demethylase JMJD2A promotes cardiac hypertrophy in response to hypertrophic stimuli in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(6):2447-2456.
Cardiac hypertrophy and failure are accompanied by a reprogramming of gene expression that involves transcription factors and chromatin remodeling enzymes. Little is known about the roles of histone methylation and demethylation in this process. To understand the role of JMJD2A, a histone trimethyl demethylase, in cardiac hypertrophy, we generated mouse lines with heart-specific Jmjd2a deletion (hKO) and overexpression (Jmjd2a-Tg). Jmjd2a hKO and Jmjd2a-Tg mice had no overt baseline phenotype, but did demonstrate altered responses to cardiac stresses. While inactivation of Jmjd2a resulted in an attenuated hypertrophic response to transverse aortic constriction–induced (TAC-induced) pressure overload, Jmjd2a-Tg mice displayed exacerbated cardiac hypertrophy. We identified four-and-a-half LIM domains 1 (FHL1), a key component of the mechanotransducer machinery in the heart, as a direct target of JMJD2A. JMJD2A bound to the FHL1 promoter in response to TAC, upregulated FHL1 expression, and downregulated H3K9 trimethylation. Upregulation of FHL1 by JMJD2A was mediated through SRF and myocardin and required its demethylase activity. The expression of JMJD2A was upregulated in human hypertrophic cardiomyopathy patients. Our studies reveal that JMJD2A promotes cardiac hypertrophy under pathological conditions and suggest what we believe to be a novel mechanism for JMJD2A in reprogramming of gene expression involved in cardiac hypertrophy.
doi:10.1172/JCI46277
PMCID: PMC3104772  PMID: 21555854
18.  CD28 costimulation improves expansion and persistence of chimeric antigen receptor–modified T cells in lymphoma patients 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(5):1822-1826.
Targeted T cell immunotherapies using engineered T lymphocytes expressing tumor-directed chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are designed to benefit patients with cancer. Although incorporation of costimulatory endodomains within these CARs increases the proliferation of CAR-redirected T lymphocytes, it has proven difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the specific effects of costimulatory endodomains on the expansion, persistence, and antitumor effectiveness of CAR-redirected T cells in human subjects, owing to the lack of side-by-side comparisons with T cells bearing only a single signaling domain. We therefore designed a study that allowed us to directly measure the consequences of adding a costimulatory endodomain to CAR-redirected T cells. Patients with B cell lymphomas were simultaneously infused with 2 autologous T cell products expressing CARs with the same specificity for the CD19 antigen, present on most B cell malignancies. One CAR encoded both the costimulatory CD28 and the ζ-endodomains, while the other encoded only the ζ-endodomain. CAR+ T cells containing the CD28 endodomain showed strikingly enhanced expansion and persistence compared with CAR+ T cells lacking this endodomain. These results demonstrate the superiority of CARs with dual signal domains and confirm a method of comparing CAR-modified T cells within individual patients, thereby avoiding patient-to-patient variability and accelerating the development of optimal T cell immunotherapies.
doi:10.1172/JCI46110
PMCID: PMC3083795  PMID: 21540550
19.  NKp46 identifies an NKT cell subset susceptible to leukemic transformation in mouse and human 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(4):1456-1470.
IL-15 may have a role in the development of T cell large granular lymphocyte (T-LGL) or NKT leukemias. However, the mechanisms of action and the identity of the cell subset that undergoes leukemic transformation remain elusive. Here we show that in both mice and humans, NKp46 expression marks a minute population of WT NKT cells with higher activity and potency to become leukemic. Virtually 100% of T-LGL leukemias in IL-15 transgenic mice expressed NKp46, as did a majority of human T-LGL leukemias. The minute NKp46+ NKT population, but not the NKp46– NKT population, was selectively expanded by overexpression of endogenous IL-15. Importantly, IL-15 transgenic NKp46– NKT cells did not become NKp46+ in vivo, suggesting that NKp46+ T-LGL leukemia cells were the malignant counterpart of the minute WT NKp46+ NKT population. Mechanistically, NKp46+ NKT cells possessed higher responsiveness to IL-15 in vitro and in vivo compared with that of their NKp46– NKT counterparts. Furthermore, interruption of IL-15 signaling using a neutralizing antibody could prevent LGL leukemia in IL-15 transgenic mice. Collectively, our data demonstrate that NKp46 identifies a functionally distinct NKT subset in mice and humans that appears to be directly susceptible to leukemic transformation when IL-15 is overexpressed. Thus, IL-15 signaling and NKp46 may be useful targets in the treatment of patients with T-LGL or NKT leukemia.
doi:10.1172/JCI43242
PMCID: PMC3069763  PMID: 21364281
20.  Mammalian target of rapamycin activation underlies HSC defects in autoimmune disease and inflammation in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(11):4091-4101.
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a signaling molecule that senses environmental cues, such as nutrient status and oxygen supply, to regulate cell growth, proliferation, and other functions. Unchecked, sustained mTOR activity results in defects in HSC function. Inflammatory conditions, such as autoimmune disease, are often associated with defective hematopoiesis. Here, we investigated whether hyperactivation of mTOR in HSCs contributes to hematopoietic defects in autoimmunity and inflammation. We found that in mice deficient in Foxp3 (scurfy mice), a model of autoimmunity, the development of autoimmune disease correlated with progressive bone marrow loss and impaired regenerative capacity of HSCs in competitive bone marrow transplantation. Similarly, LPS-mediated inflammation in C57BL/6 mice led to massive bone marrow cell death and impaired HSC function. Importantly, treatment with rapamycin in both models corrected bone marrow hypocellularity and partially restored hematopoietic activity. In cultured mouse bone marrow cells, treatment with either of the inflammatory cytokines IL-6 or TNF-α was sufficient to activate mTOR, while preventing mTOR activation in vivo required simultaneous inhibition of CCL2, IL-6, and TNF-α. These data strongly suggest that mTOR activation in HSCs by inflammatory cytokines underlies defective hematopoiesis in autoimmune disease and inflammation.
doi:10.1172/JCI43873
PMCID: PMC2964994  PMID: 20972332
21.  RCP is a human breast cancer–promoting gene with Ras-activating function  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(8):2171-2183.
Aggressive forms of cancer are often defined by recurrent chromosomal alterations, yet in most cases, the causal or contributing genetic components remain poorly understood. Here, we utilized microarray informatics to identify candidate oncogenes potentially contributing to aggressive breast cancer behavior. We identified the Rab-coupling protein RCP (also known as RAB11FIP1), which is located at a chromosomal region frequently amplified in breast cancer (8p11–12) as a potential candidate. Overexpression of RCP in MCF10A normal human mammary epithelial cells resulted in acquisition of tumorigenic properties such as loss of contact inhibition, growth-factor independence, and anchorage-independent growth. Conversely, knockdown of RCP in human breast cancer cell lines inhibited colony formation, invasion, and migration in vitro and markedly reduced tumor formation and metastasis in mouse xenograft models. Overexpression of RCP enhanced ERK phosphorylation and increased Ras activation in vitro. As these results indicate that RCP is a multifunctional gene frequently amplified in breast cancer that encodes a protein with Ras-activating function, we suggest it has potential importance as a therapeutic target. Furthermore, these studies provide new insight into the emerging role of the Rab family of small G proteins and their interacting partners in carcinogenesis.
doi:10.1172/JCI37622
PMCID: PMC2719918  PMID: 19620787
22.  A VISTA on PD-1H 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(5):1891-1893.
Three years ago, two research groups independently identified a previously undescribed T cell cosignaling molecule; one referred to it as V-domain Ig suppressor of T cell activation (VISTA), and the other used the term programmed death-1 homolog (PD-1H). Recombinant and ectopically expressed PD-1H functions as a coinhibitory ligand for T cell responses. However, the function of endogenous PD-1H is not clear. In this issue of the JCI, Flies and colleagues demonstrate that endogenous PD-1H on both T cells and APCs serves as a coinhibitory molecule for T cell activation and provide further support for targeting PD-1H as a therapeutic strategy for transplantation and cancers.
doi:10.1172/JCI75798
PMCID: PMC4001562  PMID: 24743142
23.  Deranged NMDAergic cortico-subthalamic transmission underlies parkinsonian motor deficits 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(10):4629-4641.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the most prevalent hypokinetic movement disorder, and symptomatic PD pathogenesis has been ascribed to imbalances between the direct and indirect pathways in the basal ganglia circuitry. Here, we applied glutamate receptor blockers to the subthalamic nucleus (STN) of parkinsonian rats and evaluated locomotor behaviors via single-unit and local-field recordings. Using this model, we found that inhibition of NMDAergic cortico-subthalamic transmission ameliorates parkinsonian motor deficits without eliciting any vivid turning behavior and abolishes electrophysiological abnormalities, including excessive subthalamic bursts, cortico-subthalamic synchronization, and in situ beta synchronization in both the motor cortex and STN. Premotor cortex stimulation revealed that cortico-subthalamic transmission is deranged in PD and directly responsible for the excessive stimulation-dependent bursts and time-locked spikes in the STN, explaining the genesis of PD-associated pathological bursts and synchronization, respectively. Moreover, application of a dopaminergic agent via a microinfusion cannula localized the therapeutic effect to the STN, without correcting striatal dopamine deficiency. Finally, optogenetic overactivation and synchronization of cortico-subthalamic transmission alone sufficiently and instantaneously induced parkinsonian-associated locomotor dysfunction in normal mice. In addition to the classic theory emphasizing the direct-indirect pathways, our data suggest that deranged cortico-subthalamic transmission via the NMDA receptor also plays a central role in the pathophysiology of parkinsonian motor deficits.
doi:10.1172/JCI75587
PMCID: PMC4191009  PMID: 25202982
24.  A lymphatic defect causes ocular hypertension and glaucoma in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(10):4320-4324.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, afflicting more than 60 million people worldwide. Increased intraocular pressure (IOP) due to impaired aqueous humor drainage is a major risk factor for the development of glaucoma. Here, we demonstrated that genetic disruption of the angiopoietin/TIE2 (ANGPT/TIE2) signaling pathway results in high IOP, buphthalmos, and classic features of glaucoma, including retinal ganglion degeneration and vision loss. Eyes from mice with induced deletion of Angpt1 and Angpt2 (A1A2FloxWB mice) lacked drainage pathways in the corneal limbus, including Schlemm’s canal and lymphatic capillaries, which share expression of the PROX1, VEGFR3, and FOXC family of transcription factors. VEGFR3 and FOXCs have been linked to lymphatic disorders in patients, and FOXC1 has been linked to glaucoma. In contrast to blood endothelium, in which ANGPT2 is an antagonist of ANGPT1, we have shown that both ligands cooperate to regulate TIE2 in the lymphatic network of the eye. While A1A2FloxWB mice developed high IOP and glaucoma, expression of ANGPT1 or ANGPT2 alone was sufficient for ocular drainage. Furthermore, we demonstrated that loss of FOXC2 from lymphatics results in TIE2 downregulation, suggesting a mechanism for ocular defects in patients with FOXC mutations. These data reveal a pathogenetic and molecular basis for glaucoma and demonstrate the importance of angiopoietin ligand cooperation in the lymphatic endothelium.
doi:10.1172/JCI77162
PMCID: PMC4191022  PMID: 25202984
25.  Maternal diet–induced microRNAs and mTOR underlie β cell dysfunction in offspring 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(10):4395-4410.
A maternal diet that is low in protein increases the susceptibility of offspring to type 2 diabetes by inducing long-term alterations in β cell mass and function. Nutrients and growth factor signaling converge through mTOR, suggesting that this pathway participates in β cell programming during fetal development. Here, we revealed that newborns of dams exposed to low-protein diet (LP0.5) throughout pregnancy exhibited decreased insulin levels, a lower β cell fraction, and reduced mTOR signaling. Adult offspring of LP0.5-exposed mothers exhibited glucose intolerance as a result of an insulin secretory defect and not β cell mass reduction. The β cell insulin secretory defect was distal to glucose-dependent Ca2+ influx and resulted from reduced proinsulin biosynthesis and insulin content. Islets from offspring of LP0.5-fed dams exhibited reduced mTOR and increased expression of a subset of microRNAs, and blockade of microRNA-199a-3p and -342 in these islets restored mTOR and insulin secretion to normal. Finally, transient β cell activation of mTORC1 signaling in offspring during the last week of pregnancy of mothers fed a LP0.5 rescued the defect in the neonatal β cell fraction and metabolic abnormalities in the adult. Together, these findings indicate that a maternal low-protein diet alters microRNA and mTOR expression in the offspring, influencing insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis.
doi:10.1172/JCI74237
PMCID: PMC4191023  PMID: 25180600

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