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1.  Epoxyeicosatrienoic Acids Attenuating Hypotonic-Induced Apoptosis of IMCD Cells via γ-ENaC Inhibition 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94400.
Inner medulla collecting duct (IMCD) cells are the key part for urinary concentration. Hypotonic stress may trigger apoptosis of IMCD cells and induce renal injury. Epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs) play an important role in anti-apoptosis, but their roles in hypotonic-induced apoptosis of IMCD cells are still unclear. Here we found increasing exogenous 11, 12-EET or endogenous EETs with Ad-CMV-CYP2C23-EGFP transfection decreased apoptosis of IMCD cells induced by hypotonic stress. Moreover, up-regulation of γ-ENaC induced by hypotonic stress was abolished by elevation of exogenous or endogenous EETs. Collectively, this study illustrated that EETs attenuated hypotonic-induced apoptosis of IMCD cells, and that regulation of γ-ENAC may be a possible mechanism contributing to the anti-apoptotic effect of EETs in response to hypotonic stress.
PMCID: PMC3979856  PMID: 24713619
2.  α-Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormone Protects Retinal Vascular Endothelial Cells from Oxidative Stress and Apoptosis in a Rat Model of Diabetes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93433.
Oxidative stress and apoptosis are among the earliest lesions of diabetic retinopathy. This study sought to examine the anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic effects of α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) in early diabetic retinas and to explore the underlying mechanisms in retinal vascular endothelial cells.
Sprague-Dawley rats were injected intravenously with streptozocin to induce diabetes. The diabetic rats were injected intravitreally with α-MSH or saline. At week 5 after diabetes, the retinas were analyzed for reactive oxygen species (ROS) and gene expression. One week later, the retinas were processed for terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling staining and transmission electron microscopy. Retinal vascular endothelial cells were stimulated by high glucose (HG) with or without α-MSH. The expression of Forkhead box O genes (Foxos) was examined through real-time PCR. The Foxo4 gene was overexpressed in endothelial cells by transient transfection prior to α-MSH or HG treatment, and oxidative stress and apoptosis were analyzed through CM-H2DCFDA and annexin-V assays, respectively.
In diabetic retinas, the levels of H2O2 and ROS and the total anti-oxidant capacity were normalized, the apoptotic cell number was reduced, and the ultrastructural injuries were ameliorated by α-MSH. Treatment with α-MSH also corrected the aberrant changes in eNOS, iNOS, ICAM-1, and TNF-α expression levels in diabetic retinas. Furthermore, α-MSH inhibited Foxo4 up-regulation in diabetic retinas and in endothelial cells exposed to HG, whereas Foxo4 overexpression abrogated the anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic effects of α-MSH in HG-stimulated retinal vascular endothelial cells.
α-MSH normalized oxidative stress, reduced apoptosis and ultrastructural injuries, and corrected gene expression levels in early diabetic retinas. The protective effects of α-MSH in retinal vascular endothelial cells may be mediated through the inhibition of Foxo4 up-regulation induced by HG. This study suggests an α-MSH-mediated potential intervention approach to early diabetic retinopathy and a novel regulatory mechanism involving Foxo4.
PMCID: PMC3973693  PMID: 24695675
3.  Independent Processing of Stimulus-Stimulus and Stimulus-Response Conflicts 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89249.
The dimensional overlap (DO) model proposes distinct mechanisms for stimulus-stimulus (S-S) and stimulus-response (S-R) conflict effects. Many studies have examined the independence of S-S and S-R conflict effects in the color-word Stroop and Simon tasks. However, confounds exist between the distinction of DO (i.e., S-S dimensional overlap compared with S-R dimensional overlap) and the distinction of stimulus attributes (e.g., color compared with spatial location; semantic compared with nonsemantic information), which may hinder interpretation of the independence of S-S and S-R conflicts. A spatial Stroop (word) task and a spatial Stroop (arrow) task were combined with a Simon task in Experiments 1 and 2, respectively to eliminate these confounds of stimulus attributes. The results showed that S-S and S-R conflicts affected performance additively. There was no significant correlation across participants. These findings lend further support to independent processing of S-S and S-R conflicts as it is outlined in the taxonomy of DO.
PMCID: PMC3928426  PMID: 24558489
4.  Feasibility and Safety of Fiber Optic Micro-Imaging in Canine Peripheral Airways 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84829.
To assess the feasibility and safety of imaging canine peripheral airways (<1 mm) with an experimental micro-imaging fiber optic bronchoscope.
Twenty healthy dogs were scoped with a micro-imaging fiber optic bronchoscope (0.8 mm outer diameter). Images at various levels of the bronchioles, mucosal color, and tracheal secretions were recorded. The apparatus was stopped once it was difficult to insert. CT imaging was performed simultaneously to monitor progression. The safety of the device was evaluated by monitoring heart rate (HR), respiratory rate (RR), mean artery pressure (MAP), peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2) and arterial blood gases (partial pressure of arterial carbon-dioxide, PaCO2, partial pressure of arterial oxygen, PaO2, and blood pH).
(1) According to the CT scan, the micro-imaging fiber was able to access the peripheral airways (<1 mm) in canines. (2) There was no significant change in the values of HR, MAP, pH and PaCO2 during the procedure (P>0.05). Comparing pre-manipulation and post-manipulation values, SpO2 (F = 13.06, P<0.05) and PaO2 (F = 3.01, P = 0.01) were decreased, whereas RR (F = 3.85, P<0.05) was elevated during the manipulation. (3) Self-limited bleeding was observed in one dog; severe bleeding or other complications did not occur.
Although the new apparatus had little effect on SpO2, PaO2 and RR, it can probe into small peripheral airways (<1 mm), which may provide a new platform for the early diagnosis of bronchiolar diseases.
PMCID: PMC3886988  PMID: 24416294
5.  Urinary miR-29 Correlates with Albuminuria and Carotid Intima-Media Thickness in Type 2 Diabetes Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82607.
Cell-free microRNAs stably and abundantly exist in body fluids and emerging evidence suggests cell-free microRNAs as novel and non-invasive disease biomarker. Deregulation of miR-29 is involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy and insulin resistance thus may be implicated in diabetic vascular complication. Therefore, we investigated the possibility of urinary miR-29 as biomarker for diabetic nephropathy and atherosclerosis in patients with type 2 diabetes.
83 patients with type 2 diabetes were enrolled in this study, miR-29a, miR-29b and miR-29c levels in urine supernatant was determined by TaqMan qRT-PCR, and a synthetic cel-miR-39 was added to the urine as a spike-in control before miRNAs extraction. Urinary albumin excretion rate and urine albumin/creatinine ratio, funduscopy and carotid ultrasound were used for evaluation of diabetic vascular complication. The laboratory parameters indicating blood glucose level, renal function and serum lipids were also collected.
Patients with albuminuria (n = 42, age 60.62±12.00yrs) showed significantly higher comorbidity of diabetic retinopathy (p = 0.015) and higher levels of urinary miR-29a (p = 0.035) compared with those with normoalbuminuria (n = 41, age 58.54±14.40yrs). There was no significant difference in urinary miR-29b (p = 0.148) or miR-29c level (p = 0.321) between groups. Urinary albumin excretion rate significantly correlated with urinary miR-29a level (r = 0.286, p = 0.016), while urinary miR-29b significantly correlated with carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) (r = 0.286, p = 0.046).
Urinary miR-29a correlated with albuminuria while urinary miR-29b correlated with carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) in patients with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, they may have the potential to serve as alternative biomarker for diabetic nephropathy and atherosclerosis in type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3857259  PMID: 24349318
6.  Simvastatin Alleviates Hyperpermeability of Glomerular Endothelial Cells in Early-Stage Diabetic Nephropathy by Inhibition of RhoA/ROCK1 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80009.
Endothelial dysfunction is an early sign of diabetic cardiovascular disease and may contribute to progressive diabetic nephropathy (DN). There is increasing evidence that dysfunction of the endothelial tight junction is a crucial step in the development of endothelial hyperpermeability, but it is unknown whether this occurs in glomerular endothelial cells (GEnCs) during the progression of DN. We examined tight junction dysfunction of GEnCs during early-stage DN and the potential underlying mechanisms. We also examined the effect of simvastatin (3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA reductase inhibitor) on dysfunction of the tight junctions of cultured GEnCs and in db/db mice with early-stage DN.
We assessed the expression of occludin and ZO-1, two major components of the tight junction complex, in cultured rat GEnCs treated with high glucose and in 12 week-old db/db mice with early-stage DN. We also investigated activation of RhoA/ROCK1 signaling, GEnC permeability, and renal function of the mice.
High glucose suppresses occludin expression and disrupts occludin/ZO-1 translocation in GEnCs. These changes were associated with increased permeability to albumin and activation of RhoA/ROCK1 signaling. Occludin and ZO-1 dysregulation also occurred in the glomeruli of mice with early-stage DN, and these abnormalities were accompanied by albuminuria and activation of RhoA/ROCK1 in isolated glomeruli. Simvastatin prevented high glucose or hyperglycemia-induced dysregulation of occludin and ZO-1 by inhibition of RhoA/ROCK1 signaling in cultured GEnCs and in db/db mice with early-stage DN.
Our results indicate that activation of RhoA/ROCK1 by high glucose disrupts the expression and translocation of occludin/ZO-1 and that simvastatin alleviates occludin/ZO-1 dysregulation and albuminuria by suppressing RhoA/ROCK1 signaling during early-stage DN. These results suggest a potential therapeutic strategy for preventing the onset of albuminuria in early-stage DN.
PMCID: PMC3828237  PMID: 24244596
7.  A New Equation to Estimate Glomerular Filtration Rate in Chinese Elderly Population 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79675.
We sought to develop a new equation to estimate glomerular filtration rate (GFR) in Chinese elderly population.
A total of 668 Chinese elderly participants, including the development cohort (n = 433), the validation cohort (n = 235) were enrolled. The new equation using the generalized additive model, and age, gender, serum creatinine as predictor variables was developed and the performances was compared with the CKD-EPI equation.
In the validation data set, both bias and precision were improved with the new equation, as compared with the CKD-EPI equation (median difference, −1.5 ml/min/1.73 m2 vs. 7.4 ml/min/1.73 m2 for the new equation and the CKD-EPI equation, [P<0.001]; interquartile range [IQR] for the difference, 16.2 ml/min/1.73 m2 vs. 19.0 ml/min/1.73 m2 [P<0.001]), as were accuracies (15% accuracy, 40.4% vs. 30.6% [P = 0.02]; 30% accuracy, 71.1% vs. 47.2%, [P<0.001]; 50% accuracy, 90.2% vs. 75.7%, [P<0.001]), allowing improvement in GFR categorization (GFR category misclassification rate, 37.4% vs. 53.2% [P = <0.001]).
A new equation was developed in Chinese elderly population. In the validation data set, the new equation performed better than the original CKD-EPI equation. The new equation needs further external validations. Calibration of the GFR referent standard to a more accurate one should be an useful way to improve the performance of GFR estimating equations.
PMCID: PMC3823564  PMID: 24244543
8.  Attentional Modulation of Emotional Conflict Processing with Flanker Tasks 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60548.
Emotion processing has been shown to acquire priority by biasing allocation of attentional resources. Aversive images or fearful expressions are processed quickly and automatically. Many existing findings suggested that processing of emotional information was pre-attentive, largely immune from attentional control. Other studies argued that attention gated the processing of emotion. To tackle this controversy, the current study examined whether and to what degrees attention modulated processing of emotion using a stimulus-response-compatibility (SRC) paradigm. We conducted two flanker experiments using color scale faces in neutral expressions or gray scale faces in emotional expressions. We found SRC effects for all three dimensions (color, gender, and emotion) and SRC effects were larger when the conflicts were task relevant than when they were task irrelevant, suggesting that conflict processing of emotion was modulated by attention, similar to those of color and face identity (gender). However, task modulation on color SRC effect was significantly greater than that on gender or emotion SRC effect, indicating that processing of salient information was modulated by attention to a lesser degree than processing of non-emotional stimuli. We proposed that emotion processing can be influenced by attentional control, but at the same time salience of emotional information may bias toward bottom-up processing, rendering less top-down modulation than that on non-emotional stimuli.
PMCID: PMC3609783  PMID: 23544155
9.  Improved Glomerular Filtration Rate Estimation by an Artificial Neural Network 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58242.
Accurate evaluation of glomerular filtration rates (GFRs) is of critical importance in clinical practice. A previous study showed that models based on artificial neural networks (ANNs) could achieve a better performance than traditional equations. However, large-sample cross-sectional surveys have not resolved questions about ANN performance.
A total of 1,180 patients that had chronic kidney disease (CKD) were enrolled in the development data set, the internal validation data set and the external validation data set. Additional 222 patients that were admitted to two independent institutions were externally validated. Several ANNs were constructed and finally a Back Propagation network optimized by a genetic algorithm (GABP network) was chosen as a superior model, which included six input variables; i.e., serum creatinine, serum urea nitrogen, age, height, weight and gender, and estimated GFR as the one output variable. Performance was then compared with the Cockcroft-Gault equation, the MDRD equations and the CKD-EPI equation.
In the external validation data set, Bland-Altman analysis demonstrated that the precision of the six-variable GABP network was the highest among all of the estimation models; i.e., 46.7 ml/min/1.73 m2 vs. a range from 71.3 to 101.7 ml/min/1.73 m2, allowing improvement in accuracy (15% accuracy, 49.0%; 30% accuracy, 75.1%; 50% accuracy, 90.5% [P<0.001 for all]) and CKD stage classification (misclassification rate of CKD stage, 32.4% vs. a range from 47.3% to 53.3% [P<0.001 for all]). Furthermore, in the additional external validation data set, precision and accuracy were improved by the six-variable GABP network.
A new ANN model (the six-variable GABP network) for CKD patients was developed that could provide a simple, more accurate and reliable means for the estimation of GFR and stage of CKD than traditional equations. Further validations are needed to assess the ability of the ANN model in diverse populations.
PMCID: PMC3596400  PMID: 23516450
10.  Reversed Dipper Blood-Pressure Pattern Is Closely Related to Severe Renal and Cardiovascular Damage in Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55419.
A non-dipper blood pressure (BP) pattern is very common in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients and affects the progression and development of cardiovascular disease. However, data on the reversed dipper BP pattern on target-organ damage in Chinese CKD patients are lacking.
A total of 540 CKD patients were enrolled. Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM), clinical BP, ultrasonographic assessment and other clinical data were collected. Univariate and multivariate analyses were used to ascertain the relationship between ABPM results and clinical parameters.
A total of 21.9% CKD patients had a reversed dipper BP pattern, 42% of patients had a non-dipper BP pattern and 36.1% of patients had a dipper BP pattern. Patients with reversed dipper BP pattern had the worst renal function and most severe cardiovascular damages among these CKD patients (p<0.05). The estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and left ventricular mass index (LVMI) correlated significantly with the rate of decline of nocturnal BP. A reversed dipper BP pattern was an independent factor affecting kidney damage and left ventricular hypertrophy. Age, lower hemoglobin level, higher 24-h systolic BP from ABPM, and higher serum phosphate levels were independent associated with a reversed dipper BP pattern after multivariate logistic regression analyses.
The reversed dipper BP pattern is closely related to severe renal damage and cardiovascular injuries in CKD patients, and special attention should be given to these CKD patients.
PMCID: PMC3564807  PMID: 23393577
11.  Cannabis-Dependence Risk Relates to Synergism between Neuroticism and Proenkephalin SNPs Associated with Amygdala Gene Expression: Case-Control Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39243.
Many young people experiment with cannabis, yet only a subgroup progress to dependence suggesting individual differences that could relate to factors such as genetics and behavioral traits. Dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) and proenkephalin (PENK) genes have been implicated in animal studies with cannabis exposure. Whether polymorphisms of these genes are associated with cannabis dependence and related behavioral traits is unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Healthy young adults (18–27 years) with cannabis dependence and without a dependence diagnosis were studied (N = 50/group) in relation to a priori-determined single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the DRD2 and PENK genes. Negative affect, Impulsive Risk Taking and Neuroticism-Anxiety temperamental traits, positive and negative reward-learning performance and stop-signal reaction times were examined. The findings replicated the known association between the rs6277 DRD2 SNP and decisions associated with negative reinforcement outcomes. Moreover, PENK variants (rs2576573 and rs2609997) significantly related to Neuroticism and cannabis dependence. Cigarette smoking is common in cannabis users, but it was not associated to PENK SNPs as also validated in another cohort (N = 247 smokers, N = 312 non-smokers). Neuroticism mediated (15.3%–19.5%) the genetic risk to cannabis dependence and interacted with risk SNPs, resulting in a 9-fold increase risk for cannabis dependence. Molecular characterization of the postmortem human brain in a different population revealed an association between PENK SNPs and PENK mRNA expression in the central amygdala nucleus emphasizing the functional relevance of the SNPs in a brain region strongly linked to negative affect.
Overall, the findings suggest an important role for Neuroticism as an endophenotype linking PENK polymorphisms to cannabis-dependence vulnerability synergistically amplifying the apparent genetic risk.
PMCID: PMC3382183  PMID: 22745721
12.  Methamphetamine Increases LPS-Mediated Expression of IL-8, TNF-α and IL-1β in Human Macrophages through Common Signaling Pathways 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33822.
The use of methamphetamine (MA) has increased in recent years, and is a major health concern throughout the world. The use of MA has been associated with an increased risk of acquiring HIV-1, along with an increased probability of the acquisition of various sexually transmitted infections. In order to determine the potential effects of MA exposure in the context of an infectious agent, U937 macrophages were exposed to various combinations of MA and bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Treatment with MA alone caused significant increases in the levels of TNF-α, while treatment with both MA and LPS resulted in significant increases in TNF-α, IL-1β and the chemokine IL-8. The increases in cytokine or chemokine levels seen when cells were treated with both LPS and MA were generally greater than those increases observed when cells were treated with only LPS. Treatment with chemical inhibitors demonstrated that the signal transduction pathways including NF-kB, MAPK, and PI3-Akt were involved in mediating the increased inflammatory response. As discussed in the paper, these pathways appear to be utilized by both MA and LPS, in the induction of these inflammatory mediators. Since these pathways are involved in the induction of inflammation in response to other pathogens, this suggests that MA-exacerbated inflammation may be a common feature of infectious disease in MA abusers.
PMCID: PMC3315580  PMID: 22479453
13.  Alexithymic Trait and Voluntary Control in Healthy Adults 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(11):e3702.
Alexithymia is a personality trait characterized by deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions. Recent studies have revealed that alexithymia is associated with less activation of the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region shown to play a role in cognitive and emotional processing. However, few studies have directly investigated the cognitive domain in relation to alexithymia to examine whether alexithymic trait is related to less efficient voluntary control.
Methodology/ Principal Findings
We examined the relationship between alexithymic trait and voluntary control in a group of healthy volunteers. We used the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) to measure alexithymic trait. Additionally, we examined state and trait voluntary control using the revised Attention Network Test (ANT-R) and the Adult Temperament Questionnaire (ATQ), respectively. Alexithymic trait was positively correlated with the overall reaction time of the ANT-R, and negatively correlated with the Effortful Control factor of the ATQ.
Our results suggest that alexithymic trait is associated with less efficient voluntary control.
PMCID: PMC2577735  PMID: 19002254
14.  Searching for the Majority: Algorithms of Voluntary Control 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3522.
Voluntary control of information processing is crucial to allocate resources and prioritize the processes that are most important under a given situation; the algorithms underlying such control, however, are often not clear. We investigated possible algorithms of control for the performance of the majority function, in which participants searched for and identified one of two alternative categories (left or right pointing arrows) as composing the majority in each stimulus set. We manipulated the amount (set size of 1, 3, and 5) and content (ratio of left and right pointing arrows within a set) of the inputs to test competing hypotheses regarding mental operations for information processing. Using a novel measure based on computational load, we found that reaction time was best predicted by a grouping search algorithm as compared to alternative algorithms (i.e., exhaustive or self-terminating search). The grouping search algorithm involves sampling and resampling of the inputs before a decision is reached. These findings highlight the importance of investigating the implications of voluntary control via algorithms of mental operations.
PMCID: PMC2567037  PMID: 18949039

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