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2014 Anniversary Issue


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Molecular Medicine 2014

Articles from this Volume

Michael W Y Chan, Chia-Bin Chang, Chien-Hsueh Tung, Justin Sun, Jau-Ling Suen, and Shu-Fen Wu

Forkhead box P3 (Foxp3) is the major transcription factor controlling the development and function of regulatory T (Treg) cells. Previous studies have indicated epigenetic regulation of Foxp3 expression. Here, we investigated whether the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methyltransferase inhibitor 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (5-Aza) applied peripherally could modulate central nervous system (CNS) inflammation, by using a mouse experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model. We found that disease activity was inhibited in a myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) peptide–induced EAE mouse briefly pretreated with low-dose (0.15 mg/kg) 5-Aza, ameliorating significant CNS inflammatory responses, as indicated by greatly decreased proinflammatory cytokines. On the contrary, control EAE mice expressed high levels of IFN-γ and interleukin (IL)-17. In addition, 5-Aza treatment in vitro increased GFP expression in CD4+GFP– T cells isolated from GFP knock-in Foxp3 transgenic mice. Importantly, 5-Aza treatment increased Treg cell numbers, in EAE mice, at both disease onset and peak. However, Treg inhibition assays showed 5-Aza treatment did not enhance per-cell Treg inhibitory function, but did maintain a lower activation threshold for effector cells in EAE mice. In conclusion, 5-Aza treatment prevented EAE development and suppressed CNS inflammation, by increasing the number of Treg cells and inhibiting effector cells in the periphery.

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Supplemental Data
Posted by Sheila Platt on Jun 26, 2014 8:45 AM CDT
Susanne Dihlmann, Philipp Erhart, Arianeb Mehrabi, Arash Nickkholgh, Felix Lasitschka, Dittmar Böckler and Maani Hakimi

Chronic vascular inflammation is a key hallmark in the pathogenesis of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Recent investigations have suggested that the inflammasome, a cytosolic multiprotein complex that recognizes pathogen-associated molecular patterns, plays a role in atherosclerosis. However, its role in AAA inflammation has not yet been investigated. This pilot study analyzed inflammasome activation and its intramural localization in 24 biopsy samples from 11 patients with asymptomatic AAA versus 12 aortic samples from apparently healthy controls. Using a histological inflammation scale, we identified grade 2/3 inflammatory changes with lymphoid aggregates/tertiary lymphoid organs in 21 out of 24 AAA samples, whereas only 7 of the 12 control samples exhibited local grade 1 inflammatory changes. Strong expression levels of “apoptosis-associated speck-like protein with a caspase recruitment domain” (ASC), caspase-1, caspase-5 and “absent in melanoma 2” (AIM2) were detected by immunohistochemistry in both sporadic infiltrating lymphoid cells and lymphoid aggregates located in the outer media and adventitia of AAA samples. In contrast, inflammasome-positive cells were restricted to cholesterol plaque–associated areas and to single infiltrating cells in control aortas. Analysis of gene expression using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) revealed significantly increased median mRNA levels of the inflammasome core components PYCARD (ASC), CASP1 (Caspase-1) and IL1B (IL-1β ) in AAA tissue compared with normal aorta. Moreover, significantly increased median amounts of AIM2 protein and mature caspase-5 (p20) were found in samples associated with high rupture risk compared with paired low rupture risk samples of the same AAA patient.  We conclude from our data that AAA-associated lymphoid cells are capable of inflammasome signaling, suggesting that inflammasome activation is involved in the chronic inflammatory process driving AAA progression.

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Supplemental Data
Posted by Sheila Platt on Jun 19, 2014 12:37 PM CDT
Laura C O’Brien, Eleonora Mezzaroma, Benjamin W Van Tassell, Carlo Marchetti, Salvatore Carbone, Antonio Abbate, and Stefano Toldo

Interleukin 18 (IL-18) is a proinflammatory cytokine in the IL-1 family that has been implicated in a number of disease states. In animal models of acute myocardial infarction (AMI), pressure overload, and LPS-induced dysfunction, IL-18 regulates cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and induces cardiac contractile dysfunction and extracellular matrix remodeling. In patients, high IL-18 levels correlate with increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and with a worse prognosis in patients with established CVD. Two strategies have been used to counter the effects of IL-18:IL-18 binding protein (IL-18BP), a naturally occurring protein, and a neutralizing IL-18 antibody. Recombinant human IL-18BP (r-hIL-18BP) has been investigated in animal studies and in phase I/II clinical trials for psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. A phase II clinical trial using a humanized monoclonal IL-18 antibody for type 2 diabetes is ongoing. Here we review the literature regarding the role of IL-18 in AMI and heart failure and the evidence and
challenges of using IL-18BP and blocking IL-18 antibodies as a therapeutic strategy in patients with heart disease.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on Jun 12, 2014 8:59 AM CDT
Markus Mandl and Reinhard Depping

The aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT), also designated as hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1β, plays a pivotal role in the adaptive responses to (micro-)environmental stresses such as dioxin exposure and oxygen deprivation (hypoxia). ARNT belongs to the group of basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH)–Per-ARNT-Sim (PAS) transcription factors, which act as heterodimers. ARNT serves as a common binding partner for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) as well as HIF-α subunits. HIF-α proteins are regulated in an oxygen-dependent manner, whereas ARNT is generally regarded as constitutively expressed, meaning that neither the arnt mRNA nor the protein level is influenced by hypoxia (despite the name HIF-1β). However, there is emerging evidence that tumor cells derived from different entities are able to upregulate ARNT, especially under low oxygen tension in a cell-specific manner. The objective of this review is therefore to highlight and summarize current knowledge regarding the hypoxia-dependent upregulation of ARNT, which is in sharp contrast to the general point of view described in the literature. Elucidating the mechanism
behind this rare cellular attribute will help us to gain new insights into HIF biology and might provide new strategies for anticancer therapeutics. In conclusion, putative treatment effects on ARNT should be taken into account while studying the HIF pathway. This step is of great importance when ARNT is intended to serve as a loading control or as a reference.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on May 27, 2014 2:05 PM CDT
Anastassios Philippou, Maria Maridaki, Spiros Pneumaticos, and Michael Koutsilieris

The insulinlike growth factor-I (IGF-I) is an important factor which regulates a variety of cellular responses in multiple biological systems. The IGF1 gene comprises a highly conserved sequence and contains six exons, which give rise to heterogeneous mRNA transcripts by a combination of multiple transcription initiation sites and alternative splicing. These multiple transcripts code for different precursor IGF-I polypeptides, namely the IGF-IEa, IGF-IEb and IGF-IEc isoforms in humans, which also undergo posttranslational modifications, such as proteolytic processing and glycosylation. IGF-I actions are mediated through its binding to several cell-membrane receptors and the IGF-I domain responsible for the receptor binding is the bioactive mature IGF-I peptide, which is derived after the posttranslational cleavage of the pro-IGF-I isoforms and the removal of their carboxy-terminal E-peptides (that
is, the Ea, Eb and Ec). Interestingly, differential biological activities have been reported for the different IGF-I isoforms, or for their E-peptides, implying that IGF-I peptides other than the IGF-I ligand also possess bioactivity and, thus, both common and unique or complementary pathways exist for the IGF-I isoforms to promote biological effects. The multiple peptides derived from IGF-I and the differential expression of its various transcripts in different conditions and pathologies appear to be compatible with the distinct cellular responses observed to the different IGF-I peptides and with the concept of a complex and possibly isoform-specific IGF-I bioactivity. This concept is discussed in the present review, in the context of the broad range of modifications that this growth factor undergoes which might regulate its mechanism(s) of action.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on May 5, 2014 3:02 PM CDT
Blake T Gurfein, Olga Davidenko, Mary Premenko-Lanier, Jeffrey M Milush, Michael Acree, Mary F Dallman, Chadi Touma, Rupert Palme, Vanessa A York, Gilles Fromentin, Nicolas Darcel, Douglas F Nixon, and Frederick M Hecht

Chronic stress has deleterious effects on immune function, which can lead to adverse health outcomes. However, studies investigating the impact of stress reduction interventions on immunity in clinical research have yielded divergent results, potentially stemming from differences in study design and genetic heterogeneity, among other clinical research challenges. To test the hypothesis that reducing glucocorticoid levels enhances certain immune functions, we administered influenza vaccine once (prime) or twice (boost) to mice housed in either standard control caging or environmental enrichment (EE) caging. We have shown that this approach reduces mouse corticosterone production. Compared with controls, EE mice had significantly lower levels of fecal corticosterone metabolites (FCMs) and increased splenic B and T lymphocyte numbers. Corticosterone levels were negatively associated with the numbers of CD19+ (r2 = 0.43, p = 0.0017), CD4+ (r2 = 0.28, p = 0.0154) and CD8+ cells (r2 = 0.20, p = 0.0503). Vaccinated mice showed nonsignificant differences in immunoglobulin G (IgG) titer between caging groups, although EE mice tended to exhibit larger increases in titer from prime to boost than controls; the interaction between the caging group (control versus EE) and vaccine group (prime versus boost) showed a strong statistical trend (cage-group*vaccine-group, F = 4.27, p = 0.0555), suggesting that there may be distinct effects of EE caging on primary versus secondary IgG vaccine responses. Vaccine-stimulated splenocytes from boosted EE mice had a significantly greater frequency of interleukin 5 (IL-5)-secreting cells than boosted controls (mean difference 7.7, IL-5 spot-forming units/106 splenocytes, 95% confidence interval 0.24–135.1, p = 0.0493) and showed a greater increase in the frequency of IL-5–secreting cells from prime to boost. Our results suggest that corticosterone reduction via EE caging was associated with enhanced secondary vaccine responses, but had little effect on primary responses in mice. These findings help identify differences in primary and secondary vaccine responses in relationship to stress mediators that may be relevant in clinical studies.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on Apr 22, 2014 1:40 PM CDT
Patrick Crosswhite and Zhongjie Sun

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is characterized by a persistent elevation of pulmonary arterial pressure and pulmonary arterial remodeling with unknown etiology. Current therapeutics available for PAH are primarily directed at reducing the pulmonary blood pressure through their effects on the endothelium. It is well accepted that pulmonary arterial remodeling is primarily due to excessive pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cell (PASMC) proliferation that leads to narrowing or occlusion of the pulmonary vessels. Future effective therapeutics will be successful in reversing the vascular remodeling in the pulmonary arteries and arterioles. The purpose of this review is to provide updated information on molecular mechanisms involved in pulmonary arterial remodeling with a focus on growth factors, transcription factors, and epigenetic pathways in PASMC proliferation. In addition, this review will highlight novel therapeutic strategies for potentially reversing PASMC proliferation.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on Apr 22, 2014 1:14 PM CDT
Jin Ren, Rui Wang, Haizhu Song, Guichun Huang, and Longbang Chen

Taxanes, such as docetaxel and taxol, have been used as firstline chemotherapies in advanced lung adenocarcinoma (LAD), but limited responses to chemotherapy remain a major impediment in the clinic. Treatment with 5-azacytidine increases the sensitivity of SPC-A1/DTX cell line to taxanes. The results of DNA methylation microarray and cDNA array analysis indicate that DNA methylation contributes to the downregulation of secreted frizzled related protein 1 (SFRP1) in SPC-A1/DTX cells. Overexpression of SFRP1 reverses the chemoresistance of taxane-resistant LAD cell lines and enhances the in vivo sensitivity of taxane-resistant LAD cells to taxanes. Meanwhile, short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated SFRP1 knockdown decreases the sensitivity of parental LAD
cell lines to taxanes. Furthermore, FH535, a reversible Wnt signaling inhibitor, enhances the sensitivity of taxane-resistant LAD cells to taxanes. The level of SFRP1 in tumors of nonresponding patients is significantly lower than that in tumors of responders. Taken together, our results provide the direct evidence that SFRP1 is a clinically important determinant of taxanes resistance in human LAD cells, suggesting that SFRP1 might be a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of taxane-resistant LAD patients.

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Supplemental Data
Posted by Sheila Platt on Apr 8, 2014 9:59 AM CDT
David S Pisetsky

High mobility group box protein 1 (HMGB1) is a nonhistone nuclear protein that is a prototypic alarmin that can stimulate innate immunity and drive the pathogenesis of a wide range of inflammatory diseases. While HMGB1 can be released from both activated and dying cells, its biochemical and immunological properties differ depending on the release mechanism, resulting from redox changes and posttranslational modifications including acetylation. In addition to release of HMGB1, cell death is associated with the release of microparticles. Microparticles are small membrane-bound vesicles that contain cytoplasmic, nuclear and membrane components. Like HMGB1, microparticles display immunological activity and levels are elevated in diseases characterized by inflammation and vasculopathy. While studies have addressed the immunological effects of HMGB1 and microparticles independently, HMGB1, like other nuclear molecules, is a component of microparticles. Evidence for the physical association
of HMGB1 comes from Western blot analysis of microparticles derived from RAW 264.7 macrophage cells stimulated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or induced to undergo apoptosis by treatment with etoposide or staurosporine in vitro. Analysis of microparticles in the blood of healthy volunteers receiving LPS shows the presence of HMGB1 as assessed by flow cytometry. Together, these findings indicate that HMGB1 can be a component of microparticles and may contribute to their activities. Furthermore, particle HMGB1 may represent a useful biomarker for in vivo events that may not be reflected by measurement of the total amount of HMGB1 in the blood.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on Apr 1, 2014 3:23 PM CDT
Valentina Di Pietro, Angela Maria Amorini, Barbara Tavazzi, Roberto Vagnozzi, Ann Logan,
Giacomo Lazzarino, Stefano Signoretti, Giuseppe Lazzarino, and Antonio Belli


To characterize the molecular mechanisms of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) metabolism following traumatic brain injury (TBI), we measured the NAA, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and adenosine diphosphate (ADP) concentrations and calculated the ATP/ADP ratio at different times from impact, concomitantly evaluating the gene and protein expressions controlling NAA homeostasis (the NAA synthesizing and degrading enzymes N-acetyltransferase 8-like and aspartoacylase, respectively) in rats receiving either mild or severe TBI. The reversible changes in NAA induced by mild TBI were due to a combination of transient mitochondrial malfunctioning with energy crisis (decrease in ATP and in the ATP/ADP ratio) and modulation in the gene and protein levels of N-acetyltransferase 8-like and increase of aspartoacylase levels. The irreversible decrease in NAA following severe TBI, was instead characterized by profound mitochondrial malfunctioning (constant 65% decrease of the ATP/ADP indicating permanent impairment of the mitochondrial phosphorylating capacity), dramatic repression of the N-acetyltransferase 8-like gene and concomitant
remarkable increase in the aspartoacylase gene and protein levels. The mechanisms underlying changes in NAA homeostasis following graded TBI might be of note for possible new therapeutic approaches and will help in understanding the effects of repeat concussions occurring during particular periods of the complex NAA recovery process, coincident with the so called window of brain vulnerability.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on Mar 24, 2014 10:10 AM CDT
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