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Molecular Medicine 2015

Articles from this Volume

Emma Cazaly, Jac Charlesworth, Joanne L Dickinson, and Adele F Holloway

The field of epigenetics and our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the establishment, maintenance and heritability of epigenetic patterns continue to grow at a remarkable rate. This information is providing increased understanding of the role of epigenetic changes in disease, insight into the underlying causes of these epigenetic changes and revealing new avenues for therapeutic intervention. Epigenetic modifiers are increasingly being pursued as therapeutic targets in a range of diseases, with a number of agents targeting epigenetic modifications already proving effective in diseases such as cancer. Although it is well established that DNA mutations and aberrant expression of epigenetic modifiers play a key role in disease, attention is now turning to the interplay between genetic and epigenetic factors in complex disease etiology. The role of genetic variability in determining epigenetic profiles, which can then be modified by environmental and stochastic factors, is becoming more apparent. Understanding the interplay between genetic and epigenetic factors is likely to aid in identifying individuals most likely to benefit from epigenetic therapies. This goal is coming closer to realization because of continual advances in laboratory and statistical tools enabling improvements in the integration of genomic, epigenomic and phenotypic data.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on Aug 25, 2015 9:20 AM CDT
Karen M Ashe, Eva Budman, Dinesh S Bangari, Craig S Siegel, Jennifer B Nietupski, Bing Wang, Robert J Desnick, Ronald K Scheule, John P Leonard, Seng H Cheng, and John Marshall

Fabry disease, an X-linked glycosphingolipid storage disorder, is caused by the deficient activity of α-galactosidase A (α-Gal A). This results in the lysosomal accumulation in various cell types of its glycolipid substrates, including globotriaosylceramide (GL-3) and lysoglobotriaosylceramide (globotriaosyl lysosphingolipid, lyso-GL-3), leading to kidney, heart, and cerebrovascular disease. To complement and potentially augment the current standard of care, biweekly infusions of recombinant α-Gal A, the merits of substrate reduction therapy (SRT) by selectively inhibiting glucosylceramide synthase (GCS) were examined. Here, we report the development of a novel, orally available GCS inhibitor (Genz-682452) with pharmacological and safety profiles that have potential for treating Fabry disease. Treating Fabry mice with Genz-682452 resulted in reduced tissue levels of GL-3 and lyso-GL-3 and a delayed loss of the thermal nociceptive response. Greatest improvements were realized when the therapeutic intervention was administered to younger mice before they developed overt pathology. Importantly, as the pharmacologic profiles of α-Gal A and Genz-682452 are different, treating animals with both drugs conferred the greatest efficacy. For example, because Genz-682452, but not α-Gal A, can traverse the blood–brain barrier, levels of accumulated glycosphingolipids were reduced in the brain of Genz-682452–treated but not α-Gal A–treated mice. These results suggest that combining substrate reduction and enzyme replacement may confer both complementary and additive therapeutic benefits in Fabry disease.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on Aug 13, 2015 12:35 PM CDT
Yuping Li, Xiwei Wu, Hanlin Gao, Jennifer M Jin, Arthur X Li, Young S Kim, Sumanta K Pal, Rebecca A Nelson, Clayton M Lau, Chao Guo, Bing Mu, Jinhui Wang, Frances Wang, Jessica Wang, Yuanyin Zhao, Wengang Chen, John J Rossi, Lawrence M Weiss, and Huiqing Wu

Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are a distinct group of small noncoding RNAs (sncRNAs) that silence transposable genetic elements to protect genome integrity. Because of their limited expression in gonads and sequence diversity, piRNAs remain the most mysterious class of small RNAs. Studies have shown piRNAs are present in somatic cells and dysregulated in gastric, breast and liver cancers. By deep sequencing 24 frozen benign kidney and clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) specimens and using the publically available piRNA database, we found 26,991 piRNAs present in human kidney tissue. Among 920 piRNAs that had at least two copies in one specimen, 19 were differentially expressed in benign kidney and ccRCC tissues, and 46 were associated with metastasis. Among the metastasis-related piRNAs, we found three piRNAs (piR-32051, piR-39894 and piR-43607) to be derived from the same piRNA cluster at chromosome 17. We confirmed the three selected piRNAs not to be miRNAs or miRNA-like sncRNAs. We further validated the aberrant expression of the three piRNAs in a 68-case formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) ccRCC tissue cohort and showed the upregulation of the three piRNAs to be highly associated with ccRCC metastasis, late clinical stage and poor cancer-specific survival.

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Supplemental Data
Posted by Nina Card on Aug 7, 2015 11:32 AM CDT
Helge Taubert, Sven Wach, Rudolf Jung, Michael Pugia, Bastian Keck, Simone Bertz, Elke Nolte, Robert Stoehr, Jan Lehmann, Carsten-H Ohlmann, Michael Stöckle, Bernd Wullich, and Arndt Hartmann

Piwi-like 2 (Piwil 2) belongs to the family of Argonaute genes/proteins. The expression of Piwil 2 is associated with stem cells. A role in tumorigenesis and/or tumor progression is proposed for different cancers but not yet for bladder cancer (BCa). We investigated Piwil 2 expression by immunohistochemistry in a cohort of 202 BCa patients treated by cystectomy and adjuvant chemotherapy. The association between Piwil 2 expression and disease-specific (DSS) or progression-free survival (PFS) was calculated using Kaplan-Meier analyses and univariate/multivariate Cox regression hazard models. In a multivariate Cox regression analysis, Piwil 2 expression, either in the cytoplasm or the nucleus, was significantly associated with DSS and PFS. A weak cytoplasmic staining pattern was associated with poor DSS and tumor progression (relative risk [RR] = 2.7, P = 0.004, and RR = 2.4, P = 0.027). Likewise, absent nuclear Piwil 2 immunoreactivity was associated with poor DSS and tumor progression (RR = 2.3, P = 0.023, and RR = 2.2, P = 0.022). BCa patients whose tumors exhibited a combination of weak cytoplasmic and absent nuclear immunoreactivity
had a 6-fold increased risk of tumor-related death (P = 0.005) compared with patients with strong expression. Considering only patients with high-grade G3 tumors, a 7.8-fold risk of tumor-associated death and a 3.6-fold risk of tumor progression were detected independently of the histologic tumor subtype or the chemotherapy regimen. In summary, a combination of weak cytoplasmic and absent nuclear expression of Piwil 2 is significantly associated with an increased risk of DSS and tumor progression. This indicates that Piwil 2 could be a valuable prognostic marker for high-risk BCa patients.

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Posted by Leah Caracappa on Aug 4, 2015 10:15 AM CDT
Kai Meng, Qiutang Zeng, Qinghua Lu, Yingzhong Lin, Bangwei Wu, Kunwu Yu, Zhaoqiang Dong, Jianwei Zhang, Meng Chai, Yuyang Liu, Qingwei Ji, and Yujie Zhou

Valsartan has a protective effect against hypertension and atherosclerosis in humans and experimental animal models. This study aimed to determine the effect of prolonged treatment with angiotensin II (Ang II) on atherosclerosis and the effect of valsartan on the activity of CD4+ T lymphocyte subsets. The results showed that prolonged treatment (8 wks) with exogenous Ang II resulted in an increased atherosclerotic plaque size and a switch of stable-to-unstable plaque via modulating on CD4+ T lymphocyte activity, including an increase in the T helper cell type 1 (Th1) and Th17 cells and a decrease in Th2 and regulatory T (Treg) cells. In contrast, valsartan treatment efficiently reversed the imbalance in CD4+ T lymphocyte activity, ameliorated atherosclerosis and elicited a stable plaque phenotype in addition to controlling blood pressure. In addition, treatment with anti-interleukin (IL)-5 monoclonal antibodies weakened the antiatherosclerotic effects of valsartan without affecting blood pressure.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on Jul 30, 2015 4:03 PM CDT
Ji Yang, Qiao Li, Xue Yang, and Ming Li

Interleukin (IL)-9, which is produced mainly by CD4+ T cells, is implicated in mast cell-related allergic diseases, although its involvement in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) pathogenesis remains unclear. Thus, we investigated the presence of IL-9 in lupus-prone MRL/Mp-lpr/lpr (MRL/lpr) mice and examined the role of IL-9 in lupus pathogenesis. Increased levels of IL-9+ lymphocytes were detected in the spleens and kidneys of MRL/lpr mice and increased IL-9 levels in the spleen correlated with PNA+ germinal center (GC) cell expansion. The percentage of CD4+IL-9+ (Th9) cells was increased in MRL/lpr mice and serum IL-9 levels were elevated and closely related to the production of antibodies against double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). IL-9 appears to promote B-cell proliferation and immunoglobulin production, which could be blocked by inhibition of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3). Treatment with neutralizing anti-IL-9 antibody in vivo decreased serum anti-dsDNA-antibody titers and alleviated lupus nephritis in MRL/lpr mice. Our findings indicate expansion of Th9 cells in lupus-prone MRL/lpr mice and the correlation of IL-9 with B-cell proliferation and autoantibody production. These findings suggest that IL-9 is a potential therapeutic target for SLE.

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Supplemental Data
Posted by Sheila Platt on Jul 28, 2015 10:18 AM CDT
Michael L Ekaney, Clemens L Bockmeyer, Maik Sossdorf, Philipp A Reuken, Florian Conradi, Tobias Schuerholz, Markus F Blaess, Scott L Friedman, Wolfgang Lösche, Michael Bauer, and Ralf A Claus

In sepsis, the severity-dependent decrease of von Willebrand factor (VWF)–inactivating protease, a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 13 (ADAMTS13), results in platelet aggregation and consumption, leading to sepsisassociated thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA) and organ failure. Previous reports assessing its functional deficiency have pinpointed involvement of autoantibodies or mutations to propagate thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). However, mechanisms of acquired ADAMTS13 deficiency during host response remain unclear. To enhance understanding of ADAMTS13 deficiency in sepsis, we evaluated changes in expression of mRNA coding ADAMTS13 during septic conditions using primary cellular sources of the protease. We hypothesized that proinflammatory cytokines and constituents of serum from septic patients affect the transcriptional level of ADAMTS13 in vitro, and previously recommended therapeutic agents as adjunctive therapy for sepsis interact therewith. Cultured hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), endothelial cells (HMEC) and human precision-cut liver slices as an ex vivo model were stimulated with sepsis prototypic cytokines, bacterial endotoxin and pooled serum obtained from septic patients. Stimulation resulted in a significant decrease in ADAMTS13 mRNA between 10% and 80% of basal transcriptional rates. Costimulation of selenite or recombinant activated protein C (APC) with serum prevented ADAMTS13 decrease in HSCs and increased ADAMTS13 transcripts in HMEC. In archived clinical samples, the activity of ADAMTS13 in septic patients treated with APC (n = 5) increased with an accompanying decrease in VWF propeptide as surrogate for improved endothelial function. In conclusion, proinflammatory conditions of sepsis repress mRNA coding ADAMTS13 and the ameliorating effect by selenite and APC may support the concept for identification of beneficial mechanisms triggered by these drugs at a molecular level.

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Posted by Sheila Platt on Jul 28, 2015 10:00 AM CDT
Jesper F Højen, Thomas A Rasmussen, Karen Lise D Andersen, Anni A Winckelmann, Rune R Laursen, Jesper D Gunst, Holger J Møller, Mayumi Fujita, Lars Østergaard, Ole S Søgaard, Charles A Dinarello, and Martin Tolstrup

Interleukin-37 (IL-37) is a recently identified cytokine with potent antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive functions. The objective of this study was to compare levels of IL-37 mRNA in immunological subgroups of chronic human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1)-infected individuals and noninfected controls, to determine IL-37’s association with biomarkers of inflammation and reservoir size. This was a cross-sectional study. The HIV-1-infected patients were categorized in three subgroups depending on their combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) treatment status and CD4+ T-cell count. Quantitative RT-PCR was used for the detection of IL-37 mRNA and HIV-1 DNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Biomarkers in plasma were quantified by enzymelinked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), whereas T-cell activation was determined by flow cytometry. Lastly, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulations of patients PBMCs were carried out to determine differences in IL-37 mRNA response between the subgroups. Sixty HIV-1-infected patients and 20 noninfected controls were included in the study. Steady-state IL-37 mRNA levels in PBMCs were significantly higher in HIV-1-infected individuals compared with noninfected controls: 2.4-fold (p ≤ 0.01) cART-naïve subjects; 3.9-fold (p ≤ 0.0001) inadequate immunological responders; and 4.0-fold (p ≤ 0.0001) in immunological responders compared with noninfected controls. Additionally, levels of the monocyte inflammatory marker sCD14 correlated with IL-37 mRNA (p = 0.03), whereas there was no association with T-cell activation. Finally, we observed a significant correlation between total viral HIV-1 DNA and IL-37 mRNA in PBMCs (p < 0.0001). Collectively, our data shows that the level of IL-37 mRNA is affected by chronic HIV-1-infection. A relationship with the activation of the monocyte compartment is suggested by the correlation with sCD14 and, interestingly, IL-37 could be related to the size of the total viral HIV-1 reservoir.

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Supplemental Data
Posted by Sheila Platt on Jul 28, 2015 9:36 AM CDT
Vincent T Janmaat, Anouk van de Winkel, Maikel P Peppelenbosch, Manon C W Spaander, André G Uitterlinden, Farzin Pourfarzad, Hugo W Tilanus, Agnieszka M Rygiel, Leon M G Moons, Pascal P Arp, Kausilia K Krishnadath, Ernst J Kuipers, and Luc J W van der Laan

Epidemiological studies indicate that vitamin D exerts a protective effect on the development of various solid cancers. However, concerns have been raised regarding the potential deleterious role of high vitamin D levels in the development of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). This study investigated genetic variation in the vitamin D receptor (VDR) in relation to its expression and risk of Barrett esophagus (BE) and EAC. VDR gene regulation was investigated by immunohistochemistry, reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and gel shift assays. Fifteen haplotype tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the VDR gene were analyzed in 858 patients with reflux esophagitis (RE), BE or EAC and 202 healthy controls. VDR mRNA expression was higher in BE compared with squamous epithelium. VDR protein was located in the nucleus in BE. An rs1989969T/rs2238135G haplotype was identified in the 5’ regulatory region of the VDR gene. It was associated with an approximately two-fold reduced risk of RE, BE and EAC. Analysis of a replication cohort was done for BE that confirmed this. The rs1989969T allele causes a GATA-1 transcription factor binding site to appear. The signaling of GATA-1, which is regarded as a negative transcriptional regulator, could explain the findings for rs1989969. The rs2238135G allele was associated with a significantly reduced VDR expression in BE; for the rs1989969T allele, a trend in reduced VDR expression was observed. We identified a VDR haplotype associated with reduced esophageal VDR expression and a reduced incidence of RE, BE and EAC. This VDR haplotype could be useful in identifying individuals who benefit most from vitamin D chemoprevention.

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Supplemental Data
Posted by Sheila Platt on Jul 28, 2015 9:06 AM CDT
Todd W Costantini, Xitong Dang, Maryana V Yurchyshyna, Raul Coimbra, Brian P Eliceiri, and Andrew Baird

The human genome contains a variant form of the α7-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAChR) gene that is uniquely human. This CHRFAM7A gene arose during human speciation and recent data suggests that its expression alters ligand tropism of the normally homopentameric human α7-AChR ligand-gated cell surface ion channel that is found on the surface of many different cell types. To understand its possible significance in regulating inflammation in humans, we investigated its expression in normal human leukocytes and leukocyte cell lines, compared CHRFAM7A expression to that of the CHRNA7 gene, mapped its promoter and characterized the effects of stable CHRFAM7A overexpression. We report here that CHRFAM7A is highly expressed in human leukocytes but that the levels of both CHRFAM7A and CHRNA7 mRNAs were independent and varied widely. To this end, mapping of the CHRFAM7A promoter in its 5′-untranslated region (UTR) identified a unique 1-kb sequence that independently regulates CHRFAM7A gene expression. Because overexpression of CHRFAM7A in THP1 cells altered the cell phenotype and modified the expression of genes associated with focal adhesion (for example, FAK, P13K, Akt, rho, GEF, Elk1, CycD), leukocyte transepithelial migration (Nox, ITG, MMPs, PKC) and cancer (kit, kitL, ras, cFos cyclinD1, Frizzled and GPCR), we conclude that CHRFAM7A is biologically active. Most surprisingly however, stable CHRFAM7A overexpression in THP1 cells upregulated CHRNA7, which, in turn, led to increased binding of the specific α7nAChR ligand, bungarotoxin, on the THP1 cell surface. Taken together, these data confirm the close association between CHRFAM7A and CHRNA7 expression, establish a biological consequence to CHRFAM7A expression in human leukocytes and support the possibility that this human-specific gene might contribute to, and/or gauge, a human-specific response to inflammation.

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Supplemental Data
Posted by Sheila Platt on Jul 23, 2015 12:12 PM CDT
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