The liver is a vital organ with a wide range of functions from digestion to detoxification. In the current issue, 2 articles examine various aspects of signaling in the liver, especially in the pathologic state.
Ohira and colleagues
use adoptive immunotherapy to prevent recurrent HCV infection in liver transplant patients (page 3226), while
Connolly and colleagues
investigate the contribution of dendritic cells to fibro-inflammatory liver disease (page 3213).
Image credit: Photo Researchers
Dysregulated growth hormone (GH) hypersecretion is usually caused by a GH-secreting pituitary adenoma and leads to acromegaly — a disorder of disproportionate skeletal, tissue, and organ growth. High GH and IGF1 levels lead to comorbidities including arthritis, facial changes, prognathism, and glucose intolerance. If the condition is untreated, enhanced mortality due to cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and pulmonary dysfunction is associated with a 30% decrease in life span. This Review discusses acromegaly pathogenesis and management options. The latter include surgery, radiation, and use of novel medications. Somatostatin receptor (SSTR) ligands inhibit GH release, control tumor growth, and attenuate peripheral GH action, while GH receptor antagonists block GH action and effectively lower IGF1 levels. Novel peptides, including SSTR ligands, exhibiting polyreceptor subtype affinities and chimeric dopaminergic-somatostatinergic properties are currently in clinical trials. Effective control of GH and IGF1 hypersecretion and ablation or stabilization of the pituitary tumor mass lead to improved comorbidities and lowering of mortality rates for this hormonal disorder.
The mechanisms by which homocysteine contributes to atherothrombosis are complex and their in vivo relevance uncertain. In this issue of the JCI, Jacovina and colleagues report a unique in vivo mechanism by which homocysteine may contribute to vascular disease (see the related article beginning on page 3384). This group had previously reported that homocysteine impairs endothelial cell surface plasminogen activation by posttranslationally modifying annexin A2, the coreceptor for plasminogen and tissue plasminogen activator. They now show that an annexin A2–deficient mouse rendered hyperhomocysteinemic by dietary means has impaired fibrinolysis, perivascular fibrin persistence, and attenuated angiogenesis (angiostasis). Potential mechanisms by which homocysteine-dependent changes in endothelial phenotype link thrombosis to angiostasis are reviewed and their relationship to homocysteine-dependent vascular disease considered.
Mutations in the enzyme superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) have been linked to the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In this issue of the JCI, Zhong et al. report that the endogenous anticoagulant activated protein C (APC) is able to cross the blood–spinal cord barrier in mice and signal to both neuronal and non-neuronal cells (see the related article beginning on page 3437). This signaling resulted in the suppression of mutant SOD1 synthesis and retarded disease progression in a murine model of ALS. Here we discuss the potential importance of these data and possible relevance to human neurodegenerative diseases.
Unchecked cell growth is a hallmark of cancer. During oncogenesis, cancerous cells become resistant to the TGF-β signaling pathway that usually keeps cell growth in check. The role of a critical mediator of this pathway, Smad4, in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) remains unclear. In this issue of the JCI, Bornstein and colleagues report that Smad4 expression is decreased in malignant HNSCC and, surprisingly, also in normal-appearing buccal mucosa adjacent to HNSCC (see the related article beginning on page 3408). They also show that targeted conditional deletion of Smad4 in the head and neck epithelium of mice is alone sufficient to initiate spontaneous HNSCC, in conjunction with DNA repair gene dysregulation, genetic instability, and inflammation. These findings point to a novel function for Smad4 as a guardian gene that maintains genomic stability.
Hepatic fibrosis occurs during most chronic liver diseases and is driven by inflammatory responses to injured tissue. Because DCs are central to modulating liver immunity, we postulated that altered DC function contributes to immunologic changes in hepatic fibrosis and affects the pathologic inflammatory milieu within the fibrotic liver. Using mouse models, we determined the contribution of DCs to altered hepatic immunity in fibrosis and investigated the role of DCs in modulating the inflammatory environment within the fibrotic liver. We found that DC depletion completely abrogated the elevated levels of many inflammatory mediators that are produced in the fibrotic liver. DCs represented approximately 25% of the fibrotic hepatic leukocytes and showed an elevated CD11b+CD8– fraction, a lower B220+ plasmacytoid fraction, and increased expression of MHC II and CD40. Moreover, after liver injury, DCs gained a marked capacity to induce hepatic stellate cells, NK cells, and T cells to mediate inflammation, proliferation, and production of potent immune responses. The proinflammatory and immunogenic effects of fibrotic DCs were contingent on their production of TNF-α. Therefore, modulating DC function may be an attractive approach to experimental therapeutics in fibro-inflammatory liver disease.
After liver transplantation in HCV-infected patients, the virus load inevitably exceeds pre-transplantation levels. This phenomenon reflects suppression of the host-effector immune responses that control HCV replication by the immunosuppressive drugs used to prevent rejection of the transplanted liver. Here, we describe an adoptive immunotherapy approach, using lymphocytes extracted from liver allograft perfusate (termed herein liver allograft–derived lymphocytes), which includes an abundance of NK/NKT cells that mounted an anti-HCV response in HCV-infected liver transplantation recipients, despite the immunosuppressive environment. This therapy involved intravenously injecting patients 3 days after liver transplantation with liver allograft–derived lymphocytes treated with IL-2 and the CD3-specific mAb OKT3. During the first month after liver transplantation, the HCV RNA titers in the sera of recipients who received immunotherapy were markedly lower than those in the sera of recipients who did not receive immunotherapy. We further explored these observations in human hepatocyte–chimeric mice, in which mouse hepatocytes were replaced by human hepatocytes. These mice unfailingly developed HCV infections after inoculation with HCV-infected human serum. However, injection of human liver–derived lymphocytes treated with IL-2/OKT3 completely prevented HCV infection. Furthermore, an in vitro study using genomic HCV replicon–containing hepatic cells revealed that IFN-γ–secreting cells played a pivotal role in such anti-HCV responses. Thus, our study presents what we believe to be a novel paradigm for the inhibition of HCV replication in HCV-infected liver transplantation recipients.
Elevated plasma triglyceride levels represent a risk factor for premature atherosclerosis. In mice, accumulation of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins can occur if sulfation of heparan sulfate in hepatocytes is diminished, as this alters hepatic lipoprotein clearance via heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs). However, the relevant HSPG has not been determined. In this study, we found by RT-PCR analysis that mouse hepatocytes expressed the membrane proteoglycans syndecan-1, -2, and -4 and glypican-1 and -4. Analysis of available proteoglycan-deficient mice showed that only syndecan-1 mutants (Sdc1–/– mice) accumulated plasma triglycerides. Sdc1–/– mice also exhibited prolonged circulation of injected human VLDL and intestinally derived chylomicrons. We found that mice lacking both syndecan-1 and hepatocyte heparan sulfate did not display accentuated triglyceride accumulation compared with single mutants, suggesting that syndecan-1 is the primary HSPG mediating hepatic triglyceride clearance. Immunoelectron microscopy showed that syndecan-1 was expressed specifically on the microvilli of hepatocyte basal membranes, facing the space of Disse, where lipoprotein uptake occurs. Abundant syndecan-1 on wild-type murine hepatocytes exhibited saturable binding of VLDL and inhibition by heparin and facilitated degradation of VLDL. Furthermore, adenovirus-encoded syndecan-1 restored binding, uptake, and degradation of VLDL in isolated Sdc1–/– hepatocytes and the lipoprotein clearance defect in Sdc1–/– mice. These findings provide the first in vivo genetic evidence that syndecan-1 is the primary hepatocyte HSPG receptor mediating the clearance of both hepatic and intestinally derived triglyceride-rich lipoproteins.
The enhanced oxidative stress associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus contributes to disease pathogenesis. We previously identified plasma membrane–associated ATP-sensitive K+ (KATP) channels of pancreatic β cells as targets for oxidants. Here, we examined the effects of genetic and pharmacologic ablation of KATP channels on loss of mouse β cell function and viability following oxidative stress. Using mice lacking the sulfonylurea receptor type 1 (Sur1) subunit of KATP channels, we found that, compared with insulin secretion by WT islets, insulin secretion by Sur1–/– islets was less susceptible to oxidative stress induced by the oxidant H2O2. This was likely, at least in part, a result of the reduced ability of H2O2 to hyperpolarize plasma membrane potential and reduce cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]c) in the Sur1–/– β cells. Remarkably, Sur1–/– β cells were less prone to apoptosis induced by H2O2 or an NO donor than WT β cells, despite an enhanced basal rate of apoptosis. This protective effect was attributed to upregulation of the antioxidant enzymes SOD, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase. Upregulation of antioxidant enzymes and reduced sensitivity of Sur1–/– cells to H2O2-induced apoptosis were mimicked by treatment with the sulfonylureas tolbutamide and gliclazide. Enzyme upregulation and protection against oxidant-induced apoptosis were abrogated by agents lowering [Ca2+]c. Sur1–/– mice were less susceptible than WT mice to streptozotocin-induced β cell destruction and subsequent hyperglycemia and death, which suggests that loss of KATP channel activity may protect against streptozotocin-induced diabetes in vivo.
Mutations in the neuronal protein α-synuclein cause familial Parkinson disease. Phosphorylation of α-synuclein at serine 129 is prominent in Parkinson disease and influences α-synuclein neurotoxicity. Here we report that α-synuclein is also phosphorylated at tyrosine 125 in transgenic Drosophila expressing wild-type human α-synuclein and that this tyrosine phosphorylation protects from α-synuclein neurotoxicity in a Drosophila model of Parkinson disease. Western blot analysis of fly brain homogenates showed that levels of soluble oligomeric species of α-synuclein were increased by phosphorylation at serine 129 and decreased by tyrosine 125 phosphorylation. Tyrosine 125 phosphorylation diminished during the normal aging process in both humans and flies. Notably, cortical tissue from patients with the Parkinson disease–related synucleinopathy dementia with Lewy bodies showed less phosphorylation at tyrosine 125. Our findings suggest that α-synuclein neurotoxicity in Parkinson disease and related synucleinopathies may result from an imbalance between the detrimental, oligomer-promoting effect of serine 129 phosphorylation and a neuroprotective action of tyrosine 125 phosphorylation that inhibits toxic oligomer formation.
West Nile virus (WNV) causes asymptomatic infection in most humans, but for undefined reasons, approximately 20% of immunocompetent individuals develop West Nile fever, a potentially debilitating febrile illness, and approximately 1% develop neuroinvasive disease syndromes. Notably, since its emergence in 1999, WNV has become the leading cause of epidemic viral encephalitis in North America. We hypothesized that CD4+ Tregs might be differentially regulated in subjects with symptomatic compared with those with asymptomatic WNV infection. Here, we show that in 32 blood donors with acute WNV infection, Tregs expanded significantly in the 3 months after index (RNA+) donations in all subjects. Symptomatic donors exhibited lower Treg frequencies from 2 weeks through 1 year after index donation yet did not show differences in systemic T cell or generalized inflammatory responses. In parallel prospective experimental studies, symptomatic WNV-infected mice also developed lower Treg frequencies compared with asymptomatic mice at 2 weeks after infection. Moreover, Treg-deficient mice developed lethal WNV infection at a higher rate than controls. Together, these results suggest that higher levels of peripheral Tregs after infection protect against severe WNV disease in immunocompetent animals and humans.
Renal outer medullary potassium (ROMK) channels are exquisitely regulated to adjust renal potassium excretion and maintain potassium balance. Clathrin-dependent endocytosis plays a critical role, limiting urinary potassium loss in potassium deficiency. In renal disease, aberrant ROMK endocytosis may contribute to potassium retention and hyperkalemia. Previous work has indicated that ROMK endocytosis is stimulated by with-no-lysine (WNK) kinases, but the endocytotic signal and the internalization machinery have not been defined. Here, we found that ROMK bound directly to the clathrin adaptor molecule autosomal recessive hypercholesterolemia (ARH), and this interaction was mediated by what we believe to be a novel variant of the canonical “NPXY” endocytotic signal, YxNPxFV. ARH recruits ROMK to clathrin-coated pits for constitutive and WNK1-stimuated endocytosis, and ARH knockdown decreased basal rates of ROMK endocytosis, in a heterologous expression system, COS-7 cells. We found that ARH was predominantly expressed in the distal nephron where it coimmunoprecipitated and colocalized with ROMK. In mice, the abundance of kidney ARH protein was modulated by dietary potassium and inversely correlated with changes in ROMK. Furthermore, ARH-knockout mice exhibited an altered ROMK response to potassium intake. These data suggest that ARH marks ROMK for clathrin-dependent endocytosis, in concert with the demands of potassium homeostasis.
The heterogeneous cellular composition of the mammalian renal collecting duct enables regulation of fluid, electrolytes, and acid-base homeostasis, but the molecular mechanism of its development has yet to be elucidated. The Notch signaling pathway is involved in cell fate determination and has been implicated in proximal-distal patterning in the mammalian kidney. To investigate the role of Notch signaling in renal collecting duct development, we generated mice in which Mind bomb-1 (Mib1), an E3 ubiquitin ligase required for the initiation of Notch signaling, was specifically inactivated in the ureteric bud of the developing kidney. Mice lacking Mib1 in the renal collecting duct displayed increased urinary production, decreased urinary osmolality, progressive hydronephrosis, sodium wasting, and a severe urinary concentrating defect manifested as nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. Histological analysis revealed a diminished number of principal cells and corresponding increase in the number of intercalated cells. Transgenic overexpression of Notch intracellular domain reversed the altered cellular composition of mutant renal collecting duct, with principal cells occupying the entire region. Our data demonstrate that Notch signaling is required for the development of the mammalian renal collecting duct and principal cell differentiation and indicate that pathway dysregulation may contribute to distal renal tubular disorders.
Aortic arch artery patterning defects account for approximately 20% of congenital cardiovascular malformations and are observed frequently in velocardiofacial syndrome (VCFS). In the current study, we screened for chromosome rearrangements in patients suspected of VCFS, but who lacked a 22q11 deletion or TBX1 mutation. One individual displayed hemizygous CHD7, which encodes a chromodomain protein. CHD7 haploinsufficiency is the major cause of coloboma, heart defect, atresia choanae, retarded growth and development, genital hypoplasia, and ear anomalies/deafness (CHARGE) syndrome, but this patient lacked the major diagnostic features of coloboma and choanal atresia. Because a subset of CHARGE cases also display 22q11 deletions, we explored the embryological relationship between CHARGE and VCSF using mouse models. The hallmark of Tbx1 haploinsufficiency is hypo/aplasia of the fourth pharyngeal arch artery (PAA) at E10.5. Identical malformations were observed in Chd7 heterozygotes, with resulting aortic arch interruption at later stages. Other than Tbx1, Chd7 is the only gene reported to affect fourth PAA development by haploinsufficiency. Moreover, Tbx1+/–;Chd7+/– double heterozygotes demonstrated a synergistic interaction during fourth PAA, thymus, and ear morphogenesis. We could not rescue PAA morphogenesis by restoring neural crest Chd7 expression. Rather, biallelic expression of Chd7 and Tbx1 in the pharyngeal ectoderm was required for normal PAA development.
Spontaneous antitumor T cell responses in cancer patients are strongly controlled by Tregs, and increased numbers of tumor-infiltrating Tregs correlate with reduced survival. However, the tumor antigens recognized by Tregs in cancer patients and the impact of these cells on tumor-specific T cell responses have not been systematically characterized. Here we used a broad panel of long synthetic peptides of defined tumor antigens and normal tissue antigens to exploit a newly developed method to identify and compare ex vivo the antigen specificities of Tregs with those of effector/memory T cells in peripheral blood of colorectal cancer patients and healthy subjects. Tregs in tumor patients were highly specific for a distinct set of only a few tumor antigens, suggesting that Tregs exert T cell suppression in an antigen-selective manner. Tumor-specific effector T cells were detectable in the majority of colorectal cancer patients but not in healthy individuals. We detected differences in the repertoires of antigens recognized by Tregs and effector/memory T cells in the majority of colorectal cancer patients. In addition, only effector/memory T cell responses against antigens recognized by Tregs strongly increased after Treg depletion. The selection of antigens according to preexisting T cell responses may improve the efficacy of future immunotherapies for cancer and autoimmune disease.
Mice deficient in the hemochromatosis gene, Hfe, have attenuated inflammatory responses to Salmonella infection associated with decreased macrophage TNF-α and IL-6 biosynthesis after exposure to LPS. In this study, we show that the abnormal cytokine production is related to impaired TLR4 signaling. Despite their abnormal response to LPS, Hfe KO macrophages produced amounts of TNF-α similar to those in WT cells after TLR2 stimulation. Consistent with this finding, LPS-induced activation of Mal/MyD88-dependent events was normal in the mutant macrophages. However, LPS-induced IFN-β expression, a TRAM/TRIF-dependent response activated by TLR4, was reduced by Hfe deficiency. This reduction could be replicated in WT macrophages with the use of iron chelators. In contrast, TLR3-activated expression of IFN-β, a TRIF-dependent response, was normal in Hfe KO macrophages and was unaffected by iron chelation. Our data suggest that low intracellular iron selectively impairs signaling via the TLR4/TRAM/TRIF pathway proximal to TRIF and results in reduced LPS-induced cytokine expression. Furthermore, by mimicking the altered iron metabolism associated with Hfe deficiency, we found that 3 different inhibitors of hepcidin attenuated Salmonella-induced and noninfectious enterocolitis. Thus, manipulation of iron homeostasis could represent a new therapeutic approach to controlling inflammation.
The relative balance between the quantity of white and brown adipose tissue can profoundly affect lipid storage and whole-body energy homeostasis. However, the mechanisms regulating the formation, expansion, and interconversion of these 2 distinct types of fat remain unknown. Recently, the lysosomal degradative pathway of macroautophagy has been identified as a regulator of cellular differentiation, suggesting that autophagy may modulate this process in adipocytes. The function of autophagy in adipose differentiation was therefore examined in the current study by genetic inhibition of the critical macroautophagy gene autophagy-related 7 (Atg7). Knockdown of Atg7 in 3T3-L1 preadipocytes inhibited lipid accumulation and decreased protein levels of adipocyte differentiation factors. Knockdown of Atg5 or pharmacological inhibition of autophagy or lysosome function also had similar effects. An adipocyte-specific mouse knockout of Atg7 generated lean mice with decreased white adipose mass and enhanced insulin sensitivity. White adipose tissue in knockout mice had increased features of brown adipocytes, which, along with an increase in normal brown adipose tissue, led to an elevated rate of fatty acid, β-oxidation, and a lean body mass. Autophagy therefore functions to regulate body lipid accumulation by controlling adipocyte differentiation and determining the balance between white and brown fat.
The pathogenic mechanisms underlying acute pancreatitis are not clear. Two key pathologic acinar cell responses of this disease are vacuole accumulation and trypsinogen activation. We show here that both result from defective autophagy, by comparing the autophagic responses in rodent models of acute pancreatitis to physiologic autophagy triggered by fasting. Pancreatitis-induced vacuoles in acinar cells were greater in number and much larger than those induced with fasting. Degradation of long-lived proteins, a measure of autophagic efficiency, was markedly inhibited in in vitro pancreatitis, while it was stimulated by acinar cell starvation. Further, processing of the lysosomal proteases cathepsin L (CatL) and CatB into their fully active, mature forms was reduced in pancreatitis, as were their activities in the lysosome-enriched subcellular fraction. These findings indicate that autophagy is retarded in pancreatitis due to deficient lysosomal degradation caused by impaired cathepsin processing. Trypsinogen activation occurred in pancreatitis but not with fasting and was prevented by inhibiting autophagy. A marker of trypsinogen activation partially localized to autophagic vacuoles, and pharmacologic inhibition of CatL increased the amount of active trypsin in acinar cells. The results suggest that retarded autophagy is associated with an imbalance between CatL, which degrades trypsinogen and trypsin, and CatB, which converts trypsinogen into trypsin, resulting in intra-acinar accumulation of active trypsin in pancreatitis. Thus, deficient lysosomal degradation may be a dominant mechanism for increased intra-acinar trypsin in pancreatitis.
Tumor growth and progression rely upon angiogenesis, which is regulated by pro- and antiangiogenic factors, including members of the semaphorin family. By analyzing 3 different mouse models of multistep carcinogenesis, we show here that during angiogenesis, semaphorin 3A (Sema3A) is expressed in ECs, where it serves as an endogenous inhibitor of angiogenesis that is present in premalignant lesions and lost during tumor progression. Pharmacologic inhibition of endogenous Sema3A during the angiogenic switch, the point when pretumoral lesions initiate an angiogenic phase that persists throughout tumor growth, enhanced angiogenesis and accelerated tumor progression. By contrast, when, during the later stages of carcinogenesis following endogenous Sema3A downmodulation, Sema3A was ectopically reintroduced into islet cell tumors by somatic gene transfer, successive waves of apoptosis ensued, first in ECs and then in tumor cells, resulting in reduced vascular density and branching and inhibition of tumor growth and substantially extended survival. Further, long-term reexpression of Sema3A markedly improved pericyte coverage of tumor blood vessels, something that is thought to be a key property of tumor vessel normalization, and restored tissue normoxia. We conclude, therefore, that Sema3A is an endogenous and effective antiangiogenic agent that stably normalizes the tumor vasculature.
A key adaptation to environmental hypoxia is an increase in erythropoiesis, driven by the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) through what is traditionally thought to be primarily a renal response. However, both neurons and astrocytes (the largest subpopulation of glial cells in the CNS) also express EPO following ischemic injury, and this response is known to ameliorate damage to the brain. To investigate the role of glial cells as a component of the systemic response to hypoxia, we created astrocyte-specific deletions of the murine genes encoding the hypoxia-inducible transcription factors HIF-1α and HIF-2α and their negative regulator von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) as well as astrocyte-specific deletion of the HIF target gene Vegf. We found that loss of the hypoxic response in astrocytes does not cause anemia in mice but is necessary for approximately 50% of the acute erythropoietic response to hypoxic stress. In accord with this, erythroid progenitor cells and reticulocytes were substantially reduced in number in mice lacking HIF function in astrocytes following hypoxic stress. Thus, we have demonstrated that the glial component of the CNS is an essential component of hypoxia-induced erythropoiesis.
When plasma levels of homocysteine (HC), a thiol amino acid formed upon methionine demethylation, exceed 12 μM, individuals are at increased risk of developing large vessel atherothrombosis and small vessel dysfunction. The annexin A2 complex (termed “A2”) is the cell surface coreceptor for plasminogen and TPA and accelerates the catalytic activation of plasmin, the major fibrinolytic agent in mammals. We previously showed that HC prevents A2-mediated, TPA-dependent activation of plasminogen in vitro by disulfide derivatization of the “tail” domain of A2. We also demonstrated that fibrinolysis and angiogenesis are severely impaired in A2-deficient mice. We now report here that, although hyperhomocysteinemic mice had a normal coagulation profile and normal platelet function, fibrin accumulated in their tissues due to reduced perivascular fibrinolytic activity and angiogenesis was impaired. A2 isolated from hyperhomocysteinemic mice failed to fully support TPA-dependent plasmin activation. However, infusion of hyperhomocysteinemic mice with fresh recombinant A2, which localized to neoangiogenic endothelial cells, resulted in normalization of angiogenesis and disappearance of peri- and intravascular fibrin. We therefore conclude that hyperhomocysteinemia impairs postnatal angiogenesis by derivatizing A2, preventing perivascular fibrinolysis, and inhibiting directed endothelial cell migration. These findings provide a mechanistic explanation for microvascular dysfunction and macrovascular occlusion in individuals with hyperhomocysteinemia.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a childhood cancer originating from skeletal muscle, and patient survival is poor in the presence of metastatic disease. Few determinants that regulate metastasis development have been identified. The receptor tyrosine kinase FGFR4 is highly expressed in RMS tissue, suggesting a role in tumorigenesis, although its functional importance has not been defined. Here, we report the identification of mutations in FGFR4 in human RMS tumors that lead to its activation and present evidence that it functions as an oncogene in RMS. Higher FGFR4 expression in RMS tumors was associated with advanced-stage cancer and poor survival, while FGFR4 knockdown in a human RMS cell line reduced tumor growth and experimental lung metastases when the cells were transplanted into mice. Moreover, 6 FGFR4 tyrosine kinase domain mutations were found among 7 of 94 (7.5%) primary human RMS tumors. The mutants K535 and E550 increased autophosphorylation, Stat3 signaling, tumor proliferation, and metastatic potential when expressed in a murine RMS cell line. These mutants also transformed NIH 3T3 cells and led to an enhanced metastatic phenotype. Finally, murine RMS cell lines expressing the K535 and E550 FGFR4 mutants were substantially more susceptible to apoptosis in the presence of a pharmacologic FGFR inhibitor than the control cell lines expressing the empty vector or wild-type FGFR4. Together, our results demonstrate that mutationally activated FGFR4 acts as an oncogene, and these are what we believe to be the first known mutations in a receptor tyrosine kinase in RMS. These findings support the potential therapeutic targeting of FGFR4 in RMS.
Smad4 is a central mediator of TGF-β signaling, and its expression is downregulated or lost at the malignant stage in several cancer types. In this study, we found that Smad4 was frequently downregulated not only in human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) malignant lesions, but also in grossly normal adjacent buccal mucosa. To gain insight into the importance of this observation, we generated mice in which Smad4 was deleted in head and neck epithelia (referred to herein as HN-Smad4–/– mice) and found that they developed spontaneous HNSCC. Interestingly, both normal head and neck tissue and HNSCC from HN-Smad4–/– mice exhibited increased genomic instability, which correlated with downregulated expression and function of genes encoding proteins in the Fanconi anemia/Brca (Fanc/Brca) DNA repair pathway linked to HNSCC susceptibility in humans. Consistent with this, further analysis revealed a correlation between downregulation of Smad4 protein and downregulation of the Brca1 and Rad51 proteins in human HNSCC. In addition to the above changes in tumor epithelia, both normal head and neck tissue and HNSCC from HN-Smad4–/– mice exhibited severe inflammation, which was associated with increased expression of TGF-β1 and activated Smad3. We present what we believe to be the first single gene–knockout model for HNSCC, in which both HNSCC formation and invasion occurred as a result of Smad4 deletion. Our results reveal an intriguing connection between Smad4 and the Fanc/Brca pathway and highlight the impact of epithelial Smad4 loss on inflammation.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common clinical cardiac arrhythmia. It is often initiated by ectopic beats arising from the pulmonary veins and atrium, but the source and mechanism of these beats remains unclear. The melanin synthesis enzyme dopachrome tautomerase (DCT) is involved in intracellular calcium and reactive species regulation in melanocytes. Given that dysregulation of intracellular calcium and reactive species has been described in patients with atrial fibrillation, we investigated the role of DCT in this process. Here, we characterize a unique DCT-expressing cell population within murine and human hearts that populated the pulmonary veins, atria, and atrioventricular canal. Expression profiling demonstrated that this population expressed adrenergic and muscarinic receptors and displayed transcriptional profiles distinct from dermal melanocytes. Adult mice lacking DCT displayed normal cardiac development but an increased susceptibility to atrial arrhythmias. Cultured primary cardiac melanocyte-like cells were excitable, and those lacking DCT displayed prolonged repolarization with early afterdepolarizations. Furthermore, mice with mutations in the tyrosine kinase receptor Kit lacked cardiac melanocyte-like cells and did not develop atrial arrhythmias in the absence of DCT. These data suggest that dysfunction of melanocyte-like cells in the atrium and pulmonary veins may contribute to atrial arrhythmias.
Activated protein C (APC) is a signaling protease with anticoagulant activity. Here, we have used mice expressing a mutation in superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) that is linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to show that administration of APC or APC analogs with reduced anticoagulant activity after disease onset slows disease progression and extends survival. A proteolytically inactive form of APC with reduced anticoagulant activity provided no benefit. APC crossed the blood–spinal cord barrier in mice via endothelial protein C receptor. When administered after disease onset, APC eliminated leakage of hemoglobin-derived products across the blood–spinal cord barrier and delayed microglial activation. In microvessels, motor neurons, and microglial cells from SOD1-mutant mice and in cultured neuronal cells, APC transcriptionally downregulated SOD1. Inhibition of SOD1 synthesis in neuronal cells by APC required protease-activated receptor–1 (PAR1) and PAR3, which inhibited nuclear transport of the Sp1 transcription factor. Diminished mutant SOD1 synthesis by selective gene excision within endothelial cells did not alter disease progression, which suggests that diminished mutant SOD1 synthesis in other cells, including motor neurons and microglia, caused the APC-mediated slowing of disease. The delayed disease progression in mice after APC administration suggests that this approach may be of benefit to patients with familial, and possibly sporadic, ALS.
Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) is the leading cause of transfusion-associated mortality in the US. Previously, we established an immune-mediated TRALI mouse model, wherein mice with cognate antigen were challenged with MHC class I mAb. In this study, when mice housed in a rodent, specific pathogen–free barrier room were challenged with MHC I mAb, there was significant protection from TRALI compared with nonbarrier mice. Priming mice with LPS restored lung injury with mAb challenge. Using TLR4-deficient bone marrow chimeras, the priming phenotype was restricted to animals with WT hematopoietic cells, and depletion of either neutrophils or platelets was protective. Both neutrophils and platelets were sequestered in the lungs of mice with TRALI, and retention of platelets was neutrophil dependent. Interestingly, treatment with aspirin prevented lung injury and mortality, but blocking the P selectin or CD11b/CD18 pathways did not. These data suggest a 2-step mechanism of TRALI: priming of hematopoietic cells, followed by vascular deposition of activated neutrophils and platelets that then mediate the severe lung injury. Furthermore, our data offer an explanation for the increased incidence of TRALI in patients with immune priming conditions, and we suggest what we believe to be a novel therapeutic approach.
Patients with classic fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a disorder characterized by extensive extraskeletal endochondral bone formation, share a recurrent mutation (R206H) within the glycine/serine-rich domain of ACVR1/ALK2, a bone morphogenetic protein type I receptor. Through a series of in vitro assays using several mammalian cell lines and chick limb bud micromass cultures, we determined that mutant R206H ACVR1 activated BMP signaling in the absence of BMP ligand and mediated BMP-independent chondrogenesis that was enhanced by BMP. We further investigated the interaction of mutant R206H ACVR1 with FKBP1A, a glycine/serine domain–binding protein that prevents leaky BMP type I receptor activation in the absence of ligand. The mutant protein exhibited reduced binding to FKBP1A in COS-7 simian kidney cell line assays, suggesting that increased BMP pathway activity in COS-7 cells with R206H ACVR1 is due, at least in part, to decreased binding of this inhibitory factor. Consistent with these findings, in vivo analyses of zebrafish embryos showed BMP-independent hyperactivation of BMP signaling in response to the R206H mutant, resulting in increased embryonic ventralization. These data support the conclusion that the mutant R206H ACVR1 receptor in FOP patients is an activating mutation that induces BMP signaling in a BMP-independent and BMP-responsive manner to promote chondrogenesis, consistent with the ectopic endochondral bone formation in these patients.
The development of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to treat individuals infected with HIV-1 has dramatically improved patient outcomes, but HAART still fails to cure the infection. The latent viral reservoir in resting CD4+ T cells is a major barrier to virus eradication. Elimination of this reservoir requires reactivation of the latent virus. However, strategies for reactivating HIV-1 through nonspecific T cell activation have clinically unacceptable toxicities. We describe here the development of what we believe to be a novel in vitro model of HIV-1 latency that we used to search for compounds that can reverse latency. Human primary CD4+ T cells were transduced with the prosurvival molecule Bcl-2, and the resulting cells were shown to recapitulate the quiescent state of resting CD4+ T cells in vivo. Using this model system, we screened small-molecule libraries and identified a compound that reactivated latent HIV-1 without inducing global T cell activation, 5-hydroxynaphthalene-1,4-dione (5HN). Unlike previously described latency-reversing agents, 5HN activated latent HIV-1 through ROS and NF-κB without affecting nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) and PKC, demonstrating that TCR pathways can be dissected and utilized to purge latent virus. Our study expands the number of classes of latency-reversing therapeutics and demonstrates the utility of this in vitro model for finding strategies to eradicate HIV-1 infection.
Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are vascular anomalies where arteries and veins are directly connected through a complex, tangled web of abnormal arteries and veins instead of a normal capillary network. AVMs in the brain, lung, and visceral organs, including the liver and gastrointestinal tract, result in considerable morbidity and mortality. AVMs are the underlying cause of three major clinical symptoms of a genetic vascular dysplasia termed hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), which is characterized by recurrent nosebleeds, mucocutaneous telangiectases, and visceral AVMs and caused by mutations in one of several genes, including activin receptor–like kinase 1 (ALK1). It remains unknown why and how selective blood vessels form AVMs, and there have been technical limitations to observing the initial stages of AVM formation. Here we present in vivo evidence that physiological or environmental factors such as wounds in addition to the genetic ablation are required for Alk1-deficient vessels to develop to AVMs in adult mice. Using the dorsal skinfold window chamber system, we have demonstrated for what we believe to be the first time the entire course of AVM formation in subdermal blood vessels by using intravital bright-field images, hyperspectral imaging, fluorescence recordings of direct arterial flow through the AV shunts, and vascular casting techniques. We believe our data provide novel insights into the pathogenetic mechanisms of HHT and potential therapeutic approaches.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation