The adult Ixodes female tick, the transmitter of Borrelia burgdorferi, is an agent of Lyme disease. Dunham-Ems and colleagues follow B. burgdorferi migration, localization, and motility during the tick blood meal (page 3652). They find that motility is not involved in the early stages of migration of B. burgdorferi within the feeding Ixodes tick, even during the massive expansion in bacterial numbers associated with the blood meal. This is in contrast with accepted dogma that motility is essential to all stages of infection of both ticks and mammals.
Inflammation is the coordinated immune response to harmful stimuli that appear during infections or after tissue damage. Cells of the innate immune system are the central players in mediating inflammatory tissue responses. These cells are equipped with an array of signaling receptors that detect foreign molecular substances or altered endogenous molecules that appear under situations of stress. This review provides an overview of recent progress in elucidating the molecular mechanisms that lead to inflammatory reactions. We discuss the current knowledge of the mechanisms leading to the activation of cytoplasmic, multimolecular protein complexes, termed “inflammasomes,” which regulate the activity of caspase-1 and the maturation and release of IL-1β.
Natural nonhuman primate hosts of SIV do not succumb to AIDS despite significant viral replication, a phenomenon attributed to reduced levels of chronic and deleterious “immune activation.” Two studies in this issue of the JCI, by Bosinger et al. and Jacquelin et al., now show that SIV induces vigorous immune activation and upregulation of IFN-stimulated genes in both natural and susceptible hosts, but strikingly, the responses resolve only in the former (see the related articles, beginning on pages 3556 and 3544, respectively). Thus, natural hosts for SIV actively engage mechanisms to abort sustained immune activation and its associated harmful effects.
Repeated exposure to stress may favor, both in experimental animals and in humans, an increase in blood pressure, leading in some instances to a true hypertensive state. It is thought that stress-induced hypertension is mediated by sympathetic nervous system activation that in turn, by exerting vasoconstrictor effects and increasing heart rate (and thus cardiac output), may promote the development and progression of the hypertensive state. A new study by Beetz and colleagues in this issue of the JCI, which reports the results of experimental studies carried out in both mice and humans, reveals the potential role of the phosducin gene in modulating the adrenergic and blood pressure responses to stress (see the related article beginning on page 3597).
Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) homeostasis depends on the balance between self renewal and lineage commitment, but what regulates this decision is not well understood. Using loss-of-function approaches in mice, we found that glycogen synthase kinase–3 (Gsk3) plays a pivotal role in controlling the decision between self renewal and differentiation of HSCs. Disruption of Gsk3 in BM transiently expanded phenotypic HSCs in a β-catenin–dependent manner, consistent with a role for Wnt signaling in HSC homeostasis. However, in assays of long-term HSC function, disruption of Gsk3 progressively depleted HSCs through activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). This long-term HSC depletion was prevented by mTOR inhibition and exacerbated by β-catenin knockout. Thus, GSK-3 regulated both Wnt and mTOR signaling in mouse HSCs, with these pathways promoting HSC self renewal and lineage commitment, respectively, such that inhibition of Gsk3 in the presence of rapamycin expanded the HSC pool in vivo. These findings identify unexpected functions for GSK-3 in mouse HSC homeostasis, suggest a therapeutic approach to expand HSCs in vivo using currently available medications that target GSK-3 and mTOR, and provide a compelling explanation for the clinically prevalent hematopoietic effects observed in individuals prescribed the GSK-3 inhibitor lithium.
The RNA-binding protein HuR (also known as ELAV1) binds to the 3′-untranslated region of mRNAs and regulates transcript stability and translation. However, the in vivo functions of HuR are not well understood. Here, we report that murine HuR is essential for life; postnatal global deletion of Elavl1 induced atrophy of hematopoietic organs, extensive loss of intestinal villi, obstructive enterocolitis, and lethality within 10 days. Upon Elavl1 deletion, progenitor cells in the BM, thymus, and intestine underwent apoptosis, whereas quiescent stem cells and differentiated cells were unaffected. The survival defect of hematopoietic progenitor cells was cell intrinsic, as transplant of Elavl1–/– BM led to compromised hematopoietic reconstitution but did not cause lethality. Expression of p53 and its downstream effectors critical for cell death were induced in progenitor cells as HuR levels declined. In mouse embryonic fibroblasts, HuR bound to and stabilized the mRNA for Mdm2, a critical negative regulator of p53. Furthermore, cell survival was restored by expression of Mdm2 in Elavl1–/– cells, suggesting that HuR keeps p53 levels in check in progenitor cells and thereby promotes cell survival. This regulation of cell stress response by HuR in progenitor cells, which we believe to be novel, could potentially be exploited in cytotoxic anticancer therapies as well as stem cell transplant therapy.
African green monkeys (AGMs) infected with the AGM type of SIV (SIVagm) do not develop chronic immune activation and AIDS, despite viral loads similar to those detected in humans infected with HIV-1 and rhesus macaques (RMs) infected with the RM type of SIV (SIVmac). Because chronic immune activation drives progressive CD4+ T cell depletion and immune cell dysfunctions, factors that characterize disease progression, we sought to understand the molecular basis of this AGM phenotype. To this end, we longitudinally assessed the gene expression profiles of blood- and lymph node–derived CD4+ cells from AGMs and RMs in response to SIVagm and SIVmac infection, respectively, using a genomic microarray platform. The molecular signature of acute infection was characterized, in both species, by strong upregulation of type I IFN–stimulated genes (ISGs). ISG expression returned to basal levels after postinfection day 28 in AGMs but was sustained in RMs, especially in the lymph node–derived cells. We also found that SIVagm induced IFN-α production by AGM cells in vitro and that low IFN-α levels were sufficient to induce strong ISG responses. In conclusion, SIV infection triggered a rapid and strong IFN-α response in vivo in both AGMs and RMs, with this response being efficiently controlled only in AGMs, possibly as a result of active regulatory mechanisms.
Natural SIV infection of sooty mangabeys (SMs) is nonprogressive despite chronic virus replication. Strikingly, it is characterized by low levels of immune activation, while pathogenic SIV infection of rhesus macaques (RMs) is associated with chronic immune activation. To elucidate the mechanisms underlying this intriguing phenotype, we used high-density oligonucleotide microarrays to longitudinally assess host gene expression in SIV-infected SMs and RMs. We found that acute SIV infection of SMs was consistently associated with a robust innate immune response, including widespread upregulation of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) in blood and lymph nodes. While SMs exhibited a rapid resolution of ISG expression and immune activation, both responses were observed chronically in RMs. Systems biology analysis indicated that expression of the lymphocyte inhibitory receptor LAG3, a marker of T cell exhaustion, correlated with immune activation in SIV-infected RMs but not SMs. Our findings suggest that active immune regulatory mechanisms, rather than intrinsically attenuated innate immune responses, underlie the low levels of immune activation characteristic of SMs chronically infected with SIV.
Th subsets are defined according to their production of lineage-indicating cytokines and functions. In this study, we have identified a subset of human Th cells that infiltrates the epidermis in individuals with inflammatory skin disorders and is characterized by the secretion of IL-22 and TNF-α, but not IFN-γ, IL-4, or IL-17. In analogy to the Th17 subset, cells with this cytokine profile have been named the Th22 subset. Th22 clones derived from patients with psoriasis were stable in culture and exhibited a transcriptome profile clearly separate from those of Th1, Th2, and Th17 cells; it included genes encoding proteins involved in tissue remodeling, such as FGFs, and chemokines involved in angiogenesis and fibrosis. Primary human keratinocytes exposed to Th22 supernatants expressed a transcriptome response profile that included genes involved in innate immune pathways and the induction and modulation of adaptive immunity. These proinflammatory Th22 responses were synergistically dependent on IL-22 and TNF-α. Furthermore, Th22 supernatants enhanced wound healing in an in vitro injury model, which was exclusively dependent on IL-22. In conclusion, the human Th22 subset may represent a separate T cell subset with a distinct identity with respect to gene expression and function, present within the epidermal layer in inflammatory skin diseases. Future strategies directed against the Th22 subset may be of value in chronic inflammatory skin disorders.
Intestinal ganglioneuromatosis is a benign proliferation of nerve ganglion cells, nerve fibers, and supporting cells of the enteric nervous system (ENS) that can result in abnormally large enteric neuronal cells (ENCs) in the myenteric plexus and chronic intestinal pseudoobstruction (CIPO). As phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) is a phosphatase that is critical for controlling cell growth, proliferation, and death, we investigated the role of PTEN in the ENS by generating mice with an embryonic, ENC-selective deletion within the Pten locus. Mutant mice died 2 to 3 weeks after birth, with clinical signs of CIPO and hyperplasia and hypertrophy of ENCs resulting from increased activity of the PI3K/PTEN-AKT-S6K signaling pathway. Further analysis revealed that PTEN was only expressed in developing mouse embryonic ENCs from E15.5 and that the rate of ENC proliferation decreased once PTEN was expressed. Specific deletion of the Pten gene in ENCs therefore induced hyperplasia and hypertrophy in the later stages of embryogenesis. This phenotype was reversed by administration of a pharmacological inhibitor of AKT. In some human ganglioneuromatosis forms of CIPO, PTEN expression was found to be abnormally low and S6 phosphorylation increased. Our study thus reveals that loss of PTEN disrupts development of the ENS and identifies the PI3K/PTEN-AKT-S6K signaling pathway as a potential therapeutic target for ganglioneuromatosis forms of CIPO.
Hypertension and its complications represent leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Although the cause of hypertension is unknown in most patients, genetic factors are recognized as contributing significantly to an individual’s lifetime risk of developing the condition. Here, we investigated the role of the G protein regulator phosducin (Pdc) in hypertension. Mice with a targeted deletion of the gene encoding Pdc (Pdc–/– mice) had increased blood pressure despite normal cardiac function and vascular reactivity, and displayed elevated catecholamine turnover in the peripheral sympathetic system. Isolated postganglionic sympathetic neurons from Pdc–/– mice showed prolonged action potential firing after stimulation with acetylcholine and increased firing frequencies during membrane depolarization. Furthermore, Pdc–/– mice displayed exaggerated increases in blood pressure in response to post-operative stress. Candidate gene–based association studies in 2 different human populations revealed several SNPs in the PDC gene to be associated with stress-dependent blood pressure phenotypes. Individuals homozygous for the G allele of an intronic PDC SNP (rs12402521) had 12–15 mmHg higher blood pressure than those carrying the A allele. These findings demonstrate that PDC is an important modulator of sympathetic activity and blood pressure and may thus represent a promising target for treatment of stress-dependent hypertension.
Membrane-bound proteases have recently emerged as critical mediators of tumorigenesis, angiogenesis, and metastasis. However, the mechanisms by which they regulate these processes remain unknown. As the cell surface serine protease fibroblast activation protein (FAP) is selectively expressed on tumor-associated fibroblasts and pericytes in epithelial tumors, we set out to investigate the role of FAP in mouse models of epithelial-derived solid tumors. In this study, we demonstrate that genetic deletion and pharmacologic inhibition of FAP inhibited tumor growth in both an endogenous mouse model of lung cancer driven by the K-rasG12D mutant and a mouse model of colon cancer, in which CT26 mouse colon cancer cells were transplanted into immune competent syngeneic mice. Interestingly, growth of only the K-rasG12D–driven lung tumors was also attenuated by inhibition of the closely related protease dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPPIV). Our results indicate that FAP depletion inhibits tumor cell proliferation indirectly, increases accumulation of collagen, decreases myofibroblast content, and decreases blood vessel density in tumors. These data provide proof of principle that targeting stromal cell–mediated modifications of the tumor microenvironment may be an effective approach to treating epithelial-derived solid tumors.
The polycomb group protein B lymphoma Mo-MLV insertion region 1 homolog (Bmi-1) is dysregulated in various cancers, and its upregulation strongly correlates with an invasive phenotype and poor prognosis in patients with nasopharyngeal carcinomas. However, the underlying mechanism of Bmi-1–mediated invasiveness remains unknown. In the current study, we found that upregulation of Bmi-1 induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and enhanced the motility and invasiveness of human nasopharyngeal epithelial cells, whereas silencing endogenous Bmi-1 expression reversed EMT and reduced motility. Furthermore, upregulation of Bmi-1 led to the stabilization of Snail, a transcriptional repressor associated with EMT, via modulation of PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signaling. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays revealed that Bmi-1 transcriptionally downregulated expression of the tumor suppressor PTEN in tumor cells through direct association with the PTEN locus. This in vitro analysis was consistent with the statistical inverse correlation detected between Bmi-1 and PTEN expression in a cohort of human nasopharyngeal carcinoma biopsies. Moreover, ablation of PTEN expression partially rescued the migratory/invasive phenotype of Bmi-1–silenced cells, indicating that PTEN might be a major mediator of Bmi-1–induced EMT. Our results provide functional and mechanistic links between the oncoprotein Bmi-1 and the tumor suppressor PTEN in the development and progression of cancer.
Vascular inflammation contributes to cardiovascular diseases such as aortic aneurysm and dissection. However, the precise inflammatory pathways involved have not been clearly defined. We have shown here that subcutaneous infusion of Ang II, a vasopressor known to promote vascular inflammation, into older C57BL/6J mice induced aortic production of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 and the monocyte chemoattractant MCP-1. Production of these factors occurred predominantly in the tunica adventitia, along with macrophage recruitment, adventitial expansion, and development of thoracic and suprarenal aortic dissections. In contrast, a reduced incidence of dissections was observed after Ang II infusion into mice lacking either IL-6 or the MCP-1 receptor CCR2. Further analysis revealed that Ang II induced CCR2+CD14hiCD11bhiF4/80– macrophage accumulation selectively in aortic dissections and not in aortas from Il6–/– mice. Adoptive transfer of Ccr2+/+ monocytes into Ccr2–/– mice resulted in selective monocyte uptake into the ascending and suprarenal aorta in regions of enhanced ROS stress, with restoration of IL-6 secretion and increased incidence of dissection. In vitro, coculture of monocytes and aortic adventitial fibroblasts produced MCP-1– and IL-6–enriched conditioned medium that promoted differentiation of monocytes into macrophages, induced CD14 and CD11b upregulation, and induced MCP-1 and MMP-9 expression. These results suggest that leukocyte-fibroblast interactions in the aortic adventitia potentiate IL-6 production, inducing local monocyte recruitment and activation, thereby promoting MCP-1 secretion, vascular inflammation, ECM remodeling, and aortic destabilization.
Lyme disease is caused by transmission of the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi from ticks to humans. Although much is known about B. burgdorferi replication, the routes and mechanisms by which it disseminates within the tick remain unclear. To better understand this process, we imaged live, infectious B. burgdorferi expressing a stably integrated, constitutively expressed GFP reporter. Using isolated tick midguts and salivary glands, we observed B. burgdorferi progress through the feeding tick via what we believe to be a novel, biphasic mode of dissemination. In the first phase, replicating spirochetes, positioned at varying depths throughout the midgut at the onset of feeding, formed networks of nonmotile organisms that advanced toward the basolateral surface of the epithelium while adhering to differentiating, hypertrophying, and detaching epithelial cells. In the second phase of dissemination, the nonmotile spirochetes transitioned into motile organisms that penetrated the basement membrane and entered the hemocoel, then migrated to and entered the salivary glands. We designated the first phase of dissemination “adherence-mediated migration” and provided evidence that it involves the inhibition of spirochete motility by one or more diffusible factors elaborated by the feeding tick midgut. Our studies, which we believe are the first to relate the transmission dynamics of spirochetes to the complex morphological and developmental changes that the midgut and salivary glands undergo during engorgement, challenge the conventional viewpoint that dissemination of Lyme disease–causing spirochetes within ticks is exclusively motility driven.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) interfere with translation of specific target mRNAs and are thought to thereby regulate many cellular processes. Recent studies have suggested that miRNAs might play a role in osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Here, we identify a new miRNA (miR-2861) in primary mouse osteoblasts that promotes osteoblast differentiation by repressing histone deacetylase 5 (HDAC5) expression at the post-transcriptional level. miR-2861 was found to be transcribed in ST2 stromal cells during bone morphogenetic protein 2–induced (BMP2-induced) osteogenesis, and overexpression of miR-2861 enhanced BMP2-induced osteoblastogenesis, whereas inhibition of miR-2861 expression attenuated it. HDAC5, an enhancer of runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2) degradation, was confirmed to be a target of miR-2861. In vivo silencing of miR-2861 in mice reduced Runx2 protein expression, inhibited bone formation, and decreased bone mass. Importantly, miR-2861 was found to be conserved in humans, and a homozygous mutation in pre–miR-2861 that blocked expression of miR-2861 was shown to cause primary osteoporosis in 2 related adolescents. Consistent with the mouse data, HDAC5 levels were increased and Runx2 levels decreased in bone samples from the 2 affected individuals. Thus, our studies show that miR-2861 plays an important physiological role in osteoblast differentiation and contributes to osteoporosis via its effect on osteoblasts.
Adult neural stem cells (aNSCs) derived from the subventricular zone of the brain show therapeutic effects in EAE, an animal model of the chronic inflammatory neurodegenerative disease MS; however, the beneficial effects are modest. One critical weakness of aNSC therapy may be an insufficient antiinflammatory effect. Here, we demonstrate that i.v. or i.c.v. injection of aNSCs engineered to secrete IL-10 (IL-10–aNSCs), a potent immunoregulatory cytokine, induced more profound functional and pathological recovery from ongoing EAE than that with control aNSCs. IL-10–aNSCs exhibited enhanced antiinflammatory effects in the periphery and inflammatory foci in the CNS compared with control aNSCs, more effectively reducing myelin damage, a hallmark of MS. When compared with mice treated with control aNSCs, those treated with IL-10–aNSCs demonstrated differentiation of transplanted cells into greater numbers of oligodendrocytes and neurons but fewer astrocytes, thus enhancing exogenous remyelination and neuron/axonal growth. Finally, IL-10–aNSCs converted a hostile environment to one supportive of neurons/oligodendrocytes, thereby promoting endogenous remyelination. Thus, aNSCs engineered to express IL-10 show enhanced ability to induce immune suppression, remyelination, and neuronal repair and may represent a novel approach that can substantially improve the efficacy of neural stem cell–based therapy in EAE/MS.
Ectopic cell cycle events (CCEs) mark vulnerable neuronal populations in human Alzheimer disease (AD) and are observed early in disease progression. In transgenic mouse models of AD, CCEs are found before the onset of β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) deposition to form senile plaques, a hallmark of AD. Here, we have demonstrated that alterations in brain microglia occur coincidently with the appearance of CCEs in the R1.40 transgenic mouse model of AD. Furthermore, promotion of inflammation with LPS at young ages in R1.40 mice induced the early appearance of neuronal CCEs, whereas treatment with 2 different nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) blocked neuronal CCEs and alterations in brain microglia without altering amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing and steady-state Aβ levels. In addition, NSAID treatment of older R1.40 animals prevented new neuronal CCEs, although it failed to reverse existing ones. Retrospective human epidemiological studies have identified long-term use of NSAIDs as protective against AD. Prospective clinical trials, however, have failed to demonstrate a similar benefit. Our use of CCEs as an outcome measure offers fresh insight into this discrepancy and provides important information for future clinical trials, as it suggests that NSAID use in human AD may need to be initiated as early as possible to prevent disease progression.
Most single-gene diseases, including muscular dystrophy, display a nonuniform phenotype. Phenotypic variability arises, in part, due to the presence of genetic modifiers that enhance or suppress the disease process. We employed an unbiased mapping approach to search for genes that modify muscular dystrophy in mice. In a genome-wide scan, we identified a single strong locus on chromosome 7 that influenced two pathological features of muscular dystrophy, muscle membrane permeability and muscle fibrosis. Within this genomic interval, an insertion/deletion polymorphism of 36 bp in the coding region of the latent TGF-β–binding protein 4 gene (Ltbp4) was found. Ltbp4 encodes a latent TGF-β–binding protein that sequesters TGF-β and regulates its availability for binding to the TGF-β receptor. Insertion of 12 amino acids into the proline-rich region of LTBP4 reduced proteolytic cleavage and was associated with reduced TGF-β signaling, decreased fibrosis, and improved muscle pathology in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy. In contrast, a 12-amino-acid deletion in LTBP4 was associated with increased proteolysis, SMAD signaling, and fibrosis. These data identify Ltbp4 as a target gene to regulate TGF-β signaling and modify outcomes in muscular dystrophy.
Milk fat globule epidermal growth factor 8 (Mfge8) is a soluble glycoprotein known to regulate inflammation and immunity by mediating apoptotic cell clearance. Since fibrosis can occur as a result of exaggerated apoptosis and inflammation, we set out to investigate the hypothesis that Mfge8 might negatively regulate tissue fibrosis. We report here that Mfge8 does decrease the severity of tissue fibrosis in a mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis; however, it does so not through effects on inflammation and apoptotic cell clearance, but by binding and targeting collagen for cellular uptake through its discoidin domains. Initial analysis revealed that Mfge8–/– mice exhibited enhanced pulmonary fibrosis after bleomycin-induced lung injury. However, they did not have increased inflammation or impaired apoptotic cell clearance after lung injury compared with Mfge8+/+ mice; rather, they had a defect in collagen turnover. Further experiments indicated that Mfge8 directly bound collagen and that Mfge8–/– macrophages exhibited defective collagen uptake that could be rescued by recombinant Mfge8 containing at least one discoidin domain. These data demonstrate a critical role for Mfge8 in decreasing the severity of murine tissue fibrosis by facilitating the removal of accumulated collagen.
The respiratory tract is continuously exposed to both innocuous airborne antigens and immunostimulatory molecules of microbial origin, such as LPS. At low concentrations, airborne LPS can induce a lung DC–driven Th2 cell response to harmless inhaled antigens, thereby promoting allergic asthma. However, only a small fraction of people exposed to environmental LPS develop allergic asthma. What prevents most people from mounting a lung DC–driven Th2 response upon exposure to LPS is not understood. Here we have shown that lung interstitial macrophages (IMs), a cell population with no previously described in vivo function, prevent induction of a Th2 response in mice challenged with LPS and an experimental harmless airborne antigen. IMs, but not alveolar macrophages, were found to produce high levels of IL-10 and to inhibit LPS-induced maturation and migration of DCs loaded with the experimental harmless airborne antigen in an IL-10–dependent manner. We further demonstrated that specific in vivo elimination of IMs led to overt asthmatic reactions to innocuous airborne antigens inhaled with low doses of LPS. This study has revealed a crucial role for IMs in maintaining immune homeostasis in the respiratory tract and provides an explanation for the paradox that although airborne LPS has the ability to promote the induction of Th2 responses by lung DCs, it does not provoke airway allergy under normal conditions.
Cutaneous wounds heal more slowly in elderly males than in elderly females, suggesting a role for sex hormones in the healing process. Indeed, androgen/androgen receptor (AR) signaling has been shown to inhibit cutaneous wound healing. AR is expressed in several cell types in healing skin, including keratinocytes, dermal fibroblasts, and infiltrating macrophages, but the exact role of androgen/AR signaling in these different cell types remains unclear. To address this question, we generated and studied cutaneous wound healing in cell-specific AR knockout (ARKO) mice. General and myeloid-specific ARKO mice exhibited accelerated wound healing compared with WT mice, whereas keratinocyte- and fibroblast-specific ARKO mice did not. Importantly, the rate of wound healing in the general ARKO mice was dependent on AR and not serum androgen levels. Interestingly, although dispensable for wound closure, keratinocyte AR promoted re-epithelialization, while fibroblast AR suppressed it. Further analysis indicated that AR suppressed wound healing by enhancing the inflammatory response through a localized increase in TNF-α expression. Furthermore, AR enhanced local TNF-α expression via multiple mechanisms, including increasing the inflammatory monocyte population, enhancing monocyte chemotaxis by upregulating CCR2 expression, and enhancing TNF-α expression in macrophages. Finally, targeting AR by topical application of a compound (ASC-J9) that degrades AR protein resulted in accelerated healing, suggesting a potential new therapeutic approach that may lead to better treatment of wound healing.
Studies in rodents have shown that male sexual function can be disrupted by fetal or neonatal administration of compounds that alter endocrine homeostasis, such as the synthetic nonsteroidal estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES). Although the molecular basis for this effect remains unknown, estrogen receptors likely play a critical role in mediating DES-induced infertility. Recently, we showed that the orphan nuclear receptor small heterodimer partner (Nr0b2), which is both a target gene and a transcriptional repressor of estrogen receptors, controls testicular function by regulating germ cell entry into meiosis and testosterone synthesis. We therefore hypothesized that some of the harmful effects of DES on testes could be mediated through Nr0b2. Here, we present data demonstrating that Nr0b2 deficiency protected mice against the negative effects of DES on testis development and function. During postnatal development, Nr0b2-null mice were resistant to DES-mediated inhibition of germ cell differentiation, which may be the result of interference by Nr0b2 with retinoid signals that control meiosis. Adult Nr0b2-null male mice were also protected against the effects of DES; however, we suggest that this phenomenon was due to the removal of the repressive effects of Nr0b2 on steroidogenesis. Together, these data demonstrate that Nr0b2 plays a critical role in the pathophysiological changes induced by DES in the mouse testis.
Familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (FHL) is a genetically heterogeneous autosomal recessive immune disorder characterized by the occurrence of uncontrolled activation of lymphocytes and macrophages infiltrating multiple organs. Disease-causing mutations in the perforin (PRF1; also known as FHL2), Munc13-4 (UNC13D; also known as FHL3), and syntaxin-11 (STX11; also known as FHL4) genes have been identified in individuals with FHL. These genes all encode proteins involved in the cytotoxic activity of lymphocytes. Here, we show that the gene encoding syntaxin-binding protein 2 (Munc18-2; official gene symbol STXBP2) is mutated in another subset of patients with FHL (designated by us as “FHL5”). Lymphoblasts isolated from these patients had strongly decreased STXBP2 protein expression, and NK cells exhibited impaired cytotoxic granule exocytosis, a defect that could be overcome by ectopic expression of wild-type STXBP2. Furthermore, we provide evidence that syntaxin-11 is the main partner of STXBP2 in lymphocytes, as its expression required the presence of STXBP2. Our work shows that STXBP2 deficiency causes FHL5. These data indicate that STXBP2 is required at a late step of the secretory pathway for the release of cytotoxic granules by binding syntaxin 11, another component of the intracellular membrane fusion machinery.
When used as therapy for hematopoietic malignancies, allogeneic BM transplantation (BMT) relies on the graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect to eradicate residual tumor cells through immunologic mechanisms. However, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which is initiated by alloreactive donor T cells that recognize mismatched major and/or minor histocompatibility antigens and cause severe damage to hematopoietic and epithelial tissues, is a potentially lethal complication of allogeneic BMT. To enhance the therapeutic potential of BMT, we sought to find therapeutic targets that could inhibit GVHD while preserving GVL and immune responses to infectious agents. We show here that T cell responses triggered in mice by either Listeria monocytogenes or administration of antigen and adjuvant were relatively well preserved in the absence of PKC isoform θ (PKCθ), a key regulator of TCR signaling. In contrast, PKCθ was required for alloreactivity and GVHD induction. Furthermore, absence of PKCθ raised the threshold for T cell activation, which selectively affected alloresponses. Most importantly, PKCθ-deficient T cells retained the ability to respond to virus infection and to induce GVL effect after BMT. These findings suggest PKCθ is a potentially unique therapeutic target required for GVHD induction but not for GVL or protective responses to infectious agents.
In noncontractile cells, increases in intracellular Ca2+ concentration serve as a second messenger to signal proliferation, differentiation, metabolism, motility, and cell death. Many of these Ca2+-dependent regulatory processes operate in cardiomyocytes, although it remains unclear how Ca2+ serves as a second messenger given the high Ca2+ concentrations that control contraction. T-type Ca2+ channels are reexpressed in adult ventricular myocytes during pathologic hypertrophy, although their physiologic function remains unknown. Here we generated cardiac-specific transgenic mice with inducible expression of α1G, which generates Cav3.1 current, to investigate whether this type of Ca2+ influx mechanism regulates the cardiac hypertrophic response. Unexpectedly, α1G transgenic mice showed no cardiac pathology despite large increases in Ca2+ influx, and they were even partially resistant to pressure overload–, isoproterenol-, and exercise-induced cardiac hypertrophy. Conversely, α1G–/– mice displayed enhanced hypertrophic responses following pressure overload or isoproterenol infusion. Enhanced hypertrophy and disease in α1G–/– mice was rescued with the α1G transgene, demonstrating a myocyte-autonomous requirement of α1G for protection. Mechanistically, α1G interacted with NOS3, which augmented cGMP-dependent protein kinase type I activity in α1G transgenic hearts after pressure overload. Further, the anti-hypertrophic effect of α1G overexpression was abrogated by a NOS3 inhibitor and by crossing the mice onto the Nos3–/– background. Thus, cardiac α1G reexpression and its associated pool of T-type Ca2+ antagonize cardiac hypertrophy through a NOS3-dependent signaling mechanism.
Cardiac complications are a common cause of death in individuals with the inherited multisystemic disease myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1). A characteristic molecular feature of DM1 is misregulated alternative splicing due to disrupted functioning of the splicing regulators muscleblind-like 1 (MBNL1) and CUG-binding protein 1 (CUGBP1). CUGBP1 is upregulated in DM1 due to PKC pathway activation and subsequent CUGBP1 protein hyperphosphorylation and stabilization. Here, we blocked PKC activity in a heart-specific DM1 mouse model to determine its pathogenic role in DM1. Animals given PKC inhibitors exhibited substantially increased survival that correlated with reduced phosphorylation and decreased steady-state levels of CUGBP1. Functional studies demonstrated that PKC inhibition ameliorated the cardiac conduction defects and contraction abnormalities found in this mouse model. The inhibitor also reduced misregulation of splicing events regulated by CUGBP1 but not those regulated by MBNL1, suggesting distinct roles for these proteins in DM1 cardiac pathogenesis. The PKC inhibitor did not reduce mortality in transgenic mice with heart-specific CUGBP1 upregulation, indicating that PKC inhibition did not have a general protective effect on PKC-independent CUGBP1 increase. Our results suggest that pharmacological blockade of PKC activity mitigates the DM1 cardiac phenotype and provide strong evidence for a role for the PKC pathway in DM1 pathogenesis.
Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a proinflammatory cytokine that also modulates physiologic cell signaling pathways. MIF is expressed in cardiomyocytes and limits cardiac injury by enhancing AMPK activity during ischemia. Reperfusion injury is mediated in part by activation of the stress kinase JNK, but whether MIF modulates JNK in this setting is unknown. We examined the role of MIF in regulating JNK activation and cardiac injury during experimental ischemia/reperfusion in mouse hearts. Isolated perfused Mif–/– hearts had greater contractile dysfunction, necrosis, and JNK activation than WT hearts, with increased upstream MAPK kinase 4 phosphorylation, following ischemia/reperfusion. These effects were reversed if recombinant MIF was present during reperfusion, indicating that MIF deficiency during reperfusion exacerbated injury. Activated JNK acts in a proapoptotic manner by regulating BCL2-associated agonist of cell death (BAD) phosphorylation, and this effect was accentuated in Mif–/– hearts after ischemia/reperfusion. Similar detrimental effects of MIF deficiency were observed in vivo following coronary occlusion and reperfusion in Mif–/– mice. Importantly, excess JNK activation also was observed after hypoxia-reoxygenation in human fibroblasts homozygous for the MIF allele with the lowest level of promoter activity. These data indicate that endogenous MIF inhibits JNK pathway activation during reperfusion and protects the heart from injury. These findings have clinical implications for patients with the low-expression MIF allele.
Oxidative myofibers, also known as slow-twitch myofibers, help maintain the metabolic health of mammals, and it has been proposed that decreased numbers correlate with increased risk of obesity. The transcriptional coactivator PPARγ coactivator 1α (PGC-1α) plays a central role in maintaining levels of oxidative myofibers in skeletal muscle. Indeed, loss of PGC-1α expression has been linked to a reduction in the proportion of oxidative myofibers in the skeletal muscle of obese mice. MAPK phosphatase-1 (MKP-1) is encoded by mkp-1, a stress-responsive immediate-early gene that dephosphorylates MAPKs in the nucleus. Previously we showed that mice deficient in MKP-1 have enhanced energy expenditure and are resistant to diet-induced obesity. Here we show in mice that excess dietary fat induced MKP-1 overexpression in skeletal muscle, and that this resulted in reduced p38 MAPK–mediated phosphorylation of PGC-1α on sites that promoted its stability. Consistent with this, MKP-1–deficient mice expressed higher levels of PGC-1α in skeletal muscle than did wild-type mice and were refractory to the loss of oxidative myofibers when fed a high-fat diet. Collectively, these data demonstrate an essential role for MKP-1 as a regulator of the myofiber composition of skeletal muscle and suggest a potential role for MKP-1 in metabolic syndrome.
Growth hormone (GH) is a major metabolic regulator that functions by stimulating lipolysis, preventing protein catabolism, and decreasing insulin-dependent glucose disposal. Modulation of hepatic sensitivity to GH and the downstream effects on the GH/IGF1 axis are important events in the regulation of metabolism in response to variations in food availability. For example, during periods of reduced nutrient availability, the liver becomes resistant to GH actions. However, the mechanisms controlling hepatic GH resistance are currently unknown. Here, we investigated the role of 2 tetraspanning membrane proteins, leptin receptor overlapping transcript (LEPROT; also known as OB-RGRP) and LEPROT-like 1 (LEPROTL1), in controlling GH sensitivity. Transgenic mice expressing either human LEPROT or human LEPROTL1 displayed growth retardation, reduced plasma IGF1 levels, and impaired hepatic sensitivity to GH, as measured by STAT5 phosphorylation and Socs2 mRNA expression. These phenotypes were accentuated in transgenic mice expressing both proteins. Moreover, gene silencing of either endogenous Leprot or Leprotl1 in H4IIE hepatocytes increased GH signaling and enhanced cell-surface GH receptor. Importantly, we found that both LEPROT and LEPROTL1 expression were regulated in the mouse liver by physiologic and pathologic changes in glucose homeostasis. Together, these data provide evidence that LEPROT and LEPROTL1 influence liver GH signaling and that regulation of the genes encoding these proteins may constitute a molecular link between nutritional signals and GH actions on body growth and metabolism.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation