Colored scanning electron micrograph of an adipocyte. White adipose tissue plays an
important role in regulating metabolism, and its inflammation is linked to insulin
resistance. Wueest and colleagues report that expression of the death receptor Fas is
elevated in adipose tissue in genetic and nutritional models of obesity in mice and in
the adipose tissue of patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes, and show that Fas is a
regulator of obesity-associated adipose tissue inflammation, hepatic steatosis, and
insulin resistance (page 191).
Photo credit: Photo Researchers Inc.
The regular articles and technical advances published in this issue are an average of 9,050 words, with 8.4 display items (figures and tables). Do we always need so many words to convey a message? We think not. With this editorial, we issue a call for brief reports.
Over the last decade, a remarkable number of papers have been published in which the biology of stem cells is introduced with words and phrases such as “promise,” “rapid progress,” and “future therapies.” To separate myth and hype from reality, the articles in this Stem Cells Review series comprise a rich resource on the state of this fast-paced field and provide a balanced perspective on some of the major advances. They recount what the field has achieved over the past decade and where the field is headed. They also highlight the challenges to be faced in translating what is indeed highly promising science into proven therapies that will regenerate and repair diseased tissues.
Skeletal muscle damaged by injury or by degenerative diseases such as muscular dystrophy is able to regenerate new muscle fibers. Regeneration mainly depends upon satellite cells, myogenic progenitors localized between the basal lamina and the muscle fiber membrane. However, other cell types outside the basal lamina, such as pericytes, also have myogenic potency. Here, we discuss the main properties of satellite cells and other myogenic progenitors as well as recent efforts to obtain myogenic cells from pluripotent stem cells for patient-tailored cell therapy. Clinical trials utilizing these cells to treat muscular dystrophies, heart failure, and stress urinary incontinence are also briefly outlined.
The ability to create new functional cardiomyocytes is the holy grail of cardiac regenerative medicine. From studies using model organisms, new insights into the fundamental pathways that drive heart muscle regeneration have begun to arise as well as a growing knowledge of the distinct families of multipotent cardiovascular progenitors that generate diverse lineages during heart development. In this Review, we highlight this intersection of the “pregenerative” biology of heart progenitor cells and heart regeneration and discuss the longer term challenges and opportunities in moving toward a therapeutic goal of regenerative cardiovascular medicine.
Stem cell–based approaches have received much hype as potential treatments for neurodegenerative disorders. Indeed, transplantation of stem cells or their derivatives in animal models of neurodegenerative diseases can improve function by replacing the lost neurons and glial cells and by mediating remyelination, trophic actions, and modulation of inflammation. Endogenous neural stem cells are also potential therapeutic targets because they produce neurons and glial cells in response to injury and could be affected by the degenerative process. As we discuss here, however, significant hurdles remain before these findings can be responsibly translated to novel therapies. In particular, we need to better understand the mechanisms of action of stem cells after transplantation and learn how to control stem cell proliferation, survival, migration, and differentiation in the pathological environment.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a subpopulation of tumor cells that selectively possess tumor initiation and self-renewal capacity and the ability to give rise to bulk populations of nontumorigenic cancer cell progeny through differentiation. As we discuss here, they have been prospectively identified in several human malignancies, and their relative abundance in clinical cancer specimens has been correlated with malignant disease progression in human patients. Furthermore, recent findings suggest that clinical cancer progression driven by CSCs may contribute to the failure of existing therapies to consistently eradicate malignant tumors. Therefore, CSC-directed therapeutic approaches might represent translationally relevant strategies to improve clinical cancer therapy, in particular for those malignancies that are currently refractory to conventional anticancer agents directed predominantly at tumor bulk populations.
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are generated by epigenetic reprogramming of somatic cells through the exogenous expression of transcription factors. These cells, just like embryonic stem cells, are likely to have a major impact on regenerative medicine, because they self-renew and retain the potential to be differentiated into all cell types of the human body. In this Review, we describe the current state of iPS cell technology, including approaches by which they are generated and what is known about their biology, and discuss the potential applications of these cells for disease modeling, drug discovery, and, eventually, cell replacement therapy.
Enabling stem cell–targeted therapies requires an understanding of how to create local microenvironments (niches) that stimulate endogenous stem cells or serve as a platform to receive and guide the integration of transplanted stem cells and their derivatives. In vivo, the stem cell niche is a complex and dynamic unit. Although components of the in vivo niche continue to be described for many stem cell systems, how these components interact to modulate stem cell fate is only beginning to be understood. Using the HSC niche as a model, we discuss here microscale engineering strategies capable of systematically examining and reconstructing individual niche components. Synthetic stem cell–niche engineering may form a new foundation for regenerative therapies.
Discussion of the bioethics of human stem cell research has transitioned from controversies over the source of human embryonic stem cells to concerns about the ethical use of stem cells in basic and clinical research. Key areas in this evolving ethical discourse include the derivation and use of other human embryonic stem cell–like stem cells that have the capacity to differentiate into all types of human tissue and the use of all types of stem cells in clinical research. Each of these issues is discussed as I summarize the past, present, and future bioethical issues in stem cell research.
Attenuating coinhibitory molecules for the treatment of cancer is gaining a great deal of attention as a strategy for immunotherapy. The B and T lymphocyte attenuator (BTLA, CD272) is a novel coinhibitory molecule structurally and functionally related to CTLA-4 and PD-1. A study in this issue of the JCI by Derré et al. reveals that BTLA is expressed on virus-specific human CD8+ T cells but is progressively downregulated after their differentiation from a naive to effector phenotype (see the related article beginning on page 157). Surprisingly, tumor-specific human CD8+ T cells continue to express BTLA even after their differentiation to an effector phenotype. Remarkably, vaccination of melanoma patients with CpG led to BTLA downregulation on tumor-specific human CD8+ T cells, concomitant with restoration of their functionality. We discuss these findings in the context of the expanding field of cosignaling molecules and their implications for T cell–based therapies for cancer.
Voltage-dependent sodium channels are the central players in the excitability of neurons, cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle. Hundreds of mutations in sodium channels have been associated with human disease, particularly genetic forms of epilepsy, arrhythmias, myotonia, and periodic paralysis. In this issue of the JCI, Jarecki and colleagues present evidence suggesting that many such mutations alter the gating of sodium channels to produce resurgent sodium current, an unusual form of gating in which sodium channels reopen following an action potential, thus promoting the firing of another action potential (see the related article beginning on page 369). The results of this study suggest a widespread pathophysiological role for this mechanism, previously described to occur normally in only a few types of neurons.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a dominantly inherited disease that is characterized by the growth of multiple benign tumors that are often difficult to treat. TSC is caused by mutations that inactivate the TSC1 or TSC2 genes, which normally function to inhibit activation of mammalian target of rapamycin signaling. In this issue of the JCI, two studies reported by Karbowniczek et al. and Ma et al. link TSC inactivation with activated Notch signaling (see the related articles beginning on pages 93 and 103, respectively). Using a variety of approaches, both studies show that inactivation of TSC leads to Notch1 activation. Furthermore, studies in tumor cells suggest that inhibiting Notch slows growth of the tumor cells. Although much remains to be learned about the precise mechanisms by which TSC loss leads to Notch activation, the newly identified link of TSC to Notch provides the rationale for testing Notch inhibitors in TSC-associated tumors.
Connexin 43 (Cx43) is the major protein component of gap junctions that electrically couple cardiomyocytes at the intercalated disc. Oxidant stress, reduced Cx43 expression, and altered subcellular localization are present in many forms of structural heart disease. These changes in Cx43 lead to alterations in electrical conduction in the ventricle and predispose to lethal cardiac arrhythmias. In their study in this issue of the JCI, Smyth et al. tested the hypothesis that oxidant stress perturbs connexon forward trafficking along microtubules to gap junctions (see the related article beginning on page 266). Failing human ventricular myocardium exhibited a reduction in Cx43 and the microtubule-capping protein EB1 at intercalated discs. Oxidant stress in the adult mouse heart reduced N-cadherin, EB1, and Cx43 colocalization. In HeLa cells and neonatal mouse ventricular myocytes, peroxide exposure displaced EB1 from the plus ends of microtubules and altered microtubule dynamics. Mutational disruption of the EB1-tubulin interaction mimicked the effects of oxidant stress, including a reduction in surface Cx43 expression. These data provide important new molecular insights into the regulation of Cx43 at gap junctions and may identify targets for preservation of cellular coupling in the diseased heart.
Arterial injury results in the formation of neointimal lesions. Lack of resolution of the pathologic neointima leads to stenosis, tissue ischemia, and organ dysfunction. In this issue of the JCI, Kovacic et al. show that, in response to arterial injury in mice, the cytokine TNF-α triggers a novel signaling pathway involving the combinatorial action of two transcription factors, STAT3 and NF-κB (p65 subunit), in VSMCs (see the related article beginning on page 303). Upon activation, these factors turn on transcription of a potent T cell chemokine, RANTES, which selectively recruits T cells into the vessel wall as part of the vascular wound–healing response.
Mutations in either of the genes encoding the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), TSC1 and TSC2, result in a multisystem tumor disorder characterized by lesions with unusual lineage expression patterns. How these unusual cell-fate determination patterns are generated is unclear. We therefore investigated the role of the TSC in the Drosophila external sensory organ (ESO), a classic model of asymmetric cell division. In normal development, the sensory organ precursor cell divides asymmetrically through differential regulation of Notch signaling to produce a pIIa and a pIIb cell. We report here that inactivation of Tsc1 and overexpression of the Ras homolog Rheb each resulted in duplication of the bristle and socket cells, progeny of the pIIa cell, and loss of the neuronal cell, a product of pIIb cell division. Live imaging of ESO development revealed this cell-fate switch occurred at the pIIa-pIIb 2-cell stage. In human angiomyolipomas, benign renal neoplasms often found in tuberous sclerosis patients, we found evidence of Notch receptor cleavage and Notch target gene activation. Further, an angiomyolipoma-derived cell line carrying biallelic TSC2 mutations exhibited TSC2- and Rheb-dependent Notch activation. Finally, inhibition of Notch signaling using a γ-secretase inhibitor suppressed proliferation of Tsc2-null rat cells in a xenograft model. Together, these data indicate that the TSC and Rheb regulate Notch-dependent cell-fate decision in Drosophila and Notch activity in mammalian cells and that Notch dysregulation may underlie some of the distinctive clinical and pathologic features of TSC.
The receptor tyrosine kinase/PI3K/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (RTK/PI3K/AKT/mTOR) pathway is frequently altered in cancer, but the underlying mechanism leading to tumorigenesis by activated mTOR remains less clear. Here we show that mTOR is a positive regulator of Notch signaling in mouse and human cells, acting through induction of the STAT3/p63/Jagged signaling cascade. Furthermore, in response to differential cues from mTOR, we found that Notch served as a molecular switch to shift the balance between cell proliferation and differentiation. We determined that hyperactive mTOR signaling impaired cell differentiation of murine embryonic fibroblasts via potentiation of Notch signaling. Elevated mTOR signaling strongly correlated with enhanced Notch signaling in poorly differentiated but not in well-differentiated human breast cancers. Both human lung lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) and mouse kidney tumors with hyperactive mTOR due to tumor suppressor TSC1 or TSC2 deficiency exhibited enhanced STAT3/p63/Notch signaling. Furthermore, tumorigenic potential of cells with uncontrolled mTOR signaling was suppressed by Notch inhibition. Our data therefore suggest that perturbation of cell differentiation by augmented Notch signaling might be responsible for the underdifferentiated phenotype displayed by certain tumors with an aberrantly activated RTK/PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway. Additionally, the STAT3/p63/Notch axis may be a useful target for the treatment of cancers exhibiting hyperactive mTOR signaling.
Pancreatic β cell failure is thought to underlie the progression from glucose intolerance to overt diabetes, and ER stress is implicated in such β cell dysfunction. We have now shown that the transcription factor CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein β (C/EBPβ) accumulated in the islets of diabetic animal models as a result of ER stress before the onset of hyperglycemia. Transgenic overexpression of C/EBPβ specifically in β cells of mice reduced β cell mass and lowered plasma insulin levels, resulting in the development of diabetes. Conversely, genetic ablation of C/EBPβ in the β cells of mouse models of diabetes, including Akita mice, which harbor a heterozygous mutation in Ins2 (Ins2WT/C96Y), and leptin receptor–deficient (Lepr–/–) mice, resulted in an increase in β cell mass and ameliorated hyperglycemia. The accumulation of C/EBPβ in pancreatic β cells reduced the abundance of the molecular chaperone glucose-regulated protein of 78 kDa (GRP78) as a result of suppression of the transactivation activity of the transcription factor ATF6α, thereby increasing the vulnerability of these cells to excess ER stress. Our results thus indicate that the accumulation of C/EBPβ in pancreatic β cells contributes to β cell failure in mice by enhancing susceptibility to ER stress.
Tumor hypoxia is a common microenvironmental factor that adversely influences tumor phenotype and treatment response. Cellular adaptation to hypoxia occurs through multiple mechanisms, including activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR). Recent reports have indicated that hypoxia activates a lysosomal degradation pathway known as autophagy, and here we show that the UPR enhances the capacity of hypoxic tumor cells to carry out autophagy, and that this promotes their survival. In several human cancer cell lines, hypoxia increased transcription of the essential autophagy genes microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3β (MAP1LC3B) and autophagy-related gene 5 (ATG5) through the transcription factors ATF4 and CHOP, respectively, which are regulated by PKR-like ER kinase (PERK, also known as EIF2AK3). MAP1LC3B and ATG5 are not required for initiation of autophagy but mediate phagophore expansion and autophagosome formation. We observed that transcriptional induction of MAP1LC3B replenished MAP1LC3B protein that was turned over during extensive hypoxia-induced autophagy. Correspondingly, cells deficient in PERK signaling failed to transcriptionally induce MAP1LC3B and became rapidly depleted of MAP1LC3B protein during hypoxia. Consistent with these data, autophagy and MAP1LC3B induction occurred preferentially in hypoxic regions of human tumor xenografts. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of autophagy sensitized human tumor cells to hypoxia, reduced the fraction of viable hypoxic tumor cells, and sensitized xenografted human tumors to irradiation. Our data therefore demonstrate that the UPR is an important mediator of the hypoxic tumor microenvironment and that it contributes to resistance to treatment through its ability to facilitate autophagy.
The traditional view is that cancer cells predominately produce ATP by glycolysis, rather than by oxidation of energy-providing substrates. Mitochondrial uncoupling — the continuing reduction of oxygen without ATP synthesis — has recently been shown in leukemia cells to circumvent the ability of oxygen to inhibit glycolysis, and may promote the metabolic preference for glycolysis by shifting from pyruvate oxidation to fatty acid oxidation (FAO). Here we have demonstrated that pharmacologic inhibition of FAO with etomoxir or ranolazine inhibited proliferation and sensitized human leukemia cells — cultured alone or on bone marrow stromal cells — to apoptosis induction by ABT-737, a molecule that releases proapoptotic Bcl-2 proteins such as Bak from antiapoptotic family members. Likewise, treatment with the fatty acid synthase/lipolysis inhibitor orlistat also sensitized leukemia cells to ABT-737, which supports the notion that fatty acids promote cell survival. Mechanistically, we generated evidence suggesting that FAO regulates the activity of Bak-dependent mitochondrial permeability transition. Importantly, etomoxir decreased the number of quiescent leukemia progenitor cells in approximately 50% of primary human acute myeloid leukemia samples and, when combined with either ABT-737 or cytosine arabinoside, provided substantial therapeutic benefit in a murine model of leukemia. The results support the concept of FAO inhibitors as a therapeutic strategy in hematological malignancies.
The function of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells, which may protect against both infectious and malignant diseases, can be impaired by ligation of their inhibitory receptors, which include CTL-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) and programmed cell death 1 (PD-1). Recently, B and T lymphocyte attenuator (BTLA) was identified as a novel inhibitory receptor with structural and functional similarities to CTLA-4 and PD-1. BTLA triggering leads to decreased antimicrobial and autoimmune T cell responses in mice, but its functions in humans are largely unknown. Here we have demonstrated that as human viral antigen–specific CD8+ T cells differentiated from naive to effector cells, their surface expression of BTLA was gradually downregulated. In marked contrast, human melanoma tumor antigen–specific effector CD8+ T cells persistently expressed high levels of BTLA in vivo and remained susceptible to functional inhibition by its ligand herpes virus entry mediator (HVEM). Such persistence of BTLA expression was also found in tumor antigen–specific CD8+ T cells from melanoma patients with spontaneous antitumor immune responses and after conventional peptide vaccination. Remarkably, addition of CpG oligodeoxynucleotides to the vaccine formulation led to progressive downregulation of BTLA in vivo and consequent resistance to BTLA-HVEM–mediated inhibition. Thus, BTLA activation inhibits the function of human CD8+ cancer-specific T cells, and appropriate immunotherapy may partially overcome this inhibition.
Immunity to infections relies on clonal expansion of CD8+ T cells, their maintenance as effector CTLs, and their selection into a memory population. These processes rely on delivery of survival signals to activated CD8+ T cells. We here reveal the mechanism by which costimulatory CD27-CD70 interactions sustain survival of CD8+ effector T cells in infected tissue. By unbiased genome-wide gene expression analysis, we identified the Il2 gene as the most prominent CD27 target gene in murine CD8+ T cells. In vitro, CD27 directed IL-2 expression and promoted clonal expansion of primed CD8+ T cells exclusively by IL-2–dependent survival signaling. In mice intranasally infected with influenza virus, Cd27–/– CD8+ effector T cells displayed reduced IL-2 production, accompanied by impaired accumulation in lymphoid organs and in the lungs, which constitute the tissue effector site. Reconstitution of Cd27–/– CD8+ T cells with the IL2 gene restored their accumulation to wild-type levels in the lungs, but it did not rescue their accumulation in lymphoid organs. Competition experiments showed that the IL-2 produced under the control of CD27 supported effector CD8+ T cell survival in the lungs in an autocrine manner. We conclude that CD27 signaling directs the IL-2 production that is reportedly essential to sustain survival of virus-specific CTLs in nonlymphoid tissue.
The nature of the in vivo cellular events underlying thrombus formation mediated by platelet activation remains unclear because of the absence of a modality for analysis. Lymphocyte adaptor protein (Lnk; also known as Sh2b3) is an adaptor protein that inhibits thrombopoietin-mediated signaling, and as a result, megakaryocyte and platelet counts are elevated in Lnk–/– mice. Here we describe an unanticipated role for Lnk in stabilizing thrombus formation and clarify the activities of Lnk in platelets transduced through integrin αIIbβ3–mediated outside-in signaling. We equalized platelet counts in wild-type and Lnk–/– mice by using genetic depletion of Lnk and BM transplantation. Using FeCl3- or laser-induced injury and in vivo imaging that enabled observation of single platelet behavior and the multiple steps in thrombus formation, we determined that Lnk is an essential contributor to the stabilization of developing thrombi within vessels. Lnk–/– platelets exhibited a reduced ability to fully spread on fibrinogen and mediate clot retraction, reduced tyrosine phosphorylation of the β3 integrin subunit, and reduced binding of Fyn to integrin αIIbβ3. These results provide new insight into the mechanism of αIIbβ3-based outside-in signaling, which appears to be coordinated in platelets by Lnk, Fyn, and integrins. Outside-in signaling modulators could represent new therapeutic targets for the prevention of cardiovascular events.
Adipose tissue inflammation is linked to the pathogenesis of insulin resistance. In addition to exerting death-promoting effects, the death receptor Fas (also known as CD95) can activate inflammatory pathways in several cell lines and tissues, although little is known about the metabolic consequence of Fas activation in adipose tissue. We therefore sought to investigate the contribution of Fas in adipocytes to obesity-associated metabolic dysregulation. Fas expression was markedly increased in the adipocytes of common genetic and diet-induced mouse models of obesity and insulin resistance, as well as in the adipose tissue of obese and type 2 diabetic patients. Mice with Fas deficiency either in all cells or specifically in adipocytes (the latter are referred to herein as AFasKO mice) were protected from deterioration of glucose homeostasis induced by high-fat diet (HFD). Adipocytes in AFasKO mice were more insulin sensitive than those in wild-type mice, and mRNA levels of proinflammatory factors were reduced in white adipose tissue. Moreover, AFasKO mice were protected against hepatic steatosis and were more insulin sensitive, both at the whole-body level and in the liver. Thus, Fas in adipocytes contributes to adipose tissue inflammation, hepatic steatosis, and insulin resistance induced by obesity and may constitute a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Although supraphysiological concentrations of urea are known to increase oxidative stress in cultured cells, it is generally thought that the elevated levels of urea in chronic renal failure patients have negligible toxicity. We previously demonstrated that ROS increase intracellular protein modification by O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc), and others showed that increased modification of insulin signaling molecules by O-GlcNAc reduces insulin signal transduction. Because both oxidative stress and insulin resistance have been observed in patients with end-stage renal disease, we sought to determine the role of urea in these phenotypes. Treatment of 3T3-L1 adipocytes with urea at disease-relevant concentrations induced ROS production, caused insulin resistance, increased expression of adipokines retinol binding protein 4 (RBP4) and resistin, and increased O-GlcNAc–modified insulin signaling molecules. Investigation of a mouse model of surgically induced renal failure (uremic mice) revealed increased ROS production, modification of insulin signaling molecules by O-GlcNAc, and increased expression of RBP4 and resistin in visceral adipose tissue. Uremic mice also displayed insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, and treatment with an antioxidant SOD/catalase mimetic normalized these defects. The SOD/catalase mimetic treatment also prevented the development of insulin resistance in normal mice after urea infusion. These data suggest that therapeutic targeting of urea-induced ROS may help reduce the high morbidity and mortality caused by end-stage renal disease.
CD20 was the first B cell differentiation antigen identified, and CD20-specific mAbs are commonly used for the treatment of B cell malignancies and autoantibody-mediated autoimmune diseases. Despite this the role of CD20 in human B cell physiology has remained elusive. We describe here a juvenile patient with CD20 deficiency due to a homozygous mutation in a splice junction of the CD20 gene (also known as MS4A1) that results in “cryptic” splicing and nonfunctional mRNA species. Analysis of this patient has led us to conclude that CD20 has a central role in the generation of T cell–independent (TI) antibody responses. Key evidence to support this conclusion was provided by the observation that although antigen-independent B cells developed normally in the absence of CD20 expression, antibody formation, particularly after vaccination with TI antigens, was strongly impaired in the patient. Consistent with this, TI antipolysaccharide B cell responses were severely impeded in CD20-deficient mice. Our study therefore identifies what we believe to be a novel type of humoral immunodeficiency caused by CD20 deficiency and characterized by normal development of antigen-independent B cells, along with a reduced capacity to mount proper antibody responses.
The epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes is a crucial event during carcinogenesis and metastasis. Here, in a human genome-wide survey, we identified scavenger receptor class A, member 5 (SCARA5) as a candidate tumor suppressor gene located on chromosome 8p. We found that SCARA5 expression was frequently downregulated as a result of promoter hypermethylation and allelic imbalance and was associated with vascular invasion in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Furthermore, SCARA5 knockdown via RNAi markedly enhanced HCC cell growth in vitro, colony formation in soft agar, and invasiveness, tumorigenicity, and lung metastasis in vivo. By contrast, SCARA5 overexpression suppressed these malignant behaviors. Interestingly, SCARA5 was found to physically associate with focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and inhibit the tyrosine phosphorylation cascade of the FAK-Src-Cas signaling pathway. Conversely, silencing SCARA5 stimulated the signaling pathway via increased phosphorylation of certain tyrosine residues of FAK, Src, and p130Cas; it was also associated with activation of MMP9, a tumor metastasis–associated enzyme. Taken together, these data suggest that the plasma membrane protein SCARA5 can contribute to HCC tumorigenesis and metastasis via activation of the FAK signaling pathway.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common arrhythmia that increases the risk of stroke and heart failure. Here, we have shown that mast cells, key mediators of allergic and immune responses, are critically involved in AF pathogenesis in stressed mouse hearts. Pressure overload induced mast cell infiltration and fibrosis in the atrium and enhanced AF susceptibility following atrial burst stimulation. Both atrial fibrosis and AF inducibility were attenuated by stabilization of mast cells with cromolyn and by BM reconstitution from mast cell–deficient WBB6F1-KitW/W-v mice. When cocultured with cardiac myocytes or fibroblasts, BM-derived mouse mast cells increased platelet-derived growth factor A (PDGF-A) synthesis and promoted cell proliferation and collagen expression in cardiac fibroblasts. These changes were abolished by treatment with a neutralizing antibody specific for PDGF α-receptor (PDGFR-α). Consistent with these data, upregulation of atrial Pdgfa expression in pressure-overloaded hearts was suppressed by BM reconstitution from WBB6F1-KitW/W-v mice. Furthermore, injection of the neutralizing PDGFR-α–specific antibody attenuated atrial fibrosis and AF inducibility in pressure-overloaded hearts, whereas administration of homodimer of PDGF-A (PDGF-AA) promoted atrial fibrosis and enhanced AF susceptibility in normal hearts. Our results suggest a crucial role for mast cells in AF and highlight a potential application of controlling the mast cell/PDGF-A axis to achieve upstream prevention of AF in stressed hearts.
Fibroblasts, which are the most numerous cell type in the heart, interact with cardiomyocytes in vitro and affect their function; however, they are considered to play a secondary role in cardiac hypertrophy and failure. Here we have shown that cardiac fibroblasts are essential for the protective and hypertrophic myocardial responses to pressure overload in vivo in mice. Haploinsufficiency of the transcription factor–encoding gene Krüppel-like factor 5 (Klf5) suppressed cardiac fibrosis and hypertrophy elicited by moderate-intensity pressure overload, whereas cardiomyocyte-specific Klf5 deletion did not alter the hypertrophic responses. By contrast, cardiac fibroblast–specific Klf5 deletion ameliorated cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis, indicating that KLF5 in fibroblasts is important for the response to pressure overload and that cardiac fibroblasts are required for cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. High-intensity pressure overload caused severe heart failure and early death in mice with Klf5-null fibroblasts. KLF5 transactivated Igf1 in cardiac fibroblasts, and IGF-1 subsequently acted in a paracrine fashion to induce hypertrophic responses in cardiomyocytes. Igf1 induction was essential for cardioprotective responses, as administration of a peptide inhibitor of IGF-1 severely exacerbated heart failure induced by high-intensity pressure overload. Thus, cardiac fibroblasts play a pivotal role in the myocardial adaptive response to pressure overload, and this role is partly controlled by KLF5. Modulation of cardiac fibroblast function may provide a novel strategy for treating heart failure, with KLF5 serving as an attractive target.
Gap junctions form electrical conduits between adjacent myocardial cells, permitting rapid spatial passage of the excitation current essential to each heartbeat. Arrhythmogenic decreases in gap junction coupling are a characteristic of stressed, failing, and aging myocardium, but the mechanisms of decreased coupling are poorly understood. We previously found that microtubules bearing gap junction hemichannels (connexons) can deliver their cargo directly to adherens junctions. The specificity of this delivery requires the microtubule plus-end tracking protein EB1. We performed this study to investigate the hypothesis that the oxidative stress that accompanies acute and chronic ischemic disease perturbs connexon forward trafficking. We found that EB1 was displaced in ischemic human hearts, stressed mouse hearts, and isolated cells subjected to oxidative stress. As a result, we observed limited microtubule interaction with adherens junctions at intercalated discs and reduced connexon delivery and gap junction coupling. A point mutation within the tubulin-binding domain of EB1 reproduced EB1 displacement and diminished connexon delivery, confirming that EB1 displacement can limit gap junction coupling. In zebrafish hearts, oxidative stress also reduced the membrane localization of connexin and slowed the spatial spread of excitation. We anticipate that protecting the microtubule-based forward delivery apparatus of connexons could improve cell-cell coupling and reduce ischemia-related cardiac arrhythmias.
Sporadic heart failure is thought to have a genetic component, but the contributing genetic events are poorly defined. Here, we used ultra-high-throughput resequencing of pooled DNAs to identify SNPs in 4 biologically relevant cardiac signaling genes, and then examined the association between allelic variants and incidence of sporadic heart failure in 2 large Caucasian populations. Resequencing of DNA pools, each containing DNA from approximately 100 individuals, was rapid, accurate, and highly sensitive for identifying common and rare SNPs; it also had striking advantages in time and cost efficiencies over individual resequencing using conventional Sanger methods. In 2,606 individuals examined, we identified a total of 129 separate SNPs in the 4 cardiac signaling genes, including 23 nonsynonymous SNPs that we believe to be novel. Comparison of allele frequencies between 625 Caucasian nonaffected controls and 1,117 Caucasian individuals with systolic heart failure revealed 12 SNPs in the cardiovascular heat shock protein gene HSPB7 with greater proportional representation in the systolic heart failure group; all 12 SNPs were confirmed in an independent replication study. These SNPs were found to be in tight linkage disequilibrium, likely reflecting a single genetic event, but none altered amino acid sequence. These results establish the power and applicability of pooled resequencing for comparative SNP association analysis of target subgenomes in large populations and identify an association between multiple HSPB7 polymorphisms and heart failure.
The E3 ubiquitin ligase human murine double minute (HDM2) is overexpressed in 40%–80% of late-stage metastatic cancers in the absence of gene amplification. Hdm2 regulates p53 stability via ubiquitination and has also been implicated in altering the sensitivity of cells to TGF-β1. Whether TGF-β1 signaling induces Hdm2 expression leading to HDM2-mediated destabilization of p53 has not been investigated. In this study, we report that TGF-β1–activated SMA- and MAD3 (Smad3/4) transcription factors specifically bound to the second promoter region of HDM2, leading to increased HDM2 protein expression and destabilization of p53 in human cancer cell lines. Additionally, TGF-β1 expression led to Smad3 activation and murine double minute 2 (Mdm2) expression in murine mammary epithelial cells during epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Furthermore, histological analyses of human breast cancer samples demonstrated that approximately 65% of late-stage carcinomas were positive for activated Smad3 and HDM2, indicating a strong correlation between TGF-β1–mediated induction of HDM2 and late-stage tumor progression. Identification of Hdm2 as a downstream target of TGF-β1 represents a critical prosurvival mechanism in cancer progression and provides another point for therapeutic intervention in late-stage cancer.
Inflammation is a key component of arterial injury, with VSMC proliferation and neointimal formation serving as the final outcomes of this process. However, the acute events transpiring immediately after arterial injury that establish the blueprint for this inflammatory program are largely unknown. We therefore studied these events in mice and found that immediately following arterial injury, medial VSMCs upregulated Rantes in an acute manner dependent on Stat3 and NF-κB (p65 subunit). This led to early T cell and macrophage recruitment, processes also under the regulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21Cip1. Unique to VSMCs, Rantes production was initiated by Tnf-α, but not by Il-6/gp130. This Rantes production was dependent on the binding of a p65/Stat3 complex to NF-κB–binding sites within the Rantes promoter, with shRNA knockdown of either Stat3 or p65 markedly attenuating Rantes production. In vivo, acute NF-κB and Stat3 activation in medial VSMCs was identified, with acute Rantes production after injury substantially reduced in Tnfa–/– mice compared with controls. Finally, we generated mice with SMC-specific conditional Stat3 deficiency and confirmed the Stat3 dependence of acute Rantes production by VSMCs. Together, these observations unify inflammatory events after vascular injury, demonstrating that VSMCs orchestrate the arterial inflammatory response program via acute Rantes production and subsequent inflammatory cell recruitment.
The regulation of arterial contractility is essential for blood pressure control. The GTPase RhoA promotes vasoconstriction by modulating the cytoskeleton of vascular smooth muscle cells. Whether other Rho/Rac pathways contribute to blood pressure regulation remains unknown. By studying a hypertensive knockout mouse lacking the Rho/Rac activator Vav2, we have discovered a new signaling pathway involving Vav2, the GTPase Rac1, and the serine/threonine kinase Pak that contributes to nitric oxide–triggered blood vessel relaxation and normotensia. This pathway mediated the Pak-dependent inhibition of phosphodiesterase type 5, a process that favored RhoA inactivation and the subsequent depolymerization of the F-actin cytoskeleton in vascular smooth muscle cells. The inhibition of phosphodiesterase type 5 required its physical interaction with autophosphorylated Pak1 but, unexpectedly, occurred without detectable transphosphorylation events between those 2 proteins. The administration of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors prevented the development of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in Vav2-deficient animals, demonstrating the involvement of this new pathway in blood pressure regulation. Taken together, these results unveil one cause of the cardiovascular phenotype of Vav2-knockout mice, identify a new Rac1/Pak1 signaling pathway, and provide a mechanistic framework for better understanding blood pressure control in physiological and pathological states.
The IL-23/IL-17 and IL-12/IFN-γ cytokine pathways have a role in chronic autoimmunity, which is considered mainly a dysfunction of adaptive immunity. The extent to which they contribute to innate immunity is, however, unknown. We used a mouse model of acute kidney ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) to test the hypothesis that early production of IL-23 and IL-12 following IRI activates downstream IL-17 and IFN-γ signaling pathways and promotes kidney inflammation. Deficiency in IL-23, IL-17A, or IL-17 receptor (IL-17R) and mAb neutralization of CXCR2, the p19 subunit of IL-23, or IL-17A attenuated neutrophil infiltration in acute kidney IRI in mice. We further demonstrate that IL-17A produced by GR-1+ neutrophils was critical for kidney IRI in mice. Activation of the IL-12/IFN-γ pathway and NKT cells by administering α-galactosylceramide–primed bone marrow–derived DCs increased IFN-γ production following moderate IRI in WT mice but did not exacerbate injury or enhance IFN-γ production in either Il17a–/– or Il17r–/– mice, which suggested that IL-17 signaling was proximal to IFN-γ signaling. This was confirmed by the finding that IFN-γ administration reversed the protection seen in Il17a–/– mice subjected to IRI, whereas IL-17A failed to reverse protection in Ifng–/– mice. These results demonstrate that the innate immune component of kidney IRI requires dual activation of the IL-12/IFN-γ and IL-23/IL-17 signaling pathways and that neutrophil production of IL-17A is upstream of IL-12/IFN-γ. These mechanisms might contribute to reperfusion injury in other organs.
Thymic graft-versus-host disease (tGVHD) can contribute to profound T cell deficiency and repertoire restriction after allogeneic BM transplantation (allo-BMT). However, the cellular mechanisms of tGVHD and interactions between donor alloreactive T cells and thymic tissues remain poorly defined. Using clinically relevant murine allo-BMT models, we show here that even minimal numbers of donor alloreactive T cells, which caused mild nonlethal systemic graft-versus-host disease, were sufficient to damage the thymus, delay T lineage reconstitution, and compromise donor peripheral T cell function. Furthermore, to mediate tGVHD, donor alloreactive T cells required trafficking molecules, including CCR9, L selectin, P selectin glycoprotein ligand-1, the integrin subunits αE and β7, CCR2, and CXCR3, and costimulatory/inhibitory molecules, including Ox40 and carcinoembryonic antigen-associated cell adhesion molecule 1. We found that radiation in BMT conditioning regimens upregulated expression of the death receptors Fas and death receptor 5 (DR5) on thymic stromal cells (especially epithelium), while decreasing expression of the antiapoptotic regulator cellular caspase-8–like inhibitory protein. Donor alloreactive T cells used the cognate proteins FasL and TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) (but not TNF or perforin) to mediate tGVHD, thereby damaging thymic stromal cells, cytoarchitecture, and function. Strategies that interfere with Fas/FasL and TRAIL/DR5 interactions may therefore represent a means to attenuate tGVHD and improve T cell reconstitution in allo-BMT recipients.
Osteoblasts have recently been found to play a role in regulating glucose metabolism through secretion of osteocalcin. It is unknown, however, how this osteoblast function is regulated transcriptionally. As FoxO1 is a forkhead family transcription factor known to regulate several key aspects of glucose homeostasis, we investigated whether its expression in osteoblasts may contribute to its metabolic functions. Here we show that mice lacking Foxo1 only in osteoblasts had increased pancreatic β cell proliferation, insulin secretion, and insulin sensitivity. The ability of osteoblast-specific FoxO1 deficiency to affect metabolic homeostasis was due to increased osteocalcin expression and decreased expression of Esp, a gene that encodes a protein responsible for decreasing the bioactivity of osteocalcin. These results indicate that FoxO1 expression in osteoblasts contributes to FoxO1 control of glucose homeostasis and identify FoxO1 as a key modulator of the ability of the skeleton to function as an endocrine organ regulating glucose metabolism.
Inherited mutations in voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs; or Nav) cause many disorders of excitability, including epilepsy, chronic pain, myotonia, and cardiac arrhythmias. Understanding the functional consequences of the disease-causing mutations is likely to provide invaluable insight into the roles that VGSCs play in normal and abnormal excitability. Here, we sought to test the hypothesis that disease-causing mutations lead to increased resurgent currents, unusual sodium currents that have not previously been implicated in disorders of excitability. We demonstrated that a paroxysmal extreme pain disorder (PEPD) mutation in the human peripheral neuronal sodium channel Nav1.7, a paramyotonia congenita (PMC) mutation in the human skeletal muscle sodium channel Nav1.4, and a long-QT3/SIDS mutation in the human cardiac sodium channel Nav1.5 all substantially increased the amplitude of resurgent sodium currents in an optimized adult rat–derived dorsal root ganglion neuronal expression system. Computer simulations indicated that resurgent currents associated with the Nav1.7 mutation could induce high-frequency action potential firing in nociceptive neurons and that resurgent currents associated with the Nav1.5 mutation could broaden the action potential in cardiac myocytes. These effects are consistent with the pathophysiology associated with the respective channelopathies. Our results indicate that resurgent currents are associated with multiple channelopathies and are likely to be important contributors to neuronal and muscle disorders of excitability.
Directed gene transfer into specific cell lineages in vivo is an attractive approach for both modulating gene expression and correcting inherited mutations such as emphysema caused by human α1 antitrypsin (hAAT) deficiency. However, somatic tissues are mainly comprised of heterogeneous, differentiated cell lineages that can be short lived and difficult to specifically transfect. Here, we describe an intratracheally instilled lentiviral system able to deliver genes selectively to as many as 70% of alveolar macrophages (AMs) in the mouse lung. Following a single in vivo lentiviral transduction, genetically tagged AMs persisted in lung alveoli and expressed transferred genes for the lifetime of the adult mouse. A prolonged macrophage lifespan, rather than precursor cell proliferation, accounted for the surprisingly sustained presence of transduced AMs. We utilized this long-lived population to achieve localized secretion of therapeutic levels of hAAT protein in lung epithelial lining fluid. In an established mouse model of emphysema, lentivirally delivered hAAT ameliorated the progression of emphysema, as evidenced by attenuation of increased lung compliance and alveolar size. After 24 weeks of sustained gene expression, no humoral or cellular immune responses to hAAT protein were detected. Our results challenge the dogma that AMs are short lived and suggest that these differentiated cells may be a possible target cell population for in vivo gene therapy applications, including the sustained correction of hAAT deficiency.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation