Cross section through a murine colonic tumor stained for DAPI (blue), pan-keratin (green), and Ki67 (pink). Human CMV infects millions of people worldwide, and is generally asymptomatic, but infection can be problematic in immunocompetent hosts. Here, Bongers and colleagues show that US28, a constitutively active chemokine receptor encoded by CMV, can cause the development of intestinal dysplasia and cancer in transgenic mice and suggest that CMV infection may facilitate intestinal neoplasia in humans (page 3969).
To paraphrase Cole Porter’s famous 1926 song, “What is this thing called pain? This funny thing called pain, just who can solve its mystery?” Pain, like love, is all consuming: when you have it, not much else matters, and there is nothing you can do about it. Unlike love, however, we are actually beginning to tease apart the mystery of pain. The substantial progress made over the last decade in revealing the genes, molecules, cells, and circuits that determine the sensation of pain offers new opportunities to manage it, as revealed in this Review series by some of the foremost experts in the field.
Mendelian heritable pain disorders have provided insights into human pain mechanisms and suggested new analgesic drug targets. Interestingly, many of the heritable monogenic pain disorders have been mapped to mutations in genes encoding ion channels. Studies in transgenic mice have also implicated many ion channels in damage sensing and pain modulation. It seems likely that aberrant peripheral or central ion channel activity underlies or initiates many pathological pain conditions. Understanding the mechanistic basis of ion channel malfunction in terms of trafficking, localization, biophysics, and consequences for neurotransmission is a potential route to new pain therapies.
Despite intensive research into pain mechanisms and significant investment in research and development, the majority of analgesics available to prescribers and patients are based on mechanistic classes of compounds that have been known for many years. With considerable ingenuity and innovation, researchers continue to make the best of the mechanistic approaches available, with novel formulations, routes of administration, and combination products. Here we review some of the mechanisms and modalities of analgesics that have recently entered into clinical development, which, coupled with advances in the understanding of the pathophysiology of chronic pain, will hopefully bring the promise of new therapeutics that have the potential to provide improved pain relief for those many patients whose needs remain poorly met.
Specialized peripheral sensory neurons known as nociceptors alert us to potentially damaging stimuli at the skin by detecting extremes in temperature and pressure and injury-related chemicals, and transducing these stimuli into long-ranging electrical signals that are relayed to higher brain centers. The activation of functionally distinct cutaneous nociceptor populations and the processing of information they convey provide a rich diversity of pain qualities. Current work in this field is providing researchers with a more thorough understanding of nociceptor cell biology at molecular and systems levels and insight that will allow the targeted design of novel pain therapeutics.
The somatic sensory system responds to stimuli of distinct modalities, including touch, pain, itch, and temperature sensitivity. In the past century, great progress has been made in understanding the coding of these sensory modalities. From this work, two major features have emerged. First, there are specific neuronal circuits or labeled lines transmitting specific sensory information from the skin to the brain. Second, the generation of specific sensations often involves crosstalk among distinct labeled lines. These features suggest that population coding is the mechanism underlying somatic sensation.
It has long been appreciated that the experience of pain is highly variable between individuals. Pain results from activation of sensory receptors specialized to detect actual or impending tissue damage (i.e., nociceptors). However, a direct correlation between activation of nociceptors and the sensory experience of pain is not always apparent. Even in cases in which the severity of injury appears similar, individual pain experiences may vary dramatically. Emotional state, degree of anxiety, attention and distraction, past experiences, memories, and many other factors can either enhance or diminish the pain experience. Here, we review evidence for “top-down” modulatory circuits that profoundly change the sensory experience of pain.
Since modern brain imaging of pain began 20 years ago, networks in the brain related to pain processing and those related to different types of pain modulation, including placebo, have been identified. Functional and anatomical connectivity of these circuits has begun to be analyzed. Imaging in patients suggests that chronic pain is associated with altered function and structural abnormalities in pain modulatory circuits. Moreover, biochemical alterations associated with chronic pain are being identified that provide information on cellular correlates as well as potential mechanisms of structural changes. Data from these brain imaging studies reinforce the idea that chronic pain leads to brain changes that could have functional significance.
Protein expression in humans is controlled by numerous RNA processing steps that occur between transcription of a gene and translation of protein. However, the importance of such regulatory steps to human diseases, especially cancer, is just now coming to light. Changes in the alternative splicing or stability of mRNA transcribed from genes involved in cell-cycle control, cell proliferation, and apoptosis has been linked to tumor formation and progression. Nevertheless, in the majority of these cases, the identity of the regulators that control the expression of such cancer-related genes is poorly understood. In this issue of the JCI, Goehe et al. demonstrate that heterogeneous nuclear ribonuclear protein family member L (hnRNP L), a member of the hnRNP family of RNA processing factors, is specifically phosphorylated in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The phosphorylated hnRNP L, in turn, promotes expression of the antiapoptotic form of caspase-9, thereby contributing to tumorigenesis.
During embryo implantation and initiation of pregnancy, uterine NK (uNK) cells engage invasive fetal trophoblasts to remodel vessels that conduct blood to the placenta. This partnership, involving uNK cell receptors that recognize HLA-C ligands on trophoblasts, varies the course of human pregnancy because the genes for both receptors and ligands are extraordinarily diverse. Several pregnancy disorders are attributed to insufficient trophoblast invasion and the limitation it imposes on human reproduction. Previously, a particular combination of fetal HLA-C and maternal inhibitory uNK cell receptor was associated with predisposition for preeclampsia. In this issue of the JCI, Hiby and colleagues extend this correlation to recurrent miscarriage and fetal growth restriction, revealing the common mechanism underlying these common pregnancy syndromes. Equally important, they show that mothers with an activating receptor of similar specificity to the inhibitory receptor are less likely to suffer disordered pregnancy.
Activating mutations in the Ras alleles are found frequently in tumors, making the proteins they encode highly attractive candidate therapeutic targets. However, Ras proteins have proven difficult to target directly. Recent approaches have therefore focused on identifying indirect targets to inhibit Ras-induced oncogenesis. For example, RNAi-based negative selection screens to identify genes that when silenced in concert with activating Ras mutations are incompatible with cellular proliferation, a concept known as synthetic lethality. In this issue of the JCI, Vicent et al. report on the identification of Wilms tumor 1 (Wt1) as a Kras synthetic-lethal gene in a mouse model of lung adenocarcinoma. Silencing of Wt1 in cells expressing an endogenous allele of activated Kras triggers senescence in vitro and has an impact on tumor progression in vivo. These findings are of significant interest given previous studies suggesting that the ability of oncogenic Kras to induce senescence versus proliferation depends on its levels of expression.
Thrombocytopenia, an abnormally low number of circulating platelets, results from inadequate platelet production, splenic platelet sequestration, or accelerated platelet clearance. Platelet transfusions are now the cornerstone for treating thrombocytopenia. With an ever-expanding demand for platelets, and with many patients having an inadequate response to platelet transfusions, new strategies are needed to treat thrombocytopenia. In this issue of the JCI, Fuentes et al. present provocative data regarding the use of direct megakaryocyte infusions as a novel approach to manage this vexing clinical problem.
Individuals infected with HIV-1 progress to AIDS at different rates. Rapid progressors develop AIDS within 2–5 years of initial infection, compared with approximately 10 years in typical progressors. Progression to AIDS is associated with impaired humoral and cellular immunity. In this issue of the JCI, Titanji and colleagues report that activated memory B (mBAct) cells are depleted in SIV-infected macaques defined as rapid progressors. Depletion was mediated by programmed death-1 (PD-1) and resulted in reduction of antibody titers specific for SIV and bacterial antigens. Interestingly, blockade of PD-1 in infected animals protected B cells from apoptosis and increased levels of SIV-specific antibodies in blood. These findings pave the way for a new therapeutic strategy aimed at improving humoral immunity in HIV-1 infection.
Patients suffering from sustained acute or chronic illness often have decreased white blood cell and platelet counts as well as anemia, and bone marrow studies routinely show only decreased numbers of blood precursor cells. While much has been recently learned about the cause of isolated anemia, the pathogenesis of true bone marrow failure (i.e., low bone marrow cellularity and low counts in multiple blood lineages) has remained elusive. In this issue of the JCI, Chen et al. present evidence that overactivation of mammalian target of rapamycin signaling in HSCs is found in two mouse models of bone marrow failure, and they show that treatment with rapamycin significantly normalizes the low blood counts.
Adaptation to hypoxia is an essential cellular response controlled by the oxygen-sensitive master transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1). HIF-1 expression is also controlled by specific microRNAs and, in turn, controls the expression of other microRNAs, which fine-tune adaptation to low oxygen tension. In this issue of the JCI, Ghosh and colleagues identify a unique microRNA in hypoxic endothelial cells, miR424, that promotes HIF-1 stabilization and angiogenesis. The actions of this microRNA are considered in the context of the complex interactions that act to ensure optimal endothelial adaptation to this critical environmental condition.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are potent regulators of mRNA stability and thereby protein expression. As such, miRNAs have become of interest as possible therapeutics and/or therapeutic targets. In this context, small complementary miRNA sequences known as antagomirs could be used to inhibit miRNA activity, while miRNA mimics could confer gain-of-function activity. However, a note of caution is sounded by Patrick et al. in this issue of the JCI, as they show that although recent reports have suggested that an miR-21 antagomir might be therapeutically useful in preventing heart failure in mice, genetic deletion of miR-21 does not confer a similar phenotype, suggesting possible confounding factors that are only now beginning to be revealed in the techniques used to study miRNA biology.
Cyclin E is often overexpressed in cancer tissue, leading to genetic instability and aneuploidy. Cullin 3 (Cul3) is a component of the BTB-Cul3-Rbx1 (BCR) ubiquitin ligase that is involved in the turnover of cyclin E. Here we show that liver-specific ablation of Cul3 in mice results in the persistence and massive expansion of hepatic progenitor cells. Upon induction of differentiation, Cul3-deficient progenitor cells underwent substantial DNA damage in vivo and in vitro, thereby triggering the activation of a cellular senescence response that selectively blocked the expansion of the differentiated offspring. Positive selection of undifferentiated progenitor cells required the expression of the tumor suppressor protein p53. Simultaneous loss of Cul3 and p53 in hepatic progenitors turned these cells into highly malignant tumor-initiating cells that formed largely undifferentiated tumors in nude mice. In addition, loss of Cul3 and p53 led to the formation of primary hepatocellular carcinomas. Importantly, loss of Cul3 expression was also detected in a large series of human liver cancers and correlated directly with tumor de-differentiation. The expression of Cul3 during hepatic differentiation therefore safeguards against the formation of progenitor cells that carry a great potential for transformation into tumor-initiating cells.
Fanconi anemia (FA) is a genomic instability disorder characterized by bone marrow failure and cancer predisposition. FA is caused by mutations in any one of several genes that encode proteins cooperating in a repair pathway and is required for cellular resistance to DNA crosslinking agents. Recent studies suggest that the FA pathway may also play a role in mitosis, since FANCD2 and FANCI, the 2 key FA proteins, are localized to the extremities of ultrafine DNA bridges (UFBs), which link sister chromatids during cell division. However, whether FA proteins regulate cell division remains unclear. Here we have shown that FA pathway–deficient cells display an increased number of UFBs compared with FA pathway–proficient cells. The UFBs were coated by BLM (the RecQ helicase mutated in Bloom syndrome) in early mitosis. In contrast, the FA protein FANCM was recruited to the UFBs at a later stage. The increased number of bridges in FA pathway–deficient cells correlated with a higher rate of cytokinesis failure resulting in binucleated cells. Binucleated cells were also detectable in primary murine FA pathway–deficient hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and bone marrow stromal cells from human patients with FA. Based on these observations, we suggest that cytokinesis failure followed by apoptosis may contribute to bone marrow failure in patients with FA.
Inducible nitric oxide synthase (NOS2) is involved in wound healing, angiogenesis, and carcinogenesis. NOS2 upregulation and increased nitric oxide (NO) production affect the redox state of cells and can induce protein, lipid, and DNA modifications. To investigate whether NOS2 levels influence survival of breast cancer patients, we examined NOS2 expression and its association with tumor markers and survival in 248 breast tumors. In multivariable survival analysis, increased NOS2 predicted inferior survival in women with estrogen receptor α–negative (ER-negative) tumors. Microdissected tumor epithelium from ER-negative tumors with high NOS2 had increased IL-8 and a gene expression signature characteristic of basal-like breast cancer with poor prognosis. In cell culture, NO only induced selected signature genes in ER-negative breast cancer cells. ER transgene expression in ER-negative cells inhibited NO-induced upregulation of the stem cell marker CD44 and other proteins encoded by signature genes, but not of IL-8. Exposure to NO also enhanced cell motility and invasion of ER-negative cells. Last, pathway analysis linked the tumor NOS2 gene signature to c-Myc activation. Thus, NOS2 is associated with a basal-like transcription pattern and poor survival of ER-negative patients.
Allogeneic blood or BM transplantation (BMT) is the most commonly applied form of adoptive cellular therapy for cancer. In this context, the ability of donor T cells to respond to recipient antigens is coopted to generate graft-versus-tumor (GVT) responses. The major reason for treatment failure is tumor recurrence, which is linked to the eventual loss of functional, host-specific CTLs. In this study, we have explored the role of recipient antigen expression by nonhematopoietic cells in the failure to sustain effective CTL immunity. Using clinically relevant models, we found that nonhematopoietic antigen severely disrupts the formation of donor CD8+ T cell memory at 2 distinct levels that operate in the early and late phases of the response. First, initial and direct encounters between donor CD8+ T cells and nonhematopoietic cells blocked the programming of memory precursors essential for establishing recall immunity. Second, surviving CD8+ T cells became functionally exhausted with heightened expression of the coinhibitory receptor programmed death-1 (PD-1). These 2 factors acted together to induce even more profound failure in long-term immunosurveillance. Crucially, the functions of exhausted CD8+ T cells could be partially restored by late in vivo blockade of the interaction between PD-1 and its ligand, PD-L1, without induction of graft-versus-host disease, suggestive of a potential clinical strategy to prevent or treat relapse following allogeneic BMT.
The apoptosis inhibitor protein survivin is overexpressed in many tumors, making it a candidate target molecule for various forms of immunotherapy. To explore survivin as a target antigen for adoptive T cell therapy using lymphocytes expressing survivin-specific transgenic T cell receptors (Tg-TCRs), we isolated HLA-A2–allorestricted survivin-specific T cells with high functional avidity. Lymphocytes expressing Tg-TCRs were derived from these T cells and specifically recognized HLA-A2+ survivin+ tumor cells. Surprisingly, HLA-A2+ but not HLA-A2– lymphocytes expressing Tg-TCRs underwent extensive apoptosis over time. This demise was caused by HLA-A2–restricted fratricide that occurred due to survivin expression in lymphocytes, which created ligands for Tg-TCR recognition. Therefore, survivin-specific TCR gene therapy would be limited to application in HLA-A2–mismatched stem cell transplantation. We also noted that lymphocytes that expressed survivin-specific Tg-TCRs killed T cell clones of various specificities derived from HLA-A2+ but not HLA-A2– donors. These results raise a general question regarding the development of cancer vaccines that target proteins that are also expressed in activated lymphocytes, since induction of high-avidity T cells that expand in lymph nodes following vaccination or later accumulate at tumor sites might limit themselves by self-MHC–restricted fratricide while at the same time inadvertently eliminating neighboring T cells of other specificities.
Rapid progression to AIDS is a significant problem, especially in developing countries, where the majority of HIV-infected individuals reside. As rapid disease progression is also frequently observed in SIV-infected macaques, they represent a valuable tool to investigate the pathogenesis of this condition in humans. Here, we have shown that pathogenic SIV infection in rhesus macaques resulted in a rapid depletion (as early as week 2) of activated memory B (CD21–CD27+; mBAct) cells that was strongly associated with rapid disease progression. This depletion was progressive and sustained in rapid progressors, but less severe and transient in typical progressors. Because of the rapid and sustained depletion of mBAct cells, rapid progressors failed to develop SIV-specific Ab responses, showed a decline in non–SIV-specific Ab titers, and succumbed faster to intestinal bacterial infections. Depletion of mBAct cells was strongly associated with preferential depletion of mBAct cells expressing programmed death-1 (PD-1), and in vitro blockade of PD-1 improved their survival. Furthermore, in vivo PD-1 blockade in SIV-infected macaques enhanced Ab responses to non-SIV as well as SIV Ags. Our results identify depletion of mBAct cells as a very early predictor of rapid disease progression in pathogenic SIV infection and suggest an important role for the PD-1 pathway in depletion of mBAct cells and impaired humoral immune responses in SIV-infected macaques.
In clinical trials, aldosterone antagonists reduce cardiovascular ischemia and mortality by unknown mechanisms. Aldosterone is a steroid hormone that signals through renal mineralocorticoid receptors (MRs) to regulate blood pressure. MRs are expressed and regulate gene transcription in human vascular cells, suggesting that aldosterone might have direct vascular effects. Using gene expression profiling, we identify the pro-proliferative VEGF family member placental growth factor (PGF) as an aldosterone-regulated vascular MR target gene in mice and humans. Aldosterone-activated vascular MR stimulated Pgf gene transcription and increased PGF protein expression and secretion in the mouse vasculature. In mouse vessels with endothelial damage and human vessels from patients with atherosclerosis, aldosterone enhanced expression of PGF and its receptor, FMS-like tyrosine kinase 1 (Flt1). In atherosclerotic human vessels, MR antagonists inhibited PGF expression. In vivo, aldosterone infusion augmented vascular remodeling in mouse carotids following wire injury, an effect that was lost in Pgf–/– mice. In summary, we have identified PGF as what we believe to be a novel downstream target of vascular MR that mediates aldosterone augmentation of vascular injury. These findings suggest a non-renal mechanism for the vascular protective effects of aldosterone antagonists in humans and support targeting the vascular aldosterone/MR/PGF/Flt1 pathway as a therapeutic strategy for ischemic cardiovascular disease.
Insulin resistance results in dysregulated hepatic gluconeogenesis that contributes to obesity-related hyperglycemia and progression of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Recent studies show that MAPK phosphatase–3 (MKP-3) promotes gluconeogenic gene transcription in hepatoma cells, but little is known about the physiological role of MKP-3 in vivo. Here, we have shown that expression of MKP-3 is markedly increased in the liver of diet-induced obese mice. Consistent with this, adenovirus-mediated MKP-3 overexpression in lean mice promoted gluconeogenesis and increased fasting blood glucose levels. Conversely, shRNA knockdown of MKP-3 in both lean and obese mice resulted in decreased fasting blood glucose levels. In vitro experiments identified forkhead box O1 (FOXO1) as a substrate for MKP-3. MKP-3–mediated dephosphorylation of FOXO1 at Ser256 promoted its nuclear translocation and subsequent recruitment to the promoters of key gluconeogenic genes. In addition, we showed that PPARγ coactivator–1α (PGC-1α) acted downstream of FOXO1 to mediate MKP-3–induced gluconeogenesis. These data indicate that MKP-3 is an important regulator of hepatic gluconeogenesis in vivo and suggest that inhibition of MKP-3 activity may provide new therapies for T2DM.
MicroRNAs inhibit mRNA translation or promote mRNA degradation by binding complementary sequences in 3′ untranslated regions of target mRNAs. MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) is upregulated in response to cardiac stress, and its inhibition by a cholesterol-modified antagomir has been reported to prevent cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis in rodents in response to pressure overload. In contrast, we have shown here that miR-21–null mice are normal and, in response to a variety of cardiac stresses, display cardiac hypertrophy, fibrosis, upregulation of stress-responsive cardiac genes, and loss of cardiac contractility comparable to wild-type littermates. Similarly, inhibition of miR-21 through intravenous delivery of a locked nucleic acid–modified (LNA-modified) antimiR oligonucleotide also failed to block the remodeling response of the heart to stress. We therefore conclude that miR-21 is not essential for pathological cardiac remodeling.
Thrombopoiesis, the process by which circulating platelets arise from megakaryocytes, remains incompletely understood. Prior studies suggest that megakaryocytes shed platelets in the pulmonary vasculature. To better understand thrombopoiesis and to develop a potential platelet transfusion strategy that is not dependent upon donors, of which there remains a shortage, we examined whether megakaryocytes infused into mice shed platelets. Infused megakaryocytes led to clinically relevant increases in platelet numbers. The released platelets were normal in size, displayed appropriate surface markers, and had a near-normal circulating half-life. The functionality of the donor-derived platelets was also demonstrated in vivo. The infused megakaryocytes mostly localized to the pulmonary vasculature, where they appeared to shed platelets. These data suggest that it may be unnecessary to generate platelets from ex vivo grown megakaryocytes to achieve clinically relevant increases in platelet numbers.
Caspase-9 is involved in the intrinsic apoptotic pathway and suggested to play a role as a tumor suppressor. Little is known about the mechanisms governing caspase-9 expression, but post-transcriptional pre-mRNA processing generates 2 splice variants from the caspase-9 gene, pro-apoptotic caspase-9a and anti-apoptotic caspase-9b. Here we demonstrate that the ratio of caspase-9 splice variants is dysregulated in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumors. Mechanistic analysis revealed that an exonic splicing silencer (ESS) regulated caspase-9 pre-mRNA processing in NSCLC cells. Heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein L (hnRNP L) interacted with this ESS, and downregulation of hnRNP L expression induced an increase in the caspase-9a/9b ratio. Although expression of hnRNP L lowered the caspase-9a/9b ratio in NSCLC cells, expression of hnRNP L produced the opposite effect in non-transformed cells, suggesting a post-translational modification specific for NSCLC cells. Indeed, Ser52 was identified as a critical modification regulating the caspase-9a/9b ratio. Importantly, in a mouse xenograft model, downregulation of hnRNP L in NSCLC cells induced a complete loss of tumorigenic capacity that was due to the changes in caspase-9 pre-mRNA processing. This study therefore identifies a cancer-specific mechanism of hnRNP L phosphorylation and subsequent lowering of the caspase-9a/9b ratio, which is required for the tumorigenic capacity of NSCLC cells.
KRAS is one of the most frequently mutated human oncogenes. In some settings, oncogenic KRAS can trigger cellular senescence, whereas in others it produces hyperproliferation. Elucidating the mechanisms regulating these 2 drastically distinct outcomes would help identify novel therapeutic approaches in RAS-driven cancers. Using a combination of functional genomics and mouse genetics, we identified a role for the transcription factor Wilms tumor 1 (WT1) as a critical regulator of senescence and proliferation downstream of oncogenic KRAS signaling. Deletion or suppression of Wt1 led to senescence of mouse primary cells expressing physiological levels of oncogenic Kras but had no effect on wild-type cells, and Wt1 loss decreased tumor burden in a mouse model of Kras-driven lung cancer. In human lung cancer cell lines dependent on oncogenic KRAS, WT1 loss decreased proliferation and induced senescence. Furthermore, WT1 inactivation defined a gene expression signature that was prognostic of survival only in lung cancer patients exhibiting evidence of oncogenic KRAS activation. These findings reveal an unexpected role for WT1 as a key regulator of the genetic network of oncogenic KRAS and provide important insight into the mechanisms that regulate proliferation or senescence in response to oncogenic signals.
Immunotherapies based on adoptive cell transfer are highly effective in the treatment of metastatic melanoma, but the use of this approach in other cancer histologies has been hampered by the identification of appropriate target molecules. Immunologic approaches targeting tumor vasculature provide a means for the therapy of multiple solid tumor types. We developed a method to target tumor vasculature, using genetically redirected syngeneic or autologous T cells. Mouse and human T cells were engineered to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) targeted against VEGFR-2, which is overexpressed in tumor vasculature and is responsible for VEGF-mediated tumor progression and metastasis. Mouse and human T cells expressing the relevant VEGFR-2 CARs mediated specific immune responses against VEGFR-2 protein as well as VEGFR-2–expressing cells in vitro. A single dose of VEGFR-2 CAR-engineered mouse T cells plus exogenous IL-2 significantly inhibited the growth of 5 different types of established, vascularized syngeneic tumors in 2 different strains of mice and prolonged the survival of mice. T cells transduced with VEGFR-2 CAR showed durable and increased tumor infiltration, correlating with their antitumor effect. This approach provides a potential method for the gene therapy of a variety of human cancers.
US28 is a constitutively active chemokine receptor encoded by CMV (also referred to as human herpesvirus 5), a highly prevalent human virus that infects a broad spectrum of cells, including intestinal epithelial cells (IECs). To study the role of US28 in vivo, we created transgenic mice (VS28 mice) in which US28 expression was targeted to IECs. Expression of US28 was detected in all IECs of the small and large intestine, including in cells expressing leucine rich repeat containing GPCR5 (Lgr5), a marker gene of intestinal epithelial stem cells. US28 expression in IECs inhibited glycogen synthase 3β (GSK-3β) function, promoted accumulation of β-catenin protein, and increased expression of Wnt target genes involved in the control of the cell proliferation. VS28 mice showed a hyperplastic intestinal epithelium and, strikingly, developed adenomas and adenocarcinomas by 40 weeks of age. When exposed to an inflammation-driven tumor model (azoxymethane/dextran sodium sulfate), VS28 mice developed a significantly higher tumor burden than control littermates. Transgenic coexpression of the US28 ligand CCL2 (an inflammatory chemokine) increased IEC proliferation as well as tumor burden, suggesting that the oncogenic activity of US28 can be modulated by inflammatory factors. Together, these results indicate that expression of US28 promotes development of intestinal dysplasia and cancer in transgenic mice and suggest that CMV infection may facilitate development of intestinal neoplasia in humans.
Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is a biologically active sphingolipid that has pleiotropic effects in a variety of cell types including ECs, SMCs, and macrophages, all of which are central to the development of atherosclerosis. It may therefore exert stimulatory and inhibitory effects on atherosclerosis. Here, we investigated the role of the S1P receptor S1PR2 in atherosclerosis by analyzing S1pr2–/– mice with an Apoe–/– background. S1PR2 was expressed in macrophages, ECs, and SMCs in atherosclerotic aortas. In S1pr2–/–Apoe–/– mice fed a high-cholesterol diet for 4 months, the area of the atherosclerotic plaque was markedly decreased, with reduced macrophage density, increased SMC density, increased eNOS phosphorylation, and downregulation of proinflammatory cytokines compared with S1pr2+/+Apoe–/– mice. Bone marrow chimera experiments indicated a major role for macrophage S1PR2 in atherogenesis. S1pr2–/–Apoe–/– macrophages showed diminished Rho/Rho kinase/NF-κB (ROCK/NF-κB) activity. Consequently, they also displayed reduced cytokine expression, reduced oxidized LDL uptake, and stimulated cholesterol efflux associated with decreased scavenger receptor expression and increased cholesterol efflux transporter expression. S1pr2–/–Apoe–/– ECs also showed reduced ROCK and NF-κB activities, with decreased MCP-1 expression and elevated eNOS phosphorylation. Pharmacologic S1PR2 blockade in S1pr2+/+Apoe–/– mice diminished the atherosclerotic plaque area in aortas and modified LDL accumulation in macrophages. We conclude therefore that S1PR2 plays a critical role in atherogenesis and may serve as a novel therapeutic target for atherosclerosis.
CD36 is a membrane glycoprotein expressed on platelets, monocytes, macrophages, and several other cell types that was recently demonstrated to be involved in platelet activation in response to oxidized phospholipids, including oxidized LDL. Although the role of CD36 in other vascular cells has not been well defined, previous studies have demonstrated that cd36-knockout (cd36–/–) mice have prolonged thrombosis times after vascular injury, which can be protective in the state of hyperlipidemia. Here, we found significantly less ROS in the vessel walls of cd36–/– mice compared with WT after chemically induced arterial injury, suggesting that CD36 may contribute to ROS generation in the VSMCs themselves. Gene expression analysis revealed that the antioxidant enzymes peroxiredoxin-2 (Prdx2) and heme oxygenase-1 were upregulated in cd36–/– VSMCs. Molecular dissection of the pathway in isolated mouse VSMCs revealed CD36 ligand-dependent induction of Fyn phosphorylation, with subsequent phosphorylation and degradation of the redox-sensitive transcription factor Nrf2. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments further showed that Nrf2 directly occupied the Prdx2 promoter. The importance of this pathway was evidenced by increased ROS generation in prdx2–/– mice and decreased thrombosis times in both prdx2–/– and nrf2–/– mice after vascular injury. These data suggest that CD36-mediated downregulation of antioxidant systems in VSMCs may contribute to its prothrombotic, proinflammatory, and atherogenic effects.
Skeletal muscle development, nutrient uptake, and nutrient utilization is largely coordinated by growth hormone (GH) and its downstream effectors, in particular, IGF-1. However, it is not clear which effects of GH on skeletal muscle are direct and which are secondary to GH-induced IGF-1 expression. Thus, we generated mice lacking either GH receptor (GHR) or IGF-1 receptor (IGF-1R) specifically in skeletal muscle. Both exhibited impaired skeletal muscle development characterized by reductions in myofiber number and area as well as accompanying deficiencies in functional performance. Defective skeletal muscle development, in both GHR and IGF-1R mutants, was attributable to diminished myoblast fusion and associated with compromised nuclear factor of activated T cells import and activity. Strikingly, mice lacking GHR developed metabolic features that were not observed in the IGF-1R mutants, including marked peripheral adiposity, insulin resistance, and glucose intolerance. Insulin resistance in GHR-deficient myotubes derived from reduced IR protein abundance and increased inhibitory phosphorylation of IRS-1 on Ser 1101. These results identify distinct signaling pathways through which GHR regulates skeletal muscle development and modulates nutrient metabolism.
The active thyroid hormone 3,5,3′ triiodothyronine (T3) is a major regulator of skeletal muscle function. The deiodinase family of enzymes controls the tissue-specific activation and inactivation of the prohormone thyroxine (T4). Here we show that type 2 deiodinase (D2) is essential for normal mouse myogenesis and muscle regeneration. Indeed, D2-mediated increases in T3 were essential for the enhanced transcription of myogenic differentiation 1 (MyoD) and for execution of the myogenic program. Conversely, the expression of T3-dependent genes was reduced and after injury regeneration markedly delayed in muscles of mice null for the gene encoding D2 (Dio2), despite normal circulating T3 concentrations. Forkhead box O3 (FoxO3) was identified as a key molecule inducing D2 expression and thereby increasing intracellular T3 production. Accordingly, FoxO3-depleted primary myoblasts also had a differentiation deficit that could be rescued by high levels of T3. In conclusion, the FoxO3/D2 pathway selectively enhances intracellular active thyroid hormone concentrations in muscle, providing a striking example of how a circulating hormone can be tissue-specifically activated to influence development locally.
Mutations in pancreatic duodenal homeobox (PDX1) are linked to human type 2 diabetes and maturity-onset diabetes of the young type 4. Consistent with this, Pdx1-haploinsufficient mice develop diabetes. Both apoptosis and necrosis of β cells are mechanistically implicated in diabetes in these mice, but a molecular link between Pdx1 and these 2 forms of cell death has not been defined. In this study, we introduced an shRNA into mouse insulinoma MIN6 cells to deplete Pdx1 and found that expression of proapoptotic genes, including NIP3-like protein X (Nix), was increased. Forced Nix expression in MIN6 and pancreatic islet β cells induced programmed cell death by simultaneously activating apoptotic and mitochondrial permeability transition–dependent necrotic pathways. Preventing Nix upregulation during Pdx1 suppression abrogated apoptotic and necrotic β cell death in vitro. In Pdx1-haploinsufficient mice, Nix ablation normalized pancreatic islet architecture, β cell mass, and insulin secretion and eliminated reactive hyperglycemia after glucose challenge. These results establish Nix as a critical mediator of β cell apoptosis and programmed necrosis in Pdx1-deficient diabetes.
Chronic kidney disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. Tubulointerstitial fibrosis (TIF) is considered the final common pathway leading to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Here, we used pharmacologic, genetic, in vivo, and in vitro experiments to show that activation of the Notch pathway in tubular epithelial cells (TECs) in patients and in mouse models of TIF plays a role in TIF development. Expression of Notch in renal TECs was found to be both necessary and sufficient for TIF development. Genetic deletion of the Notch pathway in TECs reduced renal fibrosis. Consistent with this, TEC-specific expression of active Notch1 caused rapid development of TIF. Pharmacologic inhibition of Notch activation using a γ-secretase inhibitor ameliorated TIF. In summary, our experiments establish that epithelial injury and Notch signaling play key roles in fibrosis development and indicate that Notch blockade may be a therapeutic strategy to reduce fibrosis and ESRD development.
Adriamycin (ADR) is a commonly used chemotherapeutic agent that also produces significant tissue damage. Mutations to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and reductions in mtDNA copy number have been identified as contributors to ADR-induced injury. ADR nephropathy only occurs among specific mouse inbred strains, and this selective susceptibility to kidney injury maps as a recessive trait to chromosome 16A1-B1. Here, we found that sensitivity to ADR nephropathy in mice was produced by a mutation in the Prkdc gene, which encodes a critical nuclear DNA double-stranded break repair protein. This finding was confirmed in mice with independent Prkdc mutations. Overexpression of Prkdc in cultured mouse podocytes significantly improved cell survival after ADR treatment. While Prkdc protein was not detected in mitochondria, mice with Prkdc mutations showed marked mtDNA depletion in renal tissue upon ADR treatment. To determine whether Prkdc participates in mtDNA regulation, we tested its genetic interaction with Mpv17, which encodes a mitochondrial protein mutated in human mtDNA depletion syndromes (MDDSs). While single mutant mice were asymptomatic, Prkdc/Mpv17 double-mutant mice developed mtDNA depletion and recapitulated many MDDS and ADR injury phenotypes. These findings implicate mtDNA damage in the development of ADR toxicity and identify Prkdc as a MDDS modifier gene and a component of the mitochondrial genome maintenance pathway.
Mechanisms of progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD), a major health care burden, are poorly understood. EGFR stimulates CKD progression, but the molecular networks that mediate its biological effects remain unknown. We recently showed that the severity of renal lesions after nephron reduction varied substantially among mouse strains and required activation of EGFR. Here, we utilized two mouse strains that react differently to nephron reduction — FVB/N mice, which develop severe renal lesions, and B6D2F1 mice, which are resistant to early deterioration — coupled with genome-wide expression to elucidate the molecular nature of CKD progression. Our results showed that lipocalin 2 (Lcn2, also known as neutrophil gelatinase–associated lipocalin [NGAL]), the most highly upregulated gene in the FVB/N strain, was not simply a marker of renal lesions, but an active player in disease progression. In fact, the severity of renal lesions was dramatically reduced in Lcn2–/– mice. We discovered that Lcn2 expression increased upon EGFR activation and that Lcn2 mediated its mitogenic effect during renal deterioration. EGFR inhibition prevented Lcn2 upregulation and lesion development in mice expressing a dominant negative EGFR isoform, and hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (Hif-1α) was crucially required for EGFR-induced Lcn2 overexpression. Consistent with this, cell proliferation was dramatically reduced in Lcn2–/– mice. These data are relevant to human CKD, as we found that LCN2 was increased particularly in patients who rapidly progressed to end-stage renal failure. Together our results uncover what we believe to be a novel function for Lcn2 and a critical pathway leading to progressive renal failure and cystogenesis.
CD8+ T cells play a critical role in the immune response to viral pathogens. Persistent human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection results in a strong increase in the number of virus-specific, quiescent effector-type CD8+ T cells with constitutive cytolytic activity, but the molecular pathways involved in the induction and maintenance of these cells are unknown. We show here that HCMV infection induced acute and lasting changes in the transcriptomes of virus-reactive T cells collected from HCMV-seropositive patients at distinct stages of infection. Enhanced cell cycle and metabolic activity was restricted to the acute phase of the response, but at all stages, HCMV-specific CD8+ T cells expressed the Th1-associated transcription factors T-bet (TBX21) and eomesodermin (EOMES), in parallel with continuous expression of IFNG mRNA and IFN-γ–regulated genes. The cytolytic proteins granzyme B and perforin as well as the fractalkine-binding chemokine receptor CX3CR1 were found in virus-reactive cells throughout the response. During HCMV latency, virus-specific CD8+ T cells lacked the typical features of exhausted cells found in other chronic infections. Persistent effector cell traits together with the permanent changes in chemokine receptor usage of virus-specific, nonexhausted, long-lived CD8+ T cells may be crucial to maintain lifelong protection from HCMV reactivation.
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a signaling molecule that senses environmental cues, such as nutrient status and oxygen supply, to regulate cell growth, proliferation, and other functions. Unchecked, sustained mTOR activity results in defects in HSC function. Inflammatory conditions, such as autoimmune disease, are often associated with defective hematopoiesis. Here, we investigated whether hyperactivation of mTOR in HSCs contributes to hematopoietic defects in autoimmunity and inflammation. We found that in mice deficient in Foxp3 (scurfy mice), a model of autoimmunity, the development of autoimmune disease correlated with progressive bone marrow loss and impaired regenerative capacity of HSCs in competitive bone marrow transplantation. Similarly, LPS-mediated inflammation in C57BL/6 mice led to massive bone marrow cell death and impaired HSC function. Importantly, treatment with rapamycin in both models corrected bone marrow hypocellularity and partially restored hematopoietic activity. In cultured mouse bone marrow cells, treatment with either of the inflammatory cytokines IL-6 or TNF-α was sufficient to activate mTOR, while preventing mTOR activation in vivo required simultaneous inhibition of CCL2, IL-6, and TNF-α. These data strongly suggest that mTOR activation in HSCs by inflammatory cytokines underlies defective hematopoiesis in autoimmune disease and inflammation.
Many common disorders of pregnancy are attributed to insufficient invasion of the uterine lining by trophoblast, fetal cells that are the major cell type of the placenta. Interactions between fetal trophoblast and maternal uterine NK (uNK) cells — specifically interactions between HLA-C molecules expressed by the fetal trophoblast cells and killer Ig-like receptors (KIRs) on the maternal uNK cells — influence placentation in human pregnancy. Consistent with this, pregnancies are at increased risk of preeclampsia in mothers homozygous for KIR haplotype A (KIR AA). In this study, we have demonstrated that trophoblast expresses both paternally and maternally inherited HLA-C surface proteins and that maternal KIR AA frequencies are increased in affected pregnancies only when the fetus has more group 2 HLA-C genes (C2) than the mother. These data raise the possibility that there is a deleterious allogeneic effect stemming from paternal C2. We found that this effect also occurred in other pregnancy disorders (fetal growth restriction and recurrent miscarriage), indicating a role early in gestation for these receptor/ligand pairs in the pathogenesis of reproductive failure. Notably, pregnancy disorders were less frequent in mothers that possessed the telomeric end of the KIR B haplotype, which contains activating KIR2DS1. In addition, uNK cells expressed KIR2DS1, which bound specifically to C2+ trophoblast cells. These findings highlight the complexity and central importance of specific combinations of activating KIR and HLA-C in maternal-fetal immune interactions that determine reproductive success.
Pemphigus is a life-threatening autoimmune disease in which antibodies specific for desmogleins (Dsgs) cause loss of keratinocyte cell adhesion and blisters. In order to understand how antibodies cause pathogenicity and whether there are commonalities among antibodies in different patients that could ultimately be used to target specific therapy against these antibodies, we characterized Dsg-specific mAbs cloned by phage display from 3 patients with pemphigus vulgaris and 2 with pemphigus foliaceus. Variable heavy chain gene usage was restricted, but similar genes were used for both pathogenic and nonpathogenic mAbs. However, the heavy chain complementarity-determining region 3 (H-CDR3) of most pathogenic, but not nonpathogenic, mAbs shared an amino acid consensus sequence. Randomization of the H-CDR3 and site-directed mutagenesis indicated that changes in this sequence could block pathogenicity but not necessarily binding. In addition, for 2 antibodies with longer H-CDR3s, a tryptophan was critical for pathogenicity but not binding, a result that is consistent with blocking the tryptophan acceptor site that is thought to be necessary for Dsg-mediated adhesion. These studies indicate that H-CDR3 is critical for pathogenicity of a human autoantibody, that a small region (even 1 amino acid) can mediate pathogenicity, and that pathogenicity can be uncoupled from binding in these antibodies.
Rhythmic breathing movements originate from a dispersed neuronal network in the medulla and pons. Here, we demonstrate that rhythmic activity of this respiratory network is affected by the phosphorylation status of the inhibitory glycine receptor α3 subtype (GlyRα3), which controls glutamatergic and glycinergic neuronal discharges, subject to serotonergic modulation. Serotonin receptor type 1A–specific (5-HTR1A–specific) modulation directly induced dephosphorylation of GlyRα3 receptors, which augmented inhibitory glycine-activated chloride currents in HEK293 cells coexpressing 5-HTR1A and GlyRα3. The 5-HTR1A–GlyRα3 signaling pathway was distinct from opioid receptor signaling and efficiently counteracted opioid-induced depression of breathing and consequential apnea in mice. Paradoxically, this rescue of breathing originated from enhanced glycinergic synaptic inhibition of glutamatergic and glycinergic neurons and caused disinhibition of their target neurons. Together, these effects changed respiratory phase alternations and ensured rhythmic breathing in vivo. GlyRα3-deficient mice had an irregular respiratory rhythm under baseline conditions, and systemic 5-HTR1A activation failed to remedy opioid-induced respiratory depression in these mice. Delineation of this 5-HTR1A–GlyRα3 signaling pathway offers a mechanistic basis for pharmacological treatment of opioid-induced apnea and other breathing disturbances caused by disorders of inhibitory synaptic transmission, such as hyperekplexia, hypoxia/ischemia, and brainstem infarction.
Activation of hepatic stellate cells in response to chronic inflammation represents a crucial step in the development of liver fibrosis. However, the molecules involved in the interaction between immune cells and stellate cells remain obscure. Herein, we identify the chemokine CCL5 (also known as RANTES), which is induced in murine and human liver after injury, as a central mediator of this interaction. First, we showed in patients with liver fibrosis that CCL5 haplotypes and intrahepatic CCL5 mRNA expression were associated with severe liver fibrosis. Consistent with this, we detected Ccl5 mRNA and CCL5 protein in 2 mouse models of liver fibrosis, induced by either injection of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) or feeding on a methionine and choline–deficient (MCD) diet. In these models, Ccl5–/– mice exhibited decreased hepatic fibrosis, with reduced stellate cell activation and immune cell infiltration. Transplantation of Ccl5-deficient bone marrow into WT recipients attenuated liver fibrosis, identifying infiltrating hematopoietic cells as the main source of Ccl5. We then showed that treatment with the CCL5 receptor antagonist Met-CCL5 inhibited cultured stellate cell migration, proliferation, and chemokine and collagen secretion. Importantly, in vivo administration of Met-CCL5 greatly ameliorated liver fibrosis in mice and was able to accelerate fibrosis regression. Our results define a successful therapeutic approach to reduce experimental liver fibrosis by antagonizing Ccl5 receptors.
Adaptive changes to oxygen availability are critical for cell survival and tissue homeostasis. Prolonged oxygen deprivation due to reduced blood flow to cardiac or peripheral tissues can lead to myocardial infarction and peripheral vascular disease, respectively. Mammalian cells respond to hypoxia by modulating oxygen-sensing transducers that stabilize the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α), which transactivates genes governing angiogenesis and metabolic pathways. Oxygen-dependent changes in HIF-1α levels are regulated by proline hydroxylation and proteasomal degradation. Here we provide evidence for what we believe is a novel mechanism regulating HIF-1α levels in isolated human ECs during hypoxia. Hypoxia differentially increased microRNA-424 (miR-424) levels in ECs. miR-424 targeted cullin 2 (CUL2), a scaffolding protein critical to the assembly of the ubiquitin ligase system, thereby stabilizing HIF-α isoforms. Hypoxia-induced miR-424 was regulated by PU.1-dependent transactivation. PU.1 levels were increased in hypoxic endothelium by RUNX-1 and C/EBPα. Furthermore, miR-424 promoted angiogenesis in vitro and in mice, which was blocked by a specific morpholino. The rodent homolog of human miR-424, mu-miR-322, was significantly upregulated in parallel with HIF-1α in experimental models of ischemia. These results suggest that miR-322/424 plays an important physiological role in post-ischemic vascular remodeling and angiogenesis.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation