What are the molecular events that allow us to overcome jet lag? Kiessling and colleagues report that jet lag temporarily disrupts the body’s circadian clock but can be adjusted through rhythmic release of glucocorticoids (page 2600).
Cover image courtesy of Merve Ulug Evern.
The BCR-ABL1 oncoprotein transforms pluripotent HSCs and initiates chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Patients with early phase (also known as chronic phase [CP]) disease usually respond to treatment with ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), although some patients who respond initially later become resistant. In most patients, TKIs reduce the leukemia cell load substantially, but the cells from which the leukemia cells are derived during CP (so-called leukemia stem cells [LSCs]) are intrinsically insensitive to TKIs and survive long term. LSCs or their progeny can acquire additional genetic and/or epigenetic changes that cause the leukemia to transform from CP to a more advanced phase, which has been subclassified as either accelerated phase or blastic phase disease. The latter responds poorly to treatment and is usually fatal. Here, we discuss what is known about the molecular mechanisms leading to blastic transformation of CML and propose some novel therapeutic approaches.
It is now believed that frequent jet lag or shifts of daily rhythms caused by rotating shift work can lead to deleterious health outcomes. Indeed, many serious health problems, including breast cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease, have been linked to an occupational history of shift work. This has heightened interest in better understanding the biological responses to jet lag and shift work, with the hope that this will pave the way to developing compounds that can help people avoid their negative health consequences. In this context, a report in this issue of the JCI takes us to a new level of understanding of the molecular control of the resetting of the multitude of internal biological clocks disrupted in a mouse model of jet lag.
Metformin has become a mainstay in the modest therapeutic armamentarium for the treatment of the insulin resistance of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Although metformin functions primarily by reducing hepatic glucose output, the molecular mechanism mediating this effect had remained elusive until recently. Metformin impairs ATP production, activating the conserved sensor of nutritional stress AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), thus providing a plausible and generally accepted model for suppression of gluconeogenic gene expression and glucose output. In this issue of the JCI, Foretz et al. refute this hypothesis by showing that AMPK is dispensable for the effects of metformin on hepatic glucose output in primary hepatocytes; rather, their data suggest that the antidiabetic effects of metformin in the liver are mediated directly by reducing energy charge.
The efficacy of cancer treatment by radiation and chemotherapeutic drugs is often limited by severe side effects that primarily affect the hematopoietic system and the epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract. Progress in understanding differences in the mechanisms involved in the responses of normal and tumor cells to genotoxic stress has led to the development of new rational approaches to selective protection of normal cells, such as suppression of apoptosis by pharmacological inhibition of p53 or activation of NF-κB. Another promising approach presented in this issue by Johnson et al. is based on the idea of using pharmacological inhibitors of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) to convert normal cells into a radioresistant state by inducing reversible cell cycle arrest at the G1/S transition. The evidence indicates that this approach is likely to be specific for protection of normal cells and may, therefore, have clinical potential as an adjuvant in anticancer therapies.
Autophagy is a tightly regulated catabolic process whereby cells degrade their constituents to dispose of unwanted cytoplasmic elements and recycle nutrients for cellular remodeling. Studies of autophagy in mammals have elicited substantial interest because it is linked to a range of physiologic and pathologic states. In this issue of the JCI, Mariño et al. uncover a role for autophagy in a balance disorder related to inner ear pathologies. Mice lacking the protease autophagy-related 4B (Atg4b, also known as autophagin-1) exhibited a systemic reduction in autophagy and showed defects in the development of otoconia, organic particles that contain calcium carbonate crystals and proteins and that are essential for balance perception (equilibrioception) in mammals. The intriguing aspect of this work is that an autophagy block impairs the secretion and assembly of otoconial proteins, emphasizing a role for autophagy in functions distinct from macromolecule degradation.
Estrogen receptors are best known as ligand-activated transcription factors that regulate vascular cell gene expression. For many years now, a rapid signaling pathway mediated by cell membrane–associated estrogen receptors also has been recognized, but the physiological relevance of this pathway has remained unclear. In this issue of the JCI, Chambliss et al. provide new data to indicate that activation of non-nuclear estrogen receptor signaling regulates processes central to cardiovascular health and disease. These investigators show that an estrogen-dendrimer conjugate (EDC), which activates estrogen receptors but remains non-nuclear, stimulates vascular EC migration in vitro and protects against vascular injury in vivo. They show further that the vascular benefits of EDC in vivo occur selectively in the vasculature, without stimulating the uterus or enhancing growth of breast cancer xenografts. Taken together, these findings indicate that activation of non-nuclear estrogen receptor signaling regulates vascular events of physiological relevance and suggest that translation of these findings into clinically relevant therapeutic interventions is a logical next goal.
The glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) family of serine/threonine kinases consists of 2 highly related isoforms, α and β. Although GSK-3β has an important role in cardiac development, much remains unknown about the function of either GSK-3 isoform in the postnatal heart. Herein, we present what we believe to be the first studies defining the role of GSK-3α in the mouse heart using gene targeting. Gsk3a–/– mice over 2 months of age developed progressive cardiomyocyte and cardiac hypertrophy and contractile dysfunction. Following thoracic aortic constriction in young mice, we observed enhanced hypertrophy that rapidly transitioned to ventricular dilatation and contractile dysfunction. Surprisingly, markedly impaired β-adrenergic responsiveness was found at both the organ and cellular level. This phenotype was reproduced by acute treatment of WT cardiomyocytes with a small molecule GSK-3 inhibitor, confirming that the response was not due to a chronic adaptation to LV dysfunction. Thus, GSK-3α appears to be the central regulator of a striking range of essential processes, including acute and direct positive regulation of β-adrenergic responsiveness. In the absence of GSK-3α, the heart cannot respond effectively to hemodynamic stress and rapidly fails. Our findings identify what we believe to be a new paradigm of regulation of β-adrenergic signaling and raise concerns given the rapid expansion of drug development targeting GSK-3.
Valvular heart disease (VHD) is the term given to any disease process involving one or more of the heart valves. The condition can be congenital or acquired, for example as a result of atherosclerosis or rheumatic fever. Despite its clinical importance, the molecular mechanisms underlying VHD remain unknown. We investigated the pathophysiologic role and molecular mechanism of periostin, a protein that plays critical roles in cardiac valve development, in degenerative VHD. Unexpectedly, we found that periostin levels were drastically increased in infiltrated inflammatory cells and myofibroblasts in areas of angiogenesis in human atherosclerotic and rheumatic VHD, whereas periostin was localized to the subendothelial layer in normal valves. The expression patterns of periostin and chondromodulin I, an angioinhibitory factor that maintains cardiac valvular function, were mutually exclusive. In WT mice, a high-fat diet markedly increased aortic valve thickening, annular fibrosis, and MMP-2 and MMP-13 expression levels, concomitant with increased periostin expression; these changes were attenuated in periostin-knockout mice. In vitro and ex vivo studies revealed that periostin promoted tube formation and mobilization of ECs. Furthermore, periostin prominently increased MMP secretion from cultured valvular interstitial cells, ECs, and macrophages in a cell type–specific manner. These findings indicate that, in contrast to chondromodulin I, periostin plays an essential role in the progression of cardiac valve complex degeneration by inducing angiogenesis and MMP production.
Cellular contractility and, thus, the ability to alter cell shape are prerequisites for a number of important biological processes such as cytokinesis, movement, differentiation, and substrate adherence. The contractile capacity of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) is pivotal for the regulation of vascular tone and thus blood pressure and flow. Here, we report that conditional ablation of the transcriptional regulator Junb results in impaired arterial contractility in vivo and in vitro. This was exemplified by resistance of Junb-deficient mice to DOCA-salt–induced volume-dependent hypertension as well as by a decreased contractile capacity of isolated arteries. Detailed analyses of Junb-deficient VSMCs, mouse embryonic fibroblasts, and endothelial cells revealed a general failure in stress fiber formation and impaired cellular motility. Concomitantly, we identified myosin regulatory light chain 9 (Myl9), which is critically involved in actomyosin contractility and stress fiber assembly, as a Junb target. Consistent with these findings, reexpression of either Junb or Myl9 in Junb-deficient cells restored stress fiber formation, cellular motility, and contractile capacity. Our data establish a molecular link between the activator protein–1 transcription factor subunit Junb and actomyosin-based cellular motility as well as cellular and vascular contractility by governing Myl9 transcription.
Steroid hormone receptors function classically in the nucleus as transcription factors. However, recent data indicate that there are also non-nuclear subpopulations of steroid hormone receptors, including estrogen receptors (ERs), that mediate membrane-initiated signaling of unclear basis and significance. Here we have shown that an estrogen-dendrimer conjugate (EDC) that is excluded from the nucleus stimulates endothelial cell proliferation and migration via ERα, direct ERα-Gαi interaction, and endothelial NOS (eNOS) activation. Analysis of mice carrying an estrogen response element luciferase reporter, ER-regulated genes in the mouse uterus, and eNOS enzyme activation further indicated that EDC specifically targets non-nuclear processes in vivo. In mice, estradiol and EDC equally stimulated carotid artery reendothelialization in an ERα- and G protein–dependent manner, and both agents attenuated the development of neointimal hyperplasia following endothelial injury. In contrast, endometrial carcinoma cell growth in vitro and uterine enlargement and MCF-7 cell breast cancer xenograft growth in vivo were stimulated by estradiol but not EDC. Thus, EDC is a non-nuclear selective ER modulator (SERM) in vivo, and in mice, non-nuclear ER signaling promotes cardiovascular protection. These processes potentially could be harnessed to provide vascular benefit without increasing the risk of uterine or breast cancer.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process that is essential for cellular homeostasis and organismal viability in eukaryotes. However, the extent of its functions in higher-order processes of organismal physiology and behavior is still unknown. Here, we report that autophagy is essential for the maintenance of balance in mice and that its deficiency leads to severe balance disorders. We generated mice deficient in autophagin-1 protease (Atg4b) and showed that they had substantial systemic reduction of autophagic activity. Autophagy reduction occurred through defective proteolytic processing of the autophagosome component LC3 and its paralogs, which compromised the rate of autophagosome maturation. Despite their viability, Atg4b-null mice showed unusual patterns of behavior that are common features of inner ear pathologies. Consistent with this, Atg4b-null mice showed defects in the development of otoconia, organic calcium carbonate crystals essential for sense of balance (equilibrioception). Furthermore, these abnormalities were exacerbated in Atg5–/– mice, which completely lack the ability to perform autophagy, confirming that autophagic activity is necessary for otoconial biogenesis. Autophagy deficiency also led to impaired secretion and assembly of otoconial core proteins, thus hampering otoconial development. Taken together, these results describe an essential role for autophagy in inner ear development and equilibrioception and open new possibilities for understanding and treating human balance disorders, which are of growing relevance among the elderly population.
HSC transplantation using genetically modified autologous cells is a promising therapeutic strategy for various genetic diseases, cancer, and HIV. However, for many of these conditions, the current efficiency of gene transfer to HSCs is not sufficient for clinical use. The ability to increase the percentage of gene-modified cells following transplantation is critical to overcoming this obstacle. In vivo selection with mutant methylguanine methyltransferase (MGMTP140K) has been proposed to overcome low gene transfer efficiency to HSCs. Previous studies have shown efficient in vivo selection in mice and dogs but only transient selection in primates. Here, we report efficient and stable MGMTP140K-mediated multilineage selection in both macaque and baboon nonhuman primate models. Treatment consisting of both O6-benzylguanine (O6BG) and N,N′-bis(2-chloroethyl)-N-nitroso-urea (BCNU) stably increased the percentage of transgene-expressing cells from a range of initial levels of engrafted genetically modified cells, with the longest follow-up after drug treatment occurring over 2.2 years. Drug treatment was well tolerated, and selection occurred in myeloid, lymphoid, and erythroid cells as well as platelets. Retrovirus integration site analysis before and after drug treatments confirmed the presence of multiple clones. These nonhuman primate studies closely model a clinical setting and should have broad applications for HSC gene therapy targeting human diseases of malignant, genetic, and infectious nature, including HIV.
Metformin is widely used to treat hyperglycemia in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Recently the LKB1/AMP-activated protein kinase (LKB1/AMPK) pathway was proposed to mediate the action of metformin on hepatic gluconeogenesis. However, the molecular mechanism by which this pathway operates had remained elusive. Surprisingly, here we have found that in mice lacking AMPK in the liver, blood glucose levels were comparable to those in wild-type mice, and the hypoglycemic effect of metformin was maintained. Hepatocytes lacking AMPK displayed normal glucose production and gluconeogenic gene expression compared with wild-type hepatocytes. In contrast, gluconeogenesis was upregulated in LKB1-deficient hepatocytes. Metformin decreased expression of the gene encoding the catalytic subunit of glucose-6-phosphatase (G6Pase), while cytosolic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (Pepck) gene expression was unaffected in wild-type, AMPK-deficient, and LKB1-deficient hepatocytes. Surprisingly, metformin-induced inhibition of glucose production was amplified in both AMPK- and LKB1-deficient compared with wild-type hepatocytes. This inhibition correlated in a dose-dependent manner with a reduction in intracellular ATP content, which is crucial for glucose production. Moreover, metformin-induced inhibition of glucose production was preserved under forced expression of gluconeogenic genes through PPARγ coactivator 1α (PGC-1α) overexpression, indicating that metformin suppresses gluconeogenesis via a transcription-independent process. In conclusion, we demonstrate that metformin inhibits hepatic gluconeogenesis in an LKB1- and AMPK-independent manner via a decrease in hepatic energy state.
Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is used effectively to treat a number of hematological malignancies. Its beneficial effects rely on donor-derived T cell–targeted leukemic cells, the so-called graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect. Induction of GVL is usually associated with concomitant development of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a major complication of allogeneic HSCT. The T cells that mediate GVL and GVHD are activated by alloantigen presented on host antigen-presenting cells of hematopoietic origin, and it is not well understood how alloantigen expression on non-hematopoietic cells affects GVL activity. Here we show, in mouse models of MHC-matched, minor histocompatibility antigen–mismatched bone marrow transplantation, that alloantigen expression on host epithelium drives donor T cells into apoptosis and dysfunction during GVHD, resulting in a loss of GVL activity. During GVHD, programmed death–1 (PD-1) and PD ligand–1 (PD-L1), molecules implicated in inducing T cell exhaustion, were upregulated on activated T cells and the target tissue, respectively, suggesting that the T cell defects driven by host epithelial alloantigen expression might be mediated by the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway. Consistent with this, blockade of PD-1/PD-L1 interactions partially restored T cell effector functions and improved GVL. These results elucidate a previously unrecognized significance of alloantigen expression on non-hematopoietic cells in GVL and suggest that separation of GVL from GVHD for more effective HSCT may be possible in human patients.
PDGF-dependent hepatic stellate cell (HSC) recruitment is an essential step in liver fibrosis and the sinusoidal vascular changes that accompany this process. However, the mechanisms that regulate PDGF signaling remain incompletely defined. Here, we found that in two rat models of liver fibrosis, the axonal guidance molecule neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) was upregulated in activated HSCs, which exhibit the highly motile myofibroblast phenotype. Additionally, NRP-1 colocalized with PDGF-receptor β (PDGFRβ) in HSCs both in the injury models and in human and rat HSC cell lines. In human HSCs, siRNA-mediated knockdown of NRP-1 attenuated PDGF-induced chemotaxis, while NRP-1 overexpression increased cell motility and TGF-β–dependent collagen production. Similarly, mouse HSCs genetically modified to lack NRP-1 displayed reduced motility in response to PDGF treatment. Immunoprecipitation and biochemical binding studies revealed that NRP-1 increased PDGF binding affinity for PDGFRβ-expressing cells and promoted downstream signaling. An NRP-1 neutralizing Ab ameliorated recruitment of HSCs, blocked liver fibrosis in a rat model of liver injury, and also attenuated VEGF responses in cultured liver endothelial cells. In addition, NRP-1 overexpression was observed in human specimens of liver cirrhosis caused by both hepatitis C and steatohepatitis. These studies reveal a role for NRP-1 as a modulator of multiple growth factor targets that regulate liver fibrosis and the vascular changes that accompany it and may have broad implications for liver cirrhosis and myofibroblast biology in a variety of other organ systems and disease conditions.
Hepcidin is a peptide hormone that regulates iron homeostasis and acts as an antimicrobial peptide. It is expressed and secreted by a variety of cell types in response to iron loading and inflammation. Hepcidin mediates iron homeostasis by binding to the iron exporter ferroportin, inducing its internalization and degradation via activation of the protein kinase Jak2 and the subsequent phosphorylation of ferroportin. Here we have shown that hepcidin-activated Jak2 also phosphorylates the transcription factor Stat3, resulting in a transcriptional response. Hepcidin treatment of ferroportin-expressing mouse macrophages showed changes in mRNA expression levels of a wide variety of genes. The changes in transcript levels for half of these genes were a direct effect of hepcidin, as shown by cycloheximide insensitivity, and dependent on the presence of Stat3. Hepcidin-mediated transcriptional changes modulated LPS-induced transcription in both cultured macrophages and in vivo mouse models, as demonstrated by suppression of IL-6 and TNF-α transcript and secreted protein. Hepcidin-mediated transcription in mice also suppressed toxicity and morbidity due to single doses of LPS, poly(I:C), and turpentine, which is used to model chronic inflammatory disease. Most notably, we demonstrated that hepcidin pretreatment protected mice from a lethal dose of LPS and that hepcidin-knockout mice could be rescued from LPS toxicity by injection of hepcidin. The results of our study suggest a new function for hepcidin in modulating acute inflammatory responses.
Many breast cancers exhibit a degree of dependence on estrogen for tumor growth. Although several therapies have been developed to treat individuals with estrogen-dependent breast cancers, some tumors show de novo or acquired resistance, rendering them particularly elusive to current therapeutic strategies. Understanding the mechanisms by which these cancers develop resistance would enable the development of new and effective therapeutics. In order to determine mechanisms of escape from hormone dependence in estrogen receptor–positive (ER-positive) breast cancer, we established 4 human breast cancer cell lines after long-term estrogen deprivation (LTED). LTED cells showed variable changes in ER levels and sensitivity to 17β-estradiol. Proteomic profiling of LTED cells revealed increased phosphorylation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) substrates p70S6 kinase and p85S6 kinase as well as the PI3K substrate AKT. Inhibition of PI3K and mTOR induced LTED cell apoptosis and prevented the emergence of hormone-independent cells. Using reverse-phase protein microarrays, we identified a breast tumor protein signature of PI3K pathway activation that predicted poor outcome after adjuvant endocrine therapy in patients. Our data suggest that upon adaptation to hormone deprivation, breast cancer cells rely heavily on PI3K signaling. Our findings also imply that acquired resistance to endocrine therapy in breast cancer may be abrogated by combination therapies targeting both ER and PI3K pathways.
Atherosclerosis represents the most significant risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD), the leading cause of death in developed countries. To better understand the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, we applied a likelihood-based model selection method to infer gene-disease causality relationships for the aortic lesion trait in a segregating mouse population demonstrating a spectrum of susceptibility to developing atherosclerotic lesions. We identified 292 genes that tested causal for aortic lesions from liver and adipose tissues of these mice, and we experimentally validated one of these candidate causal genes, complement component 3a receptor 1 (C3ar1), using a knockout mouse model. We also found that genes identified by this method overlapped with genes progressively regulated in the aortic arches of 2 mouse models of atherosclerosis during atherosclerotic lesion development. By comparing our gene set with findings from public human genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of CAD and related traits, we found that 5 genes identified by our study overlapped with published studies in humans in which they were identified as risk factors for multiple atherosclerosis-related pathologies, including myocardial infarction, serum uric acid levels, mean platelet volume, aortic root size, and heart failure. Candidate causal genes were also found to be enriched with CAD risk polymorphisms identified by the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC). Our findings therefore validate the ability of causality testing procedures to provide insights into the mechanisms underlying atherosclerosis development.
Neutrophils are a major component of the innate immune response. Their homeostasis is maintained, in part, by the regulated release of neutrophils from the bone marrow. Constitutive expression of the chemokine CXCL12 by bone marrow stromal cells provides a key retention signal for neutrophils in the bone marrow through activation of its receptor, CXCR4. Attenuation of CXCR4 signaling leads to entry of neutrophils into the circulation through unknown mechanisms. We investigated the role of CXCR2-binding ELR+ chemokines in neutrophil trafficking using mouse mixed bone marrow chimeras reconstituted with Cxcr2–/– and WT cells. In this context, neutrophils lacking CXCR2 were preferentially retained in the bone marrow, a phenotype resembling the congenital disorder myelokathexis, which is characterized by chronic neutropenia. Additionally, transient disruption of CXCR4 failed to mobilize Cxcr2–/– neutrophils. However, neutrophils lacking both CXCR2 and CXCR4 displayed constitutive mobilization, showing that CXCR4 plays a dominant role in neutrophil trafficking. With regard to CXCR2 ligands, bone marrow endothelial cells and osteoblasts constitutively expressed the ELR+ chemokines CXCL1 and CXCL2, and CXCL2 expression was induced in endothelial cells during G-CSF–induced neutrophil mobilization. Collectively, these data suggest that CXCR2 signaling is a second chemokine axis that interacts antagonistically with CXCR4 to regulate neutrophil release from the bone marrow.
Use of lithium, the mainstay for treatment of bipolar disorder, is limited by its frequent neurological side effects and its risk for overdose-induced toxicity. Recently, lithium has also been proposed as a treatment for Alzheimer disease and other neurodegenerative conditions, but clinical trials have been hampered by its prominent side effects in the elderly. The mechanisms underlying both the positive and negative effects of lithium are not fully known. Lithium inhibits glycogen synthase kinase–3 (GSK-3) in vivo, and we recently reported neuronal apoptosis and motor deficits in dominant-negative GSK-3–transgenic mice. We hypothesized that therapeutic levels of lithium could also induce neuronal loss through GSK-3 inhibition. Here we report induction of neuronal apoptosis in various brain regions and the presence of motor deficits in mice treated chronically with lithium. We found that GSK-3 inhibition increased translocation of nuclear factor of activated T cells c3/4 (NFATc3/4) transcription factors to the nucleus, leading to increased Fas ligand (FasL) levels and Fas activation. Lithium-induced apoptosis and motor deficits were absent when NFAT nuclear translocation was prevented by cyclosporin A administration and in Fas-deficient lpr mice. The results of these studies suggest a mechanism for lithium-induced neuronal and motor toxicity. These findings may enable the development of combined therapies that diminish the toxicities of lithium and possibly other GSK-3 inhibitors and extend their potential to the treatment of Alzheimer disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Identification of the signaling pathways that mediate neuronal survival signaling could lead to new therapeutic targets for neurologic disorders and stroke. Sublethal doses of NMDA can induce robust endogenous protective mechanisms in neurons. Through differential analysis of primary library expression and microarray analyses, here we have shown that nuclear factor I, subtype A (NFI-A), a member of the NFI/CAAT-box transcription factor family, is induced in mouse neurons by NMDA receptor activation in a NOS- and ERK-dependent manner. Knockdown of NFI-A induction using siRNA substantially reduced the neuroprotective effects of sublethal doses of NMDA. Further analysis indicated that NFI-A transcriptional activity was required for the neuroprotective effects of NMDA receptor activation. Additional evidence of the neuroprotective effects of NFI-A was provided by the observations that Nfia–/– neurons were highly sensitive to NMDA-induced excitotoxicity and were more susceptible to developmental cell death than wild-type neurons and that Nfia+/– mice were more sensitive to NMDA-induced intrastriatal lesions than were wild-type animals. These results identify NFI-A as what we believe to be a novel neuroprotective transcription factor with implications in neuroprotection and neuronal plasticity following NMDA receptor activation.
Nearly every extracellular ligand that has been found to play a role in regulating bone biology acts, at least in part, through MAPK pathways. Nevertheless, much remains to be learned about the contribution of MAPKs to osteoblast biology in vivo. Here we report that the p38 MAPK pathway is required for normal skeletogenesis in mice, as mice with deletion of any of the MAPK pathway member–encoding genes MAPK kinase 3 (Mkk3), Mkk6, p38a, or p38b displayed profoundly reduced bone mass secondary to defective osteoblast differentiation. Among the MAPK kinase kinase (MAP3K) family, we identified TGF-β–activated kinase 1 (TAK1; also known as MAP3K7) as the critical activator upstream of p38 in osteoblasts. Osteoblast-specific deletion of Tak1 resulted in clavicular hypoplasia and delayed fontanelle fusion, a phenotype similar to the cleidocranial dysplasia observed in humans haploinsufficient for the transcription factor runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2). Mechanistic analysis revealed that the TAK1–MKK3/6–p38 MAPK axis phosphorylated Runx2, promoting its association with the coactivator CREB-binding protein (CBP), which was required to regulate osteoblast genetic programs. These findings reveal an in vivo function for p38β and establish that MAPK signaling is essential for bone formation in vivo. These results also suggest that selective p38β agonists may represent attractive therapeutic agents to prevent bone loss associated with osteoporosis and aging.
The majority of human skeletal dysplasias are caused by dysregulation of growth plate homeostasis. As TGF-β signaling is a critical determinant of growth plate homeostasis, skeletal dysplasias are often associated with dysregulation of this pathway. The context-dependent action of TFG-β signaling is tightly controlled by numerous mechanisms at the extracellular level and downstream of ligand-receptor interactions. However, TGF-β is synthesized as an inactive precursor that is cleaved to become mature in the Golgi apparatus, and the regulation of this posttranslational intracellular processing and trafficking is much less defined. Here, we report that a cysteine-rich protein, E-selectin ligand–1 (ESL-1), acts as a negative regulator of TGF-β production by binding TGF-β precursors in the Golgi apparatus in a cell-autonomous fashion, inhibiting their maturation. Furthermore, ESL-1 inhibited the processing of proTGF-β by a furin-like protease, leading to reduced secretion of mature TGF-β by primary mouse chondrocytes and HEK293 cells. In vivo loss of Esl1 in mice led to increased TGF-β/SMAD signaling in the growth plate that was associated with reduced chondrocyte proliferation and delayed terminal differentiation. Gain-of-function and rescue studies of the Xenopus ESL-1 ortholog in the context of early embryogenesis showed that this regulation of TGF-β/Nodal signaling was evolutionarily conserved. This study identifies what we believe to be a novel intracellular mechanism for regulating TGF-β during skeletal development and homeostasis.
One of the main unresolved questions in solid organ transplantation is how to establish indefinite graft survival that is free from long-term treatment with immunosuppressive drugs and chronic rejection (i.e., the establishment of tolerance). The failure to achieve this goal may be related to the difficulty in identifying the phenotype and function of the cell subsets that participate in the induction of tolerance. To address this issue, we investigated the suppressive roles of recipient myeloid cells that may be manipulated to induce tolerance to transplanted hearts in mice. Using depleting mAbs, clodronate-loaded liposomes, and transgenic mice specific for depletion of CD11c+, CD11b+, or CD115+ cells, we identified a tolerogenic role for CD11b+CD115+Gr1+ monocytes during the induction of tolerance by costimulatory blockade with CD40L-specific mAb. Early after transplantation, Gr1+ monocytes migrated from the bone marrow into the transplanted organ, where they prevented the initiation of adaptive immune responses that lead to allograft rejection and participated in the development of Tregs. Our results suggest that mobilization of bone marrow CD11b+CD115+Gr1+ monocytes under sterile inflammatory conditions mediates the induction of indefinite allograft survival. We propose that manipulating the common bone marrow monocyte progenitor could be a useful clinical therapeutic approach for inducing transplantation tolerance.
Mutations in the tumor-suppressor gene phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (Pten) are associated with multiple cancers in humans, including T cell malignancies. Targeted deletion of Pten in T cells induces both a disseminated “mature phenotype” lymphoma and a lymphoproliferative autoimmune syndrome in mice. Here, we have shown that these two diseases are separable and mediated by T lineage cells of distinct developmental stages. Loss of PTEN was found to be a powerful driver of lymphomagenesis within the thymus characterized by overexpression of the c-myc oncogene. In an otherwise normal thymic environment, PTEN-deficient T cell lymphomas invariably harbored RAG-dependent reciprocal t(14:15) chromosomal translocations involving the T cell receptor alpha/delta locus and c-myc, and their survival and growth was TCR dependent, but Notch independent. However, lymphomas occurred even if TCR recombination was prevented, although these lymphomas were less mature, arose later in life, and, importantly, were dependent upon Notch pathways to upregulate c-myc expression. In contrast, using the complementary methods of early thymectomy and adoptive transfers, we found that PTEN-deficient mature T cells were unable to undergo malignant transformation but were sufficient for the development of autoimmunity. These data suggest multiple and distinct regulatory roles for PTEN in the molecular pathogenesis of lymphoma and autoimmunity.
The inhibitory receptor programmed death 1 (PD-1) is upregulated on antigen-specific CD8+ T cells during persistent viral infections. Interaction with PD-1 ligand 1 (PD-L1) contributes to functional exhaustion of responding T cells and may limit immunopathology during infection. PD-L1 is expressed on both hematopoietic and nonhematopoietic cells in tissues. However, the exact roles of PD-L1 on hematopoietic versus nonhematopoietic cells in modulating immune responses are unclear. Here we used bone marrow chimeric mice to examine the effects of PD-L1 deficiency in hematopoietic or nonhematopoietic cells during lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus clone 13 (LCMV CL-13) infection. We found that PD-L1 expression on hematopoietic cells inhibited CD8+ T cell numbers and function after LCMV CL-13 infection. In contrast, PD-L1 expression on nonhematopoietic cells limited viral clearance and immunopathology in infected tissues. Together, these data demonstrate that there are distinct roles for PD-L1 on hematopoietic and nonhematopoietic cells in regulating CD8+ T cell responses and viral clearance during chronic viral infection.
Tumor cell resistance to ionizing radiation and chemotherapy is a major obstacle in cancer therapy. One factor contributing to this is integrin-mediated adhesion to ECM. The adapter protein particularly interesting new cysteine-histidine-rich 1 (PINCH1) is recruited to integrin adhesion sites and promotes cell survival, but the mechanisms underlying this effect are not well understood. Here we have shown that PINCH1 is expressed at elevated levels in human tumors of diverse origins relative to normal tissue. Furthermore, PINCH1 promoted cell survival upon treatment with ionizing radiation in vitro and in vivo by perpetuating Akt1 phosphorylation and activity. Mechanistically, PINCH1 was found to directly bind to protein phosphatase 1α (PP1α) — an Akt1-regulating protein — and inhibit PP1α activity, resulting in increased Akt1 phosphorylation and enhanced radioresistance. Thus, our data suggest that targeting signaling molecules such as PINCH1 that function downstream of focal adhesions (the complexes that mediate tumor cell adhesion to ECM) may overcome radio- and chemoresistance, providing new therapeutic approaches for cancer.
Total body irradiation (TBI) can induce lethal myelosuppression, due to the sensitivity of proliferating hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) to ionizing radiation (IR). No effective therapy exists to mitigate the hematologic toxicities of TBI. Here, using selective and structurally distinct small molecule inhibitors of cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4) and CDK6, we have demonstrated that selective cellular quiescence increases radioresistance of human cell lines in vitro and mice in vivo. Cell lines dependent on CDK4/6 were resistant to IR and other DNA-damaging agents when treated with CDK4/6 inhibitors. In contrast, CDK4/6 inhibitors did not protect cell lines that proliferated independently of CDK4/6 activity. Treatment of wild-type mice with CDK4/6 inhibitors induced reversible pharmacological quiescence (PQ) of early HSPCs but not most other cycling cells in the bone marrow or other tissues. Selective PQ of HSPCs decreased the hematopoietic toxicity of TBI, even when the CDK4/6 inhibitor was administered several hours after TBI. Moreover, PQ at the time of administration of therapeutic IR to mice harboring autochthonous cancers reduced treatment toxicity without compromising the therapeutic tumor response. These results demonstrate an effective method to mitigate the hematopoietic toxicity of IR in mammals, which may be potentially useful after radiological disaster or as an adjuvant to anticancer therapy.
Somatic activating mutations in Notch1 contribute to the pathogenesis of T cell acute lymphoblastic lymphoma (T-ALL), but how activated Notch1 signaling exerts this oncogenic effect is not completely understood. Here we identify HIV-1 Rev–binding protein (Hrb), a component of the clathrin-mediated endocytosis machinery, as a critical mediator of Notch-induced T-ALL development in mice. Hrb was found to be a direct transcriptional target of Notch1, and Hrb loss reduced the incidence or delayed the onset of T-ALL in mouse models in which activated Notch1 signaling either contributes to or drives leukemogenesis. Consistent with this observation, Hrb supported survival and proliferation of hematopoietic and T cell precursor cells in vitro. We demonstrated that Hrb accelerated the uptake of transferrin, which was required for upregulation of the T cell protooncogene p21. Indeed, iron-deficient mice developed Notch1-induced T-ALL substantially more slowly than control mice, further supporting a critical role for iron uptake during leukemogenesis. Taken together, these results reveal that Hrb is a critical Notch target gene that mediates lymphoblast transformation and disease progression via its ability to satisfy the enhanced demands of transformed lymphoblasts for iron. Further, our data suggest that Hrb may be targeted to improve current treatment or design novel therapies for human T-ALL patients.
Despite significant advancements in our understanding of cancer development, the molecular mechanisms that underlie the formation of liver cancer remain largely unknown. C/EBPα is a transcription factor that regulates liver quiescence. Phosphorylation of C/EBPα at serine 193 (S193-ph) is upregulated in older mice and is thought to contribute to age-associated liver dysfunction. Because development of liver tumors is associated with increasing age, we investigated the role of S193-ph in the development of liver cancer using knockin mice expressing a phospho-mimetic aspartic acid residue in place of serine at position 193 (S193D) of C/EBPα. The S193D isoform of C/EBPα was able to completely inhibit liver proliferation in vivo after partial hepatectomy. However, treatment of these mice with diethylnitrosamine/phenobarbital (DEN/PB), which induces formation of liver cancer, actually resulted in earlier development of liver tumors. DEN/PB treatment was associated with specific degradation of both the S193-ph and S193D isoforms of C/EBPα through activation of the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). The mechanism of UPS-mediated elimination of C/EBPα during carcinogenesis involved elevated levels of gankyrin, a protein that was found to interact with the S193-ph isoform of C/EBPα and target it for UPS-mediated degradation. This study identifies a molecular mechanism that supports the development of liver cancer in older mice and potential therapeutic targets for the prevention of liver cancer.
Several lines of evidence suggest that tumor cells show elevated activity of the NF-κB transcription factor, a phenomenon often resulting from constitutive activity of IκB kinase β (IKKβ). However, others have found that loss of NF-κB activity or IKKβ is tumor promoting. The role of NF-κB in tumor progression is therefore controversial and varies with tumor type. We sought to more extensively investigate the role IKKβ in melanoma tumor development by specifically disrupting Ikkb in melanocytes in an established mouse model of spontaneous melanoma, whereby HRasV12 is expressed in a melanocyte-specific, doxycycline-inducible manner in mice null for the gene encoding the tumor suppressor inhibitor cyclin-dependent kinase 4/alternative reading frame (Ink4a/Arf). Our results show that Ink4a/Arf–/– mice with melanocyte-specific deletion of Ikkb were protected from HRasV12-initiated melanoma only when p53 was expressed. This protection was accompanied by cell cycle arrest, with reduced cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (Cdk2), Cdk4, Aurora kinase A, and Aurora kinase B expression. Increased p53-mediated apoptosis was also observed, with decreased expression of the antiapoptotic proteins Bcl2 and survivin. Enhanced stabilization of p53 involved increased phosphorylation at Ser15 and reduced phosphorylation of double minute 2 (Mdm2) at Ser166. Together, our findings provide genetic and mechanistic evidence that mutant HRas initiation of tumorigenesis requires Ikkβ-mediated NF-κB activity.
Cholesterol is a critical component of cell membranes, and cellular cholesterol levels and distribution are tightly regulated in mammals. Recent evidence has revealed a critical role for pancreatic β cell–specific cholesterol homeostasis in insulin secretion as well as in β cell dysfunction in diabetes and the metabolic response to thiazolidinediones (TZDs), which are antidiabetic drugs. The ATP-binding cassette transporter G1 (ABCG1) has been shown to play a role in cholesterol efflux, but its role in β cells is currently unknown. In other cell types, ABCG1 expression is downregulated in diabetes and upregulated by TZDs. Here we have demonstrated an intracellular role for ABCG1 in β cells. Loss of ABCG1 expression impaired insulin secretion both in vivo and in vitro, but it had no effect on cellular cholesterol content or efflux. Subcellular localization studies showed the bulk of ABCG1 protein to be present in insulin granules. Loss of ABCG1 led to altered granule morphology and reduced granule cholesterol levels. Administration of exogenous cholesterol restored granule morphology and cholesterol content and rescued insulin secretion in ABCG1-deficient islets. These findings suggest that ABCG1 acts primarily to regulate subcellular cholesterol distribution in mouse β cells. Furthermore, islet ABCG1 expression was reduced in diabetic mice and restored by TZDs, implicating a role for regulation of islet ABCG1 expression in diabetes pathogenesis and treatment.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are lethal neurodegenerative disorders that present with aggregated forms of the cellular prion protein (PrPC), which are known as PrPSc. Prions from different species vary considerably in their transmissibility to xenogeneic hosts. The variable transmission barriers depend on sequence differences between incoming PrPSc and host PrPC and additionally, on strain-dependent conformational properties of PrPSc. The β2-α2 loop region within PrPC varies substantially between species, with its structure being influenced by the residue types in the 2 amino acid sequence positions 170 (most commonly S or N) and 174 (N or T). In this study, we inoculated prions from 5 different species into transgenic mice expressing either disordered-loop or rigid-loop PrPC variants. Similar β2-α2 loop structures correlated with efficient transmission, whereas dissimilar loops correlated with strong transmission barriers. We then classified literature data on cross-species transmission according to the 170S/N polymorphism. Transmission barriers were generally low between species with the same amino acid residue in position 170 and high between those with different residues. These findings point to a triggering role of the local β2-α2 loop structure for prion transmissibility between different species.
Jet lag encompasses a range of psycho- and physiopathological symptoms that arise from temporal misalignment of the endogenous circadian clock with external time. Repeated jet lag exposure, encountered by business travelers and airline personnel as well as shift workers, has been correlated with immune deficiency, mood disorders, elevated cancer risk, and anatomical anomalies of the forebrain. Here, we have characterized the molecular response of the mouse circadian system in an established experimental paradigm for jet lag whereby mice entrained to a 12-hour light/12-hour dark cycle undergo light phase advancement by 6 hours. Unexpectedly, strong heterogeneity of entrainment kinetics was found not only between different organs, but also within the molecular clockwork of each tissue. Manipulation of the adrenal circadian clock, in particular phase-shifting of adrenal glucocorticoid rhythms, regulated the speed of behavioral reentrainment. Blocking adrenal corticosterone either prolonged or shortened jet lag, depending on the time of administration. This key role of adrenal glucocorticoid phasing for resetting of the circadian system provides what we believe to be a novel mechanism-based approach for possible therapies for jet lag and jet lag–associated diseases.
NKT cells demonstrate antitumor activity when activated to produce Th1 cytokines by DCs loaded with α-galactosylceramide, the prototypic NKT cell–activating glycolipid antigen. However, most patients do not have sufficient numbers of NKT cells to induce an effective immune response in this context, indicating a need for a source of NKT cells that could be used to supplement the endogenous cell population. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) hold tremendous potential for cell-replacement therapy, but whether it is possible to generate functionally competent NKT cells from iPSCs has not been rigorously assessed. In this study, we successfully derived iPSCs both from embryonic fibroblasts from mice harboring functional NKT cell–specific rearranged T cell receptor loci in the germline and from splenic NKT cells from WT adult mice. These iPSCs could be differentiated into NKT cells in vitro and secreted large amounts of the Th1 cytokine IFN-γ. Importantly, iPSC-derived NKT cells recapitulated the known adjuvant effects of natural NKT cells and suppressed tumor growth in vivo. These studies demonstrate the feasibility of expanding functionally competent NKT cells via an iPSC phase, an approach that may be adapted for NKT cell–targeted therapy in humans.
Primary human keratinocytes are useful for studying the pathogenesis of many different diseases of the cutaneous and mucosal epithelia. In addition, they can form organotypic tissue equivalents in culture that can be used as epidermal autografts for wound repair as well as for the delivery of gene therapy. However, primary keratinocytes have a finite lifespan in culture that limits their proliferative capacity and clinical use. Here, we report that treatment of primary keratinocytes (originating from 3 different anatomical sites) with Y-27632, a Rho kinase inhibitor, greatly increased their proliferative capacity and resulted in efficient immortalization without detectable cell crisis. More importantly, the immortalized cells displayed characteristics typical of primary keratinocytes; they had a normal karyotype and an intact DNA damage response and were able to differentiate into a stratified epithelium. This is the first example to our knowledge of a defined chemical compound mediating efficient cell immortalization, and this finding could have wide-ranging and profound investigational and medical applications.
Rates of graft rejection are high among recipients of heart transplants. The onset and progression of clinically significant heart transplant rejection are currently monitored by serial biopsy, but this approach is highly invasive and lacks sensitivity. Here, we have developed what we believe to be a new technique to measure organ rejection noninvasively that involves the exploration of tissue-infiltrating leukocytes as biomarker sources for diagnostic imaging. Specifically, we profiled the myeloid response in a murine model of heart transplantation with the aim of defining and validating an imaging signature of graft rejection. Ly-6Chi monocytes, which promote inflammation, accumulated progressively in allografts but only transiently in isografts. Ly-6Clo monocytes, which help resolve inflammation, did not accumulate, although they composed the majority of the few remaining monocytes in isografts. The persistence of Ly-6Chi monocytes in allografts prompted us to screen for a Ly-6Chi monocyte–associated imaging marker. Low-density array data revealed that Ly-6Chi monocytes express 10-fold higher levels of myeloperoxidase (MPO) than Ly-6Clo monocytes. Noninvasive magnetic resonance imaging of MPO with an MPO-activatable Gd-chelate revealed a spatially defined T1-weighted signal in rejected allografts but not in isografts or MPO-deficient allograft recipients. Flow cytometry, enzymography, and histology validated the approach by mapping MPO activity to Ly-6Chi monocytes and neutrophils. Thus, MPO imaging represents a potential alternative to the current invasive clinical standard by which transplants are monitored.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation