Volume 122, Issue 11, Pages 3797-4301
59 total articles
In this month’s JCI, two papers highlight steps forward in understanding long noncoding RNAs in human disease. On page 4003, van Dijk et al. demonstrate that mutations in a long noncoding RNA on chromosome 12q disrupt the trophoblast cell cycle and cause the pregnancy-associated HELLP syndrome. In a separate study on page 3990, Maass and colleagues report on a translocation identified in a family with brachdactyly type E that disrupts the association of a long noncoding RNA with regulatory elements in PTHLH and SOX9. Both studies link alterations in long noncoding RNAs and genetically heritable syndromes.
Image Credit: Jean-Francois Podevin, Photo Researchers, Inc.
Fanconi anemia (FA) is a rare genetic disorder associated with a high frequency of hematological abnormalities and congenital anomalies. Based on multilateral efforts from basic scientists and clinicians, significant advances in our knowledge of FA have been made in recent years. Here we review the clinical features, the diagnostic criteria, and the current and future therapies of FA and describe the current understanding of the molecular basis of the disease.
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare progressive lung disease of women. LAM is caused by mutations in the tuberous sclerosis genes, resulting in activation of the mTOR complex 1 signaling network. Over the past 11 years, there has been remarkable progress in the understanding of LAM and rapid translation of this knowledge to an effective therapy. LAM pathogenic mechanisms mirror those of many forms of human cancer, including mutation, metabolic reprogramming, inappropriate growth and survival, metastasis via blood and lymphatic circulation, infiltration/invasion, sex steroid sensitivity, and local and remote tissue destruction. However, the smooth muscle cell that metastasizes, infiltrates, and destroys the lung in LAM arises from an unknown source and has an innocent histological appearance, with little evidence of proliferation. Thus, LAM is as an elegant, monogenic model of neoplasia, defying categorization as either benign or malignant.
There is an ever-growing demand for transplantable organs to replace acute and chronically damaged tissues. This demand cannot be met by the currently available donor organs. Efforts to provide an alternative source have led to the development of organ engineering, a discipline that combines cell biology, tissue engineering, and cell/organ transplantation. Over the last several years, engineered organs have been implanted into rodent recipients and have shown modest function. In this article, we summarize the most recent advances in this field and provide a perspective on the challenges of translating this promising new technology into a proven regenerative therapy.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating condition producing great personal and societal costs and for which there is no effective treatment. Stem cell transplantation is a promising therapeutic strategy, though much preclinical and clinical research work remains. Here, we briefly describe SCI epidemiology, pathophysiology, and experimental and clinical stem cell strategies. Research in stem cell biology and cell reprogramming is rapidly advancing, with the hope of moving stem cell therapy closer to helping people with SCI. We examine issues important for clinical translation and provide a commentary on recent developments, including termination of the first human embryonic stem cell transplantation trial in human SCI.
The appearance of autoantibody to DNA followed sequentially by the disappearance of anti-DNA and appearance of DNA antigen in a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus demonstrated that autoantibodies participate in immune complex–mediated pathogenesis. Continuing studies showed that autoantibodies are also useful biomarkers in clinical diagnosis and important reagents for elucidating the structure and function of intracellular proteins in cell biology. Recently, autoantibodies to tumor-associated antigens have been identified in cancer, and these findings have expanded the field of cancer immunodiagnostics.
The list of functions of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) in human tissues is rapidly growing. To further underscore their critical role in human health, two reports in this issue of JCI associate altered expression of novel lncRNAs with the heritable syndromes HELLP and brachydactyly type E.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and obesity-related illnesses have become a leading preventable cause of death. Childhood obesity is also growing in frequency, and the impact of a lifetime spent in the overweight state is only beginning to emerge in the literature. In this issue of the JCI, Bumaschny et al. used a genetic mouse model to investigate the self-perpetuating nature of obesity and shed some light on why it can become increasingly difficult to lose weight over time.
RNA modifications are increasingly being recognized as critical players in cancer. While adenosine-to-inosine RNA editing is consistently deregulated in cancer, we are still unable to draw a straight line connecting transcript-specific editing and carcinogenesis. The findings by Choudhury et al. in this issue of the JCI bridge this gap by mechanistically implicating underediting of miR-376a* in promoting glioma invasiveness through redirection of its mRNA targets. Moreover, RAP2A and AMFR convincingly emerge as key regulators of glioma migration and invasion affected by deregulated microRNA editing. Being inherently malleable, epigenetic mechanisms may provide feasible targets for therapeutic benefit.
When ventilation is blocked, the lung can protect against the loss of blood oxygenation by activating localized arterial vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow to underventilated regions, and redirecting flow to better-ventilated alveoli. This phenomenon, hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV), preserves the overall efficiency of blood oxygenation, but the mechanism by which the hypoxic signal is transmitted to the smooth muscle that contracts the arterioles has remained largely a mystery. In this issue of the JCI, Wang et al. reveal that the endothelial lining of the hypoxic alveoli plays a key role in sensing hypoxia and transmitting the signal to initiate HPV.
The human innate immune response to pathogens is complex, and it has been difficult to establish the contribution of epithelial signaling in the prevention of upper respiratory tract infection. The prevalence of chronic sinusitis in the absence of systemic immune defects indicates that there may be local defects in innate immunity associated with such mucosal infections. In this issue of the JCI, Cohen and colleagues investigate the role of the bitter taste receptors in airway epithelial cells, and find that these are critical to sensing the presence of invading pathogens.
Excessive blood vessel growth is a key feature of many retinal diseases, and recently, anti-VEGF therapy has been successfully applied to treat neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic macular edema, and retinal vein occlusion. In this issue of the JCI, Kurihara et al. reveal an essential role of Vegfa in maintaining choroid vasculature and cone photoreceptors, critical for central and color vision. Their findings suggest that therapeutic approaches to blocking VEGF signaling in retinal diseases might have unexpected detrimental side effects and that the development of alternative strategies might be necessary.
Acute kidney injury (AKI) often results from ischemia reperfusion, sepsis, or exposure to nephrotoxins and is associated with a high rate of mortality and morbidity. Advances in understanding the pathophysiology of AKI may lead to the development of specific therapies. Although there is evidence of an important role for immune cells in AKI, the specific relevant populations and the mechanisms of their actions are unclear. In this issue of the JCI, Li et al. demonstrate that adenosine manipulates DC responses to kidney injury, raising hope that immunotherapy could be a tangible approach to AKI.
Glucocorticoids are a powerful tool used to treat a range of human illnesses, including autoimmune diseases and cancer, and to prevent rejection following organ transplantation. While lifesaving for many, they come with a steep price, often leading to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and osteoporosis. In this issue of the JCI, Brennan-Speranza and colleagues provide evidence that the osteoblast-derived peptide osteocalcin is one of the drivers of the metabolic derangements associated with glucocorticoid therapy. This novel mechanism could open up new avenues for the treatment of these disorders.
The incidence of melanoma — the most aggressive form of skin cancer — is dramatically increasing, while the development of innovative therapeutic strategies continues to be challenging, especially due to a lack of knowledge about the molecular mechanisms underlying melanoma progression as well as antitumor immunity. In this issue of the JCI, Yong Lu and colleagues report a central role for Th9 cells in antitumor immunity.
Hypertension occurs in approximately 30% of individuals in Western populations and is known to be a major cause of stroke, heart failure, and myocardial infarction. Despite this, the molecular etiology of hypertension remains poorly understood. In this issue of the JCI, Young et al. show that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is an essential signaling event for angiotensin II–induced hypertension in cells of the central nervous system. This provides new insight into the molecular mechanisms that drive hypertension and suggests a potential target for future therapy.
Alveolar capillary dysplasia (ACD) is a congenital, lethal disorder of the pulmonary vasculature. Phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted from chromosome 10 (Pten) encodes a lipid phosphatase controlling key cellular functions, including stem/progenitor cell proliferation and differentiation; however, the role of PTEN in mesodermal lung cell lineage formation remains unexamined. To determine the role of mesodermal PTEN in the ontogeny of various mesenchymal cell lineages during lung development, we specifically deleted Pten in early embryonic lung mesenchyme in mice. Pups lacking Pten died at birth, with evidence of failure in blood oxygenation. Analysis at the cellular level showed defects in angioblast differentiation to endothelial cells and an accompanying accumulation of the angioblast cell population that was associated with disorganized capillary beds. We also found decreased expression of Forkhead box protein F1 (Foxf1), a gene associated with the ACD human phenotype. Analysis of human samples for ACD revealed a significant decrease in PTEN and increased activated protein kinase B (AKT). These studies demonstrate that mesodermal PTEN has a key role in controlling the amplification of angioblasts as well as their differentiation into endothelial cells, thereby directing the establishment of a functional gas exchange interface. Additionally, these mice could serve as a murine model of ACD.
The native capacity of adult skeletal muscles to regenerate is vital to the recovery from physical injuries and dystrophic diseases. Currently, the development of therapeutic interventions has been hindered by the complex regulatory network underlying the process of muscle regeneration. Using a mouse model of skeletal muscle regeneration after injury, we identified hexamethylene bisacetamide inducible 1 (HEXIM1, also referred to as CLP-1), the inhibitory component of the positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb) complex, as a pivotal regulator of skeletal muscle regeneration. Hexim1-haplodeficient muscles exhibited greater mass and preserved function compared with those of WT muscles after injury, as a result of enhanced expansion of satellite cells. Transplanted Hexim1-haplodeficient satellite cells expanded and improved muscle regeneration more effectively than WT satellite cells. Conversely, HEXIM1 overexpression restrained satellite cell proliferation and impeded muscle regeneration. Mechanistically, dissociation of HEXIM1 from P-TEFb and subsequent activation of P-TEFb are required for satellite cell proliferation and the prevention of early myogenic differentiation. These findings suggest a crucial role for the HEXIM1/P-TEFb pathway in the regulation of satellite cell–mediated muscle regeneration and identify HEXIM1 as a potential therapeutic target for degenerative muscular diseases.
Cancer stem cell behavior is thought to be largely determined by intrinsic properties and by regulatory signals provided by the microenvironment. Myelofibrosis (MF) is characterized by hematopoiesis occurring not only in the marrow but also in extramedullary sites such as the spleen. In order to study the effects of these different microenvironments on primitive malignant hematopoietic cells, we phenotypically and functionally characterized splenic and peripheral blood (PB) MF CD34+ cells from patients with MF. MF spleens contained greater numbers of malignant primitive HPCs than PB. Transplantation of PB MF CD34+ cells into immunodeficient (NOD/SCID/IL2Rγnull) mice resulted in a limited degree of donor cell chimerism and a differentiation program skewed toward myeloid lineages. By contrast, transplanted splenic MF CD34+ cells achieved a higher level of chimerism and generated both myeloid and lymphoid cells that contained molecular or cytogenetic abnormalities indicating their malignant nature. Only splenic MF CD34+ cells were able to sustain hematopoiesis for prolonged periods (9 months) and were able to engraft secondary recipients. These data document the existence of MF stem cells (MF-SCs) that reside in the spleens of MF patients and demonstrate that these MF-SCs retain a differentiation program identical to that of normal hematopoietic stem cells.
Glial cells perform critical functions that alter the metabolism and activity of neurons, and there is increasing interest in their role in appetite and energy balance. Leptin, a key regulator of appetite and metabolism, has previously been reported to influence glial structural proteins and morphology. Here, we demonstrate that metabolic status and leptin also modify astrocyte-specific glutamate and glucose transporters, indicating that metabolic signals influence synaptic efficacy and glucose uptake and, ultimately, neuronal function. We found that basal and glucose-stimulated electrical activity of hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in mice were altered in the offspring of mothers fed a high-fat diet. In adulthood, increased body weight and fasting also altered the expression of glucose and glutamate transporters. These results demonstrate that whole-organism metabolism alters hypothalamic glial cell activity and suggest that these cells play an important role in the pathology of obesity.
Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) is the second most common primary malignancy in the liver. ICC has been classified as a malignant tumor arising from cholangiocytes; however, the co-occurrence of ICC and viral hepatitis suggests that ICC originates in hepatocytes. In order to determine the cellular origin of ICC, we used a mouse model of ICC in which hepatocytes and cholangiocytes were labeled with heritable, cell type–specific reporters. Our studies reveal that ICC is generated by biliary lineage cells derived from hepatocytes, rather than cholangiocytes. Additionally, we found that Notch activation is critical for hepatocyte conversion into biliary lineage cells during the onset of ICC and its subsequent malignancy and progression. These findings will help to elucidate the pathogenic mechanism of ICC and to develop therapeutic strategies for this refractory disease.
Diabetic cardiomyopathy (DbCM), which consists of cardiac hypertrophy and failure in the absence of traditional risk factors, is a major contributor to increased heart failure risk in type 2 diabetes patients. In rodent models of DbCM, cardiac hypertrophy and dysfunction have been shown to depend upon saturated fatty acid (SFA) oversupply and de novo sphingolipid synthesis. However, it is not known whether these effects are mediated by bulk SFAs and sphingolipids or by individual lipid species. In this report, we demonstrate that a diet high in SFA induced cardiac hypertrophy, left ventricular systolic and diastolic dysfunction, and autophagy in mice. Furthermore, treatment with the SFA myristate, but not palmitate, induced hypertrophy and autophagy in adult primary cardiomyocytes. De novo sphingolipid synthesis was required for induction of all pathological features observed both in vitro and in vivo, and autophagy was required for induction of hypertrophy in vitro. Finally, we implicated a specific ceramide N-acyl chain length in this process and demonstrated a requirement for (dihydro)ceramide synthase 5 in cardiomyocyte autophagy and myristate-mediated hypertrophy. Thus, this report reveals a requirement for a specific sphingolipid metabolic route and dietary SFAs in the molecular pathogenesis of lipotoxic cardiomyopathy and hypertrophy.
DC-mediated NKT cell activation is critical in initiating the immune response following kidney ischemia/reperfusion injury (IRI), which mimics human acute kidney injury (AKI). Adenosine is an important antiinflammatory molecule in tissue inflammation, and adenosine 2A receptor (A2AR) agonists protect kidneys from IRI through their actions on leukocytes. In this study, we showed that mice with A2AR-deficient DCs are more susceptible to kidney IRI and are not protected from injury by A2AR agonists. In addition, administration of DCs treated ex vivo with an A2AR agonist protected the kidneys of WT mice from IRI by suppressing NKT production of IFN-γ and by regulating DC costimulatory molecules that are important for NKT cell activation. A2AR agonists had no effect on DC antigen presentation or on Tregs. We conclude that ex vivo A2AR–induced tolerized DCs suppress NKT cell activation in vivo and provide a unique and potent cell-based strategy to attenuate organ IRI.
NKT cells are innate-like T cells with powerful regulatory functions that are a promising target for immunotherapy. The efficacy of glycolipids, such as the prototypic NKT cell antagonist α-galactosylceramide (αGalCer), is currently being evaluated in clinical trials, but little is known about factors that target lipid antigens for CD1d presentation and NKT cell activation in vivo. Lipid uptake via the LDL receptor (LDLR) has been shown for digalactosylceramide; however, whether this pathway contributes to CD1d presentation of other important NKT cell agonists remains unclear. We therefore investigated receptor-mediated uptake pathways for CD1d presentation using a panel of structurally diverse lipid antigens. We found that uptake via scavenger receptors was essential for the CD1d presentation of αGalCer and Sphingomonas glycolipids. Moreover, in vivo NKT cell responses, i.e., cytokine production, proliferation, and NKT cell help for adaptive CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, required the uptake of αGalCer via scavenger receptor A. Importantly, our data indicate that structural characteristics of glycolipids determine their receptor binding and direct individual lipids toward different uptake pathways. These results reveal an important contribution of scavenger receptors in the selection of lipids for CD1d presentation and identify structural motifs that may prove useful for therapeutic NKT cell vaccination.
Progranulin (PGRN) is a widely expressed secreted protein that is linked to inflammation. In humans, PGRN haploinsufficiency is a major inherited cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), but how PGRN deficiency causes neurodegeneration is unknown. Here we show that loss of PGRN results in increased neuron loss in response to injury in the CNS. When exposed acutely to 1-methyl-4-(2′-methylphenyl)-1,2,3,6-tetrahydrophine (MPTP), mice lacking PGRN (Grn–/–) showed more neuron loss and increased microgliosis compared with wild-type mice. The exacerbated neuron loss was due not to selective vulnerability of Grn–/– neurons to MPTP, but rather to an increased microglial inflammatory response. Consistent with this, conditional mutants lacking PGRN in microglia exhibited MPTP-induced phenotypes similar to Grn–/– mice. Selective depletion of PGRN from microglia in mixed cortical cultures resulted in increased death of wild-type neurons in the absence of injury. Furthermore, Grn–/– microglia treated with LPS/IFN-γ exhibited an amplified inflammatory response, and conditioned media from these microglia promoted death of cultured neurons. Our results indicate that PGRN deficiency leads to dysregulated microglial activation and thereby contributes to increased neuron loss with injury. These findings suggest that PGRN deficiency may cause increased neuron loss in other forms of CNS injury accompanied by neuroinflammation.
Although endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is a pathologic mechanism in a variety of chronic diseases, it is unclear what role it plays in chronic hypertension (HTN). Dysregulation of brain mechanisms controlling arterial pressure is strongly implicated in HTN, particularly in models involving angiotensin II (Ang II). We tested the hypothesis that ER stress in the brain is causally linked to Ang II–dependent HTN. Chronic systemic infusion of low-dose Ang II in C57BL/6 mice induced slowly developing HTN, which was abolished by co-infusion of the ER stress inhibitor tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) into the lateral cerebroventricle. Investigations of the brain regions involved revealed robust increases in ER stress biomarkers and profound ER morphological abnormalities in the circumventricular subfornical organ (SFO), a region outside the blood-brain barrier and replete with Ang II receptors. Ang II–induced HTN could be prevented in this model by selective genetic supplementation of the ER chaperone 78-kDa glucose-regulated protein (GRP78) in the SFO. These data demonstrate that Ang II–dependent HTN is mediated by ER stress in the brain, particularly the SFO. To our knowledge, this is the first report that ER stress, notably brain ER stress, plays a key role in chronic HTN. Taken together, these findings may have broad implications for the pathophysiology of this disease.
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the skin affecting approximately 2% of the world’s population. Accumulating evidence has revealed that the IL-23/IL-17/IL-22 pathway is key for development of skin immunopathology. However, the role of keratinocytes and their crosstalk with immune cells at the onset of disease remains poorly understood. Here, we show that IL-36R–deficient (Il36r–/–) mice were protected from imiquimod-induced expansion of dermal IL-17–producing γδ T cells and psoriasiform dermatitis. Furthermore, IL-36R antagonist-deficient (Il36rn–/–) mice showed exacerbated pathology. TLR7 ligation on DCs induced IL-36–mediated crosstalk with keratinocytes and dermal mesenchymal cells that was crucial for control of the pathological IL-23/IL-17/IL-22 axis and disease development. Notably, mice lacking IL-23, IL-17, or IL-22 were less well protected from disease compared with Il36r–/– mice, indicating an additional distinct activity of IL-36 beyond induction of the pathological IL-23 axis. Moreover, while the absence of IL-1R1 prevented neutrophil infiltration, it did not protect from acanthosis and hyperkeratosis, demonstrating that neutrophils are dispensable for disease manifestation. These results highlight a central and unique IL-1–independent role for IL-36 in control of the IL-23/IL-17/IL-22 pathway and development of psoriasiform dermatitis.
l-DOPA–induced dyskinesia (LID), a detrimental consequence of dopamine replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease, is associated with an alteration in dopamine D1 receptor (D1R) and glutamate receptor interactions. We hypothesized that the synaptic scaffolding protein PSD-95 plays a pivotal role in this process, as it interacts with D1R, regulates its trafficking and function, and is overexpressed in LID. Here, we demonstrate in rat and macaque models that disrupting the interaction between D1R and PSD-95 in the striatum reduces LID development and severity. Single quantum dot imaging revealed that this benefit was achieved primarily by destabilizing D1R localization, via increased lateral diffusion followed by increased internalization and diminished surface expression. These findings indicate that altering D1R trafficking via synapse-associated scaffolding proteins may be useful in the treatment of dyskinesia in Parkinson’s patients.
Translocations are chromosomal rearrangements that are frequently associated with a variety of disease states and developmental disorders. We identified 2 families with brachydactyly type E (BDE) resulting from different translocations affecting chromosome 12p. Both translocations caused downregulation of the parathyroid hormone-like hormone (PTHLH) gene by disrupting the cis-regulatory landscape. Using chromosome conformation capturing, we identified a regulator on chromosome 12q that interacts in cis with PTHLH over a 24.4-megabase distance and in trans with the sex-determining region Y-box 9 (SOX9) gene on chromosome 17q. The element also harbored a long noncoding RNA (lncRNA). Silencing of the lncRNA, PTHLH, or SOX9 revealed a feedback mechanism involving an expression-dependent network in humans. In the BDE patients, the human lncRNA was upregulated by the disrupted chromosomal association. Moreover, the lncRNA occupancy at the PTHLH locus was reduced. Our results document what we believe to be a novel in cis– and in trans–acting DNA and lncRNA regulatory feedback element that is reciprocally regulated by coding genes. Furthermore, our findings provide a systematic and combinatorial view of how enhancers encoding lncRNAs may affect gene expression in normal development.
The HELLP syndrome is a pregnancy-associated disease inducing hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets in the mother. Although the HELLP symptoms occur in the third trimester in the mother, the origin of the disease can be found in the first trimester fetal placenta. A locus for the HELLP syndrome is present on chromosome 12q23 near PAH. Here, by multipoint nonparametric linkage, pedigree structure allele sharing, and haplotype association analysis of affected sisters and cousins, we demonstrate that the HELLP locus is in an intergenic region on 12q23.2 between PMCH and IGF1. We identified a novel long intergenic noncoding RNA (lincRNA) transcript of 205,012 bases with (peri)nuclear expression in the extravillous trophoblast using strand-specific RT-PCR complemented with RACE and FISH. siRNA-mediated knockdown followed by RNA-sequencing, revealed that the HELLP lincRNA activated a large set of genes that are involved in the cell cycle. Furthermore, blocking potential mutation sites identified in HELLP families decreased the invasion capacity of extravillous trophoblasts. This is the first large noncoding gene to be linked to a Mendelian disorder with autosomal-recessive inheritance.
Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) is an important subset of Shiga toxin–producing (Stx-producing) E. coli (STEC), pathogens that have been implicated in outbreaks of food-borne illness and can cause intestinal and systemic disease, including severe renal damage. Upon attachment to intestinal epithelium, EHEC generates “attaching and effacing” (AE) lesions characterized by intimate attachment and actin rearrangement upon host cell binding. Stx produced in the gut transverses the intestinal epithelium, causing vascular damage that leads to systemic disease. Models of EHEC infection in conventional mice do not manifest key features of disease, such as AE lesions, intestinal damage, and systemic illness. In order to develop an infection model that better reflects the pathogenesis of this subset of STEC, we constructed an Stx-producing strain of Citrobacter rodentium, a murine AE pathogen that otherwise lacks Stx. Mice infected with Stx-producing C. rodentium developed AE lesions on the intestinal epithelium and Stx-dependent intestinal inflammatory damage. Further, the mice experienced lethal infection characterized by histopathological and functional kidney damage. The development of a murine model that encompasses AE lesion formation and Stx-mediated tissue damage will provide a new platform upon which to identify EHEC alterations of host epithelium that contribute to systemic disease.
Prostate adenocarcinoma (CaP) patients are classified into low-, intermediate-, and high-risk groups that reflect relative survival categories. While there are accepted treatment regimens for low- and high-risk patients, intermediate-risk patients pose a clinical dilemma, as treatment outcomes are highly variable for these individuals. A better understanding of the factors that regulate the progression of CaP is required to delineate risk. For example, aberrant activation of the Hedgehog (Hh) pathway is implicated in CaP progression. Here, we identify the serine protease inhibitor protease nexin 1 (PN1) as a negative regulator of Hh signaling in prostate. Using human CaP cell lines and a mouse xenograft model of CaP, we demonstrate that PN1 regulates Hh signaling by decreasing protein levels of the Hh ligand Sonic (SHH) and its downstream effectors. Furthermore, we show that SHH expression enhanced tumor growth while overexpression of PN1 inhibited tumor growth and angiogenesis in mice. Finally, using comparative genome hybridization, we found that genetic alterations in Hh pathway genes correlated with worse clinical outcomes in intermediate-risk CaP patients, indicating the importance of this pathway in CaP.
CD8+ cytotoxic T cells are critical for viral clearance from the lungs upon influenza virus infection. The contribution of antigen cross-presentation by DCs to the induction of anti-viral cytotoxic T cells remains controversial. Here, we used a recombinant influenza virus expressing a nonstructural 1–GFP (NS1-GFP) reporter gene to visualize the route of antigen presentation by lung DCs upon viral infection in mice. We found that lung CD103+ DCs were the only subset of cells that carried intact GFP protein to the draining LNs. Strikingly, lung migratory CD103+ DCs were not productively infected by influenza virus and thus were able to induce virus-specific CD8+ T cells through the cross-presentation of antigens from virally infected cells. We also observed that CD103+ DC resistance to infection correlates with an increased anti-viral state in these cells that is dependent on the expression of type I IFN receptor. These results show that efficient cross-priming by migratory lung DCs is coupled to the acquisition of an anti-viral status, which is dependent on the type I IFN signaling pathway.
Mutations in the AFG3L2 gene have been linked to spinocerebellar ataxia type 28 and spastic ataxia-neuropathy syndrome in humans; however, the pathogenic mechanism is still unclear. AFG3L2 encodes a subunit of the mitochondrial m-AAA protease, previously implicated in quality control of misfolded inner mitochondrial membrane proteins and in regulatory functions via processing of specific substrates. Here, we used a conditional Afg3l2 mouse model that allows restricted deletion of the gene in Purkinje cells (PCs) to shed light on the pathogenic cascade in the neurons mainly affected in the human diseases. We demonstrate a cell-autonomous requirement of AFG3L2 for survival of PCs. Examination of PCs prior to neurodegeneration revealed fragmentation and altered distribution of mitochondria in the dendritic tree, indicating that abnormal mitochondrial dynamics is an early event in the pathogenic process. Moreover, PCs displayed features pointing to defects in mitochondrially encoded respiratory chain subunits at early stages. To unravel the underlying mechanism, we examined a constitutive knockout of Afg3l2, which revealed a decreased rate of mitochondrial protein synthesis associated with impaired mitochondrial ribosome assembly. We therefore propose that defective mitochondrial protein synthesis, leading to early-onset fragmentation of the mitochondrial network, is a central causative factor in AFG3L2-related neurodegeneration.
In the human brain, microRNAs (miRNAs) from the microRNA-376 (miR-376) cluster undergo programmed “seed” sequence modifications by adenosine-to-inosine (A-to-I) editing. Emerging evidence suggests a link between impaired A-to-I editing and cancer, particularly in high-grade gliomas. We hypothesized that disruption of A-to-I editing alters expression of genes regulating glioma tumor phenotypes. By sequencing the miR-376 cluster, we show that the overall miRNA editing frequencies were reduced in human gliomas. Specifically in high-grade gliomas, miR-376a* accumulated entirely in an unedited form. Clinically, a significant correlation was found between accumulation of unedited miR-376a* and the extent of invasive tumor spread as measured by magnetic resonance imaging of patient brains. Using both in vitro and orthotopic xenograft mouse models, we demonstrated that the unedited miR-376a* promoted glioma cell migration and invasion, while the edited miR-376a* suppressed these features. The effects of the unedited miR-376a* were mediated by its sequence-dependent ability to target RAP2A and concomitant inability to target AMFR. Thus, the tumor-dependent introduction of a single base difference in the miR-376a* sequence dramatically alters the selection of its target genes and redirects its function from inhibiting to promoting glioma cell invasion. These findings uncover a new mechanism of miRNA deregulation and identify unedited miR-376a* as a potential therapeutic target in glioblastoma cells.
Adaptation of tumor cells to the host is a major cause of cancer progression, failure of therapy, and ultimately death. Immune selection drives this adaptation in human cancer by enriching tumor cells with a cancer stem cell–like (CSC-like) phenotype that makes them resistant to CTL-mediated apoptosis; however, the mechanisms that mediate CSC maintenance and proliferation are largely unknown. Here, we report that CTL-mediated immune selection drives the evolution of tumor cells toward a CSC-like phenotype and that the CSC-like phenotype arises through the Akt signaling pathway via transcriptional induction of Tcl1a by Nanog. Furthermore, we found that hyperactivation of the Nanog/Tcl1a/Akt signaling axis was conserved across multiple types of human cancer. Inhibition of Nanog in a murine model of colon cancer rendered tumor cells susceptible to immune-mediated clearance and led to successful, long-term control of the disease. Our findings establish a firm link among immune selection, disease progression, and the development of a stem-like tumor phenotype in human cancer and implicate the Nanog/Tcl1a/Akt pathway as a central molecular target in this process.
TNF, an inflammatory cytokine that is enriched in the tumor microenvironment, promotes tumor growth and subverts innate immune responses to cancer cells. We previously reported that tumors implanted in TNF receptor–deficient (Tnfr–/–) mice are spontaneously rejected; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying this rejection are unclear. Here we report that TNF signaling drives the peripheral accumulation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). MDSCs expand extensively during inflammation and tumor progression in mice and humans and can enhance tumor growth by repressing T cell–mediated antitumor responses. Peripheral accumulation of MDSCs was drastically impaired in Tnfr–/– mice. Signaling of TNFR-2, but not TNFR-1, promoted MDSC survival through upregulation of cellular FLICE-inhibitory protein (c-FLIP) and inhibition of caspase-8 activity. Loss of TNFRs impaired the induction of MDSCs from bone marrow cells, but this could be reversed by treatment with caspase inhibitors. These results demonstrate that TNFR-2 signaling promotes MDSC survival and accumulation and helps tumor cells evade the immune system.
PPARβ/δ protects against obesity by reducing dyslipidemia and insulin resistance via effects in muscle, adipose tissue, and liver. However, its function in pancreas remains ill defined. To gain insight into its hypothesized role in β cell function, we specifically deleted Pparb/d in the epithelial compartment of the mouse pancreas. Mutant animals presented increased numbers of islets and, more importantly, enhanced insulin secretion, causing hyperinsulinemia. Gene expression profiling of pancreatic β cells indicated a broad repressive function of PPARβ/δ affecting the vesicular and granular compartment as well as the actin cytoskeleton. Analyses of insulin release from isolated PPARβ/δ-deficient islets revealed an accelerated second phase of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. These effects in PPARβ/δ-deficient islets correlated with increased filamentous actin (F-actin) disassembly and an elevation in protein kinase D activity that altered Golgi organization. Taken together, these results provide evidence for a repressive role for PPARβ/δ in β cell mass and insulin exocytosis, and shed a new light on PPARβ/δ metabolic action.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is an aggressive cancer that interacts with stromal cells to produce a highly inflammatory tumor microenvironment that promotes tumor growth and invasiveness. The precise interplay between tumor and stroma remains poorly understood. TLRs mediate interactions between environmental stimuli and innate immunity and trigger proinflammatory signaling cascades. Our finding that TLR7 expression is upregulated in both epithelial and stromal compartments in human and murine pancreatic cancer led us to postulate that carcinogenesis is dependent on TLR7 signaling. In a mouse model of pancreatic cancer, TLR7 ligation vigorously accelerated tumor progression and induced loss of expression of PTEN, p16, and cyclin D1 and upregulation of p21, p27, p53, c-Myc, SHPTP1, TGF-β, PPARγ, and cyclin B1. Furthermore, TLR7 ligation induced STAT3 activation and interfaced with Notch as well as canonical NF-κB and MAP kinase pathways, but downregulated expression of Notch target genes. Moreover, blockade of TLR7 protected against carcinogenesis. Since pancreatic tumorigenesis requires stromal expansion, we proposed that TLR7 ligation modulates pancreatic cancer by driving stromal inflammation. Accordingly, we found that mice lacking TLR7 exclusively within their inflammatory cells were protected from neoplasia. These data suggest that targeting TLR7 holds promise for treatment of human pancreatic cancer.
A genetic variant in PNPLA3 (PNPLA3I148M), a triacylglycerol (TAG) hydrolase, is a major risk factor for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); however, the mechanism underlying this association is not known. To develop an animal model of PNPLA3-induced fatty liver disease, we generated transgenic mice that overexpress similar amounts of wild-type PNPLA3 (PNPLA3WT) or mutant PNPLA3 (PNPLA3I148M) either in liver or adipose tissue. Overexpression of the transgenes in adipose tissue did not affect liver fat content. Expression of PNPLA3I148M, but not PNPLA3WT, in liver recapitulated the fatty liver phenotype as well as other metabolic features associated with this allele in humans. Metabolic studies provided evidence for 3 distinct alterations in hepatic TAG metabolism in PNPLA3I148M transgenic mice: increased formation of fatty acids and TAG, impaired hydrolysis of TAG, and relative depletion of TAG long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. These findings suggest that PNPLA3 plays a role in remodeling TAG in lipid droplets, as they accumulate in response to food intake, and that the increase in hepatic TAG levels associated with the I148M substitution results from multiple changes in hepatic TAG metabolism. The development of an animal model that recapitulates the metabolic phenotype of the allele in humans provides a new platform in which to elucidate the role of PNLPA3I148M in NAFLD.
Innate and adaptive defense mechanisms protect the respiratory system from attack by microbes. Here, we present evidence that the bitter taste receptor T2R38 regulates the mucosal innate defense of the human upper airway. Utilizing immunofluorescent and live cell imaging techniques in polarized primary human sinonasal cells, we demonstrate that T2R38 is expressed in human upper respiratory epithelium and is activated in response to acyl-homoserine lactone quorum-sensing molecules secreted by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other gram-negative bacteria. Receptor activation regulates calcium-dependent NO production, resulting in stimulation of mucociliary clearance and direct antibacterial effects. Moreover, common polymorphisms of the TAS2R38 gene were linked to significant differences in the ability of upper respiratory cells to clear and kill bacteria. Lastly, TAS2R38 genotype correlated with human sinonasal gram-negative bacterial infection. These data suggest that T2R38 is an upper airway sentinel in innate defense and that genetic variation contributes to individual differences in susceptibility to respiratory infection.
Th9 cells are a subset of CD4+ Th cells that produce the pleiotropic cytokine IL-9. IL-9/Th9 can function as both positive and negative regulators of immune response, but the role of IL-9/Th9 in tumor immunity is unknown. We examined the role of IL-9/Th9 in a model of pulmonary melanoma in mice. Lack of IL-9 enhanced tumor growth, while tumor-specific Th9 cell treatment promoted stronger antitumor responses in both prophylactic and therapeutic models. Th9 cells also elicited strong host antitumor CD8+ CTL responses by promoting Ccl20/Ccr6-dependent recruitment of DCs to the tumor tissues. Subsequent tumor antigen delivery to the draining LN resulted in CD8+ T cell priming. In agreement with this model, Ccr6 deficiency abrogated the Th9 cell–mediated antitumor response. Our data suggest a distinct role for tumor-specific Th9 cells in provoking CD8+ CTL-mediated antitumor immunity and indicate that Th9 cell–based cancer immunotherapy may be a promising therapeutic approach.
Long-term glucocorticoid treatment is associated with numerous adverse outcomes, including weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes; however, the pathogenesis of these side effects remains obscure. Glucocorticoids also suppress osteoblast function, including osteocalcin synthesis. Osteocalcin is an osteoblast-specific peptide that is reported to be involved in normal murine fuel metabolism. We now demonstrate that osteoblasts play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of glucocorticoid-induced dysmetabolism. Osteoblast-targeted disruption of glucocorticoid signaling significantly attenuated the suppression of osteocalcin synthesis and prevented the development of insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and abnormal weight gain in corticosterone-treated mice. Nearly identical effects were observed in glucocorticoid-treated animals following heterotopic (hepatic) expression of both carboxylated and uncarboxylated osteocalcin through gene therapy, which additionally led to a reduction in hepatic lipid deposition and improved phosphorylation of the insulin receptor. These data suggest that the effects of exogenous high-dose glucocorticoids on insulin target tissues and systemic energy metabolism are mediated, at least in part, through the skeleton.
Macrophages in atherosclerotic plaques drive inflammatory responses, degrade lipoproteins, and phagocytose dead cells. MicroRNAs (miRs) control the differentiation and activity of macrophages by regulating the signaling of key transcription factors. However, the functional role of macrophage-related miRs in the immune response during atherogenesis is unknown. Here, we report that miR-155 is specifically expressed in atherosclerotic plaques and proinflammatory macrophages, where it was induced by treatment with mildly oxidized LDL (moxLDL) and IFN-γ. Leukocyte-specific Mir155 deficiency reduced plaque size and number of lesional macrophages after partial carotid ligation in atherosclerotic (Apoe–/–) mice. In macrophages stimulated with moxLDL/IFN-γ in vitro, and in lesional macrophages, loss of Mir155 reduced the expression of the chemokine CCL2, which promotes the recruitment of monocytes to atherosclerotic plaques. Additionally, we found that miR-155 directly repressed expression of BCL6, a transcription factor that attenuates proinflammatory NF-κB signaling. Silencing of Bcl6 in mice harboring Mir155–/– macrophages enhanced plaque formation and CCL2 expression. Taken together, these data demonstrated that miR-155 plays a key role in atherogenic programming of macrophages to sustain and enhance vascular inflammation.
Obesity is a chronic metabolic disorder affecting half a billion people worldwide. Major difficulties in managing obesity are the cessation of continued weight loss in patients after an initial period of responsiveness and rebound to pretreatment weight. It is conceivable that chronic weight gain unrelated to physiological needs induces an allostatic regulatory state that defends a supranormal adipose mass despite its maladaptive consequences. To challenge this hypothesis, we generated a reversible genetic mouse model of early-onset hyperphagia and severe obesity by selectively blocking the expression of the proopiomelanocortin gene (Pomc) in hypothalamic neurons. Eutopic reactivation of central POMC transmission at different stages of overweight progression normalized or greatly reduced food intake in these obesity-programmed mice. Hypothalamic Pomc rescue also attenuated comorbidities such as hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and hepatic steatosis and normalized locomotor activity. However, effectiveness of treatment to normalize body weight and adiposity declined progressively as the level of obesity at the time of Pomc induction increased. Thus, our study using a novel reversible monogenic obesity model reveals the critical importance of early intervention for the prevention of subsequent allostatic overload that auto-perpetuates obesity.
Current therapies directed at controlling vascular abnormalities in cancers and neovascular eye diseases target VEGF and can slow the progression of these diseases. While the critical role of VEGF in development has been well described, the function of locally synthesized VEGF in the adult eye is incompletely understood. Here, we show that conditionally knocking out Vegfa in adult mouse retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells, which regulate retinal homeostasis, rapidly leads to vision loss and ablation of the choriocapillaris, the major blood supply for the outer retina and photoreceptor cells. This deletion also caused rapid dysfunction of cone photoreceptors, the cells responsible for fine visual acuity and color vision. Furthermore, Vegfa deletion showed significant downregulation of multiple angiogenic genes in both physiological and pathological states, whereas the deletion of the upstream regulatory transcriptional factors HIFs did not affect the physiological expressions of angiogenic genes. These results suggest that endogenous VEGF provides critical trophic support necessary for retinal function. Targeting factors upstream of VEGF, such as HIFs, may be therapeutically advantageous compared with more potent and selective VEGF antagonists, which may have more off-target inhibitory trophic effects.
Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV) is a physiological mechanism by which pulmonary arteries constrict in hypoxic lung areas in order to redirect blood flow to areas with greater oxygen supply. Both oxygen sensing and the contractile response are thought to be intrinsic to pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells. Here we speculated that the ideal site for oxygen sensing might instead be at the alveolocapillary level, with subsequent retrograde propagation to upstream arterioles via connexin 40 (Cx40) endothelial gap junctions. HPV was largely attenuated by Cx40-specific and nonspecific gap junction uncouplers in the lungs of wild-type mice and in lungs from mice lacking Cx40 (Cx40–/–). In vivo, hypoxemia was more severe in Cx40–/– mice than in wild-type mice. Real-time fluorescence imaging revealed that hypoxia caused endothelial membrane depolarization in alveolar capillaries that propagated to upstream arterioles in wild-type, but not Cx40–/–, mice. Transformation of endothelial depolarization into vasoconstriction involved endothelial voltage-dependent α1G subtype Ca2+ channels, cytosolic phospholipase A2, and epoxyeicosatrienoic acids. Based on these data, we propose that HPV originates at the alveolocapillary level, from which the hypoxic signal is propagated as endothelial membrane depolarization to upstream arterioles in a Cx40-dependent manner.
The tumor microenvironment plays a significant role in colitis-associated cancer (CAC). Intestinal myofibroblasts (IMFs) are cells in the intestinal lamina propria secreting factors that are known to modulate carcinogenesis; however, the physiological role of IMFs and signaling pathways influencing CAC have remained unknown. Tumor progression locus 2 (Tpl2) is a MAPK that regulates inflammatory and oncogenic pathways. In this study we addressed the role of Tpl2 in CAC using complete and tissue-specific ablation of Tpl2 in mutant mice. Tpl2-deficient mice did not exhibit significant differences in inflammatory burdens following azoxymethane (AOM)/dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) administration compared with wild-type mice; however, the mutant mice developed significantly increased numbers and sizes of tumors, associated with enhanced epithelial proliferation and decreased apoptosis. Cell-specific ablation of Tpl2 in IMFs, but not in intestinal epithelial or myeloid cells, conferred a similar susceptibility to adenocarcinoma formation. Tpl2-deficient IMFs upregulated HGF production and became less sensitive to the negative regulation of HGF by TGF-β3. In vivo inhibition of HGF-mediated c-Met activation blocked early, enhanced colon dysplasia in Tpl2-deficient mice, indicating that Tpl2 normally suppresses the HGF/c-Met pathway. These findings establish a mesenchyme-specific role for Tpl2 in the regulation of HGF production and suppression of epithelial tumorigenesis.
Adipocytes represent a major cell type in the mammary tumor microenvironment and are important for tumor growth. Collagen VI (COL6) is highly expressed in adipose tissue, upregulated in the obese state, and enriched in breast cancer lesions and is a stimulator of mammary tumor growth. Here, we have described a cleavage product of the COL6α3 chain, endotrophin (ETP), which serves as the major mediator of the COL6-mediated tumor effects. ETP augmented fibrosis, angiogenesis, and inflammation through recruitment of macrophages and endothelial cells. Moreover, ETP expression was associated with aggressive mammary tumor growth and high metastatic growth. These effects were partially mediated through enhanced TGF-β signaling, which contributes to tissue fibrosis and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of tumor cells. Our results highlight the crucial role of ETP as an obesity-associated factor that promotes tumor growth in the context of adipocyte interactions with tumor and stromal cells.
Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is caused by mutations to PKD1 or PKD2, triggering progressive cystogenesis and typically leading to end-stage renal disease in midlife. The phenotypic spectrum, however, ranges from in utero onset to adequate renal function at old age. Recent patient data suggest that the disease is dosage dependent, where incompletely penetrant alleles influence disease severity. Here, we have developed a knockin mouse model matching a likely disease variant, PKD1 p.R3277C (RC), and have proved that its functionally hypomorphic nature modifies the ADPKD phenotype. While Pkd1+/null mice are normal, Pkd1RC/null mice have rapidly progressive disease, and Pkd1RC/RC animals develop gradual cystogenesis. These models effectively mimic the pathophysiological features of in utero–onset and typical ADPKD, respectively, correlating the level of functional Pkd1 product with disease severity, highlighting the dosage dependence of cystogenesis. Additionally, molecular analyses identified p.R3277C as a temperature-sensitive folding/trafficking mutant, and length defects in collecting duct primary cilia, the organelle central to PKD pathogenesis, were clearly detected for the first time to our knowledge in PKD1. Altogether, this study highlights the role that in trans variants at the disease locus can play in phenotypic modification of dominant diseases and provides a truly orthologous PKD1 model, optimal for therapeutic testing.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation