Human cancer cells frequently have regions of their DNA hypermethylated, which results in transcriptional silencing of affected genes and promotion of tumor formation. However, it is still unknown whether cancer-associated aberrant DNA methylation is targeted to specific genomic regions, whether this methylation also occurs in noncancerous cells, and whether these epigenetic events are maintained in the absence of the initiating cause. Here we have addressed some of these issues by demonstrating that transgenic expression of DNA methyltransferase 3b (Dnmt3b) in the mouse colon initiates de novo DNA methylation of genes that are similar to genes that become methylated in human colon cancer. This is consistent with the notion that aberrant methylation in cancer may be attributable to targeting of specific sequences by Dnmt3b rather than to random methylation followed by clonal selection. We also showed that Dnmt3b-induced aberrant DNA methylation was maintained in regenerating tissue, even in the absence of continuous Dnmt3b expression. This supports the concept that transient stressors can cause permanent epigenetic changes in somatic stem cells and that these accumulate over the lifetime of an organism in analogy to DNA mutations.
Eveline J. Steine, Mathias Ehrich, George W. Bell, Arjun Raj, Seshamma Reddy, Alexander van Oudenaarden, Rudolf Jaenisch, Heinz G. Linhart
Pilocytic astrocytoma (PA) is the most common type of primary brain tumor in children and the second most frequent cancer in childhood. Children with incompletely resected PA represent a clinically challenging patient cohort for whom conventional adjuvant therapies are only moderately effective. This has produced high clinical demand for testing of new molecularly targeted treatments. However, the development of new therapeutics for PA has been hampered by the lack of an adequate in vivo tumor model. Recent studies have identified activation of MAPK signaling, mainly by oncogenic BRAF activation, as a hallmark genetic event in the pathogenesis of human PA. Using in vivo retroviral somatic gene transfer into mouse neural progenitor cells, we have shown here that ectopic expression of the activated BRAF kinase domain is sufficient to induce PA in mice. Further in vitro analyses demonstrated that overexpression of activated BRAF led to increased proliferation of primary mouse astrocytes that could be inhibited by treatment with the kinase inhibitor sorafenib. Our in vivo model for PA shows that the activated BRAF kinase domain is sufficient to induce PA and highlights its role as a potential therapeutic target.
Jan Gronych, Andrey Korshunov, Josephine Bageritz, Till Milde, Manfred Jugold, Dolores Hambardzumyan, Marc Remke, Christian Hartmann, Hendrik Witt, David T.W. Jones, Olaf Witt, Sabine Heiland, Martin Bendszus, Eric C. Holland, Stefan Pfister, Peter Lichter
Huntington disease (HD) is a degenerative disorder caused by expanded CAG repeats in exon 1 of the huntingtin gene (HTT). Patients with late-stage HD are known to have abnormal auditory processing, but the peripheral auditory functions of HD patients have yet to be thoroughly assessed. In this study, 19 HD patients (aged 40–59 years) were assessed for hearing impairment using pure-tone audiometry and assessment of auditory brainstem responses (ABRs). PTA thresholds were markedly elevated in HD patients. Consistent with this, elevated ABR thresholds were also detected in two mouse models of HD. Hearing loss thus appears to be an authentic symptom of HD. Immunohistochemical analyses demonstrated the presence of mutant huntingtin that formed intranuclear inclusions in the organ of Corti of HD mice, which might interfere with normal auditory function. Quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot analyses further revealed reduced expression of brain creatine kinase (CKB), a major enzyme responsible for ATP regeneration via the phosphocreatine–creatine kinase (PCr-CK) system, in the cochlea of HD mice. Treatment with creatine supplements ameliorated the hearing impairment of HD mice, suggesting that the impaired PCr-CK system in the cochlea of HD mice may contribute to their hearing impairment. These data also suggest that creatine may be useful for treating the hearing abnormalities of patients with HD.
Yow-Sien Lin, Chiung-Mei Chen, Bing-wen Soong, Yih-Ru Wu, Hui-Mei Chen, Wen-Ying Yeh, Dai-Rong Wu, Yi-Jun Lin, Paul Wai-Fung Poon, Mei-Ling Cheng, Chih-Hung Wang, Yijuang Chern
Hemolytic transfusion reactions (HTRs) can produce serious and potentially life-threatening complications in sickle cell disease (SCD) patients; however, the mechanisms underlying these complications remain undetermined. We established a model of alloimmune, IgG-mediated HTRs in a well-characterized humanized murine model of SCD. HTRs induced acute vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC), resulting in shortened survival of SCD mice. Acute VOC was associated with elevated circulating inflammatory chemokine levels, including striking elevation of the levels of the neutrophil chemoattractant CXCL1. Recombinant CXCL1 administration was sufficient to induce acute VOC in SCD mice, characterized by leukocyte recruitment in venules, capture of circulating red blood cells, reduction of venular flow, and shortened survival. In contrast, blockade of the CXCL1 receptor, CXCR2, prevented HTR-elicited acute VOC and prolonged survival in SCD mice. These results indicate that CXCL1 is a key inflammatory mediator of acute VOC in SCD mice. Targeted inhibition of CXCL1 and/or CXCR2 may therefore represent a new therapeutic approach for acute VOC in SCD patients.
Jung-Eun Jang, Eldad A. Hod, Steven L. Spitalnik, Paul S. Frenette
Several different neuronal populations are involved in regulating energy homeostasis. Among these, agouti-related protein (AgRP) neurons are thought to promote feeding and weight gain; however, the evidence supporting this view is incomplete. Using designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADD) technology to provide specific and reversible regulation of neuronal activity in mice, we have demonstrated that acute activation of AgRP neurons rapidly and dramatically induces feeding, reduces energy expenditure, and ultimately increases fat stores. All these effects returned to baseline after stimulation was withdrawn. In contrast, inhibiting AgRP neuronal activity in hungry mice reduced food intake. Together, these findings demonstrate that AgRP neuron activity is both necessary and sufficient for feeding. Of interest, activating AgRP neurons potently increased motivation for feeding and also drove intense food-seeking behavior, demonstrating that AgRP neurons engage brain sites controlling multiple levels of feeding behavior. Due to its ease of use and suitability for both acute and chronic regulation, DREADD technology is ideally suited for investigating the neural circuits hypothesized to regulate energy balance.
Michael J. Krashes, Shuichi Koda, ChianPing Ye, Sarah C. Rogan, Andrew C. Adams, Daniel S. Cusher, Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, Bryan L. Roth, Bradford B. Lowell
Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are promising candidate cell sources for regenerative medicine. However, despite the common ability of hiPSCs and hESCs to differentiate into all 3 germ layers, their functional equivalence at the single cell level remains to be demonstrated. Moreover, single cell heterogeneity amongst stem cell populations may underlie important cell fate decisions. Here, we used single cell analysis to resolve the gene expression profiles of 362 hiPSCs and hESCs for an array of 42 genes that characterize the pluripotent and differentiated states. Comparison between single hESCs and single hiPSCs revealed markedly more heterogeneity in gene expression levels in the hiPSCs, suggesting that hiPSCs occupy an alternate, less stable pluripotent state. hiPSCs also displayed slower growth kinetics and impaired directed differentiation as compared with hESCs. Our results suggest that caution should be exercised before assuming that hiPSCs occupy a pluripotent state equivalent to that of hESCs, particularly when producing differentiated cells for regenerative medicine aims.
Kazim H. Narsinh, Ning Sun, Veronica Sanchez-Freire, Andrew S. Lee, Patricia Almeida, Shijun Hu, Taha Jan, Kitchener D. Wilson, Denise Leong, Jarrett Rosenberg, Mylene Yao, Robert C. Robbins, Joseph C. Wu
To be of therapeutic use, autologous stem cells derived from patients with inherited genetic disorders require genetic modification via gene repair or insertion. Here, we present proof of principle that, for diseases associated with dominant alleles (gain-of-function or haploinsufficient loss-of-function), disease allele–free ES cells can be derived from afflicted individuals without genome manipulation. This approach capitalizes on the derivation of uniparental cells, such as parthenogenetic (PG) ES cell lines from disease allele–free gametes. Diploid mammalian uniparental embryos with only maternally (oocyte-) or paternally (sperm-)derived genomes fail early in development due to the nonequivalence of parental genomes caused by genomic imprinting. However, these uniparental embryos develop to the blastocyst stage, allowing the derivation of ES cell lines. Using a mouse model for dominant beta-thalassemia, we developed disease allele–free PG ES cell lines from the oocytes of affected animals. Phenotype correction was obtained in donor-genotype recipients after transplantation of in vitro hematopoietic ES cell derivatives. This genetic correction strategy without gene targeting is potentially applicable to any dominant disease. It could also be the sole approach for larger or more complex mutations that cannot be corrected by homologous recombination.
Sigrid Eckardt, N. Adrian Leu, Ashley Yanchik, Seigo Hatada, Michael Kyba, K. John McLaughlin
Type 1A diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease characterized by leukocyte infiltration of the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. A major impediment to advances in understanding, preventing, and curing T1D has been the inability to “see” the disease initiate, progress, or regress, especially during the occult phase. Here, we report the development of a noninvasive method to visualize T1D at the target organ level in patients with active insulitis. Specifically, we visualized islet inflammation, manifest by microvascular changes and monocyte/macrophage recruitment and activation, using magnetic resonance imaging of magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs). As a proof of principle for this approach, imaging of infused ferumoxtran-10 nanoparticles permitted effective visualization of the pancreas and distinction of recent-onset diabetes patients from nondiabetic controls. The observation that MNPs accumulate in the pancreas of T1D patients opens the door to exploiting this noninvasive imaging method to follow T1D progression and monitoring the ability of immunomodulatory agents to clear insulitis.
Jason L. Gaglia, Alexander R. Guimaraes, Mukesh Harisinghani, Stuart E. Turvey, Richard Jackson, Christophe Benoist, Diane Mathis, Ralph Weissleder
Recent genome-wide association studies have identified a genetic locus at human chromosome 8q24 as having minor alleles associated with lower levels of plasma triglyceride (TG) and LDL cholesterol (LDL-C), higher levels of HDL-C, as well as decreased risk for myocardial infarction. This locus contains only one annotated gene, tribbles homolog 1 (TRIB1), which has not previously been implicated in lipoprotein metabolism. Here we demonstrate a role for Trib1 as a regulator of lipoprotein metabolism in mice. Hepatic-specific overexpression of Trib1 reduced levels of plasma TG and cholesterol by reducing VLDL production; conversely, Trib1-knockout mice showed elevated levels of plasma TG and cholesterol due to increased VLDL production. Hepatic Trib1 expression was inversely associated with the expression of key lipogenic genes and measures of lipogenesis. Thus, we provide functional evidence for what we believe to be a novel gene regulating hepatic lipogenesis and VLDL production in mice that influences plasma lipids and risk for myocardial infarction in humans.
Ralph Burkhardt, Sue-Anne Toh, William R. Lagor, Andrew Birkeland, Michael Levin, Xiaoyu Li, Megan Robblee, Victor D. Fedorov, Masahiro Yamamoto, Takashi Satoh, Shizuo Akira, Sekar Kathiresan, Jan L. Breslow, Daniel J. Rader
Thrombopoiesis, the process by which circulating platelets arise from megakaryocytes, remains incompletely understood. Prior studies suggest that megakaryocytes shed platelets in the pulmonary vasculature. To better understand thrombopoiesis and to develop a potential platelet transfusion strategy that is not dependent upon donors, of which there remains a shortage, we examined whether megakaryocytes infused into mice shed platelets. Infused megakaryocytes led to clinically relevant increases in platelet numbers. The released platelets were normal in size, displayed appropriate surface markers, and had a near-normal circulating half-life. The functionality of the donor-derived platelets was also demonstrated in vivo. The infused megakaryocytes mostly localized to the pulmonary vasculature, where they appeared to shed platelets. These data suggest that it may be unnecessary to generate platelets from ex vivo grown megakaryocytes to achieve clinically relevant increases in platelet numbers.
Rudy Fuentes, Yuhuan Wang, Jessica Hirsch, Cheng Wang, Lubica Rauova, G. Scott Worthen, M. Anna Kowalska, Mortimer Poncz
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