Transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1) is a cardinal cytokine in the pathogenesis of airway remodeling, and promotes epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). As a molecular interaction between TGF-beta1 and Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) has been demonstrated, the goal of this study was to elucidate whether JNK plays a role in TGF-beta1-induced EMT. Primary cultures of mouse tracheal epithelial cells (MTEC) from wild-type, JNK1-/- or JNK2-/- mice were comparatively evaluated for their ability to undergo EMT in response to TGF-beta1. Wild-type MTEC exposed to TGF-beta1 demonstrated a prominent induction of mesenchymal mediators and a loss of epithelial markers, in conjunction with a loss of trans-epithelial resistance (TER). Significantly, TGF-beta1-mediated EMT was markedly blunted in epithelial cells lacking JNK1, while JNK2-/- MTEC underwent EMT in response to TGF-beta1 in a similar way to wild-type cells. Although Smad2/3 phosphorylation and nuclear localization of Smad4 were similar in JNK1-/- MTEC in response to TGF-beta1, Smad DNA-binding activity was diminished. Gene expression profiling demonstrated a global suppression of TGF-beta1-modulated genes, including regulators of EMT in JNK1-/- MTEC, in comparison with wild-type cells. In aggregate, these results illuminate the novel role of airway epithelial-dependent JNK1 activation in EMT.
The proapoptotic BH3-only protein Bim is established to be an important mediator of signaling pathways that induce cell death. Multisite phosphorylation of Bim by several members of the MAP kinase group is implicated as a regulatory mechanism that controls the apoptotic activity of Bim. To test the role of Bim phosphorylation in vivo, we constructed mice with a series of mutant alleles that express phosphorylation-defective Bim proteins. We show that mutation of the phosphorylation site Thr-112 causes decreased binding of Bim to the antiapoptotic protein Bcl2 and can increase cell survival. In contrast, mutation of the phosphorylation sites Ser-55, Ser-65, and Ser-73 can cause increased apoptosis because of reduced proteasomal degradation of Bim. Together, these data indicate that phosphorylation can regulate Bim by multiple mechanisms and that the phosphorylation of Bim on different sites can contribute to the sensitivity of cellular apoptotic responses.
MKK3 signalling plays an essential role in leukocyte-mediated pancreatic injury in the multiple low-dose streptozotocin model
In vitro studies have implicated activation of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling pathway in cytokine-mediated pancreatic beta-cell injury. Activation of the p38 MAPK occurs through two different upstream kinases, mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 3 (MKK3) and MKK6. This study examined the role of MKK3 signalling in an in vivo model of cytokine-dependent pancreatic injury induced by multiple low doses of streptozotocin (MLD-STZ). Groups of wild-type (WT) or Mkk3-/- C57BL/6J mice received 5 daily injections of STZ (40 mg/kg) and were killed on day 5, week 2 or week 4. MLD-STZ in WT mice exhibited two distinct phases of pancreatic damage: islet cell apoptosis (immunostaining for cleaved caspase-3) on day 5 in the absence of leukocyte infiltration, and this was followed by islet inflammation (leukocyte infiltration and cytokine production) and further islet cell apoptosis on day 14 resulting in a loss of insulin-producing beta-cells and an 80% incidence of hyperglycaemia. Mkk3-/- mice were not protected from the initial phase of STZ-induced islet cell apoptosis day 5. However, Mkk3-/- mice were completely protected from the induction of hyperglycaemia. This was attributed to inhibition of leukocyte infiltration, production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and islet cell apoptosis at day 14 of MLD-STZ. In vitro studies showed that cultured islets from Mkk3-/- and WT mice are equally susceptible to STZ and cytokine-induced apoptosis. In conclusion, MKK3 signalling plays an essential role in the development of islet inflammation leading to destruction of beta-cells and hyperglycaemia in MLD-STZ-induced pancreatic injury.
Dendritic cells (DCs) are key regulators of the immune system; they capture antigens and then can either stimulate an immune response or induce tolerance. Our aim was to activate individual DC signaling pathways to regulate the immune response. We therefore expressed constitutive activators of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways or the interferon pathway, together with tumor antigens, using lentivectors. Triggering of p38 activated DCs substantially enhanced the antitumor immune response and prolonged survival of tumor-bearing mice. Activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) increased TGF-beta expression while expression of a constitutively activated interferon regulatory factor-3 (IRF3) stimulated IL-10 secretion by DCs. ERK and IRF3 suppressed the immune response and stimulated expansion of regulatory T cells. These results provide a toolkit to regulate immune responses to viral vector or DC immunization; vaccine responses to foreign or tumor antigens can be enhanced and harmful responses to self-antigens or introduced transgenes can be reduced.
Roles for TAB1 in regulating the IL-1-dependent phosphorylation of the TAB3 regulatory subunit and activity of the TAK1 complex
The protein kinase TAK1 (transforming growth factor-beta-activated kinase 1), which has been implicated in the activation of MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) cascades and the production of inflammatory mediators by LPS (lipopolysaccharide), IL-1 (interleukin 1) and TNF (tumour necrosis factor), comprises the catalytic subunit complexed to the regulatory subunits, termed TAB (TAK1-binding subunit) 1 and either TAB2 or TAB3. We have previously identified a feedback-control mechanism by which p38alpha MAPK down-regulates TAK1 and showed that p38alpha MAPK phosphorylates TAB1 at Ser(423) and Thr(431). In the present study, we identified two IL-1-stimulated phosphorylation sites on TAB2 (Ser(372) and Ser(524)) and three on TAB3 (Ser(60), Thr(404) and Ser(506)) in human IL-1R cells [HEK-293 (human embryonic kidney) cells that stably express the IL-1 receptor] and MEFs (mouse embryonic fibroblasts). Ser(372) and Ser(524) of TAB2 are not phosphorylated by pathways dependent on p38alpha/beta MAPKs, ERK1/2 (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase 1/2) and JNK1/2 (c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1/2). In contrast, Ser(60) and Thr(404) of TAB3 appear to be phosphorylated directly by p38alpha MAPK, whereas Ser(506) is phosphorylated by MAPKAP-K2/MAPKAP-K3 (MAPK-activated protein kinase 2 and 3), which are protein kinases activated by p38alpha MAPK. Studies using TAB1(-/-) MEFs indicate important roles for TAB1 in recruiting p38alpha MAPK to the TAK1 complex for the phosphorylation of TAB3 at Ser(60) and Thr(404) and in inhibiting the dephosphorylation of TAB3 at Ser(506). TAB1 is also required to induce TAK1 catalytic activity, since neither IL-1 nor TNFalpha was able to stimulate detectable TAK1 activity in TAB1(-/-) MEFs. Surprisingly, the IL-1 and TNFalpha-stimulated activation of MAPK cascades and IkappaB (inhibitor of nuclear factor kappaB) kinases were similar in TAB1(-/-), MEKK3(-/-) [MAPK/ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) kinase kinase 3] and wild-type MEFs, suggesting that another MAP3K (MAPK kinase kinase) may mediate the IL-1/TNFalpha-induced activation of these signalling pathways in TAB1(-/-) and MEKK3(-/-) MEFs.
Required roles of Bax and JNKs in central and peripheral nervous system death of retinoblastoma-deficient mice
Retinoblastoma-deficient mice show massive neuronal damage and deficits in both CNS and PNS tissue. Previous work in the field has shown that death is regulated through distinct processes where CNS tissue undergoes death regulated by the tumor suppressor p53 and the apoptosome component, APAF1. Death in the PNS, however, is independent of p53 and reliant on the death protease, caspase 3. In the present study, we more carefully delineated the common and distinct mechanisms of death regulation by examining the stress-activated kinases, JNK2 and 3, the conserved Bcl-2 member Bax, and the relationship among these elements including p53. By use of genetic modeling, we show that death in various regions of the CNS and DRGs of the PNS is reliant on Bax. In the CNS, Bax acts downstream of p53. The relevance of the JNKs is more complex, however. Surprisingly, JNK3 deficiency by itself does not inhibit c-Jun phosphorylation and instead, aggravates death in both CNS and PNS tissue. However, JNK2/3 double deficiency blocks death due to Rb loss in both the PNS and CNS. Importantly, the relationships between JNKs, p53, and Bax exhibit regional differences. In the medulla region of the hindbrain in the CNS, JNK2/3 deficiency blocks p53 activation. Moreover, Bax deficiency does not affect c-Jun phosphorylation. This indicates that a JNK-p53-Bax pathway is central in the hindbrain. However, in the diencephalon regions of the forebrain (thalamus), Bax deficiency blocks c-Jun activation, indicating that a Bax-JNK pathway of death is more relevant. In the DRGs of the PNS, a third pathway is present. In this case, a JNK-Bax pathway, independent of p53, regulates damage. Accordingly, our results show that a death regulator Bax is common to death in both PNS and CNS tissue. However, it is regulated by or itself regulates different effectors including the JNKs and p53 depending upon the specific region of the nervous system.
c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase 2 inhibits gamma interferon production during Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection
Gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) plays a critical role in the early eradication of Anaplasma phagocytophilum. However, the mechanisms that regulate IFN-gamma production upon infection remain poorly understood. Here we show that c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase 2 (JNK2) inhibits IFN-gamma production during A. phagocytophilum infection. jnk2-null mice were more refractory to infection with A. phagocytophilum and produced increased levels of IFN-gamma after challenge with the pathogen. The resistance of jnk2-null mice to A. phagocytophilum infection was due to elevated levels of IFN-gamma secreted by conventional and natural killer (NK) T cells. The administration of alpha-galactosylceramide, a strong NK T-cell agonist, increased IFN-gamma release and protected mice from A. phagocytophilum, further demonstrating the inhibitory effect of JNK2 on IFN-gamma production. Collectively, these findings provide strong evidence that JNK2 is an important regulatory protein for IFN-gamma secretion upon challenge with A. phagocytophilum.
Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) causes high early mortality in pneumococcal pneumonia, which is characterized by acute lung injury (ALI). The molecular mechanisms underlying ALI and the high early mortality remain unknown. Despite recent studies that identify deubiquitinating enzyme cylindromatosis (CYLD) as a key regulator for T cell development, tumor cell proliferation, and NF-kappaB transcription factor signaling, its role in regulating bacteria-induced lethality, however, is unknown. Here, we showed that CYLD deficiency protected mice from S. pneumoniae pneumolysin (PLY)-induced ALI and lethality. CYLD was highly induced by PLY, and it inhibited MKK3-p38 kinase-dependent expression of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) in lung, thereby potentiating ALI and mortality. Thus, CYLD is detrimental for host survival, thereby indicating a mechanism underlying the high early mortality of pneumococcal pneumonia.
MKK3-p38 signaling promotes apoptosis and the early inflammatory response in the obstructed mouse kidney
Activation of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway induces inflammation, apoptosis, and fibrosis. However, little is known of the contribution of the upstream kinases, MMK3 and MKK6, to activation of the p38 kinase in the kidney and consequent renal injury. This study investigated the contribution of MKK3 to p38 MAPK activation and renal injury in the obstructed kidney. Groups of eight wild-type (WT) or Mkk3-/- mice underwent unilateral ureteric obstruction (UUO) and were killed 3 or 7 days later. Western blotting showed a marked increase in phospho-p38 (p-p38) MAPK in UUO WT kidney. The same trend of increased p-p38 MAPK was seen in the UUO Mkk3-/- kidney, although the actual level of p-p38 MAPK was significantly reduced compared with WT, and this could not be entirely compensated for by the increase in MKK6 expression in the Mkk3-/- kidney. Apoptosis of tubular and interstitial cells in WT UUO mice was reduced by 50% in Mkk3-/- UUO mice. Furthermore, cultured Mkk3-/- tubular epithelial cells showed resistance to H(2)O(2)-induced apoptosis, suggesting a direct role for MKK3-p38 signaling in tubular apoptosis. Upregulation of MCP-1 mRNA levels and macrophage infiltration seen on day 3 in WT UUO mice was significantly reduced in Mkk3-/- mice, but this difference was not evident by day 7. The development of renal fibrosis in Mkk3-/- UUO mice was not different from that seen in WT UUO mice. In conclusion, these studies identify discrete roles for MKK3-p38 signaling in renal cell apoptosis and the early inflammatory response in the obstructed kidney.
JIP scaffold proteins are implicated in the regulation of protein kinase signal transduction pathways. To test the physiological role of these scaffold proteins, we examined the phenotype of compound mutant mice that lack expression of JIP proteins. These mice were found to exhibit severe defects in N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor function, including decreased NMDA-evoked current amplitude, cytoplasmic Ca(++), and gene expression. The decreased NMDA receptor activity in JIP-deficient neurons is associated with reduced tyrosine phosphorylation of NR2 subunits of the NMDA receptor. JIP complexes interact with the SH2 domain of cFyn and may therefore promote tyrosine phosphorylation and activity of the NMDA receptor. We conclude that JIP scaffold proteins are critically required for normal NMDA receptor function.
The regulation of innate immune responses to pathogens occurs through the interaction of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) with pathogen-associated molecular patterns and the activation of several signaling pathways whose contribution to the overall innate immune response to pathogens is poorly understood. We demonstrate a mechanism of control of murine macrophage responses mediated by TLR1/2 heterodimers through c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) activity. JNK controls tumor necrosis factor alpha production and TLR-mediated macrophage responses to Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, and the TLR1/TLR2-specific agonist PAM(3)CSK(4). JNK1, but not JNK2, activity regulates the expression of the tlr1 gene in the macrophage cell line RAW264.7, as well as in primary CD11b(+) cells. We also show that the proximal promoter region of the human tlr1 gene contains an AP-1 binding site that is subjected to regulation by the kinase and binds two complexes that involve the JNK substrates c-Jun, JunD, and ATF-2. These results demonstrate that JNK1 regulates the response to TLR1/2 ligands and suggest a positive feedback loop that may serve to increase the innate immune response to the spirochete.
Activity-Based Profiling Reveals a Regulatory Link between Oxidative Stress and Protein Arginine Phosphorylation
Protein arginine phosphorylation is a recently discovered modification that affects multiple cellular pathways in Gram-positive bacteria. In particular, the phosphorylation of arginine residues by McsB is critical for regulating the cellular stress response. Given that the highly efficient protein arginine phosphatase YwlE prevents arginine phosphorylation under non-stress conditions, we hypothesized that this enzyme negatively regulates arginine phosphorylation and acts as a sensor of cell stress. To evaluate this hypothesis, we developed the first suite of highly potent and specific SO3-amidine-based YwlE inhibitors. With these protein arginine phosphatase-specific probes, we demonstrated that YwlE activity is suppressed by oxidative stress, which consequently increases arginine phosphorylation, thereby inducing the expression of stress-response genes, which is critical for bacterial virulence. Overall, we predict that these novel chemical tools will be widely used to study the regulation of protein arginine phosphorylation in multiple organisms.
The Identification and Targeting of Partially-Folded Conformations on the Folding Free-Energy Landscapes of ALS-Linked Proteins for Therapeutic Intervention: A Dissertation
The hallmark feature of many neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is the accumulation of cytoplasmic inclusions of key disease-linked proteins. Two of these proteins, TDP-43 and SOD1, represent a significant proportion of sporadic and familial ALS cases, respectively. The population of potentially aggregation-prone partially-folded states on the folding free-energy landscape may serve as a common mechanism for ALS pathogenesis. A detailed biophysical understanding of the folding and misfolding energy landscapes of TDP-43 and SOD1 can provide critical insights into the design of novel therapeutics to delay onset and progression in ALS.
Equilibrium unfolding studies on the RNA recognition motif (RRM) domains of TDP-43 revealed the population of a stable RRM intermediate in RRM2, with residual structure localized to the N-terminal half of the domain. Other RRM domains from FUS/TLS and hnRNP A1 similarly populate RRM intermediates, suggesting a possible connection with disease. Mutations, which enhance the population of the RRM2 intermediate, could serve as tools for deciphering the functional and misfolding roles of this partially-folded state in disease models, leading to the development of new biomarkers to track ALS progression.
ALS mutations in SOD1 have been shown to destabilize the stable homodimer to result in increased populations of the monomeric and unfolded forms of SOD1. Mechanistic insights into the misfolding of SOD1 demonstrated that the unfolded state is a key species in the initiation and propagation of aggregation, suggesting that limiting these populations may provide therapeutic benefit to ALS patients. An in vitro time-resolved Förster Resonance Energy Transfer assay to screen small molecules that stabilize the native state of SOD1 has identified several lead compounds, providing a pathway to new therapeutics to treat ALS.
XIST and CoT-1 Repeat RNAs are Integral Components of a Complex Nuclear Scaffold Required to Maintain SAF-A and Modify Chromosome Architecture: A Dissertation
XIST RNA established the precedent for a noncoding RNA that stably associates with and regulates chromatin, however it remains poorly understood how such RNAs structurally associate with the interphase chromosome territory. I demonstrate that transgenic XIST RNA localizes in cis to an autosome as it does to the inactive X chromosome, hence the RNA recognizes a structure common to all chromosomes. I reassess the prevalent thinking in the field that a single protein, Scaffold Attachment Factor-A (SAF-A/hnRNP U), provides a single molecule bridge required to directly tether the RNA to DNA. In an extensive series of experiments in multiple cell types, I examine the effects of SAF-A depletion or different SAF-A mutations on XIST RNA localization, and I force XIST RNA retention at mitosis to examine the effect on SAF-A. I find that SAF-A is not required to localize XIST RNA but is one of multiple proteins involved, some of which frequently become lost or compromised in cancer. I additionally examine SAF-A’s potential role localizing repeat-rich CoT-1 RNA, a class of abundant RNAs that we show tightly and stably localize to euchromatic interphase chromosome territories, but release upon disruption of the nuclear scaffold. Overall, findings suggest that instead of “tethering” chromosomal RNAs to the scaffold, SAF-A is one component of a multi-component matrix/scaffold supporting interphase nuclear architecture. Results indicate that Cot-1 and XIST RNAs form integral components of this scaffold and are required to maintain the chromosomal association of SAF-A, substantially advancing understanding of how chromatin-associated RNAs contribute to nuclear structure.
Contraceptive Utilization and Downstream Feto-Maternal Outcomes for Women with Substance Use Disorders: A Dissertation
Background: One in ten people in the U.S. are affected by a substance use disorder (SUD), roughly one third of whom are women. Rates of unintended pregnancy are higher in this population than in the general public. Little is understood about how women with SUD use prescription contraception and think about pregnancy.
Methods: By analyzing Medicaid claims data and conducting qualitative interviews with women with SUD, this doctoral thesis seeks to: 1) compare any use of and consistent, continued coverage by prescription contraceptives between women with and without SUD; 2) determine the extent to which SUD is associated with pregnancy, abortion, and adverse feto-maternal outcomes in women who use prescription contraception; and 3) explore facilitators of and barriers to contraceptive utilization by women with SUD, using qualitative interviews.
Results: Compared to women without SUD, women with SUD are less likely to use any prescription contraceptive, particularly long-acting reversible methods. Among women who do use long-acting methods, SUD is associated with less continued, consistent coverage by a prescription contraceptive. Among women who use contraception, SUD is also associated with increased odds of abortion. When interviewed, women with SUD report fatalistic attitudes towards pregnancy planning, and have difficulty conceptualizing how susceptibility to pregnancy may change over time. Women with SUD also report that pregnancy has substantial impact on their drug treatment prospects.
Conclusions: This study is the first to examine contraceptive utilization by women with SUD who are enrolled in Medicaid or state-subsidized insurance. Our study may help to inform clinical practice and policy development to improve the reproductive health and wellbeing of women with SUD.
Metabolic network rewiring is the rerouting of metabolism through the use of alternate enzymes to adjust pathway flux and accomplish specific anabolic or catabolic objectives. Here, we report the first characterization of two parallel pathways for the breakdown of the short chain fatty acid propionate in Caenorhabditis elegans. Using genetic interaction mapping, gene co-expression analysis, pathway intermediate quantification and carbon tracing, we uncover a vitamin B12-independent propionate breakdown shunt that is transcriptionally activated on vitamin B12 deficient diets, or under genetic conditions mimicking the human diseases propionic- and methylmalonic acidemia, in which the canonical B12-dependent propionate breakdown pathway is blocked. Our study presents the first example of transcriptional vitamin-directed metabolic network rewiring to promote survival under vitamin deficiency. The ability to reroute propionate breakdown according to B12 availability may provide C. elegans with metabolic plasticity and thus a selective advantage on different diets in the wild.
Structural studies reveal how an antiviral factor forms a molecular net to restrict retroviruses including HIV-1.
Radiation therapy is an effective cancer treatment modality although tumors invariably become resistant. Using the transgenic adenocarcinoma of mouse prostate (TRAMP) model system, we report that a hypofractionated radiation schedule (10 Gy/day for 5 consecutive days) effectively blocks prostate tumor growth in wild type (beta1wt /TRAMP) mice as well as in mice carrying a conditional ablation of beta1 integrins in the prostatic epithelium (beta1pc-/- /TRAMP). Since JNK is known to be suppressed by beta1 integrins and mediates radiation-induced apoptosis, we tested the effect of SP600125, an inhibitor of c-Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNK) in the TRAMP model system. Our results show that SP600125 negates the effect of radiation on tumor growth in beta1pc-/- /TRAMP mice and leads to invasive adenocarcinoma. These effects are associated with increased focal adhesion kinase (FAK) expression and phosphorylation in prostate tumors in beta1pc-/- /TRAMP mice. In marked contrast, radiation-induced tumor growth suppression, FAK expression and phosphorylation are not altered by SP600125 treatment of beta1wt /TRAMP mice. Furthermore, we have reported earlier that abrogation of insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-IR) in prostate cancer cells enhances the sensitivity to radiation. Here we further explore the beta1/IGF-IR crosstalk and report that beta1 integrins promote cell proliferation partly by enhancing the expression of IGF-IR. In conclusion, we demonstrate that beta1 integrin-mediated inhibition of JNK signaling modulates tumor growth rate upon hypofractionated radiation.
At the recent Journals Board meeting that took place during ASM Microbe 2016 in Boston, MA, the journal editors in chief and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) leadership decided to no longer advertise the impact factors of ASM journals.
This editorial was published simultaneously by the following ASM journals: Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Clinical Microbiology Reviews, Infection and Immunity, Journal of Clinical Microbiology, mBio, Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, mSphere, and mSystems.
A Fluorescent Reporter Mouse for Inflammasome Assembly Demonstrates an Important Role for Cell-Bound and Free ASC Specks during In Vivo Infection
Inflammasome activation is associated with numerous diseases. However, in vivo detection of the activated inflammasome complex has been limited by a dearth of tools. We have developed transgenic mice that ectopically express the fluorescent adaptor protein, apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC) and characterized the formation of assembled inflammasome complexes ("specks") in primary cells and tissues. In addition to hematopoietic cells, we have found that a stromal population in the lung tissues formed specks during the early phase of influenza infection, whereas myeloid cells showed speck formation after 2 days. In a peritonitis and group B streptococcus infection model, a higher percentage of neutrophils formed specks at early phases of infection, while dendritic cells formed specks at later time points. Furthermore, speck-forming cells underwent pyroptosis and extensive release of specks to the extracellular milieu in vivo. These data underscore the importance of free specks during inflammatory processes in vivo.