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Mechanistic Analysis of Differential Signal Transduction Mediated by the Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins IRS-1 and IRS-2: A Dissertation

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:17pm

The Insulin Receptor Substrate (IRS) proteins IRS-1 and IRS-2 are cytoplasmic adaptor proteins that organize and propagate intracellular signaling downstream of specific growth factor receptors, including the Insulin and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 Receptors (IR and IGF-1R, respectively). Despite sharing a high level of homology and the ability to stimulate Phosphotidylinositol-3-Kinase (PI3K) and Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) signaling, IRS-1 and IRS-2 play distinct roles in mammary tumor progression. Specifically, IRS-1 promotes growth and proliferation, whereas IRS- 2 promotes motility, invasion, survival, aerobic glycolyis, and metastasis. To further understand the differences between IRS-1 and IRS-2, I investigated the mechanistic basis of IRS-2-mediated PI3K activation. I identified tyrosines in IRS-2 that mediate its recruitment and activation of PI3K in response to insulin and IGF-1 stimulation. Using a PI3K-binding deficient IRS-2 mutant, I demonstrated that IRS-2-dependent PI3K signaling promotes aerobic glycolysis through its ability to selectively regulate the phosphorylation of the Akt effector Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3β (Gsk-3β). I also performed a rigorous comparison of IRS-1 and IRS-2 signal transduction and their ability to regulate functions associated with tumor progression. These studies required the generation of a novel model system where IRS-1 and IRS-2 function could be compared in a genetically identical background. Using this model, I confirmed a role for IRS-1 in growth regulation and IRS-2 in tumor cell invasion, as well as expanded the understanding of differential IRS protein function by showing that IRS-2 more vi effectively promotes Akt activation. The model system I have established can be used for further characterization of IRS-1 and IRS-2-specific functions.

Function and Regulation of the α6 Integrins in Mammary Epithelial Biology and Breast Cancer: A Dissertation

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:16pm

Integrins have the ability to impact major aspects of epithelial biology including adhesion, migration, invasion, signaling and differentiation, as well as the formation and progression of cancer (Hynes 2002; Srichai and Zent 2010; Anderson et al. 2014). This thesis focuses on how integrins are regulated and function in the context of mammary epithelial biology and breast cancer with a specific focus on the α6 integrin heterodimers (α6β1 and α6β4). These integrins function primarily as receptors for the laminin family of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and they have been implicated in mammary gland biology and breast cancer (Friedrichs et al. 1995; Wewer et al. 1997; Mercurio et al. 2001; Margadant and Sonnenberg 2010; Muschler and Streuli 2010; Nistico et al. 2014).

The first project investigates how alternative splicing of the α6 subunit impacts the genesis and function of breast cancer stem cells (CSCs). This work revealed that the α6Bβ1 splice variant, but not α6Aβ1, is necessary for the function of breast CSCs because it activates the Hippo transducer TAZ (Zhao et al. 2008a), which is known to be essential for breast CSCs (Cordenonsi et al. 2011). My work also led to the discovery that laminin (LM) 511 is the specific ligand for α6Bβ1 and that autocrine LM511, which is mediated by TAZ, is needed to sustain breast CSCs by functioning as a ‘ECM niche’. An important aspect of this study is the finding that surface-bound LM511 characterizes a small population of cells in human breast tumors with CSC properties.

The second project of my thesis concentrated on identifying transcription factors that regulate expression of the β4 subunit. The expression of the α6β4 integrin is repressed during the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) (Yang et al. 2009) but the contribution of specific transcription factors to this repression is poorly understood. This study revealed that Snai1 is a transcriptional repressor of β4, which is responsible for establishing the PRC2 (Polycomb complex 2)- associated repressive histone mark H3K27Me3. However, I also found that the ability of Snai1 to repress transcription is abrogated by its interaction with Id2. Specifically, I identified the biochemical mechanism for how Id2 regulates Snai1. Id2 binds the SNAG domain of Snai1 that is the docking site for several corepressors (Peinado et al. 2004; Lin et al. 2010b; Dong et al. 2012a). One important consequence of Id2 interacting with Snai1 on the β4 promoter is that it prevents repressive epigenetic modifications. This finding may explain why some epithelial cells express Snai1 and β4 because they also express Id2 (Vincent et al. 2009; Bastea et al. 2012). The repression of the α6β4 integrin during the EMT is consistent with data indicating that this integrin is not expressed in CSCs (Mani et al. 2008; Goel et al. 2012; Goel et al. 2013; Goel et al. 2014). An important question going forward is to understand how the α6β4 integrin contributes to tumor formation.

In summary, my thesis provides novel insights into the biology of the α6 integrins that has important implications for the function of these integrins in mammary gland biology and breast cancer, especially our understanding of breast CSCs.

Calcium Dependent Regulatory Mechanism in Wolfram Syndrome: A Dissertation

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:16pm

Wolfram syndrome is a genetic disorder characterized by diabetes and neurodegeneration. Two causative genes have been identified so far, WFS1 and WFS2, both encoding endoplasmic reticulum (ER) localized transmembrane proteins. Since WFS1 is involved in the ER stress pathway, Wolfram syndrome is considered an ER disease. Despite the underlying importance of ER dysfunction in Wolfram syndrome, the molecular mechanism linking ER to the death of β cells and neurons has not been elucidated.

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is an organelle that forms a network of enclosed sacs and tubes that connect the nuclear membrane and other organelles including Golgi and mitochondria. ER plays critical functions in protein folding, protein transport, lipid metabolism, and calcium regulation. Dysregulation of ER function disrupts normal cell metabolism and activates an array of anti-survival pathways, eventually leading to disease state.

Here we show that calpain is involved in both prototypes of Wolfram syndrome. Calpain 2 activity is negatively regulated by WFS2 protein, and hyper-activation of calpain 2 by WFS2-knockdown leads to cell death. Calpain hyper-activation is also present in WFS1 loss of function cells due to the high cytosolic calcium. Extensive calpain activation exists in the Wolfram syndrome mouse model as well as in patient cells. A compound screen targeting ER homeostasis reveals that dantrolene, a ryanodine receptor inhibitor, can prevent cell death in cell models of Wolfram syndrome. Our results demonstrate that the pathway leading to calpain activation provides potential therapeutic targets for Wolfram syndrome and other ER diseases.

A Tale of Two Projects: Basis for Centrosome Amplification after DNA Damage and Practical Assessment of Photodamage in Live-Cell Imaging: A Dissertation

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:16pm

This thesis comprises two separate studies that focus on the consequences of cellular damage. The first investigates the effects of DNA damage on centriole behavior and the second characterizes phototoxicity during live-cell imaging.

Cancer treatments such as ionizing radiation and/or chemotherapeutic DNA damaging agents are intended to kill tumor cells, but they also damage normal proliferating cells. Although centrosome amplification after DNA damage is a well-established phenomenon for transformed cells, it is not fully understood in untransformed cells. The presence of extra centrosomes in normal cell populations raises the chances of genomic instability, thus posing additional threats to patients undergoing these therapies. I characterized centriole behavior after DNA damage in synchronized untransformed (RPE1) human cells. Treatment with the radiomimetic drug, Doxorubicin, prolongs G2 phase by at least 72hrs, where 52% of cells display disengaged centrioles and 10% contain extra centrioles. This disengagement is mediated by Plk and APC/C activities both singly and in combination. Disengaged centrioles are associated with maturation markers suggesting they are capable of organizing spindle poles. Despite the high incidence of centriole disengagement, only a small percentage of centrioles reduplicate due to p53/p21 dependent inhibition of Cdk2 activity. Although all cells become prolonged in G2 phase, 14% eventually go through mitosis, of which 26% contain disengaged or extra centrioles.

In addition to cancer treatments, cellular damage can be acquired from various external conditions. Short wavelengths of light are known to be toxic to living cells, but are commonly used during live-cell microscopy to excite fluorescent proteins. I characterized the phototoxic effects of blue (488nm) and green (546nm) light on cell cycle progression in RPE1. For unlabeled cells, I found that exposure to green light is far less toxic than blue light, but is not benign. However, the presence of fluorescent proteins led to increased sensitivity to both blue and green light. For 488nm irradiations, spreading the total irradiation durations out into a series of 10s pulses or conducting single longer, but lower intensity, exposures made no significant changes in phototoxicity. However, reducing oxidative stress by culturing cells at physiological (~3%) oxygen, or treatment with a water-soluble antioxidant, Trolox, greatly improved the cells tolerance to blue light.

Collectively, my work offers an explanation for centrosome amplification after DNA damage and demonstrates the importance of proper centriole regulation in untransformed human cells. Further, it provides a practical assessment of photodamage during live-cell imaging.

Rapid Access to Perinatal Psychiatric Care in Depression (RAPPID): A Master’s Thesis

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:16pm

Depression is the leading cause of disability among women of reproductive age worldwide. Upwards of 1 in 5 women suffer from perinatal depression. This condition has deleterious effects on several birth outcomes, infant attachment, and children’s behavior/development. Maternal suicide causes 20% of postpartum deaths in depressed women. Although the vast majority of perinatal women are amenable to being screened for depression, screening alone does not improve treatment rates or patient outcomes. Obstetrics/Gynecology (Ob/Gyn) clinics need supports in place to adequately address depression in their patient populations. The primary goal of this thesis is to develop, refine, and pilot test a new low-cost and sustainable stepped care program for Ob/Gyn clinics that will improve perinatal women’s depression treatment rates and outcomes. We developed and beta tested the Rapid Access to Perinatal Psychiatric Care in Depression (RAPPID) Program, to create a comprehensive intervention that is proactive, multifaceted, and practical. RAPPID aims to improve perinatal depression treatment and treatment response rates through: (1) access to immediate resource provision/referrals and psychiatric telephone consultation for Ob/Gyn providers; (2) clinic-specific implementation of depression care, including training support and toolkits; and (3) proactive depression screening, assessment, and treatment in OB/Gyn clinics. RAPPID builds on a low-cost and widely disseminated population-based model for delivering psychiatric care in primary care settings. Formative data and feedback from key stakeholders also informed the development of RAPPID. Our formative and pilot work in real-world settings suggests RAPPID is feasible and has the potential to improve depression detection and treatment in Ob/Gyn settings. The next step will be to compare two active interventions, RAPPID vs. enhanced usual care (access to resource provision/referrals and psychiatric telephone consultation) in a cluster-randomized trial in which we will randomize 12 Ob/Gyn clinics to either RAPPID or enhanced usual care.

A Population-Based Perspective on Clinically Recognized Venous Thromboembolism: Contemporary Trends in Clinical Epidemiology and Risk Assessment of Recurrent Events: A Dissertation

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:16pm

Background: Venous thromboembolism (VTE), comprising the conditions of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), is a common acute cardiovascular event associated with increased long-term morbidity, functional disability, all-cause mortality, and high rates of recurrence. Major advances in identification, prophylaxis, and treatment over the past 3-decades have likely changed its clinical epidemiology. However, there are little published data describing contemporary, population-based, trends in VTE prevention and management.

Objectives: To examine recent trends in the epidemiology of clinically recognized VTE and assess the risk of recurrence after a first acute episode of VTE.

Methods: We used population-based surveillance to monitor trends in acute VTE among residents of the Worcester, Massachusetts, metropolitan statistical area (WMSA) from 1985 through 2009, including in-hospital and ambulatory settings.

Results: Among 5,025 WMSA residents diagnosed with acute PE and/or lower-extremity DVT between 1985 and 2009 (mean age = 65 years), 46% were men and 95% were white. Age- and sex-adjusted annual event rates (per 100, 000) of clinically recognized acute first-time and recurrent VTE was 142 overall, increasing from 112 in 1985/86 to 168 in 2009, due primarily to increases in PE occurrence. During this period, non-invasive diagnostic VTE testing increased, vi while treatment shifted from the in-hospital (chiefly with warfarin and unfractionated heparin) to out-patient setting (chiefly with low-molecular-weight heparins and newer anticoagulants). Among those with community-presenting first-time VTE, subsequent 3-year cumulative event rates of key outcomes decreased from 1999 to 2009, including all-cause mortality (41% to 26%), major bleeding episodes (12% to 6%), and recurrent VTE (17% to 9%). Active-cancer (with or without chemotherapy), a hypercoagulable state, varicose vein stripping, and Inferior vena cava filter placement were independent predictors of recurrence during short- (3-month) and long-term (3-year) follow-up after a first acute episode of VTE. We developed risk score calculators for VTE recurrence based on a 3-month prognostic model for all patients and separately for patients without active cancer.

Conclusions: Despite advances in identification, prophylaxis, and treatment between 1985 and 2009, the disease burden from VTE in residents of central Massachusetts remains high, with increasing annual events. Declines in the frequency of major adverse outcomes between 1999 and 2009 were reassuring. Still, mortality, major bleeding, and recurrence rates remained high, suggesting opportunities for improved prevention and treatment. Clinicians may be able to use the identified predictors of recurrence and risk score calculators to estimate the risk of VTE recurrence and tailor outpatient treatments to individual patients.

Human and Murine Clonal CD8+ T Cell Expansions Arise during Tuberculosis Because of TCR Selection

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 9:16am

The immune system can recognize virtually any antigen, yet T cell responses against several pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, are restricted to a limited number of immunodominant epitopes. The host factors that affect immunodominance are incompletely understood. Whether immunodominant epitopes elicit protective CD8+ T cell responses or instead act as decoys to subvert immunity and allow pathogens to establish chronic infection is unknown. Here we show that anatomically distinct human granulomas contain clonally expanded CD8+ T cells with overlapping T cell receptor (TCR) repertoires. Similarly, the murine CD8+ T cell response against M. tuberculosis is dominated by TB10.44-11-specific T cells with extreme TCRβ bias. Using a retrogenic model of TB10.44-11-specific CD8+ T cells, we show that TCR dominance can arise because of competition between clonotypes driven by differences in affinity. Finally, we demonstrate that TB10.4-specific CD8+ T cells mediate protection against tuberculosis, which requires interferon-γ production and TAP1-dependent antigen presentation in vivo. Our study of how immunodominance, biased TCR repertoires, and protection are inter-related, provides a new way to measure the quality of T cell immunity, which if applied to vaccine evaluation, could enhance our understanding of how to elicit protective T cell immunity.

RNA Interference in Caenorhabditis elegans

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

RNAi has become an essential tool in C. elegans research. This unit describes procedures for RNAi in C. elegans by microinjecting with dsRNA, feeding with bacteria expressing dsRNA, and soaking in dsRNA solution, as well as high-throughput methods for RNAi-based screens. (c) 2015 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Let a hundred flowers bloom: the role of context dependence in creating phenotypic diversity following targeted therapy

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

Using a newly developed computational platform, COSPER, Litvin et al. (2015) identify context-dependent interactions between MEK and interferon signaling that underlie sensitivity and resistance to MEK inhibition in melanoma.

Spatial enhancer clustering and regulation of enhancer-proximal genes by cohesin

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

In addition to mediating sister chromatid cohesion during the cell cycle, the cohesin complex associates with CTCF and with active gene regulatory elements to form long-range interactions between its binding sites. Genome-wide chromosome conformation capture had shown that cohesin's main role in interphase genome organization is in mediating interactions within architectural chromosome compartments, rather than specifying compartments per se. However, it remains unclear how cohesin-mediated interactions contribute to the regulation of gene expression. We have found that the binding of CTCF and cohesin is highly enriched at enhancers and in particular at enhancer arrays or "super-enhancers" in mouse thymocytes. Using local and global chromosome conformation capture, we demonstrate that enhancer elements associate not just in linear sequence, but also in 3D, and that spatial enhancer clustering is facilitated by cohesin. The conditional deletion of cohesin from noncycling thymocytes preserved enhancer position, H3K27ac, H4K4me1, and enhancer transcription, but weakened interactions between enhancers. Interestingly, approximately 50% of deregulated genes reside in the vicinity of enhancer elements, suggesting that cohesin regulates gene expression through spatial clustering of enhancer elements. We propose a model for cohesin-dependent gene regulation in which spatial clustering of enhancer elements acts as a unified mechanism for both enhancer-promoter "connections" and "insulation."

Widespread macromolecular interaction perturbations in human genetic disorders

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

How disease-associated mutations impair protein activities in the context of biological networks remains mostly undetermined. Although a few renowned alleles are well characterized, functional information is missing for over 100,000 disease-associated variants. Here we functionally profile several thousand missense mutations across a spectrum of Mendelian disorders using various interaction assays. The majority of disease-associated alleles exhibit wild-type chaperone binding profiles, suggesting they preserve protein folding or stability. While common variants from healthy individuals rarely affect interactions, two-thirds of disease-associated alleles perturb protein-protein interactions, with half corresponding to "edgetic" alleles affecting only a subset of interactions while leaving most other interactions unperturbed. With transcription factors, many alleles that leave protein-protein interactions intact affect DNA binding. Different mutations in the same gene leading to different interaction profiles often result in distinct disease phenotypes. Thus disease-associated alleles that perturb distinct protein activities rather than grossly affecting folding and stability are relatively widespread.

Human gene-centered transcription factor networks for enhancers and disease variants

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) comprising interactions between transcription factors (TFs) and regulatory loci control development and physiology. Numerous disease-associated mutations have been identified, the vast majority residing in non-coding regions of the genome. As current GRN mapping methods test one TF at a time and require the use of cells harboring the mutation(s) of interest, they are not suitable to identify TFs that bind to wild-type and mutant loci. Here, we use gene-centered yeast one-hybrid (eY1H) assays to interrogate binding of 1,086 human TFs to 246 enhancers, as well as to 109 non-coding disease mutations. We detect both loss and gain of TF interactions with mutant loci that are concordant with target gene expression changes. This work establishes eY1H assays as a powerful addition to the toolkit of mapping human GRNs and for the high-throughput characterization of genomic variants that are rapidly being identified by genome-wide association studies.

A laminin 511 matrix is regulated by TAZ and functions as the ligand for the alpha6Bbeta1 integrin to sustain breast cancer stem cells

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

Understanding how the extracellular matrix impacts the function of cancer stem cells (CSCs) is a significant but poorly understood problem. We report that breast CSCs produce a laminin (LM) 511 matrix that promotes self-renewal and tumor initiation by engaging the alpha6Bbeta1 integrin and activating the Hippo transducer TAZ. Although TAZ is important for the function of breast CSCs, the mechanism is unknown. We observed that TAZ regulates the transcription of the alpha5 subunit of LM511 and the formation of a LM511 matrix. These data establish a positive feedback loop involving TAZ and LM511 that contributes to stemness in breast cancer.

Orphan nuclear receptor TR3/Nur77 improves wound healing by upregulating the expression of integrin beta4

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

Tissue repair/wound healing, in which angiogenesis plays an important role, is a critical step in many diseases including chronic wound, myocardial infarction, stroke, cancer, and inflammation. Recently, we were the first to report that orphan nuclear receptor TR3/Nur77 is a critical mediator of angiogenesis and its associated microvessel permeability. Tumor growth and angiogenesis induced by VEGF-A, histamine, and serotonin are almost completely inhibited in Nur77 knockout mice. However, it is not known whether TR3/Nur77 plays any roles in wound healing. In these studies, skin wound-healing assay was performed in 3 types of genetically modified mice having various Nur77 activities. We found that ectopic induction of Nur77 in endothelial cells of mice is sufficient to improve skin wound healing. Although skin wound healing in Nur77 knockout mice is comparable to the wild-type control mice, the process is significantly delayed in the EC-Nur77-DN mice, in which a dominant negative Nur77 mutant is inducibly and specifically expressed in mouse endothelial cells. By a loss-of-function assay, we elucidate a novel feed-forward signaling pathway, integrin beta4 --> PI3K --> Akt --> FAK, by which TR3 mediates HUVEC migration. Furthermore, TR3/Nur77 regulates the expression of integrin beta4 by targeting its promoter activity. In conclusion, expression of TR3/Nur77 improves wound healing by targeting integrin beta4. TR3/Nur77 is a potential candidate for proangiogenic therapy. The results further suggest that TR3/Nur77 is required for pathologic angiogenesis but not for developmental/physiologic angiogenesis and that Nur77 and its family members play a redundant role in normal skin wound healing.

Deletion of the gene encoding G0/G 1 switch protein 2 (G0s2) alleviates high-fat-diet-induced weight gain and insulin resistance, and promotes browning of white adipose tissue in mice

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Obesity is a global epidemic resulting from increased energy intake, which alters energy homeostasis and results in an imbalance in fat storage and breakdown. G0/G1 switch gene 2 (G0s2) has been recently characterised in vitro as an inhibitor of adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL), the rate-limiting step in fat catabolism. In the current study we aim to functionally characterise G0s2 within the physiological context of a mouse model.

METHODS: We generated a mouse model in which G0s2 was deleted. The homozygous G0s2 knockout (G0s2 (-/-)) mice were studied over a period of 22 weeks. Metabolic variables were measured including body weight and body composition, food intake, glucose and insulin tolerance tests, energy metabolism and thermogenesis.

RESULTS: We report that G0s2 inhibits ATGL and regulates lipolysis and energy metabolism in vivo. G0s2 (-/-) mice are lean, resistant to weight gain induced by a high-fat diet and are glucose tolerant and insulin sensitive. The white adipose tissue of G0s2 (-/-) mice has enhanced lipase activity and adipocytes showed enhanced stimulated lipolysis. Energy metabolism in the G0s2 (-/-) mice is shifted towards enhanced lipid metabolism and increased thermogenesis. G0s2 (-/-) mice showed enhanced cold tolerance and increased expression of thermoregulatory and oxidation genes within white adipose tissue, suggesting enhanced 'browning' of the white adipose tissue.

CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Our data show that G0s2 is a physiological regulator of adiposity and energy metabolism and is a potential target in the treatment of obesity and insulin resistance.

Development of a prognostic genetic signature to predict the metastatic risk associated with cutaneous melanoma

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

PURPOSE: The development of a genetic signature for the identification of high-risk cutaneous melanoma tumors would provide a valuable prognostic tool with value for stage I and II patients who represent a remarkably heterogeneous group with a 3% to 55% chance of disease progression and death 5 years from diagnosis.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: A prognostic 28-gene signature was identified by analysis of microarray expression data. Primary cutaneous melanoma tumor tissue was evaluated by RT-PCR for expression of the signature, and radial basis machine (RBM) modeling was performed to predict risk of metastasis.

RESULTS: RBM analysis of cutaneous melanoma tumor gene expression reports low risk (class 1) or high risk (class 2) of metastasis. Metastatic risk was predicted with high accuracy in development (ROC = 0.93) and validation (ROC = 0.91) cohorts of primary cutaneous melanoma tumor tissue. Kaplan-Meier analysis indicated that the 5-year disease-free survival (DFS) rates in the development set were 100% and 38% for predicted classes 1 and 2 cases, respectively (P < 0.0001). DFS rates for the validation set were 97% and 31% for predicted classes 1 and 2 cases, respectively (P < 0.0001). Gene expression profile (GEP), American Joint Committee on Cancer stage, Breslow thickness, ulceration, and age were independent predictors of metastatic risk according to Cox regression analysis.

CONCLUSIONS: The GEP signature accurately predicts metastasis risk in a multicenter cohort of primary cutaneous melanoma tumors. Preliminary Cox regression analysis indicates that the signature is an independent predictor of metastasis risk in the cohort presented.

Effect of preeclampsia on umbilical cord blood stem cells in relation to breast cancer susceptibility in the offspring

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

Women born from a preeclamptic (PE) pregnancy are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Prenatal and early-life exposures are hypothesized to influence breast cancer susceptibility through their effect on stem cells. We examined stem cell populations in umbilical cord blood from PE pregnancies and compared with those from pregnancies without this condition. We isolated mononuclear cells from 58 PE and 197 normotensive (non-PE) umbilical cord blood samples and examined the different stem cell populations. Hematopoietic (CD34(+) and CD34(+)CD38(-)), endothelial (CD34(+)CD133(+), CD34(+)VEGFR2(+), CD133(+)VEGFR2(+) and CD34(+)CD133(+)VEGFR2(+)), and putative breast (EpCAM(+), EpCAM(+)CD49f(+), EpCAM(+)CD49f(+)CD117(+), CD49f(+)CD24(+), CD24(+)CD29(+) and CD24(+)CD29(+)CD49f(+)) stem/progenitor cell subpopulations were quantified by flow cytometry and compared between PE and non-PE samples. Hematopoietic CD34(+) cell counts were significantly lowered in PE compared with non-PE samples (P = 0.039, Kruskal-Wallis test). Levels of CD34(+)CD133(+) endothelial progenitor cells were also lower in PE samples (P = 0.032, multiple regression analysis). EpCAM(+) and EpCAM(+)CD49f(+) putative breast stem cell levels were significantly lowered in PE subjects (multiple regression analysis: P = 0.038 and 0.007, respectively). Stratifying by newborn gender, EpCAM(+) and EpCAM(+)CD49f(+) stem cells were significantly lowered in PE samples of female, but not male, newborns. Umbilical cord blood samples from pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia thus had significantly lower levels of hematopoietic, endothelial, and putative breast stem cells than non-PE controls. With a lowered breast cancer risk for offspring of a PE pregnancy, our findings provide support to the hypothesis that susceptibility to breast oncogenesis may be affected by conditions and processes during the prenatal period. For Permissions, please email:

Reverse genetic screening reveals poor correlation between morpholino-induced and mutant phenotypes in zebrafish

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

The widespread availability of programmable site-specific nucleases now enables targeted gene disruption in the zebrafish. In this study, we applied site-specific nucleases to generate zebrafish lines bearing individual mutations in more than 20 genes. We found that mutations in only a small proportion of genes caused defects in embryogenesis. Moreover, mutants for ten different genes failed to recapitulate published Morpholino-induced phenotypes (morphants). The absence of phenotypes in mutant embryos was not likely due to maternal effects or failure to eliminate gene function. Consistently, a comparison of published morphant defects with the Sanger Zebrafish Mutation Project revealed that approximately 80% of morphant phenotypes were not observed in mutant embryos, similar to our mutant collection. Based on these results, we suggest that mutant phenotypes become the standard metric to define gene function in zebrafish, after which Morpholinos that recapitulate respective phenotypes could be reliably applied for ancillary analyses.

Uncoupling lifespan and healthspan in Caenorhabditis elegans longevity mutants

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Aging research has been very successful at identifying signaling pathways and evolutionarily conserved genes that extend lifespan with the assumption that an increase in lifespan will also increase healthspan. However, it is largely unknown whether we are extending the healthy time of life or simply prolonging a period of frailty with increased incidence of age-associated diseases. Here we use Caenorhabditis elegans, one of the premiere systems for lifespan studies, to determine whether lifespan and healthspan are intrinsically correlated. We conducted multiple cellular and organismal assays on wild type as well as four long-lived mutants (insulin/insulin-like growth factor-1, dietary restriction, protein translation, mitochondrial signaling) in a longitudinal manner to determine the health of the animals as they age. We find that some long-lived mutants performed better than wild type when measured chronologically (number of days). However, all long-lived mutants increased the proportion of time spent in a frail state. Together, these data suggest that lifespan can no longer be the sole parameter of interest and reveal the importance of evaluating multiple healthspan parameters for future studies on antiaging interventions.

Chemical biology. A small-molecule inhibitor of the aberrant transcription factor CBFbeta-SMMHC delays leukemia in mice

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common form of adult leukemia. The transcription factor fusion CBFbeta-SMMHC (core binding factor beta and the smooth-muscle myosin heavy chain), expressed in AML with the chromosome inversion inv(16)(p13q22), outcompetes wild-type CBFbeta for binding to the transcription factor RUNX1, deregulates RUNX1 activity in hematopoiesis, and induces AML. Current inv(16) AML treatment with nonselective cytotoxic chemotherapy results in a good initial response but limited long-term survival. Here, we report the development of a protein-protein interaction inhibitor, AI-10-49, that selectively binds to CBFbeta-SMMHC and disrupts its binding to RUNX1. AI-10-49 restores RUNX1 transcriptional activity, displays favorable pharmacokinetics, and delays leukemia progression in mice. Treatment of primary inv(16) AML patient blasts with AI-10-49 triggers selective cell death. These data suggest that direct inhibition of the oncogenic CBFbeta-SMMHC fusion protein may be an effective therapeutic approach for inv(16) AML, and they provide support for transcription factor targeted therapy in other cancers.