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Methylmercury is a toxic environmental contaminant that elicits significant toxicity in humans. The central nervous system is the primary target of toxicity, and is particularly vulnerable during development. Rho-associated protein kinase 1 (ROCK-1) is a major downstream effector of the small GTPase RhoA and a direct substrate of caspase-3. The activation of ROCK-1 is necessary for membrane blebbing during apoptosis. In this work, we examined whether MeHg could affect the RhoA/ROCK-1 signaling pathway in primary cultures of mouse astrocytes. Exposure of cells with 10 μM MeHg decreased cellular viability after 24 h of incubation. This reduction in viability was preceded by a significant increase in intracellular and mitochondrial reactive oxygen species levels, as well as a reduced NAD/NADH ratio. MeHg also induced an increase in mitochondrial-dependent caspase-9 and caspase-3, while the levels of RhoA protein expression were reduced or unchanged. We further found that MeHg induced ROCK-1 cleavage/activation and promoted LIMK1 and MYPT1 phosphorylation, both of which are the best characterized ROCK-1 downstream targets. Inhibiting ROCK-1 and caspases activation attenuated the MeHg-induced cell death. Collectively, these findings are the first to show that astrocytes exposed to MeHg showed increased cleavage/activation of ROCK-1, which was independent of the small GTPase RhoA.
Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Ewing sarcomas are rare mesenchymal-derived bone and soft tissue tumors in children. Afflicted children with distant metastases have poor survival despite aggressive therapeutics. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in epithelial carcinomas is associated with loss of E-cadherin and resistance to apoptosis. ML327 is a novel small molecule that we have previously shown to reverse epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition features in both epithelial and neural crest-derived cancers. Herein, we sought to evaluate the effects of ML327 on mesenchymal-derived Ewing sarcoma cells, hypothesizing that ML327 initiates growth arrest and sensitizes to TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand. ML327 induced protein expression changes, increased E-cadherin and decreased vimentin, consistent with partial induction of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition in multiple Ewing Sarcoma cell lines (SK-N-MC, TC71, and ES-5838). Induction of epithelial features was associated with apoptosis, as demonstrated by PARP and Caspase 3 cleavage by immunoblotting. Cell cycle analysis validated these findings by marked induction of the subG cell population. In vitro combination treatment with TRAIL demonstrated additive induction of apoptotic markers. Taken together, these findings establish a rationale for further in vivo trials of ML327 in cells of mesenchymal origin both alone and in combination with TRAIL.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Inhalation anesthetics are reported to affect cognition in both animals and humans. The influence of inhalation anesthetics in learning and memory are contradictory. We therefore investigated the effects of sevoflurane anesthesia with different durations on cognitive performance and the levels of NMDA receptor subunit NR2B, phosphorylated ERK1/2 (p-ERK1/2) and activated caspase3 in mouse hippocampus. We anaesthetized eight-week old male C57BL/6 mice with 2.5% sevoflurane for durations ranging from one to four hours. Non-anaesthetized mice served as controls. Mice exposed to sevoflurane for one to three hours showed improved performance, whereas mice with exposure up to four hours displayed similar behavioral performance as control group. NR2B was increased both at 24h and at two weeks post sevoflurane exposure in all groups. The p-ERK1/2: total ERK1/2 ratio increased at 24h in all anesthesia groups. The ratio remained elevated at two weeks in groups with two- to four-hour exposure. Activated caspase3 was detected elevated at 24h in groups with two- to four-hour exposure. The elevated trend of activated caspase3 was still detectable at two weeks in groups with three- to four-hour exposure. At two weeks post anesthesia, the typical morphology associated with apoptotic cells was observed in the hippocampus of mice exposed to four hours of sevoflurane. Our results indicate that 2.5% sevoflurane exposure for one to three hours improved spatial cognitive performance in young adult mice. The cognitive improvement might be related to the increase of NR2B, the p-ERK1/2: total ERK1/2 ratio in hippocampus. However, exposure to sevoflurane for four hours caused neurotoxicity due to caspase3 activation and apoptosis.
BACKGROUND - Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecologic malignancy characterized by the frequent development of resistance to platinum chemotherapy. Finding new drug combinations to overcome platinum resistance is a key clinical challenge. Thymoquinone (TQ) is a component of black seed oil that exerts multiple anti-tumorigenic effects on cells, including inhibition of NF-κB and promotion of DNA damage. We aimed to determine whether TQ enhances cisplatin cytotoxicity in cultured ovarian cancer cells and in an established murine syngeneic model of ovarian cancer.
METHODS - Ovarian cancer cell viability in vitro was measured by sulforhodamine B (SRB) assays, and drug interactions tested for synergism by isobologram analysis. ID8-NGL mouse ovarian cancer cells stably expressing an NF-κB reporter transgene were injected intra-peritoneally into C57BL/6 mice. After 30 day TQ and/or cisplatin treatment, we measured the following indices: tumor burden (ascites volume, number of peritoneal implants and mesenteric tumor mass); NF-κB reporter activity (luciferase assay); protein expression of the double-strand DNA break marker, pH2AX(ser139), the proliferation markers, Ki67/mib-1 and PCNA, and the apoptosis markers, cleaved caspase-3, cleaved PARP and Bax; and mRNA expression of NF-κB targets, TNF-α and IL-1β. Two-tailed Mann-Whitney tests were used for measuring differences between groups in mouse experiments.
RESULTS - In SRB assays, TQ and cisplatin synergized in ID8-NGL cells. In mice, cisplatin significantly reduced cell proliferation and increased apoptosis in tumors, resulting in decreased overall tumor burden. Combining TQ with cisplatin further decreased these indices, indicating co-operative effects between the drugs. TQ treatment promoted cisplatin-induced pH2AX expression in cultured cells and in tumors. While NF-κB inhibition by TQ induced anti-tumor effects in vitro, we made the unexpected observation that TQ alone increased both tumor NF-κB activity and formation of ascites in vivo.
CONCLUSIONS - TQ enhanced cisplatin-mediated cytoxicity in ovarian cancer cells in vitro and in a mouse syngeneic model, effects associated with increased DNA damage. However, our results strongly caution that TQ treatment alone may have an overall deleterious effect in the immunocompetent host through stimulation of ascites. Since TQ is a potential candidate for future clinical trials in ovarian cancer patients, this finding has considerable potential relevance to the clinic.
Caspase-3 is the best known executioner caspase in apoptosis. We generated caspase-3 knockout (C3KO) and knockdown human colorectal cancer cells, and found that they are unexpectedly sensitized to DNA-damaging agents including 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), etoposide, and camptothecin. C3KO xenograft tumors also displayed enhanced therapeutic response and cell death to 5-FU. C3KO cells showed intact apoptosis and activation of caspase-7 and -9, impaired processing of caspase-8, and induction of necrosis in response to DNA-damaging agents. This form of necrosis is associated with HMGB1 release and ROS production, and suppressed by genetic or pharmacological inhibition of RIP1, MLKL1, or caspase-8, but not inhibitors of pan-caspases or RIP3. 5-FU treatment led to the formation of a z-VAD-resistant pro-caspase-8/RIP1/FADD complex, which was strongly stabilized by caspase-3 KO. These data demonstrate a key role of caspase-3 in caspase-8 processing and suppression of DNA damage-induced necrosis, and provide a potentially novel way to chemosensitize cancer cells.
The generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), particularly superoxide, by damaged or dysfunctional mitochondria has been postulated to be an initiating event in the development of diabetes complications. The glomerulus is a primary site of diabetic injury, and podocyte injury is a classic hallmark of diabetic glomerular lesions. In streptozotocin-induced type 1 diabetes, podocyte-specific EGF receptor (EGFR) knockout mice (EGFR(podKO)) and their wild-type (WT) littermates had similar levels of hyperglycemia and polyuria, but EGFR(podKO) mice had significantly less albuminuria and less podocyte loss compared with WT diabetic mice. Furthermore, EGFR(podKO) diabetic mice had less TGF-β1 expression, Smad2/3 phosphorylation, and glomerular fibronectin deposition. Immunoblotting of isolated glomerular lysates revealed that the upregulation of cleaved caspase 3 and downregulation of Bcl2 in WT diabetic mice were attenuated in EGFR(podKO) diabetic mice. Administration of the SOD mimetic mito-tempol or the NADPH oxidase inhibitor apocynin attenuated the upregulation of p-c-Src, p-EGFR, p-ERK1/2, p-Smad2/3, and TGF-β1 expression and prevented the alteration of cleaved caspase 3 and Bcl2 expression in glomeruli of WT diabetic mice. High-glucose treatment of cultured mouse podocytes induced similar alterations in the production of ROS; phosphorylation of c-Src, EGFR, and Smad2/3; and expression of TGF-β1, cleaved caspase 3, and Bcl2. These alterations were inhibited by treatment with mito-tempol or apocynin or by inhibiting EGFR expression or activity. Thus, results of our studies utilizing mice with podocyte-specific EGFR deletion demonstrate that EGFR activation has a major role in activating pathways that mediate podocyte injury and loss in diabetic nephropathy.
Copyright © 2015 by the American Society of Nephrology.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death in young adults in the United States, but there is still no effective agent for treatment. N-arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide, AEA) is a major endocannabinoid in the brain. Its increase after brain injury is believed to be protective. However, the compensatory role of AEA is transient due to its rapid hydrolysis by the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Thus, inhibition of FAAH can boost the endogenous levels of AEA and prolong its protective effect. Using a TBI mouse model, we found that post-injury chronic treatment with PF3845, a selective and potent FAAH inhibitor, reversed TBI-induced impairments in fine motor movement, hippocampus dependent working memory and anxiety-like behavior. Treatment with PF3845 inactivated FAAH activity and enhanced the AEA levels in the brain. It reduced neurodegeneration in the dentate gyrus, and up-regulated the expression of Bcl-2 and Hsp70/72 in both cortex and hippocampus. PF3845 also suppressed the increased production of amyloid precursor protein, prevented dendritic loss and restored the levels of synaptophysin in the ipsilateral dentate gyrus. Furthermore, PF3845 suppressed the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2 and enhanced the expression of arginase-1 post-TBI, suggesting a shift of microglia/macrophages from M1 to M2 phenotype. The effects of PF3845 on TBI-induced behavioral deficits and neurodegeneration were mediated by activation of cannabinoid type 1 and 2 receptors and might be attributable to the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and AKT. These results suggest that selective inhibition of FAAH is likely to be beneficial for TBI treatment.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.
ErbB4 is highly expressed in the cystic kidneys with polycystic kidney diseases. To investigate its potential role in cystogenesis, cpk mice carrying a heart-rescued ErbB4 deletion were generated. Accelerated cyst progression and renal function deterioration were noted as early as 10 days postnatally in cpk mice with ErbB4 deletion compared to cpk mice, as indicated by increased cystic index, higher kidney weight to body weight ratios, and elevated BUN levels. No apparent defects in renal development were noted with ErbB4 deletion itself. Increased cell proliferation was predominately seen in the cortex of cystic kidneys with or without ErbB4 deletion. However, there was significantly more cell proliferation in the cyst-lining epithelial cells in cpk mice with ErbB4 deletion. TUNEL staining localized apoptotic cells mainly to the renal medulla. There were significantly more apoptotic cells in the cyst-lining epithelial cells in ErbB4-deleted cpk kidneys, with decreased levels of cyclin D1, increased levels of p21, p27, and cleaved caspase 3. Thus, lack of ErbB4 may contribute to elevated cell proliferation and unbalanced cell apoptosis, resulting in accelerated cyst formation and early renal function deterioration. These studies suggest that the high level of ErbB4 expression seen in cpk mice may exert relative cytoprotective effects in renal epithelia.
PURPOSE - Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, can be leveraged as a surrogate measure of response to therapeutic interventions in medicine. Cysteine aspartic acid-specific proteases, or caspases, are essential determinants of apoptosis signaling cascades and represent promising targets for molecular imaging. Here, we report development and in vivo validation of [(18)F]4-fluorobenzylcarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp(OMe)-fluoromethylketone ([(18)F]FB-VAD-FMK), a novel peptide-based molecular probe suitable for quantification of caspase activity in vivo using positron emission tomography (PET).
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN - Supported by molecular modeling studies and subsequent in vitro assays suggesting probe feasibility, the labeled pan-caspase inhibitory peptide, [(18)F]FB-VAD-FMK, was produced in high radiochemical yield and purity using a simple two-step, radiofluorination. The biodistribution of [(18)F]FB-VAD-FMK in normal tissue and its efficacy to predict response to molecularly targeted therapy in tumors was evaluated using microPET imaging of mouse models of human colorectal cancer.
RESULTS - Accumulation of [(18)F]FB-VAD-FMK was found to agree with elevated caspase-3 activity in response to Aurora B kinase inhibition as well as a multidrug regimen that combined an inhibitor of mutant BRAF and a dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor in (V600E)BRAF colon cancer. In the latter setting, [(18)F]FB-VAD-FMK PET was also elevated in the tumors of cohorts that exhibited reduction in size.
CONCLUSIONS - These studies illuminate [(18)F]FB-VAD-FMK as a promising PET imaging probe to detect apoptosis in tumors and as a novel, potentially translatable biomarker for predicting response to personalized medicine.
The dissemination of prostate cancer to bone is a common, incurable aspect of advanced disease. Prevention and treatment of this terminal phase of prostate cancer requires improved molecular understanding of the process as well as markers indicative of molecular progression. Through biochemical analyses and loss-of-function in vivo studies, we demonstrate that the cell adhesion molecule, activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule (ALCAM), is actively shed from metastatic prostate cancer cells by the sheddase ADAM17 in response to TGF-β. Not only is this posttranslational modification of ALCAM a marker of prostate cancer progression, the molecule is also required for effective metastasis to bone. Biochemical analysis of prostate cancer cell lines reveals that ALCAM expression and shedding is elevated in response to TGF-β signaling. Both in vitro and in vivo shedding is mediated by ADAM17. Longitudinal analysis of circulating ALCAM in tumor-bearing mice revealed that shedding of tumor, but not host-derived ALCAM is elevated during growth of the cancer. Gene-specific knockdown of ALCAM in bone-metastatic PC3 cells greatly diminished both skeletal dissemination and tumor growth in bone. The reduced growth of ALCAM knockdown cells corresponded to an increase in apoptosis (caspase-3) and decreased proliferation (Ki67). Together, these data demonstrate that the ALCAM is both a functional regulator as well as marker of prostate cancer progression.