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Journal of Clinical Investigation, The

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Journal of Clinical Investigation
Tissue-specific alternative splicing is critical for the emergence of tissue identity during development, yet the role of this process in malignant transformation is undefined. Tissue-specific splicing involves evolutionarily conserved, alternative exons that represent only a minority of the total alternative exons identified. Many of these conserved exons have functional features that influence signaling pathways to profound biological effect. Here, we determined that lineage-specific splicing of a brain-enriched cassette exon in the membrane-binding tumor suppressor annexin A7 (ANXA7) diminishes endosomal targeting of the EGFR oncoprotein, consequently enhancing EGFR signaling during brain tumor progression. ANXA7 exon splicing was mediated by the ribonucleoprotein PTBP1, which is normally repressed during neuronal development. PTBP1 was highly expressed in glioblastomas due to loss of a brain-enriched microRNA (miR-124) and to PTBP1 amplification. The alternative ANXA7 splicing trait was present in precursor cells, suggesting that glioblastoma cells inherit the trait from a potential tumor-initiating ancestor and that these cells exploit this trait through accumulation of mutations that enhance EGFR signaling. Our data illustrate that lineage-specific splicing of a tissue-regulated alternative exon in a constituent of an oncogenic pathway eliminates tumor suppressor functions and promotes glioblastoma progression. This paradigm may offer a general model as to how tissue-specific regulatory mechanisms can reprogram normal developmental processes into oncogenic ones.

In atherosclerosis, plaques preferentially develop in arterial regions of disturbed blood flow (d-flow), which alters endothelial gene expression and function. Here, we determined that d-flow regulates genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in a DNA methyltransferase–dependent (DNMT-dependent) manner. Induction of d-flow by partial carotid ligation surgery in a murine model induced DNMT1 in arterial endothelium. In cultured endothelial cells, DNMT1 was enhanced by oscillatory shear stress (OS), and reduction of DNMT with either the inhibitor 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (5Aza) or siRNA markedly reduced OS-induced endothelial inflammation. Moreover, administration of 5Aza reduced lesion formation in 2 mouse models of atherosclerosis. Using both reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS) and microarray, we determined that d-flow in the carotid artery resulted in hypermethylation within the promoters of 11 mechanosensitive genes and that 5Aza treatment restored normal methylation patterns. Of the identified genes, HoxA5 and Klf3 encode transcription factors that contain cAMP response elements, suggesting that the methylation status of these loci could serve as a mechanosensitive master switch in gene expression. Together, our results demonstrate that d-flow controls epigenomic DNA methylation patterns in a DNMT-dependent manner, which in turn alters endothelial gene expression and induces atherosclerosis.

Tumors from patients with high-grade aggressive prostate cancer (PCa) exhibit increased expression of monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), a mitochondrial enzyme that degrades monoamine neurotransmitters and dietary amines. Despite the association between MAOA and aggressive PCa, it is unclear how MAOA promotes PCa progression. Here, we found that MAOA functions to induce epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and stabilize the transcription factor HIF1α, which mediates hypoxia through an elevation of ROS, thus enhancing growth, invasiveness, and metastasis of PCa cells. Knockdown and overexpression of MAOA in human PCa cell lines indicated that MAOA induces EMT through activation of VEGF and its coreceptor neuropilin-1. MAOA-dependent activation of neuropilin-1 promoted AKT/FOXO1/TWIST1 signaling, allowing FOXO1 binding at the TWIST1 promoter. Importantly, the MAOA-dependent HIF1α/VEGF-A/FOXO1/TWIST1 pathway was activated in high-grade PCa specimens, and knockdown of MAOA reduced or even eliminated prostate tumor growth and metastasis in PCa xenograft mouse models. Pharmacological inhibition of MAOA activity also reduced PCa xenograft growth in mice. Moreover, high MAOA expression in PCa tissues correlated with worse clinical outcomes in PCa patients. These findings collectively characterize the contribution of MAOA in PCa pathogenesis and suggest that MAOA has potential as a therapeutic target in PCa.

A precise equilibrium between cellular differentiation and proliferation is fundamental for tissue homeostasis. Maintaining this balance is particularly important for the liver, a highly differentiated organ with systemic metabolic functions that is endowed with unparalleled regenerative potential. Carcinogenesis in the liver develops as the result of hepatocellular de-differentiation and uncontrolled proliferation. Here, we identified SLU7, which encodes a pre-mRNA splicing regulator that is inhibited in hepatocarcinoma, as a pivotal gene for hepatocellular homeostasis. SLU7 knockdown in human liver cells and mouse liver resulted in profound changes in pre-mRNA splicing and gene expression, leading to impaired glucose and lipid metabolism, refractoriness to key metabolic hormones, and reversion to a fetal-like gene expression pattern. Additionally, loss of SLU7 also increased hepatocellular proliferation and induced a switch to a tumor-like glycolytic phenotype. Slu7 governed the splicing and/or expression of multiple genes essential for hepatocellular differentiation, including serine/arginine-rich splicing factor 3 (Srsf3) and hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (Hnf4α), and was critical for cAMP-regulated gene transcription. Together, out data indicate that SLU7 is central regulator of hepatocyte identity and quiescence.

Activation of MET by HGF plays a key role in tumor progression. Using a recently developed llama platform that generates human-like immunoglobulins, we selected 68 different antibodies that compete with HGF for binding to MET. HGF-competing antibodies recognized 4 distinct hotspots localized in different MET domains. We identified 1 hotspot that coincides with the known HGF β chain binding site on blades 2–3 of the SEMA domain β-propeller. We determined that a second and a third hotspot lie within blade 5 of the SEMA domain and IPT domains 2–3, both of which are thought to bind to HGF α chain. Characterization of the fourth hotspot revealed a region across the PSI-IPT 1 domains not previously associated with HGF binding. Individual or combined targeting of these hotspots effectively interrupted HGF/MET signaling in multiple cell-based biochemical and biological assays. Selected antibodies directed against SEMA blades 2–3 and the PSI-IPT 1 region inhibited brain invasion and prolonged survival in a glioblastoma multiforme model, prevented metastatic disease following neoadjuvant therapy in a triple-negative mammary carcinoma model, and suppressed cancer cell dissemination to the liver in a KRAS-mutant metastatic colorectal cancer model. These results identify multiple regions of MET responsible for HGF-mediated tumor progression, unraveling the complexity of HGF-MET interaction, and provide selective molecular tools for targeting MET activity in cancer.

Subpopulations of dopaminergic (DA) neurons within the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) display a differential vulnerability to loss in Parkinson’s disease (PD); however, it is not clear why these subsets are preferentially selected in PD-associated neurodegeneration. In rodent SNpc, DA neurons can be divided into two subpopulations based on the expression of aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 (ALDH1A1). Here, we have shown that, in α-synuclein transgenic mice, a murine model of PD-related disease, DA neurodegeneration occurs mainly in a dorsomedial ALDH1A1-negative subpopulation that is also prone to cytotoxic aggregation of α-synuclein. Notably, the topographic ALDH1A1 pattern observed in α-synuclein transgenic mice was conserved in human SNpc. Postmortem evaluation of brains of patients with PD revealed a severe reduction of ALDH1A1 expression and neurodegeneration in the ventral ALDH1A1-positive DA subpopulations. ALDH1A1 expression was also suppressed in α-synuclein transgenic mice. Deletion of Aldh1a1 exacerbated α-synuclein–mediated DA neurodegeneration and α-synuclein aggregation, whereas Aldh1a1-null and control DA neurons were comparably susceptible to 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium–, glutamate-, or camptothecin-induced cell death. ALDH1A1 overexpression appeared to preferentially protect against α-synuclein–mediated DA neurodegeneration but did not rescue α-synuclein–induced loss of cortical neurons. Together, our findings suggest that ALDH1A1 protects subpopulations of SNpc DA neurons by preventing the accumulation of dopamine aldehyde intermediates and formation of cytotoxic α-synuclein oligomers.

Acute exposure to particulate matter (PM) air pollution causes thrombotic cardiovascular events, leading to increased mortality rates; however, the link between PM and cardiovascular dysfunction is not completely understood. We have previously shown that the release of IL-6 from alveolar macrophages is required for a prothrombotic state and acceleration of thrombosis following exposure to PM. Here, we determined that PM exposure results in the systemic release of catecholamines, which engage the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) on murine alveolar macrophages and augment the release of IL-6. In mice, β2AR signaling promoted the development of a prothrombotic state that was sufficient to accelerate arterial thrombosis. In primary human alveolar macrophages, administration of a β2AR agonist augmented IL-6 release, while the addition of a beta blocker inhibited PM-induced IL-6 release. Genetic loss or pharmacologic inhibition of the β2AR on murine alveolar macrophages attenuated PM-induced IL-6 release and prothrombotic state. Furthermore, exogenous β2AR agonist therapy further augmented these responses in alveolar macrophages through generation of mitochondrial ROS and subsequent increase of adenylyl cyclase activity. Together, these results link the activation of the sympathetic nervous system by β2AR signaling with metabolism, lung inflammation, and an enhanced susceptibility to thrombotic cardiovascular events.

About half of all melanomas harbor a mutation that results in a constitutively active BRAF kinase mutant (BRAFV600E/K) that can be selectively inhibited by targeted BRAF inhibitors (BRAFis). While patients treated with BRAFis initially exhibit measurable clinical improvement, the majority of patients eventually develop drug resistance and relapse. Here, we observed marked elevation of WNT5A in a subset of tumors from patients exhibiting disease progression on BRAFi therapy. WNT5A transcript and protein were also elevated in BRAFi-resistant melanoma cell lines generated by long-term in vitro treatment with BRAFi. RNAi-mediated reduction of endogenous WNT5A in melanoma decreased cell growth, increased apoptosis in response to BRAFi challenge, and decreased the activity of prosurvival AKT signaling. Conversely, overexpression of WNT5A promoted melanoma growth, tumorigenesis, and activation of AKT signaling. Similarly to WNT5A knockdown, knockdown of the WNT receptors FZD7 and RYK inhibited growth, sensitized melanoma cells to BRAFi, and reduced AKT activation. Together, these findings suggest that chronic BRAF inhibition elevates WNT5A expression, which promotes AKT signaling through FZD7 and RYK, leading to increased growth and therapeutic resistance. Furthermore, increased WNT5A expression in BRAFi-resistant melanomas correlates with a specific transcriptional signature, which identifies potential therapeutic targets to reduce clinical BRAFi resistance.

The pathogenesis of mucoinfective lung disease in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients likely involves poor mucus clearance. A recent model of mucus clearance predicts that mucus flow depends on the relative mucin concentration of the mucus layer compared with that of the periciliary layer; however, mucin concentrations have been difficult to measure in CF secretions. Here, we have shown that the concentration of mucin in CF sputum is low when measured by immunologically based techniques, and mass spectrometric analyses of CF mucins revealed mucin cleavage at antibody recognition sites. Using physical size exclusion chromatography/differential refractometry (SEC/dRI) techniques, we determined that mucin concentrations in CF secretions were higher than those in normal secretions. Measurements of partial osmotic pressures revealed that the partial osmotic pressure of CF sputum and the retained mucus in excised CF lungs were substantially greater than the partial osmotic pressure of normal secretions. Our data reveal that mucin concentration cannot be accurately measured immunologically in proteolytically active CF secretions; mucins are hyperconcentrated in CF secretions; and CF secretion osmotic pressures predict mucus layer–dependent osmotic compression of the periciliary liquid layer in CF lungs. Consequently, mucin hypersecretion likely produces mucus stasis, which contributes to key infectious and inflammatory components of CF lung disease.

NOTCH-dependent signaling pathways are critical for normal bone remodeling; however, it is unclear if dysfunctional NOTCH activation contributes to inflammation-mediated bone loss, as observed in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. We performed RNA sequencing and pathway analyses in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) isolated from transgenic TNF-expressing mice, a model of RA, to identify pathways responsible for decreased osteoblast differentiation. 53 pathways were dysregulated in MSCs from RA mice, among which expression of genes encoding NOTCH pathway members and members of the noncanonical NF-κB pathway were markedly elevated. Administration of NOTCH inhibitors to RA mice prevented bone loss and osteoblast inhibition, and CFU-fibroblasts from RA mice treated with NOTCH inhibitors formed more new bone in recipient mice with tibial defects. Overexpression of the noncanonical NF-κB subunit p52 and RELB in a murine pluripotent stem cell line increased NOTCH intracellular domain–dependent (NICD-dependent) activation of an RBPjκ reporter and levels of the transcription factor HES1. TNF promoted p52/RELB binding to NICD, which enhanced binding at the RBPjκ site within the Hes1 promoter. Furthermore, MSC-enriched cells from RA patients exhibited elevated levels of HES1, p52, and RELB. Together, these data indicate that persistent NOTCH activation in MSCs contributes to decreased osteoblast differentiation associated with RA and suggest that NOTCH inhibitors could prevent inflammation-mediated bone loss.

Recently, several neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies have been isolated from memory B cells of HIV-infected individuals. Despite extensive evidence of B cell dysfunction in HIV disease, little is known about the cells from which these rare HIV-specific antibodies originate. Accordingly, we used HIV envelope gp140 and CD4 or coreceptor (CoR) binding site (bs) mutant probes to evaluate HIV-specific responses in peripheral blood B cells of HIV-infected individuals at various stages of infection. In contrast to non-HIV responses, HIV-specific responses against gp140 were enriched within abnormal B cells, namely activated and exhausted memory subsets, which are largely absent in the blood of uninfected individuals. Responses against the CoRbs, which is a poorly neutralizing epitope, arose early, whereas those against the well-characterized neutralizing epitope CD4bs were delayed and infrequent. Enrichment of the HIV-specific response within resting memory B cells, the predominant subset in uninfected individuals, did occur in certain infected individuals who maintained low levels of plasma viremia and immune activation with or without antiretroviral therapy. The distribution of HIV-specific responses among memory B cell subsets was corroborated by transcriptional analyses. Taken together, our findings provide valuable insight into virus-specific B cell responses in HIV infection and demonstrate that memory B cell abnormalities may contribute to the ineffectiveness of the antibody response in infected individuals.

Intracellular therapeutic targets that define tumor immunosuppression in both tumor cells and T cells remain intractable. Here, we have shown that administration of a covalently linked siRNA to an aptamer (apt) that selectively binds cytotoxic T lymphocyte–associated antigen 4 (CTLA4apt) allows gene silencing in exhausted CD8+ T cells and Tregs in tumors as well as CTLA4-expressing malignant T cells. CTLA4 expression was upregulated in CD8+ T cells in the tumor milieu; therefore, CTLA4apt fused to a STAT3-targeting siRNA (CTLA4apt–STAT3 siRNA) resulted in internalization into tumor-associated CD8+ T cells and silencing of STAT3, which activated tumor antigen–specific T cells in murine models. Both local and systemic administration of CTLA4apt–STAT3 siRNA dramatically reduced tumor-associated Tregs. Furthermore, CTLA4apt–STAT3 siRNA potently inhibited tumor growth and metastasis in various mouse tumor models. Importantly, CTLA4 expression is observed in T cells of patients with blood malignancies, and CTLA4apt–STAT3 siRNA treatment of immunodeficient mice bearing human T cell lymphomas promoted tumor cell apoptosis and tumor growth inhibition. These data demonstrate that a CTLA4apt-based siRNA delivery strategy allows gene silencing in both tumor-associated T cells and tumor cells and inhibits tumor growth and metastasis.

Injury to the biliary epithelium triggers inflammation and fibrosis, which can result in severe liver diseases and may progress to malignancy. Development of a type 1 immune response has been linked to biliary injury pathogenesis; however, a subset of patients with biliary atresia, the most common childhood cholangiopathy, exhibit increased levels of Th2-promoting cytokines. The relationship among different inflammatory drivers, epithelial repair, and carcinogenesis remains unclear. Here, we determined that the Th2-activating cytokine IL-33 is elevated in biliary atresia patient serum and in the livers and bile ducts of mice with experimental biliary atresia. Administration of IL-33 to WT mice markedly increased cholangiocyte proliferation and promoted sustained cell growth, resulting in dramatic and rapid enlargement of extrahepatic bile ducts. The IL-33–dependent proliferative response was mediated by an increase in the number of type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s), which released high levels of IL-13 that in turn promoted cholangiocyte hyperplasia. Induction of the IL-33/ILC2/IL-13 circuit in a murine biliary injury model promoted epithelial repair; however, induction of this circuit in mice with constitutive activation of AKT and YAP in bile ducts induced cholangiocarcinoma with liver metastases. These findings reveal that IL-33 mediates epithelial proliferation and suggest that activation of IL-33/ILC2/IL-13 may improve biliary repair and disruption of the circuit may block progression of carcinogenesis.

Microvillus inclusion disease (MVID) is a severe form of congenital diarrhea that arises from inactivating mutations in the gene encoding myosin Vb (MYO5B). We have examined the association of mutations in MYO5B and disruption of microvillar assembly and polarity in enterocytes. Stable MYO5B knockdown (MYO5B-KD) in CaCo2-BBE cells elicited loss of microvilli, alterations in junctional claudins, and disruption of apical and basolateral trafficking; however, no microvillus inclusions were observed in MYO5B-KD cells. Expression of WT MYO5B in MYO5B-KD cells restored microvilli; however, expression of MYO5B-P660L, a MVID-associated mutation found within Navajo populations, did not rescue the MYO5B-KD phenotype but induced formation of microvillus inclusions. Microvilli establishment required interaction between RAB8A and MYO5B, while loss of the interaction between RAB11A and MYO5B induced microvillus inclusions. Using surface biotinylation and dual immunofluorescence staining in MYO5B-KD cells expressing mutant forms of MYO5B, we observed that early microvillus inclusions were positive for the sorting marker SNX18 and derived from apical membrane internalization. In patients with MVID, MYO5B-P660L results in global changes in polarity at the villus tips that could account for deficits in apical absorption, loss of microvilli, aberrant junctions, and losses in transcellular ion transport pathways, likely leading to the MVID clinical phenotype of neonatal secretory diarrhea.

Numerous human disorders, including Cockayne syndrome, UV-sensitive syndrome, xeroderma pigmentosum, and trichothiodystrophy, result from the mutation of genes encoding molecules important for nucleotide excision repair. Here, we describe a syndrome in which the cardinal clinical features include short stature, hearing loss, premature aging, telangiectasia, neurodegeneration, and photosensitivity, resulting from a homozygous missense (p.Ser228Ile) sequence alteration of the proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). PCNA is a highly conserved sliding clamp protein essential for DNA replication and repair. Due to this fundamental role, mutations in PCNA that profoundly impair protein function would be incompatible with life. Interestingly, while the p.Ser228Ile alteration appeared to have no effect on protein levels or DNA replication, patient cells exhibited marked abnormalities in response to UV irradiation, displaying substantial reductions in both UV survival and RNA synthesis recovery. The p.Ser228Ile change also profoundly altered PCNA’s interaction with Flap endonuclease 1 and DNA Ligase 1, DNA metabolism enzymes. Together, our findings detail a mutation of PCNA in humans associated with a neurodegenerative phenotype, displaying clinical and molecular features common to other DNA repair disorders, which we showed to be attributable to a hypomorphic amino acid alteration.

Background. Delayed hematopoietic recovery is a major drawback of umbilical cord blood (UCB) transplantation. Transplantation of ex vivo–expanded UCB shortens time to hematopoietic recovery, but long-term, robust engraftment by the expanded unit has yet to be demonstrated. We tested the hypothesis that a UCB-derived cell product consisting of stem cells expanded for 21 days in the presence of nicotinamide and a noncultured T cell fraction (NiCord) can accelerate hematopoietic recovery and provide long-term engraftment.

Methods. In a phase I trial, 11 adults with hematologic malignancies received myeloablative bone marrow conditioning followed by transplantation with NiCord and a second unmanipulated UCB unit. Safety, hematopoietic recovery, and donor engraftment were assessed and compared with historical controls.

Results. No adverse events were attributable to the infusion of NiCord. Complete or partial neutrophil and T cell engraftment derived from NiCord was observed in 8 patients, and NiCord engraftment remained stable in all patients, with a median follow-up of 21 months. Two patients achieved long-term engraftment with the unmanipulated unit. Patients transplanted with NiCord achieved earlier median neutrophil recovery (13 vs. 25 days, P < 0.001) compared with that seen in historical controls. The 1-year overall and progression-free survival rates were 82% and 73%, respectively.

Conclusion. UCB-derived hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells expanded in the presence of nicotinamide and transplanted with a T cell–containing fraction contain both short-term and long-term repopulating cells. The results justify further study of NiCord transplantation as a single UCB graft. If long-term safety is confirmed, NiCord has the potential to broaden accessibility and reduce the toxicity of UCB transplantation.

Trial Registration. Clinicaltrials.gov NCT01221857.

Funding. Gamida Cell Ltd.


Both maternal and offspring-derived factors contribute to lifelong growth and bone mass accrual, although the specific role of maternal deficiencies in the growth and bone mass of offspring is poorly understood. In the present study, we have shown that vitamin B12 (B12) deficiency in a murine genetic model results in severe postweaning growth retardation and osteoporosis, and the severity and time of onset of this phenotype in the offspring depends on the maternal genotype. Using integrated physiological and metabolomic analysis, we determined that B12 deficiency in the offspring decreases liver taurine production and associates with abrogation of a growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor 1 (GH/IGF1) axis. Taurine increased GH-dependent IGF1 synthesis in the liver, which subsequently enhanced osteoblast function, and in B12-deficient offspring, oral administration of taurine rescued their growth retardation and osteoporosis phenotypes. These results identify B12 as an essential vitamin that positively regulates postweaning growth and bone formation through taurine synthesis and suggests potential therapies to increase bone mass.

Dysregulation of epigenetic controls is associated with tumorigenesis in response to microenvironmental stimuli; however, the regulatory pathways involved in epigenetic dysfunction are largely unclear. We have determined that a critical epigenetic regulator, microRNA-205 (miR-205), is repressed by the ligand jagged1, which is secreted from the tumor stroma to promote a cancer-associated stem cell phenotype. Knockdown of miR-205 in mammary epithelial cells promoted epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), disrupted epithelial cell polarity, and enhanced symmetric division to expand the stem cell population. Furthermore, miR-205–deficient mice spontaneously developed mammary lesions, while activation of miR-205 markedly diminished breast cancer stemness. These data provide evidence that links tumor microenvironment and microRNA-dependent regulation to disruption of epithelial polarity and aberrant mammary stem cell division, which in turn leads to an expansion of stem cell population and tumorigenesis. This study elucidates an important role for miR-205 in the regulation of mammary stem cell fate, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for limiting breast cancer genesis.

The majority of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients harbor EGFR-activating mutations that can be therapeutically targeted by EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKI), such as erlotinib and gefitinib. Unfortunately, a subset of patients with EGFR mutations are refractory to EGFR-TKIs. Resistance to EGFR inhibitors reportedly involves SRC activation and induction of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Here, we have demonstrated that overexpression of CRIPTO1, an EGF-CFC protein family member, renders EGFR-TKI–sensitive and EGFR-mutated NSCLC cells resistant to erlotinib in culture and in murine xenograft models. Furthermore, tumors from NSCLC patients with EGFR-activating mutations that were intrinsically resistant to EGFR-TKIs expressed higher levels of CRIPTO1 compared with tumors from patients that were sensitive to EGFR-TKIs. Primary NSCLC cells derived from a patient with EGFR-mutated NSCLC that was intrinsically erlotinib resistant were CRIPTO1 positive, but gained erlotinib sensitivity upon loss of CRIPTO1 expression during culture. CRIPTO1 activated SRC and ZEB1 to promote EMT via microRNA-205 (miR-205) downregulation. While miR-205 depletion induced erlotinib resistance, miR-205 overexpression inhibited CRIPTO1-dependent ZEB1 and SRC activation, restoring erlotinib sensitivity. CRIPTO1-induced erlotinib resistance was directly mediated through SRC but not ZEB1; therefore, cotargeting EGFR and SRC synergistically attenuated growth of erlotinib-resistant, CRIPTO1-positive, EGFR-mutated NSCLC cells in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that this combination may overcome intrinsic EGFR-inhibitor resistance in patients with CRIPTO1-positive, EGFR-mutated NSCLC.

Ewing’s sarcoma is a highly malignant bone tumor found in children and adolescents, and the origin of this malignancy is not well understood. Here, we introduced a Ewing’s sarcoma–associated genetic fusion of the genes encoding the RNA-binding protein EWS and the transcription factor ETS (EWS-ETS) into a fraction of cells enriched for osteochondrogenic progenitors derived from the embryonic superficial zone (eSZ) of long bones collected from late gestational murine embryos. EWS-ETS fusions efficiently induced Ewing’s sarcoma–like small round cell sarcoma formation by these cells. Analysis of the eSZ revealed a fraction of a precursor cells that express growth/differentiation factor 5 (Gdf5), the transcription factor Erg, and parathyroid hormone-like hormone (Pthlh), and selection of the Pthlh-positive fraction alone further enhanced EWS-ETS–dependent tumor induction. Genes downstream of the EWS-ETS fusion protein were quite transcriptionally active in eSZ cells, especially in regions in which the chromatin structure of the ETS-responsive locus was open. Inhibition of β-catenin, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1), or enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) suppressed cell growth in a murine model of Ewing’s sarcoma, suggesting the utility of the current system as a preclinical model. These results indicate that eSZ cells are highly enriched in precursors to Ewing’s sarcoma and provide clues to the histogenesis of Ewing’s sarcoma in bone.

The number of newly formed neurons declines rapidly during aging, and this decrease in neurogenesis is associated with decreased function of neural stem/progenitor cells (NPCs). Here, we determined that a WIP1-dependent pathway regulates NPC differentiation and contributes to the age-associated decline of neurogenesis. Specifically, we found that WIP1 is expressed in NPCs of the mouse subventricular zone (SVZ) and aged animals with genetically enhanced WIP1 expression exhibited higher NPC numbers and neuronal differentiation compared with aged WT animals. Additionally, augmenting WIP1 expression in aged animals markedly improved neuron formation and rescued a functional defect in fine odor discrimination in aged mice. We identified the WNT signaling pathway inhibitor DKK3 as a key downstream target of WIP1 and found that expression of DKK3 in the SVZ is restricted to NPCs. Using murine reporter strains, we determined that DKK3 inhibits neuroblast formation by suppressing WNT signaling and Dkk3 deletion or pharmacological activation of the WNT pathway improved neuron formation and olfactory function in aged mice. We propose that WIP1 controls DKK3-dependent inhibition of neuronal differentiation during aging and suggest that regulating WIP1 levels could prevent certain aspects of functional decline of the aging brain.

The magnitude, quality, and maintenance of immunological memory after infection or vaccination must be considered for future design of effective influenza vaccines. In 2009, the influenza pandemic produced disease that ranged from mild to severe, even fatal, illness in infected healthy adults and led to vaccination of a portion of the population with the adjuvanted, inactivated influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 vaccine. Here, we have proposed a multiparameter quantitative and qualitative approach to comparing adaptive immune memory to influenza 1 year after mild or severe infection or vaccination. One year after antigen encounter, severely ill subjects maintained high levels of humoral and polyfunctional effector/memory CD4+ T cells responses, while mildly ill and vaccinated subjects retained strong cellular immunity, as indicated by high levels of mucosal homing and degranulation markers on IFN-γ+ antigen-specific T cells. A principal component analysis distinguished 3 distinct clusters of individuals. The first group comprised vaccinated and mildly ill subjects, while clusters 2 and 3 included mainly infected individuals. Each cluster had immune memory profiles that differed in magnitude and quality. These data provide evidence that there are substantial similarities between the antiinfluenza response that mildly ill and vaccinated individuals develop and that this immune memory signature is different from that seen in severely ill individuals.

Background. Defining the parameters that modulate vaccine responses in African populations will be imperative to design effective vaccines for protection against HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and dengue virus infections. This study aimed to evaluate the contribution of the patient-specific immune microenvironment to the response to the licensed yellow fever vaccine 17D (YF-17D) in an African cohort.

Methods. We compared responses to YF-17D in 50 volunteers in Entebbe, Uganda, and 50 volunteers in Lausanne, Switzerland. We measured the CD8+ T cell and B cell responses induced by YF-17D and correlated them with immune parameters analyzed by flow cytometry prior to vaccination.

Results. We showed that YF-17D–induced CD8+ T cell and B cell responses were substantially lower in immunized individuals from Entebbe compared with immunized individuals from Lausanne. The impaired vaccine response in the Entebbe cohort associated with reduced YF-17D replication. Prior to vaccination, we observed higher frequencies of exhausted and activated NK cells, differentiated T and B cell subsets and proinflammatory monocytes, suggesting an activated immune microenvironment in the Entebbe volunteers. Interestingly, activation of CD8+ T cells and B cells as well as proinflammatory monocytes at baseline negatively correlated with YF-17D–neutralizing antibody titers after vaccination. Additionally, memory T and B cell responses in preimmunized volunteers exhibited reduced persistence in the Entebbe cohort but were boosted by a second vaccination.

Conclusion. Together, these results demonstrate that an activated immune microenvironment prior to vaccination impedes efficacy of the YF-17D vaccine in an African cohort and suggest that vaccine regimens may need to be boosted in African populations to achieve efficient immunity.

Trial registration. Registration is not required for observational studies.

Funding. This study was funded by Canada’s Global Health Research Initiative, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and United States Agency for International Development.


Parkinsonism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are widespread brain disorders that involve disturbances of dopaminergic signaling. The sodium-coupled dopamine transporter (DAT) controls dopamine homeostasis, but its contribution to disease remains poorly understood. Here, we analyzed a cohort of patients with atypical movement disorder and identified 2 DAT coding variants, DAT-Ile312Phe and a presumed de novo mutant DAT-Asp421Asn, in an adult male with early-onset parkinsonism and ADHD. According to DAT single-photon emission computed tomography (DAT-SPECT) scans and a fluoro-deoxy-glucose-PET/MRI (FDG-PET/MRI) scan, the patient suffered from progressive dopaminergic neurodegeneration. In heterologous cells, both DAT variants exhibited markedly reduced dopamine uptake capacity but preserved membrane targeting, consistent with impaired catalytic activity. Computational simulations and uptake experiments suggested that the disrupted function of the DAT-Asp421Asn mutant is the result of compromised sodium binding, in agreement with Asp421 coordinating sodium at the second sodium site. For DAT-Asp421Asn, substrate efflux experiments revealed a constitutive, anomalous efflux of dopamine, and electrophysiological analyses identified a large cation leak that might further perturb dopaminergic neurotransmission. Our results link specific DAT missense mutations to neurodegenerative early-onset parkinsonism. Moreover, the neuropsychiatric comorbidity provides additional support for the idea that DAT missense mutations are an ADHD risk factor and suggests that complex DAT genotype and phenotype correlations contribute to different dopaminergic pathologies.

The neuropeptide kisspeptin regulates reproduction by stimulating gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons via the kisspeptin receptor KISS1R. In addition to GnRH neurons, KISS1R is expressed in other brain areas and peripheral tissues, which suggests that kisspeptin has additional functions beyond reproduction. Here, we studied the energetic and metabolic phenotype in mice lacking kisspeptin signaling (Kiss1r KO mice). Compared with WT littermates, adult Kiss1r KO females displayed dramatically higher BW, leptin levels, and adiposity, along with strikingly impaired glucose tolerance. Conversely, male Kiss1r KO mice had normal BW and glucose regulation. Surprisingly, despite their obesity, Kiss1r KO females ate less than WT females; however, Kiss1r KO females displayed markedly reduced locomotor activity, respiratory rate, and energy expenditure, which were not due to impaired thyroid hormone secretion. The BW and metabolic phenotype in Kiss1r KO females was not solely reflective of absent gonadal estrogen, as chronically ovariectomized Kiss1r KO females developed obesity, hyperleptinemia, reduced metabolism, and glucose intolerance compared with ovariectomized WT females. Our findings demonstrate that in addition to reproduction, kisspeptin signaling influences BW, energy expenditure, and glucose homeostasis in a sexually dimorphic and partially sex steroid–independent manner; therefore, alterations in kisspeptin signaling might contribute, directly or indirectly, to some facets of human obesity, diabetes, or metabolic dysfunction.

Autonomic sympathetic nerves innervate peripheral resistance arteries, thereby regulating vascular tone and controlling blood supply to organs. Despite the fundamental importance of blood flow control, how sympathetic arterial innervation develops remains largely unknown. Here, we identified the axon guidance cue netrin-1 as an essential factor required for development of arterial innervation in mice. Netrin-1 was produced by arterial smooth muscle cells (SMCs) at the onset of innervation, and arterial innervation required the interaction of netrin-1 with its receptor, deleted in colorectal cancer (DCC), on sympathetic growth cones. Function-blocking approaches, including cell type–specific deletion of the genes encoding Ntn1 in SMCs and Dcc in sympathetic neurons, led to severe and selective reduction of sympathetic innervation and to defective vasoconstriction in resistance arteries. These findings indicate that netrin-1 and DCC are critical for the control of arterial innervation and blood flow regulation in peripheral organs.

Direct lineage reprogramming through genetic-based strategies enables the conversion of differentiated somatic cells into functional neurons and distinct neuronal subtypes. Induced dopaminergic (iDA) neurons can be generated by direct conversion of skin fibroblasts; however, their in vivo phenotypic and functional properties remain incompletely understood, leaving their impact on Parkinson’s disease (PD) cell therapy and modeling uncertain. Here, we determined that iDA neurons retain a transgene-independent stable phenotype in culture and in animal models. Furthermore, transplanted iDA neurons functionally integrated into host neuronal tissue, exhibiting electrically excitable membranes, synaptic currents, dopamine release, and substantial reduction of motor symptoms in a PD animal model. Neuronal cell replacement approaches will benefit from a system that allows the activity of transplanted neurons to be controlled remotely and enables modulation depending on the physiological needs of the recipient; therefore, we adapted a DREADD (designer receptor exclusively activated by designer drug) technology for remote and real-time control of grafted iDA neuronal activity in living animals. Remote DREADD-dependent iDA neuron activation markedly enhanced the beneficial effects in transplanted PD animals. These data suggest that iDA neurons have therapeutic potential as a cell replacement approach for PD and highlight the applicability of pharmacogenetics for enhancing cellular signaling in reprogrammed cell–based approaches.

Lack of a preclinical model of primary dystonia that exhibits dystonic-like twisting movements has stymied identification of the cellular and molecular underpinnings of the disease. The classical familial form of primary dystonia is caused by the DYT1 (ΔE) mutation in TOR1A, which encodes torsinA, AAA+ ATPase resident in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticular/nuclear envelope. Here, we found that conditional deletion of Tor1a in the CNS (nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/–) or isolated CNS expression of DYT1 mutant torsinA (nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/ΔE) causes striking abnormal twisting movements. These animals developed perinuclear accumulation of ubiquitin and the E3 ubiquitin ligase HRD1 in discrete sensorimotor regions, followed by neurodegeneration that was substantially milder in nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/ΔE compared with nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/– animals. Similar to the neurodevelopmental onset of DYT1 dystonia in humans, the behavioral and histopathological abnormalities emerged and became fixed during CNS maturation in the murine models. Our results establish a genetic model of primary dystonia that is overtly symptomatic, and link torsinA hypofunction to neurodegeneration and abnormal twisting movements. These findings provide a cellular and molecular framework for how impaired torsinA function selectively disrupts neural circuits and raise the possibility that discrete foci of neurodegeneration may contribute to the pathogenesis of DYT1 dystonia.

Activation and accumulation of cardiac fibroblasts, which result in excessive extracellular matrix deposition and consequent mechanical stiffness, myocyte uncoupling, and ischemia, are key contributors to heart failure progression. Recently, endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndoMT) and the recruitment of circulating hematopoietic progenitors to the heart have been reported to generate substantial numbers of cardiac fibroblasts in response to pressure overload–induced injury; therefore, these processes are widely considered to be promising therapeutic targets. Here, using multiple independent murine Cre lines and a collagen1a1-GFP fusion reporter, which specifically labels fibroblasts, we found that following pressure overload, fibroblasts were not derived from hematopoietic cells, EndoMT, or epicardial epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Instead, pressure overload promoted comparable proliferation and activation of two resident fibroblast lineages, including a previously described epicardial population and a population of endothelial origin. Together, these data present a paradigm for the origins of cardiac fibroblasts during development and in fibrosis. Furthermore, these data indicate that therapeutic strategies for reducing pathogenic cardiac fibroblasts should shift from targeting presumptive EndoMT or infiltrating hematopoietically derived fibroblasts, toward common pathways upregulated in two endogenous fibroblast populations.

Purinergic receptors of the P2Y family are G protein–coupled surface receptors that respond to extracellular nucleotides and can mediate responses to local cell damage. P2Y-dependent signaling contributes to thrombotic and/or inflammatory consequences of tissue injury by altering platelet and endothelial activation and immune cell phagocytosis. Here, we have demonstrated that P2Y14 modifies cell senescence and cell death in response to tissue stress, thereby enabling preservation of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell function. In mice, P2Y14 deficiency had no demonstrable effect under homeostatic conditions; however, radiation stress, aging, sequential exposure to chemotherapy, and serial bone marrow transplantation increased senescence in animals lacking P2Y14. Enhanced senescence coincided with increased ROS, elevated p16INK4a expression, and hypophosphorylated Rb and was inhibited by treatment with a ROS scavenger or inhibition of p38/MAPK and JNK. Treatment of WT cells with pertussis toxin recapitulated the P2Y14 phenotype, suggesting that P2Y14 mediates antisenescence effects through Gi/o protein–dependent pathways. Primitive hematopoietic cells lacking P2Y14 were compromised in their ability to restore hematopoiesis in irradiated mice. Together, these data indicate that P2Y14 on stem/progenitor cells of the hematopoietic system inhibits cell senescence by monitoring and responding to the extracellular manifestations of tissue stress and suggest that P2Y14-mediated responses prevent the premature decline of regenerative capacity after injury.

α–Intercalated cells (A-ICs) within the collecting duct of the kidney are critical for acid-base homeostasis. Here, we have shown that A-ICs also serve as both sentinels and effectors in the defense against urinary infections. In a murine urinary tract infection model, A-ICs bound uropathogenic E. coli and responded by acidifying the urine and secreting the bacteriostatic protein lipocalin 2 (LCN2; also known as NGAL). A-IC–dependent LCN2 secretion required TLR4, as mice expressing an LPS-insensitive form of TLR4 expressed reduced levels of LCN2. The presence of LCN2 in urine was both necessary and sufficient to control the urinary tract infection through iron sequestration, even in the harsh condition of urine acidification. In mice lacking A-ICs, both urinary LCN2 and urinary acidification were reduced, and consequently bacterial clearance was limited. Together these results indicate that A-ICs, which are known to regulate acid-base metabolism, are also critical for urinary defense against pathogenic bacteria. They respond to both cystitis and pyelonephritis by delivering bacteriostatic chemical agents to the lower urinary system.

Neuroblastoma prognosis is dependent on both the differentiation state and stromal content of the tumor. Neuroblastoma tumor stroma is thought to suppress neuroblast growth via release of soluble differentiating factors. Here, we identified critical growth-limiting components of the differentiating stroma secretome and designed a potential therapeutic strategy based on their central mechanism of action. We demonstrated that expression of heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs), including TβRIII, GPC1, GPC3, SDC3, and SDC4, is low in neuroblasts and high in the Schwannian stroma. Evaluation of neuroblastoma patient microarray data revealed an association between TGFBR3, GPC1, and SDC3 expression and improved prognosis. Treatment of neuroblastoma cell lines with soluble HSPGs promoted neuroblast differentiation via FGFR1 and ERK phosphorylation, leading to upregulation of the transcription factor inhibitor of DNA binding 1 (ID1). HSPGs also enhanced FGF2-dependent differentiation, and the anticoagulant heparin had a similar effect, leading to decreased neuroblast proliferation. Dissection of individual sulfation sites identified 2-O, 3-O-desulfated heparin (ODSH) as a differentiating agent, and treatment of orthotopic xenograft models with ODSH suppressed tumor growth and metastasis without anticoagulation. These studies support heparan sulfate signaling intermediates as prognostic and therapeutic neuroblastoma biomarkers and demonstrate that tumor stroma biology can inform the design of targeted molecular therapeutics.

Lack of a preclinical model of primary dystonia that exhibits dystonic-like twisting movements has stymied identification of the cellular and molecular underpinnings of the disease. The classical familial form of primary dystonia is caused by the DYT1 (ΔE) mutation in TOR1A, which encodes torsinA, AAA+ ATPase resident in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticular/nuclear envelope. Here, we found that conditional deletion of Tor1a in the CNS (nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/–) or isolated CNS expression of DYT1 mutant torsinA (nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/ΔE) causes striking abnormal twisting movements. These animals developed perinuclear accumulation of ubiquitin and the E3 ubiquitin ligase HRD1 in discrete sensorimotor regions, followed by neurodegeneration that was substantially milder in nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/ΔE compared with nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/– animals. Similar to the neurodevelopmental onset of DYT1 dystonia in humans, the behavioral and histopathological abnormalities emerged and became fixed during CNS maturation in the murine models. Our results establish a genetic model of primary dystonia that is overtly symptomatic, and link torsinA hypofunction to neurodegeneration and abnormal twisting movements. These findings provide a cellular and molecular framework for how impaired torsinA function selectively disrupts neural circuits and raise the possibility that discrete foci of neurodegeneration may contribute to the pathogenesis of DYT1 dystonia.

The regenerative capacity of tissues to recover from injury or stress is dependent on stem cell competence, yet the underlying mechanisms that govern how stem cells detect stress and initiate appropriate responses are poorly understood. In this issue of the JCI, Cho and Yusuf et al. demonstrate that the purinergic receptor P2Y14 may mediate the hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell regenerative response.

A growing body of evidence indicates that the kidneys contribute substantially to immune defense against pathogens in the urinary tract. In this issue, Paragas et al. report that α–intercalated cells (A-ICs) within the nephron collecting duct sense infecting Gram-negative bacteria, resulting in simultaneously secretion of the iron chelating protein lipocalin 2 (LCN2) and protons, which acidify the urine. A-IC–specific LCN2 and proton secretion markedly reduced the ability of infecting uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) to grow and sustain infection. The capacity of A-ICs to sense and actively promote clearance of infecting bacteria in the lower urinary tract represents a novel function for these specialized kidney cells, which are best known for their role in modulating acid-base homeostasis.

A common form of the hyperkinetic movement disorder dystonia is caused by mutations in the gene TOR1A (located within the DYT1 locus), which encodes the ATPase torsinA. The underlying neurobiological mechanisms that result in dystonia are poorly understood, and progress in the field has been hampered by the absence of a dystonia-like phenotype in animal models with genetic modification of Tor1a. In this issue of the JCI, Liang et al. establish the first animal model with a dystonic motor phenotype and link torsinA hypofunction to the development of early neuropathological changes in distinct sensorimotor regions. The findings of this study will likely play an important role in elucidating the neural substrate for dystonia and should stimulate systematic neuropathological and imaging studies in carriers of TOR1A mutations.

Autonomic sympathetic axons extend along and innervate resistance arteries to control vascular tone and participate in blood pressure regulation. In this issue of the JCI, Brunet and colleagues reveal that sympathetic innervation of arteries is facilitated by secretion of the axon guidance molecule netrin-1 by arterial VSMCs. Furthermore, disruption of the signaling cascade induced by netrin-1 through its receptor DCC resulted in defective arterial innervation and sympathetic control of vasoconstriction. This comprehensive study represents a major step forward in our understanding of the coordinated wiring of the vascular and nervous systems in various tissues.

Cell replacement for restoring neuronal populations in Parkinson’s disease has been demonstrated as a potential therapeutic strategy over several decades of studies; however, a number of issues regarding sources of replacement neurons and optimization of therapeutic efficacy in vivo have hampered clinical implementation. In this issue of the JCI, Dell’Anno and colleagues evaluated the use of induced dopaminergic (iDA) neurons that were generated by direct fibroblast reprogramming for transplantation and demonstrated that postmitotic iDA neurons stably and functionally integrate into host striatum to produce motor improvements in 6-OHDA rats, a Parkinson’s disease model. Furthermore, using designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs) in iDA grafts to noninvasively increase dopamine release from grafted neurons, the authors were able to remotely control transplanted neurons and enhance therapeutic efficacy. This initial proof-of-concept study is the first application of DREADD technology to treat neurodegenerative dysfunction, and by using DREADDs as an adjunct to iDA cell therapy, it presents a novel strategy to overcome some current caveats of cell replacement therapy.

Metabolic status has long been thought to determine reproductive status, with abnormal metabolic phenotypes altering reproductive cascades, such as the onset of puberty. In this issue of the JCI, Tolson and colleagues provide evidence that kisspeptin, a hormone that promotes sexual maturation, regulates metabolism. Female mice lacking the kisspeptin receptor (KISS1R) gained more weight than control animals, and this weight gain was caused not by increased food consumption, but by an overall decrease in energy and metabolism. While this study provides a direct link between the kisspeptin pathway and metabolic output, more work will need to be done to determine whether alterations in this pathway contribute to human obesity.

Cardiac fibroblasts have been long recognized as active participants in heart disease; however, their exact physiological and pathological roles remain elusive, mainly due to the lack of specific markers. In this issue of the JCI, Moore-Morris and colleagues used a fibroblast-specific collagen1a1-GFP reporter to demonstrate that fibroblast accumulation after aortic banding in murine hearts arises almost exclusively from proliferation of resident fibroblasts originating from both the epicardium and a previously unrecognized source, the endocardium. Further characterization of fibroblast origin and function in different types and stages of heart disease could lead to development of improved fibroblast-targeted cardiac therapies.

Cardiac fibroblasts have been long recognized as active participants in heart disease; however, their exact physiological and pathological roles remain elusive, mainly due to the lack of specific markers. In this issue of the JCI, Moore-Morris and colleagues used a fibroblast-specific collagen1a1-GFP reporter to demonstrate that fibroblast accumulation after aortic banding in murine hearts arises almost exclusively from proliferation of resident fibroblasts originating from both the epicardium and a previously unrecognized source, the endocardium. Further characterization of fibroblast origin and function in different types and stages of heart disease could lead to development of improved fibroblast-targeted cardiac therapies.






Vancomycin is a glycopeptide antibiotic used for the treatment of Gram-positive bacterial infections. Traditionally, it has been used as a drug of last resort; however, clinical isolates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains with decreased susceptibility to vancomycin (vancomycin intermediate-resistant S. aureus [VISA]) and more recently with high-level vancomycin resistance (vancomycin-resistant S. aureus [VRSA]) have been described in the clinical literature. The rare VRSA strains carry transposon Tn1546, acquired from vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis, which is known to alter cell wall structure and metabolism, but the resistance mechanisms in VISA isolates are less well defined. Herein, we review selected mechanistic aspects of resistance in VISA and summarize biochemical studies on cell wall synthesis in a VRSA strain. Finally, we recapitulate a model that integrates common mechanistic features of VRSA and VISA strains and is consistent with the mode of action of vancomycin.

The epithelial lining of the intestine forms a barrier that separates the intestinal lumen from the host’s internal milieu and is critical for fluid and electrolyte secretion and nutrient absorption. In the early 1990s, my laboratory discovered that intestinal epithelial cells could alter their phenotype and produce proinflammatory chemokines and cytokines when stimulated by pathogenic enteric luminal microbes or proinflammatory agonists produced by cells in the underlying mucosa. It is now well accepted that intestinal epithelial cells can be induced to express and secrete specific arrays of cytokines, chemokines, and antimicrobial defense molecules. The coordinated release of molecules by intestinal epithelial cells is crucial for activating intestinal mucosal inflammatory responses as well as mucosal innate and adaptive immune responses. More recent studies have focused on the intestinal epithelial signaling pathways that culminate in immune activation as well as the role of these pathways in host defense, mucosal injury, mucosal wound healing, and tumorigenesis. The emerging picture indicates that intestinal epithelial cells represent an integral component of a highly regulated communications network that can transmit essential signals to cells in the underlying intestinal mucosa, and that intestinal epithelial cells, in turn, serve as targets of mucosal mediators. These signals are essential for maintaining intestinal mucosal defense and homeostasis.

A growing body of evidence indicates that the kidneys contribute substantially to immune defense against pathogens in the urinary tract. In this issue, Paragas et al. report that α–intercalated cells (A-ICs) within the nephron collecting duct sense infecting Gram-negative bacteria, resulting in simultaneously secretion of the iron chelating protein lipocalin 2 (LCN2) and protons, which acidify the urine. A-IC–specific LCN2 and proton secretion markedly reduced the ability of infecting uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) to grow and sustain infection. The capacity of A-ICs to sense and actively promote clearance of infecting bacteria in the lower urinary tract represents a novel function for these specialized kidney cells, which are best known for their role in modulating acid-base homeostasis.

The regenerative capacity of tissues to recover from injury or stress is dependent on stem cell competence, yet the underlying mechanisms that govern how stem cells detect stress and initiate appropriate responses are poorly understood. In this issue of the JCI, Cho and Yusuf et al. demonstrate that the purinergic receptor P2Y14 may mediate the hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell regenerative response.

A common form of the hyperkinetic movement disorder dystonia is caused by mutations in the gene TOR1A (located within the DYT1 locus), which encodes the ATPase torsinA. The underlying neurobiological mechanisms that result in dystonia are poorly understood, and progress in the field has been hampered by the absence of a dystonia-like phenotype in animal models with genetic modification of Tor1a. In this issue of the JCI, Liang et al. establish the first animal model with a dystonic motor phenotype and link torsinA hypofunction to the development of early neuropathological changes in distinct sensorimotor regions. The findings of this study will likely play an important role in elucidating the neural substrate for dystonia and should stimulate systematic neuropathological and imaging studies in carriers of TOR1A mutations.

Cardiac fibroblasts have been long recognized as active participants in heart disease; however, their exact physiological and pathological roles remain elusive, mainly due to the lack of specific markers. In this issue of the JCI, Moore-Morris and colleagues used a fibroblast-specific collagen1a1-GFP reporter to demonstrate that fibroblast accumulation after aortic banding in murine hearts arises almost exclusively from proliferation of resident fibroblasts originating from both the epicardium and a previously unrecognized source, the endocardium. Further characterization of fibroblast origin and function in different types and stages of heart disease could lead to development of improved fibroblast-targeted cardiac therapies.

Metabolic status has long been thought to determine reproductive status, with abnormal metabolic phenotypes altering reproductive cascades, such as the onset of puberty. In this issue of the JCI, Tolson and colleagues provide evidence that kisspeptin, a hormone that promotes sexual maturation, regulates metabolism. Female mice lacking the kisspeptin receptor (KISS1R) gained more weight than control animals, and this weight gain was caused not by increased food consumption, but by an overall decrease in energy and metabolism. While this study provides a direct link between the kisspeptin pathway and metabolic output, more work will need to be done to determine whether alterations in this pathway contribute to human obesity.

Autonomic sympathetic axons extend along and innervate resistance arteries to control vascular tone and participate in blood pressure regulation. In this issue of the JCI, Brunet and colleagues reveal that sympathetic innervation of arteries is facilitated by secretion of the axon guidance molecule netrin-1 by arterial VSMCs. Furthermore, disruption of the signaling cascade induced by netrin-1 through its receptor DCC resulted in defective arterial innervation and sympathetic control of vasoconstriction. This comprehensive study represents a major step forward in our understanding of the coordinated wiring of the vascular and nervous systems in various tissues.

Cell replacement for restoring neuronal populations in Parkinson’s disease has been demonstrated as a potential therapeutic strategy over several decades of studies; however, a number of issues regarding sources of replacement neurons and optimization of therapeutic efficacy in vivo have hampered clinical implementation. In this issue of the JCI, Dell’Anno and colleagues evaluated the use of induced dopaminergic (iDA) neurons that were generated by direct fibroblast reprogramming for transplantation and demonstrated that postmitotic iDA neurons stably and functionally integrate into host striatum to produce motor improvements in 6-OHDA rats, a Parkinson’s disease model. Furthermore, using designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs) in iDA grafts to noninvasively increase dopamine release from grafted neurons, the authors were able to remotely control transplanted neurons and enhance therapeutic efficacy. This initial proof-of-concept study is the first application of DREADD technology to treat neurodegenerative dysfunction, and by using DREADDs as an adjunct to iDA cell therapy, it presents a novel strategy to overcome some current caveats of cell replacement therapy.

Tissue-specific alternative splicing is critical for the emergence of tissue identity during development, yet the role of this process in malignant transformation is undefined. Tissue-specific splicing involves evolutionarily conserved, alternative exons that represent only a minority of the total alternative exons identified. Many of these conserved exons have functional features that influence signaling pathways to profound biological effect. Here, we determined that lineage-specific splicing of a brain-enriched cassette exon in the membrane-binding tumor suppressor annexin A7 (ANXA7) diminishes endosomal targeting of the EGFR oncoprotein, consequently enhancing EGFR signaling during brain tumor progression. ANXA7 exon splicing was mediated by the ribonucleoprotein PTBP1, which is normally repressed during neuronal development. PTBP1 was highly expressed in glioblastomas due to loss of a brain-enriched microRNA (miR-124) and to PTBP1 amplification. The alternative ANXA7 splicing trait was present in precursor cells, suggesting that glioblastoma cells inherit the trait from a potential tumor-initiating ancestor and that these cells exploit this trait through accumulation of mutations that enhance EGFR signaling. Our data illustrate that lineage-specific splicing of a tissue-regulated alternative exon in a constituent of an oncogenic pathway eliminates tumor suppressor functions and promotes glioblastoma progression. This paradigm may offer a general model as to how tissue-specific regulatory mechanisms can reprogram normal developmental processes into oncogenic ones.

About half of all melanomas harbor a mutation that results in a constitutively active BRAF kinase mutant (BRAFV600E/K) that can be selectively inhibited by targeted BRAF inhibitors (BRAFis). While patients treated with BRAFis initially exhibit measurable clinical improvement, the majority of patients eventually develop drug resistance and relapse. Here, we observed marked elevation of WNT5A in a subset of tumors from patients exhibiting disease progression on BRAFi therapy. WNT5A transcript and protein were also elevated in BRAFi-resistant melanoma cell lines generated by long-term in vitro treatment with BRAFi. RNAi-mediated reduction of endogenous WNT5A in melanoma decreased cell growth, increased apoptosis in response to BRAFi challenge, and decreased the activity of prosurvival AKT signaling. Conversely, overexpression of WNT5A promoted melanoma growth, tumorigenesis, and activation of AKT signaling. Similarly to WNT5A knockdown, knockdown of the WNT receptors FZD7 and RYK inhibited growth, sensitized melanoma cells to BRAFi, and reduced AKT activation. Together, these findings suggest that chronic BRAF inhibition elevates WNT5A expression, which promotes AKT signaling through FZD7 and RYK, leading to increased growth and therapeutic resistance. Furthermore, increased WNT5A expression in BRAFi-resistant melanomas correlates with a specific transcriptional signature, which identifies potential therapeutic targets to reduce clinical BRAFi resistance.

Tumors from patients with high-grade aggressive prostate cancer (PCa) exhibit increased expression of monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), a mitochondrial enzyme that degrades monoamine neurotransmitters and dietary amines. Despite the association between MAOA and aggressive PCa, it is unclear how MAOA promotes PCa progression. Here, we found that MAOA functions to induce epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and stabilize the transcription factor HIF1α, which mediates hypoxia through an elevation of ROS, thus enhancing growth, invasiveness, and metastasis of PCa cells. Knockdown and overexpression of MAOA in human PCa cell lines indicated that MAOA induces EMT through activation of VEGF and its coreceptor neuropilin-1. MAOA-dependent activation of neuropilin-1 promoted AKT/FOXO1/TWIST1 signaling, allowing FOXO1 binding at the TWIST1 promoter. Importantly, the MAOA-dependent HIF1α/VEGF-A/FOXO1/TWIST1 pathway was activated in high-grade PCa specimens, and knockdown of MAOA reduced or even eliminated prostate tumor growth and metastasis in PCa xenograft mouse models. Pharmacological inhibition of MAOA activity also reduced PCa xenograft growth in mice. Moreover, high MAOA expression in PCa tissues correlated with worse clinical outcomes in PCa patients. These findings collectively characterize the contribution of MAOA in PCa pathogenesis and suggest that MAOA has potential as a therapeutic target in PCa.

A precise equilibrium between cellular differentiation and proliferation is fundamental for tissue homeostasis. Maintaining this balance is particularly important for the liver, a highly differentiated organ with systemic metabolic functions that is endowed with unparalleled regenerative potential. Carcinogenesis in the liver develops as the result of hepatocellular de-differentiation and uncontrolled proliferation. Here, we identified SLU7, which encodes a pre-mRNA splicing regulator that is inhibited in hepatocarcinoma, as a pivotal gene for hepatocellular homeostasis. SLU7 knockdown in human liver cells and mouse liver resulted in profound changes in pre-mRNA splicing and gene expression, leading to impaired glucose and lipid metabolism, refractoriness to key metabolic hormones, and reversion to a fetal-like gene expression pattern. Additionally, loss of SLU7 also increased hepatocellular proliferation and induced a switch to a tumor-like glycolytic phenotype. Slu7 governed the splicing and/or expression of multiple genes essential for hepatocellular differentiation, including serine/arginine-rich splicing factor 3 (Srsf3) and hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (Hnf4α), and was critical for cAMP-regulated gene transcription. Together, out data indicate that SLU7 is central regulator of hepatocyte identity and quiescence.

Activation and accumulation of cardiac fibroblasts, which result in excessive extracellular matrix deposition and consequent mechanical stiffness, myocyte uncoupling, and ischemia, are key contributors to heart failure progression. Recently, endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndoMT) and the recruitment of circulating hematopoietic progenitors to the heart have been reported to generate substantial numbers of cardiac fibroblasts in response to pressure overload–induced injury; therefore, these processes are widely considered to be promising therapeutic targets. Here, using multiple independent murine Cre lines and a collagen1a1-GFP fusion reporter, which specifically labels fibroblasts, we found that following pressure overload, fibroblasts were not derived from hematopoietic cells, EndoMT, or epicardial epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Instead, pressure overload promoted comparable proliferation and activation of two resident fibroblast lineages, including a previously described epicardial population and a population of endothelial origin. Together, these data present a paradigm for the origins of cardiac fibroblasts during development and in fibrosis. Furthermore, these data indicate that therapeutic strategies for reducing pathogenic cardiac fibroblasts should shift from targeting presumptive EndoMT or infiltrating hematopoietically derived fibroblasts, toward common pathways upregulated in two endogenous fibroblast populations.

Acute exposure to particulate matter (PM) air pollution causes thrombotic cardiovascular events, leading to increased mortality rates; however, the link between PM and cardiovascular dysfunction is not completely understood. We have previously shown that the release of IL-6 from alveolar macrophages is required for a prothrombotic state and acceleration of thrombosis following exposure to PM. Here, we determined that PM exposure results in the systemic release of catecholamines, which engage the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) on murine alveolar macrophages and augment the release of IL-6. In mice, β2AR signaling promoted the development of a prothrombotic state that was sufficient to accelerate arterial thrombosis. In primary human alveolar macrophages, administration of a β2AR agonist augmented IL-6 release, while the addition of a beta blocker inhibited PM-induced IL-6 release. Genetic loss or pharmacologic inhibition of the β2AR on murine alveolar macrophages attenuated PM-induced IL-6 release and prothrombotic state. Furthermore, exogenous β2AR agonist therapy further augmented these responses in alveolar macrophages through generation of mitochondrial ROS and subsequent increase of adenylyl cyclase activity. Together, these results link the activation of the sympathetic nervous system by β2AR signaling with metabolism, lung inflammation, and an enhanced susceptibility to thrombotic cardiovascular events.

Microvillus inclusion disease (MVID) is a severe form of congenital diarrhea that arises from inactivating mutations in the gene encoding myosin Vb (MYO5B). We have examined the association of mutations in MYO5B and disruption of microvillar assembly and polarity in enterocytes. Stable MYO5B knockdown (MYO5B-KD) in CaCo2-BBE cells elicited loss of microvilli, alterations in junctional claudins, and disruption of apical and basolateral trafficking; however, no microvillus inclusions were observed in MYO5B-KD cells. Expression of WT MYO5B in MYO5B-KD cells restored microvilli; however, expression of MYO5B-P660L, a MVID-associated mutation found within Navajo populations, did not rescue the MYO5B-KD phenotype but induced formation of microvillus inclusions. Microvilli establishment required interaction between RAB8A and MYO5B, while loss of the interaction between RAB11A and MYO5B induced microvillus inclusions. Using surface biotinylation and dual immunofluorescence staining in MYO5B-KD cells expressing mutant forms of MYO5B, we observed that early microvillus inclusions were positive for the sorting marker SNX18 and derived from apical membrane internalization. In patients with MVID, MYO5B-P660L results in global changes in polarity at the villus tips that could account for deficits in apical absorption, loss of microvilli, aberrant junctions, and losses in transcellular ion transport pathways, likely leading to the MVID clinical phenotype of neonatal secretory diarrhea.

α–Intercalated cells (A-ICs) within the collecting duct of the kidney are critical for acid-base homeostasis. Here, we have shown that A-ICs also serve as both sentinels and effectors in the defense against urinary infections. In a murine urinary tract infection model, A-ICs bound uropathogenic E. coli and responded by acidifying the urine and secreting the bacteriostatic protein lipocalin 2 (LCN2; also known as NGAL). A-IC–dependent LCN2 secretion required TLR4, as mice expressing an LPS-insensitive form of TLR4 expressed reduced levels of LCN2. The presence of LCN2 in urine was both necessary and sufficient to control the urinary tract infection through iron sequestration, even in the harsh condition of urine acidification. In mice lacking A-ICs, both urinary LCN2 and urinary acidification were reduced, and consequently bacterial clearance was limited. Together these results indicate that A-ICs, which are known to regulate acid-base metabolism, are also critical for urinary defense against pathogenic bacteria. They respond to both cystitis and pyelonephritis by delivering bacteriostatic chemical agents to the lower urinary system.

Intracellular therapeutic targets that define tumor immunosuppression in both tumor cells and T cells remain intractable. Here, we have shown that administration of a covalently linked siRNA to an aptamer (apt) that selectively binds cytotoxic T lymphocyte–associated antigen 4 (CTLA4apt) allows gene silencing in exhausted CD8+ T cells and Tregs in tumors as well as CTLA4-expressing malignant T cells. CTLA4 expression was upregulated in CD8+ T cells in the tumor milieu; therefore, CTLA4apt fused to a STAT3-targeting siRNA (CTLA4apt–STAT3 siRNA) resulted in internalization into tumor-associated CD8+ T cells and silencing of STAT3, which activated tumor antigen–specific T cells in murine models. Both local and systemic administration of CTLA4apt–STAT3 siRNA dramatically reduced tumor-associated Tregs. Furthermore, CTLA4apt–STAT3 siRNA potently inhibited tumor growth and metastasis in various mouse tumor models. Importantly, CTLA4 expression is observed in T cells of patients with blood malignancies, and CTLA4apt–STAT3 siRNA treatment of immunodeficient mice bearing human T cell lymphomas promoted tumor cell apoptosis and tumor growth inhibition. These data demonstrate that a CTLA4apt-based siRNA delivery strategy allows gene silencing in both tumor-associated T cells and tumor cells and inhibits tumor growth and metastasis.

Both maternal and offspring-derived factors contribute to lifelong growth and bone mass accrual, although the specific role of maternal deficiencies in the growth and bone mass of offspring is poorly understood. In the present study, we have shown that vitamin B12 (B12) deficiency in a murine genetic model results in severe postweaning growth retardation and osteoporosis, and the severity and time of onset of this phenotype in the offspring depends on the maternal genotype. Using integrated physiological and metabolomic analysis, we determined that B12 deficiency in the offspring decreases liver taurine production and associates with abrogation of a growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor 1 (GH/IGF1) axis. Taurine increased GH-dependent IGF1 synthesis in the liver, which subsequently enhanced osteoblast function, and in B12-deficient offspring, oral administration of taurine rescued their growth retardation and osteoporosis phenotypes. These results identify B12 as an essential vitamin that positively regulates postweaning growth and bone formation through taurine synthesis and suggests potential therapies to increase bone mass.

The majority of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients harbor EGFR-activating mutations that can be therapeutically targeted by EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKI), such as erlotinib and gefitinib. Unfortunately, a subset of patients with EGFR mutations are refractory to EGFR-TKIs. Resistance to EGFR inhibitors reportedly involves SRC activation and induction of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Here, we have demonstrated that overexpression of CRIPTO1, an EGF-CFC protein family member, renders EGFR-TKI–sensitive and EGFR-mutated NSCLC cells resistant to erlotinib in culture and in murine xenograft models. Furthermore, tumors from NSCLC patients with EGFR-activating mutations that were intrinsically resistant to EGFR-TKIs expressed higher levels of CRIPTO1 compared with tumors from patients that were sensitive to EGFR-TKIs. Primary NSCLC cells derived from a patient with EGFR-mutated NSCLC that was intrinsically erlotinib resistant were CRIPTO1 positive, but gained erlotinib sensitivity upon loss of CRIPTO1 expression during culture. CRIPTO1 activated SRC and ZEB1 to promote EMT via microRNA-205 (miR-205) downregulation. While miR-205 depletion induced erlotinib resistance, miR-205 overexpression inhibited CRIPTO1-dependent ZEB1 and SRC activation, restoring erlotinib sensitivity. CRIPTO1-induced erlotinib resistance was directly mediated through SRC but not ZEB1; therefore, cotargeting EGFR and SRC synergistically attenuated growth of erlotinib-resistant, CRIPTO1-positive, EGFR-mutated NSCLC cells in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that this combination may overcome intrinsic EGFR-inhibitor resistance in patients with CRIPTO1-positive, EGFR-mutated NSCLC.

Neuroblastoma prognosis is dependent on both the differentiation state and stromal content of the tumor. Neuroblastoma tumor stroma is thought to suppress neuroblast growth via release of soluble differentiating factors. Here, we identified critical growth-limiting components of the differentiating stroma secretome and designed a potential therapeutic strategy based on their central mechanism of action. We demonstrated that expression of heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs), including TβRIII, GPC1, GPC3, SDC3, and SDC4, is low in neuroblasts and high in the Schwannian stroma. Evaluation of neuroblastoma patient microarray data revealed an association between TGFBR3, GPC1, and SDC3 expression and improved prognosis. Treatment of neuroblastoma cell lines with soluble HSPGs promoted neuroblast differentiation via FGFR1 and ERK phosphorylation, leading to upregulation of the transcription factor inhibitor of DNA binding 1 (ID1). HSPGs also enhanced FGF2-dependent differentiation, and the anticoagulant heparin had a similar effect, leading to decreased neuroblast proliferation. Dissection of individual sulfation sites identified 2-O, 3-O-desulfated heparin (ODSH) as a differentiating agent, and treatment of orthotopic xenograft models with ODSH suppressed tumor growth and metastasis without anticoagulation. These studies support heparan sulfate signaling intermediates as prognostic and therapeutic neuroblastoma biomarkers and demonstrate that tumor stroma biology can inform the design of targeted molecular therapeutics.

Subpopulations of dopaminergic (DA) neurons within the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) display a differential vulnerability to loss in Parkinson’s disease (PD); however, it is not clear why these subsets are preferentially selected in PD-associated neurodegeneration. In rodent SNpc, DA neurons can be divided into two subpopulations based on the expression of aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 (ALDH1A1). Here, we have shown that, in α-synuclein transgenic mice, a murine model of PD-related disease, DA neurodegeneration occurs mainly in a dorsomedial ALDH1A1-negative subpopulation that is also prone to cytotoxic aggregation of α-synuclein. Notably, the topographic ALDH1A1 pattern observed in α-synuclein transgenic mice was conserved in human SNpc. Postmortem evaluation of brains of patients with PD revealed a severe reduction of ALDH1A1 expression and neurodegeneration in the ventral ALDH1A1-positive DA subpopulations. ALDH1A1 expression was also suppressed in α-synuclein transgenic mice. Deletion of Aldh1a1 exacerbated α-synuclein–mediated DA neurodegeneration and α-synuclein aggregation, whereas Aldh1a1-null and control DA neurons were comparably susceptible to 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium–, glutamate-, or camptothecin-induced cell death. ALDH1A1 overexpression appeared to preferentially protect against α-synuclein–mediated DA neurodegeneration but did not rescue α-synuclein–induced loss of cortical neurons. Together, our findings suggest that ALDH1A1 protects subpopulations of SNpc DA neurons by preventing the accumulation of dopamine aldehyde intermediates and formation of cytotoxic α-synuclein oligomers.

The pathogenesis of mucoinfective lung disease in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients likely involves poor mucus clearance. A recent model of mucus clearance predicts that mucus flow depends on the relative mucin concentration of the mucus layer compared with that of the periciliary layer; however, mucin concentrations have been difficult to measure in CF secretions. Here, we have shown that the concentration of mucin in CF sputum is low when measured by immunologically based techniques, and mass spectrometric analyses of CF mucins revealed mucin cleavage at antibody recognition sites. Using physical size exclusion chromatography/differential refractometry (SEC/dRI) techniques, we determined that mucin concentrations in CF secretions were higher than those in normal secretions. Measurements of partial osmotic pressures revealed that the partial osmotic pressure of CF sputum and the retained mucus in excised CF lungs were substantially greater than the partial osmotic pressure of normal secretions. Our data reveal that mucin concentration cannot be accurately measured immunologically in proteolytically active CF secretions; mucins are hyperconcentrated in CF secretions; and CF secretion osmotic pressures predict mucus layer–dependent osmotic compression of the periciliary liquid layer in CF lungs. Consequently, mucin hypersecretion likely produces mucus stasis, which contributes to key infectious and inflammatory components of CF lung disease.

Ewing’s sarcoma is a highly malignant bone tumor found in children and adolescents, and the origin of this malignancy is not well understood. Here, we introduced a Ewing’s sarcoma–associated genetic fusion of the genes encoding the RNA-binding protein EWS and the transcription factor ETS (EWS-ETS) into a fraction of cells enriched for osteochondrogenic progenitors derived from the embryonic superficial zone (eSZ) of long bones collected from late gestational murine embryos. EWS-ETS fusions efficiently induced Ewing’s sarcoma–like small round cell sarcoma formation by these cells. Analysis of the eSZ revealed a fraction of a precursor cells that express growth/differentiation factor 5 (Gdf5), the transcription factor Erg, and parathyroid hormone-like hormone (Pthlh), and selection of the Pthlh-positive fraction alone further enhanced EWS-ETS–dependent tumor induction. Genes downstream of the EWS-ETS fusion protein were quite transcriptionally active in eSZ cells, especially in regions in which the chromatin structure of the ETS-responsive locus was open. Inhibition of β-catenin, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1), or enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) suppressed cell growth in a murine model of Ewing’s sarcoma, suggesting the utility of the current system as a preclinical model. These results indicate that eSZ cells are highly enriched in precursors to Ewing’s sarcoma and provide clues to the histogenesis of Ewing’s sarcoma in bone.

The neuropeptide kisspeptin regulates reproduction by stimulating gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons via the kisspeptin receptor KISS1R. In addition to GnRH neurons, KISS1R is expressed in other brain areas and peripheral tissues, which suggests that kisspeptin has additional functions beyond reproduction. Here, we studied the energetic and metabolic phenotype in mice lacking kisspeptin signaling (Kiss1r KO mice). Compared with WT littermates, adult Kiss1r KO females displayed dramatically higher BW, leptin levels, and adiposity, along with strikingly impaired glucose tolerance. Conversely, male Kiss1r KO mice had normal BW and glucose regulation. Surprisingly, despite their obesity, Kiss1r KO females ate less than WT females; however, Kiss1r KO females displayed markedly reduced locomotor activity, respiratory rate, and energy expenditure, which were not due to impaired thyroid hormone secretion. The BW and metabolic phenotype in Kiss1r KO females was not solely reflective of absent gonadal estrogen, as chronically ovariectomized Kiss1r KO females developed obesity, hyperleptinemia, reduced metabolism, and glucose intolerance compared with ovariectomized WT females. Our findings demonstrate that in addition to reproduction, kisspeptin signaling influences BW, energy expenditure, and glucose homeostasis in a sexually dimorphic and partially sex steroid–independent manner; therefore, alterations in kisspeptin signaling might contribute, directly or indirectly, to some facets of human obesity, diabetes, or metabolic dysfunction.

Lack of a preclinical model of primary dystonia that exhibits dystonic-like twisting movements has stymied identification of the cellular and molecular underpinnings of the disease. The classical familial form of primary dystonia is caused by the DYT1 (ΔE) mutation in TOR1A, which encodes torsinA, AAA+ ATPase resident in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticular/nuclear envelope. Here, we found that conditional deletion of Tor1a in the CNS (nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/–) or isolated CNS expression of DYT1 mutant torsinA (nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/ΔE) causes striking abnormal twisting movements. These animals developed perinuclear accumulation of ubiquitin and the E3 ubiquitin ligase HRD1 in discrete sensorimotor regions, followed by neurodegeneration that was substantially milder in nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/ΔE compared with nestin-Cre Tor1aflox/– animals. Similar to the neurodevelopmental onset of DYT1 dystonia in humans, the behavioral and histopathological abnormalities emerged and became fixed during CNS maturation in the murine models. Our results establish a genetic model of primary dystonia that is overtly symptomatic, and link torsinA hypofunction to neurodegeneration and abnormal twisting movements. These findings provide a cellular and molecular framework for how impaired torsinA function selectively disrupts neural circuits and raise the possibility that discrete foci of neurodegeneration may contribute to the pathogenesis of DYT1 dystonia.

Dysregulation of epigenetic controls is associated with tumorigenesis in response to microenvironmental stimuli; however, the regulatory pathways involved in epigenetic dysfunction are largely unclear. We have determined that a critical epigenetic regulator, microRNA-205 (miR-205), is repressed by the ligand jagged1, which is secreted from the tumor stroma to promote a cancer-associated stem cell phenotype. Knockdown of miR-205 in mammary epithelial cells promoted epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), disrupted epithelial cell polarity, and enhanced symmetric division to expand the stem cell population. Furthermore, miR-205–deficient mice spontaneously developed mammary lesions, while activation of miR-205 markedly diminished breast cancer stemness. These data provide evidence that links tumor microenvironment and microRNA-dependent regulation to disruption of epithelial polarity and aberrant mammary stem cell division, which in turn leads to an expansion of stem cell population and tumorigenesis. This study elucidates an important role for miR-205 in the regulation of mammary stem cell fate, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for limiting breast cancer genesis.

Parkinsonism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are widespread brain disorders that involve disturbances of dopaminergic signaling. The sodium-coupled dopamine transporter (DAT) controls dopamine homeostasis, but its contribution to disease remains poorly understood. Here, we analyzed a cohort of patients with atypical movement disorder and identified 2 DAT coding variants, DAT-Ile312Phe and a presumed de novo mutant DAT-Asp421Asn, in an adult male with early-onset parkinsonism and ADHD. According to DAT single-photon emission computed tomography (DAT-SPECT) scans and a fluoro-deoxy-glucose-PET/MRI (FDG-PET/MRI) scan, the patient suffered from progressive dopaminergic neurodegeneration. In heterologous cells, both DAT variants exhibited markedly reduced dopamine uptake capacity but preserved membrane targeting, consistent with impaired catalytic activity. Computational simulations and uptake experiments suggested that the disrupted function of the DAT-Asp421Asn mutant is the result of compromised sodium binding, in agreement with Asp421 coordinating sodium at the second sodium site. For DAT-Asp421Asn, substrate efflux experiments revealed a constitutive, anomalous efflux of dopamine, and electrophysiological analyses identified a large cation leak that might further perturb dopaminergic neurotransmission. Our results link specific DAT missense mutations to neurodegenerative early-onset parkinsonism. Moreover, the neuropsychiatric comorbidity provides additional support for the idea that DAT missense mutations are an ADHD risk factor and suggests that complex DAT genotype and phenotype correlations contribute to different dopaminergic pathologies.

BACKGROUND. Delayed hematopoietic recovery is a major drawback of umbilical cord blood (UCB) transplantation. Transplantation of ex vivo–expanded UCB shortens time to hematopoietic recovery, but long-term, robust engraftment by the expanded unit has yet to be demonstrated. We tested the hypothesis that a UCB-derived cell product consisting of stem cells expanded for 21 days in the presence of nicotinamide and a noncultured T cell fraction (NiCord) can accelerate hematopoietic recovery and provide long-term engraftment.

METHODS. In a phase I trial, 11 adults with hematologic malignancies received myeloablative bone marrow conditioning followed by transplantation with NiCord and a second unmanipulated UCB unit. Safety, hematopoietic recovery, and donor engraftment were assessed and compared with historical controls.

RESULTS. No adverse events were attributable to the infusion of NiCord. Complete or partial neutrophil and T cell engraftment derived from NiCord was observed in 8 patients, and NiCord engraftment remained stable in all patients, with a median follow-up of 21 months. Two patients achieved long-term engraftment with the unmanipulated unit. Patients transplanted with NiCord achieved earlier median neutrophil recovery (13 vs. 25 days, P < 0.001) compared with that seen in historical controls. The 1-year overall and progression-free survival rates were 82% and 73%, respectively.

CONCLUSION. UCB-derived hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells expanded in the presence of nicotinamide and transplanted with a T cell–containing fraction contain both short-term and long-term repopulating cells. The results justify further study of NiCord transplantation as a single UCB graft. If long-term safety is confirmed, NiCord has the potential to broaden accessibility and reduce the toxicity of UCB transplantation.

TRIAL REGISTRATION. Clinicaltrials.gov NCT01221857.

FUNDING. Gamida Cell Ltd.


The magnitude, quality, and maintenance of immunological memory after infection or vaccination must be considered for future design of effective influenza vaccines. In 2009, the influenza pandemic produced disease that ranged from mild to severe, even fatal, illness in infected healthy adults and led to vaccination of a portion of the population with the adjuvanted, inactivated influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 vaccine. Here, we have proposed a multiparameter quantitative and qualitative approach to comparing adaptive immune memory to influenza 1 year after mild or severe infection or vaccination. One year after antigen encounter, severely ill subjects maintained high levels of humoral and polyfunctional effector/memory CD4+ T cells responses, while mildly ill and vaccinated subjects retained strong cellular immunity, as indicated by high levels of mucosal homing and degranulation markers on IFN-γ+ antigen-specific T cells. A principal component analysis distinguished 3 distinct clusters of individuals. The first group comprised vaccinated and mildly ill subjects, while clusters 2 and 3 included mainly infected individuals. Each cluster had immune memory profiles that differed in magnitude and quality. These data provide evidence that there are substantial similarities between the antiinfluenza response that mildly ill and vaccinated individuals develop and that this immune memory signature is different from that seen in severely ill individuals.

Numerous human disorders, including Cockayne syndrome, UV-sensitive syndrome, xeroderma pigmentosum, and trichothiodystrophy, result from the mutation of genes encoding molecules important for nucleotide excision repair. Here, we describe a syndrome in which the cardinal clinical features include short stature, hearing loss, premature aging, telangiectasia, neurodegeneration, and photosensitivity, resulting from a homozygous missense (p.Ser228Ile) sequence alteration of the proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). PCNA is a highly conserved sliding clamp protein essential for DNA replication and repair. Due to this fundamental role, mutations in PCNA that profoundly impair protein function would be incompatible with life. Interestingly, while the p.Ser228Ile alteration appeared to have no effect on protein levels or DNA replication, patient cells exhibited marked abnormalities in response to UV irradiation, displaying substantial reductions in both UV survival and RNA synthesis recovery. The p.Ser228Ile change also profoundly altered PCNA’s interaction with Flap endonuclease 1 and DNA Ligase 1, DNA metabolism enzymes. Together, our findings detail a mutation of PCNA in humans associated with a neurodegenerative phenotype, displaying clinical and molecular features common to other DNA repair disorders, which we showed to be attributable to a hypomorphic amino acid alteration.

Background. Defining the parameters that modulate vaccine responses in African populations will be imperative to design effective vaccines for protection against HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and dengue virus infections. This study aimed to evaluate the contribution of the patient-specific immune microenvironment to the response to the licensed yellow fever vaccine 17D (YF-17D) in an African cohort.

Methods. We compared responses to YF-17D in 50 volunteers in Entebbe, Uganda, and 50 volunteers in Lausanne, Switzerland. We measured the CD8+ T cell and B cell responses induced by YF-17D and correlated them with immune parameters analyzed by flow cytometry prior to vaccination.

Results. We showed that YF-17D–induced CD8+ T cell and B cell responses were substantially lower in immunized individuals from Entebbe compared with immunized individuals from Lausanne. The impaired vaccine response in the Entebbe cohort associated with reduced YF-17D replication. Prior to vaccination, we observed higher frequencies of exhausted and activated NK cells, differentiated T and B cell subsets and proinflammatory monocytes, suggesting an activated immune microenvironment in the Entebbe volunteers. Interestingly, activation of CD8+ T cells and B cells as well as proinflammatory monocytes at baseline negatively correlated with YF-17D–neutralizing antibody titers after vaccination. Additionally, memory T and B cell responses in preimmunized volunteers exhibited reduced persistence in the Entebbe cohort but were boosted by a second vaccination.

Conclusion. Together, these results demonstrate that an activated immune microenvironment prior to vaccination impedes efficacy of the YF-17D vaccine in an African cohort and suggest that vaccine regimens may need to be boosted in African populations to achieve efficient immunity.

Trial registration. Registration is not required for observational studies.

Funding. This study was funded by Canada’s Global Health Research Initiative, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and United States Agency for International Development.


Purinergic receptors of the P2Y family are G protein–coupled surface receptors that respond to extracellular nucleotides and can mediate responses to local cell damage. P2Y-dependent signaling contributes to thrombotic and/or inflammatory consequences of tissue injury by altering platelet and endothelial activation and immune cell phagocytosis. Here, we have demonstrated that P2Y14 modifies cell senescence and cell death in response to tissue stress, thereby enabling preservation of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell function. In mice, P2Y14 deficiency had no demonstrable effect under homeostatic conditions; however, radiation stress, aging, sequential exposure to chemotherapy, and serial bone marrow transplantation increased senescence in animals lacking P2Y14. Enhanced senescence coincided with increased ROS, elevated p16INK4a expression, and hypophosphorylated Rb and was inhibited by treatment with a ROS scavenger or inhibition of p38/MAPK and JNK. Treatment of WT cells with pertussis toxin recapitulated the P2Y14 phenotype, suggesting that P2Y14 mediates antisenescence effects through Gi/o protein–dependent pathways. Primitive hematopoietic cells lacking P2Y14 were compromised in their ability to restore hematopoiesis in irradiated mice. Together, these data indicate that P2Y14 on stem/progenitor cells of the hematopoietic system inhibits cell senescence by monitoring and responding to the extracellular manifestations of tissue stress and suggest that P2Y14-mediated responses prevent the premature decline of regenerative capacity after injury.

Activation of MET by HGF plays a key role in tumor progression. Using a recently developed llama platform that generates human-like immunoglobulins, we selected 68 different antibodies that compete with HGF for binding to MET. HGF-competing antibodies recognized 4 distinct hotspots localized in different MET domains. We identified 1 hotspot that coincides with the known HGF β chain binding site on blades 2–3 of the SEMA domain β-propeller. We determined that a second and a third hotspot lie within blade 5 of the SEMA domain and IPT domains 2–3, both of which are thought to bind to HGF α chain. Characterization of the fourth hotspot revealed a region across the PSI-IPT 1 domains not previously associated with HGF binding. Individual or combined targeting of these hotspots effectively interrupted HGF/MET signaling in multiple cell-based biochemical and biological assays. Selected antibodies directed against SEMA blades 2–3 and the PSI-IPT 1 region inhibited brain invasion and prolonged survival in a glioblastoma multiforme model, prevented metastatic disease following neoadjuvant therapy in a triple-negative mammary carcinoma model, and suppressed cancer cell dissemination to the liver in a KRAS-mutant metastatic colorectal cancer model. These results identify multiple regions of MET responsible for HGF-mediated tumor progression, unraveling the complexity of HGF-MET interaction, and provide selective molecular tools for targeting MET activity in cancer.

In atherosclerosis, plaques preferentially develop in arterial regions of disturbed blood flow (d-flow), which alters endothelial gene expression and function. Here, we determined that d-flow regulates genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in a DNA methyltransferase–dependent (DNMT-dependent) manner. Induction of d-flow by partial carotid ligation surgery in a murine model induced DNMT1 in arterial endothelium. In cultured endothelial cells, DNMT1 was enhanced by oscillatory shear stress (OS), and reduction of DNMT with either the inhibitor 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (5Aza) or siRNA markedly reduced OS-induced endothelial inflammation. Moreover, administration of 5Aza reduced lesion formation in 2 mouse models of atherosclerosis. Using both reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS) and microarray, we determined that d-flow in the carotid artery resulted in hypermethylation within the promoters of 11 mechanosensitive genes and that 5Aza treatment restored normal methylation patterns. Of the identified genes, HoxA5 and Klf3 encode transcription factors that contain cAMP response elements, suggesting that the methylation status of these loci could serve as a mechanosensitive master switch in gene expression. Together, our results demonstrate that d-flow controls epigenomic DNA methylation patterns in a DNMT-dependent manner, which in turn alters endothelial gene expression and induces atherosclerosis.

NOTCH-dependent signaling pathways are critical for normal bone remodeling; however, it is unclear if dysfunctional NOTCH activation contributes to inflammation-mediated bone loss, as observed in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. We performed RNA sequencing and pathway analyses in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) isolated from transgenic TNF-expressing mice, a model of RA, to identify pathways responsible for decreased osteoblast differentiation. 53 pathways were dysregulated in MSCs from RA mice, among which expression of genes encoding NOTCH pathway members and members of the noncanonical NF-κB pathway were markedly elevated. Administration of NOTCH inhibitors to RA mice prevented bone loss and osteoblast inhibition, and CFU-fibroblasts from RA mice treated with NOTCH inhibitors formed more new bone in recipient mice with tibial defects. Overexpression of the noncanonical NF-κB subunit p52 and RELB in a murine pluripotent stem cell line increased NOTCH intracellular domain–dependent (NICD-dependent) activation of an RBPjκ reporter and levels of the transcription factor HES1. TNF promoted p52/RELB binding to NICD, which enhanced binding at the RBPjκ site within the Hes1 promoter. Furthermore, MSC-enriched cells from RA patients exhibited elevated levels of HES1, p52, and RELB. Together, these data indicate that persistent NOTCH activation in MSCs contributes to decreased osteoblast differentiation associated with RA and suggest that NOTCH inhibitors could prevent inflammation-mediated bone loss.

Direct lineage reprogramming through genetic-based strategies enables the conversion of differentiated somatic cells into functional neurons and distinct neuronal subtypes. Induced dopaminergic (iDA) neurons can be generated by direct conversion of skin fibroblasts; however, their in vivo phenotypic and functional properties remain incompletely understood, leaving their impact on Parkinson’s disease (PD) cell therapy and modeling uncertain. Here, we determined that iDA neurons retain a transgene-independent stable phenotype in culture and in animal models. Furthermore, transplanted iDA neurons functionally integrated into host neuronal tissue, exhibiting electrically excitable membranes, synaptic currents, dopamine release, and substantial reduction of motor symptoms in a PD animal model. Neuronal cell replacement approaches will benefit from a system that allows the activity of transplanted neurons to be controlled remotely and enables modulation depending on the physiological needs of the recipient; therefore, we adapted a DREADD (designer receptor exclusively activated by designer drug) technology for remote and real-time control of grafted iDA neuronal activity in living animals. Remote DREADD-dependent iDA neuron activation markedly enhanced the beneficial effects in transplanted PD animals. These data suggest that iDA neurons have therapeutic potential as a cell replacement approach for PD and highlight the applicability of pharmacogenetics for enhancing cellular signaling in reprogrammed cell–based approaches.

Autonomic sympathetic nerves innervate peripheral resistance arteries, thereby regulating vascular tone and controlling blood supply to organs. Despite the fundamental importance of blood flow control, how sympathetic arterial innervation develops remains largely unknown. Here, we identified the axon guidance cue netrin-1 as an essential factor required for development of arterial innervation in mice. Netrin-1 was produced by arterial smooth muscle cells (SMCs) at the onset of innervation, and arterial innervation required the interaction of netrin-1 with its receptor, deleted in colorectal cancer (DCC), on sympathetic growth cones. Function-blocking approaches, including cell type–specific deletion of the genes encoding Ntn1 in SMCs and Dcc in sympathetic neurons, led to severe and selective reduction of sympathetic innervation and to defective vasoconstriction in resistance arteries. These findings indicate that netrin-1 and DCC are critical for the control of arterial innervation and blood flow regulation in peripheral organs.

Injury to the biliary epithelium triggers inflammation and fibrosis, which can result in severe liver diseases and may progress to malignancy. Development of a type 1 immune response has been linked to biliary injury pathogenesis; however, a subset of patients with biliary atresia, the most common childhood cholangiopathy, exhibit increased levels of Th2-promoting cytokines. The relationship among different inflammatory drivers, epithelial repair, and carcinogenesis remains unclear. Here, we determined that the Th2-activating cytokine IL-33 is elevated in biliary atresia patient serum and in the livers and bile ducts of mice with experimental biliary atresia. Administration of IL-33 to WT mice markedly increased cholangiocyte proliferation and promoted sustained cell growth, resulting in dramatic and rapid enlargement of extrahepatic bile ducts. The IL-33–dependent proliferative response was mediated by an increase in the number of type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s), which released high levels of IL-13 that in turn promoted cholangiocyte hyperplasia. Induction of the IL-33/ILC2/IL-13 circuit in a murine biliary injury model promoted epithelial repair; however, induction of this circuit in mice with constitutive activation of AKT and YAP in bile ducts induced cholangiocarcinoma with liver metastases. These findings reveal that IL-33 mediates epithelial proliferation and suggest that activation of IL-33/ILC2/IL-13 may improve biliary repair and disruption of the circuit may block progression of carcinogenesis.

Recently, several neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies have been isolated from memory B cells of HIV-infected individuals. Despite extensive evidence of B cell dysfunction in HIV disease, little is known about the cells from which these rare HIV-specific antibodies originate. Accordingly, we used HIV envelope gp140 and CD4 or coreceptor (CoR) binding site (bs) mutant probes to evaluate HIV-specific responses in peripheral blood B cells of HIV-infected individuals at various stages of infection. In contrast to non-HIV responses, HIV-specific responses against gp140 were enriched within abnormal B cells, namely activated and exhausted memory subsets, which are largely absent in the blood of uninfected individuals. Responses against the CoRbs, which is a poorly neutralizing epitope, arose early, whereas those against the well-characterized neutralizing epitope CD4bs were delayed and infrequent. Enrichment of the HIV-specific response within resting memory B cells, the predominant subset in uninfected individuals, did occur in certain infected individuals who maintained low levels of plasma viremia and immune activation with or without antiretroviral therapy. The distribution of HIV-specific responses among memory B cell subsets was corroborated by transcriptional analyses. Taken together, our findings provide valuable insight into virus-specific B cell responses in HIV infection and demonstrate that memory B cell abnormalities may contribute to the ineffectiveness of the antibody response in infected individuals.

The number of newly formed neurons declines rapidly during aging, and this decrease in neurogenesis is associated with decreased function of neural stem/progenitor cells (NPCs). Here, we determined that a WIP1-dependent pathway regulates NPC differentiation and contributes to the age-associated decline of neurogenesis. Specifically, we found that WIP1 is expressed in NPCs of the mouse subventricular zone (SVZ) and aged animals with genetically enhanced WIP1 expression exhibited higher NPC numbers and neuronal differentiation compared with aged WT animals. Additionally, augmenting WIP1 expression in aged animals markedly improved neuron formation and rescued a functional defect in fine odor discrimination in aged mice. We identified the WNT signaling pathway inhibitor DKK3 as a key downstream target of WIP1 and found that expression of DKK3 in the SVZ is restricted to NPCs. Using murine reporter strains, we determined that DKK3 inhibits neuroblast formation by suppressing WNT signaling and Dkk3 deletion or pharmacological activation of the WNT pathway improved neuron formation and olfactory function in aged mice. We propose that WIP1 controls DKK3-dependent inhibition of neuronal differentiation during aging and suggest that regulating WIP1 levels could prevent certain aspects of functional decline of the aging brain.