Patients with mutations in either TGF-β receptor type I (TGFBR1) or TGF-β receptor type II (TGFBR2), such as those with Loeys-Dietz syndrome, have craniofacial defects and signs of elevated TGF-β signaling. Similarly, mutations in TGF-β receptor gene family members cause craniofacial deformities, such as cleft palate, in mice. However, it is unknown whether TGF-β ligands are able to elicit signals in Tgfbr2 mutant mice. Here, we show that loss of Tgfbr2 in mouse cranial neural crest cells results in elevated expression of TGF-β2 and TGF-β receptor type III (TβRIII); activation of a TβRI/TβRIII-mediated, SMAD-independent, TRAF6/TAK1/p38 signaling pathway; and defective cell proliferation in the palatal mesenchyme. Strikingly, Tgfb2, Tgfbr1 (also known as Alk5), or Tak1 haploinsufficiency disrupted TβRI/TβRIII-mediated signaling and rescued craniofacial deformities in Tgfbr2 mutant mice, indicating that activation of this noncanonical TGF-β signaling pathway was responsible for craniofacial malformations in Tgfbr2 mutant mice. Thus, modulation of TGF-β signaling may be beneficial for the prevention of congenital craniofacial birth defects.
Jun-ichi Iwata, Joseph G. Hacia, Akiko Suzuki, Pedro A. Sanchez-Lara, Mark Urata, Yang Chai
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a prevalent smoking-related disease for which no disease-altering therapies currently exist. As dysregulated TGF-β signaling associates with lung pathology in patients with COPD and in animal models of lung injury induced by chronic exposure to cigarette smoke (CS), we postulated that inhibiting TGF-β signaling would protect against CS-induced lung injury. We first confirmed that TGF-β signaling was induced in the lungs of mice chronically exposed to CS as well as in COPD patient samples. Importantly, key pathological features of smoking-associated lung disease in patients, e.g., alveolar injury with overt emphysema and airway epithelial hyperplasia with fibrosis, accompanied CS-induced alveolar cell apoptosis caused by enhanced TGF-β signaling in CS-exposed mice. Systemic administration of a TGF-β–specific neutralizing antibody normalized TGF-β signaling and alveolar cell death, conferring improved lung architecture and lung mechanics in CS-exposed mice. Use of losartan, an angiotensin receptor type 1 blocker used widely in the clinic and known to antagonize TGF-β signaling, also improved oxidative stress, inflammation, metalloprotease activation and elastin remodeling. These data support our hypothesis that inhibition of TGF-β signaling through angiotensin receptor blockade can attenuate CS-induced lung injury in an established murine model. More importantly, our findings provide a preclinical platform for the development of other TGF-β–targeted therapies for patients with COPD.
Megan Podowski, Carla Calvi, Shana Metzger, Kaori Misono, Hataya Poonyagariyagorn, Armando Lopez-Mercado, Therese Ku, Thomas Lauer, Sharon McGrath-Morrow, Alan Berger, Christopher Cheadle, Rubin Tuder, Harry C. Dietz, Wayne Mitzner, Robert Wise, Enid Neptune
Defects in cholesterol synthesis result in a wide variety of symptoms, from neonatal lethality to the relatively mild dysmorphic features and developmental delay found in individuals with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome. We report here the identification of mutations in sterol-C4-methyl oxidase–like gene (SC4MOL) as the cause of an autosomal recessive syndrome in a human patient with psoriasiform dermatitis, arthralgias, congenital cataracts, microcephaly, and developmental delay. This gene encodes a sterol-C4-methyl oxidase (SMO), which catalyzes demethylation of C4-methylsterols in the cholesterol synthesis pathway. C4-Methylsterols are meiosis-activating sterols (MASs). They exist at high concentrations in the testis and ovary and play roles in meiosis activation. In this study, we found that an accumulation of MASs in the patient led to cell overproliferation in both skin and blood. SMO deficiency also substantially altered immunocyte phenotype and in vitro function. MASs serve as ligands for liver X receptors α and β (LXRα and LXRβ), which are important in regulating not only lipid transport in the epidermis, but also innate and adaptive immunity. Deficiency of SMO represents a biochemical defect in the cholesterol synthesis pathway, the clinical spectrum of which remains to be defined.
Miao He, Lisa E. Kratz, Joshua J. Michel, Abbe N. Vallejo, Laura Ferris, Richard I. Kelley, Jacqueline J. Hoover, Drazen Jukic, K. Michael Gibson, Lynne A. Wolfe, Dhanya Ramachandran, Michael E. Zwick, Jerry Vockley
Sex in mammals is genetically determined and is defined at the cellular level by sex chromosome complement (XY males and XX females). The Y chromosome–linked gene sex-determining region Y (SRY) is believed to be the master initiator of male sex determination in almost all eutherian and metatherian mammals, functioning to upregulate expression of its direct target gene Sry-related HMG box–containing gene 9 (SOX9). Data suggest that SRY evolved from SOX3, although there is no direct functional evidence to support this hypothesis. Indeed, loss-of-function mutations in SOX3 do not affect sex determination in mice or humans. To further investigate Sox3 function in vivo, we generated transgenic mice overexpressing Sox3. Here, we report that in one of these transgenic lines, Sox3 was ectopically expressed in the bipotential gonad and that this led to frequent complete XX male sex reversal. Further analysis indicated that Sox3 induced testis differentiation in this particular line of mice by upregulating expression of Sox9 via a similar mechanism to Sry. Importantly, we also identified genomic rearrangements within the SOX3 regulatory region in three patients with XX male sex reversal. Together, these data suggest that SOX3 and SRY are functionally interchangeable in sex determination and support the notion that SRY evolved from SOX3 via a regulatory mutation that led to its de novo expression in the early gonad.
Edwina Sutton, James Hughes, Stefan White, Ryohei Sekido, Jacqueline Tan, Valerie Arboleda, Nicholas Rogers, Kevin Knower, Lynn Rowley, Helen Eyre, Karine Rizzoti, Dale McAninch, Joao Goncalves, Jennie Slee, Erin Turbitt, Damien Bruno, Henrik Bengtsson, Vincent Harley, Eric Vilain, Andrew Sinclair, Robin Lovell-Badge, Paul Thomas
Congenital anomalies of the aortic valve are common and are associated with progressive valvular insufficiency and/or stenosis. In addition, aneurysm, coarctation, and dissection of the ascending aorta and aortic arch are often associated conditions that complicate patient management and increase morbidity and mortality. These associated aortopathies are commonly attributed to turbulent hemodynamic flow through the malformed valve leading to focal defects in the vessel wall. However, numerous surgical and pathological studies have identified widespread cystic medial necrosis and smooth muscle apoptosis throughout the aortic arch in affected patients. Here, we provide experimental evidence for an alternative model to explain the association of aortic vessel and valvular disease. Using mice with primary and secondary cardiac neural crest deficiencies, we have shown that neural crest contribution to the outflow endocardial cushions (the precursors of the semilunar valves) is required for late gestation valvular remodeling, mesenchymal apoptosis, and proper valve architecture. Neural crest was also shown to contribute to the smooth muscle layer of the wall of the ascending aorta and aortic arch. Hence, defects of cardiac neural crest can result in functionally abnormal semilunar valves and concomitant aortic arch artery abnormalities.
Rajan Jain, Kurt A. Engleka, Stacey L. Rentschler, Lauren J. Manderfield, Li Li, Lijun Yuan, Jonathan A. Epstein
The white adipose organ is composed of both subcutaneous and several intra-abdominal depots. Excess abdominal adiposity is a major risk factor for metabolic disease in rodents and humans, while expansion of subcutaneous fat does not carry the same risks. Brown adipose produces heat as a defense against hypothermia and obesity, and the appearance of brown-like adipocytes within white adipose tissue depots is associated with improved metabolic phenotypes. Thus, understanding the differences in cell biology and function of these different adipose cell types and depots may be critical to the development of new therapies for metabolic disease. Here, we found that Prdm16, a brown adipose determination factor, is selectively expressed in subcutaneous white adipocytes relative to other white fat depots in mice. Transgenic expression of Prdm16 in fat tissue robustly induced the development of brown-like adipocytes in subcutaneous, but not epididymal, adipose depots. Prdm16 transgenic mice displayed increased energy expenditure, limited weight gain, and improved glucose tolerance in response to a high-fat diet. shRNA-mediated depletion of Prdm16 in isolated subcutaneous adipocytes caused a sharp decrease in the expression of thermogenic genes and a reduction in uncoupled cellular respiration. Finally, Prdm16 haploinsufficiency reduced the brown fat phenotype in white adipose tissue stimulated by β-adrenergic agonists. These results demonstrate that Prdm16 is a cell-autonomous determinant of a brown fat–like gene program and thermogenesis in subcutaneous adipose tissues.
Patrick Seale, Heather M. Conroe, Jennifer Estall, Shingo Kajimura, Andrea Frontini, Jeff Ishibashi, Paul Cohen, Saverio Cinti, Bruce M. Spiegelman
Cardiac valve formation is crucial for embryonic and adult heart function. Valve malformations constitute the most common congenital cardiac defect, but little is known about the molecular mechanisms regulating valve formation and homeostasis. Here, we show that endocardial Notch1 and myocardial Bmp2 signal integration establish a valve-forming field between 2 chamber developmental domains. Patterning occurs through the activation of endocardial epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) exclusively in prospective valve territories. Mice with constitutive endocardial Notch1 activity ectopically express Hey1 and Heyl. They also display an activated mesenchymal gene program in ventricles and a partial (noninvasive) EMT in vitro that becomes invasive upon BMP2 treatment. Snail1, TGF-β2, or Notch1 inhibition reduces BMP2-induced ventricular transformation and invasion, whereas BMP2 treatment inhibits endothelial Gsk3β, stabilizing Snail1 and promoting invasiveness. Integration of Notch and Bmp2 signals is consistent with Notch1 signaling being attenuated after myocardial Bmp2 deletion. Notch1 activation in myocardium extends Hey1 expression to nonchamber myocardium, represses Bmp2, and impairs EMT. In contrast, Notch deletion abrogates endocardial Hey gene transcription and extends Bmp2 expression to the ventricular endocardium. This embryonic Notch1-Bmp2-Snail1 relationship may be relevant in adult valve disease, in which decreased NOTCH signaling causes valve mesenchyme cell formation, fibrosis, and calcification.
Luis Luna-Zurita, Belén Prados, Joaquim Grego-Bessa, Guillermo Luxán, Gonzalo del Monte, Alberto Benguría, Ralf H. Adams, José María Pérez-Pomares, José Luis de la Pompa
Retinal degeneration causes vision impairment and blindness in humans. If one day we are to harness the potential of stem cell–based cell replacement therapies to treat these conditions, it is imperative that we better understand normal retina development. Currently, the genes and mechanisms that regulate the specification of the neuroretina during vertebrate eye development remain unknown. Here, we identify sine oculis–related homeobox 3 (Six3) as a crucial player in this process in mice. In Six3 conditional–mutant mouse embryos, specification of the neuroretina was abrogated, but that of the retinal pigmented epithelium was normal. Conditional deletion of Six3 did not affect the initial development of the optic vesicle but did arrest subsequent neuroretina specification. Ectopic rostral expansion of Wnt8b expression was the major response to Six3 deletion and the leading cause for the specific lack of neuroretina, as ectopic Wnt8b expression in transgenic embryos was sufficient to suppress neuroretina specification. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, we identified Six3-responsive elements in the Wnt8b locus and demonstrated that Six3 directly repressed Wnt8b expression in vivo. Our findings provide a molecular framework to the program leading to neuroretina differentiation and may be relevant for the development of novel strategies aimed at characterizing and eventually treating different abnormalities in eye formation.
Wei Liu, Oleg Lagutin, Eric Swindell, Milan Jamrich, Guillermo Oliver
Patients with Kallmann syndrome (KS) have hypogonadotropic hypogonadism caused by a deficiency of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and a defective sense of smell related to olfactory bulb aplasia. Based on the findings in a fetus affected by the X chromosome–linked form of the disease, it has been suggested that hypogonadism in KS results from the failed embryonic migration of neuroendocrine GnRH1 cells from the nasal epithelium to the forebrain. We asked whether this singular observation might extend to other developmental disorders that also include arrhinencephaly. We therefore studied the location of GnRH1 cells in fetuses affected by different arrhinencephalic disorders, specifically X-linked KS, CHARGE syndrome, trisomy 13, and trisomy 18, using immunohistochemistry. Few or no neuroendocrine GnRH1 cells were detected in the preoptic and hypothalamic regions of all arrhinencephalic fetuses, whereas large numbers of these cells were present in control fetuses. In all arrhinencephalic fetuses, many GnRH1 cells were present in the frontonasal region, the first part of their migratory path, as were interrupted olfactory nerve fibers that formed bilateral neuromas. Our findings define a pathological sequence whereby a lack of migration of neuroendocrine GnRH cells stems from the primary embryonic failure of peripheral olfactory structures. This can occur either alone, as in isolated KS, or as part of a pleiotropic disease, such as CHARGE syndrome, trisomy 13, and trisomy 18.
Luis Teixeira, Fabien Guimiot, Catherine Dodé, Catherine Fallet-Bianco, Robert P. Millar, Anne-Lise Delezoide, Jean-Pierre Hardelin
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process that is essential for cellular homeostasis and organismal viability in eukaryotes. However, the extent of its functions in higher-order processes of organismal physiology and behavior is still unknown. Here, we report that autophagy is essential for the maintenance of balance in mice and that its deficiency leads to severe balance disorders. We generated mice deficient in autophagin-1 protease (Atg4b) and showed that they had substantial systemic reduction of autophagic activity. Autophagy reduction occurred through defective proteolytic processing of the autophagosome component LC3 and its paralogs, which compromised the rate of autophagosome maturation. Despite their viability, Atg4b-null mice showed unusual patterns of behavior that are common features of inner ear pathologies. Consistent with this, Atg4b-null mice showed defects in the development of otoconia, organic calcium carbonate crystals essential for sense of balance (equilibrioception). Furthermore, these abnormalities were exacerbated in Atg5–/– mice, which completely lack the ability to perform autophagy, confirming that autophagic activity is necessary for otoconial biogenesis. Autophagy deficiency also led to impaired secretion and assembly of otoconial core proteins, thus hampering otoconial development. Taken together, these results describe an essential role for autophagy in inner ear development and equilibrioception and open new possibilities for understanding and treating human balance disorders, which are of growing relevance among the elderly population.
Guillermo Mariño, Alvaro F. Fernández, Sandra Cabrera, Yunxia W. Lundberg, Rubén Cabanillas, Francisco Rodríguez, Natalia Salvador-Montoliu, José A. Vega, Antonino Germanà, Antonio Fueyo, José M.P. Freije, Carlos López-Otín
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