Mutations in Ca2+-handling proteins in the heart have been linked to exercise-induced sudden cardiac death. The best characterized of these have been mutations in the cardiac Ca2+ release channel known as the ryanodine receptor type 2 (RyR2). RyR2 mutations cause “leaky” channels, resulting in diastolic Ca2+ leak from the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) that can trigger fatal cardiac arrhythmias during stress. In this issue of the JCI, Song et al. show that mutations in the SR Ca2+-binding protein calsequestrin 2 (CASQ2) in mice result not only in reduced CASQ2 expression but also in a surprising, compensatory elevation in expression of both the Ca2+-binding protein calreticulin and RyR2, culminating in premature Ca2+ release from cardiac myocytes and stress-induced arrhythmia (see the related article beginning on page 1814). In the context of these findings and other recent reports studying CASQ2 mutations, we discuss how CASQ2 influences the properties of Ca2+-dependent regulation of RyR2 and how this contributes to cardiac arrhythmogenesis.
Sandor Györke, Brian M. Hagen, Dmitry Terentyev, W. Jonathan Lederer
Muscular dystrophies are often caused by mutations in cytoskeletal proteins that render cells more susceptible to strain-induced injury in mechanically active tissues such as skeletal or cardiac muscle. In this issue of the JCI, Han et al. report that dysferlin participates in membrane resealing in cardiomyocytes and that exercise results in increased membrane damage and disturbed cardiac function in dysferlin-deficient mice (see the related article beginning on page 1805). Thus, in addition to repetitive membrane damage, inadequate membrane repair may participate in the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophies and cardiomyopathies.
Jan Lammerding, Richard T. Lee
Hepcidin is a peptide hormone secreted by the liver that plays a central role in the regulation of iron homeostasis. Increased hepcidin levels result in anemia while decreased expression is the causative feature in most primary iron overload diseases. Mutations in hemochromatosis type 2 (HFE2), which encodes the protein hemojuvelin (HJV), result in the absence of hepcidin and an early-onset form of iron overload disease. HJV is a bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) coreceptor and HJV mutants have impaired BMP signaling. In this issue of the JCI, Babitt and colleagues show that BMPs are autocrine hormones that induce hepcidin expression (see the related article beginning on page 1933). Administration of a recombinant, soluble form of HJV decreased hepcidin expression and increased serum iron levels by mobilizing iron from splenic stores. These results demonstrate that recombinant HJV may be a useful therapeutic agent for treatment of the anemia of chronic disease, a disorder resulting from high levels of hepcidin expression.
Ivana De Domenico, Diane M. Ward, Jerry Kaplan
The genetic and epigenetic events underlying cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) have been actively studied; however, no resulting preventative or therapeutic strategies have successfully targeted this lesion, apart from surgery. In this issue of the JCI, two novel regulators of SCC pathogenesis are introduced, gain-of-function mutations in the p53 gene, reported by Caulin et al., and chemokine sequestration by the D6 receptor, reported by Nibbs et al. (see the related articles beginning on pages 1884 and 1893, respectively). These studies provide new twists and insights into the development of this potentially lethal disease.
David M. Owens
While the term neuroinflammation often conjures up images of cellular damage, mounting evidence suggests that certain proinflammatory molecules, such as the cytokine IL-1β, may have beneficial and protective effects. In a report in this issue of the JCI, Shaftel and coworkers have generated an elegant mouse model in which local hippocampal overexpression of IL-1β in an Alzheimer disease (AD) transgenic mouse model resulted not in the expected exacerbation of the amyloid β plaque deposition common to AD, but instead in plaque amelioration (see the related article beginning on page 1595). Thus, manipulation of the immune system may be a potential therapeutic approach to protect against AD, although further studies are needed to understand all of the downstream effects of this manipulation.
Cynthia A. Lemere
Thrombin is clearly a key trigger of thrombosis, the proximal cause of most morbidity and mortality in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Might thrombin also contribute to longer-term, structural changes in the arterial wall that promote narrowing and clotting? A study in this issue of the JCI argues that it can. Aihara et al. report that haploinsufficiency of heparin cofactor II, a glycosaminoglycan-dependent thrombin inhibitor, exacerbates injury- or hyperlipidemia-induced arterial lesion formation in mice, possibly by excessive thrombin signaling through protease-activated receptors (see the related article beginning on page 1514).
A new study by Galeano and colleagues in this issue of the JCI reports the first glomerular disease caused by a genetic defect in sialic acid biosynthesis (see the related article beginning on page 1585). Mice that harbor mutations in the Gne/Mnk gene produce lower amounts of sialic acid, suffer from hematuria, proteinuria, and structural defects in the glomerulus and die within days after birth. Remarkably, the lesion can be reversed through dietary addition of N-acetylmannosamine, a sialic acid precursor, raising the intriguing possibility that this approach might have therapeutic benefit in patients with glomerular disease.
Susan E. Quaggin
In this issue of the JCI, Wang, Clemens, and colleagues demonstrate that hypoxia-inducible factor α (HIFα) signaling in bone-building osteoblasts is central to the coupling of angiogenesis and long bone development in mice (see the related article beginning on page 1616). They show that bone formation controlled by osteoblast HIFα signaling is not cell autonomous but is coupled to skeletal angiogenesis dependent upon VEGF signaling. Thus, strategies that promote HIFα signaling in osteoblasts may augment bone formation and accelerate fracture repair.
Dwight A. Towler
Posttranslational modification is critical for the function of the gene products of ras oncogenes, which are frequently mutated in cancer. Ras proteins are modified by farnesyltransferase (FTase), but many related small GTPases that also end in a CAAX motif (where C is cysteine, A is often an aliphatic amino acid, and X is any amino acid) are modified by a closely related enzyme known as geranylgeranyltransferase type I (GGTase-I). Accordingly, inhibitors for both of these enzymes have been developed, and those active against FTase are in clinical trials. In this issue of the JCI, Sjogren et al. report the development of a mouse strain homozygous for a conditional allele of the gene that encodes GGTase-I (see the related article beginning on page 1294). They found that ablation of the GGTase-I–encoding gene in cells destined to produce lung tumors driven by oncogenic K-Ras resulted in delayed onset and decreased severity of disease, validating in a genetic model the theory that GGTase-I is a good target for anti-cancer drug development.
Mark R. Philips, Adrienne D. Cox
Autosomal recessive cutaneous disorders, including various types of epidermolysis bullosa (EB), usually manifest shortly after birth. The clinical course of these diseases is often characterized by severe complications, limited therapeutic options, and a poor prognosis. A study by Pasmooij et al. reported in this issue of the JCI unravels the molecular mechanisms by which germline mutations in non-Herlitz junctional EB can be corrected in vivo by multiple spontaneously occurring somatic mutational events, a phenomenon known as revertant mosaicism (see the related article beginning on page 1240). These insights open new avenues of thinking for the design of future gene therapy strategies for skin diseases.
Jorge Frank, Rudolf Happle
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