Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is estimated to affect up to one-third of the general population, and new therapies are urgently required. Our laboratory previously developed a controlled-release mitochondrial protonophore (CRMP) that is functionally liver-targeted and promotes oxidation of hepatic triglycerides. Although we previously demonstrated that CRMP safely reverses hypertriglyceridemia, fatty liver, hepatic inflammation, and fibrosis in diet-induced rodent models of obesity, there remains a critical need to assess its safety and efficacy in a model highly relevant to humans. Here, we evaluated the impact of longer-term CRMP treatment on hepatic mitochondrial oxidation and on the reversal of hypertriglyceridemia, NAFLD, and insulin resistance in high-fat, fructose-fed cynomolgus macaques (n = 6) and spontaneously obese dysmetabolic rhesus macaques (n = 12). Using positional isotopomer nuclear magnetic resonance tracer analysis (PINTA), we demonstrated that acute CRMP treatment (single dose, 5 mg/kg) increased rates of hepatic mitochondrial fat oxidation by 40%. Six weeks of CRMP treatment reduced hepatic triglycerides in both nonhuman primatemodels independently of changes in body weight, food intake, body temperature, or adverse reactions. CRMP treatment was also associatedwith a 20 to 30% reduction in fasting plasma triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol in dysmetabolic nonhuman primates. Oral administration of CRMP reduced endogenous glucose production by 18%, attributable to a 20% reduction in hepatic acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) content [as assessed by whole-body beta-hydroxybutyrate (beta-OHB) turnover] and pyruvate carboxylase flux. Collectively, these studies provide proof-of-concept data to support the development of liver-targeted mitochondrial uncouplers for the treatment of metabolic syndrome in humans.
Cell-based therapies are recognized as the next frontier in medicine, but the translation of many promising technologies into the clinic is currently limited by a lack of remote-control inducers that are safe and can be tightly regulated. Here, we developed therapeutically active engineered cells regulated by a control system that is responsive to protocatechuic acid (PCA), a metabolite found in green tea. We constructed multiple genetic control technologies that could toggle a PCA-responsive ON/OFF switch based on a transcriptional repressor from Streptomyces coelicolor. We demonstrated that PCA-controlled switches can be used for guide RNA expression-mediated control of the CRISPR-Cas9 systems for gene editing and epigenetic remodeling. We showed how these technologies could be used as implantable biocomputers in live mice to perform complex logic computations that integrated signals from multiple food metabolites. Last, we used our system to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes in mice and cynomolgus monkeys. This biocompatible and versatile food phenolic acid-controlled transgenic device opens opportunities for dynamic interventions in gene- and cell-based precision medicine.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most important causes of peptic ulcer disease in high-income countries. Proton pump inhibitors are the current standard treatment; however, safety and long-term adverse effects of using these drugs are attracting more and more concerns in recent years. Using a porcine model of NSAID-related gastric ulcer, we herein show that adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADMSCs) delivered by endoscopic submucosal injection promoted ulcer healing with less inflammatory infiltration and enhanced reepithelization and neovascularization at day 7 and day 21 when compared with the controls (saline injection). However, only few engrafted ADMSCs showed myofibroblast and epithelial cell phenotype in vivo, suggesting the ulcer healing process might be much less dependent on the stem cell transdifferentiation. Further experiment with submucosal injection of MSC-derived secretome revealed a therapeutic efficacy comparable to that of stem cell transplantation. Profiling analysis showed up-regulation of genes associated with inflammation, granulation formation, and extracellular matrix remodeling at day 7 after injection of MSC-derived secretome. In addition, the extracellular signal-regulated kinase/mitogen-activated protein kinase and the phosphoinositide-3-kinase/protein kinase B pathways were activated after injection of ADMSCs or MSC-derived secretome. Both signaling pathways were involved in mediating the major events critical to gastric ulcer healing, including cell survival, migration, and angiogenesis. Our data suggest that endoscopic submucosal injection of ADMSCs serves as a promising approach to promote healing of NSAID-related peptic ulcer, and the paracrine effectors released from stem cells play a crucial role in this process.
Flaviviruses such as dengue, yellow fever, Zika, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis virus present substantial global health burdens. New vaccines are being sought to address safety and manufacturing issues associated with current live attenuated vaccines. Here, we describe a new insect-specific flavivirus, Binjari virus, which was found to be remarkably tolerant for exchange of its structural protein genes (prME) with those of the aforementioned pathogenic vertebrate-infecting flaviviruses (VIFs). Chimeric BinJ/VIF-prME viruses remained replication defective in vertebrate cells but replicated with high efficiency in mosquito cells. Cryo-electron microscopy and monoclonal antibody binding studies illustrated that the chimeric BinJ/VIF-prME virus particles were structurally and immunologically similar to their parental VIFs. Pilot manufacturing in C6/36 cells suggests that high yields can be reached up to 10(9.5) cell culture infectious dose/ml or approximate to 7 mg/liter. BinJ/VIF-prME viruses showed utility in diagnostic (microsphere immunoassays and ELISAs using panels of human and equine sera) and vaccine applications (illustrating protection against Zika virus challenge in murine IFNAR(-/-) mouse models). BinJ/VIF-prME viruses thus represent a versatile, noninfectious (for vertebrate cells), high-yield technology for generating chimeric flavivirus particles with low biocontainment requirements.
Loss of function in tumor suppressor genes is commonly associated with the onset/progression of cancer and treatment resistance. The p53 tumor suppressor gene, a master regulator of diverse cellular pathways, is frequently altered in various cancers, for example, in similar to 36% of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) and similar to 68% of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC5). Current methods for restoration of p53 expression, including small molecules and DNA therapies, have yielded progressive success, but each has formidable drawbacks. Here, a redox-responsive nanoparticle (NP) platform is engineered for effective delivery of p53-encoding synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA). We demonstrate that the synthetic p53-mRNA NPs markedly delay the growth of p53-null HCC and NSCLC cells by inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. We also reveal that p53 restoration markedly improves the sensitivity of these tumor cells to everolimus, a mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor that failed to show clinical benefits in advanced HCC and NSCLC. Moreover, cotargeting of tumor-suppressing p53 and tumorigenic mTOR signaling pathways results in marked antitumor effects in vitro and in multiple animal models of HCC and NSCLC. Our findings indicate that restoration of tumor suppressors by the synthetic mRNA NP delivery strategy could be combined together with other therapies for potent combinatorial cancer treatment.
Micronutrient deficiencies affect up to 2 billion people and are the leading cause of cognitive and physical disorders in the developing world. Food fortification is effective in treating micronutrient deficiencies; however, its global implementation has been limited by technical challenges in maintaining micronutrient stability during cooking and storage. We hypothesized that polymer-based encapsulation could address this and facilitate micronutrient absorption. We identified poly(butylmethacrylate-co-(2-dimethylaminoethyl)methacrylate-comethylmethacrylate) (1:2:1) (BMC) as a material with proven safety, offering stability in boiling water, rapid dissolution in gastric acid, and the ability to encapsulate distinct micronutrients. We encapsulated 11 micronutrients (iron; iodine; zinc; and vitamins A, B2, niacin, biotin, folic acid, B12, C, and D) and co-encapsulated up to 4 micronutrients. Encapsulation improved micronutrient stability against heat, light, moisture, and oxidation. Rodent studies confirmed rapid micronutrient release in the stomach and intestinal absorption. Bioavailability of iron from microparticles, compared to free iron, was lower in an initial human study. An organotypic human intestinal model revealed that increased iron loading and decreased polymer content would improve absorption. Using process development approaches capable of kilogram-scale synthesis, we increased iron loading more than 30-fold. Scaled batches tested in a follow-up human study exhibited up to 89% relative iron bioavailability compared to free iron. Collectively, these studies describe a broad approach for clinical translation of a heat-stable ingestible micronutrient delivery platform with the potential to improve micronutrient deficiency in the developing world. These approaches could potentially be applied toward clinical translation of other materials, such as natural polymers, for encapsulation and oral delivery of micronutrients.
The paucity of selective agonists for TWIK-related acid-sensitive K+ 3 (TASK-3) channel, a member of two-pore domain K+ (K2P) channels, has contributed to our limited understanding of its biological functions. By targeting a druggable transmembrane cavity using a structure-based drug design approach, we discovered a biguanide compound, CHET3, as a highly selective allosteric activator for TASK-3-containing K2P channels, including TASK-3 homomers and TASK-3/TASK-1 heteromers. CHET3 displayed potent analgesic effects in vivo in a variety of acute and chronic pain models in rodents that could be abolished pharmacologically or by genetic ablation of TASK-3. We further found that TASK-3-containing channels anatomically define a unique population of small-sized, transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily M member 8 (TRPM8)-, transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1)-, or tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive nociceptive sensory neurons and functionally regulate their membrane excitability, supporting CHET3 analgesic effects in thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia under chronic pain. Overall, our proof-of-concept study reveals TASK-3-containing K2P channels as a druggable target for treating pain.
Connexins and pannexins are two protein families that play an important role in cellular communication. Pannexin 1 (PANX1), one of the members of pannexin family, is a channel protein. It is glycosylated and forms three species, GLY0, GLY1, and GLY2. Here, we describe four independent families in which mutations in PANX1 cause familial or sporadic female infertility via a phenotype that we term "oocyte death." The mutations, which are associated with oocyte death, alter the PANX1 glycosylation pattern, influence the subcellular localization of PANX1 in cultured cells, and result in aberrant PANX1 channel activity, ATP release in oocytes, and mutant PANX1 GLY1. Overexpression of a patient-derived mutation in mice causes infertility, recapitulating the human oocyte death phenotype. Our findings demonstrate the critical role of PANX1 in human oocyte development, provide a genetic explanation for a subtype of infertility, and suggest a potential target for therapeutic intervention for this disease.
Fibrosis is the common endpoint and currently the best predictor of progression of chronic kidney diseases (CKDs). Despite several drawbacks, biopsies remain the only available means to specifically assess the extent of renal fibrosis. Here, we show that molecular imaging of the extracellular matrix protein elastin allows for noninvasive staging and longitudinal monitoring of renal fibrosis. Elastin was hardly expressed in healthy mouse, rat, and human kidneys, whereas it was highly up-regulated in cortical, medullar, and perivascular regions in progressive CKD. Compared to a clinically relevant control contrast agent, the elastin-specific magnetic resonance imaging agent ESMA specifically detected elastin expression in multiple mouse models of renal fibrosis and also in fibrotic human kidneys. Elastin imaging allowed for repetitive and reproducible assessment of renal fibrosis, and it enabled longitudinal monitoring of therapeutic interventions, accurately capturing anti-fibrotic therapy effects. Last, in a model of reversible renal injury, elastin imaging detected ensuing fibrosis not identifiable via routine assessment of kidney function. Elastin imaging thus has the potential to become a noninvasive, specific imaging method to assess renal fibrosis.
Reconstruction of the anisotropic structure and proper function of the knee meniscus remains an important challenge to overcome, because the complexity of the zonal tissue organization in the meniscus has important roles in load bearing and shock absorption. Current tissue engineering solutions for meniscus reconstruction have failed to achieve and maintain the proper function in vivo because they have generated homogeneous tissues, leading to long-term joint degeneration. To address this challenge, we applied biomechanical and biochemical stimuli to mesenchymal stem cells seeded into a biomimetic scaffold to induce spatial regulation of fibrochondrocyte differentiation, resulting in physiological anisotropy in the engineered meniscus. Using a customized dynamic tension-compression loading system in conjunction with two growth factors, we induced zonal, layer-specific expression of type I and type II collagens with similar structure and function to those present in the native meniscus tissue. Engineered meniscus demonstrated long-term chondroprotection of the knee joint in a rabbit model. This study simultaneously applied biomechanical, biochemical, and structural cues to achieve anisotropic reconstruction of the meniscus, demonstrating the utility of anisotropic engineered meniscus for long-term knee chondroprotection in vivo.
Therapeutic hypothermia is commonly used during cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) to protect the heart against myocardial injury in cardiac surgery. Patients who suffer from chronic hypoxia (CH), such as those with certain heart or lung conditions, are at high risk of severe myocardial injury after cardiac surgery, but the underlying mechanisms are unknown. This study tested whether CH attenuates hypothermic cardioprotection during CPB. Using a rat model of CPB, we found that hypothermic cardioprotection was impaired in CH rats but was preserved in normoxic rats. Cardiac proteomes showed that cold-inducible RNA binding protein (CIRBP) was significantly (P = 0.03) decreased in CH rats during CPB. Methylation analysis of neonatal rat cardiomyocytes under CH and myocardium specimens from patients with CH showed that CH induced hypermethylation of the Cirbp promoter region, resulting in its depression and failure to respond to cold stress. Cirbp-knockout rats showed attenuated hypothermic cardioprotection, whereas Cirbp-transgenic rats showed an enhanced response. Proteomics analysis revealed that the cardiac ubiquinone biosynthesis pathway was down-regulated during CPB in Cirbp-knockout rats, resulting in a significantly (P = 0.01) decreased concentration of ubiquinone (CoQ10). Consequently, cardiac oxidative stress was aggravated and adenosine 5'-triphosphate production was impaired, leading to increased myocardial injury during CPB. CoQ10-supplemented cardioplegic solution improved cardioprotection in rats exposed to CH, but its effect was limited in normoxic rats. Our study suggests that an individualized cardioprotection strategy should be used to fully compensate for the consequences of epigenetic modification of Cirbp in patients with CH who require therapeutic hypothermia.
Progressive peritoneal fibrosis affects patients receiving peritoneal dialysis (PD) and has no reliable treatment. The mechanisms that initiate and sustain peritoneal fibrosis remain incompletely elucidated. To overcome these problems, we developed a strategy that prevents peritoneal fibrosis by suppressing PD-stimulated mesothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (MMT). We evaluated single-cell transcriptomes of mesothelial cells obtained from normal peritoneal biopsy and effluent from PD-treated patients. In cells undergoing MMT, we found cellular heterogeneity and intermediate transition states associated with up-regulation of enzymes involved in glycolysis. The expression of glycolytic enzymes was correlated with the development of MMT. Using gene expression profiling and metabolomics analyses, we confirmed that PD fluid induces metabolic reprogramming, characterized as hyperglycolysis, in mouse peritoneum. We found that transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-beta 1) can substitute for PD fluid to stimulate hyperglycolysis, suppressing mitochondrial respiration in mesothelial cells. Blockade of hyperglycolysis with 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG) inhibited TGF-beta 1-induced profibrotic cellular phenotype and peritoneal fibrosis in mice. We developed a triad of adeno-associated viruses that overexpressed microRNA-26a and microRNA-200a while inhibiting microRNA-21a to target hyperglycolysis and fibrotic signaling. Intraperitoneal injection of the viral triad inhibited the development of peritoneal fibrosis induced by PD fluid in mice. We conclude that hyperglycolysis is responsible for MMT and peritoneal fibrogenesis, and this aberrant metabolic state can be corrected by modulating microRNAs in the peritoneum. These results could provide a therapeutic strategy to combat peritoneal fibrosis.
Hippocampal lesions are a defining pathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the molecular mechanisms that underlie hippocampal synaptic injury in AD have not been fully elucidated. Current therapeutic efforts for AD treatment are not effective in correcting hippocampal synaptic deficits. Growth hormone secretagogue receptor 1 alpha (GHSR1 alpha) is critical for hippocampal synaptic physiology. Here, we report that GHSR1 alpha interaction with beta-amyloid (A beta) suppresses GHSR1 alpha activation, leading to compromised GHSR1 alpha regulation of dopamine receptor D1 (DRD1) in the hippocampus from patients with AD. The simultaneous application of the selective GHSR1 alpha agonist MK0677 with the selective DRD1 agonist SKF81297 rescued Ghsr1 alpha function from A. inhibition, mitigating hippocampal synaptic injury and improving spatial memory in an AD mouse model. Our data reveal a mechanism of hippocampal vulnerability in AD and suggest that a combined activation of GHSR1 alpha and DRD1 may be a promising approach for treating AD.
Transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF beta 1) has been identified as a major pathogenic factor underlying the development of diabetic nephropathy (DN). However, the current strategy of antagonizing TGF beta 1 has failed to demonstrate favorable outcomes in clinical trials. To identify a different therapeutic approach, we designed a mass spectrometry-based DNA-protein interaction screen to find transcriptional repressors that bind to the TGFB1 promoter and identified Yin Yang 1 (YY1) as a potent repressor of TGFB1. YY1 bound directly to TGFB1 promoter regions and repressed TGFB1 transcription in human renal mesangial cells. In mouse models, YY1 was elevated in mesangial cells during early diabetic renal lesions and decreased in later stages, and knockdown of renal YY1 aggravated, whereas overexpression of YY1 attenuated glomerulosclerosis. In addition, although their duration of diabetic course was comparable, patients with higher YY1 expression developed diabetic nephropathy more slowly compared to those who presented with lower YY1 expression. We found that a small molecule, eudesmin, suppressed TGF beta 1 and other profibrotic factors by increasing YY1 expression in human renal mesangial cells and attenuated diabetic renal lesions in DN mouse models by increasing YY1 expression. These results suggest that YY1 is a potent transcriptional repressor of TGFB1 during the development of DN in diabetic mice and that small molecules targeting YY1 may serve as promising therapies for treating DN.
Lichen planus (LP) is a chronic debilitating inflammatory disease of unknown etiology affecting the skin, nails, and mucosa with no current FDA-approved treatments. It is histologically characterized by dense infiltration of T cells and epidermal keratinocyte apoptosis. Using global transcriptomic profiling of patient skin samples, we demonstrate that LP is characterized by a type II interferon (IFN) inflammatory response. The type II IFN, IFN-gamma, is demonstrated to prime keratinocytes and increase their susceptibility to CD8(+) T cell-mediated cytotoxic responses through MHC class I induction in a coculture model. We show that this process is dependent on Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) and signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1), but not JAK1 or STAT2 signaling. Last, using drug prediction algorithms, we identify JAK inhibitors as promising therapeutic agents in LP and demonstrate that the JAK1/2 inhibitor baricitinib fully protects keratinocytes against cell-mediated cytotoxic responses in vitro. In summary, this work elucidates the role and mechanisms of IFN-gamma in LP pathogenesis and provides evidence for the therapeutic use of JAK inhibitors to limit cell-mediated cytotoxicity in patients with LP.