The goal of this study was to assess the long-term biocompatibility of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) for tissue engineering of articular cartilage. We hypothesized that SWNT nanocomposite scaffolds in cartilage tissue engineering can provide an improved molecular-sized substrate for stimulation of chondrocyte growth, as well as structural reinforcement of the scaffold's mechanical properties. The effect of SWNT surface functionalization (-COOH or -PEG) on chondrocyte viability and biochemical matrix deposition was examined in two-dimensional cultures, in three-dimensional (3D) pellet cultures, and in a 3D nanocomposite scaffold consisting of hydrogels+SWNTs. Outcome measures included cell viability, histological and SEM evaluation, GAG biochemical content, compressive and tensile biomechanical properties, and gene expression quantification, including extracellular matrix (ECM) markers aggrecan (Agc), collagen-1 (Col1a1), collagen-2 (Col2a1), collagen-10 (Col10a1), surface adhesion proteins fibronectin (Fn), CD44 antigen (CD44), and tumor marker (Tp53). Our findings indicate that chondrocytes tolerate functionalized SWNTs well, with minimal toxicity of cells in 3D culture systems (pellet and nanocomposite constructs). Both SWNT-PEG and SWNT-COOH groups increased the GAG content in nanocomposites relative to control. The compressive biomechanical properties of cell-laden SWNT-COOH nanocomposites were significantly elevated relative to control. Increases in the tensile modulus and ultimate stress were observed, indicative of a tensile reinforcement of the nanocomposite scaffolds. Surface coating of SWNTs with -COOH also resulted in increased Col2a1 and Fn gene expression throughout the culture in nanocomposite constructs, indicative of increased chondrocyte metabolic activity. In contrast, surface coating of SWNTs with a neutral -PEG moiety had no significant effect on Col2a1 or Fn gene expression, suggesting that the charged nature of the -COOH surface functionalization may promote ECM expression in this culture system. The results of this study indicate that SWNTs exhibit a unique potential for cartilage tissue engineering, where functionalization with bioactive molecules may provide an improved substrate for stimulation of cellular growth and repair.
Nanoparticles hold great promise for the delivery of therapeutics, yet limitations remain with regards to the use of these nanosystems for efficient long-lasting targeted delivery of therapeutics, including imparting functionality to the platform, in vivo stability, drug entrapment efficiency and toxicity. To begin to address these limitations, we evaluated the functionality, stability, cytotoxicity, toxicity, immunogenicity and in vivo biodistribution of nanolipoprotein particles (NLPs), which are mimetics of naturally occurring high-density lipoproteins (HDLs). We found that a wide range of molecules could be reliably conjugated to the NLP, including proteins, single-stranded DNA, and small molecules. The NLP was also found to be relatively stable in complex biological fluids and displayed no cytotoxicity in vitro at doses as high as 320 µg/ml. In addition, we observed that in vivo administration of the NLP daily for 14 consecutive days did not induce significant weight loss or result in lesions on excised organs. Furthermore, the NLPs did not display overt immunogenicity with respect to antibody generation. Finally, the biodistribution of the NLP in vivo was found to be highly dependent on the route of administration, where intranasal administration resulted in prolonged retention in the lung tissue. Although only a select number of NLP compositions were evaluated, the findings of this study suggest that the NLP platform holds promise for use as both a targeted and non-targeted in vivo delivery vehicle for a range of therapeutics.
Recent studies have demonstrated that therapies targeting the innate immune system have the potential to provide transient, non-specific protection from a variety of infectious organisms; however, the potential of enhancing the efficacy of such treatments using nano-scale delivery platforms requires more in depth evaluation. As such, we employed a nanolipoprotein (NLP) platform to enhance the efficacy of innate immune agonists. Here, we demonstrate that the synthetic Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA) and CpG oligodeoxynucleotides (CpG) can be readily incorporated into NLPs. Conjugation of MPLA and CpG to NLPs (MPLA:NLP and CpG:NLP, respectively) significantly enhanced their immunostimulatory profiles both in vitro and in vivo compared to administration of agonists alone, as evidenced by significant increases in cytokine production, cell surface expression of activation markers, and upregulation of immunoregulatory genes. Importantly, enhancement of cytokine production by agonist conjugation to NLPs was also observed in primary human dendritic cells. Furthermore, BALB/c mice pretreated with CpG:NLP constructs survived a lethal influenza challenge whereas pretreatment with CpG alone had no effect on survival.
Prostate cancer (PCa) is the second most commonly diagnosed malignancy in men in the Western world and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men worldwide. Although most cancers have the potential to metastasize under appropriate conditions, PCa favors the skeleton as a primary site of metastasis, suggesting that the bone microenvironment is conducive to its growth. PCa metastasis proceeds through a complex series of molecular events that include angiogenesis at the site of the original tumor, local migration within the primary site, intravasation into the blood stream, survival within the circulation, extravasation of the tumor cells to the target organ and colonization of those cells within the new site. In turn, each one of these steps involves a complicated chain of events that utilize multiple protein-protein interactions, protein signaling cascades and transcriptional changes. Despite the urgent need to improve current biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis and drug resistance, advances have been slow. Global gene expression methods such as gene microarrays and RNA sequencing enable the study of thousands of genes simultaneously and allow scientists to examine molecular pathways of cancer pathogenesis. In this review, we summarize the current literature that explored high-throughput transcriptome analysis toward the advancement of biomarker discovery for PCa. Novel biomarkers are strongly needed to enable more accurate detection of PCa, improve prediction of tumor aggressiveness and facilitate the discovery of new therapeutic targets for tailored medicine. Promising molecular markers identified from gene expression profiling studies include HPN, CLU1, WT1, WNT5A, AURKA and SPARC.
WNT signaling is critical in most aspects of skeletal development and homeostasis, and antagonists of WNT signaling are emerging as key regulatory proteins with great promise as therapeutic agents for bone disorders. Here we show that Sost and its paralog Sostdc1 emerged through ancestral genome duplication and their expression patterns have diverged to delineate non-overlapping domains in most organ systems including musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, nervous, digestive, reproductive and respiratory. In the developing limb, Sost and Sostdc1 display dynamic expression patterns with Sost being restricted to the distal ectoderm and Sostdc1 to the proximal ectoderm and the mesenchyme. While Sostdc1(-/-) mice lack any obvious limb or skeletal defects, Sost(-/-) mice recapitulate the hand defects described for Sclerosteosis patients. However, elevated WNT signaling in Sost(-/-); Sostdc1(-/-) mice causes misregulation of SHH signaling, ectopic activation of Sox9 in the digit 1 field and preaxial polydactyly in a Gli1- and Gli3-dependent manner. In addition, we show that the syndactyly documented in Sclerosteosis is present in both Sost(-/-) and Sost(-/-); Sostdc1(-/-) mice, and is driven by misregulation of Fgf8 in the AER, a region lacking Sost and Sostdc1 expression. This study highlights the complexity of WNT signaling in skeletal biology and disease and emphasizes how redundant mechanism and non-cell autonomous effects can synergize to unveil new intricate phenotypes caused by elevated WNT signaling.
Identifying gene regulatory elements and their target genes in vertebrates remains a significant challenge. It is now recognized that transcriptional regulatory sequences are critical in orchestrating dynamic controls of tissue-specific gene expression during vertebrate development and in adult tissues, and that these elements can be positioned at great distances in relation to the promoters of the genes they control. While significant progress has been made in mapping DNA binding regions by combining chromatin immunoprecipitation and next generation sequencing, functional validation remains a limiting step in improving our ability to correlate in silico predictions with biological function. We recently developed a computational method that synergistically combines genome-wide gene-expression profiling, vertebrate genome comparisons, and transcription factor binding-site analysis to predict tissue-specific enhancers in the human genome. We applied this method to 270 genes highly expressed in skeletal muscle and predicted 190 putative cis-regulatory modules. Furthermore, we optimized Tol2 transgenic constructs in Xenopus laevis to interrogate 20 of these elements for their ability to function as skeletal muscle-specific transcriptional enhancers during embryonic development. We found 45% of these elements expressed only in the fast muscle fibers that are oriented in highly organized chevrons in the Xenopus laevis tadpole. Transcription factor binding site analysis identified >2 Mef2/MyoD sites within ~200 bp regions in 6 of the validated enhancers, and systematic mutagenesis of these sites revealed that they are critical for the enhancer function. The data described herein introduces a new reporter system suitable for interrogating tissue-specific cis-regulatory elements which allows monitoring of enhancer activity in real time, throughout early stages of embryonic development, in Xenopus.
Articular cartilage chondrocytes are responsible for the synthesis, maintenance, and turnover of the extracellular matrix, metabolic processes that contribute to the mechanical properties of these cells. Here, we systematically evaluated the effect of age and cytoskeletal disruptors on the mechanical properties of chondrocytes as a function of deformation. We quantified the indentation-dependent mechanical properties of chondrocytes isolated from neonatal (1-day), adult (5-year) and geriatric (12-year) bovine knees using atomic force microscopy (AFM). We also measured the contribution of the actin and intermediate filaments to the indentation-dependent mechanical properties of chondrocytes. By integrating AFM with confocal fluorescent microscopy, we monitored cytoskeletal and biomechanical deformation in transgenic cells (GFP-vimentin and mCherry-actin) under compression. We found that the elastic modulus of chondrocytes in all age groups decreased with increased indentation (15-2000 nm). The elastic modulus of adult chondrocytes was significantly greater than neonatal cells at indentations greater than 500 nm. Viscoelastic moduli (instantaneous and equilibrium) were comparable in all age groups examined; however, the intrinsic viscosity was lower in geriatric chondrocytes than neonatal. Disrupting the actin or the intermediate filament structures altered the mechanical properties of chondrocytes by decreasing the elastic modulus and viscoelastic properties, resulting in a dramatic loss of indentation-dependent response with treatment. Actin and vimentin cytoskeletal structures were monitored using confocal fluorescent microscopy in transgenic cells treated with disruptors, and both treatments had a profound disruptive effect on the actin filaments. Here we show that disrupting the structure of intermediate filaments indirectly altered the configuration of the actin cytoskeleton. These findings underscore the importance of the cytoskeletal elements in the overall mechanical response of chondrocytes, indicating that intermediate filament integrity is key to the non-linear elastic properties of chondrocytes. This study improves our understanding of the mechanical properties of articular cartilage at the single cell level.
Wnt signaling is critical for skeletal development and homeostasis. Sclerostin (Sost) has emerged as a potent inhibitor of Wnt signaling and, thereby, bone formation. Thus, strategies to reduce sclerostin expression may be used to treat osteoporosis or non-union fractures. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-?) elicits various effects upon the skeleton both in vitro and in vivo depending on the duration and timing of administration. In vitro and in vivo studies demonstrate that TGF-? increases osteoprogenitor differentiation but decreases matrix mineralization of committed osteoblasts. Because sclerostin decreases matrix mineralization, this study aimed to examine whether TGF-? achieves such inhibitory effects via transcriptional modulation of Sost. Using the UMR106.01 mature osteoblast cell line, we demonstrated that TGF-?TGF-?(1)-?(2)-?(3) and Activin A increase Sost transcript expression. Pharmacologic inhibition of Alk4/5/7 in vitro and in vivo decreased endogenous Sost expression, and siRNA against Alk4 and Alk5 demonstrated their requirement for endogenous Sost expression. TGF-?(1) targeted the Sost bone enhancer ECR5 and did not affect the transcriptional activity of the endogenous Sost promoter. These results indicate that TGF-?(1) controls Sost transcription in mature osteoblasts, suggesting that sclerostin may mediate the inhibitory effect of TGF-? upon osteoblast differentiation.
Detailed information about stage-specific changes in gene expression is crucial for understanding the gene regulatory networks underlying development and the various signal transduction pathways contributing to morphogenesis. Here we describe the global gene expression dynamics during early murine limb development, when cartilage, tendons, muscle, joints, vasculature and nerves are specified and the musculoskeletal system of limbs is established. We used whole-genome microarrays to identify genes with differential expression at 5 stages of limb development (E9.5 to 13.5), during fore- and hind-limb patterning. We found that the onset of limb formation is characterized by an up-regulation of transcription factors, which is followed by a massive activation of genes during E10.5 and E11.5 which levels off at later time points. Among the 3520 genes identified as significantly up-regulated in the limb, we find ~30% to be novel, dramatically expanding the repertoire of candidate genes likely to function in the limb. Hierarchical and stage-specific clustering identified expression profiles that are likely to correlate with functional programs during limb development and further characterization of these transcripts will provide new insights into specific tissue patterning processes. Here, we provide for the first time a comprehensive analysis of developmentally regulated genes during murine limb development, and provide some novel insights into the expression dynamics governing limb morphogenesis.
The Wnt signaling pathway is a robust regulator of skeletal homeostasis. Gain-of-function mutations promote high bone mass, whereas loss of Lrp5 or Lrp6 co-receptors decrease bone mass. Similarly, mutations in antagonists of Wnt signaling influence skeletal integrity, in an inverse relation to Lrp receptor mutations. Loss of the Wnt antagonist Sclerostin (Sost) produces the generalized skeletal hyperostotic condition of sclerosteosis, which is characterized by increased bone mass and density due to hyperactive osteoblast function. Here we demonstrate that prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)), a paracrine factor with pleiotropic effects on osteoblasts and osteoclasts, decreases Sclerostin expression in osteoblastic UMR106.01 cells. Decreased Sost expression correlates with increased expression of Wnt/TCF target genes Axin2 and Tcf3. We also show that the suppressive effect of PGE(2) is mediated through a cyclic AMP/PKA pathway. Furthermore, selective agonists for the PGE(2) receptor EP2 mimic the effect of PGE(2) upon Sost, and siRNA reduction in Ptger2 prevents PGE(2)-induced Sost repression. These results indicate a functional relationship between prostaglandins and the Wnt/?-catenin signaling pathway in bone.
Mutations in sclerostin function or expression cause sclerosing bone dysplasias, involving decreased antagonism of Wnt/Lrp5 signaling. Conversely, deletion of the VHL tumor suppressor in osteoblasts, which stabilize HIF-alpha isoforms and thereby enables HIF-alpha/beta-driven gene transcription, increases bone mineral content and cross-sectional area compared to wild-type controls. We examined the influence of cellular hypoxia (1% oxygen) upon sclerostin expression and canonical Wnt signaling. Osteoblasts and osteocytes cultured under hypoxia revealed decreased sclerostin transcript and protein, and increased expression and nuclear localization of activated beta-catenin. Similarly, both hypoxia and the hypoxia mimetic DFO increased beta-catenin gene reporter activity. Hypoxia and its mimetics increased expression of the BMP antagonists gremlin and noggin and decreased Smad-1/5/8 phosphorylation. As a partial explanation for the mechanism of regulation of sclerostin by oxygen, MEF2 reporter assays revealed decreased activity. Modulation of VEGF signaling under normoxia or hypoxia revealed no influence upon Sost transcription. These data suggest that hypoxia inhibits sclerostin expression, through enhanced antagonism of BMP signaling independent of VEGF.
SOST is a negative regulator of bone formation, and mutations in human SOST are responsible for sclerosteosis. In addition to high bone mass, sclerosteosis patients occasionally display hand defects, suggesting that SOST may function embryonically. Here we report that overexpression of SOST leads to loss of posterior structures of the zeugopod and autopod by perturbing anterior-posterior and proximal-distal signaling centers in the developing limb. Mutant mice that overexpress SOST in combination with Grem1 and Lrp6 mutations display more severe limb defects than single mutants alone, while Sost(-/-) significantly rescues the Lrp6(-/-) skeletal phenotype, signifying that SOST gain-of-function impairs limb patterning by inhibiting the WNT signaling through LRP5/6.
The landscape of the human genome consists of millions of short islands of conservation that are 100% conserved across multiple vertebrate genomes (termed "bricks"), the majority of which are located in noncoding regions. Several hundred thousand bricks are deeply conserved reaching the genomes of amphibians and fish. Deep phylogenetic conservation of noncoding DNA has been reported to be strongly associated with the presence of gene regulatory elements, introducing bricks as a proxy to the functional noncoding landscape of the human genome. Here, we report a significant overrepresentation of bricks in the promoters of transcription factors and developmental genes, where the high level of phylogenetic conservation correlates with an increase in brick overrepresentation. We also found that the presence of a brick dictates a predisposition to evolutionary constraint, with only 0.7% of the amniota brick central nucleotides being diverged within the primate lineage--an 11-fold reduction in the divergence rate compared with random expectation. Human single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data explains only 3% of primate-specific variation in amniota bricks, thus arguing for a widespread fixation of brick mutations within the primate lineage and prior to human radiation. This variation, in turn, might have been utilized as a driving force for primate- and hominoid-specific adaptation. We also discovered a pronounced deviation from the evolutionary predisposition in the human lineage, with over 20-fold increase in the substitution rate at brick SNP sites over expected values. In addition, contrary to typical brick mutations, brick variation commonly encountered in the human population displays limited, if any, signatures of negative selection as measured by the minor allele frequency and population differentiation (F-statistical measure) measures. These observations argue for the plasticity of gene regulatory mechanisms in vertebrates--with evidence of strong purifying selection acting on the gene regulatory landscape of the human genome, where widespread advantageous mutations in putative regulatory elements are likely utilized in functional diversification and adaptation of species.
The Wnt antagonist Sost has emerged as a key regulator of bone homeostasis through the modulation of Lrp4/5/6 Wnt coreceptors. In humans, lack of Sclerostin causes sclerosteosis and van Buchem (VB) disease, two generalized skeletal hyperostosis disorders that result from hyperactive Wnt signaling. Unlike sclerosteosis, VB patients lack SOST coding mutations but carry a homozygous 52 kb noncoding deletion that is essential for the transcriptional activation of SOST in bone. We recently identified a putative bone enhancer, ECR5, in the VB deletion region, and showed that the transcriptional activity of ECR5 is controlled by Mef2C transcription factor in vitro. Here we report that mice lacking ECR5 or Mef2C through Col1-Cre osteoblast/osteocyte-specific ablation result in high bone mass (HBM) due to elevated bone formation rates. We conclude that the absence of the Sost-specific long-range regulatory element ECR5 causes VB disease in rodents, and that Mef2C is the main transcription factor responsible for ECR5-dependent Sost transcriptional activation in the adult skeleton.
Fracture healing involves rapid stem and progenitor cell migration, homing, and differentiation. SDF-1 (CXCL12) is considered a master regulator of CXCR4-positive stem and progenitor cell trafficking to sites of ischemic (hypoxic) injury and regulates their subsequent differentiation into mature reparative cells. In this study, we investigated the role of SDF-1/CXCR4 signaling in fracture healing where vascular disruption results in hypoxia and SDF-1 expression. Mice were injected with AMD3100, a CXCR4 antagonist, or vehicle twice daily until euthanasia with the intent to impair stem cell homing to the fracture site and/or their differentiation. Fracture healing was evaluated using micro-computed tomography, histology, quantitative PCR, and mechanical testing. AMD3100 administration resulted in a significantly reduced hyaline cartilage volume (day 14), callus volume (day 42) and mineralized bone volume (day 42) and reduced expression of genes associated with endochondral ossification including collagen Type 1 alpha 1, collagen Type 2 alpha 1, vascular endothelial growth factor, Annexin A5, nitric oxide synthase 2, and mechanistic target of rapamycin. Our data suggest that the SDF-1/CXCR4 signaling plays a central role in bone healing possibly by regulating the recruitment and/or differentiation of stem and progenitor cells.
Increased osteoblast activity in sclerostin-knockout (Sost(-/-)) mice results in generalized hyperostosis and bones with small bone marrow cavities resulting from hyperactive mineralizing osteoblast populations. Hematopoietic cell fate decisions are dependent on their local microenvironment, which contains osteoblast and stromal cell populations that support both hematopoietic stem cell quiescence and facilitate B-cell development. In this study, we investigated whether high bone mass environments affect B-cell development via the utilization of Sost(-/-) mice, a model of sclerosteosis. We found the bone marrow of Sost(-/-) mice to be specifically depleted of B cells because of elevated apoptosis at all B-cell developmental stages. In contrast, B-cell function in the spleen was normal. Sost expression analysis confirmed that Sost is primarily expressed in osteocytes and is not expressed in any hematopoietic lineage, which indicated that the B-cell defects in Sost(-/-) mice are non-cell autonomous, and this was confirmed by transplantation of wild-type (WT) bone marrow into lethally irradiated Sost(-/-) recipients. WT?Sost(-/-) chimeras displayed a reduction in B cells, whereas reciprocal Sost(-/-) ?WT chimeras did not, supporting the idea that the Sost(-/-) bone environment cannot fully support normal B-cell development. Expression of the pre-B-cell growth stimulating factor, Cxcl12, was significantly lower in bone marrow stromal cells of Sost(-/-) mice, whereas the Wnt target genes Lef-1 and Ccnd1 remained unchanged in B cells. Taken together, these results demonstrate a novel role for Sost in the regulation of bone marrow environments that support B cells.
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