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  • Detection and quantification of extracellular microRNAs in murine biofluids.

    17 October 2018

    BACKGROUND: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short RNA molecules which regulate gene expression in eukaryotic cells, and are abundant and stable in biofluids such as blood serum and plasma. As such, there has been heightened interest in the utility of extracellular miRNAs as minimally invasive biomarkers for diagnosis and monitoring of a wide range of human pathologies. However, quantification of extracellular miRNAs is subject to a number of specific challenges, including the relatively low RNA content of biofluids, the possibility of contamination with serum proteins (including RNases and PCR inhibitors), hemolysis, platelet contamination/activation, a lack of well-established reference miRNAs and the biochemical properties of miRNAs themselves. Protocols for the detection and quantification of miRNAs in biofluids are therefore of high interest. RESULTS: The following protocol was validated by quantifying miRNA abundance in C57 (wild-type) and dystrophin-deficient (mdx) mice. Important differences in miRNA abundance were observed depending on whether blood was taken from the jugular or tail vein. Furthermore, efficiency of miRNA recovery was reduced when sample volumes greater than 50 μl were used. CONCLUSIONS: Here we describe robust and novel procedures to harvest murine serum/plasma, extract biofluid RNA, amplify specific miRNAs by RT-qPCR and analyze the resulting data, enabling the determination of relative and absolute miRNA abundance in extracellular biofluids with high accuracy, specificity and sensitivity.

  • Context Dependent Effects of Chimeric Peptide Morpholino Conjugates Contribute to Dystrophin Exon-skipping Efficiency.

    17 October 2018

    We have recently reported that cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) and novel chimeric peptides containing CPP (referred as B peptide) and muscle-targeting peptide (referred as MSP) motifs significantly improve the systemic exon-skipping activity of morpholino phosphorodiamidate oligomers (PMOs) in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice. In the present study, the general mechanistic significance of the chimeric peptide configuration on the activity and tissue uptake of peptide conjugated PMOs in vivo was investigated. Four additional chimeric peptide-PMO conjugates including newly identified peptide 9 (B-9-PMO and 9-B-PMO) and control peptide 3 (B-3-PMO and 3-B-PMO) were tested in mdx mice. Immunohistochemical staining, RT-PCR and western blot results indicated that B-9-PMO induced significantly higher level of exon skipping and dystrophin restoration than its counterpart (9-B-PMO), further corroborating the notion that the activity of chimeric peptide-PMO conjugates is dependent on relative position of the tissue-targeting peptide motif within the chimeric peptide with respect to PMOs. Subsequent mechanistic studies showed that enhanced cellular uptake of B-MSP-PMO into muscle cells leads to increased exon-skipping activity in comparison with MSP-B-PMO. Surprisingly, further evidence showed that the uptake of chimeric peptide-PMO conjugates of both orientations (B-MSP-PMO and MSP-B-PMO) was ATP- and temperature-dependent and also partially mediated by heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPG), indicating that endocytosis is likely the main uptake pathway for both chimeric peptide-PMO conjugates. Collectively, our data demonstrate that peptide orientation in chimeric peptides is an important parameter that determines cellular uptake and activity when conjugated directly to oligonucleotides. These observations provide insight into the design of improved cell targeting compounds for future therapeutics studies.Molecular Therapy-Nucleic Acids (2013) 2, e124; doi:10.1038/mtna.2013.51; published online 24 September 2013.

  • Delivery of therapeutic oligonucleotides with cell penetrating peptides.

    17 October 2018

    Oligonucleotide-based drugs have received considerable attention for their capacity to modulate gene expression very specifically and as a consequence they have found applications in the treatment of many human acquired or genetic diseases. Clinical translation has been often hampered by poor biodistribution, however. Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) appear as a possibility to increase the cellular delivery of non-permeant biomolecules such as nucleic acids. This review focuses on CPP-delivery of several classes of oligonucleotides (ONs), namely antisense oligonucleotides, splice switching oligonucleotides (SSOs) and siRNAs. Two main strategies have been used to transport ONs with CPPs: covalent conjugation (which is more appropriate for charge-neutral ON analogues) and non-covalent complexation (which has been used for siRNA delivery essentially). Chemical synthesis, mechanisms of cellular internalization and various applications will be reviewed. A comprehensive coverage of the enormous amount of published data was not possible. Instead, emphasis has been put on strategies that have proven to be effective in animal models of important human diseases and on examples taken from the authors' own expertise.

  • Delivery of therapeutic oligonucleotides with cell penetrating peptides

    17 October 2018

    © 2015 Elsevier B.V. Oligonucleotide-based drugs have received considerable attention for their capacity to modulate gene expression very specifically and as a consequence they have found applications in the treatment of many human acquired or genetic diseases. Clinical translation has been often hampered by poor biodistribution, however. Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) appear as a possibility to increase the cellular delivery of non-permeant biomolecules such as nucleic acids. This review focuses on CPP-delivery of several classes of oligonucleotides (ONs), namely antisense oligonucleotides, splice switching oligonucleotides (SSOs) and siRNAs. Two main strategies have been used to transport ONs with CPPs: covalent conjugation (which is more appropriate for charge-neutral ON analogues) and non-covalent complexation (which has been used for siRNA delivery essentially). Chemical synthesis, mechanisms of cellular internalization and various applications will be reviewed. A comprehensive coverage of the enormous amount of published data was not possible. Instead, emphasis has been put on strategies that have proven to be effective in animal models of important human diseases and on examples taken from the authors' own expertise.

  • PAT4 levels control amino-acid sensitivity of rapamycin-resistant mTORC1 from the Golgi and affect clinical outcome in colorectal cancer.

    17 October 2018

    Tumour cells can use strategies that make them resistant to nutrient deprivation to outcompete their neighbours. A key integrator of the cell's responses to starvation and other stresses is amino-acid-dependent mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). Activation of mTORC1 on late endosomes and lysosomes is facilitated by amino-acid transporters within the solute-linked carrier 36 (SLC36) and SLC38 families. Here, we analyse the functions of SLC36 family member, SLC36A4, otherwise known as proton-assisted amino-acid transporter 4 (PAT4), in colorectal cancer. We show that independent of other major pathological factors, high PAT4 expression is associated with reduced relapse-free survival after colorectal cancer surgery. Consistent with this, PAT4 promotes HCT116 human colorectal cancer cell proliferation in culture and tumour growth in xenograft models. Inducible knockdown in HCT116 cells reveals that PAT4 regulates a form of mTORC1 with two distinct properties: first, it preferentially targets eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1 (4E-BP1), and second, it is resistant to rapamycin treatment. Furthermore, in HCT116 cells two non-essential amino acids, glutamine and serine, which are often rapidly metabolised by tumour cells, regulate rapamycin-resistant mTORC1 in a PAT4-dependent manner. Overexpressed PAT4 is also able to promote rapamycin resistance in human embryonic kidney-293 cells. PAT4 is predominantly associated with the Golgi apparatus in a range of cell types, and in situ proximity ligation analysis shows that PAT4 interacts with both mTORC1 and its regulator Rab1A on the Golgi. These findings, together with other studies, suggest that differentially localised intracellular amino-acid transporters contribute to the activation of alternate forms of mTORC1. Furthermore, our data predict that colorectal cancer cells with high PAT4 expression will be more resistant to depletion of serine and glutamine, allowing them to survive and outgrow neighbouring normal and tumorigenic cells, and potentially providing a new route for pharmacological intervention.

  • Optical control of excitation waves in cardiac tissue.

    17 October 2018

    In nature, macroscopic excitation waves1,2 are found in a diverse range of settings including chemical reactions, metal rust, yeast, amoeba and the heart and brain. In the case of living biological tissue, the spatiotemporal patterns formed by these excitation waves are different in healthy and diseased states2,3. Current electrical and pharmacological methods for wave modulation lack the spatiotemporal precision needed to control these patterns. Optical methods have the potential to overcome these limitations, but to date have only been demonstrated in simple systems, such as the Belousov-Zhabotinsky chemical reaction4. Here, we combine dye-free optical imaging with optogenetic actuation to achieve dynamic control of cardiac excitation waves. Illumination with patterned light is demonstrated to optically control the direction, speed and spiral chirality of such waves in cardiac tissue. This all-optical approach offers a new experimental platform for the study and control of pattern formation in complex biological excitable systems.

  • Cell competition promotes phenotypically silent cardiomyocyte replacement in the mammalian heart.

    17 October 2018

    Heterogeneous anabolic capacity in cell populations can trigger a phenomenon known as cell competition, through which less active cells are eliminated. Cell competition has been induced experimentally in stem/precursor cell populations in insects and mammals and takes place endogenously in early mouse embryonic cells. Here, we show that cell competition can be efficiently induced in mouse cardiomyocytes by mosaic overexpression of Myc during both gestation and adult life. The expansion of the Myc-overexpressing cardiomyocyte population is driven by the elimination of wild-type cardiomyocytes. Importantly, this cardiomyocyte replacement is phenotypically silent and does not affect heart anatomy or function. These results show that the capacity for cell competition in mammals is not restricted to stem cell populations and suggest that stimulated cell competition has potential as a cardiomyocyte-replacement strategy.

  • Clonal analysis identifies hemogenic endothelium as the source of the blood-endothelial common lineage in the mouse embryo.

    17 October 2018

    The first blood and endothelial cells of amniote embryos appear in close association in the blood islands of the yolk sac (YS). This association and in vitro lineage analyses have suggested a common origin from mesodermal precursors called hemangioblasts, specified in the primitive streak during gastrulation. Fate mapping and chimera studies, however, failed to provide strong evidence for a common origin in the early mouse YS. Additional in vitro studies suggest instead that mesodermal precursors first generate hemogenic endothelium, which then generate blood cells in a linear sequence. We conducted an in vivo clonal analysis to determine the potential of individual cells in the mouse epiblast, primitive streak, and early YS. We found that early YS blood and endothelial lineages mostly derive from independent epiblast populations, specified before gastrulation. Additionally, a subpopulation of the YS endothelium has hemogenic activity and displays characteristics similar to those found later in the embryonic hemogenic endothelium. Our results show that the earliest blood and endothelial cell populations in the mouse embryo are specified independently, and that hemogenic endothelium first appears in the YS and produces blood precursors with markers related to definitive hematopoiesis.

  • Moderate inhibition of mitochondrial function augments carotid body hypoxic sensitivity.

    17 October 2018

    A functional role for the mitochondria in acute O2 sensing in the carotid body (CB) remains undetermined. Whilst total inhibition of mitochondrial activity causes intense CB stimulation, it is unclear whether this response can be moderated such that graded impairment of oxidative phosphorylation might be a mechanism that sets and modifies the O2 sensitivity of the whole organ. We assessed NADH autofluorescence and [Ca2+]i in freshly dissociated CB type I cells and sensory chemoafferent discharge frequency in an intact CB preparation, in the presence of varying concentrations of nitrite (NO2 −), a mitochondrial nitric oxide (NO) donor and a competitive inhibitor of mitochondrial complex IV. NO2 − increased CB type I cell NADH in a manner that was dose-dependent and rapidly reversible. Similar concentrations of NO2 − raised type I cell [Ca2+]i via L-type channels in a PO2-dependent manner and increased chemoafferent discharge frequency. Moderate inhibition of the CB mitochondria by NO2 − augmented chemoafferent discharge frequency during graded hypoxia, consistent with a heightened CB O2 sensitivity. Furthermore, NO2 − also exaggerated chemoafferent excitation during hypercapnia signifying an increase in CB CO2 sensitivity. These data show that NO2 − can moderate the hypoxia sensitivity of the CB and thus suggest that O2 sensitivity could be set and modified in this organ by interactions between NO and mitochondrial complex IV.

  • Consensus Paper: Cerebellar Development.

    17 October 2018

    The development of the mammalian cerebellum is orchestrated by both cell-autonomous programs and inductive environmental influences. Here, we describe the main processes of cerebellar ontogenesis, highlighting the neurogenic strategies used by developing progenitors, the genetic programs involved in cell fate specification, the progressive changes of structural organization, and some of the better-known abnormalities associated with developmental disorders of the cerebellum.