Publications by authors named "David J Abraham"

109 Publications

Selective deletion of connective tissue growth factor attenuates experimentally-induced pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Int J Biochem Cell Biol 2021 Mar 1;134:105961. Epub 2021 Mar 1.

Centre for Rheumatology and Connective Tissue Disease, Department of Inflammation, Division of Medicine, University College London, London, NW3 2PF, UK.

Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF, CCN2) is a matricellular protein which plays key roles in normal mammalian development and in tissue homeostasis and repair. In pathological conditions, dysregulated CCN2 has been associated with cancer, cardiovascular disease, and tissue fibrosis. In this study, genetic manipulation of the CCN2 gene was employed to investigate the role of CCN2 expression in vitro and in experimentally-induced models of pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Knocking down CCN2 using siRNA reduced expression of pro-fibrotic markers (fibronectin p < 0.01, collagen type I p < 0.05, α-SMA p < 0.0001, TIMP-1 p < 0.05 and IL-6 p < 0.05) in TGF-β-treated lung fibroblasts derived from systemic sclerosis patients. In vivo studies were performed in mice using a conditional gene deletion strategy targeting CCN2 in a fibroblast-specific and time-dependent manner in two models of lung disease. CCN2 deletion significantly reduced pulmonary interstitial scarring and fibrosis following bleomycin-instillation, as assessed by fibrotic scores (wildtype bleomycin 3.733 ± 0.2667 vs CCN2 knockout (KO) bleomycin 4.917 ± 0.3436, p < 0.05) and micro-CT. In the well-established chronic hypoxia/Sugen model of pulmonary hypertension, CCN2 gene deletion resulted in a significant decrease in pulmonary vessel remodelling, less right ventricular hypertrophy and a reduction in the haemodynamic measurements characteristic of PAH (RVSP and RV/LV + S were significantly reduced (p < 0.05) in CCN2 KO compared to WT mice in hypoxic/SU5416 conditions). These results support a prominent role for CCN2 in pulmonary fibrosis and in vessel remodelling associated with PAH. Therefore, therapeutics aimed at blocking CCN2 function are likely to benefit several forms of severe lung disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocel.2021.105961DOI Listing
March 2021

Serum markers of pulmonary epithelial damage in systemic sclerosis-associated interstitial lung disease and disease progression.

Respirology 2021 May 17;26(5):461-468. Epub 2020 Dec 17.

Interstitial Lung Disease Unit, Royal Brompton Hospital, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, London, UK.

Background And Objective: The course of systemic sclerosis-associated interstitial lung disease (SSc-ILD) is highly variable, and accurate prognostic markers are needed. KL-6 is a mucin-like glycoprotein (MUC1) expressed by type II pneumocytes, while CYFRA 21-1 is expressed by alveolar and bronchiolar epithelial cells. Both are released into the blood from cell injury.

Methods: Serum KL-6 and CYFRA 21-1 levels were measured in a retrospective (n = 189) and a prospective (n = 118) cohort of SSc patients. Genotyping of MUC1 rs4072037 was performed. Linear mixed-effect models were used to evaluate the relationship with change in lung function parameters over time, while association with survival was evaluated with Cox proportional hazard analysis.

Results: In both cohorts, KL-6 and CYFRA 21-1 were highest in patients with lung involvement, and in patients with extensive rather than limited ILD. KL-6 was higher in patients carrying the MUC1 rs4072037 G allele in both cohorts. In patients with SSc-ILD, serum KL-6, but not CYFRA 21-1, was significantly associated with DL decline in both cohorts (P = 0.001 and P = 0.004, respectively), and with FVC decline in the retrospective cohort (P = 0.005), but not the prospective cohort. When combining the cohorts and subgrouping by severity (median CPI = 45.97), KL-6 remained predictive of decline in DL in both milder (P = 0.007) and more severe disease (P = 0.02) on multivariable analysis correcting for age, gender, ethnicity, smoking history and MUC1 allele carriage.

Conclusion: Our results suggest serum KL-6 predicts decline in lung function in SSc, suggesting its clinical utility in risk stratification for progressive SSc-ILD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/resp.13988DOI Listing
May 2021

Defining genetic risk factors for scleroderma-associated interstitial lung disease : IRF5 and STAT4 gene variants are associated with scleroderma while STAT4 is protective against scleroderma-associated interstitial lung disease.

Clin Rheumatol 2020 Apr 8;39(4):1173-1179. Epub 2020 Jan 8.

Interstitial Lung Disease Unit, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, Sydney Street, London, SW3 6NP, UK.

Although several genetic associations with scleroderma (SSc) are defined, very little is known on genetic susceptibility to SSc-associated interstitial lung disease (SSc-ILD). A number of common polymorphisms have been associated with SSc-ILD, but most have not been replicated in separate populations. Four SNPs in IRF5, and one in each of STAT4, CD226 and IRAK1, selected as having been previously the most consistently associated with SSc-ILD, were genotyped in 612 SSc patients, of European descent, of whom 394 had ILD. The control population (n = 503) comprised individuals of European descent from the 1000 Genomes Project. After Bonferroni correction, two of the IRF5 SNPs, rs2004640 (OR (95% CI)1.30 (1.10-1.54), p = 0.015) and rs10488631 (OR 1.48 (1.14-1.92), p = 0.022), and the STAT4 SNP rs7574865 (OR 1.43 (1.18-1.73), p = 0.0015) were significantly associated with SSc compared with controls. However, none of the SNPs were significantly different between patients with SSc-ILD and controls. Two SNPs in IRF5, rs10488631 (OR 1.72 (1.24-2.39), p = 0.0098), and rs2004640 (OR 1.39 (1.11-1.75), p = 0.03), showed a significant difference in allele frequency between controls and patients without ILD, as did STAT4 rs7574865 (OR 1.86 (1.45-2.38), p = 6.6 × 10). A significant difference between SSc with and without ILD was only observed for STAT4 rs7574865, being less frequent in patients with ILD (OR 0.66 (0.51-0.85), p = 0.0084). In conclusion, IRF5 rs2004640 and rs10488631, and STAT4 rs7574865 were significantly associated with SSc as a whole. Only STAT4 rs7574865 showed a significant difference in allele frequency in SSc-ILD, with the T allele being protective against ILD.Key points• We confirm the associations of the IRF5 SNPs rs2004640 and rs10488631, and the STAT4 SNP rs7574865, with SSc as a whole.• None of the tested SNPs were risk factors for SSc-ILD specifically.• The STAT4 rs7574865 T allele was protective against the development of lung fibrosis in SSc patients.• Further work is required to understand the genetic basis of lung fibrosis in association with scleroderma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10067-019-04922-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7142048PMC
April 2020

Stem cell enriched lipotransfer reverses the effects of fibrosis in systemic sclerosis.

PLoS One 2019 17;14(7):e0218068. Epub 2019 Jul 17.

UCL Division of Surgery & Interventional Science, University College London, London, United Kingdom.

Oro-facial fibrosis in systemic sclerosis (Scleroderma;SSc) has a major impact on mouth function, facial appearance, and patient quality of life. Lipotransfer is a method of reconstruction that can be used in the treatment of oro-facial fibrosis. The effect of this treatment not only restores oro-facial volume but has also been found to reverse the effects of oro-facial fibrosis. Adipose derived stem cells (ADSCs) within the engrafted adipose tissue have been shown to be anti-fibrotic in SSc and are proposed as the mechanism of the anti-fibrotic effect of lipotransfer. A cohort of 62 SSc patients with oro-facial fibrosis were assessed before and after stem cell enriched lipotransfer treatment. Clinical evaluation included assessment of mouth function using a validated assessment tool (Mouth Handicap in Systemic Sclerosis Scale-MHISS), validated psychological measurements and pre and post-operative volumetric assessment. In addition, to understand the mechanism by which the anti-fibrotic effect of ADSCs occur, SSc derived fibroblasts and ADSCs from this cohort of patients were co-cultured in direct and indirect culture systems and compared to monoculture controls. Cell viability, DNA content, protein secretion of known fibrotic mediators including growth factor- β1 (TGF β-1) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) using ELISA analysis and fibrosis gene expression using a fibrosis pathway specific qPCR array were evaluated. Mouth function (MHISS) was significantly improved (6.85±5.07) (p<0.0001) after treatment. All psychological measures were significantly improved: DAS 24 (12.1±9.5) (p<0.0001); HADS-anxiety (2.8±3.2) (p<0.0001), HADS-depression (2.0±3.1) (p<0.0001); BFNE (2.9 ± 4.3) (p<0.0001); VAS (3.56±4.1) (p<0.0001). Multiple treatments further improved mouth function (p<0.05), DAS (p<0.0001) and VAS (p = 0.01) scores. SSc fibroblast viability and proliferation was significantly reduced in co-culture compared to monoculture via a paracrine effect over 14 days (p < 0.0001). Protein secretion of transforming growth factor (TGF-β1) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) was significantly reduced in co-culture compared to monoculture (p < 0.0001). Multiple fibrosis associated genes were down regulated in SSc co-culture compared to monoculture after 14 days including Matrix metalloproteinase-8 (MMMP-8), Platelet derived growth factor-β (PDGF-β) and Integrin Subunit Beta 6 (ITG-β6). Autologous stem cell enriched lipotransfer significantly improved the effects of oro-facial fibrosis in SSc in this open cohort study. Lipotransfer may reduce dermal fibrosis through the suppression of fibroblast proliferation and key regulators of fibrogenesis including TG-β1 and CTGF. Our findings warrant further investigation in a randomised controlled trial.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0218068PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6636710PMC
February 2020

Endothelial C-Type Natriuretic Peptide Is a Critical Regulator of Angiogenesis and Vascular Remodeling.

Circulation 2019 03;139(13):1612-1628

William Harvey Research Institute, Barts & The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, UK (K.J.B., A.A.A., A.J.M., J.P.D., A.J.H.).

Background: Angiogenesis and vascular remodeling are complementary, innate responses to ischemic cardiovascular events, including peripheral artery disease and myocardial infarction, which restore tissue blood supply and oxygenation; the endothelium plays a critical function in these intrinsic protective processes. C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) is a fundamental endothelial signaling species that coordinates vascular homeostasis. Herein, we sought to delineate a central role for CNP in angiogenesis and vascular remodeling in response to ischemia.

Methods: The in vitro angiogenic capacity of CNP was examined in pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells and aortic rings isolated from wild-type, endothelium-specific CNP, global natriuretic peptide receptor (NPR)-B and NPR-C animals, and human umbilical vein endothelial cells. These studies were complemented by in vivo investigation of neovascularization and vascular remodeling after ischemia or vessel injury, and CNP/NPR-C expression and localization in tissue from patients with peripheral artery disease.

Results: Clinical vascular ischemia is associated with reduced levels of CNP and its cognate NPR-C. Moreover, genetic or pharmacological inhibition of CNP and NPR-C, but not NPR-B, reduces the angiogenic potential of pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells, human umbilical vein endothelial cells, and isolated vessels ex vivo. Angiogenesis and remodeling are impaired in vivo in endothelium-specific CNP and NPR-C, but not NPR-B, mice; the detrimental phenotype caused by genetic deletion of endothelial CNP, but not NPR-C, can be rescued by pharmacological administration of CNP. The proangiogenic effect of CNP/NPR-C is dependent on activation of G, ERK1/2, and phosphoinositide 3-kinase γ/Akt at a molecular level.

Conclusions: These data define a central (patho)physiological role for CNP in angiogenesis and vascular remodeling in response to ischemia and provide the rationale for pharmacological activation of NPR-C as an innovative approach to treating peripheral artery disease and ischemic cardiovascular disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.036344DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6438487PMC
March 2019

Hydrogel and membrane scaffold formulations of Frutalin (breadfruit lectin) within a polysaccharide galactomannan matrix have potential for wound healing.

Int J Biol Macromol 2019 Jan 13;121:429-442. Epub 2018 Oct 13.

Northeast Biotechnology Network (RENORBIO), Centre of Experimental Biology (Nubex), University of Fortaleza (UNIFOR), CEP 60811-905 Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil.

Plant lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins, which can interact with cell surfaces to initiate anti-inflammatory pathways, as well as immunomodulatory functions. Here, we have extracted, purified and part-characterized the bioactivity of Jacalin, Frutalin, DAL and PNA, before evaluating their potential for wound healing in cultured human skin fibroblasts. Only Frutalin stimulated fibroblast migration in vitro, prompting further studies which established its low cytotoxicity and interaction with TLR4 receptors. Frutalin also increased p-ERK expression and stimulated IL-6 secretion. The in vivo potential of Frutalin for wound healing was then assessed in hybrid combination with the polysaccharide galactomannan, purified from Caesalpinia pulcherrima seeds, using both hydrogel and membrane scaffolds formulations. Physical-chemical characterization of the hybrid showed that lectin-galactomannan interactions increased the pseudoplastic behaviour of solutions, reducing viscosity and increasing Frutalin's concentration. Furthermore, infrared spectroscopy revealed -OH band displacement, likely caused by interaction of Frutalin with galactose residues present on galactomannan chains, while average membrane porosity was 100 μm, sufficient to ensure water vapor permeability. Accelerated angiogenesis and increased fibroblast and keratinocyte proliferation were observed with the optimal hybrid recovering the lesioned area after 11 days. Our findings indicate Frutalin as a biomolecule with potential for tissue repair, regeneration and chronic wound healing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.10.050DOI Listing
January 2019

Functional and phenotypic heterogeneity of Th17 cells in health and disease.

Eur J Clin Invest 2019 Jan 1;49(1):e13032. Epub 2018 Nov 1.

William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.

Background: Th17 cells have nonredundant roles in maintaining immunity, particularly at mucosal surfaces. These roles are achieved principally through the production of cytokines and the recruitment of other immune cells to maintain the integrity of mucosal barriers and prevent the dissemination of microorganisms. Th17 cells are heterogeneous and exhibit a considerable degree of plasticity. This allows these cells to respond to changing environmental challenges. However, Th17 cells also play pro-inflammatory roles in chronic autoimmune diseases. The trigger(s) that initiate these Th17 responses in chronic autoimmune diseases remain unclear.

Design: In this report, we provide an overview of studies involving animal models, patient data, genome wide association studies and clinical trials targeting IL-17 for treatment of patients to gain a better understanding of the pathogenic roles of Th17 cells play in a range of autoimmune diseases.

Results: The report sheds light on likely triggers that initiate or perpetuate Th17 responses that promote chronic inflammation and autoimmunity. The divergent effects of tumour necrosis factor alpha blockade on Th17 cells in patients, is explored. Furthermore, we highlight the role of Th17 cells in inducing autoreactive B cells, leading to autoantibody production. Pathogenic bacterial species can change Th17 cell phenotype and responses. These findings provide insights into how Th17 cells could be induced to promoting autoimmune disease pathogenesis.

Conclusion: This article provides an overview of the distinct roles Th17 cells play in maintaining immunity at mucosal surfaces and in skin mucosa and how their functional flexibility could be linked with chronic inflammation in autoimmune rheumatic diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/eci.13032DOI Listing
January 2019

Insights into myofibroblasts and their activation in scleroderma: opportunities for therapy?

Curr Opin Rheumatol 2018 11;30(6):581-587

Centre for Rheumatology and Connective Tissue Diseases, Research Department of Inflammation, Division of Medicine, University College London, London, UK.

Purpose Of Review: The persistence of myofibroblasts is a key feature of fibrosis and in fibrotic diseases including scleroderma. This review evaluates the emerging concepts of the origins and cell populations that contribute to myofibroblasts and the molecular mechanisms that govern phenotypic conversion and that highlight opportunities for new interventional treatments in scleroderma.

Recent Findings: Studies have defined heterogeneity in fibroblast-like cells that can develop into myofibroblast in normal wound healing, scarring and fibrosis. Characterizing these distinct cell populations and their behaviour has been a key focus. In addition, the overarching impact of epigenetic regulation of genes associated with inflammatory responses, cell signalling and cell communication and the extracellular matrix (ECM) has provided important insights into the formation of myofibroblast and their function. Important new studies include investigations into the relationship between inflammation and myofibroblast production and further evidence has been gathered that reveal the importance of ECM microenvironment, biomechanical sensing and mechanotransduction.

Summary: This review highlights our current understanding and outlines the increasing complexity of the biological processes that leads to the appearance of the myofibroblast in normal functions and in diseased tissues. We also focus on areas of special interest in particular, studies that have therapeutic potential in fibrosis and scleroderma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/BOR.0000000000000543DOI Listing
November 2018

Changes in macrophage transcriptome associate with systemic sclerosis and mediate contribution to disease risk.

Ann Rheum Dis 2018 04 17;77(4):596-601. Epub 2018 Jan 17.

Centre for Computational Biology, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, Singapore.

Objectives: Several common and rare risk variants have been reported for systemic sclerosis (SSc), but the effector cell(s) mediating the function of these genetic variants remains to be elucidated. While innate immune cells have been proposed as the critical targets to interfere with the disease process underlying SSc, no studies have comprehensively established their effector role. Here we investigated the contribution of monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) in mediating genetic susceptibility to SSc.

Methods: We carried out RNA sequencing and genome-wide genotyping in MDMs from 57 patients with SSc and 15 controls. Our differential expression and expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) analysis in SSc was further integrated with epigenetic, expression and eQTL data from skin, monocytes, neutrophils and lymphocytes.

Results: We identified 602 genes upregulated and downregulated in SSc macrophages that were significantly enriched for genes previously implicated in SSc susceptibility (P=5×10), and 270 -regulated genes in MDMs. Among these, was reported to carry an SSc risk variant (rs3894194) regulating expression of neighbouring genes in blood. We show that is upregulated in SSc MDMs (P=8.4×10) but not in the skin, and is a significant eQTL in SSc macrophages and lipopolysaccharide/interferon gamma (IFNγ)-stimulated monocytes. Furthermore, we identify an SSc macrophage transcriptome signature characterised by upregulation of glycolysis, hypoxia and mTOR signalling and a downregulation of IFNγ response pathways.

Conclusions: Our data further establish the link between macrophages and SSc, and suggest that the contribution of the rs3894194 risk variant to SSc susceptibility can be mediated by expression in macrophages.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/annrheumdis-2017-212454DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5890626PMC
April 2018

Molecular Basis for Dysregulated Activation of NKX2-5 in the Vascular Remodeling of Systemic Sclerosis.

Arthritis Rheumatol 2018 06 24;70(6):920-931. Epub 2018 Apr 24.

University College London, London, UK.

Objective: NKX2-5 is a homeobox transcription factor that is required for the formation of the heart and vessels during development, with significant postnatal down-regulation and reactivation in disease states, characterized by vascular remodeling. The purpose of this study was to investigate mechanisms that activate NKX2-5 expression in diseased vessels, such as systemic sclerosis (scleroderma; SSc)-associated pulmonary hypertension (PH), and to identify genetic variability that potentially underlies susceptibility to specific vascular complications.

Methods: We explored NKX2-5 expression in biopsy samples from patients with SSc-associated PH and in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs) from patients with scleroderma. Disease-associated putative functional single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at the NKX2-5 locus were cloned and studied in reporter gene assays. SNP function was further examined through protein-DNA binding assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, and RNA silencing analyses.

Results: Increased NKX2-5 expression in biopsy samples from patients with SSc-associated PH was localized to remodeled vessels and PASMCs. Meta-analysis of 2 independent scleroderma cohorts revealed an association of rs3131917 with scleroderma (P = 0.029). We demonstrated that disease-associated SNPs are located in a novel functional enhancer, which increases NKX2-5 transcriptional activity through the binding of GATA-6, c-Jun, and myocyte-specific enhancer factor 2C. We also characterized an activator/coactivator transcription-enhancer factor domain 1 (TEAD1)/Yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1) complex, which was bound at rs3095870, another functional SNP, with TEAD1 binding the risk allele and activating the transcription of NKX2-5.

Conclusion: NKX2-5 is genetically associated with scleroderma, pulmonary hypertension, and fibrosis. Functional evidence revealed a regulatory mechanism that results in NKX2-5 transcriptional activation in PASMCs through the interaction of an upstream promoter and a novel downstream enhancer. This mechanism can act as a model for NKX2-5 activation in cardiovascular disease characterized by vascular remodeling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/art.40419DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6001790PMC
June 2018

Association of Defective Regulation of Autoreactive Interleukin-6-Producing Transitional B Lymphocytes With Disease in Patients With Systemic Sclerosis.

Arthritis Rheumatol 2018 03 6;70(3):450-461. Epub 2018 Feb 6.

Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.

Objective: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) has the highest case-specific mortality of any rheumatic disease, and no effective therapy is available. A clear manifestation of SSc is the presence of autoantibodies. However, the origin of autoantibody-producing B lymphocytes, their mechanisms of activation and autoantibody production, and their role remain unclear. This study was undertaken to identify mechanisms that contribute to pathogenic B cell generation and involvement in SSc and to assess the altered distribution and function of B cells in SSc patients.

Methods: Multicolor flow cytometry was performed to determine B cell subset distribution, cytokine production, and tolerance induction in SSc patients and healthy controls. Cytokine production following stimulation of the cells ex vivo was determined by multiplex assay.

Results: A range of defects in B lymphocyte tolerance and cytokine production in SSc were noted. There was evidence of altered distribution of transitional B cell subsets, increased production of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and IL-8, and defective tolerance induction in SSc B cells. In addition, B cells from SSc patients had a reduced ability to produce IL-10 when stimulated through innate immune pathways. In contrast to healthy individuals, tolerance checkpoints in SSc patients failed to suppress the emergence of B cells that produce autoantibodies with specificity to the Scl-70 antigen, which is strongly associated with SSc. These defects were paralleled by altered intracellular signaling and apoptosis following B cell receptor engagement.

Conclusion: Our findings provide new insights into mechanisms underlying defective B lymphocyte responses in patients with SSc and their contribution to disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/art.40390DOI Listing
March 2018

STAT3 controls COL1A2 enhancer activation cooperatively with JunB, regulates type I collagen synthesis posttranscriptionally, and is essential for lung myofibroblast differentiation.

Mol Biol Cell 2018 01 15;29(2):84-95. Epub 2017 Nov 15.

Centre for Rheumatology and Connective Tissue Diseases, Division of Medicine, University College London, London NW3 2PF, United Kingdom

Fibroblast differentiation is a key cellular process that underlies the process of fibrosis, a deadly complication of fibrotic diseases like scleroderma (SSc). This transition coincides with the overproduction of collagen type I (COL1) and other extracellular matrix proteins. High-level expression of the collagen type 1α2 subunit (COL1A2), requires the engagement of a far-upstream enhancer, whose activation is strongly dependent on the AP1 factor JunB. We now report that STAT3 also binds the COL1A2 enhancer and is essential for RNA polymerase recruitment, without affecting JunB binding. STAT3 is required for the increased COL1A2 expression observed in myofibroblasts. We also report that TGFβ partially activates STAT3 and show that inhibiting STAT3 potently blocks TGFβ signaling, matrix remodeling, and TGFβ-induced myofibroblast differentiation. Activation of STAT3 with IL6 transsignaling alone, however, only increased COL1A2 protein expression, leaving COL1A2 mRNA levels unchanged. Our results suggest that activated STAT3 is not the limiting factor for collagen enhancer activation in human lung fibroblasts. Yet, a certain threshold level of STAT3 activity is essential to support activation of the COL1A2 enhancer and TGFβ signaling in fibroblasts. We propose that STAT3 operates at the posttranscriptional as well as the transcriptional level.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1091/mbc.E17-06-0342DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5909935PMC
January 2018

Searching Novel Therapeutic Targets for Scleroderma: P2X7-Receptor Is Up-regulated and Promotes a Fibrogenic Phenotype in Systemic Sclerosis Fibroblasts.

Front Pharmacol 2017 13;8:638. Epub 2017 Sep 13.

Department of Medical Sciences, Surgery and Neurosciences, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a connective tissue disorder presenting fibrosis of the skin and internal organs, for which no effective treatments are currently available. Increasing evidence indicates that the P2X7 receptor (P2X7R), a nucleotide-gated ionotropic channel primarily involved in the inflammatory response, may also have a key role in the development of tissue fibrosis in different body districts. This study was aimed at investigating P2X7R expression and function in promoting a fibrogenic phenotype in dermal fibroblasts from SSc patients, also analyzing putative underlying mechanistic pathways. Fibroblasts were isolated by skin biopsy from 9 SSc patients and 8 healthy controls. P2X7R expression, and function (cytosolic free Ca fluxes, α-smooth muscle actin [α-SMA] expression, cell migration, and collagen release) were studied. Moreover, the role of cytokine (interleukin-1β, interleukin-6) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) production, and extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK) activation in mediating P2X7R-dependent pro-fibrotic effects in SSc fibroblasts was evaluated. P2X7R expression and Ca permeability induced by the selective P2X7R agonist 2'-3'-O-(4-benzoylbenzoyl)ATP (BzATP) were markedly higher in SSc than control fibroblasts. Moreover, increased αSMA expression, cell migration, CTGF, and collagen release were observed in lipopolysaccharides-primed SSc fibroblasts after BzATP stimulation. While P2X7-induced cytokine changes did not affect collagen production, it was completely abrogated by inhibition of the ERK pathway. In SSc fibroblasts, P2X7R is overexpressed and its stimulation induces Ca-signaling activation and a fibrogenic phenotype characterized by increased migration and collagen production. These data point to the P2X7R as a potential, novel therapeutic target for controlling exaggerated collagen deposition and tissue fibrosis in patients with SSc.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2017.00638DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5602350PMC
September 2017

Frutapin, a lectin from (breadfruit): cloning, expression and molecular insights.

Biosci Rep 2017 08 21;37(4). Epub 2017 Jul 21.

Northeast Biotechnology Network (RENORBIO), Centre of Experimental Biology (Nubex), University of Fortaleza (UNIFOR), CEP 60811-905, Fortaleza-Ceará, Brazil.

(breadfruit) seeds contain three different lectins (Frutalin, Frutapin (FTP) and Frutackin) with distinct carbohydrate specificities. The most abundant lectin is Frutalin, an α-D-galactose-specific carbohydrate-binding glycoprotein with antitumour properties and potential for tumour biomarker discovery as already reported. FTP is the second most abundant, but proved difficult to purify with very low yields and contamination with Frutalin frustrating its characterization. Here, we report for the first time high-level production and isolation of biologically active recombinant FTP in BL21, optimizing conditions with the best set yielding >40 mg/l culture of soluble active FTP. The minimal concentration for agglutination of red blood cells was 62.5 µg/ml of FTP, a process effectively inhibited by mannose. Apo-FTP, FTP-mannose and FTP-glucose crystals were obtained, and they diffracted X-rays to a resolution of 1.58 (P222), 1.70 (P321) and 1.60 (P321) Å respectively. The best solution showed four monomers per asymmetric unit. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulation suggested that FTP displays higher affinity for mannose than glucose. Cell studies revealed that FTP was non-cytotoxic to cultured mouse fibroblast 3T3 cells below 0.5 mg/ml and was also capable of stimulating cell migration at 50 µg/ml. In conclusion, our optimized expression system allowed high amounts of correctly folded soluble FTP to be isolated. This recombinant bioactive lectin will now be tested in future studies for therapeutic potential; for example in wound healing and tissue regeneration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BSR20170969DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5520216PMC
August 2017

Limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis skin demonstrates distinct molecular subsets separated by a cardiovascular development gene expression signature.

Arthritis Res Ther 2017 07 4;19(1):156. Epub 2017 Jul 4.

Centre for Rheumatology and Connective Tissue Diseases, University College London, London, UK.

Background: Systemic sclerosis (SSc; scleroderma) is an uncommon autoimmune rheumatic disease characterised by autoimmunity, vasculopathy and fibrosis. Gene expression profiling distinguishes scleroderma from normal skin, and can detect different subsets of disease, with potential to identify prognostic biomarkers of organ involvement or response to therapy. We have performed gene expression profiling in skin samples from patients with limited cutaneous SSc (lcSSc).

Methods: Total RNA was extracted from clinically uninvolved skin biopsies of 15 patients with lcSSc and 8 healthy controls (HC). Gene expression profiling was performed on a DNA oligonucleotide microarray chip. Differentially expressed genes (DEG) were identified using significance analysis of microarrays (SAM). Functional enrichment analysis of gene signatures was done via g:Profiler.

Results: There were 218 DEG between lcSSc and HC samples (false discovery rate <10%): 181/218 DEG were upregulated in lcSSc samples. Hierarchical clustering of DEG suggested the presence of two separate groups of lcSSc samples: "limited 1" and "limited 2". The limited-1 group (13 samples, 10 unique patients) showed upregulation of genes involved in cell adhesion, cardiovascular system (CVS) development, extracellular matrix and immune and inflammatory response. The CVS development signature was of particular interest as its genes showed very strong enrichment in response to wounding, response to transforming growth factor (TGF)-β and kinase cascade. Neither limited-2 samples (six samples, five unique patients) nor HC samples showed functional enrichment. There were no significant differences in demographic or clinical parameters between these two groups. These results were confirmed using a second independent cohort.

Conclusions: Our study suggests the presence of molecular subsets in lcSSc based on gene expression profiling of biopsies from uninvolved skin. This may reflect important differences in pathogenesis within these patient groups. We identify differential expression of a subset of genes that relate to CVS and are enriched in fibrotic signalling. This may shed light on mechanisms of vascular disease in SSc. The enrichment in profibrotic profile suggests that dysregulated gene expression may contribute to vasculopathy and fibrosis in different disease subsets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13075-017-1360-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5496265PMC
July 2017

Intracellular B Lymphocyte Signalling and the Regulation of Humoral Immunity and Autoimmunity.

Clin Rev Allergy Immunol 2017 Oct;53(2):237-264

Centre for Experimental Medicine and Rheumatology, William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London, Charterhouse Square, London, EC1M 6BQ, UK.

B lymphocytes are critical for effective immunity; they produce antibodies and cytokines, present antigens to T lymphocytes and regulate immune responses. However, because of the inherent randomness in the process of generating their vast repertoire of antigen-specific receptors, B cells can also cause diseases through recognizing and reacting to self. Therefore, B lymphocyte selection and responses require tight regulation at multiple levels and at all stages of their development and activation to avoid diseases. Indeed, newly generated B lymphocytes undergo rigorous tolerance mechanisms in the bone marrow and, subsequently, in the periphery after their migration. Furthermore, activation of mature B cells is regulated through controlled expression of co-stimulatory receptors and intracellular signalling thresholds. All these regulatory events determine whether and how B lymphocytes respond to antigens, by undergoing apoptosis or proliferation. However, defects that alter regulated co-stimulatory receptor expression or intracellular signalling thresholds can lead to diseases. For example, autoimmune diseases can result from altered regulation of B cell responses leading to the emergence of high-affinity autoreactive B cells, autoantibody production and tissue damage. The exact cause(s) of defective B cell responses in autoimmune diseases remains unknown. However, there is evidence that defects or mutations in genes that encode individual intracellular signalling proteins lead to autoimmune diseases, thus confirming that defects in intracellular pathways mediate autoimmune diseases. This review provides a synopsis of current knowledge of signalling proteins and pathways that regulate B lymphocyte responses and how defects in these could promote autoimmune diseases. Most of the evidence comes from studies of mouse models of disease and from genetically engineered mice. Some, however, also come from studying B lymphocytes from patients and from genome-wide association studies. Defining proteins and signalling pathways that underpin atypical B cell response in diseases will help in understanding disease mechanisms and provide new therapeutic avenues for precision therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12016-017-8609-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5597704PMC
October 2017

Brief Report: Anti-Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2B Autoantibodies Are Associated With Interstitial Lung Disease in Patients With Systemic Sclerosis.

Arthritis Rheumatol 2016 11;68(11):2778-2783

University of Bath, Bath, UK.

Objective: To investigate novel systemic sclerosis (SSc) autoantibodies in autoantibody-negative patients and establish clinical associations.

Methods: Serum samples and clinical data for 548 patients with SSc were collected. Routine serologic techniques were used to test the serum samples for known SSc autoantibodies, and samples with negative results were further investigated by radiolabeled-protein immunoprecipitation assay. Sera that immunoprecipitated a novel 30-kd band were analyzed by indirect immunofluorescence and immunoprecipitation, using depleted cell extracts to establish a common reactivity. Mass spectrometry was performed to identify the novel autoantigen, and the results were confirmed using commercial antibodies. Sera from 426 patients with other forms of connective tissue disease, 103 with rheumatoid arthritis, 114 with idiopathic interstitial lung disease (ILD), and 150 healthy subjects were serotyped as controls.

Results: A novel autoantigen with a molecular weight of ∼30 kd was recognized by 7 sera from patients with SSc, 6 of whom had ILD, and by no controls. Six of the patients had diffuse cutaneous involvement, and 4 had overlap features with other autoimmune diseases. Immunodepletion experiments indicated that all samples targeted the same autoantigen, and mass spectrometry identified the novel autoantigen as eukaryotic initiation factor 2B (eIF2B).

Conclusion: We report the identification of a novel autoantibody (anti-eIF2B) in a small number of patients with SSc (∼1%); this autoantibody is closely associated with diffuse cutaneous manifestations and the presence of ILD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/art.39755DOI Listing
November 2016

Aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibition blocks mucosal fibrosis in human and mouse ocular scarring.

JCI Insight 2016 08 4;1(12):e87001. Epub 2016 Aug 4.

NIH Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, United Kingdom.

Mucous membrane pemphigoid (MMP) is a systemic mucosal scarring disease, commonly causing blindness, for which there is no antifibrotic therapy. Aldehyde dehydrogenase family 1 (ALDH1) is upregulated in both ocular MMP (OMMP) conjunctiva and cultured fibroblasts. Application of the ALDH metabolite, retinoic acid (RA), to normal human conjunctival fibroblasts in vitro induced a diseased phenotype. Conversely, application of ALDH inhibitors, including disulfiram, to OMMP fibroblasts in vitro restored their functionality to that of normal controls. ALDH1 is also upregulated in the mucosa of the mouse model of scarring allergic eye disease (AED), used here as a surrogate for OMMP, in which topical application of disulfiram decreased fibrosis in vivo. These data suggest that progressive scarring in OMMP results from ALDH/RA fibroblast autoregulation, that the ALDH1 subfamily has a central role in immune-mediated ocular mucosal scarring, and that ALDH inhibition with disulfiram is a potential and readily translatable antifibrotic therapy.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5033866PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.87001DOI Listing
August 2016

Review: Frontiers of Antifibrotic Therapy in Systemic Sclerosis.

Arthritis Rheumatol 2017 02;69(2):257-267

University College London Medical School, London, UK.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/art.39865DOI Listing
February 2017

Epigenetic regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 by methylation of c8orf4 in pulmonary fibrosis.

Clin Sci (Lond) 2016 Apr 7;130(8):575-86. Epub 2016 Jan 7.

UCL Respiratory Centre for Inflammation and Tissue Repair, Rayne Building, University College London, London, WC1E 6JF, U.K.

Fibroblasts derived from the lungs of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and systemic sclerosis (SSc) produce low levels of prostaglandin (PG) E2, due to a limited capacity to up-regulate cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). This deficiency contributes functionally to the fibroproliferative state, however the mechanisms responsible are incompletely understood. In the present study, we examined whether the reduced level of COX-2 mRNA expression observed in fibrotic lung fibroblasts is regulated epigenetically. The DNA methylation inhibitor, 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5AZA) restored COX-2 mRNA expression by fibrotic lung fibroblasts dose dependently. Functionally, this resulted in normalization of fibroblast phenotype in terms of PGE2 production, collagen mRNA expression and sensitivity to apoptosis. COX-2 methylation assessed by bisulfite sequencing and methylation microarrays was not different in fibrotic fibroblasts compared with controls. However, further analysis of the methylation array data identified a transcriptional regulator, chromosome 8 open reading frame 4 (thyroid cancer protein 1, TC-1) (c8orf4), which is hypermethylated and down-regulated in fibrotic fibroblasts compared with controls. siRNA knockdown of c8orf4 in control fibroblasts down-regulated COX-2 and PGE2 production generating a phenotype similar to that observed in fibrotic lung fibroblasts. Chromatin immunoprecipitation demonstrated that c8orf4 regulates COX-2 expression in lung fibroblasts through binding of the proximal promoter. We conclude that the decreased capacity of fibrotic lung fibroblasts to up-regulate COX-2 expression and COX-2-derived PGE2 synthesis is due to an indirect epigenetic mechanism involving hypermethylation of the transcriptional regulator, c8orf4.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/CS20150697DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4782165PMC
April 2016

Endothelial to Mesenchymal Transition Contributes to Endothelial Dysfunction in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.

Am J Pathol 2015 Jul 5;185(7):1850-8. Epub 2015 May 5.

Division of Medicine, University College London Medical School, Royal Free Campus, London, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a progressive disease characterized by lung endothelial cell dysfunction and vascular remodeling. Normally, the endothelium forms an integral cellular barrier to regulate vascular homeostasis. During embryogenesis endothelial cells exhibit substantial plasticity that contribute to cardiac development by undergoing endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndoMT). We determined the presence of EndoMT in the pulmonary vasculature in vivo and the functional effects on pulmonary artery endothelial cells (PAECs) undergoing EndoMT in vitro. Histologic assessment of patients with systemic sclerosis-associated PAH and the hypoxia/SU5416 mouse model identified the presence von Willebrand factor/α-smooth muscle actin-positive endothelial cells in up to 5% of pulmonary vessels. Induced EndoMT in PAECs by inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, tumor necrosis factor α, and transforming growth factor β led to actin cytoskeleton reorganization and the development of a mesenchymal morphology. Induced EndoMT cells exhibited up-regulation of mesenchymal markers, including collagen type I and α-smooth muscle actin, and a reduction in endothelial cell and junctional proteins, including von Willebrand factor, CD31, occludin, and vascular endothelial-cadherin. Induced EndoMT monolayers failed to form viable biological barriers and induced enhanced leak in co-culture with PAECs. Induced EndoMT cells secreted significantly elevated proinflammatory cytokines, including IL-6, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor α, and supported higher immune transendothelial migration compared with PAECs. These findings suggest that EndoMT may contribute to the development of PAH.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajpath.2015.03.019DOI Listing
July 2015

Multiplex cytokine analysis of dermal interstitial blister fluid defines local disease mechanisms in systemic sclerosis.

Arthritis Res Ther 2015 Mar 23;17:73. Epub 2015 Mar 23.

Centre for Rheumatology and Connective Tissue Diseases, Royal Free Hospital Campus, University College Medical School, University College London, Rowland Hill Street, London, NW3 2PF, UK.

Introduction: Clinical diversity in systemic sclerosis (SSc) reflects multifaceted pathogenesis and the effect of key growth factors or cytokines operating within a disease-specific microenvironment. Dermal interstitial fluid sampling offers the potential to examine local mechanisms and identify proteins expressed within lesional tissue. We used multiplex cytokine analysis to profile the inflammatory and immune activity in the lesions of SSc patients.

Methods: Dermal interstitial fluid sample from the involved forearm skin, and synchronous plasma samples were collected from SSc patients (n = 26, diffuse cutaneous SSc (DcSSc) n = 20, limited cutaneous SSc (LcSSc) n = 6), and healthy controls (HC) (n = 10) and profiled by Luminex® array for inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors.

Results: Luminex® profiling of the dermal blister fluid showed increased inflammatory cytokines (median interleukin ( IL)-6 in SSc 39.78 pg/ml, HC 5.51 pg/ml, p = 0.01, median IL-15 in SSc 6.27 pg/ml, HC 4.38 pg/ml, p = 0.03), chemokines (monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-3 9.81 pg/ml in SSc, 7.18 pg/ml HC, p = 0.04), and profibrotic growth factors (platelet derived growth factor (PDGF)-AA 10.38 pg/ml versus 6.94 pg/ml in HC, p = 0.03). In general dermal fluid and plasma cytokine levels did not correlate, consistent with predominantly local production of these factors within the dermal lesions, rather than leakage from the serum. In hierarchical clustering and network analysis IL-6 emerged as a key central mediator.

Conclusions: Our data confirm that an immuno-inflammatory environment and aberrant vascular repair are intimately linked to fibroblast activation in lesional skin in SSc. This non-invasive method could be used to profile disease activity in the clinic, and identifies key inflammatory or pro-fibrotic proteins that might be targeted therapeutically. Distinct subgroups of SSc may be defined that show innate or adaptive immune cytokine signatures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13075-015-0575-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4411924PMC
March 2015

Macrophage epoxygenase determines a profibrotic transcriptome signature.

J Immunol 2015 May 3;194(10):4705-4716. Epub 2015 Apr 3.

Physiological Genomics and Medicine, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, W12 0NN, UK.

Epoxygenases belong to the cytochrome P450 family. They generate epoxyeicosatrienoic acids, which are known to have anti-inflammatory effects, but little is known about their role in macrophage function. By high-throughput sequencing of RNA in primary macrophages derived from rodents and humans, we establish the relative expression of epoxygenases in these cells. Zinc-finger nuclease-mediated targeted gene deletion of the major rat macrophage epoxygenase Cyp2j4 (ortholog of human CYP2J2) resulted in reduced epoxyeicosatrienoic acid synthesis. Cyp2j4(-/-) macrophages have relatively increased peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ levels and show a profibrotic transcriptome, displaying overexpression of a specific subset of genes (260 transcripts) primarily involved in extracellular matrix, with fibronectin being the most abundantly expressed transcript. Fibronectin expression is under the control of epoxygenase activity in human and rat primary macrophages. In keeping with the in vitro findings, Cyp2j4(-/-) rats show upregulation of type I collagen following unilateral ureter obstruction of the kidney, and quantitative proteomics analysis (liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry) showed increased renal type I collagen and fibronectin protein abundance resulting from experimentally induced crescentic glomerulonephritis in these rats. Taken together, these results identify the rat epoxygenase Cyp2j4 as a determinant of a profibrotic macrophage transcriptome that could have implications in various inflammatory conditions, depending on macrophage function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.1402979DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417646PMC
May 2015

Failed degradation of JunB contributes to overproduction of type I collagen and development of dermal fibrosis in patients with systemic sclerosis.

Arthritis Rheumatol 2015 Jan;67(1):243-53

University College London Medical School, London, UK.

Objective: The excessive deposition of extracellular matrix, including type I collagen, is a key aspect in the pathogenesis of connective tissue diseases such as systemic sclerosis (SSc; scleroderma). To further our understanding of the mechanisms governing the dysregulation of type I collagen production in SSc, we investigated the role of the activator protein 1 (AP-1) family of transcription factors in regulating COL1A2 transcription.

Methods: The expression and nuclear localization of AP-1 family members (c-Jun, JunB, JunD, Fra-1, Fra-2, and c-Fos) were examined by immunohistochemistry and Western blotting in dermal biopsy specimens and explanted skin fibroblasts from patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc and healthy controls. Gene activation was determined by assessing the interaction of transcription factors with the COL1A2 enhancer using transient transfection of reporter gene constructs, electrophoretic mobility shift assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis, and RNA interference involving knockdown of individual AP-1 family members. Inhibition of fibroblast mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), Akt, and glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK-3β) signaling pathways was achieved using small-molecule pharmacologic inhibitors.

Results: Binding of JunB to the COL1A2 enhancer was observed, with its coalescence directed by activation of gene transcription through the proximal promoter. Knockdown of JunB reduced enhancer activation and COL1A2 expression in response to transforming growth factor β. In SSc dermal fibroblasts, increased mTOR/Akt signaling was associated with inactivation of GSK-3β, leading to blockade of JunB degradation and, thus, constitutively high expression of JunB.

Conclusion: In patients with SSc, the accumulation of JunB resulting from altered mTOR/Akt signaling and a failure of proteolytic degradation underpins the aberrant overexpression of type I collagen. These findings identify JunB as a potential target for antifibrotic therapy in SSc.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/art.38897DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312903PMC
January 2015

Stem cells of the lower limb: their role and potential in management of critical limb ischemia.

Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2013 Oct 30;238(10):1118-26. Epub 2013 Aug 30.

Royal Free Vascular Unit, Division of Surgery & Interventional Science, UCL, Royal Free Campus, London NW3 2QG, UK.

Peripheral arterial occlusive disease (PAOD) contributes to decreased exercise tolerance, poor balance, impaired proprioception, muscle atrophy and weakness, with advanced cases resulting in critical limb ischemia (CLI) where the viability of the limb is threatened. Patients with a diagnosis of CLI have a poor life expectancy due to concomitant cardio and cerebrovascular diseases. The current treatment options to avoid major amputation by re-establishing a blood supply to the limb generally have poor outcomes. Human skeletal muscle contains both multipotent stem cells and progenitor cells and thus has a capacity for regeneration. Phase I and II studies involving transplantation of bone marrow-derived progenitor cells into CLI limbs show positive effects on wound healing and angiogenesis; the increase in quiescent satellite cell numbers observed in CLI muscle may also provide a sufficient in vivo source of resident stem cells. These indigenous cells have been shown to be capable of forming multiple mesodermal cell lineages aiding the repair and regeneration of chronically ischemic muscle. They may also serve as a repository for autologous transplantation. The behavior and responses of the stem cell population in CLI is poorly understood and this review tries to elucidate the potential of these cells and their future role in the management of CLI.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1535370213503275DOI Listing
October 2013

Microarray profiling reveals suppressed interferon stimulated gene program in fibroblasts from scleroderma-associated interstitial lung disease.

Respir Res 2013 Aug 2;14:80. Epub 2013 Aug 2.

Interstitial Lung Disease Unit, Royal Brompton Hospital and National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, Emmanuel Kaye Building, 1B Manresa Road, London SW3 6LR, UK.

Background: Interstitial lung disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in systemic sclerosis (SSc), with insufficiently effective treatment options. Progression of pulmonary fibrosis involves expanding populations of fibroblasts, and the accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins. Characterisation of SSc lung fibroblast gene expression profiles underlying the fibrotic cell phenotype could enable a better understanding of the processes leading to the progressive build-up of scar tissue in the lungs. In this study we evaluate the transcriptomes of fibroblasts isolated from SSc lung biopsies at the time of diagnosis, compared with those from control lungs.

Methods: We used Affymetrix oligonucleotide microarrays to compare the gene expression profile of pulmonary fibroblasts cultured from 8 patients with pulmonary fibrosis associated with SSc (SSc-ILD), with those from control lung tissue peripheral to resected cancer (n=10). Fibroblast cultures from 3 patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) were included as a further comparison. Genes differentially expressed were identified using two separate analysis programs following a set of pre-determined criteria: only genes significant in both analyses were considered. Microarray expression data was verified by qRT-PCR and/or western blot analysis.

Results: A total of 843 genes were identified as differentially expressed in pulmonary fibroblasts from SSc-ILD and/or IPF compared to control lung, with a large overlap in the expression profiles of both diseases. We observed increased expression of a TGF-β response signature including fibrosis associated genes and myofibroblast markers, with marked heterogeneity across samples. Strongly suppressed expression of interferon stimulated genes, including antiviral, chemokine, and MHC class 1 genes, was uniformly observed in fibrotic fibroblasts. This expression profile includes key regulators and mediators of the interferon response, such as STAT1, and CXCL10, and was also independent of disease group.

Conclusions: This study identified a strongly suppressed interferon-stimulated gene program in fibroblasts from fibrotic lung. The data suggests that the repressed expression of interferon-stimulated genes may underpin critical aspects of the profibrotic fibroblast phenotype, identifying an area in pulmonary fibrosis that requires further investigation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1465-9921-14-80DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3750263PMC
August 2013

Efficacy of the specific endothelin a receptor antagonist zibotentan (ZD4054) in colorectal cancer: a preclinical study.

Mol Cancer Ther 2013 Aug 30;12(8):1556-67. Epub 2013 May 30.

Cancer Nanotechnology Group, UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, Royal Free Hospital, UK.

Endothelin 1 (ET-1) is overexpressed in cancer, contributing to disease progression. We previously showed that ET-1 stimulated proliferative, migratory, and contractile tumorigenic effects via the ET(A) receptor. Here, for the first time, we evaluate zibotentan, a specific ET(A) receptor antagonist, in the setting of colorectal cancer, in cellular models. Pharmacologic characteristics were further determined in patient tissues. Colorectal cancer lines (n = 4) and fibroblast strains (n = 6), isolated from uninvolved areas of colorectal cancer specimens, were exposed to ET-1 and/or ET(A)/(B) receptor antagonists. Proliferation (methylene blue), migration (scratch wounds), and contraction (gel lattices) were assessed. Receptor distribution and binding characteristics (K(d), B(max)) were determined using autoradiography on tissue sections and homogenates and cytospun cells, supported by immunohistochemistry. Proliferation was inhibited by ET(A) (zibotentan > BQ123; P < 0.05), migration by ET(B) > ET(A), and contraction by combined ET(A) and ET(B) antagonism. Intense ET-1 stromal binding correlated with fibroblasts and endothelial cells. Colorectal cancer lines and fibroblasts revealed high density and affinity ET-1 binding (B(max) = 2.435 fmol/1 × 10(6) cells, K(d) = 367.7 pmol/L; B(max) = 3.03 fmol/1 × 10(6) cells, K(d) = 213.6 pmol/L). In cancer tissues, ET(A) receptor antagonists (zibotentan; BQ123) reduced ET-1 binding more effectively (IC(50): 0.1-10 μmol/L) than ET(B) receptor antagonist BQ788 (∼IC(50), 1 mmol/L). ET-1 stimulated cancer-contributory processes. Its localization to tumor stroma, with greatest binding/affinity to fibroblasts, implicates these cells in tumor progression. ET(A) receptor upregulation in cancer tissues and its role in tumorigenic processes show the receptor's importance in therapeutic targeting. Zibotentan, the most specific ET(A) receptor antagonist available, showed the greatest inhibition of ET-1 binding. With its known safety profile, we provide evidence for zibotentan's potential role as adjuvant therapy in colorectal cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-0975DOI Listing
August 2013

Agonistic anti-ICAM-1 antibodies in scleroderma: activation of endothelial pro-inflammatory cascades.

Vascul Pharmacol 2013 Jul-Aug;59(1-2):19-26. Epub 2013 May 16.

Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, London, UK.

Background: Scleroderma (SSc) is a complex autoimmune disorder that can be characterised by the presence 2of circulating autoantibodies to nuclear, cytoplasmic and cell surface antigens. In particular antibodies directed against endothelial cell antigens (anti-endothelial cell antibodies; AECA) have been detected. ICAM-1 is an adhesion molecule expressed on the surface of human endothelial cells. We have previously shown that cross-linking ICAM-1 with monoclonal antibodies leads to pro-inflammatory activation of human endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells and that cardiac transplant recipients with transplant associated vasculopathy make antibodies directed against ICAM-1.

Objectives: To determine whether SSc patients make antibodies directed against ICAM-1 and whether these antibodies induce pro-inflammatory activation of human endothelial cells in vitro.

Methods: Using recombinant ICAM-1 as capture antigen, an ELISA was developed to measure ICAM-1 antibodies in sera from SSc patients. Antibodies were purified using ICAM-1 micro-affinity columns. HUVEC were incubated with purified anti-ICAM-1 antibodies and generation of reactive oxygen species, and expression of VCAM-1 was measured.

Results: Significantly elevated levels of anti-ICAM-1 antibodies were detected in patients with diffuse (dSSc; 10/31 32%) or limited (lSSc; 14/36 39%) scleroderma. Cross-linking of HUVEC with purified anti-ICAM-1 antibodies caused a significant increase in ROS production (2.471±0.408 fold increase above untreated after 150 min p<0.001), and significant increase in VCAM-1 expression (10.6±1.77% vs 4.12±1.33%, p<0.01).

Conclusion: AECA from SSc patients target specific endothelial antigens including ICAM-1, and cause pro-inflammatory activation of human endothelial cells, suggesting that they are not only a marker of disease but that they contribute to its progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vph.2013.05.002DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3731553PMC
March 2014

Serum interleukin 6 is predictive of early functional decline and mortality in interstitial lung disease associated with systemic sclerosis.

J Rheumatol 2013 Apr 1;40(4):435-46. Epub 2013 Feb 1.

Department of Pneumology, Carlo Poma Hospital, Mantua, Italy.

Objective: Biomarkers of progression of interstitial lung disease (ILD) are needed to allow early therapeutic intervention in patients with scleroderma-associated disease (SSc-ILD).

Methods: A panel of 8 serum cytokines [interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-8, IL-10, CCL2, CXCL10, vascular endothelial growth factor, fibroblast growth factor 2, and CX3CL1] was assessed by Luminex bead technology in exploratory cohorts of 74 patients with SSc and 58 patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Mortality and significant lung function decline [forced vital capacity (FVC) ≥ 10%; DLCO ≥ 15%] from date of serum collection were evaluated by proportional hazards analysis. Based on these findings, the prognostic value of serum IL-6, evaluated by ELISA, was assessed in a larger test cohort of 212 patients with SSc-ILD.

Results: In the exploratory cohort, only serum IL-6 was an independent predictor of DLCO decline in both IPF and SSc-ILD. The IL-6 threshold level most predictive of DLCO decline within a year was 7.67 pg/ml. In the larger test cohort, serum IL-6 > 7.67 pg/ml was predictive of decline in FVC (HR 2.58 ± 0.98, p = 0.01) and in DLCO (HR 3.2 ± 1.7, p = 0.02) within the first year, and predictive of death within the first 30 months (HR 2.69 ± 0.96, p = 0.005). When stratified according to severity (FVC < 70%), serum IL-6 > 7.67 pg/ml was predictive of functional decline or death within the first year in patients with milder disease (OR 3.1, 95% CI 1.4-7.2, p = 0.007), but not in those with severe ILD.

Conclusion: In SSc-ILD, serum IL-6 levels appear to be predictive of early disease progression in patients with mild ILD, and could be used to target treatment in this group, if confirmed by prospective studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.120725DOI Listing
April 2013