Publications by authors named "Julien Weber"

8 Publications

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Deletion of fibroblast activation protein provides atheroprotection.

Cardiovasc Res 2020 May 13. Epub 2020 May 13.

Center for Molecular Cardiology, University of Zurich, CH-8952 Schlieren, Switzerland.

Aims: Fibroblast activation protein (FAP) is upregulated at sites of tissue remodelling including chronic arthritis, solid tumours, and fibrotic hearts. It has also been associated with human coronary atherosclerotic plaques. Yet, the causal role of FAP in atherosclerosis remains unknown. To investigate the cause-effect relationship of endogenous FAP in atherogenesis, we assessed the effects of constitutive Fap deletion on plaque formation in atherosclerosis-prone apolipoprotein E (Apoe) or low-density lipoprotein receptor (Ldlr) knockout mice.

Methods And Results: Using en face analyses of thoraco-abdominal aortae and aortic sinus cross-sections, we demonstrate that Fap deficiency decreased plaque formation in two atherosclerotic mouse models (-46% in Apoe and -34% in Ldlr knockout mice). As a surrogate of plaque vulnerability fibrous cap thickness was used; it was increased in Fap-deficient mice, whereas Sirius red staining demonstrated that total collagen content remained unchanged. Using polarized light, atherosclerotic lesions from Fap-deficient mice displayed increased FAP targets in terms of enhanced collagen birefringence in plaques and increased pre-COL3A1 expression in aortic lysates. Analyses of the Stockholm Atherosclerosis Gene Expression (STAGE) data revealed that FAP expression was increased in human atherosclerotic compared to non-atherosclerotic arteries.

Conclusions: Our data provide causal evidence that constitutive Fap deletion decreases progression of experimental atherosclerosis and increases features of plaque stability with decreased collagen breakdown. Thus, inhibition of FAP expression or activity may not only represent a promising therapeutic target in atherosclerosis but appears safe at the experimental level for FAP-targeted cancer therapies.

Translational Perspective: Fibroblast activation protein (FAP) is upregulated at sites of chronic tissue remodelling including rheumatoid arthritis and solid tumours. Indeed, depletion of FAP-positive cells inhibits tumour growth by increasing antitumour immunity. FAP has also been correlated with human coronary plaques, whereby its causal role remains unknown. Our data provide causal evidence that constitutive Fap deletion decreases progression of experimental atherosclerosis and increases features of plaque stability. Thus, inhibition of FAP expression or activity may not only represent a novel therapeutic target for atherosclerosis but appears safe - at the experimental level - for FAP-targeted cancer therapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cvr/cvaa142DOI Listing
May 2020

Sirt6 deletion in bone marrow-derived cells increases atherosclerosis - Central role of macrophage scavenger receptor 1.

J Mol Cell Cardiol 2020 02 21;139:24-32. Epub 2020 Jan 21.

Center for Molecular Cardiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland; Department of Cardiology, University Heart Center, Zurich University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland. Electronic address:

Aims: Sirtuin 6 (Sirt6) is a NAD-dependent deacetylase that plays a key role in DNA repair, inflammation and lipid regulation. Sirt6-null mice show severe metabolic defects and accelerated aging. Macrophage-foam cell formation via scavenger receptors is a key step in atherogenesis. We determined the effects of bone marrow-restricted Sirt6 deletion on foam cell formation and atherogenesis using a mouse model.

Methods And Results: Sirt6 deletion in bone marrow-derived cells increased aortic plaques, lipid content and macrophage numbers in recipient Apoe mice fed a high-cholesterol diet for 12 weeks (n = 12-14, p < .001). In RAW macrophages, Sirt6 overexpression reduced oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) uptake, Sirt6 knockdown enhanced it and increased mRNA and protein levels of macrophage scavenger receptor 1 (Msr1), whereas levels of other oxLDL uptake and efflux transporters remained unchanged. Similarly, in human primary macrophages, Sirt6 knockdown increased MSR1 protein levels and oxLDL uptake. Double knockdown of Sirt6 and Msr1 abolished the increase in oxLDL uptake observed upon Sirt6 single knockdown. FACS analyses of macrophages from aortic plaques of Sirt6-deficient bone marrow-transplanted mice showed increased MSR1 protein expression. Double knockdown of Sirt6 and the transcription factor c-Myc in RAW cells abolished the increase in Msr1 mRNA and protein levels; c-Myc overexpression increased Msr1 mRNA and protein levels.

Conclusions: Loss of Sirt6 in bone marrow-derived cells is proatherogenic; hereby macrophages play an important role given a c-Myc-dependent increase in MSR1 protein expression and an enhanced oxLDL uptake in human and murine macrophages. These findings assign endogenous SIRT6 in macrophages an important atheroprotective role.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yjmcc.2020.01.002DOI Listing
February 2020

Endothelial SIRT6 blunts stroke size and neurological deficit by preserving blood-brain barrier integrity: a translational study.

Eur Heart J 2020 04;41(16):1575-1587

Center for Molecular Cardiology, Schlieren Campus, University of Zurich, Wagistrasse 12, Schlieren 8952, Switzerland.

Aims: Aging is an established risk factor for stroke; genes regulating longevity are implicated in the pathogenesis of ischaemic stroke where to date, therapeutic options remain limited. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is crucially involved in ischaemia/reperfusion (I/R) brain injury thus representing an attractive target for developing novel therapeutic agents. Given the role of endothelial cells in the BBB, we hypothesized that the endothelial-specific expression of the recently described longevity gene SIRT6 may exhibit protective properties in stroke.

Methods And Results: SIRT6 endothelial expression was reduced following stroke. Endothelial-specific Sirt6 knockout (eSirt6-/-) mice, as well as animals in which Sirt6 overexpression was post-ischaemically induced, underwent transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO). eSirt6-/- animals displayed increased infarct volumes, mortality, and neurological deficit after tMCAO, as compared to control littermates. Conversely, post-ischaemic Sirt6 overexpression decreased infarct size and neurological deficit. Analysis of ischaemic brain sections revealed increased BBB damage and endothelial expression of cleaved caspase-3 in eSIRT6-/- mice as compared to controls. In primary human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMVECs), hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R) reduced SIRT6 expression and SIRT6 silencing impaired the barrier function (transendothelial resistance) similar to what was observed in mice exposed to I/R. Further, SIRT6-silenced HBMVECs exposed to H/R showed reduced viability, increased cleaved caspase-3 expression and reduced activation of the survival pathway Akt. In ischaemic stroke patients, SIRT6 expression was higher in those with short-term neurological improvement as assessed by NIHSS scale and correlated with stroke outcome.

Conclusion: Endothelial SIRT6 exerts a protective role in ischaemic stroke by blunting I/R-mediated BBB damage and thus, it may represent an interesting novel therapeutic target to be explored in future clinical investigation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehz712DOI Listing
April 2020

Loss of Sirt3 accelerates arterial thrombosis by increasing formation of neutrophil extracellular traps and plasma tissue factor activity.

Cardiovasc Res 2018 07;114(8):1178-1188

Center for Molecular Cardiology, University of Zurich, Wagistrasse 12, 8952 Schlieren, Switzerland.

Aims: Sirtuin 3 (Sirt3) is a mitochondrial, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+)-dependent deacetylase that reduces oxidative stress by activation of superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2). Oxidative stress enhances arterial thrombosis. This study investigated the effects of genetic Sirt3 deletion on arterial thrombosis in mice in an inflammatory setting and assessed the clinical relevance of these findings in patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI).

Methods And Results: Using a laser-induced carotid thrombosis model with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge, in vivo time to thrombotic occlusion in Sirt3-/- mice (n = 6) was reduced by half compared to Sirt3+/+ wild-type (n = 8, P < 0.01) controls. Ex vivo analyses of whole blood using rotational thromboelastometry revealed accelerated clot formation and increased clot stability in Sirt3-/- compared to wild-type blood. rotational thromboelastometry of cell-depleted plasma showed accelerated clotting initiation in Sirt3-/- mice, whereas overall clot formation and firmness remained unaffected. Ex vivo LPS-induced neutrophil extracellular trap formation was increased in Sirt3-/- bone marrow-derived neutrophils. Plasma tissue factor (TF) levels and activity were elevated in Sirt3-/- mice, whereas plasma levels of other coagulation factors and TF expression in arterial walls remained unchanged. SOD2 expression in bone marrow -derived Sirt3-/- neutrophils was reduced. In STEMI patients, transcriptional levels of Sirt3 and its target SOD2 were lower in CD14+ leukocytes compared with healthy donors (n = 10 each, P < 0.01).

Conclusions: Sirt3 loss-of-function enhances experimental thrombosis in vivo via an increase of neutrophil extracellular traps and elevation of TF suggesting thrombo-protective effects of endogenous Sirt3. Acute coronary thrombosis in STEMI patients is associated with lower expression levels of SIRT3 and SOD2 in CD14+ leukocytes. Therefore, enhancing SIRT3 activity by pan-sirtuin activating NAD+-boosters may provide a novel therapeutic target to prevent or treat thrombotic arterial occlusion in myocardial infarction or stroke.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cvr/cvy036DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6014146PMC
July 2018

Mild endothelial dysfunction in Sirt3 knockout mice fed a high-cholesterol diet: protective role of a novel C/EBP-β-dependent feedback regulation of SOD2.

Basic Res Cardiol 2016 May 12;111(3):33. Epub 2016 Apr 12.

Department of Cardiology, University Heart Center Zurich, University Hospital Zurich, Raemistr. 100, 8091, Zurich, Switzerland.

Sirtuin 3 (Sirt3) is an NAD(+)-dependent mitochondrial deacetylase associated with superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2)-mediated protection from oxidative stress. We have reported accelerated weight gain and impaired metabolic flexibility in atherosclerotic Sirt3 (-/-) mice. Oxidative stress is a hallmark of endothelial dysfunction. Yet, the role of Sirt3 in this context remains unknown. Thus, we aimed to unravel the effects of endogenous Sirt3 on endothelial function and oxidative stress. Knockdown of Sirt3 in human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC) increased intracellular mitochondrial superoxide accumulation, as assessed by electron spin resonance spectroscopy and fluorescence imaging. Endothelium-dependent relaxation of aortic rings from Sirt3 (-/-) mice exposed to a normal diet did not differ from wild-type controls. However, following 12 weeks of high-cholesterol diet and increasing oxidative stress, endothelial function of Sirt3 (-/-) mice was mildly impaired compared with wild-type controls. Relaxation was restored upon enhanced superoxide scavenging using pegylated superoxide dismutase. Knockdown of Sirt3 in cultured HAEC diminished SOD2 specific activity, which was compensated for by a CCAAT/enhancer binding protein beta (C/EBP-β)-dependent transcriptional induction of SOD2. Abrogation of this feedback regulation by simultaneous knockdown of C/EBP-β and Sirt3 exacerbated mitochondrial superoxide accumulation and culminated into endothelial cell death upon prolonged culture. Taken together, Sirt3 deficiency induces a mild, superoxide-dependent endothelial dysfunction in mice fed a high-cholesterol diet. In cultured endothelial cells, a novel C/EBP-β-dependent rescue mechanism maintains net SOD2 activity upon transient knockdown of Sirt3.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00395-016-0552-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4829622PMC
May 2016

Common variants in UMOD associate with urinary uromodulin levels: a meta-analysis.

J Am Soc Nephrol 2014 Aug 27;25(8):1869-82. Epub 2014 Feb 27.

Institute of Physiology, Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology, and Division of Nephrology, Catholic University of Louvain Medical School, Brussels, Belgium;

Uromodulin is expressed exclusively in the thick ascending limb and is the most abundant protein excreted in normal urine. Variants in UMOD, which encodes uromodulin, are associated with renal function, and urinary uromodulin levels may be a biomarker for kidney disease. However, the genetic factors regulating uromodulin excretion are unknown. We conducted a meta-analysis of urinary uromodulin levels to identify associated common genetic variants in the general population. We included 10,884 individuals of European descent from three genetic isolates and three urban cohorts. Each study measured uromodulin indexed to creatinine and conducted linear regression analysis of approximately 2.5 million single nucleotide polymorphisms using an additive model. We also tested whether variants in genes expressed in the thick ascending limb associate with uromodulin levels. rs12917707, located near UMOD and previously associated with renal function and CKD, had the strongest association with urinary uromodulin levels (P<0.001). In all cohorts, carriers of a G allele of this variant had higher uromodulin levels than noncarriers did (geometric means 10.24, 14.05, and 17.67 μg/g creatinine for zero, one, or two copies of the G allele). rs12446492 in the adjacent gene PDILT (protein disulfide isomerase-like, testis expressed) also reached genome-wide significance (P<0.001). Regarding genes expressed in the thick ascending limb, variants in KCNJ1, SORL1, and CAB39 associated with urinary uromodulin levels. These data indicate that common variants in the UMOD promoter region may influence urinary uromodulin levels. They also provide insights into uromodulin biology and the association of UMOD variants with renal function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1681/ASN.2013070781DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116060PMC
August 2014

Deletion of Sirt3 does not affect atherosclerosis but accelerates weight gain and impairs rapid metabolic adaptation in LDL receptor knockout mice: implications for cardiovascular risk factor development.

Basic Res Cardiol 2014 Jan 27;109(1):399. Epub 2013 Dec 27.

Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057, Zurich, Switzerland,

Sirt3 is a mitochondrial NAD(+)-dependent deacetylase that governs mitochondrial metabolism and reactive oxygen species homeostasis. Sirt3 deficiency has been reported to accelerate the development of the metabolic syndrome. However, the role of Sirt3 in atherosclerosis remains enigmatic. We aimed to investigate whether Sirt3 deficiency affects atherosclerosis, plaque vulnerability, and metabolic homeostasis. Low-density lipoprotein receptor knockout (LDLR(-/-)) and LDLR/Sirt3 double-knockout (Sirt3(-/-)LDLR(-/-)) mice were fed a high-cholesterol diet (1.25 % w/w) for 12 weeks. Atherosclerosis was assessed en face in thoraco-abdominal aortae and in cross sections of aortic roots. Sirt3 deletion led to hepatic mitochondrial protein hyperacetylation. Unexpectedly, though plasma malondialdehyde levels were elevated in Sirt3-deficient mice, Sirt3 deletion affected neither plaque burden nor features of plaque vulnerability (i.e., fibrous cap thickness and necrotic core diameter). Likewise, plaque macrophage and T cell infiltration as well as endothelial activation remained unaltered. Electron microscopy of aortic walls revealed no difference in mitochondrial microarchitecture between both groups. Interestingly, loss of Sirt3 was associated with accelerated weight gain and an impaired capacity to cope with rapid changes in nutrient supply as assessed by indirect calorimetry. Serum lipid levels and glucose tolerance were unaffected by Sirt3 deletion in LDLR(-/-) mice. Sirt3 deficiency does not affect atherosclerosis in LDLR(-/-) mice. However, Sirt3 controls systemic levels of oxidative stress, limits expedited weight gain, and allows rapid metabolic adaptation. Thus, Sirt3 may contribute to postponing cardiovascular risk factor development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00395-013-0399-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3898152PMC
January 2014

Determination of uromodulin in human urine: influence of storage and processing.

Nephrol Dial Transplant 2014 Jan 3;29(1):136-45. Epub 2013 Oct 3.

Institute of Physiology, Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Background: Uromodulin (Tamm-Horsfall protein) is the most abundant protein excreted in the urine under physiological conditions. It is exclusively produced in the kidney and secreted into the urine via proteolytic cleavage. The involvement of UMOD, the gene that encodes uromodulin, in rare autosomal dominant diseases, and its robust genome-wide association with the risk of chronic kidney disease suggest that the level of uromodulin in urine could represent a critical biomarker for kidney function. The structure of uromodulin is complex, with multiple disulfide bonds and typical domains of extracellular proteins.

Methods: Thus far, the conditions influencing stability and measurement of uromodulin in human urine have not been systematically investigated, giving inconsistent results. In this study, we used a robust, in-house ELISA to characterize the conditions of sampling and storage necessary to provide a faithful dosage of uromodulin in the urine.

Results: The levels of uromodulin in human urine were significantly affected by centrifugation and vortexing, as well as by the conditions and duration of storage.

Conclusions: These results validate a simple, low-cost ELISA and document the optimal conditions of processing and storage for measuring uromodulin in human urine.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ndt/gft345DOI Listing
January 2014