Publications by authors named "Sara Tavella"

26 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Characterization of C2C12 cells in simulated microgravity: Possible use for myoblast regeneration.

J Cell Physiol 2020 04 24;235(4):3508-3518. Epub 2019 Sep 24.

Mutagenesis and Preventive Oncology Unit, IRCCS Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genoa, Italy.

Muscle loss is a major problem for many in lifetime. Muscle and bone degeneration has also been observed in individuals exposed to microgravity and in unloading conditions. C2C12 myoblst cells are able to form myotubes, and myofibers and these cells have been employed for muscle regeneration purposes and in myogenic regeneration and transplantation studies. We exposed C2C12 cells in an random position machine to simulate microgravity and study the energy and the biochemical challenges associated with this treatment. Simulated microgravity exposed C2C12 cells maintain positive proliferation indices and delay the differentiation process for several days. On the other hand this treatment significantly alters many of the biochemical and the metabolic characteristics of the cell cultures including calcium homeostasis. Recent data have shown that these perturbations are due to the inhibition of the ryanodine receptors on the membranes of intracellular calcium stores. We were able to reverse this perturbations treating cells with thapsigargin which prevents the segregation of intracellular calcium ions in the mitochondria and in the sarco/endoplasmic reticula. Calcium homeostasis appear a key target of microgravity exposure. In conclusion, in this study we reported some of the effects induced by the exposure of C2C12 cell cultures to simulated microgravity. The promising information obtained is of fundamental importance in the hope to employ this protocol in the field of regenerative medicine.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcp.29239DOI Listing
April 2020

The novel diterpene 7β-acetoxy-20-hydroxy-19,20-epoxyroyleanone from Salvia corrugata shows complex cytotoxic activities against human breast epithelial cells.

Life Sci 2019 Sep 27;232:116610. Epub 2019 Jun 27.

Department of Integrated Oncological Therapies, IRCCS Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genoa, Italy.

Aims: The aim of this study was the characterization of the in vitro cytotoxic properties of a recently isolated diterpene compound, 7β-acetoxy-20-hydroxy-19,20-epoxyroyleanone (compound 1), extracted from Salvia corrugata, versus human cell lines.

Main Methods: We used as model study immortalized breast epithelial cells MCF10A and two ERBB2 breast cancer (BCa) cell lines, SKBR-3 and BT474. Compound 1 was isolated by methanolic extraction from regenerated shoots of Salvia corrugata Vahl, and purified by high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). Flow cytometry (FCM) was employed for cell cycle, apoptosis and reactive oxygen species (ROS) analysis. Cell morphology was assessed by immunofluorescence and transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Key Findings: Compound 1 inhibited cell survival of all breast cell lines. In particular, compound 1 promoted cell cycle arrest in the G0/G1 phase and apoptosis along with impairment of the mitochondrial function, which was reflected in a gross alteration of the mitochondrial network structure. Furthermore, we also detected a potent activation of the ERK1/2 kinase, which suggested the induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Partial rescue of survival obtained with n-acetylcysteine (NAC) when coadminstered with compound 1 further supported a contribution of ROS mediated mechanisms to the growth-arrest and proapoptotic activity of compound 1 in both BCa cell lines. ROS production was indeed confirmed in SKBR-3.

Significance: Our findings show that compound 1 has a cytotoxic activity against both human normal and cancer cell lines derived from breast epithelia, which is mediated by ROS generation and mitochondrial damage.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lfs.2019.116610DOI Listing
September 2019

Anthropometric and glucometabolic changes in an aged mouse model of lipocalin-2 overexpression.

Int J Obes (Lond) 2019 01 6;43(1):189-201. Epub 2018 Aug 6.

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Università degli Studi di Genova, Genova, Italy.

Background: Lipocalin-2 (LCN2) is widely expressed in the organism with pleiotropic roles. In particular, its overexpression correlates with tissue stress conditions including inflammation, metabolic disorders, chronic diseases and cancer.

Objectives: To assess the effects of systemic LCN2 overexpression on adipose tissue and glucose metabolism.

Subjects: Eighteen-month-old transgenic mice with systemic LCN2 overexpression (LCN2-Tg) and age/sex-matched wild-type mice.

Methods: Metabolic cages; histology and real-time PCR analysis; glucose and insulin tolerance tests; ELISA; flow cytometry; microPET and serum analysis.

Results: LCN2-Tg mice were smaller compared to controls but they ate (P = 0.0156) and drank (P = 0.0057) more and displayed a higher amount of visceral adipose tissue. Furthermore, LCN2-Tg mice with body weight ≥20 g showed adipocytes with a higher cell area (P < 0.0001) and altered expression of genes involved in adipocyte differentiation and inflammation. In particular, mRNA levels of adipocyte-derived Pparg (P ≤ 0.0001), Srebf1 (P < 0.0001), Fabp4 (P = 0.056), Tnfa (P = 0.0391), Il6 (P = 0.0198), and Lep (P = 0.0003) were all increased. Furthermore, LCN2-Tg mice displayed a decreased amount of basal serum insulin (P = 0.0122) and a statistically significant impaired glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity consistent with Slc2a2 mRNA (P ≤ 0.0001) downregulated expression. On the other hand, Insr mRNA (P ≤ 0.0001) was upregulated and correlated with microPET analysis that demonstrated a trend in reduced whole-body glucose consumption and MRGlu in the muscles and a significantly reduced MRGlu in brown adipose tissue (P = 0.0247). Nevertheless, an almost nine-fold acceleration of hexokinase activity was observed in the LCN2-Tg mice liver compared to controls (P = 0.0027). Moreover, AST and ALT were increased (P = 0.0421 and P = 0.0403, respectively), which indicated liver involvement also demonstrated by histological staining.

Conclusions: We show that LCN2 profoundly impacts adipose tissue size and function and glucose metabolism, suggesting that LCN2 should be considered as a risk factor in ageing for metabolic disorders leading to obesity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41366-018-0171-5DOI Listing
January 2019

High-Resolution X-Ray Tomography: A 3D Exploration Into the Skeletal Architecture in Mouse Models Submitted to Microgravity Constraints.

Front Physiol 2018 6;9:181. Epub 2018 Mar 6.

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Universita' di Genova and Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genova, Italy.

Bone remodeling process consists in a slow building phase and in faster resorption with the objective to maintain a functional skeleton locomotion to counteract the Earth gravity. Thus, during spaceflights, the skeleton does not act against gravity, with a rapid decrease of bone mass and density, favoring bone fracture. Several studies approached the problem by imaging the bone architecture and density of cosmonauts returned by the different spaceflights. However, the weaknesses of the previously reported studies was two-fold: on the one hand the research suffered the small statistical sample size of almost all human spaceflight studies, on the other the results were not fully reliable, mainly due to the fact that the observed bone structures were small compared with the spatial resolution of the available imaging devices. The recent advances in high-resolution X-ray tomography have stimulated the study of weight-bearing skeletal sites by novel approaches, mainly based on the use of the mouse and its various strains as an animal model, and sometimes taking advantage of the synchrotron radiation support to approach studies of 3D bone architecture and mineralization degree mapping at different hierarchical levels. Here we report the first, to our knowledge, systematic review of the recent advances in studying the skeletal bone architecture by high-resolution X-ray tomography after submission of mice models to microgravity constrains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00181DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5859385PMC
March 2018

Cooperative antitumor activities of carnosic acid and Trastuzumab in ERBB2 breast cancer cells.

J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2017 11 3;36(1):154. Epub 2017 Nov 3.

Department of Integrated Oncological Therapies, IRCCS AOU - San Martino - IST, Largo Rosanna Benzi 10, 16132, Genoa, Italy.

Background: ERBB2 is overexpressed in up to 20-30% of human breast cancers (BCs), and it is associated with aggressive disease. Trastuzumab (Tz), a humanized monoclonal antibody, improves the prognosis associated with ERBB2-amplified BCs. However, the development of resistance remains a significant challenge. Carnosic acid (CA) is a diterpene found in rosemary and sage, endowed with anticancer properties. In this in vitro study, we have investigated whether Tz and CA have cooperative effects on cell survival of ERBB2 overexpressing (ERBB2) cells and whether CA might restore Tz sensitivity in Tz-resistant cells.

Methods: We have studied BC cell migration and survival upon CA and Tz treatment. In particular, migration ability was assessed by transwell assay while cell survival was assessed by MTT assay. In addition, we have performed cell cycle and apoptosis analysis by high-resolution DNA flow cytometry and annexin-V, resazurin and sytox blue staining by flow cytometry, respectively. The expression of proteins involved in cell cycle progression, ERBB2 signaling pathway, and autophagy was evaluated by immunoblot and immunofluorescence analysis. Cellular structures relevant to the endosome/lysosome and autophagy pathways have been studied by immunofluorescence and transmission electron microscopy.

Results: We report that, in ERBB2 BC cells, CA reversibly enhances Tz inhibition of cell survival, cooperatively inhibits cell migration and induces cell cycle arrest in G0/G1. These events are accompanied by ERBB2 down-regulation, deregulation of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway and up-regulation of both CDKN1A/p21 and CDKN1B/p27. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that CA impairs late autophagy and causes derangement of the lysosomal compartment as shown by up-regulation of SQSTM1/p62 and ultrastructural analysis. Accordingly, we have found that CA restores, at least in part, sensitivity to Tz in SKBR-3 Tz-resistant cell line.

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate the cooperation between CA and Tz in inhibiting cell migration and survival of ERBB2 BC cells that warrant further studies to establish if CA or CA derivatives may be useful in vivo in the treatment of ERBB2 cancers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13046-017-0615-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670707PMC
November 2017

LCN2 overexpression in bone enhances the hematopoietic compartment via modulation of the bone marrow microenvironment.

J Cell Physiol 2017 Nov 21;232(11):3077-3087. Epub 2017 Feb 21.

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Universita' di Genova, Genova, Italy.

Lipocalin-2 (LCN2) is a member of the lipocalin family whose expression is modulated in several conditions, including cell differentiation, innate immunity, stress, and cancer. Although it is known that it is expressed in bone, its function in this tissue remains poorly studied. To this end, we took advantage of transgenic mice lines that expressed LCN2 driven by a bone specific type I collagen (LCN2-Tg). In the bone marrow (BM) of LCN2-Tg mice we observed an increased number of phenotypically long-term hematopoietic stem cells (LT-HSC) that also displayed a higher proliferation rate compared to wild-type controls (Wt). Furthermore, hematopoietic progenitor cells, obtained from LCN2-Tg BM showed an increased clonogenic capacity compared to those obtained from LCN2-Tg spleen, a higher concentration of serum erythropoietin and a higher number of mature erythrocytes in the peripheral blood of old LCN2-Tg animals compared to aged-matched wt. The findings of a combined increase in the BM of the LCN2-Tg mice of SDF-1, SCF, and TIMP-1 levels along with the reduction of both MMP-9 activity and cathepsin K concentration may explain the observed effects on the HSC compartment. This study shows that LCN2 overexpression in bones modifies the BM microenvironment via modulation of the expression of key secreted factors and cytokines, which in turn regulate the HSC niche behavior enhancing both HSC homing in young mice and erythrocytes production in older mice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcp.25755DOI Listing
November 2017

Carnosic acid induces proteasomal degradation of Cyclin B1, RB and SOX2 along with cell growth arrest and apoptosis in GBM cells.

Phytomedicine 2016 Jun 6;23(7):679-85. Epub 2016 Apr 6.

IRCCS AOU - San Martino - IST, Largo Rosanna Benzi, 10, 16132 Genova, Italy. Electronic address:

Background: Carnosic acid (CA) is a diterpenoid found in Rosmarinus officinalis L. and Salvia officinalis L. as well as in many other Lamiaceae. This compound is reported to have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. In addition, a number of reports showed that CA has a cytotoxic activity toward several cancer cell lines.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to establish whether CA has any specific antiproliferative effect toward human glioblastoma (GBM) cells and to analyze the molecular mechanisms involved.

Methods: We evaluated cell survival by MTT assay, apoptosis and DNA content by flow cytometry, protein expression and phosphorylation by immunoblot analyses.

Results: Our results showed that CA inhibited cell survival on both normal astrocytes and GBM cells. In GBM cells, in particular, CA caused an early G2 block, a reduction in the percentage of cells expressing Ki67, an enhanced expression of p21(WAF) and induced apoptosis. Furthermore, we showed that CA promoted proteasomal degradation of several substrate proteins, including Cyclin B1, retinoblastoma (RB), SOX2, and glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP), whereas MYC levels were not modified. In addition, CA dramatically reduced the activity of CDKs.

Conclusion: In conclusion, our findings strongly suggest that CA promotes a profound deregulation of cell cycle control and reduces the survival of GBM cells via proteasome-mediated degradation of Cyclin B1, RB and SOX2.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2016.03.007DOI Listing
June 2016

Effects of long time exposure to simulated micro- and hypergravity on skeletal architecture.

J Mech Behav Biomed Mater 2015 Nov 23;51:1-12. Epub 2015 Jun 23.

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Universita' di Genova & IRCCS AOU San Martino-IST, Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy. Electronic address:

This manuscript reports the structural alterations occurring in mice skeleton as a consequence of the longest-term exposition (90 days) to simulated microgravity (hindlimb unloading) and hypergravity (2g) ever tested. Bone microstructural features were investigated by means of standard Cone Beam X-ray micro-CT, Synchrotron Radiation micro-CT and histology. Morphometric analysis confirmed deleterious bone architectural changes in lack of mechanical loading with a decrease of bone volume and density, while bone structure alterations caused by hypergravity were less evident. In the femurs from hypergravity-exposed mice, the head/neck cortical thickness increment was the main finding. In addition, in these mice the rate of larger trabeculae (60-75 μm) was significantly increased. Interestingly, the metaphyseal plate presented a significant adaptation to gravity changes. Mineralization of cartilage and bone deposition was increased in the 2g mice, whereas an enlargement of the growth plate cartilage was observed in the hindlimb unloaded group. Indeed, the presented data confirm and reinforce the detrimental effects on bone observed in real space microgravity and reveal region-specific effects on long bones. Finally these data could represent the starting point for further long-term experimentations that can deeply investigate the bone adaptation mechanisms to different mechanical force environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmbbm.2015.06.014DOI Listing
November 2015

Skin physiology in microgravity: a 3-month stay aboard ISS induces dermal atrophy and affects cutaneous muscle and hair follicles cycling in mice.

NPJ Microgravity 2015 27;1:15002. Epub 2015 May 27.

Laboratory of Connective Tissues Biology, GIGA-Research, University of Liège, Sart Tilman, Belgium.

Aims: The Mice Drawer System (MDS) Tissue Sharing program was the longest rodent space mission ever performed. It provided 20 research teams with organs and tissues collected from mice having spent 3 months on the International Space Station (ISS). Our participation to this experiment aimed at investigating the impact of such prolonged exposure to extreme space conditions on mouse skin physiology.

Methods: Mice were maintained in the MDS for 91 days aboard ISS (space group (S)). Skin specimens were collected shortly after landing for morphometric, biochemical, and transcriptomic analyses. An exact replicate of the experiment in the MDS was performed on ground (ground group (G)).

Results: A significant reduction of dermal thickness (-15%, =0.05) was observed in S mice accompanied by an increased newly synthetized procollagen (+42%, =0.03), likely reflecting an increased collagen turnover. Transcriptomic data suggested that the dermal atrophy might be related to an early degradation of defective newly formed procollagen molecules. Interestingly, numerous hair follicles in growing anagen phase were observed in the three S mice, validated by a high expression of specific hair follicles genes, while only one mouse in the G controls showed growing hairs. By microarray analysis of whole thickness skin, we observed a significant modulation of 434 genes in S versus G mice. A large proportion of the upregulated transcripts encoded proteins related to striated muscle homeostasis.

Conclusions: These data suggest that a prolonged exposure to space conditions may induce skin atrophy, deregulate hair follicle cycle, and markedly affect the transcriptomic repertoire of the cutaneous striated muscle panniculus carnosus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/npjmgrav.2015.2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5515501PMC
May 2015

Aminobisphosphonates prevent the inhibitory effects exerted by lymph node stromal cells on anti-tumor Vδ 2 T lymphocytes in non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Haematologica 2014 Jan 25;99(1):131-9. Epub 2013 Oct 25.

In this study, we analyzed the influence of mesenchymal stromal cells derived from lymph nodes of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, on effector functions and differentiation of Vdelta (δ)2 T lymphocytes. We show that: i) lymph-node mesenchymal stromal cells of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma inhibit NKG2D-mediated lymphoid cell killing, but not rituximab-induced antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity, exerted by Vδ2 T lymphocytes; ii) pre-treatment of mesenchymal stromal cells with the aminobisphosphonates pamidronate or zoledronate can rescue lymphoma cell killing via NKG2D; iii) this is due to inhibition of transforming growth factor-β and increase in interleukin-15 production by mesenchymal stromal cells; iv) aminobisphosphonate-treated mesenchymal stromal cells drive Vδ2 T-lymphocyte differentiation into effector memory T cells, expressing the Thelper1 cytokines tumor necrosis factor-α and interferon-γ. In non-Hodgkin's lymphoma lymph nodes, Vδ2 T cells were mostly naïve; upon co-culture with autologous lymph-node mesenchymal stromal cells exposed to zoledronate, the percentage of terminal differentiated effector memory Vδ2 T lymphocytes increased. In all non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, low or undetectable transcription of Thelper1 cytokines was found. In diffused large B-cell lymphomas and in a group of follicular lymphoma, transcription of transforming growth factor β and interleukin-10 was enhanced compared to non-neoplastic lymph nodes. Thus, in non-Hodgkin lymphomas mesenchymal stromal cells interfere with Vδ2 T-lymphocyte cytolytic function and differentiation to Thelper1 and/or effector memory cells, depending on the prominent in situ cytokine milieu. Aminobisphosphonates, acting on lymph-node mesenchymal stromal cells, can push the balance towards Thelper1/effector memory and rescue the recognition and killing of lymphoma cells through NKG2D, sparing rituximab-induced antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3324/haematol.2013.097311DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007944PMC
January 2014

Effects of pleiotrophin overexpression on mouse skeletal muscles in normal loading and in actual and simulated microgravity.

PLoS One 2013 28;8(8):e72028. Epub 2013 Aug 28.

Section of Pharmacology, Department of Pharmacy & Drug Sciences, University of Bari - Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy.

Pleiotrophin (PTN) is a widespread cytokine involved in bone formation, neurite outgrowth, and angiogenesis. In skeletal muscle, PTN is upregulated during myogenesis, post-synaptic induction, and regeneration after crushing, but little is known regarding its effects on muscle function. Here, we describe the effects of PTN on the slow-twitch soleus and fast-twitch extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles in mice over-expressing PTN under the control of a bone promoter. The mice were maintained in normal loading or disuse condition, induced by hindlimb unloading (HU) for 14 days. Effects of exposition to near-zero gravity during a 3-months spaceflight (SF) into the Mice Drawer System are also reported. In normal loading, PTN overexpression had no effect on muscle fiber cross-sectional area, but shifted soleus muscle toward a slower phenotype, as shown by an increased number of oxidative type 1 fibers, and increased gene expression of cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV and citrate synthase. The cytokine increased soleus and EDL capillary-to-fiber ratio. PTN overexpression did not prevent soleus muscle atrophy, slow-to-fast transition, and capillary regression induced by SF and HU. Nevertheless, PTN exerted various effects on sarcolemma ion channel expression/function and resting cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration in soleus and EDL muscles, in normal loading and after HU. In conclusion, the results show very similar effects of HU and SF on mouse soleus muscle, including activation of specific gene programs. The EDL muscle is able to counterbalance this latter, probably by activating compensatory mechanisms. The numerous effects of PTN on muscle gene expression and functional parameters demonstrate the sensitivity of muscle fibers to the cytokine. Although little benefit was found in HU muscle disuse, PTN may emerge useful in various muscle diseases, because it exerts synergetic actions on muscle fibers and vessels, which could enforce oxidative metabolism and ameliorate muscle performance.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0072028PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3756024PMC
May 2014

Altered bone development and turnover in transgenic mice over-expressing lipocalin-2 in bone.

J Cell Physiol 2013 Nov;228(11):2210-21

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Universita' di Genova & IRCCS AOU San Martino-IST, Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy.

Lipocalin-2 (LCN2) is a protein largely expressed in many tissues, associated with different biological phenomena such as cellular differentiation, inflammation and cancer acting as a survival/apoptotic signal. We found that LCN2 was expressed during osteoblast differentiation and we generated transgenic (Tg) mice over-expressing LCN2 in bone. Tg mice were smaller and presented bone microarchitectural changes in both endochondral and intramembranous bones. In particular, Tg bones displayed a thinner layer of cortical bone and a decreased trabecular number. Osteoblast bone matrix deposition was reduced and osteoblast differentiation was slowed-down. Differences were also observed in the growth plate of young transgenic mice where chondrocyte displayed a more immature phenotype and a lower proliferation rate. In bone marrow cell cultures from transgenic mice, the number of osteoclast progenitors was increased whereas in vivo it was increased the number of mature osteoclasts expressing tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP). Finally, while osteoprotegerin (OPG) levels remained unchanged, the expression of the conventional receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL) and of the IL-6 was enhanced in Tg mice. In conclusion, we found that LCN2 plays a role in bone development and turnover having both a negative effect on bone formation, by affecting growth plate development and interfering with osteoblast differentiation, and a positive effect on bone resorption by enhancing osteoclast compartment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcp.24391DOI Listing
November 2013

The Mice Drawer System (MDS) experiment and the space endurance record-breaking mice.

PLoS One 2012 29;7(5):e32243. Epub 2012 May 29.

Universita' degli Studi di Genova & Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy.

The Italian Space Agency, in line with its scientific strategies and the National Utilization Plan for the International Space Station (ISS), contracted Thales Alenia Space Italia to design and build a spaceflight payload for rodent research on ISS: the Mice Drawer System (MDS). The payload, to be integrated inside the Space Shuttle middeck during transportation and inside the Express Rack in the ISS during experiment execution, was designed to function autonomously for more than 3 months and to involve crew only for maintenance activities. In its first mission, three wild type (Wt) and three transgenic male mice over-expressing pleiotrophin under the control of a bone-specific promoter (PTN-Tg) were housed in the MDS. At the time of launch, animals were 2-months old. MDS reached the ISS on board of Shuttle Discovery Flight 17A/STS-128 on August 28(th), 2009. MDS returned to Earth on November 27(th), 2009 with Shuttle Atlantis Flight ULF3/STS-129 after 91 days, performing the longest permanence of mice in space. Unfortunately, during the MDS mission, one PTN-Tg and two Wt mice died due to health status or payload-related reasons. The remaining mice showed a normal behavior throughout the experiment and appeared in excellent health conditions at landing. During the experiment, the mice health conditions and their water and food consumption were daily checked. Upon landing mice were sacrificed, blood parameters measured and tissues dissected for subsequent analysis. To obtain as much information as possible on microgravity-induced tissue modifications, we organized a Tissue Sharing Program: 20 research groups from 6 countries participated. In order to distinguish between possible effects of the MDS housing conditions and effects due to the near-zero gravity environment, a ground replica of the flight experiment was performed at the University of Genova. Control tissues were collected also from mice maintained on Earth in standard vivarium cages.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0032243PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3362598PMC
October 2012

Bone turnover in wild type and pleiotrophin-transgenic mice housed for three months in the International Space Station (ISS).

PLoS One 2012 15;7(3):e33179. Epub 2012 Mar 15.

Dipartimento di Oncologia, Biologia e Genetica, Università degli Studi di Genova, Genova, Italy.

Bone is a complex dynamic tissue undergoing a continuous remodeling process. Gravity is a physical force playing a role in the remodeling and contributing to the maintenance of bone integrity. This article reports an investigation on the alterations of the bone microarchitecture that occurred in wild type (Wt) and pleiotrophin-transgenic (PTN-Tg) mice exposed to a near-zero gravity on the International Space Station (ISS) during the Mice Drawer System (MDS) mission, to date, the longest mice permanence (91 days) in space. The transgenic mouse strain over-expressing pleiotrophin (PTN) in bone was selected because of the PTN positive effects on bone turnover. Wt and PTN-Tg control animals were maintained on Earth either in a MDS payload or in a standard vivarium cage. This study revealed a bone loss during spaceflight in the weight-bearing bones of both strains. For both Tg and Wt a decrease of the trabecular number as well as an increase of the mean trabecular separation was observed after flight, whereas trabecular thickness did not show any significant change. Non weight-bearing bones were not affected. The PTN-Tg mice exposed to normal gravity presented a poorer trabecular organization than Wt mice, but interestingly, the expression of the PTN transgene during the flight resulted in some protection against microgravity's negative effects. Moreover, osteocytes of the Wt mice, but not of Tg mice, acquired a round shape, thus showing for the first time osteocyte space-related morphological alterations in vivo. The analysis of specific bone formation and resorption marker expression suggested that the microgravity-induced bone loss was due to both an increased bone resorption and a decreased bone deposition. Apparently, the PTN transgene protection was the result of a higher osteoblast activity in the flight mice.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0033179PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3305296PMC
August 2012

Effects of long-term space flight on erythrocytes and oxidative stress of rodents.

PLoS One 2012 7;7(3):e32361. Epub 2012 Mar 7.

Dipartimento di Scienze Molecolari Applicate ai Biosistemi, DiSMAB, Università degli studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.

Erythrocyte and hemoglobin losses have been frequently observed in humans during space missions; these observations have been designated as "space anemia". Erythrocytes exposed to microgravity have a modified rheology and undergo hemolysis to a greater extent. Cell membrane composition plays an important role in determining erythrocyte resistance to mechanical stress and it is well known that membrane composition might be influenced by external events, such as hypothermia, hypoxia or gravitational strength variations. Moreover, an altered cell membrane composition, in particular in fatty acids, can cause a greater sensitivity to peroxidative stress, with increase in membrane fragility. Solar radiation or low wavelength electromagnetic radiations (such as gamma rays) from the Earth or the space environment can split water to generate the hydroxyl radical, very reactive at the site of its formation, which can initiate chain reactions leading to lipid peroxidation. These reactive free radicals can react with the non-radical molecules, leading to oxidative damage of lipids, proteins and DNA, etiologically associated with various diseases and morbidities such as cancer, cell degeneration, and inflammation. Indeed, radiation constitutes on of the most important hazard for humans during long-term space flights. With this background, we participated to the MDS tissue-sharing program performing analyses on mice erythrocytes flown on the ISS from August to November 2009. Our results indicate that space flight induced modifications in cell membrane composition and increase of lipid peroxidation products, in mouse erythrocytes. Moreover, antioxidant defenses in the flight erythrocytes were induced, with a significant increase of glutathione content as compared to both vivarium and ground control erythrocytes. Nonetheless, this induction was not sufficient to prevent damages caused by oxidative stress. Future experiments should provide information helpful to reduce the effects of oxidative stress exposure and space anemia, possibly by integrating appropriate dietary elements and natural compounds that could act as antioxidants.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0032361PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296700PMC
August 2012

High ERp5/ADAM10 expression in lymph node microenvironment and impaired NKG2D ligands recognition in Hodgkin lymphomas.

Blood 2012 Feb 13;119(6):1479-89. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Division of Immunology, Transplants and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Via Olgettina 60, Milan, Italy.

Herein we describe that in classic Hodgkin lymphomas (cHL, n = 25) the lymph node (LN) stroma displayed in situ high levels of transcription and expression of the disulfide-isomerase ERp5 and of the disintegrin-metalloproteinase ADAM10, able to shed the ligands for NKG2D (NKG2D-L) from the cell membrane. These enzymes were detected both in LN mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) and in Reed-Sternberg (RS) cells; in addition, MIC-A and ULBP3 were present in culture supernatants of LN MSCs or RS cells. NKG2D-L-negative RS cells could not be killed by CD8(+)αβT or γδT cells; tumor cell killing was partially restored by treating RS cells with valproic acid, which enhanced NKG2D-L surface expression. Upon coculture with LN MSCs, CD8(+)αβT and γδT cells strongly reduced their cytolytic activity against NKG2D-L(+) targets; this seems to be the result of TGF-β, present at the tumor site, produced in vitro by LN MSCs and able to down-regulate the expression of NKG2D on T lymphocytes. In addition, CD8(+)αβT and γδT cells from the lymph nodes of cHL patients, cocultured in vitro with LN MSCs, underwent TGF-β-mediated down regulation of NKG2D. Thus, in cHL the tumor microenvironment is prone to inhibit the development of an efficient antitumor response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood-2011-07-370841DOI Listing
February 2012

Inactivation of Six2 in mouse identifies a novel genetic mechanism controlling development and growth of the cranial base.

Dev Biol 2010 Aug 31;344(2):720-30. Epub 2010 May 31.

School of Dentistry, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.

The cranial base is essential for integrated craniofacial development and growth. It develops as a cartilaginous template that is replaced by bone through the process of endochondral ossification. Here, we describe a novel and specific role for the homeoprotein Six2 in the growth and elongation of the cranial base. Six2-null newborn mice display premature fusion of the bones in the cranial base. Chondrocyte differentiation is abnormal in the Six2-null cranial base, with reduced proliferation and increased terminal differentiation. Gain-of-function experiments indicate that Six2 promotes cartilage development and growth in other body areas and appears therefore to control general regulators of chondrocyte differentiation. Our data indicate that the main factors restricting Six2 function to the cranial base are tissue-specific transcription of the gene and compensatory effects of other Six family members. The comparable expression during human embryogenesis and the high protein conservation from mouse to human implicate SIX2 loss-of-function as a potential congenital cause of anterior cranial base defects in humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2010.05.509DOI Listing
August 2010

Lipocalin-2 controls the expression of SDF-1 and the number of responsive cells in bone.

Cytokine 2010 Jul 1;51(1):47-52. Epub 2010 Apr 1.

Dipartimento di Oncologia, Biologia e Genetica, Università di Genova, Italy.

Lipocalin-2 (LCN2) is a member of the lipocalin family, small secreted proteins functioning as modulators of many different physiological processes including cell differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. LCN2 expression is also up-regulated in several pathological conditions, including inflammation and cancer. LCN2 synthesis has been described in epithelia, bone and cells of the immune system. Despite its wide expression the role of LCN2 remains to be fully elucidated. To better understand the role of this lipocalin in the bone/bone marrow system we generated transgenic mice over-expressing LCN2 specifically in bone under the control of a type I collagen promoter. In the bone marrow of these transgenic mice we observed an increased expression of SDF-1 that correlated with an increased number of CD34+/CXCR4+ (SDF-1 receptor) cells. To some extent, this appeared due to an enhanced cell proliferation rate. The higher level of the factor synthesis and the increased number of cells expressing its receptor was maintained during animal aging. Our results show that LCN2 could play a role in determining the number of CD34+/CXCR4+ precursor cells in the bone marrow thus contributing to the control of the bone marrow microenvironment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cyto.2010.02.009DOI Listing
July 2010

Expressing Hoxa2 across the entire endochondral skeleton alters the shape of the skeletal template in a spatially restricted fashion.

Differentiation 2010 Mar 14;79(3):194-202. Epub 2010 Jan 14.

Dipartimento di Oncologia, Biologia e Genetica, Università di Genova, Italy.

Hox genes control morphogenesis along the antero-posterior axis. The skeleton of vertebrates offers an exemplar readout of their activity: Hox genes control the morphology of the skeleton by defining type of vertebrae, and structure of the limbs. The head skeleton of vertebrates is formed by cranial neural crest (CNC), and mainly by a Hox-free domain of the CNC. Ectopic expression of anterior Hox genes in the CNC prevents the formation of the facial skeleton. These inhibitory effects on skeletogenesis are at odds with the recognized function of Hox genes in patterning the developing skeleton. To clarify these controversial effects, we overexpressed Hoxa2 across the entire developing endochondral skeleton in mouse. This gave rise to strong and spatially restricted effects: the most noticeable abnormalities were detected in the cranial base and consisted in a failure of bones to form or in a transformed morphology of bones. The rest of the skeleton exhibited milder defects, which never consisted in the absence or the transformation of any skeletal components. Analyses at early stages of endochondral bone development showed disorganized cell condensations in the cranial base of Col2a1-Hoxa2 transgenic embryos. We show that the distribution of Hoxa2-positive cells in Col2a1-Hoxa2 embryos does not match the wild-type developing cartilages. The Hoxa2-positive cells detected in atypical, non-chondrogenic location in the cranial base, remain as chondrocytes and lay down cartilage, indicating that Hoxa2 does not alter the fate of chondrocytes, but interferes with their spatial distribution. We propose that the ability of Hoxa2 to change the spatial distribution of cells accounts for the different phenotypes observed in Col2a1-Hoxa2 embryos; it also provides an explanation for the apparent inconsistency between the inhibitory effects of Hoxa2 on skeletal development, and the ability of Hox genes to establish the morphology of the vertebrate skeleton.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.diff.2009.11.004DOI Listing
March 2010

Impaired expression of genes coding for reactive oxygen species scavenging enzymes in testes of Mtfr1/Chppr-deficient mice.

Reproduction 2007 Sep;134(3):483-92

DOBIG, Universitá di Genova, 16131 Genova, Italy.

Mtfr1/Chppr is a nuclear gene coding for a mitochondrial protein capable of inducing fission of this organelle in a sequence-specific manner. Here we show that in mice, Mtfr1/Chppr is ubiquitously expressed and displays the highest level of expression in pubertal and adult testes and in particular in spermatids and Leydig cells. To investigate Mtfr1 function in vivo, we analyzed homozygous mice null for this gene obtained through a gene trap approach. We show that these mice fail to express Mtfr1 and that in their testes several genes coding for enzymes involved in the defense against oxidative stress are downregulated. Among these, we studied in particular glutathione peroxidase 3 and show its expression in selected testis cell types. Furthermore, we demonstrate oxidative DNA damage specifically in testes of Mtfr1-deficient mice likely resulting from a reduced antioxidant activity. As a whole, these data suggest that Mtfr1 protects the male gonads against oxidative stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1530/REP-07-0199DOI Listing
September 2007

Overexpression of the C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) is associated with overgrowth and bone anomalies in an individual with balanced t(2;7) translocation.

Hum Mutat 2007 Jul;28(7):724-31

Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, G. Gaslini Institute, Genova, Italy.

Longitudinal bone growth is determined by the process of endochondral ossification in the cartilaginous growth plate, which is located at both ends of vertebrae and long bones and involves many systemic hormones and local regulators. We report the molecular characterization of a de novo balanced t(2;7)(q37.1;q21.3) translocation in a young female with Marfanoid habitus and skeletal anomalies. The translocation was characterized by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), checked for other abnormalities by array-comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), and finally, the breakpoints were cloned, sequenced, and compared. Biochemical dosage was applied to study the possible mechanisms that may cause the proposita's phenotype. The breakpoint on chromosome 2 disrupts the hypothetical gene MGC42174 (HUGO-approved symbol DIS3L2) and is located in the proximity of the NPPC gene coding for C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP), a molecule that regulates endochondral bone growth. CNP plasma concentration was doubled in the proband compared to five normal controls, while NPPC was substantially overexpressed in her fibroblasts. A transgenic mouse generated to target NPPC overexpression in bone showed a phenotype highly reminiscent of the patient's phenotype. The breakpoint on chromosome 7 is localized proximally at about 75 kb from the COL1A2 gene. The COL1A2 allele on the derivative chromosome was strongly underexpressed in fibroblasts, but total collagen was not significantly different from controls. Several evidences support the conclusion that the proband's abnormal phenotype is associated with C-type natriuretic peptide overexpression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.20511DOI Listing
July 2007

The immediate upstream sequence of the mouse Ret gene controls tissue-specific expression in transgenic mice.

Int J Mol Med 2006 Oct;18(4):601-8

Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, Giannina Gaslini Institute, 16147 Genoa, Italy.

The RET gene is tightly regulated at the transcriptional level during embryo development, however in vitro experiments in cultured cells have failed to clarify the molecular mechanism of cell-type specificity of RET promoter activity. Therefore, we have generated transgenic mice in which the LacZ reporter gene is controlled by murine Ret promoter sequences to clarify in an in vivo model how this transcriptional regulation is achieved. We describe here the results of reporter gene expression in mice in which the transgene contained 380- and 1962-bp sequence upstream of the ATG start codon, derived from the mouse Ret promoter region, fused to the beta-galactosidase coding sequence. Transgenic mice showed well-defined patterns of beta-galactosidase staining obtained with both transgenes, suggesting that they were able per se to direct the reporter gene expression in specific districts, such as cranial ganglia, dorsal root ganglia, the heart and the kidney, partially recapitulating the profile of the endogenous Ret gene. In particular, proper expression in the developing excretory system seemed quite significant when considering that the appropriate regulation was obtained with a very short, 380 bp, fragment of Ret 5' flanking sequence.
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October 2006

Proliferative arrest and activation of apoptosis related genes in Rolly Protein-silenced cells.

Gene 2006 Nov 14;382:79-87. Epub 2006 Jul 14.

Dipartimento di Oncologia Biologia e Genetica, Università di Genova, Italy.

Here we describe a novel small polypeptide expressed in chick embryo and mouse adult tissues referred to as Rolly Protein (Rolp), expressed at the highest levels in tibial cartilage and lung respectively. Investigating its putative role in cartilage differentiation we found that its expression is restricted to proliferative stages consistently with a decreased proliferation rate observed in Rolp-silenced cells. Additional functional studies demonstrate that inhibition of Rolp expression causes a transcription modulation of genes involved in apoptosis. The results here provided strongly suggest an active role of Rolp in the control of cell proliferation and apoptosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gene.2006.06.017DOI Listing
November 2006

Chondrocyte protein with a poly-proline region (CHPPR) is a novel mitochondrial protein and promotes mitochondrial fission.

J Cell Physiol 2004 Dec;201(3):470-82

Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, 16132 Genova, Italy.

We have recently identified a chondrocyte protein with a poly-proline region, referred to as CHPPR, and showed that this protein is expressed intracellularly in chick embryo chondrocytes. Conventional fluorescence and confocal localization of CHPPR shows that CHPPR is sorted to mitochondria. Furthermore, immunoelectron microscopy of CHPPR transfected cells demonstrates that this protein is mostly associated with the mitochondrial inner membranes. Careful analysis of CHPPR expressing cells reveals, instead of the regular mitochondrial tubular network, the presence of a number of small spheroid mitochondria. Here we show that the domain responsible for network-spheroid transition spans amino acid residues 182-309 including the poly-proline region. Functional analyses of mitochondrial activity rule out the possibility of mitochondrial damage in CHPPR transfected cells. Since cartilage expresses high levels of CHPPR mRNA when compared to other tissues and because CHPPR is associated with late stages of chondrocyte differentiation, we have investigated mitochondrial morphology in hypertrophic chondrocytes by MitoTracker Orange labeling. Confocal microscopy shows that these cells have spheroid mitochondria. Our data demonstrate that CHPPR is able to promote mitochondrial fission with a sequence specific mechanism suggesting that this event may be relevant to late stage of chondrocyte differentiation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcp.20126DOI Listing
December 2004

Targeted expression of SHH affects chondrocyte differentiation, growth plate organization, and Sox9 expression.

J Bone Miner Res 2004 Oct 12;19(10):1678-88. Epub 2004 Jul 12.

Department of Oncology, Biology and Genetics, University of Genoa Medical School, Genoa, Italy.

Unlabelled: The role of Hedgehogs (Hh) in murine skeletal development was studied by overexpressing human Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) in chondrocytes of transgenic mice using the collagen II promoter/enhancer. Overexpression caused a lethal craniorachischisis with major alterations in long bones because of defects in chondrocyte differentiation.

Introduction: Hedgehogs (Hhs) are a family of secreted polypeptides that play important roles in vertebrate development, controlling many critical steps of cell differentiation and patterning. Skeletal development is affected in many different ways by Hhs. Genetic defects and anomalies of Hhs signaling pathways cause severe abnormalities in the appendicular, axial, and cranial skeleton in man and other vertebrates.

Materials And Methods: Genetic manipulation of mouse embryos was used to study in vivo the function of SHH in skeletal development. By DNA microinjection into pronuclei of fertilized oocytes, we have generated transgenic mice that express SHH specifically in chondrocytes using the cartilage-specific collagen II promoter/enhancer. Transgenic skeletal development was studied at different embryonic stages by histology. The expression pattern of specific chondrocyte molecules was studied by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization.

Results: Transgenic mice died at birth with severe craniorachischisis and other skeletal defects in ribs, sternum, and long bones. Detailed analysis of long bones showed that chondrocyte differentiation was blocked at prehypertrophic stages, hindering endochondral ossification and trabecular bone formation, with specific defects in different limb segments. The growth plate was highly disorganized in the tibia and was completely absent in the femur and humerus, leading to skeletal elements entirely made of cartilage surrounded by a thin layer of bone. In this cartilage, chondrocytes maintained a columnar organization that was perpendicular to the bone longitudinal axis and directed toward its outer surface. The expression of SHH receptor, Patched-1 (Ptc1), was greatly increased in all cartilage, as well as the expression of parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) at the articular surface; while the expression of Indian Hedgehog (Ihh), another member of Hh family that controls the rate of chondrocyte maturation, was greatly reduced and restricted to the displaced chondrocyte columns. Transgenic mice also revealed the ability of SHH to upregulate the expression of Sox9, a major transcription factor implicated in chondrocyte-specific gene expression, in vivo and in vitro, acting through the proximal 6.8-kb-long Sox9 promoter.

Conclusion: Transgenic mice show that continuous expression of SHH in chondrocytes interferes with cell differentiation and growth plate organization and induces high levels and diffuse expression of Sox9 in cartilaginous bones.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1359/JBMR.040706DOI Listing
October 2004

Depletion of cartilage collagen fibrils in mice carrying a dominant negative Col2a1 transgene affects chondrocyte differentiation.

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 2003 Dec 13;285(6):C1504-12. Epub 2003 Aug 13.

Università di Genova, Centro Biotecnologie Avanzate (Rm. C305 Largo Rosanna Benzi n.10, 16132 Genova, Italy.

We have generated transgenic mice harboring the deletion of exon 48 in the mouse alpha1(II) procollagen gene (Col2a1). This was the first dominant negative mutation identified in the human alpha1(II) procollagen gene (COL2A1). Patients carrying a single allele with this mutation suffer from a severe skeletal disorder called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SED). Transgenic mice phenotype was neonatally lethal with severe respiratory failure, short bones, and cleft palate. Transgene mRNA was expressed at high levels. Growth plate cartilage of transgenic mice presented morphological abnormalities and reduced number of collagen type II fibrils. Chondrocytes carrying the mutation showed altered expression of several differentiation markers, like fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (Fgfr3), Indian hedgehog (Ihh), runx2, cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor P21CIP/WAF (Cdkn1a), and collagen type X (Col10a1), suggesting that a defective extracellular matrix (ECM) depleted of collagen fibrils affects chondrocytes differentiation and that this defect participates in the reduced endochondral bone growth observed in chondrodysplasias caused by mutations in COL2A1.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/ajpcell.00579.2002DOI Listing
December 2003