Journal: Cell reports
Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging flavivirus that causes congenital abnormalities and Guillain-Barré syndrome. ZIKV infection also results in severe eye disease characterized by optic neuritis, chorioretinal atrophy, and blindness in newborns and conjunctivitis and uveitis in adults. We evaluated ZIKV infection of the eye by using recently developed mouse models of pathogenesis. ZIKV-inoculated mice developed conjunctivitis, panuveitis, and infection of the cornea, iris, optic nerve, and ganglion and bipolar cells in the retina. This phenotype was independent of the entry receptors Axl or Mertk, given that Axl(-/-), Mertk(-/-), and Axl(-/-)Mertk(-/-) double knockout mice sustained levels of infection similar to those of control animals. We also detected abundant viral RNA in tears, suggesting that virus might be secreted from lacrimal glands or shed from the cornea. This model provides a foundation for studying ZIKV-induced ocular disease, defining mechanisms of viral persistence, and developing therapeutic approaches for viral infections of the eye.
The presence of dark melanin (eumelanin) within human epidermis represents one of the strongest predictors of low skin cancer risk. Topical rescue of eumelanin synthesis, previously achieved in “redhaired” Mc1r-deficient mice, demonstrated significant protection against UV damage. However, application of a topical strategy for human skin pigmentation has not been achieved, largely due to the greater barrier function of human epidermis. Salt-inducible kinase (SIK) has been demonstrated to regulate MITF, the master regulator of pigment gene expression, through its effects on CRTC and CREB activity. Here, we describe the development of small-molecule SIK inhibitors that were optimized for human skin penetration, resulting in MITF upregulation and induction of melanogenesis. When topically applied, pigment production was induced in Mc1r-deficient mice and normal human skin. These findings demonstrate a realistic pathway toward UV-independent topical modulation of human skin pigmentation, potentially impacting UV protection and skin cancer risk.
Large-bodied organisms have more cells that can potentially turn cancerous than small-bodied organisms, imposing an increased risk of developing cancer. This expectation predicts a positive correlation between body size and cancer risk; however, there is no correlation between body size and cancer risk across species (“Peto’s paradox”). Here, we show that elephants and their extinct relatives (proboscideans) may have resolved Peto’s paradox in part through refunctionalizing a leukemia inhibitory factor pseudogene (LIF6) with pro-apoptotic functions. LIF6 is transcriptionally upregulated by TP53 in response to DNA damage and translocates to the mitochondria where it induces apoptosis. Phylogenetic analyses of living and extinct proboscidean LIF6 genes indicates that its TP53 response element evolved coincident with the evolution of large body sizes in the proboscidean stem lineage. These results suggest that refunctionalizing of a pro-apoptotic LIF pseudogene may have been permissive (although not sufficient) for the evolution of large body sizes in proboscideans.
Antibiotics, though remarkably useful, can also cause certain adverse effects. We detected that treatment of adult mice with antibiotics decreases hippocampal neurogenesis and memory retention. Reconstitution with normal gut flora (SPF) did not completely reverse the deficits in neurogenesis unless the mice also had access to a running wheel or received probiotics. In parallel to an increase in neurogenesis and memory retention, both SPF-reconstituted mice that ran and mice supplemented with probiotics exhibited higher numbers of Ly6C(hi) monocytes in the brain than antibiotic-treated mice. Elimination of Ly6C(hi) monocytes by antibody depletion or the use of knockout mice resulted in decreased neurogenesis, whereas adoptive transfer of Ly6C(hi) monocytes rescued neurogenesis after antibiotic treatment. We propose that the rescue of neurogenesis and behavior deficits in antibiotic-treated mice by exercise and probiotics is partially mediated by Ly6C(hi) monocytes.
Amyloidosis is a major problem in over one hundred diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Using the iDISCO visualization method involving targeted molecular labeling, tissue clearing, and light-sheet microscopy, we studied plaque formation in the intact AD mouse brain at up to 27 months of age. We visualized amyloid plaques in 3D together with tau, microglia, and vasculature. Volume imaging coupled to automated detection and mapping enables precise and fast quantification of plaques within the entire intact mouse brain. The present methodology is also applicable to analysis of frozen human brain samples without specialized preservation. Remarkably, amyloid plaques in human brain tissues showed greater 3D complexity and surprisingly large three-dimensional amyloid patterns, or TAPs. The ability to visualize amyloid in 3D, especially in the context of their micro-environment, and the discovery of large TAPs may have important scientific and medical implications.
A CAPN1 missense mutation in Parson Russell Terrier dogs is associated with spinocerebellar ataxia. We now report that homozygous or heterozygous CAPN1-null mutations in humans result in cerebellar ataxia and limb spasticity in four independent pedigrees. Calpain-1 knockout (KO) mice also exhibit a mild form of ataxia due to abnormal cerebellar development, including enhanced neuronal apoptosis, decreased number of cerebellar granule cells, and altered synaptic transmission. Enhanced apoptosis is due to absence of calpain-1-mediated cleavage of PH domain and leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase 1 (PHLPP1), which results in inhibition of the Akt pro-survival pathway in developing granule cells. Injection of neonatal mice with the indirect Akt activator, bisperoxovanadium, or crossing calpain-1 KO mice with PHLPP1 KO mice prevented increased postnatal cerebellar granule cell apoptosis and restored granule cell density and motor coordination in adult mice. Thus, mutations in CAPN1 are an additional cause of ataxia in mammals, including humans.
Brown adipose tissue (BAT) has attracted considerable research interest because of its therapeutic potential to treat obesity and associated metabolic diseases. Augmentation of brown fat mass and/or its function may represent an attractive strategy to enhance energy expenditure. Using high-throughput phenotypic screening to induce brown adipocyte reprogramming in committed myoblasts, we identified a retinoid X receptor (RXR) agonist, bexarotene (Bex), that efficiently converted myoblasts into brown adipocyte-like cells. Bex-treated mice exhibited enlarged BAT mass, enhanced BAT function, and a modest browning effect in subcutaneous white adipose tissue (WAT). Expression analysis showed that Bex initiated several “browning” pathways at an early stage during brown adipocyte reprogramming. Our findings suggest RXRs as new master regulators that control brown and beige fat development and activation, unlike the common adipogenic regulator PPARγ. Moreover, we demonstrated that selective RXR activation may potentially offer a therapeutic approach to manipulate brown/beige fat function in vivo.
High-protein (HP) intake during weight loss (WL) therapy is often recommended because it reduces the loss of lean tissue mass. However, HP intake could have adverse effects on metabolic function, because protein ingestion reduces postprandial insulin sensitivity. In this study, we compared the effects of ∼10% WL with a hypocaloric diet containing 0.8 g protein/kg/day and a hypocaloric diet containing 1.2 g protein/kg/day on muscle insulin action in postmenopausal women with obesity. We found that HP intake reduced the WL-induced decline in lean tissue mass by ∼45%. However, HP intake also prevented the WL-induced improvements in muscle insulin signaling and insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, as well as the WL-induced adaptations in oxidative stress and cell structural biology pathways. Our data demonstrate that the protein content of a WL diet can have profound effects on metabolic function and underscore the importance of considering dietary macronutrient composition during WL therapy for people with obesity.
Atrophy of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression and related disorders. The ability to promote both structural and functional plasticity in the PFC has been hypothesized to underlie the fast-acting antidepressant properties of the dissociative anesthetic ketamine. Here, we report that, like ketamine, serotonergic psychedelics are capable of robustly increasing neuritogenesis and/or spinogenesis both in vitro and in vivo. These changes in neuronal structure are accompanied by increased synapse number and function, as measured by fluorescence microscopy and electrophysiology. The structural changes induced by psychedelics appear to result from stimulation of the TrkB, mTOR, and 5-HT2A signaling pathways and could possibly explain the clinical effectiveness of these compounds. Our results underscore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and, importantly, identify several lead scaffolds for medicinal chemistry efforts focused on developing plasticity-promoting compounds as safe, effective, and fast-acting treatments for depression and related disorders.
Cas9 cleaves specific DNA sequences with the assistance of a programmable single guide RNA (sgRNA). Repairing this broken DNA by the cell’s error-prone non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) machinery leads to insertions and deletions (indels) that often impair DNA function. Using HIV-1, we have now demonstrated that many of these indels are indeed lethal for the virus, but that others lead to the emergence of replication competent viruses that are resistant to Cas9/sgRNA. This unexpected contribution of Cas9 to the development of viral resistance is facilitated by some indels that are not deleterious for viral replication, but that are refractory to recognition by the same sgRNA as a result of changing the target DNA sequences. This observation illustrates two opposite outcomes of Cas9/sgRNA action, i.e., inactivation of HIV-1 and acceleration of viral escape, thereby potentially limiting the use of Cas9/sgRNA in HIV-1 therapy.