Journal: The Journal of clinical investigation
Sex, emotion, and reproduction are fundamental and tightly entwined aspects of human behavior. At a population level in humans, both the desire for sexual stimulation and the desire to bond with a partner are important precursors to reproduction. However, the relationships between these processes are incompletely understood. The limbic brain system has key roles in sexual and emotional behaviors, and is a likely candidate system for the integration of behavior with the hormonal reproductive axis. We investigated the effects of kisspeptin, a recently identified key reproductive hormone, on limbic brain activity and behavior.
The idea that increasing salt intake increases drinking and urine volume is widely accepted. We tested the hypothesis that an increase in salt intake of 6 g/d would change fluid balance in men living under ultra-long-term controlled conditions.
Natriuretic regulation of extracellular fluid volume homeostasis includes suppression of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, pressure natriuresis, and reduced renal nerve activity, actions that concomitantly increase urinary Na+ excretion and lead to increased urine volume. The resulting natriuresis-driven diuretic water loss is assumed to control the extracellular volume. Here, we have demonstrated that urine concentration, and therefore regulation of water conservation, is an important control system for urine formation and extracellular volume homeostasis in mice and humans across various levels of salt intake. We observed that the renal concentration mechanism couples natriuresis with correspondent renal water reabsorption, limits natriuretic osmotic diuresis, and results in concurrent extracellular volume conservation and concentration of salt excreted into urine. This water-conserving mechanism of dietary salt excretion relies on urea transporter-driven urea recycling by the kidneys and on urea production by liver and skeletal muscle. The energy-intense nature of hepatic and extrahepatic urea osmolyte production for renal water conservation requires reprioritization of energy and substrate metabolism in liver and skeletal muscle, resulting in hepatic ketogenesis and glucocorticoid-driven muscle catabolism, which are prevented by increasing food intake. This natriuretic-ureotelic, water-conserving principle relies on metabolism-driven extracellular volume control and is regulated by concerted liver, muscle, and renal actions.
The glymphatic system is a recently defined brain-wide paravascular pathway for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and interstitial fluid (ISF) exchange that facilitates efficient clearance of solutes and waste from the brain. CSF enters the brain along para-arterial channels to exchange with ISF, which is in turn cleared from the brain along para-venous pathways. Because soluble amyloid β clearance depends on glymphatic pathway function, we proposed that failure of this clearance system contributes to amyloid plaque deposition and Alzheimer’s disease progression. Here we provide proof of concept that glymphatic pathway function can be measured using a clinically relevant imaging technique. Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI was used to visualize CSF-ISF exchange across the rat brain following intrathecal paramagnetic contrast agent administration. Key features of glymphatic pathway function were confirmed, including visualization of para-arterial CSF influx and molecular size-dependent CSF-ISF exchange. Whole-brain imaging allowed the identification of two key influx nodes at the pituitary and pineal gland recesses, while dynamic MRI permitted the definition of simple kinetic parameters to characterize glymphatic CSF-ISF exchange and solute clearance from the brain. We propose that this MRI approach may provide the basis for a wholly new strategy to evaluate Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility and progression in the live human brain.
Polypeptide vaccines effectively activate human T cells but suffer from poor biological stability, which confines both transport logistics and in vivo therapeutic activity. Synthetic biology has the potential to address these limitations through the generation of highly stable antigenic “mimics” using subunits that do not exist in the natural world. We developed a platform based on D-amino acid combinatorial chemistry and used this platform to reverse engineer a fully artificial CD8+ T cell agonist that mirrored the immunogenicity profile of a native epitope blueprint from influenza virus. This nonnatural peptide was highly stable in human serum and gastric acid, reflecting an intrinsic resistance to physical and enzymatic degradation. In vitro, the synthetic agonist stimulated and expanded an archetypal repertoire of polyfunctional human influenza virus-specific CD8+ T cells. In vivo, specific responses were elicited in naive humanized mice by subcutaneous vaccination, conferring protection from subsequent lethal influenza challenge. Moreover, the synthetic agonist was immunogenic after oral administration. This proof-of-concept study highlights the power of synthetic biology to expand the horizons of vaccine design and therapeutic delivery.
The symptoms of prion infection can take years or decades to manifest following the initial exposure. Molecular markers of prion disease include accumulation of the misfolded prion protein (PrPSc), which is derived from its cellular precursor (PrPC), as well as downregulation of the PrP-like Shadoo (Sho) glycoprotein. Given the overlapping cellular environments for PrPC and Sho, we inferred that PrPC levels might also be altered as part of a host response during prion infection. Using rodent models, we found that, in addition to changes in PrPC glycosylation and proteolytic processing, net reductions in PrPC occur in a wide range of prion diseases, including sheep scrapie, human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and cervid chronic wasting disease. The reduction in PrPC results in decreased prion replication, as measured by the protein misfolding cyclic amplification technique for generating PrPSc in vitro. While PrPC downregulation is not discernible in animals with unusually short incubation periods and high PrPC expression, slowly evolving prion infections exhibit downregulation of the PrPC substrate required for new PrPSc synthesis and as a receptor for pathogenic signaling. Our data reveal PrPC downregulation as a previously unappreciated element of disease pathogenesis that defines the extensive, presymptomatic period for many prion strains.
Down syndrome (DS) patients exhibit abnormalities of hippocampal-dependent explicit memory, a feature that is replicated in relevant mouse models of the disease. Adult hippocampal neurogenesis, which is impaired in DS and other neuropsychiatric diseases, plays a key role in hippocampal circuit plasticity and has been implicated in learning and memory. However, it remains unknown whether increasing adult neurogenesis improves hippocampal plasticity and behavioral performance in the multifactorial context of DS. We report that, in the Ts65Dn mouse model of DS, chronic administration of lithium, a clinically used mood stabilizer, promoted the proliferation of neuronal precursor cells through the pharmacological activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and restored adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) to physiological levels. The restoration of adult neurogenesis completely rescued the synaptic plasticity of newborn neurons in the DG and led to the full recovery of behavioral performance in fear conditioning, object location, and novel object recognition tests. These findings indicate that reestablishing a functional population of hippocampal newborn neurons in adult DS mice rescues hippocampal plasticity and memory and implicate adult neurogenesis as a promising therapeutic target to alleviate cognitive deficits in DS patients.
Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a life-threatening pregnancy-associated cardiomyopathy in previously healthy women. Although PPCM is driven in part by the 16-kDa N-terminal prolactin fragment (16K PRL), the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. We found that 16K PRL induced microRNA-146a (miR-146a) expression in ECs, which attenuated angiogenesis through downregulation of NRAS. 16K PRL stimulated the release of miR-146a-loaded exosomes from ECs. The exosomes were absorbed by cardiomyocytes, increasing miR-146a levels, which resulted in a subsequent decrease in metabolic activity and decreased expression of Erbb4, Notch1, and Irak1. Mice with cardiomyocyte-restricted Stat3 knockout (CKO mice) exhibited a PPCM-like phenotype and displayed increased cardiac miR-146a expression with coincident downregulation of Erbb4, Nras, Notch1, and Irak1. Blocking miR-146a with locked nucleic acids or antago-miRs attenuated PPCM in CKO mice without interrupting full-length prolactin signaling, as indicated by normal nursing activities. Finally, miR-146a was elevated in the plasma and hearts of PPCM patients, but not in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy. These results demonstrate that miR-146a is a downstream-mediator of 16K PRL that could potentially serve as a biomarker and therapeutic target for PPCM.
Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) patients develop benign neurofibromas and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST). These incurable peripheral nerve tumors result from loss of NF1 tumor suppressor gene function, causing hyperactive Ras signaling. Activated Ras controls numerous downstream effectors, but specific pathways mediating the effects of hyperactive Ras in NF1 tumors are unknown. We performed cross-species transcriptome analyses of mouse and human neurofibromas and MPNSTs and identified global negative feedback of genes that regulate Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK signaling in both species. Nonetheless, ERK activation was sustained in mouse and human neurofibromas and MPNST. We used a highly selective pharmacological inhibitor of MEK, PD0325901, to test whether sustained Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK signaling contributes to neurofibroma growth in a neurofibromatosis mouse model (Nf1fl/fl;Dhh-Cre) or in NF1 patient MPNST cell xenografts. PD0325901 treatment reduced aberrantly proliferating cells in neurofibroma and MPNST, prolonged survival of mice implanted with human MPNST cells, and shrank neurofibromas in more than 80% of mice tested. Our data demonstrate that deregulated Ras/ERK signaling is critical for the growth of NF1 peripheral nerve tumors and provide a strong rationale for testing MEK inhibitors in NF1 clinical trials.
Matrix stiffening and myofibroblast resistance to apoptosis are cardinal features of chronic fibrotic diseases involving diverse organ systems. The interactions between altered tissue biomechanics and cellular signaling that sustain progressive fibrosis are not well defined. In this study, we used ex vivo and in vivo approaches to define a mechanotransduction pathway involving Rho/Rho kinase (Rho/ROCK), actin cytoskeletal remodeling, and a mechanosensitive transcription factor, megakaryoblastic leukemia 1 (MKL1), that coordinately regulate myofibroblast differentiation and survival. Both in an experimental mouse model of lung fibrosis and in human subjects with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), we observed activation of the Rho/ROCK pathway, enhanced actin cytoskeletal polymerization, and MKL1 cytoplasmic-nuclear shuttling. Pharmacologic disruption of this mechanotransduction pathway with the ROCK inhibitor fasudil induced myofibroblast apoptosis through a mechanism involving downregulation of BCL-2 and activation of the intrinsic mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. Treatment with fasudil during the postinflammatory fibrotic phase of lung injury or genetic ablation of Mkl1 protected mice from experimental lung fibrosis. These studies indicate that targeting mechanosensitive signaling in myofibroblasts to trigger the intrinsic apoptosis pathway may be an effective approach for treatment of fibrotic disorders.