W E O'Brien

Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, United States

Are you W E O'Brien?

Claim your profile

Publications (129)984.66 Total impact

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Nitric oxide (NO) is crucial in diverse physiological and pathological processes. We show that a hypomorphic mouse model of argininosuccinate lyase (encoded by Asl) deficiency has a distinct phenotype of multiorgan dysfunction and NO deficiency. Loss of Asl in both humans and mice leads to reduced NO synthesis, owing to both decreased endogenous arginine synthesis and an impaired ability to use extracellular arginine for NO production. Administration of nitrite, which can be converted into NO in vivo, rescued the manifestations of NO deficiency in hypomorphic Asl mice, and a nitric oxide synthase (NOS)-independent NO donor restored NO-dependent vascular reactivity in humans with ASL deficiency. Mechanistic studies showed that ASL has a structural function in addition to its catalytic activity, by which it contributes to the formation of a multiprotein complex required for NO production. Our data demonstrate a previously unappreciated role for ASL in NOS function and NO homeostasis. Hence, ASL may serve as a target for manipulating NO production in experimental models, as well as for the treatment of NO-related diseases.
    Nature medicine 11/2011; 17(12):1619-26. · 27.14 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Phenylbutyrate is a drug used in patients with urea cycle disorder to elicit alternative pathways for nitrogen disposal. However, phenylbutyrate administration decreases plasma branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) concentrations, and previous research suggests that phenylbutyrate administration may increase leucine oxidation, which would indicate increased protein degradation and net protein loss. We investigated the effects of phenylbutyrate administration on whole-body protein metabolism, glutamine, leucine, and urea kinetics in healthy and ornithine transcarbamylase-deficient (OTCD) subjects and the possible benefits of BCAA supplementation during phenylbutyrate therapy. Seven healthy control and 7 partial-OTCD subjects received either phenylbutyrate or no treatment in a crossover design. In addition, the partial-OTCD and 3 null-OTCD subjects received phenylbutyrate and phenylbutyrate plus BCAA supplementation. A multitracer protocol was used to determine the whole-body fluxes of urea and amino acids of interest. Phenylbutyrate administration reduced ureagenesis by ≈15% without affecting the fluxes of leucine, tyrosine, phenylalanine, or glutamine and the oxidation of leucine or phenylalanine. The transfer of (15)N from glutamine to urea was reduced by 35%. However, a reduction in plasma concentrations of BCAAs due to phenylbutyrate treatment was observed. BCAA supplementation did not alter the respective baseline fluxes. Prolonged phenylbutyrate administration reduced ureagenesis and the transfer of (15)N from glutamine to urea without parallel reductions in glutamine flux and concentration. There were no changes in total-body protein breakdown and amino acid catabolism, which suggests that phenylbutyrate can be used to dispose of nitrogen effectively without adverse effects on body protein economy.
    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 06/2011; 93(6):1248-54. · 6.50 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Angelman syndrome (AS) is caused by reduced or absent expression of the maternally inherited ubiquitin protein ligase 3A gene (UBE3A), which maps to chromosome 15q11-q13. UBE3A is subject to genomic imprinting in neurons in most regions of the brain. Expression of UBE3A from the maternal chromosome is essential to prevent AS, because the paternally inherited gene is not expressed, probably mediated by antisense UBE3A RNA. We hypothesized that increasing methylation might reduce expression of the antisense UBE3A RNA, thereby increasing UBE3A expression from the paternal gene and ameliorating the clinical phenotype. We conducted a trial using two dietary supplements, betaine and folic acid to promote global levels of methylation and attempt to activate the paternally inherited UBE3A gene. We performed a number of investigations at regular intervals including general clinical and developmental evaluations, biochemical determinations on blood and urine, and electroencephalographic studies. We report herein the data on 48 children with AS who were enrolled in a double-blind placebo-controlled protocol using betaine and folic acid for 1 year. There were no statistically significant changes between treated and untreated children; however, in a small subset of patients we observed some positive trends.
    American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A 08/2010; 152A(8):1994-2001. · 2.30 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Alternatively activated macrophages prevent lethal intestinal pathology caused by worm ova in mice infected with the human parasite Schistosoma mansoni through mechanisms that are currently unclear. This study demonstrates that arginase I (Arg I), a major product of IL-4- and IL-13-induced alternatively activated macrophages, prevents cachexia, neutrophilia, and endotoxemia during acute schistosomiasis. Specifically, Arg I-positive macrophages promote TGF-beta production and Foxp3 expression, suppress Ag-specific T cell proliferation, and limit Th17 differentiation. S. mansoni-infected Arg I-deficient bone marrow chimeras develop a marked accumulation of worm ova within the ileum but impaired fecal egg excretion compared with infected wild-type bone marrow chimeras. Worm ova accumulation in the intestines of Arg I-deficient bone marrow chimeras was associated with intestinal hemorrhage and production of molecules associated with classical macrophage activation (increased production of IL-6, NO, and IL-12/IL-23p40), but whereas inhibition of NO synthase-2 has marginal effects, IL-12/IL-23p40 neutralization abrogates both cachexia and intestinal inflammation and reduces the number of ova within the gut. Thus, macrophage-derived Arg I protects hosts against excessive tissue injury caused by worm eggs during acute schistosomiasis by suppressing IL-12/IL-23p40 production and maintaining the Treg/Th17 balance within the intestinal mucosa.
    The Journal of Immunology 06/2010; 184(11):6438-46. · 5.52 Impact Factor
  • Source
    American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A 04/2010; 152A(4):1061. · 2.30 Impact Factor
  • Qin Sun, William E O'Brien
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Creatine metabolism disorders include a creatine transporter deficiency, as well as, deficiencies of two enzymes involved in creatine synthesis, arginine-glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT) and guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT). Laboratory diagnosis of these disorders relies on the determination of creatine and guanidinoacetate in both plasma and urine. Here we describe a rapid HPLC/MS/MS method for these measurements using a normal phase HILIC column after analyte derivatization.
    Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 01/2010; 603:175-85. · 1.29 Impact Factor
  • Human Genetics 09/2009; 126(2):342. · 4.63 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Arginase is significantly upregulated in the lungs in murine models of asthma, as well as in human asthma, but its role in allergic airway inflammation has not been fully elucidated in mice. In order to test the hypothesis that arginase has a role in allergic airway inflammation we generated arginase I-deficient bone marrow (BM) chimeric mice. Following transfer of arginase I-deficient BM into irradiated recipient mice, arginase I expression was not required for hematopoietic reconstitution and baseline immunity. Arginase I deficiency in bone marrow-derived cells decreased allergen-induced lung arginase by 85.8 +/- 5.6%. In contrast, arginase II-deficient mice had increased lung arginase activity following allergen challenge to a similar level to wild type mice. BM-derived arginase I was not required for allergen-elicited sensitization, recruitment of inflammatory cells in the lung, and proliferation of cells. Furthermore, allergen-induced airway hyperresponsiveness and collagen deposition were similar in arginase-deficient and wild type mice. Additionally, arginase II-deficient mice respond similarly to their control wild type mice with allergen-induced inflammation, airway hyperresponsiveness, proliferation and collagen deposition. Bone marrow cell derived arginase I is the predominant source of allergen-induced lung arginase but is not required for allergen-induced inflammation, airway hyperresponsiveness or collagen deposition.
    BMC Immunology 02/2009; 10:33. · 2.61 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We tested the hypothesis that increasing methyl-group pools might promote transcriptional repression by other methyl-binding proteins or by mutant methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 with altered affinity, ameliorating the clinical features of Rett syndrome. A 12-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled folate-betaine trial enrolled 73 methylCpG-binding protein 2 mutation positive female participants meeting consensus criteria for Rett syndrome. Participants were randomized as young (< age 5 years) or old (>or= age 5 years). Structured clinical assessments occurred at baseline, 3, 6, and 12 months. Primary outcome measures included quantitative evaluation of breathing and hand movements during wakefulness, growth, anthropometry, motor/behavioral function, and qualitative evaluations from electroencephalograms and parent questionnaires. In all, 68 participants completed the study. Objective evidence of improvement was not found. Subjective improvement from parent questionnaires was noted for the <5 years group. This study should inform future treatment trials regarding balancing participants with specific mutations and comparable severity to minimize selection bias.
    Journal of child neurology 02/2009; 24(5):551-6. · 1.59 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The genetic architecture of complex traits underlying physiology and disease in most organisms remains elusive. We still know little about the number of genes that underlie these traits, the magnitude of their effects, or the extent to which they interact. Chromosome substitution strains (CSSs) enable statistically powerful studies based on testing engineered inbred strains that have single, unique, and nonoverlapping genetic differences, thereby providing measures of phenotypic effects that are attributable to individual chromosomes. Here, we report a study of phenotypic effects and gene interactions for 90 blood, bone, and metabolic traits in a mouse CSS panel and 54 traits in a rat CSS panel. Two key observations emerge about the genetic architecture of these traits. First, the traits tend to be highly polygenic: across the genome, many individual chromosome substitutions each had significant phenotypic effects and, within each of the chromosomes studied, multiple distinct loci were found. Second, strong epistasis was found among the individual chromosomes. Specifically, individual chromosome substitutions often conferred surprisingly large effects (often a substantial fraction of the entire phenotypic difference between the parental strains), with the result that the sum of these individual effects often dramatically exceeded the difference between the parental strains. We suggest that strong, pervasive epistasis may reflect the presence of several phenotypically-buffered physiological states. These results have implications for identification of complex trait genes, developmental and physiological studies of phenotypic variation, and opportunities to engineer phenotypic outcomes in complex biological systems.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 01/2009; 105(50):19910-4. · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Citrin deficiency, caused by mutations in SLC25A13, can present with neonatal intrahepatic cholestasis or with adult onset neuropsychiatric, hepatic and pancreatic disease. Until recently, it had been thought to be found mostly in individuals of East Asian ancestry. A key diagnostic feature has been the deficient argininosuccinate synthetase (ASS) activity (E.C. in liver, with normal activity in skin fibroblasts. In this series we describe the clinical presentation of 10 patients referred to our laboratories for sequence analysis of the SCL25A13 gene, including several patients who presented with elevated citrulline on newborn screening. In addition to sequence analysis performed on all patients, ASS enzyme activity, citrulline incorporation and Western blot analysis for ASS and citrin were performed on skin fibroblasts if available. We have found 5 unreported mutations including two apparent founder mutations in three unrelated French-Canadian patients. In marked contrast to previous cases, these patients have a markedly reduced ASS activity in skin fibroblasts. The presence of citrin protein on Western blot in three of our cases reduces the sensitivity of a screening test based on protein immunoblotting. The finding of citrin mutations in patients of Arabic, Pakistani, French Canadian and Northern European origins supports the concept that citrin deficiency is a panethnic disease.
    Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 12/2008; 96(1):44-9. · 2.83 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Expanded newborn screening detects patients with modest elevations in citrulline; however it is currently unclear how to treat these patients and how to counsel their parents. In order to begin to address these issues, we compared the clinical, biochemical, and molecular features of 10 patients with mildly elevated citrulline levels. Three patients presented with clinical illness whereas seven came to attention as a result of expanded newborn screening. One patient presented during pregnancy and responded promptly to IV sodium phenylacetate/sodium benzoate and arginine therapy with no long-term adverse effects on mother or fetus. Two children presented with neurocognitive dysfunction, one of these responded dramatically to dietary protein reduction. ASS enzyme activity was not deficient in all patients with biallelic mutations suggesting this test cannot exclude the ASS1 locus in patients with mildly elevated plasma citrulline. Conversely, all symptomatic patients who were tested had deficient activity. We describe four unreported mutations (p.Y291S, p.R272H, p.F72L, and p.L88I), as well as the common p.W179R mutation. In silico algorithms were inconsistent in predicting the pathogenicity of mutations. The cognitive benefit in one patient of protein restriction and the lack of adverse outcome in seven others restricted from birth, suggest a role for protein restriction and continued monitoring to prevent neurocognitive dysfunction.
    American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A 11/2008; 146A(22):2885-90. · 2.30 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Obesity and its comorbidities are taking an increasing toll on human health. Key pathways that were identified with single gene variants in humans and model organisms have led to improved understanding and treatment of rare cases of human obesity. However, similar progress remains elusive for the more common multifactorial cases of metabolic dysfunction and disease. A survey of mouse chromosome substitution strains (CSSs) provided insight into the complex genetic control of diet-induced obesity and related conditions. We now report a survey of 60 traits related to obesity and metabolic syndrome in mice with a single substituted chromosome as well as selected traits measured in congenic strains derived from the substituted strain. We found that each strain that was resistant to diet-induced obesity had a distinct phenotype that uniquely modeled different combinations of traits related to metabolic disease. For example, the chromosome 6 CSS remained insulin resistant in the absence of obesity, demonstrating an atypical relationship between body weight and insulin resistance. These results provide insights into the genetic control of constant components of this mouse model of diet-induced metabolic disease as well as phenotypes that vary depending on genetic background. A better understanding of these genotype-phenotype relationships may enable a more individualized diagnosis and treatment of obesity and the metabolic syndrome.
    Physiological Genomics 09/2008; 35(1):116-22. · 2.81 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Dietary folate supplementation can dramatically reduce the severity and incidence of several common birth defects and adult diseases that are associated with anomalies in homocysteine and folate metabolism. The common polymorphisms that adversely affect these metabolic pathways do not fully account for the particular birth defects and adult diseases that occur in at-risk individuals. To test involvement of folate, homocysteine, and other pathways in disease pathogenesis and treatment response, we analyzed global and pathway-specific changes in gene expression and levels of selected metabolites after depletion and repletion of dietary folate in two genetically distinct inbred strains of mice. Compared with the C57BL/6J strain, A/J showed greater homeostatic response to folate perturbation by retaining a higher serum folate level and minimizing global gene expression changes. Remarkably, folate perturbation led to systematic strain-specific differences only in the expression profile of the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway and to changes in levels of serum and liver total cholesterol. By genetically increasing serum and liver total cholesterol levels in APOE-deficient mice, we modestly but significantly improved folate retention during folate depletion, suggesting that homeostasis among the homocysteine, folate and cholesterol metabolic pathways contributes to the beneficial effects of dietary folate supplementation.
    Physiological Genomics 09/2008; 35(2):182-90. · 2.81 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Helper-dependent adenoviral vectors (HDAd) can mediate long-term phenotypic correction in the ornithine transacarbamylase (OTC)-deficient mice model with negligible chronic toxicity. However, the high doses required for metabolic correction will result in systemic inflammatory response syndrome in humans. This acute toxicity represents the major obstacle for clinical applications of HDAd vectors for the treatment of OTC deficiency. Strategies for reducing the dose necessary for disease correction are highly desirable because HDAd acute toxicity is clearly dose-dependent. We analysed a potent expression cassette and the hydrodynamic injection for the ability to reduce the HDAd dose necessary for phenotypic correction in OTC-deficient spf-ash mice. We have developed a vector containing a potent expression cassette expressing the OTC transgene, which allowed phenotypic correction at lower doses. Our results suggest that vector expressing greater OTC levels allows correction of orotic acid overproduction at lower doses that make clinical translation more relevant. We were able to further reduce the minimal effective dose by delivering the vector through the hydrodynamic injection technique. Vectors containing the expression cassette used in the present study, combined with other strategies for improving HDAd therapeutic index, will likely permit application of these vectors for the treatment of OTC deficiency as well as other urea cycle disorders.
    The Journal of Gene Medicine 06/2008; 10(8):890-6. · 2.16 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The role of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) in polyamine metabolism has long been established, but the exact source of ornithine has always been unclear. The arginase enzymes are capable of producing ornithine for the production of polyamines and may hold important regulatory functions in the maintenance of this pathway. Utilizing our unique set of arginase single and double knockout mice, we analyzed polyamine levels in the livers, brains, kidneys, and small intestines of the mice at 2 wk of age, the latest timepoint at which all of them are still alive, to determine whether tissue polyamine levels were altered in response to a disruption of arginase I (AI) and II (AII) enzymatic activity. Whereas putrescine was minimally increased in the liver and kidneys from the AII knockout mice, spermidine and spermine were maintained. ODC activity was not greatly altered in the knockout animals and did not correlate with the fluctuations in putrescine. mRNA levels of ornithine aminotransferase (OAT), antizyme 1 (AZ1), and spermidine/spermine-N(1)-acetyltransferase (SSAT) were also measured and only minor alterations were seen, most notably an increase in OAT expression seen in the liver of AI knockout and double knockout mice. It appears that putrescine catabolism may be affected in the liver when AI is disrupted and ornithine levels are highly reduced. These results suggest that endogenous arginase-derived ornithine may not directly contribute to polyamine homeostasis in mice. Alternate sources such as diet may provide sufficient polyamines for maintenance in mammalian tissues.
    AJP Cell Physiology 11/2007; 293(4):C1296-301. · 3.71 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Significant heritability has been shown for several plasma amino acid levels, but the results may have been confounded by sampling in a variety of nutritional states. We studied a group of families on a low protein steady-state diet in fasting and non-fasting states. Heritability of individual amino acids varied according to the nutritional state, suggesting the amount of genetic and environmental influences differ among the operative systems that control individual amino acid homeostasis throughout the feed/fast cycle.
    Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 03/2007; 90(2):217-20. · 2.83 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Knockout mouse models have been created to study the consequences of deficiencies in arginase AI and AII, both individually and combined. The AI knockout animals die by 14 days of age from hyperammonemia, while the AII knockout has no obvious phenotype. The double knockout (AI(-/-)/AII(-/-)) exhibits the phenotype of the AI-deficient mice, with the additional absence of AII not exacerbating the observed phenotype of the AI knockout animals. Plasma amino acid measurements in the double knockout have shown arginine levels increased roughly 100-fold and ornithine decreased roughly 10-fold as compared to wildtype. Liver ornithine levels were reduced to 2% of normal in the double knockout with arginine very highly elevated. Arginine and ornithine were also altered in other tissues in the double knockout mice, such as kidney, brain, and small intestine. This is the first demonstration that the fatal hyperammonemia in the AI knockout mouse is almost certainly due to ornithine deficiency, the amino acid needed to drive the urea cycle. Others have shown that the expression of ornithine aminotransferase (OAT) rapidly decreases in the intestine at the same age when the AI-deficient animals die, indicating that this enzyme is critical to the maintenance of ornithine homeostasis, at least at this early stage of mouse development. Although most human AI-deficient patients have no symptomatic hyperammonemia at birth, it is possible that clinically significant ornithine deficiency is already present.
    Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 01/2006; 89(1-2):87-96. · 2.83 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Increased levels of homocysteine in the blood have been associated with various birth defects and adult diseases. However, the extent to which genetic factors control homocysteine levels in healthy individuals is unclear. Laboratory mice are valuable models for dissecting the genetic and environmental controls of total homocysteine (tHcy) levels. We assessed the inheritance of tHcy levels in two inbred strains, A/J and C57BL/6J (B6), under controlled physiological conditions and assessed the relative importance of genetic, diet, gender, and parental effects. Diet affected mean tHcy levels, whereas gender affected both the mean and variance of tHcy levels. Moreover, gender of the parents influenced mean tHcy levels in reciprocal F1 hybrids, suggesting maternal effects. Finally, gene-diet interactions affected heritability of mean tHcy levels. These studies showed that each of these factors contributes to tHcy levels and provided important clues to understanding homocysteine homeostasis in humans.
    Physiological Genomics 06/2005; 21(3):404-10. · 2.81 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Methylation is an important aspect of many fundamental biological processes including creatine biosynthesis. We studied five patients with an inborn error of cobalamin metabolism to characterize the relation between homocysteine and creatine metabolism. Plasma guanidinoacetate concentrations were increased, 14.9 +/- 4.8 micromol/L (p < 0.0001), whereas plasma creatine concentrations were in the low reference range, 43.8 +/- 20.7 micromol/L (p = not significant). Individuals with combined methylmalonic aciduria and homocystinuria have a functional impairment of the creatine synthetic pathway probably secondary to a relative depletion of labile methyl groups. The neurotoxic effects of guanidinoacetate may be partly responsible for the observed neurological phenotype.
    Annals of Neurology 04/2005; 57(4):557-60. · 11.19 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

3k Citations
984.66 Total Impact Points


  • 1985–2011
    • Baylor College of Medicine
      • • United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service Children's Nutrition Research Center
      • • Department of Molecular & Human Genetics
      • • Department of Pediatrics
      Houston, TX, United States
  • 2009
    • Medical College of Wisconsin
      • Department of Pediatrics
      Milwaukee, WI, United States
  • 2008–2009
    • Case Western Reserve University
      • • Case Comprehensive Cancer Center
      • • Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences
      Cleveland, OH, United States
  • 2005–2008
    • Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
      • Department of Nutrition
      Cleveland, Ohio, United States
  • 2000
    • University of Vienna
      Wien, Vienna, Austria
  • 1986–1991
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 1985–1987
    • University of Pittsburgh
      • Department of Biostatistics
      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 1984
    • Taipei Veterans General Hospital
      T’ai-pei, Taipei, Taiwan