Robert Escher

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Publications (21)110 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The intracellular availability of glucocorticoids is regulated by the enzymes 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (HSD11B1) and 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 (HSD11B2). The activity of HSD11B1 is measured in the urine based on the (tetrahydrocortisol+5α-tetrahydrocortisol)/tetrahydrocortisone ((THF+5α-THF)/THE) ratio in humans and the (tetrahydrocorticosterone+5α-tetrahydrocorticosterone)/tetrahydrodehydrocorticosterone ((THB+5α-THB)/THA) ratio in mice. The cortisol/cortisone (F/E) ratio in humans and the corticosterone/11-dehydrocorticosterone (B/A) ratio in mice are markers of the activity of HSD11B2. In vitro agonist treatment of liver X receptor (LXR) down-regulates the activity of HSD11B1. Sterol 27-hydroxylase (CYP27A1) catalyses the first step in the alternative pathway of bile acid synthesis by hydroxylating cholesterol to 27-hydroxycholesterol (27-OHC). Since 27-OHC is a natural ligand for LXR, we hypothesised that CYP27A1 deficiency may up-regulate the activity of HSD11B1. In a patient with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis carrying a loss-of-function mutation in CYP27A1, the plasma concentrations of 27-OHC were dramatically reduced (3.8 vs 90-140 ng/ml in healthy controls) and the urinary ratios of (THF+5α-THF)/THE and F/E were increased, demonstrating enhanced HSD11B1 and diminished HSD11B2 activities. Similarly, in Cyp27a1 knockout (KO) mice, the plasma concentrations of 27-OHC were undetectable (<1 vs 25-120 ng/ml in Cyp27a1 WT mice). The urinary ratio of (THB+5α-THB)/THA was fourfold and that of B/A was twofold higher in KO mice than in their WT littermates. The (THB+5α-THB)/THA ratio was also significantly increased in the plasma, liver and kidney of KO mice. In the liver of these mice, the increase in the concentrations of active glucocorticoids was due to increased liver weight as a consequence of Cyp27a1 deficiency. In vitro, 27-OHC acts as an inhibitor of the activity of HSD11B1. Our studies suggest that the expression of CYP27A1 modulates the concentrations of active glucocorticoids in both humans and mice and in vitro.
    Journal of Endocrinology 01/2013; 219(2):119-129. · 4.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery of GATA2 as a new myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)-acute myeloid leukemia (AML) predisposition gene. We found the same, previously unidentified heterozygous c.1061C>T (p.Thr354Met) missense mutation in the GATA2 transcription factor gene segregating with the multigenerational transmission of MDS-AML in three families and a GATA2 c.1063_1065delACA (p.Thr355del) mutation at an adjacent codon in a fourth MDS family. The resulting alterations reside within the second zinc finger of GATA2, which mediates DNA-binding and protein-protein interactions. We show differential effects of the mutations on the transactivation of target genes, cellular differentiation, apoptosis and global gene expression. Identification of such predisposing genes to familial forms of MDS and AML is critical for more effective diagnosis and prognosis, counseling, selection of related bone marrow transplant donors and development of therapies.
    Nature Genetics 09/2011; 43(10):1012-7. · 35.21 Impact Factor
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    British Journal of Haematology 04/2010; 150(3):382-5. · 4.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The characteristic features of Whipple's disease include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, wasting, and arthralgias, with the causative agent, Tropheryma whipplei, being detected mainly in intestinal biopsies. PCR technology has led to the identification of T. whipplei in specimens from various other locations, including the central nervous system and the heart. T. whipplei is now recognized as one of the causes of culture-negative endocarditis, and endocarditis can be the only manifestation of the infection with T. whipplei. Although it is considered a rare disease, the true incidence of endocarditis due to T. whipplei is not clearly established. With the increasing use of molecular methods, it is likely that T. whipplei will be more frequently identified. Questions also remain about the genetic variability of T. whipplei strains, optimal diagnostic procedures and therapeutic options. In the present study, we provide clinical data on four new patients with documented endocarditis due to T. whipplei in the context of the available published literature. There was no clinical involvement of the gastrointestinal tract. Genetic analysis of the T. whipplei strains with DNA isolated from the excised heart valves revealed little to no genetic variability. In a selected case, we describe acridine orange staining for early detection of the disease, prompting early adaptation of the antibiotic therapy. We provide long-term follow-up data on the patients. In our hands, an initial 2-week course of intravenous antibiotics followed by cotrimoxazole for at least 1 year was a suitable treatment option for T. whipplei endocarditis.
    Clinical Microbiology and Infection 10/2009; 16(8):1213-22. · 4.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the kidney, progesterone is inactivated to 20alpha-dihydro-progesterone (20alpha-DH-progesterone) to protect the mineralocorticoid receptor from progesterone excess. In an attempt to clone the enzyme with 20alpha-hydroxysteroid activity using expression cloning in CHOP cells and a human kidney expression library, serendipitously cDNA encoding CYP27A1 was isolated. Overexpression of CYP27A1 in CHOP cells decreased progesterone conversion to 20alpha-DH-progesterone in a dose-dependent manner, an effect enhanced by cotransfection with adrenodoxin and adrenodoxin reductase. Incubation of CHOP cells with 27-hydroxycholesterol, a product of CYP27A1, increased the ratio of progesterone to 20alpha-DH-progesterone in a concentration-dependent manner, indicating that the effect of CYP27A1 overexpression was mediated by 27-hydroxycholesterol. To analyze whether these observations are relevant in vivo, progesterone and 20alpha-DH-progesterone were measured by gas chromatography-mass spectometry in 24-h urine of CYP27A1 gene knockout (ko) mice and their control wild-type and heterozygote littermates. In CYP27A1 ko mice, urinary progesterone concentrations were decreased, 20alpha-DH-progesterone increased, and the progesterone-to-20alpha-DH-progesterone ratio decreased threefold (P < 0.001). Thus CYP27A1 modulates progesterone concentrations. The underlying mechanism is inhibition of 20alpha-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase by 27-hydroxycholesterol.
    AJP Endocrinology and Metabolism 09/2009; 297(4):E949-55. · 4.51 Impact Factor
  • The American journal of medicine 03/2009; 122(2):141-3. · 5.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: beta(3)-Integrins are involved in platelet aggregation via alpha(IIb)beta(3) [glycoprotein (GP)IIb-GPIIIa], and in angiogenesis via endothelial alpha(V)beta(3). Cross-reactive ligands with antiaggregatory and proangiogenic effects, both desirable in peripheral vasculopathies, have not yet been described. In vitro and in vivo characterization of antiaggregatory and proangiogenic effects of two recombinant human Fab fragments, with emphasis on beta(3)-integrins. Recombinant Fab fragments were obtained by phage display technology. Specificity, affinity and IC(50) were determined by immunodot assays, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and Scatchard plot analysis, and by means of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). Functional analyses included ELISA for interaction with fibrinogen binding to GPIIb-GPIIIa, flow cytometry for measurement of activation parameters and competitive inhibition experiments, human platelet aggregometry, and proliferation, tube formation and the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay for measurement of angiogenic effects. We observed specific and high-affinity binding to an intact GPIIb-GPIIIa receptor complex of two human Fab autoantibody fragments, with no platelet activation. Dose-dependent fibrinogen binding to GPIIb-GPIIIa and platelet aggregation were completely inhibited. One Fab fragment was competitively inhibited by abciximab and its murine analog monoclonal antibody (mAb) 7E3, whereas the other Fab fragment bound to cultured HUVECs, suggesting cross-reactivity with alpha(V)beta(3), and also demonstrated proangiogenic effects in tube formation and CAM assays. These Fab fragments are the first entirely human anti-GPIIb-GPIIIa Fab fragments with full antiaggregatory properties; furthermore, they do not activate platelets. The unique dual-specificity anti-beta(3)-integrin Fab fragment may represent a new tool for the study and management of peripheral arterial vasculopathies.
    Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis 01/2009; 7(3):460-9. · 6.08 Impact Factor
  • Robert Escher
    Blood Coagulation and Fibrinolysis 11/2008; 19(7):741-2. · 1.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A 38-year-old homeless man was admitted with a 2-week history of a sore throat, increasing shortness of breath, and high fever. Clinical examination showed enlarged and tender submandibular and anterior cervical lymph nodes and a pronounced enlargement of the left peritonsillar region (Figure 1a). CT scan of the throat and the chest showed left peritonsillar abscess formation, occlusion of the left internal jugular vein with inflammatory wall thickening and perijugular soft tissue infiltration, pulmonary abscesses, and bilateral pleural effusions (Figures 1b-e, arrowed). Anaerobe blood cultures grew Fusobacterium necrophorum, leading to the diagnosis of Lemierre's syndrome. Treatment with high-dose amoxicillin and clavulanic acid improved the oropharyngeal condition, but the patient's general status declined further, marked by dyspnea and tachypnea. Repeated CT scans showed progressive lung abscesses and bilateral pleural empyema. Bilateral tonsillectomy, ligation of the left internal jugular vein, and staged decortication of bilateral empyema were performed. Total antibiotic therapy duration was 9 weeks, including a change to peroral clindamycin. Clinical and laboratory findings had returned to normal 12 weeks after surgery.The patient's history and the clinical and radiological findings are characteristic for Lemierre's syndrome. CT scans of the neck and the chest are the diagnostic methods of choice. F. necrophorum is found in over 80% of cases of Lemierre's syndrome and confirms the diagnosis. Prolonged antibiotic therapy is usually sufficient, but in selected patients, a surgical intervention may be necessary. Reported mortality rates are high, but in surviving patients, the recovery of pulmonary function is usually good.
    Infection 10/2008; 36(5):495-6. · 2.44 Impact Factor
  • Robert Escher
    Praxis 05/2008; 97(8):417-8.
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    ABSTRACT: The RUNX1 transcription factor gene is frequently mutated in sporadic myeloid and lymphoid leukemia through translocation, point mutation or amplification. It is also responsible for a familial platelet disorder with predisposition to acute myeloid leukemia (FPD-AML). The disruption of the largely unknown biological pathways controlled by RUNX1 is likely to be responsible for the development of leukemia. We have used multiple microarray platforms and bioinformatic techniques to help identify these biological pathways to aid in the understanding of why RUNX1 mutations lead to leukemia. Here we report genes regulated either directly or indirectly by RUNX1 based on the study of gene expression profiles generated from 3 different human and mouse platforms. The platforms used were global gene expression profiling of: 1) cell lines with RUNX1 mutations from FPD-AML patients, 2) over-expression of RUNX1 and CBFbeta, and 3) Runx1 knockout mouse embryos using either cDNA or Affymetrix microarrays. We observe that our datasets (lists of differentially expressed genes) significantly correlate with published microarray data from sporadic AML patients with mutations in either RUNX1 or its cofactor, CBFbeta. A number of biological processes were identified among the differentially expressed genes and functional assays suggest that heterozygous RUNX1 point mutations in patients with FPD-AML impair cell proliferation, microtubule dynamics and possibly genetic stability. In addition, analysis of the regulatory regions of the differentially expressed genes has for the first time systematically identified numerous potential novel RUNX1 target genes. This work is the first large-scale study attempting to identify the genetic networks regulated by RUNX1, a master regulator in the development of the hematopoietic system and leukemia. The biological pathways and target genes controlled by RUNX1 will have considerable importance in disease progression in both familial and sporadic leukemia as well as therapeutic implications.
    BMC Genomics 02/2008; 9:363. · 4.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Sampling and analyzing new families with inherited blood disorders are major steps contributing to the identification of gene(s) responsible for normal and pathologic hematopoiesis. Familial occurrences of hematological disorders alone, or as part of a syndromic disease, have been reported, and for some the underlying genetic mutation has been identified. Here we describe a new autosomal dominant inherited phenotype of thrombocytopenia and red cell macrocytosis in a four-generation pedigree. Interestingly, in the youngest generation, a 2-year-old boy presenting with these familial features has developed acute lymphoblastic leukemia characterized by a t(12;21) translocation. Tri-lineage involvement of platelets, red cells and white cells may suggest a genetic defect in an early multiliear progenitor or a stem cell. Functional assays in EBV-transformed cell lines revealed a defect in cell proliferation and tubulin dynamics. Two candidate genes, RUNX1 and FOG1, were sequenced but no pathogenic mutation was found. Identification of the underlying genetic defect(s) in this family may help in understanding the complex process of hematopoiesis.
    Blood Cells Molecules and Diseases 01/2007; 39(1):107-14. · 2.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Analyses of chromosomal translocation and inversion breakpoints in sporadic acute myeloid leukemias have identified many transcription factors as playing a role in leukemogenesis. Studies of families with a Mendelian predisposition to hematological malignancies have identified the gene coding for the transcription factor RUNX1 as a leukemia-predisposing gene involved in the first steps of leukemogenesis. Using two families, another autosomal dominant familial leukemia locus was linked to chromosome band 16q22 where the CBFB gene maps. Although CBFB forms a core-binding factor transcriptional complex with RUNX1, previous analyses have excluded the CBFB gene as the leukemia-predisposing gene in these families. In the current study, we performed an extended molecular analysis in these families of the four other transcription factor genes in the 16q22 critical region as well as of two other genes with a known association with leukemia. Several previously undescribed but nonpathogenic sequence variants were identified. We demonstrated that the transcription factors E2F4, CTCF, NFATC3, and NFAT5, and the genes coding for NAD(P)H:quinone oxido-reductase 1 (NQO1) and for E-cadherin are not responsible for the leukemia susceptibility in these families. The presence of NQO1 polymorphisms may suggest a role for this gene in disease risk modification in these families.
    Genes Chromosomes and Cancer 12/2004; 41(3):278-82. · 3.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Atypical chronic myeloid leukemia (aCML) is a rare leukemic disorder with no specific genetic lesion. Here we demonstrate clonal occurrences of tetrasomy for the long arm of chromosome 21 in a patient with aCML, and a thorough review of the literature provides evidence that this chromosomal anomaly is a so far not recognised recurrent finding in aCML. Further, the timely association of the occurrence of the tetrasomy 21q with acceleration of the leukemia suggests a role for chromosome 21 in leukemic disease progression. The chromosome 21 gene most strongly implicated in both normal and abnormal hematopoiesis is RUNX1. Also, RUNX1 haploinsufficiency due to RUNX1 point mutations characterises the familial platelet disorder with propensity to develop leukemia, and thromboytopenia was a leading feature in the present case. Therefore, an extensive molecular analysis of RUNX1 was performed. However, these analyses did not reveal a mutation, and the results support a gene dosage effect for RUNX1 in myeloid disease similar to observations in lymphoid disease. Patients with aCML and a tetrasomy 21 may form a karyotypically and phenotypically defined subgroup of aCML.
    Haematologica 09/2004; 89(8):ECR26. · 5.94 Impact Factor
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    Leukemia 01/2004; 18(4):881-881. · 10.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The AML1 transcription factor, identified by the cloning of the translocation t(8;21) breakpoint, is one of the most frequent targets for chromosomal translocations in leukemia. Furthermore, polysomies and point mutations can also alter AML1 function. AML1, also called CBF alpha 2, PEBP alpha 2 or RUNX1, is thus implicated in a great number of acute leukemias via a variety of pathogenic mechanisms and seems to act either as an oncogene or a tumor suppressor gene. Characterization of AML1 knockout mice has shown that AML1 is necessary for normal development of all hematopoietic lineages and alterations in the overal functional level of AML1 can have a profound effect on hematopoiesis. Numerous studies have shown that AML1 plays a vital role in the regulation of expression of many genes involved in hematopoietic cell development, and the impairment of AML1 function disregulates the pathways leading to cellular proliferation and differentiation. However, heterozygous AML1 mutations alone may not be sufficient for the development of leukemia. A cumulative process of mutagenesis involving additional genetic events in functionally related molecules, may be necessary for the development of leukemia and may determine the leukemic phenotype. We review the known AML1 target genes, AML1 interacting proteins, AML1 gene alterations and their effects on AML1 function, and mutations in AML1-related genes associated with leukemia. We discuss the interconnections between all these genes in cell signaling pathways and their importance for future therapeutic developments.
    Cancer Investigation 02/2003; 21(1):105-36. · 2.24 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The AML1 transcription factor, identified by the cloning of the translocation t(8;21) breakpoint, is one of the most frequent targets for chromosomal translocations in leukemia. Furthermore, polysomies and point mutations can also alter AML1 function. AML1, also called CBFα2, PEBPα2 or RUNX1, is thus implicated in a great number of acute leukemias via a variety of pathogenic mechanisms and seems to act either as an oncogene or a tumor suppressor gene. Characterization of AML1 knockout mice has shown that AML1 is necessary for normal development of all hematopoietic lineages and alterations in the overall functional level of AML1 can have a profound effect on hematopoiesis. Numerous studies have shown that AML1 plays a vital role in the regulation of expression of many genes involved in hematopoietic cell development, and the impairment of AML1 function disregulates the pathways leading to cellular proliferation and differentiation. However, heterozygous AML1 mutations alone may not be sufficient for the development of leukemia. A cumulative process of mutagenesis involving additional genetic events in functionally related molecules, may be necessary for the development of leukemia and may determine the leukemic phenotype. We review the known AML1 target genes, AML1 interacting proteins, AML1 gene alterations and their effects on AML1 function, and mutations in AML1-related genes associated with leukemia. We discuss the interconnections between all these genes in cell signaling pathways and their importance for future therapeutic developments.
    Cancer Investigation - CANCER INVEST. 01/2003; 21(1):105-136.
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    ABSTRACT: Anti-idiotypic antibodies (anti-Id) have been described against idiotypes expressed on various autoantibodies. Since an immunoregulatory effect has been postulated for anti-Id, modulation of the anti-Id response in autoimmune disease may be of interest. In chronic immune thrombocytopenic purpura (AITP), autoantibodies directed mainly against platelet membrane glycoprotein (GP) IIb/IIIa cause platelet destruction by Fc-mediated phagocytosis or by complement lysis. We have previously reported on the generation of two recombinant anti-GPIIb/IIIa autoantibody fragments (PDG-X, PDG-B), that are specific for conformationally intact GPIIb/IIIa and inhibit binding of autoantibodies from patients with AITP. In the present study, we show that anti-GPIIb/IIIa specificities are not limited to a single individual by isolating five additional anti-GPIIb/IIIa autoantibody fragments from a second phagemid Fab library of an unrelated healthy donor. Using soluble Fab of PDG-X and PDG-B as antigens for panning Fab phagemid libraries from healthy human individuals, we isolated anti-Id phage clones specific for PDG-X or PDG-B. In addition they inhibited the binding of PDG-X or PDG-B to GPIIb/IIIa. Amino acid sequence comparison between these specific antiId and GPIIb/IIIa was performed. Generation of these anti-Id directed against pathologically relevant anti-GPIIb/IIIa autoantibodies may represent a new suitable and specific therapeutic option for the treatment of antibody-mediated AITP.
    Journal of Autoimmunity 03/2002; 18(1):71-81. · 8.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura (AITP) is caused by autoantibodies predominantly against platelet membrane glycoproteins (GP) IIb/IIIa and GPIb/IX. Naturally occurring autoantibodies have been described against a variety of autoantigens; it has been suggested that perturbation of their regulation may be associated with autoimmune diseases. Using a combinatorial Fab phagemid library from an individual immunized with human RhD+ red blood cells, we evaluated the presence of natural anti-GPIIb/IIIa autoantibodies as well as their relation to AITP-associated anti-GPIIb/IIIa autoantibodies. Selection on native GPIIb/IIIa and characterization of positive clones by inhibition studies against murine monoclonal anti-GPIIb/IIIa antibodies and by DNA analysis revealed the presence of two distinct recombinant anti-GPIIb/IIIa autoantibodies, which partially inhibited binding of affinity-purified platelet-associated autoantibodies from 8/12 AITP patients. Our results demonstrated that GPIIb/IIIa-specific Fab directed against conformational epitopes within the GPIIb/IIIa complex may be cloned from the genome of an individual immunized with RhD+ red blood cells, who was not affected by AITP. The partial inhibition of binding of platelet-associated autoantibodies from AITP patients to GPIIb/IIIa by the recombinant anti-GPIIb/IIIa phage clones suggests recognition of closely related antigenic epitopes. These phage clones may represent down-regulated, potentially pathological autoantibodies and could be used as new tools for investigation of AITP.
    British Journal of Haematology 09/1998; 102(3):820-8. · 4.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Summary Acute hepatitis after rituximab therapy: not such a rare side effect of monoclonal antibody treatment? We report the case of a 41-year-old patient who showed laboratory signs of he- patic damage while undergoing therapy with rituximab (MabThera ® ) for a third recurrence of autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura. The patient had already been successfully treated with rituximab for the second recurrence. For the third recurrence he received infusions of rituximab once weekly for four weeks. Thirty minutes after completion of the fourth infusion he developed an acute reaction with fever, chills, a fall in blood pressure and laboratory signs of acute liver cell damage, the last of which resolved spontaneously within three weeks. Possible causes of the acute hepatic damage, such as viral, allergic, immune, autoimmune or hypoxic hepatitis, as well as a cytokine release syndrome or a direct hepatotoxic effect of rituximab on hepatocytes, are discussed. Hepatic side effects noted during administration of other monoclonal antibodies in clin- ical use are reviewed. This is the first description of rituximab-induced acute non-viral hepatitis which resolved spontaneously without complications.

Publication Stats

204 Citations
110.00 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2003–2011
    • The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
      • Division of Molecular Medicine
      Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 1998–2009
    • Inselspital, Universitätsspital Bern
      • • Department of General Internal Medicine
      • • Department of Hematology and Central Hematology Laboratory
      Berna, Bern, Switzerland
  • 2004
    • Walter And Eliza Hall Institute For Medical Research
      Melbourne, Victoria, Australia