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Publications (54)371.03 Total impact

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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Activation of Agouti-related peptide (AgRP) neurons potently promotes feeding, and chronically altering their activity also affects peripheral glucose homeostasis. We demonstrate that acute activation of AgRP neurons causes insulin resistance through impairment of insulin-stimulated glucose uptake into brown adipose tissue (BAT). AgRP neuron activation acutely reprograms gene expression in BAT toward a myogenic signature, including increased expression of myostatin. Interference with myostatin activity improves insulin sensitivity that was impaired by AgRP neurons activation. Optogenetic circuitry mapping reveals that feeding and insulin sensitivity are controlled by both distinct and overlapping projections. Stimulation of AgRP → LHA projections impairs insulin sensitivity and promotes feeding while activation of AgRP → anterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (aBNST)vl projections, distinct from AgRP → aBNSTdm projections controlling feeding, mediate the effect of AgRP neuron activation on BAT-myostatin expression and insulin sensitivity. Collectively, our results suggest that AgRP neurons in mice induce not only eating, but also insulin resistance by stimulating expression of muscle-related genes in BAT, revealing a mechanism by which these neurons rapidly coordinate hunger states with glucose homeostasis.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2016 · Cell
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT) controls energy homeostasis in rodents and humans and has emerged as an innovative strategy for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Here we show that ageing- and obesity-associated dysfunction of brown fat coincides with global microRNA downregulation due to reduced expression of the microRNA-processing node Dicer1. Consequently, heterozygosity of Dicer1 in BAT aggravated diet-induced-obesity (DIO)-evoked deterioration of glucose metabolism. Analyses of differential microRNA expression during preadipocyte commitment and mouse models of progeria, longevity and DIO identified miR-328 as a regulator of BAT differentiation. Reducing miR-328 blocked preadipocyte commitment, whereas miR-328 overexpression instigated BAT differentiation and impaired muscle progenitor commitment-partly through silencing of the β-secretase Bace1. Loss of Bace1 enhanced brown preadipocyte specification in vitro and was overexpressed in BAT of obese and progeroid mice. In vivo Bace1 inhibition delayed DIO-induced weight gain and improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. These experiments reveal Dicer1-miR-328-Bace1 signalling as a determinant of BAT function, and highlight the potential of Bace1 inhibition as a therapeutic approach to improve not only neurodegenerative diseases but also ageing- and obesity-associated impairments of BAT function.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2016 · Nature Cell Biology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Aging-associated diseases and their comorbidities affect the life of a constantly growing proportion of the population in developed countries. At the center of these comorbidities are changes of kidney structure and function as age-related chronic kidney disease predisposes to the development of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, myocardial infarction or heart failure. To detect molecular mechanisms involved in kidney aging, we analyzed gene expression profiles of kidneys from adult and aged wild-type mice by transcriptomic, proteomic and targeted lipidomic methodologies. Interestingly, transcriptome and proteome analyses revealed differential expression of genes primarily involved in lipid metabolism and immune response. Additional lipidomic analyses uncovered significant age-related differences in the total amount of phosphatidylethanolamines, phosphatidylcholines and sphingomyelins as well as in subspecies of phosphatidylserines and ceramides with age. By integration of these datasets we identified Aldh1a1, a key enzyme in vitamin A metabolism specifically expressed in the medullary ascending limb, as one of the most prominent upregulated proteins in old kidneys. Moreover, ceramidase Asah1 was highly expressed in aged kidneys, consistent with a decrease in ceramide C16. In summary, our data suggest that changes in lipid metabolism are involved in the process of kidney aging and in the development of chronic kidney disease.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2016 · Aging
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Following implantation, mouse epiblast cells transit from a naive to a primed state in which they are competent for both somatic and primordial germ cell (PGC) specification. Using mouse embryonic stem cells as an in vitro model to study the transcriptional regulatory principles orchestrating peri-implantation development, here we show that the transcription factor Foxd3 is necessary for exit from naive pluripotency and progression to a primed pluripotent state. During this transition, Foxd3 acts as a repressor that dismantles a significant fraction of the naive pluripotency expression program through decommissioning of active enhancers associated with key naive pluripotency and early germline genes. Subsequently, Foxd3 needs to be silenced in primed pluripotent cells to allow re-activation of relevant genes required for proper PGC specification. Our findings therefore uncover a cycle of activation and deactivation of Foxd3 required for exit from naive pluripotency and subsequent PGC specification.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Cell stem cell
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Somatic copy number (CN) alterations are major drivers of tumorigenesis and growth. Although next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies enable a deep genomic analysis of cancers, the analysis of the data remains subject to biases and multiple sources of error, including varying local read coverage. The currently existing algorithms for NGS-based detection of CN abberations do not incorporate information on the local coverage quality. We have developed a new algorithm, copy number estimation with controlled support (CoNCoS) that increases the accuracy of CN estimation in paired tumor/normal exome sequencing data sets by assessing and optimizing the support for a site-specific CN estimate. We show by simulations and in a benchmarking study against single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarray data that our approach outperforms the commonly used methods CNAnorm and VarScan2. Our algorithm is suitable to increase the accuracy of somatic CN analysis by a support-optimized estimation approach.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cancer initiation and maintenance of the transformed cell state depend on altered cellular signaling and aberrant activities of transcription factors (TFs) that drive pathological gene expression in response to cooperating genetic lesions. Deciphering the roles of interacting TFs is therefore central to understanding carcinogenesis and for designing cancer therapies. Here, we use an unbiased genomic approach to define a TF network that triggers an abnormal gene expression program promoting malignancy of clonal tumors, generated in Drosophila imaginal disc epithelium by gain of oncogenic Ras (Ras(V12)) and loss of the tumor suppressor Scribble (scrib(1)). We show that malignant transformation of the ras(V12)scrib(1) tumors requires TFs of distinct families, namely the bZIP protein Fos, the ETS-domain factor Ets21c, and the nuclear receptor Ftz-F1, all acting downstream of Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK). Depleting any of the three TFs improves viability of tumor bearing larvae, and this positive effect can be further enhanced by their combined removal. Although both Fos and Ftz-F1 synergistically contribute to ras(V12)scrib(1) tumor invasiveness only Fos is required for JNK-induced differentiation defects and Matrix metalloprotease (MMP1) upregulation. In contrast, the Fos-dimerizing partner Jun is dispensable for JNK to exert its effects in ras(V12)scrib(1) tumors. Interestingly, Ets21c and Ftz-F1 are transcriptionally induced in these tumors in a JNK- and Fos-dependent manner, thereby demonstrating a hierarchy within the tripartite TF network with Fos acting as the most upstream JNK effector. Of the three TFs, only Ets21c can efficiently substitute for loss of polarity and cooperate with Ras(V12) in inducing malignant clones that, like ras(V12)scrib(1) tumors, invade other tissues and overexpress MMP1 and the Drosophila insulin-like peptide 8 (Dilp8). While ras(V12)ets21c tumors require JNK for invasiveness, the JNK activity is dispensable for their growth. In conclusion, our study delineates both unique and overlapping functions of distinct TFs that cooperatively promote aberrant expression of target genes, leading to malignant tumor phenotypes.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Disease Models and Mechanisms
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    Prerana Wagle · Miloš Nikolić · Peter Frommolt
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) has emerged as a widely used tool in molecular biology. While time and cost for the sequencing itself are decreasing, the analysis of the massive amounts of data remains challenging. Since multiple algorithmic approaches for the basic data analysis have been developed, there is now an increasing need to efficiently use these tools to obtain results in reasonable time. We have developed QuickNGS, a new workflow system for laboratories with the need to analyze data from multiple NGS projects at a time. QuickNGS takes advantage of parallel computing resources, a comprehensive back-end database, and a careful selection of previously published algorithmic approaches to build fully automated data analysis workflows. We demonstrate the efficiency of our new software by a comprehensive analysis of 10 RNA-Seq samples which we can finish in only a few minutes of hands-on time. The approach we have taken is suitable to process even much larger numbers of samples and multiple projects at a time. Our approach considerably reduces the barriers that still limit the usability of the powerful NGS technology and finally decreases the time to be spent before proceeding to further downstream analysis and interpretation of the data.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2015 · BMC Genomics
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    Peter Frommolt · Björn Schumacher
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background High-throughput transcriptional profiling using Next-Generation Sequencing (RNA-Seq) or microarray technology have become standard tools in molecular biology. Successful investigations of gene regulatory mechanisms from these data typically employ mathematical models of biological networks. Results We have developed Wormpath, a software for molecular network discovery which operates on the genetic and physical interaction data of the Wormbase, a comprehensive resource of molecular data on Caenorhabditis elegans. We use Wormpath to show that the insulin/insulin-like growth factor signalling (IIS) pathway responds to UV-induced DNA damage during development. Conclusions Our software provides highly facilitated access to C. elegans interaction data and is capable of identifying essential molecular networks within a list of differentially expressed genes. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13029-015-0034-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Source Code for Biology and Medicine
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Genome maintenance defects cause complex disease phenotypes characterized by developmental failure, cancer susceptibility and premature ageing. It remains poorly understood how DNA damage responses function during organismal development and maintain tissue functionality when DNA damage accumulates with ageing. Here we show that the FOXO transcription factor DAF-16 is activated in response to DNA damage during development, whereas the DNA damage responsiveness of DAF-16 declines with ageing. We find that in contrast to its established role in mediating starvation arrest, DAF-16 alleviates DNA-damage-induced developmental arrest and even in the absence of DNA repair promotes developmental growth and enhances somatic tissue functionality. We demonstrate that the GATA transcription factor EGL-27 co-regulates DAF-16 target genes in response to DNA damage and together with DAF-16 promotes developmental growth. We propose that EGL-27/GATA activity specifies DAF-16-mediated DNA damage responses to enable developmental progression and to prolong tissue functioning when DNA damage persists.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Nature Cell Biology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mitochondrial function requires coordination of two genomes for protein biogenesis, efficient quality control mechanisms, and appropriate distribution of the organelles within the cell. How these mechanisms are integrated is currently not understood. Loss of the Clu1/CluA homologue (CLUH) gene led to clustering of the mitochondrial network by an unknown mechanism. We find that CLUH is coregulated both with genes encoding mitochondrial proteins and with genes involved in ribosomal biogenesis and translation. Our functional analysis identifies CLUH as a cytosolic messenger ribonucleic acid (RNA; mRNA)-binding protein. RNA immunoprecipitation experiments followed by next-generation sequencing demonstrated that CLUH specifically binds a subset of mRNAs encoding mitochondrial proteins. CLUH depletion decreased the levels of proteins translated by target transcripts and caused mitochondrial clustering. A fraction of CLUH colocalizes with tyrosinated tubulin and can be detected close to mitochondria, suggesting a role in regulating transport or translation of target transcripts close to mitochondria. Our data unravel a novel mechanism linking mitochondrial biogenesis and distribution.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · The Journal of Cell Biology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background Cyanobacteria constitute a serious threat to freshwater ecosystems by producing toxic secondary metabolites, e.g. microcystins. These microcystins have been shown to harm livestock, pets and humans and to affect ecosystem service and functioning. Cyanobacterial blooms are increasing worldwide in intensity and frequency due to eutrophication and global warming. However, Daphnia, the main grazer of planktonic algae and cyanobacteria, has been shown to be able to suppress bloom-forming cyanobacteria and to adapt to cyanobacteria that produce microcystins. Since Daphnia’s genome was published only recently, it is now possible to elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms of microcystin tolerance of Daphnia. Results Daphnia magna was fed with either a cyanobacterial strain that produces microcystins or its genetically engineered microcystin knock-out mutant. Thus, it was possible to distinguish between effects due to the ingestion of cyanobacteria and effects caused specifically by microcystins. By using RNAseq the differentially expressed genes between the different treatments were analyzed and affected KOG-categories were calculated. Here we show that the expression of transporter genes in Daphnia was regulated as a specific response to microcystins. Subsequent qPCR and dietary supplementation with pure microcystin confirmed that the regulation of transporter gene expression was correlated with the tolerance of several Daphnia clones. Conclusions Here, we were able to identify new candidate genes that specifically respond to microcystins by separating cyanobacterial effects from microcystin effects. The involvement of these candidate genes in tolerance to microcystins was validated by correlating the difference in transporter gene expression with clonal tolerance. Thus, the prevention of microcystin uptake most probably constitutes a key mechanism in the development of tolerance and adaptation of Daphnia. With the availability of clear candidate genes, future investigations examining the process of local adaptation of Daphnia populations to microcystins are now possible. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-776) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · BMC Genomics
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    Preview · Article · Jan 2014
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The genetics of development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been described in exquisitedetail. The phylum Nematoda has two classes: Chromadorea (which includes C. elegans) and theEnoplea. While the development of many chromadorean species resembles closely that of C. elegans,enoplean nematodes show markedly different patterns of early cell division and cell fate assignment.Embryogenesis of the enoplean Romanomermis culicivorax has been studied in detail, but the geneticcircuitry underpinning development in this species has not been explored. We generated a draft genome for R. culicivorax and compared its gene content with that of C. elegans,a second enoplean, the vertebrate parasite Trichinella spiralis, and a representative arthropod,Tribolium castaneum. This comparison revealed that R. culicivorax has retained components of theconserved ecdysozoan developmental gene toolkit lost in C. elegans. T. spiralis has independentlylost even more of this toolkit than has C. elegans. However, the C. elegans toolkit is not simply depauperate, as many novel genes essential for embryogenesis in C. elegans are not found in, or haveonly extremely divergent homologues in R. culicivorax and T. spiralis. Our data imply fundamentaldifferences in the genetic programmes not only for early cell specification but also others such asvulva formation and sex determination. Despite the apparent morphological conservatism, major differences in the molecular logic of developmenthave evolved within the phylum Nematoda. R. culicivorax serves as a tractable system to contrast C. elegans and understand how divergent genomic and thus regulatory backgrounds nevertheless generate a conserved phenotype. The R. culicivorax draft genome will promote use of this species as a research model.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · BMC Genomics
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Activation of the hypoxia inducible transcription factor HIF and the NF-ĸB pathway promotes inflammation-mediated tumor progression. The cellular transcription factor ZNF395 has repeatedly been found overexpressed in various human cancers, particularly in response to hypoxia, implying a functional relevance. To understand the biological activity of ZNF395, we identified target genes of ZNF395 through a genome-wide expression screen. Induced ZNF395 expression led to the upregulation of genes known to play a role in cancer as well as a subset of interferon (IFN)-stimulated genes (ISG) involved in antiviral responses such as IFIT1/ISG56, IFI44 and IFI16. In cells that lack ZNF395, the IFN-α-mediated stimulation of these factors was impaired, demonstrating that ZNF395 is required for the full induction of these antiviral genes. Transient transfections revealed that ZNF395-mediated activation of the IFIT1/ISG56 promoter depends on the two IFN-stimulated response elements within the promoter and on the DNA-binding domain of ZNF395, a so-called C-clamp. We also show that IĸBα kinase (IKK)-signaling is necessary to allow ZNF395 to activate transcription and simultaneously enhances its proteolytic degradation. Thus, ZNF395 becomes activated at the level of protein modification by IKK. Moreover, we confirm that the expression of ZNF395 is induced by hypoxia. Our results characterize ZNF395 as a novel factor that contributes to the maximal stimulation of a subset of ISGs. This transcriptional activity depends on IKK signaling further supporting a role of ZNF395 in the innate immune response. Given these results it is possible that under hypoxic conditions, elevated levels of ZNF395 may support inflammation and cancer progression by activating the target genes involved in the innate immune response and cancer.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Aging-related kidney diseases are a major health concern. Currently, models to study renal aging are lacking. Due to a reduced life-span progeroid models hold the promise to facilitate aging studies and allow examination of tissue-specific changes. Defects in genome maintenance in the Ercc1-/Delta progeroid mouse model result in premature aging and typical age-related pathologies. Here, we compared the glomerular transcriptome of young and aged Ercc1-deficient mice to young and aged WT mice in order to establish a novel model for research of aging-related kidney disease. In a principal component analysis, age and genotype emerged as first and second principal components. Hierarchical clustering of all 521 genes differentially regulated between young and old WT and young and old Ercc1-/Delta mice showed cluster formation between young WT and Ercc1-/Delta as well as old WT and Ercc1-/Delta samples. An unexpectedly high number of 77 genes were differentially regulated in both WT and Ercc1-/Delta mice (p < 0.0001). GO term enrichment analysis revealed these genes to be involved in immune and inflammatory response, cell death, and chemotaxis. In a network analysis, these genes were part of insulin signaling, chemokine and cytokine signaling and extracellular matrix pathways. Beyond insulin signaling, we find chemokine and cytokine signaling as well as modifiers of extracellular matrix composition to be subject to major changes in the aging glomerulus. At the level of the transcriptome, the pattern of gene activities is similar in the progeroid Ercc1-/Delta mouse model constituting a valuable tool for future studies of aging-associated glomerular pathologies.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · BMC Genomics
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autosomal recessive primary microcephaly (MCPH) is characterized by reduced head circumference, reduction in the size of the cerebral cortex with otherwise grossly normal brain structure, and variable intellectual disability. MCPH is caused by mutations of eleven different genes which code for proteins implicated in cell division and cell cycle regulation. We studied a consanguineous eight-generation family from Pakistan with ten microcephalic children using homozygosity mapping and found a new MCPH locus at HSA 7q21.11-q21.3. Sanger sequencing of the most relevant candidate genes in this region revealed a homozygous single nucleotide substitution c.589G>A in CDK6, which encodes cyclin-dependent kinase 6. The mutation changes a highly conserved alanine at position 197 into threonine (p.Ala197Thr). Post hoc whole-exome sequencing corroborated this mutation's identification as the causal variant. CDK6 is an important protein for the control of the cell cycle and differentiation of various cell types. We show here for the first time that CDK6 associates with the centrosome during mitosis, however, this was not observed in patient fibroblasts. Moreover, the mutant primary fibroblasts exhibited supernumerary centrosomes, disorganized microtubules and mitotic spindles, an increased centrosome nucleus distance, reduced cell proliferation and impaired cell motility and polarity. Upon ectopic expression of the mutant protein and knockdown of CDK6 through shRNA we noted similar effects. We propose that the identified CDK6 mutation leads to reduced cell proliferation and impairs the correct functioning of the centrosome in microtubule organization and its positioning near the nucleus which are key determinants during neurogenesis.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · Human Molecular Genetics
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Signaling through the hypoxia-inducible factor hif-1 controls longevity, metabolism and stress resistance in C. elegans. HIF protein levels are regulated through an evolutionarily conserved ubiquitin ligase complex. Mutations in the VHL gene, encoding a core component of this complex, cause a multi-tumor syndrome and renal cell carcinoma in humans. In the nematode, deficiency in vhl-1 promotes longevity mediated through HIF-1 stabilization. However, this longevity assurance pathway is not yet understood. Here, we identify Folliculin (FLCN) as a novel interactor of the hif-1/vhl-1 longevity pathway. FLCN mutations cause Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome in humans, another tumor syndrome with renal tumorigenesis reminiscent of the VHL disease. Loss of the C. elegans ortholog of FLCN F22D3.2 significantly increased lifespan and enhanced stress resistance in a hif-1-dependent manner. F22D3.2, vhl-1 and hif-1 control longevity by a mechanism distinct from insulin-like signaling. Daf-16 deficiency did not abrogate the increase in lifespan mediated by flcn-1. These findings define FLCN as a player in HIF-dependent longevity signaling and connect organismal aging, stress resistance and regulation of longevity with the formation of renal cell carcinoma. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2013 · Aging cell
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background Despite its status as a model organism, the development of Caenorhabditis elegans is not necessarily archetypical for nematodes. The phylum Nematoda is divided into the Chromadorea (indcludes C. elegans) and the Enoplea. Compared to C. elegans, enoplean nematodes have very different patterns of cell division and determination. Embryogenesis of the enoplean Romanomermis culicivorax has been studied in great detail, but the genetic circuitry underpinning development in this species is unknown. Results We created a draft genome of R. culicivorax and compared its developmental gene content with that of two nematodes, C. elegans and Trichinella spiralis (another enoplean), and a representative arthropod Tribolium castaneum. This genome evidence shows that R. culicivorax retains components of the conserved metazoan developmental toolkit lost in C. elegans. T. spiralis has independently lost even more of the toolkit than has C. elegans. However, the C. elegans toolkit is not simply depauperate, as many genes essential for embryogenesis in C. elegans are unique to this lineage, or have only extremely divergent homologues in R. culicivorax and T. spiralis. These data imply fundamental differences in the genetic programmes for early cell specification, inductive interactions, vulva formation and sex determination. Conclusions Thus nematodes, despite their apparent phylum-wide morphological conservatism, have evolved major differences in the molecular logic of their development. R. culicivorax serves as a tractable, contrasting model to C. elegans for understanding how divergent genomic and thus regulatory backgrounds can generate a conserved phenotype. The availability of the draft genome will promote use of R. culicivorax as a research model.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths, worldwide. MicroRNAs, inhibiting gene expression by targeting various transcripts, are involved in genomic dysregulation during hepatocellular tumorigenesis. In previous studies, microRNA-198 (miR-198) was shown to be significantly downregulated in HCV-positive hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Herein, the function of miR-198 in hepatocellular carcinoma cell growth and gene expression was studied. In hepatoma cell-types with low levels of liver-specific transcription factor HNF1 indicating a low differentiation grade, miR-198 expression was most downregulated. However, miR-198 treatment did not restore the expression of the liver-specific transcription factors HNF1 or HNF4Importantly, overexpression of miR-198 in Pop10 hepatoma cells markedly reduced cell growth. In agreement, comprehensive gene expression profiling by microarray hybridisation and real-time quantification revealed that central signal transducers of proliferation pathways were downregulated by miR-198. In contrast, genes mediating cellular adherence were highly upregulated by miR-198. Thus, the low expression of E-cadherin and claudin-1, involved in cell adhesion and cell-cell contacts, was abolished in hepatoma cells after miR-198 overexpression. This definite induction of both proteins by miR-198 was shown to be accompanied by a significantly impaired migration activity of hepatoma Pop10 cells. In conclusion, miR-198 acts as a tumor suppressor by repression of mitogenic and motogenic pathways diminishing cell growth and migration.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2013 · Biochimica et Biophysica Acta
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ubiquitination plays a crucial role in neurodevelopment as exemplified by Angelman syndrome, which is caused by genetic alterations of the ubiquitin ligase-encoding UBE3A gene. Although the function of UBE3A has been widely studied, little is known about its paralog UBE3B. By using exome and capillary sequencing, we here identify biallelic UBE3B mutations in four patients from three unrelated families presenting an autosomal-recessive blepharophimosis-ptosis-intellectual disability syndrome characterized by developmental delay, growth retardation with a small head circumference, facial dysmorphisms, and low cholesterol levels. UBE3B encodes an uncharacterized E3 ubiquitin ligase. The identified UBE3B variants include one frameshift and two splice-site mutations as well as a missense substitution affecting the highly conserved HECT domain. Disruption of mouse Ube3b leads to reduced viability and recapitulates key aspects of the human disorder, such as reduced weight and brain size and a downregulation of cholesterol synthesis. We establish that the probable Caenorhabditis elegans ortholog of UBE3B, oxi-1, functions in the ubiquitin/proteasome system in vivo and is especially required under oxidative stress conditions. Our data reveal the pleiotropic effects of UBE3B deficiency and reinforce the physiological importance of ubiquitination in neuronal development and function in mammals.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · The American Journal of Human Genetics