My Recent Publications
Rewiring of 3D Chromatin Topology Orchestrates Transcriptional Reprogramming and the Development of Human Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Circulation. 2022 Apr 11. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.055781. Online ahead of print.
Background: Transcriptional reconfiguration is central to heart failure, the common cause of which is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). However, the impact of three-dimensional (3D) chromatin topology on transcriptional dysregulation and pathogenesis in human DCM remains elusive. Methods: We generated a compendium of 3D-epigenome and transcriptome maps from 101 biobanked human DCM and non-failing heart tissues through HiChIP (H3K27ac), in situ Hi-C, ChIP-seq, ATAC-seq and RNA-seq profiling. We employed human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) and mouse models to further interrogate the key transcription factor implicated in 3D chromatin organization and transcriptional regulation in DCM pathogenesis. Results: We discovered that the active regulatory elements (H3K27ac peaks) and their connectome (H3K27ac loops) were extensively reprogrammed in DCM hearts and contributed to transcriptional dysregulation implicated for DCM development. For example, we identified that non-transcribing NPPA-AS1 promoter functions as an enhancer and physically interacts with the NPPA and NPPB promoters, leading to the co-transcription of NPPA and NPPB in DCM hearts. We uncovered that DCM-enriched H3K27ac loops largely resided in conserved high-order chromatin architectures (Compartments, Topologically Associating Domains) and unexpectedly their anchors had equivalent chromatin accessibility. Intriguingly, we discovered that the DCM-enriched H3K27ac loop anchors exhibited a strong enrichment for Heart and Neural Crest Derivatives Expressed 1 (HAND1), a key transcription factor involved in early cardiogenesis. In line with this, its protein expression was upregulated in human DCM and mouse failing hearts. To further validate whether HAND1 is a causal driver for the reprogramming of enhancer/promoter connectome in DCM hearts, we performed comprehensive 3D epigenome mappings in hiPSC-CMs. We found that forced overexpression of HAND1 in hiPSC-CM induced a distinct gain of enhancer/promoter connectivity and, correspondingly, increased the expression of their connected genes implicated in DCM etiology, thus recapitulating the transcriptional signature in human DCM hearts. Moreover, electrophysiology analysis demonstrated that forced overexpression of HAND1 in hiPSC-CM induced abnormal calcium handling. Furthermore, cardiomyocyte-specific overexpression of Hand1 in the mouse hearts resulted in a dilated cardiac remodeling with impaired contractility/Ca2+ handling in cardiomyocytes, increased ratio of heart weight/body weight and compromised cardiac function, which were ascribed to recapitulation of transcriptional reprogramming in DCM. Conclusions: This study provided novel chromatin topology insights into DCM pathogenesis and illustrated a model whereby a single transcription factor (HAND1) reprograms the genome-wide enhancer/promoter connectome to drive DCM pathogenesis.
Eicosatetraynoic Acid and Butyrate Regulate Human Intestinal Organoid Mitochondrial and Extracellular Matrix Pathways Implicated in Crohn's Disease Strictures
Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2022 Mar 8:izac037. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izac037. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Perturbagen analysis of Crohn's disease (CD) ileal gene expression data identified small molecules including eicosatetraynoic acid (ETYA), which may exert an antifibrotic effect. We developed a patient-specific human intestinal organoid (HIO) model system to test small molecule regulation of mitochondrial and wound-healing functions implicated in stricturing behavior.
METHODS: HIOs were made from CD induced pluripotent stem cells with and without a loss-of-function haplotype in the DUOX2 gene implicated in ileal homeostasis and characterized under basal conditions and following exposure to butyrate and ETYA using RNA sequencing, flow cytometry, and immunofluorescent and polarized light microscopy. Mitochondrial activity was measured using high-resolution respirometry and tissue stiffness using atomic force microscopy.
RESULTS: HIOs expressed core mitochondrial and extracellular matrix (ECM) genes and enriched biologic functions implicated in CD ileal strictures; ECM gene expression was suppressed by both butyrate and ETYA, with butyrate also suppressing genes regulating epithelial proliferation. Consistent with this, butyrate, but not ETYA, exerted a profound effect on HIO epithelial mitochondrial function, reactive oxygen species production, and cellular abundance. Butyrate and ETYA suppressed HIO expression of alpha smooth muscle actin expressed by myofibroblasts, type I collagen, and collagen protein abundance. HIOs exhibited tissue stiffness comparable to normal human ileum; this was reduced by chronic ETYA exposure in HIOs carrying the DUOX2 loss-of-function haplotype.
CONCLUSIONS: ETYA regulates ECM genes implicated in strictures and suppresses collagen content and tissue stiffness in an HIO model. HIOs provide a platform to test personalized therapeutics, including small molecules prioritized by perturbagen analysis.
STAR Protoc. 2021 Sep 24;2(4):100873. doi: 10.1016/j.xpro.2021.100873. eCollection 2021 Dec 17.
Standard transcriptomic analyses cannot fully capture the molecular mechanisms underlying disease pathophysiology and outcomes. We present a computational heterogeneous data integration and mining protocol that combines transcriptional signatures from multiple model systems, protein-protein interactions, single-cell RNA-seq markers, and phenotype-genotype associations to identify functional feature complexes. These feature modules represent a higher order multifeatured machines collectively working toward common pathophysiological goals. We apply this protocol for functional characterization of COVID-19, but it could be applied to many other diseases. For complete details on the use and execution of this protocol, please refer to Ghandikota et al. (2021).
Pediatr Pulmonol. 2021 Sep 29. doi: 10.1002/ppul.25709. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (RSTS) is a rare genetic syndrome caused primarily by a mutation in the CREBBP gene found on chromosome 16. Patients with RSTS are at greater risk for a variety of medical problems, including upper airway obstruction and aspiration. Childhood interstitial lung disease (ILD) thus far has not been definitively linked to RSTS. Here we present three patients with RSTS who developed ILD and discuss possible mechanisms by which a mutation in CREBBP may be involved in the development of ILD.
METHODS: Routine hematoxylin and eosin staining was performed on lung biopsy tissue for histological analysis. Immunofluorescent staining was performed on lung biopsy tissue for markers of fibrosis, surfactant deficiency and histone acetylation. Cases 1 and 2 had standard clinical microarray analysis. Case 3 had whole exome sequencing. Bioinformatics analyses were performed to identify possible causative genes using ToppGene.
RESULTS: CT images in all cases showed consolidated densities overlying ground glass opacities. Lung histopathology revealed accumulation of proteinaceous material within alveolar spaces, evidence of fibrosis, and increased alveolar macrophages. Immunofluorescent staining showed increase in surfactant protein C staining, patchy areas of increased aSMA staining, and increased staining for acetylated histone 2 and histone 3 lysine 9.
DISCUSSION: Clinical characteristics, radiographic imaging, lung histopathology, and immunofluorescent staining results shared by all cases demonstrated findings consistent with ILD. Immunofluorescent staining suggests two possible mechanisms for the development of ILD: abnormal surfactant metabolism and/or persistent activation of myofibroblasts. These two pathways could be related to dysfunctional CREBBP protein. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
JCI Insight. 2021 Sep 14:152503. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.152503. Online ahead of print.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fatal fibrotic lung disease associated with unremitting fibroblast activation including fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transformation (FMT), migration, resistance to apoptotic clearance, and excessive deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins in the distal lung parenchyma. Aberrant activation of lung-developmental pathways is associated with severe fibrotic lung disease; however, the mechanisms through which these pathways activate fibroblasts in IPF remain unclear. Sox9 is a member of the HMG box family of DNA-binding transcription factors that are selectively expressed by epithelial cell progenitors to modulate branching morphogenesis during lung development. We demonstrate that Sox9 is upregulated via MAPK/PI3K-dependent signaling and by the transcription factor Wilms' tumor 1 in distal lung-resident fibroblasts in IPF. Mechanistically, using fibroblast activation assays, we demonstrate that Sox9 functions as a positive regulator of FMT, migration, survival, and ECM production. Importantly, our in vivo studies demonstrate that fibroblast-specific deletion of Sox9 is sufficient to attenuate collagen deposition and improve lung function during TGFα-induced pulmonary fibrosis. Using a mouse model of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis, we show that myofibroblast-specific Sox9 overexpression augments fibroblast activation and pulmonary fibrosis. Thus, Sox9 functions as a profibrotic transcription factor in activating fibroblasts, illustrating the potential utility of targeting Sox9 in IPF treatment.
Thorax. 2021 Aug 16:thoraxjnl-2021-216882. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2021-216882. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: The role of club cells in the pathology of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is not well understood. Protein disulfide isomerase A3 (PDIA3), an endoplasmic reticulum-based redox chaperone required for the functions of various fibrosis-related proteins; however, the mechanisms of action of PDIA3 in pulmonary fibrosis are not fully elucidated.
OBJECTIVES: To examine the role of club cells and PDIA3 in the pathology of pulmonary fibrosis and the therapeutic potential of inhibition of PDIA3 in lung fibrosis.
METHODS: Role of PDIA3 and aberrant club cells in lung fibrosis was studied by analyses of human transcriptome dataset from Lung Genomics Research Consortium, other public resources, the specific deletion or inhibition of PDIA3 in club cells and blocking SPP1 downstream of PDIA3 in mice.
RESULTS: PDIA3 and club cell secretory protein (SCGB1A1) signatures are upregulated in IPF compared with control patients. PDIA3 or SCGB1A1 increases also correlate with a decrease in lung function in patients with IPF. The bleomycin (BLM) model of lung fibrosis showed increases in PDIA3 in SCGB1A1 cells in the lung parenchyma. Ablation of Pdia3, specifically in SCGB1A1 cells, decreases parenchymal SCGB1A1 cells along with fibrosis in mice. The administration of a PDI inhibitor LOC14 reversed the BLM-induced parenchymal SCGB1A1 cells and fibrosis in mice. Evaluation of PDIA3 partners revealed that SPP1 is a major interactor in fibrosis. Blocking SPP1 attenuated the development of lung fibrosis in mice.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study reveals a new relationship with distally localised club cells, PDIA3 and SPP1 in lung fibrosis and inhibition of PDIA3 or SPP1 attenuates lung fibrosis.
Ileal derived organoids from Crohn's disease patients show unique transcriptomic and secretomic signatures
Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021 Jul 13:S2352-345X(21)00133-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmgh.2021.06.018. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: We used patient derived organoids (PDOs) to study the epithelial-specific transcriptional and secretome signatures of the ileum during CD with varying phenotypes to screen for disease profiles and potential druggable targets.
METHODS: RNA sequencing was performed on isolated intestinal crypts and 3-week-old PDOs derived from ileal biopsies of CD patients (n= 8 B1, inflammatory; n= 8 B2, stricturing disease) and non-IBD controls (n= 13). Differentially expressed (DE) genes were identified by comparing CD vs control, B1 vs B2, and inflamed vs non-inflamed. DE genes were used for computational screening to find candidate small molecules that could potentially reverse B1and B2 gene signatures. The secretome of a second cohort (n= 6 non-IBD controls, n=7 CD; 5 non-inflamed, 2 inflamed) was tested by Luminex using cultured organoid conditioned media.
RESULTS: We found a 90% similarity in both the identity and abundance of protein coding genes between PDOs and intestinal crypts (15,554 transcripts of 19,900 genes). DE analysis identified 814 genes among disease group (CD vs non-IBD control), 470 genes different between the CD phenotypes, and 5 FDR significant genes between inflamed and non-inflamed CD. The PDOs showed both similarity and diversity in the levels and types of soluble cytokines and growth factors they released. Perturbagen analysis revealed potential candidate compounds to reverse B2 disease phenotype to B1 in PDOs.
CONCLUSION: PDOs are similar at the transcriptome level with the in vivo epithelium and retain disease-specific gene expression for which we have identified secretome products, druggable targets and corresponding pharmacological agents. Targeting the epithelium could reverse a stricturing phenotype and improve outcomes.
IEEE/ACM Trans Comput Biol Bioinform. 2021 May 20;PP. doi: 10.1109/TCBB.2021.3082466. Online ahead of print.
In-silico drug repositioning or predicting new indications for approved or late-stage clinical trial drugs is a resourceful and time-ecient strategy in drug discovery. However, inferring novel candidate drugs for a disease is challenging, given the heterogeneity and sparseness of the underlying biological entities and their relationships (e.g., disease/drug annotations). By integrating drug-centric and disease-centric annotations as multiviews, we propose a multi-view graph attention network for indication discovery (MGATRx). Unlike most current similaritybased methods, we employ graph attention network on the heterogeneous drug and disease data to learn the representation of nodes and identify associations. MGATRx outperformed four other state-of-art methods used for computational drug repositioning. Further, several of our predicted novel indications are either currently investigated or are supported by literature evidence, demonstrating the overall translational utility of MGATRx.
Esomeprazole attenuates inflammatory and fibrotic response in lung cells through the MAPK/Nrf2/HO1 pathway
J Inflamm (Lond). 2021 May 19;18(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s12950-021-00284-6.
INTRODUCTION: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is an orphan disease characterized by progressive loss of lung function resulting in shortness of breath and often death within 3-4 years of diagnosis. Repetitive lung injury in susceptible individuals is believed to promote chronic oxidative stress, inflammation, and uncontrolled collagen deposition. Several preclinical and retrospective clinical studies in IPF have reported beneficial outcomes associated with the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as esomeprazole. Accordingly, we sought to investigate molecular mechanism(s) by which PPIs favorably regulate the disease process.
METHODS: We stimulated oxidative stress, pro-inflammatory and profibrotic phenotypes in primary human lung epithelial cells and fibroblasts upon treatment with bleomycin or transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) and assessed the effect of a prototype PPI, esomeprazole, in regulating these processes.
RESULTS: Our study shows that esomeprazole controls pro-inflammatory and profibrotic molecules through nuclear translocation of the transcription factor nuclear factor-like 2 (Nrf2) and induction of the cytoprotective molecule heme oxygenase 1 (HO1). Genetic deletion of Nrf2 or pharmacological inhibition of HO1 impaired esomeprazole-mediated regulation of proinflammatory and profibrotic molecules. Additional studies indicate that activation of Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) pathway is involved in the process. Our experimental data was corroborated by bioinformatics studies of an NIH chemical library which hosts gene expression profiles of IPF lung fibroblasts treated with over 20,000 compounds including esomeprazole. Intriguingly, we found 45 genes that are upregulated in IPF but downregulated by esomeprazole. Pathway analysis showed that these genes are enriched for profibrotic processes. Unbiased high throughput RNA-seq study supported antifibrotic effect of esomeprazole and revealed several novel targets.
CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, PPIs may play antifibrotic role in IPF through direct regulation of the MAPK/Nrf2/HO1 pathway to favorably influence the disease process in IPF.
Systems Biology Guided Gene Enrichment Approaches Improve Prediction of Chronic Post-surgical Pain After Spine Fusion
Front Genet. 2021 Mar 23;12:594250. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.594250. eCollection 2021.
OBJECTIVES: Incorporation of genetic factors in psychosocial/perioperative models for predicting chronic postsurgical pain (CPSP) is key for personalization of analgesia. However, single variant associations with CPSP have small effect sizes, making polygenic risk assessment important. Unfortunately, pediatric CPSP studies are not sufficiently powered for unbiased genome wide association (GWAS). We previously leveraged systems biology to identify candidate genes associated with CPSP. The goal of this study was to use systems biology prioritized gene enrichment to generate polygenic risk scores (PRS) for improved prediction of CPSP in a prospectively enrolled clinical cohort.
METHODS: In a prospectively recruited cohort of 171 adolescents (14.5 ± 1.8 years, 75.4% female) undergoing spine fusion, we collected data about anesthesia/surgical factors, childhood anxiety sensitivity (CASI), acute pain/opioid use, pain outcomes 6-12 months post-surgery and blood (for DNA extraction/genotyping). We previously prioritized candidate genes using computational approaches based on similarity for functional annotations with a literature-derived "training set." In this study, we tested ranked deciles of 1336 prioritized genes for increased representation of variants associated with CPSP, compared to 10,000 randomly selected control sets. Penalized regression (LASSO) was used to select final variants from enriched variant sets for calculation of PRS. PRS incorporated regression models were compared with previously published non-genetic models for predictive accuracy.
RESULTS: Incidence of CPSP in the prospective cohort was 40.4%. 33,104 case and 252,590 control variants were included for association analyses. The smallest gene set enriched for CPSP had 80/1010 variants associated with CPSP (p < 0.05), significantly higher than in 10,000 randomly selected control sets (p = 0.0004). LASSO selected 20 variants for calculating weighted PRS. Model adjusted for covariates including PRS had AUROC of 0.96 (95% CI: 0.92-0.99) for CPSP prediction, compared to 0.70 (95% CI: 0.59-0.82) for non-genetic model (p < 0.001). Odds ratios and positive regression coefficients for the final model were internally validated using bootstrapping: PRS [OR 1.98 (95% CI: 1.21-3.22); β 0.68 (95% CI: 0.19-0.74)] and CASI [OR 1.33 (95% CI: 1.03-1.72); β 0.29 (0.03-0.38)].
DISCUSSION: Systems biology guided PRS improved predictive accuracy of CPSP risk in a pediatric cohort. They have potential to serve as biomarkers to guide risk stratification and tailored prevention. Findings highlight systems biology approaches for deriving PRS for phenotypes in cohorts less amenable to large scale GWAS.
Patterns (N Y). 2021 Apr 5:100247. doi: 10.1016/j.patter.2021.100247. Online ahead of print.
Standard transcriptomic analyses alone have limited power in capturing the molecular mechanisms driving disease pathophysiology and outcomes. To overcome this, unsupervised network analyses are used to identify clusters of genes that can be associated with distinct molecular mechanisms and outcomes for a disease. In this study, we developed an integrated network analysis framework that integrates transcriptional signatures from multiple model systems with protein-protein interaction data to find gene modules. Through a meta-analysis of different enriched features from these gene modules, we extract communities of highly interconnected features. These clusters of higher-order features, working as a multifeatured machine, enable collective assessment of their contribution for disease or phenotype characterization. We show the utility of this workflow using transcriptomics data from three different models of SARS-CoV-2 infection and identify several pathways and biological processes that could enable in understanding or hypothesizing molecular signatures inducing pathophysiological changes, risks, or sequelae of COVID-19.
Front Immunol. 2021 Mar 19;12:645717. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.645717. eCollection 2021.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a severe fibrotic lung disease characterized by excessive collagen deposition and progressive decline in lung function. Th2 T cell-derived cytokines including IL-4 and IL-13 have been shown to contribute to inflammation and fibrotic remodeling in multiple tissues. Interleukin-31 (IL-31) is a newly identified cytokine that is predominantly produced by CD4 Th2 T cells, but its signaling receptor IL-31RA is primarily expressed by non-hematopoietic cells. However, the potential role of the IL-31-IL31RA axis in pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis has remained largely unknown. To determine the role of IL-31RA deficiency in pulmonary fibrosis, wildtype, and IL-31RA knockout mice were treated with bleomycin and measured changes in collagen deposition and lung function. Notably, the loss of IL-31 signaling attenuated collagen deposition and lung function decline during bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. The total lung transcriptome analysis showed a significant reduction in fibrosis-associated gene transcripts including extracellular matrix and epithelial cell-associated gene networks. Furthermore, the lungs of human IPF showed an elevated expression of IL-31 when compared to healthy subjects. In support, the percentage of IL-31 producing CD4+ T cells was greater in the lungs and PBMCs from IPF patients compared to healthy controls. Our findings suggest a pathogenic role for IL-31/IL-31RA signaling during bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. Thus, therapeutic targeting the IL-31-IL-31RA axis may prevent collagen deposition, improve lung function, and have therapeutic potential in pulmonary fibrosis.
Mucosal Genomics Implicate Lymphocyte Activation and Lipid Metabolism in Refractory Environmental Enteric Dysfunction
Gastroenterology. 2021 Jan 29:S0016-5085(21)00327-9. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2021.01.221. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Environmental enteric dysfunction (EED) limits the Sustainable Development Goals of improved childhood growth and survival. We applied mucosal genomics to advance our understanding of EED.
METHODS: The Study of Environmental Enteropathy and Malnutrition (SEEM) followed 416 children from birth to 24 months in a rural district in Pakistan. Biomarkers were measured at 9 months and tested for association with growth at 24 months. The duodenal methylome and transcriptome was determined in 52 undernourished SEEM participants and 42 North American controls and celiac disease patients.
RESULTS: After accounting for growth at study entry, circulating IGF-1 and ferritin predicted linear growth, whereas leptin correlated with future weight gain. The EED transcriptome exhibited suppression of antioxidant, detoxification, and lipid metabolism genes, and induction of anti-microbial response, interferon, and lymphocyte activation genes. Relative to celiac disease, suppression of antioxidant and detoxification genes and induction of anti-microbial response genes were EED-specific. At the epigenetic level, EED showed hyper-methylation of epithelial metabolism and barrier function genes, and hypo-methylation of immune response and cell proliferation genes. Duodenal co-expression modules showed association between lymphocyte proliferation and epithelial metabolic genes and histologic severity, fecal energy loss, and wasting (weight-for-length/height Z<-2.0). Leptin was associated with expression of epithelial carbohydrate metabolism and stem cell renewal genes. Immune response genes were attenuated by giardia colonization.
CONCLUSIONS: Children with reduced circulating IGF-1 are more likely to experience stunting. Leptin and a gene signature for lymphocyte activation and dysregulated lipid metabolism are implicated in wasting, suggesting new approaches for EED refractory to nutritional intervention.
Association of Baseline Luminal Narrowing With Ileal Microbial Shifts and Gene Expression Programs and Subsequent Transmural Healing in Pediatric Crohn Disease
Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2021 Jan 16:izaa339. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izaa339. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Transmural healing (TH) is associated with better long-term outcomes in Crohn disease (CD), whereas pretreatment ileal gene signatures encoding myeloid inflammatory responses and extracellular matrix production are associated with stricturing. We aimed to develop a predictive model for ileal TH and to identify ileal genes and microbes associated with baseline luminal narrowing (LN), a precursor to strictures.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Baseline small bowel imaging obtained in the RISK pediatric CD cohort study was graded for LN. Ileal gene expression was determined by RNASeq, and the ileal microbial community composition was characterized using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. Clinical, demographic, radiologic, and genomic variables were tested for association with baseline LN and future TH.
RESULTS: After controlling for ileal location, baseline ileal LN (odds ratio [OR], 0.3; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.1-0.8), increasing serum albumin (OR, 4; 95% CI, 1.3-12.3), and anti-Saccharomyces cerevisiae antibodies IgG serology (OR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.95-1) were associated with subsequent TH. A multivariable regression model including these factors had excellent discriminant power for TH (area under the curve, 0.86; positive predictive value, 80%; negative predictive value, 87%). Patients with baseline LN exhibited increased Enterobacteriaceae and inflammatory and extracellular matrix gene signatures, coupled with reduced levels of butyrate-producing commensals and a respiratory electron transport gene signature. Taxa including Lachnospiraceae and the genus Roseburia were associated with increased respiratory and decreased inflammatory gene signatures, and Aggregatibacter and Blautia bacteria were associated with reduced extracellular matrix gene expression.
CONCLUSIONS: Pediatric patients with CD with LN at diagnosis are less likely to achieve TH. The association between specific microbiota, wound healing gene programs, and LN may suggest future therapeutic targets.
Ther Adv Respir Dis. 2020 Jan-Dec;14:1753466620971143. doi: 10.1177/1753466620971143.
BACKGROUND: There are two US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs, pirfenidone and nintedanib, for treatment of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). However, neither of these drugs provide a cure. In addition, both are associated with several drug-related adverse events. Hence, the pursuit for newer IPF therapeutics continues. Recent studies show that joint analysis of systems-biology-level information with drug-disease connectivity are effective in discovery of biologically relevant candidate therapeutics.
METHODS: Publicly available gene expression signatures from patients with IPF were used to query a large-scale perturbagen signature library to discover compounds that can potentially reverse dysregulated gene expression in IPF. Two methods were used to calculate IPF-compound connectivity: gene expression-based connectivity and feature-based connectivity. Identified compounds were further prioritized if their shared mechanism(s) of action were IPF-related.
RESULTS: We found 77 compounds as potential candidate therapeutics for IPF. Of these, 39 compounds are either FDA-approved for other diseases or are currently in phase II/III clinical trials suggesting their repurposing potential for IPF. Among these compounds are multiple receptor kinase inhibitors (e.g. nintedanib, currently approved for IPF, and sunitinib), aurora kinase inhibitor (barasertib), epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors (erlotinib, gefitinib), calcium channel blocker (verapamil), phosphodiesterase inhibitors (roflumilast, sildenafil), PPAR agonists (pioglitazone), histone deacetylase inhibitors (entinostat), and opioid receptor antagonists (nalbuphine). As a proof of concept, we performed in vitro validations with verapamil using lung fibroblasts from IPF and show its potential benefits in pulmonary fibrosis.
CONCLUSIONS: As about half of the candidates discovered in this study are either FDA-approved or are currently in clinical trials for other diseases, rapid translation of these compounds as potential IPF therapeutics is possible. Further, the integrative connectivity analysis framework in this study can be adapted in early phase drug discovery for other common and rare diseases with transcriptomic profiles.The reviews of this paper are available via the supplemental material section.
Mucosal Inflammatory and Wound Healing Gene Programs Reveal Targets for Stricturing Behavior in Pediatric Crohn's Disease
J Crohns Colitis. 2020 Aug 8:jjaa166. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjaa166. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Ileal strictures are the major indication for resective surgery in Crohn's disease (CD). We aimed to define ileal gene programs present at diagnosis linked with future stricturing behavior during five year follow-up, and to identify potential small molecules to reverse these gene signatures.
METHODS: Antimicrobial serologies and pre-treatment ileal gene expression were assessed in a representative subset of 249 CD patients within the RISK multicenter pediatric CD inception cohort study, including 113 that are unique to this report. These data were used to define genes associated with stricturing behavior and for model testing to predict stricturing behavior. A bioinformatics approach to define small molecules which may reverse the stricturing gene signature was applied.
RESULTS: 19 of the 249 patients developed isolated B2 stricturing behavior during follow-up, while 218 remained B1 inflammatory. Using deeper RNA sequencing than in our prior report, we have now defined an inflammatory gene signature including an oncostatin M co-expression signature, tightly associated with extra-cellular matrix (ECM) gene expression in those who developed stricturing complications. We further computationally prioritize small molecules targeting macrophage and fibroblast activation and angiogenesis which may reverse the stricturing gene signature. A model containing ASCA and CBir1 serologies and a refined eight ECM gene set was significantly associated with stricturing development by year five after diagnosis (AUC (95th CI) = 0.82 (0.7-0.94)).
CONCLUSION: An ileal gene program for macrophage and fibroblast activation is linked to stricturing complications in treatment naïve pediatric CD, and may inform novel small molecule therapeutic approaches.
EMBO Mol Med. 2020 Sep 7;12(9):e12131. doi: 10.15252/emmm.202012131. Epub 2020 Aug 6.
Fibroblast activation including proliferation, survival, and ECM production is central to initiation and maintenance of fibrotic lesions in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). However, druggable molecules that target fibroblast activation remain limited. In this study, we show that multiple pro-fibrotic growth factors, including TGFα, CTGF, and IGF1, increase aurora kinase B (AURKB) expression and activity in fibroblasts. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that Wilms tumor 1 (WT1) is a key transcription factor that mediates TGFα-driven AURKB upregulation in fibroblasts. Importantly, we found that inhibition of AURKB expression or activity is sufficient to attenuate fibroblast activation. We show that fibrosis induced by TGFα is highly dependent on AURKB expression and treating TGFα mice with barasertib, an AURKB inhibitor, reverses fibroblast activation, and pulmonary fibrosis. Barasertib similarly attenuated fibrosis in the bleomycin model of pulmonary fibrosis. Together, our preclinical studies provide important proof-of-concept that demonstrate barasertib as a possible intervention therapy for IPF.
J Cyst Fibros. 2020 Sep;19(5):815-822. doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2020.06.011. Epub 2020 Jun 25.
BACKGROUND: Cystic fibrosis (CF) patients develop severe lung disease including chronic airway infections, neutrophilic inflammation, and progressive fibrotic remodeling in airways. However, cellular and molecular processes that regulate excessive collagen deposition in airways in these patients remain unclear. Fibrocytes are bone marrow (BM)-derived mesenchymal cells that express the hematopoietic cell marker CD45, and mesenchymal cell markers and implicated in collagen deposition in several fibrotic diseases. It is unknown whether fibrocytes accumulate in the lungs of CF patients, so the current study evaluates the presence of fibrocytes in the fibrotic lesions of airways in explanted CF lungs compared to non-CF unused donor lungs (control).
METHODS: We used immunofluorescence staining to determine if fibrocytes accumulate in explanted CF lungs compared to healthy donor lungs. Simultaneously, we evaluated cells collected by bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) in CF patients using multi-color flow cytometry. Finally, we analyzed transcripts differentially expressed in fibrocytes isolated from the explanted CF lungs compared to control to assess fibrocyte-specific pro-fibrotic gene networks.
RESULTS: Our findings demonstrate fibrocyte accumulation in CF lungs compared to non-CF lungs. Additionally, fibrocytes were detected in the BAL of all CF children. Transcriptomic analysis of fibrocytes identified dysregulated genes associated with fibrotic remodeling in CF lungs.
CONCLUSIONS: With significantly increased fibrocytes that show increased expression of pro-fibrotic gene transcripts compared to control, our findings suggest an intervention for fibrotic remodeling as a potential therapeutic target in CF.
Lab Invest. 2020 Sep;100(9):1238-1251. doi: 10.1038/s41374-020-0433-4. Epub 2020 Apr 29.
The mechanisms which underlie defects in learning and memory are a major area of focus with the increasing incidence of Alzheimer's disease in the aging population. The complex genetically-controlled, age-, and environmentally-dependent onset and progression of the cognitive deficits and neuronal pathology call for better understanding of the fundamental biology of the nervous system function. In this study, we focus on nuclear receptor binding factor-2 (NRBF2) which modulates the transcriptional activities of retinoic acid receptor α and retinoid X receptor α, and the autophagic activities of the BECN1-VPS34 complex. Since both transcriptional regulation and autophagic function are important in supporting neuronal function, we hypothesized that NRBF2 deficiency may lead to cognitive deficits. To test this, we developed a new mouse model with nervous system-specific knockout of Nrbf2. In a series of behavioral assessment, we demonstrate that NRBF2 knockout in the nervous system results in profound learning and memory deficits. Interestingly, we did not find deficits in autophagic flux in primary neurons and the autophagy deficits were minimal in the brain. In contrast, RNAseq analyses have identified altered expression of genes that have been shown to impact neuronal function. The observation that NRBF2 is involved in learning and memory suggests a new mechanism regulating cognition involving the role of this protein in regulating networks related to the function of retinoic acid receptors, protein folding, and quality control.
Sectm1a Deficiency Aggravates Inflammation-Triggered Cardiac Dysfunction through Disruption of LXRα Signaling in Macrophages
Cardiovasc Res. 2020 Mar 14:cvaa067. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvaa067. Online ahead of print.
AIM: Cardiac dysfunction is a prevalent comorbidity of disrupted inflammatory homeostasis observed in conditions such as sepsis (acute) or obesity (chronic). Secreted and transmembrane protein 1a (Sectm1a) has previously been implicated to regulate inflammatory responses, yet its role in inflammation-associated cardiac dysfunction is virtually unknown.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, we generated a global Sectm1a-knockout (KO) mouse model and observed significantly increased mortality and cardiac injury after LPS injection, when compared to wild-type (WT) control. Further analysis revealed significantly increased accumulation of inflammatory macrophages in hearts of LPS-treated KO mice. Accordingly, ablation of Sectm1a remarkably increased inflammatory cytokines levels both in vitro [from bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs)] and in vivo (in serum and myocardium) after LPS challenge. RNA-sequencing results and bioinformatics analyses showed that the most significantly downregulated genes in KO-BMDMs were modulated by LXRα, a nuclear receptor with robust anti-inflammatory activity in macrophages. Indeed, we identified that the nuclear translocation of LXRα was disrupted in KO-BMDMs when treated with GW3965 (LXR agonist), resulting in higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, compared to GW3965-treated WT-cells. Furthermore, using chronic inflammation model of high-fat diet (HFD) feeding, we observed that infiltration of inflammatory monocytes/macrophages into KO-hearts were greatly increased and accordingly, worsened cardiac function, compared to WT-HFD controls.
CONCLUSION: This study defines Sectm1a as a new regulator of inflammatory-induced cardiac dysfunction through modulation of LXRα signaling in macrophages. Our data suggest that augmenting Sectm1a activity may be a potential therapeutic approach to resolve inflammation and associated cardiac dysfunction.
TRANSLATIONAL PERSPECTIVE: Better understanding on the interaction between inflammatory responses and cardiac health is prominent for the development of safer and more efficacious therapies for heart failure patients. The present study, using both acute (LPS) and chronic (high-fat diet) inflammation models, reiterated the adverse effects of abnormal macrophages activation on cardiac function. Our Sectm1a knockout mouse model showed exacerbated cardiac and systemic inflammatory responses, resulting in further aggravation of contractile dysfunction on the heart after endotoxin challenge. We also demonstrated Sectm1a as a new regulator of macrophage function through LXRα pathway. These data suggest a novel approach to regulate macrophage-elicited inflammation.