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  • Arachidonic acid-regulated calcium signaling in T cells from patients with rheumatoid arthritis promotes synovial inflammation. Nature communications Ye, Z., Shen, Y., Jin, K., Qiu, J., Hu, B., Jadhav, R. R., Sheth, K., Weyand, C. M., Goronzy, J. J. 2021; 12 (1): 907


    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) are two distinct autoimmune diseases that manifest with chronic synovial inflammation. Here, we show that CD4+ T cells from patients with RA and PsA have increased expression of the pore-forming calcium channel component ORAI3, thereby increasing the activity of the arachidonic acid-regulated calcium-selective (ARC) channel and making T cells sensitive to arachidonic acid. A similar increase does not occur in T cells from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Increased ORAI3 transcription in RA and PsA T cells is caused by reduced IKAROS expression, a transcriptional repressor of the ORAI3 promoter. Stimulation of the ARC channel with arachidonic acid induces not only a calcium influx, but also the phosphorylation of components of the T cell receptor signaling cascade. In a human synovium chimeric mouse model, silencing ORAI3 expression in adoptively transferred T cells from patients with RA attenuates tissue inflammation, while adoptive transfer of T cells from healthy individuals with reduced expression of IKAROS induces synovitis. We propose that increased ARC activity due to reduced IKAROS expression makes T cells more responsive and contributes to chronic inflammation in RA and PsA.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-021-21242-z

    View details for PubMedID 33568645

  • The PD-1/PD-L1 binding inhibitor BMS-202 suppresses the synthesis and secretion of gonadotropins and enhances apoptosis via p38 MAPK signaling pathway. Drug development research Jiang, Y., Zhang, J., Qiu, J., Cui, S. 2021


    To determine whether BMS-202 can disrupt the pituitary gland and reproductive system. BMS-202 (2.5 mg/kg) was injected intraperitoneally into adult female mice every 96 h for four times. Real-time polymerase chain reaction, western blotting, double immunofluorescence staining and radioimmunoassays (RIA) were used to study the expressions of programmed death receptor 1 (PD-1) and programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1), and detect changes after BMS-202 treatment in the mouse pituitary gland. PD-1 and PD-L1 were expressed in the mouse pituitary gland. Further functional studies demonstrated that BMS-202 inhibited the synthesis and secretion of gonadotropins and prolonged the estrous cycle in mice. Moreover, the increases of cleaved caspase3 (c-caspase3) protein level both in vivo and in vitro indicated that BMS-202 induced apoptosis. Additionally, the effects of BMS-202 on follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone mRNA levels were blocked by a p38 MAPK inhibitor. Of note, the inhibition of p38 MAPK pathway decreased the apoptosis induced by BMS-202. BMS-202, as a drug which inhibits the formation of the PD-1/PD-L1 complex, disrupts the normal function of the pituitary gland. Importantly, the results confirmed the potential insecurity of BMS-202 in the pituitary gland and provided data to support the evaluation of its clinical application.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/ddr.21857

    View details for PubMedID 34309063

  • Metabolic Control of Autoimmunity and Tissue Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Frontiers in immunology Qiu, J., Wu, B., Goodman, S. B., Berry, G. J., Goronzy, J. J., Weyand, C. M. 2021; 12: 652771


    Like other autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) develops in distinct stages, with each phase of disease linked to immune cell dysfunction. HLA class II genes confer the strongest genetic risk to develop RA. They encode for molecules essential in the activation and differentiation of T cells, placing T cells upstream in the immunopathology. In Phase 1 of the RA disease process, T cells lose a fundamental function, their ability to be self-tolerant, and provide help for autoantibody-producing B cells. Phase 2 begins many years later, when mis-differentiated T cells gain tissue-invasive effector functions, enter the joint, promote non-resolving inflammation, and give rise to clinically relevant arthritis. In Phase 3 of the RA disease process, abnormal innate immune functions are added to adaptive autoimmunity, converting synovial inflammation into a tissue-destructive process that erodes cartilage and bone. Emerging data have implicated metabolic mis-regulation as a fundamental pathogenic pathway in all phases of RA. Early in their life cycle, RA T cells fail to repair mitochondrial DNA, resulting in a malfunctioning metabolic machinery. Mitochondrial insufficiency is aggravated by the mis-trafficking of the energy sensor AMPK away from the lysosomal surface. The metabolic signature of RA T cells is characterized by the shunting of glucose toward the pentose phosphate pathway and toward biosynthetic activity. During the intermediate and terminal phase of RA-imposed tissue inflammation, tissue-residing macrophages, T cells, B cells and stromal cells are chronically activated and under high metabolic stress, creating a microenvironment poor in oxygen and glucose, but rich in metabolic intermediates, such as lactate. By sensing tissue lactate, synovial T cells lose their mobility and are trapped in the tissue niche. The linkage of defective DNA repair, misbalanced metabolic pathways, autoimmunity, and tissue inflammation in RA encourages metabolic interference as a novel treatment strategy during both the early stages of tolerance breakdown and the late stages of tissue inflammation. Defining and targeting metabolic abnormalities provides a new paradigm to treat, or even prevent, the cellular defects underlying autoimmune disease.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fimmu.2021.652771

    View details for PubMedID 33868292

  • NOTCH-induced rerouting of endosomal trafficking disables regulatory T-cells in vasculitis. The Journal of clinical investigation Jin, K., Wen, Z., Wu, B., Zhang, H., Qiu, J., Wang, Y., Warrington, K. J., Berry, G., Goronzy, J. J., Weyand, C. M. 2020


    The aorta and the large conductive arteries are immunoprivileged tissues and are protected against inflammatory attack. A breakdown of the immunoprivilege leads to autoimmune vasculitis, such as giant cell arteritis (GCA), in which CD8+ T regulatory (Treg) cells fail to contain CD4+ T cells and macrophages, resulting in the formation of tissue-destructive granulomatous lesions. Here, we report that the molecular defect of malfunctioning CD8+ Treg cells lies in aberrant NOTCH4 signaling that deviates endosomal trafficking and minimizes exosome production. By transcriptionally controlling the profile of RAB GTPases, NOTCH4 signaling restricted membrane translocation and vesicular secretion of the enzyme NADPH oxidase 2 (NOX2). Specifically, NOTCH4hiCD8+ Treg cells increased RAB5A and RAB11A expression and suppressed RAB7A, culminating in the accumulation of early and recycling endosomes and trapping of NOX2 in an intracellular, non-secretory compartment. RAB7AloCD8+ Treg cells failed in the surface translocation and the exosomal release of NOX2. NOTCH4hi RAB5Ahi RAB7Alo RAB11Ahi CD8+ Treg cells left adaptive immunity unopposed, enabling a breakdown in tissue tolerance and aggressive vessel wall inflammation. Inhibiting NOTCH4 signaling corrected the defect and protected arteries from inflammatory insult. The study implicates NOTCH4-dependent transcriptional control of RAB proteins and intracellular vesicle trafficking in autoimmune disease and in vascular inflammation.

    View details for DOI 10.1172/JCI136042

    View details for PubMedID 32960812

  • Succinyl-CoA Ligase Deficiency in Pro-inflammatory and Tissue-Invasive T Cells. Cell metabolism Wu, B. n., Qiu, J. n., Zhao, T. V., Wang, Y. n., Maeda, T. n., Goronzy, I. N., Akiyama, M. n., Ohtsuki, S. n., Jin, K. n., Tian, L. n., Goronzy, J. J., Weyand, C. M. 2020; 32 (6): 967–80.e5


    Autoimmune T cells in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a defect in mitochondrial oxygen consumption and ATP production. Here, we identified suppression of the GDP-forming β subunit of succinate-CoA ligase (SUCLG2) as an underlying abnormality. SUCLG2-deficient T cells reverted the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle from the oxidative to the reductive direction, accumulated α-ketoglutarate, citrate, and acetyl-CoA (AcCoA), and differentiated into pro-inflammatory effector cells. In AcCoAhi RA T cells, tubulin acetylation stabilized the microtubule cytoskeleton and positioned mitochondria in a perinuclear location, resulting in cellular polarization, uropod formation, T cell migration, and tissue invasion. In the tissue, SUCLG2-deficient T cells functioned as cytokine-producing effector cells and were hyperinflammatory, a defect correctable by replenishing the enzyme. Preventing T cell tubulin acetylation by tubulin acetyltransferase knockdown was sufficient to inhibit synovitis. These data link mitochondrial failure and AcCoA oversupply to autoimmune tissue inflammation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cmet.2020.10.025

    View details for PubMedID 33264602

  • cGMP-dependent protein kinase II determines β-catenin accumulation that is essential for uterine decidualization in mice. American journal of physiology. Cell physiology Zhang, Y., Yan, L., Liu, J., Cui, S., Qiu, J. 2019; 317 (6): C1115-C1127


    In the early phase of pregnancy, decidualization is an indispensable event after mammal embryo implantation, accompanied by proliferation and differentiation of uterine stromal cells. Type II cGMP-dependent protein kinase (Prkg2) belongs to the family of serine/threonine kinase, which plays multiple roles in cellular signaling pathways to control proliferation and differentiation. However, the regulatory function and molecular mechanism of Prkg2 in decidualization are still unknown. In this study, we show that Prkg2 has a gradually increased expression pattern during peri-implantation and artificial decidualization, and the expression of Prkg2 is induced by estrogen and progesterone in the ovariectomized mouse uteri and primary cultured uterine stromal cells, the process of which is blocked by treating with estrogen receptor (ER) antagonist (ICI-182,780) and progesterone receptor (PR) antagonist (RU-486). Inhibition of Prkg2 activity by HA-100 promotes uterine stromal cell proliferation but compromises decidualization with decreased expression of prolactin family 8, subfamily a, member 2. In addition, the functional regulation of decidualization by Prkg2 is accomplished by its induced phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) at serine-9, which results in accumulation of β-catenin in the decidual cells. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that estrogen and progesterone upregulate the expression of Prkg2 in uterine stromal cells depending on ER and PR; Prkg2 promotes phosphorylation of GSK-3β at serine-9 and inactivates it, leading to the accumulation of β-catenin and promoting the process of decidualization. In addition to revealing the regulatory mechanism of Prkg2 that ensures the success of uterine decidualization, our findings will contribute to the understanding in the maintenance of early pregnancy.

    View details for DOI 10.1152/ajpcell.00208.2019

    View details for PubMedID 31509448

  • MicroRNA-7 inhibits melatonin synthesis by acting as a linking molecule between leptin and norepinephrine signaling pathways in pig pineal gland. Journal of pineal research Qiu, J., Zhang, J., Zhou, Y., Li, X., Li, H., Liu, J., Gou, K., Zhao, J., Cui, S. 2019; 66 (3): e12552


    MicroRNAs, including microRNA-7 (miR-7), are important modulators of numerous gene expressions and the related biological processes. Melatonin is a key hormone regulating daily and seasonal rhythms, in which a variety of positive and negative regulatory factors, such as norepinephrine (NE) and leptin, are involved. However, the interactions among these factors and the mechanisms remain to be elucidated. The aims of the present study were to identify the functions and the related mechanisms of miR-7 in regulating melatonin synthesis and secretion through in vitro and in vivo experiments in pineal gland of pigs, which is an important animal model for agricultural and biomedical studies. Our results firstly show that miR-7 is specifically expressed in porcine pinealocytes and negatively regulates melatonin synthesis. The further functional studies show that the dynamic expression levels of miR-7 are contrary to the melatonin levels throughout the day, and the forced inhibition of endogenous miR-7 in porcine pinealocytes sharply increases arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT) expression by 80.0% (P = 0.0031) and melatonin levels by 81.0% (P = 0.0421), whereas miR-7 over-expression down-regulates AANAT expression by 38.6% (P = 0.0004) and melatonin levels by 37.6% (P = 0.0212). In addition, the miR-7 expression is up-regulated by leptin through the JAK/STAT3 signaling pathway, and the in vivo intracerebroventricular injection of leptin increases miR-7 expression by 80.0% (P = 0.0044) in porcine pineal glands and reduces melatonin levels by 57.1% (P = 0.0060) compared with the controls. This functional inhibition of melatonin synthesis by miR-7 is accomplished by its binding to the 3'-UTR of Raf1. Further, our results demonstrate that the RAF1/MEK/ERK signaling pathway mediates NE-induced AANAT expression, whereas leptin attenuates NE's function through miR-7. Taken together, the results demonstrated that leptin activates the JAK/STAT3 signaling pathway to increase the expression of miR-7, which acts as a negative regulatory molecule inhibiting NE-activated RAF1/MEK/ERK signaling pathway by targeting Raf1, resulting in decreased AANAT expression and melatonin synthesis. These findings suggest that miR-7 is a novel negative regulator of melatonin synthesis and links leptin- and NE-mediated signaling pathways in porcine pineal glands, which will contribute to our understanding in the establishment of the biological rhythms resulting from melatonin.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/jpi.12552

    View details for PubMedID 30618087

  • LIM homeobox transcription factor Isl1 is required for melatonin synthesis in the pig pineal gland. Journal of pineal research Zhang, J., Qiu, J., Zhou, Y., Wang, Y., Li, H., Zhang, T., Jiang, Y., Gou, K., Cui, S. 2018; 65 (1): e12481


    Melatonin is a key hormone that regulates circadian rhythms, metabolism, and reproduction. However, the mechanisms of melatonin synthesis and secretion have not been fully defined. The purpose of this study was to investigate the functions of the LIM homeobox transcription factor Isl1 in regulating melatonin synthesis and secretion in porcine pineal gland. We found that Isl1 is highly expressed in the melatonin-producing cells in the porcine pineal gland. Further functional studies demonstrate that Isl1 knockdown in cultured primary porcine pinealocytes results in the decline of melatonin and arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT) mRNA levels by 29.2% and 72.2%, respectively, whereas Isl1 overexpression raised by 1.3-fold and 2.7-fold. In addition, the enhancing effect of norepinephrine (NE) on melatonin synthesis was abolished by Isl1 knockdown. The in vivo intracerebroventricular NE injections upregulate Isl1 mRNA and protein levels by about threefold and 4.5-fold in the porcine pineal gland. We then examined the changes in Isl1 expression in the pineal gland and global melatonin levels throughout the day. The results show that Isl1 protein level at 24:00 is 2.5-fold higher than that at 12:00, which is parallel to melatonin levels. We further found that Isl1 increases the activity of AANAT promoter, and the effect of NE on Isl1 expression was blocked by an ERK inhibitor. Collectively, the results presented here demonstrate that Isl1 positively modulates melatonin synthesis by targeting AANAT, via the ERK signaling pathway of NE. These suggest that Isl1 plays important roles in maintaining the daily circadian rhythm.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/jpi.12481

    View details for PubMedID 29480946

  • Polycomb subunit BMI1 determines uterine progesterone responsiveness essential for normal embryo implantation. The Journal of clinical investigation Xin, Q., Kong, S., Yan, J., Qiu, J., He, B., Zhou, C., Ni, Z., Bao, H., Huang, L., Lu, J., Xia, G., Liu, X., Chen, Z. J., Wang, C., Wang, H. 2018; 128 (1): 175-189


    Natural and synthetic progestogens have been commonly used to prevent recurrent pregnancy loss in women with inadequate progesterone secretion or reduced progesterone sensitivity. However, the clinical efficacy of progesterone and its analogs for maintaining pregnancy is variable. Additionally, the underlying cause of impaired endometrial progesterone responsiveness during early pregnancy remains unknown. Here, we demonstrated that uterine-selective depletion of BMI1, a key component of the polycomb repressive complex-1 (PRC1), hampers uterine progesterone responsiveness and derails normal uterine receptivity, resulting in implantation failure in mice. We further uncovered genetic and biochemical evidence that BMI1 interacts with the progesterone receptor (PR) and the E3 ligase E6AP in a polycomb complex-independent manner and regulates the PR ubiquitination that is essential for normal progesterone responsiveness. A close association of aberrantly low endometrial BMI1 expression with restrained PR responsiveness in women who had previously had a miscarriage indicated that the role of BMI1 in endometrial PR function is conserved in mice and in humans. In addition to uncovering a potential regulatory mechanism of BMI1 that ensures normal endometrial progesterone responsiveness during early pregnancy, our findings have the potential to help clarify the underlying causes of spontaneous pregnancy loss in women.

    View details for DOI 10.1172/JCI92862

    View details for PubMedID 29202468

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5749512

  • PR-Set7 deficiency limits uterine epithelial population growth hampering postnatal gland formation in mice. Cell death and differentiation Cui, T., He, B., Kong, S., Zhou, C., Zhang, H., Ni, Z., Bao, H., Qiu, J., Xin, Q., Reinberg, D., Lydon, J. P., Lu, J., Wang, H. 2017; 24 (12): 2013-2021


    Formation of secretary endometrial glands in the uterus known as adenogenesis is a typical process of branching morphogenesis involving dynamic epithelial growth and differentiation. Unsuccessful adenogenesis often leads to female infertility. However, it remains largely unexplored so far regarding the epigenetic machinery governing normal endometrial gland formation. Here, we demonstrated that PR-Set7, an epigenetic regulator for H4K20me1 modification, was extensively expressed in the postnatal uteri, and its conditional deletion resulted in a complete lack of endometrial glands and infertility in mice. Subsequent analysis revealed that uterine PR-Set7 deficiency abolishes the dynamic endometrial epithelial population growth during the short span of gland formation from postnatal days 3 to 9. This markedly reduced epithelial population growth in PR-Set7-null mutant uteri is well associated with DNA damage accumulation and massive apoptotic death in the epithelium, due to blockade of 53BP1 recruitment to DNA damage sites upon reduced levels of H4K20me1/2. Using PgrCre/+/Rosa26DTA/+ mouse line and postnatal progesterone injection mouse model, we further confirmed that an impaired epithelial cell population growth either by inducing epithelial death in the diphtheria toxin-A (DTA)-mouse model or attenuating epithelial growth upon postnatal progesterone treatment similarly hampers uterine adenogenesis. Collectively, we establish here a novel 'epithelial population growth threshold' model for successful gland development. Besides further shedding light on the regulatory machinery governing uterine gland formation, our findings raise a safety concern on progesterone supplementation to prevent preterm birth in women bearing a female fetus, as exogenous progesterone may hamper uterine adenogenesis via attenuating epithelial population growth.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/cdd.2017.120

    View details for PubMedID 28731465

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5686342

  • Transcriptional activation of nuclear estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor and its regulation. Sheng li xue bao : [Acta physiologica Sinica] Xin, Q. L., Qiu, J. T., Cui, S., Xia, G. L., Wang, H. B. 2016; 68 (4): 435-54


    Estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) are two important members of steroid receptors family, an evolutionarily conserved family of transcription factors. Upon binding to their ligands, ER and PR enter cell nucleus to interact with specific DNA element in the context of chromatin to initiate the transcription of diverse target genes, which largely depends on the timely recruitment of a wide range of cofactors. Moreover, the interactions between steroid hormones and their respective receptors also trigger post-translational modifications on these receptors to fine-tune their transcriptional activities. Besides the well-known phosphorylation modifications on tyrosine and serine/threonine residues, recent studies have identified several other covalent modifications, such as ubiquitylation and sumoylation. These post-translational modifications of steroid receptors affect its stability, subcellular localization, and/or cofactor recruitment; eventually influence the duration and extent of transcriptional activation. This review is to focus on the recent research progress on the transcriptional activation of nuclear ER and PR as well as their physiological functions in early pregnancy, which may help us to better understand related female reproductive diseases.

    View details for PubMedID 27546504