Honors & Awards
Douglas Johnson Award for Glaucoma Research, BrightFocus Foundation (2013)
The Knights Templar Eye Foundation Travel Fellowship Award, The Knights Templar Eye Foundation/ISER (2016)
William & Mary Greve Special Scholar Award, Research to Prevent Blindness (2018)
Catalyst for a Cure Research Consortium-3, Glaucoma Research Foundation (2019)
Postdoc, Harvard Medical School, Neuroscience (2009)
Ph.D, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Neuroscience (2006)
Residency, Beijing Friendship Hospital, Ophthalmology (1998)
MD, Beijing Medical University, Medicine (1996)
Current Research and Scholarly Interests
Regenerative and neuroprotective therapies have long been sought for CNS neurodegenerative diseases but none have been found. That there is no curative neuroprotective or restorative therapy for neurodegeneration is a central challenge for human health. My lab focuses on the mechanisms responsible for neuronal degeneration and axon regeneration after injury or diseases with the goal of building on this understanding to develop effective combined strategies to promote neuroprotection and functional recovery: 1) Through established collaborations with experts in immunology, physiology and cancer, we were the first to demonstrate that axon-injury induced neuronal ER stress is a common mechanism for both RGC soma and axon neurodegeneration. We are currently developing ER stress modulators and AAV-mediated gene therapy strategies for neuroprotection. 2) We are pioneering in the application of AAV-mediated therapies for safer and more effective treatment of glaucoma and related optic neuropathies. We have identified an RGC-specific promoter for gene therapy in RGCs, which drives transgene expression exclusively in RGCs and is stronger than commonly used universal promoters (CAG or CMV). We are screening mutated AAV capsid libraries to identify AAVs that can specifically infect RGCs but not other retinal cells and make RGC targeting more precise, including in human tissues. 3) We have recently developed a novel inducible mouse glaucoma model that faithfully replicates a secondary post-operative glaucoma following vitreoretinal surgeries; and a genetic mouse glaucoma model to mimic normal tension glaucoma. 4) Through collaboration with experts in adaptive optics, machine deep learning and genetics, we are developing reliable morphological and functional in vivo readouts of RGCs and illustrating genetic causes of RGC degeneration. 5) My lab also performed the first molecular dissection of the PTEN/mTOR pathway in mouse RGCs in vivo and illuminated the mechanisms by which AKT interacts with mTORC1 and mTORC2 and their downstream effectors S6K1, 4E-BP and GSK3β to regulate optic nerve regeneration. We are using comprehensive signal transduction analysis to identify true axon regeneration initiators that do not promote tumorigenesis, and which will provide a safe regenerative treatment. In summary, our work emphasizes understanding fundamental molecular mechanisms while maintaining a consistent focus on clinically relevant scenarios and therapies that will allow us to translate lab discoveries into effective vision restoration treatments.
In vivo evaluation of retinal ganglion cells and optic nerve's integrity in large animals by multi-modality analysis.
Experimental eye research
Large animal models of optic nerve injury are essential for translating novel findings into effective therapies due to their similarity to humans in many respects. However, most current tests evaluating the integrity of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and optic nerve (ON) are based on rodent animal models. We aimed to evaluate and optimize the in vivo methods to assess RGCs and ON's function and structure in large animals in terms of reproducibility, simplicity and sensitivity. Bothe goats and rhesus macaques were employed in this study. By using goats, we found anesthesia with isoflurane or xylazine resulted in different effects on reproducibility of flash visual evoked potential (FVEP) and pattern electroretinogram (PERG). FVEP with the large-Ganzfeld stimulator was significantly more stable than that with mini-Ganzfeld stimulator. PERG with simultaneous binocular stimulation, with superior simplicity over separate monocular stimulation, was appliable in goats due to undetectable interocular crosstalk of PERG signals. After ON crush in goats, some FVEP components, PERG, OCT and PLR demonstrated significant changes, in line with the histological study. By using rhesus macaque, we found the implicit time of PVEP, FVEP and PERG were significantly more reproducible than amplitudes, and OCT and PLR demonstrated small intersession variation. In summary, we established an optimized system to evaluate integrity of RGCs and ON in large animals in vivo, facilitating usage of large animal models of optic nerve diseases.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.exer.2020.108117
View details for PubMedID 32598972
Longitudinal Morphological and Functional Assessment of RGC Neurodegeneration After Optic Nerve Crush in Mouse.
Frontiers in cellular neuroscience
2020; 14: 109
The mouse optic nerve crush (ONC) model has been widely used to study optic neuropathies and central nervous system (CNS) axon injury and repair. Previous histological studies of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) somata in retina and axons in ON demonstrate significant neurodegeneration after ONC, but longitudinal morphological and functional assessment of RGCs in living animals is lacking. It is essential to establish these assays to provide more clinically relevant information for early detection and monitoring the progression of CNS neurodegeneration. Here, we present in vivo data gathered by scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (SLO), optical coherence tomography (OCT), and pattern electroretinogram (PERG) at different time points after ONC in mouse eyes and corresponding histological quantification of the RGC somata and axons. Not surprisingly, direct visualization of RGCs by SLO fundus imaging correlated best with histological quantification of RGC somata and axons. Unexpectedly, OCT did not detect obvious retinal thinning until late time points (14 and 28-days post ONC) and instead detected significant retinal swelling at early time points (1-5 days post-ONC), indicating a characteristic initial retinal response to ON injury. PERG also demonstrated an early RGC functional deficit in response to ONC, before significant RGC death, suggesting that it is highly sensitive to ONC. However, the limited progression of PERG deficits diminished its usefulness as a reliable indicator of RGC degeneration.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fncel.2020.00109
View details for PubMedID 32410964
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7200994
Mouse gamma-Synuclein Promoter-Mediated Gene Expression and Editing in Mammalian Retinal Ganglion Cells.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Optic neuropathies are a group of optic nerve (ON) diseases caused by various insults including glaucoma, inflammation, ischemia, trauma and genetic deficits, which are characterized by retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death and ON degeneration. An increasing number of genes involved in RGC intrinsic signaling have been found to be promising neural repair targets that can potentially be modulated directly by gene therapy, if we can achieve RGC specific gene targeting. To address this challenge, we first used adeno associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene transfer to perform a low throughput in vivo screening in both male and female mouse eyes and identified the mouse γ-synuclein (mSncg) promoter, which specifically and potently sustained transgene expression in mouse RGCs and also works in human RGCs. We further demonstrated that gene therapy that combines AAV-mSncg promoter with CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can knockdown pro-degenerative genes in RGCs and provide effective neuroprotection in optic neuropathies.Significance Statement:Here we present an RGC-specific promoter, mouse γ-synuclein (mSncg) promoter, and perform extensive characterization and proof-of-concept studies of mSncg promoter-mediated gene expression and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in RGCs in vivo To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating in vivo neuroprotection of injured RGCs and optic nerve by AAV-mediated CRISPR/Cas9 inhibition of genes that are critical for neurodegeneration. It represents a powerful tool to achieve RGC-specific gene modulation, and also opens up a promising gene therapy strategy for optic neuropathies, the most common form of eye diseases that cause irreversible blindness.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0102-20.2020
View details for PubMedID 32300046
A Reversible Silicon Oil-Induced Ocular Hypertension Model in Mice.
Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a well-documented risk factor for glaucoma. Here we describe a novel, effective method for consistently inducing stable IOP elevation in mice that mimics the post-operative complication of using silicone oil (SO) as a tamponade agent in human vitreoretinal surgery. In this protocol, SO is injected into the anterior chamber of the mouse eye to block the pupil and prevent inflow of aqueous humor. The posterior chamber accumulates aqueous humor and this in turn increases the IOP of the posterior segment. A single SO injection produces reliable, sufficient, and stable IOP elevation, which induces significant glaucomatous neurodegeneration. This model is a true replicate of secondary glaucoma in the eye clinic. To further mimic the clinical setting, SO can be removed from the anterior chamber to reopen the drainage pathway and allow inflow of aqueous humor, which is drained through the trabecular meshwork (TM) at the angle of the anterior chamber. Because IOP quickly returns to normal, the model can be used to test the effect of lowering IOP on glaucomatous retinal ganglion cells. This method is straightforward, does not require special equipment or repeat procedures, closely simulates clinical situations, and may be applicable to diverse animal species. However, minor modifications may be required.
View details for DOI 10.3791/60409
View details for PubMedID 31789319
- Silicone oil-induced ocular hypertension and glaucomatous neurodegeneration in mouse ELIFE 2019; 8
AKT-dependent and -independent pathways mediate PTEN deletion-induced CNS axon regeneration.
Cell death & disease
2019; 10 (3): 203
Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) acts as a brake for the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-AKT-mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway, the deletion of which promotes potent central nervous system (CNS) axon regeneration. Previously, we demonstrated that AKT activation is sufficient to promote CNS axon regeneration to a lesser extent than PTEN deletion. It is still questionable whether AKT is entirely responsible for the regenerative effect of PTEN deletion on CNS axons. Here, we show that blocking AKT or its downstream effectors, mTORC1 and GSK3beta, significantly reduces PTEN deletion-induced mouse optic nerve regeneration, indicating the necessary role of AKT-dependent signaling. However, AKT is only marginally activated in PTEN-null mice due to mTORC1-mediated feedback inhibition. That combining PTEN deletion with AKT overexpression or GSK3beta deletion achieves significantly more potent axonal regeneration suggests an AKT-independent pathway for axon regeneration. Elucidating the AKT-independent pathway is required to develop effective strategies for CNS axon regeneration.
View details for PubMedID 30814515
Neuroprotection by eIF2 alpha-CHOP inhibition and XBP-1 activation in EAE/optic neuritiss
CELL DEATH & DISEASE
2017; 8: e2936
No therapies exist to prevent neuronal deficits in multiple sclerosis (MS), because the molecular mechanism responsible for the progressive neurodegeneration is unknown. We previously showed that axon injury-induced neuronal endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress plays an important role in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death and optic nerve degeneration in traumatic and glaucomatous optic neuropathies. Optic neuritis, one of the most common clinical manifestations of MS, is readily modeled by experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mouse. Using this in vivo model, we now show that ER stress is induced early in EAE and that modulation of ER stress by inhibition of eIF2α-CHOP and activation of XBP-1 in RGC specifically, protects RGC somata and axons and preserves visual function. This finding adds to the evidence that ER stress is a general upstream mechanism for neurodegeneration and suggests that targeting ER stress molecules is a promising therapeutic strategy for neuroprotection in MS.
View details for PubMedID 28726788
Rescue of Glaucomatous Neurodegeneration by Differentially Modulating Neuronal Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Molecules
JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE
2016; 36 (21): 5891-5903
Axon injury is an early event in neurodegenerative diseases that often leads to retrograde neuronal cell death and progressive permanent loss of vital neuronal functions. The connection of these two obviously sequential degenerative events, however, is elusive. Deciphering the upstream signals that trigger the neurodegeneration cascades in both neuronal soma and axon would be a key step toward developing the effective neuroprotectants that are greatly needed in the clinic. We showed previously that optic nerve injury-induced neuronal endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress plays an important role in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death. Using two in vivo mouse models of optic neuropathies (traumatic optic nerve injury and glaucoma) and adeno-associated virus-mediated RGC-specific gene targeting, we now show that differential manipulation of unfolded protein response pathways in opposite directions-inhibition of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α-C/EBP homologous protein and activation of X-box binding protein 1-promotes both RGC axons and somata survival and preserves visual function. Our results indicate that axon injury-induced neuronal ER stress plays an important role in both axon degeneration and neuron soma death. Neuronal ER stress is therefore a promising therapeutic target for glaucoma and potentially other types of neurodegeneration.Neuron soma and axon degeneration have distinct molecular mechanisms although they are clearly connected after axon injury. We previously demonstrated that axon injury induces neuronal endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and that manipulation of ER stress molecules synergistically promotes neuron cell body survival. Here we investigated the possibility that ER stress also plays a role in axon degeneration and whether ER stress modulation preserves neuronal function in neurodegenerative diseases. Our results suggest that neuronal ER stress is a general mechanism of degeneration for both neuronal cell body and axon, and that therapeutic targeting of ER stress produces significant functional recovery.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3709-15.2016
View details for Web of Science ID 000378345000020
View details for PubMedID 27225776
mTORC1 is necessary but mTORC2 and GSK3ß are inhibitory for AKT3-induced axon regeneration in the central nervous system.
Injured mature CNS axons do not regenerate in mammals. Deletion of PTEN, the negative regulator of PI3K, induces CNS axon regeneration through the activation of PI3K-mTOR signaling. We have conducted an extensive molecular dissection of the cross-regulating mechanisms in axon regeneration that involve the downstream effectors of PI3K, AKT and the two mTOR complexes (mTORC1 and mTORC2). We found that the predominant AKT isoform in CNS, AKT3, induces much more robust axon regeneration than AKT1 and that activation of mTORC1 and inhibition of GSK3β are two critical parallel pathways for AKT-induced axon regeneration. Surprisingly, phosphorylation of T308 and S473 of AKT play opposite roles in GSK3β phosphorylation and inhibition, by which mTORC2 and pAKT-S473 negatively regulate axon regeneration. Thus, our study revealed a complex neuron-intrinsic balancing mechanism involving AKT as the nodal point of PI3K, mTORC1/2 and GSK3β that coordinates both positive and negative cues to regulate adult CNS axon regeneration.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.14908
View details for PubMedID 27026523
The mTORC1 effectors S6K1 and 4E-BP play different roles in CNS axon regeneration
Using mouse optic nerve (ON) crush as a CNS injury model, we and others have found that activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) in mature retinal ganglion cells by deletion of the negative regulators, phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN), and tuberous sclerosis 1 promotes ON regeneration. mTORC1 activation inhibits eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E-binding protein (4E-BP) and activates ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 (S6K1), both of which stimulate translation. We reasoned that mTORC1's regeneration-promoting effects might be separable from its deleterious effects by differential manipulation of its downstream effectors. Here we show that S6K1 activation, but not 4E-BP inhibition, is sufficient to promote axon regeneration. However, inhibition of 4E-BP is required for PTEN deletion-induced axon regeneration. Both activation and inhibition of S6K1 decrease the effect of PTEN deletion on axon regeneration, implicating a dual role of S6K1 in regulating axon growth.
View details for DOI 10.1038/ncomms6416
View details for Web of Science ID 000345624800037
View details for PubMedID 25382660
Neuronal Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Axon Injury and Neurodegeneration
ANNALS OF NEUROLOGY
2013; 74 (6): 768-777
Injuries to central nervous system axons result not only in Wallerian degeneration of the axon distal to the injury, but also in death or atrophy of the axotomized neurons, depending on injury location and neuron type. No method of permanently avoiding these changes has been found, despite extensive knowledge concerning mechanisms of secondary neuronal injury. The autonomous endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress pathway in neurons has recently been implicated in retrograde neuronal degeneration. In addition to the emerging role of ER morphology in axon maintenance, we propose that ER stress is a common neuronal response to disturbances in axon integrity and a general mechanism for neurodegeneration. Thus, manipulation of the ER stress pathway could have important therapeutic implications for neuroprotection.
View details for DOI 10.1002/ana.24005
View details for Web of Science ID 000329891100007
View details for PubMedID 23955583
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3963272
Differential Effects of Unfolded Protein Response Pathways on Axon Injury-Induced Death of Retinal Ganglion Cells
2012; 73 (3): 445-452
Loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) accounts for visual function deficits after optic nerve injury, but how axonal insults lead to neuronal death remains elusive. By using an optic nerve crush model that results in the death of the majority of RGCs, we demonstrate that axotomy induces differential activation of distinct pathways of the unfolded protein response in axotomized RGCs. Optic nerve injury provokes a sustained CCAAT/enhancer binding homologous protein (CHOP) upregulation, and deletion of CHOP promotes RGC survival. In contrast, IRE/XBP-1 is only transiently activated, and forced XBP-1 activation dramatically protects RGCs from axon injury-induced death. Importantly, such differential activations of CHOP and XBP-1 and their distinct effects on neuronal cell death are also observed in RGCs with other types of axonal insults, such as vincristine treatment and intraocular pressure elevation, suggesting a new protective strategy for neurodegeneration associated with axonal damage.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.11.026
View details for Web of Science ID 000300140600007
View details for PubMedID 22325198
PTEN/mTOR and axon regeneration
2010; 223 (1): 45-50
How axon regeneration is controlled in both PNS and CNS remains elusive. Mechanistic studies of axon growth during development and axon regeneration after injury reveal the PTEN dependent molecular mechanism as a commonality. This pathway could impact the processes occurring in the neuronal soma, such as mTOR-regulated protein translation, and in the axons, such as cytoskeleton assembly. In this review, we will discuss the current understanding of the involvement of these processes in the regulation of axon growth and the potential implication in promoting axon regeneration after injury.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.expneurol.2009.12.032
View details for Web of Science ID 000277377000007
View details for PubMedID 20079353
Promoting Axon Regeneration in the Adult CNS by Modulation of the PTEN/mTOR Pathway
2008; 322 (5903): 963-966
The failure of axons to regenerate is a major obstacle for functional recovery after central nervous system (CNS) injury. Removing extracellular inhibitory molecules results in limited axon regeneration in vivo. To test for the role of intrinsic impediments to axon regrowth, we analyzed cell growth control genes using a virus-assisted in vivo conditional knockout approach. Deletion of PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog), a negative regulator of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, in adult retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) promotes robust axon regeneration after optic nerve injury. In wild-type adult mice, the mTOR activity was suppressed and new protein synthesis was impaired in axotomized RGCs, which may contribute to the regeneration failure. Reactivating this pathway by conditional knockout of tuberous sclerosis complex 1, another negative regulator of the mTOR pathway, also leads to axon regeneration. Thus, our results suggest the manipulation of intrinsic growth control pathways as a therapeutic approach to promote axon regeneration after CNS injury.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1161566
View details for Web of Science ID 000260674100053
View details for PubMedID 18988856
IFN-gamma and STAT1 arrest monocyte migration and modulate RAC/CDC42 pathways
JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY
2008; 180 (12): 8057-8065
Positive regulation of cell migration by chemotactic factors and downstream signaling pathways has been extensively investigated. In contrast, little is known about factors and mechanisms that induce migration arrest, a process important for retention of cells at inflammatory sites and homeostatic regulation of cell trafficking. In this study, we found that IFN-gamma directly inhibited monocyte migration by suppressing remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton and cell polarization in response to the chemokine CCL2. Inhibition was dependent on STAT1 and downstream genes, whereas STAT3 promoted migration. IFN-gamma altered monocyte responses to CCL2 by modulating the activity of Pyk2, JNK, and the GTPases Rac and Cdc42, and inhibiting CCL2-induced activation of the downstream p21-activated kinase that regulates the cytoskeleton and cell polarization. These results identify a new role for IFN-gamma in arresting monocyte chemotaxis by a mechanism that involves modulation of cytoskeleton remodeling. Crosstalk between Jak-STAT and Rac/Cdc42 GTPase-mediated signaling pathways provides a molecular mechanism by which cytokines can regulate cell migration.
View details for Web of Science ID 000257404600030
View details for PubMedID 18523269
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2742170
Costimulation of chemokine receptor signaling by matrix metalloproteinase-9 mediates enhanced migration of IFN-alpha dendritic cells
JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY
2006; 176 (10): 6022-6033
Type I IFNs induce differentiation of dendritic cells (DCs) with potent Ag-presenting capacity, termed IFN-alpha DCs, that have been implicated in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus. In this study, we found that IFN-alpha DCs exhibit enhanced migration across the extracellular matrix (ECM) in response to chemokines CCL3 and CCL5 that recruit DCs to inflammatory sites, but not the lymphoid-homing chemokine CCL21. IFN-alpha DCs expressed elevated matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), which mediated increased migration across ECM. Unexpectedly, MMP-9 and its cell surface receptors CD11b and CD44 were required for enhanced CCL5-induced chemotaxis even in the absence of a matrix barrier. MMP-9, CD11b, and CD44 selectively modulated CCL5-dependent activation of JNK that was required for enhanced chemotactic responses. These results establish the migratory phenotype of IFN-alpha DCs and identify an important role for costimulation of chemotactic responses by synergistic activation of JNK. Thus, cell motility is regulated by integrating signaling inputs from chemokine receptors and molecules such as MMP-9, CD11b, and CD44 that also mediate cell interactions with inflammatory factors and ECM.
View details for Web of Science ID 000237705200041
View details for PubMedID 16670311
In vivo interactome profiling by enzyme-catalyzed proximity labeling.
Cell & bioscience
2021; 11 (1): 27
Enzyme-catalyzed proximity labeling (PL) combined with mass spectrometry (MS) has emerged as a revolutionary approach to reveal the protein-protein interaction networks, dissect complex biological processes, and characterize the subcellular proteome in a more physiological setting than before. The enzymatic tags are being upgraded to improve temporal and spatial resolution and obtain faster catalytic dynamics and higher catalytic efficiency. In vivo application of PL integrated with other state of the art techniques has recently been adapted in live animals and plants, allowing questions to be addressed that were previously inaccessible. It is timely to summarize the current state of PL-dependent interactome studies and their potential applications. We will focus on in vivo uses of newer versions of PL and highlight critical considerations for successful in vivo PL experiments that will provide novel insights into the protein interactome in the context of human diseases.
View details for DOI 10.1186/s13578-021-00542-3
View details for PubMedID 33514425
Post-translational modification of Sox11 regulates RGC survival and axon regeneration.
The failure of adult CNS neurons to survive and regenerate their axons after injury or in neurodegenerative disease remains a major target for basic and clinical neuroscience. Recent data demonstrated in the adult mouse that exogenous expression of Sry-related high-mobility-box 11 (Sox11) promotes optic nerve regeneration after optic nerve injury, but exacerbates the death of a subset of retinal ganglion cells, alpha-RGCs. During development, Sox11 is required for RGC differentiation from retinal progenitor cells (RPCs), and we found that mutation of a single residue to prevent sumoylation at lysine 91 (K91) increased nuclear localization and RGC differentiation in vitro Here we explored whether this Sox11 manipulation similarly has stronger effects on RGC survival and optic nerve regeneration. In vitro, we found that non-SUMOylatable Sox11K91A leads to RGC death and suppresses axon outgrowth in primary neurons. We furthermore found that Sox11K91A more strongly promotes axon regeneration but also increases RGC death after optic nerve injury in vivo in adult mouse. RNA sequence data showed that Sox11 and Sox11K91A increase the expression of key signaling pathway genes associated with axon growth and regeneration but downregulated Spp1 and Opn4 expression in RGC cultures, consistent with negatively regulating the survival of alpha-RGCs and ipRGCs. Thus Sox11 and its sumoylation site at K91 regulate gene expression, survival and axon growth in RGCs and may be explored further as potential regenerative therapies for optic neuropathy.Significance Statement Sox11 expression promotes optic nerve regeneration but also increases RGC death after optic nerve injury. Here we demonstrate that mutation of a single SUMOylation site on Sox11 (Sox11K91A) leads to stronger effects in vivo RNA sequencing analysis reveals that Sox11 and Sox11K91A differentially regulate downstream gene expression related to axon growth and guidance. Understanding these effects of post-translational modification of Sox11 in regulating regeneration in vivo suggests a potent therapeutic strategy for vision restoration in optic neuropathies.
View details for DOI 10.1523/ENEURO.0358-20.2020
View details for PubMedID 33441400
Inhibition of GCK-IV kinases dissociates cell death and axon regeneration in CNS neurons.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Axon injury is a hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases, often resulting in neuronal cell death and functional impairment. Dual leucine zipper kinase (DLK) has emerged as a key mediator of this process. However, while DLK inhibition is robustly protective in a wide range of neurodegenerative disease models, it also inhibits axonal regeneration. Indeed, there are no genetic perturbations that are known to both improve long-term survival and promote regeneration. To identify such a neuroprotective target, we conducted a set of complementary high-throughput screens using a protein kinase inhibitor library in human stem cell-derived retinal ganglion cells (hRGCs). Overlapping compounds that promoted both neuroprotection and neurite outgrowth were bioinformatically deconvoluted to identify specific kinases that regulated neuronal death and axon regeneration. This work identified the role of germinal cell kinase four (GCK-IV) kinases in cell death and additionally revealed their unexpected activity in suppressing axon regeneration. Using an adeno-associated virus (AAV) approach, coupled with genome editing, we validated that GCK-IV kinase knockout improves neuronal survival, comparable to that of DLK knockout, while simultaneously promoting axon regeneration. Finally, we also found that GCK-IV kinase inhibition also prevented the attrition of RGCs in developing retinal organoid cultures without compromising axon outgrowth, addressing a major issue in the field of stem cell-derived retinas. Together, these results demonstrate a role for the GCK-IV kinases in dissociating the cell death and axonal outgrowth in neurons and their druggability provides for therapeutic options for neurodegenerative diseases.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2004683117
View details for PubMedID 33318207
Coupled Control of Distal Axon Integrity and Somal Responses to Axonal Damage by the Palmitoyl Acyltransferase ZDHHC17.
2020; 33 (7): 108365
After optic nerve crush (ONC), the cell bodies and distal axons of most retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) degenerate. RGC somal and distal axon degenerations were previously thought to be controlled by two parallel pathways, involving activation of the kinase dual leucine-zipper kinase (DLK) and loss of the axon survival factor nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase-2 (NMNAT2), respectively. Here, we report that palmitoylation of both DLK and NMNAT2 by the palmitoyl acyltransferase ZDHHC17 couples these signals. ZDHHC17-dependent palmitoylation enables DLK-dependent somal degeneration after ONC and also ensures NMNAT-dependent distal axon integrity in healthy optic nerves. We provide evidence that ZDHHC17 also controls survival-versus-degeneration decisions in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, and we identify conserved motifs in NMNAT2 and DLK that govern their ZDHHC17-dependent regulation. These findings suggest that the control of somal and distal axon integrity should be considered as a single, holistic process, mediated by the concerted action of two palmitoylation-dependent pathways.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108365
View details for PubMedID 33207199
- Comparing silicone oil-induced ocular hypertension with other inducible glaucoma models in mice NEURAL REGENERATION RESEARCH 2020; 15 (9): 1652–53
Gene therapy for neurodegenerative disorders: advances, insights and prospects
ACTA PHARMACEUTICA SINICA B
2020; 10 (8): 1347–59
Gene therapy is rapidly emerging as a powerful therapeutic strategy for a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD) and Huntington's disease (HD). Some early clinical trials have failed to achieve satisfactory therapeutic effects. Efforts to enhance effectiveness are now concentrating on three major fields: identification of new vectors, novel therapeutic targets, and reliable of delivery routes for transgenes. These approaches are being assessed closely in preclinical and clinical trials, which may ultimately provide powerful treatments for patients. Here, we discuss advances and challenges of gene therapy for neurodegenerative disorders, highlighting promising technologies, targets, and future prospects.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.apsb.2020.01.015
View details for Web of Science ID 000567649600001
View details for PubMedID 32963936
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7488363
- Optogenetic stimulation of phosphoinositides reveals a critical role of primary cilia in eye pressure regulation SCIENCE ADVANCES 2020; 6 (18)
Defective INPP5E distribution in NPHP1-related Senior-Loken syndrome.
Molecular genetics & genomic medicine
Senior-Loken syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that presents with nephronophthisis and retinal degeneration, leading to end-stage renal disease and progressive blindness. The most frequent cause of juvenile nephronophthisis is a mutation in the nephronophthisis type 1 (NPHP1) gene. NPHP1 encodes the protein nephrocystin-1, which functions at the transition zone (TZ) of primary cilia.We report a 9-year-old Senior-Loken syndrome boy with NPHP1 deletion, who presents with bilateral vision decrease and cystic renal disease. Renal function deteriorated to require bilateral nephrectomy and renal transplant. We performed immunohistochemistry, H&E staining, and electron microscopy on the renal sample to determine the subcellular distribution of ciliary proteins in the absence of NPHP1.Immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy of the resected kidney showed disorganized cystic structures with loss of cilia in renal tubules. Phosphoinositides have been recently recognized as critical components of the ciliary membrane and immunostaining of kidney sections for phosphoinositide 5-phosphatase, INPP5E, showed loss of staining compared to healthy control. Ophthalmic examination showed decreased electroretinogram consistent with early retinal degeneration.The decreased expression of INPP5E specifically in the primary cilium, coupled with disorganized cilia morphology, suggests a novel role of NPHP1 that it is involved in regulating ciliary phosphoinositide composition in the ciliary membrane of renal tubular cells.
View details for DOI 10.1002/mgg3.1566
View details for PubMedID 33306870
- Oculocerebrorenal syndrome of Lowe: Survey of ophthalmic presentations and management. European journal of ophthalmology 2020: 1120672120920544
Developmental Distribution of Primary Cilia in the Retinofugal Visual Pathway.
The Journal of comparative neurology
The mammalian visual system is composed of circuitry connecting sensory input from the retina to the processing core of the visual cortex. The two main retinorecipient brain targets, the superior colliculus (SC) and dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN), bridge retinal input and visual output. The primary cilium is a conserved organelle increasingly viewed as a critical sensor for the regulation of developmental and homeostatic pathways in most mammalian cell types. Moreover, cilia have been described as crucial for neurogenesis, neuronal maturation, and survival in the cortex and retina. However, cilia in the visual relay center remain to be fully described. In this study, we characterized the ciliation profile of the SC and dLGN and found that the overall number of ciliated cells declined during development. Interestingly, shorter ciliated cells in both regions were identified as neurons, whose numbers remained stable over time, suggesting that cilia retention is a critical feature for optimal neuronal function in SC and dLGN. Our study suggests that primary cilia are important for neuronal maturation and function in cells of the SC and dLGN.
View details for DOI 10.1002/cne.25029
View details for PubMedID 32939774
Optogenetic stimulation of phosphoinositides reveals a critical role of primary cilia in eye pressure regulation.
2020; 6 (18): eaay8699
Glaucoma is a group of progressive optic neuropathies that cause irreversible vision loss. Although elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is associated with the development and progression of glaucoma, the mechanisms for its regulation are not well understood. Here, we have designed CIBN/CRY2-based optogenetic constructs to study phosphoinositide regulation within distinct subcellular compartments. We show that stimulation of CRY2-OCRL, an inositol 5-phosphatase, increases aqueous humor outflow and lowers IOP in vivo, which is caused by a calcium-dependent actin rearrangement of the trabecular meshwork cells. Phosphoinositide stimulation also rescues defective aqueous outflow and IOP in a Lowe syndrome mouse model but not in IFT88fl/fl mice that lack functional cilia. Thus, our study is the first to use optogenetics to regulate eye pressure and demonstrate that tight regulation of phosphoinositides is critical for aqueous humor homeostasis in both normal and diseased eyes.
View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.aay8699
View details for PubMedID 32494665
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7190330
Increased ER Stress After Experimental Ischemic Optic Neuropathy and Improved RGC and Oligodendrocyte Survival After Treatment With Chemical Chaperon.
Investigative ophthalmology & visual science
2019; 60 (6): 1953–66
Purpose: Increased endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is one of the earliest subcellular changes in neuro-ophthalmic diseases. In this study, we investigated the expression of key molecules in the ER stress pathways following nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AION), the most common acute optic neuropathy in adults over 50, and assessed the impact of chemical chaperon 4-phenylbutyric acid (4-PBA) in vivo.Methods: We induced AION using photochemical thrombosis in adult mice and performed histologic analyses of key molecules in the ER stress pathway in the retina and optic nerve. We also assessed the effects of daily intraperitoneal injections of 4-PBA after AION.Results: In the retina at baseline, there was low proapoptotic transcriptional regulator C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP) and high prosurvival chaperon glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78) expression in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). One day after AION, there was significantly increased CHOP and reduced GRP78 expressions in the ganglion cell layer. In the optic nerve at baseline, there was little CHOP and high GRP78 expression. One day after AION, there was significantly increased CHOP and no change in GRP78 expression. Treatment immediately after AION using daily intraperitoneal injection of chemical chaperone 4-PBA for 19 days significantly rescued Brn3A+ RGCs and Olig2+ optic nerve oligodendrocytes.Conclusions: We showed for the first time that acute AION resulted in increased ER stress and differential expression of ER stress markers CHOP and GRP78 in the retina and optic nerve. Rescue of RGCs and oligodendrocytes with 4-PBA provides support for ER stress reduction as possible treatment for AION.
View details for PubMedID 31060051
Role of Translational Attenuation in Inherited Retinal Degeneration.
Investigative ophthalmology & visual science
2019; 60 (14): 4849–57
We reported previously that retinas of mice with inherited retinal degeneration make less protein than retinas of normal mice. Despite recent studies suggesting that diminished protein synthesis rates may contribute to neurologic disorders, a direct link between protein synthesis rates and the progression of neurodegeneration has not been established. Moreover, it remains unclear whether reduced protein synthesis could be involved in retinal pathogenesis. Dysregulation of AKT/mTOR signaling has been reported in the retina during retinal degeneration, but to what extent this signaling contributes to translational attenuation in these mice remains uncertain.C57BL/6J and rd16 mice were subcutaneously injected with anisomycin to chronically inhibit protein synthesis rates. An AAV2 construct encoding constitutively active 4ebp1 was subretinally delivered in wildtype animals to lower protein synthesis rates. 4ebp1/2 were knocked out in rd16 mice.Anisomycin treatment lowered retinal translation rates, accelerated retinal degeneration in rd16 mice, and initiated cell death in the retinas of C57BL/6J mice. AAV-mediated transfer of constitutively active 4ebp1-4A into the subretinal space of wildtype animals inhibited protein synthesis, and led to reduced electroretinography amplitudes and fewer ONL nuclei. Finally, we report that restoring protein synthesis rates by knocking out 4ebp1/2 was associated with an approximately 2-fold increase in rhodopsin levels and a delay in retinal degeneration in rd16 mice.Our study indicates that protein synthesis inhibition is likely not a cell defense mechanism in the retina by which deteriorating photoreceptors survive, but may be harmful to degenerating retinas, and that restoring protein synthesis may have therapeutic potential in delaying the progression of retinal degeneration.
View details for DOI 10.1167/iovs.19-27512
View details for PubMedID 31747684
Lab review: Molecular dissection of the signal transduction pathways associated with PTEN deletion-induced optic nerve regeneration.
Restorative neurology and neuroscience
2019; 37 (6): 545–52
Permanent loss of vital functions after central nervous system (CNS) injury occurs in part because axons in the adult mammalian CNS do not regenerate after injury. PTEN was identified as a prominent intrinsic inhibitor of CNS axon regeneration about 10 years ago. The PTEN negatively regulated PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway, which has been intensively explored in diverse models of axon injury and diseases and its mechanism for axon regeneration is becoming clearer.It is timely to summarize current knowledge about the PTEN/AKT/mTOR pathway and discuss future directions of translational regenerative research for neural injury and neurodegenerative diseases.Using mouse optic nerve crush as an in vivo retinal ganglion cell axon injury model, we have conducted an extensive molecular dissection of the PI3K-AKT-mTORC1/mTORC2 pathway to illuminate the cross-regulating mechanisms in axon regeneration.AKT is the nodal point that coordinates both positive (PI3K-PDK1-pAKT-T308) and negative (PI3K-mTORC2-pAKT-S473) signals to regulate adult CNS axon regeneration through two parallel pathways, activating mTORC1 and inhibiting GSK3β. However, mTORC1/S6K1-mediated feedback inhibition after PTEN deletion prevents potent AKT activation.A key permissive signal from an unidentified AKT-independent pathway is required for stimulating the neuron-intrinsic growth machinery. Future studies into this complex neuron-intrinsic balancing mechanism involving necessary and permissive signals for axon regeneration is likely to lead to safe and effective regenerative strategies for CNS repair.
View details for DOI 10.3233/RNN-190949
View details for PubMedID 31839616
- Coordination of Necessary and Permissive Signals by PTEN Inhibition for CNS Axon Regeneration FRONTIERS IN NEUROSCIENCE 2018; 12
A Robust System for Production of Superabundant VP1 Recombinant AAV Vectors
MOLECULAR THERAPY-METHODS & CLINICAL DEVELOPMENT
2017; 7: 146–56
Recombinant adeno-associated viral (rAAV) vectors have been widely used in human gene therapy. One major impediment to its broad application is the inability to produce high-quality vectors in mass quantity. Here, an efficient and scalable suspension cell culture system for the production of rAAV vectors is described. In this system, the AAV trans factors, Rep78, Rep52, VP1, VP2, and VP3, were stably integrated into a single vaccinia virus carrier by maximizing the use of alternative codons between genes with identical amino acids, and the cis rAAV genome was carried by an E1/E3 gene-deleted adenovirus. Infection of improved, E1 integrated, suspension-cultured cells with these two viral vectors resulted in the robust production of rAAV vectors. The newly enhanced system can consistently produce ∼1 × 1015 genome containing rAAV vectors per liter of suspension cells. Moreover, the capsid composition of rAAV vectors produced by this system is markedly different from those produced using the traditional system in that the VP1 protein is more abundant than the VP2 protein (19:1 versus 1:1). The unique VP1 superabundant rAAV vectors produced in this new system exhibited improved transduction in vivo after intravitreal injection.
View details for PubMedID 29255740
Loss of OCRL increases ciliary PI(4,5)P2 in Lowe oculocerebrorenal syndrome.
Journal of cell science
2017; 130 (20): 3447–54
Lowe syndrome is a rare X-linked disorder characterized by bilateral congenital cataracts and glaucoma, mental retardation, and proximal renal tubular dysfunction. Mutations in OCRL, an inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatase that dephosphorylates PI(4,5)P2, cause Lowe syndrome. Previously we showed that OCRL localizes to the primary cilium, which has a distinct membrane phospholipid composition, but disruption of phosphoinositides in the ciliary membrane is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that cilia from Lowe syndrome patient fibroblasts exhibit increased levels of PI(4,5)P2 and decreased levels of PI4P. In particular, subcellular distribution of PI(4,5)P2 build-up was observed at the transition zone. Accumulation of ciliary PI(4,5)P2 was pronounced in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) derived from Lowe syndrome mouse model as well as in Ocrl-null MEFs, which was reversed by reintroduction of OCRL. Similarly, expression of wild-type OCRL reversed the elevated PI(4,5)P2 in Lowe patient cells. Accumulation of sonic hedgehog protein in response to hedgehog agonist was decreased in MEFs derived from a Lowe syndrome mouse model. Together, our findings show for the first time an abnormality in ciliary phosphoinositides of both human and mouse cell models of Lowe syndrome.
View details for PubMedID 28871046
Axon injury induced endoplasmic reticulum stress and neurodegeneration.
Neural regeneration research
2016; 11 (10): 1557–59
Injury to central nervous system axons is a common early characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases. Depending on its location and the type of neuron, axon injury often leads to axon degeneration, retrograde neuronal cell death and progressive permanent loss of vital neuronal functions. Although these sequential events are clearly connected, ample evidence indicates that neuronal soma and axon degenerations are active autonomous processes with distinct molecular mechanisms. By exploiting the anatomical and technical advantages of the retinal ganglion cell (RGC)/optic nerve (ON) system, we demonstrated that inhibition of the PERK-eIF2α-CHOP pathway and activation of the X-box binding protein 1 pathway synergistically protect RGC soma and axon, and preserve visual function, in both acute ON traumatic injury and chronic glaucomatous neuropathy. The autonomous endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress pathway in neurons has been implicated in several other neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to the emerging role of ER morphology in axon maintenance, we propose that ER stress is a common upstream signal for disturbances in axon integrity, and that it leads to a retrograde signal that can subsequently induce neuronal soma death. Therefore manipulation of the ER stress pathway may be a key step toward developing the effective neuroprotectants that are greatly needed in the clinic.
View details for DOI 10.4103/1673-5374.193225
View details for PubMedID 27904477
- The necessary role of mTORC1 in central nervous system axon regeneration NEURAL REGENERATION RESEARCH 2015; 10 (2): 186-188
Regulation of STAT pathways and IRF1 during human dendritic cell maturation by TNF-alpha and PGE2
JOURNAL OF LEUKOCYTE BIOLOGY
2008; 84 (5): 1353-1360
Maturation of dendritic cells (DCs) by TLR ligands induces expression of IFN-beta and autocrine activation of IFN-inducible Stat1-dependent genes important for DC function. In this study, we analyzed the regulation of STAT signaling during maturation of human DCs by TNF-alpha and PGE2, which induced maturation of human DCs comparably with LPS but did not induce detectable IFN-beta production or Stat1 tyrosine phosphorylation. Consistent with these results, TNF-alpha and PGE2 did not induce Stat1 DNA binding to a standard Stat1-binding oligonucleotide. Instead, TNF-alpha and PGE2 increased Stat1 serine phosphorylation and Stat4 tyrosine phosphorylation and activated expression of the NF-kappaB and Stat1 target gene IFN regulatory factor 1 (IRF1), which contributes to IFN responses. TNF-alpha and PGE2 induced a complex that bound an oligonucleotide derived from the IRF1 promoter that contains a STAT-binding sequence embedded in a larger palindromic sequence, and this complex was recognized by Stat1 antibodies. These results suggest that TNF-alpha and PGE2 activate STAT-mediated components of human DC maturation by alternative pathways to the IFN-beta-mediated autocrine loop used by TLRs.
View details for DOI 10.1189/jlb.0107040
View details for Web of Science ID 000260016300016
View details for PubMedID 18678606
Apoptotic cells inhibit LPS-induced cytokine and chemokine production and IFN responses in macrophages
2007; 68 (3): 156-164
Apoptosis is a critical process in tissue homeostasis and results in immediate removal of the dying cell by professional phagocytes such as macrophages and dendritic cells. Phagocytosis of apoptotic cells actively suppresses production of proinflammatory growth factors and cytokines. Impaired phagocytosis of apoptotic cells has been implicated in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. In this study we found that, in addition to suppressing lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced production of TNF-alpha and IL-6, phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by macrophages suppressed production of the chemokine CXCL10 that is activated by LPS-induced autocrine-acting type I IFNs. Inhibition of cytokine and chemokine production was not universally affected because LPS-induced production of IL-10 and IL-8 was not significantly affected. Apoptotic cells had minimal effects on LPS-induced activation of NF-kappaB and MAPKs, but induced expression of SOCS proteins and substantially suppressed induction of CXCL10 expression by IFN-alpha. In addition to suppressing LPS responses, apoptotic cells inhibited macrophage responses to another major macrophage activator IFN-gamma by attenuating IFN-gamma-induced STAT1 activation and downstream gene expression. These results identify suppressive effects of apoptotic cells on signal transduction, and extend our understanding of the anti-inflammatory effects of apoptotic cells to include suppression of Jak-STAT signaling.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.humimm.2006.12.008
View details for Web of Science ID 000245084400002
View details for PubMedID 17349870
- Osteoarthritis and therapy ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATISM-ARTHRITIS CARE & RESEARCH 2006; 55 (3): 493-500
IFN-alpha priming results in a gain of proinflammatory function by IL-10: Implications for systemic lupus erythematosus pathogenesis
JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY
2004; 172 (10): 6476-6481
Interleukin-10 is a predominantly anti-inflammatory cytokine that inhibits macrophage and dendritic cell function, but can acquire proinflammatory activity during immune responses. We investigated whether type I IFNs, which are elevated during infections and in autoimmune diseases, modulate the activity of IL-10. Priming of primary human macrophages with low concentrations of IFN-alpha diminished the ability of IL-10 to suppress TNF-alpha production. IFN-alpha conferred a proinflammatory gain of function on IL-10, leading to IL-10 activation of expression of IFN-gamma-inducible, STAT1-dependent genes such as IFN regulatory factor 1, IFN-gamma-inducible protein-10 (CXCL10), and monokine induced by IFN-gamma (CXCL9). IFN-alpha priming resulted in greatly enhanced STAT1 activation in response to IL-10, and STAT1 was required for IL-10 activation of IFN-gamma-inducible protein-10 and monokine induced by IFN-gamma expression in IFN-alpha-primed cells. In control, unprimed cells, IL-10 activation of STAT1 was suppressed by constitutive activity of protein kinase C and Src homology 2 domain-containing phosphatase 1. These results demonstrate that type I IFNs regulate the balance between IL-10 anti- and proinflammatory activity, and provide insight into molecular mechanisms that regulate IL-10 function. Gain of IL-10 proinflammatory functions may contribute to its pathogenic role in autoimmune diseases characterized by elevated type I IFN levels, such as systemic lupus erythematosus.
View details for Web of Science ID 000221276900085
View details for PubMedID 15128840
SARA, a FYVE domain protein, affects Rab5-mediated endocytosis
JOURNAL OF CELL SCIENCE
2002; 115 (24): 4755-4763
Rab5, a member of the small GTPase family of proteins, is primarily localized on early endosomes and has been proposed to participate in the regulation of early endosome trafficking. It has been reported that phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases and FYVE domain proteins, such as EEA1, can be recruited onto early endosomes and act as Rab5 effectors. SARA (Smad anchor for receptor activation), also a FYVE domain protein, was initially isolated as a participant in signal transduction from the transforming growth factor beta receptor. Overexpressed SARA has been found on EEA1-positive early endosomes. In this report, we show that endogenous SARA is present on early endosomes and overexpression of SARA causes endosomal enlargement. Functionally, SARA overexpression significantly delays the recycling of transferrin. The transferrin receptor distributed on the cell surfaces was also greatly reduced in cells overexpressing SARA. However, the internalization rate of transferrin is not affected by SARA overexpression. The morphological and functional alterations caused by SARA overexpression resemble those caused by overexpression of Rab5:GTP mutant Rab5Q79L. Finally, all SARA-mediated phenotypic changes can be counteracted by overexpression Rab5:GDP mutant Rab5S34N. These results collectively suggested that SARA plays an important functional role downstream of Rab5-regulated endosomal trafficking.
View details for DOI 10.1242/jcs.00177
View details for Web of Science ID 000180119000005
View details for PubMedID 12432064