Kaiser, Helen E.; Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy (Augusta University, 2020-05)
      Loss of mobility and independence are risk factors for falls and mortality, and drastically reduce the quality of life among older adults. The cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying loss of muscle mass and strength with age (sarcopenia) are not well-understood; however, heterochronic parabiosis experiments show that circulating factors are likely to play a role. Kynurenine (KYN) is a circulating tryptophan metabolite that is known to increase with age and is implicated in several age-related pathologies. Here I tested the hypothesis that KYN contributes directly to muscle loss with aging. Results indicate that that KYN treatment of mouse and human myoblasts increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) two-fold, and significantly increased lipid peroxidation enzymes. Small-molecule inhibition of the Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ahr), an endogenous KYN receptor, in vitro did not prevent KYN-induced increases in ROS, and homozygous Ahr knockout in vivo did not protect mice from KYN-induced stress, suggesting that KYN can directly increase ROS independent of Ahr activation. In vivo, wild-type mice treated with KYN had reduced skeletal muscle strength, size, and increased oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation. Old wild-type mice treated with 1MT, a small molecule that suppresses KYN production by IDO1, showed an increase in muscle fiber size, peak muscle strength, and oxidative stress. Protein analysis identified mitochondrial lipid peroxidation as a downstream mechanism that is increased upon KYN treatment. Lipid peroxidation enzymes increased with KYN have been shown to produce H2O2 outside of the electron transport chain. Our data suggest that IDO inhibition may represent a novel therapeutic approach for the attenuation of sarcopenia and possibly other age-associated conditions associated with KYN accumulation such as bone loss and neurodegeneration.

      Littlejohn, Rodney; Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy (Augusta University, 2020-07)
      Background. Early cardiac development is a tightly regulated process, involving spatiotemporal coordination of multiple signaling pathways and heterogenous cell populations, both generated de novo and externally sourced. While the roles of transcription, environmental, and epigenetic factors have all been studied extensively in the context of heart development, the roles of post-translational protein modification in regulating this process remain to be elucidated. NEDD8 (neural precursor cell expressed developmentally downregulated 8) is a novel ubiquitin-like protein modifier. Conjugation of NEDD8 to protein targets, a process termed neddylation, has been shown to regulate cell proliferation, cell signaling, and protein homeostasis, and play important roles in multiple physiological and pathological events. We have previously shown that neddylation is developmentally downregulated in the developing heart and is essential for mid-to-late gestational ventricular chamber maturation. However, whether and how neddylation regulates early cardiogenic events remains unknown. Methods and results. Mice with constitutive, cardiac progenitor cell-specific, cardiomyocyte- and vascular smooth muscle cell-specific deletion of NAE1, a regulatory subunit of the NEDD8-specific E1 activating enzyme, were created. Constitutive deletion of NAE1 led to early embryonic lethality before E9.5. Nkx2.5Cre-mediated deletion of NAE1 decreased neddylated proteins in the heart, disrupted normal cardiogenesis and resulted in embryonic lethality by embryonic day (E) 12.5 due to heart failure. Similarly, SM22αCre-driven deletion of NAE1 also caused cardiac failure and embryonic lethality by E13.5. The striking cardiac phenotypes were associated with myocardial hypoplasia, ventricular hypo-trabeculation, and pronounced endocardial and/or epicardial defects in both models. Unbiased transcriptomic analysis revealed dysregulated expression of genes associated with cardiomyocyte differentiation, proliferation, and maturation in NAE1-deficient hearts. Indeed, inhibition of neddylation disturbed cardiomyocyte proliferation, and myofibril assembly in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, defects in cardiomyocyte differentiation and maturation were linked to downregulation of Nkx2.5 and Mef2c, two key transcription factors regulating early cardiogenesis. Conclusion. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that neddylation in cardiac progenitor cells and cardiomyocytes is essential in the regulation of cardiogenesis in transgenic mouse models. Our results uncover a previously unknown role of post-translational modification in the regulation of cardiac development via potential roles in mediating cardiomyocyte proliferation, differentiation, and maturation.
    • Use of Sigma Receptor Ligands to Prevent Retinal Ganglion Cell Apoptosis Characteristic of Diabetic Retinopathy

      Martin, Pamela M; Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy (2003-04)
      (First Paragraph)Diabetic retinopathy is a major sight-threatening disease and is the leading cause of blindness among working-aged Americans, affecting approximately 10 to 12 million persons (Wu, 1995). Although retinal vasculature is particularly vulnerable to damage in diabetes, other retinal cells are at risk. Very recently, Barber et al. (1998) documented increased apoptosis of neural retinal cells in experimental diabetes in rats and diabetes mellitus in humans. Notably, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) were found to be at particular risk. Ganglion cell death in diabetic retinopathy is thought to be mediated via overstimulation o f N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors by glutamate. oRl is a nonopiate and nonphencyclidine-binding site that has numerous pharmacological and physiological functions. In some studies, agonists for aR l have been shown to afford neuroprotection against overstimulation of the NMDA receptor. The purpose of these studies was to evaluate the potential use of aR ligands, particularly those that bind specifically to o R l, as neuroprotective agents in the treatment of RGC apoptosis characteristic of diabetic retinopathy. A detailed description of the retina, followed by information about diabetes and the mechanisms thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy, particularly the apoptotic death of RGCs associated with diabetic retinopathy, is provided below.