The Department of Physiology's goal is to train independent, creative, productive scholars in the physiological sciences. The department offers programs leading to the Ph.D. degree. A combined M.D./Ph.D. or D.M.D./Ph.D. degree program is available for students who obtain prior or concurrent admission to the Schools of Medicine or Dentistry respectively.

This collection contains the scholarly works of faculty in the Department of Physiology.

Recent Submissions

  • Evidence for a Developmental Role for TLR4 in Learning and Memory

    Okun, Eitan; Barak, Boaz; Saada-Madar, Ravit; Rothman, Sarah M.; Griffioen, Kathleen J.; Roberts, Nicholas; Castro, Kamilah; Mughal, Mohamed R.; Pita, Mario A.; Stranahan, Alexis M.; et al. (2012-10-11)
    Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play essential roles in innate immunity and increasing evidence indicates that these receptors are expressed in neurons, astrocytes and microglia in the brain where they mediate responses to infection, stress and injury. Very little is known about the roles of TLRs in cognition. To test the hypothesis that TLR4 has a role in hippocampus-dependent spatial learning and memory, we used mice deficient for TLR4 and mice receiving chronic TLR4 antagonist infusion to the lateral ventricles in the brain. We found that developmental TLR4 deficiency enhances spatial reference memory acquisition and memory retention, impairs contextual fear-learning and enhances motor functions, traits that were correlated with CREB up-regulation in the hippocampus. TLR4 antagonist infusion into the cerebral ventricles of adult mice did not affect cognitive behavior, but instead affected anxiety responses. Our findings indicate a developmental role for TLR4 in shaping spatial reference memory, and fear learning and memory. Moreover, we show that central TLR4 inhibition using a TLR4 antagonist has no discernible physiological role in regulating spatial and contextual hippocampus-dependent cognitive behavior.
  • Metabolic Context Regulates Distinct Hypothalamic Transcriptional Responses to Antiaging Interventions

    Stranahan, Alexis M.; Martin, Bronwen; Chadwick, Wayne; Park, Sung-Soo; Wang, Liyun; Becker, Kevin G.; WoodIII, William H.; Zhang, Yongqing; Maudsley, Stuart; Department of Physiology (2012-08-27)
    The hypothalamus is an essential relay in the neural circuitry underlying energy metabolism that needs to continually adapt to changes in the energetic environment. The neuroendocrine control of food intake and energy expenditure is associated with, and likely dependent upon, hypothalamic plasticity. Severe disturbances in energy metabolism, such as those that occur in obesity, are therefore likely to be associated with disruption of hypothalamic transcriptomic plasticity. In this paper, we investigated the effects of two well-characterized antiaging interventions, caloric restriction and voluntary wheel running, in two distinct physiological paradigms, that is, diabetic (db/db) and nondiabetic wild-type (C57/Bl/6) animals to investigate the contextual sensitivity of hypothalamic transcriptomic responses. We found that, both quantitatively and qualitatively, caloric restriction and physical exercise were associated with distinct transcriptional signatures that differed significantly between diabetic and non-diabetic mice. This suggests that challenges to metabolic homeostasis regulate distinct hypothalamic gene sets in diabetic and non-diabetic animals. A greater understanding of how genetic background contributes to hypothalamic response mechanisms could pave the way for the development of more nuanced therapeutics for the treatment of metabolic disorders that occur in diverse physiological backgrounds.
  • O-GlcNAcylation and oxidation of proteins: is signalling in the cardiovascular system becoming sweeter?

    Lima, Victor V.; Spitler, Kathryn M.; Choi, Hyehun; Webb, R. Clinton; Tostes, Rita C.; Department of Physiology (2012-10-1)
    O-GlcNAcylation is an unusual form of protein glycosylation, where a single-sugar [GlcNAc (N-acetylglucosamine)] is added (via β-attachment) to the hydroxyl moiety of serine and threonine residues of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins. A complex and extensive interplay exists between O-GlcNAcylation and phosphorylation. Many phosphorylation sites are also known glycosylation sites, and this reciprocal occupancy may produce different activities or alter the stability in a target protein. The interplay between these two post-translational modifications is not always reciprocal, as some proteins can be concomitantly phosphorylated and O-GlcNAcylated, and the adjacent phosphorylation or O-GlcNAcylation can regulate the addition of either moiety. Increased cardiovascular production of ROS (reactive oxygen species), termed oxidative stress, has been consistently reported in various chronic diseases and in conditions where O-GlcNAcylation has been implicated as a contributing mechanism for the associated organ injury/protection (for example, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, arterial hypertension, aging and ischaemia). In the present review, we will briefly comment on general aspects of O-GlcNAcylation and provide an overview of what has been reported for this post-translational modification in the cardiovascular system. We will then specifically address whether signalling molecules involved in redox signalling can be modified by O-GlcNAc (O-linked GlcNAc) and will discuss the critical interplay between O-GlcNAcylation and ROS generation. Experimental evidence indicates that the interactions between O-GlcNAcylation and oxidation of proteins are important not only for cell regulation in physiological conditions, but also under pathological states where the interplay may become dysfunctional and thereby exacerbate cellular injury.
  • Strategies and methods to study sex differences in cardiovascular structure and function: a guide for basic scientists

    Miller, Virginia M; Kaplan, Jay R; Schork, Nicholas J; Ouyang, Pamela; Berga, Sarah L; Wenger, Nanette K; Shaw, Leslee J; Webb, R. Clinton; Mallampalli, Monica; Steiner, Meir; et al. (2011-12-12)
    Background: Cardiovascular disease remains the primary cause of death worldwide. In the US, deaths due to cardiovascular disease for women exceed those of men. While cultural and psychosocial factors such as education, economic status, marital status and access to healthcare contribute to sex differences in adverse outcomes, physiological and molecular bases of differences between women and men that contribute to development of cardiovascular disease and response to therapy remain underexplored.
  • The Role of Uridine Adenosine Tetraphosphate in the Vascular System

    Matsumoto, Takayuki; Tostes, Rita C.; Webb, R. Clinton; Department of Physiology (2011-11-1)
    The endothelium plays a pivotal role in vascular homeostasis, and endothelial dysfunction is a major feature of cardiovascular diseases, such as arterial hypertension, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. Recently, uridine adenosine tetraphosphate (Up4A) has been identified as a novel and potent endothelium-derived contracting factor (EDCF). Up4A structurally contains both purine and pyrimidine moieties, which activate purinergic receptors. There is an accumulating body of evidence to show that Up4A modulates vascular function by actions on endothelial and smooth muscle cells. In this paper, we discuss the effects of Up4A on vascular function and a potential role for Up4A in cardiovascular diseases.
  • Vascular Protection by Angiotensin Receptor Antagonism Involves Differential VEGF Expression in Both Hemispheres after Experimental Stroke

    Guan, Weihua; Somanath, Payaningal R.; Kozak, Anna; Goc, Anna; El-Remessy, Azza B.; Ergul, Adviye; Johnson, Maribeth H.; Alhusban, Ahmed; Soliman, Sahar; Fagan, Susan C.; et al. (2011-09-1)
    We identified that the angiotensin receptor antagonist, candesartan, has profound neurovascular protective properties when administered after ischemic stroke and was associated with a proangiogenic state at least partly explained by vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA). However, the spatial distribution of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) isoforms and their receptors remained unknown. Protein analysis identified a significant increase in vascular endothelial grow factor B (VEGFB) in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and the ischemic hemispheres (with increased VEGF receptor 1 activation) of treated animals (p<0.05) which was co-occurring with an increase in protein kinase B (Akt) phosphorylation (p<0.05). An increase in VEGFA protein in the contralesional hemisphere corresponded to a significant increase in vascular density at seven days (p<0.01) after stroke onset
  • Cortical gene transcription response patterns to water maze training in aged mice

    Park, Sung-Soo; Stranahan, Alexis M.; Chadwick, Wayne; Zhou, Yu; Wang, Liyun; Martin, Bronwen; Becker, Kevin G.; Maudsley, Stuart; Department of Physiology (2011-06-29)
    Background: The hippocampus mediates the acquisition of spatial memory, but the memory trace is eventually transferred to the cortex. We have investigated transcriptional activation of pathways related to cognitive function in the cortex of the aged mouse by analyzing gene expression following water maze training.
  • Developmental Changes in Hemodynamic Responses and Cardiovagal Modulation during Isometric Handgrip Exercise

    Goulopoulou, Styliani; Fernhall, Bo; Kanaley, Jill A.; Department of Physiology (2010-08-29)
    The purpose of this study was to examine differences in pressor response and cardiovagal modulation during isometric handgrip exercise (IHG) between children and adults. Beat-to-beat heart rate (HR) and blood pressure were measured in 23 prepubertal children and 23 adults at baseline and during IHG. Cardiovagal modulation was quantified by analysis of HR variability. Mean arterial pressure responses to IHG were greater in adults compared to children (P < .05) whereas there were no group differences in HR responses (P > .05). Children had a greater reduction in cardiovagal modulation in response to IHG compared to adults (P < .05). Changes in mean arterial pressure during IHG were correlated with baseline cardiovagal modulation and force produced during isometric contraction (P < .05). In conclusion, differences in pressor reflex response between children and adults cannot be solely explained by differences in autonomic modulation and appear to be associated with factors contributing to the force produced during isometric contraction.
  • Adaptive Cerebral Neovascularization in a Model of Type 2 Diabetes

    Schreihofer, Derek A.; Fagan, Susan C.; Ergul, Adviye; Li, Weiguo; Prakash, Roshini; Kelley-Cobbs, Aisha I.; Ogbi, Safia; Kozak, Anna; El-Remessy, Azza B.; Department of Physiology; et al. (2010-01200)
    OBJECTIVE: The effect of diabetes on neovascularization varies between different organ systems. While excessive angiogenesis complicates diabetic retinopathy, impaired neovascularization contributes to coronary and peripheral complications of diabetes. However, how diabetes influences cerebral neovascularization is not clear. Our aim was to determine diabetes-mediated changes in the cerebrovasculature and its impact on the short-term outcome of cerebral ischemia.
  • Genetic and gene expression analyses of the polycystic ovary syndrome candidate gene fibrillin-3 and other fibrillin family members in human ovaries.

    Prodoehl, Mark J; Hatzirodos, Nicholas; Irving-Rodgers, Helen F; Zhao, Zhen Z; Painter, Jodie N; Hickey, Theresa E; Gibson, Mark A; Rainey, William E; Carr, Bruce R; Mason, Helen D; et al. (2009-11-13)
    Several studies have demonstrated an association between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and the dinucleotide repeat microsatellite marker D19S884, which is located in intron 55 of the fibrillin-3 (FBN3) gene. Fibrillins, including FBN1 and 2, interact with latent transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta-binding proteins (LTBP) and thereby control the bioactivity of TGFbetas. TGFbetas stimulate fibroblast replication and collagen production. The PCOS ovarian phenotype includes increased stromal collagen and expansion of the ovarian cortex, features feasibly influenced by abnormal fibrillin expression. To examine a possible role of fibrillins in PCOS, particularly FBN3, we undertook tagging and functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis (32 SNPs including 10 that generate non-synonymous amino acid changes) using DNA from 173 PCOS patients and 194 controls. No SNP showed a significant association with PCOS and alleles of most SNPs showed almost identical population frequencies between PCOS and control subjects. No significant differences were observed for microsatellite D19S884. In human PCO stroma/cortex (n = 4) and non-PCO ovarian stroma (n = 9), follicles (n = 3) and corpora lutea (n = 3) and in human ovarian cancer cell lines (KGN, SKOV-3, OVCAR-3, OVCAR-5), FBN1 mRNA levels were approximately 100 times greater than FBN2 and 200-1000-fold greater than FBN3. Expression of LTBP-1 mRNA was 3-fold greater than LTBP-2. We conclude that FBN3 appears to have little involvement in PCOS but cannot rule out that other markers in the region of chromosome 19p13.2 are associated with PCOS or that FBN3 expression occurs in other organs and that this may be influencing the PCOS phenotype.
  • Thyroidal dysfunction and environmental chemicals--potential impact on brain development.

    Porterfield, S P; Department of Physiology (2000-10-23)
    Certain polyhalogenated aromatic hydrocarbons such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dibenzo-p-dioxins (dioxins, 2,3,7, 8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) have been shown to have neurotoxic effects and to alter thyroid function during critical periods of thyroid hormone-dependent brain development. This has led to the suggestion that some of the neurotoxic effects of these compounds could be mediated through the thyroid system. Thyroid hormones are essential for normal brain development during a critical period beginning in utero and extending through the first 2 years postpartum. They regulate neuronal proliferation, migration, and differentiation in discrete regions of the brain during definitive time periods. Even transient disruption of this normal pattern can impair brain development. Thyroid hormones are necessary for normal cytoskeletal assembly and stability and the cytoskeletal system is essential for migration and neuronal outgrowth. In addition, they regulate development of cholinergic and dopaminergic systems serving the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. Animals perinatally exposed to certain environmental organohalogens such as many of the PCBs and dioxins have abnormal thyroid function and neurologic impairment. Although there are both species and congener variabilities, most reports show exposure results in thyroid enlargement and reduced serum T(4) levels with normal T(3) levels. Initial research concentrated on studying the direct actions of xenobiotics on the thyroid; however, some of these compounds bear a structural resemblance to the natural thyroid hormones and have high affinity with thyroid hormone-binding proteins such as transthyretin. These compounds could act as agonists or antagonists for receptors of the thyroid/steroid/retinoic acid superfamily. These structurally similar organohalogens could act at multiple points to alter thyroid hormone action. The similarity of the neurologic impairment seen in thyroid disorders to that seen following PCB or dioxin exposure suggests that one mechanism of neurotoxicity of these compounds could involve interaction with the thyroid system.
  • Dietary potassium supplementation improves vascular structure and ameliorates the damage caused by cerebral ischemia in normotensive rats.

    Rigsby, Christiné Spring; Pollock, David M; Dorrance, Anne M; Department of Physiology; Vascular Biology Center (2008-03-11)
    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Dietary potassium supplementation in hypertensive rats is cardioprotective. This protection includes a blood pressure independent reduction in the amount of damage caused by cerebral ischemia. Therefore, we hypothesized that dietary potassium supplementation would improve the outcome of ischemic stroke by improving cerebral vessel structure in normotensive rats. METHODS: Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats were fed a high (HK) or low potassium (LK) diet for six weeks from six weeks of age. At the end of treatment, cerebral ischemia was induced by middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion and the resultant infarct was quantified and expressed as a percentage of the hemisphere infarcted (%HI). MCA structure was assessed in an additional group of rats using a pressurized arteriograph. RESULTS: The cerebral infarct was significantly smaller in rats fed the HK diet, compared to rats fed the LK diet (21 +/- 5.4 vs 33.5 +/- 4.8 %HI HK vs LK p < 0.05). Vessel structure was improved in WKY rats fed the HK diet as indicated by an increase in the MCA lumen (298 +/- 6.3 vs 276 +/- 3.9 mum HK vs LK p < 0.05) and outer diameters (322 +/- 7.6 vs 305 +/- 4.8 mum HK vs LK p < 0.05). Wall thickness and area were unchanged, suggesting an outward euthrophic remodelling process. The HK diet had no effect on body weight or telemetry blood pressure. CONCLUSION: These studies are the first to show a beneficial effect of dietary potassium in rats with normal blood pressure.
  • Vulnerability of the developing brain to thyroid abnormalities: environmental insults to the thyroid system.

    Porterfield, S P; Department of Physiology (1994-11-23)
    Neurologic development follows orderly patterns that can be severely disturbed when thyroid hormones are deficient or excessive. Should this occur at appropriate development periods, irreversible neurologic damage can result. The nature of the deficits depends upon the specific development period and the severity of the thyroid disturbance. PCBs and dioxins are structurally similar to the thyroid hormones. Their binding characteristics are similar to those of thyroid hormones and all three groups bind to the cytosolic Ah receptor, the thyroid hormone receptor and the serum thyroid hormone binding protein transthyretin. Depending upon the dose of toxin and the congener used, the toxins either decrease or mimic the biological action of the thyroid hormones. Either effect, if occurring during brain development, can have disastrous consequences. Children and animals exposed to PCBs or dioxins in utero and/or as infants can exhibit varying degrees of behavioral disorders. These disorders resemble those seen in children exposed to thyroid hormone deficiencies in utero and/or in infancy. The mechanism of developmental neurotoxicity of PCBs and dioxins is not known but data suggest it could be partially or entirely mediated by alterations in availability and action of thyroid hormones during neurological development. It is possible that transient exposure of the mother to doses of toxins presently considered nontoxic to the mother could have an impact upon fetal or perinatal neurological development. If the toxins act via their effect on thyroid hormone action, it is possible that doses of toxins that would normally not alter fetal development, could become deleterious if superimposed on a pre-existing maternal/or fetal thyroid disorder.
  • A hypothesis concerning a potential involvement of ceramide in apoptosis and acantholysis induced by pemphigus autoantibodies.

    Bollag, Wendy B; Department of Physiology; Department of Medicine; Department of Orthopaedic Surgery; Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy (2010-06-29)
    Autoimmune diseases affect more than 50 million Americans, resulting in significant healthcare costs. Most autoimmune diseases occur sporadically; however, endemic pemphigus foliaceus (EPF) is an autoimmune skin disease localized to specific geographic loci. EPF, and the related diseases pemphigus vulgaris (PV) and pemphigus foliaceus (PF), are characterized by skin lesions and autoantibodies to molecules found on epidermal keratinocytes. A variant of EPF in patients from El Bagre, Colombia, South America, has recently been reported to be distinct from previously described loci in Brazil and Tunisia epidemiologically and immunologically. As in PF and EPF, El Bagre EPF patients exhibit autoantibodies towards desmoglein-1, a cell adhesion molecule critical for maintaining epidermal integrity. An association of El Bagre EPF with sun exposure has been detected, and ultraviolet irradiation also exacerbates symptoms in PV, PF and EPF. Our hypothesis is that: (1) the autoantibodies generate pathology through an alteration in ceramide metabolism in targeted keratinocytes, resulting in apoptosis and/or cell death and acantholysis, but only when the cell's ability to metabolize ceramide is exceeded, and (2) apoptosis in response to this altered ceramide metabolism is initiated and/or exacerbated by other agents that increase ceramide levels, such as cytokines, ultraviolet irradiation, and senescence.