Bachelor of Science, Carnegie Mellon University (2008)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of California Berkeley (2013)
Tony Wyss-Coray, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Stem cell function declines with age largely due to the biochemical imbalances in their tissue niches, and this work demonstrates that aging imposes an elevation in transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) signaling in the neurogenic niche of the hippocampus, analogous to the previously demonstrated changes in the myogenic niche of skeletal muscle with age. Exploring the hypothesis that youthful calibration of key signaling pathways may enhance regeneration of multiple old tissues, we found that systemically attenuating TGF-β signaling with a single drug simultaneously enhanced neurogenesis and muscle regeneration in the same old mice, findings further substantiated via genetic perturbations. At the levels of cellular mechanism, our results establish that the age-specific increase in TGF-β1 in the stem cell niches of aged hippocampus involves microglia and that such an increase is pro-inflammatory both in brain and muscle, as assayed by the elevated expression of β2 microglobulin (B2M), a component of MHC class I molecules. These findings suggest that at high levels typical of aged tissues, TGF-β1 promotes inflammation instead of its canonical role in attenuating immune responses. In agreement with this conclusion, inhibition of TGF-β1 signaling normalized B2M to young levels in both studied tissues.
View details for PubMedID 26003168
Hippocampal neurogenesis, the product of resident neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation, persists into adulthood but decreases with organismal aging, which may contribute to the age-related decline in cognitive function. The mechanisms that underlie this decrease in neurogenesis are not well understood, although evidence in general indicates that extrinsic changes in an aged stem cell niche can contribute to functional decline in old stem cells. Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) family members are intercellular signaling proteins that regulate stem and progenitor cell quiescence, proliferation, and differentiation in various tissues and are likewise critical regulators of neurogenesis in young adults. Here, we establish that BMP signaling increases significantly in old murine hippocampi and inhibits neural progenitor cell proliferation. Furthermore, direct in vivo attenuation of BMP signaling via genetic and transgenic perturbations in aged mice led to elevated neural stem cell proliferation, and subsequent neurogenesis, in old hippocampi. Such advances in our understanding of mechanisms underlying decreased hippocampal neurogenesis with age may offer targets for the treatment of age-related cognitive decline.
View details for DOI 10.1002/stem.1943
View details for Web of Science ID 000353292600019
View details for PubMedID 25538007
Adult stem cells grow poorly in vitro compared to embryonic stem cells, and in vivo stem cell maintenance and proliferation by tissue niches progressively deteriorates with age. We previously reported that factors produced by human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) support a robust regenerative capacity for adult and old mouse muscle stem/progenitor cells. Here we extend these findings to human muscle progenitors and investigate underlying molecular mechanisms. Our results demonstrate that hESC-conditioned medium enhanced the proliferation of mouse and human muscle progenitors. Furthermore, hESC-produced factors activated MAPK and Notch signaling in human myogenic progenitors, and Delta/Notch-1 activation was dependent on MAPK/pERK. The Wnt, TGF-β and BMP/pSmad1,5,8 pathways were unresponsive to hESC-produced factors, but BMP signaling was dependent on intact MAPK/pERK. c-Myc, p57, and p18 were key effectors of the enhanced myogenesis promoted by the hECS factors. To define some of the active ingredients of the hESC-secretome which may have therapeutic potential, a comparative proteomic antibody array analysis was performed and identified several putative proteins, including FGF2, 6 and 19 which as ligands for MAPK signaling, were investigated in more detail. These studies emphasize that a "youthful" signaling of multiple signaling pathways is responsible for the pro-regenerative activity of the hESC factors.
View details for Web of Science ID 000345431000001
View details for PubMedID 25109702
MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that inhibit protein expression. We have previously shown that the inhibition of the microRNA let-7d in epithelial cells caused changes consistent with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) both in vitro and in vivo. The aim of this study was to determine whether the introduction of let-7d into fibroblasts alters their mesenchymal properties. Transfection of primary fibroblasts with let-7d caused a decrease in expression of the mesenchymal markers α-smooth muscle actin, N-cadherin, fibroblast-specific protein-1, and fibronectin, as well as an increase in the epithelial markers tight junction protein-1 and keratin 19. Phenotypic changes were also present, including a delay in wound healing, reduced motility, and proliferation of fibroblasts following transfection. In addition, we examined the effects of transfection on fibroblast responsiveness to TGF-β, an important factor in many fibrotic processes such as lung fibrosis and found that let-7d transfection significantly attenuated high-mobility group-A2 protein induction by TGF-β. Our results indicate that administration of the epithelial microRNA let-7d can significantly alter the phenotype of primary fibroblasts.
View details for DOI 10.1152/ajplung.00149.2013
View details for Web of Science ID 000333328300007
View details for PubMedID 24441869
This work builds upon our findings that proteins secreted by hESCs exhibit pro-regenerative activity, and determines that hESC-conditioned medium robustly enhances the proliferation of both muscle and neural progenitor cells. Importantly, this work establishes that it is the proteins that bind heparin which are responsible for the pro-myogenic effects of hESC-conditioned medium, and indicates that this strategy is suitable for enriching the potentially therapeutic factors. Additionally, this work shows that hESC-secreted proteins act independently of the mitogen FGF-2, and suggests that FGF-2 is unlikely to be a pro-aging molecule in the physiological decline of old muscle repair. Moreover, hESC-secreted factors improve the viability of human cortical neurons in an Alzheimer's disease (AD) model, suggesting that these factors can enhance the maintenance and regeneration of multiple tissues in the aging body.
View details for Web of Science ID 000320958800008
View details for PubMedID 23793469
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic, progressive, and usually lethal fibrotic lung disease characterized by profound changes in epithelial cell phenotype and fibroblast proliferation.To determine changes in expression and role of microRNAs in IPF.RNA from 10 control and 10 IPF tissues was hybridized on Agilent microRNA microarrays and results were confirmed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization. SMAD3 binding to the let-7d promoter was confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation, electrophoretic mobility shift assay, luciferase assays, and reduced expression of let-7d in response to transforming growth factor-beta. HMGA2, a let-7d target, was localized by immunohistochemistry. In mice, let-7d was inhibited by intratracheal administration of a let-7d antagomir and its effects were determined by immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, and morphometry.Eighteen microRNAs including let-7d were significantly decreased in IPF. Transforming growth factor-beta down-regulated let-7d expression, and SMAD3 binding to the let-7d promoter was demonstrated. Inhibition of let-7d caused increases in mesenchymal markers N-cadherin-2, vimentin, and alpha-smooth muscle actin (ACTA2) as well as HMGA2 in multiple epithelial cell lines. let-7d was significantly reduced in IPF lungs and the number of epithelial cells expressing let-7d correlated with pulmonary functions. HMGA2 was increased in alveolar epithelial cells of IPF lungs. let-7d inhibition in vivo caused alveolar septal thickening and increases in collagen, ACTA2, and S100A4 expression in SFTPC (pulmonary-associated surfactant protein C) expressing alveolar epithelial cells.Our results indicate a role for microRNAs in IPF. The down-regulation of let-7d in IPF and the profibrotic effects of this down-regulation in vitro and in vivo suggest a key regulatory role for this microRNA in preventing lung fibrosis. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT 00258544).
View details for DOI 10.1164/rccm.200911-1698OC
View details for Web of Science ID 000280206700013
View details for PubMedID 20395557