Research Medicine

Nashville, TN, United States

Research Medicine

Nashville, TN, United States
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Hao J.,Vanderbilt University | Hao J.,Western University of Health Sciences | Ao A.,Vanderbilt University | Zhou L.,Vanderbilt University | And 8 more authors.
Cell Reports | Year: 2013

The canonical Wnt signaling pathway, mediated by the transcription factor β-catenin, plays critical roles in embryonic development and represents an important therapeutic target. In a zebrafish-based invivo screen for small molecules that specifically perturb embryonic dorsoventral patterning, we discovered a compound named windorphen that selectively blocks the Wnt signal required for ventral development. Windorphen exhibits remarkable specificity toward β-catenin-1 function, indicating that the two β-catenin isoforms found in zebrafish are not functionally redundant. We show that windorphen is a selective inhibitor of p300 histone acetyltransferase, a coactivator that associates with β-catenin. Finally, windorphen robustly and selectively kills cancer cells that harbor Wnt-activating mutations, supporting the therapeutic potential of this Wnt inhibitor class


Wang H.,PLA Fourth Military Medical University | Hao J.,Research Medicine | Hong C.C.,Research Medicine | Hong C.C.,Vanderbilt University
ACS Chemical Biology | Year: 2011

In vitro differentiation of embryonic stem cells istightly regulated by the same key signaling pathways that control pattern formation during embryogenesis. Small molecules that selectively target these developmental pathways, including Wnt, and BMP signaling may be valuable for directing differentiation of pluripotent stem cells toward many desired tissue types, but to date only few such compounds have been shown to promote cardiac differentiation. Here, we show that XAV939, a recently discovered small molecule inhibitor of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, can robustly induce cardiomyogenesis in mouse ES cells. Our results suggest that a timely administration of XAV939 immediately following the formation of mesoderm progenitor cells promotes cardiomyogenic development at the expense of other mesoderm derived lineages, including the endothelial, smooth muscle, and hematopoietic lineages. Given the critical role that Wnt/β-catenin signaling plays in many aspects of embryogenesis and tissue regeneration, XAV939 is a valuable chemical probe to dissect in vitro differentiation of stem cells and to explore their regenerative potential in a variety of contexts. © 2010 American Chemical Society.


Hao J.,Vanderbilt University | Ho J.N.,Vanderbilt University | Lewis J.A.,Vanderbilt University | Karim K.A.,Vanderbilt University | And 6 more authors.
ACS Chemical Biology | Year: 2010

The therapeutic potential of small molecule signaling inhibitors is often limited by off-target effects. Recently, in a screen for compounds that perturb the zebrafish embryonic dorsoventral axis, we identified dorsomorphin, the first selective inhibitor of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling. Here we show that dorsomorphin has significant "off-target" effects against the VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) type-2 receptor (Flk1/KDR) and disrupts zebrafish angiogenesis. Since both BMP and VEGF signals are known to be involved in vascular development, we sought to determine whether dorsomorphin's antiangiogenic effects are due to its impact on the BMP or VEGF signals through the development of analogues that target BMP but not VEGF signaling and vice versa. In a structure-activity relationship (SAR) study of dorsomorphin analogues based primarily on their effects on live zebrafish embryos, we identified highly selective and potent BMP inhibitors as well as selective VEGF inhibitors. One of the BMP inhibitors, DMH1, which exclusively targets the BMP but not the VEGF pathway, dorsalized the embryonic axis without disrupting the angiogenic process, demonstrating that BMP signaling was not involved in the angiogenic process. This is one of the first full-scale SAR studies performed in vertebrates and demonstrates the potential of zebrafish as an attractive complementary platform for drug development that incorporates an assessment of in vivo bioactivity and selectivity in the context of a living organism. © 2010 American Chemical Society.


Williams C.H.,Vanderbilt University | Hong C.C.,Vanderbilt University | Hong C.C.,Research Medicine
International Journal of Molecular Sciences | Year: 2011

In this article we propose a systematic development method for rational drug design while reviewing paradigms in industry, emerging techniques and technologies in the field. Although the process of drug development today has been accelerated by emergence of computational methodologies, it is a herculean challenge requiring exorbitant resources; and often fails to yield clinically viable results. The current paradigm of target based drug design is often misguided and tends to yield compounds that have poor absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion, toxicology (ADMET) properties. Therefore, an in vivo organism based approach allowing for a multidisciplinary inquiry into potent and selective molecules is an excellent place to begin rational drug design. We will review how organisms like the zebrafish and Caenorhabditis elegans can not only be starting points, but can be used at various steps of the drug development process from target identification to pre-clinical trial models. This systems biology based approach paired with the power of computational biology; genetics and developmental biology provide a methodological framework to avoid the pitfalls of traditional target based drug design. © 2011 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


Owens P.,Vanderbilt University | Pickup M.W.,Vanderbilt University | Novitskiy S.V.,Vanderbilt University | Giltnane J.M.,Vanderbilt University | And 5 more authors.
Oncogene | Year: 2015

Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are secreted cytokines/growth factors that have differing roles in cancer. BMPs are overexpressed in human breast cancers, but loss of BMP signaling in mammary carcinomas can accelerate metastasis. We show that human breast cancers display active BMP signaling, which is rarely downregulated or homozygously deleted. We hypothesized that systemic inhibition of BMP signaling in both the tumor and the surrounding microenvironment could prevent tumor progression and metastasis. To test this hypothesis, we used DMH1, a BMP antagonist, in MMTV.PyVmT expressing mice. Treatment with DMH1 reduced lung metastasis and the tumors were less proliferative and more apoptotic. In the surrounding tumor microenvironment, treatment with DMH1 altered fibroblasts, lymphatic vessels and macrophages to be less tumor promoting. These results indicate that inhibition of BMP signaling may successfully target both the tumor and the surrounding microenvironment to reduce tumor burden and metastasis. © 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


Fennessey C.M.,Vanderbilt University | Sheng J.,Vanderbilt University | Rubin D.H.,Vanderbilt University | Rubin D.H.,Research Medicine | McClain M.S.,Vanderbilt University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Evidence from multiple studies suggests that Clostridium perfringens ε-toxin is a pore-forming toxin, assembling into oligomeric complexes in the plasma membrane of sensitive cells. In a previous study, we used gene-trap mutagenesis to identify mammalian factors contributing to toxin activity, including caveolin-2 (CAV2). In this study, we demonstrate the importance of caveolin-2 and its interaction partner, caveolin-1 (CAV1), in ε-toxin-induced cytotoxicity. Using CAV2-specific shRNA in a toxin-sensitive human kidney cell line, ACHN, we confirmed that cells deficient in CAV2 exhibit increased resistance to ε-toxin. Similarly, using CAV1-specific shRNA, we demonstrate that cells deficient in CAV1 also exhibit increased resistance to the toxin. Immunoprecipitation of CAV1 and CAV2 from ε-toxin-treated ACHN cells demonstrated interaction of both CAV1 and -2 with the toxin. Furthermore, blue-native PAGE indicated that the toxin and caveolins were components of a 670 kDa protein complex. Although ε-toxin binding was only slightly perturbed in caveolin-deficient cells, oligomerization of the toxin was dramatically reduced in both CAV1- and CAV2-deficient cells. These results indicate that CAV1 and -2 potentiate ε-toxin induced cytotoxicity by promoting toxin oligomerization - an event which is requisite for pore formation and, by extension, cell death.


Ao A.,Vanderbilt University | Hao J.,Vanderbilt University | Hong C.C.,Vanderbilt University | Hong C.C.,Research Medicine
Chemistry and Biology | Year: 2011

The enthusiasm surrounding the clinical potential of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) is tempered by the fact that key issues regarding their safety, efficacy, and long-term benefits have thus far been suboptimal. Small molecules can potentially relieve these problems at major junctions of stem cell biology and regenerative therapy. In this review we will introduce recent advances in these important areas and the first generation of small molecules used in the regenerative context. Current chemical biology studies will provide the archetype for future interdisciplinary collaborations and improve clinical benefits of cell-based therapies. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Ivie S.E.,Vanderbilt University | Fennessey C.M.,Vanderbilt University | Sheng J.,Vanderbilt University | Rubin D.H.,Vanderbilt University | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

The Clostridium perfringens ε-toxin is an extremely potent toxin associated with lethal toxemias in domesticated ruminants and may be toxic to humans. Intoxication results in fluid accumulation in various tissues, most notably in the brain and kidneys. Previous studies suggest that the toxin is a pore-forming toxin, leading to dysregulated ion homeostasis and ultimately cell death. However, mammalian host factors that likely contribute to ε-toxin-induced cytotoxicity are poorly understood. A library of insertional mutant Madin Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells, which are highly susceptible to the lethal affects of ε-toxin, was used to select clones of cells resistant to ε-toxin-induced cytotoxicity. The genes mutated in 9 surviving resistant cell clones were identified. We focused additional experiments on one of the identified genes as a means of validating the experimental approach. Gene expression microarray analysis revealed that one of the identified genes, hepatitis A virus cellular receptor 1 (HAVCR1, KIM-1, TIM1), is more abundantly expressed in human kidney cell lines than it is expressed in human cells known to be resistant to ε-toxin. One human kidney cell line, ACHN, was found to be sensitive to the toxin and expresses a larger isoform of the HAVCR1 protein than the HAVCR1 protein expressed by other, toxin-resistant human kidney cell lines. RNA interference studies in MDCK and in ACHN cells confirmed that HAVCR1 contributes to ε-toxin-induced cytotoxicity. Additionally, ε-toxin was shown to bind to HAVCR1 in vitro. The results of this study indicate that HAVCR1 and the other genes identified through the use of gene-trap mutagenesis and RNA interference strategies represent important targets for investigation of the process by which ε-toxin induces cell death and new targets for potential therapeutic intervention.


Wiley D.M.,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Kim J.-D.,Yale University | Hao J.,Vanderbilt University | Hong C.C.,Vanderbilt University | And 4 more authors.
Nature Cell Biology | Year: 2011

Angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels, is critical to most physiological processes and many pathological conditions. During zebrafish development, angiogenesis expands the axial vessels into a complex vascular network that is necessary for efficient oxygen delivery. Although the dorsal aorta and the axial vein are spatially juxtaposed, the initial angiogenic sprouts from these vessels extend in opposite directions, indicating that distinct cues may regulate angiogenesis of the axial vessels. We found that angiogenic sprouts from the dorsal aorta are dependent on vascular endothelial growth factor A (Vegf-A) signalling, and do not respond to bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp) signals. In contrast, sprouts from the axial vein are regulated by Bmp signalling independently of Vegf-A signals, indicating that Bmp is a vein-specific angiogenic cue during early vascular development. Our results support a paradigm whereby different signals regulate distinct programmes of sprouting angiogenesis from the axial vein and dorsal aorta, and indicate that signalling heterogeneity contributes to the complexity of vascular networks. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


Ao A.,Vanderbilt University | Hao J.,Vanderbilt University | Hopkins C.R.,Vanderbilt University | Hong C.C.,Vanderbilt University | Hong C.C.,Research Medicine
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

The possibility of using cell-based therapeutics to treat cardiac failure has generated significant interest since the initial introduction of stem cell-based technologies. However, the methods to quickly and robustly direct stem cell differentiation towards cardiac cell types have been limited by a reliance on recombinant growth factors to provide necessary biological cues. We report here the use of dorsomorphin homologue 1 (DMH1), a second-generation small molecule BMP inhibitor based on dorsomorphin, to efficiently induce beating cardiomyocyte formation in mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and to specifically upregulate canonical transcriptional markers associated with cardiac development. DMH1 differs significantly from its predecessor by its ability to enrich for pro-cardiac progenitor cells that respond to late-stage Wnt inhibition using XAV939 and produce secondary beating cardiomyocytes. Our study demonstrates the utility of small molecules to complement existing in vitro cardiac differentiation protocols and highlights the role of transient BMP inhibition in cardiomyogenesis. © 2012 Ao et al.

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